Daniel Williams

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Nine

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 15/08/2013 at 17:45

The final chapter. Beatrice is captured by Varney’s men as pirates raid Seastone.

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Nine

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.

‘Come on.’

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.’

I grinned.

‘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-’

‘No…’

‘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.’

‘I am…’

‘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.

******

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Arwen Blackgrace: Part Eight

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 12/08/2013 at 17:45

Having escaped from Varney, Beatrice is reunited with Devon and awaits the arrival fo the Blackgraces to Seastone…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Eight

Devon’s family were happy to have me stay with them, even though they were curious as to why. Devon’s mother kept suitably trying to ask if I were pregnant.

In the day Devon would go out and learn what he could, and at night we would plan. We learnt the Governor had raided Varney’s home and tensions were high.

I had Devon find me some paper and something to write with. I wrote down the location of Varney’s other house. Once I had finished, Devon took it away. When he came back in the next morning he just said, ‘It’s done.’

In the daytime I stayed inside and played with the children. Devon’s parents began to notice that I would duck away whenever the Governor’s Officers came down the street.

‘Beatrice,’ Devon’s mother asked me that night, ‘are you in trouble with the law?’

We were sat around their little table. Devon’s father wouldn’t make eye contact with me. He just wiped his big hands on his scruffy green jacket.

‘She killed a man,’ Devon said.

I said, ‘He was trying to attack me, I retaliated, and the Governor wants to hang me.’

‘Are you the one they’re after?’ Devon’s father asked, ‘The girl who escaped?’

I nodded.

‘She did nothing wrong, Dad,’ Devon said, his face red, ‘and she’s going away soon, I’m keeping her safe until then.’

His father looked up and about. ‘Devon would you take Beatrice outside so we can talk.’

We went outside and stood in the alley. A cat meowed at us. I apologised to Devon.

‘There’s nothing to be sorry for, Go Away,’ he said. We stood next to each other, leaning against the back wall of the butchers. ‘You’ll be gone soon, I heard that The Black Prince has been spotted.’

Above our heads came the sound of Devon’s parents arguing.

‘They’ll let you stay,’ Devon said. ‘They like having you about. They’ll miss us when we’re gone.’

‘Us?’

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Coming with you, aren’t I?’

‘Oh, are you?’

He turned to me. ‘Of course I am. I’m practically your first mate.’

I laughed.

He said, ‘I heard Governor’s men went to that house you wrote to them about, Varney’s other house.’

‘And what happened?’

‘A few of Varney’s men got arrested.’

I wondered if the small dark-haired one who’d tried to kidnap me was among them.

‘Are they in the jail now?’

‘Oh yes.’

I nodded. ‘Devon, do you remember you told me about a man who could get us guns?’

‘Well…I suppose I did. Why?’

‘Don’t worry, I don’t want guns.’

He breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Good, I’ve never shot anyone.’

‘Could he get us some gunpowder?

‘Gunpowder?’ Devon gasped.

‘Shush.’

Devon looked about. ‘What the bloody hell do you want gunpowder for, Go Away?’

‘We’re going to break out Varney’s men,’ I said.

******

Later in the afternoon, Devon came down the alleyway. He carried something covered over in a dirty old cloth. His face was pale. I saw him through the window and raced downstairs to greet him.

‘You got it!’

He nodded and slowly put the small covered barrel of gunpowder on the ground.

‘Don’t touch it,’ he said. ‘It’s very…I don’t know. Scary.’

‘Coward. We have to do it tonight, before Varney gets a chance to get his men out.’

‘And blowing a bloody great hole in the wall of the jail is the way to do?’

‘The Governor can’t ignore a bloody great hole in his wall,’ I said. ‘We’ll do it tonight.’

******

After eating a meal with his family, Devon announced we were going out for the night. His mother and father shared a look, and all his father said was, ‘You best not wake us when you come in.’

Devon took the gunpowder, keeping the barrel wrapped in the cloth, and we made our way to the jail.

It had been so long since I had been aboard in Seastone at night, I had forgotten about the sights and sounds. But I didn’t miss them. And I wouldn’t miss them when I left. I was a Blackgrace and belonged with them, my family. My life in Seastone had been pretending, a fantasy. And soon, so soon I would be with them.

There were only two gates in wall around the jail. We waited by the small gate at the back of the jail. Nobody came in or out. After hours I passed I said to Devon, ‘There’s only one thing for it. We’re going to have to knock.’

I walked towards the gate. Behind me Devon muttered, ‘Yes, and they’ll just let us in with a barrel of gunpowder…’

I banged my fist on the gate. There was a small hatch in door. A lock clicked and the hatch opened. There was an Officer looked out at us.

‘What?’

‘We’ve bringing wine,’ I said. ‘For the Governor.’ And I indicated towards the barrel.

The old Officer closed the hatch on us. The gate opened.

‘Come on, then…’

We went through. Devon said thank you to the Officer.

‘Let me give you something for your trouble,’ I said to him, making it look as if I were seeing how much money I had. Instead I pulled out a club Devon had procured for me. I hit the old Officer on the head and he collapsed to the floor. I had rope on me, which I used to tie his hand and legs together.

Once we’d done that, we made our way across to the jail. There was a row of barred windows. A few weeks ago, one of them had been my cell. Devon gave me the barrel of gunpowder and I pulled the top off. I poured out the black powder along the wall just away from where the cells were. Whether or not Varney’s men escaped didn’t matter. It just had to look like an escape attempt, even if it were one that hadn’t worked.

We stood back and Devon handed me a box of matches.

‘You ready to run, Go Away?’

I nodded and struck the match. I tossed it onto the tip of the trail of gunpowder.

It sparked alight.

‘Run, run, run’ Devon said and took my arm. And we ran back to the gate. We got it open and heard the explosion behind us.

Rubble flew into the air. The noise was deafening. We fled into the night.

******

In the pubs and the inns and the taverns, everybody was talking about what had happened at the jail. Nobody had ever defied the Governor like that. Devon said to me, ‘The way people are talking makes it sound like we’re in the middle of a war. Varney’s claiming he’s got nothing to do with it, it was somebody else. There’s a price on your head, Go Away.’

‘What’s the Governor doing?’

‘Breaking apart Varney’s businesses. There’s been raids, lots of Officers killed, Varney’s men too. It’s not safe to be out at night anymore. Seastone’s tearing itself apart.’

It was cold in the alley behind the butcher’s shop. Devon shivered and hopped on the spot. ‘And I bumped into Lydia Pryce,’ he said. ‘she wants to see you.’

‘What did you tell her?’

‘Told her to come here tomorrow.’

I clipped him around the head.

‘What was that for?’

‘You can’t tell anybody I’m here!’

‘But she’s harmless!’

‘Will you two keep in down!’ Came a voice from a window above us.

‘Sorry, Mrs. Weiss,’ Devon shouted up.

In a hushed voice I said, ‘What’s Lydia Pryce coming here for?’

‘I don’t know, to talk,’ he said. ‘She’s all right, I wouldn’t worry about it.’

‘I’m not letting her know I’m here. When she turns up, take her somewhere else.’

Devon knew of an abandoned house a few streets away. I told him to bring her to me there.

******

The abandoned house was dusty and grey. My guests arrived when it was nighttime. I heard them enter the house and Devon called ‘Go Away?’

I didn’t answer. I let them find their way through the house to where I waited for them, sat at a table.

‘Beatrice?’ Lydia said.

Devon said, ‘Can’t I put a candle on?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘We can’t let anybody know we’re here.’

‘Beatrice…’ Lydia said and she came over to me. Some moonlight shone with the window. She stood in the patch of it. She wore that old red dress with the red scarf around her neck.

‘Beatrice, please, I know what it’s like,’ Lydia said, ‘to be an orphan and feel like you haven’t got any hope-’

‘I have hope, Lydia and I’m sorry I can’t help you.’

‘You don’t understand, I’ve been in your position,’ she came close to me, kneeling down on the floor next to me. ‘When I left the orphanage I was taken by a man…on the promise that he’d give me a job…’

Devon was at the other end of the room. He looked about as if he’d heard a noise.

Lydia continued, ‘But that’s what he did, taken orphans under the pretence of…helping them. But he sold them, Beatrice. And he had not right to do that.’

Tears rolled down her face.

‘He sold me to a ship, for the men to use,’ she spat. ‘Look what they did to me.’ She took the scarf from her neck. I saw rope burns and scars. ‘They tortured me for…their pleasure. I was just something to be sold.’ She put her hands on my arm, ‘Don’t you see, Beatrice, I’m offering you a chance you’d never get…’

I said, ‘The man who sold you was Giles Corrigan?’

She nodded. ‘I got away from that ship, made money for myself and started the orphanage in Pentia so nobody would have to suffer that.’

‘Giles was kind to me-’

‘Of course he was. He was going to sell you, like an item,’ she gripped my arm tighter. ‘He couldn’t be allowed to do that.’

‘Why were you in Seastone?’

‘Why?’

I said, ‘Your orphanage is in Pentia, why come to Seastone at all?’

‘I…business…’

Quietly, I said, ‘You killed him. You were the one who snuck in his room and shot him. For revenge.’

‘I didn’t know about you at the time,’ she said, ‘but when I did, I knew, knew it was a sign from God that I was take you and protect you.’

I pulled my arm away from her.

‘Beatrice, please, we only want to help you…’

‘We?’

Lydia stood up, ‘He’s a rich man, he came to me because of my work with orphans, he wants to help get you away, his name is Varney-’

I stood up quickly, knocking the chair over. ‘Devon, we have to get out of here!’

The door of the house burst open and men came through the dark.

Devon stood to face them, one tackled into him.

‘Beatrice, run!’ Devon shouted at me.

In the darkness the men seemed like shadows. Lydia was hurled out of the way and two of them grabbed at me. I kicked and fought and called Devon’s name.

‘Don’t hurt her!’ Lydia was shouting.

‘Shut up,’ said a voice. I only caught a glimpse of him taking out a sword and slashing at Lydia. Her body fell to the floor. My mouth was gagged. They tied my hands together.

‘Where’s the lad gone?’ A voice called. ‘Where is he?’

I hoped that Devon was safe.

They pulled me to my feet and dragged me out of the house. There was a carriage waiting for me. A man pushed me at the carriage and I hit the side.

‘Varney sends his regards,’ he hissed in my ear.

There was a bright light and a rumble.

‘What was that?’ one of them said.

In the harbour, lights flashed.

‘It’s a ship,’ somebody said.

Cannon’s roared. Screams and shouts echoed.

‘Pirates,’ said one of Varney’s men.

******

Part Nine: 15/8/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Seven

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 08/08/2013 at 18:00

After being freed from the jail by Varney, Beatrice learns that her savior had been the order who ordered her kidnapping after the death of Giles Corrigan. A prisoner in Varney’s house, Beatrice looks for a way out.

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Seven

The wall was made out of slates and rock. Climbing it wouldn’t be too hard. Climbing it quickly would be difficult, though.

The slates were rough against my hands. But it wouldn’t be as bad as what would happen to me if I stayed behind. I wasn’t going to be anybody’s prisoner.

I was halfway up the wall when I heard shouting from the house. I had to hurry. I reached my hands out, not worrying about getting a safe holding.

At the end of it, I reached over the top and could feel the other side. All I had to do was pull myself up.

A hand grabbed my foot and I squealed. I kicked out but the hand held firm. I began to pull despite the hand trying to drag me back.

‘Get around the other side!’ Varney’s man shouted. ‘Get around the other side!’

I lashed out with my leg and managed to crush his hand into the wall. He yelped in pain and released his grip. Taking the chance I pulled myself up and was on the top of the wall.

Anders was unlocking the gate to come around. By the time I’d climbed down they’d both be waiting for me.

The only was I could get away was to jump.

I took a deep breath.

I turned to my side.

And jumped down.

My right side hit the ground and the pain went through me. But I had no time for pain. I pulled myself up and ran. Footsteps padded behind me.

I fled through alleyways, constantly changing directions, and soon I couldn’t hear their feet, but I knew they’d still be after me.

I was in the Seastone market. It was packed with people, so I could blend into the crowd. But I had to avoid the Governor’s men.

One stall had a selection of shawls for sale. I borrowed a dark red one. I promised to myself I would return it eventually. I put the shawl over me to cover my hair and give to chance to hide my face if the Governor’s men got too close.

Carefully I made my way through the market and into another part of the town. I avoided the main street and the busier streets and kept my head down. At the top of the street was The Hollow Crown. I took a look around me to see if there were any Governor’s men about. Seeing there were none I quickly made my way to the inn and went inside.

The old woman behind the desk glanced up at me, but I kept my face turned away as I quickly went up the stairs.

At the top there were the rows of doors and I struggled to recall which one had been Lydia Pryce’s. Last time I was here it had been Devon who had known where to go.

I reached a door that I thought might be the right one. I reached my hand out, balled it into a fist and knocked on the door.

No response.

Then I heard some movement from within the room. I stepped back, ready to run if it were wrong.

The door slowly opened.

‘Beatrice? Oh my word…’

Lydia took my arm and pulled me into the room.

‘I was convinced you were dead!’

She shut the door behind us. Lydia dashed from me and over to the window, holding on to that scarf that was around her neck. ‘Officers have been watching me since you escaped…’

‘I didn’t see any-’

‘They questioned me,’ she said, turning from the window to me, ‘because I’d gone to the jail and tried to get you released. I told them you were an orphan in my care but they wouldn’t release you…Did they take you when you went to get your things?’

I took the shawl from around my head. I said, ‘I need your help.’

‘Of course, yes, there’s a shop that sails to Penita tomorrow afternoon-’

‘No,’ I told her, ‘I need help to be hidden for a little while. Lydia, I thank you for what you’ve done, but I’ve found out that I have a family and I want to do all I can to get back to them.’

Her eyes darted as she looked at me, as though there was something growing out of either side of my head. ‘But…you’re an orphan,’ she said, ‘you don’t have a family, like me.’

‘I found out…I do.’

‘No, you’re like me, we’re orphans, we only have each other and all the other orphans to take care of…’

I shook my head. ‘I’m sorry, Lydia. I have to find my family.’

‘No…’ she said, ‘you were supposed to help.’

She turned away and paced the room. I apologised again but she didn’t seem to hear. ‘But you were supposed to help and make things right…’

‘I need to get to my family, you understand?’

‘No,’ she snapped. ‘No, I don’t. I’m trying to help you. We can run the orphanage and save-’

‘I don’t want to run an orphanage. My family is alive and they’re looking for me and I want to be with them, need to be with them.’

‘Go then.’ Lydia pulled her scarf up to cover her neck. ‘Find your family, I can’t help you with that.’

Quietly, I told her I was sorry and left her alone. As I walked down the stairs putting the shawl around my head and I wondered if it had been a bad idea to tell the truth.

I stepped out onto the street. I could either sneak onto a ship and try to get back, or I could let my family know I where I was.

Then I remembered who said he had connections with the Blackgraces.

******

Most of my day was spent avoiding them and waiting for the night. I had found the house I wanted and knew who I wanted was inside.

The window at the back of the house was partly open. I just pulled it towards me. It creaked as it opened and then I climbed through.

I lit a candle so I could see where I was. I was in the kitchen. Which is just what I waited. I soon found what I needed- a cutting knife. I blew out the candle and let my eyes become accustomed to the dark.

I found the stairs and went all the way up. I found the door at the top that led into the bedroom. I slowly pushed it open. There were no curtains. Some moonlight came through the window. Lying in the bed was Underwood.

I crept over, holding the knife out. I stood next to him, and then put the knife against his sensitive areas. I tapped the tip of the knife against his thigh.

Underwood’s eyes fluttered upon.

‘Wh-huh.’

Fear flared up in his eyes when he saw me.

‘Stay still,’ I said, ‘and be quiet.’

‘You, I-’

‘You sold me out to the Governor for the reward.’

‘I, I’m so sorry, I-’

‘I’m sure you are.’

‘Please, don’t…’

I moved the knife a little closer.

‘Don’t!’

‘Why shouldn’t I?’

He whimpered. ‘I can give you the money…’

‘What I want,’ I said, kneeling down so I was closer to him,’ is to know how good your connections with the Blackgraces are?’

‘I, I know somebody-’

‘How well?’

‘We…I…’

‘Could you get a message to him?’

Underwood nodded.

‘And could he get a message to the Blackgraces?’

‘I don’t-’

The tip of the knife pressed against his skin and I twisted it.

‘Yes!’ He shouted. ‘Yes!’

‘No so loud,’ I smiled. I told him what message I wanted sent. Arwen Blackgrace had been found and was in danger. She was at Seastone. ‘Can you tell him that?’

He nodded.

‘If you don’t sent the message I will know and I will find you. There’s going to be trouble coming. Make sure you’re on the right side.’

I stood up, ‘Oh, and Underwood? When you’ve done that find Devon. Tell him I’ll be at his parent’s.’

******

Early in the morning the butcher’s shop opened. The butcher stepped outside, wearing the same apron I had seen him wearing last time. It was covered in spots of dirt and blood. I approached him.

‘Hello.’

‘Morning,’ he said. ‘You want something?’

‘I’m looking for Devon.’

‘You were with him the other day, weren’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘He ain’t here, haven’t seen him since then.’

‘He should be meeting me here,’ I said. ‘Mind if I wait?’

‘Oh Jesus,’ he groaned, ‘he hasn’t got you pregnant, has he? Jesus…’

‘No, no,’ I said, ‘nothing like that.’

‘What is it you want then?’

‘A favour from a friend.’

The large butcher shrugged and invited me inside. I went thought the shop and lead up upstairs to where the family lived. There were five or six other children in the room. Mattresses and rags lay on the floor. Devon’s mother was sitting in a rocking chair by the window. She had the same dark curly hair as Devon.

I told her I didn’t know how long I was staying.

‘Well…if you’re friends with Devon…’ She found little jobs for me to do, sewing and mending, or looking after the children. It felt like been back at the orphanage.

******

‘Hello, Go Away.’

Devon stood in the doorway, smirking at me. Before I could speak to him, his mother had him and told him how worried they’d been. He took out a small purse of coins and handed it to her. His mother looked down at it in wonder then back at Devon. ‘And who did you steal this from?’

Devon rolled his eyes and walked away. ‘Come along, Go Away.’

We went into the back alley behind the shops. There was nobody about but us and a cat.

Devon leaned against the wall. ‘What is it you want with me, Go Away, if that is your real name.’

I smiled. ‘Underwood found you?’

‘He did. Half-scarred to death. What did you do to him?’

‘Did he have a message for me?’

‘He did,’ Devon said. ‘He said he spoke to the bloke who spoke to the bloke who told him to tell me to tell you that they’re on their way.’

‘That’s good news.’

‘I take it ‘they’ means the Blackgraces?’

I shrugged.

‘Don’t take me to be thick,’ he said, ‘all you were asking about were the Blackgrace family. You’re the lost one, aren’t you?’

I nodded and told him everything that had happened to me. I told about Varney and how he must have had Giles Corrigan murdered to get a hold of me.

I said I had escaped and he replied, ‘Full of surprises aren’t you, Go Away?’

‘You can call me my name, you know.’

‘Oh, I know,’ he grinned. ‘So you want me to hide you out until your family comes to get you. Putting not just me at risk, but my beloved family too.’

‘You’ll do it,’ I said, ‘because you know there’ll be something in it for you.’

‘I should hope so, very dangerous, this, very dangerous.’

‘And I’m afraid it won’t just be hiding me.’

‘Oh?’

I looked about to check for open windows and stepped closer to Devon. ‘The Governor and Varney’s men will be after me.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I want to distract them enough so that when my ship comes they’ll be too busy to notice I’m gone.’

Devon said, ‘And how do you suppose to distract them?’

‘We’re going to turn the Governor and Varney against each other. Their truce is failing, we’re going to break it. They’re going to destroy each other. And while they’re doing it I’m going to sail away in peace.

Devon swallowed. His Adam’s apple bobbed.

He said, ‘We?’

*******

Part 8: 12/8/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Six

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 05/08/2013 at 17:55

Beatrice Seastone is still in jail, waiting to be hanged. Her only ally is Varney, the supposed master-criminal of the island, who may know the truth about whether she is or is not Arwen Blackgrace.

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Six

The cell next to mine was empty. I didn’t know where Sonya had been taken. I hoped she was free.

I waited for guards to take me to the gallows. I couldn’t keep still. I paced, or paced as well as I could in such a tiny cell.

In my head, over and over, I could hear Varney whispering, calling me Arwen Blackgrace. This man who controlled Seastone had called me Arwen Blackgrace. And he had told me not to lose hope. I clung as tightly to that as a drowning sailor to a piece of his ship.

******

 The men came to my cell late at the night. Without speaking a word they unlocked the cell door. Keys jangled against one officer’s belt as he stepped into my cell.

I stepped back and shook my head.

‘We’re not here to hurt you,’ the one outside the cell whispered.

‘We’re from a friend,’ said the other near me.

I whispered, ‘Varney?’

The one closest to me nodded.

‘Come with us.’

For a moment I was reluctant. But it was either them or hanging.

I was gently led out of my cell and into the corridor. At the very end a lamp was burning. The light flicked and illuminated a table when two of the Governor’s finest lay with their heads across the table.

‘Dead?’ I whispered.

‘Sleeping.’

This was the big escape. No shots were fired, no voices were raised. Some guards were drugged, others had accepted bribes and even held doors open for me.

Outside the jail was a horse and carriage. The door of it was held open for me. I climbed in and one of the men followed and sat alongside me. Thick black curtains covered the windows of the carriage so I couldn’t see outside.

The carriage set off and I was rocked from side to side. I leaned over and pulled the curtain a little so I could see outside.

‘I wouldn’t do that,’ said the man. ‘Just in case anybody sees you.’

I put the curtain back in its place.

******

The carriage came to a stop. The man opened the door and stepped out. He offered a hand to help me out. I got out of the carriage slowly so I could take a good look at where I was. The house I was standing outside was towards the middle of Seastone, at the top of the hill in the district for the rich and more corrupt islanders.

The man led me up to a house with a high walled garden. He opened the gate. We went through the garden and up a path to the back of the house.

A door opened and I was shown inside. A few candles flickered, offering a little light. The ceilings in this house were so high, much taller than I was. It made me feel like I was in a child’s dollhouse.

Varney was waiting for me in a study. He stood up and said, ‘Hello.  I trust you made it safely?’ He spoke as if he were expecting for me tea and cakes.

He invited me to sit, and had his man pour me a glass of wine. I sipped at the wine. It tasted expensive.

Varney watched me in silence. Then simply said, ‘So.’

‘So,’ I said. ‘I suppose thank you for breaking me out of jail.’

‘You’re welcome. That place is no place for a lady.’

‘Won’t the Governor be unhappy?’

Varney picked up his silver-handled cane and rested it upon his lap. ‘The Governor and I have an understanding. I’m afraid that he has forgotten his understanding of our understanding, if you follow.’

‘Not at all.’

He laughed and showed white teeth. He said, ‘The Governor, like myself, abhors violence. Violence is for the unimaginative. The Governor lets me do what I do as long as I steer clear of violent means and occasionally turn in the more violent element in Seastone to him.’

There was something very casual about Varney. He spoke to me like we were making small talk before a dance. I could not imagine people being afraid of this slim man.

‘When I was a younger man,’ he said, his face growing serious, ‘I saw…a very horrific act of butchery. Men, women, children, all killed.’ Varney leaned back in his chair and rested a hand on his cheek. ‘I swore from that day that I would not indulge in violence. There had to be a better way of doing things.’

Maybe it was the wine making me brave but I suddenly said, ‘You called me Arwen Blackgrace.’

A smile broke out on his face.  ‘I did.’

‘Why?’

‘Why?’ He leaned forward. ‘I knew Giles Corrigan. He told me about you. I knew the story.’

‘Is that why…;

‘I broke you out of jail?’ He asked.

I nodded.

Varney said, ‘Imagine what your family would do to me if I’d let you hang?’

It seemed so strange to hear the Blackgrace’s called ‘family’. It made me stomach feel tied in happy knots.

‘I don’t know your family well,’ he said, ‘but I know they would still welcome your return.’

‘How…how can you be sure that I’m…I mean, might be this Arwen Blackgrace?’

He leaned forward. ‘How do you feel about it?’

‘I…well…I’m an orphan, so I never…it could…’ Maybe it was the wine but I said, ‘Yes. I feel like I am.’

He smiled and leaned back. ‘You have the right hair colour, eye colour and…’

‘The scar?’

‘Yes,’ he smiled.

‘But what about the Blackgrace locket?’

Varney looked surprised. ‘How do you know about that?’

‘I asked somebody.’

‘Well…’ he said, ‘if truth be told I have the locket.’

‘How did you get it?’

‘I found it. Or found a man who had no idea what he had and I had a man purchase it from him. And I knew it meant Arwen Blackgrace was somewhere on this island.’

‘And Giles told you?’

‘Yes,’ Varney said, ‘before he was killed he passed on the word to me that he had found her. After I found the locket I knew she had to be somewhere.’

I asked, ‘Can I see it?’

‘I sent it back to your family with the promise that I’d deliver you.’ He pointed at me as he said this. ‘Of course it’s so I can take a fee for looking after you, just so you know and aren’t disillusioned.’

Varney smiled and reached forward to take my hand. He said, ‘I am going to organise a ship to get to the Blackgrace’s island. The Blackgraces have a habit of firing cannons on any ship that gets too close to them, so I need time to send further word to them and arrange our safe journey. Until then you’ll stay here.’

I said ‘When the Governor notices I’m gone won’t you be the first person he comes to see?’

Varney leaned back and grinned at me.

‘And won’t he raid your house to look for me?’

‘That he will.’

I said, ‘But this isn’t your house…’

‘Smart girl,’ he said, ‘nobody knows about his place except for the few men I trust. You’ll be very safe here, Arwen, I promise.’

I let out an involuntary yawn.

‘You must forgive me,’ he said, ‘I forget you’ve probably not had any sleep during your incarceration.’

I protested, but he stood up and said, ‘I forget myself. I so seldom get a lick of sleep at nights I forget other people need it.’

He was right, I was feeling very tired. He called for Anders and a blonde haired man came into the room.

‘Please show Miss. Blackgrace to her room.’

‘Thank you,’ I said to him.

‘It would say it’s my pleasure, but I’ll have to deal with our Governor tomorrow and that will be as far from a pleasure as a man can get.’ He took my hand and kissed it. ‘Goodnight, Miss. Blackgrace.’

He left the room through a small door and took his silver handled cane with him. Anders led me up a staircase to a room at the top of the house. He carried a candle to light our way. He held the bedroom door open for me.

I went inside the room. There was a candle on the sill, lighting the room. Within a moment I liked it a lot more than my cell.

The door clicked. I stood up, went over to it and tried the handle. Locked from the outside.

Part of me, maybe the Beatrice part of me, told me it’d been locked for a good reason, probably my own safety. But hearing the key been turned and the door being locked got my back up. I didn’t like feeling like I’d just exchanged one cell for another more comfortable one.

 

******

In the morning the door was unlocked and Anders took me down to breakfast. As we went down the stairs I said, ‘Why was my door locked? Worried about me getting away?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘worried about anybody getting in.’

At the breakfast table, I kept glancing around, trying to get an idea of the layout of the house. I listened for footsteps and movement and noise as I ate. There was at least two other people in the house.

Anders stood guard as I ate breakfast. When I finished I leaned back in my chair and Anders said, ‘Anything else, m’lady.’

I grinned. ‘Did you just call me “m’lady”’?

His cheeks glowed red.

‘Can I go outside?’ I said, ‘Sir?’

He couldn’t look me in the eye. ‘I can’t take you outside of the house. But the garden’s big.’

I told him that would do fine. He shuffled awkwardly next to me as he left the house and went to the garden. Anders seemed petrified by me. I wondered if it was because I was a Blackgrace or because I was a girl.

The garden of the house was large, and surrounded by a wall made out of slate and rocks. The walls were high, maybe three times the size of me. We walked all the way around. There was only one exit- the gate I came through the other night. I went up to it but there was a lock across it.

‘Who has the key?’ I asked.

‘Somebody else,’ he muttered.

Nearby was a little area with an iron table and chairs. I decided to sit down.

One of Varney’s underlings came out of the house and headed towards the gate.

My heart felt like it had stopped.

I knew that man.

That day back in The Hope and Anchor, two men had tried to grab me. One was dead, the other was walking right past me. He was a short squat man.

‘Anders, who is that?’

Anders turned round and said, ‘That’s Markus.’

‘He works for Varney?’

Anders nodded. ‘Why? You know him?’

‘I think so,’ I said.

Markus and the big bald man had tried to kidnap me and take me away. And he was working for Varney. They had known that I was Arwen Blackgrace. It suddenly became clear. Varney was making the Blackgrace’s pay to have me back. He’d had Giles find me. He’d killed Giles and tried to kidnap me so could have all the money to himself.

I swallowed hard.

I said, ‘Anders, could you fetch me some water?’

‘Can’t leave you alone.’

‘Why would I want to go?’ I said, ‘I’m in a nice patch of sunshine here.’

I urged him to get me something to drink. He eventually conceded.

‘All right,’ he said, standing up.

‘And shouldn’t that be, “All right, m’lady”?’

His cheeks flushed red and he hurried away. As soon as he was back inside the house I took a good look at the wall around the garden. It was tall. But the only way out was to climb it.

******

Part Seven: 8/8/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Five

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 01/08/2013 at 18:00

After seeking the assistance of Underwood, a historian of the Blackgraces family, Beatrice is betrayed and handed over to the Governor’s officers. She has never been as further away from discovering the real killer of Giles Corrigan and the truth behind the identity of Arwen Blackgrace…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Five

My cell was not much bigger than I was. If I lay down on the floor and stretched out I would be able to touch the walls with my hands and touch the bars with my toes. The back wall had a small window with three bars across it. Outside I could see the sea. The back wall was the only solid wall of the cell. The other sides were bars connected to other cells on the left and right. There was nothing else inside the cell except something that might have been a chamber pot.

After some hours I was taken from the cell, had my hand shackled together and then lead down the corridor of cells to a small cream coloured room at the end.

Inside the room was Lieutenant Wiseacre. He stood with his hands behind his back. He didn’t look surprised to see me.

‘Beatrice Seastone,’ Wiseacre said. ‘Those that break the law must accept the punishment the Governor decrees. You understand?’

‘I didn’t kill Giles, I…that other man was trying to kidnap me.’

‘Murder is murder and there is only one punishment.’

I said, ‘Yes. Hanging.’

Coldly he replied, ‘It’s set for tomorrow. The Governor wants to make an example of you.’

‘You don’t understand-’

‘There is nothing to be done.’

‘Then why talk to me?’

‘A Lydia Pryce was here earlier. She says she was with you these few days so you couldn’t have murdered those men. Since you never mentioned her she must be lying.’

Lydia had tried to save me. And I’d lost my only hope of being saved.

The Lieutenant nodded. ‘That’s all. Take her back.’

The officer grabbed me away and pulled me towards the door.

As I went I said, ‘See you tomorrow, Lieutenant. Make sure somebody saves you a seat.’

******

Night came. Before it got dark a prisoner was thrown into the cell next to me- a blonde woman who screamed and shouted but calmed down when it went dark.

I sat still.

This was my last night on earth. Tomorrow I would be hanged.

I didn’t feel like sleeping.

I was going to die.

In the dark I kept seeing the Blackgrace locket in my mind. Arwen Blackgrace had one. That would have been proof she had been found. I’d never seen that locket in my life. Maybe it had been stolen when I was a baby? But then, there was nothing about Arwen Blackgrace having a scar on her shoulder. I had a scar but it meant nothing.

It was hopeless.

It was foolish to think I was Arwen Blackgrace.

Giles was dead and his murderer was free.

Devon was gone. Underwood betrayed me. And Lydia Pryce had offered me a lifeline but I wasn’t smart enough to take it.

A voice came through the dark, ‘Oi,’ it said. From the cell next to me, I could just make out the outline of the woman.

‘What’s your name?’ She asked.

‘Beatrice,’ I said. ‘You?’

‘Sonya.’ I couldn’t tell whether she old or young but her voice sounded weary. ‘They put me in here,’ she said, ‘because a man tried to rob me.’

‘They arrested you for that?’

‘No, they arrested me because I tried to cut his cock off with his razor.’ She sighed, ‘He was the one robbing me. Bloody sailors. We had an agreed price, he has his way with me, then says I overcharged him. He tried to take my money, so I tried to cut his cock off with his razor and he called officers. What are you here for?’

‘Murder. Two counts.’

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Have they said-’

‘Yes. Tomorrow.’

‘Oh. I’m sorry for you, gal. If it were my last day even I wouldn’t want to spend it with me. But it looks like we’re stuck with each other. I don’t sleep much at night. Too used to working through it. Can’t sleep unless the sun’s up. Bloody vampire, me.’

I think she sat down, like I was, with her back against the wall and legs stretched out.

‘So who are you then?’ She asked.

‘Me?’ I said what I felt, ‘I’m no one. Just an orphan. Come from nowhere, going to nowhere. Nothing done in between.’

‘At least you’re staying cheerful,’ she muttered. ‘You’re a Seastone?’

I nodded, but realised she wouldn’t be able to see that in the dark so I answered, ‘Yes. I wish I wasn’t a Seastone. Maybe a Blackgrace instead. That’s a name that means something, means you belong to something-’

‘A name doesn’t mean anything until you do something. It’s what you do that makes it mean something. Like Varney. It’s not his name that means anything, but everything Varney’s done to make you go “oh shit, it’s Varney”.’

I said, ‘Varney? I thought Varney was a joke, I mean, a mastermind controlling the island?’

‘No joke, love,’ Sonya said, ‘he’s real. Fella I’d do the old business with works for him, talked about him too.’ Sonya scooted a little closer to the bars between us and said in a quieter voice, ‘Apparently Varney’s got something big planned.’

‘What?’

‘Fella wouldn’t say. All I know is Varney’s got something very big to sell.’

I shook my head. ‘I don’t believe this- Varney control everything?’

Sonya said, ‘I’ll tell you this- you know when you see a big old spider web, but you can’t see the spider…and it turns out it’s hiding in a corner where you can’t them and it’s always the biggest damn spider you ever saw. Well, that’s Varney. He’s the spider you can’t see.’

Several footsteps echoed down the corridor. The Governor’s officers stood outside Sonya’s cell. I couldn’t tell how many there were. Keys rattled and cell door opened.

‘This one here,’ the Governor’s officer said, ‘this is the whore.’

The men went inside Sonya’s cell and dragged her to her feet. She kicked and screamed as they took hold of her.

I shouted at them to leave her alone and one struck the bars of the cell and it made me jump back.

They dragged Sonya from her cell and pulled her down the corridor to the room at the end where Lieutenant Wiseacre had spoken to me earlier.

I could hear the noises of the shouts and the grunting and the groans. I put my hands over my ears and rocked backwards and forwards and didn’t want to hear, didn’t want to hear anything at all.

I didn’t know how long she was gone. They brought her back to the cell in silence. It was still so dark I could not make out whether her face was bruised and marked.

Softly she said, ‘It’s alright, gal, it’s alright.’

It took me a few moments to realise she was talking to me.

‘They can’t do that,’ I said.

‘They’re the Governor’s Officers,’ she spat. ‘They think they can do whatever they want.’

She reached her hand through the bars and I took it. I held it tightly.

‘It’s not right,’ I said.

‘Just be glad it wasn’t you,’ she said. ‘I’ve been here before. I knew what to expect. Let’s just hope they don’t come back.’

I said, ‘If I had a chance I’d kill them all.’

Sonya laughed. ‘You’ve done enough killing already, gal.’

I didn’t sleep that night. I sat gripping Sonya’s hand.

‘Somebody should do something,’ was all I could say. ‘Somebody has to do something.’

******

The Governor’s men came for me not long after it had gotten light. One man opened my cell and another waited behind him. I couldn’t tell if they were the same men from the night before.

An officer came into my cell and took my arm and pulled my to my feet.

As I was marched out of my cell, I saw Sonya out of the corner of my eye. I wanted to say something to her, some goodbye, but I couldn’t find the words. Sonya said, ‘Don’t make it easy for ‘em, gal’. She smiled slowly and sadly.

At the end of the corridor the men shackled my hands and feet together. I gave my chains a rattle. ‘Is this necessary?’

‘Keep quiet.’

With a man either side of me they led me along another corridor, not the one I had entered. I was taken to a large wooden staircase. It was difficult to climb with shackled feet.

‘Hurry up,’ one barked at me.

‘Do you want to try getting upstairs like this?’

He clipped me around the back of the head. I just laughed.

My ankles were sore by the time we reached the top.

At the end of the staircase were two big white doors with guards either side of it. The officers knocked on the door and were summoned in.

The room was a large office. At the other end were some very big windows and before them a large, heavy desk. Sitting at the desk was an older man in a blue uniform. He had thick white hair and white moustache. It was the Governor himself. I was so surprised I almost didn’t notice the other man.

The other man was sitting on the opposite side of the desk to the Governor. He was much older than me but handsome in his way. His clothes were all immaculate and he held a cane with a sliver handle next to him.

The Governor looked up at me with complete disinterest. ‘Girl,’ he said, ‘do you know this man?’

The man said to the Governor, ‘This isn’t fair.’

‘Answer the question, girl.’

One of the officers pushed me hard in the back. I said, ‘No.’

‘There,’ the Governor said. ‘Take her back.’

‘Wait,’ the man at the desk said, ‘Governor, please. Release her.’

The Governor sneered, ‘She doesn’t know you. Why would I transfer a girl to your keep who has no idea who you are and furthermore,’ the Governor leaned forward and raised his voice, ‘she is a double murderer, I cannot be seen to let a double murderer go free!’

The man leaned forward also and spoke quickly, ‘I’ve always supported you, Governor, I have never asked you for anything that would trouble you until this. Turn the girl over to my care and-’

‘No!’ The Governor slammed his fist on the desk. ‘No. I will not, Varney!’

The man in immaculate clothes was Varney the supposed master criminal? This slim, slight man was really the spider at the corner of the web?

Varney tried pleading but the Governor paid no heed. He looked up at me and said, ‘And what do you have to say about the matter, girl?’

I looked about the room. ‘Your men,’ I said, ‘are pigs. They abused the woman in the cell next to me. I’m told this is common practise.’

The room was silent. They were stunned. The Governor said, ‘That is besides the point-’

‘They acted like anim-’

An officer punched me in the small of my back and I fell to my knees.

‘God’s sake, man!’

Varney had rushed over to me and put his hands on my arm. ‘Are you hurt?’

‘Leave her alone, Varney.’

The officers pushed him against firmly and pulled me to my feet. They stepped back from me and Varney stood close. He turned to the Governor behind the desk and said, ‘Don’t do this.’

The Governor shook his head. ‘You forget, Varney- I am in charge of Seastone. I am the law and I am the justice. Take her away.’

Varney turned away from him and stepped closer to me. In a whisper he said, ‘Don’t lose hope…Arwen Blackgrace.’

In a moment Varney had gone and the officers were either side of me and I was being taken back to my cell.

*******

Part 6: 5/8/13

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