The somber beat of the drum was the only sound that filled the square in that early morning. The people stood below the gallows, huddling for the warmth against the biting wind, staring up at the platform. Their eyes rested on the prisoner, who was soon to meet death. His chin was lifted high, as if his impending doom couldn't even damage his pride. Dark eyes swept over the crowd, watching the whisperers, the pointing, the glances. Dark hair fluttered across his face as the executioner pulled the noose tighter, coarse fibers digging into his neck. Yet still, his deadpan expression never changed. Only his eyes held any emotion at all, as they stopped on one person.
Elizabeth. Her eyes held his, fighting back the tears that threatened to flood down her face. As she watched, her fingers played with the chain around her neck. The object on it was supposed to be one of joy, not of a curse, but it had seemed to turn out that way. Her fingers trailed over the smooth surface of the gold band, the band that he'd made for her, as he had no money to pay for one. But to her, it was more exquisite, more elegant than anything sold at the jewelers, because it had been made by him. Her father turned to look at her, and she quickly dropped it down the front of her bodice, so that he wouldn't see it. If he did, he'd take that away from her to. She shut her eyes as the memory of that day swept over her.
"Elizabeth?" His eyes twinkled with mirth as he saw her standing at the end of the docks, waiting for him. She picked up her skirts, running towards him and throwing her arms around his neck, laughing.
"I've missed you so." She whispered in his ear as he held her close.
"And I you." Came his response. She wrapped her arm around his, walking slowly down the deck. Once, she turned around, looking out over the sea, then back at him.
"Did you find out what you needed to know?" She asked, lowering her voice and leaning towards him.
"Aye." He responded, looking over at her. "But as much as I discovered myself out there, one thing stood out among all the rest."
She watched him questioningly, brushing a curl from her face. Did she want to hear this? Would he tell her that a life on the sea was what he wanted more? Her heart sped up as he turned towards her, getting down on one knee.
"I need you in my life, Elizabeth. Will you marry me?" His eyes were full of sincere hope as he looked up at her, waiting patiently.
Her hand flew to her mouth, and for a few moments, she couldn't work up the ability to speak. Finally, the words came out in a rush, like water from a dam. "Yes! Yes, of course I'll marry you!" She shouted joyfully, wrapping her arms around his neck as he got to his feet. The tender kiss between them made her soar.
He pulled back, pulling a small box from the back of his knapsack and flicking it open. The ring he pulled out was a simple golden band. "It's not much, but I'll get you a better one when I get more…"
"It's beautiful." She murmured, as she took it from his hand. It was well crafted, smooth and bright, and she smiled as she saw the inscription on the inside. Yours Eternally. She slipped it on one finger, watching as the sun caught it and reflected. "Just beautiful."
Her hand went to the chain again, pulling out the ring and holding it tight in her fist. She couldn't look at him anymore. Not when he was about to leave her. Tears flowed from her eyes again as the charges were read. Piracy, hearsay, rebellion against the crown. The list went on, hurting her more and more. She needed comfort and she slowly slipped her hand into not of that of her father's, or of Norrtington's, but of Will's best friend, Michael Harden, who was standing next to her. She looked up to him, seeking the comfort she so dearly needed, but she knew she'd find none when she saw the wet streaks running down his face. Of course, they had been best friends since they were twelve, inseparable. This had to be hurting him as much as it hurt her. Steeling herself, she glanced over at her father and Norrington. The looks on their faces surprised her just as much.
Governor Swann held his chin high, trying to maintain the air of authority about him, but his slumped shoulders begged otherwise. He seemed to be fighting the urge to just walk away, to not witness this sight. Norrtington's face betrayed nothing, but his eyes told a different story. Conflict over what was right, and what was wrong. He was bound by law to hang pirates, but what happened when the pirate was a good man? He seemed to notice Elizabeth's eyes on him and turned his head slightly, but she had already looked back down at the ground again.
The drumbeat sped up, faster and faster. The executioner's eyes were on him, but he couldn't do it. Although he still felt a slight twinge of jealousy, of love lost, when Elizabeth had chosen the blacksmith, he bared no grudge. The man about to be hung was a good man, no matter what his bloodlines dictated.
"Commodore." Governor Swann said in a low voice. "Please, you must end the boy's suffering in waiting now. There's nothing more we can do." Norrington continued to stare stoically ahead. He shut his eyes, then raised a hand. The signal was given. He heard the groan as the lever was pulled, and the hollow thump as wood hit wood, the trap door swinging away.
The governor's hand suddenly grasped his shoulder, squeezing tighter. "Good Lord, the boy's neck didn't break." He whispered. Norrington looked down at the ground, eyes still shut, hearing Elizabeth's sobs from someway nearby, full of pain. He waited, and waited.
The footsteps of the doctor ascending the stairs to the galley came to him, and he opened his eyes, but didn't look up. The crowd was hushed, waiting for his assessment.
But unlike the other hangings, this announcement elicited no shouts of joy, no celebration. The peopled turned, disappearing off to homes and businesses. They'd seen one they'd known for years, one they'd always known as a good lad, hang. It didn't matter if he was a pirate or not. They would take no joy in it.
Elizabeth and Michael had dropped to the ground, sobbing in each others arms. Norrington looked up, and over to the governor. The man was trying to wipe the tears from his eyes, it grieving him to see his own daughter grieve so. The commodore remained stoic, but inside, an overwhelming guilt was devouring him.
"I was bound by law…" He whispered, but that made no difference to the woman he loved, never would.
Her true love, William Turner, was dead.