A gunshot sounds, signaling the movement's start.
Rallying their instruments, the musicians stir the atmosphere into tangible tension with a quick-paced reel. On the floor, tables almost overturn themselves as the participants move into place, anticipating the rising tumult. A breath of thunder strikes the company and the dance is begun.
The world is hazy to him, resplendent in the golden afterglow of having had too much to drink. The candles and chairs might be as well dancing, he cannot discern the difference. Yet, he has not lost sight of his target; the gun wavers, but holds true.
Another gale of music sweeps through and he finds himself pulled along with it, a shell pulled back into the crushing power of the ocean. He is a ghost of his former self and fully alive all at once. They gather around him, challenging and dark, and he repels them with a feverish ferocity. Cries of battle echo from all directions, the world throws itself into chaos, the sky darkens. Without ballroom or partner, he waltzes in his faded finery.
It does not take long for him to become the center of the melee.
He has danced to this melody many times before, reveling in his carelessness. Throwing himself into the music, the rain of steel on steel permeates through the assembly.
The rumble of the coming storm is what draws her to him.
Distraught drunks and long-lost sailors made bold by their rum surge around her, clamoring for a chance at him. Elegant and thoroughly destructive, he slashes with a refined and polished edge, with a skill that all the misery in the world could not tarnish. He has been trained in fighting formally, yet is not bound by it. Not a foot is out of step; he parries and ripostes a tempo, savouring every languid motion.
She has seen him before, at balls and parties. She knows him to be a passable dancer, able to keep three-four time without faltering, never one to permit himself to be taken away by emotion. To her insatiable imagination, he is dancing in the squalls of heartache and rage.
A crowd encircles him, forming around him as clouds flock to a hurricane. Slashing and kicking them back with nonchalant ease, he turns to face more enemies. His turn is not the jarring rotation of a clockwork doll, but the twirl of an avenging tempest, a storm's eye grazing the water. He fights, though torrents of rain crash down around him, as he has always longed to fight.
Matching time with him, she enters the fray, determined to prove something, though she knows not if it is to herself or to another. Both clash against each other's discarded partners in an unyielding and unintended pirates' minuet.
Rejoicing in this freedom, the rigidity of perfect pitch and the predictablity of scales plague him no more. He has become nothing more than a storm, a hurricane that swallows up ships of good men, rain falling at a wedding for someone he once loved. For a moment, he is all these things: fierce abandon, reckless misery, and pure intoxication in the heart of battle.
He bares his soul in this catastrophe, shouting out a challenge that betrays him for what he is: a soul of honour despite the pirate guise. Gunpowder hangs like a veil over the company, portending an ill outcome.
"Well? Who's first?" He yells out to those gathered, a Fury poised to wreck his wrath in fair and balanced combat. But this is not the place for that. He forgets he is no longer on his ship.
The steel sings beneath his fingers, reflecting lightening from the candles surrounding them. Then, quite suddenly, everything stops.
With a soft exhalation of breath he falls to the floor, glass shards decorating his hair, a fitting crown for a fallen king. Above him, she proclaims victory over the quelled storm and a return to calm skies and jubilant quadrilles. He cannot hear her, cannot see her, and will not until he wakes up in a place he didn't fall asleep in.
The dark stratus dissipates to a soft rain and a light tapping floods the floor, reclaimed from the thunderous noise of bouts past. Joyful sounds arise once more, unhampered by the electricity of combat. Once again the weather has shifted as it always does, and the storm is evicted in favour of the sun and more pleasant company.
A gentle stroke across his cheek wakens him, calls him again to the calmer comforts of the night. Despite the pounding tarantella in the back of his head, he recognizes her with a sharpness that cuts through the blur of alcohol.
Elizabeth Swann smooths out his tousled hair and retrieves the last remaining glass pieces from it. He meets her eyes briefly, sighing. She cannot understand this, cannot comprehend why this has happened, how it could happen.
It is almost with a trace of sadness that he hears her ask, "James Norrington, what has the world done to you?"
He desperately wants to correct her but, still shocked, is unable to speak. Not the world, not something so large and uncaring. No, it was something much smaller than the world, more prized than the earth he stood on. It had not been the world's fault at all.
She offers him an arm to lean on as she takes him to the docks, shaking and ill. He has not found the words to let her know. He doubts he ever will.
The sky at last is clear, save for the mocking moon hovering over the water, still dancing to a pirate's minuet.