Good Evening Empirical Puzzlers,
@Kikyo requested a short story inspired by the idea that Majana has a hand in the curse of the Pirates of Correllia.
Here’s the first few paragraphs.
Just for starters:
Lady Mary-Jane glanced out of the drawing room window. Standing on the cliffs, the house always had beautiful views of the shores of Windermere.
But she her eyes never paid heed to the surf, or the gulls or the glistening sunset.
Well, maybe the sunset. Because one day, the silhouette might return; the black sails of a frigate, framed by the dying sun. ‘Dying’ an apt word indeed…or perhaps not… undying was closer to the mark.
“Perhaps you’d play us something, Mary-Jane?”
Thrown back into the present, Mary-Jane smiled and collected her thoughts.
“Oh hurrah, gather round one and all, none can compare with the Lady of Windermere when it comes to the piano forté!”
The speaker, Lord James of Ogron, beckoned the guests around, and made a great show of shushing two maids who were attempting to clear away the tea.
“What, would you have me play, sir?” She asked, obediently.
“I have a request” came a voice, confident, intense.
“Play Moonlight Serenade; it was one of your favourites… Marjana”
She blanched, the voice all at once a sweet honey to her heart and a freezing chill to the spine.
She looked up, scanning the throng of vapid, pasty faces of the gathered gentry and found him. His swarthy skin drank the candlelight, but it was him, all intrepid power in this sea of well-heeled pomposity. Colen.
“I have… forgotten it…” She murmured weekly.
“I doubt it” Colen replied “and I am sure, they have not forgotten you. Tomorrow, they will come. On the Cloudloft tide.”
Marjana heaved the chest from the wardrobe. Why now? How had they traced her? Five years of playing the dutiful lady. Five dull, dull years. But she had been safe.
Except at night when they sailed into her dreams. Some had bothered her less, Boomer for instance, a violent swine who had never deserved happiness. But Peters? A child, condemned to undeath before his sixteenth birthday? The accusation, the disappointment. The bitterness in his eyes. Those had been the dreams that haunted her most.
Well, there would be a reckoning now.
She pulled her things from the trunk, her duelling glove, stiff with neglect, her blades and cutlass. She stood to to tie her bandana across her brow and started to put on her earrings.
There was a crash as the door flew open and one of the maids tumbled in.
“Sorry ma’am, I said you were…”
" What is the meaning of this Mary-Ja - what on earth are you wearing? You look like a bally pirate?!"
“Yes, James, I’m going.”
“You are most certainly not. It would be a scandal. The Lady of Windermer dressing like some buccaneer harlot.”
Smack. Her leather-glad backhand sent him spinning. That would loosen up the fibres.
" How dare you strike me, you hussey!? Your husband may have been a friend of mine, but that won’t save you now. I’ll call out the militia. I’ll have you on a charge by dawn!"
Red faced, Marjana tried to move past the seething lord but he put his hand across her chest.
“You’re not going anywhere, harlot”
Before she could grasp control of herself it happened; a torrent of molten liquid fire errupted from her outstretched palms, throwing her assailant across the room, melting the very stones of the wall behind him and burning his rotund corpse into a fatty slag on the floor beams…
She fled, leaving the maid cowering in the hallway. She leapt the stairs and burst into the courtyard. Dashing across the cobbles she came to the stable. Could she get a horse saddled before the other guests noticed her absence? Or the smoke??
" I’ve missed that perfume" it was Colen, leaning in the doorway, a wry smile on his lips.
He sniffed the air "ash, basalt and a subtle hint of…singed velvet?
Steel-shod hooves clattered along the flagstones as they raced into the night.
“You know where this journey ends, if you stay?”
“Probably in a brutal and unforgiving death, dear Marjana”
“Perhaps, but if we are to undo this thing we are going to have to go to…The Guild”.
She saw the distaste sour Colen’s flippant grin and a trace of anxiety wrinkle his heavy brow.
“Well, I did say unforgiving… "
“Rigard will take us in, we need answers and we need to use the Library.”
“The Library is no problem. The warden is a little resolute but I will charm her. But Rigard?” He sucked his teeth.
“Fine”, replied Marjana. You deal with Prisca and I will smooth things over with your brother”.
As the coastal path wound around the cliffs, the horses slowed, tired after their masters hasty midnight flight. Colen and Marjana sat stiffly in their saddles, hunched over a little against the sea breeze.
As they gained the summit of the bluff the sun broke over the horizon.
“Eugh, dawn at last, gosh that Sun is dazzling.”
She winced and looked away, the afterglow dancing across her vision - a perfect hemisphere burned onto her eyes. Perfect? No, a small silhouette cut across the flat line of the sea and sun.
Her stomach churned as she shielded her eyes and squinted into the sun. And there, barely perceptible against the impossible brightness Marjana saw the shape.
“They are already here” she breathed.
Without even looking back for Colen, she kicked the horse into a flat out gallop.