Blood of a Pirate
"Take the steel out of the fire," said Will Turner, glancing over at the boy intently watching him. He placed the glowing metal on his anvil, and began to hammer it. "Beat it while it's hot," he continued, suiting actions to words. "Keep turning it over. When it gets too cool - as it turns dull orange, see? - put it back in the fire."
Will smiled. "Good. Then you keep going, until you have your rough blade." He turned, and found a sword ready for completion. "Sharpen and polish it, set the blade into the hilt, and your sword is done."
"So the fire, then hammer," the lad said. "When can I be 'prenticed, Papa?"
"Not for a year or two," Will returned, taking off his apron and hanging it up. "First, you must finish your schooling. A blacksmith also has to manage his business, and know how much he is spending and how much he is earning. And it is heavy work, this. Do you think you will like it?"
"It looks better than arithmetic," his son said.
Rolling down his shirt sleeves, Will laughed. "It is better than arithmetic. Now, Billy, wash your hands. We had better be getting home, or supper will be cold and your mother will be angry."
They washed hands in a pail of water, and strolled home through the deepening twilight.
In the small, comfortable house the Turners called home, Elizabeth Turner was laying the table for supper with the help of her maid, housekeeper, cook and confidante Estrella. Three places were set, and Elizabeth put a small vase of colourful flowers in the centre of the table before standing back and surveying her little empire with satisfaction. All was ready. She took off her apron, patted her hair to ensure it looked its best, and hurried to the kitchen to see whether supper was imminent.
The door of the house opened to admit William Turner, father and son. Billy rushed to find his mother, full of the excitement of the evening; Will followed at a slightly more sedate pace to bestow a kiss on her waiting lips and to assure her that Billy had indeed been well-behaved and attentive.
Estrella came through into the dining room bearing a tray of food, and the Turners sat down to eat.
They were well into the meal, Billy telling a story about a boy at his school, when the knock on the door came.
"Were you expecting visitors?" asked Elizabeth, laying down her fork. "Hush for a moment, Billy."
"No." Will wiped his mouth and stood up. "I hope nothing is amiss." He left the room to answer the door. Elizabeth and Billy heard him unlock it and pull it open; there was a pause, before Will's voice came through to the dining room. "What are you doing here?"
"Billy, run upstairs," Elizabeth told her son.
He looked rebellious, but she raised her eyebrows at him meaningfully and he left the table and disappeared. Elizabeth rose, pulling at the cuffs of her dress, and waited for Will and the visitor to enter the room.
"Well, you had best come in," said Will from the hallway. Shortly afterwards the door closed. Her husband returned to the room, followed by a figure in sea-boots and a battered tricorn hat.
"Hello, Jack," said Elizabeth. "You'd better close the door."
Billy Turner was not his mother's son for nothing. He had obeyed her order to run upstairs to a point - he ran halfway and paused, just out of sight around the corner. Through the banisters he watched his father return to the dining room, accompanied by a man who seemed to clink as he walked, such was the weight of baubles in his hair and on his person. Billy waited until the door had closed behind the visitor, and then crept silently downstairs again on stockinged feet. He made his way to the door, skilfully avoiding the loose floorboard, and settled down with his eye to the knothole near the floor.
Inside the room, his mother had taken her seat again but his father was pacing the room. The visitor was standing by the window, offering Billy an excellent opportunity to examine him better.
Unlike most of his parents' acquaintances, this man did not seem to be what his grandfather would call "respectable". In between his salt-stained boots and hat he wore a full-skirted coat that was quite out of fashion, a faded waistcoat and a shirt that was stained and filthy. His breeches were torn, and held up by a sash that might once have been striped. Billy gaped in excited amazement at the sword and pistols the visitor carried.
"It's not safe, Jack!" his father was saying. "Not for you, and not for us."
"Lovely welcome, William," the stranger responded. "Been away a couple o' years …"
"Seven," put in Elizabeth. "Seven years, Jack. You can't disappear for that length of time and then just walk in and demand help."
"When have I ever done so before?" asked the man called Jack.
Billy's father stopped his pacing and faced his visitor. "Several times. You know that. And now you return, out of the blue, and ask for our help again?"
Jack shrugged. "Had no choice, mate."
"You always have a choice, Jack."
"Not this time, Will. Not this time." Jack held up his hand. "One, we got badly damaged in that storm t'other night. Lost the fore t'gallant - wind tore it clean off before we could take the sail in - and the mizzen mast was snapped in two. Lucky for us we were close by. We limped in and anchored nearby. Couldn't have made it elsewhere."
Billy saw his mother look down at her hands.
"Point two," Jack continued, "in said storm, several of me crew were hurt. Gibbs got his noggin bashed in. Marty broke his arm. And point three is that your bloody friend Norrington …"
Behind the door, Billy stifled a gasp at the language.
"Norrington's got his eye out for me. Soon as the Pearl tries to make her getaway, we'll have some speedy little brig after us."
"Can't you outrun it?" asked Elizabeth.
"Not with half me crew injured, I can't."
An awkward silence fell. The visitor folded his arms and bestowed a beseeching glance on both the Turners.
"C'mon, Will. Help an old friend, won't you?"
Elizabeth and Will exchanged glances. Outside the door, Billy adjusted his position, carefully and silently, trying to bring a leg that had gone dead back to life.
"I don't know, Jack," his mother began. "If it were just the two of us, perhaps, but there's Billy and Estrella to think of. They depend on us."
"Little Billy!" said Jack. "How is the lad?"
Billy, behind the door, was surprised. He had not realised that this flamboyant visitor might know him, and he resumed his listening with extra effort.
"Just beginning to visit me in the forge," Will said proudly.
"Good for him. Pickin' up a trade. Excellent form, young Will. Now, what of it? Can you help me?"
"Elizabeth …" Will said, hesitating.
Making up her mind, Elizabeth stood up. "You may stay the night, Jack. It's too late for you to be heading out again now. We'll decide in the morning whether we can help further."
The visitor put his palms together and made an odd little bow, at which Elizabeth shook her head.
"I'll go and find Estrella and ask her to make up a bed."
Billy jumped up and rushed upstairs to his room, where he grabbed a wooden soldier and began to act as if he had been playing quietly all the time. He heard his mother calling for Estrella and giving her instructions, before there was a quiet tap on his door.
"Yes, mama?" He looked up from his soldier.
"We have a visitor. I think you should come downstairs and meet him, before you go to bed."
Trying to contain his excitement, Billy nodded and followed Elizabeth down to the dining room, where they found Will and the visitor examining the latest Turner rapier. Both men looked up as Elizabeth and Billy entered, the visitor lowering the sword from the defensive stance he had been holding it in.
"Billy," said his mother, "this is an … an old friend. Jack Sparrow. Jack, this is Billy."
"A mite bigger than last I saw him," said Jack Sparrow. He walked forward and held out a hand that was half-covered in some sort of leather patch. "Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service, Master Turner."
"William Turner," said Billy, taking the hand and shaking it. "Captain of what, sir?"
Will stepped up to his son. "Billy, all you need to know is that Mr Sparrow is a … is a sailor. And maybe you ought not to mention that he's visiting us. To people like your grandfather, or Commodore Norrington."
"Or anyone else," put in Elizabeth.
"Captain," said Jack Sparrow. "It's Captain Jack Sparrow, Will, you know that by now. And don't mollycoddle the lad. He's got a head on his shoulders, any landlubber can see that; not to mention Bootstrap's blood in his veins. You're teachin' him how to make a sword but you can't tell him the truth about a man?"
Looking from his mother to his father to Jack Sparrow, Billy wondered what was going on.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, but the visitor got in there first.
"I'm captain of the fair ship the Black Pearl," Jack Sparrow said. "The loveliest vessel in the Caribbees." He paused for effect. "Like your grandfather, young Turner, I'm a pirate."