Worthy of His Steel, Prologue: To Miss an Appointment
Disclaimer: One good fanfic is not enough to redeem an author of a lifetime of making no money.
Summary: Jack does his best not to meet that dawn appointment with the gallows. Everyone has an opinion about that. More from Norrington, Governor Swann, and Elizabeth. Elizabeth's near drowning catches up to her (based on personal experience of how being in shock finally hits a person). This story begins where Daring Rescue, Daring Escape ends. The focus will be on Will and Jack, but that will be the next chapter. More movie novelization and missing scenes.
Thank you, geek mama, for the wonderful beta work; I'll buy you a hat—a really big one.
To Miss an Appointment
Jack had only a split second to consider that perhaps he should have thought through this escape a little more thoroughly before his head crashed into the beam of the crane with all the force of a cannon hitting the dock. Then he was enveloped in pain, struggling to concentrate on not letting go of the rope as light flashed behind his eyes and blackness came and went in waves. If he'd not been wearing his hat, he surely would have cracked his skull like an egg and saved the Royal Navy the trouble and expense of a rope. As it was, he was merely going in circles, spinning out of control on the end of that cable while the great crane whipped about—nothing but a target at which redcoats could take potshots. He'd had better days.
Below, on the dock, Commodore Norrington found himself in the enviable position of having Elizabeth Swann in his arms clinging to him. Unfortunately, he had no time to enjoy the sensation. His men were picking themselves back up after Sparrow's wild flight had landed them all in a heap, and the pirate himself was being flung about the sky like a particularly noxious piece of cargo. Everyone was stunned, mouths open, staring in confusion at the unprecedented sight. Surprisingly, it was Governor Swann who first recovered his wits.
"Now will you shoot him?" the governor cried in exasperation. The marines responded instantly by aiming their rifles at the flying target.
"Open fire!" the commodore bellowed, berating himself mentally for his tardy reaction.
The docks reverberated with the thunder of shots. Overhead, Sparrow cried out, but Norrington could not tell whether he'd been struck. Certainly the man continued to cling tenaciously to the flailing cable, so if he had been injured, it could not have been too badly. A second volley and then a third rang out, and still that wretched pirate had not been blown out of the sky.
In disbelief, Norrington watched as Jack Sparrow arched his body out from the path of the cable and managed to gain purchase for his feet on the arm of the second crane further up the dock. Amidst the blasts of rifle fire, the pirate lost his grip on the rope and wavered precariously on the narrow beam. For a moment the commodore was sure Jack Sparrow was going to remove the necessity of pursuit and plummet to his death on the stone quay, but contrary to all laws of probability, his movement steadied and he did not fall.
Unbelievable! The man had to be part cat, with at least two fewer lives already. He was actually going to get away!
"On his heels!" Norrington shouted, shoving Elizabeth into her father's arms and setting off at a dead run. There was no way in God's universe he was going to let that pirate escape.
Never taking his eyes off his quarry, the commodore led the stampede of marines up the sloping ramp from the dock. Sparrow had pressed himself up against the support of the crane. Now if the man would just stay there, one of his marines would eventually get a clear shot. There was nowhere else for him to go, after all. But just as that comfortable thought formed, Norrington saw the pirate throw a loop of the chain binding his wrists over the guy rope that supported the crane. Then, gripping the chain with both hands, the insane pirate leapt off the beam and slid rapidly down the rope, legs waving wildly.
A troop of marines was cresting the edge of the quay right behind Sparrow, but the pirate was still ahead of them when he hit the ground already running towards the bridge that led from the harbour front into Port Royal. Norrington's men quickly dropped into formation, each forward marksmen down on one knee, clearing the firing lines for those in the rear. Steadily, they aimed and fired. Through an exodus of startled civilians diving for cover, Jack Sparrow bolted for the town in a hail of shots spanging off the stone arch of the bridge and spattering chunks of broken rock that flew by his head. Flailing his arms as though to ward off annoying insects, the pirate managed to dodge any lethal contact with the projectiles, finally gaining cover behind the buildings at the edge of the town.
Since firing at walls was futile, the marines shouldered their weapons and set out in hot pursuit.
Commodore Norrington arrived on the quay in time to see Sparrow disappear. Around him, the air was blue with smoke and reeked of saltpeter and sulpher. The situation was a disgrace. An entire company of marines had failed to incapacitate that single man. Norrington was sure he was getting a headache. Still glaring in the direction of the vanished Sparrow, he paused to speak to Lieutenant Gillette. Mr. Murtogg and Mr. Mulroy accompanied the lieutenant, but the rest of the marines rushed on by into the town.
"Gillette," the commodore ordered, "Mr. Sparrow has a dawn appointment with the gallows." He turned to look at the officer, his eyes hard and determined. "I would hate for him to miss it."
Gillette met his gaze, equally resolute, and nodded. Gesturing for Murtogg and Mulroy to follow him, the young lieutenant jogged off to organize the search.
Weatherby Swann lost interest in the pirate hunt the instant that terrible man was no longer a threat to his daughter. He only hoped the marines would find and kill the wretch as swiftly as possible.
Turning to Elizabeth he gathered her into his arms. She was trembling, and her skin felt cold and clammy. Her face was pale, her eyes dark and shocked. He realized afresh that he could have lost her this day, that she had nearly drowned. Of course, the reaction to her brush with death must be setting in. Now he had to get her home and warm and resting before she caught her death of cold.
"You! Boy!" Governor Swann called to one of the wide-eyed urchins who'd been joyfully observing the commotion. The child padded over to the governor on dusty bare feet.
"Here's a half crown," Swann waved a coin in front of the boy's wide-eyed face, "if you'll run to the Fort as fast as you can and find the governor's carriage. Tell the coachman to bring it down to me at the harbour. Can you do that?"
"Yessuh!" the boy agreed enthusiastically, holding out a grubby palm for the unexpected wealth. Secreting his loot about his small person, the child set off at a sprint on the path up to Fort Charles.
Governor Swann wrapped Elizabeth more tightly in his coat and held her as if she were a little girl again. He wished this blasted fog would lift and the warm sun would return. He wished the carriage were already here.
Finally, the gray horses clattered down the narrow cobble street to the quay drawing the Swann carriage. While the footman held the fretting animals' heads, Governor Swann bundled Elizabeth inside, tucking lap robes about her. The fact that she did not object to his cosseting worried him. Seating himself next to her, he directed the driver to "Spring 'em."
For a second time, citizens had to dash for cover as the high-spirited animals charged through the town scattering sparks from their steel-shod hooves.
Out of the chill breeze and swathed in warmth again, Elizabeth began to revive a little. Her pulse grew less tumultuous, her colour seemed better and she began to focus on the scenery flashing by the carriage windows. Her father was relieved. It was far more like his daughter to be prancing about the docks defending pirates than for her to be so pale and silent. Much as he deplored her want of conduct, the sight of Elizabeth being so unnaturally passive had frightened him.
"Are you feeling better, now?" he asked her.
"Yes, thank you," she smiled faintly at him.
"Thank God, you're safe," he told her. "What ever happened?"
Elizabeth frowned a little, trying to remember. "I was standing on the wall of the fort. Commodore Norrington was asking me to marry him. But I couldn't breathe. That corset . . ." she trailed off.
Governor Swann felt a mixture of emotions. Delight that Norrington had addressed his daughter on the topic of matrimony. Horror that his gift should have been responsible for her near tragedy.
"I must have fainted and fallen, because the next thing I knew, I was on the dock coughing up water, with Jack Sparrow holding me," she continued. "I imagine you know the rest."
Elizabeth was not ready for her father's questions regarding James Norrington, so she turned away from him, leaned her head against the cushioned interior and closed her eyes. The ruse worked, for her father patted her hand and didn't press her any further.
At the edge of town, the carriage had to slow to move past a naval barricade. Apparently Jack Sparrow was still on the loose, and all routes in and out of town were being guarded. Elizabeth felt a little relief. As angry as she was with Jack Sparrow, she didn't want him to be hanged.
Her father had never allowed her to attend a hanging. When she had protested that the town children were permitted to view this high entertainment, her father had agreed that this was exactly his point. Hangings were too vulgar. But when she had been eleven years old, she had persuaded Will to help her sneak in to one. At first she'd been caught up in the excitement of the crowd, eager to see this desperate criminal, thrilled with the spectacle. Then the marines had dragged out the man who was to be executed.
He had not looked at all frightening. Instead, he had looked terrified, himself. Even to her child's eyes, he had seemed very young. On the scaffold he had struggled futilely with the large men who held him. She had heard his high, scared voice pleading for mercy. But the gallows was not a place for mercy, and the unfortunate thief had been forced into the noose. The drums had drilled their cold overture to death, and the lever had been pulled.
The thief had not been a heavy man. His own weight had not been enough to break his neck, so his death had been a drawn out and agonizing one. Elizabeth had been horrified. She didn't know what she had expected, but it was not this.
Unable to endure the sight any longer, she'd fled from the fort, Will following anxiously concerned. Reaching the privacy of the tangled jungle beyond the town, she had been sick, and then she had cried. Will had been uncertain what to do, finally patting her awkwardly on the shoulder. He'd apologized over and over for taking her there, but she knew it had been her own fault. He'd tried to justify the hanging—the man had broken the law knowing the punishment for his crime. However, Elizabeth could only hear the condemned man's begging voice, could only see his pale panicked face and then his violently twitching body.
That hanging had haunted her nightmares for months. She had never again asked her father to take her to an execution.
That the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow should meet his demise for saving her life was beyond impossible. Even if he was despicable. He could languish in the gaol for a while—or in the stocks where children could throw rotten food and stones at him. But not hanging. He was not a large man either. She thought he would not die easily. However, perhaps he would make good his escape. Perhaps, this once, Commodore Norrington, the Scourge of Piracy, would make a mistake, and this pirate would get away. As much as she'd like to slap the man's face, Elizabeth hoped he would.