This story was written in response to a challenge to write about a swordfight, something torn, and something precious. I loved the idea and ran with it.
Also, like anything else I write, this is strictly humour. Norrington would never become a pirate, especially not for a little girl's sake. (wink) Disregarding the blatant irony of that last sentence, enjoy this! It serves as a prologue for A High Compliment Indeed, but both can be read separately or out of order.
I wrote this purely for laughs; if this makes you giggle, chuckle darkly, or fall out of your chair, it has more than served its purpose.
Lieutenant Norrington bit off the end of the thread with a satisfactory ferocity.
This was not the accepted way of cutting things aboard the good ship Dauntless. It was, unfortunately, the only way for a certain lieutenant to cut things, as his scissors had been used as a wager in a card game. He scowled. Of course, Gillette had to pick the most inane, most idiotically useful item to bet and then had to lose it to a royal flush.
To be truthful, Norrington hadn't noticed the absence until recently, when he had need of repairing a swath of brocade that had been torn off in a non-combat skirmish. The incident had involved one of the captain's favourite saucers, a fork, and a too-full cup of tea, with minor casualties resulting on the saucer's part.
He had been summonsed by Captain Bridgewater earlier, supposedly for an important meeting. Naturally, this meant that the captain was terribly bored and needed to do something other than polish his prized tea service, but that was not to be brought up. Today's conference actually did have a point: the governor was bringing his daughter with him on an inspection of the Dauntless.
That was enough to startle any officer, yet Norrington remained calm. Keeping an icy demeanor in the face of danger was a trait that he prided himself on. After all, it wasn't as though the captain was asking him to escort the girl around and oversee her visit to the ship...
The lieutenant listened to his superior...and as he listened, his face grew pale.
That was exactly what he was being ordered to do.
The ice melted.
It hadn't taken long for the tea cup to stumble out of his grip. Lucky for him, Norrington had been able to save the cup from shattering against the hard floor. Sadly, this had come at the cost of the saucer. A shard of saucer had cut his hand and slashed through a line of brocade on his cuff, as if breaking a piece of the captain's china wasn't enough to ruin his day.
He had been most hastily excused, only after agreeing to make reparations for the loss by watching over the girl.
Surveying his handiwork, the lieutenant was pleased. There was little or no evidence that a tear had ever occured. He breathed a sigh of relief as he sank back into his cot, contemplating why everything had had to go wrong right before inspection day.
Elizabeth Swann was most excited.
This was not the face which a governor's daughter ought to present about being on a boat with forty or so sailors for a long duration of time. She ought to have been mildly disappointed about not conversing with the society ladies, all the while dutifully resolved to grace the vessel with her presence, or so they said, whomever "they" were.
A man wearing an impeccable array of brocade offered his hand to her as she stepped aboard the HMS Dauntless. She took it, as a proper lady should, and found herself surrounded by a veritable forest of neatly-presented uniforms. All jokes aside, it was rather...daunting.
Another man approached her father, welcomed the governor and his family, and assured them that it was a high honour to be able to share their company at sea. Elizabeth found the sword hanging at the man's side far more interesting than the conversation. This was a sword that had seen many battles against pirates, she could tell that by looking at it. The way it glittered against the sun and waves intoxicated her. Even the tassel, swishing to and fro with the man's slightest motion, was mesmerizing.
She wanted it very, very badly.
Her father prodded her gently, probably to elicit a response to a question she'd missed. Elizabeth smiled and innocently remarked that it was a fine day to be sailing, which confused the captain to no end as he had been hoping to ascertain whether or not she was prone to seasickness.
Later that night as the guards on deck changed watch, a small figure slipped under the cover of darkness into the captain's quarters. This was not noticed by the officers on duty for many reasons. First and foremost, one usually expects an attack to come from outside when one is on a ship in a limitless ocean. Second, it was awfully dark. Third, Lieutenant Norrington was momentarily distracted by the fraying of his once-perfect hem.
He was about to ask Groves, also on the night watch, to take over his post temporarily as he dashed back in to cut the loose string...when he recalled that he was no longer in possession of scissors. Frustrated, he settled in for guard duty with the small comfort that no one would be able to see the fray at night.
The lieutenant might have enjoyed a peaceful evening, had not the loud noise sounded from behind him.
Hand on his sword, Norrington swiftly took up a reconnaissance position in the shadows. Pirates? Not likely. One could never be too careful, though, especially with the governor and his daughter travelling with them.
A door creaked open somewhere, followed by the sound of footsteps. In the little light that was availible, the lieutenant could have sworn he saw a shift trailing on the deck. It perplexed him. Then, he recalled whom he was supposed to be protecting.
Sighing to himself and a shade puzzled at why she was in the captain's rooms (a question to which he suddenly found he did not want an answer), he drew up a plan of attack. The most proper thing to do in a situation like this was to accompany the girl back to her lodgings and prevent others from seeing her. He was sure that Groves had heard the noises too and, using a special stare reserved for such occasions, signaled him to stay back.
This was a battle he must fight alone.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was having a ball.
She swung her prize with a newfound grace, maneuvering the blade through the air easily. It had been beastly heavy when she had first acquired it, but now that she had practised she became accustomed to its weight. All in all, she had only anticipated a few swings with the sword before putting it back.
That, however, was before the pirate appeared.
He crept forth out of the shadows, a sword grasped in his hand. Granted, he wasn't rushing at her with teeth barred and weapon raised, but it still made for a threatening spectacle.
She knew immediately what she must do.
It was very good that Elizabeth had practised so much, otherwise she might never have been able to haul the sword upwards and point it at the approaching figure. Where were the officers at a time like this? Didn't they know the ship was being attacked by pirates? Maybe they had...she shook the thought from her mind. It was all up to her to save the captain and the ship now.
Lieutenant Norrington had not quite expected the sword.
The governor had mentioned to him in passing conversation that his daughter was sometimes high-spirited, given to flights of fancy regarding pirates. This the lieutenant had known and had anticipated. He had never once been told that the Swann girl knew how to wield a sword.
Oh, the captain would be hearing about this from him most certainly...Assigning the poor, unknowing lieutenant to watch over the dangerous young lady: it was a terrible injustice.
He might have continued in this tract, had Elizabeth not suddenly thrust her sword in his general direction. Norrington dodged the blow barely, made aware of the assault too late. Unconsciously, his hand gripped his own blade tighter. Would it be too bold to draw swords with the governor's daughter?
Elizabeth did not leave him a moment to spare for the thought of propriety. Instead, she rushed him again. He parried this oncoming barrage expertly and redirected the point of her sword into a barrel. She fought to free it, but alas! He'd used her own effort against her, and her strength had driven her own sword into the wood.
This was a tricky opponent, Elizabeth reasoned. Yet, that's what one must expect of pirates. Still tugging at the sword, she switched tactics.
"Avast, you pirate cur!"
Avast? Norrington suppressed a chuckle. Whom was she referring to as the pirate here?
She yanked at the anchored hilt again, confident. The pirate would no doubt be reeling now, wondering how a young girl could have seen so easily through his disguise. The sword moved an inch. Glancing up from her task, she was surprised to discover that the pirate had moved, too.
Of course! He was going to capture her and take her for ransom! She mustn't let that happen, not under any circumstances.
Thus, with a final surge of Arthurian force, she wrested Excalibur from the stone-- or in this case, barrel-- and launched an offensive.
The lieutenant would later wonder whether his consternation over his fraying cuff had caused him to be so careless in the fight. Trained and tempered by many battles, his steel clashed with hers, parrying and reposting with skill equaling that of a master. She twirled and swung haphazardly, he blocked with a cold efficiency and moved fluidly.
Years of experience, though, could not prevent him from making the fatal mistake of getting cocky. He would go along with her game, he thought, to demonstrate to her why pirates were such a menace, why they needed to be hunted down and hanged. He would show her the true side of pirates.
"Arrr! Give up all hope, ye who enter here!"
Alright, so he was a pirate with a touch of Dante's Inferno. Stranger pirates had existed. To be frank, he had very little of a buckaneer vocabulary, which was making the deception all the harder.
Elizabeth was staggering, attempting to land a hit to no avail. He was too good a fighter, she reasoned, and her arm's stamina was fast running out. Here she was, always wanting to handle a sword (but never really doing so) going up versus a dark goliath of a man who had likely been in bar fights and ship fights and all sorts of fights...
Why did it all seem so hopeless? No! It was never hopeless! She must fight.
And she fought. In fact, she fought so hard that one of her swings took Norrington by surprise (he would later say that he had been thinking too long on the appropriate pirate words to say) and she managed to cleve clean off a strip of his cuff, fraying brocade and all. As if in slow motion, the cloth made its descent.
They both fell silent, awed by the hit. Then, Elizabeth stepped forward, sword still at the ready, and whispered:
"Are you dead?"
Norrington slumped back against the rail of the ship, more out of exasperation than anything.
"Are you sure?"
Elizabeth was not certain what to make of this. She fished the triangle of blue and gold fabric off the floor and inspected it vigorously. Norrington was bored (being dead, after all, lost its appeal once she stopped talking to him) and was rather miffed at the loss of brocade. Soundlessly, he dissolved back into the darkness.
It had been her first encounter with a pirate, she mused, and she had dispatched of him. Fingering the fabric fondly, she hardly noticed Lieutenant Norrington bringing a lantern up behind her.
"Miss Swann." He greeted her curtly.
"Oh! Yes..." Elizabeth was having difficulty remembering what name went with what uniform. She berated herself about not listening when the officers were being introduced, tried to recall at least what rank this man was, and then slid the sword behind her, hoping that the person (of unknown rank and name) wouldn't recognize it.
"Would you care to return to your room? You seem to have had a scare."
"Oh no!" She replied, perhaps too quickly. "I'm fine. Perfectly so." She shifted nervously under his gaze from foot to foot. "Look! I got this from a pirate."
Norrington inspected the pie slice-shaped thing thoroughly, feeling for weight and texture, murmuring to himself about the width of the brocade, etc. This was all an act. He was really just plotting how best to slip it into his pocket to re-attach later. At length, he nodded approvingly.
"You have earned yourself quite a trophy, Miss Swann. I know this pirate well--he is a veritable terror in these waters. You should be proud of yourself: not many could walk away from him unscathed."
Elizabeth smiled bravely, considered telling him about the fight, and then yawned. The captain's sword slid out of her hand and hit the deck with a soft thud as her fingers forgot its presence.
The lieutenant half-carried, half-walked hand-in-hand with her back to her sleeping quarters. Clutched securely in her hand remained the scrap she had so fiercely contested for, held there like something precious, a gem from the richest treasure trove rather than the torn piece of a naval uniform it was.
Norrington knew then that he could not take it from her.
Children were very odd, he said to himself as he left her to her dreams in her room. To think that the most worthless of items could be priceless in their eyes. He smiled condescendingly, knowing that he would never fall prey to holding petty objects far above their worth.
The next morning, Elizabeth Swann was awake and full of energy, having enjoyed a restful and mostly pirate-free slumber. Norrington, on the other hand, had spent the remainder of his night accosting fellow officers' uniforms in search of surplus fabric. His efforts had been mostly unsuccessful, leading him to restort to sewing the edges of his cuff together which made the right cuff look slightly smaller in diameter than the left. This vexed him to no end.
His concentration wavering from a sleepless night, the lieutenant was doing his best to refrain from leaning on a mast as he overheard Elizabeth talking with her father. Governor Swann did not believe a word that his daughter was saying, which was evident in his pained smile and slow nodding. Elizabeth recognized this as well, excusing herself and going to the starboard rail of the ship.
Exhausted and in need of reassurance that his sacrifice had been worth the price of a deformed cuff, Norrington strode aside her.
"Miss Swann, good morning."
"Good morning...lieutenant." She said, giving him his title effortlessly. Being carried to your room by a soldier rather compelled one to learn his rank for future use.
"If I may ask, what is your opinion of pirates now having fought one?"
The child grinned, which was enormously disconcerting.
"I have never come across someone so skilled at sword-fighting as the man I fought. If that pirate hadn't left, I would have asked him to take me along to his ship to teach me to wield a sword like that." She sighed. "I wonder where he went to. Everyone I've asked said that they hadn't seen a ship for miles..."
The lieutenant suddenly felt violently ill. He had only intensified her passion for pirates.
"You still believe me about him, right?"
"Of course, Miss Swann, of course."
And so, James Norrington, future scourge of pirates and pride of the Royal British Navy, slumped against the railing, defeated twice in less than a day by a little girl. Elizabeth Swann, meanwhile, let her vision wander over the waves, searching for a pirate missing a shirt cuff, a pirate much closer than she thought.