The Buccaneer Chronicles:
By Karen Dunn (Despite Interference by Keith Dunn, Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell and Tony Gallichan)
Chapter Twenty-one - The Loss
“Please let her be alive.”
Rafe met Colin and Mac as they approached the village, the Time Lord half carrying his companion as blood loss and exhaustion threatened to fell the young soldier.
The slayer hefted Colin’s arm over his shoulder, “I think we won.”
Mac nodded, “Casualties?”
Rafe looked at him, “They lost more than we did. And we’ve got a whole batch of ex-vampires wondering what the hell just happened.”
“You’ll need to watch them closely.”
Rafe frowned, “They’re cured.”
The Time Lord gave a non-committal grunt, steadying Colin as he tried to pull himself free, “Careful, Captain.”
Colin shook his head and turned frightened eyes to the slayer, “What about Blanche?”
“My head hurts. Cold. Has some one left a door open? I hate having hangovers when I’m cold. Who’s calling? Why can’t they just let me sleep?”
Blanche opened her eyes and blinked as a snowflake landed on her nose.
It was so quiet…
Rolling onto her front she came face to face with the staring eyes and gaping maw of a vampire. She scrabbled crablike backwards before noticing the blade embedded in the creature’s throat. The dead creature’s throat.
She reached out and touched the handle. It was the dagger Marco had given her. She had dropped it when…
She spun round, “Marco!”
He was lying in the snow, his stomach red, his hands clinging together, pressed into the gaping wound that was turning the snow crimson.
Slipping her way desperately through the snow, Blanche threw herself down next to the young slayer, pulling him gently to her, tears flooding her eyes as his blood soaked into her sweater.
“Oh God, why did you do it?”
Marco reached out one blooded hand and gently stroked her hair, his voice barely more than a whisper, “That thing was going to kill you. I couldn’t let that happen.”
She sobbed, “I dropped the knife. My hands were too cold. I’m sorry. I let you down. I’m sorry.”
“I should have been able to protect you. I should have killed it.”
Marco smiled up at her, “But then I wouldn’t have got the chance to be a hero.”
His smile faded as a coughing fit wracked his devastated body with pain. Blanche tried to pull away, “I’ll get help…”
His hand was in hers, so weak she could have broken away easily, but she stopped and gazed down at him, “…marco…”
“It’s too late…”
For a moment they said nothing, her heartbroken sobs mixing with his desperate breaths. She settled his head in her lap and gently stroked his sodden mop of hair away from his glistening eyes, “…what can I do?”
Marco smiled, “Talk to me. Tell me what’s happening.”
Blanche glanced around, the village a blur through her swollen eyes, “The battle’s over. People are starting to clear up. I can see William and the pub staff. They’re tending the wounded. Some one’s crying…”
“Is it still snowing?”
She looked down at his blood-stained face and the beautiful eyes that so easily took her breath away. He was gazing, unseeing, up at her, almost gone.
He had done so much for her in so short a time, made her feel loved, made her feel welcome in this tiny, terrified community.
She had planned to spend the rest of her life with him and now he was leaving her. So brave, so calm, asking her to picture the world for him.
So she described the snow as it fell gently around them, dusting everything a powdery white.
She described the countryside, bathed in the eerie glow of the moon, trees jutting from the ground like soldiers.
She described the shuffling gait of a night fox as it snuffled its way across the square looking for a meal.
As Marco’s hand fell from hers, the life finally leaving his struggling body, she carried on talking, blinking away tears in a desperate attempt to obey his request not to cry.
She was still talking to him, her voice cracking with grief, her face wet with tears, when Colin found her and gently eased her to her feet.
As Rafe and Conor covered Marco’s body with a blanket, he pulled her into a tight hug and she sobbed a lifetime’s hurt and sorrow into his chest.
The King’s Cruelty was cold and dark, the light of a dying fire barely flickering across the hearth.
People were huddled in tired clusters around the splinterwood tables, some talking quietly, some nursing drinks, some staring blankly into the guttering flames, their thoughts a million miles away.
Blanche was standing alone next to the window, a threadbare blanket hanging from her shoulders, her eyes shining in the moonlight as she watched the snow falling.
Macfadyan sighed as he finished tying a bandage around Colin’s arm, “I don’t know what to say to her.”
“Sorry would be a good start.”
“I did what I had to do.”
Colin tugged down the sleeve of his shirt, “No Mac, you did what you wanted to do and Blanche got caught in the cross-fire.”
“I had to finish Stackmore.”
Colin looked at him, “We were a team. We deserved to be told what you had planned. We could have worked something out which didn’t involve sacrificing half the damned village.”
“I didn’t know…”
“You didn’t care!” He took a deep breath and concentrated on the dull ache that was his body, “Just talk to her.”
Macfadyan watched the young soldier walk gingerly to the bar where he was greeted by a subdued Rafe and the two men shared a drink to fallen friends.
With a sigh, the Time Lord abandoned his first aid kit and crossed to the window, standing as close to Blanche as he dared.
She sniffed, “What do you want?”
Macfadyan thrust his hands into his pockets and looked at his feet, “Marco was a good man.”
She said nothing.
“I would have been sorry to lose you, but I know you would have been in good hands.”
She blinked and shuddered as a stream of tears chased one another down her face.
“Blanche, I’m sorry.”
She looked at him for the first time, pulling the blanket tightly around her, refusing to wipe the tears from her distraught face, “I hope he haunts you.”
“I hope he keeps you awake at night and follows you round the Ship. I hope he takes every happy thought you have and turns it into what I’m feeling now.”
“Blanche,” Macfadyan placed his hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her welling eyes but she shook him off with a growl.
“I hate you. Don’t ever pretend that I don’t.”
And she walked away, whispering briefly to Colin before heading out into the snowy night.
Macfadyan watched her go and his heart broke.
“So that was happiness - as brief as I had come to expect.
“The Ship has a huge library and Colin has told me about what he calls trashy novels. They all involve a man, a woman, an adventure and a happy ever after. I should have known they were too good to be true.
“I don’t know why I’m still here. No, that’s a lie, I know exactly why I’m here - because I have nowhere else to go. Rafe said I was welcome to stay in the village but why would I want to without Marco?
“So I’m here with Colin and Cre’at and we’re watching Mac prep the ship for take off.
“There’s something different about him. He looks smaller - a lesser man - and I know we both have a lifetime of nightmares to look forward to but I can’t feel sorry for him - I won’t.
“I wish we’d never come.”
Colin watched Blanche watching Macfadyan and knew he was witnessing the end of something special.
The girl had an almost infinite capacity for forgiveness, seeing the good in everyone and everything but the Time Lord had pushed and prodded and finally found her limit.
He had snuffed out the light in her eyes and added a shadow to her demeanour for which Colin would never forgive him.
The coming days, weeks and months would be tough to deal with and he wondered whether they would survive together.
The Ship shuddered as Macfadyan succeeded in coaxing the engines to life and Colin placed an arm round Blanche’s shoulders, “Come on, I’ll make you some hot chocolate and you can tell me all about him.”
She smiled up at him and squeezed his hand, “OK.”
Colin looked across at Cre’at, “You got any of those marsh mallows left?”
* I do. Plus chocolate and cream for tastiness. *
The three of them left the control room without a backwards glance.
Macfadyan turned away from the console and gazed after them as the door clicked shut.
But no one was listening.