The final chapter. Beatrice is captured by Varney’s men as pirates raid Seastone.
The carriage drove slowly through the streets. The sounds of screams and shouts came from the harbour. Though my hands were tied and bound, I reached them up to push the curtain of the carriage window aside. There was a fire in the harbour.
‘Has to be Blackgraces,’ one of Varney’s men said. There were four of them in the carriage with me.
‘Looks like The Black Prince.’
The captain of The Black Prince was Byron Blackgrace, my uncle. They’d come for me. But I was kidnapped and being taken to a man who was probably going to kill me. I reached for the handle of the carriage door, but a fist stuck me in my face.
‘Enough of that, girl,’ the man who’d hit me said. ‘Or I’ll break those mitts of yours.’
The ropes cut into my wrist, stinging and painful. It almost made me laugh at how hands bound together looked like praying. My only prays were that my family found me before Varney killed me.
The carriage came to a halt.
‘Here, why are we stopping?’
‘We can’t be there yet…’
One of the men opened the door and got outside. I dived towards the open door, but I was grabbed around the waist.
‘What did I tell you? Enough of that.’
The one who’d left, a stout man with sandy hair, came back. ‘Governor’s boys,’ he said, ‘blocking up the road. There’s no way round.’
The man holding me swore. The young one said, ‘What are going to do then?’
I felt the grip on my waist tighten. He said, ‘We walk. Governor’s men aren’t going to care one lick about us, not if they’ve got pirates to deal with.’
A small argument broke out, but it was soon decided they would march me to Varney’s. I was dragged outside. At the end of the street I could see some of the Governor’s men blocking it off. They were all armed with rifles and swords. More marched down that street.
I was dragged away from the sight. Other people stood in the streets watching. No one paid attention to the bound and gagged girl being marched along. Some people were staying in their homes and locking their doors and windows, but peeping outside. Other people came into the streets to see what was going on in the harbour, maybe to catch a glimpse of The Black Prince.
I was marched to the very top of the hill, where the bigger and larger houses were. It was almost impressive that Varney owned two houses like this. They took me inside. There were only two small candles lit to illuminate the hallway.
‘He’ll be down there, take her to him.’
I was passed over to the young one and he pulled me down the corridor by the rope around my wrist. He pushed open a door and then pushed me into a small study.
There were bookshelves filled with red and black ledgers. At other end was an armchair with a very high back. Sitting in it was Varney. He looked like he was dressed for the opera. He had his cane next to him. He pulled the handle top of it up and it revealed a sword concealed within. He dropped it back down and picked it up and dropped down it again. Varney scarcely looked at me when I came in. He was a terrible host.
‘Take the gag off her.’
The young one did as he was told and I could breath properly again.
I said, ‘How about my wrist too? I talk a lot better when I can move my hands.’
‘Leave us,’ Varney said. The young man left us alone in the room. Varney made no motion other than to play with his cane. He looked entirely despondent.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘here I am.’
‘It does not matter,’ he said sullenly. ‘It’s The Black Prince in the harbour. Byron Blackgrace is here.’
‘It was not supposed to be this way,’ he said.
‘You shouldn’t have tried to kidnap me. If you’d played nicely you could’ve have a happy ending.’
He sneered at me. He turned to face me and the lamp by his side shone on half of his face. ‘Having the Blackgraces here means only destruction and death.’
He stood up and went to the window.
‘I was there,’ he said. ‘All those years ago, when Grayson kidnapped William Blackgrace’s family. I was part of the gang.’ He said, ‘I saw the sheer destruction, the death and the violence the Blackgraces caused and I swore…there was a better way of doing things, without violence without…’
He shook his head.
‘Our dear Governor was there that day as well, on the other side of it. We both agreed- no violence. It solved nothing.’
I said, ‘You turned to kidnapped and selling people to slavery instead. That’s much nicer, how’s it working out for you?’
He turned to face me, ‘We were going to take you to them, it was to avoid this.’
I lifted my bound hands and pointed it at him. ‘You tried to kidnap me, remember? You sent those men to-’
‘A mistake, yes, one I tried to correct.’
‘Didn’t work, though. And now my family-’
‘Your family?’ He laughed. It was a loud, booming laugh. ‘You have no family.’
‘I am Arwen Blackgrace.’
‘Poor girl,’ he said, sitting down again. ‘I almost feel sympathy for you.’
‘I am Arwen Blackgrace. I have the scar-’
He shook his head. ‘I deal in trinkets that pass through this island and one day what did I find but the Blackgrace locket that belonged to infant Arwen. Of course, the merchant had no idea what he had hold of, few people do. So I purchased it from him and came up with a plan.’
He looked up at me. He smiled but his eyes were cold and hard.
‘The Blackgraces would still pay a good price to get her back. I had the locket, how easy would it be to find-’
‘No,’ I said, ‘no…’
‘I asked Giles Corrigan. He dealt in selling women on, selling girls, finding orphans. I told him of my plan for Arwen Blackgrace-’
‘I needed a girl of a certain age with red hair and blue eyes, an orphan with no family.’
‘I have the scar,’ I said desperately, ‘I have the same scar!’
He laughed, ‘Giles told you Arwen had a scar because you had a scar!’ He stood up, gripping his cane in his hand. ‘We were so lucky to find you because you were so willing to be convinced that you were Arwen Blackgrace.’
‘No.’ He was very close to me. ‘I was going to kill you and try to find another orphan in time. It wouldn’t be hard. This is Seastone- the isle of the orphans. You, Beatrice Seastone, are not the daughter of a pirate captain, you are a damned orphan, and you are absolutely nothing special.’
He spat those last words at me and something inside me collapsed.
I launched myself at him, striking him with my bound hands. Varney was caught off guard and I knocked him to the floor. My hands went around his throat and squeezed.
The cane struck me on the side of my face and it knocked me to my side. I heard metal on wood as he drew the sword from his cane. I rolled again and saw a flash of metal as the sword stabbed into the spot where I had been. I kicked at Varney and he yelped, letting go of the sword.
I quickly got to my feet and put my hands around the hilt of the sword. Varney ran at me. I tugged the sword out and flicked it up. It caught Varney across the stomach.
Dark red poured out on his white shirt and neat waistcoat.
He looked surprised. Without thinking I drove the sword into him.
Blood gurgled out of his mouth. He dropped to the floor, the sword sticking out of his chest. A breath rattled out of him and then nothing.
I breathed heavily. I could hear loud noises from outside. No doubt Varney’s men were rushing in to kill me. I didn’t care. I’d been lied to, set-up. I was just some orphan with no past that’d been tricked to make money.
I was a fool. A poor, stupid fool.
The door opened and a man I didn’t recognise stood looking at me. He was tall and had long, iron-grey hair. He wore all black, even had a flowing black cape. The man’s face was so stern and still it looked like it had been chiselled out of stone.
He stepped into the room, not taking his eyes from me. Behind him were people who were not Varney’s men. One of them was a young man with dark-skin who actually smiled at me.
I stood up to face the unsmiling man, ready to face whatever fate had in store for me. With a black-gloved hand he quickly reached out and took hold of my chin. He tilted my head up and moved it to the left and then right.
‘It has been seventeen years,’ he said, ‘since I last saw my niece. I wouldn’t know what she looked like now.’
It was Byron Blackgrace, captain of The Black Prince. He let go of my head and looked about the room. He nodded and the smiling man came over to me. Again he gave me a cheerful look. He took out his sword.
‘Put your hands out, love.’
Though confused, I did as he said. He used his sword to cut through the ropes trying my hands together.
Byron Blackgrace kneeled next to Varney’s corpse.
The smiling man said to me in a quiet voice, ‘We heard about what you did. You friend, Devon, found us, told us, and about his place.’
I was about to ask how he was, but he said, ‘But he passed from his wounds. Sorry.’
Byron Blackgrace said in a loud voice, ‘This is Varney?’ He looked up at me. ‘You did this?’
I nodded and he grunted.
The smiling man tittered and said, ‘Believe it or not, but this is the most impressed I’ve ever seen him. You’ve done a good job here. You really are one of us.’
Byron Blackgrace stood up and stared at me. I rubbed my wrists. They were red from where the ropes had cut into them.
Byron said, ‘What have you got to say for yourself, girl?’
I looked at him. His gaze didn’t waver. Everybody in the room, the pirates with their swords drawn were looking at me, waiting to hear what I was going to say.
I thought about what Varney had told me. I considered what I had done and in that moment I knew who I was.
I smiled at Byron Blackgrace. ‘Let’s go home,’ I said, ‘Uncle.’
His lip twitched a little. I think he was trying to smile.