Thursday, September 1, 2011

Love's Save Whiplash, Chapter 15: Siblings Reunited, The Forces of Phisicks O’erturned

In which Bristol is passed, a Hanging is averted, and Ward is Renamed

Colin braced his feet on the bench across from him as the driver took another hair-raising turn, horses whinnying and dust billowing behind them. The carriage tilted so far starboard that once again, he slid all the way across, landing in a heap on top of Quinn. His beloved ninja betrayed no fear of an imminent crash, nor even concern for her lover.

Instead, the instant all four wheels were on the ground, she opened the window and banged on the outside of the carriage. Leaning so far out the window that Colin could see nought of her but her delicious backside, of which he was sorely tempted to take a bite, she called up to the man atop the carriage, “Faster, carriage man! Drive! Drive!”

The driver was a dour old Scots who’d had the misfortune to be exiting a coaching inn just as Colin and Quinn were entering it. He’d tried to shove past them, ignoring Colin’s polite request for passage to Shropshire. One of Quinn’s perfectly aimed shurikens, which lodged in the toe of the coachman’s boot, changed his mind.

But only for a moment. When Quinn, after demanding that he address her as Captain, told him they must reach Netherloin before nightfall, he threw his head back and laughed.

“Have ye never seen a map, ye daft Sassenach? Ye can’t get from here to Shropshire in less than three days! It’s 287 miles as the crow flies.”

Quicker than Colin’s—and, he would bet, the old driver’s—eyes could follow, Quinn whipped out her katana, pressing the point against the Scotsman’s throat as she growled, “Then this carriage had best fly like a crow.”

And so here they were, driving as though the devil himself were after them. Colin had seen no sign of Pemberley for an hour. As he often did when nervous, he began to sing a little ditty. He’d first heard it only three days ago, and yet the silly tune had taken root in his brain.

I am the very model of a modern major general I’ve information--”

Parrots could find their way home over great distances, couldn’t they? Or was that pigeons?

“—vegetable, animal, and mineral I know the kings of Eng--”

Wait. Swallows could do it, too! Swallows had brought that terribly queer note from Miss Fitzgerald to Quinn. So perhaps Pemberley did know the way home by himself. Colin was quite fond of his lifelong pet, even though he so rarely understood what the bloody bird was yammering on about.

“—land, and I quote the fights historical--”

Glancing out the window, he saw something very colorful, large, and loud rushing past. He looked back, but whatever it was had already receded far behind them.

He turned to Quinn. “My love?”

“Hmm?” she asked in a distracted tone, still brooding, he imagined, over her sister’s strange note.

“What d’you think that was, that big thing we just passed?”

“Bristol.”

“Oh.” He sat back, blinking in surprise. What a frightfully fast carriage this was!

Not fast enough for his nubile ninja. Once more she thrust her golden head outside the carriage and exhorted the hapless driver, on pain of very painful death, to make haste.

“I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” called the poor man. “I dinna think she can take any more!”

But apparently she could, because five minutes later they passed the great gates of Netherloin.

As they drove through the gates, Quinn tried not to gape at the vast grounds surrounding them. Ninja did not gape, she reminded herself sternly. But, Goddess, this was even grander than the estate where she’d grown up with her twin sister and younger brother! If you could drive this far up a road before seeing a single building, you were in the midst of Serious Real Estate.

She slid a glance at her beloved former prisoner, the pirate who’d plundered her heart. He was smiling now, leaning out of the carriage and calling, “Hallo! Hallo! I say, is no one home? It’s me, Colin! I’ve returned!”

He pulled his head back into the carriage with a look of confusion. It was a look he wore frequently, and it never failed to soften her heart.

Oh, my sweet, simple dupirate! Am I to lose you now? Now that you are returned to your home, will you cast me aside for someone more suitable? Am I doomed to return to the sea alone?

“Where do you suppose everyone is?” he asked. “I don’t see even a servant about, or---”

Quinn held up a hand. “Wait, my sweet. Do you hear that?”

He stopped. They both listened. It was quite a commotion, from the sound of it, and it seemed to be coming from up ahead.

Quinn leaned out the carriage once more. “Ho there! Driver! Can you tell me what that ruckus is?”

“Well, Cap’n, me eyes are no’ what they used to be, but I do see the courtyard and from where I am, it looks like a hangin.’”

A hanging?” both Quinn and Colin exclaimed.

“Stop, driver!” Colin yelled.

Throwing himself from the carriage even as it was slowing, he began to run. Quinn caught up to him immediately. They heard much screaming and arguing as they raced to the courtyard, where a grim spectacle confronted them.

It was, indeed, a hanging.

A gallows stood to the side of the courtyard, beneath a stately oak tree. A man stood upon it—great Goddess, he looked exactly like Colin!—with his hands bound behind him and a noose round his neck. The rope was already taut. A thin, chinless, rodent-featured little man had his hand upon the lever that would spring the trapdoor and drop the condemned to his death.

Quinn had always felt that beheading by razor-sharp katana was a far more merciful form of execution.

“Uncle Willoughby, what the devil are you doing?” shouted Colin. “You can’t just go about hanging people! This is England!” He paused, that adorable look of confusion once more crossing his handsome visage. “Um, I say. Have we always had a gallows out here?”

The rat-faced man had turned a peculiar shade of purple crimson. A sheen of sweat covered his face as he narrowed his beady little eyes at Colin. He seemed to be having trouble speaking. His lips were moving, but no sound came out.

There was no shortage of sound coming from a wench who stood a short distance away from the puny little man. She was dressed in a hideously over-embellished dress cut low to accentuate her gravity-defying bosom.

“Colin?” she positively screeched. “Colin? Is it really you? Oh, my darling! You’ve returned to me!”

And right there, in front of Quinn, the strumpet threw her arms about Colin. “Oh, darling! He lied to me! Your wicked uncle lied! He said you were dead, and that this man had killed you!”

“Killed me?” Colin croaked as the heifer squeezed the very breath from his lungs. “No one killed me! I’ve been away at sea! Who’s the fellow with the rope around his neck?”

“She lies!” The disturbingly rat-like little man had finally found his voice. “She’s a greedy, social climbing tart, and she lies!”

“Ho there! Someone? Would someone cut me loose please?”

With a gasp, the strumpet let go of Colin just as Quinn drew her katana and palmed two shurikens, prepared to teach the whore a lesson about a-messing with the lover of a jealous ninja.

“How dare you?” the harlot squealed at the little man as she slapped him across the face. “I’ll teach you how to address a lady, Willoughby Wickham! You’re nothing but a--”

“Murderer! Awk! Murderer!” squawked Pemberley as he alighted on a branch of the stately oak.

“Look here! Up here! Would someone cut this rope and--”

“I say, Uncle Willoughby,” continued Colin, staring at the condemned man. “That chap does resemble me quite a bit, don’t he?”

“Really?” asked a querulous voice from behind them.

Quinn, still grasping her katana—for she’d long since discovered that when you were well and truly bewildered, it was always good to have a weapon to hand—glanced over to see a young lad staring at Colin with the queerest look of disgust upon his face. “Really? You think he resembles you quite a bit? Look in a mirror quite a bit, do you? You bloody moron! The blasted man looks EXACTLY LIKE YOU!”

“Ward!” said a stern voice, and now Quinn turned in the other direction to see who else might be in the midst of this melee. “Young man, that is quite enough! You do NOT speak to your elders in such a manner! You’re not too young to feel the sting of a branch across your backside, and I—“

“JULIA!”

Did her eyes deceive her? Was this really her late, beloved twin? The note was right! Julia lived!

Quinn? Is it you? Is it really you?”

The sisters stared into one another’s eyes for the space of a heartbeat—or half a lifetime.

Katana and shurikens clattered to the ground. With a strangled cry, Quinn rushed to embrace her sister.

“Quinn? Oh darling, I never thought…I never dreamed…” Julia broke off with a sob.

“When I got your note, I couldn’t believe…”

They cried as they clung to each other, murmuring words of love and loss that neither could understand nor needed to.

Her twin, the sister of her soul, her heart’s absent half, was in her arms. Quinn was not ashamed to weep. Even if her crew were here, still she would—well, no, all right, in front of her crew she’d be ashamed, but—no matter. Her crew was not here, but Julia was. The joy in Quinn’s heart—

“Julia? Julia, my love duckling, I know I’ve not been completely honest with you. But if you could please just find it in your tender heart to get this bloody noose off my bloody neck, I promise I will explain all the sordid details of my illicit—”

“Westley!” Julia gasped, pushing Quinn away.

“Who’s Westley?”

“My husband! I have a husband! And the wicked Willoughby Wickham wants to hang him!”

“Is that the ugly fellow beside the gallows?”

“The very same!”

“Wait here.”

Quinn marched over to the odious little man and pointed her katana at the center of his chest. “Stop! In the name of love! Before I cut out your heart!”

The rat-faced man froze for a moment, staring from Quinn, to Julia, to Colin, and back to Quinn. Then, without a word, he shoved the lever forward, turned on his heel, and ran away faster than a six-fingered sadist fleeing from a vengeful Spanish swordsman.

Colin gasped.

The trapdoor sprang open.

The condemned man dropped.

Julia screamed.

Quinn ignored them. With a nonchalant flick of her wrist, she sent a shuriken spinning toward the taut rope.

It snapped.

Julia’s husband, hands still bound behind him, hit the ground beneath the gallows with a loud thump and a startled, “Fuck me! She did it!”

“Westley! I mean—I mean, Colin! My love! My HUSBAND! You’re alive!” Julia threw herself atop her husband, babbling and crying.

“Wait, darling, step back,” Quinn murmured, helping her sister up and motioning for her to stand aside. “Hold still,” she instructed Westley. She used her katana to neatly slice the noose around her brother-in-law’s neck and the ropes binding his hands. He stood, rubbing his wrists.

“My most sincere thanks, kind lady.” With a rakish smile that was at once identical to and yet quite different from her own true love’s, he bowed low before her. “In all my years as a highwayman, I vow I never came so close to meeting Jack Ketch himself.”

“That was AMAZING!” came a voice from behind her—a boy, by the sound of it. “I’ve read of shurikens but I’ve never seen one! And—and—and, your sword, that’s a katana, isn’t it? Are you a--”

“Quinn!” Julia enveloped her in a rather crushing embrace. “Darling! Thank you—oh, thank you!” She sobbed noisily, then stepped back, still holding Quinn by the shoulders. “How ever did you find me?”

“Your note!” replied Quinn. “Swallows dropped it into the ocean beside my ship.”

“I can’t believe it!” Julie cried.

“Neither can I,” said the voice behind Quinn.

She was about to turn around to address the voice’s impudent owner when Julia said, “But-- but, if you got my letter while you were at sea, how did you get here so quickly? I only sent the note a week ago!”

“It was quite the most amazing thing. Isn’t that so, my love?” She smiled over Julia’s shoulder at Colin.

“Indeed it was, my fair Captain,” he answered warmly.

She returned her gaze to her sister. “As soon as I received your note, I gave the order to come about and make straight for England. But we were just out of Bermuda when we spotted a galley ship, which looked--”

“A galley? In the western Atlantic? In 1806?”

Flustered, she stopped for a moment, waiting for Julia to say something to the very disrespectful voice. But Julia gave no sign of having heard it. Ah! Perhaps the voice belongs to an imbecile or some other poor addle pate! Ninja or no, Quinn did not abuse the unfortunate no matter how they insulted her, so she resolved to ignore the voice as courteously as her twin was doing.

“My telescope showed that the galley was commanded by Barbary pirates, and the poor souls rowing her were chained to their oars! I’ve made it my life’s mission, sweet sister, to free the enslaved, wherever I might find them, so, despite my heart’s most desperate wish to reach England as soon as possible, I had to first free that wretched crew!”

“And it’s well she did,” Colin broke in. “For the slaves were none other than brave British sailors taken at sea!”

Julia and her husband gasped.

“Indeed,” Quinn nodded. “Of course, my men and I quickly disarmed and imprisoned the cowardly buccaneers”—she could have sworn that Colin rolled his eyes, but the next moment she decided she had only imagined it—“and freed the sailors. They were quite overcome with gratitude and when I told them of my haste to reach England, they begged to be allowed to transport us. So I gave my first mate orders for commanding the ship in my absence, and Colin and I jumped aboard the galley.”

“It must have been a treacherous journey, all that way in an open boat!” exclaimed Westley.

“Nay,” replied Colin. “'’Twas quite pleasant. They were capital fellows. They’d been enslaved for several years and taught themselves to sing together to keep despair at bay. We had such lovely serenades to accompany us on our journey.”

“And such a fast journey, as well,” Julia marveled.

“Indeed,” agreed Quinn. “We fair flew across the waters, reaching Penzance in a mere three days’ time. We bade our new friends farewell this morning, and--”

“Really, now, that is just too much!” The voice behind her was almost squeaking in disbelief. “A band of singing galley slaves rowed from Bermuda to Penzance in--”

“Oh, they’re not galley slaves anymore,” Colin explained cheerily. “In fact, they told me they were thinking of becoming pi…rotechnic engineers. Yes, that’s it—they want to construct fire --”

“—three days? And then you went from Penzance to Shropshire in less than a day? I’ve never heard such codswallop, and I’ve lived in this place nearly all my life! If--”

Finally pushed quite past her tolerance, Quinn spun on her heel.

And found herself pointing the business end of her katana at a nose attached to a face she thought she’d never see again.

It was the youngster who’d spoken so rudely to Colin only moments ago. Now, now that she had a good look at his face, it was she who could neither speak nor move. The sight of him held her transfixed. Time itself seemed to stop. The katana fell from her hand, forgotten.

The lad cocked his head to one side and returned her stare with a puzzled expression.

“Miss Fitzgerald?” he said. “Why did you never mention you had a twin sister?”

His words broke the spell.

“Julia?” Quinn whispered. “Julia? Is it really him?”

“Yes. Yes, darling, it is he.” Her twin laid a hand upon Quinn’s shoulder as the two of them gazed upon the lad, who now looked positively bewildered.

“You both survived?”

“We did.”

“What are you talking about?” asked the boy.

“I brought him here with me,” Julia said. “And persuaded His Grace—my husband—to adopt him as his ward. That’s why I decided to call him Ward. I was afraid that if I used his real name, the six-fingered man might find us.”

As if in a dream, still gazing at the face of the brother she thought she’d never see again, Quinn said, “The six-fingered man is dead. I killed him.”

“Did you really?” asked Julia. “Why, that’s marvelous! Now we can start calling Evelyn by his Christian name!”

“Would one of you please explain what on earth you’re talking about? Why are you looking at me like that? Who’s Evelyn?”

“You are, dear.”

“What in the bloody blue blazes are you talking about?”

“Watch your language, young man!” Julia took a deep breath. “There is something you must know. I’m your sister. And so is Quinn—we’re twins. And you are Evelyn Fitzgerald.”

“What….how…I mean, who…”

Quinn nodded. “When we were young, and you but a baby, our parents were slain by an evil man with six fingers on his right hand, and—“

“His left hand,” interjected Julia.

“--he left us to die in a—wait. What?” asked Quinn, confused.

“The man had six fingers on his left hand.”

“No he didn’t. The six fingers were on his right hand.”

“No, darling, I remember very clearly. On his left hand were six fingers.”

“Julia, I fought the man in a duel. He was right handed, and that hand most definitely contained six fingers.”

“Well, then, he must have had twelve fingers in all, because I am quite certain there were six fingers on his left--”

“WOULD THE TWO OF YOU PLEASE ANSWER ME ONE QUESTION?”

“Of course, darling,” said Quinn.

"Is my name really Evelyn?"




Cordially,

The Naughty Nine

Love's Savage Whiplash, Chapter Fourteen

To read from the beginning, go here.



Link

8 comments:

Sherry said...

Thanks for another great chapter. I love this line
"Is my name really Evelyn?"

Romancing the Book Reviews said...

I loved loved this chapter. I am torn between two lines this week:
“I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” called the poor man. “I dinna think she can take any more!” and
“What in the bloody blue blazes are you talking about?”

lmao, I use that line all the time!!

Ivelisse said...

oh sugar, I was signed into another google account and it came up under Romacing the Book email instead of my own, marilyn31478@gmail.com.

oh well I got it in there lol

Polly20 said...

Oooohhh those pirates of Penzance.

I am the model of a Major Minor General

or is it the other way around?

I might have to do some research on this.

Good on G&S

Jean P said...

Another great chapter, enjoyed it very much. I liked this line “You can’t just go about hanging people! This is England!”

Maria said...

Loved the chapter...now I can't wait to see what happens next...favorite like is "Is my name really Evelyn?" ...poor boy!

Karin said...

This is an awesome chapter. I absolutely love the last line. But since it's already been posted twice, here's my runner-up:

“Why, that’s marvelous! Now we can start calling Evelyn by his Christian name!”

elaing8 said...

Awesome chapter.
I have two favorites

"Fuck me! She did it!"
and
"Is my name really Evelyn?"