For Lieutenant Norrington, the upkeep and care of the Dauntless was exhaustive work. For Elizabeth Swann, it was exhaustively boring.
It had been one of her fondest wishes to travel on a ship and see pira-- er, naval officers fight in combat. Her father the governor was none to pleased about the direction his daughter's fantasies had taken (most of them concerning certain men of the sea not listed on the sailors' rosters) and was of a mind that he could redirect them by showing her the courageousness and bravery of the Navy. Elizabeth didn't mind this condition; after all, she still got to see the pirate ships, if not actually go on them.
The governor had needed to complete an inspection of a few ships in Port Royal and was delighted when the captain of the Dauntless agreed to permit his bringing Elizabeth along. For the first couple of days, she had become involved in everything: watching the sails go up, chatting with the helmsman, and exploring the ship thoroughly. Seeing all this happen from afar was interesting, but not wholly occupying. It took her very little time to discern that she would rather be the one hoisting sails and calling out strange phrases rather than watching others.
If she could only participate in something...she maybe wouldn't feel so bored. With a sigh, she leaned over the edge of the ship and peered into the shifting depths.
The lieutenant was not pleased.
He hadn't been exactly estatic when he'd been informed of the governor's daughter tagging along. If possible, his distaste for the matter had grown when he had been assigned the task of guarding her. Against what? What could hurt her on a naval vessel? Simple things: the odd cockroach, splinters from the deck, rotten fruit, and--that perpetual foe-- tripping over canon fodder. Didn't the governor understand that he -- as per the captain's orders, of course-- had a ship to run?
Norrington considered. Given the high social standing of Governor Swann, it would be nothing less than an affront to his office for a lower ranking officer (such as he was) to decline this "special request". The governor was prone to acting on whims, that Norrington knew, but wasn't it still a little rash to bring one's daughter along on a potentially dangerous voyage?
Of course not. Should the journey continue as it was progressing, the only potential danger to manifest itself would be Elizabeth herself. She'd already distracted the sailors in the process of hoisting the jib (which caused the Dauntless to miss a very favourable wind), questioned the various personages about naval theory and pirates (which distressed certain members of the crew from their duties), and had squirmed her way into every nook and cranny that the Dauntless had to offer (and nearly scared the cook out of his wits when he found her in the salted meats).
He was beginning to come to the end of his tolerance.
Waves lapped at the starboard side as Elizabeth sat and hummed her pirate song. She didn't remember where she'd learned it or if it was even her song, but it feel oddly appropriate for the moment. Maybe one of the prisoners in the brig had taught it to her, and she, enchanted by the concept of valiant men whose homes were any place where there was sea, had committed it to memory. Whatever the case, she had to be rather discreet about singing it, as her father had become mortified upon hearing the chorous and first two verses, accompanied by a few more of her own invention.
A storm was rising on the horizon, billowing grey clouds marching in like celestial soldiers to fight the sun for rule of the sky. This was one of her favourite parts of being on a ship. On the deck, it was possible to see the small raindrops collide with the greater body of the sea, which certainly broke the monotonous cycle of life on the ship. She smiled at the coming disturbance, and leaned out over the rail.
The lieutenant noticed this, too.
He didn't often meditate on the motives of small children; it wasn't a practice that the Royal Navy praised its officers for. Yet, he couldn't help but permit himself a moment to ponder why this particular child, the governor's only offspring, had such a fixation on pirates. It irked him, not because he was a naval man and in the opposite camp (though that was a part of it), but because he didn't know what reason she would have had for liking them so much.
A crash sounded from somewhere far off. Wonderful. Someone's probably gone and broken another piece of the captain's prized china. Norrington prepared himself to issue a stern talking-to before heading out to the rail. Why that man kept fragile objects on a battle ship was beyond him...
Seeming as though he was on a routine inspection of the deck, the lieutenant passed by Elizabeth, but not without a nonchalant, "Mind the rail if you would, Miss Swann."
She may have been twelve, but Elizabeth hated being treated like a child. Honestly, she had only lived around ships her entire life: watching them enter and leave the harbour, learning how to identify them and how many men it took to row this boat or that boat, etc. Now, when her father had finally seen that she was old enough to go with him on a voyage, she was being babied? She would have liked to retort something snippy and no doubt uncalled for back at the lieutenant and if her father hadn't been watching her with a hawk's eye, she might have. Instead, she smoothed out her frock and smiled at Norrington's retreating figure.
"Of course, sir. Thank you for your concern."
Seeing that her father was satisfied with her answer (the entire charade had been all for him-- Elizabeth harboured great doubts that the lieutenant could hear anyone else over the sound of his own voice), she returned to her previous activity. Deliberately flouting Norrington's warning, she leaned out over the edge, balancing and riding on each passing wave.
This was excellent practice for when she'd run away and learn to fight with pirates, she reasoned. Keeping oneself stable on a rocking deck was a required skill for any pirate.
As she stared out into the darkening sky, she felt just a little sorry for breaking the rules. She frowned. Pirates didn't usually go by rules, though, did they? Biting her bottom lip in thought, she wondered which was better to live in: the Navy with all its rules, or piracy with none.
She did admire the way that the officers stood up for each other and protect their comrades. On the single pirate fight that they had gotten into, Elizabeth had gotten the chance to see Lieutenant Norrington fighting, deftly slashing through several foes in an effort to protect his fallen shipmates. Her father had been too busy remarking on how fine an action that was to notice her presence. Elizabeth became too occupied watching the lieutenant fight that she didn't notice that her father was dragging her off to saftey below decks. She spent the remainder of the attack sulking inside a cupboard.
Still, that experience had instilled a new drive in her. It was not enough to run away and see the world on a pirate ship; no, now she wanted to wield a sword. She smiled to herself, still blissfully unaware how impossible that would be for a woman of her station. Her father usually let her have things she wanted. Perhaps if she asked the lieutenant nicely enough, he'd agree to tutor her in swordfighting.
After all, all good pirates had a basic command of swordsmanship. That was another requirement. Naturally, because Lieutenant Norrington was the best swordsman she knew of (or at least could remember the name of) he would therefore be her teacher.
Although she was more than prepared to make arbitary desicions for other people, Elizabeth had the practicality to deduce that Norrington would be more likely to agree to her terms if she made some allowances of her own. She sighed. This meant needing to relinquish her sight-seeing. She pouted. It had been so fascinating to see the tiny water droplets become engulfed by the greater, deeper sea...
Suddenly, a storm-strewn wave caught the Dauntless offguard, shifting the vessel abruptly. It provided just enough force to set a certain sea-gazer off balance and plummeting down to the shadowy, swirling mass.
Not surprisingly, the lieutenant had been keeping true to his word, and was well on his way to scolding her again when he felt the roll of the ship and saw his ward tumble away.
Damnation, he thought, his mind reeling. Of all the people aboard that could have fallen off the boat, it just had to be the governor's daughter.
He allowed himself a full second to mentally fume at the girl's stupidity. Afterwards, everything was duty as usual.
"Man overboard! All hands to starboard!"
With that taken care of, he shook over his heavy coat and dove into the ocean after his query.
Elizabeth, granted, knew how to swim. For most of her life, she had lived in Port Royal surrounded by water and very little else. However, she was not prepared to become locked in mortal combat against her dress, which was taking on water rapidly, far too quickly for her to move. Another thing she had not anticipated was the lieutenant diving in to save her with his hat trailing elegantly behind him. If she hadn't been trying not to inhale water, she would have found the sight rather humorous.
All in all, though, she was grateful for his entrance. Her clothes no longer cooperated with the directions her limbs wished to go; they tried to convince her arms and legs to cease their fruitless struggles, constantly exerting a downward pull.
Now she was becoming worried. The lieutenant had been underwater for a long time, why hadn't he surfaced? Why hadn't the Dauntless stopped? On her right, a small blue object floated by. She grabbed at it as if it were a life line, only to find that it was the hat discarded during his dive. Where had the lieutenant gone? He couldn't have...
A surge of sea water splattered her face and an oncoming wave twirled Elizabeth down, the weight of the water not permitting her to swim through it. She glupped down water and gagged, kicked her legs furiously to no avail. Like a doll cast away into the waves, she was starting to sink, which, despite her best efforts she could not counter.
She most certainly would have continued to flail uselessly, still firmly grasping her prize, had the trophy's owner not pulled her upwards back above the tempestous waves.
Norrington was quite thoroughly soaked. He hadn't anticipated Miss Swann's ability to swim and had begun his search for her in the depths, frantically trying to find her before one of them ran out of air. To make rescue and return to the ship easier, he had tied a rope to the rail of the Dauntless and had brought the other end with him. The motion of the sea and the pull of the ship, however, had caused the rope to slip from its place wrapped on his shoulder and coil around his neck.
Elizabeth was almost positive that he'd been attacked by a water snake and was unware of it.
The rope, meanwhile, was innocently floating on the sea, lifting out of the water where it was anchored to the railing. As the distance between the two and the Dauntless widened, it began to rise out of the cresting waves.
"Are you alright, Miss Swann?" Norrington asked.
Miss Swann was fine, though she found it rather odd that he was concerned about her safety when he was in danger of being bitten by a snake. It was strangely noble, really. But pirates weren't supposed--
"Miss Swann?" came his voice again, worried.
The snake was moving, tightening. Numb from the cold and the experience of nearly losing her to the waves, Norrington demanded an answer of the girl, not recognizing the cause of her silence. He gave her a gentle shake, hoping to dislodge any shock. He waited for the reaction.
Elizabeth on the other hand, was merely judging the correct time to strike. She'd heard sailors tell all sorts of stories about snakes biting out of fear and after being attacked. If she hesitated, then the lieutenant's life would be in forfeit. If she moved too soon, it could come after her instead. She waited.
Then, she pounced.
In a single, fluid motion, she ripped the "snake" off from his neck just as it pulled taut. Chastised, it slithered away with the occasional jerk back into the ocean.
Norrington watched, dazed for a moment as it departed. It had just been...and if she hadn't...He raised a hand to his neck, remembering the feel of the rope. An unwelcome memory of a gallows hanging of a pirate a few weeks ago resurfaced in his mind. With a rather difficult pause, he swallowed and inquired:
"I don't suppose you can swim in your condition, Miss Swann?"
"No, my dress is too heavy. Are you--" Elizabeth noted that his face was going through a rather perplexing series of colours.
The realization that he'd narrowly escaped a painful death was not a foreign one to him, it was that the rope he thought would save her might have proven to be his own undoing. An ill omen, almost being hanged on one's own rope. His eyes met hers and, for a moment, there was an understanding between them.
"There is only one option, then." Norrington continued, easily giving orders. "We must reach the ship as soon as possible or we might not be able to at all." He watched the trailing rope inch farther and farther away, and then extended an arm to her and swung her gingerly onto his back.
there hadn't been crashing water walls around him and winds blowing
spray into his mouth and eyes, he would have sighed. This was one of
the most improper and highly suspicious positions he'd found himself in
for a long time. What would the governor say? What would the
captain say? This was one of those events that one was never trained
for in the Naval Academy, but was expetced to handle tastefully.
He gritted his teeth and attempted to slowly proceed after the line. This was an excellent plan and worked splendidly until they reached the side of the Dauntless. As the lieutenant seized the rope to lift them out of the ocean, he was met with fierce opposition from the object on his back. Caught offguard, he gasped and tightened his grip.
"Do tell me if you no longer wish to return to the ship, Miss Swann." He hissed, low enough so that the crew would not hear him. "I am more than happy to comply with that request as it would make my task here much easier."
Infuriated, Elizabeth spat back: "Of course I want to go back on the ship! It's my dress, it's too heavy! All the water's gotten it..."
Neither one of them liked the direction this conversation was heading in. Norrington could only imagine the outrage and probable disgrace that would come from returning the governor's daughter sans dress. Elizabeth hastily tried to wring out the fabric, none too keen on the concept either.
Luckily, someone up on deck had the bright idea to organize a joint effort to haul the duo up rather than watch them like stuffed birds. After what was an eternity of being hauled, lowered, and almosst dropped back into the ocean, Norrington and Elizabeth made it back onto the deck of the Dauntless.
The lieutenant, ever the gentleman, fetched his discarded coat and drapped it over the girl. Well, it was a stab at regaining propriety, at the very least.
The governor would no doubt have some choice words for him later, as to the watch he'd kept over his daughter. Ah well.
He was distracted from this thought by Elizabeth, now dry and thoroughly doted upon. Happily smiling, she recalled their adventure to her father and various other crew mates with great flair and accompanying gestures. The governor's face gre paler by the phrase.
Brushing a stray lock of hair from his eyes-- his hair had long lost its styled look-- the lieutenant regarded the scene with mingled curiousity. Miss Swann was obviously enjoying the attention she was being given, retelling her stories to a crew with added events and exaggerations...perhaps, he thought. Perhaps this is what she envisions as piracy. The romantic dream of men who venture out and do deeds the rest of the world could only dream about, wanderers in search of the unusual and whatever caught their fancy: a carefree life.
He knew the feeling well. Long ago, when he still struggled with remembering what rank came after captain, he too had dreamed of pirates. This, naturally, would never be admitted to anyone on pain of death. He'd dreamed and persued his imagination, sailed with his father as a boy, only to be lead rather sharply back to the reality. It had taken a crew lost, a ship sunk, and a single, heart-wrenching shot for James Norrington to learn the truth about pirates. What would it take for Elizabeth Swann?
His attention was caught by some of the officers surreptitiously asking whether or not he and Miss Swann had run into a massive shark on their way back. Norrington tersely rolled his eyes and proceeded off to his cot. It wasn't much, but warm clothes and a bottle of brandy seemed like heaven after a long day's work.
Suddenly, he was hit by a rather unnerving thought. What if she never realized how evil pirates were? Or, worse yet, what if she didn't care? At this rate, Elizabeth Swann would become the first female pirate of Port Royal by the time he achieved the rank of commodore.
What would he tell the governor?
I'm terribly sorry, sir, but I fear that I must pursue Miss Swann, swashbuckler and lady pirate, on charges of vandalism, arson, and a whole slew of other dastardly acts. I'm sure you understand my position and that we can come to terms. With your permission, I would like to...
He stopped himself. That was starting to sound like a marriage proposal. Proposing marriage? To Miss Elizabeth Swann? Not likely. Not to this particular young lady. Come what may, Norrington believed he could class that event in the realm of impossibility.
The lieutenant locked eyes with the governor's daughter.
Elizabeth had managed to sneak away without calling much notice to herself. in her outstreched hand she held...
...his hat. Sopping wet and dripping a little, but very much his hat.
"Here." She said, offering it to him. Maybe now, maybe this would be a good time to ask...
Norrington received the hat gratefully and was going to depart when he saw that Elizabeth was staring at him intently. Thinking that she was waiting for him to do something, he put that hat on his head, despite the cool rush that it brought. His cot was looking very good now.
"Yes, Miss Swann?"
Her eyes roved the floor. "I'd like to...um...thank you for saving me."
"It was nothing, Miss Swann. I was merely carrying out my duty." He turned. "Now, if you'll excuse me..."
She murmured something, embarassedly.
Giving a start, she looked up. The lieutenant stood, soaked and impassive, trying to conceal the traces of impatience and fatigue that were appearing on his face. Something else popped out at her though. With that hat on lopsided and his hair all scraggly like that, he looked just like some sort of...
She dissolved into giggles without being able to answer him.
"If you're quite finished, I'll--"
"No, no! I've had, I think, much more fun than I should have for a routine inspection of a ship." She completed, mimicking her father's voice. "Thank you again for saving me."
Then, with a final, michevious smile, she said, in a low voice, making sure only he could hear:
"You'd make an excellent pirate, sir."
And then she scuttled off.
That was not something a lieutenant of the Royal Navy hoped to be told.
He watched with a bemused smile as the governor scolded her and scooted her off to bed. To him, being called a pirate was unforgiveable.
But, thought Lieutenant Norrington, to a girl like Elizabeth Swann who saw pirates as adventurers and never as the enemy, it was a high compliment.
A high compliment indeed.