Being the sister of an officer of the British Royal Navy had its perks—and its downsides. It meant she got to get out of England, which in a way was good; seeing the world was appealing. But to be trapped on a boat for months on end and being stuck acting like a lady the entire time was horribly aggravating. She would have loved to learn, loved even more to help, but the men all said no and asked her to move along. They wouldn't even accept her willing hands after they lost some poor man at a port to a fever. She wasn't a fool—she knew it was hard work. Instead she was stuck doing nothing in her heavy dress—the heat didn't help either. No wonder so many women simply grew fat. All they did was eat and do nothing all day.
Port Royal. That's where she was headed. To do what she didn't know. Certainly not to sit and grow fat! She'd heard mixed things from the sailors concerning her brother. The last letter she'd received from him told her that as commodore, it was his job seeing to the arrest of pirates marauding about and had plans to be away for quite some time chasing a Jack Sparrow, if she remembered correctly.
But now there were mumbles of him losing his rank, losing his standing, possibly even losing his mind. That he'd become a drunk and a braggart and now hung around the despicable island of Tortuga. She told herself it was all rot—gossip never got anything right. Her brother? A commodore turned sea rogue? Highly unlikely.
"Port ahead!" someone cried.
"Keep her steady lads!" called the captain. "Steer clear of those rocks!"
When they were finally docked, she disembarked and was met by the governor himself.
"Ah," he said in relief with open arms. "You're here at last. I'm glad to meet you Miss Norrington."
"Go back?" Lily said in astonishment. "But I've only just got here! To stay for a week and then go back—you cannot be serious!"
"I assure you I am," said Governor Swann, "but please understand I give you my deepest apologies—"
"Where is my brother?" she demanded. "At the very least if I am to spend such a short amount of time here, do me the honor of informing me of my brother's location."
Governor Swann looked uncomfortable and began fussing with his lace cuffs. "We are in rather trying times here Miss Norrington, and the fact of the matter is we do not know where your brother is. The last we heard is he lost his ship in a hurricane. We are sure he survived as many claim to have seen him, but…"
Lily recoiled, horrified. "Do not tell me all the stories are true…?"
"We cannot be sure that anything is true," he said, trying to sound hopeful.
Lily put a hand to her chest. My brother, she thought. Lost his reputation? She knew how much things like that meant to him. She straightened up and composed herself.
"Governor Swann, if you don't mind, I shall retire to my room now."
"Yes, of course."
She swept up the stairs, heading for the room that had been readied for her, but already she had plans forming in her head.
Lily snuck out of the house the very next night. All throughout the day she had inquired as to her brother's possible whereabouts, and because the answer had so often been, "Maybe Tortuga?" she had wandered everywhere possible asking if there was a boat to make for Tortuga soon. There was, but only one, and they refused to take her on board. Being both a female and close relative to a British Royal officer was her downfall. She was untrustworthy and unlucky, two strikes against her.
So she had found some old servant's clothes that fit her loosely, a hat to tuck up her hair in, and set out in the middle of the night to find some way to hide on the ship. She wasn't sure of what they would do if they caught her. Surely they wouldn't throw her off the ship. She put it out of her mind. It was more important to find her brother. She was certainly not returning to England after a week!
The boat, however, had men on it and two more close to the dock so there was no way she was going to sneak on. She surmised the large boxes at the edge of the dock would be loaded on the next morning, and after quietly dumping its contents into the ocean, she climbed in and waited for daylight.
Lily awoke the next morning cramped and once more feeling the roll of the ocean waves as the boat rocked to and fro. A small groan escaping her lips, she sat up and hoped nothing was stacked on top of the box she was in. She began to push up and found it opening easily when she remembered they would not take to her presence very kindly. The sudden sound of footsteps pounding down stairs to her location surprised her and she let the lid snap shut by accident. She held her hands in tight fists, hoping they hadn't heard.
"Never been to Maracaibo before," one man said. Lily let out a quiet sigh. They hadn't heard. Her luck was holding up. Wait… She gasped aloud in realization. The captain hadn't said anything about a stop at Maracaibo. These crates—she was on the wrong ship! Her good luck had disappeared.
"Ey," muttered one of the crewmembers. "Did you hear that?"
Lily slapped a hand to her mouth.
"Sounded like a person."
Her luck was going from bad to worse and she prayed they would ignore it.
With a loud creak, the top of the box flew open and the found herself staring up into the faces of two strange men.
"Well I'll be," muttered one of them. Then he smiled. "'Ello deary."
They hauled her to the deck where the captain pondered over what to do with her. However, before he could give an answer, he paused, hand still on his chin as he spotted something in the distance. He spun around.
"Put 'er in the cabin, we'll deal with 'er later! Step up lads, we got some unfriendly company wot's comin' our way!"
As she was dragged off to the captain's cabin, Lily caught sight of what he was talking about. A ship with black sails.
"And you'll stay in there if you know wot's good for ya," the sailor told her, shoving her into the room and slamming the door. Lily dashed over to a window and stared through the glass at the oncoming ship. Was it just her or what is already closer? A single word popped into her head.
She'd heard stories about them, just as she'd heard stories of her brother. I guess sailors don't gossip—they exchange stories. What would they do if the pirates caught them? What would the pirates do to her? She squeezed her eyes shut. Best not to think about it. But what were the men on this ship going to do to her? Would it be any different? She cursed herself for being the biggest fool on the face of the earth. What did Norrington need from her anyway? Rescuing? Honestly…
A dull whistle and a loud explosion in the water just outside the window made her scream and jump back.
"They're aimin' to disable us!" someone outside yelled.
"Pull her to port! Get some more of that wind!"
Another explosion rocked the ship and Lily fell into a chair. It was then she noticed she was sitting at a table with numerous nautical instruments on it. Frantically she began scrabbling amongst them, searching for anything she could possibly use as a weapon in the near future—whether they escaped or not.
"It's no good! They're still gaining captain!"
"You'd do well to arm yourselves, men!" the captain bellowed.
Lily's hands closed on a sharp compass. No escape. She'd be fighting pirates. She felt a little better knowing she'd had all that time with Norrington when they were children, dueling out in the yards. A little better—but not much. Dueling with her brother in the yards in England was one thing. Fighting pirates with something that measured distance on maps out in the middle of an ocean in order to stay alive was completely different.
"They're coming captain!"
"Steady boys! Make ready!"
Her last, fleeting hope was that James was already on that ship.
It wasn't much longer before the creaking of another ship could be heard alongside theirs and the men began shouting threats and insults at one another. The first shot of a gun seemed to set things off, several gunshots following along with an increase of screams and shouts. Lily ventured a peek out the window and could barely make out men from the pirate ship swinging onto the merchant vessel. She turned and frantically looked about the room. They'd be coming into the captain's cabin, no doubt, and there was nowhere to hide. I'll have to venture outside and risk getting caught—otherwise I'll be caught for sure!
"Round them up, round them up!" a casual voice directed. "Come, come, now lads, what did I take you aboard my ship for?"
Definitely not the merchant captain. Was it the pirate leader? Almost on all fours, Lily crept to the door and opened it a crack to look out. A few more gunshots rang out, but the battle had ended fairly quickly, save a couple of stragglers. It looked like the crew was being rounded up by the mast—or were they being tied up? It was difficult to say.
"Any more of you?" asked the strange man again, but continued without an answer. "Not a very large crew. Well I suppose you'll be hauling enough. Where you headed? Panama? Maracaibo?"
A boot thudded down as the man stepped into view. He wore a long, dark coat that might have been discolored originally or simply gotten that way from years of use and lack of cleaning. His boots were high and of worn leather, a cutlass at his waist, pistol in his hand, and a worn brown hat sitting atop his head, under which appeared to be a red bandana wrapped around long, dark disheveled hair.
More random shots were fired, followed by a few shouts.
"Would someone please take care of that? I might have loaded a pack of dogs on board and have less trouble than with you lot."
Now or never, Lily thought, planning on bursting through the door and dashing off somewhere safer. Or so she convinced herself.
"You there!" the pirate threw out an arm and pointed at the captain. "Mind tellin' me what's so interesting about your quarters, ey?"
Lily clicked the door shut just as the pirate turned around. Panicking, she stood and began backing away. Interesting about the captain's cabin? Did he have gold in the room? She froze, her jaw dropping. Her. The captain had her in the room. And there was nowhere to hide except—the window!
She rushed to the back and swung the panes open, craning her head to look up. If she could just reach up to that planking…
Her feet disappeared from the window just as the door squeaked open. In moments she was peeking over the deck through the wheel. There seemed to be only five pirates, though she was sure there were more below deck. To the right was another ship, much larger than the one she was on now, with dark, ashy wood and black sails with dirty patches on them. Lily squeezed her eyes shit. Lord what a mess she was in.
"Don't know what you've got in there you think is worth anything mate," said the leader, strolling back out. "If this is what you were worried about," he jiggled a small pouch of coins in the captain's face, "then you've got problems. Wouldn't ever be much good at cards I expect. Mr. Gibbs!"
"Anything down there worth anything at all?"
"Eh, looks mostly like tradin' supplies, but I'm sure we'll find use outta the lot of it," a man called up from below deck.
"Good! Means you weren't a waste after all," the leader said into the captain's face. "Load it up and we'll be off to Tortuga!"
There was a brief hurrah from the men and they began hauling boxes out of the hold and leading them onto the pirate ship. But Lily's mind was at work again. Tortuga straightaway? If they left the crew of this ship alive, they would most definitely return to Port Royal. If not, she'd be stuck on a boat all on her own with no idea of how to navigate it and no supplies. The men became less of an issue—she didn't trust either group.
Bold Lily, she thought as she grabbed onto a free swinging rope and waited for the opportune moment. Very bold—and probably very stupid as well. The pirate's ship was much bigger, so she was sure there would be plenty of places to hide. All she had to do was hold out until they reached Tortuga, which was hopefully only a few days away. Hopefully.
The second everyone's backs had turned, she ran forward, pushed off, and swung onto the upper deck at the aft of the ship. Immediately she dropped down low, releasing the rope to the breeze and lay there, crouched like a cat, her eyes trained on the working crewmembers below.
Where to hide, where to hide? She couldn't try going below deck now—that's where everyone was going. Behind her she spotted a bunch of ropes with a heavy blanket thrown over them. Good enough for now. Moving slowly, she backed up to the pile and cautiously lifted the blanket to crawl under them. The things she did to escape conventions sometimes. The last most drastic she had done was to run away into the woods for three days to protest an engagement to an utterly frightful man over twice her age. It was James who had found her and convinced her to return home, and then persuade her mother and father to cancel the marriage, going so far as to announce he would cut himself off from the family if they did not. It was one of the many reasons she wanted to find her brother so badly. She had always needed him, so this time perhaps he needed her.
"All right, that's it, cast off!" yelled the pirate captain. They disentangled themselves from the merchant ship and began putting distance between them, heading in the same direction they had come from. Lily decided she would wait until nightfall to search for a better hiding place—preferably to somewhere nearer to the food and water. A long stroll there and back meant for more chances to get caught and end up like the merchant sailors, dead, which they probably were. Or thrown off the ship…or possibly something else she had been doing her best not to think of.
She closed her eyes, hot and sweating beneath the blanket, and laid her head on one of the large knots in the rope, silently wishing Tortuga was just around a bend in the ocean.
Dusk couldn't seem to come any more slowly. She was absolutely parched and hungry as well. She hadn't had anything to eat or drink all day. At least in the woods there had been a stream and several bushes full of berries. A little longer, a little longer, she kept repeating to herself, knowing the sun was setting from the orange light sneaking in from under the cracks where the blanket met the wood. A little longer, just a little while longer… The orange gave way to pink, and was beginning to transform into blue when the sound of heavy footsteps caught her attention.
"Oy there, Mr. Gibbs!" she heard the captain call out. "What're you doing up there?"
The footsteps stopped just at the edge of Lily's hiding place.
"Some of the ropes for the mainsail're lookin' a mite rat-eaten. Was thinkin' I'd replace 'em. After all, gotta have the Pearl in the best shape she can be, eh Jack?"
Oh no, oh no…
"True enough, but you've been working hard all day—why not go down and enjoy some company with the boys, ey?"
Yes, please do Mr. Gibbs.
There was a long pause that seemed to be one of the most drawn out moments in Lily's life. Finally Gibbs spoke again.
"Right," he drawled in a way that struck Lily as odd and made her feel uneasy. "Tomorrow morn then."
The boots thudded back down and Lily breathed a quiet sigh of relief. No doubt about it; tomorrow she would have to be somewhere else. She would move that night.
When everything was silent save for the lapping of waves against the ship's hull, and no more light shown under the blanket, Lily began to creep out, grateful for the cool night air against her sweaty skin. All around her, everything was black. If it weren't for the half moon in the sky, she'd never know where sky stopped and sea began. Even now she wasn't sure. Though she was admittedly thankful for the long lantern hanging from a tied off rope, the fact that she would have to go past a crewmember sleeping near it in a hammock made her nervous. She'd spent enough time on English vessels, the longest on her last voyage, to have some idea of where the men might be sleeping. She could only guess how many compartments it had. But if she was going to get down to the cargo, she could have to slip past the man in the hammock and probably the entire sleeping crew.
What a bizarre, horrifying gauntlet I've got to run.
After taking a few deep breaths, she treaded softly down to the deck and headed for the dark gaping square that was to lead her below. Asleep though he was, Lily kept to the shadows, out of the lantern light, and inched her way along the side, aware of the open blackness of cold water behind her. She thought she heard whispering, but couldn't be sure. When she paused to listen more closely, she heard nothing and dismissed it as an overexcited imagination.
She winced sharply as her foot came into contact with something and caused it to clatter over the wood. The man in the hammock snorted loudly and sat up, snatching out a pistol and firing, missing Lily by mere inches.
"Stop!" someone yelled. She didn't know if the voice meant her or the other man, but it was obvious enough she wasn't going to listen and doubted if the deckhand would either. Instead, she dashed off, aiming to dart behind a mess of boxes and barrels. As she turned the corner, another shot echoed out over the sea and ricocheted off the crate at her left, catching her in the back of her arm.
"Stop, stop, you stupid mongrel!"
Lily noticed it as the voice of the pirate captain—Jack. Her breath came in quick gasps as she stood still behind the empty containers, feeling the shock of warm blood dribble down her arm and steadily pat against the wood floor.
"Mr. Gibbs, you are no longer in charge of hiring while intoxicated—but I applaud you for trying," Jack said.
"Right. Sorry about that. Just seemed like a good idea at the time."
"No harm done. Besides, I thought so too at the time. You there, you can come out!"
Her grip tightened around the silver compass she'd stolen from the merchant ship. She hadn't let go since. But now it was evident she might actually have to use it. It looked as thought she might not see James after all.
"How'd you know we'd gotten someone aboard?" Gibbs asked.
"It's the Black Pearl; it's my ship. I know every nook and cranny—those ropes haven't been covered in ages. Besides, saw what looked like a bit of a rump under there."
"Ahh," Gibbs muttered thoughtfully. "But I gotta tell ya Jack, I coulda swore this fella was wearin' a dress. Suppose he's daft?"
The pause seemed to indicate Jack was pondering this idea.
"Very well could be, jumping aboard a pirate ship and all."
"Oh it wouldn't bode well for us if'n we'd got ourselves a loon aboard."
"Suppose you'd rather have a woman then, ey?"
"After Elizabeth, aye, I believe so."
Lily shivered. Elizabeth? Who was Elizabeth? Some other poor woman they'd captured? She tried not to think about it.
"I've been more than patient," Jack called. "If you've come to join my crew, I accept, but right now I must say lad, you're not makin' yourself very trustworthy."
Clenching and unclenching her right fist around the compass, Lily though on what to do. Options were slim, if they could even be deemed options. Give up. Fight. Die giving up, die fighting. Horrible, horrible options.
The dull click of the gun was right beside her ear, a cold circle of metal pressing against her temple.
"Evenin' love. Now if you'd do me the pleasure…"
Silently Lily swore at herself. While she'd been thinking, their captain, this Jack fellow, had crept up around to her left side and put his gun to her head. With the barrel pressing gently at her, she obliged and went around the crates to face the other two men on the deck. Mr. Gibbs and the other utterly dumbfounded man in the hammock. Gibbs's face went from looking proud of Jack to astonished at what he saw before him.
"Mother's love. It is a woman!"
A part of Lily wished she had taken some of the male servant's clothing instead of the maid's, but it wouldn't have mattered much. She looked in no way like a male even with a hat hiding all her hair, and even so, the moment the hat came off, it would all come tumbling down as she hadn't used enough pins to hold it up. At the very least, she was keeping her right hand hidden behind the folds of her dress.
"Wot's she doin' on 'ere?" asked the man from the hammock.
"Nothing for you to worry about mate," Jack said, putting his pistol away. "Go on below deck and get some sleep. I believe Mr. Gibbs and I can handle this."
Still looking baffled, half asleep, and slightly drunk, the man did as he was told and disappeared from sight.
"Jack," said Gibbs," if you knew there was someone stowin' away under with them ropes, why'd ye wait until tonight to catch 'em? Why not just snatch 'em up right there?"
Jack walked around to the other side of Lily. "My dear Mr. Gibbs. The problem with stowaways is that they can't be trusted. Why else would someone sneak onto a ship—much less a pirate ship—than if they had something to hide or some crazy reason to do so."
He had taken a few more steps forward. His back was to her now. She could do it—stab him in the back. Rid them of their captain. Gibbs had no discernable weapons; perhaps she could catch him off guard as well. Steal a boat—or maybe make it look like they'd had a quarrel and killed each other; throw one of them or both overboard. Time was draining away while Jack talked and she thought. Now or never again!
Swiftly raising up her arm she swung down at Jack, only time enough for Gibbs's eyes to widen in surprise—and for Jack to spin around and grab her wrist.
"Like I said," he told her quietly, grinning in her face. "They can't be trusted." He gave her wrist a nasty squeeze, forcing her to drop the silvery compass. "And that, Mr. Gibbs, is why I didn't want you to go rummaging about in the ropes earlier today. Wouldn't want you to end up with that sticking out of your neck now would we?"
He released her and her hand went to her arm, which was throbbing painfully and still dripping blood.
"Even women have the sense to fight back when they're cornered. A bit like dogs in a way."
"Dogs!" Lily exclaimed, unable to stop herself.
"Ah she does speak!" Jack cried, a triumphant smile on his face. "Let me guess. Traveling hussy? Runaway maid?"
"I'd say more like a witch," Gibbs said, looking at Lily in distaste.
"I've got it!" Jack quipped, seeming to have the ultimate epiphany. "You're runnin' from your husband who is apparently the most low-down scoundrel there is and so have decided to turn pirate and just happened to come upon my ship, either that or you've heard of me and just got lucky."
Lily stared at him. He couldn't honestly be a pirate, could he?
"I'm looking for my brother," she said, keeping her voice as firm as possible.
"Ooh," Jack turned to Gibbs. "Her brother." He turned back. "Well now missy, I'm inclined to believe you are looking in all the wrong places."
Lily refused to be fazed. "I meant to take a ship to Tortuga from Port Royal, but ended up on one bound for Maracaibo instead."
"Maracaibo!" Again he turned to Gibbs. "I knew that was where they were going." He returned to Lily.
"When I hard you say you were bound for Tortuga I took it upon myself to come over to this vessel and ride it out."
Gibbs leaned in to Jack and muttered, "She's daft."
Lily turned a sharp eye on him. "I am not daft. My brother means the world to me and I shall find him, pirates or not."
But as Jack and Gibbs stared at her, she hoped she hadn't gotten too bold.
"Well missy," Jack suddenly burst out, "this is all very fine and well and fascinating, but seeing as your dripping blood all over my ship, why don't we patch you up and you can give us all the details later, ey? Mr. Gibbs, go on below and see to it those shots haven't disturbed the men, though seeing as we've hired a crew with the collective intelligence of a jellyfish, I highly doubt there'll be anything to worry about. Miss, follow me."
Having no other choice, unless she decided to throw herself into the sea, she followed him to his cabin. He seemed a very strange man. Charming, in an odd way. But she wasn't about to trust him yet.
He led her into his quarters, a place that gave the impression of being small and cramped due to the amount of books, maps, and various objects on shelves or hanging from the walls. Nothing matched in any shape or form; it was a ragtag hodgepodge of probably everything he'd ever taken and was planning on being used, sold, bartered with or gambled way.
"Have a seat little missy," he said, gesturing to his mess of a bed without even looking at her. Instead he began searching amidst the objects on an old desk, a spotted, cracked mirror hanging above it.
Lily, still clutching her arm, set her hand on her lap so as to avoid getting blood all over the floor and the bed, though she had a feeling both had seen their fair share as it was. Still, she felt that perhaps if she took some stock in the way he seemed to feel about his ship, he might be a little more civil to her, or at least remain as he was now in temperament.
"Did you kill those men?" she asked, unable to stop herself. She'd been wondering about it ever since she left the ship. It hadn't seemed like they'd been killed, but she couldn't be certain.
Finally Jack snatched up a cloth and came over to her. He stood over her for a few minutes, ragged cloth dangling in his hand, until he gave her a short yet definitive, "No."
He crouched down beside her and began wiping away the blood at the wound.
"May I ask why?" she asked, staring straight ahead and hoping she wasn't being too forward.
"What? Would you have preferred I kill them?" Jack paused to look at her.
"No," she said quickly. "No. I just—"
"Let me guess—pirates. They're not supposed to leave survivors and press men into service and all that rubbish, ey?" He returned to his work at her wound. "I can't say that none of that's true. Men get killed and pressed into service all the time, just like your little storybooks tell you. However, how I see it, I can raid a ship and leave it just as I found it—minus the goods of course. See, if I leave all the men alive, they have the opportunity to try again in a ship I leave afloat. If not, then a whole new crew has to be put together same as a ship. Takes too much time and makes too many people angry, see? But, if all comes back in good shape, they come back out, at most with a few more guns. Savvy?"
Lily nodded slowly. It did make sense. The crew was more valuable alive…but, what about her?
"Are you…going to kill me?"
Jack glanced up at her, a mildly amused look dancing in his eyes. "If I was gonna kill you love, why would I be spendin' the time to patch you up?"
True. So she would be worth more alive…unless his plans had nothing to do with money…
"Oh don't look so bloody horrified," Jack said, catching the expression on her face. "It's not fun that way."
Lily didn't know if she should be disgusted or relieved.
"For all the bad turns you've seemed to have gone about, you've managed a grazing from that bullet, which means I don't have to go diggin' about for it."
He began to wrap up the blood-stained cloth around her arm.
"What do you plan to do with me?"
Jack tied off the ends and stood, Lily staring up at him. He appeared to ponder things a bit before settling his hands on his hips and bending forward a little.
"I can think of a few things, but you've already made it clear you're not interested in one of them. In which case, you'll be helping about on my ship, seeing as you're going to be drinking my water, eating my food, and sleeping…well, somewhere…haven't quite worked that out yet."
"Then I'm to be pressed into service then?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Again Jack appeared to ponder things.
"Yes. I suppose you are, at least until we reach Tortuga, then you'll be free to go anywhere your fanciful little heart might take you," he said with a grand hand gesture. Then he paused in the act. "You said you were looking for your brother, did you not?"
"Anyone I might know?"
Lily tried her hardest not to blush in awkward embarrassment—and fear, lowering her eyes. "No. Highly unlikely."
Jack straightened. "Ah. Then might I have the pleasure of your name before retiring for what's left of the night?"
Thinking quickly, she decided she couldn't give him her last name—all the naval officers went by their last names, and as a pirate-chasing commodore, James's would certainly be recognized. Well, she was dressed as a maid; maids went by their first names in any household…
She glanced up at Jack and could immediately tell he knew she was hiding something from him. The way he leaned back slightly, the merest indication of a frown, the slant of his dark eyes; she waited for him to press the matter.
"All right then Miss Lily," he said at length. "You'll be sleeping here tonight. Tomorrow you being your new education."
He made for the door and opened it, but just before he had closed it after himself, Lily turned and asked one last question.
"What about you? I mean, what name should I call you by?"
He turned and poked his head back in.
"You'll be callin' me Captain Jack Sparrow."