Episode 3 - "Mary Black"
by Camille LaGuire
"Mary Black. Isn't that the woman in your pictures? Your model?"
"Yes, only her name isn't Mary Black. It's Mary Alwyn."
"Oh my, she's his woman, then?" said Loreen. "Oh, and that means she's...that...freedom person."
"Very delicately put, Loreen," said Penelope. Loreen wasn't one for political readings, but she was one for gossip, so she'd heard of the Whore of Freedom, even if she had not read the book about her, and had only a vague idea of the philosophical ideas in it.
The hotel man returned, and Mary burst in, her shawl and bonnet flying, practically running him over. She was pale and thin, and full of nervous energy, yet she was a beautiful woman, in a wild, unusual way. She had the striking dark eyes, dark rippling hair, and classic features of the ancient Acteran race that had once inhabited Acton.
"They won't tell me where they sent him. They won't tell me anything. They won't...they won't..."
Penelope took hold of Mary and hugged her. Mary stopped her torrent of words and stood still, not crying or trembling, but seeming to gather herself. Then she took a breath and hugged back.
By the time Penelope had her seated, the hotel service was back with a tray. Mary, now cautious, watched them carefully and did not speak. When they left, she looked askance at Loreen as well.
"Loreen is my maid," said Penelope. "You can trust her. She listens to gossip, but she doesn't spread it."
"The loyalists hate me," explained Mary. "I have trouble when they find out who I am."
"You know who I am now, too, don't you?"
"Yes, I figured it out." When she had last seen Mary, she was a spy pretending to be a lady's maid; Penelope's maid to be exact. Friendship, however, had knocked down both political and social borders. And when last seen, Mary had been the strong one, and Penelope had been in distress.
"You've been ill," said Penelope, noting that Mary's hair was shorter, barely past her shoulders.
"I had food poisoning," said Mary, suddenly animated again. She rambled on in her sing-song Actonian accent. "That's why I didn't realize when he'd left. Oh, you mean my hair. No, I cut it during the war to go in disguise. I've been very well up until this week. We were happy. Did you see him? You must have. How did he look?"
"Angry and harassed, mainly. They didn't let him speak. I really didn't see much. I got there late in the proceedings."
"Poor Jackie. Why did he have to go and be an idiot? What on earth did he say to get himself arrested?"
"I don't know that he said anything," said Penelope.
"He must have. He always says something."
Penelope decided not to tell her about the gag. It would be too distressing.
"They broke the law, Mary," she said instead. "They charged him from what he wrote before the war. I tried to bring up the queen's treaty but they dismissed me. They said that the treaties only covered things done during the war, not before."
"And does the queen have anything to say on that?"
"She doesn't interfere with the peninsula any more than necessary, but I'm going to bring it before her. I'm leaving tomorrow, as a matter of fact. I don't know if it will do any good, and it takes time...."
"Aye, and he'll be dead by then, won't he? He's probably headed for Sabatine, and they say less than half live out their sentence. And where ever he goes, a man like him...."
"He is headed for Sabatine," confirmed Penelope.
"You know where they sent him?"
"Yes, I had my man making inquiries from the moment I heard of his arrest."
"And the ship? What's its name and when did it sail?"
"Does that matter now?"
"Of course it matters! How can I follow him if I don't know?"
Penelope stared at her for a moment. "And what will you do when you get there?"
"I don't know. I'll think of something."
"Yes. Yes. Of course you will. I keep forgetting there are people like you." Penelope put down her tea cup and stared at Mary for a moment, so full of energy and empty of doubt. "I'll go with you. They sell them at the other end, don't they? We can buy him."
Stay Tuned For Episode 4 - "Just a Ghost"
The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.
The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords.
Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.