Chapter I: Nightmare (Part 3)

MAIDS FILED INTO the sleeping maidens’ room as cries of the unfortunate were slain by the invading pirates.

“Charlotte, you must escape from here,” It was disorienting at first; the cries did not reach the young ladies ears quite fast enough. Just as quickly as they stormed into her room, the maids under her Uncle Rothschild’s employment pulled the one known as Charlotte from her comforting bed. Her long hair fell in straight strands behind her back. Her hazel colored eyes were clouded with sleep and face disconcerted.

‘What on Earth is happening? Where is Uncle Gerald?’ For the next three minutes all she could really do was stare in confusion as her maids began to dress her into an easy to get into, form-fitting crème dress. Charlotte felt her headache rise and she noticed something out of proportions.

“Why are there fires everywhere around the estate?” The maids gravely looked at their mistress and mentioned that it was the work of pirates. Further, they needed to leave the estate just as quickly.

The surprise attack had thrown everyone off kilter because they did not have the amount of personnel available. With this much known Charlotte did her best to stay composed. Her Uncle Gerald taught her how to defend herself if she ever needed to, but he had always told her that she must always seek shelter. That way her Uncle knew she was safe.

Thus the reason for their being a secret passage installed in her room that headed to the outside. The young misses actually enjoyed having a secret passage because it meant she could escape to outside the estate. She did not need to be cooped up in a stuffy estate all day long.

She hated the premise for why she was escaping through her secret passageway now. It was all because of those pirates. She had hated those tyrannical, diabolical miscreants ever since she was little.

She could remember it like it was yesterday; she was only fourteen when she heard tale of pirates attacking and slaughtering all of those civilians on their passage. The civilian vessel was traveling from Chiariotti to a small coastal province near Torrek with medical supplies. Unfortunately it was also the same vessel her Father and Skylar were on.

‘That’s right Skylar was the only survivor. He doesn’t remember the events, but I do.’

Crawling through the tiny passage, she managed to calm her hatred for their kind and decided to talk with the maid. “Where is Uncle Rothschild?  What of my brother?”

The maid following her hesitated before answering.

“Skylar escaped through the third secret passage within the East Hall. Your Uncle Rothschild was fighting the pirates, but he—” The young maid’s voice caught then, choking back tears.

“What happened to Uncle Gerald?” With more urgency, she pressed the maid for more information.

“I do not know but the rumors. It is said that a pirate intruded inside and demanded a fight against your Uncle Rothschild and the pirate won through dishonor. The evil pirate smothered your Uncle Rothschilds’ blood into the very ground he died upon. Lady Charlotte, I’m dreadfully sorry to have to tell you of this.”

Charlotte choked back her tears, she needed focus. She could not let her emotions rule her.

“Do you know the pirate’s name that killed my Uncle Rothschild in cold blood?” The maid must not have known for nothing was spoken.

“I will find out who committed this execrable deed and chastise him with my own hands.” Charlotte crawled to the exit of the passage gritting her teeth and digging her nails into the palms of her hands. She would murder whoever murdered her Uncle Rothschild. She would have vengeance, for she was a Rothschild; and a damned proud one at that.

Once she exited the passage, light pierced her like a knife. It hurt to stare at the sky so full of reds and oranges. The sun’s last portion was nestled far into the horizon where it continued to set. Ambiguously the sun continued its cycle in time and space. How could such a beautiful event be tainted with such disdained cries for help and murderous intent? Charlotte knelt near the exit while she assisted the young maid who was behind her. She lightly grabbed the woman’s hand to help her gain balance once she was settled on firm ground.

“What happened to the others?” Charlotte asked her maid as she peered into the darkness of the passageway. The maid dropped her head in shame.

“They told me to follow you and keep you safe while they distracted the pirates that were coming. They were out to kill you and your brother next.” Charlotte determinately stepped back toward the passage.

“We must go back for them! They will be slaughtered if they remain!” The maid grabbed her from behind but Charlotte pushed her way through. The maid had to restrain Charlotte with both her arms, struggling with the young mistress as tears poured down her rosy cheeks.

“We cannot have their deaths be in vain Lady Charlotte. They wished you to live! You must respect their wishes!” Charlotte bit back her anger and felt her hopelessness at the situation. How could she argue with that? How could she let this happen to her kin? Her people? It was as if their blood was on her hands now, and not on the hands of that abhorrent pirate.

Grabbing the mistress’s hand the maid hurried the quieted Charlotte to the coastal pier by the West Hall of the Estate. The Estate resided on the southern portion of the cove where it was settled on top of the highest peak. The maid, amidst running, explained to Charlotte that would be where her brother would be. Charlotte expressed a deep longing for her brother then. She wanted him to be safe, wanted to comfort him, and also protect him. The Young Lady of the Rothschild Clan decided right then and there that she would take her Uncle Gerald’s place. She would purge the world of pirates and make the seas safe again for anyone who wanted to travel. She would avenge her kin, her townsmen, her maids… everyone.

They were making good distance between the shrubs and paths, the pier coming closer as the two put everything into running. The area around them was chaotic. Men from the estate and pirates were fighting, guns and swords clinking and clashing. Men were falling faster than Charlotte could count. What frightened the Young Lady of the Rothschild clan the most was the chanting that continuously flowed throughout the land. Gruff males singing one phrase that would haunt Charlotte until the day she died.

“Welcome to the never ending nightmare, forever shall you see the bloody reigns of fire, and of me.” Charlotte could only imagine the blood that would forever stain those lands.

The maid avoided the fighting as much as she could, but Charlotte would never forget. She engraved the brawls, the blood, the tears and cries all to memory. She would not let them die in vain. Before Charlotte could effectively come up with a way to help her kinsmen she was blocked from advancing any further.

Charlotte had stopped suddenly, her vision blacking out unbeknownst to her. Her body was racked with a dowse of sleepiness just like earlier when she was with her Uncle. She was wishing for sleep, aching for it but her maid snapped her out from her sleep.

“—dy Charlotte! Lady Charlotte!” The maid grasped the young noble by her shoulders and yanked her down. Her body felt the heavy resistance of her maids as they both tumbled to the ground, blood coating the lands with red and fires scorching the once green plains of Cliffside.

Charlotte looked past her maid’s shoulder to see a pirate sneering above them, his gun drawn in his left hand and a sword in his right. He pocketed his left handed weapon to settle on his metal slicing through their flesh instead of a simple bullet wound to the head. The auburn reacted quickly, grasping her maid’s hand and guiding her away.

The pirate seemed to enjoy the chase and pursued them through the chaos. Charlotte was running haphazardly through the grounds, avoiding the large groups of Statesmen and Pirates fighting. Her maid tripped on the skirt of her dress, making them both tumble harshly into the dirt.

Charlotte shook her head trying to control the darkness that skirted her vision, while her maid screamed in horror. Looking up, she saw that the pirate had reached her maid first, grasping a fistful of her hair in his hand. His sneering visage burned in Charlotte’s vision as his sword easily swung up and across her maid’s front. Blood spewed from the maids one side of her throat to the other and she fell unceremoniously to the ground. Perturbed by the recent events Charlotte backed away slowly, using her hands as guides to pull her away. The bite of the rocks into her palms kept her awake to see the blood spill out onto her maid’s white apron.

Charlotte shook her head, disturbed was an understatement as she watched the pirate step over her gurgling form toward her. She would have screamed had her throat not felt tight and clenched. Fear prickled the back of her mind as Charlotte thought of dying just like her maid did. A metal sound resounded over her head as the current events played forward. A State’s official was pushing the pirate back with his sword.

“Hurry up! Leave this fighting to us.” The blood that caked his uniform was enough to let Charlotte know this was not going to end well for him or his officers. His enemy pushed his sword away, the clashing of metal rang loud in her ears. They continued to clash swords for a few more moments until the pirate made a mistake. The State officer swung his sword at the pirates open side, his entrails pouring out from the pirate as he groaned in agony.

Charlotte was in shock, only her body was once again yanked up by the State officer who had made the time to save her. He had let her hands go to direct her over to the coastline where more officers were guaranteed to be there. “I said go!”

He would have directed her forward with his guidance, but shots rang clear in the air. The State officer coughed up blood as his chest cavity welcomed three fresh bullets. A gurgling chuckle from the pirate behind them sounded like a dying man’s triumph through crushed windpipes. Had the State officer any grace left in his body, she had hoped he would slay him where he lay—but instead he fell. There was no beauty or grace like she’d read in her stories of death. It was just instantaneous. It was morbidly disturbing.

Charlotte forgot how to breathe as her body was once again brought back down to the earthy ground. Her palms skinned the ground when she landed, but she was more concerned for the State officer who had been shot saving her.

Ignoring the blood coming from his chest, she tried to press upon the wound in hopes it would heal. He must have guessed what she was attempting to do, and used his strength left in his arm to push her to safety. “Get out of here.”

“Please do not tell me that! I cannot run anymore with the blood of my kin on my hands. Please do not let me have yours too!” The officer shrugged at her stuttering cries.

“This is what we’re trained for, now leave.” Charlotte fell back from him. Her skirt was decorated with not only her maid’s blood, but his. She scurried back, struggling to stand up to get to safety. Standing on her own two shaky feet Charlotte grabbed the hem of her dress and darted toward a path she presumed would lead to salvation. Her vision only saw red as she darted through the chaos.

Her last train of thought was interrupted just as the ground right next to her right foot exploded when gunshots imploded on the ground. Falling to her side, she scrambled away as more bullets kept crawling closer and closer to her skirt line.

“How much longer will you run?”

This was what fear was; it was the anticipation of the enemy attacking and killing while the weak were helpless and unarmed. With the fear came adrenaline which boosted the concept of vengeance even more. She would not fall here. Charlotte Rothschild had a mission to accomplish, and it was starting at that moment.

“Where are you pirate!” She screeched out in new found confidence. Her anger for the death of her people pushed her over the edge of reason. She was going to kill the man who ruined her life. She would kill him for taking away her Uncle Rothschild and pushing her family farther away from each other.

“I have the pleasure of meeting with the eldest of the two siblings.”

Charlotte forced herself to roll sideways, and looked toward where the voice was coming from. She was met with nothing.

“Are you the one who murdered my Uncle?”

“I had heard rumors of your beauty, and I am pleased to say that they are true. It is especially so with your kinsmen’s blood coated on your face.” Charlotte reached up to touch her cheek where a sticky substance graced her fingertips. She pulled her finger tips away to discover the clotting red ooze sticking to her fingers like a plague.

“I care not for what you think, you devious cur! I will avenge my kin with the honor of a Rothschild! You will pay for your ways!” Taking a deep breath Charlotte pulled out a ribbon from her corset top, raised her hand up to her hair, and rearranged it into messy ponytail. She tried not to let the blood on her distract her from surviving.

“You fight with honor, you say? From what I hear you have never even held a foil in your life. You were nothing but an ornament for Rothschild to tote around the Estate.”

The voice was behind her now and Charlotte shifted. As she shifted, two more bullets hit the ground right by her arm.

“How dare you talk of honor and hide in the shadows while others do your bidding! The one with the revolver must surely take after you!” Charlotte winced in pain as a chunk of ground burst from the side, hitting her squarely on her arm.

Her opponents were situated around her, giving them both a great advantage over her. She would not allow him to have the upper hand. That was until the voice interrupted her.

“Claire enough.” Another deep baritone echoed near her. It was different than the one who was directly talking with the auburn, but the sheer sound of this man’s voice sent shivers down her spine.  “At this current time we are unable to kill her.”

Charlotte paused. ‘Claire? I could have sworn someone by the name of Claire was hired only recently.’

“No mortal is safe from me,” Replied the first male who continued to coax her into anger.

Rage invoked her to shout back. To fight his taunts back with her courage. “Are you telling me this was all planned?! How dare you underestimate a Rothschild’s strength!”

An ominous laugh echoed from a different location. “Your strength will only be to my advantage. You will fall by these hands this fortnight and I shall exact my revenge on your doting brother. You should be grateful I am generously sending you all to hell together.”

Charlotte gave a throaty growl in fury. “I will never die at your hands you Coward! Come at me, I will prove to you here and now that I will succeed!”

She jumped forward, guessing where two more shots were fired. It was as if the pirates were leading her somewhere off the coast. She was getting further and further away from the estate, and also further from the pier she supposed the State officers and guardsmen were located. Her hazel eyes searched the ground, in hopes of there being a discarded weapon, or even a living guardsman around. Those, however, were in short supply.

Her foot snagged a root and she collapsed on the ground in a flurry. Her arm flew forward with the air dancing on her fingers. This was where she realized all at once where she was. The pirates cornered her.

‘Those two; Claire and her master used their gunshots to purposely drive me away from the estate to the Cliffside, away from the coastal pier. They wanted me to be alone, which was why the mastermind persisted with that haunting conversation.’

Laughter filled the air and Charlotte stiffened. She was frightened. How could she have been so stupid, so naïve to think she was the one in charge? In the end it was he who was in charge, and it would be this man who would decide when this game of cat and mouse would end.

How he appeared near her—it was like he melded into the atmosphere with acidic reflexes. Or it might have been her mind working in overdrive as the man dressed in a black mantle coat stepped toward her blithely. He was pointing his sword at her heaving chest from that far a distance, merely smirking. He knew what she was thinking. Pulling out another sword from inside his coat he unceremoniously threw to the ground at her feet, while the other he raised in a combatant stance.

The man stood before her with glaring brown eyes that sent chills down her spine. Dread filled Charlotte as she looked at the discarded sword at her feet and his own.

“I think our game of cat and mouse has ended, Lady Charlotte. Come, pick up your sword.” The malice that sugar coated his words made her forget where she was, and she slid back.

Only to realize there was nothing back there except for a wicked demise in sea. She swallowed the lump within her dry throat. She was frightened. She was going to die.

‘Charlotte, you need to stand and take the sword! Were your words just talk and no action?’ This sole thought sent chills down her spine. Despite the shaking in her fingers, she tried to reach for the foil and froze.

The auburn felt the despair course through her limbs. Or was it the terror setting in? Her heart was thumping heavily in her chest, her throat squeezing in protest. Charlotte could feel her anxiety rising even as she tried to swallow the fear into a small bubble. The hair on her arms prickled, beads of sweat formed upon her brow. She could not let these pirates see her vulnerability.

“You will regret handing me a sword. I will not die until I have your beating heart on a silver platter.” It was all just talk and she stood up trembling.

She knew she was going to die, but at least she would die with honor trying to avenge her kin. She leaned forward, picked up her sword, and was assaulted with harsh emotions. She lived in the Estate for about three to four years, but she recognized this rapier. This sword was her Uncle’s; he had this blade by his side for protection. Speckles of blood covered the hilt and the sterling silver pommel, making her imagination run wild. She could not help imagining it being her Uncle’s blood.

Why had her life turned upside down? Why did this man want to kill her family?

She just turned seventeen and she was already on the path to death. She wanted to live a peaceful life, find the perfect guy, (much to her distress) get married, have a family and grow old. She wasn’t expecting her life to be shortened by some pirate.

He took into account her words and smirked, raising his sword; he spoke out in a frightening voice.

“You are nothing but talk.” With each word he accentuated he thrust his rapier at her, and clumsily she met his sword with her own.

She had insisted her Uncle Rothschild to teach her the ways of the sword, but he stated her hand to hand combat would be enough to repel any danger. He wanted her to incapacitate her assailant and run away, not be forced to kill someone.

She could hear him saying in the back of her mind: ‘A refined lady should never have to kill, for that would tarnish your soul with regret and remorse. Never forget Charlotte.’

When her assailant’s fifth attempt at slicing her failed, he pulled back his hand. She felt weird holding the heavy foil in her hand, and the scratches of blood appeared on her wrists like red beacons. It was a symbol of her weakness. It was a symbol of her life being toyed with at her own expense.

“Congratulations, you passed the beginner’s class. Let us see where you stand with an intermediate level.” He thrust forward at the girl and watched as she did something unexpected. The seventeen year old had to think of something—while she was not physically in control, she still had time to think of escaping.

Charlotte blocked his thrust with her own parry. She had watched his movements within those few seconds to see what thrusts could do the most potential damage.

She thoroughly knocked both of their swords out of their hands, and leaned into his strength. By doing that she had managed to slide into his defenses. Her mind went back to her hand-to-hand combat training with her friends in the Academy. She remembered her friends using multiple grapples and flips to take down their opponent, and she decided it was her best course of action. Taking her left knee she rammed it straight into his midriff, causing him to buckle over, and before she could slam her elbow in his exposed neck she was caught off guard by a bullet grazing her shoulder. This was all the man needed to slam the girl into the ground.

Charlotte had forgotten about his two lackeys. Cursing her luck she struggled underneath him. Her mind screamed at her to get something, a weapon, a rock—something. Her arm reached and scratched the ground toward where she thought the disregarded swords were. Her shoulder protested in agony as she moved, the man relished in her pain. He merely grabbed her throat and squeezed it until she was devoid of breath. Her vision started to darken and the sense of sleepiness struck her like a freight train. She found it odd that she was being stricken with sleepiness once again. Could this have been predetermined? Were they drugged at dinner?

Charlotte forgot about the sword and slammed both her hands into his forearms, deciding that it would relinquish his hold on her if she hit him hard enough. The man just laughed at the futile effort.

“Would you like to know your murderer’s name before I send you to the next life?”

The man’s lucrative voice penetrated her mind blatantly. Charlotte could barely breathe at this point, trying desperately to get air. She hit him, she squeaked, she even garbled out profanities until she started seeing black spots.

“Not yet my dear Charlotte, you must stay with me for a bit longer. After all you resemble her who betrayed me.” He pulled her up off the ground with just his brute strength and walked over to the Cliffside. There he let her feet dangle helpless over the cliff and over the vast body of seawater. She peered underneath her to see the water, and she panicked. She was going to die. Charlotte Rothschild failed.

“I must say you passed the intermediate level of sword play as well. You had some open spots, but you are a natural. It is like your blood sings to use a blade; unfortunately you will die before you’ll swing another blade again.”

Charlotte gripped onto his forearms in desperation. She hoped that if he just released her neck long enough she could have enough strength to pull him down the cliff with her. This man had other plans in mind for her though. He pulled her back from over the cliff, her feet gracing upon the grass knoll.

“You’re tactics remind me of those simple hand-to-hand procedures you students learn in the Academy. Surely you can think of something better than sacrificing yourself to drag me down?” Charlotte widened her eyes in horror. Were her plans that obvious? Those maneuvers were not things most common people knew.  Which meant one thing: this man was in league with The State. “Clever little minx, but your quick wit will be your undoing.”

He brought Charlotte’s writhing body over the Cliffside once more. He leaned next to her ear to whisper. “Lady Charlotte, it was a pleasure.”

Then he let her go.

She half-expected and not expected this situation to have occurred, but there she went. Her dress tangled between her legs as gravity brought her down.

She plummeted down the cliff as fear loomed in her eyes. Her screams were stifled by the lack of air, her mind reeling in horror as all the worst case scenarios popped into her mind. She was weak from his suffocating grasp, but she tried her hardest to keep an eye on those three standing at the cliff. Gravity had other plans for her, making her dance upon the sides of the cliff multiple times and snagging her clothes. Charlotte wondered if she had been lucky in that small moment as she dropped upon a branch extending out. Her waist cried in agony as she snapped to a stop.

“Shall we head back Admiral Viktor?” His voice was still within her earshot. The auburn struggled to look up at the one who commanded the pirates. He must have watched her plummet down and chuckled at her expense when she caught the wood. While she struggled past her pain to deliver a dark glare, she noticed his calculated look. The smirk that played upon his lips, the way he sneered at her pathetic form—the resounding crack that finally echoed in her ears. The weight of her body must have been too much for the stagnant piece of wood and once again she began her descent.

“Yes. I will leave first but be sure to entertain our new guests arriving shortly.”

The wind raged loudly in her ears as she fell until there was nothing. Charlotte couldn’t breathe thanks to that branch taking the wind out from her lungs and tight corset. She also knew that it would be ten times worse underwater. Her dress was too heavy to even try swimming in, and she knew her body was in agony over her recent injuries. She would not have been surprised to find out she’d broken a bone in that descent.

Regardless, the sea would become her grave and she wasn’t even able to discern who killed her kin. A man with piercing eyes. Slick hair. Unfamiliar.

Her only solace was of her brother.  She just hoped that he escaped from Cliffside safely. ‘Skylar… Please be safe.’

Losing her consciousness, Charlotte plunged into the depths of sea and darkness.

۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞

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