He wondered what in the name of God had made them go to Taiwan.
A woman-- not even a real woman, simply a fabrication of the sleeping mind!-- had told him to go to Taiwan. She had told his aide to memorize the map to Taiwan. She had insisted that the two of them journey to that island.
But she had not insisted that Elizabeth join the expedition.
No, she hadn't. That had been his fault.
Staring down the steel blade of William Turner did not alleviate his concerns.
The red sun of evening was dark upon the three of them as they stood in a semi-circle around Norrington and Samuel. Will's sword was quivering with hatred mere centimeters from Norrington's face. Barbossa fumed wordlessly with firebrand eyes. And strangely Gillette met Norrington's gaze with cold, wounded eyes. Norrington stood protectively before Samuel, who had wept silently through most of their journey back to Singapore. His only defense was a half-hearted grin of a hopeful nature.
"Where's Elizabeth?" Will growled, barely above his breath. He looked ready to shove the sword straight through Norrington's neck. This time, the figure of Samuel did not quell the man's bloodlust. The look in Gillette's eyes softened slightly, but his arms remained crossed.
"We don't even know if they took Miss Swann with them, Mr. Turner." He eyed the two of them, as if hoping they would claim something to that effect. Norrington's upturned eyebrows brought Gillette's hopes crashing around his ankles.
"Let me explain," Norrington began, but stopped as Will's sword dared itself closer. Samuel's grip on Norrington's arm suddenly relinquished itself as the boy stepped forward and crossed the blade of his dagger with the blacksmith's sword. He was the most taken aback, but not the only one of them. Barbossa seemed to be the only man with anything but surprise in his eyes.
"I'll protect Captain Norrington if I have to," Samuel said in a low voice. Silence was all William Turner could return at the sight of such a small boy defending this traitor, this vagabond, this--
"Put down yer sword, Mr. Turner," came the unexpected voice of Barbossa, who had, until then, remained silent. "We'll hear what the good Captain has t' say in his defense, then kill 'im if the occasion calls for it." He shot Samuel the smallest of appraising glances. The boy caught it oddly, faltering for a moment, then returned his attentions to Will.
He regrettably lowered his sword to his side, ready should he need it. Samuel shoved the dagger into his belt, keeping a sharp eye on William. Norrington crossed his arms and lowered his head in thought.
"A woman told Samuel and I to travel to Taiwan," he began, ready to lay everything on the table. Will gave him a demeaning look.
"A woman on the wharf tells you to go to Taiwan, and you take Elizabeth with you?"
"No," he answered quickly. It's much worse. "I saw her in a dream." Two perplexed looks and one exasperated pair of eyes met his. "A dark woman, with charismatic eyes and teeth a shade of death." Will's incredulous gaze faltered only slightly. "In a dress not meant for her, with hair as long and unwashed as Sparrow's."
Barbossa and Will exchanged a glance. Gillette seemed more puzzled than any other man present. Will finally sheathed his sword, much to Norrington's surprise.
"What was her name?" Will asked, as some sort of final test. Norrington's mind was blank-- she had never said a word.
"Dalma," Samuel said in a meek voice. "Tia Dalma." He looked up to receive the mixed reception of Will's astounded eyes and another appreciative smile from Captain Barbossa.
Norrington and Gillette were finally on the same wavelength of total incomprehension. After the short silence, Norrington leaned forward slightly to allow himself back into the conversation.
"Do you know her?"
Will cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yes," he said at last, finding that explanation appropriate.
"A very good friend o' mine," Barbossa interjected with yellowed teeth and a low, guttural laugh.
"You still haven't told us what's happened to Elizabeth," Will cut in harshly, remembering his previous ire. "Why would you take her with you to Taiwan?"
Norrington gave him a sad shrug. "I felt she might like the adventure."
"Sorry t' bring my incredulity t' the table Captain Norrington," Barbossa said with his hat cocked to one side, "but aren't we on a bit of an adventure as it is?"
"Yes, I understand," Norrington growled, fiercer than he had expected. "I acted rashly and as a direct result Elizabeth--"
Will unintentionally leaned forward as if to brace himself for the blow. Norrington squeezed his eyes shut, preparing to be run through by Turner's sword at any given moment.
"We were ambushed, and they've taken Elizabeth as leverage."
Will might have received a shot to the heart and not looked quite so devastated. He stumbled backwards slightly, steadied by Gillette. When, after a few moments, he had regained composure, his fiery eyes looked angrily in Norrington's direction.
"What I may or may not have done is no more significant than anything Samuel may have done," Norrington rebutted, standing firm. "What matters now is getting Elizabeth back safely."
Will didn't look ready to accept this quite as easily as Norrington had hoped. The pain and the fire remained locked in his eyes, his hand hovering over the hilt of his sword.
"He's right," Gillette ventured, suddenly quailing under the combined stares of Will and Barbossa. "Isn't he? Fighting amongst ourselves isn't going to fix anything."
"Aye," Barbossa resigned heavily. He looked toward Norrington again. "Who was it that y' say took Miss Swann?"
"Feng," Norrington said, as if the name were foul taste in his mouth.
Barbossa was suddenly completely attentive.
"Sao Feng? Captain Sao Feng?"
Norrington furrowed his eyebrows at the man, cocking his head inquisitively. "Yes."
Barbossa uncrossed his arms and placed them on his hips, shaking his head slightly. "Damn me eyes... Captain Sao Feng." He turned his head slightly toward Will. "Yer lovely lass picked the right pirate t' get herself kidnapped by, Mr. Turner. I know how to deal with Captain Sao Feng."
"You know him?" Samuel asked. Barbossa nodded, looking out into the glimmering harbor.
"Aye, haven't seen 'im since he were a little younger'n Mr. Turner here. Youngest captain to sail out o' Singapore. Y' might think he and Jack were brothers, back then."
"Jack Sparrow," Norrington said lowly, remembering the other part of the deal. He looked up with knit eyebrows. "He wants Jack Sparrow in return for Elizabeth."
Gillette rolled his eyes. "Is there anyone who doesn't want to settle a debt or strike a deal with Sparrow?"
"We have to go after her," Will said at last. He had recovered, and was standing tall once again. "I don't care what he wants. We can fight our way through."
"We may not have to, lad," Barbossa said in a throaty growl. "Tell the men t' get the anchor up. We're headin' to Taiwan." With a flourish, he turned back toward the Agrias and away from the confused men on the wharf. Will, after a strained look toward Norrington, turned in a huff to follow his captain. Samuel and Gillette turned to Norrington, who, after watching the back of the retreating man, nodded.
"Samuel, tell Mr. Buckler to have the ship ready to make weigh." The boy seemed unready to leave Norrington's side, but saluted and made his way toward the Gorgon. This left James Norrington and Nathaniel Gillette standing at the edge of the pier, the red sun coloring everything in its path like blood.
Norrington turned to the water, allowing the sun to warm his skin with its waning rays. Gillette approached him, following his gaze with his arms behind his back. Some creature created ripples in the water near them, and Norrington felt a long sigh exit his frame.
"I would have come, should you have asked," Gillette ventured, the obvious wound of the lack of invitation practically open on his flesh.
"I know, Nathan." He passed a weary hand over his eyes. "That is why I did not ask you to come." He met Gillette's eyes sadly.
"Do you remember, such a short time ago, when you abandoned the Gorgon for Isla Asilo?" He lowered his voice only slightly. "I remember watching the back of my sole companion disappear against the sea. Remember that, Nathan, and remember that you are my friend." He placed a hand on Gillette's shoulder. "And now we sail for Taiwan to rescue fair maiden." This caused Gillette's mouth to break into a grin-- and again, they were pirates.
Finding the beach they had moored themselves on previously proved to be easier than he had hoped. Dropping anchor offshore and taking two longboats out each, the somewhat diminished crews of the Gorgon and the Agrias came to Taiwan.
Norrington had brought with him Samuel, Gillette, Buckler and another boat and a half full of assorted crewmen, leaving Wainscot aboard to keep an eye on things there. He was met by Barbossa, Will Turner, Mr. Gibbs, Cotton and his parrot, a rather short fellow, as well as both pirates that had returned him to the Gorgon that morning so long ago. He saw many crew members he had not associated with while aboard the Agrias, and prayed that Barbossa knew how to keep the pirates in line.
"What manner of crew does that man command?" Buckler asked, staring at the rabble assembling behind Barbossa. Norrington turned with a grin.
"We're all pirates here, Mr. Buckler." He still held his smile as he turned to watch Will Turner from across the beach. "There are some of us here who may not know, but we are all pirates." He turned again to Buckler. "Should things get out of hand, I want you to stick close to Samuel. Bring him back to the longboats as soon as possible, and remain until the rest of the crew returns." The orders were clear enough, but a man as wizened as Buckler could feel the patronly undercurrents of the statement. He offered a salty grin.
Norrington and Samuel were to lead the expedition, following their trail into the bamboo forest and finding the exact spot where they had lost Elizabeth. Will followed Norrington hotly, his eyes level and lethal. One spark could ignite him, Norrington felt, and he rightly kept his distance. He cursed himself for once again finding his place on the young man's bad side, and he knew that Elizabeth, already captured by Chinese pirates, would most likely be pushed further into anger by Norrington's provocation of her fiancee.
He stopped suddenly to find the body of his captor of the previous morning still lying face down in a pool of his own congealed blood. Samuel stared down with a clenched jaw, lest any leftover emotion try to pry itself from him. Norrington turned to Barbossa, a hand on his aide's shoulder.
"This is where Feng graced us with his presence," Norrington scowled, and rightly so. Barbossa strode into the clearing and swept his eyes over Samuel's kill. He looked to the boy, who drove his eyes determinedly into the ground at the corpse's feet. Barbossa gave half a crooked grin.
"Aye, that it seems to be. But now I think I'll be takin' over our little expedition, Mr. Norrington." He pulled his sword from its sheath with practiced celerity, and Samuel jumped to hide behind Norrington from the shock. The elder captain cut into the verdancy from which Feng and his crew materialized and was off again. Norrington shot Will a glance that questioned without words whether his captain was apt to fly off in fits of madness often. Will's blood-red facade dropped momentarily, long enough for him to return Norrington's gaze with his own, and a small shrug, after which he followed Barbossa into the brush. Norrington herded Samuel with an arm over the boy's shoulders and fell into step alongside Gillette.
"What's this I hear about a daring rescue?" Gillette attempted to bring the life back to Samuel's clouded eyes. "Apparently it was quite the feat to witness."
"Without this young man, Nathan," Norrington said with truthfulness, "the men of the Gorgon would be referring to you as Captain Gillette."
The look sparkling in Gillette's eye playfully retorted, Why did he save the Captain, again?
The pirates moved through the bamboo forest as quietly as four longboats-worth of pirates can over unfamiliar terrain. Barbossa was doing a wonderful job of remaining conspicuous, chopping away at branches as Samuel had done on their first leg of the trip. Before long, the sun was nearly directly overhead. That was when the voices returned.
"Back again, Captain Norrington?" Feng's voice materialized from the surroundings, revealing nothing. "And without Jack Sparrow. What a shame."
The snickering of Feng's crew surrounded them.
"Now, that's no way t' be talkin' t' my esteemed guest, is it, Captain Feng?" Barbossa asked, his hacking and slashing of the Chinese flora ceased abruptly at Feng's voice.
Silence. Norrington took his eyes from Barbossa to stare worriedly at Gillette.
In the mere second it took to switch his gaze, Norrington heard the swish and clang of sword exiting sheath and meeting head-on with another weapon. He whipped his head to stare at Barbossa again, Sao Feng suddenly standing before him with hooded eyes and intricate curved scimitar against Barbossa's sword.
"Hector Barbossa," Feng chided, curling his lip and sweeping an antagonizing eye over the taller man.
"That's Captain to ye, lad," Barbossa said with a cocky grin. "Got me own ship an' everything." A few dirty pirates of his own laughed this time. Feng stared him down.
"Where's Jack Sparrow?" Feng demanded. He was quick to the punch.
"Where is Miss Swann?" Barbossa countered.
Norrington half-expected a childish, "I asked you first!" to exit Feng's lips, but he was thankfully disappointed. Instead, Feng cocked his head, and a tricky smile appeared on his lips.
"Where is Jack Sparrow?" He asked again, slower. Barbossa threateningly pressed forward, swords screeching in pain.
"Davy Jones' Locker, that's where ye'll find Captain Jack Sparrow! If ye be wantin' Captain Sparrow so badly, why don't ye go an' find him yerself, so to save me the trouble?"
Feng stared Barbossa down, attempting to debunk his lie. But the elder captain's brow was straight, and his eyes hid nothing. Sao Feng suddenly held a completely unflattering look of surprise.
"If Jack Sparrow is dead..." He snapped his fingers, and a man emerged from the foliage, Elizabeth held before him with a dirty gag in her mouth. Both Will and Norrington snapped their attentions to her instantly. She struggled against her captor's grip with an unwomanly growl. "... then so is your Miss Swann."
In the flash of an instant, Feng's sword flew from defending against Barbossa's to meet with Elizabeth's neck. In that same moment, Elizabeth yanked her hands from the guard's grip and picked his sword from where it was stuffed into his belt. The two met with a resounding crash, and deafening silence followed.
Feng stared wide-eyed into Elizabeth's eyes, which narrowed in hate.
Without provocation, swords on each side of the battle-line were drawn, and the battle began.
Barbossa quickly joined Elizabeth's side by slicing toward Sao Feng's unprotected flank. The Chinese captain quickly countered by pulling out a second, equally decorated scimitar to block the attack. He whirled away from the two of them, twin blades flashing in the noon sunlight. Barbossa and Elizabeth exchanged the smallest of glances before she tore the gag from her mouth and the two of them charged after Feng as one.
Gillette drew his sword with navy flourish, moving against two of Feng's pirates at once. Buckler, his own tactics less navy and more pirate, stepped in beside him, sharing the load of banging swords and heavy blows. Gillette threw one of the pirates back and grinned a dangerous grin. He laughed heartily, diving in for another swipe at his foe. Buckler grunted as he and his rudimentary sword skills slogged through the battle.
Gibbs, the pirate with the wooden eye and his balding companion charged in with a battle cry of drunken proportions. Gibbs slashed forward with his sword and brought a heavy bottle of rum down against the man's head in the same instant. The two other pirates were astoundingly good at swordfighting considering how terrible they were at everything else. They worked together, slashing high and low at the same enemy, overwhelming him in the close quarters.
Finally, James Norrington and William Turner entered the fray. Two pirates stood before the two of them. Without even needing to glance at one another, they had decided to work together. William met the ground in a roll, practiced study coming in handy. Norrington, as would a prize fencer, lunged forward and parried blow after blow from both Asian pirates. Will exited his roll behind the two and stood remarkably fast, slashing forward in a high arc at the head of one of the pirates. He was quick on his feet and turned to block the blow.
The entire section of forest was suddenly overcome by the noise of battle and death. Swords, pistols, smoke and blood-- bodies tumbling, lunging. Elizabeth and Barbossa worked their hardest to parry the blows from Feng's whirlwind twin blades, ducking and dodging, trying to get a hold on flesh with their own swords. Blow after blow met with steel on steel. Feng crossed his arms, blocking swords at different angles and heights with the quickest ease.
Norrington and Will beat forward, each taking on his own man. Suddenly, without warning, the pirates turned and exchanged partners. Norrington barely adjusted, blocking a blow meant for his neck. Will handled the exchanged much more fluidly. As if in a dance of deadly proportions, both Norrington and Will parried pirates swords to the side, rolling along the backs of their partners to face the pirate they had previously sparred with. Norrington ran his through, then William mirrored his movement. Their own swords met with a loud clang. Brown eyes met steady green in the heat of the moment, then Will nodded, ever-so-slightly, before whirling off in a separate direction.
Barbossa slashed high. Elizabeth slashed low. Each was blocked by the impeccable Captain Feng. He dared a cocky smile. Elizabeth scowled, and proceeded to wedge her foot violently into Feng's groin. His entire grip on reality wavered, the pain surging through him just long enough for Barbossa to circle-parry his sword out of the way and place a heavy boot in the middle of the captain's chest. He fell backward into the bamboo with the green snap of breaking branches.
The action ceased almost immediately as their captain fell. Swords were hanging mid-swing, mid-block as all heads turned to Barbossa and Elizabeth, the former of which had a booted foot resting victoriously on Feng's upturned stomach. Both Elizabeth and Barbossa were holding one of Feng's swords in their off hand. Elizabeth held a sword to Feng's neck in unadulterated anger.
"That was an ungentlemanly move, Miss Swann," Barbossa said with a grin. Elizabeth tossed the hair from her eyes.
"Good thing I'm not a gentleman, then, Captain Barbossa."
Barbossa leaned toward Feng in confidentiality. "I'd tell yer men t' put away their weapons if I were you, Captain Feng."
Silence. It seemed as if the man was still recovering from Elizabeth's blow. Finally, Sao Feng called out something in Chinese in a rather pitiful voice. His sailors looked defeated as they dropped their weapons and relinquished themselves to capture. Norrington, having defeated his last foe, sheathed his sword with a tired sigh.
He turned, his eyes searching for a familiar, short, black-haired companion. He furrowed his brow concernedly.
AN: SO SORRY this is as late as it is. My computer likes to mess up on me as of late, and I've been having trouble with this bit of the story anyway. I hope it lives up to whatever expectations I've set for myself. I hope someone's still reading... -cries- ANYway, hate to leave you with the cliffhanger, but this was almost stupid-long anyway. I'm getting ready for college here on the 31st, so updates may lag. Who knows? Have a happy day, and happy reading!