[Mock-Fiction] V - Fures Misericordiam

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Aye. Tis me again.

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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32. 30 – Normandy

The seas were calm for most of the voyage. Mariqah watched passed the railing as they sailed, knowing that it hardly mattered what weather it was. The MB Story Teller was a brig, but that didn’t mean it had constant contact with the sea. It belong to Timelords, after all – and why spend months at sea, when you could so easily transport cargo and people in the blink of an eye with a Piece of Eden? At present, it was sailing through the sky, high above the reach of any fabled sea monster.

The Timelord in question – the aforementioned, Ahlaam Nightshade – was a woman Mariqah took an immediate liking to (and perhaps Jess had wisely pointed her out for this reason). She didn’t look a day passed twenty years old, but was well over six centuries by Earth’s time. She was a Muslim in faith, and so wore a religious head-covering (of a very expensive quality, Mariqah noticed), but fashioned herself in a casual jumper and baggy jeans, wedge-heeled boots, very little jewellery and an apparent distaste for make-up.

 

Mariqah herself – changed out of her pirate gear – was dressed in a leather jacket, tight black jeans, heavy boots and a plain white shirt. Her Damascus, of course, stayed faithfully at her side and her drawstring hung loosely on her back. The journey to Normandy wouldn’t take more than a few hours, she knew. She felt impatient and worried at the same time. She was pining for the company of brutes more than anything on the inside. It was like a clawing feeling in her stomach, an aching, a can’t-live-without. But at the same time… she wondered at how they would greet her. Mariqah hadn’t exactly left in the way any of them expected – she didn’t so much as say a good-bye to anyone but Khadir. Would they welcome her heartily? Or would they shun her? She didn’t deserve anything less than shunning. And then there was the new predicament that Dante had written about…

 

“Everything alright, Rogue?” asked Ahlaam, coming up behind Mariqah.

“Aye,” she mumbled in response, “aye, everything’s fine.”
“That…” Ahlaam paused as she tried to find the correct words, “that leap back in time really shook you, didn’t it?”

“I…” Mariqah sighed and gulped down a lump that had formed in her throat, “Nothing I did over there was seen as… overtly strange. Everyone treated me like I… as myself. Even if I didn’t like all of them and the way some of them acted… They accepted me. They sang with me, fought with me, spoke to me without rebuke…” she leaned her head against the banister and closed her eyes, “For a moment… I belonged somewhere. And it didn’t matter if I was eating half-cooked lizards, or drinking sour rum – I felt… I felt good. I miss it now, now that it’s gone. I’ve been in this long search for ‘home’. I went home to London, and… I don’t know. I suppose I felt relieved of some burdens, but it wasn’t… whole, you know? And then I went over there and… it was the same. Not whole.”
 

“Maybe the barracks is where your home is.”
“Is it?” asked Mariqah, “They aren’t family. And I wouldn’t say they were… friends. I mean some of them are, but for the most part – they’re my students. My lads. No mother there, no father. No brothers, no sisters. No… no husband. Just children. And a few helpers. It’s more of an orphanage than a family house.”

“But you belong there, don’t you?” asked Ahlaam, “I mean, you feel at home there, don’t you? All this time you’ve been worrying about them, over your own comfort. You’ve missed them and that.”

“I… don’t know,” said Mariqah, “It sounds stupid though, ‘At last she realised that home was where she’d been for the last twenty blooming years of her life’…” Mariqah snorted, “Maybe I am a fool.”

 

“Well, we’re approaching our destination. Where should I dock?”

“You’re the captain, Nightshade, not me.”
“I know, but you know Normandy better than I do. And I’ve never been.”

“Hmm,” Mariqah straightened, “I’d say that Port de Vernon is a good one. Not too crowded and well-kept. The deck-hands are good too.”

 

* * * * *

 

Khadir had received word of Mariqah’s arrival in Nassau and her speedy return to Normandy. He was grateful for her haste, for he’d long tired from the responsibility that came with keeping mercenaries. For all her crimes, Mariqah was correct in her most common phrase:

Men are ever children.”
 

He hadn’t understood it while she’d been barking orders about laundry and decent bathing, but now he did – and Khadir was all for giving up leadership in such a huge compound. He hadn’t told many of the Midnight Rogue’s coming, but Myra Castelle was amid the few he let know.

And she seemed the most embittered by such news.

Being the only female mercenary in a barracks made it hard to converse some obvious feminine issues – and that’s where often Mariqah had come in. But after finding out that her fiancé, the Mentor Richard, had been… mingling with Abbess Bianca; and then finding no Mariqah to comfort her – Myra had built a solid wall of contempt for all three persons.

“Why should we accept her back anyway, eh?” Myra had told Khadir, “She abandoned us! All of us! If you ask me, we should leave her to her pleading. We’re managing just fine without.”

 

But the few others that had been told didn’t agree. For one, they understood Mariqah’s departure. It was more an escape from her sorrow than it was an escape from the mercenaries. The losses from the Wars had hit Mariqah badly, wounding her as far as her sanity. Khadir still vividly remembered how Mariqah had wailed at the passing of her soldiers, and her sorrow at having to lose Darim to nothing less than necessity of time-placement.

She’d needed a break.

Additionally… all the mercenaries were more or less abandoned from birth or in their early childhood to begin with – by people who were supposed to be responsible for them. Mariqah had taken them in, trained them, made them cry and made them laugh. She knew them all, individually, at their best and at their worst. She took responsibility for them and made aimless wanderers into men of high standing. She had made soldiers out of scoundrels, scum into salt. And she loved each and every one of them dearly – and such was shown by her grief when any of them died.

It didn’t make sense that Mariqah would abandon them.

 

Khadir gathered the few he had told and had them meet in the commander’s study. The shelves were emptied and the desk cleared. He had ordered that none but these selected few should know – four to be exact: Myra, Irwin, Kurt, and Zhou. He reckoned that Mariqah would be tired and unable to deal with a large welcoming party. Better that that was prepared in the morning after she was well-rested and welcomed by her lieutenants.

Only, Myra did not show up – bearing the grudge that she did.

Khadir stood waiting with the three other men, knowing that a Timelord was bringing Mariqah.

 

In a shimmer of white, she and Ahlaam appeared, the latter holding an Apple of Eden in her hand.

 

There was a moment of stunned silence.

It didn’t take long for the lump in Mariqah’s throat to give way and let out a small, piteous yelp; and for her eyes to sting and stream tears. Khadir caught her as she grasped her mouth and nearly crumpled.

“God bless you lads, how sorry am I!” she cried, “How sorry am I to have left my duty and to have left my land and to have left my loved ones! How sorry am I!” she touched her face and her forehead, as the mercenaries murmured reassurances, “Ah! Would that I could have made this moment last! There’s trouble brewin’ – and I’ve been late to come to it’s acknowledgement.”

 

“Trouble?” asked Zhou, “What trouble, madam?”

“We are besieged!”

Irwin laughed, “Oh, tosh! I see no army waitin’ outside our walls!”

Mariqah composed herself and grasped his shoulder, “We’re besieged from the moment we know the army’s comin’, lad,” she said, “Dante sent me word that the Emperor’s musterin’ a force to beat down this stronghold. That were a month ago, now the scoundrel’s probably sendin’ ‘em here. There’s much to prepare, but we’ll get to that in the mornin’. Now I want soldiers on the battlements, on the watch – the shifts being four hours, no more,” she paused, “That is… if ye’ll hark my orders any longer?”

“Of course we will,” said Khadir solemnly.

“The rest I’ll leave for the mornin’ then,” she looked at each of them, “Tell ev’ryone of my return.”

“You’ll be disturbed, madam, all night long,” said Kurt.

“It’s no less than I deserve, lad,” she scoffed, “I’m a fool. My father, you sired a fool!”

And that would have been the end of the night’s discussion…

 

Had Mr Wraggs not appeared – with a familiar entourage alongside him.

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