The Buccaneer Chronicles:
By Karen Dunn (Despite Interference by Keith Dunn, Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell and Tony Gallichan)
Chapter Ten - The Sky
“I didn’t think girls like Blanche existed. They certainly don’t in this town - not until she arrived. The men around here tend to keep their daughters out of reach when slayers are in town. They don’t mind sharing a drink with us or bragging about their own glory days, but if we show more than a passing interest in one of their women-folk the knives and pitchforks appear quicker than you can say ‘but we were only talking’.
Blanche doesn’t give a damn about things like that.
When I suggested I go back and ask Colin’s permission to talk to her alone, she said, ‘I’ll talk to whoever I bloody well please. If he’s got a problem he can discuss it with me.’
She clenched her fist in a twisting, squeezing motion on the word ‘discuss’ and I must admit feeling a little sorry for Colin.
Then she smiled at me, her eyes twinkling brown in the moonlight, and suddenly it was just her and me and nothing else mattered a damn.
She tells such fantastic tales and I wish I had half the imagination she does.
She told me about far away places and wondrous lands I can never hope to see.
She told me about the adventures she has shared with Colin and this guy called Mac - who I can’t work if she loves or hates - and some one called Cre’at.
The only thing she’ll tell me about him is that he’s very short and has trouble walking but can fly on a breeze. I think she’s being poetic but I don’t want to ask in case she thinks I’m a fool.
It’s snowing quite heavily now but it will soon pass. The sky in the distance is almost black and I wonder if she’ll laugh at me if I name a star after her.
There are a couple of long benches under one of the trees and she scampers across and lies on her back looking at the sky.
Drawn like a moth to a flame by the grin on her face, I follow at a more sedate pace, my feet crunching lightly in the layer of snow that is already covering the grass in a blanket of white.
There are worse ways to pass the time than gazing at the night sky with a pretty girl. Especially when the air is chill and she looks extremely likely to snuggle up to me to keep warm.”
“Marco is being the perfect gentleman and it is driving me crazy.
He followed me to the bench but, instead of sitting close and letting me cushion my head in his lap while we gaze at the stars, he perched on the end so precariously that he’ll fall off if he so much as sneezes.
I’ve never felt like this before - head over heels for a complete stranger - and I think he feels the same. That’s probably what’s making him so nervous.
I’m not used to this. On the Ship it’s like the battle of the egos with Mac and Colin and even Cre’at. They square up to each other so much you can almost hear the antlers clashing.
They have no time for words and feelings and ‘girl stuff’
If Mac were here he would be pointing out star systems to me - pretending he knows their names just to make himself look impressive. Colin would be sighing and fidgeting and wishing he was somewhere else.
Cre’at would just bob there, saying nothing, doing nothing until we both got bored and wandered away.
With Marco it’s different. He’s nervous as a lamb but I can feel him trying to convince himself to step off the edge and move closer.
Guess I’ll have to give him a push.”
“Are you cold?”
Marco smiled at her, “A little.”
Using her feet for leverage, Blanche shuffled closer, “Me too.”
The slayer grinned and met her half way, his lap making a comfortable cushion for her head.
He watched her as she gazed up at the night sky, studying the stars that were twinkling down at them. He began to stroke her hair, hesitantly at first but then with more confidence as she settled deeper into him, “I wasn’t sure…”
Blanche gave him a gentle smile, her eyes shining, “I like it here. I like having some one to talk to.”
Without warning her smile crumpled and she covered her face with her hands as deep sobs heralded a flood of tears.
She waved him away and rolled off of the bench, sitting in the snow, hugging her face to her bended knees, her body a ball of despair.
He was at her side in an instant, one hand stroking her back while the other pulled her into an awkward hug, “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Marco blinked in confusion, “What…? I don’t under… Was it Matthias? Is that what it is? Your head…? I’ll kill that little weasel…”
Blanche shook her head, flakes of snow fluttering from her damp hair and floating round her knees as she hugged them tighter.
Her voice was muffled in the fabric of her clothes and Marco had to strain to make out what she was saying.
“’S not that. I’m sorry…”
With concerned eyes and the gentlest of touches, he lifted her chin, wiping away her tears with the pad of his thumb, “No need for apologies. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
Blanche peered at him through the blur of tears and drew a shuddering hiccup of breath, “I don’t know what to do any more. I‘ve made such a mess of things.”
He held her gaze, his expression earnest concern, “You’re amazing, do you know that? The places you’ve seen - the stories you’ve shared with me. How can you possibly think you’ve messed things up?”
Blanche wiped her forearm across her face, sniffing wetly into her sleeve, trying desperately to stop her chin from trembling, “I must have done something wrong. We used to have fun - such a laugh - but now it’s almost like he hates me. And it hurts.”
“Mac. He’s always been a bit of a sod but he used to tease me - like mates do, you know - and show me things - teach me things. I used to think I’d stay with him forever, but now….” Her eyes filled again, the tears glistening like snowflakes in the moonlight, “…Now he’s gonna take me home and dump me there - I know he is. And I can’t live like that no more - not after all the things he’s shown me.”
And she threw herself into the young slayer’s arms, sobbing pathetically, while he rocked her and muttered nonsense words of comfort.
“I do not like trees. They are home to crawling things that explore my circuits and leave slime trails across my skin.
It is an odd feeling.
A creature has been following me for some time now. It flies ahead of me and waits for me to pass beneath it.
Its eyes are rather too large for its body and it is able to turn its head almost full circle as it watches me forge on.
Then it hoots at me and flies ahead once more.
I am approaching the town to which Blanche and Captain Curtis headed and I need to be cautious. I need to be sure my shipmates are in friendly company before I reveal myself.
If the hooting, flying creature threatens to give away my position I will have to disable it.
I am a master of disguise but I would have a hard time blending in in such a primitive environment.
I have an idea…”
A hoot and a strangled squawk stopped Colin and Rafe in their tracks.
They squinted into the darkness as a flurry of feathers floated down with the snowflakes.
Rafe grinned, “Looks like we’re not the only ones hunting tonight.”
And they made their way into the woods in search of their prey.
Resplendent in a freshly acquired covering of owl feathers, Cre’at watched from the trees as Captain Curtis and another man walked into the woods.
The captain seemed to be in no danger, so the Sot'm turned his attention to finding Blanche.
Disguised as a common creature of the night he felt sure he could approach the town unchallenged.
Trying hard to navigate through the feathers, he pootled off towards the welcoming lights.