Amelia Sharp has never been normal. So she knows that when she meets a woman who could be her twin, on the very night she decides to take her own life, it isn't going to end well. Dixie Devereaux just wanted to take care of her dying sister and be there for her last breath. A man who doesn't die even when Dixie shoots him changes the course of both of their lives forever. Providing that either of them have a forever. One of them will find out that forever becomes something more when you have the power to go anywhere and be anything you want. That is, if she can carry off being a pirate and hold off a group of warrior monks who want her and her new friends dead.
Dixie Devereaux woke up with a hand over her mouth that prevented her from screaming. She could barley breathe. She pulled at the hand over her mouth. The hand didn't feel like it was connected to an arm let alone a body. Her attacker was nowhere and yet right on top of her. Her heart was pounding so fast she thought it would burst. She looked around frantically searching for her attacker but the room was so dark that she couldn't see anything. She swatted at arms and a body that she couldn't make contact with until she heard the intruder whisper. Then she went dead still.
"If you scream I'll kill your sister," said the harsh and angry voice.
Dixie's body went cold as if she had been dumped in the pond in March. She nodded as much as the intruders hold would allow. She clamped down on the fear that was threatening to burst from her chest. Cassie was the only family she had left. The sickness had taken her mother, father, two younger brothers and finally a week ago, had taken her two older brothers only hours apart. The sickness accomplished what the war of northern aggression had not.
"Remember what I said," he whispered.
She nodded. He removed his hand from her mouth and she took a deep breath. She touched her face. His rough hand had bruised her jaw. Without warning she was wrenched up from her bed and shoved toward her wardrobe.
"Dress. You're coming with me."
"I can't- my sister. She'll die if someone isn't here to take care of her."
"Why are you out here and she's in there if she's so sick?"
"I promised her that I would get some rest. I keep my promises."
"You have some pluck. I'll have you back before she knows you're gone."
She was suddenly able to see. He had gone to the window and moved the curtains so that some moonlight shone across the room. Not that she needed it. There wasn't much left in her room or even in the house really. She had to sell things to pay for the doctors and medicine. Then there were the wages of the household staff to be paid even though most of the men had left after her brothers died.
"This is a plantation. Where are your slaves?" The man asked as he stood facing the window with his hands clasped behind his back.
"We never had any. This place is small compared to the other plantations in the area," Dixie said with hands shaking so badly that getting into her skirts was proving to be a true trial. "Where are you taking me?" She tugged on the laces of her corset. It was all hopeless.
"You wouldn't believe me even if I told you," he grumbled. He was quiet for a moment. "Even I don't believe it most of the time," he mumbled.
"You are dressed in a pirate costume."
"It's not a costume."
"You mean to say that you are an actual pirate."
"Obviously," said the man.
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because. Now stop asking questions and start moving," he said turning around.
She quickly buttoned her dress, the one she wore for chores, and followed him as he left her room. They walked down the hall creeping quietly passed Cassie's room. She creped. He didn't have to. He didn't make a sound even on the floor boards she knew would creek. They headed down the grand staircase but with each touch of the banister Dixie wondered if it was the last time she would feel part of her home. She followed the intruder to the front door, then out into the night.
Dixie didn't get far. She tripped over a rock hidden in the shadows and fell into the intruder. As she fell into him she slid her hand over his pistol. When he set her on her feet he found himself staring down the barrel of his own gun. That's when Dixie pulled the trigger.
Dixie's would be abductor grabbed the pistol from her shaking hands. She watched as the smoke cleared and saw the hole in the man's chest. Blood was gushing from the hole in his shirt. Dixie felt sick at the smallest sight of blood. This was by far the most she had ever seen so she fainted dead away.
Caleb Ricks swore aloud and holstered his pistol. He stared down at her for a moment and shook his head. She was the worst shot he had ever seen. If she had missed under different circumstances he would have laughed but this was just sad. He bent over and tossed Dixie up onto his shoulder. He was going to get blood on her but there was nothing for it. She shouldn't have shot him. He remembered his previous comment that she had pluck. He was cursing it now. Bullets hurt a lot going in and just as much coming out. There was also the small fact that he was going to have to explain the blood to the captain. He didn't like to explain anything to anyone. He shook his head, this time to clear it, and concentrated.
The pressure on Dixie's chest was so intense that she was sure it would kill her. She felt like she was being pushed against a stone wall by an unimaginably strong wind while she and the wall were plummeting to earth. She wasn't sure if the blackness that accompanied the experience was a blessing or a curse.
She shut her eyes tightly anyway and kept them that way long after the panic of falling had subsided. She realized, only when her elbows met forcefully with wood, that she had been slung over the shoulder of the pirate and had been deposited on the deck of a ship.
"You can open your eyes now," her abductor said.
Dixie opened her eyes to bright sunshine. The sky was blue and completely cloudless. The ground rocked gently beneath her. She stumbled to her feet and then into her abductor. Her stumble this time was innocent enough but he kept his hand on his pistol. She realized that she wouldn't get another chance to get his gun.
Dixie turned away from her captor and focused on the sight before her. There were miles of blue ocean before her in every direction. She put a hand to her forehead. Could she have caught the fever? If she had caught the fever it was burning up her brain. She must be seeing phantoms that were not there. She had never been on a ship before but here she was on a ship.
She noticed some men at work and the ones looking at her. She was on a pirate ship. It wasn't flying any flags but she could tell because in the plain light of day, these men all looked like pirates. The fever, it must be the fever. How did she get to the sea? How was it the afternoon? The sun looked down directly above her and was hot on her skin.
"Good work Caleb," said a tall lean man striding toward them.
The man was wearing an outfit that made Dixie blink several times to ensure it was real. The other men looked like pirates especially if you took the ship into account but most of them were dirty. This man looked exactly like a pirate. He looked exactly like every picture she had ever seen in any book. Tall black boots gave way to deep crimson pants. A white shirt tied at the neck was covered by a crimson coat. He was, every inch, a pirate.
Dixie had prayed every night for the last four weeks that she would be spared the pain of watching her family die. What cruel God chose to answer her prayers now after all she had endured? Dixie wasn't naive. She knew that Cassie was dying. She knew the signs after watching six people succumb to the disease. She would be there to hold her hand just as she had for the rest of the family no matter what it cost. She would find a way to get home to her.
Dixie looked at the ship and saw how much trouble she was in. There wasn't any land anywhere. Not even an island to swim to. How was it possible that they hadn't arrived by boat. Had they arrived out of thin air. That meant they were demons or witches; something out of nightmares. She took a deep breath. This was all about survival now. It was about living to make it home to Cassie.
"You did a fine job brother. Did you run into any trouble?" The lean pirate clasped Caleb's shoulders in something that would have been a hug if they weren't pirates.
Brother? Dixie looked from one man to the other. She couldn't see the resemblance. They appeared to have the same tall lean frame but other than that they were complete opposites. Possibly from different planets.
"None, she came quietly enough," Caleb said with disinterest. Dixie noticed that her abductor had buttoned his coat.
"Excuse me. Could someone please explain all of this?" Dixie asked. "I think I deserve an answer. You abducted me from my own bed. I deserve to know why."
"She's chatty when she's anxious," Caleb whispered to the lean pirate. "Miss. Devereaux," Caleb began speaking loudly for all to hear. "You are aboard The Fall and this is my brother, our captain, Gabriel Ricks. The year is 1690 but that won't last long. We have other places to be."
The men cheered. This was obviously a point of pride for them. Dixie paled. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out. This was all a dream. A terrible dream. It had to be. She put a trembling hand to mouth as she watched the men shake fists in the air. This wasn't happening. She backed away from Caleb and Gabriel. Her dress caught on a nail and she landed on her back smacking her head against the deck so hard that she saw stars. Caleb walked to her and set her on her feet amid the laughter of the crew.
"I thought you were calculating but it turns out you're just lucky," Caleb said as he set her back on her feet.
"You'll find that I am a great deal more than lucky," Dixie said before she let go of him. "I want to go home to my sister."
"And you will," said Gabriel. He managed to be positively jovial and sinister at the same time. Dixie expected him to burst into song. For one moment she actually believed him. For one moment she was taken in by his dark honest eyes.
"Look,as long as you help us no one will harm you. I'll get you back to your sister unharmed. She'll never know you were gone. You have my word," Caleb said. "This doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience. Who else can take you to the past so that you can see it for yourself?"
"You can do that?" Dixie asked.
"We can do a great deal," Gabriel said advancing slowly towards her. "We don't want to hurt you. We just need you to do something little for us and we will send you on your way."
"I have some questions."
"Natrually," Gabriel said.
"Of course she does," Caleb said under his breath.
Gabriel looked at him.
"If you get her going," he whispered."She'll never stop."
"Please continue Miss. Devereaux," Gabriel said.
Dixie closed her eyes for a moment. She took a deep breath and gathered her courage along with her thoughts.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Ah, that is a simple question. I want you to slip into a womans room and bring me a necklace that she doesn't know is special and doesn't even care about. She has dozens of necklaces. Chances are that she won't even know this one has gone missing."
"Why do you need me?"
"You look enough like her that, during a party, you can slip into her room and get the necklace."
"Why can't you just- pop- up there like you do did in my room?"
"Because," Caleb said.
"Brother, don't be that way. She's just curious," Gabriel said. "We don't know exactly where she has the necklace. Our information is that she keeps them in her room but she could have a chest somewhere in the castle."
"Yes." Gabriel smiled. He had her and he knew it. Who wouldn't want to see a real live castle.
"You said there was a party. Why do you want me to look for it during a party. Surely it would be easier to sneak in when this woman is away."
Gabriel smiled. "You ask all the right questions. After the night of the party the necklace is lost to history. This is the last time it is seen."
"I have another question."
"You don't say." Gabriel looked down at her.
"How are you able to do this? How can you move through time?" Dixie's fear had given way to curiosity.
"It's a condition of what we are," Caleb said inching closer.
Dixie took a deep breath. She knew she would regret her next question.
"Then, what are you?" Dixie asked and looked from Caleb to Gabriel.
She felt the fear rise up from her stomach and stick in her throat. Gabriel looked menacing. He looked like a bad man who enjoyed being a bad man. He walked close to her.
"Vampires," he whispered.
He had been mocking her. She jerked away from him.
"What do you want from me?"
"I need the stone that is in the necklace. It is worthless to anyone but me. If you retrieve the stone for me then you will be free to return to your sister," Gabriel's voice was full of gravel and it was menacing. She took a step back and rubbed at the goosebumps on her arms. She wasn't foolish enough to believe him.
"And after I get you the stone you'll return me to my sister," said Dixie.
"Yes, I'll take you home," Caleb said.
"Then I don't suppose that I have a choice. I'll do it."
The rain fell from the sky quickly but without malice as Dixie watched from the window of an old inn. The sky was gray and the road was muddy as far as she could see in every direction.
"Miss Deveraux could you possibly see your way to closing that window? It's causing a draft," said Marco.
"What could it possibly matter to you?" Dixie asked.
"This one has lost her manners," Marco said to Caleb.
"Do you really blame her?" Caleb asked.
"No. I don't know how accommodating I would be, let alone respectful." Marco said as he crossed the room and shut the window in front of Dixie.
"I didn't ask to put you out. The cold can affect both the bonding agent and the coloring of our project until it has set." Marco went back to the table where he had been working and fiddled with his bottles. A necklace was laid out in front of him.
"That necklace is hideous. Why would anyone choose to wear it?" Dixie asked.
"It happens to be very stylish at this moment in history," Marco said brushing something shiny onto the largest stone and then blowing on it.
"How is that any different than having the window open?" Dixie asked.
"My breath happens to be warm and the air outside is anything but," Marco said.
"Will you two stop you're giving me a headache." Caleb said pushing away from the wall where he had propped himself. He kept his arms folded across his chest and walked to the table where Marco was working. He wrenched the chair away from the table and sat down with a little more force than was necessary. Marco looked up from his work.
"Wholly unnecessary. I'm working as fast as I can. If you had come up with this idea before I could have had this done ages ago and we wouldn't have to hold up in this dreadful place."
"It wasn't my idea. It was Gabe's idea. As usual he expects me to preform a miracle," Caleb said.
"Because you keep preforming them. He put everyone at risk. I am all for cloak and dagger shenanigans but what he has us do puts us all at risk. His search for power puts us all at risk. His laissez-faire attitude regarding the crews safety puts us all at risk. By comparison a mutiny doesn't feel especially dangerous." Marco said this and returned to his work as if he had said nothing at all.
"Mutiny?" Dixie asked. "Are you insane? He'll kill all of you. I know that and I've known him for all of two hours." She turned to Caleb. "Who is Marco?"
"I am right here dear girl. I am capable of answering any question that you put to me," said Marco painting a clear liquid onto the back of the largest stone.
"Would it be the truth? He hasn't lied to me yet," Dixie said watching every stroke of Marco's brush.
"It may have escaped your notice but neither have I. I am the prop man. I make sure the crew is outfitted in the appropriate clothing and carrying the correct weapons." Marco looked at Dixie and frowned.
"He's telling you the truth," Caleb said from his chair. He had leaned back and Dixie would have sworn that he was asleep.
"Why would you care what anyone thought of you? You can go anywhere, anywhere at all."
"That is precisely why we must be so careful. Truly ghastly things happen when you alter history. The changes can be minuscule here, let's say that we stole a compass. Only we find out later that the compass was supposed to lead a doctor to a small remote village where he was supposed to already be on hand to stop a plague. If the doctor isn't where he's supposed to be then the entire village could be lost along with a child that should grow up to discover an important anti viral medication."
"What does anti viral medication mean?" Dixie asked.
Caleb kicked Marco beneath the table. Marco looked up at him and then over to Dixie puzzled.
"The long winded doctor example again. I don't think they had that kind of medicine in her time." Caleb said.
"Oh," said Marco. "Well, it's medicine. Let's leave it at that."
"Marco makes sure that we blend into a crowd. History is policed by the Brotherhood of Zed. We are already outlaws since we're pirates. I don't know about Marco but I don't have any intention of getting caught by the Brotherhood for messing up time. Marco makes us look the part. Important job." Caleb took a slow and steady breath. He kept his arms folded across his chest and never opened his eyes as he spoke. He looked far too calm for Dixie's liking.
"There," Marco said pushing away from the table. "I'm done with the necklace. It is perfect even if I do say so myself. Now we just need to get Dixie changed and put the necklace on her."
"I can handle that part on my own. If the two of you would be so kind as to wait outside." Dixie tugged Caleb up out of his chair.
"You won't be able to dress on your own. The lacing is too complicated," said Marco.
"I will work it out," Dixie said as she pushed them out the door.
Amelia watched the crowd from the shadows of a balcony that overlooked the great hall and its festivities. Everything would be different for her when the sun rose. She would belong to a man that she didn't know. A man who was quite literally the enemy. If her life was not her own then what use was it? After the party she would wait until everyone was asleep and she would jump from the north tower. A man had slipped from the rocks beneath the tower once and had never been see again. She was certain that they would do the same for her.
She moved quickly and quietly through the castle to the great hall. Her father would miss her soon and she didn't wish to give him any reason to question her. As far as he was concerned she was doing the right thing for her family. She watched her father for several moments before her brother caught her hand.
"Dance with me Ame," John said slightly drunk as he began to pull her towards the dancing.
"Just one," Amelia said smiling at him. He was her favorite. He would always be her favorite. She wouldn't deny him this one last dance. This would be her fair well to him.
Dixie checked to ensure her mask was secure. She had strict instructions not to take it off until she made her way to the bed chambers. What she had managed to do was make her way to the balcony that over looked the great hall. She watched for a moment as well dressed men and women danced. Everyone wore a mask as she did. Everyone except the people who were giving the party. Dixie could tell because the young woman dancing looked enough like her that they could be sisters if not twins. The single difference was the color of their hair. Dixie was blond and the woman was brunette.
Dixie backed away from the balcony railing as she stared at the woman and noticed something important. The woman wore a necklace exactly like the one Dixie had in a secret pocket that was sewn into her dress. How was Dixie supposed to switch them if she was wearing it?
She made her way down two staircases and down two hallways to find the door where she was supposed to meet Caleb. It was a secret door or so Marco had told them. She did have to pull a hidden lever to open it so Marco could have possible been telling the truth.
"Did you switch them?" Caleb asked stepping inside. He allowed the door to close softly behind him.
"She is wearing the necklace. She is dancing right now and wearing the necklace. How will we get the necklace for your crazy brother if she's wearing it?" Dixie squeaked.
"You need to calm down. We'll go to plan B."
"What does that even mean? Every minute that passes here is another minute that I am not with my dying sister. You people said that you knew what you were doing. You said you knew that the necklace was in her rooms and I only had to rummage around until I found it. That is not the case." Dixie's voice got louder with ever word and she used her index finger to poke him in the chest. "Take me home now."
"No. I may need you for plan B. After that I'll take you home."
"What is plan B?"
"We wait until they fall asleep."
Dixie tugged on the ribbon holding her mask in place. She decided to ask the question that she had been afraid to ask before.
"What is the necklace for? Why does he need it so badly?"
"Gabe is obsessed with a legend. No one thought it was real until we found a manuscript. The reason we need the necklace is to read the manuscript. The main stone in the necklace will allow us to read the manuscript by looking through it."
"What will the manuscript tell you?" Dixie asked yawning.
"How to be immortal."
"I've decided that I hate time travel and vampires," Dixie said.
"You and me both."
"Hey, wake up," Caleb whispered shaking Dixie awake. "I hear someone."
Dixie realized that she was wrapped in Caleb's arms and quickly sat upright bumping her head on the stone wall. The area under the steps where they had chosen to hide was cramped and Caleb had to put out a hand to steady her.
"Will you be more careful? I can only return you to your sister if you're alive to go."
Dixie was about to protest but Caleb put a finger to his lips. It wasn't footsteps that he heard but more of a swishing of skirts. Dixie listened hard as Caleb caught her hand and began tugging her toward the hallway. She shook her head no and Caleb nodded yes.
"It's fine," he whispered in her ear.
He led her down the hall staying close to the wall so that they remained in the shadows. He heard the swishing pause at the top of the steps and then move on. Caleb's hand warmed Dixie's. She was freezing down to the bone. He could hear her teeth chattering while she slept. He had put his coat over her at one point but it hadn't helped.
They followed the woman until she climbed the steps to the tower. They looked at each other. The door to the tower closed leaving them alone.
"Do we follow her?" Dixie asked.
"I'm going to give her a minute to get to the top. Then I'll go up and see what she's doing. Do you remember where her rooms are? Go and search them."
Dixie nodded and without a word she ran to the bed chambers. Caleb took a deep breath and began climbing the steps. He didn't want Dixie to see what he would have to do if Amelia wouldn't give him the necklace.
He watched Amelia stare out over the countryside. She breathed in the cold damp air. The rain had moved off and left a clear view in its wake. The full moon shone through the clouds that remained. She walked slowly to the wall that prevented someone from falling over the edge and climbed it slowly and deliberately. Taking one last deep breath Amelia closed her eyes.
"Stop," Caleb yelled.
Amelia looked back at him. She didn't appear to be the least bit afraid. Her breath didn't catch in her throat. Her sure footing never wavered.
"Who are you?" Amelia asked dropping down off the wall. She pulled the tie of her cloak and let it fall while withdrawing two dagger from the infinite folds of her dress. She clutched one in each hand preparing to defend herself.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Give me the necklace and I'll be on my way."
"This was a gift from my brother. I will not part with it," Amelia said.
Dixie chose that moment to throw open the door from the steps. With her would be attacker distracted Amelia threw one of her daggers burring it deep in Caleb's chest. Dixie charged past Caleb toward Amelia. Caleb fell to the ground gripping the dagger. He yanked it out and let the pain flood his body.
Dixie grabbed for Amelia's necklace and tripped on the uneven stones beneath her feet falling hard into Amelia just as she brought up the dagger to protect herself. The force of the impact sent both women over the edge of the wall. In an instant Amelia found herself falling. A set of hands caught her just before she was out of reach. She looked around as Caleb pulled her up. She was alone.
"Why were you trying to jump?" Caleb asked as he picked up her cloak and wrapped it around her.
"Who are you?" Amelia asked in return.
Caleb shook his head not believing his luck. This was the past. He was under the impression that women were timid creatures.
Amelia deftly removed another dagger from her skirts and held it up as she took a step back.
"Answer my question," she said.
Caleb watched the blade of the dagger catch the moonlight.
"My name is Caleb Ricks."
"And how are you still alive Caleb Ricks? I never miss and I sent that dagger through your heart."
She motioned to the bloody dagger. He looked back at it. There was a healthy about of blood on it and the ground. Amelia put her hand out and the dagger returned to her.
"And here I thought I was getting slow," Caleb said. "Are you some kind of witch?"
"I am asking the questions," Amelia said and Caleb took a step back. He put his hands up in surrender.
"That's fine, all I'm saying is that you get more bees with honey. I'd be more inclined to trust you if you gave a little. It would certainly make things easier."
Amelia considered him for a moment.
"I am not a witch," Amelia said.
Caleb smiled. "I'm a vampire."
"What is a vampire?"
"I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before. So this is what a world without Bram Stoker looks like. I'm a kind of monster."
Amelia shook her head and sighed.
"This is my punishment," she sighed. "I was going to take my own life and God sent a devil to kill me instead. I am unsure if you are a blessing or a curse."
"Definitely a curse. You haven't seen my brother yet." Caleb put his hands down. "I'm not going to try to kill you. I think there has been enough death tonight."
"I regret what happened to your friend," Amelia said looking over to the wall she had nearly fallen from.
"We didn't know each other well. We only met today. We weren't exactly friends. She was helping me," Caleb said taking a step closer. "I can tell you that she was very special. Infuriating but special."
"Why did we look alike?"
"She was supposed to sneak into your bedchamber and steal the necklace for us. We had no way of knowing that you would be wearing it. I guess now we know where the necklace ended up," Caleb said looking over and down the tower.
"Am I right in assuming that you have changed history? Did I jump?" Amelia asked.
"I only know that the necklace vanishes tonight. No one knows what happens to it after tonight."
"Why do you need the necklace?"
"My brother is on a quest," Caleb said.
"And you are not?"
"He's my brother. It doesn't matter if I think it's insane."
"I'll give you the necklace if you take me with you," Amelia said.
"I can't. I'm not from this time and you belong in this time."
"I had worked out that you were from another time. No one speaks so," Amelia said staring him down.
"Why don't you just give me the necklace and we can both get on with our lives."
"Take me with you and I'll give you the necklace. I may even be of some use."
A slow smile spread across Caleb's face. "You may be of use. If you give me the necklace and do me a favor I think I would be willing to take the chance."
"Take the chance?" She asked putting her daggers away.
"Yes, we should probably not linger here. The Brotherhood will be here soon. We've changed history."
"The Brotherhood guards history? Have we not left history as it was? Your friend is wearing one of my dresses. She has my face. She is only missing my necklace.'
"She has a duplicate in her pocket but I don't think anyone will ever find her body." Caleb put out his hand. "Ready to leave all of this behind?"
"Yes," Amelia said taking it.
"Are you certain that this will work?" Amelia asked donning a bonnet. "Why are these skirts so big and this corset so tight?"
"I have no idea. I have a friend who knows. We can ask him later. We don't have a lot of time. Remember that the little girl's name is Cassie. I really wish I didn't feel compelled to do this but it would have made Dixie happy to know that Cassie didn't die without her."
"Our hair is not the same color. The child will know."
"No. The child is dying from scarlet fever. Emphasis on 'fever'."
"You hope, then, that she is too ill to discover us? Forgive me Caleb for saying so but this is not a very good plan."
"I promised," Caleb said.
Amelia walked out of Dixie's bedroom and into the one beside it. She was under no illusions. Dixie's family would know just as her brother would know that the body left behind wasn't hers if it was ever found.
Cassie was alone in the room. She was small and pale, and looked like death. Her golden curls were matted against her perspiring forehead. Her eyes opened just a bit as Amelia crossed the room to her.
"Dixie?" Cassie whispered.
"Yes of course. How are you feeling?"
"Who are you?" Cassie attempted to get up. There was nothing but fury on her young face.
Amelia said nothing.
"Where is Dixie?"
Amelia weighed her options and decided that the girl deserved the truth. She looked wild as though she had been wandering the moors for years all alone. Cassie fell back against the bed exhausted. Tears began to fall from the corners of her eyes. The only attention she paid them was to swipe at them with the sleeve of her dressing gown.
"What happened to my sister? Did you kill her? Fay, the woman who took care of us, told me stories about witch doctors and souls. Did you steal my sisters body?"
"No. There are no such things as souls possessing bodies. You should not allow people to fill your head with utter nonsense."
"But Fay says that the devils are tricksters."
"Do you think that I am the devil?"
"Did you kill my sister?"
"Yes, but it was a horrible accident. She was trying to get back to you by any means necessary," Amelia reached out and touched Cassy's hand.
"What happened?" Cassie asked. Amelia was quiet for several seconds.
"She was forced to do something that she did not want to do and it made her desperate. Do not judge her harshly. It is not an easy position to find oneself in. She wanted to get back to you. Her only thoughts were of you."
"Who forced her?"
"I do not know."
Cassie nodded and fell into a fitful sleep. Sometime later she awoke to find Amelia leaning against the back of a chair. Amelia looked so uncomfortable that Cassie felt sorry for her. Amelia obviously wasn't a lady of the south. Cassie's body hurt everywhere and she was so weak that she couldn't do more than move her head. She could feel the beads of sweat on her face and neck. She could feel the hurt in her heart.
Amelia jerked awake and looked over to Cassy. She was as pale as the sheets and sweating through them.
"Promise me," Cassie whispered. "Promise me that you will make sure the people who took my sister will be punished." Cassie spoke slowly and deliberately. "Dixie was good and kind. She took care of everyone. Even when things became bad she fought to keep this plantation working. If there is a person on earth who did not deserve this it was my sister. She had never even been farther than town."
"She saw England."
"England," Cassie sighed and gave a small smile. "Promise me."
"I promise little one."
"I think I will see her soon."
Amelia held Cassie's hand long after she was gone. The light in the room began to dim and Caleb stood by her chair.
"I need to get back and my brother will be wanting the necklace."
"Then we should get going," Amelia said standing and and tucking Cassie's hand carefully beneath the covers. She then lifted the bed sheet over Cassie's face.
"You are not going. Just give me the necklace and I'll take you anywhere you want to go. I have plenty of money. I can set you up in any time you only have to pick."
"I want to meet your brother. I want to know why this necklace is so important to him."
"That's not going to happen. Gabe doesn't answer questions," Caleb said. "Name where you want to go. Anywhere in the world in any time. Well almost any time. I can find someone if you want to go really far into the future."
"Take me with you."
"No, it's too dangerous. Gabe will not deal well with you. And when he doesn't deal well with someone he kills them. I can't take another hit to my karma. If this keeps up someone is going to drop a piano on me next week."
"I will change back into my own clothes and then we will go."
"I'm doing my best to do the right thing. Gabe is dangerous on a good day and this isn't a good day. He is inches from having means to translate the manuscript he's spent a very long time looking for. He is desperate to have that necklace because the stone will allow him to do it. He's motivated."
"So am I. I will meet you in the great hall. Cassie expressed a wish for me to receive this dwelling upon her passing. She decided that I was an angel instead of a devil. I would like to explore where they lived."
"I'm not going to fight you. Maybe you can baffle Gabriel with your talk of great halls and dwelling places. Are you sure?"
"I'll meet you in the foyer when you're ready," Caleb said shaking his head and leaving the room.
Amelia pulled the sheet back just enough to see Cassie's face.
"I will be strong little one. I will avenge your sister. There is little that I may do to fix what I left in England but there is much that I may do here for you. Gabriel will not draw breath for long."
"Where in the devil have you been?" Marco asked pacing the floor of the room at the inn. "I've had to pop out of here twice and hope to hell that the Brotherhood couldn't follow me. Their hoods look ridiculous but they are insanely effective."
"You are preaching to the choir Marco," Caleb said. "Where are they now?"
"No idea. How did they catch on so quickly? Do you think we were spotted?" Marco asked.
"It's possible but unlikely. I think this was all me."
"You weren't gone long enough for something like this. You would have had to upset the entire time line and, forgive me Caleb, but you just are not capable of that kind of damage. You're too careful. No, I don't think you understand exactly what's happening here. The Brotherhood is out in mystifying force. They appear to be everywhere we are. I've never seen anything like it."
"It was me. Well it was us."
"What on earth did Dixie do. Am I correct in assuming that you explained the rules to her?"
"She died and then I offered to take Amelia away."
"Is this some kind of joke? It's unlike you in every possible way and completely inappropriate in every possible way. Every agent of the Brotherhood is combing this time line."
"He speaks the truth," Amelia said as she walked into the room. She laid back the hood of her cloak to reveal her river of dark locks.
"Gabriel is not going to like this at all. And how pray tell are you going to explain it to that little girl that Dixie left behind?"
"We have already remedied that situation. Cassie is with her family now."
"This isn't happening," Marco said turning to Caleb. "Tell me this is not happening."
"Oh I assure you it is happening. You and Caleb will take me to Gabriel. He and I will sort things," she said turning from Marco to Caleb. "Then I will end this."
"You're human," said Marco. "You can't do him any harm."
"She can actually," Caleb said. He closed the distance between himself and Amelia and put a hand on her arm. He spoke close to her ear. "Amelia, he can hurt you. You could die this time and I may not get to you fast enough to catch you. I've seen that look on your face on the faces of men who have gone into battle. You mean to kill him. Why?"
"I was a coward last night. Instead of standing and fighting I was content to throw myself from a tower. I made a promise to Cassie today that the guilty would be punished. I fully intend to keep that promise."
"You wish to kill Gabriel. Now we are getting somewhere," Marco said as he sat in one of the plain wooden chairs. He smiled. Every trace of stress was completely gone. He motioned to the other chair. "Please sit and tell me your plan. Perhaps we can come to some kind of arrangement where we help you."
Amelia held on tightly to Caleb until the horrible pressure subsided. When she opened her eyes she stood on the deck of a magnificent ship. The water was calm and the sky was pure blue. She looked around to see men everywhere.
"It took you long enough," Gabriel yelled walking towards them. "Where is my necklace?"
There was no doubt in Amelia's mind who the man was.
"Hand it over Dixie and Bleeding Heart here will take you home."
Amelia reached up and unclasped the necklace.
"Give it to me."
Amelia held it out and Gabriel snatched it from her fingers.
"Good girl, now Caleb kill her so that we can get on with our lives."
"That wasn't our deal," Caleb said.
"She's seen too much. The Brotherhood could find her and then we-"
Amelia used his inattention to extract one of her daggers and plunge it deep into his chest. He staggered back in pain. Many of the men on the deck realized what was happening and started toward her ready for a fight. She could only hope that Marco was right and some of them were ready for a mutiny. She put out her hands and sent Gabriel flying across the deck. He would have kept flying if he hadn't hit some rigging and brought it all down with him.
Caleb watched his brother sail through the air and land hard on the deck with Amelia's dagger still in his chest. Men drew swords everywhere he looked. He drew his own. He pulled Amelia to one side as two men came at her. They were fast but Caleb was faster. He beheaded the first and stabbed the second buying Amelia enough time to pick up the first man's discarded sword.
Amelia knew that she had no hope of moving as quickly as the vampires around her but having a sword in her hand felt right. She blocked one vampire's blow with her own and then sent him over the edge of the ship to meet the sea. She saw that Marco had three opponents and decided to even the score a little by picking off one of them. The vampire found himself impaled on the handle of a hammer. Right through the heart.
When the men in hoods arrived immediately Amelia knew the plan was in tatters. They needed more time. She made her way to Caleb. She sent several vampires over the edge of the ship and into the water.
"What do we do about them?" Amelia asked.
"That's the Brotherhood of Zed I need to get you out of here. Now," Caleb yelled over the melee. He reached for her but a member of the Brotherhood slipped between them and sent Caleb back several paces. It wasn't until he took the head off the Brother that he found Amelia in the crush. He was fighting his way to her when one of his fellow crew members caught Amelia off guard and stabbed her with a dagger. Amelia screamed. Caleb got to her before she fell. He scooped her up and found a quieter spot to look her over. Marco was at his elbow covered in blood. Caleb looked back at him.
"What? I enjoy a good fight," Marco said crouching down by Amelia's wound.
"Don't eat the monks Marco," Caleb said.
"Not all of them."
"We need to get her to a doctor," Caleb said.
"We don't have one on the ship."
"I can take her to one."
"The trip would kill her," Marco said.
"What else can I do?"
"Turn her or drain her Caleb but choose now. She's already passed out from the pain. It would be cruel to make her suffer."
Caleb looked over at Marco.
"I'm sorry to be blunt but Amelia isn't our only problem. We need to get back out there. This fight is the most important that we have ever fought and it may in fact be our last if we cannot defeat the Brotherhood so that you can claim the ship."
"Go. I'll take care of her," Caleb said.
"Don't be long. This fight is almost over," Marco said as he stood. He put a hand on Caleb's shoulder and then left.
"Don't be afraid," Caleb whispered to Amelia. "This is going to hurt a lot but you'll be fine when you come out of it. I won't let you die."
Caleb pulled the dagger out of Amelia's stomach and she screamed.
"You can't win Gabriel," Marco yelled over the din. "Give up. The crew is turning."
Gabriel twisted and managed to head-butt Marco sending him staggering backward and rubbing his forehead.
"You fight like a girl Gabe. Give up."
"Never," Gabe yelled swinging his sword. He felt blood trickling from his wound. He blamed Marco. Dixie's dagger had been dipped in one of Marco's concoctions. He was sure of it. He had probably given her the dagger too. The wound burned and was healing so slowly that he could actually feel it.
Marco blocked a blow from Gabriel's sword. He was faster than Gabe and he knew it. He pivoted and ran Gabe through. Marco swung up a foot and planted a boot on Gabe's chest then pushed him off his sword. A member of the Brotherhood took a swipe at Marco's head but he ducked and thrust his sword into the hooded vampire sending him forward as Marco withdrew his sword. Marco stood and swung taking the head clean off of a pirate.
The screaming that began curdled the blood and caused everyone to stop. Marco watched in horror as Amelia stood on the deck. A Brother lay on the deck at her feet. He was the one doing the screaming. Marco could hear the pirates bones breaking over and over again. Everyone was quiet and still as they waited to see what Amelia would do next.
"Amelia," Caleb whispered. "You need to claim the ship so that the crew is protected. This is a crime and we need leverage. If they don't see you as a force to be reckoned with they will wipe us all out."
"You should be captain," she said into his ear.
"I'm not the one who came on deck and decided to show off. You don't have a choice."
"I claim this ship. Anyone who wishes to stay will be loyal only to me. If you wish to remain loyal to your former captain I will understand. You may go now."
Several pirates vanished due to fear. Marco dragged Gabriel to a mast and ran him through so completely that the sword was buried deep in the mast. Amelia turned her attention to the Brotherhood.
"You are free to go."
"No, you have all broken our laws. You must be punished and the punishment is death," said a tall hooded Brother. The Brotherhood started forward.
"Wait," called Marco rushing forward. "What if we were to strike a bargain?"
"We cannot be bought pirate."
"No one is suggesting you buy anything. What I do suggest is a partnership."
"What could you have to offer?"
"True immortality," Marco said.
"You have true immortality?"
"Not yet but we are in possession of the Acton Manuscript. If you leave us to obtain the recipe we will share. It is rumored that your order abhors the need to drink blood. You can have immortality without the need for blood. You would be free to maintain the time line completely unhindered."
"What is in for you," the hooded vampire asked?
"We would be free as well. We would also request to keep any treasure that we find along the way," Marco said walking towards the Brother.
"We may be willing to make allowances if what you say is true."
"The previous captain can tell you how he came across the manuscript."
Everyone looked over to the mast. Gabriel and the sword were both gone.
"Search the ship," Amelia called.
"He's gone," Marco whispered.
"Not for long," Caleb said.
"We will consent to this on the condition that a Brother be allowed to accompany you on the quest."
"An ambassador. Wish we had thought of it. Splendid idea," Marco said elegantly ushering the large hooded vampire towards the only door that would accommodate his size. "Why don't we go below deck and you can see the manuscript for yourself? I'm sure the captain wishes to give her orders to her crew and we can discuss the seven chests of redemption."
"Is he always like this?" Amelia asked Caleb when they were gone.
"Yes. He's pushy but oddly you get used to it," he said.
"I am only staying to find your brother and end him. He gave no thought to the lives of Cassie and Dixie. He must pay for this."
"I won't deny that he should be punished but he is my brother. I can't help you kill him."
"Then do not stand in my way. I am grateful that you saved my life, twice, but that will play no part in my decision to obtain justice for Cassie and Dixie. I will take this ship and crew to the ends of the earth if I must."
"Fair enough, but you may need to take it to the edges of time. My brother is resourceful. You'll need me and probably Marco."
"I am not about to cast you off simply because you do not want your brother dead. This is still your ship. Once my mission is completed you may have it back."
"Good. Gabe can go a lot further in time than you can."
"What does that mean?"
"We can only go into the future as far as our natural deaths. Never tell anyone when you died."
"I died in this time. What year is it Mr. Ricks?" Amelia asked.
"1888," he said squinting into the sun.
"What year did Gabriel die?"
"1995. The time thing is one of the reasons that Gabe wanted the chests so badly. We would be free of the restriction."
"It is possible that he is outside my reach."
"Not necessarily you can catch a ride with one of us. How do you like being a vampire?"
"I am still feeling the effects of changing. I believe that I am starving."
"Now that is something that I can help you with."
"And then perhaps you can explain the seven chests of redemption," Amelia said.
Copyright © 2015 Arietta Charles