Of Gods And Chests
| Jack shuddered as he caught a glimpse of the
defences as they closed behind him. The basic traps for lesser
he had expected but the innocuous warmth he felt hinted at much more
sun-stones buried in the walls. The entire portcullis was a trap
that could focus the full force of the sun enough to fry everything
simple vampires to the greater Demons the Keep was made to defend
Logically for full Demon defence the portcullis sun-stones would have
balanced by ice-stones able to fry invaders either in the burning heat
of the sun or shatter them with cold from the void, he knew of no
that could survive both extremes. Jack paused in contemplation of
the Keep's defences whatever the Keep was made of it obviously wasn't
any more, or it would have melted or shattered from it's own deadly
long ago. Also come to think about it if the Keep was merely rock
there would be nothing to stop the Demons from bypassing the portcullis
defences and going through the walls instead. He shook his head
his own lack of attention suddenly realising he should have realised
sooner the rock that made up the Keep had obviously been changed by
or something else. Given that the Portcullis entryway had been
for millennia the inner Keep should be as worn as the outer caves
the portcullis and it's entry hall were as pristine as when first
the only noticeable impact the debris and silt left behind from
Jack paused watching the last section of the portcullis slide shut, and a delighted smile crossed his face as he saw only rock where he had walked, the entry way was completely hidden imitating the rock around it. To sight and touch it was part of the cave wall, next he probed it with his magic, and damn the creators of this place were good.
"It makes sense if it is shielded from high level Demons, part of its use would be to remain hidden, stealth would be a major asset when entering a potential battle zone." Said the Black Pearl relieved.
"Open her back up we need to get the Aztec chest and most of the treasure hidden before Norrington turns up. We should have a few more days as he is dependent on normal navigation but he seems to be favoured by Fortuna to much for my liking." Said Jack making his way back to the Aztec chest and his crew.
"Did you catch that bloody monkey?" he called, only to pause as a yawn shook him, damn he was still tired.
"Aye." Came the grumbles from the dishevelled crew, "It were the devils own chore to catch that critter, Captain." Said Gibbs in disgust. "It moves fast and has a taste for throwing things, we ended up using some dresses for nets."
"Then we had the problem of keeping the damn thing after we caught it, we are using in an empty water barrel as a makeshift cage, it shredded the dresses." AnaMaria snapped almost in tears.
"Lass, there are plenty of dresses and ladies gear over against the wall, Captain Jack and the rest of us won't mind if you claim them for yourself. Will we boys?" cried Gibbs frowning menacingly at the rest of the crew.
"Oh Aye!" they quickly concurred having learnt it was better for all concerned when the Black Pearls first mate was happy.
"What about sharing?" she asked confused.
"Lass, we aren't going to begrudge you some finery, after all it isn't like any of us can wear it." Then he added a qualifier that cracked the crew up and brought a laugh from the upset First mate, "Well except Jack." He concluded ruefully, remembering his first encounter with the Black Pearls mad young Captain.
"I shall be sure to pick out something nice for Lady Jennifer." Giggled AnaMaria joining in the fun.
"Be sure that you do, Lady Jennifer will be making another round of the Plantations in a few months." Jack cut through the laughter with a stern order.
AnaMaria looked at her Captain measuring his seriousness, "Aye so she will." She said slowly. "I shall be sure to make both her and her female companion are well dressed as befits such an elegant Lady as she goes about her charity work."
Jack measured her in turn and finally inclined his head saying formally, "Lady Jennifer shall be honoured to have the company of another female on her biannual journey."
"Jack!" objected Gibbs.
"How many are we looking for? Jack." Asked AnaMaria seriously.
"Ten, three adult witches, and seven children under two." Said Jack solemnly. "The Slave plantations are a melting pot, two or three muggleborn are born yearly. It's the adults that will be hard to buy; the children are too young to be put to work. I'll check for additions to the Caribbean Register kept at Gringotts Tortuga branch before we leave."
Gibbs gave up knowing he couldn't talk either of them out of the mad trek, "What about the children's parent's?"
"The three witches birthed four of the children, the other three are muggleborn, I usually try to purchase the mothers as well unfortunately it has always depended on my finances until now." Said Jack in disgust. "It's not as if the Ministry cares."
"Aye they have their head in the sand, the Wizard born of Africa haven't organised as separate from the Muggles or if they have they aren't making waves about their lost citizens. That continent is old and has got more secrets than an Auror spy. Personally I'm inclined to believe Jack's theory that they are waiting to see how the European Ministries treat the slaves with magic before they make a move."
"That's crazy!" exclaimed AnaMaria disgusted, "You think the African version of the Ministry is just letting its people go into slavery as a test."
"Slavery is a way of life in most parts of Africa, the continent is old and has dealt with other races, many with magic of their own preying on their people for millennia, Old Egypt and the Roman Empire to name just a few." Said Jack. "What I have discovered from the ones I have rescued is that the Wizard born slaves coming out of Africa have never seen a Wand, they have all been trained with lessor focus such as crystals, bones and feathers of magical creatures for their magic. They are all ecstatic and thrilled and awed when they get a European wand as a focus."
"Bloody Hell what a mess, if they don't have wands the Ministry are insane enough not to recognise them as Wizards."
"Ah! Exactly the problem in a nutshell Joshamee, if they aren't Wizards they are Muggles and if they are Muggles they are not the Ministries problem." Jack dissected the Ministries thinking on the subject calmly.
"Bloody Hell! One of these days the Ministry's habit of not facing unpleasant facts and playing politics is going to get us all bloody killed." Muttered Gibbs.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised." Confirmed Jack having no illusions about the British Ministry. "So with that pleasant thought to make us even more paranoid I need a drink, find any rum in your wanderings and food, find any food." he said the later hopefully."
"We found crate of rum over by the far wall, along with cheese and hard tack." said Gibbs calmly, having no qualms about letting his Captain have a drink knowing Jack only pretended to be a drunkard too fond of his rum to make people underestimate him. If there was a drunkard in this crew it was himself who used it as a crutch, to escape this terrifying Muggle existence forced on him.
"Oh good!" said Jack brightly that very brightness making Joshamee wary. "Don't look so worried Joshamee, we are all going to take a little rest and have lunch, afterwards you all get to take one of the Aztec coins from it's chest. It took about half a hour for the Hecate's Bind on myself to crack under the strain." said Jack musingly. "I felt it tingly shiver and knew in my bones that the Bind was gone, just don't expect instant access to your magic when the curse is broken, took almost a week for my magic to recover enough to use or I wouldn't have been almost hung." He warned sternly. "If William hadn't saved me at that point I'd have swung as easily as when under the Bind."
Gibbs and the others nodded taking the warning to heart, "So why are we eating first?" he asked changing the subject.
"Well we could eat afterwards if you want, but since I'm hungry I thought you probably all are as well. I thought taking that edge off before hand might mitigate the curse slightly during the time you are all under it. The decision is of course yours to individually make, you might mitigate the curses hunger if you eat beforehand but if you eat afterwards you will enjoy the food much more." He pondered the problem aloud, "I know!" he suddenly exclaimed, "how about you eat both before and afterward that way you get it both ways." Grinned Jack with childlike glee at finding a solution.
"Sounds like a plan." Said Gibbs with a laugh. "Right you swab's, break out the rum and rations, so we can get rid of Hecate's Bind on our bloody Magic."
"Mm!" mused Jack thoughtfully, "Accio Cups!" he said waving at the pile of treasure with his wand he now had it tied to his right wrist instead of his hair.
"Bloody hell! Jack!" Screamed AnaMaria "Warn us when you intend to 'Accio' something in this mess. It's worse than cannon fire." As they all dropped flat as gold and silver goblets and cups of all sorts came flying to where Jack was pointing in front of himself with his wand.
"Sorry!" said Jack contritely, he hadn't realised just how dangerous a simple 'Accio' could be when surrounded by things.
"Stay down!" ordered AnaMaria to the postrated crew with a glare before turning back to her wayward Captain. "Well go on."
"Go on what?" asked Jack thoroughly confused.
"Go on and call us some bloody plates as well, since you decided we are going to be civilised enough to drink rum out of cups, we can damn well go the whole hog and use plates as well." She snapped.
"Accio Plates!" Jack sighed aiming for beside the cups; he certainly hadn't been trying for civilised, just something to share the rum out in. AnaMaria always had to be difficult. "Don't even think about cutlery," he warned sternly before she could think of it, "We'll end up dead if knives and forks start flying in this bloody mess."
"Amen!" muttered Gibbs shuddering at the thought.
"Somebody get that rum," cried Jack "I need a bloody drink, after that!"
"This would be a lot easier if this chest would let us move it by magic." Grunted Gibbs as he and Jack lifted one end of the stone chest so they could slide rope under it. Then they moved to the other end and repeated the process.
"Nothing in life is easy," said Jack with a shrug, "Hopefully it will let me transfigure the rope into metal to give us hand-holds and something to keep the lid on for transport. If we are really lucky, I'll be able to float it by focusing the magic on the metal bindings instead of the chest itself."
"I'll cross my fingers. This thing is heavy." Said Gibbs suddenly he straitened with a shudder, "Shivery tingle is right, Jack. I think my Bind just broke." He said stunned, until that moment he hadn't actually let himself have any hope.
Jack smiled, "In that case we better get some bandages ready, one of the dresses the monkey shredded should do. Speaking of the monkey remind me to un-curse it as well, I want every last one of the cursed coins back in the chest when I seal it. Once it's back in England the Goblins can handle security."
"Wise thinking!" was all Gibbs said. "So where are we going to hide it and the treasure from Norrington and the British Muggles."
"Somewhere in the Keep." He said absent-mindedly too busy transfiguring rope to metal.
"Keep?" Joshamee questioned.
"Siren Keep, the portcullis is that way." Said Jack waving in the right direction.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" said Gibbs
"You know you have those Muggle reactions down pat." Said Jack in admiration.
"Thanks, the Muggle teacher the Ministry scrounged for us after Diagon, claimed startled exclamations when surprised give most wizard born away so he drilled us relentlessly until the Muggle stuff was second nature."
"Wise of him, I still have to consciously substitute Hell for Tartarus." Said Jack.
"So Siren Keep, I thought that was in the Mediterranean."
Jack Shrugged, "Siren Lore says it can move." He confirmed. "Hopefully we will be taking the entire Island back to England if I can get it under control, it has a major port of the coast of Wales. According to the Pearl, this is the Master Dock for all the Keeps from old Atlantis, unfortunately the Inner Keep didn't make it, it's stuck in limbo somewhere, so only the actual master dock and its infrasructure survived. This is the only habitable section and the Pearl claims it was originally the Dragon Weyrs for the flying squadron."
"Convenient." Muttered Gibbs, "What do you intend to do with it after we transport everything back to England, turn it over to the Ministry?"
"The Pearl claims it's our new home, she's already taken possession of the wards and structure." Said Jack ruefully. "The idea has been growing on me since she let me in on the secret, I must admit it isn't every day you get given a movable Castle. It's not as if the Ministry can do anything about it, salvage rights are very clear and the Pearl is already in possession. Besides they owe me a castle, they took away my last one when I was five."
"I remember that, the Daily prophet made quite a to do about the discovery of the Hogwarts master key being found at Ravenclaw manor and how much havoc you caused playing with it." Grinned Gibbs with fond reminiscence. "Of course your poor father owled me about it, right little terror you were, baby or not. Of course Neran had more sense than to let the Ministry know his precocious five-year-old son had rebuilt it using an old wand he found, he let them think you found it working and intact. These days all those legends of the Founders deliberately breaking the master key after Hogwarts was built are thought to be wrong and created to throw people off." Said Gibbs dryly.
"It took the Bane paintings in the attic and myself almost a year to fix." Grinned Jack, "They all complained about the stairs at Hogwarts being more tiring than the studying. I think the moving stairs are a great idea you just have to concentrate on which level you want and they move they saved me a lot of climbing when I was there. I don't know why everyone got so upset about them." Frowned Jack " It's not as if we didn't think of safeguards, if you have more than one person with a destination majority wins, and if you aren't concentrating or it's a tied vote it takes you where the castle decides you need to be. The hidden rooms and secret passages were my idea."
"You caused your poor father a lot of grey hair."
"I'm a Bane," said Jack simply "Father knew what he was doing when he let the manor paintings train me."
"Well! That's true," admitted Gibbs, "But what about Ravenclaw Manor, weren't you intending to rebuild it?"
"There was nothing but ruins left Joshamee, I stored the manor and sold the land to some French Wizarding family who didn't like the way the French were taxing everything in sight or how much Muggle and Wizard politics are mixed in France." Jack shrugged "The Malfoys are dismantling their French Chateau and moving it to where Ravenclaw use to stand, where do you think I got the money to build the Pearl and finance Lady Jennifer." Said Jack simply. "It's a good thing I designed the Caribbean school self supporting or it would have failed."
"School?" asked Gibbs startled; "Bloody hell and here I thought the rumours of a Wizarding school in the area were a myth."
"Well I had to do something with the people I rescued, it's not as if I could leave them to fend for themselves most of them are babies," snapped Jack defensively, "So far it's working perfectly as a combination Wizarding School, Orphanage and Plantation. The plantation part finances it all as it's run by Magic so doesn't need much work. I sort of adapted the Hogwarts idea to an island setting." admitted Jack ruefully. "It's not as if it was all my idea either, the Caribbean Mer helped purchase the island with gold they helped me salvaged from a Spanish galleon sunk near it. You can't blame them for wanting Wizard made Muggle repellers hiding their colony they were getting desperate as more and more islands got Muggle inhabitants." Said Jack simply. "Honestly the school part was a complete accident. I just hired some people to teach the adults I rescued how to use a wand and then some of the Wizarding families found out and asked if they could train their children as well, before I knew what was happening it was a working school, orphanage and plantation."
Gibbs shock his head in wonder, his old friend Neran had always claimed one Bane could impact and change the world, until he actually met Jack he hadn't believed him. The strangest thing about it all was that Jack hadn't a clue about the far reaching ripples his often spur of the moment ideas created. If he was reading Jack's defensive explanation for the creation of the Caribbean school correctly, it had all started as simply a way to save the Caribbean Mer Colony, combined with a safe place for the wizards and witches he rescued as Lady Jennifer.
"As long as it works, schools and orphanages are good things." Said Joshamee reassuringly.
"Well yes, so I thought but it's escalating beyond my control." Confided Jack slightly worried. "Last year the Mer found another Spanish Galleon and we purchased yet another island, a bigger island," he stressed "and now all the Wizard section of Tortuga are all moving there next year once all the wards are installed and the Goblins finish making the vaults and leasing out the land. So with this one I now have three islands, admittedly I share ownership of the first with the Mer, the second one belongs to myself, the Mer and the Goblins so this is the only one that is actually Ravenclaw owned without strings. I tell you having Goblins as partners is a pain, once the Goblins find out about Siren Keep they are going to get very pushy, mercenary little buggers the Goblins always have an eye for profit. They have already been hinting that if I got the Pearl back as the only Wizard ship in the area I could make a lot of money." Said Jack in a disheartened rush. "At this rate I'm going to end up totally legitimate and bored beyond belief and let me tell you they are going to never and I really mean never ever going let up about using the Keep along with the Pearl for Wizard shipping. It's not bloody fair even I can see their point load up this area with magical produce, move the Keep to British waters and on arrival in Wales unload. You would cut months off the shipping and a lot of medi-magical plants need to be fresh as they lose magic after harvesting. It's a fortune in the making waiting to happen. It's not as if I would have to move the entire Master Dock back here either, the Dragon Weyrs are a separate Keep from the Master Dock and can probably move on its own if need be I'll know more once I look at whatever controls everything."
"Jack, look on the bright side, I know the medi-plants the Goblins will be pushing on you to ship, they harvest once on a good year maybe twice. Limit yourself to that commitment and it will be a nice steady income for your family in the future. All you have to do is make sure the Goblins and the Ministry know that any other trips are at your own discretion, pleasure or profit."
"That might work!" said Jack slowly thinking about it, "William would probably prefer it as well." Said Jack ruefully. "Do you think William would feel better about my being a Pirate if I showed him my Marque."
"I didn't know you had one?" said Gibbs frankly.
"I've never actually used it so it expired." Shrugged Jack. "It's been in the Pearls Wizard safe since before the Mutiny, without a wand Barbossa couldn't open it and as he was Muggle he didn't know what to look for anyway. It was the Ministries idea; it was a cover for our Auror and Cursebreaking. The Muggle Admiralty actually have this strange idea that I have always worked for them and they keep giving me letters to prove it." Said Jack with a frown. "I tell you Muggles can be really strange, they keep giving me letters ordering me to do something and how to do it. Which I ignore as it would get me killed, I haven't a clue why they keep telling me in detail how to do something they should know by now I'll ignore it and do it my way."
"But you do it?" asked Gibbs stunned.
"Most of the time, unless it really would get me killed, then I send them a nasty letter explaining why it can't be done. Some of the ideas they come up with are bloody fun so I do them anyway. Just not the way they want me to." Said Jack.
"Jack, what was the last letter they sent you?"
"Proceed to Port Royal, present the letter and use the Dauntless and the Interceptor to eliminate the threat of Barbossa and the Black Pearl to British shipping and settlements." Said Jack.
"Bloody hell Jack, are trying to say all you had to do was give Norrington a letter and he would have had to give you his ships anyway."
"Well yes but I realised that all I really needed was the Interceptor and a British Navy crew would just get me killed if Barbossa captured the ship. So I decided to steal it instead." Said Jack.
"Why didn't you just give Norrington the papers the first time he caught you?" asked Joshamee in fascination.
"I thought about it but it didn't seem like the opportune moment, so I had decided to wait it out and try to escape with the Interceptor, don't worry I would have given him the letter before he hung me." Smirked Jack. "It all worked out in the end because while in Jail I found confirmation that the curse was actually real which confirmed my instinct that a navy crew would be a very bad idea. Then I found out exactly who William was and he helped me escape and you know the rest of the story."
Gibbs looked at his Captain totally stunned. "And the second time Norrington tried to hang you?" he demanded.
"The letters were in my coat lining which was on the Black Pearl, so I couldn't present them could I." He said with biting sarcasm. Then he smirked with unholy glee, "Luckily for all concerned, I have a totally insane honourable idiot of a Turner Bane for a husband, you lot were late."
"You seem awfully sure they didn't hang young Will in your place?"
"That's why we waited a few minutes, when Elizabeth didn't push 'Dear William' off the Fort to save him from her Father and the Commodore, I knew he was safe from the Hangman." Said Jack with a smirk. "Not that I actually thought the Commodore would try to hang William for being an Honourable idiot, it does take one to know one after all, it was the Governor that had me worried, that man has a nasty habit of ordering hangings and shootings at the drop of a hat." Frowned Jack, the seemingly pleasant Governor Swann set his teeth on edge.
"Well the bottom half's done let's see if I can transfigure the rope?" he said hopefully, shortly the stone chest had iron bindings instead of rope. "Well since it worked take this." He said handing over the amber knife from the chest, "and get everyone to blood the coin they took don't forget the monkey" he added. "Once they are all back in the chest and the curse broken we can seal this up so we won't have any more accidents." He snarled the last word in disgust at the Aztec chest.
"William and I sealed the chest, the monkey isn't strong enough to open the chest, ergo the chest opened itself. It's cursed to punish but unless it has a victim it can't punish so it opens itself to tempt people into taking a coin so it can punish them thereby carrying out its function." Snapped Jack.
"That's insane." Objected Gibbs trying to follow such cockeyed logic.
"Since when has any Godly punishment of any Pantheon ever been sane?" said Jack mildly. "From what I have been able to discover, the Aztec Gods are a bloodthirsty lot, so the chest is fairly benign by their standards. Which makes sense, as Cortez wasn't a worshipper of their Pantheon he was an invader so they were limited in what they could actually do to him, no matter how angry he made them. It's all a matter of politics between the Pantheons, now if Cortez had been a Demon that would have been another matter entirely."
"If this is benign I'd hate to see them when they are trying for deadly." Muttered Gibbs quickly cutting his hand and throwing the coin back into the chest as if it was a snake.
"Very true but all Gods are capricious by their very nature including the Christian one, they all have their own agenda often at cross purposes to each other. You just have to remember that most Gods have rules and rewards and consequences for disobeying the rules. Heaven and Hell, Karma to name a few, even the Wicca who's rules basically say Do whatever you want as long as you don't harm anything, has a little punishment called the Three-Fold-Rule basically hurt something and you will get it back three times worse. You can see why Wizards and Witches tend to leave the Gods and Religion alone when using Magic it really is a lot safer for all concerned."
"That's?" Gibbs had no words.
"Strange, Weird, Profound, meanwhile we have a cursed chest to seal so go get the rest of the coins so I can seal the damned thing."
"Aye!" he said shaking his head walking off to obey is Captain.
"We can only hope you can't break
muttered tiredly at the chest.