jackdaws_master: (Edward Swording it Up)
Edward stepped out of Milliways and back onto the streets of Nassau Town, just outside the shop-door he'd meant to use in the first place. Adéwalé lifted an eyebrow. "Get what you needed?" he said.

"Aye," said Edward, "and what I don't need but want can wait. Come on, we've some lads to meet."

Any seaport town worth the name had taverns of varying levels of repute within easy reach of the docks. Nassau was no exception. The one Edward wanted was a hair or two nicer than the others, which was to say it had walls and a roof rather than an awning, and served more than one sort of drink. If he knew the men he was looking for at all, they'd be here.

Sure enough, the place didn't disappoint. Three men- well, two grown men, one lad just past his voice-change- were seated at a table off to one side. The tallest of the three, tanned and mutton-chopped and familiar of indeed, waved him over. "By God, you're a sight for salty eyes!" he said. "Come you in and have a drink."

Edward grinned and made his way to their table, Adéwalé trailing behind. "Morning, all."

The second of the older men, a shaggy-haired sort hard at work on a beard (and a tankard), grunted in greeting. "Ahoy Kenway," he said. He jerked his chin to Edward's companion. "Who's this?"

"Adéwalé," said Edward easily, "the Jackdaw's quartermaster."

"Jackdaw? You named your brig after a poxy bird?"

Edward ignored the sentiment. "Adé," he said, "these lads are the better part of our growing confederacy here." He indicated the bearded man. "Ed Thatch." The taller man was next. "Ben Hornigold." The youngster dipped his head as Edward finally said, "James Kidd."

If Adé had meant to say anything, it never got out; Hornigold had been eyeing him up and down. "You let him carry a pistol, do ye? " he said, sounding disgusted.

"Peace, Ben," said Edward, and held up a hand. "Adé saved my life. And now we're looking for a crew to fill out the rest of my ship."

Hornigold looked dubious, but said naught, which was all Edward wanted of him. Thatch rubbed at his chin and said, "Well, there's scores of capable men about. But use caution. A shipload of the King's sailors showed up a fortnight back, causing trouble and knocking about like they own the place."

"Right. I'll see who I can muster."

"Send any men you find to the Jackdaw," said Adéwalé. " I'll put them to work."

Edward nodded. Best not to take Adéwalé with him; the authorities- what few there were- would likely think less kindly of his situation than Ben had. But the finding of men could wait; he had a few things to inquire about first. "Once I've got my crew," he said, "I'd heard a rumour in Havana. Have you heard of a place called the Observatory?"

The young man- Kidd- nodded. "Aye," he said, in that voice all lads have when they're trying to sound a man among older men. "It's an old legend. Like El Dorado, or the Fountain of Youth."

From anyone else Edward wouldn't've taken the comment as worth hearing, but this was James Kidd, William Kidd's bastard. Even as young as this, he knew things. "What have you heard?" Edward said.

Kidd shrugged. "It's meant to be a temple or a tomb. Hiding a treasure of some kind."

"I intend to find it, then," Edward said. "It sounded well enough worth having."

Thatch snorted. "Ah, rot! It's fairy stories you prefer to gold, is it?"

"It's worth more than gold, Thatch. Ten-thousand times above what we could pull off any Spanish ship."

Hornigold shook his head. "Robbing the king to pay his paupers is how we earn our keep here, lad. That ain't a fortune, it's a fantasy."

Edward might've argued with him, but he reckoned it could wait a while. Not as if he had much to go on just yet, anyway.

--

It was no very difficult business finding men in Nassau town to crew a ship out for plunder. The ones who didn't come along for pay came along for their freedom; English soldiers weren't half so clever as they thought themselves, especially not when they had prisoners to keep track of or- ah- dancing girls to have a chat with. And most of the men were skilled sailors, too, just not so skilled at keeping themselves out of the clutches of the law. Once they gave up muttering about Adéwalé's authority, they took command and worked together well- well enough that when he turned to Hornigold, who'd come along to keep an eye on his first raids as captain, the man nodded. "A good take today, Kenway," he said. "Half-a-dozen scores of that size and you'll be set for a year."

"Sod a year," said Edward. "I'm looking for a prize that'll set me up for life. I'll be king of the West Indies then."

Hornigold's expression turned wry. "We came to Nassau to get away from the likes of kings," he pointed out.

"Well... I'll be a man of property and promise anyway."

"Jaysus, let that dream go, lad," said Hornigold. "Nassau is the place to be, not England."

"Do you ever dream of the big score? A ship so full of gold and silver you just split it and sail home?"

Hornigold shrugged. "Sure," he said, "but it's only a dream. Every man hopes to find a dozen chests of gold with no owners, but they're as rare as an honest king. Come on, now, we've got to get this brig some better parts- and Thatch wants a drink with us both."

--

They had to wait a little longer than Edward would've liked for the tides to be right, but Jackdaw eventually made her way into Nassau harbor without a hitch. Edward caught no sight of any lobsterbacks near the docks, which suited him just fine. He had, after all, a stolen cargo for his crew to offload. The ship couldn't be improved with sugar and cloth alone, but there were buyers in plenty who couldn't be bothered to ask where it all came from, so long as no one had a watchful eye on them.

Thatch was waiting for them both at the docks, counting silently over the number of bundles being offloaded by Edward's crew. He flashed a grin of approval at the younger man. "Looks like you taught him well, Ben," he called.

Hornigold nodded. "He's got a real talent for this sort of work."

"It ain't work if you love it," said Edward, and it was true enough. There was a reckless, glorious freedom to running another ship down and trading broadsides until they couldn't hold you off any longer.

"Keep this up," Hornigold said, "and Nassau'll be the first city where men and women may live as God made them: easy and free. All it takes is a few drops of blood, sweat and a swath of cloth."

Edward raised an eyebrow at that, but Thatch stepped forward and pressed a bundle into his hands. "We fly no colours out here," he said, "but praise the lack of 'em. So let the black flag signal nothing but your allegiance to man's natural freedoms. This one's yours. Fly it proud."

Well now. Edward unfolded the bundle, caught sight of the white skull and cutlasses marked against the black fabric, grinned. "I will," he promised.

Hornigold nodded. "Hand over the docket I lent you. If we're to keep our republic afloat, we'll need proper guns as well as gold."

It took a bit of fumbling through his pockets and pouches to find it, and the black flag wound up pinned between his arm and his ribs as Edward gave Hornigold the papers. "That means attacking the Navy," he felt obliged to point out.

Hornigold shrugged again. "So long as they're flying King Philip's colours, we'll not offend our own monarch."

"I believe I like your way of thinking."
jackdaws_master: (Adéwalé close up)
"I've made my choice, Adé. I'm calling her the Jackdaw, for a sly bird I loved as a child back in Swansea."
"A dark little creature, no?"
"Did it rub you wrong when I took this brig as my own?"
"It was the sort of rub I have learned to endure sailing among faces of such... fairness."
"It's true, most of these men wouldn't accept you as a captain. So what fair role would complement such unfairness?"
"I'll be your quartermaster. Nothing less."
"All right. And as quartermaster, have you any immediate counsel for this tyro captain?"
"Rest and repast would do us good before Nassau. Water for drinking. And hunting for food and repairs."
"Well reasoned, sir. Hunting it shall be. We'll find a decent place to drop anchor."



"I spied a few items in the hold earlier... powder and a few pistols. I think I'll fashion a second holster if I can."
"Ha! It's a good start."
"One you find laughable?"
"Could we talk a moment about the condition of the ship?"
"What's the trouble?"
"I had a walk about the gundeck this morning, and couldn't stand for what I saw. A clutter of linstocks heaped like tinder... and one with a slowmatch still burning."
"Christ."
"And just nearby, two barrels of gunpowder closer than man and wife, fit to explode at the touch of a spark."
"We'll stow ours, good and proper."
"As for the cannons, they might as well be tossed. Clogged touch-holes in need of scraping; corrosion on the bodies; barrel swabs as naked as knives and breech-ropes so rotted I could use them for knitting yarn. The short of it is, we need good equipment, kept in fine condition. For we cannot win every battle with sneers and shouts. So worry about your own armaments when it suits you. But don't forget about your Jackdaw as well."
"No, indeed. We'll make it a point to keep this ship and its crew in fine condition."



"Ahoy, Captain. Find what you need?"
"My needs and wants are oceans apart, mate. But I did fashion myself a new holster. All I need now is a pistol lie in it."
"Here. Taken from the hold, just as you said."
"Hm. Little more than a blow-pipe... but it'll do. So... are we rested? Or shall we idle a while longer?"
"Best weigh anchor, I think the crew is itching to reach civilization."
"You'll find no civilization in Nassau. But it's a fine place to be merry all the same."
jackdaws_master: (Edward Swording it Up)
For some people, finding themselves shackled in bilboes beside a scar-faced black man, in the belly of a Spanish ship bound for Seville, is a thing that prompts them to look back at their life and their choices, and to figure out where they went wrong.

However, in this particular situation, said shackled person was Edward Kenway, and all the situation really did was make him angrier.

The governor'd only given him those thousand lousy reales. A mere thousand! You couldn't even buy a respectable weapon for such a sum; might as well donate it to the nearest church as keep it. And when he'd gone to all the trouble of delivering the man the means to secure that Observatory of his; hadn't Torres said his people had been after it for decades? Hadn't he said it could let him oversee the actions of anyone he chose? Wasn't that worth more than a fistful of silver?

Bloody right it was. So Edward really had no choice but to slip onto the mansion grounds and find that precious Sage himself, not if he wanted the reward his efforts'd been worth. Was it his fault the man had murdered his guards and escaped already? No, and he'd said as much to Torres and his lackeys when they caught him. Fat lot of good it'd done him, though. If they'd just paid him what his delivery had been worth at the beginning, he'd have gone on his way and they'd have to deal with Roberts themselves. If anyone's choices or lives had gone wrong, it was Torres', frankly.

But Torres wasn't the one chained up, alas. Edward was.

Miserly bastard.

A rattle of metal broke his stew of irritation; one of the crew had come by with plates of… something. Edward had had foul rations before, but this looked worse than the usual. As the soldier left, Edward glanced to the black man beside him. "You hungry?" he said.

His companion snorted.

The Spaniard had made the mistake of stepping out of the holding area and out of their line of sight. Edward's companion looked a strong enough sort. When he saw Edward take hold of the rod that ran through both their shackles, he did the same, and proved his strength a moment later as the two of them managed to rock the thing several times hard enough to force it out of its mountings. As they kicked themselves free, Edward said, "Now, what's your plan, mate?"

The black man shrugged. "Find my weapon and steal a ship," he said.

Edward liked him already.

A few throttled Spaniards later (honestly, one would think they'd look over their shoulders once in a while, nervous as they sounded in their talk with one another), they'd reached the aft-most part of the hold together. As Edward eyed the room for whatever stash of weapons there might have been, the ship rocked heavily underfoot. "Christ, the seas are uneasy today," he muttered.

His companion glanced upward. "Hurricane coming," he said.

"Hurricane?" Edward shook his head. "Jaysus."

A clink of metal caught his attention- his companion had found blades and guns alike. "We're stealing a brig," the dark man said firmly. "Hey, take what you need."

"Won't be a minute," said Edward; he'd found a heavy leather vest, a good deal stouter than the robes and coat he wore, and given their situation it seemed wisest to put a little something extra between his skin and any Spanish blades.

The dark man nodded. "There's many prisoners held on these ships," he said. "If we set them free, they'll sail with us, no question."

"So that's the idea, then?" said Edward. Now that he had his blades- both the hidden ones to strap onto his forearms, and the cutlasses he knew somewhat better- and his pistol, it was a very little thing to head for the ladder up to the deck. "Free what men we can, then find a fast ship to flee in?"

"Aye," said the dark man. "There's a brig in this fleet. I'll make my way to it."

It was good, Edward thought as he cast a swift glance at the Spanish ships all around them, to have an ally; and one with a simple, straightforward plan, at that. Oh, to be sure, the plan would require skittering unnoticed from ship to ship like a startled seagull until he found one where the guards might be taken down by surprise alone, and then throwing the holds open and securing the allegiance of the prisoners within. But it was a plan with a definite goal, and a goal he approved of, at that.

And Edward had never liked Spaniards anyway.




Here is a thing about freeing enough prisoners to man an entire ship: all of them are likely to be just as unhappy with their situation as you are. So long as you have already secured the way to the ship's armoury, you really only need to loose about six personally. After that, if the weather is on your side, things tend to take care of themselves.




The brig had been easy enough to find, once Edward had the freed prisoners at his back. It was the only ship he hadn't set foot on yet that was wracked with smoke and gunfire. Evidently, Edward's companion knew mayhem like an old friend. "This way, lads!" he called to the men behind him. "That brig there's just waiting for us to take her!"

A mighty cheer went up from the other men. Edward grinned. Oh, he could see it already, standing at that ship's helm like a man of real station, plundered reales and doubloons dripping from his pockets like rain-drops… but there was the little matter of the brig's crew to handle first. And of reaching the brig, first.

Well, it was only a little ways off, really. And while none of the rigging-lines were long enough to let him swing over to the brig's deck, he'd swum in worse seas than this by far.

And the captain, for all that the dark man was laying waste to his crew, was simply too busy trying to hold himself steady on the tossing deck to look behind him…

Edward heaved the new-made corpse over the rail. As it disappeared into the devouring waves he bellowed, "Lay aboard, lads!"

Man after man clambered over the ship's rail, cheering. One of them started to raise his voice in song. The dark man, who'd just come to the quarterdeck alongside Edward, cut him off. "Save your singing for Davy Jones, you jagabats!" he yelled. "It's a hard wind coming!"

"The man speaks true," Edward called to the rest. A blast of rain caught him full in the face; he ignored it. He stepped up to the helm and pointed to the nearest cluster of men on deck. "You lot weigh anchor. As for the rest- half on the foremast and half at the main! Let's outrun this hurricane!"

Thunder rolled perilously close by. The men scrambled to obey him as the darkening sky grew ever heavier. "Keep watch on those galleons," Edward said. "See they don't give us trouble."

"They won't," said the dark man. "Far too slow for this weather."

"Bark any orders you think wise, mate," said Edward; he knew when he was in the presence of someone who knew their business. And the wind was growing too heavy for his liking now. "We're up against it here."

"These men know their place," said the dark man, with something like a smile. "They'll see us home."

And with that, the storm broke over the brig and the fleet alike.




"Oh, what a mess! Jaysus."

"Godfrey Lijah, we made it!"

"Sweet mother of mercy…"


The storm, what was left of it, lay well behind them. The Spanish treasure fleet- again, what was left of it—bobbed in tatters and shreds all around them. Edward turned slowly from port to starboard and back again, taking it all in, and let out a low whistle between clenched teeth. "By God," he said, "we pulled this one straight from the teeth of Neptune…"

Lightning flickered repeatedly in the clouds behind them. He turned to his dark companion and put out his hand for the shaking. "I'm Edward," he said. "Much thanks for your aid back there, ah…"

"Adéwalé," said the man, and shook his hand.

Edward nodded. "Ever been to Nassau, Adéwalé?"

Adéwalé shook his head. "Not yet," he said.

There was splintered wood everywhere, from storm and Spanish cannon alike. Edward ran a hand along the port rail a moment. "By God, she took some knocks, didn't she?" he said. "I think I'll keep her."

Adéwalé crossed his arms over his chest and looked sidelong at him a moment. Eventually, he nodded.

Well, Edward would deal with that later. "All hands aft, lads!" he called to the rest of the crew. "We're taking this one home!"
jackdaws_master: (Edward Swording and Gunning)
When a reward is at stake it does not do to be late; Edward made his way down to the docks of Havana just after dawn. The sound of Rogers calling 'Duncan's' name set him on the right path straightaway. “Ah, good morning,” said Rogers, beckoning him over. “Good to-”

“Edward! Hello, Edward!”

Oh, Jesus. That voice Edward knew all too well; it was an act of willpower to merely smile and turn casually to face Stede Bonnet. The bloody merchant was waving at him from a few yards away. As he heaved a crate out of the back of a cart, he happily added, “I found a man to purchase my remaining sugar! Quite a coup, I must say!”

Edward glanced sideways to find Rogers giving him an odd look. “He just called you Edward,” Rogers pointed out.

“Oh, that's the merchant who sailed me here,” said Edward, who'd told greater falsehoods and thought nothing much of this one. “Out of caution, I gave him a false name.”

Rogers nearly smiled at that. “Ah... well done.”

Edward nodded and called back, “We'll catch up, Bonnet. Later.”

Bonnet's face looked a touch puzzled at Edward's harsh tone, but there was no time for fussing over such matters, and Edward had no real interest in patching the merchant's feelings anyway. Governor Torres had arrived, two companions in tow: Julien du Casse he recognized, but the broad-built, heavyset fellow in armour more antiquated than even the mad Milliways Dutchman's he did not. “Very punctual, Duncan,” said Torres approvingly, as Edward and Rogers fell in with his queue. “This way.”

It wasn't far to their goal: a straw awning of the sort common throughout the Caribbean, acting as a kind of temporary warehouse without walls. But this one sheltered more than merely crates. Beneath its shadow there stood several yellow-clad Spanish soldiers, guarding a kneeling prisoner. The man's hair was black, held down by a wide bandanna tied as one might expect of a bandage. His skin was filthy, his clothes tattered. When he glanced up at Torres' arrival, Edward saw his eyes were of two different colors.

“Here he is,” said Torres, “a man both Templars and assassins have sought for over a decade. I am told your surname is Roberts. Is this so?”

The man scowled, maintaining his sullen silence. Torres' gaze sharpened as he produced the crystal cube Edward had brought him. “You recognize this, I think,” he said grimly. It was not a question.

His armored companion stepped forward without a word and wrenched the prisoner's manacled hands upward. As Torres pressed a corner of the cube into the man's fingertip, du Casse noted to Edward, “According to the old tales, the blood of a sage is required to enter the Observatory.”

Sure enough, a streak of bright red had threaded its way into the cube's center when Torres held it up. “We have the key,” Torres announced to the others. “Now we need only its location. Perhaps Mister Roberts will be eager to provide it.” He gave the prisoner a look that promised ill indeed, then said to the soldiers, “Transfer him to my residence.”

It was all far too strange for Edward's liking, but he'd already got himself well in it. This was no time to lose his nerve. As they made their way through the streets he pulled up his hood, for the sun was already beating down hard, and hastened to Torres' side. “Such a fuss over one man,” he said. “Is the Observatory really such a grand prize?”

“Si,” said Torres, “si. The Observatory was a tool built by the Precursor race. Its worth is without measure.”

“Precursor race...” murmured Edward. Best, he thought, not to question that too closely. Torres spoke the words as if he expected Edward to know their meaning. “I see.”

If Torres had noticed Edward's hesitation he gave no sign of it. “One of your early letters mentioned the desire to kill the Mayan Mentor, Ah Tabai,” he said conversationally. “Were you able to carry out this contract before coming here?”

Damn and blast, why couldn't Walpole have been carrying a diary? “I... I was not, no,” Edward said slowly. They rounded a corner; ahead an arched bridge between two buildings shaded their path. “Too many... complications along the way.”

“A pity,” said Torres, sympathy evident in his voice. “But the maps you delivered with this vial will see that job finished.”

“Aye,” said Edward. “That's the idea.”

As they passed into the bridge's shadow, Rogers drew up closer. “I don't like this route, Torres. We're exposed,” he said. True enough, their path led into a wide open sunlit plaza, with buildings on all sides and very little save a single wagon in the way of cover.

“Something is wrong,” murmured du Casse. “Stay close, Grand Master!”

“I feel it too,” said Torres. “Do not let them get their hands on the Sage! At whatever cost!”

One pace in the open sun- two, three-

Tchoom! A musket-ball struck the ground beside them. “Assassins! Above! They're on the rooftops!” cried Rogers. Edward was already running for the cart's limited shelter, the better to draw his pistols, but he spotted several hooded figures leaping from building to building. He swore; this would be an ugly fight indeed.

If he were asked afterward to give an account of the battle, he would make something up. For certain he'd never remember all the details aright. Swords and hooded figures everywhere he turned, gunfire from the rooftops every time he thought himself safe out of the way, du Casse battling two of their assailants at once, the huge armored man bringing down an enemy by flinging an axe into his midsection- there was too much to keep track of, and no way to remember it all. Only the important part mattered, and that was keeping them all alive and together long enough to collect his bloody reward.

It seemed for a moment that they might have succeeded as they reached the square outside the biggest church Edward'd ever seen. Torres was alive, the other men were alive, and their prisoner was held firmly between two of the Spanish guards. Several of the monks who attended the church were staring at them, true, but-

Wait. No. That one in the middle was no monk-

Damn it to hell, now the square was full of more assassins! Edward scarce had time to take in that fact; one of them had hit him with some kind of dart, and his head was already spinning. He thought he saw two of them run at the prisoner, perhaps to free him, but the governor's armored guard broke his line of sight. The next thing Edward saw was an assassin crumpling to the ground as Roberts spun on one heel and bolted for the far side of the square. “Stop him!” Torres cried.

Well, a chase was a hell of a lot better than a sword fight if Edward couldn't stop his head from spinning. He ran. “You're a nimble one, I'll give you that,” he muttered. “Hang back and make this easy on both of us mate! Stop, or I'll kneecap you!”

Quite naturally, Roberts didn't stop. And while he was fast, in the end (and thanks in no small part to a fortuitously placed wall from which a leap was not too difficult), Edward was faster. He pinned the man to the ground, his knee square in the small of Roberts' back while he reloaded his pistol; then he rose to his feet, the gun pressed against Roberts' side. “On your feet,” he said.

Roberts glared at him a moment. “Well done, lap dog,” he muttered.

“Quiet!” said Edward, who was in no mood for any more nonsense right now. They had the man's blood; did they really need the man himself to find this Observatory?

Well, it scarce mattered. The others'd caught up; Edward shoved Roberts at du Casse. The Frenchman nodded and said, “We'll see him to the prisons, Grand Master.”

Torres gave Roberts a long, hard stare. “Double the watch,” he finally said.

As the soldiers left, Rogers let out a whistle. “Well, I'll be buggered. What an active day we've had, gents!”

“Si,” said Torres. He sounded far more weary than he'd let on a moment ago. Then again, the man was old enough to be Edward's grandfather. “Beset on all sides by our enemies. We must be more cautious.”

“I do wish I could remain to see our drama done,” said Rogers, “but I must avail myself of these winds and sail for England.”

Torres reached for the Englishman's hand. “By all means, Captain. Speed and fortune to you,” he said with a smile.

“With luck, I'll return myself a governor,” Rogers said. Chuckling, he shook Edward's hand and added, “And with my idiot King's blessing, no less. Adios!”

Torres watched him stroll away with a smile. It stayed on his face as he turned to Edward. “As for you, Mr. Walpole...” He produced a sack from his belt. It jingled nicely as he handed it over. “I consider this the first payment in a long-term investment. Gracias.”

Edward hefted the sack. It had a promising weight to it. “Obliged,” he said.

“I would like you to be present for the interrogation tomorrow,” Torres went on. “Call around noon.”

“Yes, sir,” said Edward, and watched Torres go.
jackdaws_master: (Edward and the Piece of Eden)
The outer walls of the mansion of Governor Laureano de Torres y Ayala reared over the other buildings of the western end of Havana as if daring them to try something. Edward gave them a glance, briefly contemplating his chances of a successful climb without really intending to do so. It was habit, that was all; always have a way out of a place, aye? Especially one where the gates were guarded by men who gave the impression of being not only armed and uniformed, but alert.

Still, alertness would do them no good if they'd not seen Duncan Walpole's face, and if the Governor hadn't then Edward had very little reason to believe his serving-men would've, either. He straightened his shoulders and strolled up to the two guards at the main gate. “Buenos dias,” he said to the more senior-looking of the two. “Mister Duncan Walpole of England to see the Governor. I believe he is expecting me.”

The guard nodded. “Si, Senor Walpole. Please, enter,” he said, and gestured to the opening gates.

Edward dipped his head briefly in acknowledgment and continued on his way. The men fell to muttering to each other in Spanish as he passed. None of it made any sense to Edward, save once, when he thought for certes he must've heard the word asesino- but no one made a move to stop him or call him back. Coincidence, then. They couldn't have known what happened to the real Walpole.

Still, it was a timely reminder. Best he should carry himself careful, here.

The mansion's grounds were as expansive as its walls were impressive. Long before he could so much as approach the steps that led to the mansion's doors, Edward's path brought him to a terrace where two men stood in conversation. The taller of the two, a wide-shouldered man in a broad black hat and a shirt half open, nudged the shorter with his elbow. The shorter man stepped forward; Edward noted a wicked scar across most of his right cheek as he spoke. “Good morning, sir!” he said. “Would I be correct in thinking you are Duncan Walpole?”

Edward half-smiled “I am indeed.”

“I thought as much,” said the scarred man, and extended a hand for the shaking. “Woodes Rogers. A pleasure.”

“The same,” said Edward, but paused mid-shake. Rogers was eyeing him a little more closely than he strictly liked.

“I must say,” Rogers murmured, “my wife has a terrible eye for description.”

“I'm... sorry?” said Edward, carefully smoothing his expression before the sudden clamor in his guts could show on his face.

“My wife,” said Rogers, still eyeing him. “You met her some years ago at the Percys' masquerade ball.”

“Ah! Quite...”

“She called you 'devilishly handsome',” Rogers said slowly. Edward merely looked back at him; in the end, Rogers blinked first, letting out a short bark of a laugh. “Obviously a lie to stoke my jealousy. Julien! Our guest of honour, Mister Duncan Walpole.”

The behatted man sketched a bow of greeting. “Ah... Julien du Casse,” he said, his accent as French as his name. “I hope your conversion to our order is an honest one. I have no love for assassins, but even less for liars.”

Well, that explained the soldier's choice of words- as far as that went. Walpole's letter from Torres had mentioned nothing of assassins or orders. Best to step carefully, then. Edward chuckled briefly and said, “I have not come to disappoint.”

This had better be one Hell of a reward due Walpole, for him to navigate unknown waters like these.

Rogers had stepped aside to fiddle with something as du Casse spoke. At Edward's voice, he looked up. “Up for a bit of sport, Duncan? The old man isn't ready for us yet.” He gestured to a case laid out beside him; it held four pistols, fine examples of the gunsmith's art if ever Edward had seen them. At the far end of the terrace, it seemed Rogers, or possibly du Casse, had set up a number of wooden mannequins. Target shooting, then, and for an audience. It seemed churlish to turn down the opportunity, so Edward stepped to the case, examining each pistol in turn. As he tucked them into easily accessed spots in his- Walpole's- clothing, Rogers noted, “You've got my two best pairs of matched pistols, Duncan, so handle with care.”

“If I had eight, I'd treat each as my own son,” Edward said, and meant it. They really were fine weapons.

Woodes indicated the mannequins with what might have been a genuine smile. “Pull off a few shots, if you like. Get a feel for it.”

It was the tone of a man justifiably proud of his gear. Edward nodded and took aim; the mannequin spurted splinters and smoke. As he drew the next pistol and fired on another, du Casse absently noted, “I once fought beside a man who carried nine on his person. They were a boon in battle but hindered his ability to swim, sadly.”

“Quite,” said Edward, who was busy laying waste to the third and fourth mannequins before the inevitable tedious business of reloading.

Du Casse shook his head, watching. “I long for the day where one firearm carries four bullets, and not the opposite,” he said.

“I have a friend in England you may like to meet, Julien,” said Rogers. “James Puckle. He's working on something extraordinary.”

Du Casse laughed, saying something in French. Then he went silent, watching Edward fire again. As the pistols were lowered for the second time he said, “Duncan. Where are your wrist blades? I have never seen an assassin so ill equipped.”

“Ah-” Edward winced, remembering the thing he'd been unable to identify on Walpole's corpse. “Damaged, sadly. Beyond all repair.”

“Hm,” said du Casse, but apparently it was not a sound of disbelief; the Frenchman gestured to a nearby iron-bound chest. “Well, then. Have your choice.”

Cautiously, Edward opened the chest. Inside were no fewer than eight of the peculiar weapons the dead Walpole had worn. Edward whistled in surprise. “Where did you find all these?” he said.

“I did not find them. I took them. These are souvenirs,” said du Casse.

There was something Edward did not much like in the man's tone. He merely nodded, selecting a pair of the weapons and strapping them on. They seemed simple enough, now that he knew what they were meant to be. A little pressure in the right place would spring out a hidden blade near as long as his own hand. He could do real damage with that, if his target were unwary.

“Two blades, as is the custom, hm?” said du Casse.

“Custom, aye.”

Du Casse and Rogers began to walk towards th emansion. Edward moved to follow. “The assassins have trained you well, Duncan,” the Frenchman said. “You chose a perfect time to leave them behind.”

“At great risk, I imagine,” added Rogers. “Betraying the assassins is never good for one's health.”

“Well, neither is drinking liquor, but I am drawn to its dangers all the same,” said Edward easily. To the Frenchman he said, “And what is your business here, Sir? Are you an associate of the governor's? Or a pending acquaintance like myself?”

Du Casse shook his head. “Guns, blades, cannons, grenadoes... Anything that may kill a man, I am happy to provide,” he said.

“Ah, a smuggler of sorts,” said Edward. Du Casse nodded. “And how is your wife these days, captain Rogers? Is she, ah, here in Havana?”

A scowl twisted Rogers' face. “I trust she's well,” he said shortly. “But I wouldn't know. I have been in Madagascar some fourteen months, hunting pirates. It took some work to dislodge the criminals there, but we managed. In future, I hope to use these same tactics throughout the West Indies.”

Edward made a mental note of that for future recall. Aloud he said only, “And how did you deal with their kind?”

Again, that barking, humorless laugh. “Very simply. Most pirates are as ignorant as apes. I merely offered them a choice... Take a pardon and return to England penniless but free men, or be hanged by the neck until dead.”

“Ah. I imagine Nassau would be your next target?”

Woodes almost smiled. “Very astute, Duncan. Indeed.”

“Best of luck with that.”

As they reached a lesser terrace just outside the mansion, Edward's two companions began to stand a little straighter, almost without knowing it. “Grand Master Torres,” Rogers announced, “Mister Duncan Walpole has arrived.”

Laureano de Torres y Ayala was an older man- somewhere well past seventy, no doubt- with an aquiline profile and an air of dignity about him. His piercing blue eyes swept over Edward, and he said something in Spanish, then: “You were expected one week ago.”

“Apologies, governor.” Edward coughed lightly. “My ship was set upon by pirates. We were scuttled. I arrived only yesterday.”

Torres nodded. “Unfortunate,” he said, with the sound of one who knew only too well what it was to run afoul of pirates. “Forgive my caution, but were you able to salvage from these pirates the items you promised me?”

“Ah, yes Sir, I was.” Hastily, Edward patted his pockets, turning up the maps and the odd crystal cube he'd recovered first from Walpole's corpse, then from the Spanish fort. Torres held the cube up to the light, turning it this way and that. Then he tucked it into a pocket of his own and fingered the maps.

“Incredible,” he finally said. “The assassins have more resources than I had imagined but... not nearly enough to deter us. It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Duncan. You are most welcome.” He smiled, a warm and genuine expression, and gestured towards his home. “Come, gentlemen. We have much to discuss.”

First all of this talk of assassins, and now this 'Grand Master' business; Edward didn't know what to think. Well, no, that wasn't true entirely. He knew he was in over his head.

Well, no way through the maelstrom except to ride it out.

Inside the mansion's doors was a broad-windowed room with a great wooden table in the middle. Torres lay the maps down on the table, spreading one out for examination, and then looked up at his guests. “Convened at last,” he said. “And in such continental company... England, France, Spain... citizens of sad and corrupt empires. But you are Templars now. The secret and true legislators of the world.”

Wait, what?

“Please, hold out your hands,” Torres said. The other men did so immediately; Edward hurriedly followed suit, hoping against hope that this was only his way of handing out a reward. Alas, it was not to be.

“Mark and remember our purpose,” he said, and reached for Rogers' hand. As he slid what looked to be a broad gold ring onto the man's finger, Torres said, “To guide all wayward souls 'til they reach a quiet road.” He turned to du Casse. “To guide all wayward desire 'til impassioned hearts are cooled.” To Edward, then, and it was the work of a lifetime to keep his face impassive as Torres said, “To guide all wayward minds to safe and sober thought.”

Well, if nothing else edward would get a ring out of it. That was worth something.

(Not much, but something.)

Torres looked the three of them over and nodded in satisfaction. “By the Father of Understanding's Light, let our work now begin,” he said, and his tone grew more sober. “Decades ago, the Counsel entrusted me with the task of locating in these West Indies a forgotten place our precursors once called the Observatory. See here...”

He spread the maps out more fully and waved the men in closer. “Look upon these images and commit them to memory. They tell a very old and important story,” he said. “For two decades now I have endeavored to locate this Observatory... a place rumoured to contain a tool of incredible utility and power. It houses a kind of armillary sphere, if you like. A device that would grant us the power to locate and monitor EVERY man and woman on Earth, whatever their location. Only imagine what it would mean to have such a power. With this device, there would be no secrets among men. No lies. No trickery. Only justice. Pure justice. This is the Observatory's promise. And we must take it for our own.”

Torres sounded as if he believed it. More, he sounded as if he was the sort of man not much given to believing fairy tales. If there truly were such a device- and given the witchcraft Edward'd seen at Milliways, it was entirely possible such a thing might be- then... why, the reward for delivering it into the governor's hands ought to be rich indeed. This, then, was worth pursuing-

“Do we know its whereabouts?” Rogers said, interrupting Edward's speculation.

Torres shook his head. “We will soon. For in our custody is the one man who does. A man named Roberts, once called a Sage.”

Du Casse snorted, an ungentlemanly sound. “It has been forty-five years since anyone has seen a true Sage,” he said. “Can you be sure this one is authentic?”

“We are confident he is.”

“The Assassins will come for him,” Rogers pointed out.

“Indeed they will,” said Torres. “But... thanks to Duncan and the information he has delivered, the Assassins won't be a problem for much longer. All will be made clear tomorrow, gentlemen, when you meet the sage for yourselves. Until then...”

Torres stepped over to a great ornamental globe that sat in one corner of the room and undid a bronze catch at its equator. Opening it, he took out a bottle of some vintage Edward had never seen, and several fine glasses. “Let us drink. Let us find the Observatory together. For with its power, kings will fall, clergy will cower, and hearts and minds of the world will be ours.”

Truly, such a thing was worth a great reward. Edward had no doubt of that, nor of Torres' being willing to pay it to one of his fellow... templars. Whatever that meant, really. He smiled, murmured his assent, and raised the glass Torres gave him.

The men drained their glasses together. Then Torres turned to Edward and said, “Rest well, Duncan. Tomorrow the Treasure Fleet arrives, and with it your reward. After which, we will discuss further schemes.”

A reward part of a royal Treasure Fleet? That truly was worth all the trouble. Edward smiled and said, “I look forward to it.”

Torres nodded. “¡Excellente!” he said. “Meet me down at the docks, first thing tomorrow morning.”
jackdaws_master: (Charlie Hunnam black and white closeup)
"Duncan! By Jove, you're alive!" called out Stede Bonnet as Edward jogged up to him. He sounded so very grateful, Edward couldn't help but smile.

"Of course I am." He thrust the man's purse at him, the pick-pocket who'd snatched it long since gone from sight. "That filch was no fuss."

"I ought to have known. Well-" The merchant glanced up, and sighted the sign that marked the tavern they'd sought. "It does seem we've arrived! I hope you don't mind, but-"

"Take your time," Edward said graciously. "Meet with your fellow merchants. I'll be just here."

Bonnet nodded and wended his way through the courtyard in search of his fellow traders. As for Edward, the Cuban sun was beating down something awful, so he put up the hood of his robes and made for a suitably shadowed table.

He was joined a moment later by a stubbly-chinned, black-mustached fellow with sour breath- a sight no different from any one of the dozens of men Edward had sailed with these past years, save that he wore clothes a hair or two better. "Fancy meeting a Welshman deep in dago country," he said, leaning over the table unsteadily. "I'm English meself. Biding my time 'til the next war calls me to service."

For his part, Edward had sought neither the man's company nor his information. He eyed the fellow and lightly replied, "Lucky King George, having a piss-pot like you flying his flag."

Ill-spoken, to be sure, but well worth it- at least, until the man leaned forward the more and got a better look at him. "Oy! Skulk! I seen your face before. You's mates with them pirates down in Nassau," he said.

Bloody buggering hellfire. They gibbeted pirates in Havana, and the man was anything but quiet. "Shut your fucking gob or I fill it with shot," Edward snarled, his hand going to his pistol. "You hear me?"

But the man only peered closer, and suddenly said, "Edward, is it?"

So of course Edward had no choice but to punch him.

Duncan

Dec. 23rd, 2013 03:42 pm
jackdaws_master: Blond scruffy guy in early 1700s clothes on a dock, looking up at something offscreen (Default)
BANG.

It was hardly the first time Edward'd come under fire, and it would most certainly not be the last. The hooded stranger's ball grazed Edward's shoulder, leaving a line of fiery pain and blood in its wake- but no more than that. He'd had such wounds before. With a little tending it'd be good as new. But tending would have to wait, because Edward had a rule that he lived by: when a man tried to kill him and failed, he'd get no second chance.

The man reached for his powder, thinking to reload.

Edward did not give him the chance.

When the man lay dead at his feet, Edward took stock of the situation. He was bloodied and sore, stranded in a place he couldn't truly say he recognized. He had no gear save the blade in his hand and the little coin-pouch tucked into his belt. The dead fellow, on the other hand, looked to have been fair well equipped before going to meet his Maker. Save for that odd hood of his, he wore the garb of a fully respectable gentleman- and on an island where the sun beat down harsh and heavy, a hood wouldn't go amiss, odd or no. Dead men had no great need of anything but a few last words, so Edward clapped the dead fellow on the shoulder and began divesting him of his belongings.

His pistols were mostly useless, as his powder was wet. Edward tossed them aside. The man wore some strange contraption on his forearms, which had the look of a knife fitted into some mechanism, but the blade wouldn't come free. Edward shrugged, and the blade joined the pistols. As he took the man's belt, a rough bit of something brushed his fingers- an oilskin pouch, proof against the water. It scarce felt heavy enough to hold much of note, but he opened it anyway. One never knew what might be inside- and indeed, there was a peculiar crystal cue and a bit of folded bit of paper inside. Edward unfolded it with care, smoothing it out to read:

Mr. Duncan Walpole,

I accept your most generous Offer, and await your Arrival with Eagerness. If you truly possess the Information we desire, we have the Means to reward you handsomely. Though I will not know your face by Sight, I believe I can recognize the Costume made infamous by your secret Order. Therefore, come to Havana in Haste... And trust that you shall be welcomed as a Brother.

Your most humble Servant,
Governor Laureano Torres y Ayala


Well now. Wasn't that something. Edward cast an eye at Mr. Walpole's garb, but if that was the clothing of some Order it was one too secret for him to recognize. If he played his cards right, he might take advantage of that. A governor's reward would doubtless be worth the risk. "Mr. Walpole," he said to the dead man, "let's collect your reward."

It was a matter of moments to dress himself in the dead man's things. As he pulled the hood up- it was sunny, after all- he heard shots ring out in the distance. That meant men- Spaniards if he were unlucky, Englishmen if he were. He set off at a trot through the jungle towards the sound, leaving Walpole's corpse behind.

What little trail he could find must have een made by island deer, narrow and meandering as it was. But it crested a ridge overlooking an unfamiliar harbor, and at anchor in that harbor- "Oh, that schooner'll do me just fine," Edward breathed. "Just fine."

Mind, there was the little matter of the redcoats. Edward had a vague memory of there being a British ship or two about during the battle with the Spaniards that sent his vessel to the bottom, drawn by the prospect of sinking a pirate ship. Mustn't've fared all that well; the redcoats' leader had a fat fellow in green garb backed up against a stack of crates. "The Commodore's gone ahead to Kingston," the officer growled. "We're to commandeer this lubber's ship and follow."

Edward, having already set his sights on commandeering the ship himself, was none too pleased with the prospect. The lubber in question looked absolutely stricken, stammering, "S-sorry, Kingston? No, no... our destination is Havana. I'm just a merchant-"

"Quiet, you bleedin' pirate!" the redcoat snapped. "You'll hang for the mess you made out there."

The fat man squeaked in fright. "Sir, I had nothing to do with this attack!" he said. "My crew and I had merely anchored to water and resupply!"

As he spoke, Edward spotted a pair of the crewmen he spoke of making a break for it. So did the officer, who shouted, "Stop them!" The redcoats' guns barked; the crewmen fell, their blood spattering on the sand.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't vent your skull," growled the officer to the fat man.

"Take my sugar!" the merchant said. "Take anything you like!"

"Ukk," said the officer, who hadn't noticed Edward creeping up behind him. Nor had the other redcoats, but they would never be noticing much of anything again.

Edward never did like men who abused their station in life.

The fat man stared at Edward a moment as Edward shook the blood from his blade. Then a smile burst across his face; "By God's grace, sir, you saved me! A profusion of thanks."

That got a nod of acknowledgment, and a bit of a smile in return. "You're welcome," said Edward, and gestured to the schooner. "Is that yours?"

"It is my vessel, yes," said the merchant. He cast his eyes down, and pointed to one of the corpses the redcoats had made. "But, ah... here lies its poor captain. And I have no art for sailing..."

"I can pilot her myself, sir," said Edward, sizing the man up. "No mind."

The man paled somewhat. "You don't mean to abscond with my ship, do you?"

"I'm Duncan," said Edward. "What's your name, friend?"

"Stede. Stede Bonnet."

Edward smiled, patting his oilskin pouch. "Well Mister Bonnet, let this stay 'twixt us... but I am on a secret errand for His Majesty the King, God save him, and I must get to Havana with speed."

Bonnet exhaled, the tension draining out of him before Edward's very eyes. "Ah, that is a relief, sir!" he said. "Havana is also my destination. Our ways lie together!"

"Natural allies, then."

"Oh, you put me at ease, sir," Bonnet went on. "To think I took you for a pirate when you first appeared!"

"Did you?" said Edward, a trace amused.

"Yes!" said Bonnet, nodding. "You have an... uncommon way of handling yourself. Quick and easy, if I may say. Gave me quite a fright! But all things considered, I think it's turned out to be a rather fortuitous day, hasn't it? Er... well, save for the lack of a rowboat. I fear we'll have to swim to my ship."

"Hardly the worst thing to happen," said Edward easily, and set out into the water. He'd swum farther in worse, and reached the ship first; Bonnet was struggling in his coat, but made it eventually. As the two of them clamered onto the deck Bonnet said, "Welcome aboard, Dunca. She's a modest schooner, but well-suited to my purpose. Trafficking cargo from my plantation and such."

Edward nodded. "She'll do fine," he said, and took the ship's wheel. "There's a strong wind now. Bring in the anchor and let's strike to full, shall we?"

Bonnet beamed and did as he was told. "Ah, there's a tug of the wind at my hair!" he said gaily. "I find a bracing comfort in the feel and smell of the ocean. The raw stink of- of Possibility!"

Not, perhaps, the stink Edward would have thought of; he lifted an eyebrow. "That's a top way of seeing it, mate," he said, and left it at that. He had a bay to navigate, after all.

As they reached the open water, Bonnet said, "We've really opened it up now, haven't we? You're a natural sailor, Duncan."

"I did a decent trick at the helm some time ago," said Edward. "Two years before the mast as a privateer."

Bonnet whistled. "Dash my buttons!" he said. "Your life seems a grand one, if I may say. So full of adventure! How marvelous."

Edward considered this and that, and chuckled quietly. "I have seen my share of strangeness, aye," was all he finally said.
jackdaws_master: (Edward seated upon the Beach)
Light was streaming into the room and stippling across the ceiling through the chinks in the walls near as much as the windows. Morning or evening, he couldn't be certain-

"Is it dangerous? Edward?"

"Hm?"

He rolled his head sideways. Caroline, next to him as always, was propping her head up on one hand and watching him with a look of concern. "Privateering," she said, eyeing him through a few falling strands of her red hair. "Is it dangerous? "

He would have liked to laugh, were she not so focused, so worried. Instead he nodded, sober, and said, " Wouldn't pay so nice if it weren't."

Distress flashed in Caroline's hazel eyes. "Why not sail with the King's Navy?" she suggested. "Earn a proper wage. Sail under gentlemen."

Oh, he did laugh at that, or nearly. "Sod the Navy's gentlemen," he told her. "For every shilling I'd earn, the Captain'd get six hundred. That's no way to earn a fortune."

Caroline shook her head. "We don't need a fortune," she murmured.

It was his turn to shake his head then. "It's not about Need, Caroline. I want food that don't make me sick. I want walls that hold back the wind. I want a decent life," he said. And to himself, he thought,
I want a life better for you than this. I want a life I know won't make you regret what you gave up when you married me.

She bit her lip, but watched him still. After a time she said, "H-how long would you be gone with these privateers?"

"A year, I reckon," he said. "Two at the most."

"All right. No more than two... promise me..."


There was salt on his breath and sand under his face. He pushed himself up, coughing. First that tavern with the mad Dutchman, and then his words with his wife, in the time it took to make it from wreck to shore; it seemed he'd something of a talent for dreaming. The island seemed real enough. Certainly it stank of the sort of things a real island should. He turned to pinch himself, and caught sight of a man sprawled on the sand not far off. "Was it good for you as well?" he inquired.

For someone just washed ashore, the man was dressed respectably enough, in blue cloth of a finer grade than any Edward was used to. The stranger wheezed, his head lolling near to the sand, and said, "Havana… I must get to Havana."

Oh, that was a laugh. There wasn't so much as two planks together anywhere in sight. "Well," said Edward. "I'll just build us another ship, shall I?"

"I can pay you," the stranger rasped. He coughed, and his voice came clearer. "Isn't that the sound you pirates like best? One hundred escudos."

A hundred escudos was- why, that was sixteen hundred reales, and a Hell of a price by any means. "Keep talking," said Edward.

The stranger glared at him foully. "Will you or won't you?" he said, and brought himself to his feet.

Edward cast his glance over the man's clothes. Fine garb, yes, and a good blade and at least one pistol; but no money-pouch he could see. It was only by sheer miracle he still had his own, and he doubted both of them could have had miracles today. "You don't have that gold on you now, do you," he said.

"Bloody fucking pirates," said the man; his shoulders tensed.

"Oh, I am on to you, Sneaksby-"

He might've reached for his weapon, or he mightn't've. Either way the man turned and bolted into the trees. Edward swore under his breath and set off at a run after him, but the man was far swifter than Edward would've given credit for. "Come on, mate!" Edward called out. "We're off to a bad start! It's a hundred leagues or more to Havana! Will you walk that distance?"

The man hurled back a word Edward could scarce make out and dove between the branches of some overgrown bush; when Edward reached its position, he'd vanished from sight. Edward shook his head and considered his options. Alas, they were few indeed just at the moment; well, he'd always been the sort to make his own luck. There was a tree not too far off that looked tall enough to get a good view from, and no harder to climb than a main-mast; it was the work of moments to scramble up into the high branches.

"Posh git," he muttered as he climbed. "Where's he running to?" Then he stopped. There was a strong branch just ahead, the last that seemed strong enough to hold his weight, but some great hawk or small eagle or some other such taloned bird was perched on the end. He'd no great love of having his face pecked or his arms torn-

Ah, it'd seen him coming, and took off. Well, good.

Edward inched his way out along the branch as far as he dared. The tree, it happened, grew not far from the edge of a small cliff, and overhung a deep, waterfall-fed pool far below. A motion caught his eye- the other man's form, emerging from the water, white hood dripping behind him.

Hm.

Well, the water looked deep enough from here; Edward knew how to pull up sharp just as you entered the water, any road. And the man might not have had gold on him, but dressed like one who knew where to get it. Might as well pursue him proper. He drew a deep breath, braced his feet, and dived.

There was a single shining moment in which it all seemed very nearly flying, as if the world had stopped around him and everything flooded with light.

Then the world rushed in again, and the water struck him, and it was all as it had been before. Edward wrenched himself upward in time to hear the man yell, "Follow and I'll kill you!" as he broke the surface.

Edward, treading water, laughed. "We could work together on this!" he called out.

"Keep your distance!" shouted the man. Wait, was that a pistol in his hand?

BANG.

The Arrival

Dec. 3rd, 2013 10:30 pm
jackdaws_master: Blond scruffy guy in early 1700s clothes on a dock, looking up at something offscreen (Default)
"Our helmsman's dead! Someone take the wheel!"

There was a storm, a colossal one, and a frigate looming up out of it. He can remember that. (And a figure- a man in a white hood? He thinks.)

There's no more powder-stench in his nostrils. The air's not sizzling with lightning the more. His ears've stopped ringing, though whether that's true quiet or deafness he can't say. But he's not pitching and rolling about, nor is the water tumbling him arse over teakettle like a kitten's play-thing. There's just sand...

His ribs heaving in a mighty cough that brings up near as much salt-water as air, Edward Kenway pushes himself up on an unfamiliar bit of Caribbean inlet and opens his eyes.

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jackdaws_master: Blond scruffy guy in early 1700s clothes on a dock, looking up at something offscreen (Default)
Captain Edward Kenway

March 2014

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