Daniel Williams

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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

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

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Three

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 25/07/2013 at 18:00

And now- the belated part three of Arwen Blackgrace, apologies for the delay. Beatrice Seastone is now on the run after murdering a man who twice unsuccessfully tried to kidnap her. Lost and alone, she is no closer to the truth of Giles Corrigan’s murder or the truth of her birth..

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Three

The sun was beginning to rise.

I sat on a stone wall in the harbour. I’d spent the most of the night walking nowhere.

I’d killed a man.

A man who was trying to take me away.

‘I got a man who wants you,’ he’d said.

I felt sick to my stomach.

I’d spent most of the night hiding in alleys and walking with my head down so nobody could see.

Ships were anchored in the harbour. I imagined sneaking on board, sailing away and never looking back. What was in Seastone for me?

My life could have been so very different. If I had known my parents, if they had kept me, if I hadn’t been born on Seastone, if, if, if…

A young man sat down next to me. I hadn’t noticed him approach. He was wearing a red waistcoat and had black curly hair. He smiled at me.

I stood up and walked away. I walked along the harbour and sat down on a part of the wall much further away.

As I sat down, I saw out of the corner of my eye the young man get up and walk my way. When me caught up with me he once again sat by my side.

I got up. So did he.

‘What do you want?’ I snapped at him.

‘Hello,’ he said. In the early morning light I could see his pale face was full of freckles and he was grinning. ‘My name’s Devon. What’s yours?’

‘Go away.’

‘Go away?’ He said following me, ‘Do your mates call you ‘go’ or ‘away’?’

I turned to face him, ‘Go away or I’ll cut your balls off.’ I went to reach for the letter opener but it was gone.

The letter opener was in Devon’s hand. He held it up to me.

‘Give that back.’ I reached to snatch it but he held it away.

‘Allow me to introduce myself properly,’ he said, and held his arms out. ‘I am Devon- thief, vagabond and gentleman rogue, at your service.’

‘Give that back.’ I snatched at the letter opener again.

He took a step back. ‘Look, Miss. Go Away,’ he said, ‘I’ll give you it back, I just have to get you somewhere first.’

My heart sunk. They’d found me already. There was really was nowhere I could go.

He said, ‘I’m working for this lady, works for a church or something.’

‘A lady?’

‘A nice, god-fearing, lady. Heard about your landlord and wants to offer you a job.’

I said, ‘And why should you believe you?’

‘You shouldn’t,’ he said. He stuck his hands in his pockets. ‘Didn’t you hear the bit about thief, vagabond and gentleman rogue?’

The young man shook his head and sighed. ‘Look, some rich lady said find this barmaid for me, and I said, “I could find you a dozen”, she said, “no, I want this one, so I can offer her a job in Pentia”, and I said, “well is she pretty”? And she said, “shut up and have these coins”.’

I said, ‘What job?’

He shrugged. ‘I dunno. Something about Pentia.’

Pentia was a country in the south. A warm sunny place, I’d heard.

Devon said, ‘She’s a nice lady. No funny stuff.’

I looked about.

‘I’ll go with you,’ I said, ‘ only if you give me my knife.’

‘I’d hardly call it a knife, Go Away.’

I held my hand out. He smirked and handed the letter opener back. I held it close to me. There was still blood on it. There was still blood on me.

Devon jumped up onto the harbour wall and started walking along. ‘Come along, Go Away.’

I muttered something under my breath and followed alongside him.

After a while he go bored of walking on the wall and jumped down to walk beside me.

‘Cheer up,’ he said.

I scowled at him.

He turned left and we went from the harbour and towards the town.

‘I bet you don’t even know who’s been seen about recently? Go on, guess.’

I didn’t reply because I had no interest in pursuing his conversation.

He said, ‘Byron Blackgrace.’

‘Where?’ I said.

‘Just his ship,’ Devon said. ‘Heard some of the sailors talking about it. The Black Prince spotted about.’

I said to Devon, ‘Is he heading here?’

‘Byron Blackgrace?’ He laughed, ‘Not likely. What’d a Blackgrace want with this crappy little island?’

I looked across at the young man walking beside me and said, ‘How old are you?’

‘Seventeen,’ he said without looking at me.

I raised my eyebrows.

‘All right- sixteen,’ he said.

‘Oh.’

He started to chew the nail of his thumb and then said, ‘All right, fifteen, but I’m so close to being sixteen that I practically am sixteen. Besides,’ he said skipping around a pile of muck in the street, ‘I look older and I’m very mature.’

At the top of the street was a hotel called The Hollow Crown. It was a tall wide building. It catered for rich travellers rather than ordinary sailors.

We went inside. An older woman, the proprietor, I think, looked across at us, and Devon gave her a wave. He dashed up the stairs, taking two at a time.

The Hollow Crown was a much cleaner place than The Hope and Anchor. I hadn’t been inside such a large place, except for the Seastone orphanage.

Devon stopped at a door with a number on it. He waited for me to catch up and then knocked on the door.

‘Enter,’ said a lady’s voice from within.

Devon held the door open for me. I nervously stepped inside. The room was twice as big as mine at the Hope and Anchor had been. In the corner was a large bed with a chest at its foot. On the other side were a table and chairs. And standing next to a window was a lady in a dress the colour of a dark red wine. She was older than me by many years but her face was very striking. She had long dark hair. Covering her neck was a delicate red scarf.

‘Here she is,’ Devon said, ‘Miss. Go Away.’

‘Thank you,’ the lady said. She smiled at me, ‘Please’. She motioned to the table. I slowly walked towards it and sat down. Devon stood nearby.

‘Help yourself,’ the lady said, indicating the jug of wine on the table.

Devon took a glass and filled it to the brim. I didn’t take any.

‘Who are you?’ I said leaning forward. ‘What do you want with me?’

She smiled kindly. ‘My name is Lydia Pryce.’ She walked towards the table. ‘Before I was…married, I was Lydia Seastone.’

She pulled out a chair and then sat down at the table.

‘I was born here,’ she said. ‘I’d lived in the orphanage for fourteen years before I…sailed away. I now live in Pentia. I run an orphanage.’

Devon’s arm came close to my face as he reached for the wine jug.

Lydia continued, ‘It’s a very different orphanage to Seastone. We care for the children, not just while they are with us, but afterwards. Being an orphan can…limit your choices.’ She smiled. But it was not a happy smile.

I said, ‘Why me?’

‘I heard about what happened to you. What happened to…Giles Corrigan.’ Her fingers drummed on the table then they were still. ‘With the death of…that man, I was worried your choices would be limited. I searched for you, until this…young man offered his services to find you.’

Devon raised his glass to me.

‘Beatrice,’ Lydia said. ‘I very much want you to come and work for me. You can leave all this behind you. You’ll never have to see Seastone again, not if you don’t wish to.’

All times I had dreamed that I was on one of the ships leaving Seastone and sailing away…here was my chance. Lydia told me that she had booked passage on the ship, I wouldn’t have to worry about money. All that she asked is that I work at the orphanage she ran.

‘To be born a Seastone is to be limited,’ she said. ‘But with my children in Pentia, we strive to open the world for them, not close it. And who better to help than orphans…like us.’

The red scarf started to slip from around her neck and she quickly pulled it up. Underneath I could a glimpse of something. It looked like a birthmark, but I couldn’t be sure.

Devon said, ‘Sounds great. Can I come?’

Leaving Seastone had been all I had dreamed about for so long. Even if I worked in an orphanage for a year or more, I would still be away from Seastone. I would in Pentia. I’d heard that Pentia was much warmer and sunnier than this island.

But if I went would I ever find out about what happened to Giles? He’d taken me from the orphanage, given me a job, a place to live…and maybe a past. If I left now would I ever find out the truth about whether or not I was Arwen Blackgrace?

Lydia looked at me expectantly. Slowly, I nodded my head. She broke out in a grin.

‘Oh, wonderful, wonderful,’ she said. ‘The boat sails this evening so we can-’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘there’s some things of mine I’d like to get first. Clothes, keepsakes.’

Lydia’s smile dropped. ‘Well…Devon can get them, just tell him-’

‘I’d rather get them myself.’ I pushed the chair back and stood up. ‘He wouldn’t know what he was looking for.’

Lydia stood up as well. ‘I can get you new clothes, you needn’t worry about them.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I said to her with all the sincerity I could muster. ‘I will be back. I want to leave this place.’

Lydia paused and said in a small voice, ‘If you are…confident…’

‘Yes. I just want to get these things. Devon can go with me.’

Devon put the wine jug on the table. He said, ‘I’ll just add this job onto the bill.’

We left the room and Lydia seemed to cling to the doorframe. ‘How long will you be?’

‘Half a day,’ I offered.

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Oh. Well…’

‘Until later,’ I said.

‘Yes. Yes, later, of course.’

Devon and I went down the staircase of The Hollow Crown and onto the street.

‘So…’ Devon said. ‘Are we going back or did you arrange this so we could run away together?’

I shook my head. ‘No. I’m going back. I’ll take that ship. But there’s something I need to know first. Devon?’

‘Yes?’

‘I’ve got until this evening to find out everything I can about the Blackgraces.’

‘Right.’

‘I can pay you.’

He leaned against the wall of the inn. ‘And here’s me thinking you wanted me for my company.’

‘Do you know who in Seastone knows the most about the Blackgraces and…what happened to the daughter?’

He looked over at me. He looked completely puzzled. ‘I didn’t want to say this, but you know you’re wanted by the Governor’s men? For murder. Widow Pryce was paying me extra to find you before they did.’

Seastone was beginning awaken. There were more people in the streets.

‘Then I just have to stay out of their way before the ship to Pentia this evening,’ I said. ‘But I can’t go without find out about Arwen Blackgrace. I have to, Devon.’

‘I know a man.’

He jumped up and said. ‘We best get a move on then.’ He darted up the street suddenly. ‘Come along, Go Away,’ he called.

I followed him.

******

Part Four: 29/7/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Two

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 18/07/2013 at 18:00

In Part One, a 17 year-old orphan and barmaid, Beatrice Seastone, is told she maybe the long-lost daughter of pirate William Blackgrace by her landlord, Giles Corrigan. He is subsequently murdered, and the Governor’s officers suspect Beatrice. While she grieves, mysterious men break into the pub, and she overhears them talk about kidnapping her…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Two

My only way out was to fight. At the very end of the room was a small fireplace and I dashed over to it. In the fireplace were a couple of logs. I grabbed the biggest one I could find.

I stood next to the door with my back against the wall, ready to move when they came into the room.

The men were hushing each other as they approached.

The log was heavy and I had to hold it with both hands.

The door creaked open.

The first man, the short one, came into the room.

I launched forward and stuck him on the back of the head. He cried out and put his hands to the back of his head.

When I turned around the large bald man was in the doorway. He looked surprised as I thrust the log upwards and struck him in the nose. Blood trickled down his face and he stumbled backwards onto the landing.

I ran around the large man to the stairs. I heard thunks as the log fell from my hands and raced down the stairs with me. The men were howling and moaning in pain and they were coming after me.

I crashed into the front door and took off the latch and did not look back.

A big hand grabbed my arm. I kept running and heard the arm of the dress tear away as I ran down the street.

There were a few people walking in the afternoon sun along the street. No one was interested in a girl with a torn dress running past them. But this was Seastone. It probably wasn’t an unusual sight for them.

*****

Children played in the street, dancing around the pile of horse muck. I was in the part of town at the bottom of the hill. I stuck to the quieter streets. I couldn’t help but jump whenever anybody walked past me. The men who had come for me had known about my scar, the same scar that Arwen Blackgrace had. The more I walked and the more I thought the more it seemed that Giles’ death had to be connected with the possibility I was the missing Arwen Blackgrace. Everybody thought I was living with Giles- was I the intended victim?

I found myself heading towards the place where Giles had lived. The house looked like all the others on the street, there was nothing to make it stick out…except for the broken door. That was new. It was broken from the outside. I looked behind me to make sure no one was watching and stepped inside.

Boot marks went along the little corridor. It must have been from the Governor’s officers who’d had to break in.

I turned right and went into the bedroom.

The bed sheet hadn’t been changed. It was covered in dried blood. I gasped. Giles must have been lying in bed, maybe asleep when he was shot.

In the middle of the room was the partition. On the other side was where I had slept. Next to the partition, on Giles’ side was an open window. I picked up a little stool and dragged it over to the window. I stood on it to get a better look. The window was easy enough for somebody taller than me to reach up to and climb up. I leant out of the window and saw no footprints or boot marks on the ground.

I got off the stool and stepped back. The murderer had come through the window. It would have been dark with only moonlight to go by. The murderer saw the partition and thought on one side was Giles, on the other was me. They took their chance and it was the wrong one.

‘Beatrice?’ Called a voice.

For a second I froze until the woman’s voice called again and I recognised it as Mrs. Mulligan who lived across the street. She was carrying one of her cats.

‘Beatrice, is that you?’

Mrs. Mulligan was a little old dear who spent her days looking after her cats and watching out of her window to see what everyone else was doing. She took me across the street to her house. She made me a meal while her cats clawed all over me.

‘Terrible,’ Mrs. Mulligan kept saying, ‘so terrible.’

She said, ‘Those Governor’s men were here, asking me questions. The one lad kicked Periwinkle.’

She petted Periwinkle’s head in a display of sympathy. I sat at her kitchen table, with the cats trying to help me eat the food on my plate.

‘Mrs. Mulligan, did you see anything?’

‘I heard it, all right. I was awake anyway,’ she groaned as she sat down at the table. ‘I don’t sleep anymore I just sit out there and Winslow keeps me company.’

‘Did you see anything?’

‘Thought I saw them coming away.’

‘Who?’

‘The one who did it, of course,’ she said.

‘Did you see who it was?’

‘No,’ Mrs. Mulligan said, half-talking to a cat, ‘but we saw them running away. Jumped right out of the window, they did.’

I asked Mrs. Mulligan more questions but she couldn’t tell me anything. All she knew was that she had seen somebody, could be a man or a woman, tall or short, young or old.

Once I had finished eating, I thanked Mrs. Mulligan for the meal and left. I went back to Giles’ house because it was the only place I had to go. I couldn’t go back to The Hope and Anchor. There was nowhere else for me to go.

Giles’ had a place where he kept his letters along with a pretty silver letter opener. I could mostly read so I took out his letters and started looking through them. I searched for any mention of the Blackgrace’s. But there was nothing. The letters were about business. People wrote to arrange to meet Giles’ in various places, though some, surprisingly, in the southeast part of the port. That part of the port was vicious. There were more cathouses down there than on any part of the island. Everybody knew to avoid that part of the port. But in the most recent letter, somebody was arranging to meet Giles in The Tiger’s Head. I thought of the nights when The Hope and Anchor had closed and Giles had said he had to go and run some errands. He had been doing business in that part of town?

There was a chance, perhaps, somebody who did business with Giles was at The Tiger’s Head. Maybe it was in this part of town he learnt the story of William Blackgrace and his missing daughter?

Inside a drawer Giles kept a small bag of coins. I had never stolen anything before. It made my stomach feel heavy doing it. I also took Giles’ silver letter opener and concealed it.

I waited until nightfall and went to the southeast part of the port.

******

            The Tiger’s Head was nothing like The Hope and Anchor. It was louder and crammed with more bodies. The Tiger’s Head was dark because all the candles were so high up on the walls to prevent drunks from crashing into them and burning the place down.

I made my way over to the bar. A red-cheeked landlord shouted at me, ‘Whatdaya havin’?’

I ordered an ale and when he bought to me I asked him, ‘Do you know Giles Corrigan?’

‘You what?’

I raised my voice and leaned closer, ‘Do you know Giles Corrigan?’

‘Dead, ain’t you heard?’

‘He was here doing business with someone here. Do you know who?’

‘Ain’t got a clue, gal. Whatdaya havin’?’ He turned away to another customer.

I sipped at the ale. It was watered down, but nobody else seemed to mind. I leaned against he bar and wondered what I could do next.

A hand grabbed my arm. My arm was still bare after the arm of my dress had been torn off. I spun around to see a tall, wide, bald man. His nose looked disjointed and out of place.

‘I know you,’ he said.

I tried to pull away but his grip was too tight.

‘You broke my nose, you-’ he said, adding a dirty word. I looked about for the other man, the smaller one, but could not see him.

‘What do you want with me?’

He said, ‘Let’s have a look at that scar.’

I punched him but it had no effect. His other large hand pulled down the other side of my dress, revealing my bare shoulder and the scar upon it.

He grinned as I got the top of my dress back up.

‘You’re coming with me,’ he said.

‘Help!’ I shouted in desperation. ‘Help me!’

All I got was laughter and jeers. The bald man with a broken nose grabbed hold of me and pushed me into the crowd. I felt a man grope me and laugh in my ear. The people in the bar pushed me towards the door. They were trying to help the bald man.

‘Give ‘er one for me!’

The bald man grabbed me and took me out in the night.

‘You hurt my nose,’ he said.

‘Please don’t-’

He struck me across the face.

My cheek hummed with pain.

‘I hate hitting women,’ he said, ‘but you hurt my nose so it’s only what you had coming to you.’

In a quiet voice I said, ‘What do you want with me?’

‘I got a man who wants you,’ he said.

He took my arm and pulled me up the street. We passed drunken sailors and the women trying to be sirens to lure them in.

I was thrown against a small stonewall just next to the harbour. The bald man pointed a big finger at me. ‘Now you stop fighting.’

I turned away from him and with trembling fingers tried to find the letter opener I had taken from Giles’.

‘You’ve got to come with me,’ he said, ‘and I don’t want to be hurting you again.’

The point of the letter opener pricked my finger and I tried not to wince. I managed to get my hand on the handle.

The bald man took a step closer and I turned round and stabbed him with the letter opener.

There was a small spot of blood on his stomach. He looked down at it and then back at me. His face was full of fury.

He raised his hand and swung to slap me.

I drove the letter opener up and it went through his palm.

He roared.

He lunged at me at me and I thrust the knife out again, this time thrusting upwards.

I poked the knife into his neck.

A tickle of blood ran down his throat and onto his chest. He coughed and blood dribbled from the centre of his mouth. The bald, bleeding man stepped forward and fell onto his knees. He tried to speak but nothing came out but blood. He put his hands around his throat like he was choking himself. Blood seeped through the gaps between his fingers.

I threw up next to him.

‘I’m sorry…’ I said

I thought my mouth tasted like something Mrs. Mulligan’s cats would eat and it made me want to throw up again.

‘Over there!’ A voice shouted.

I looked up to see one of the prostitutes was pointing at me.

‘Look! She’s killed him!’ She had a shrill voice. ‘Murder. Murder!’

People were starting to listen to her and looking over at me.

I’d just killed a man. I dragged my feet. My feet began to shuffle. When they shuffled quickly enough I turned it into a run.

******

Part Three :22/7/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part One

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 15/07/2013 at 17:55

Arwen Blackgrace

Part One

 

Seastone was a port town on an island and it thrived on trading goods and sailors spending money ashore. The sailors and their captains and their cabin boys would come ashore and spend money in the taverns and cathouses before sailing to another part of the world. And we in Seastone would be left to count their money and be ready for the next lot to come ashore.

A little way from the harbour was a small pub called The Hope and Anchor. I’d been working there a few weeks, scrubbing the floors and serving the drinks. At nights The Hope and Anchor would be full and I’d be weaving around the drunks to collect empty tankards.

I picked up an empty tankard from a table when a sailor grabbed me around the waist and pulled me onto his lap.

‘Hello there, girlie.’

His teeth were rotting and yellow, and his breath reeked of fish. I struggled to get up, but he wouldn’t let me go.

‘You’re a pretty one,’ he said. ‘How much for you, then?’

I clenched my teeth and thought that I was meant for better things than this.

A voice from across the pub spoke up. The voice of the landlord was soft and measured, but somehow rose over the noise of the pub.

‘Let the girl be.’

The sailor let go of me and I got to my feet.

‘I was only messing,’ he muttered.

I made my way to the bar and put the empty tankards down. The landlord, Giles, gave me a sympathetic look. His eyes were very blue and he had a small white beard. He gently put his hand on my arm.

‘Don’t let it bother you.’

I looked around the pub, at all of the drunks and the sailors. They had no idea who I was. If they knew then they would fall out of their chairs and go out of their way to treat me with respect. That made me smile.

Giles took out a heavy brass bell from the bar and gave it to me. ‘Time, please!’ He called while I rang the bell.

Last orders when taken and the old-timers shuffled out. As I snuffed out the candles, Giles took his keys from his belt to lock up. As he opened the door, I said, ‘Giles, I wanted to ask you-’

He raised a hand. ‘I’m very tired, lass,’ he said. He gently smiled and said, ‘Let’s talk about it in the morning.’

There was so much I wanted to ask, but instead I just nodded.

He said, ‘See you in the morning, Beatrice.’

I went upstairs to the room where I lived. The room was small and it had a dresser, though I hadn’t much use for it as I only had a few clothes. Out of the window I had a view of the harbour and the sea. I sat on the bed and looked outside and listened to the sounds from the sea.

After I left the orphanage and got the job at The Hope and Anchor I’d had to share a room with Giles in his house. It was a smaller room than this, with only a partition across it to separate where Giles and I slept. People gossiped about the landlord taking home his barmaid every night, but it was never anything like that. Even though I had the room above The Hope and Anchor now, I still heard snide comments about living with Giles.

I lay back on the bed and ignored sounds the drunken shouts of the sailors and the fake moaning of their women, and instead I focussed on the sea and the waves. I was told Giles Corrigan was a good man to work for. The girls who’d worked for him had left Seastone to sail away to other parts of the world.

There was so much I wanted to ask Giles. Every time I tried to question him it was always, ‘We’ll talk tomorrow’ or ‘Not now, lass.’  And when I did get him to talk about it, he never wanted to say much, just the same- ‘You can’t tell anybody about this’ and ‘You cannot tell a soul. If, God forbid, any of the Governor’s men should find out… The Governor hates the whole pack of Blackgraces, he’d hang every last one if he had a chance, so if ever he found out about you, Beatrice…’ Giles shook his head and wouldn’t say anymore.

I lay back on the bed and ran the name through my head- Blackgrace, Blackgrace, Blackgrace.

*****

A fist hammered against the front door. Early morning sunshine came through the window as I mopped the floor. The fist thumped at the door again.

‘We’re closed,’ I called.

Thump, thump, thump.

‘We’re closed,’ I called, and said to myself, ‘it’s the opposite of what open means.’

‘We’re here,’ the voice from behind the door said, ‘on the Governor’s business. Kindly open up.’

My heart beat a little faster. I put the mop in the bucket and went over to the door. I took out the bolt and moved the latch. Standing outside were three of the Governor’s officers. All three dressed in identical midnight blue uniform with sabres hanging at their sides. The officer at the door had a blonde moustache.

I said, ‘The landlord’s not in.’

Blonde-moustache officer said, ‘But we must come in.’

Meekly, I moved aside. Their boots echoed around the pub as they came inside. Two officers stood on either side of the pub and the third, with the moustache, sat down and took out a pipe.

‘I’m Lieutenant Wiseacre,’ he said filling his pipe with tobacco. ‘And you are Beatrice Seastone. Is that correct?’

I winced. Seastone was the surname given to any orphan on the island. It wasn’t uncommon. The sailors sometimes left the whores with more than their coin.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘if you want to speak to the landlord-’

‘That’s why we’re here,’ he said. ‘Giles Corrigan is dead.’

My insides turned cold.

Lieutenant Wiseacre said, ‘I was told you lived with him.’

‘Not anymore. I have a room above the pub…’

A sword tapped against the wall as an officer rocked back and forth on his heels.

‘There was a break-in. Somebody came into Corrigan’s room and shot him in the head.’ A puff of smoke came from the Lieutenant’s pipe. He took it from his mouth and said, ‘We were under the belief you lived with Giles Corrigan. So, where were you last night?’

‘Here.’

‘All night?’

‘Yes.’

‘Can anybody confirm this?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘Hmm,’ the Lieutenant replied. He puffed on his pipe.

I said, ‘I liked Giles. He was a good man. He looked after me, he didn’t mistreat me.’

‘Yet somebody put a fatal dent in his forehead.’ Lieutenant Wiseacre said, ‘Perhaps he had another woman?’

‘It wasn’t like that,’ I said.

‘You wouldn’t be the first jealous lover.’

Slowly I said, ‘It wasn’t like that.’

The Lieutenant looked at me and said nothing. The pipe smoke danced around his face. He took the pipe from his mouth to his hands. ‘Violent murder is something the Governor does not tolerate.’ He got to his feet. ‘If this is unsolved by the end of the day, the Governor himself may take a personal interest in the affairs of Giles Corrigan the landlord. The Governor does not tolerate murderers running free on his island.’

He beckoned to the other officers and led them to the door. As he stood in the doorway, he turned to say, ‘I would stay put. We may have need of you in the future.’

He left, closing the door behind him. I felt myself sinking to the floor and pressed my back against the bar and hugged my knees to my chest.

Giles was dead.

Shot.

And know I would never know…

That day, weeks ago, he’d said to me, ‘Beatrice, what do you know about the Blackgraces?’

I think I was washing mugs and tankards at the time.

‘Only stories,’ I’d said. ‘They’re pirates.’

He leaned closer to me. ‘Do you know about William Blackgrace’s child?’

I had said no and Giles, with some reluctance, told me.

‘The Blackgrace’s have always been the most revered pirates. William Blackgrace was the Captain, with his brother Byron was his second-in-command. William had a wife and two babies- a girl and a boy. While Captain Blackgrace was at sea, rivals kidnapped his wife and the children and held them hostage. The Captain was wild with rage. He and his brother Byron raised a fleet and stormed the island where his family were held. The rivals were slaughtered, but when William Blackgrace found his family his wife and son were dead.

‘His infant daughter, Arwen Blackgrace, was never found. William Blackgrace was convinced his daughter was alive and taken somewhere, maybe to be ransomed again. He searched for years.’

I said, ‘And the baby?’

‘The baby was never found. Nobody knows what happened to her. This was…nearly twenty years ago,’ Giles said. ‘She was looked for, a girl with red hair and blue eyes. And…’ he said, ‘and a scar. A long scar on her left shoulder.’

I was an orphan, abandoned as a baby, never known who my parents were. I was seventeen. My hair was red. My eyes were blue. For as long as I could remember there had been a scar on my left shoulder. I had no idea how I got it.

‘Giles…’

‘You mustn’t say anything about this, Beatrice.’ His watery blue eyes stared hard at me. ‘You cannot tell a soul. We’d both be in danger if anybody knew.’

All my life I had felt like I had never fitted it. Not at the orphanage as a child, not as an older girl, looking after the new orphans. Not even here, at The Hope and Anchor, had I felt like I belonged. I had always felt there had to be somewhere else for me. Somewhere I really, truly, belonged.

But Giles was murdered.

He may have been the only one who knew if I really was Arwen Blackgrace. For a moment, I thought what if he was killed because of me? Everyone thought I was living with him? The Blackgraces were feared-

I dismissed this. Nobody knew. I didn’t even know Giles knew about the scar on my shoulder.

I got off the floor and rushed to the front door. I quickly put the latch on and bolted the door. I told myself there was nothing to be afraid of.

*****

My mind was full of thoughts I couldn’t fully grasp. From the window in the room I live in, I watched the ships make their way from the port and towards the horizon. I wished I could disappear into the horizon like that.

No noise stirred me until I heard glass shattering at the very back of the pub.

I stood up and crept out of the room and onto the landing.

A hushed voice said, ‘-bloody tell everyone that we’re here.’

‘Would you hush up,’ said another voice.

‘You’re the one making all the noise.’

Peering over the landing, I could see the two men in dark clothing. One was large and bald, the other was small and had thick black hair.

‘It’s the one with the scar we want,’ the bald one said. My eyes widened. ‘And the red hair.’

One looked at the other. ‘Just how many bloody girls do you think Corrigan’s got stashed here?’

‘Never know with old Corrigan.’

They were making their way around the bar and towards the stairs. I crept back into my room, heart pounding. They might have been Giles’ murderers. Their being here and Giles’ death could not be a coincidence.

The men were heading towards the stairs. I looked about but I could see nowhere to hide. The steps on the stairs creaked as they ascended.

******

Part Two: 18/7/13

Not Much Of A Blog/Notes About John Green

In American, Essay, Literature, Writing on 24/03/2013 at 20:52

Not Much Of A Blog

I’m aware that I’m not very good at updating this blog regularly, even at the best of times it can be weeks before I post something new,  so if you have been waiting I’m sorry for the wait. But I have excuses. The biggest one is, perhaps, that I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to say. I’ve been taking baby steps to get back into writing, but my development as a writer never seems to go forwards, just sideways. In an overly priced creative writing handbook I bought there was one piece of advice that struck me and that was that you shouldn’t write only about yourself and your experiences. Again, I’m aware I’m failing at this advice, but only recently has my life opened up again and I’ve been able to think about things that aren’t myself. I’m hoping not thinking about myself too much will get the writing forward.

Instead of a full blog post I thought I’d try and make it up with two short posts. This is the first one. The second is about an author I’ve gotten into. His name is John Green.

Notes About John Green

Last December I picked up John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars (2012) after reading somebody likening it to The Great Gatsby (1925). I don’t take comparisons with Gatsby lightly so I decided to read it and see. The Fault In Our Stars completely knocked me out. It’s a brilliant, funny and tragic look at the relationship between two cancer survivors. The tone is a perfect blend of tragedy, love, comedy and poetry. I loved it. I loved it so much that I spent January working my way through his three other novels- Looking For Alaska (2005), An Abundance of Katherines (2006) and Paper Towns (2008).

My favourite of his works, or at least, the one that affected me most personally, was Paper Towns. Quentin (referred to as Q) is in love with the girl next door, Margo. One night she breaks him out to join her for a night of pranks. The next morning she goes missing and Q is determined to find her. John Green keeps the audience on their toes about where this part-quest part-detective story is going until the sad, beautiful ending which brings together everything the novel has been subtlety pointing towards. To say anymore would risk spoilers. Q’s journey is one worth joining with as little foreknowledge as possible.

My theory of why an author can become one of somebody’s favourite authors is that they write about things you want to read about in a style that you want to read. John Green is that for me. These wonderful books moved me and made me laugh and inspired me and made me curse that he put into words so effortlessly what I have wanted to say.

The elephant in the room with John Green is that his novels are Young Adult novels. This really put me off them at first. I admit I looked down at YA because a mature young man such as myself should not been seen reading teenage books. But it is wrong to say that John Green writes about teenagers. Yes, his characters are teenagers, but what Green writes about is being human. The characters are relatable as they deal with the same things we all must- sex and love and death, and he writes about this with humour and poetry.

Much has been said about John Green so I don’t have much more to add other than I believe in 50 years people will still be reading The Fault In Our Stars. It is not just a modern classic but a straight up classic.

So take yourselves off to the YA section of your local bookstore and do not be ashamed- these books are not just for teenagers, they speak to a much wider audience that than.

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