"Loin des yeux, mais pas loin du coeur."
Out of sight, but not out of mind.

Mr. Stanton was most annoyed to find that the tavern brawl of the previous night was not only responsible for his hangover, but also for a nook in his sword. Therefore he inquired with the innkeeper where he could get his weapon repaired.

The man rubbed his bulbous nose.

"Theres's a blacksmith down the street, Starling's the name. Good man, knows his craft, but only if you catch him sober. That's like once a month, but you can try. Tell him Martin from the Yellow Anchor sent you."

Mr. Stanton nodded, and followed Mr. Martin's directions. He found the smithy soon enough and there was fire in the forge. A good sign; the blacksmith was at least awake.

"Hello? Anybody there?" he called.

"Coming already, no need to yell," someone snarled, and then Mr. Starling turned up in the doorframe. Though it was well after 11am, he looked as if he had just fallen out of bed. He must have slept in his clothes, rumpled as they looked, and his hair stuck out in all directions.

Starling was a young man, handsome in a doe-eyed kind of way that probably was very popular with the ladies, but haggard, with a sourly expression on his face. Stanton sniffed and wrinkled his nose. Quite obviously, the one day a month Starling was sober was also the only day he took a bath.

"Mr. Martin of the Yellow Anchor sends me. I need to have this sword repaired."

"Ah," Starling grunted, and reached for the offered blade. He pulled it out its sheath and inspected it, then swung in forward and backward skilfully.

"What did you do with that thing, chopping wood?" he asked, and scuffled over to the forge.

Stanton preferred not to answer that question.

"Can you repair it or not?"

"Sure I can. You can wait; just get out of my way. I don't like people looking over my shoulder when I work."

Starling began to fan the flames, his glum expression changing to concentration.

"Thank you, I'm glad you can fix it. A man can't go out without his sword these days, what with pirates being everywhere."

Starling muttered something unintelligible, which Stanton took as encouragement to continue the conversation about pirates. His blathering about the incapability of the Royal Navy to keep them in check was drowned out though by the smith's hammering, and he had to yell to make himself heard.

"Two ships sunk only a month ago! Just what are those idiots getting paid for? They say Lord Cutler Beckett has asked for additional troops, especially after that incident two weeks ago."

At the mention of Lord Cutler Beckett, the smith hit the hammer so hard on the anvil that Stanton jumped.

"What incident?"

"Are you living under a rock, Mr. Starling? A navy frigate was attacked and abducted by pirates! Odd thing, the ship was a wreck, no cargo aboard. I've got no idea what they wanted with it. The officers were released in the longboats, but the pirates kept the captain and his first lieutenant. They're probably both dead by now, poor blokes. I heard the captain's madam is inconsolable."

The smith had stopped his work. He stared at Stanton, eyes wide with surprise and his hands trembling.

"Are you talking about the Joyful Molly? Are you? You're telling me the captain and the first lieutenant of the Joyful Molly have been abducted?"

Stanton, a little surprised by the effect of his story, nodded.

"Yes, I think that was her name. Joyful Molly. Can't remember the name of the captain. Doesn't really matter though, does it? Poor bloke."

"It's Norrington," Starling said. "Captain James Norrington. And it matters very much."

The smith threw the still glowing blade in front of Stanton's feet and returned to the house, ignoring his customer's loud protests.

* * *

Ragetti's random notes: Swann, Sparrow and Starling. This tale is every ornithologist's dream.

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Dramatis Personae
The Stories
CHAPTER 4: Bad News
by Molly Joyful