Daniel Williams

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

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