[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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35. 33 – What’s in it for Me?

The ringing of steel and sharpening of sword filled Mariqah’s ears as she approached the courtyard.

Novices training.

It was her favourite thing to watch. It was like observing a popular sport, only she always got the front-row seat (indeed, she was more the referee) and everything you barked at the players, they listened to. But as she stood next to the current teacher – Hans – she wondered whether the novices would take on her advice.

 

“Mornin’, ma’am,” said Hans, thickly, his arms crossed over his chest and his face bereft of emotion as he watched his students.

“Aye,” Mariqah mumbled, “mind if I take over?”
Hans snorted, “Of course, but with a siege on, I’d’ve reckoned you’d take on more serious work – like digging stakes around the fortress walls and such. It seems as good a sport as any for you, with all your singing and mud-laying.”

“Well… I suppose my absence has been long,” she ducked under the rail, into the training ring, “If I’m to start anywhere, might as be at the bottom, eh?”

Hans snorted his amusement in response.

 

She looked around the ring, hesitating. These were new recruits, ones that she had not interviewed and she had not approved. For a moment, Mariqah thought she felt a twinge of annoyance and nervousness. She hated not being on top of everything. Amid the crashing of sword and the startled grunts of young boys, she thought she could see Leonardo, Dante’s son, bashing his way through his opponent. That gave her some comfort, as she knew him – even if just by a little more than the others.

She drew her sword, “Alright, gather around, lads,” she said.

The fighting stopped and there was a pause, as if she was something alien and strange.

“Come on,” she beckoned, “in a circle.”

Slowly, they did as they were told. “Where are we? In kindergarten?” she heard one of them mutter.

“Aye,” she said to the young boy of about fifteen, “aye, if you act like you belong there.”
 

“Now,” she said standing in the centre, “I’ve been away for a while and I’m afraid to say that I don’t know any of you all too well. But aside from your names, what’s more important at the current time are your fighting skills. Of course each of you is at a certain level, but it seems that you haven’t been grouped as of yet and–”

“Grouped? What are we? Animals?” said the same boy.

“Again, if you act like it,” said Mariqah, “As I was saying, I’ll have to test your mettle, individually, so that you can be sorted into groups.”
“What are you? The sorting hat?”
Mariqah ignored the boy, “Don’t fret if you are in the lower tier, and don’t flaunt if you are in the higher tier. Each and every one of you has the potential to be an able-bodied soldier, and at the same each and every one of you has the potential to be a depressed cripple. And–”

“Oh, come on!” hollered the boy, “I’ve been here for months, and I’ve been learning fine with Mr Hans Drexler! And then this woman comes along and thinks she’s got some sort of hold over me? I say we–”

 

The boy paused as he saw Mariqah stare at him – more with interest than with anger. An urge told him to look away, but too late. Her foot dropped down on his head and he crumpled, then his face slapped against the sand as she kicked him again – blood from his mouth streaking out and blotting the grains.

She squatted next to him, “Ye’ll not say a thing, lad, besides what I bid ye to,” she rasped, “What’s your name?”

“M-Michael,” the boy whimpered, shielding his face with his arm.

“Michael what?”

“D-don’t ‘ave a surname.”
“What’s your mother’s?”

“I-I don’t know.”
“Well, Michael,” she continued to rasp, “I’m the Midnight Rogue. Pleasure to meet ye. Tell me, where’re ye from?”

“New Y-York.”
“Ah, the city that never sleeps, eh? Well, let me tell you some’un – you continue to disrupt my class, and you won’t get a wink o’ sleep! You ‘ear me? Behave yourself, else you don’t wanna know what kinda hold I ‘ave!” she stood up and barked, “Now be a good lad – get up, go sit in that corner with your hands on your head and your tail between your legs! And stay there ‘til I tell ye t’move!”

 

* * * * *

 

“Eh, Michael!”

 

Michael looked up from his supper, the tangy food burning the cut in his mouth and the bite on his tongue. He chewed uncomfortably, before acknowledging the presence of his least favourite teacher. He looked down and didn’t reply.

“Michael!” Mariqah called again, and sat down next to him and another novice, “Where’ve you been, mate? I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for you.”
“What…” said Michael, “what for… madam?”

“I wanted to send you with the hunting team,” she replied, “reckoned it might be good for you. They’re waiting for you, so eat up.”
“I… I don’t understand.”

“Hunting,” repeated Mariqah, slowly, “Yankies have that in their vocabulary, right? Or is that only a British term?”
“No, no, I mean…” he looked away and mumbled, “You beat me up.”

“Aye,” said Mariqah.

“Why’re… Why’re you being nice to me now?”

“Because strippin’ a man of his pride is more than enough punishment for tryin’ to take mine,” she replied, “I don’t like being mean, Mike, but you kept askin’ for it. And it’d be rude not to hand your arse to you after all the naggin’ you did,” she laughed, “Now eat up, the teams waitin’ for you at the entrance,” she stood up, “And, Mike – I know you grew up in an orphanage, the carer never really cared and you used to get picked on; and I and the older lads’ll pick on you jus’ the same. But we’ll be family to you yet, mate, you read me?”
Michael stared at her, his mouth agape, but then mumbled, “Yes… yes, madam.”
“Good,” she walked off to the other side of the mess hall.

 

The mercenaries, as was customary amongst them, sat on the floor and ate with their hands on simple dishes. The little luxury that they did get was the plush, expensive cushions that they used for leaning against. There wasn’t a decent table in sight, aside from the single short-legged table that stood in a corner, which was Mariqah’s spot. She’d objected to it’s presence – having said she didn’t want to be different from the others – but Khadir insisted that she’d continue to get food on official documents if she didn’t have a table to place them or read them. She made for her spot, listening to her Scottish lads play the fiddle and sing an ancient ballad about ‘Maggie Lauder’. She didn’t understand a word, but it was a pleasant song all the same.

“There’s been enough quiet, I should think,” she said to herself, “let ‘em laugh and be happy.”
 

Mariqah sat in her corner, leaning back against a few cushions, and ate from a bowl filled with pitted black olives. She sighed, and picked up the sheets lying on the table and read them one at a time. One was a night-watch rota that Khadir had drawn up and wanted a second opinion on, the others were letters.

“That doesn’t look right…” she muttered, reading a letter from the dock at St Gabriel, “that’s a seriously arrogant number…”

“Numbers can be arrogant now?”

 

Mariqah looked up and smiled, “Captain Kenway! Still looking dark and mean, I see.”
“A happy look is one that suits you,” he said, standing over her and putting his hands to his hips, “May I join you?”

“You’re more than welcome,” she said, gesturing for him to sit opposite her, “How’re you finding Normandy?”
“Well enough,” he said, “and all the more, seeing as this is the merriest I’ve seen you.”
“Well…” she shrugged, “I’m home.”
He smiled and looked around, “Aye. At home with your thousand children.”
“Couldn’t’ve put it better myself,” she grinned, “and about a hundred more to be born yet. Banter aside,” she straightened up, “I’ve a job for you. One you might like.”
“Hmm… What’ll you give me?”

 

Mariqah paused and caught onto the Scottish lads singing the Golden Vanity: “Oh, I will give you silver, and I will give you gold,

And the hand of my daughter – young, bonny, bright and wee,

If you’ll swim alongside the Spanish enemy,

And you’ll sink her in the–

The mercenaries joined in:

Lowland, Lowland, Lowland, Low –

And you’ll sink her in the Lowland sea!

 

Edward raised his brows, amused, “I’m not sure I like you happy.”
“Nobody’s sure of that,” Mariqah replied, “I’m asking you in friendship, mate. And with my purse in my mind, considering the, um, wars,” she showed him her sheaf of papers, “I’m being asked to help with.”
“Mm,” Edward leaned back on his hands, “does it concern sailing?”

“Um, duh.”

“I’m listening.”
“I need you to launch a blockade. Word has it that your ships came with you – the Jackdaw, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and so on.”

“Aye, word is right. But a blockade on England… We’ll need more ships than that.”

“No, not a blockade on England – on Normandy.”
“Normandy?”

 

“Aye, see here,” she showed him the letter from St Gabriel, “it says there’s no more than a hundred soldiers comin’ our way, which is madness and idiocy meltin’ in a broth pot! There comin’ here to die. So, I reckon – the Emperor’s sending reinforcements. But here’s the catch – if you’re there to sink his transport, there will be no reinforcements and this… business can be cleared up well and quickly.”

“I see,” said Edward, “So… I’m guessing that this is going to be a bore.”

“Most probably. But it’s sailin’ and you do get to sink one ship. My… eyes and ears tell me that the ship that dropped these soldiers off is still in harbour. Clear it of any crew members and the captain, take what you like and sink her.”

Edward considered the idea, “All right. I’ll have a hand in your war. But what about the other ships that come along. Would you want me to spare those deckhands too?”

“No. I feel that’s too much to ask o’ you. Just the one that’s docked. It’s called…” she referred to her papers, “The Queen’s Nose,” she furrowed her brows and mouthed the name again, wondering which idiot named it that, “it’s a brig.”

 

“Madam!” the Scots were calling her, “Madam, could we have a song?”

Edward looked at her with surprised expectancy.

“Aye, you’re a blessed man, Edward. Few beyond these walls here me sing,” she said, laughing, and then rose to her feet, “Since I didn’t say good-bye, I reckon that’s due,” she looked away, momentarily, “Even if terribly late,” there was light laughter:

 

Of all the money that e’er I had,

I spent it in good company;

And all the harm that e’er I’ve done,

Alas it was to none but me.

And all I’ve done for want of wit –

To mem’ry now, I can’t recall.

So fill to me, the parting glass:

Goodnight and joy be with you all.

She nodded to the fiddler and tapped the beat with her foot,

Of all the comrades that e’er I had,

They’re sorry for my going away,

And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve loved,

They’d wish me one more day to stay.

But since it falls unto my lot,

That I should rise and you should not.

I’ll gently rise and softly call:

Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Goodnight and joy be with you all.”

 

“How’d I do?” she asked Edward, retiring to her seat.

“You’re a siren on land,” he replied wistfully.

“Aye, and much better than your sailors.”

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