Before The Dawn
Chapter I: Of Pearls and Roses
"Mate, my advice to you is to strike your colours and order these men here to drop their weapons."
Captain Julian Mannings of the merchant ship the Lady Rose stared wide-eyed and vacantly down the barrel of the brown pistol aimed between his eyes. From the moment the lookout had spotted the black sails on the horizon he had known that they were being pursued by none other than the notorious Black Pearl and her infamous captain, Jack Sparrow.
Now the man himself stood before him, holding a gun to his head, demanding he order his crew to surrender, and all Julian Mannings could do was goggle at him.
By God, but the man was strange! With his twin braided beard, dreadlocked and beaded hair and red bandana, he looked like some sort of gypsy, not the most feared pirate in the Caribbean, maybe the world. Until you looked at his eyes that is. Now Mannings had seen many a sailor wear kohl to keep the sun from their eyes and had had to refrain from laughing at their expense.
Sparrow looked anything but amusing. The kohl merely lent his dark eyes a mischievous, even feral, glint.
In his preoccupation, only a part of his brain noticed Sparrow cock the pistol before turning to address the Rose's crew himself. "Listen here fellas. Now, either you can drop your weapons, we take what we want and let you get on your way or you can fight, I'll kill your captain here, my crew kills you and we take what we want and leave anyway, savvy? What say you to that?"
Mannings watched blankly as weapons clattered to the deck and Sparrow grinned and nodded in thanks before ushering his waiting crew down into the holds. The captain un-cocked his gun and shoved it in his belt then helped a few remaining crew gathering up the abandoned weapons.
Pulling up some barrels, Sparrow, a dark skinned woman and an elderly man, began sorting through the collection. To Julian's surprise they appeared to be organizing the weaponry into two groups: those of good quality and those of poor. He had always heard that pirates didn't know all that much about swords, knives and pistols. He thought they just grabbed anything with a point and started swinging.
But then the crew of the Black Pearl had already surprised him today and he wasn't just talking about their eccentric captain. He listened to the tales that sailors brought back from encounters with pirates – the ones that made it back alive anyway – and they all seemed to agree on one thing.
There was no training apparent. They seemed to just grab any available weapon and hack at their opponent. For most buccaneers, getting out in one piece was as much due to luck and brute strength as it was to skill.
And yet, when the Pearl's crew had boarded his ship, while the pirates all looked to have had at least basic training a great many of them had obviously a great talent for the sword. The Lady Rose's crew had been losing the fight long before Jack Sparrow had made his way to the quarterdeck where Mannings was standing next to his helmsman and calmly aimed his pistol at Julian's forehead.
A shout from below decks interrupted his musings. Jogging footsteps were heard and an older man appeared at the top of the stairs. In his arms was a fluffy bundle of white silk. Squawking from the man's shoulder was a green parrot which was currently amusing itself by making low unintelligible noises from deep in its throat.
He made his way over to the captain, who took the bundle into his own arms and began to shake it out.
Seeing what it was, Sparrow glanced up briefly and met his stare thoughtfully. His gaze narrowed and he rubbed his thumb and forefinger together as though in deep contemplation. Coming to a decision, he sat up straight and beckoned to Captain Mannings.
Warily approaching the flamboyant pirate captain, Mannings quickly tried to draw himself together. He had already acted too much like a fool before this man and he would not let him have anymore advantages. Why, he was no more that a common brigand!
Every nerve in his body begged to differ to this statement but he kept his back dead upright and his face composed as he came to a stop. Sparrow regarded him for a moment, a look that made his insides quiver but he refused to crack under the pressure. It took an effort not to breathe a sigh of relief when Sparrow returned his gaze to the item still in his hands.
"What I would like to know Captain...?" The pirate captain's tone of voice was deep and calm. As he had noticed earlier, while the pirate's voice was rough and had a slight accent, there was none of the habitual use of harsh abbreviations on words that accompanied your average pirate or sailor's speech.
"Mannings," he supplied, noted with relief that his voice did not quaver. He had managed to cling the tattered dregs of his dignity at least. "Captain Mannings of the merchantman the Lady Rose."
Sparrow raised an eyebrow knowingly. "Right then, Captain Mannings. What I would like to know is why your only cargo is a bloody great wedding dress."
The rest of the ragtag crew gathered around to hear his answer and he saw with no small amount of satisfaction that their expressions were all distinctly peeved. All but Sparrow that was. He fairly lounged in what must surely be an uncomfortable perch on his barrel, regarding Julian with a curious, thought slightly impatient, countenance.
Julian cleared his throat. "We were hired to bring the wedding dress directly to Port Royal. Moreover we were offered no small amount of money to do it. We are to then restock with the usual shipment and continue on our way."
"Port Royal? Whose wedding might that be?" The pirate's expression was carefully neutral, voice bland.
"The governor's daughter, Elizabeth Swann, is to marry a blacksmith. William Turner, I think his name was." The expression on the man's face now, was certainly not what he had expected. Surprise, amusement and…fondness?...all flickered across Sparrow's features in rapid succession before he regained control of himself. "Caused quite a scandal from all accounts."
Manner completely altered, Sparrow leaped to his feet and swaggered across the deck to the boarding plank that joined the two ships. Transferring the wedding gown onto one arm, he gestured for the crew to return to the Pearl, the woman grabbing the good pile of swords as she went.
Once they had gone, Sparrow turned back to Mannings.
"Well Captain Mannings of the Lady Rose, it looks as though our little get-together has come to an end. I will relieve you of this beautiful cargo and deliver it personally to the bride." Hefting the dress higher, he made his way across the plank muttering to himself. The words "Looks like we'll find out if you really are a eunuch then won't we whelp?" drifted back to them on the wind, the restrained laughter evident in the tone.
Julian could see Sparrow stride up to the helm. As he watched the man settle in by the wheel, he could feel his legs turn to jelly and he was forced to grab the rail to keep from collapsing as his knees threatened to buckle. He left the Lieutenant in charge and carefully made his way towards his cabin.
Shock could be slept off, and right now, he wanted nothing more than to lie down on his bed and give way to oblivion.
* * * * *
Captain Jack Sparrow grasped the helm and raised his head, feeling the wind whip through his hair. He breathed in the refreshing smell of the ocean and braced his legs on either side of the wheel. He closed his eyes in contentment.
He couldn't quite comprehend why the whelp would want to marry. Marriage closed you in, cut down your options and took away your freedom. But if he was prepared to tie the knot then, invited or not, Jack was going to be there to watch it happen. Should be rather amusing really. An irrepressible roguish grin formed on his face. He couldn't wait to see their faces when he turned up on their doorstep.
Breathing in again, he faced the crew. "Weigh anchor and hoist the sails." The grin widened. "We have a wedding to attend!"
Thank you for reading. This is my first go at a multi-chapter story – the closest I've gotten is a two-shot but that doesn't really count. It should be updated pretty soon. As in, hopefully within the next couple of days, depending on school. Please review. I need to know what I'm doing well or what needs to be improved for the next chapter. Reviewers will be incessantly acclaimed.
By the way, most of it will be in Jack's POV – that was just an introduction really and I thought it must be interesting from a different perspective. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed my other fics.