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 Governor Swann interferes and Will and Elizabeth have a falling out. And a wedding! I love weddings! Drinks all around! More metallurgical history shows up, and a journey begins. 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
Ch. 3: Canticle for a Blacksmith, Part 1
Ch. 3: Canticle for a Blacksmith, Part 2
Ch. 3: Canticle for a Blacksmith, Part 3

* * * * *


Will had been sixteen when Governor Swann had shown up, in his elegant, brocaded person, at the smithy. This unprecedented arrival had stirred up the inhabitants into a flurry of hospitality. The great man had been escorted into the parlour and offered such refreshments as the household afforded, which he graciously accepted. Having satisfied the requirements of courtesy, the governor acquainted his host with the tenor of his visit.

Master Brown had returned to the forge to inform Will that he was wanted, the governor was so kind as to wish to see how Will was doing for himself.

Will had washed up as best he could, although he’d not had time to change from his work clothes.

He’d entered the parlour, a pleasant if puzzled smile on his face.

“Good morning, Governor Swann.” Will bowed politely.

Good morning, Mr. Turner,” the governor nodded to the apprentice. “How have you been doing in your apprenticeship?”

“Very well, sir,” Will replied.

“So Mr. Brown has told me. He says you are very useful around the smithy.” The governor smiled benevolently on the boy. “I’m very glad to hear it. Very glad.”

Will bowed again, unsure how he was meant to respond to this daunting, if a bit patronizing, attention from such an august personage.

Governor Swann did not appear to expect a response. “I’m glad to find you’ve grown to be a sensible young man, Mr. Turner. I must commend your Master.”

Will looked down at his work-roughened hands and tried not to resent being treated like a prime bit of cattle, but he raised his eyes to meet the governor’s at the man’s next words.

“You have been a good friend to my daughter, Mr. Turner.”

Will nodded, uncertain where this conversation was heading. “And always shall be, sir.”

“Indeed.” The governor cleared his throat. “I realize you want what is best for her.”

“Of course, sir,” Will responded promptly.

Governor Swann appeared to be searching for the correct words. Will watched him narrowly, a sense of uneasiness increasing like the tightening of wire bands about his chest.

“My daughter is perhaps . . . too free . . . with her affections,” the governor’s said awkwardly. “Too easy in her manner. She does not always keep the line.” He huffed disapprovingly. “I have been an indulgent parent—too indulgent, perhaps.” He stared at Will as though expecting the boy to have divined his meaning from these oblique statements.

Will frowned. Surely her father couldn’t be suggesting Elizabeth would ever do anything improper. “Sir, Miss Swann’s conduct has always done you credit,” he spoke firmly.

“Yes, I know. But she is no longer a child,” the governor emphasized.

Yes, Will had noticed that.

“She is a young lady, now, and I must guard her reputation, if she will not. As must you, young man.”

Meeting the governor’s stern look with widening eyes, Will asked warily, “What are you suggesting, sir?”

“Only this. That a young woman such as my daughter should not be subject to the malicious tongues of gossips. I know you intend no harm, Mr. Turner, but when a young man of your station keeps company with a gently-born girl, people will talk. She will be entering society soon, and her honour must be spotless.”

Will felt the inexplicable tightness in his chest increase. His world seemed to be shifting and leaving him stranded without light or air. Elizabeth. His best friend. How could his mere presence be a threat to her? How could the respect he held for her be twisted by some malign influence into dishonour? Their beautiful times together distorted into something ugly? He had never paid any attention to the gulf that existed between the governor’s mansion and the smithy before. It had never seemed to matter to Elizabeth. Somehow, he knew it still would not matter to her. But should it? Could the friendship that gave his life meaning be a peril to the girl for whom he would willingly lay down his life? Apparently it could.

The governor had not stopped talking. “I know I can depend on you to support me in this, Mr. Turner.”

The governor stood in the light of the single window, gold edging the pale blue brocade of his coat, representative of power and wealth and parental authority. In the faded grays and browns of his handed-down homespun, Will nearly disappeared into the shadows. Only his white face stood out of the gloom, eyes dark with hurt. There was never any question whose wishes would prevail.

Through the ashes in his mouth, Will forced out the words, “Of course you may, sir. I understand.” A blacksmith, too, could be a man of honour. If Elizabeth would be best served by the severing of their relationship, he would have to find the steel in his soul to make that cut. But he knew that blade would pierce his own heart in the process.

The governor seemed unaware of the sacrifice he was asking of Will. He beamed at the boy, knowing that if he could not control Elizabeth, he could this apprentice blacksmith. “Excellent.”

* * * * *

Elizabeth had not understood.

“I don’t care what my father says!” she stormed at Will. “What do you say, Will Turner?”

She did not understand, from her position of power, the chains that bound him, chains he had been asked to forge himself, link by link. “I cannot go against your father’s strictures,” he tried to explain in frustrated agony. “I cannot!”

“Then there’s nothing more to say, is there?” Elizabeth froze into the haughty young lady she had never before been in his presence, hurt and angry. “Goodbye, Will.”

Will watched, throat seized, as the drawbridge pulled up and the portcullis smashed down and the yawning chasm opened forever between them. He was doing this for her sake, he reminded himself through gritted teeth, resisting the urge to take everything back. To throw convention to the winds and beg her forgiveness. He had to leave, while his courage still held. “Goodbye, Miss Swann,” he said softly, addressing her by her title for the first time.

Elizabeth had whirled and run down the road away from him. Will had watched until he could no longer see her. Then he’d run up the narrow twisting path to the cliffs above the bay to his own secret place. His unshed tears had scalded the backs of his eyes like molten lead. The day had been a paradise of green and gold and azure, but Will never remembered it as anything but heavy, clouded gray.

* * * * *

On his first half-day after Governor Swann’s visit, Will had not known what to do. Finally, he did nothing, remaining at the smithy and working through the hours that had once meant so much to him. He never knew that Elizabeth had escaped to their beach and waited for him as she always had before. After that, neither of them had ever returned to it.

* * * * *

Will had been deep in the throes of crafting the pommel of a sword on the lathe the afternoon a wispy, vaguely familiar young man had crept tentatively into the smithy. Will had left his work and come around the central forge to meet the customer. Wiping the oil and grime off his hands, he’d greeted the young man politely.

“Good afternoon. How may I help you?”

“Um . . .” the visitor stared myopically at him. “Is Mr. Brown in?”

“He’s out back,” Will replied. He was used to customers believing he couldn’t know what he was doing, and insisting on speaking to one of the other smiths. He tried not to let it bother him. “Is there something I can do for you, or would you like me to go get him?”

“I . . . um . . . I need to speak to Mr. Brown,” the young man stammered, adding, “if you please?”

Will was puzzled at being the cause of such discomposure. He was also not expecting the astonishing shade of red the customer was turning—not a response he normally met from the smithy’s clients.

At that moment, Joe breezed in from the back door. “Hey Will, could you . . . Oh!” He pulled up short. “Hello Rutherford! We’ve been expecting . . . I mean, how nice to see you, old chap!”

He held out a beefy paw from which, Will noticed, he hadn’t bothered to clean the dust. The journeyman smith’s fingers totally engulfed the limp, slender hand of the visitor. The young man’s eyes bulged and his Adam’s apple bobbled conspicuously on his long, thin neck.

“Hey, Father!” Joe hollered, apparently in high good humour. “We’ve got company!”

“I . . . I . . .don’t m-mean to b-be a b-b-bother,” the young man stuttered.

“No trouble at all,” Joe continued to beam at the embarrassed youth. “We are very, extremely happy to see you.”

“Th-thank you, I’m sure.” The guest grew even more flustered if it were possible.

At that moment, Master Brown stumped into the shop. “Who have we here?” He caught sight of the nervous young man. “Ah! Mr. Nipps. Delighted to see you. What can I do for you today?”

Mr. Nipps gulped again. “A word, sir?”

“Of course, Mr. Nipps. What word?”

Will wanted to hear what became of this unprecedented conversation, but he really had no excuse to remain. Slowly, he returned to the lathe and his interrupted pommel.

He heard Mr. Nipps attempt to clarify, “A word in p-private, sir?”

“Certainly,” the smith agreed jovially. “If you will join me for a drink in the parlour.”

The two of them disappeared in the direction of the entrance to the house.

Joe waited until the door had closed behind the unfortunate Mr. Nipps. Then he let out a muffled whoop of laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Will called from where he hadn’t yet picked up his work.

“That poor gormless nodcock!” Joe chuckled. “He’s here to ask my father’s permission to come a-courtin’ my sister.”

A suitor for Susanna? Will hadn’t really considered it, but the girl was nineteen going on twenty. Though he couldn’t imagine her a married woman.

“Will your father agree?” he asked.

“Oh, of course.” Joe shrugged. “Father knows the chit is partial to the lad—he’s clean, you know.” The journeyman smith held up his soot-stained hands to demonstrate the contrast. “An apothecary’s son. Susanna’s got no fondness for coal and iron. Thinks she’d like to have powders and potions for a change.”

Joe busied himself with setting up a welding project on the work bench.

“It’ll be a fine match,” he told Will. “Nipps is the name and nips is the nature. The two of ‘em will nip the farthings so tight they’ll scream. You won’t find them outrunning the constable. And for all her head is always in the clouds, Susanna knows how to keep household. Mother’s seen to that. They’ve no womenfolk at the apothecary’s house now, so they’ll welcome her with open arms. Likely been poisoning themselves mixing concoctions in the cooking pots.”

“He did seem very thin,” Will observed, feeling unaccountably jealous of the young man who seemed likely to gain his heart’s desire with the blessings of both families.

“Oh aye! All the Nipps have to run about in the rain to get wet. Not easy keepers, that’s for certain. Susanna will never fatten him up. But then she likes ‘em pale and ethereal—the melancholy Dane sort.”

Joe transferred the wired billets of metal to the forge to bring them up to fire-welding temperature.

At that moment, the door from the house swung open, and Rutherford Nipps appeared, followed by the mastersmith. Master Brown was smiling benevolently, but Mr. Nipps was a transformed creature. He’d shed his nervous twitching and was beaming like the sun after a storm. Enthusiastically, he shook Master Brown’s hand and waved to Joe. Then he fairly danced out of the shop.

Will returned to turning the pommel with all the ferocity of pent up frustration. He couldn’t even imagine being free to address—a girl’s—father on such a topic. Not after he’d been politely but unequivocally commanded to remember his station in life. He foresaw no such ecstatic happiness in his future. He hoped Mr. Nipps knew how fortunate he was.

* * * * *

Upon the official announcement of the engagement, the Brown household erupted into mayhem. Susanna’s trousseau and household goods had to be provided. Heaps of fabric made perilous passage for the now unwelcome dirty smiths. Master Brown was lovingly crafting a set of cookware for his daughter, unwilling to admit that any of the apothecary’s previous possessions would be adequate. Joe was responsible for the utensils. But Will thought that the dreamy Susanna would appreciate something less practical, so he spent his spare moments designing an elaborate candelabra.

Emily, at age 11, had no patience with her sister’s romance, particularly, she told Will, when it involved her having to hem leagues of linens. “I swear, Will Turner,” Emily groused, “I have stabbed my fingers with that wretched needle a thousand times.” She held up a stubby digit for his inspection. “I have sacrificed for my sister’s crowded linen chest enough blood for a small war! And I’m always having to clean it off the fabric. Do you know,” she demanded, “how hard it is to get blood stains out of linen?”

Will didn’t know.

“I am never going to get married.” Emily declared suddenly, apropos of nothing Will could see.

“What will you do then?” he asked.

“I shall be a prop for Mother and Father in their old age and then I shall keep house for my brothers.” She grinned at Will. Emily had never ceased to consider him part of her family. “But I’m warning you in advance. I shan’t do patchwork.”

“You don’t think Joe will find a wife?”

“Oh, Joe!” Emily dismissed her brother’s matrimonial prospects with a snort. “If the woman isn’t made of steel and doesn’t look like a sword blade, he won’t notice her.”

Will reflected that while Emily was probably right about Joe’s lack of interest in the topic, his responsibility to provide an heir might alter the situation.

Emily turned to eye him with her child’s forthrightness. “You’ll not be getting married either, will you?”

Will did not ask her where she’d acquired that notion, nor did he deny it.

“Then it’s a good thing for me that you’ll be keeping the house, isn’t it?” he said instead.

“And I can hem lots of linens.” Emily waved her abused fingers. “So I must go practice on Susanna’s. Poor Susanna,” she sighed. “To have only one sister, and that one all thumbs at needlework. But fortunately Mr. Nipps is so nearsighted he’ll never notice, and she can put out Mother’s work for company.”

Seeing her mother appear in the smithy door, the ominous light of incipient chores gleaming in her eyes, Emily gave a little yelp and dashed off.

Will returned soberly to his forge work. Since his faintly stirring dreams were so impossible to fulfill, he thought, he might do worse for companionship than a little sister who wouldn’t do patchwork.

* * * * *

Not all wedding related turmoil was unpleasant. Joe was responsible for leading Will astray with regards to snitching bits of wedding cake ingredients. The two of them would sneak into the kitchen, grab handfuls of raisins or nuts and dodge out again just ahead of flying wooden spoons.

The kitchen was a wonderful place, redolent of spices and brandy and candied fruit as Susanna and Emily chopped and stirred to make the dense, dark cake. Slivers of it would be wrapped in cloth and slipped under the pillows of Susanna’s friends hoping to dream of their future husbands. The women were of the firm opinion that this was no place for male intruders

But since the raiding party insisted on arriving, reinforcements were summoned.

“Mother!” the girls cried in outrage.

And Mistress Brown came sailing to the rescue, cornering her offending offspring and seizing him by the ear.

“Joseph Christopher Brown! You ought to be ashamed of yourself! A grown man being such a nuisance!” his mother scolded. “And you’re corrupting this innocent boy!”

With a mouthful of raisins and guilty, sparkling eyes, Will was not looking in the least innocent.

“I swear, Mother,” Joe’s laugh rumbled. “It’s entirely Will’s fault.”

Will made an indignant mumble around the raisins.

“Why he always looks so hungry and scrawny, I just have to help fatten him up.” Joe roughed up Will’s hair. Will swatted him away.

“It’s my Christian duty,” Joe added virtuously.

“Make them go away, Mother!” Susanna complained. “There won’t be anything but flour and eggs in this cake if those two oafs have anything to do with it!”

“Am I going to have to inform your father that you have too much time on your hands?” Mistress Brown threatened.

“No! Not that! Anything but that!” Joe begged, theatrically contrite. “I’ll be good. I promise.”

“See that you do,” his mother admonished, releasing his ear and aiming a maternal swat at her tall son. “Now take your great blacksmithy selves out of here and stop impeding progress.”

Joe and Will beat a hasty, strategic retreat.

“Don’t worry, Will,” Joe assured him. “I can get Emily to give us the bowls to scrape.”

* * * * *

The morning of the wedding dawned with a brisk breeze tossing the heads of the palms and chasing wisps of clouds across an eggshell blue sky. Will felt odd struggling out of his work clothes after his chores and into his good suit. It had once belonged to Joe—Will had never owned anything new, made just for him. He fought his uncomfortable neckcloth grimly into submission and tied his hair back, forcing its natural curl into severity. Then he bounded down the stairs, two at a time, to join the Brown family all looking equally stiff and unnatural in their finest clothes.

The wedding breakfast would come after the service, but Mistress Brown took pity on her menfolk and let them snag several rolls to tide them over.

“I don’t imagine I could stand this on an empty stomach,” Joe confided to Will. “What a heap of unnecessary fuss folks make about a marriage. It’s a waste of time, if you ask me—getting all gussied up and letting the work sit.”

“I think you all look very fine,” Emily insisted, although, she freely admitted to Will, she looked like a coconut in her best brown dress.

Will couldn’t disagree with her. Emily was never going to be the beauty of the family. She still looked just like her father, with sandy brown hair that never would lie in glossy curls, but frizzed about her head. Her nose turned up too far and her blue eyes were too small, although very merry. And she would always be short and stocky. Full skirts did not suit her at all.

Susanna, on the other hand, was in her best looks this day, her pale, thin cheeks flushed, her wide gray eyes shining, and her sleek chestnut curls tumbling over her shoulders. In her new green dress and lace cap and fichu, she looked like the dawn of a perfect day over a jungle newly-washed with rain—luminous with promise. Mr. Nipps certainly seemed to appreciate the picture she made, smiling happily in spite of looking stuffed and nervous.

The Browns and Will had met the groom’s family and the few close friends who would witness the ceremony at the parish church on the hill. Neither side had other family to attend.

The clergyman welcomed them. The bridal party filed into the church and solemnly took their places. Mr. Nipps and Miss Brown stood with their parents at the altar and the interminable marriage service began.

The age-old words drifted by Will’s ears, registering only occasionally as he studied the faces around him. Joe looked bored. Emily looked even more bored. Mistress Brown looked faintly moist-eyed, and Master Brown blew his nose more than usual. The Nipps family, to a man, looked weedy and undernourished and earnest. No wonder the apothecary’s apprentice was known for cadging scraps off the rest of his more fortunate brethren.

A phrase caught Will’s attention. The vicar was asking Mr. Nipps to promise to love Susanna, “comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live.”

A strange thought occurred to him. Had his parents once stood in such a church? Had his mother once ducked her head and blushed and looked up at his father through dark lashes as Susanna was doing now? Had his father once made these vows? Had he meant to keep them? He must have promised once to comfort her.

Will remembered being bundled into his warmest clothes and taken by the hand as the two of them trudged up the hill overlooking the harbour, and he remembered standing there as his mother looked out across the horizon until the cold and snow freezing his feet had made him cry. Then his mother would sigh and take his hand and they would return to their rooms. He remembered men following her sometimes, making remarks he had not understood then, causing his mother’s face to flame and her shoulders to shake. He had been frightened as they had run for home. Will remembered huddling in his small cot, hearing his mother’s muffled sobs in the nights after his father had left.

Looking at Mr. Nipps’ narrow face, Will thought he could find it in himself to wring that young man’s neck if he ever made Susanna cry the way Will’s mother had.

Had William Turner, Senior, once vowed to keep his wife in sickness? Will remembered the last months of his mother’s life. The heavy, ripping cough that seemed too harsh for her fragile body to contain. The bright blood on white linen, the red ensign signaling that this disease would give no quarter. He remembered her calling faintly for “Bill” as the clouds of death gathered, obscuring her from him. But his father had not been there to comfort her, and there had been nothing her son could offer as a substitute.

And yet his mother had always assured him that his father was a good man, one who provided for his family at the greatest personal sacrifice.

Love and marriage suddenly seemed far too complicated and serious. Shivering even in the stuffy little church, Will tried to concentrate on the service again. Some memories were better left packed away in camphor and the ashes of roses.

As he listened to Susanna promising to love, cherish, and obey her husband, Will couldn’t help trying to imagine Elizabeth saying those same words—and failing utterly—at least he couldn’t imagine her promising to obey anyone with the ardent sincerity of Susanna. Was Mr. Nipps worthy of such a vow? Had his father been? Was any man?

Elizabeth would choke on those words. She would have to say them when she married, but he could almost see the battle lights firing her eyes. And she would be breaking that vow within minutes of having made it. On purpose.

He smiled sadly at the thought. The man who won Elizabeth’s love would have more than he deserved of her. Obedience would be superfluous.

* * * * *

Finally, the interminable sermonizing was over. The parish clerk recorded the marriage and collected the signatures of the witnesses. Susanna signed her maiden name one last time carefully next to her husband’s in the registry. From now on, she would be Mistress Nipps.

The formalities being over, the entire assembly offered a collective sigh of release and boiled out of the church door. The family returned to the Brown residence for the breakfast of various breads and rolls, buttered toast, ham and eggs, and then the real festivities began. The cooper had offered the floor of his large storage shed for a dance, and a much larger crowd had gathered to enjoy the occasion.

The skipping, joyful notes of the fiddle, the lazy swirling smoke of tallow candles, and the warm human scent of friends shed of daily cares for this brief moment filled the dim rafters. Will observed the faces of people with whom he had become familiar since he’d accidentally landed in their midst four years ago. This was his home now—amidst this group of people who shared each other’s griefs and joys, who squabbled and supported each other.

“C’mon, Will!” Emily was tugging at his hand. “Find someone to dance with before they start the first set!”

Will allowed himself to be pulled into the group assembling for the country dance.

* * * * *

Master Brown, who had perhaps been celebrating a little freely, claimed his wife for the third dance. “Let’s show these children how it’s really done.”

Mistress Brown laughed and blushed like a girl as he bowed over her hand. She demurred at first but soon gave in eagerly. The two of them joined the set of younger dancers forming. Their children watched, bemused, as their parents twirled and swung about the floor. Master Brown’s curly hair escaped its slicking down and stood up wildly, and soft silver-brown wisps blew about Mistress Brown’s flushed face. They could have appeared a little odd, the short, barrel-shaped man and his taller, slender wife, but instead, Will thought he’d never seen two people look more right together. In the low light of the shed, the years peeled away and they might have been young lovers.

Will would always remember them this way: Mistress Brown giggling and pushing damp strands of hair from her forehead, Master Brown smiling in fond pride at his still lovely wife, whirling through the measured patterns of the dance.

That afternoon, after the festivities had died down and Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford Nipps had driven away in a borrowed wagon loaded with Susanna’s possessions, including the much maligned linen chest, amidst the cheers and flying shoes of their well-wishers, the remainder of the Brown family had wended its way back to the smithy.

The house had been a little emptier with Susanna gone. The dance of life was pulling the family gradually farther apart, its members stepping out into their own rhythms. Susanna had begun her own dance. Joe would be the next to alter his steps away from the smithy.

* * * * *

Shortly after the household had settled down from the wedding, Joe had approached his father with a proposition. He wished to make the journey back to England.

“There’s a clockmaker named Benjamin Huntsman in Sheffield, Yorkshire, who has discovered a new method for making higher quality steel in large quantities,” he informed his father. “I want to learn his methods or at least arrange a supply for our smithy.”

At first Master Brown had been reluctant to let his son go. The two of them argued the idea back and forth while Will listened, intrigued, as he paused in his work.

“Listen to me!” Joe’s normally stolid voice was impassioned. “Right now, to make our steel, iron bars are heated in stone boxes with layers of charcoal for an entire week. And look at it!” He tossed a bar each to his father and Will.

Will turned the bar in his hands, running his fingers over the uneven blisters on the surface, automatically judging it.

“Not a one of these bars of blister steel,” Joe waved at the stack, “has any measurable or consistent quality. We have to bundle these things and heat them and hammer forge them into shear steel before we can actually use them.”

He began pacing around the smithy, energy flying off him like sparks. “Now this Huntsman, they say, has developed a process whereby he can make steel ingots—ingots!—in only three hours! And that crucible steel, as he’s calling it, is far harder and far less brittle than shear steel.”

Joe spun and planted his hands on the edge of the workbench across from his father. “Think about it! High quality steel in three hours!” He thumped the bench with his fists, rattling the tools hanging there. “The bloody English idiots are refusing to purchase his steel, so the man has been selling to the French!”

He resumed his pacing. “I’ve seen one of those French blades.” His eyes held the glazed over look of a man in love.

Will reflected that Emily was rather insightful about her brother’s scale of priorities.

“What a beauty!” Joe enthused, completely besotted. “And a dozen times as strong as one of our blades.”

He turned back to his father. “But I intend to change that.”

* * * * *

The idea had been discussed by the whole family; objections had been raised and combated. Finally, however, the remaining Browns had trooped down to the docks to wave farewell as Joe had embarked on a year’s leave. He’d been carrying a significant sum of money to negotiate shipment of as much crucible steel as he could acquire. Upon his return to Jamaica, he would take up his mastery of the craft of blacksmith and join his father as a full partner.

“Will here is perfectly capable of pulling my weight in the smithy.” Joe had slapped Will on the back. “And when I return, we’ll make the blades of Brown and Son famous from here to Damascus!”

TBC

Ch. 3: Canticle for a Blacksmith, Part 5
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