Summary: Amidst the turbulence of revolution, the peace of a quiet town is disturbed when someone seemingly dead rises from the grave.
Disclaimer: This is a sort of sequel to the Secrets trilogy. The tone in this story is a bit different from what I've written before. I'm a big lover of romantic adventures and action! (Think The Sea Hawk or Prisoner of Zenda). But what I enjoy most sometimes is just a whimsical story where you don't have to think too much. This is my take on that. One of my favorite heroes and characters of all times is Zorro. I grew up with Disney's Zorro and this fic has elements from that much-beloved show (which you do not have to have seen, of course).
You do not have to have read any of my other Angloa stories to understand this one. However, feel free to do so as they are all posted and complete.
I do not own any of the Twilight characters in this story. What I do own as my own creation is the country of Angloa and some side-characters.
Angloa is an island nestled off the western coast of France and Northern Spain. During the Middle Ages, it was an English colony until it gained its independence. After a bloody and intrigue-filled civil war at the start of the 16th century, Angloa began a golden age of prosperity and peace under its rulers that some would argue lasted for more than two hundred years.
At the end of the 18th century, tensions arise on the continent when revolts in France lead to the finality of its once powerful monarchy. Now, afraid that a similar occurrence might happen in their own countries, the European heads of state keep a close eye on their citizens, making sure such a rebellion does not take root in their own countries.
The deep whispers of a virgin woodland caressed her brow—warm gusts of an early summer wind gently made way through the thick forest roof. The scent of flowers, dew-covered grass and horse floated through the air as the early morning progressed.
Sprawled in the middle of a grass-covered plot of land, lay Isabella Swan. She stared up at the blue skies penetrating through the forest roof with soft clouds floating lazily, allowing rays of sun to pierce the leaf barrier ever so gently. The thin beams reached her, warmed her. The wind stirred again, rustling the leaves, ringing like music in her ears.
Raven's Grove sang to her, as it always had, as it always would.
Her horse gave out a muted snort as it kept eating the grass. The young woman breathed in deeply, wanting to stay in that forest forever. But a sense of duty—a knowing that she would be scolded by her parents if she did not return—made her get up.
She went over to the happy mare, nibbling away at the emerald straws of grass, avoiding the white flowers that dotted the green carpet. Yes, she and April could be very happy in Raven's Grove.
"Maybe we should stay, eh girl?" Isabella laughed; silly romantic thoughts of escaping the confinements of her home and delve into the forest formed once more in her mind. "Maybe we could stay here forever," she sighed, mostly to herself.
April's ear flicked at the sound of her owner's voice, but she paid her no heed. Isabella—or Bella, as she was known to those closest to her—shrugged her shoulders and mounted the white mare. She took one last look around the covered meadow. It was a secret place she went to whenever she wanted to escape. It was not too far deep into the vast forest, but it was out of the way of most big roads that snaked through it. It had no name. And since it was unknown, Bella had decided to name it herself; The Embrace. It truly felt like such, like she was continuously embraced by the forest itself as she lay in that meadow, cradled against its bosom.
April flicked her ears, irritated—she wanted to eat more of the delicious green grass. However, the heels in her side obliged her to do otherwise. Her powerful legs soon took her mistress away from her favorite place. The horse glided into a peaceful canter as she passed bushes and trees, already knowing which way to go. She felt her human relax in the saddle, making the mare relax as well.
They rode past an old abandoned hut, nestled between some trees with its red façade faded and blending into the canopy. They continued south, the dense trees seeming to move away as the forest opened up to them. Bella took another deep breath as her chocolate brown eyes opened up more. The wind tore at her loose hair, her green gown flowed around her legs as she rode astride—not the proper way for a young woman to ride; if Bella had ever cared. They continued past a small lake, still as a mirror, reflecting—for the first time—the blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Somewhere an owl hooted. Finally, in the distance, the town could be seen, its houses stretching almost like the tentacles of an octopus over a vast, green meadow, but never quite reaching the cliffside where the white castle Adelton Hall stood proud.
Bella rode on to Hayes, her countenance turning gloomy as she had no wish to return. Yet, it was a beautiful town with colorful houses grouped together, looking as if brought out from a fairy tale. April slowed down as they entered through the outer medieval walls that encircled the town. The horse settled into a small trot while they passed the first houses, aiming to reach the upper square close to the mayor's estate.
Bella's father owned a fine mansion with several floors and wide as a mansion could be. It was as much as a rich merchant could buy. She wrinkled her nose. The house was too big for the three of them, but her parents insisted; a few years back, her father had even purchased the title of a gentleman.
They were supposedly fine folk now. Her father had even changed their family name from Seaver to Swan. It was a silly action, meant to mimic an aristocratic family that had been famous in the country several centuries earlier. The name Swan played an important part in Angloan history.
She thought it in rather poor taste. The Swan name had long since died out in Angloa. However, it was still widely known—especially in Hayes and the province of Cadherra—that since during the fifteenth and start of the sixteenth century that distinguished family—the Swans—had been the lords of the land and lived in the castle Adelton Hall.
Her father had been schooled in proper etiquette and had gotten a taste of the finer things in life from an early age, which was why she supposed he wished to live in such excessive wealth and was why he had joined the gentry. But Bella would never ignore where she came from, where her family came from: seafarers, explorers—people with little nobility in their blood. She accepted that fact when her father wouldn't.
"Miss Swan, your father will be looking for you!" came a distant voice from the other side of the square. It was still early morning, only bakers, servants and other workers were up at this ungodly hour. She saw, in the distance, an old man sitting by a table, playing chess with himself: Stewart Simmons.
"Thank you, Mr. Simmons," she shouted back, snickering a little at him. He always meddled into other people's business.
Bella rode past the old medieval square and headed for the new one, deeper within the vast town. She passed the large stone statue of General Edward Cullen, once Count of Cadherra, the province in which they all lived. Nowadays he was the national hero. Cullen was the mysterious disfigured man, the underdog, the commoner who had died while fighting against a usurping queen almost three hundred years ago. He had helped place the rightful king on the throne and, thus, helped start the golden age of Angloa.
The statue depicting him sat astride its horse, looking down severely at the people of Hayes. She felt the eyes of the statue following her. Bella promptly hurried April on.
She passed some soldiers who had come home from a night patrol. Her heart skipped a beat, hoping they would not know she'd ridden alone into the forest.
They nodded as they saw her, acknowledging the young beauty while she passed them. Most charming smiles completely went past her. Bella had no interest in neither soldiers nor officers. Behind them a tall, fat and flustered sergeant tried to keep up, his rotund belly flopping up and down with every little step he took—his unshaven chins jiggling as the man did his best to give out a commanding air. Bella looked away, growing flustered at the sight of the poor, unkempt sergeant. She would never understand how he could continue being so big when he went out with so many patrols. The moment he saw her he stopped, letting the other soldiers continue forth in their proud, dark-green uniforms.
"Ah, Miss Swan, another excursion into Raven's Grove I see," he said in a pleasant baritone voice, his big brown eyes smiling gently at her. Her heart calmed when she saw the man. A smile dotted her face, something that always seemed to happen whenever she came upon the rotund sergeant.
"Oh, never that, Sgt. Thompson." Bella scoured their surroundings and then leaned in slightly with a mischievous smile growing on her face. "I would be much obliged if my morning rides did not reach the ear of your commanding officer. I shall make sure that Dory prepares another basket of her meat pies for you, and only you," she blinked.
Sgt. Thompson's face lit up at the mention of food, completely ignoring that it was bribery Bella was mentioning. He could already savor the juicy meat and the crumbly pie dough going down into his belly, accompanied by a cup or two of the innkeeper's best wine. Bella hid yet another upcoming laugh at the glazed expression in Thompson as thoughts of food coursed through his mind.
"You have my word, miss!" he exclaimed, saluting as he did so. There was no more exchange between them, and the sergeant turned around to catch up to his patrol, breathing heavily as his chubby legs took him slowly in the direction the other soldiers had walked. Bella leaned back in the saddle and gave away a satisfied chuckle before lightly touching her heels to April's sides.
They swiftly moved through Hayes and to the new square, up to her home. Bella dismounted and took April to the stables. She scraped her brown boots in the grass, getting rid of the worst muck as she stepped into the kitchens. The servants were already working away and Dory stood by the stove, cooking the meals for the day.
"Your parents are looking for you," Dory said as she motioned to the door at the other end of the room, leading to the stairs that would take Bella up to the next floor. She eyed the cook, her mouth was firm and her rosy cheeks didn't smile like usual.
"Are they very cross with me, Dory?"
The cook scoffed at the question, her gray curls jumping a little under the white cap that covered her head.
"Go on to your father, miss, before I give my own piece of mind," she said in her soft, motherly voice. Bella's lips turned into a thin line as she left the open space of the kitchen and proceeded to meet her fate. Going up the wooden stairs was hard, each step turned heavy—the boots seemed to weigh her down, imploring her not to go, to turn back and flee to Raven's Grove.
She stepped into a decorated hall. Dated Rococo furnishings were spread everywhere—white or light colored furnishings with contrasting damask or brocade patterns. Her mother had tried to keep the outdated house fashionable but it was an arduous process: neither mother nor daughter enjoyed much the childish pastel colors and the extensive furnishings of the previous owner. The big hall and some smaller rooms were the last to be remade. She avoided walking on the long rug cutting through the middle of the hall—as not to dirty it—gliding along the parquet floors to the sitting room, where her parents must be waiting, eating a very early breakfast.
Bella knocked gently on the door, hearing a muffled "come in" from the other side. She took a deep breath and pushed the tall French doors open, stepping into the room. It was a picturesque view. The room was large in size, decorated in modest and sleek furnishings in one color, not too heavily accented. Most furniture wasn't even painted, showcasing the natural color of the wood they had been crafted from; it added to the romantic naturalism her mother tried to achieve. It brought them "one step closer to nature" she would say.
Soft colors of mint green, light blue and an array of beiges settled into the foundations of the palette that had been carefully selected for the room. There was a round mahogany table at one end, some chairs in similar wood around it—usually used for playing cards or sitting down for a drink. A sleek piano forte in black stood next to the tall windows that looked down on the square. Heavy curtains in a mint green-blue draped around them. One window stood slightly ajar so that the late May air might sneak into the room.
A group of sleek couches and settees in beige stood on the ornate rug in the middle of the room—that was where her parents sat, talking in hushed voices as their daughter stepped forward.
Charles Swan took in the appearance of the young woman and frowned slightly.
Isabella Swan wore her hair down, the untamed chestnut locks had flown everywhere after her wild ride through the forest. Some smaller twigs and strands of grass were still stuck in it. Her cheeks were rosy from the fresh morning air, her eyes clear and awake, brightened by the exercise—a mischievous air in them that was not befitting a lady. Her dark green riding habit was wet in some places; along the back and shoulder area—where Bella had been resting in the dew-covered grass. The thick material of the skirt and jacket had managed to attract some dirt and twigs as well. Her dark brown boots were dirty, albeit the worst of the muck had been scraped off.
"What have I told you about riding out into Raven's Grove?!" Charles exclaimed, growing flustered as his dark mustache twitched in unison with his left eye.
"That I must refrain from such pointless excursions, papa. But in my defense, I was not seen and the exercise did me good," she said, smiling nonchalantly. Bella worked as much of her charm as possible on her father.
"You know there is a curfew, Bella!" he continued pacing. "If the mayor heard my own daughter was breaking it—"
"Mr. Wilson would not care," she countered, growing slightly flustered. "He cares not for any of this but sits by idly as—"
"Hush, Bella," her mother cut her off. "Think of him what you may, he is still the mayor of this town."
"Well, he should definitely start acting like one instead of letting Captain Forster run amuck all the time. I swear he fears that man," she muttered. Her words only made her father grow more flustered, to the point where no words would come out from his mouth.
"Gah!" he shouted in defeat, raising his arms and continuing to pace around the room. "You talk some sense into her, she is your daughter as well!" he said, motioning to Renée who sat silently in the beige couch. Her hands were folded in her lap, her back straight—posture unfaltering. Her eyebrow rose slightly as she turned to look at her daughter.
"Your father has a point, Isabella," her mother said in a softer voice, using her daughter's full name to show the severity of the situation.
Bella sighed and gave up her lighthearted air, knowing her parents were right—to some degree. The nineteen-year-old looked down at herself for the first time and frowned.
"It is not fair," she said after a while, sounding more like a little girl than the grown woman that she was. "It is not fair that I cannot ride or walk wherever I please." Renée's eyes turned sad at her daughter's words. Charles, however, ignored them.
"You are the daughter of a gentleman now, your mother is a lady: distinguished ladies do not go on morning rides like such, even more so when it is illegal. If you had been seen coming from the forest, someone could have informed the commandant of the garrison and it would bode badly for all of us," Charles said in a severe tone. "He arrested the miller's son last week for badmouthing one of his soldiers. We cannot provoke him!"
Indeed, his words were true. In the province of Cadherra as in most of the country of Angloa—an island off the coast of Northern Spain and Western France—curfews had been placed. The townsfolk and peasants were regulated by the high lords and king; afraid that if they got together, a revolution like the one in France would take place—that the people would rebel and overthrow the monarchy. It had not been one year since Marie Antoinette, queen of France, had followed her husband to the dreaded guillotine, executed by her own people. A small yet powerful part of the aristocracy in Angloa had taken an iron grip over the people of the country and suppressed them as best as they could, thinking it was the answer, thinking the laws and regulations set as far back as in the sixteenth century were too relaxed and dangerous.
Hayes was no different. Ten years ago, an army was dispatched to every town in the country to discipline the people. However, it was more of a policing force than an army. They were the Royal Guard, dispatched by the king. The Royal Guard was a newly trained force, replacing what had before been a small and localized militia with little power in their towns. The new Guard held more authority and more power, answering directly to the king and his advisors instead of a particular branch of the government as had been the case before.
Yet, such power and authority had given way to power-hungry officials to do as they pleased in the towns they resided. Usually, the civil administration would be enough to rile them in. The mayors of the towns would be able to keep a chain on the officers and soldiers of the Royal Guard.
In this case, Mayor Lionel Wilson was as passive as they came. He did not fight the behavior of the soldiers and many suspected it was because he feared them. The soldiers took whatever liberty they wanted—their commandant, Captain John Forster, lived like royalty. He commanded his own little kingdom, ruling as a monarch within his own domain.
Not even the Count of Cadherra, Lord Newton, seemed too worried with what went on in his province. Indeed, it had been two years since he had retired to the fashionable capital of Safeira and never looked back.
"If Captain Forster finds out, your father could be thrown into prison in your stead," Renée said, trying to convey the severity of her actions. "Many have been imprisoned for less."
"Captain Forster cares little about my actions, I am sure he is already aware of my excursions. If he is, he has not done anything about them, if he is not, then the case is closed," Bella reasoned. "Besides, he has no right to keep us in our houses, just as Count Newton has no right to demand such outrageous taxes in the name of the king—we all know he takes a generous share for himself—"
"Enough!" her father cried. "I will hear no more. You will go to your room and wash up. I want you to behave, Isabella. I've had word that a new and distinguished family is about to move into Hayes. I've invited them over for dinner later this week and you will attend it," he said, stopping his pacing.
"You will soon know who they are," Charles said enigmatically. "In due time."
"If it is another one of those fops you intend to have me wed, I will spare you any energy and effort now—I will not marry," she sneered and walked out the room, dragging her feet behind her.
Once the tall doors to the sitting area were closed, Renée sent a quiet and accusing look to her husband. "How did you even know she had ridden to Raven's Grove unless you have her under surveillance?" Renée asked accusingly.
"Mr. Simmons has a great eye for these kinds of things," Charles muttered, turning red with embarrassment as he confessed to having someone keeping an eye on his daughter.
"Oh, Charlie," Renée sighed, but said nothing else.
Meanwhile, Bella made her way to her chambers, her hands in fists, muttering to herself. She was growing angrier by the minute toward her father, the situation she found herself in and everything in general.
It was horrible that Hayes should be under the command of someone like Captain Forster. That Mr. Wilson, who represented the civilians, did not raise a finger in protest was even worse. The town was in a dire situation. It saw daily imprisonments and the people were bled dry from the taxes placed by Newton, who was rumored to live better than the king himself. They consoled themselves with the fact that he was never in Hayes or Adelton Hall, and could thus not directly torment them.
And the king was no better; the man ignored his people's cry for help, too afraid to see them rise up against him. The commoners suffered as the rich grabbed whatever they could from them—subduing them as best as they were able. They should keep quiet and know their place or feel the burn of the whip, or the hangman's noose. Many had already paid with their lives in larger cities for speaking up against the aristocrats and lords who ruled the country. She was disgusted that her father wanted to be a part of them. However, Hayes remained quiet and distant from the worst of the violence; or so many in Hayes believed. The people chose to suffer in silence and poverty, reasoning it was better to do so than to have an uprising that might kill most of them.
She arrived in her chambers and sat down on the unmade bed with a sigh. Bella removed her riding jacket and went to open the doors to the balcony, facing the garden. She stepped out and breathed the air. Even though she considered the gardens to be beautiful, they were nothing to the untamed beauty of the forest she longed to roam.
The neatly trimmed hedges and perfect rose bushes—seeing the blooming red and white roses open up to the early morning sun—were still confined by the hand of man. Even the grand weeping willow at the end of the garden, hanging over the small pond, had her long for the big lake within the woods. The wilderness of Raven's Grove spoke more to her than Hayes ever could. She loved to feel April stretch her legs under her as she loosened the reins, the canter turning into a wild gallop as horse and human became one; the greenery of the forest becoming a blur as they sailed past it. Bella leaned against the tall doorframe of the small balcony and dreamed of her latest excursion. She could see the tall, dark trees in the distance, screaming for her to come, for her to escape and return to the bosom of the woods—where she belonged.
While Charles and Renée Swan did everything they could to keep up the appearance of upper society and finesse, Bella distanced herself from it. She did not despise it and acknowledged that her family was lucky to be so financially stable. But all the rules and regulations, all that falsehood, the restraining clothes—everything—did not appeal to her. The same could be said for the men that her father had tried to force her to marry. They were all the same, fashionable dandies who had never done a hard day's work in their lives. Fops who did not know the true meaning of love, only that of rank, status and money. Her family was rich, but not even money could get them to where her father wanted to go. He wanted to be high up in society. He reached for the sun—like Icarus, and Bella was afraid that one day he might reach too far and fall.
As she shed her skirt, letting it fall in a muted pile on the rug, she wondered who he wanted her to marry this time. Ever since her seventeenth birthday—two years ago—every month or so, her father had taken several proposals of marriage from young men of noble birth, interested in his daughter's dowry more than in her. But even though Bella was a beauty, albeit not the conventional fair beauty that was so sought after, she managed well in scaring most of them away. All she had to do was open her mouth and speak for five minutes before most of them turned on their heel and never looked back. Some had been harder to get rid of during the years, but she was resilient and always managed to make them take back their offer. Her father had grown sour at that and now she knew that he would do all he could to see this marriage through.
"Miss, may I be of service?" came the hesitant voice of her chambermaid through the cracked door. Bella turned from the garden to face the maid.
"No, thank you, Sara, I can dress myself," she said. "But I would love to have someone accompany me to the market in a few hours, I need to buy extra meat for Dory," she continued, a small smile spreading on her delicate lips. Sara smiled with her.
"Is it for making meat pies?"
"I promised Sgt. Thompson a whole basket of them," she responded, making Sara utter a small chuckle.
"I will meet you by the main gate then, shall we say at nine?" the maid asked, receiving a nod and closing the door after her.
"I want the best meals prepared for the upcoming dinner, Dory, we will be having some very distinguished guests in our company," Charles said as he strolled around the kitchen, looking at the lineup of the kitchen maids, with the cook at the front.
"That is what you always say whenever you have guests, Mr. Swan, sir," Dory said, not afraid to give him her piece of mind.
"Erhm, yes, perhaps I do," Charles said, muttering a little to himself. "But I want you to outdo yourself this time. Make no fuss about it," he finally said, walking away and leaving them alone. The guests were to dine with them in a couple of days and already the kitchen staff needed to prepare for the upcoming feast.
"I bet it is another intended for Miss Swan," one of the kitchen maids said.
"Poor thing, she never gets a moment's peace," another one put in with sadness in her tone.
"Hush now! We have a lot of work and preparation to do for the day after tomorrow. I want some of you to run down to the market immediately and get me the best you can find. Lorraine, Joanne, you two go. Take Robert with you, he will help you carry the heavier load." Dory shouted commands like second nature. The kitchen staff settled into a practiced pace, running around in controlled chaos.
Lorraine and Joanne, two young women in the service of the Swan's, fetched Robert, the stablemaster, and headed for the market. They strolled through the street, the morning still young, and few people yet to rise.
The narrow streets let little sunshine in as the tall wood and stone buildings reached for the sky. The cobblestone made it tricky to walk sometimes. Joanne, clumsier than the rest, tripped several times before they reached the marketplace.
However, if most of Hayes seemed yet to awake, the marketplace was bustling with life, as if the whole of town had come there.
"Hopefully something will be left," Robert mumbled, staring in defeat at the people fighting over the food. The prices on most things there were ridiculously high due to the taxes placed on the poor merchants. They had little to offer, and it was always the first and earliest people that managed to get the best deal.
"Dory will kill us if we come back empty-handed," Lorraine sighed, the oldest of the three. She took charge and sent each of them to get supplies for the dinner. Eggs, wine, meats, and other things were needed. Herbs could be found in the garden, together with some vegetables. But spices and fruits were harder to find and usually very expensive.
The morning progressed, the market saw more and more people. Bella would have been dismayed by such a sight if it were not for the fact that she loved to bargain.
"Smell that, Sara?" she asked, her eyes gleaming with anticipation.
Sara wrinkled her nose and let her shoulders sink to the ground at the sheer amount of people there. "Rotten fish and waste?"
"No, opportunity! Come, let us go to Jenkins, he might still have some venison left," she said, nearing the stall of the butcher. Before long, Bella had some packets of freshly caught game, something she'd manage to get for a good price. Sara was always intrigued by how the young woman could be so good with words. The way she expressed herself, all charm and smiles, together with a cool head, made for a most dangerous and mischievous type of person, or so Sara thought.
"Miss Swan!" came a shout to their left. Through the masses, they spotted a dismantled Lorraine, her bark blonde hair all messy underneath her cap, her thin cape a tangled mess and a look of solemn defeat on her face.
"Lorraine, what on earth are you doing here, on market day? Did mama not send you out at the start of the week for supplies?" Bella asked, taking in the poor appearance of the servant.
"Aye, but your father," she muttered with some contempt in her voice, "wanted the best for the guests that are to dine with you the day after tomorrow."
Bella let her hand waft in the air as a laugh followed her amused snort. "Oh, why bother? We all know who they are and that we will not see them soon again," she bemused them. "I assure you that you should not put that much effort into this whole ordeal."
Bella had no inclination on even going to that dinner. If she could help it, she would rather take April that evening and ride downtown to meet one of her closest friends, Jacob Black.
Lorraine, however, did not look amused. "I wish you would not so blatantly throw aside our efforts, miss! You know very well we have no choice in the matter as it is your father that employs us. If he wants the best the market can offer, then we must get it for him."
"Oh, I understand fully, Lorraine. But at least you do not have to be pushed around and meet man after man, the next worse than the first." A hand came to massage her temple, Bella now spoke more to herself than to the two women by her side. "It is so vexing having to see all these gentlemen, seeing them try so hard to mask their foppishness or their petty nature. I swear I cannot stomach seeing another one of them," she muttered. Sara put a hand over her mouth and tried to stifle a laugh.
Bella arched an eyebrow. "See, Lorraine, my suffering amuses some," she snarked as she cast a glance at the maid.
"Sorry, I could not help it. It is just that a picture of Mr. Yorkie was conjured up in my mind and the laughter overcame me," she said, a blush touching her cheeks. The moment Sara mentioned Eric Yorkie, the other two felt a chuckle escape them as well.
"I cannot fault you for that, Sara," Bella agreed. Eric Yorkie, or simply Mr. Yorkie as they would call him, was a peculiar man. A year past he had come all the way from Coldwick with recommendations to seek her hand. He had been in correspondence with her father and Charles Swan had taken a liking to the way Eric expressed himself in writing.
But, upon his arrival, that fondness soon died away. Eric was the most monotone and boring man they ever saw. His wanting of character was so great that Bella would amuse herself in playing small jokes on him. But the man remained untouched by her small attempts at coaxing any reaction from him. It was only when her mother mentioned the tending of the gardens that Mr. Yorkie's face lit up. He spent three hours boring them with speeches of botany and general gardening. When he left them, a fortnight later, Charles swore he would never again invite someone who he had not met in person first.
After Mr. Yorkie's failed attempt at seduction, the whole house came alive with imitations of his steady monotonous tone, only to be changed whenever the mention of plants was brought up. His memory was well and alive in their minds and they all were glad he was gone.
"Are there more with you?" Bella asked, disrupting their recall of such a peculiar young man.
"Joanne and Robert have wandered into the throng. I hope they come out of there alive—"
Her sentence was cut short when a commotion could be heard over the masses. The three turned to the fountain of the square. Bella's heart jumped as she saw Billy Black with a gruesome look upon his face.
He was, like her father, a wealthy merchant, living in Hayes. His grandfather had traveled from the New World, ready to make his fortune in Angloa. However, it was his son who caught some interest in her.
Bella had grown up with Jacob Black. But as they grew older, she had forced a wall against him. She was afraid, of course, of getting too attached to him as he had made no inclination of holding any feelings toward her.
Jacob was indeed as handsome as they came, with tan skin and hair as black as night. His dark eyes would always tantalize her and draw her in. But the charming nature in which he spoke and the fact that he was well versed in matters of the world, held her interest in him. Alas, Jacob and his family—even though rich, were not gentry; much like her own family. And her father was so decided she marry into the aristocracy that she kept no hope of ever forming an acquaintance beyond that of close friendship. However, Bella was happy that she was still allowed that friendship which had been growing strong over the years.
But her nerves seemed on alert as she spotted another face in the crowd. He bore the uniform with such pride that she feared his protruding chest might make him fall over. Captain Forster stared at Billy with a frown, backed by many of his men. The square went quiet, the people dispersed as the commotion grew, claiming all their attention. Bella stared, her mouth open in dreading anticipation—what was Mr. Black doing?
"Since your master does not come down here, why don't you tell him the misery his taxes are provoking the good people of this town? How can a piece of bread be two crowns? It is unacceptable, they should be a tenth of that price considering that is almost double the daily allowance of most workers in this town!" he exclaimed in such indignation that many in the surrounding crowd had to nod in agreement. They did not know what had spurred his little conversation with the captain, but Bella knew it was long coming. The steady raising of the taxes, the people who left town and decided to go and grow their own food, the revolutionary thoughts that had started invading the island—it all led to this moment. But Mr. Black was foolish to openly speak against a man of the Royal Guard. Foolish but brave.
"I would tread carefully next, Mr. Black. You speak against taxes, thus you speak against the king himself. Such could be constituted as treason," Forster drawled in a slow and steady tone. His voice was cool, but the expression on his face made Bella and her friends tremble where they stood.
Billy turned to the crowd, ignoring completely the words of the captain. He seemed to have lost his fright, for he showed no sign of stepping away. "We all suffer in our own ways—rich or poor, it matters not. If I am barely making ends meet, then how are the rest faring? How can we accept such injustice?" he spoke to them. The crowd was too afraid to openly agree, but some few could not help but nod, even if it was just a tick of their head.
Forster's icy gray eyes turned into two small slits and his brow furrowed. "Arrest him," he said in a monotonous voice that provoked a faint chill in Bella. She looked from the soldiers to Mr. Black and her hands turned into fists as she watched the scene unfold.
It was not unfamiliar to her. This had happened many times before. Every so often, someone would have enough. Some would lose all sense of propriety and speak up, just as Mr. Black had. He was certain he would escape jail with a small fine to his name. Unfortunately, others took to the road and became thieves or highwaymen. These were desperate times.
"On what charge?" Mr. Black demanded, knowing well he would be safely back home in a few hours—for causing public unrest was not a serious crime.
"Treason," Forster said, a smile curling on his lips.
A collective gasp sounded through the crowd as the day seemed to come to a halt. Bella could not believe what she was hearing. Treason? It was unthinkable that Mr. Black would be involved in such a thing.
"Treason? What on earth have I done that constitutes treason?" He was angry when he should've been worried. Treason was punishable by death.
"Forster will have him killed if he does not back down. The prideful fool," Robert muttered worriedly under his breath, joining the women. "We should leave, lest we are seen in this company." He had searched for Lorraine when the conversation between Black and Forster took a turn for the worse. If Forster was charging Black for treason, he would hurl out similar charges to people who had witnessed the ordeal.
"We cannot go, Robert! We are testimonies to Mr. Black's good character and innocence!" Lorraine and Sara exclaimed. Bella could not agree more.
"Do not worry, Forster is only putting on a performance, many are witness to this. Mr. Black will be proven innocent in a court of law," she told them. But the young woman had little faith in their current judiciary system. Some judges and prosecutors were of good character, but many obeyed the wishes of the man who paid most.
"You have tried to rally the good people of Hayes against us and against the king." Forster motioned for some soldiers to come. "Jack, Daniel, take him to the garrison," the captain smiled. The curl of his mouth offered Bella such a wicked view of the man that she had to turn around.
"We should go!" Robert continued as Joanne finally found them.
"He is right, miss, you should not be seen here." Joanne agreed. "There is little we can do now." Joanne tried to cheer her up. "But as you say, there hasn't been a public execution in Hayes in years, I am certain it will continue that way—"
"We didn't have Captain Forster before," Sara whispered, staring at the ground. "Oh, I miss Captain Clarke!"
Bella stared grimly at the aging man, his long, graying black hair tied in a low ponytail. She could only hope Billy had enough money to pay off the judge.
"Have faith that all will be resolved away from the prying eye of the public," Robert whispered close to her. "Forster and Mr. Black are both stubborn and prideful. I am sure the matter will be arranged."
Bella could not see herself wholly convinced. She felt at a loss, however, for the young woman did not know to whom she could turn. Few in Hayes would lift a finger to combat a man such as Forster.
"Let us make haste then," she said reluctantly. "For I suspect my father wants you back with good news of a successful day at the market." Bella turned to face them, feeling guilty as her back faced the confrontation between Mr. Black and the guards. She was like the rest of them, afraid to speak up due to the consequences.
"I would appreciate if you did not mention my presence here to my father," she said in a muted voice. Bella was disappointed with herself—with her cowardice.
"Fear not, we shall be more silent than a grave," Lorraine offered. She gently ushered the young woman to the townhouse, casting a glance back at Mr. Black. Something unnerving settled in her stomach as she caught sight of Forster's eyes. Lorraine knew it was best to keep Isabella Swan shielded from such a nasty world and the inhabitants it held. She did not need to know what could happen next to Billy.
The rest of the morning, Bella kept to the confinements of her home—her mother had started keeping a keen eye on her, lest the spirited young woman ran for the forest again.
Bella spent the early afternoon in the kitchen, helping Dory and the other maids. The kitchen was her escape at home. Even if she was worried for Mr. Black, having Dory speak in such gentle tones and guiding her whilst she prepared the meat pies, soon made Bella relax. By the end of the afternoon, Bella had told herself countless times that Mr. Black would be alright—today he would be released from the garrison and rejoin his family. Or so she hoped.
Renée found her daughter covered from top to toe in flour and specks of whisked yolks. The mother stifled a laugh as she ordered Bella to follow her to her chambers. Although the young woman did look whimsical and delightful—even in specks of food—it would not do for her to be so unpresentable for dinner.
A bath was drawn, steaming hot and Bella sank down into the water. The windows to her balcony were opened, the fragrance of the garden wandered in with the soft summer breeze. She settled back, taking in the stillness of the moment.
Thoughts of Raven's Grove wandered into her mind, of herself roaming those woods, of the romantic aspect the forest held for her. How she longed to return to that world.
"Seems I've caught you dreaming again, miss," came the smiling voice of Sara as she entered her chamber. The maid held some towels and placed them next to Bella.
"I'm always dreaming," Bella sighed. "It will be my undoing." She understood that she was not a fairly agreeable young girl, with her head always in the clouds.
"It is what gets us through the day," Sara giggled.
Bella stepped out of the bath and wrapped the towel securely around her, shivering slightly as the wind caressed her wet skin.
"So what was it this time?"
"Raven's Grove," Bella said with a blush growing on her cheeks. "A place that is most unsuitable for a lady," she paused, a wicked grin splattered across her features. "Not that I am much of a lady anyways," she laughed.
Sara helped Bella get dressed as they continued speaking of their dreams and hopes together. Although Sara's exclamations were more naïve, Bella did not disagree with the young woman. But the moment she started talking of a man—of being swept off her feet—Bella wrinkled her nose.
As Sara fastened the robe around her frame, she could see the disagreement on her young mistress' face.
"You do not wish for someone to spring into your life and completely take your breath away?" she asked in blissful innocence. Sara only repeated what the other maids would speak of. However, it sounded so very agreeable that she herself wished to have such an experience.
"Not from the men I've seen here in Hayes," Bella murmured. Her heart ached at the thought—would there ever come a time when she would ever be swept off her feet? Perhaps; there was one she might not object to. Jacob Black sprung to mind. But even if he was pleasant and courteous—he did not make her heart flutter, nor her knees weak. She did not wish to think more of such things, seeing as her father was now determined to marry her off before the end of the summer.
"I don't have a lot of say in the matter anyway," was what her father would think. But Bella would be damned if he thought she would so easily submit to yet another one of his proposals.
Sara remained quiet on the subject as she straightened out the elegant muslin gown. She guided the young woman to a chair and started arranging her loose chestnut tresses into a twisted bun, with the hair directly atop of her head slightly puffed up. A curled lock was placed over her shoulder—a tease of what long tresses might be confined atop of her head.
Bella saw her reflection in the full-length mirror and looked away. It was not her. She only saw someone uncomfortable with herself, not knowing what to do in such finery. A modest pearl necklace decorated her neckline. The sleeves of the gown were short, showing her slender arms and pale skin.
Sara came to stand next to her. "There we are," she smiled. Both took in the woman in the blue dress. "You look lovely, Miss Swan."
Bella had little she could say in return. The evening seemed to be upon them and before she had gotten used to her own appearance, Sara said she could go down to the foyer to greet her parents and receive her father's approval.
Charles wanted to sit down to a nice dinner and converse with his family. Neither Bella nor Renée questioned the sudden eagerness for such an extravagant evening. They guessed he wished to go over everything before their guests arrived. Practice everything, like a stage play.
They spoke little, Bella kept playing with her food in boredom as Renée tried to strike a conversation. When the subject suddenly changed to that morning's occurrences, she straightened in her chair—now this interested her indeed.
"Did you hear what happened to Mr. Black earlier today?" Renée asked as she frowned. Bella was amazed that the news had reached her mother's ears so quickly. Charles' lips turned into a thin line as he pierced the juicy beef with his fork.
"Hmm, yes. Unfortunate, but avoidable if you ask me," he responded. It was a subject he'd rather not dwell on. Charles, as much as anyone, was not blind to the injustices they suffered at the hands of the soldiers and Forster. He had even, at one point, brought it up to Mr. Wilson who insisted his hands were tied. Thus, he decided it was safer to keep a low profile than blatantly arguing with the man himself on the street.
"Mr. Black only spoke the truth," Bella muttered as a pea escaped her fork, skidding across the white tablecloth, ending up at her father's side. A sound of displeasure escaped him as he eyed the invasive pea.
"And it cost him a nice dinner with his family tonight. I am certain he will be out in the morning," Charles said. But the three of them remained silent at his statement. For some reason, it felt different this time. They wondered if that would be the case. Mr. Black had been kept in the garrison for the entire day, which was unusual. Most would be released a few hours after their imprisonment if their crime was light and their pockets full. Bella worried that the accusations of treason had taken root—that Forster had managed to build a case against the sweet old merchant.
She was about to argue about the matter. No one had been allowed to see Mr. Black during the whole of his imprisonment, not even his family. She thought they should step in before Forster went too far. But she was promptly cut off by a loud bang. It reverberated through the dining room in an explosion, extending like a wave through the city.
Bella dropped her fork while Renée jumped in her seat. Charles violently spilled his wine all over himself and the tablecloth as he turned around, facing the window.
"What on earth?" he exclaimed as he rose from his chair, rushing over to the large French doors going to the balcony facing the square below them. More shots soon followed, accompanied by loud shouts of anger and chaos.
Bella's face was a mask of conflicting emotion—surprise, fear, and eagerness. What on earth was going on outside of their house?
She followed her father to the balcony without thinking. "Bella, get back inside this instant!" her mother exclaimed behind her, afraid her only daughter might be caught by a rogue bullet. But the young woman paid her no heed.
Gunshots were not common in Hayes. Open confrontations were even less so. The soldiers held a trained grip on the people—any open rebellion was extinguished before it could even begin.
"It's the garrison!" she exclaimed, standing next to Charles. Renée soon joined them as—in the distance—they discerned the guards moving around in a frenzy, chasing around someone in the black of night. Her heart caught in her throat as the thunder of hooves echoed across the desolate streets.
"Follow him! I shall have you whipped if he escapes, sergeant!" came the angry cry from the distance.
Bella quickly turned back and rushed inside of the house. She tracked through the hallways, running with her dress flying after her. Her heart could not match her erratic steps as her pace increased with each breath. She mounted the staircase two steps at a time, rushing up like a madwoman. A startled maid jumped out of her way as she pushed onward.
When Bella reached the attic, she forced the window open. Their house was quite large, and tall. It stretched toward the sky like an unforgiving tower, defying gravity. The wind was rough and cold here, tearing at her tresses, curls, and locks falling out of the constricting pins. Her cheeks were red. The exercise had given a healthy glow to her face.
She was in the process of catching her breath—her eyes narrowed as they searched the confinements of the city—of who had just managed to escape the prison in the garrison. The hooves still sounded like thunder on that moonless night.
But then she saw them. On the outskirt of Hayes, leading toward Raven's Grove she saw two shadowy figures riding magnificent horses. She could discern none of them, but the last rider caught her eye. The horse was large and black as night—as much was evident even from a distance. Its rider looked like another shadow mounted on it, gripping it with an assuredness she had never seen in anyone before.
The shadows soon headed for the forest that she had come to know so and they were soon swallowed by the trees. The wind ripped at her as the guards followed suit. But she knew that both riders were safe. Raven's Grove would protect them.
A/N: Hi! Thank you for reading this first chapter. As I mentioned at the start of this story, there is a trilogy (Secrets of the Court, The Broken Throne and The Weight of a Crown) taking place in the same universe only during the 16th century that I will mention at times (which you do not have to have read to follow this fic of course!).
I also want to point out that English isn't my first language, it's my third. Therefore, there might be some misuse of certain words (I have a big difficulty with prepositions in general, it's a work in progress!). If you see any faults, please let me know, I always appreciate a head's up.
I listen to a lot of music when I write. Like a lot of music. It is what inspires me. In fact, this whole plot and its concept were inspired by one song (it's usually soundtracks that I listen to). I have made a channel and there I've made different playlists to the songs I listen to for a specific fic (I have now also made playlists for my other Twilight fics). I will link the playlists on my profile if you are interested in listening to the music. I cannot do it here as FF will not allow you to copy anything. You can also find the playlist on my Tumblr: isabellesumnerff /./ tumblr /./ com
Finally, those of you who read the Secrets trilogy and decided to endure another fic with me, welcome back! This will only be one fic, so not another trilogy!
Thank you again for reading, leave a review if you enjoyed it!