To be the captain of the Dutchman means many things. But above all it means that you are going to forever stay on this post, as the time passes around you.
A/N: This is not going to be your typical Pirates story. I prefer to warn you so that nobody feels disappointed.
Summary: To be the captain of the Dutchman means many things. But above all it means that you are going to forever stay on this post as the time passes around you.
Never Shall We Die
The Dutchman was a symbol as well as a ship. She was one in the times when sails towered over the sea waves and she stayed one when those times faded away.
The times changed but changed only around her and the Dutchman still had a duty to be served. To be the captain of her was to spend the immortal life fulfilling it. And as the world changed it wasn't getting any easier.
At first it wasn't obvious that not everything was what it used to be. Or perhaps he was still too bound to his previous life to notice. Back then, he still concentrated too much on the bitter irony of the fact that every time he saw afamiliar face again meant he could start mourning an old friend.
Few decided to stay on the ship for a century longer, he suspected though that it had more to do with a twisted act of friendship than actual fear of death. Most didn't. And ferrying every one of them to the next world he couldn't help afeeling that he lost something valuable he never realised he had.
Loosing Elisabeth was also a blow that came much too soon. He visited her every ten years, loving her with unwavering strength despite her hair getting more silver every time. He cherished every second he spent with her and felt that her love made him stronger and more complete.
But eventually came the time when he didn't see her standing on the shore, waiting for him. Instead their son led him to a marvel grave surrounded by flowers.
"She wanted to die aboard a ship to meet you one last time, father." He said "But before I could organise that, she died quietly in her bed. In her last words she asked me to tell you how she loved you, in case she never got a chance to say that herself"
That day they spent almost entirely by her grave.
Passing of his son was hard too. It brought out the feeling that nobody should see their child buried. But somehow it wasn't as hard as parting with Elisabeth. Despite his love for their child he spent only eight days with him altogether.
And it seemed that his grandchildren were even more distant to him.
The world was becoming more rational and there wasn't much place for sea monsters and ghost ships in it. At least in the minds of young people for whom welcoming him ashore every decade was a sad duty spoiling the comfortable bliss of rationality.
Every time fewer waited for him and finally the day came when he had only a marble grave of his wife to offer him a quiet welcome.
Will didn't know if Jack ever found the water of life. He never met him but it didn't mean he couldn't have died ashore from old age or in any other of anumber of possible ways. After all the tales of his search for the wonderful spring could be nothing but tales of the seamen who found their way to his ship with nothing but their stories to offer.
If Jack did not die however, thanks to magical water or whatever he found during his quest, Will didn't doubt his old friend disliked what was happening with the world.
And the world was changing. Ever so slightly.
More ships were sailing back and forth between America and the Old Continent. And the purposes for that were changing as well.
Over the years the crew of Dutchman grew larger by a few black-skinned men, not knowing anything about sailing but willing to learn. Of course many of their companions chose death but still there were many to chose from.
Slave ships from Africa didn't provide liveable conditions to their 'cargo' after all. It said a lot that those men were actually grateful that they were serving on Dutchman instead of the alternative. But gradually slave ships got harder to meet at sea. Both Will and his crew welcomed this as a sign that slavery slowly became past.
On the small island that he recognised less every decade an old grave was gently embraces by branches of a wild rose.
"Came to pay respects?" he heard a voice behind him when he kneeled next to the tombstone.
He turned around to see and old woman.
"Many do, you know. They ask for her help. The sailors come to ask her to inspire their girls when they have to sail away. And their girls ask her for strength while waiting for them to return and to keep their boys safe at sea."
The old woman nodded.
"Oh, yes. She lived on this island a long time ago. It could be a century or even more since she died. They say her husband got lost at sea when she was still very young. And she kept waiting for him to return till her last breath. Every day she would come to the shore and look for a light signalling her that her beloved was coming back to her."
"She was?" there was a hoarse undertone in his voice as she spoke but the woman didn't seem to notice
"That's what they say. They say a lot of stories about her. Some say she was governor's daughter who eloped with a pirate. Others say that she was a pirate herself and only settled down when their child was born. Then there are the stories that she was courted by a pirate but eventually settled with a blacksmith. I even heard once a most fantastic story about kings of pirates and ghost ships but Idon't remember it well. And it was, after all, only one of those stories that old sailors share after one drink too much. As I said, there are many stories about her. But it can't all be true. The way I see it she was just a remarkable woman drawing strength from her love"
"Yes."Will managed to whisper "Truly remarkable."
The fact that the world changed could be observed at sea as well.
The ships were not what they used to be. At first it was something of curiosity. When they saw the first steamship making her way to some port they fully expected some kind of eccentric inventor to be involved.
But as years went by more and more of them could be seen until finally they were sure the times when you could see white sails on the horizon were over.
With their own eyes they saw an era change. The time mercilessly moved forward at never changing pace. And they were helpless when it came to preserving what they knew.
The ship designers grew bolder as well. They would never forget the time when they saw one of the titans of the sea sink into the icy waves. Never before so many people found their way to the Dutchman's crew. Those who feared death most were the first to choose a ship that couldn't sink.
Then came next changes when ships no longer sailed on the surface. When first faced with the idea his crew laughed heartily at the American invention, joking about people envying them the Dutchman despite the steamships they had.
Years passed though and there was no longer a reason to laugh. Then came the war when the underwater ships were used. There was little room to laugh then.
Will remembered well the time when the Dutchman came to collect the victims of such ship. He saw a mighty ship, Lusitania, sink when hit with 'submarine's torpedoes' as said by Jonathan Blake who served on her before joining the crew of the Dutchman.
Before Will had a chance to ask him the Question, Jonathan asked what happened to captain Turner. This of course drew attention.
"I'm captain Turner" he said then earning a surprised look from the sailor
"No, I meant captain William Turner. The captain of Lusiatania."
"Yes. Excellent sailor. Said he inherited it with the name after his great-grandfather."
Will drew a breath after hearing that
"What else did he say on the matter?"
"Not much. But every time he sailed daringly to save somebody or to brake a new record he would say that he could do that because his great-grandfather protected him. I guess he got sloppy this time. And to think she was supposed to be too fast to be sunk."
"I can't really protect a ship from sinking." Will replied quietly earning ashocked look from the sailor "Tell me, do you fear death?"
In those years there were many ships sunk by the submarines. But every time he collected the souls of those who died he couldn't help but think of his distant heir barring his name. He must have survived as Will never found him but he knew nothing more of his fate.
Being the captain of the Dutchman wasn't an easy duty. It's never been meant to be one.
Will still didn't know anything of the fate of his great-great-grandson. And the thought of what might have happened to him wasn't an easy one. He didn't drown that night, that much for certain, but his fate after reaching the shore remained a mystery.
And as the very same war raged on he could not find one person among the many that found their way to his ship able to tell him anything. Either they didn't know or didn't want to share the information for whatever reason. Will asked every one of those who might have known something but he didn't press them for information.
It wasn't his place to force them closer to their previous life with his questioning.
And, while after all those years he prided himself that he cared not for any wars anymore, he couldn't help but feel that he subconsciously sided with those who sailed under English flag. The same his heir sailed under not so long ago.
But again it wasn't his place to take sides.
He looked as members of his crew, previously serving on Titanic, Lusitania, Britannic and many others cheered as another sea giant sunk a submarine.
"That's the sister of our ship, I tell you. Never thought I'd see the day one of them wears the dazzles"
"Camouflage of not, 'tis no war vessel. What are they thinking?"
"Aye, that's no warship, but those guns sure don't look like toys."
"But those ain't guns she's using right now. That won't end well I tell you"
"I wouldn't say that. Look!"
There was a deafening crash of metal as the Olimpic rammed the U-Boot.
"I don't believe it. It's a merchant ship. No merchant ship ever sunk a warship before! I just don't believe it."
"At least one of 'em Whitestars had to be unsinkable, eh?"
Will tuned out the voices. He longed to join his men in drinking for the unheard of victory but he couldn't. He had duty that had to be fulfilled. He approached the first of the soldiers that just found his way to the Dutchman.
"Sagen Sie mir, fürchten Sie den Tod?”
Being the captain of the Dutchman was a hard duty. But the Dutchman had to have a captain. Always.
Sometimes in the solitude of his cabin, waiting for the sleep that refused to come, Will wondered.
Would it be any easier to fulfil this duty, if he could lock all his feelings and memories safely in the chest where, for centuries already, rested his heart?
In memory of William “Bowler Bill” Turner, captain of Lusitania