And then she heard a voice in her head, and at first she didn't want to listen because of its cynically humorous tone ... it was the voice of that pirate, that Philip Davies! ... but he was explaining something she needed to know, something about the areas of magic that were accessible only to women, and could be used by men only under certain specific conditions ...

"Do you, John, take me, Elizabeth, to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward ... uh, forsaking all others ... for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, I think that's all of it, till death do us part?" Her nightgown was flapping around her ankles in the chilly sea breeze and she was shivering like a wet cat. Her slashed hand trembled as it gripped the saber blade.

Blackbeard was pushed back another step. He had drawn his rapier and he swung it around him in great whistling arcs as if to clear the air of resistance. "No," he choked, "you are for me! You can't - "

"I do," said Shandy. "And do you, Elizabeth, take me, J-John, to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward," - he grinned - "forsaking all others, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part?"

Blackbeard howled with rage.

"I do," said Beth.

She now let go of the blade and hugged her slashed hand to herself, but Shandy felt himself waking up, felt alertness pouring into him and expanding his field of vision and making his saber feel lighter, springier. The surrounding dead men moved in, and then were pushed back by some force that withered them.

Shandy couldn't tell if it was his father or Davies who prompted him, but he found himself rushing at Blackbeard, and though his legs were pounding and his arm was keeping the blade extended in front of him, he could almost feel hands far above him deftly rocking the stick and crosspiece and making the willing marionette which was himself spring toward the bald man in a coupe-and-fleche.

Startled, Blackbeard crouched behind his own extended sword.

Taking the final stride, Shandy almost thought he could feel the upward yank of the string as he quickly flipped his point over the other man's sword and extended it again in Blackbeard's inside line; the big man parried across, but Shandy's point wasn't there anymore - it had ducked under the parry back to the low outside line, and Shandy used the momentum of his run to punch the blade into, and right through, Blackbeard's side.


Heat exploded in Shandy's hand and he almost pitched right off the end of the pier; but Blackbeard was still standing, and he forced himself not to flinch back or let go of the blood-slick saber hilt, for he could feel strength pulsing through the connection he was a link of - the magnetic iron in his hand, the mingled blood of himself and Beth, and the cold iron of the sword - and then just for a moment his point of view expanded outward: he could look across the pier at himself through Beth's eyes, and, horrifyingly, Blackbeard's entrails with the blade of the saber ...

... And then things began dying around him. With a sense that wasn't quite hearing he caught the cries of evicted beings fleeing from the sunlight into the sea and into the jungle ... spurious personalities, constructed by sorcery out of inert elements, sprang back into oblivion like yanked-on slipknots ... Shandy felt, but didn't respond to, wheedlingly seductive things pleading for shelter within his mind ... and one unseen but towering being, as black and cold as the death of all light, forced to relinquish its broken vehicle, made an icy promise to Shandy before stalking away toward the night that was receding to the west ...

And when Blackbeard toppled forward onto the boards of the pier, pulling the sword finally out of Shandy's numb hand, Shandy stared down at the corpse in wonder, for it was riddled with sword cuts and the exploded-looking wounds pistol balls make, and the left shoulder had been cleft nearly all the way through, as if by a solid blow from a pike blade.

Woefully Fat's summons seemed to have worked - Shandy had indeed proven to be the death that came out of the Old World for Blackbeard.

After a while he looked up. The dead men were gone. Beth stood with her arms at her sides, and blood was dripping metronomically from her left hand. The sun was up, and it occurred to Shandy that he'd have to hurry if he was going to get Beth and himself bandaged, set up and ignite a pyre for Blackbeard, and then somehow with his ruined hands work this sailboat out to where the Carmichael waited, before Skank catted the anchor and sailed away.

And even then his problems wouldn't be over. Beth would probably stop having these blank-out spells in time, but would his devastated crew mutiny when he ordered them to sail back to New Providence? And could Woodes Rogers be convinced that none of the past two weeks' actions had constituted a violation of the King's Pardon?

He noticed that the compass needle still stuck out from his blood-sopping right glove. Thoughtfully, without even wincing, he worked the needle back and forth in his numbed flesh and finally pulled it out and stared at it. He smiled, tossed it off the end of the pier into the dawn-sparkling sea ... and, squinting into the sun, he laughed softly and with complete contentment, for he was married to Beth Hurwood. Obviously his luck was strong, and he was confident that he could bail and jury-rig their way through these difficulties. He'd weathered far, far worse.

Still smiling, he began tearing up his lace-cuffed silk shirt for bandages.

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