It didn't seem to make sense at first.
Pintel chuckled darkly to himself as he gazed out over the still gray water, then turned his head to glance back at the Black Pearl's gently bobbing outline far behind him. It didn't seem to make sense at all.
What would the Pearl's crew need to make port for? What reason could a ship full of men with no use for food or wenches possibly have for going on land? Any common ninny who knew so much as a rat's whisker about the legendary Aztec Curse would've probably wondered such a thing, but—as Pintel snarkily concluded—those common ninnies were called so for a reason. Just because Captain Barbossa and his men were immortal didn't mean their weapons and supplies had the same ever-lasting strength; the Black Pearl needed to restock, especially now, and land was the only place where she could do so.
That was why the black-sailed ship was anchored far off the coast of Hispaniola this late afternoon, and that was why her crew was now rowing to shore in a pair of longboats.
A burly pirate of almost sixty years, Pintel saw the world through a pair of leering yellowed eyes and sported a temper even shorter than his slighting stature. His closest companion, a rail-thin man named Ragetti, had once joked that a fellow's patience must have resided in his hair; this strange notion seemed rather fitting, as Pintel was completely bald except for a wispy horseshoe of long gray hair that still clung to the sides of his head. The stocky buccaneer hadn't quite appreciated the humor of such a concept, to say the least, and he'd given Ragetti a hard elbow to the gut to show it.
Pintel forced back another laugh as he recalled the exchange, and seeing the subdued grin on his weathered face, Ragetti smiled as well. Up until that moment, the younger pirate had been happily preoccupied with his knife, casually poking each of his fingertips with it to see which one felt its sharp prick the most. Pain, one of the many feelings that had been dulled by their ten-year curse, was a funny sensation to him now, and he reveled and laughed at his ability to feel it in such a small dose. The sight of Pintel trying to cover up a smirk, however, was an even sillier thing to behold, and so Ragetti lowered his tiny blade and stared at his mate.
"What's funny?" he asked almost inaudibly.
Pintel whirled around at the sudden question, then shook his head dismissively as he looked away again. "Nuffin'."
Beside him, Ragetti nodded and chuckled dumbly. "I fink nuffin's funny too." Then with that, he turned his attention away from Pintel and resumed entertaining himself. This time, however, the lanky pirate decided to do it in a slightly more disgusting way.
Pintel heard the dull squishing noise behind him, followed closely by the sound of creaking wood, and a second later, there was a small pop as something tiny was pulled free from its proper home. The bald man wrinkled his face oddly at the little symphony, and then a look of dreadful recognition suddenly flashed in his eyes. He had heard each of those sounds countless times before, and he tensed slightly as he recalled the unsavory image that always went with them. Turning once again, Pintel cautiously lowered his eyes to see what Ragetti had in his bony hands now. And sure enough…
"Uh!" the stocky pirate grimaced in repulsion. "Wotcha' got that fing out for, Rags?"
Ragetti's face was locked in a silly grin as he looked up at his companion again—this time with only one eye. "I likes lookin' at it."
But Pintel would hear none of this, and swatted his hands impatiently at the wooden sphere in his friend's hands—a false eyeball. "Well put it back! Yeh make me sick every time yeh does that!"
"It ain't real," Ragetti pointed out passively.
"I don't care, put it back in!"
The younger pirate would've complied right then, but Pintel had no patience when it came to the wooden prosthetic. Leaning over, the older man raised one of his muscular arms and promptly slapped Ragetti in the back of the head. The scrawny fellow toppled forward in his seat from the blow, and with perfect but unplanned precision, he smacked his face right into his undisturbed hands. When Rags sat upright again, the splintery orb was lodged inside his right socket once more, twitching and wiggling about as he tried to adjust its position.
Pintel scowled at the sight and stared ahead, trying to ignore the annoyed glares from the other crewmen around them. He always hated it when Ragetti did that with his fake eye—it was revolting enough in any context, but seeing that sightless brown ball gaping up at him from Rags's thin hands was made all the worse by the sight of that empty black socket where it belonged. It was a disturbing reminder of how the younger man had lost his eye in the first place, and that gave Pintel nothing but a sickening twinge of guilt…
Unfazed by the rough gesture, Ragetti reached over and tapped on his mate's bald head to get his attention. "Oi! What's we comin' 'ere for again?"
The other rolled his eyes impatiently, abandoning his grim thoughts. "I told yeh: we's comin' 'ere t'get more gun powder. We didn't find enough at the last town we sacked, so we's goin' 'ere for it. Aye?"
Ragetti bobbed his dopey head in understanding, then began poking himself with his knife again. There was a brief pause, and then the lanky fellow giggled again.
"Aye…" he murmured to himself, still wiggling his wooden replacement. "Eye. Aye. Aye-eye!"
Pintel just ground his teeth, silently debating whether or not he should give Ragetti a black "eye-aye" and end it.
Traditionally, a pirate crew in need of something they could only find on land would have no trouble getting it; they needed only to sail to the nearest port, tie their vessel to the docks, and step off. Unfortunately, telling fantastic stories and creating legends was another ageless—and thus, unavoidable—buccaneer tradition, and that was why Barbossa had been forced to drop anchor so far off shore this day. Pirates spooked easily, and there wasn't a doubt in his mind that they would spook something terrible if they saw the Black Pearl with its infamous black sails on the horizon.
This wasn't to say, however, that ten men rowing into the harbor in nothing but a pair of longboats wouldn't still turn a few heads.
One such head belonged to a tall, thin sailor seated near his own ship at the docks, repairing a tattered fishing net. He was an older man, evident by his weathered face and gray-tinted beard, and he wore a pale brown coat that wasn't quite filthy enough to look like it really belonged to him. His scraggly hair was covered by a muddy blue bandanna, and when he caught sight of Barbossa's pitiful-looking fleet, he blinked at it with a pair of equally blue eyes.
A smirk appeared on his lips then, and setting down his net, he went over to greet the shortchanged captain.
Still in his boat, Barbossa's face twisted into a foul sneer the instant he saw the old pirate making his way towards them down the long pier.
"These be all your ships, mate?" the stranger asked him with a laugh.
"These be transports from the real ship that's anchored a ways off shore," the cursed captain replied brusquely.
The man in the blue bandanna dragged his foot over the rotted planks beneath him. "Well these docks ain't just 'ere for the barnacles, y'know."
"Aye, but it ain't in me best interest to use 'em for my ship."
The stranger looked puzzled and amused all at once. "It's better to leave a ship floatin' out of reach at sea than tyin' it off at a dock?"
"Aye, in this case, it be." Barbossa made no attempt to hide his impatience. Behind him in the second boat, Pintel and Ragetti exchanged a knowing glance.
The stranger on the dock still wouldn't back off. "And why's that?" he asked coolly. "'Cause she's 'bout ready to sink and can't handle the extra trip?"
Barbossa scowled. "Because I just might decide to use her cannons to fire away at any man who sees fit to pry into what business be mine and not his!"
"I fink a captain who's been sailin' for days and needs somewhere to tie 'is ship would decide to use his cannons to fire away at any pair of wee boats what're takin' up the last dock left."
There was a pause as Barbossa eyed the meddlesome pirate, trying to figure him out. Pintel seemed equally curious about the stranger. What did it matter to the thin-faced bugger that they were in longboats? Or didn't he care at all, and was simply looking for a laugh at their crew's expense? At last, the Pearl's captain ceased his pondering, and lifted his bearded chin to speak in a cold, haughty tone.
"Won't be a problem." After all, his crew didn't need longboats to reach their ship again.
Satisfied by this, the stranger smiled and bowed his head respectfully. "Happy sailin' and sinkin', then." With that, he turned and left the dock.
Barbossa barely even waited for him to go before stepping out of the boat. As soon as he had both boots firmly on the planks, he turned and beckoned sharply for his crew to do likewise. In a matter of minutes, both boats were tied securely to the dock posts, and all of their passengers were officially standing in Hispaniola. The captain delayed their mission once more to recruit a watcher for the tiny vessels, and as soon as Koehler grudgingly accepted his assignment, Barbossa announced that the other gents had one hour to rendezvous.
Pintel nudged Ragetti jokingly. "The way he struts about, it'll take two."
The two stifled their laughter and paused to glance around, temporarily lost. It felt like ages since either one of them had set foot on land without the intent to burn everything on it to cinders. This was a pirate port, overflowing with residents as hardened and cutthroat as they were, and their only mission here was to carry out a business transaction. Pintel couldn't quite describe it, but somehow, the thought of this disappointed him.
Ten straight years of sacking towns would do that to a man, he supposed.
"Where d'we go?" Ragetti finally asked him.
The older man scrunched his face in thought. "Well the way I sees it, we could just go straight out that ways, and I'm pretty sure there was a tavern there what had gunpowder in stock…"
Off to their right, the pirate who'd questioned Barbossa earlier had gathered up his net and was off on his own mission now, still laughing to himself as he recalled the standoffish conversation. Ragetti easily spotted the blue bandanna from across the docks, and while Pintel continued to think out loud beside him, he allowed his one eye to follow the odd stranger.
As he neared the mismatched pair, the man seemed to sense that he was being watched, and he casually stopped to send the younger pirate a questioning glance.
And then he stopped.
Ragetti edged back awkwardly. What'd started as a curious fleeting look from the stranger had suddenly become a direct stare. The older pirate blinked, unsure of something, then turned to face Ragetti more openly as he studied the dark blonde lad. Another tense moment of scrutiny passed, and then, as abruptly as he'd stopped in his tracks, the stranger's puzzled gaze turned to one of utter shock.
Ragetti instinctively stepped back and lowered his eyes to the dock. The man's steely blue eyes were staring straight through him, and that worn old face was strained with disbelief—even horror. It was overwhelming, the feeling of those eyes burrowing into him, and Ragetti squirmed uneasily as he tried to ignore his observer.
Oblivious to the conflict unfolding beside him, Pintel rambled on. "…Then again, I fink the owner had a mishap wif that powder and sent the 'ole place up in blazes." He lifted one eyebrow in thought. "A'course, that was ten years ago…"
The stranger continued to stare at Ragetti, frozen in staggering realization. He was powerless to look away, even as he saw how much he was bothering the young man. His mind had been sent into a whirlwind from the shock of his discovery, and only a single, agonized thought was able to push its way through the tearing winds.
It couldn't be.
He shook his head gently, watching as the scrawny young sailor glanced back up at him timidly. It couldn't be. It couldn't be.
At last, Ragetti's considerable lack of input caught Pintel's attention, and the shorter pirate turned to look at his friend's troubled face. Once this registered, Pintel followed that single darting eye and spotted the cause of the distress standing just a few paces ahead. The stocky man scowled in recognition. Not this sot again.
He glanced up at Ragetti again to be sure, and with a sharp double take, he realized what must have brought on the unnerving stare-down.
Bulging in its socket, revealed beyond any doubt by the bright afternoon light, Ragetti's wooden eye was whirling and twitching out of control.
Once more, the familiar wave of guilt came over Pintel at the sight of it, but he quickly shoved his grim emotions aside and turned to glare at the stranger again.
"Oi, wot?" he sneered at the man. "Ain't never seen a lad wif one eye b'fore?"
The other pirate continued to stare, and failing to see the infinite pain in his blue eyes, Pintel stepped forward and continued. "Eh? Only used t'seein' them wif black patches?"
But the other man just stared, beyond words.
Pintel scowled. So that's how this was going to be. Without another thought, he swiftly took his thin companion by the arm and led him forward. "Come on, Rags."
The burly pirate made a point of walking directly past the stranger as they left, just so he could ram one of his broad shoulders against the bandanna-clad fellow's, roughly shoving him aside. The force of the unfriendly gesture spun the taller man around, leaving him to continue staring in disbelief at the now retreating Ragetti. Pintel sensed this, but not wanting to ruin the moment by glancing back, simply nudged his younger mate between the shoulder blades as he continued to steer him away. Before the intrusive on-looker could even attempt to say anything, both of them had disappeared into the crowd.
Alone once more, the man in the blue bandanna finally tore his eyes away from the pair and down at his damaged net, which he failed to recall ever dropping. He quietly bent down to retrieve it, and with the sad, stunned light fixed in his eyes, he stepped back and sat heavily down on the grimy wooden crate behind him. He knew beyond the shadow of any possible doubt that he had never seen that thin, bulging-eyed lad before in his life.
And yet somehow, he knew exactly who he was.
Soon to be updated!