Episode 8 - "Singing The Wind"
by Camille LaGuire
Trent didn't want to leave port with an empty ship, no matter how much Lady Ashton paid him. He had to take time to rebuild his crew anyway, so he might as well take on a profitable cargo too. Some of Lady Ashton's money could be saved to pay off decoys when they ran the blockade.
Lady Ashton took the time to lay in her own supplies. When she learned that Mary had left home with little more than a carpet bag, she set about acquiring a wardrobe for her. Mary loved pretty things, but she was in no mood for it.
Mary half wanted to go back to the docks and help the men load cargo on the ship, or recruit crew members, so they could leave sooner. But instead she nodded at Lady Ashton's choices and bought herself a box of good horseradish root.
If Jackie couldn't come home, she'd have to bring a little bit of home to him, and the sting of horseradish would knock him home and back.
They finally set out, nearly a month after Jackie had been sent off. Their luck was such that the wind had been right for the prison ship--a ship with the ironic name of Crown's Mercy. That ship could already be in Sabatine by now. Now the wind had shifted, which would mean their own voyage could take longer. But Trent said it was good for running the blockade.
They slipped through in the middle of the second night. It wasn't difficult, as they went through close to the shallows, an area with channels that Trent and his pilot knew well.
Mary had been unable to sleep, and was on deck, gripping the rail and singing a vaguely remembered song from her youth, a prayer for fair winds. Lady Ashton stuck with her.
"Keep singing, Mary," said Trent. "Seems to be doing us some good."
"How long until we are clear?" said Lady Ashton.
"Not until morning to be sure, but we would see a ship by now if there were trouble."
They paused. Mary took a breath of the wind, which she faced, rather than the direction they were traveling. If she was to be a proper heretic, she should face the god she was addressing with song.
"I've been confused about that blockade," said Lady Ashton to Trent. "I understood that the Treaty of Coronden put an end to the blockade of Acton."
"By Agritaine, yes," said Trent. "But the peninsula is ruled under charter, and that charter gives the royal governor the right to license those ships which can trade within the local waters, and it happens that the local waters extend across the mouth of the bay."
"And how is that? If Acton owns the other side of the bay, don't half those waters belong to Acton?"
"Yes. You would be right, except for the Law of Territorial Protection, which was meant to protect enterprise territories outside of the continent, but somehow has been claimed by the peninsula. It allows a territory that is under threat from a hostile power to extend its control for another twenty miles. Which leaves Acton with only some rocky and unnavigable shallows as access to the world."
"They're trying to choke you out of existence then."
"And the queen...."
"Is new to the throne, and has to woo conservatives away from the thought that she is a weak woman, and much too innocently reform minded."
"Yes," she said. "I never realized what ramifications that would have."
"It'll have more," said Trent. "Lady Ashton, we're bound to have another war. I'll admit I don't know as much about politics elsewhere, but I think it will effect more than Acton."
"I hope you are wrong."
"So do I."
Mary paid no mind to what they were saying. Their voices were just a murmur along with that of the sea and wind.
In the dark, she could only see an outline of the farthest point of Actonion land. She was aware that this might be her last sight of Acton, but she crushed that thought. She'd rather Acton be only a memory than Jackie. So she sang to the winds and sent her thoughts ahead, not back.
Stay Tuned For Episode 9 - "Like Horses at a Fair"
The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.
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