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Found At Sea

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PROLOGUE

 

Andrea 'Andy' Swann had no memory of her parents. She spent the first years of her life in a run-down orphanage that, by all accounts, took little care of her. Truthfully, Andy was relieved she had no recollection of the dismal orphanage or the parents who abandoned her on its doorstep. 

Mercifully, her predictably unfortunate future veered in an unexpected direction when Governor Weatherby Swann of Port Royal adopted her at the tender age of four. He was a doting - if busy - father, and Andy was given a life full of wealth and privileges. Port Royal was one of the most important coastal cities of the Caribbean - and one of the safest, too. Andy knew she was unbelievably lucky to live in such a beautiful estate where she wanted for nothing. 

She was, however, desperately bored.

All her life, while her father was off doing Governor things, Andy had taken any chance she could to steal a book or two from his extensive library. She read every day, all the time - unless she was otherwise occupied being tutored on how to be a proper lady and a doting wife. 

What a waste of time that was. Andy almost felt bad for all the teachers that had tried (and failed) to make her feel the least bit interested in "lady-like" things. Who would want to learn about embroidery and cooking when one could learn about science and art? What woman could be stimulated by learning how to make herself beautiful and how to bow correctly, when she could escape into tales of heroism and adventure, and learn about horse riding and sailing?

Perhaps Andy felt such apathy for her deportment classes because she was... different. She realized from a very young age that she was not like other people when her interests took a turn towards certain "un-ladylike" subjects that terrified all the other children. Some adults too. 

Her father had always discouraged any talk of pirates. Every time she tried to ask questions about the subject, he told her to not worry about such things. “A young lady like yourself should not speak of those bandits who commit such heinous crimes against the Crown of Empire,” he’d say with a scoff and a dismissive pat on her shoulder. Andy learned to keep her curiosity to herself and instead got her answers from the pages of her beloved books. 

By the age of eleven she was an expert at meticulously borrowing tomes from the library without her father ever knowing she’d taken them. By the age of eighteen, she’d read every single book her father owned, and some that she'd 'borrowed' from a few of the other noble estates as well. Those books were her most loyal companions, her reliable mentors. They taught her all the things she wanted to know. Well, most of them. Andy was well aware that there was an infinite amount of things out in the world that she knew nothing about. Mysteries that were still unwritten and unsolved.

Andy wanted, more than anything, to discover them all.

 

.oOo.

 

Nearly a month before her twenty-fifth birthday, her father came to her room bearing a gift from his latest voyage to the mainland.

“For my beloved daughter,” he said with a fond smile, giving her the neatly wrapped box.

“Thank you, father!” Grinning excitedly, she tore away the wrapping. She exclaimed in delight when she opened the box to find a light blue gown with intricate white lace around the neckline. “Oh, it’s beautiful!”

His smile widened and he waved at her two lady's maids to step into the room. The women, Mary and Alice, led Andy behind the changing screen and helped her into the undergarments. Mary started tightening the laces of the new corset while Andy admired the floral stitching on the décolletage. When she raised her fingers to trace the patterns of her new undergarments, Mary yanked the laces so tightly that Andy felt the wind knocked out of her. Before she could inhale fully again, the restraining bodice was tightened further, and Andy gasped.

“How is it coming along?” Her father called out.

“It’s, um--” Andy rasped, placing a hand on her chest.

“It’s all the rage in women’s fashion right now,” her father continued. “Women are wearing these new styles all over England and France.”

“They must have learnt how to live without breathing then,” Andy muttered under what little breath she could get. Alice sent her a sympathetic smile and helped her into the flowing dress.

“All done, Miss,” Mary announced after tying the bow around the waist, and the maids left the room without preamble.

Andy stepped out from behind the changing screen, rigid and uncomfortable under the tight bodice of the dress.

“Oh,” her father clapped his hands together. “Wonderful. Simply wonderful.” Andy smiled and nodded, stiffly moving to stand in front of the mirror. It was indeed a beautiful gown, probably the most beautiful one she’d ever worn, even if she was struggling to inhale fully.

"It’s perfect for the occasion,” her father continued. 

“What occasion?” Andy asked.

“Commodore Norrington is coming to town, my dear. He is a good man, a valiant leader of the Naval Fleet," her father said, and something in his voice unsettled Andy. "He would give you a good future, if you were to choose him as a husband."

The words hit Andy like a blow to her already fragile chest. She'd always known the day would come when her father took it upon himself to marry her off since Andy had never been inclined to look for a suitable husband herself. Truth be told, her father had shown a surprising amount of patience regarding the matter. Most women of Andy's age were already married, but she knew that being with a man like that, belonging to someone else and being stripped of her freedom; it sounded to Andy more like a curse than a blessing. 

Andy had spent several years now trying to prepare herself for this eventuality when her father's patience ran thin. Yet the knowledge that what she’d dreaded most in her life was finally happening felt like the drop of a guillotine's blade.

"I see," she managed. Turning to her father, she took as much of a breath as she could. "Is the choice entirely mine to make?"

The governor blinked at her. 

"Yes, my child," he said, looking surprised by the question. Andy felt marginally relieved by that. She knew many girls who did not have such a choice. 

"But don't you fret, dear, I know you will love him," her father continued. Oblivious to his daughter's apprehension, the Governor sent her a reassuring smile. "He has my blessing to ask for your hand in marriage. I have known of his interest in you for quite some time and the two of us have spoken of the matter on several occasions. Now, we must get going. He is expecting us."

"Right." Andy swallowed thickly. She made to leave the bedroom, her safe haven, when she suddenly remembered. "Oh! Just a moment, I'll be right down."

After a second's hesitation, her father nodded and swept out of the room. As his footsteps retreated, Andy moved to the vanity and opened the top drawer. Inside, she unlocked the small box containing the only truly valuable possession she had. She gently grasped the necklace and lifted it out of the box. The light reflected off the gold medallion as it swung gently from side to side. 

Andy sighed shakily, tracing her finger over the sun engraved on the pendant and the small symbols surrounding it like a halo. This was the only thing she had to remember her biological parents by. Not that she remembered them at all. But it was the sole possession her parents left to her, so it made Andy feel as though they were closer, somehow. As if she was holding a part of them with her. 

Tying the pendant around her neck so the medallion dropped low on her chest under her garments, Andy sent a prayer that it would give her the strength she'd need to get through the day. 

 

.oOo.

 

Commodore Norrington was, like Andy had expected, terribly dull. Not only was his ego far too large for Andy's taste, he was also a firm believer that snobbery and monotonous conversation about war strategies was the way to a woman's heart. Andy did her best to be polite, but the heat of the day and the scarce oxygen she could breathe was making it impossible to stay engaged in the discussion. 

As the two of them walked along the edge of the city's defensive walls overlooking the sea, Andy began to feel light headed. Perhaps it was that she hadn't had the chance to eat in several hours, or maybe it was the tight, severe fabric restraining her chest, but suddenly Andy could not breathe at all. Her feet came to a stop of their own accord. She was vaguely aware of the Commodore's incessant speech about marriage and the importance of being well-suited while Andy discreetly tried to gasp for breath. His voice sounded far away, muffled, like he was speaking through a wooden door.

"So you see, dearest Miss Swann," the Commodore was saying as he looked towards the city behind them. "I do believe we would have a bright future ahead of us, should we bond our families together. And so it is with both our best interests in mind that I am asking for your hand in marriage."

"I-" Andy's vision blurred. "I can't breathe," she rasped. A ringing echoed in her ears so loudly she barely understood what the Commodore said next - something about him being overwhelmed too? 

Whatever it was, it did nothing to pull Andy out of her stupor. Her lungs were burning, her limbs were weighed down by an invisible force, and the world turned black at the edges. She felt her body sink towards the ground like the anchor of a ship. The last thing she saw before the darkness overtook her was the ocean waves rushing up to greet her.

She did not feel anything when her body plunged into the water, nor did she notice the rippling wave of energy that surged from the pendant around her neck. 

As Andy's limp body sank to the bottom of the sea, the captain of a pirate ship sailing not too far from the island felt the rush of something indescribable course through the air like lightning. Its energy was familiar and exhilarating, a promise of victory at long last. The captain's grip on the helm tightened, and swiftly changed the ship's course towards land.