BY SHANEL WILSON
The cliff-top grasses swayed in the swirling wind. Waves violently crashed against the jagged rocks. The scent of salt and sea accosted Bianca’s senses, her heart filled with dread. The knots in her stomach warned that the coming storm wasn’t the only trouble brewing in the Globe’s waters. Bianca tucked a strand of her long, curly locks behind her ear, her eyes narrowed against the spray. Her fingers found the small piece of twine that encircled her ring finger. She sang,
Storm’s a-coming, the gale will blow, Yohoho, row nonny, row. Thunder claps and rain clouds grow, The squall will turn friend into foe, Yohoho, row nonny, row.
The blue crystal eye of the eel medallion she wore blinked. Bianca closed her eyes and squeezed the center of the medallion. The automated voice relayed the message her sister, Valentine, had sent.
It’s time. Swift as shadow.
“Short as any dream! My dear Antonio, you will wait no longer.” Bianca’s pulse pounded as she raced down the cliff side towards the harbor.
Carve the waves to save my beau, It’s time to change this tale of woe, Yohoho, row nonny, row.
Tendrils of mist curled around Bianca’s feet as she strode the familiar path to her father’s merchant office overlooking the marina. She knew each cobble from years of racing Valentine to be the first to help Father open the office. The harsh shouts of the crews echoing around the harbor was the melody of her morning routine. Unlike every other morning, Bianca’s heart raced as she reached into her satchel to retrieve her key to the shop.
The face of her beloved Antonio danced across her thoughts. Her wistfulness broke, knowing he was locked in some dark cell deep in Whitehall for a crime he didn’t commit. Valentine, with the help of her new love, Emilia, had vowed to help Bianca rescue Antonio. The trio had worked hard over the past week to devise a plan to rescue him. And today, that plan finally was set in motion.
In the early morning mists of a secret estuary, Bianca and Valentine saw Emilia off as she headed upriver to Whitehall. Emilia’s ability to access areas of Whitehall as a Westminster Bride would be vital if they had any hopes to rescue Antonio without being captured themselves. Bianca remembered watching her sister say goodbye to her new flame. A bittersweet tug pulled at Bianca’s insides, knowing her sister had to part with her love in order to save Bianca’s own. Though both Valentine and Bianca had only met Emilia a week ago, Bianca could tell her sister was inextricably connected to the intelligent, brave yet trusting woman. Emilia seemed to have a knack for endearing herself to all she met, becoming fast friends with Bianca as well. Bianca still marveled that Emilia agreed without hesitation to help a group of strangers in a dangerous mission.
The ocean breeze blew the memory of the morning out of Bianca’s mind. Bianca felt a wet splat on her head. A fat dew droplet had fallen from the wooden sign that hung above the office door.
“Thanks for that.” Bianca raised an eyebrow to the swaying sign.
The sign was a carved eel that circled back onto itself. Most residents of Newlondon had no idea that the nautical crest doubled as the secret symbol of the Shadow Walkers. Bianca’s father, Leonato, was the leader of the group of warriors and protectors who vowed to keep the peace of the Globe secretly from the shadows. Leonato used his merchant business as a reputable front to coordinate the Shadow Walkers’ missions under the watchful eye of the corrupt Guild.
Bianca and Valentine grew up helping their father run the office, covering for him when he would be called out for a “meeting.” When they weren’t needed at the office, they would steal away into the misty woods or sneak out on their father’s skiv to explore and learn all they could from the Shadow Walkers. As they grew older, their paths diverged. Valentine became a Newlondon Guide–hired by residents of the Globe to provide safe passage in their travels to other cities–with hopes of someday becoming a full-fledged Shadow Walker. Bianca remained in Newlondon, running the merchant office, where she fell in love with Antonio, one of the traders her father hired.
She brushed the water from her hair and unlocked the door. The door chimed, announcing her arrival. The musty smell of salty wood mingled with sea rose blossoms she had arranged on the front desk the day before.
“Hello, Meg. Opening mode, please,” said Bianca to the automated digital assistant her father created to operate the controls in the office.
“Good morrow, Lady Bianca,” replied the AI assistant’s disembodied voice as it switched on the overhead lights.
Bianca heaved a sigh as she rounded the front desk to begin sorting the invoices and logs left from the day prior.
“What can I do for M’lady today?” Meg’s voice intoned happily.
“Normal operations protocols, Meg. Just another day at the shop.” Bianca tossed the stack of papers she had gathered into the box on the corner of the desk.
But it’s not just another day, she thought.
“Of course, M’lady,” Meg chirped.
Bianca shuffled to her desk in front of Leonato’s private office in the back and flopped into her chair. Bianca fiddled with the medallion around her neck. The design of the medallion was the same eel as the carved sign out front. Each Shadow Walker carried one as a means of communicating with the others around the Globe. Valentine had repurposed broken ones she had found in Father’s office so that she and Bianca could have their own private way to communicate. The crystal eye of the eel was dull and gray. It would blink a brilliant blue when Valentine sent a message. Bianca knew it was too early to expect any news, but patience had never been her strong suit.
Emilia had set off on her mission, and Valentine was with the Shadow Walkers doing their part to prepare for Antonio’s rescue. All Bianca could do was go about her daily life and wait. It was only through the Shadow Walkers that they learned of Antonio’s imprisonment at the hands of his best friend, Solanio, and the Guild in the first place. It was decided that it would be best for Bianca to act the part of the innocent maiden waiting for her love to return from sea so that the Guild and Solanio believed their plan had succeeded.
The mere thought of Solanio made Bianca’s stomach turn. Bianca’s cheeks burned as she gritted her teeth. She pushed back against her desk and strode over to the windows. The steady sway of tall ship masts filled her view. At the end of the main dock, workers scurried, carrying along wood planks and chairs. What are they up to? Bianca wondered.
Then she spotted the scoundrel. Solanio slunk around the workers, inspecting their every move. They must have been constructing an amphitheater for the auction of the kraken eye happening at the end of the week. Her fingers subconsciously found the twine on her finger. Her beloved Antonio bravely fought the kraken for that eye after Solanio locked him on a deathship. Then that snake, Solanio, ensured Antonio’s wrongful imprisonment.
“That poisonous, bunched-back toad,” Bianca spat under her breath.
“Which mode would you like to set, M’lady?” Meg’s cheerful voice asked.
“Disregard, Meg. I was talking to myself.” Bianca shook her head.
“If you need a companion to speak with, you are welcome to speak to me. Lord Leonato programmed me with conversational capabilities.”
“Yes, I know, Meg. No, it’s fine. I’m just a little on edge today. Let’s get back to work.”
“Of course, M’lady.”
Bianca walked back to her desk, thankful it was so far away from the front window.
Bianca fell into her normal routine after a couple of days. Business at the merchant office picked up because of the Polity’s arrival, but there was a shortage of vessels because so many people ran to Whitehall to get a glimpse of the Polity soldiers and their lander. Everyone else was stockpiling as much as they could in case there was sudden demand for something the Polity might deem valuable. Bianca was grateful for the distraction of trying to coordinate traders and their runs to cover the new demand. Though, she couldn’t help feeling a sting each time she passed Antonio’s name on the roster.
Each evening, Bianca would race home, hoping to catch Valentine as she returned from her day. Valentine filled in Bianca on all that her team of Shadow Walkers did for the day. After dinner, Bianca would help Valentine reassemble her pack just as Bianca had done for Father when she was young. Before turning in for the night, Bianca would anxiously wait on the edge of Valentine’s bed to hear the latest update from Emilia. When no new news came, Bianca would give her sister a hug and quietly pad back to her room.
“This plan is going to work. We’ll get him, Bianca.” Valentine grasped Bianca’s hand as Bianca turned to leave one evening.
“I know.” Bianca still faced the door, unable to face her sister.
“Come here. Staring out your window can wait for a few more minutes.” Valentine tugged Bianca back onto the bed.
“That’s not what I have been doing!” Bianca pulled her hand away but stayed next to Valentine.
“I can see how you could forget since it’s only been a few days, but your sister is a Shadow Walker. We know things.” Valentine preened.
“How could I forget?” Bianca cracked a smile. “You only remind me every second you get a chance, Lady Shadow!”
They broke into a fit of laughter. Bianca felt her shoulders relax as the giggles died down.
“There’s my sister! I knew she was somewhere under that forlorn facade.” Valentine moved a strand of hair out of Bianca’s face.
Bianca looked about Valentine’s room. Emilia’s hover trunk was at the foot of the bed. The glass iris Emilia had given Valentine rested on the desk below the simple paintings Valentine had created from her trips around the Globe. The piece of twine around Bianca’s finger began to burn as she twisted it absentmindedly.
“Nothing will be the same now, will it? I mean, I knew things were changing. I was to be married and you were to become this great Shadow Walker. Each sister on her own path. But now, I’m not ready for any of it. Why can’t we just be girls again, playing our pretend games in the harbor’s shadows?”
“I will always be your sister. That will never change.” Valentine looked Bianca in the eyes. “Besides, you will still be married. And you will be the most beautiful bride Newlondon has ever seen. Until I get married, that is.”
Bianca scowled but laughed. Valentine was right. Valentine was always there, no matter how far her travels had taken her. Their bond was stronger than even the most masterful knot tied by the finest Newlondon sailor. It was the world around them that was fraying. Once Antonio and Emilia were back with them, they could begin tying up all the loose ends and chase the life they all dreamed of.
“Then you better get more beauty rest, dear sister. You need it,” Bianca teased while wrapping Valentine in a warm hug.
“I love you,” Valentine whispered.
“I love you, too.” Bianca gave Valentine a final squeeze and slipped into her own room. She sat in the window, staring at the sea, waiting for her love to return.
If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, feel free to leave comments below. And please return on Friday, when we’ll unveil “Siren’s Song–Part II.” In the meantime, if you would like to read more about Newlondon, read “The Beast Below,” which kicked off the Newlondon stories in the Globe Folio series.Be stellar!
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
Act 1: Night of the Rocket
- “Pillars of Smoke” by Frasier Armitage
- “Shadow of the Dunes” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Towers of Whitehall” by Jim Hamilton
- “The Beast Below” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross
- “Kite Night” by Matthew Cross
Act 2: Nights of Revelation
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Sands of Change-Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Sands of Change-Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Principle” by Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Shambles” by Matthew Cross
- “Interrogation” by Matthew Cross
- “The Burning Flame–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Burning Flame–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Song of Thieves” by Frasier Armitage
- “The View from the Wall–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The View from the Wall–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Bounty” by Matthew Cross
- “Feral Fields” by Jeremy Wilson and Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Details” by Matthew Cross
- You just read: “Siren’s Song–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!