honorat: (Will Turner by Honorat)
[personal profile] honorat
By Honorat
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Well, then, I confess, it is my intention to commandeer PotC, pick up the characters in Port Royal, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasely black guts out!

Summary: In which Will returns to the forge, and we discover the history of Master Brown and his apprentice. This turned out to be the story of the fall of J. Brown. It’s going to have several more parts. Lots of OC’s. I hope you like them as much as I’ve grown to. More of the epic of the blacksmith and the pirate. More movie novelization and missing scenes. This one is entirely off the edge of the map. In fact this is an entire lost continent!

Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] geek_mama_2, for the wonderful beta work; I’ll buy you a hat—a really big one.

Links to previous chapters:
Prologue: To Miss An Appointment
Ch. 1: Pirate Attack
Ch. 2: Unrestrained Piracy


* * * * *


Will Turner left Old Man Sorby muttering to himself and set off for the smithy at a jog. He was already behind on several orders, and he had wasted too much time indulging himself today, first in that ill-advised delivery of the sword to Governor Swann, then in the meditation necessary to regain his equilibrium. All around him, voices buzzed with talk of the escaped pirate somewhere in their midst. If the locals were to be believed, the pirate had added to his list of dastardly deeds the apoplectic fits of two elderly gentlemen, the falling of a complete batch of bread, three milk cows drying up, an infestation of moths, a child’s tantrum, a goat rampaging in the pawnshop, and numerous small thefts ranging from a pair of unmentionables from a clothesline to a pewter soup ladle.

The corner of Will’s mouth twisted ironically. No doubt most of the stories were invented to allow the tellers a moment of shared glory or notoriety. However, one story remained the same: the kidnapping of the governor’s daughter. The details changed. He had “held a pistol to her head, my dears!” “practically ravished her! They barely caught him in time!” or “terrified the poor thing until she fainted dead away.” But each story increased Will’s anger at the unknown criminal. His desire to avenge all injury Elizabeth had suffered burnt white hot within him.

He was not likely to get the chance for that revenge. Instead, he must return to his labour, bow his neck again under his yoke, and let the heroes capture desperate pirates.

* * * * *

As he approached the street that led to the smithy, Will slowed his steps. Once he had followed this route with a glad heart, anticipating a homecoming. Now, he dreaded what he would find upon his return.

The fulcrum on which his attitude balanced was Mastersmith Joseph Brown. Will reminded himself how lucky he had been to be apprenticed to a man like Master Brown. Not for him the near starvation of Timothy, the printer’s devil; nor the bruised and beaten back of Angus, the cooper’s apprentice; nor the squalor and ignorance dooming Bunty, the mortician’s apprentice.

He’d not known what to expect those seven and a half years ago when he’d waited nervously in the governor’s office, flanked by the kindly, imposing Governor Swann and the clerk who would draw up the indentures. He’d been a guest among the servants of the great house for several months while attempts were made to find news of his father, the merchant sailor William Turner. But the Caribbean gave away none of her secrets. Will’s fragile hopes had collapsed into fear of an unknown future. However, finally, the decision had been made to arrange for the care of the orphan by finding a craftsman in need of an apprentice. Mastersmith Brown had agreed to take on the responsibility. When the butler had announced the visitor, Will had stood politely and stared with mingled dread and curiosity at the man who was to have control of his life for the next nine years.

Mastersmith Brown had been nothing he could have anticipated. For one thing, he was scarcely taller than Will had been at the time. He was, however, several times thicker—a stocky man with curly brown hair and a bushy beard sprinkled with a few gray hairs. His bright blue eyes had twinkled jovially in his florid square face; his round red nose had suggested a fondness for alcohol. Relieved that the smith seemed a not un-kindly sort, Will had waited to be introduced.

“Is this the boy?” the man had boomed, holding out a calloused and grimy hand.

Gingerly, Will had held out his own hand to be enveloped in a crushing grip. “Will Turner, sir,” he’d managed.

“Well, m’boy. You’re a mite on the puny side for a smith, but you’ll grow. And, after all, look at me. I’m a mite on the short side!” Master Brown’s huge and totally disproportional laugh had shaken his entire frame.

Will had smiled nervously, unsure whether he was meant to laugh or if that would be rude.

In a daze, Will had watched as the adults concluded the business of transferring him to the custody of this stranger. He had seen the brown ink flowing onto the heavy tan paper under the clerk’s dexterous hand:

Know all men that the Said Joseph Brown doth bynd and oblige himself and his heirs, &tc. to teach or cause to be taught his Said Apprentise in the Arts and Mystery of Smith Craft in the best manner he can and to read and write and likewise to provide for his Said Apprentise Meat, Drink, Washing and Lodging and Apparell fitting for such an Apprentise unto the full ext of nine yeeres and at the end of this tyme one new sute of apparell and forty shillings in mony.

Silently, he had waited as three copies were completed and blotted. Then Will had taken the quill in a hand that trembled slightly and signed his name slowly and carefully underneath the signatures of the governor and the smith. It was done. His life was no longer his own until he reached the age of twenty-one. Nine years had seemed such an impossibly long time.

“C’mon boy,” Master Brown had clapped him on the shoulder with a force that jarred his teeth. “Get your effects, and I’ll take you over to the smithy.”

Since Will’s only possession was a small bundle containing the one spare suit of clothing and a nightshirt provided by the governor, this had not taken much effort. He had followed the smith out of the office to find Elizabeth waiting for him.

“You’ll come and visit won’t you?” she’d asked. And his heart had warmed and drew courage. At least he still had one friend, even if he couldn’t see her as often as before.

At the time, he hadn’t understood the looks the adults had exchanged; he did now. More than the distance of the path to the town would be separating him from the governor’s daughter.

“I’m afraid Will is going to have many other things to do, my dear,” Governor Swann had warned Elizabeth, leading her away.

Elizabeth had hung back, watching as Will and his new master were ushered out the door by the butler. Will had turned once to look at her, sensing that something was ending but powerless to stop it.

When the door had closed behind him, he’d never felt so alone. But as he’d followed the smith down the hill, he’d heard a shout. Glancing back over his shoulder, he’d seen Elizabeth jumping about like a flea on the upper balcony not waving a ladylike handkerchief but flailing her entire parasol like a signal flag. A smile had touched the corners of his mouth. No one could subvert her keepers more creatively than Elizabeth. She’d found her way to say good-bye. He’d raised a hand and waved back. Illogically he was cheered. He should have remembered that the best way to be assured that Elizabeth would manage something was to forbid her to do it. Perhaps this hadn’t been the end, after all.

In some ways, Will reflected, it hadn’t. But in others it most certainly had. A door had closed between them that day that would never open again.

His feet had been set on the path to a life as a labourer, as one who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow.

* * * * *

Will remembered the first time he’d walked down this street, staring around him at the gray stone buildings, the bustling businesses. Severe and utilitarian. None of the elegance of the governor’s home. Will’s beauty-loving soul had shrunk back a little at the dirt and plainness of it all, even as he recognized it as familiar. The home he and his mother had shared had been in a similar setting.

Master Brown had drawn up at a heavy set of double doors with a smaller entrance cut into one. Swinging one door open wide, he’d beckoned Will to step inside.

“Well, lad. Here will be your new home.”

Stepping over that threshold for the first time, Will had experienced the odours that would perfume his days for all the years to come—coal smoke, dust, oil, warm animal, and above all the nose-prickling scent of hot metal, iron ore, and steel, the elements that would make up his world. As his eyes had adjusted to the dim interior, he’d seen the flicker of the forge to which he had been bound, the myriads of incomprehensible tools, the great anvil brooding like an altar at the center of it all. An almost holy hush had mantled the smithy as master and apprentice surveyed their domain.

Softer than he’d heard it before came the mastersmith’s voice, “This is it, son. This is the heart of the world where creation takes place. This is the forge where you’ll be heated and hammered until all the impurities have abandoned your soul. This is the anvil where you’ll be shaped into a man.”

A shiver had run through Will at these words. They had about them the ring of prophecy.

He had followed the mastersmith around the landing dock and down the stairway to the dirt floor of the smithy. In silence they’d walked through the shop, Master Brown reaching out occasionally to run a loving hand along a piece of equipment as though he’d been absent from old friends too long—almost as though he were introducing Will in some inaudible way. Will had felt the heat thicken heavily around him as though a hundred inanimate eyes were observing and weighing him.

He’d been grateful, if startled, when a door had opened and a clatter of feet had resulted in a swirl of people entering the shop. Bewildered at the sudden crowd surrounding him, Will had taken a moment to recognize that these were Master Brown’s family. It had never occurred to him that there might be a family. Will had never had one himself.

“He’s here! He’s here!” a small, feminine replica of her father had cried, tugging on the smith’s arm.

“Welcome to the family, Will!” a young blond giant had seized Will’s hand and was pumping it like a bellows.

“You’ll be staying in the attic room! I got to help make your bed! I left you a surprise! Do you like apples? Gordon brought back apples! This is my doll. Her name is Belle! Make your courtesy Belle. This is Will. He’s my new brother!” The small girl had transferred her latch to Will’s arm and was talking a blue streak.

Will could scarcely pay attention to what any one person was saying for they’d all talked at once.

Amidst the joyous chaos, the smith had tried to introduce them all.

First came Will’s new Mistress, a sweet-faced woman, taller than her husband, as pale and ethereal as he was ruddy and robust. She’d taken one look at the uncertain child her husband had brought home and had folded him into her arms. “We’re so glad you’re going to be a part of us,” she’d told him in her soft voice. She had smelled of lye soap and freshly baked bread. Will had felt tears sting his eyes. It had been so long since anyone had held him. Not since his mother had died. Tentatively, he’d hugged her back, feeling something tight loosening inside. He’d never imagined he might find a home and a family as well as an occupation.

The eldest son, the giant Joseph, Jr. must have inherited his height from his mother’s side and his shoulders from his father. The husky 17-year-old journeyman was set to become a partner with his father when he reached his majority and attained his mastery. A second son Gordon, a year younger, was absent since he was a marine up at the fort. Two daughters followed. Susanna, age 15, had greeted Will with a regal abstracted air.

“Don’t mind her,” Joe, Jr. had snorted. “She’s Anne Bolyn today and is nobly preparing to have her head chopped off. If she doesn’t watch it, I just might oblige.”

Susanna dropped her queenly dignity in favour of pounding her brick wall of a brother with small ineffectual fists.

Will had been surprised into a laugh.

The miniature copy of the mastersmith proved to be Emily, aged seven. She was still clinging to Will like a limpet, eager to drag him off to his new quarters.

The whole family had trooped back through the door to the stairwell that led to the living quarters above the smithy and had crowded through the kitchen and parlour, up to the three family bedrooms and then had even joined Will in climbing the ladder to the narrow attic door. A bed had been tucked into a corner for him, with the promised apple sitting polished and friendly on the quilt. A chipped wash basin had sat on a rickety wooden stand. He’d deposited his bundle of clothing in the trunk provided at the foot of the bed, and then the lot of them had pulled him back down to the kitchen to “put some meat on his bones,” so Mistress Brown averred.

* * * * *

He had found a home. The Brown family had taken him into its warm heart, treating him like a son of the house. It was all a new experience for Will. For the first time he found out what having siblings would have been like, the squabbles, the fun, the rivalry and the loyalty. And he saw what a loving marriage could be. The surety and support. The companionship and warmth. The partnership in the face of the trials of life. Master Brown and his wife were nothing like Will’s parents had been. Master and Mistress Brown had their arguments, their tension, and their reconciliations, but there was none of the anguished, thwarted, starving love that lived so close to hate. There was none of the explosive mix of desire and mistrust. There was none of the grief of two people doomed forever to belong to each other, yet forever to be parted. There was none of the aching loneliness. Instead, in the home of the Browns dwelt faith, hope, and love. Will could never be grateful enough to Joseph Brown for that unexpected blessing.

* * * * *

The next morning, Will had found himself rousted out of bed before dawn. After breaking his fast with the mastersmith and his son, he’d followed them into the smithy. There the men had donned leather aprons, and Will had been issued a smaller one.

“Used to be mine when I was about your size.” The massive Joe had grinned. Will had looked up at him in wonder. “It’ll bring you good luck.”

He’d been led to the forge and introduced to his first chore.

“This will be your task from now on,” the smith had informed him as Joe demonstrated how to build up the coal fire in the forge, letting the green smoke burn off until the fire flamed clean. “The fire must always burn at a constant heat.”

He’d also been introduced to another of his charges, the donkey that turned the gears that ran the bellows. From now on he’d be responsible for feeding the animal and mucking out its circle.

The smith had then led him around to each piece of equipment: the bellows, the anvils, the hammers, the tongs, the shaping tools, the quench tank, the slack tub, the files, the vises, the grinders. As an apprentice, he would be responsible for keeping these in order, tidying up the shop and returning the tools to their proper locations. Will had looked at the complicated array in despair. He would never learn what all these things were. How would he know what the difference was between a wedge peen and a straight peen hammer? Between a swage and a bick? Or worse. How would he ever remember where they went? There were several of each, in different sizes.

Master Brown had smiled at his confusion. “Don’t worry lad. It’ll come in time, and you can always ask.”

When the donkey had powered the bellows until the fire was at forge temperature, the smith had led his new apprentice to the anvil. Almost absent-mindedly, he’d taken down a flask from the shelf beside the forge, uncorked it, and tossed a libation splash of its liquid contents on the hot bricks of the forge; then he’d taken a swallow himself. The brief odor of burning rum had risen.

“This is what it’s all about, son.” The smith had turned to his new apprentice. “The tools, the chores, the bloody hard work. It’s all about what happens here.” With a pair of tongs, he withdrew a bar of metal from the fire. Its end glowed reddish orange. “This is the mystery.”

Joe took the bar from his father, placed the molten end against the face of the anvil, drew one of the hammers from the bench, and struck the bar with ringing blows, drawing out the steel, widening and lengthening it.

The mastersmith had handed Will another unheated bar of metal. “Hold this,” he instructed softly. “Now, close your eyes and listen.”

Unsure what would happen next, Will gripped the steel bar and did as he was told. He heard the pump of the bellows, the movement of the donkey, the creaking of the gears, all a background symphony to the bright arpeggios of Joe’s hammering. Then he heard the hissing sizzle of hot metal striking the water of the slack tub.

“Now breathe.”

Hot, moist air had filled his lungs. Will had almost opened his eyes, but the smith’s voice had gone on.

“Breathe in the steam. Feel the wind of the bellows, the heat of the flames, the living steel in your hands. Feel the shape the metal longs to be.”

Wind had stirred in Will’s hair as he stood next to the forge, wind that incited the warmth of the fire that caressed his back. He’d concentrated on the bar he held. Bones of earth, wrested from stone and soil and the ashes of forests. It did not feel like inert matter. It warmed to his touch like flesh. Almost, he thought it moved in his hand.

“That’s what a smith is, Will. The master of the five elements. Air and water, fire and earth, and spirit to bind them together. The only craft that combines them all.”

Will had opened his eyes and stared in wonder at the plain steel strip in his palms. For the first time he’d felt a thrill of excitement at the thought of becoming a smith, of understanding this strange element, of coaxing it into amazing new shapes. He’d looked up at Master Brown.

The smith had smiled at him. “Aye, you’ve got the sense of the matter in you, young Will Turner. We’ll make a smith of you yet.”

TBC
Ch. 3: Canticle for a Blacksmith, Part 2
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