Disclaimer: Pirates of the Caribbean and its characters belong to Disney. I use them without permission but with a heck of a lot of love and respect.
Rated PG for some gruesomeness. As always feedback, including constructive criticism, would be much appreciated. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has reviewed in the past. It brightens my day.
So it had all been for nothing.
Will quickly amended that thought. Saving Elizabeth's life was not nothing. That at least was worth all the peril, was worth even the dreadful discovery about his father. Nothing had changed, though, for all his pains. Elizabeth was simply more firmly entrenched as Norrington's, while Will was trudging back to the smithy.
And Jack faced the noose.
When he had set out on this adventure with Jack, Will had had every intention of delivering the pirate back to the law at the end of it. As it turned out, that was exactly what he had done, only it had been with a heavy heart. There had been no glow of pride at doing his 'civic duty' when he saw the marines of the Dauntless shackling Jack, any more than he could summon up any joy that Elizabeth was going to make such a splendid marriage. Jack's fate would be worse, though, for Elizabeth, having made her promise, must want to marry Norrington, and Jack could not want the noose. Could he? Remembering the fleeting but undeniable devastation on his face when he had been told that the Black Pearl and her crew had abandoned him, Will wondered if perhaps he did.
He arrived at the smithy. The sign still swung above the entrance, proclaiming Mr Brown's ownership of the business. He lifted the latch and went inside.
There was a movement within the dim room, and he had a brief, unsettling sensation of déjà vu until he realised that the occupant was not a pirate bent on protecting his hat, but merely the blacksmith. Incredibly Mr Brown was up and about, Will's absence having forced him to do some work himself. He had made a fearful mess. Will could see he would have a lot of clearing up to do.
"Where've you been?" Mr Brown said by way of greeting. He was flushed and sweating with the unaccustomed exertion. No less of a dullard, though, if he had not troubled to find out why his apprentice had been missing for several days.
"I had to do something for Miss Swann." Will's employer was an incurious man. He would require no more explanation than that.
"Well, you're here now, thank the Lord. There's things to be done. Up to my ears in orders. You can give me a hand."
I'm always up to my ears in your work, and what help do you ever give me?
"You'd best do this one first. I've done most of it – just needs finishing off. There's a hanging coming up – "
"That pirate who broke in here. This is his gibbet."
Will looked at it. It was unremarkable. A perfectly ordinary arrangement of chains and iron bands, made to measure for Captain Jack Sparrow. His last prison. They would fasten his corpse in it (neck broken if he were lucky, face blackened by strangulation if he were not) and suspend it at the entrance to the port as a warning of the inglorious end of those who turned pirate.
Then would come the inexorable process of decomposition. Will had seen Jack's flesh loosened from his bones, suddenly gone and just as quickly covering them again. This would be slow, made more so by the tar with which they would coat the body. Still it would rot. The brown skin would discolour and the muscle decay. The braided hair would fall away from the scalp. Birds would peck out the dark eyes. There would be no blood, only maggot-ridden flesh, and then there would be nothing left but a skeleton and gold teeth. There could be no escape from such a cage.
"Get on with it, Will. I'm going to have forty winks."
He looked at the gibbet. He imagined Jack in it.
"No."Mr Brown gaped at him.
"I won't make that cage."
Mr Brown raised his fist to box Will's ears. Then it dawned on him that the eager-to-please boy he had taken on was now a formidable young man, twenty years of age, a head taller than his employer, and well muscled. The said formidable young man looked down at him contemptuously. Mr Brown let his hand fall. "I'm going to have a nap," he repeated. As he walked away he cast a nervous glance back at Will.
Will looked at the gibbet again, and quickly averted his eyes. He could not exorcise the image of Jack trapped in it. You Turners, the spectre said to him. Always getting me into fixes and leaving me there.
No. No, I didn't. My father didn't mean to – it's not my fault he stood up for you too late.
And now? What's your family going to do for me now?
Will shook his head, trying to dislodge the accusation. What could he do when the prison, crammed full of pirates, had double its usual guard and the fort was thrumming with activity? Jack was locked up and under constant scrutiny. He would not leave his cell until he was taken to his execution … which would be attended by the governor and his daughter.
Perhaps she would not be there. No one would question it if she pleaded a headache, although no one would believe it either. But that was not Elizabeth's way. She had always been one to look life full in the face and meet it unflinchingly. She would be there.
It would be his last chance for her. Jack's last chance for freedom.
Will resolved to seize both chances.