Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean (movie)
Characters: Anamaria, minor original characters
Summary/Teaser: Anamaria, learning to swordfight.
Spoilers: None
Notes: Written for Jennifer-Oksana's Female Character Gen Ficathon
I did a lot of Internet research, so I won't list it all, but this site is notable. Also, Allie's comment that Anamaria is "expedient-minded" really helped me get/stay in her headspace.
Word Count: 1314

Disclaimer: Anamaria belongs to people not me (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, etc.). I’m just playing with her. I do, however, own this story (and the original characters invented therein), so don’t steal it. Archive it anywhere; just ask first.

Feedback of all kinds (positive, negative, both) is cherished.

Of Swords and Flowers
by Elizabeth Scripturient

La Vega.

Spanish for “The fertile valley.”

Anamaria nearly choked on her drink the first time she heard a sailor talking about this place that way. Not a Sabbath passed that someone wasn’t buried, violence and sickness both running rampant.

When she was still too young to sneak off, Sabbath meant crowding into a wooden chapel to listen to a man in brown robes chant on and on, then off to the cemetery where more often than not it would start raining, and then back to someone’s house where it would be even more crowded than the chapel but at least there would be food.

Bodies were buried feet pointing east, and soon Anamaria could point due east from any point in town. Jacques called her La Boussole, and soon she was betting the other children she could point due east even blindfolded. Children who took the bet and then claimed they had no compass and thus could not confirm whether she was correct woke up to fish in their beds the next morning.

Anamaria did not take kindly to losing.

Wrestling, swimming, skipping stones, she would try her hand at anything. She almost drowned once, having swum out further than any of the other children and lacking the strength to make it back to shore. She had tried to push herself toward the shore, let her momentum carry her, when she felt her strength fading. The current meant that she drifted parallel to the shore, however. One of her brothers dived in and towed her in. She refused to speak to him for a week.

The only time anyone ever saw her cry was when some boys challenged her to a pissing contest.

That afternoon, her eldest brother told her she was too old to be playing with these kids. He offered her a job at the tavern. Washing dishes and wiping down tables for a copper a day. She haggled him up to five coppers and insisted she be allowed to wait tables.

That first afternoon, she was more polite than he had ever seen her. Positively demure. Smooth as butter with the customers. She was always sure to slip in the fact that the manager was her brother, that she was working here as a favor to him. He had to stifle a laugh the first time he overheard her. The implication, of course, was that she wasn’t getting paid for this martyrdom, and she raked in the tips. He would never admit it out loud, but he was proud of her.

A few more years and she was behind the bar. She could keep more orders in her head than anyone else. And sailors passing through kept the coin coming for more time with “the little lady.”

One night, having closed up alone because her brother was ill, she was accosted outside by a man reeking of salt and filth and booze.

“We got caught in a storm,” he mumbled into her ear, the rough hairs of his face scraping against her skin. “Didn’t get here ‘til late. Had to see my favorite lady, though.”

She felt like that afternoon in the river all over again and fought to keep her breathing steady. He couldn’t restrain her and molest her at the same time, so as he fumbled she slipped out of his grasp, quickly stepping out of his reach.

She pulled out her dagger and waved it in front of herself, letting the moonlight glint off of it so he could not mistake what it was. “Don’t you ever try that again,” she said firmly. She walked away slowly, still facing him, until she was covered by the shadows.

She took to wielding her knife during lulls at work. If someone put her on edge she would pull it out to open a bottle, but it was too good a knife to be used for tasks like that very often.

One man, dressed in more color than she was used to seeing on a customer, suggested she join a traveling show, explaining that there was an audience for professional knife throwers. She didn’t trust a man who would use a weapon so frivolously, so she just laughed with him as if in agreement.

One man, however, actually watched her hands. “You handle that well,” he said, after she had put it away.

“Thank you,” she said, wiping down the bar. It was a hot afternoon, so most people were staying inside their own homes. There were some local workers playing cards in a corner, but this man was the only customer at the bar. His hand cupped around his almost untouched ale.

“Have you ever thought about a longer blade?”

She looked up in surprise.

“I don’t mean another dagger, but a proper sword.”

She looked him in the eyes, seeking out his joke.

“You never know when it would come in handy.”

Silently, she agreed.

“I have one you could practice with. When are you free?”

“I start work at noon every day.”

“Early morning. Good.”

“Meet me here,” she said, lest he ask where she live.

He nodded.

She went swimming every morning, and she wasn’t about to change her routine for some stranger.

Her ringlets were still dripping as she approached the tavern, but when she stood in front of him he only glanced at her hands. “It would be better if we were not in so public a place. I wouldn’t want people to worry.” He smiled at her. She did not smile back.

She eyed the two sheathed swords he was holding. “There’s a clearing by the river,” she said, not mentioning how it was in easy view of at least three different houses.

He nodded easily and motioned for her to lead the way. She walked sideways, keeping an eye on him. She kept to one side of him, unsure whether she wanted to be on the side with the swords or not. She stepped away once they reached the clearing.

“You chose the right side,” he said, smiling.

She looked at him quizzically.

“To walk on the side where my weapon was. With a long blade it’s difficult to have any power or control at close range.” He held out one sword to her.

“I want yours.”

He smiled indulgently at her. “You think I’ll cheat? If I’d wanted to kill you there are easier ways, and I certainly wouldn’t do it in broad daylight, knowing you would be missed in just a few hours.”

She did not blink.

“I see you really are a fighter. All right.” He held out the other sword, and she took it. She was surprised at how light it was. She followed his lead in fastening the sheath onto her body.

“The first thing you want to do is to get a feel for the sword. It has to be like an extension of your own body.”

She drew the sword out, tentatively, tilting her wrist testing out how to hold it, how to wield it.

She drew designs in the dirt, then lunged at a large puffy flower.

He laughed. "You're not going to have much opportunity to do that in a real fight. Sword-fighting's not like hunting. It’s like dancing. You have to be in control of your own body and also be able to react to what the other person is doing.”

She had never danced; it wasn’t a competition she was interested in. Metal blades, however . . . now there was a competition she was interested in. "So take out your own sword, then. Let me react to you."

He withdrew his sword, and they parried. He encouraged her to use her elbow, or even her wrist, rather than her shoulder. "Speed, not power, will keep you alive in a fight like this."

That was a sentiment she could live with.

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