Daniel Williams

Arwen Blackgrace: Part 4

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 29/07/2013 at 17:45

Beatrice Seastone is wanted for the murder of Giles Corrigan, a crime she is trying to solve. She is taken in by the mysterious Lydia Pryce and young thief, Devon. Lydia Pryce offers Beatrice a way off the island, an offer she accepts, but Beatrice takes the last few hours she has to find out if there is a connection between Giles’ death and the mystery of the long-lost Arwen Blackgrace…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Four

 

Devon led us through the quiet streets. All the buildings we passed looked much the same. Grey and brown and white and black. It could be very easy to confuse one part of town with another.

I asked Devon who he was taking me too.

He said, ‘There’s two I’ve been thinking about. If you want to know about the Blackgrace’s history and stuff, then we’re best going to see a fella called Underwood.’

Devon had a habit of not walking in a straight line. He would jump to avoid puddles and skip over rubbish.

‘This Underwood,’ he said, ‘is a professor. Or a doctor. Or something. His house is full of books, some of them are really old. You could nick a few and he’d never know they were missing. But then again I wouldn’t know what would be worth stealing.’

‘What about the other man?’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I was thinking about Varney, but he’s not the sort of man you can go up to his house and knock on his door and ask him about the Blackgraces, is he?’

‘I wouldn’t know. I’ve never heard of him.’

He said, ‘You’ve never heard of Varney?’

‘No.’

Devon laughed in disbelief.

‘He can’t be that important then.’

‘Varney runs Seastone. Well, he certainly runs the bits that the Governor doesn’t run. Everything gets back to Varney. He’s probably enough of a rogue to have known the Blackgraces.’

His face turned serious.

‘Quick,’ he said, grabbing my arm.

‘What-’

He dashed off the street and into an alleyway, pulling me along.

‘What?’ I hissed at him.

‘Governor’s men,’ he said.

We hide at the top of the alleyway. We waited until the two officers had passed by the entrance.

Devon said. ‘There’s a bounty on you. More than what Lydia’s paying me.’ He looked across at me. ‘It’d be much easier if I handed you over.’

‘I’m glad I have your unwavering support.’

We went back onto the street, but were much slower and more cautious. My eyes couldn’t help but dart about, expecting to see Governor’s men to appear from nowhere.

 

******

I turned right to go up a street that went up the hill.

‘Let’s just not go that way,’ Devon said.

‘Why? There’s no Governor’s men about?’

Devon stuck his hands in his pockets.

I said, ‘I haven’t got time to waste.’

I went up the street.

‘Go Away…’ I heard him plead.

Along the streets were various stores. Halfway up the street was a butcher’s shop. A trail of blood ran from the door into the street.

Devon walked very close alongside me, with his head bowed down.

The butcher came out from his shop. He wore a white apron covered in dirt and blood. He was wiping his hands on his front.

As we went past, he suddenly shouted, ‘Devon!’

Devon cringed.

‘I see you, Devon!’

Devon slunk over to the butcher.

The butcher said in a loud voice, ‘Where have you been, boy?’

Devon said something quietly.

‘Speak up, boy!’

Devon’s hands moved fast as he talked, but I couldn’t hear him.

I heard the butcher say, ‘And your mother’s been wondering where the hell you’ve been!’

Devon broke away from the butcher, giving his apologies, although the butcher didn’t seem finished with him.

Devon said, ‘Come along,’ to me. And he quickly paced up the street.

When I’d caught up with him, he said ‘That’s just some man who owes me money.’

‘Of course,’ I said.

Devon sighed. ‘When you were a kid did you ever think that your parents weren’t your parents? You know like, it was a mistake you belonged to some other family?’

‘I’m an orphan. I never knew my parents,’ I said. ‘But I know what you mean.’

‘Hmm,’ he said and was, for what seemed like the first time, quiet.

 

******

At the very top of the hill was a house that seemed like any other on the street. These houses were larger than those closer to the harbour and the port. We reached a black door and Devon used the doorknocker.

‘That ought to wake him up,’ Devon said.

The door opened slowly. Standing behind it was a little boy with dark skin. I said to Devon, ‘This is the great historian?’

Devon knelt down and said, ‘Can you tell Mr. Underwood we’re here to see him?’

The boy shut the door in Devon’s face. Devon stood up and brushed his knees. The door opened again. The boy appeared and said, ‘He says no.’

Devon said quickly, ‘It’s about money.’

The door shut.

I said, ‘Will that work?’

‘Got to try.’

The door opened and the boy said, ‘He says does he owe you money?’

‘No, he doesn’t.’

‘He says come in.’ The boy stood aside.

We went in. The boy went down a dark hallway and we followed him to a dark room filled with books. Every part of the wall had a bookcase against it and every bookcase was filled. In the centre of the room was a table covered in paper. Across from it was a large red armchair with a tall back. Sitting in it was a pale man with a bald spot in the middle of his hair. He wore a red dressing gown

‘You? What are you doing here?’ Underwood said this to Devon but he kept glancing across at me. He then stood up, ‘If it’s money you’ve after you can-’

‘No, no,’ Devon said, ‘actually we might be able to pay you for your service.’

‘Oh yes?’

Devon gave a flourish. ‘All yours, Go Away.’

I approached the table. ‘I want to know about the Blackgraces.’

Underwood stared at me. He then slowly pointed a finger at me, before retracting it and tapping it against his lips. He then turned his head and shouted, ‘Boy!’  Underwood stood up. ‘Excuse me,’ he said as he rushed out of the room.

Devon whispered. ‘If he’s no good we’ll pinch a few books before we get you on that boat to Pentia.’

A few minutes later and Underwood came back into the room. ‘Sorry,’ he said rushing back to his armchair. ‘Checking about the tea. We have no tea. Sorry.’ He sat down and without looking at me said, ‘Blackgraces. What do you want to know?’

‘I-’

‘The Blackgraces are a pirate family,’ he said, reeling off details without a pause. ‘Started nearly fifty years ago by Thomas Blackgrace and his sons William and Byron, perhaps the most successful and wealthy pirates seen in this part of the world, made their name by robbing tea merchants, caused quite a stir with them, practically bankrupted the Riddick family, built up from there, loathed by own dear Governor, now is this what you wanted to know?’

It took me a second to realise he was finished. That was a lot to take in. I took a seat at the table and said, ‘I want to know about Arwen Blackgrace.’

He was confused for a moment and then his eyes widened. ‘The lost Blackgrace?’

I nodded. ‘What happened to her? Do you have anything here about her?’ I looked around at the books all around me.

He stood up and headed towards a bookcase at the other end of the room. ‘Do you know the full story?’

‘No,’ I answered.

‘The Blackgraces were the most well known pirates, many tried to go against them to prove themselves the stronger. Only one prevailed.’

Underwood rolled a ladder along the bookshelves. ‘This pirate, Grayson, decided to attack the Blackgraces directly would be folly.’

The ladder came to a stop. Underwood put a foot on the first rung and began to climb.

‘William Blackgrace had a wife and two infant children. Grayson and his crew kidnapped all three.’

He took a book from the shelves.

‘Blackgrace went into a fury.’

Underwood opened the door and flicked through the pages.

‘He chanced up a former member of Grayson’s crew and tortured him to find out the location of the hideout.’

Underwood slowly came down the ladder.

‘He raised the entire fleet, and he and his brother Byron stormed the hideaway. It was total devastation. But when William came ashore…’

Underwood walked to the table.

‘His wife and child had died during the cannon attack. Blackgrace was devastated, his wife and child were no more…and all because of his fury. It is said the family were killed when the Blackgrace cannon balls hit.’

Devon said, ‘What about this girl then?’

Underwood wagged a finger at Devon and then put the book next to me on the table.

‘Arwen Blackgrace was not found. William Blackgrace was certain that he should find her and it would prove that he had not been the one to kill his family. He searched for her, for years, finding those of Grayson’s crew that had deserted him…but he found no trace of his daughter. After years he gave up and Byron took control. Arwen Blackgrace was never found.’

Underwood opened the book and began going through the pages. He turned the book around and showed it too me. On the page was a drawing in pencil of a piece of jewellery.

‘The Blackgrace locket,’ Underwood said. ‘Made out of gold. You see the design,’ he pointed at the drawing, ‘green and black gems in the design of a kraken, you see?’

‘But I don’t see what this had to do…’

‘Ah,’ Underwood said, ‘William Blackgrace had three commissioned- one for his wife when they were married, one for his son when he was born, and then one for the daughter. When Blackgrace found his wife and son they both had their lockets with them. The third one and Arwen Blackgrace were never found.’

Underwood stepped back. He looked very smug. ‘You see, people tried to say they’d found Arwen Blackgrace, but without that locket…he would never believe them.’

I leaned closer to the drawing. I had never seen anything quite like it before. ‘But what about the scar?’

‘Scar? What scar?’

‘Doesn’t Arwen Blackgrace have a scar that was supposed to identify her…’

‘Scar? I’ve never heard anything about a scar.’

Underwood suddenly grabbed the book and started going through the pages. He muttered to himself, ‘Never heard about a scar…’

He sat back in the armchair, going through the pages. I hoped and hoped that he would look back up and say he’d found something about Arwen’s scar. But he never did. He took more books from the shelves, but he could find nothing.

‘It can’t be,’ he said.

I stood up. ‘There had to be something, a mention, a-’

‘No, no, there’s nothing. You must have heard wrong.’

I shook my head.

Devon asked, ‘How come you’ve got so much on the Blackgraces?’

‘I have an interest in history of these surrounding areas, plus,’ he said with a smug look, ‘I have connections with the Blackgraces. I know people who are very close to them.’

There came the sound of the front door to Underwood’s house opening and footsteps coming down the hall.

Underwood’s face became grave. He sat back down in his armchair.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said without looking at us. ‘But I knew about the reward. I’m in a lot of debt.’

‘Devon,’ I said, ‘run.’

The doors to this library burst open and the Governor’s men came through. Devon was closer to the opposite door than me and he sprinted away.

I got through the doorway and felt a hand push into my back. It forced me forward and I tumbled over and landed on the floor. I lifted my head to see Devon burst through a door and sprint away.

My arms were pulled behind my back and I was dragged to my feet.

‘Beatrice Seastone,’ the officer said, ‘you’re being detained. Governor’s orders.’

******

Part 5: 1/8/13

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