Maverick

Female mercenary leader, Mariqah, puts faith in an organisation of rebellious world changers in an alternate history where the British colonialism still exists. These world changers seek to abolish all form of imperialism. Mariqah is in tw minds however, as she has friends in both camps. Things go horribly wrong when she sets foot into Bengal which is torn by civil war - where there seems to be deceptive conflict between factions.

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1. Extract from the Journal of Mariqah de Saint-Omer


Journal,
 


“Tell us about the day that changed your life” - this is what the lads requested of me by the fire tonight.
 


The quietude for this new campaign is longer than I expected. The lads are getting sick of waiting and they've much time to idle. Today was spent mostly on hunting and gathering, then cooking.
Khadir, as you know, has said for a while now that we should buy a place to stay, but I did not have wealth enough to buy a decent enough barracks or fortress on my own.
I could have ask the lads, of course, and some of them would gladly donate - but this should be my burden.
It's nice to back our actions with ethical and noble intent, and I would like to say that it should be my burden alone because these boys have suffered enough for one life, that they should keep their money for themselves, and that I should be solely responsible for their upkeep.

But there is no lying to you, Journal.

No. I like having things within my grasp. If I buy a fortress in partnership, I risk someone challenging me. It has not happened before, and I don't see it happening in the near future - but I cannot risk collapsing what I have struggled to build up. There is no use in taking such a risk, a risk of betrayal, so I will not take it.
So I have spent little, refused what I could from the excess that the lads have offered me, and saved up for the fortress that has caught my eye.
We're currently camped twenty miles south of it actually.
The fortress at Masyaf, in Syria. Word has it that the British have occupied it, busy rooting out the remains of the 'Brotherhood' that had existed there. I seek to buy it from the British. It... intrigues me, this Brotherhood, but this is not the purpose for which I write upon your pages tonight.

The request at the very top. A fine request, no? The lads were sharing stories of their past, but I hadn't anticipated such a question would be passed to me. Naturally, I told them that the day that changed my life was the day that I joined the British Army.
Naturally, I'd lied.
A book cannot look at me with disdain, and that is why I find comfort in you, Journal. The lads wanted something action-packed, something awe-inspiring and such (not that they had said that, but I know what they are like). The day that changed my life was something entirely the opposite.

It was a dreary day, I believe, but such weather was common in the East of London, where I lived. I was washing clothes of my household in a lake. It had become my custom to also wash the clothes of the sailors that lived in and around the area, and collect money from them for this chore.
It was a different time, then. Such a different time. That version of me would look at this version, and wondering what in God's name went wrong. I remember wearing dresses and shawls, my toils bound usually to the house, my work solely with the other women in the factory.
And what of me now, Journal?

Is that old version within me: dead?
Did he kill her?

For as I was washing the clothes, one of the sailors came up and sat by me. He was an old fellow to look at - much older than Callum - with many creases drawn into his forehead, around his mouth and tipping his eyes; but there wasn't a thread of white in his blonde hair. He didn't stoop, he was not short and he spoke with no stammer.
It was when he handed me an all-too-common red coat and white stockings that I realised that he was no plain sailor.

“You're one of the King's men, sir?” I said with brows raised.
He looked amused at my surprise, “Did you think otherwise, dear?”
“I thought... I thought you were a fisherman or a bargeman, but...” I stammered holding the coat between my hands, “But... you're a soldier? A marine?”
“Aye,” he said, scoffing slightly, “and today might be the last I see you, lass.”
“Are we at war, sir?”
“Aye, the French've started up against our good King Stephen again, so it's back to the waters for us,” he leaned forward and sighed, “It's a pity. War never seems far off, no matter how many times anyone wins.”

Not knowing what to say, I blushed and continued washing the clothes.
“Come now, there's no need to shy away, lass,” the man remarked, “I'm the same man I was five minutes ago.”
“I know, sir, I just...” I paused, “What could a girl of my simplicity speak about with a man like you? You've served your King and your Country, lived life as if it were for giving away, and you don't trumpet your achievements even though they deserve trumpeting. I could not claim the same.”
“And where is it you come from, eh? Wonderland?” he chuckled, “Do not, lass, give me credit for things I've done rarely for others and mostly for myself.”
“What... what do you mean, sir?”

“I would give up King and Country to live a life like yours,” - that was what he said. I remember almost stumbling back and falling into the lake. How could this man say such a thing? How could he want to be anything like what I was?

“But... but why?” I had asked.
“Tell me, lass, after you finish here - what will you go home to?” he asked in response.
“Well, I... I'll return to my family, I'll feed my brothers and my sisters. I will humour my father a while, before I put my siblings to sleep, pray, and fall asleep myself.”
“And what will the next night be?”
“The same, sir.”
“And how will you live the rest of your life?”
“I...” I remember turning away to grimace - so desperate to tell him my current circumstance, yet unable to out of shame and perhaps some empty sense of family pride, “I will marry the man my father chooses for me. I will have his children and raise them as best I can. They will grow old and so will I.”
“And then?”
I paused before saying, “Then, sir, I will die.”
“And how will you die, lass?”

I frowned, “Unknown, unexceptional and easily forgotten.”

The man sighed deeply, “Your life is so very simple, dear. You say these things about yourself with a wavering voice and a sad face, but simplicity has its bliss. You have a family to go to, a place to call home, a plan to live by.”
“And these are good things?” I asked, almost angrily.
He raised a brow in surprise, “I have none of these things.”
“...None of them?”
He nodded once, “None of them.”
“But...” I sat up and looked at him, “It's because of people like you, that people like me can exist, sir. Your work is noble. And... and so full of new lands, adventure, and...” I pauses, searching for the words, “it might be that you will be remembered for what you did: forever.”

“When I am dead and gone, girl - probably burning in the deepest pit in Hell - what care will I have if people remember me or not?” he snapped.

I raised a brow. I had no response to that.
“What they tell you, lass,” he continued, “is almost never what things really are. You are lucky that the toughest decision in your life will be which kind of ribbon to put in your hair - and I don't say that in mockery. Be grateful for what you have now, because the alternative isn't as shiny and polished as they make it seem.”
I huffed. At the time, I really wasn't the type for arguing, so I just inclined my head and said, “The grass is always greener on the other side, sir.”
“No, lass,” he said, “The grass is never green enough.”

I resumed washing the clothes after that, but the sailor sat by and watched in silence. I didn't think too much on what he had said, but it had shaken me. Not so much in shock, perhaps, but... something... something changed when he'd said all those things. He lived without a home and a family and a plan - everything that had threatened to drive me insane. I doubted his words. I didn't believe him.

“Who's this lad that your father's leaving you to then?” was the next thing he asked me. But I had no intent of sharing such information in-detail with this man, so I just said:
“I'm not entirely sure who he is, sir,” I wrung the red coat, watching as the dye seeped into the water of the lake. Such a proud, proud red.
“You haven't seen him?”
“I have.”
“And did you like him?”
I lied through my teeth, “I... I don't know how I feel about him, sir.”
“You know... the lads who give you these clothes have wagered that they'd all be the first to bed you.”
I stared at him, aghast, “What!”

He had kissed me.

To this day, I don't know what had driven him to it or how I had allowed myself to succumb to him. But it had happened.
When our lips parted he said to me (and I imagine that I was blushing), “That should spare you from them,” he'd said, “Now, if you're done with my uniform, dear,” he put out his hand.
I slapped the uniform down in his hands and hurriedly picked up my basket of washed clothes and went away.

When I asked Callum about him, he said he didn't know the man, but he knew about the wager. No-one won it, Callum had said.
Was the man a spirit?
A spirit that possessed me long enough to drag me into this violent life? I'll never know, I guess. But I do know that what he had said (and possibly what he had done) had changed me and there was no turning back on it.

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