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Fanfic / Black Wings, Black Sails

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Black Wings, Black Sails is a Temeraire fanfiction hosted on Archive of Our Own and written by the_glow_worm. It currently sits at eight chapters and is incomplete, having last updated in September 2021.

The story reimagines the events of the series under the premise of Lieutenant Dayes taking William Laurence's place as Temeraire's captain, and Laurence being unable to take Temeraire back and join the Aerial Corps. In the throes of despair over losing Temeraire and nearly being brought to partake in penal slavery by the admiralty, against his abolitionist sensibilities, Laurence winds up turning to piracy. The Gentleman Pirate, as he comes to be called, with his massive fleet and black sails, is whispered about in hushed, fearful tones in slaving ports across the Atlantic. When he inexplicably sets his sights on dragon transports, the Allegiance finds itself under attack, one moonless night.

This Temeraire fanfiction contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Laurence comes to be known as the "Gentleman Pirate", thanks to his respectable clothes and rumors that he's the son of some noble. He's also unfailingly polite at all times, even when he calmly slits a slaver's throat — the same slaver from Empire of Ivory who would have gone on to sue Laurence for £10,000 in canon for cutting his slaves loose — which serves only to make him all the more terrifying. Although precisely how "evil" this makes him is debatable, considering his targets are slavers.
  • Amazon Brigade: As Laurence's pirate crew attracts more and more women, he takes to sequestering them on a ship led by Mary Carver, one of the original prisoners and part of his inner circle. Carver with her ship, the Lioness, becomes one of Laurence's fiercest and most eager fighters.
  • Anti-Villain: Ultimately, Laurence aims to free as many slaves as he can by capturing slaving ships and attacking slave ports. By Chapter 3, he winds up joining forces with the Tswana, after finding that many of the slaves he's been rescuing originate from their kingdom. Deplorable as the trade may be to us modern readers, it still supports a lot of livelihoods and all of the labor from the trade results in unprecedented agricultural productivity that drives the First Industrial Revolution. This contrast is underscored when Laurence slits a slaver's throat without remorse, prompting Granby's horrified reaction and remark that Laurence just killed a man in cold blood.
  • Asshole Victim: Basically all of Laurence's targets, given that they are slavers.
  • Benevolent Boss
    • Becoming a pirate hasn't dulled Laurence's Father to His Men tendences at all — he personally sees to it that all of his men are treated fairly, and early on becomes concerned for the safety of the alarming number of women joining his crew. This stands in contrast to Dayes, who has thus far proven to be a short-tempered, sullen captain with a budding obsession with stopping Laurence.
    • When Laurence takes the Allegiance and all of its crew and passengers as prisoners for the Tswana, he gives them the option of either becoming prisoners to the Tswana, or joining his pirate crew for a year. Should they join him, they will be treated like any other member of his crew, given fair wages, and will be granted safe passage to any port of their choosing at the end.
  • Cultured Badass: As befitting a man known as the Gentleman Pirate, Laurence still does his best to dress respectably, down to wearing a neckcloth and coat at all times, and maintains the polite manner of speech befitting his noble birth. All while ruthlessly plundering and trying to destroy the Atlantic slave trade.
  • Dark Fic: The Temeraire series is not what one would consider lighthearted fare, but this fic is entirely about removing one of the the primary sources of happiness from the source material in the form of Laurence and Temeraire's friendship, as well as most of Laurence's honorable moral compass. More than anything else, the fic shows what could happen if William Laurence went bad, with all his strength of conviction, leadership skills, and military experience as a master prize-taking captain behind him.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": When Hammond calls Laurence a pirate king to his face, he's rather offended and very sternly states that his men did not leave their actual kings behind just to go under the thrall of a false king.
  • The Dreaded: Laurence is introduced as the most feared pirate and enemy of slavers in the Western world. He combines his guerilla tactics of attacking under the cover of night with his skills as a prize-taking naval captain.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The core of Laurence's band of pirates is built from the prisoners he was ordered to transport to Australia. His second-in-command is an escaped slave and convicted murderer who killed his first master, he has an entire ship captained by a convict woman that's full of other convict women and Runaway Fiances, and his cause has attracted yet more convicts, mutineers, runaway slaves, and military deserters all the way from Europe to Africa to the Americas. The leadership of the fleet is also democratic in nature, and they plan to elect a new commander of the fleet to Laurence's post next year.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: After Laurence disgraces himself with the Tswana, he takes to his bed unhappy and distressed, dreaming of his mother and being carried in her arms when he was a little boy, who he was certain he would never see again.
  • A Father to His Men: Laurence maintains this from his Navy days. When he has to captain a prison ship, his orders for treating the prisoners humanely and giving them medical care and exercise and such to stave off gaol-fever sow distrust and suspicion among his crew, and end in a mutiny. He continues to show similar care for his band of pirates, even once it's dozens of ships, hundreds of men, and one American Indian dragon strong.
  • For Want Of A Nail: This story diverges from the original series when Laurence is sent away early in His Majesty's Dragon to allow someone raised in the Aerial Corps to attempt to harness Temeraire. Rather than remaining in the pasture as he did in the books and forcing someone to go fetch Laurence in the middle of dinner with his Navy friends, Temeraire flies off to search for Laurence and doesn't find him until after dinner, over which he's come to accept the loss of his dragon and openly re-accepted his post in the Navy. Temeraire becomes fully convinced that Laurence never wanted him in the first place and reluctantly accepts Dayes as captain. Laurence goes to bed on the Reliant for the night, only to realize the next morning that he's made a horrible mistake about twelve hours too late and is unable to take Temeraire back.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Will Laurence, from a tolerated third son of a minor noble and ordinary ship captain in His Majesty's Navy, to a feared pirate with an ever-growing bounty on his head.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The aviators are likeable enough as individuals (well, except Dayes), but are acting to prop up a colonialist power and, more directly, the Atlantic slave trade. Laurence might be ruthless, but he's ruthless in the cause of destroying said slave-trade, and has a great many admirable personal qualities.
  • Hate Sink: Dayes does pretty much nothing but be a sullen Jerkass and a piss-poor captain who snaps at his crew, including his little eleven-year-old ensign Roland. It's very hard to ever feel any sympathy for him when Laurence punches Dayes out in his very first appearance in Chapter 1 and later captures him.
  • Hero Antagonist: The aviators and others who oppose Laurence and his black fleet just want to protect England, and that includes enabling the currently-legal and quite valuable slave trade to continue without him stealing their ships, cutting their slaves loose, and burning slave ports. Although how 'heroic' this makes them is deconstructed in later chapters, as Temeraire and Granby are forced to confront the horrors of the slave trade that they have been complicit in by doing so.
  • Honor Before Reason: Despite this version of him being majorly Unfettered, when Laurence is ordered by the Tswana to attack Capetown, he waits outside the town for a whole week before truly occupying it, allowing an entire family of Africans to be burned alive by slavers simply because he wants to give the Allegiance (and subsequently Temeraire) time to leave before he attacks the town, unaware that the Allegiance was waiting for Laurence to attack first. Like his canon counterpart's many attempts at this, it blows up in his face, placing him in disgrace with the Tswana, and then the Tswana take the Allegiance prisoner anyways.
  • Hope Spot: In Chapter 4, Temeraire rescues Laurence and his boarding crew from arrest, and carries them back to their ships, moving Laurence to tears at finally being with Temeraire again. The two spend a few moments on one of Laurence's captured dragon-transports just saying hello to each other again, and Laurence marvels at how the dragonet he had to untangle from a hammock has grown into this beautiful glossy beast. But... he believes that, if Temeraire joins him, Temeraire will almost certainly be executed alongside him, or at the very least have his potential as an intellectual, heavy-combat dragon wasted. So he urges Temeraire to return to Dayes, unable to watch the dragon leave his ship. The author even apologized at the end of the chapter.
  • The Infiltration: When Laurence takes the crew of the Allegiance prisoner at the behest of the Tswana and presents the prisoners' options — prisoners of the Tswana to be used for an undecided fate, or a year of service in Laurence's pirate crew — Granby takes the latter option, hoping that he'll have an opportunity to get aboard Laurence's flagship and free Dayes from confinement. It's unclear if Laurence is aware of this possibility, but nonetheless, it doesn't seem to be working out for Granby, as he winds up holystoning the deck on a different ship and accompanying Laurence into Capetown for supplies.
  • I've Come Too Far: Laurence is aware of the bounty on his head, and knows full well that the moment he's captured, he's going to be executed. The events of this story's premise have so soured him to the concept of duty to his country that he figures he'll just have to do as much as he can before his time runs out.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A platonic, deconstructed example — Laurence and Temeraire's internal conflicts are driven by their adamant refusal to believe they have anything to offer each other, and will most definitely be happier with someone else. Laurence fully expects to be hanged for his crimes before long — he can't bear the thought of Temeraire wasting his potential with a non-Aviator-turned-pirate, and eventually either grieving over losing Laurence for real, or getting executed himself. Temeraire, on the other hand, is insecure about everything that sets him apart from his Western cohorts, believes Laurence must have left him because he's not a good enough dragon, and is overprotective of Dayes in Laurence's place.
  • Large and in Charge: In canon, it is mentioned briefly that Laurence is broad-shouldered, otherwise reasonably built from his time as a fighting captain, and maybe around average height or so. In this story, Laurence is apparently taller, more imposing, and much stronger from his life of piracy than how he comes across in the original series, easily able to shove through a deck full of sailors and aviators fighting to hold him back. He even knocks out Dayes with a single punch.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: A platonic example with Laurence and Temeraire- whenever Temeraire becomes involved in his plans or is even nearby, most of Laurence's plans fall apart as a result of his strong affection for his former dragon. He can't bear to even consider allowing Temeraire to come to harm. When he tries to capture the Allegiance, he tries to run to Temeraire and gets clubbed in the head and imprisoned in the brig for his troubles, and he waits way too long to attack Capetown because he wants the Allegiance to leave with Temeraire aboard so Temeraire doesn't get dragged into the fighting, which disgraces Laurence with the Tswana and gets the Allegiance captured anyways.
  • Manly Tears: When Temeraire rescues Laurence and flies him and his boarding crew back to their fleet, Laurence weeps without realizing it, overcome with being with the dragon he thought he would never see again.
  • The Mutiny
    • Laurence's pirate career begins when he becomes captain to a prison ship bound for Australia. Still bound by his gentlemanly sense of honor and morals, and abolitionist ideals courtesy of his father, he treats the prisoners fairly and with decency, which sows distrust among his crew as they come to believe he cares more for the prisoners than his own crew. It culminates in his crew trying to have him removed as he comes down with fever. The prisoners he cared for and the crewmembers sympathetic to him keep him safe and fight back against the mutinying crew, and end up winning the ship back for Laurence, who want him for their captain.
    • The same thing eventually happens to Temeraire, as a result of his rescue of Laurence- he becomes suspected of disloyalty, with most of the Allegiance's crew, as well as some of Temeraire's, advocating that he be turned over to Laurence entirely.
  • Necessarily Evil: Laurence is fully aware that his violent methods of capturing ships, burning ports, and destroying livelihoods that benefit from the slave trade are not nice in the least, yet he continues because he feels he has nothing left to offer. There may also be some near-You Are What You Hate-type sentiments in there, considering that he was nearly compelled to take part in penal slavery himself and was almost killed for trying to avoid it.
  • Nerves of Steel: Laurence can stare down Lily and her acid-spraying face-spurs without showing even the slightest hint of fear (likely because he doesn't really have much care for his life). The only thing that can unnerve Laurence and break his stoic mask is Temeraire.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Although nobody dies in this case, Laurence's Start of Darkness was kicked off by the fact that he wasn't permitted to say goodbye to Temeraire, or give him any of the books they'd read together before the Aerial Corps' admiralty took Temeraire away from him.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Chapter 1 draws a contrast between the perfectly genial manners and speech of Will Laurence the Gentleman Pirate against the aviators' enraged shouting and name-calling.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Played with; an American Indian dragon who was once with the Dakota people called Akecheta, identified as the Typhoid Mary who carried the dragon plague to the Old World in canon, decides to flee the barge that was transporting him to the Halifax breeding grounds and join Laurence's cause so he can fight the British, who separated him from his captain. Laurence builds a minor rapport with the dragon where the two exchange names despite a language barrier, and he comforts the dragon, giving Akecheta what Laurence believes might be the first kind words in any language the dragon's heard in a long while, as his fleet's dragon-surgeon mends his wounds. Laurence briefly reflects that this should have been a different dragon he was doing this for, thinking of Temeraire, but sadly forces the thought from his head.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Predictably, this is what got Laurence disgraced and led to him beginning his career as a pirate captain, after his crew mutinied at his fair treatment of prisoners. In a larger sense, this could describe Laurence's entire piratical career.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Laurence speaks in a perpetual cool tone, with the gentleman's accent he was raised with. Outside of combat orders, he raises his voice exactly once: to call out to his former dragon.
  • Start of Darkness: Prior to the start of the story, Laurence was just as he was in canon- an honorable naval captain with a strong moral compass in the service of king and country, who captured and wound up harnessing a dragon. But the loss of Temeraire and nearly being brought to partake in penal slavery, and being mutinied against over it, are what turn him over to fighting the slave trade through piracy.
  • The Unfettered: By contrast with his canon counterpart, this version of Laurence has absolutely nothing to lose, his duty to his country having failed him multiple times over and attempted to compel him to partake in penal slavery. Disgraced in the eyes of his family, and deprived of his dragon, his status in the Navy, and the eighteen-year career he fled his family and ruined his prospects for, he decides to pursue a slaving ship with his motley crew of convicts and attack it, starting his career in piracy. And it all goes downhill from there.
  • Villain Protagonist: Out of all of the characters, Laurence by far gets the most focus and is treated by the narrative as its protagonist, in light of all of the significant changes to his worldview and lot, while Temeraire and Granby become narrators as deuteragonists.