The strangest thing happened today – but I’ll get to that.
Georgie finally succumbed to the offer, and the girls have moved in permanently. And Georgie tells me that she might be pregnant – which is both exciting and distressing news (seeing as her husband isn’t here, and his fate has still to be determined by the outcome of the war). The girls were so happy, to be taken into the house. The refurbishments are complete and the lump-sum of the house has been paid.
This is now our new home. We’ve yet to decide what to call it. I suggested Shadownight Manor, but I assume the girls would want something more original – it is their house as much as mine, after all.
Georgie gave me one condition, in order for her children to grow up in this house – I was never to disclose my true profession until they were old enough to understand. I told her that I wouldn’t tell them, but I know they will find that sort of thing out eventually – as inquisitive and curious as they are.
In return, I’d laid down my own condition: That in the case of emergencies, I be given full authority of the measures to be taken.
“Emergency?” Georgie had said, he brows furrowed, “Is that sort of thing going to be frequent?”
“No,” I had replied, “at least, I hope not. But precautions must be made. I have things prepared.”
I sighed, “Are you sure you want to know? They aren’t the most conventional of protection methods – but they’re child-proof.”
She paused, “I’ll leave it to you then, so long as you know what you’re doing.”
I’ll have to get that agreement in writing, later. A lesson I’d learned from the barracks – if you want to make something time-proof: Put it in writing and have it signed.
I wonder how Georgie feels about living with me. I couldn’t possibly have her full trust, not after she saw that Iron Maiden (even though it’s long gone now). And, I’m an in-law – which was never the most classical friendship to be made. I don’t know. Perhaps she’ll come round, and trust me eventually. For now, however, she’s pleasant and smiles but keeps her children close to her – not that I begrudge this action.
Thomas had come around today, to remove whatever was left of his property in the house. He’d scared the girls by good measure – the ugly, white scar cutting through his face on a diagonal only looked more grotesque if he smiled – but that didn’t seem to bother him (although… I do believe Georgie had a fleeting moment of doubt in our agreement on seeing him).
“Sorry, t’ave scared ye,” he said, chuckling. He had an Irish accent. “I’m ‘ere for one Midnight Shadownight.”
I saw Queenie staring wide-eyed at the sharp cutlass hanging from his belt, and the flintlock pistols in his holsters. He wore a long blue frock-coat and tan-coloured breaches, suede shoes and white stockings. Surprisingly no feathered hat, however. Every other time I had seen him, he’d wore a hat.
“Welcome, Thomas,” I said, supressing a grin.
Georgie’s reaction had immediately turned from fear to interest, “So you’re Captain Rogue, are you?” she asked.
“Aye, that,” he said, and turned to me, “I didn’t ken ye had kids.”
“These are my nieces, Thomas,” I said, standing behind the girls, and then gesturing to Georgie, “and this is my sister, Georgia.”
He scoffed, “Ye look nothin’ alike.”
“Well, sister by marriage, Thomas.”
“Ah, I see, why ye needed this house an’ all.”
“I’ll get you a cup of tea, eh?” I offered, “And then we can get some work done,” I made for the kitchen, Georgie scurrying in behind us, “How have the tides been, Thomas? Favourable, I hope.”
“Aye, Fate is a fickle mistress I’m afraid,” he said, taking off his coat and easing himself into a chair, “Though she does give us the odd prize, the Waters ‘ave been awfully calm. Your lieutenant’s written t’you, by the way,” he pulled out a piece of paper from his sleeve and laid it on the table, as I put a kettle on the stove and lit the fire, “Said I should give this t’you,” I watched as Georgie sat a seat away from him, a look of eagerness on her face.
I took the letter, and skimmed through it with a frown, “War in South France. Wonderful,” I said.
“Ye’ll not be goin’?” said Thomas, his brows raised.
“No,” I said, putting the letter down, “I’ll write to Khadir tonight. My lieutenant will understand that I have new responsibilities. Hopefully you’ll stay, and deliver it for me when you leave in the morning?”
“I’ve ne’er turned down the offer of a comfy bed from a fair wench,” Thomas laughed, “and I’ll not begin now.”
Georgie gave me a look. I ignored it and poured the tea into three cups, laying out a plate of cakes and biscuits before our guest.
“So,” said Georgie, “What of your adventures with our mercenary, Captain Rogue?”
“Please, call me Thomas or Tom,” he said, “an’ I don’t ken what ye meant by that.”
“Oh, surely there are some tales of your gallantry on the High Seas?”
Thomas paused, and then gave me a look, “Where’d your brother find this woman?”
Georgie scowled, as I said, “She’s an enchantress, Thomas. Watch your tongue.”
“But gallantry?” Thomas scoffed, “I ain’t no medieval knight!”
“Aye, that you aren’t,” I replied, sitting down opposite Georgie.
“But… No sea battles? No grand prizes?” said Georgie, “Tom?”
“The world ain’t what it used t’be, lass,” he replied, leaning forward, “It’s a lot more twisted than it was back in the 18th century, when piratin’ was more like earnin’ a living t’feed your family. Now, though… it’s more about gettin’ paid by who wins or dyin’ at the hands of those who lose,” he paused, “Many sea battles, aye. An’ several grand prizes. But nothin’ I’m proud of. Nothin’ that I’ll tell wi’ a cheery face. It’s why I sold this house t’you, Midnight,” he looked at me, and what a strange look it was, “It’s why I sold this place t’you, at a third o’ its original price – so some’un might soften my hard pebble for a heart.”
He’s so sweet! Georgie mouthed to me, as Thomas kept his attention on my face.
“I… uh,” I said, looking away from Georgie, “I should go and get started on all your stuff that I’ve stowed in the attic. Pack them for you.” I got up and left the table.
* * * * *
Indeed things had changed in the world. As I packed up the several items in the attic, I thought on all the political madness that was going around. We were safe from it, at least. Our plots of land – in Normandy, and (at Asa’s disposal) in Bengal – were safe from monarchical hands, but the rest of the world… they were suffering again, in constant war. I suppose I should be grateful, it’s the kind of thing that I make money out of, but it bites with anxiety.
The main superpowers in Europe were of King Francis V of France (who called on my service often, as I was near at hand in Normandy) and Queen Isabella VIII of Spain (who despised me thoroughly). I got the odd commission from the crippling monarch of Britain, King Henry XII, and the lecherous dictator of Italy, King Silvio I (who, I believed, commissioned me more for his own entertainment, than fighting wars – since he never seemed to take the latter seriously and enjoyed irritatingly long conversations with me).
In Asia, things were more complicated – much to the thanks of my younger brother, Asa – as the larger nations had been divided, at first by tribalism, and later split into independent countries. Things were no better off in Africa and the Americas, but we had no land there, so news of those continents were scarce and commissions: rare.
It was funny… our occupations were valued and respected in the world as it is. It, I feel, is largely due to the work of my ancestor, Sir Shagor the Shadow. His is a story worth telling. Perhaps I should consider documenting it. I’ll see.
Other professions, however, were more feared than respected. There were pockets of nihilist groups – mafia groups, if you will – all dotting the world with their hatred and corruption – assassinating leaders and causing raucous to help cripple the world in its current state. Though… I suppose I’m not one to judge. I’m sure they have their reasons for the ways they feel and act. The most common nihilist group are the Chess Pieces, and perhaps my only true rival. Nations called on me often, and didn’t make an enemy of me – but the Chess Pieces… I had broken the Shadownight oath, by making them a clear and undoubted enemy.
And it endangered us in many ways, my ancestors philosophy ruined at my hand.
But that’s a story for another time.
Today, however, when Thomas came up to help me pack away his things, we got into a long and uncomfortable conversation.
He had proposed to me – that much was not surprising.
What was surprising was that I had accepted, almost answering before he had finished asking. I had to immediately reconsider, by saying, “I don’t know,” lamely.
“I ken I’m a pirate,” Thomas had said, “and I ken I’ve been through a lot o’ women. But if I ‘ave you… if I ‘ave ye, Midnight, there’ll ne’er be another woman who’ll satisfy me. I’ll make that sacrifice for ye. As for my drinkin’ habit – it won’t stop all-together, that much is clear. But I’ll cut down. Maybe even stop entirely in eventuality. We’ve been through so many things together, Midnight… Please, give me a one chance?”
That’s another contract I will have to write up, it would seem.
I like Thomas.
Perhaps somewhere in my heart, I could love him – even if he was a sailor and more blonde than the sun, and drank rum by the keg.
A pirate, though he might be, he had the heart of any chivalrous knight that existed in this day and age.