Friday, February 24, 2012

Write On Edge: Conflict and Violence Challenge

For this week's WOE prompt, in Red Writing Hood   asks us to throw a little conflict at our characters in the name of strong plot development in 300 words or less.

Conflict, as defined by, is to come to a collision or disagreement.While physical violence might be the most obvious form of conflict, internal struggles allow for more diverse or complex characters.

I offer the following in response: Loyalty Challenged

“You've been gone too long,” Gina growled. “I ain’t a snitch Eddie.”

His eyes, once the focus of her childhood crush, were shockingly unfeeling like the FBI badge attached to his belt. “We’re taking Jimmy down. You don’t want to be there when we do,” he warned.

“And where’d jya think I’d wanna go?” she snorted, crossing her arms. Ed, Jimmy, Joe, they were all close back in school, terrorizing the neighborhood with spray-paint cans and petty shoplifting. Drifting apart after graduation, Jimmy took up the family business while Eddie became a fed.  “He's good to me. Jimmy paid the doctors when Momma got sick.”

Eddie rubbed his brow. “So he saved your mother. His one good deed for the century.”

Simmering rage transformed her lungs to lead and burned her cheeks, “Nice, Eddie, good to know you can put the past behind jya. Some of us, we ain’t that lucky, or didjya forget Joey?”

She hit a nerve. Eddie’s features shifted grotesquely in the ill-lit alleyway. He advanced aggressively towards her, backing her against the cinder-block wall. “I forgot nothing,” he barked. “Why the hell do you think I joined the FBI? Look me in the eye and tell me Jimmy didn’t have anything to do with Joey’s death.”

She snapped, “That cop clipped him and you know it.”

“Not what forensics reports.” he countered venomously. “I know you lied about that night. Who are you protecting if not Jimmy?”

Gina refused to make eye contact, her gut churning. “Look, Eddie, we done here? I gotta go wash my hair.”

He spun her about, forcing her face into the wall. Handcuffs pinched her wrists painfully as they locked into place. “You’re under arrest.”

“What for?” she hissed defiantly.

“I’ll think of something.” 

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Penitent: Abandoned

continued from The Penitent: Aftermath

Yven emerged hungry from the empty caravan, squinting in the sunlight. Not a trace of last night's storm remained to mar the bright morning sky. His heart gripped his throat when he caught sight of the deserted clearing. The train had left him behind at dawn, wheel ruts in the soggy ground the only evidence of their passing. Cursing, he slammed his fist into the side of the wagon. “Damn them all,” he muttered, rubbing his knuckles.  

The underbrush parted to reveal the crusader, leading his mare with purpose. “Ah, Master Dubois, good morrow. How fair you?”

Surprise at the sudden appearance rendered him mute. He struggled to respond, eventually surrendering to a series of guttural noises that even he could not recognize as viable speech.

His attempt caused William to chuckle softly. “Our conversations are likely to make the road seem longer, I fear me.”

“The road longer?” Yven repeated, confused. “I do not understand, Monsieur.”

“My apologies,” he responded, giving a slight bow with a fist at his heart. “I assumed you did not wish to travel alone. I am bound for Beaucaire; if this is agreeable, you are most welcome to join me. I understand if your plans are other.”

Yven regarded the wagon tracks, feeling uneasy. He never thought the merchants callous, and yet they were gone. “What would drive them on without us?” he asked, not entirely sure he wanted a truthful answer. He looked to the crusader hopefully, biting his lip.

His face had turned to stone. While fussing with the saddlebags on his steed, he responded, “The draper thought me a Templar Knight and was convincing in his argument to the others that they should not be associated with a wanted criminal. Why they left you behind still eludes me and I find that particular action most deplorable.”

“Are you, a wanted criminal?” he asked, holding his breath.

“If I am it is not because of my participation in the Holy War. I was not part of the Templar ranks,” his answer was wooden, suppressing any opportunity for Yven to inquire about his past.

 “They didn’t even wake me. You didn’t wake me,” he said, bitterness at the edge of his voice.

His accusation rousted an unexpected laugh from the man, “My dear lad, I tried. I have seen dead less at peace than you. In truth, I sought to ensure your heart still beat, so sound was your slumber.”

Yven rubbed sleepily at his neck while he considered the crusader’s words, and especially the attractive offer. Beaucaire was yet a half-day’s ride hauling the caravan; it was entirely feasible to sell off the hides at the marketplace, perhaps even the caravan to someone in town. But what to do after?

William interrupted his thoughts, “You are troubled. Have I spoke out of turn?”

“No,” he answered, sullenly, feeling defeated. “Monsieur, I have no family to go to, no trade, and no master. What do I do?”

His piercing gaze softened, “Can you not continue the tanner’s business?”

“The business, no. I know the labor, but not the numbers. He didn’t teach me the books.” Yven fidgeted as he spoke of his ineptitude. “He told me I was too simple to ever understand.”

Something sinister flashed in the man’s dark eyes. “He told you thus? How old are you, Lad?” His tone was stern, even angry.

Why did that bother him? My master wasn't wrong, he thought, recalling his first attempt at wrangling numbers. He had struggled ages with sums only to be told that the numbers themselves were backwards. “I was four and ten last Eastertide.”

William raised his gaze to the sky and held it there so long, Yven was certain he was searching for Heaven's Gate beyond the sunshine. When at length he spoke, his manner was more relaxed, “You asked me what you should do? Accept my offer. I shall help you make any needed arrangements in Beaucaire.”

“I will go then, thank you, Mas, er, Monsieur.” Relief washed through him like a gentle wave. Little gave him more cause for fear but self-reliance. As panic receded, his stomach complained, reminding him of the hours that had passed since his last meal. Yven smiled nervously, “J’ai faim. Have we time to eat?”

The crusader took measure of the sun’s position and nodded, “Does your late master have any staples?”

“A few apples, some rashers, boiled eggs,” he rambled through the list of items he remembered packing. “Some bread.”

“Excellent, if you would be so kind to gather the fare while I locate my sakret? He should be nearby.”

“Bon d’accord, Monsieur.” Ignoring his desire to ask what a sakret was, Yven did as instructed out of comfortable habit. He was not prepared to make his own decisions quite yet. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Penitent: Aftermath

continued from Write On Edge: Pick A Number Challenge entitled The Penitent:Ambush

Rain carved countless mini-rivers in the rising mud. Yven stared at the tanner’s caravan, unable to feel sorrow over the man’s death. Nine years he lived under the tanner's roof, yet he could only conjure relief that his apprenticeship was ended. Guilt gnawed at his freedom.

Lightning perforated the clouds in blinding whites and crackling purples, drowning the wood with staccato luminescence. He turned to where the improvised graves were dug in haste. William knelt near them in prayer, despite the downpour, despite the intent of the highwaymen. There had been six of them, all cut down like diseased trees. The train had only lost two that night, his master the tanner, and the fuller’s apprentice. Some of the others sustained a few bruises. The outcome would’ve been quite different was it not for the timely intervention of the crusader.

The others had long left them to the deluge, securing themselves in their own caravans. With the mire sucking his boots, Yven approached his savior. “Why did we bury them? Why do you pray for them?” he asked, an iceberg of anger drifting in his tone. “They would have murdered us all, and for what? A handful of trinkets?”

William finished his silent words and signed a cross across his chest before tucking his rosary into a pouch. “It is not my place to condemn the soul,” he replied, his tone even. “I cannot grant them absolution, but that should not mean they cannot receive a decent Christian burial.”

“You don’t feel your effort is wasted on them?”

He rose, wiping rain from his forehead. “No prayer is wasted when it's for the sake of another. How we treat the least of us will be recorded in the book of Heaven.” He motioned towards the tanner’s caravan, “Why are you not retired and dry, Lad?”

Yven shivered, stating stubbornly, “I own nothing. It is my master’s trade and I have no claim to his belongings.”

“Yes, well, you can hardly repay me for saving your life if you foolishly insist on catching your death. I, for one, am weary of the drench.” He pushed through the mud and opened the hinged door to the back of the wagon. “Are you coming presently?”

His shiver spread into his teeth, “How is it you happened upon us, out here in the wood? Are you someone I should be suspicious of?”

“Divine providence. And you should always be wary of soldiers without a war. They are trained to inflict carnage and little else.” He slipped inside the caravan, leaving the door to flap in the wind.

Yven had nowhere to go. With reason overruling his pride, he made his way to shelter.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Write On Edge: BLT Challenge

400-word limit gifted by Red Writing Hood inspired a break from my recent characters. Sure, I could accept the challenge to invent an early 14th century BLT for my crusader. I even started writing the scene when an entirely different image popped into my mind. Here's the prompt:

Plump tomatoes, salty bacon, crisp lettuce, soft bread, this week we want you to be inspired by the BLT. Write a piece of either fiction or creative non-fiction based on this photo.

 I asked myself a question. What happens if the photo is misleading?

I offer the following in response: BLT Revisited

The sun slowly burned through the foggy barrier revealing tractor rigs and sign posts like a magician with a wand. Penny sat with her twin at a distressed booth in Spooners, their traditional stop off the interstate, bemoaning the miles left to go on their trek home from Northeastern University.  Ancient d├ęcor scared away those that the locale hadn’t, but the food was cheap and nobody cared they wore pajamas.

“Five letters: glacial inlet?” Amber asked, tapping her pen against her folded magazine.

“Fjord,” Penny replied without hesitation as she investigated the pieces of her BLT. The menu photo was overly optimistic, she thought. “This doesn’t taste right.”

“It never does,” she quipped, last jot complete. “Six letters: Rock Star and City in MO.”

A server slopped refills in their coffee cups in passing, splashing some in his lackadaisical manner. Penny hailed him back, “I’m sorry, can we get some extra napkins?”

He disappeared with a grunt. Amber muttered, “Thanks for nothin’.”

“Be nice, Ams, it’s not like this diner is the Ritz.” The bacon was undercooked, the lettuce tired, and the tomato flat. Penny reached for the salt-shaker. “Joplin,” she answered finally. “Why do tomatoes taste like candles?”

“Bee ni-ice,” she mimicked, rolling her eyes. “Apples an’ tomatoes are waxed to keep them shiny in supermarkets.” With a disapproving scowl, she warned, “Salt isn’t good for you.”

Napkins were tossed onto the table without a clear point of origin. “Yes, well neither is bacon or mayonnaise for that reason.” After mopping the table, Penny smashed her sandwich back together. She took a timid bite to taste, and dissatisfied, dismantled it again.

“Plant lice?” Amber asked, spiriting the salt-shaker away.

She made a face in response. “They’re not good for you either,” she stated, fetching the pepper.

“No, Penns, a five-letter word for plant lice.”

“Aphid.” She finished her dousing of pepper.

Amber sneezed violently. “Geez! How much pepper dijya put on that slop?”

She forced another disappointed swallow, “Not enough. You should’ve let me keep the salt.”

“Look, you gonna finish that sometime today? Fog’s lifted an’ I wanna get home before midnight.”

“Are you going to finish your crossword?” she mocked, plating the partially-consumed sandwich. She fished a Jackson from her wallet and pinned it to the table with the pepper-shaker. Lukewarm coffee downed, they abandoned the broken BLT to its fate and happily made for the exit.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

If We Forgive...

My grandmother moved from Texas to Indian Territory in a covered wagon. She was disowned because she married a man of Indian blood during a time when the only good Indian was a dead one. They struggled to make ends meet every day as sharecroppers. At times, they couldn’t afford to buy their children desperately needed shoes. My grandfather refused the rations and the land parcel that the U.S. government provided for his tribe, rations his destitute family could have used, because he was too proud to take charity. A white uncle took his roll number and stole the benefit because, well, hell, why not.

During the tail end of WWII my mother was born. They weren't prepared for that, they were grandparents for crying out loud. She was informed she had a tumor because the doctors never heard the second heartbeat. She was too sick for them to operate and surprised when she went into labor. A few years later, she left Oklahoma and her lousy, drunken, abusive, philandering husband for California, because living on welfare as a single mother for the rest of her life was a better option. Had she stayed, he might’ve killed her.

She lived long enough to watch man land on the moon.

And even in the end of her days, she never stopped loving him. 

I never knew her. How I wish I had. She died well before I was born. To have been through so much, to have such inner-strength in the face of unrelenting adversity, she was a rare and remarkable woman, with so much to teach me. Mother says that I would have liked to have known my grandfather as well. His stories drew you in and held you there in that world for hours. He was the pillar of the community, doing for others what he didn’t do for his own. I accept him, I even love him, I respect where we came from and I take pride in my native heritage. But, I’m not sure I can forgive him. Times were difficult enough. His wife, who he was supposed to love, honor, and cherish, sacrificed everything to be with him, and still she had to survive him.

And we, who are descended from them, are shrouded in the echo of their pain.

To paraphrase the ending monologue from the movie Smoke Signals (1998): "How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often, or forever, when we were little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing, or leaning? For shutting doors or speaking through walls? For never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deaths?
And if we forgive, what is left?"

What is left?

I do not know the answer yet. Maybe I’m not meant to. I’d like to think that love could travel back in time and mend a broken heart. After all, this emotional baggage has been etched in my DNA. If pain can radiate forward, why not love back?

I do know that I come from a long line of prideful people. We are stubborn and fiercely loyal, usually to our own detriment. But if I carry within me any of the emotional traits of my grandparents, let it be that I love unconditionally, blindly, beyond all measure. Let it be that I am generous to a fault, sacrificing for the sake of others, whether blood or not. Let it be that I can spit in the face of adversity without shame or regret.

Let it be that I someday find the inner-strength to survive the aftermath of forgiveness. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Write On Edge: Pick A Number Challenge

Red Writing Hood Prompts is revisiting an old prompt from its Red Dress Club days. The rules are as follows:

Word limit is 500.

Pick four numbers, each between 1 and 10.
Write them down so you remember.
The first number will be for your character, the second your setting, the third the time and the fourth will be the situation.
Then take the four elements and combine them into a short story.
All four you picked MUST be your main elements, but you can add in other characters, settings, times and situations.
  • Character
1. A new mother
2. An actress
3. A recent high school graduate
4. A waitress
5. An alien
6. A homeless man
7. An elderly woman
8. A freshman in high school
9. A college student
10. A musician
  • Setting
1. The woods
2. A wedding reception
3. A party
4. A restaurant
5. A mall
6. A park
7. A beach
8. A lake
9. A baseball game
10. A seminar
  • Time
1. Winter
2. During a thunderstorm
3. The morning after prom
4. Spring
5. December
6. Midnight or around midnight
7. Summer
8. In the middle of a fire
9. In the middle of a snowstorm
10. The afternoon
  • Situation
1. A death
2. Secret needs to be told
3. Someone has or will hurt someone
4. A crime has occurred or is about to
5. Someone has lost/found something
6. Someone is falling in love
7. Reminiscing on how things change
8. There has been a family emergency
9. Something embarrassing happened
10. Someone has just gone to the doctor.

I had so much fun with this and I'm extremely grateful for the 500 word limit. Here's what I chose:
6,1,2,4. (A homeless man, the woods, a thunderstorm, and a crime) I am continuing the story of The Penitent with this challenge. William leSaber is my homeless man as established from my earlier posts.

I offer the following: The Penitent: The Ambush

Dark, violent clouds collided to form a mass that threatened to consume the southern sky. The train of seven caravans moved at a sketchy pace, with draft horses pulling hard against the brutal winds. Yven fought to stave off cold and sleep as he drove the tanner’s wagon behind the fuller’s. He arched his back in a stretch and shifted his weight in his seat, attempting for the eightieth time to achieve a better level of comfort. Finally, the signal to set up camp reached him and he urged the mare to settle into position. The underbrush of the woods jostled the axles, causing him to wince. The tanner would surely retaliate for the disturbance.

On cue, his master called out from the depths of the bed, “Boy, why have we stopped?”

“The train is just seeking refuge from the storm,” he replied hastily.

Without warning, a bolt splintered the wooden frame near his head. Yven blinked, unsure what was transpiring. Shouts of panic ricocheted through the ash and pine as distinct clash of clamoring swords rivaled an explosion of thunder. “What’s…Whose,” the tanner stammered.

Still affixed to his driving bench, the apprentice replied fearfully, “I think we’re under attack.”

A strong arm reached up and tossed him from the carriage. Yven landed haphazardly on the unyielding ground, feeling a sharp sting of pain as something, a rock maybe, tore into his chin. Disoriented, he rolled to his knees. Staggering to rise, he was kicked back down. Behind him, his boisterous master stopped yelling abruptly. That’s it, he thought. I’m done for.

He felt a knee grind into his spine and a powerful hand pushed his face into the earth. His lungs burned for air as soil compacted into his nose. Finally, his body struggled, pushing back against the brute force that had him pinned.

Suddenly, the attacker was gone. Yven coughed and bolted to his feet, fight surging through his being. He spun about looking for a target in time to catch a glimpse of a stranger sinking his blade into one brigand, followed by a precise knife throw into the neck of another. When a burst of thunder resounded and subsided, the ordeal was over. Terrified merchants clustered together to assess the damage and lick their wounds.

Rain began to pelt the ransacked caravans. Yven approached the tanner’s wagon with caution to calm the screaming, panicked steed still attached to the yolk. The black beast reared twice before she relaxed, snorting her complaints with emphasis. The apprentice looked at his master then, draped unnaturally over the bench, eyes wide and lifeless.

“Are you injured, Lad?” the stranger asked. His tabard and mail were dripping with blood.

Yven dislodged some more dirt from his throat. “My master is dead,” he coughed, numbness creeping over his soul. “What happened?”

“Bandits attacked, Lad,” he replied grimly. “I was nearby and heard the commotion.”

“Yven Dubois. We are in your debt, Monsieur,” he said gratefully.

“William leSaber,” he stated in kind.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Penitent: A New Development

“Monsieur leSaber, he has left?” Matilde spoke with a whispered urgency.

The captain regarded his daughter with concern. She seemed far too eager. “He has. He plans to room at the monastery outside Beaucaire upon the close of the week.”

Her sloe black eyes reflected the darkness of a night without stars. Her slender fingers fidgeted in an unexpected display of distress. “Father, I must ask. Did he speak of me favorably?”

A knot grew in his chest and his heart threatened to burst through his ribcage. This was not the conversation he wished to have with his daughter. “Matilde, you will turn your gaze from Monsieur leSabre. His destiny does not coincide with yours.”

Crestfallen, she cast her eyes to the floor, “So you did speak with him about matrimony.”

“The topic was breached, but he quite thinks of you as a sister,” Corrick said firmly. Historically, such a comment would have been sufficient to influence a change in her desires. He underestimated her ambition.

She looked through him, a wicked determination consumed her features. “If he is so minded, I shall take up the veil and join a nunnery.”

He sighed heavily, wishing he had remained at sea another month. “You know nothing of him. This is naught but a passing fancy and I will not deem to embarrass you to him with this pretense.”

“An idle fancy it might be, if not for the bearing of his character,” she argued her case with conviction like a magister before the court. “He is noble where others are base, kind where others are cruel, and he knows the pain of a fractured soul. He has seen the world and is weary of it. A man such as he would not enter into a union lightly, nor would he abandon his marriage bed for the sake of one fleeting night.”

He would admit to none that there was wisdom in her words. William radiated a morality that inspired trust and loyalty from all those around him. If he had expressed an interest, would it have been so difficult to accept? As it was, a quandary trapped him. Corrick could see that her mind was keen and there would be no peace until she had her way. Saddened, he yielded a little ground to her argument, knowing that was all it would ever be. William was not in the market for a bride, and certainly not for one as fickle or manipulating as she. “While I would agree that even a soldier has redeeming traits, Monsieur leSaber is well on the road by now. That ship has left the harbor.”

Her lip quivered and a mist glistened in her eyes. She nodded slowly, “Then I shall make arrangements with the Mother Superior.” She turned away, poised and graceful as ever, and sailed up the narrow staircase as if it was a winter river. smoothed over with ice.

“Lord deliver me,” he prayed under his breath. He had the distinct impression that this wouldn't be the last time they would have this discussion.

The Penitent: In The Wake Of A Goodbye

Corrick bid his friend farewell at the dawn after providing directions to a common park for the sakret to hunt. He was saddened at the departure and expressed a hope that they would meet again.

“Thank you for your hospitality and your friendship, Captain,” the crusader had said as they locked wrists in a firm handshake. “I daresay I shall return indeed, for it has been an age since I have felt so at home.”

The captain smiled wanly as he wandered through his own memories of home. He left his island a mere boy, exchanging positions on ships as his experience grew. The day he drifted into Toulon and he saw his Marianne was the day he knew he found his new port-of-call. She became his northern star, his reason for crossing the tempestuous sea and for coming home again. Her gentle hand touched his cheek. “You are melancholy, Husband,” she voiced, her eyes mirrors in the firelight.

“Aye, Wife,” he replied, kissing her palm before catching her up in his arms. She squirmed against him delightfully in a feigned struggle. “I know a sure remedy.”

She never refused him, not once in the whole of their marriage. Theirs was the perfect union, spiritually, emotionally, physically. He found none pleasing but her, even more so now with grey creeping into her raven hair and lines crinkling the corners of her mouth and eyes where years of laughter had scored them. He drank her up, filling his senses and slaking his thirst for the moment. And there was the flush in her pale cheek that he would enjoy for the day remaining. Renewed, he could face the world and bend the sea to his will.

As Marianne retreated to the kitchen fire, he settled at his desk to record his voyage to his accounts ledger. He kept meticulous books out of necessity while at sea, out of habit while at home. His wife did the same in his absence so he could know precisely where the household was in the execution of the annual budget. He quilled the last of his numbers into the book just as his daughter descended the staircase, her dainty steps barely audible. Something was amiss in her pace and he looked up from his chair. She seemed to be searching for something, or rather someone. "Hell," he muttered as he realized who.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Penitent: A Vow

The supper done, the fire was stoked. The captain sat content amidst his family. His youngest son, Jeoffre, not yet seven, was captivated by the hooded sakret and questioned William thoroughly about the care of the bird. “How do you know it is male?”

“The sakret is smaller than his female counterpart,” William answered patiently.

“I should like to work with falcons,” the lad expressed dreamily, rubbing his sandy eyes.

“It requires diligence and time,” the crusader warned. “And patience.”

“Time for bed, I think me,” Corrick announced as his son yawned.

Matilde rose from her mending, “I’ll see to them, Father.”

“You as well,” he replied sternly.

She cast her sloe eyes demurely at the crusaders feet. “As you wish, Father. Good evening, Monsieur leSaber.”

“Bonsoir, ma petite fille,” William said. She locked his gaze for a moment, pouting flirtatiously, before rounding up her siblings and chasing them up the narrow staircase.

Marianne refilled their tankards with her home brew before sitting down to her embroidery. “So, Monsieur, to where are you going if not home to your family?”

“Beaucaire first,” he said somberly, swirling the rich amber liquid in his tankard absently. “Then Einsiedein and Arth. I have been charged with the task of returning some personal effects of the fallen to their respective families.”

She praised him from her stitchery, “You are performing a Christian service, Monsieur.”

“The least I could do.” Sorrow saturated his tone, exposing a brief moment of vulnerability that Corrick had not before seen. “The worst of men fight,” he stated finally. “The best of men die.”

Corrick raised his tankard, “Requiescant in pace in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.”

Surprise marked his countenance. “Latin?”

Genuflecting, he explained, “A meager comfort I learned to provide for those I’ve lost at sea.”

The Penitent: A Homecoming

“Marianne?” Corrick called for his wife as he ushered his guest into their small parlor.

Soon, she entered, wiping grease and flour onto her apron. He loved her best when she was harried with cookery and gardening. Even now as she scolded him for not being forewarned and complained of her disheveled appearance, she was the loveliest woman he had ever seen, and no man on earth could be more proud of his spouse than he.

“The pleasure is mine, Mistress,” William stated, kissing her fair hand after an exchange of greetings.
Corrick’s kiss was considerably less proper, chasing her blushing from the room in furious squeals. He laughed as he tended to his muddy boots. “She’ll join us again momentarily,” he said, knowing his wife’s habits well.

William smiled warmly, “I’m intruding. I can go for a stroll.”

He laughed again. “It’s true I’m a sailor just home from sea, but we are hardly newly-weds. I’ve a brood about somewhere, hopefully minding their mother.”

“I look forward to meeting them all,” he replied in earnest, settling into a roman-style chaise, his sakret perched upon a pedestal.

“Father,” Matilde whispered from the archway. His eldest daughter was fifteen winters and was as much the bane of his existence as she was his joy. She was fair of face and carried herself with poise, but she had dangerously demure eyes and a wicked desire to be married. Arrangements for bands would have to be made soon.

“Ah, Matilde, Master William leSaber,” he quickly made introductions and bit his tongue to keep from groaning as her eyes fluttered coyly.

“Enchantez, Monsieur leSaber,” she breathed.

William remained stoic, “Enchantez, Madamoiselle.”

“Help your mother,” he commanded, perhaps more harsh than was necessary, but he did not want to be accused by either his daughter or his friend that this was intended to be a match-making introduction.

“Oui, bien sur, Father,” she replied, a hesitation in her curtsy and a long look delivered before following orders.

“She’ll be the death of me, for certain,” he muttered.

“She’s comely and obedient,” William observed. “And she appears to be in the market for a husband.”

Corrick groaned, “Indeed. She’s expressed interest in everyone from the carpenter’s apprentice to my very married first mate.”

He was pensive. “And has anyone approached you for her hand?”

He froze, “You’re not suggesting-”

“Worry not, Captain, I have no such designs,” he replied, dismissing the notion with a small waive of his hand. “I see my sister in her. She was of independent mind as well.”

“Any advice?”

“Avoid opening negotiations with a soldier,” he answered, intensely serious, “no matter her intention. She will a widow be afore their babe can become a man.”

Corrick allowed a long pause before responding. “And a sailor will only give her cause to be lonely. The carpenter’s apprentice it is then.”

“A wise choice withal,” he agreed solemnly.