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Eternal Paradox | The Bianca Chronicles 1: The Sea is Yours

November 16, 2023
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“Lunge, thrust, slash, spin,” she muttered to herself once again through heavy breath as a stinging drop of sweat dripped from her forehead down into a wildly beautiful green eye.

Bianca’s vision blurred for a moment with the sweat sting, but the death sentence was already pronounced on the poor straw-filled sackdummy Clara had crafted for the evening’s practice. Mercilessly slicing through the imaginary enemy, she completed her drill and golden straw showered all around, much of it sticking to her hair where it glistened in the setting island sun. The remains of the sack slipped slowly from the crosspoles Perkins had placed that morning.

With sabers at the ready, she stood heaving and snarling, almost wishing there was a flesh and blood enemy at the tips of her blades.

Where does it come from?

She had often wondered the same about her mysterious sense of violence and adventure. She refocused her eyes to look out, down the hill and over the marble cliffs, where the ocean waves crashed ruthlessly against the rocks below. Bianca wondered how many ships had run aground on those cliffs over the years. She herself had scoured the remains of shipwrecks several times in her sixteen years, and the only valuables she had ever found were her dual sabers. Still, it always seemed someone else was able to get there first, looting the best treasures and leaving nothing but soaked black powder and broken jars of pickled fish. Or maybe the treasures were taken by the sea. Mother always said the sea takes as much as it gives.

The sea is yours…

Why did she always feel this drive to the waters? Hers was not a family of adventurers or fishers. Mother was a cloakmaker and Bianca never knew her father. Mother would have none of Bianca’s swordplay. In fact, when she found her weapons at twelve, she had stashed them away in a secret cave for fear that Mother would make her sell them off. She found old Perkins some time after that snooping around her cave. “Show me what you got,” the old man had said with a twinkle in his eye, then parried her every thrust with his walking stick and a cackling laugh. From that day on, she had a friend in Perkins and another in his goodhearted wife, Clara.

For the last few years, Bianca had trained under the tutelage of the old couple. Clara showed her what berries were safe to eat, how to make fire, and the secrets of small game trapping that were handed down through generations of her family. Perkins taught her how to fight with unbridled fury. He taught her not to be afraid, and he taught her how to sail on his old fishing boat. Bianca always told herself Perkins had enlisted her help only because he was too old to man the riggings on his own, but with the way he constantly bested her in sparring matches with only a stick ensured that deep down she knew the truth: The old man loved her like a daughter.

“Y’already destroyed that one too?!” The merry cry came from behind, where Clara made her way carefully up the hill, assisted by her best hickory cane.

Turning over her shoulder and grinning slyly, Bianca called out in response, “The scallywag weren’t worth a wet weasel! Both women laughed.

“Might be next time I’ll fix a suit of chainmail, but I spect you’ll slash right through that’n as well,” Clara said with a warm smile and the hearty chuckle of a much younger woman. “C’mon down and wash up, Binky. Y’look like a scarecrow with all that straw in your hair. We don’t want yer Ma thinking you’ve been rolling in the hay with some boy!” This was a good point, Bianca thought, as the fact she had recently taken a keen interest in the opposite sex had not escaped her Mother’s attention.

After one more longing look toward the sea, Bianca sheathed her swords, then turned and walked the old woman down the hill toward the little cottage with smoke rising from its chimney. She treasured these little moments with Clara, who reminded Bianca of a grandmother she had never known. As red filled the sky and the sun slowly disappeared, Bianca began to smell the delicious stew that Perkins was stirring in that big black pot. Perkins made a mean stew, and Bianca was famished from practice.

When they entered, Perkins was sitting on the edge of his leather chair, facing the door with a strangely sober look on his wrinkled face. After a pause that seemed to suck the air from the room, he suddenly barked, “When do we fight, Bianca?”

Her response came without delay: “When the night is darkest.”

“Aye,” said Perkins. “When do we run?”

“When the fight ain’t ready for us,” said Bianca, who was starting to feel like she had done something wrong.

“Good girl.” The tension dissipated and the three settled down to eat as the red sky turned into a moonless and hazy black.

The sea is yours…

An hour later with a half full stomach (politely leaving some room for Mother’s porridge and crispy bacon) and a head full of curiosities, Bianca strolled down the path toward the little village. She didn’t need to make excuses about spending time with Perkins and Clara; Mother liked the couple and figured her daughter was some kind of do-gooder. She probably even bragged about it to her younger widowed friends. Mother didn’t really have any married friends, as is so often the way for those who have embraced single life.

Down the hill in the dark, Bianca heard a commotion and saw torchlights… angry torchlights.

Marauders. Or thieves. Or collectors.

Quieting her mind, Bianca crouched and waited as the small mob approached. She heard their boisterous voices long before she smelled the rum and gunpowder they carried, but each of these pieces convinced her of a single undeniable fact: This was a band of pirates.

Suddenly chilled to her core, Bianca froze as some twenty armed ruffians marched past. Thankfully she was not noticed, but she then realized with terror that they could only be approaching the little cottage from whence she came.

COMING SOON: The Bianca Chronicles 2: The Darkest Night

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