3. 1 - Extract from Midnight Shadownight-Rogue's Journal
Why do I agree to the things Thomas wants to do? I've lived long enough, haven't I? Known him for years, even before our fateful marriage?
What part of my brain just shuts off when Thomas thinks up a plan?
Because I want it removed: if that is its only purpose.
My fortress in Normandy was a cold place, it rained often and the chill in the air was impossible to rid, even in the summer. The wet dew sat like a cold sweat on everything it touched each morning, and damp roamed the stone turrets, mould lived in the corners of bedroom walls and needed to be cleaned regularly. Men, who have seen death at the point of sword and survived, would succumb to a frosted end every winter in scores.
I never thought I would long for that toil and torture.
This jungle was damp hell, hot and humid - mosquitoes stealing snacks from my body when they got the chance. I used to own a stronghold in Bengal, and one of my primary reasons for conceding to my lesser-able brother was because of the weather. How Thomas stood this weather, these surroundings for the better half of his life I will never understand.
“The Fountain of freaking Youth, Thomas?” I moaned, putting a hand to my head, “Kenny is in a goddamn coma and we're looking for the Fountain of Youth - which has been left untouched and unfound by better sailors and better explorers than you for the last umpteen-thousand years? How does that even make sense?”
As he cut away foliage with a machete ahead of us, I heard Thomas chuckle, “Will ye quit your whinin'?” he asked, putting the knife away.
He took my hand and dragged me along the jungle floor, our feet sloshing through murky pools of filthy water. I could feel my feet squelching in the mud below, and thanked God for my shoes and leather socks. I didn't care if my feet were wet with sweat, so long as they weren't covered in toad-shit or whatever it was that shat in this water, I was alright.
“I'm serious, Thomas,” I replied, “We should be at home, with the kids, with Georgia and Asa and William, and all the others.”
Thomas stopped and turned. He wiped the sweat off his brow and sighed, the dimming sunlight falling in streaks over his face because of the thick canopy above. The ugly diagonal scar that just missed his right eye, shone white across his countenance, “The one time I bring ye along, Midnight, and all ye can do is worry!”
“Well I wasn't going to let you go alone, now was I? Not after the last time.”
“The last time was different,” Thomas laughed, coming forward and holding my hips, “The last time, a brig was beset on all sides by six British gunboats and a man-o'war - because of a certain niece of ours havin' killed the Earl of bloody Richmond. I don't need your coddlin'. In all truth, the only thing that can really kill me out here is you.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, “Should I go back to the boat or...?”
“That's not what I meant,” Thomas smiled. I was the only person who could call his ship a boat without him correcting me, “You know that,” he resumed pulling me along through the swampy, disgusting, humid jungle, “Besides, Kenny's been in a coma for years now. The kids are growin' up wi'out her seein' it. She's an aunt herself. If there's any drink that could wake her, it's-”
“The water from a mythical fountain? That's never been found?”
“This coming from a woman wi' a sorceress sister-in-law and a dog for an adopted son?”
“You leave Aldrin out of this. He's our son and we love him.”
“O' course we do, but my point was: Have a little faith, Midnight. Myths don't emerge from nothin'.”
“And what if we do find your fountain, Thomas? What if we bring back your holy water and feed it to Kenny and she doesn't wake up? What then, Thomas, hmm? Do we go chasing after the Holy Grail? With Indiana Jones and everything?”
“Midnight,” Thomas said, “For once in your life, just trust me?”
“Oh, I've been trusting you for the last thirty years of my life, Thomas, and so far - it's led me to this sticky, sweaty cesspit of a place where we're looking for-”
“For the love o' God: shut up!”
I pouted and followed him through the bog, passing through the dense bushes and under low branches - swatting mosquitoes from my person as we went. We sat down to take a break when the sun was half-dipped into the horizon and Thomas brought out a rolled slip of paper. As he examined the page, I took a sip from my canister of water and brushed my dark hair back - finding it wet with perspiration. I scowled at the disgustingness on my hands and wiped it off on the grass.
“Well?” I asked him.
“We're close,” Thomas said, spitting to his side. I passed him the water and he drank, “But it's best we set up camp for the moment. 'Twould be a bad idea, to launch an attack at night. The Fountain is guarded. By better fighters than us, mind, and younger.”
I smirked, “You finally admitting that you're getting old, Thomas?”
Thomas shrugged with a goofy smile on his face, “What does it matter? By the end o' tomorrow, we'll ne'er grow old again.”
I combed his golden hair back with my fingers, “I was just beginning to like you, Old Man Thomas. With your aching hip problems and regular trips to the bathroom,” I looked into his hair, “And these white threads. I'll miss those.”
He pushed me away, laughing, “Don't tempt me. Ye don't want us rollin' around in this muck, do ye?”
“Oh, please. You've aged horribly, Thomas. You wouldn't be able to roll around in the muck with me.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“It's a statement of fact.”
“You're cruel, woman, do you know that?”
“Do you believe I could've gotten this far, if I wasn't?”
“I thought you managed it by complainin'.”
“Touché, Thomas,” I laughed, “Complaining is one of my better qualities.”
“I don't need tellin', love. You've probably drowned more men in words than ye e'er did in blood!”
“How do you manage it then?”
“Well, I remember that I'm the only man ye'll roll around in the muck with.”
I scoffed and shook my head, “When people read about you in books, Thomas, they're going to remember you as the drunk who was far too interested in his wife for his own good.”
“Well, it's better than me bein' interested in a pair o' whores off the coast o' Lisbon or Kingston, now, isn't it?” he laughed, “I'll be remembered as a loveable rogue. And you... well, ye'll be remembered as the insufferable know-'t-all that kills everyone.”
“I don't see anything wrong with that accusation,” I remarked.
Thomas snorted, “And Queenie would be remembered as a gardener.”
“No, she won't,” I laughed.
“I know, I know. But she won't. Queenie is just so many other things.”
“Fair point,” Thomas checked the fast-darkening sky and said, “It's getting late. We should hit the hay.”
I kissed him, “You're right. I'm going to get some sleep. Will you take the first watch?” I yawned and rolled out my sleeping bag. I slipped in and I felt Thomas slip in beside me, “Thomas?”
“I thought you'd appreciate close company,” he whispered.
“Not if my throat is cut open because you kept getting... distracted.”
“You know I'm better than that.”
“I know,” there was silence between us for a moment, a silence that only the sounds of the jungle filled, “How do think the children are?”
“I'm sure they're fine. They're all capable, Midnight, and Asa and William are there,” when I didn't reply he continued, “Come on. They're fine! And they aren't children anymore.”
“I know, I just...” I sighed, “I worry.”
“You don't say,” Thomas chuckled.
“I just wish there was a way for me to see how they were doing, what they're talking about, how their days are going... How many months has it been since I've seen them?”
He rubbed my cheek with his thumb, “Maybe ye should have stayed at home.”
I turned to look at Thomas, “After you nearly died the last time? After I thought you were dead?” I shook my head, “They have Georgia and Asa and William. And Zoe and Brynna and everyone else. They have me and you. But who do I have? Sure, I love them and I want to spend as much time with them as I can - but I never had to make you into something! You never screamed 'Wipe me!' from the bathroom,” I laughed and then sniffed. I pressed my forefinger to his lips, “You are never leaving me for more than a month. Never. I'm never going to let you do that ever again. Only you could have dragged me to this... this...” I gestured around, “This! You know that, don't you? But that doesn't mean I'll stop worrying about everything else,” I kissed him softly. I saw him smile.
“I like it when you're mean,” Thomas said, “But I like it better when you're nice.”
I scoffed, “Don't get used to it.”