A surprising number of people have read and enjoyed Waif, with downloads through Amazon now around the 6,000 mark. I decided I ought to write a follow up, and that’s what I’m now doing. I think it will be longer than the original, and perhaps a bit darker. Not sure when it’ll be finished; hopefully this side of Christmas but it may stretch into the new year. Anyhoo, below you can read the opening to the new tale (Contessa). Hope you enjoy, and do leave feedback.
(Sequel to Waif)
By Nigel Edwards
Contessa swayed to the movements of the tall ship, senses alive to every sound and smell. She stood beneath the night, gripping the rails close to her cabin. Flickering yellow flame from swinging oil lamps was the only light in her world; all was dark beyond the glow.
Creak, the straining sound of timber moving to a harsh rhythm as the vessel ploughing passage through rough water. Snap, the whip of canvas in the bucking, salty squall, promissory vanguard to a storm. Shout, a cry in the strange tongue of sailors that imparted meaning only to those who shared their maritime calling.
Spray found a way around her hood to lash obliquely across Contessa’s pale skin as she gazed forward, eyes straining for a sight of land. There was no point in looking aft; weeks of sailing separated her from the southern territories of home. In fact, there was no point in looking anywhere beyond the boundary of the ship, she realised. Safe anchorage was still a moonless, starless night away, yet she felt the compulsion of all travellers to seek ahead for the first sign of journey’s end.
“Come back inside, niña.” The words came from the thin lips of Companion. The tall woman placed a hand on the shoulder of her charge but the girl shrugged it off.
“I like the sea,” Contessa told her. “I like the dark and the raw cut of the wind. It’s in my blood.”
“But the wind will strengthen. Already the ship pitches and rolls. Your blood will be no saviour if you should slip between the waves this night, and where then would the future lie? It is foolish for you to risk…”
Contessa whirled sharply, lamplight sparking hotly in her eyes. “No dé sermons! I am not a child and you will not call me foolish. You forget yourself!”
Companion inclined her head. “Your pardon, Condesa.”
“And I do not need reminding of purpose, Dama de Compañía. Hasn’t it been drummed into my every waking moment? Who should be more aware of destiny than I? You would do well to remember that.”
“I do not forget this.” There was pride in Companion’s voice, pride in a steely resolve. “I have served la Familia for a lifetime. Have I not been with you since birth? Have I not cared for and waited on you these eighteen years, watched you grow, guided you to this present while sharing the dreams of your forebears that you would not be the last? I remember the glad heart I felt when we learned there was another, when fading hope for the future was reborn. And now, as we stand on the brink of fulfilment, do you think I should say nothing while you taunt fate, heedless of consequence? No, child. Perhaps I bear the burden of destiny more heavily than you. I am the one entrusted with your safety. I am the one charged with bringing you to a distant shore for the sake of generations to come. And it is I who will be called to account if hope is brought to ruin because a child ignores her duty to survive!”
Contessa stared back defiantly, a fiery retort on her tongue; but the words remained unsaid as the ship bucked violently, adding import to Companion’s message. Her balance thrown, Contessa felt the rails pressing against her back as her feet slipped on the deck. For one long moment her vision was filled with a mass of black, churning sea, a roar of water that urged her to relinquish her life and plunge into the abyss. Death was something she understood, something she was no stranger to – but this time it was her own demise that threatened. It wasn’t a sense of destiny that called her to resist; it was the threat of personal oblivion. Desperately she reached out a clutching hand, finding safety in Companion’s arms.
“Now will you come inside?”
This time Contessa obeyed. Even the young may recognise how fragile is their existence when confronted by their own mortality.
* * *