Bianca joins the Shadow Walkers to save her love

Bianca stands atop the seaside cliffs of Newlondon

Siren’s Song

BY SHANEL WILSON

PART TWO

Nearly a week had passed and still no real news from Emilia or from the Shadow Walkers. Bianca’s feet tapped under her desk anxiously. Leonato was out at a “meeting” and all of the traders had their assignments early because of the Kraken eye auction this afternoon. She could only organize the same stack of logs for so long. Bianca placed the last stack into her desk drawer then stood, stretching.

“I’ve been cooped up here long enough this week. I need the sea.” Bianca closed her hand around the twine that encircled her finger.

“That is a wise plan, M’lady. Would you like me to set the closing mode?” Meg asked.

“Yes, please.” Bianca walked to the front of the office.

“Have a pleasant rest of your day, Lady Bianca.” Meg switched off the overhead lights, leaving the office lit by the late morning haze. 

“Thank you, Meg.” Bianca felt the salty air on her cheeks as she opened the door.

Bianca pulled out her key and twisted it in the lock. She strode down the cobblestones. She needed to get out to the sea cliffs where she used to meet Antonio, the same cliffs where he had proposed before all of this mess got in the way. She needed the salty air and the crash of the waves against the rocks. She needed something that would make her feel closer to her love when he was so far away.

The quickest path was to cut through the docks. With the last minute preparations for the auction, the docks were full of activity. She saw colorful sails of ships from the other cities’ delegates arriving in the harbor. She was bombarded by the shouts of crews preparing the slips for their arrival. Bianca hoped she could sneak through the chaos without drawing too much attention to herself. She gracefully navigated through the twists and turns of the ropes strewn about. Overhead, the amphitheater cast an eerie shadow like a massive deathship looming taller than the masts and barge ships. Bianca sneered at the sight and turned to find a different way around to avoid it.

She gracefully navigated through the twists and turns of the ropes strewn about.
Photo by Denise Jans.

“Dear Bianca! What a surprise to see you out and about today!” A cold voice echoed off the sails surrounding her. 

Bianca stopped dead in her tracks, every muscle in her body tensing. The approaching sound of leather boots clicking on the wood planks of the dock sent a chill through her like someone had slipped a codfish down the back of her dress. Bianca fought to relax her face before she turned to see Solanio standing before her.

“Hello, Solanio. I hope you have been well.” Bianca strained to give a polite smile.

“Much better now that I have found you. I’ve missed that radiant face.” Solanio reached to touch her cheek. 

“Well, I see you have been very busy recently.” Bianca sashayed out of his reach and gestured to the amphitheater. 

“Ah, yes. Looks quite impressive, doesn’t it? Today is the culmination of much toil. Seeing you on this fateful day is a good sign. Please, will you walk with me for a while?” Solanio offered his elbow to Bianca.

Bianca hesitated as she felt the bile rise in her throat at the idea of touching the repugnant creature before her. Then she thought of the filthy Haller prison Solanio had sent Antonio to. Before her anger could boil over, Bianca swallowed hard and gingerly slipped her hand into his arm, letting him guide her toward the amphitheater. She remembered her father’s words, Shadow Walkers must use the cards they are dealt and gain the advantage. She might not be a Shadow Walker herself, but this was her chance to do something to help Antonio. 

“So where have you been hiding those blue eyes?” Solanio puffed his chest out as they passed a group of rough-hewn seamen, displaying Bianca for all to see. 

“I have been working in my father’s office, as always. With the arrival of the Polity, we’ve been quite busy. That commander of theirs must be important to need my Antonio for all this time.” Bianca tried to appear casual, glancing around the barges to avoid Solanio’s piercing gaze.  

“Ah, yes, well. I would have thought you had heard by now.” Solanio stretched his neck awkwardly. “I am sorry to bear this tragic news to my best friend’s fiancée, but Antonio has betrayed you, betrayed us all. He was caught smuggling by the Hallers while on the way to meet with the Polity. Terrible business, really. The silver lining is that we found out what kind of man he really was before you two were wed.”

Solanio barely hid his serpentine smile. Bianca’s blood boiled seeing how much delight Solanio was taking in telling her his deceptive tale. To cover the heated flush rushing to her cheeks, she let tears rim her eyes.

“No, that can’t be! You know Antonio would never do such a thing.” Bianca froze in place for dramatic effect and used the chance to pull her arm away from Solanio.

“It must be such a shock to hear. I was shocked to learn of it myself.” Solanio shook his head grimly. “I see now that his charm was a great disguise. Don’t be hard on yourself for believing him. I thought of him as a brother, and yet he turned out to be the most vile of villains.”

“I can’t believe he would do such a thing. Where is he? What is to become of him?” Bianca let her tears fall freely, hoping Solanio would believe her poor damsel act instead of seeing her hatred of him brimming inside her.  

“That is for Whitehall to decide. He’s better off there if you ask me. If he were to show his face in Newlondon after what he’s done, there would be a far worse fate than, say, being locked on a deathship for that traitor.” Solanio’s teeth clenched below his furrowed brow. 

Bianca took a step back as Solanio’s bared his teeth menacingly and his breathing grew ragged. A crewman’s whistle broke through the air, snapping Solanio out of his rage. He flicked his hair and smoothed his collar. The calm facade was restored, unnerving Bianca more than the monster below the surface she had just glimpsed.

“I really need to go.” Bianca backed away, not taking her eyes off of Solanio.

“I understand. I, myself, must meet someone before the start of the auction.” The darkness returned to Solanio’s eyes for an instant, confirming an undercurrent of malice before his long stride closed the gap between them, trapping Bianca against the side of a barge. “I am sure your pretty little head is just reeling with this sad news. Fear not though, I am always here for you, my dear Bianca.” 

“That is kind of you.” Bianca paled, barely summoning the words as he loomed over her.

“Bianca, would you promise me something? Would you honor me by coming to the auction? I believe you’ll find it highly enlightening.” Solanio took her hand, kissing it.

“I will try.” Bianca pulled her hand away as she slipped around him disappearing into the crowd before he could trap her again. 

Bianca pulled her hand away as she slipped around him, disappearing into the crowd before he could trap her again. 
Photo by Cas Holmes.

Bianca raced as fast as her legs could carry her, dodging nets and fishing pots. She shuddered, still feeling his hot breath on her cheek. She ran past the edge of the jetty, trying to escape from any lingering part of Solanio’s presence that might be clinging to her. Only once she reached the slope leading to the clifftop, did Bianca allow her pace to slow. 

She nestled into a soft patch of tall grasses and stared out at the tumultuous sea. She pulled out her medallion. She traced the curve of the eel and stopped at the crystal eye. She closed her eyes, willing it to blink with news from Valentine. When she opened them again, the crystal was still dull and lifeless. 

Bianca let the sea air wash over her, losing herself in thought. Hours passed and dark clouds began to gather over the rough waters. It felt like an omen blowing toward her. A song swelled in her soul and she let the words sail on the wind. A blue light pierced through the grey that swirled around her. The blue crystal eye of the eel medallion blinked. Bianca closed her eyes and squeezed the center of the medallion. The automated voice relayed Valentine’s message.

Bianca’s heart soared, knowing she would soon be reunited with her dear Antonio. She sang as she raced to meet Valentine, 

Carve the waves to save my beau,
It’s time to change this tale of woe,
Yohoho, row nonny, row.

Water sprayed Bianca and Valentine’s cloaks as they sliced through the Elizabeth River toward Whitehall on Valentine’s stealthy skiv. The sisters sat pressed together behind the controls since the bow was covered in a tarp securing Valentine’s rigging and gear. Bianca couldn’t understand why the sharp smell of salt burned her nostrils this far up the river, but her thoughts were interrupted when Valentine handed Bianca a small key. 

“That key will unlock Antonio’s cell. Emilia’s message said that she would override the shielding and security protocols with her Bride trainer, Cleo, from the inside.” Valentine gripped the skiv controls as they edged around a sandy bank. “You need to get the key to Antonio. Emilia also sent a map that will lead you to a window slit in Antonio’s cell.”

Bianca stared at the delicate key. The small piece of metal was light as a quicksilver’s scale yet Bianca felt like she held the weight of the world in her hand. Without this key, there would be no rescue. 

“Me? Where are you going?” Bianca closed her hand around the key. 

“I have my own tasks. I need to make sure the Guild believes they’ve gotten away with their deceptions while keeping the meddling Hallers in the dark.”

“But once we have Antonio, we can’t let these villains get away. Solanio and the Guild have to pay for their cruelty once and for all!” Bianca’s cheeks burned as her anger bubbled to the surface.

“You know that Father has been waiting for his chance to uncover the treachery of the Guild for ages. Trust me. They will not be able to hide for much longer.” Valentine gently placed her hand on Bianca’s. “It is my job to make sure the Hallers don’t send their drones after us and alert the Guild. So I need to make sure the cell isn’t empty.”

“What are you trying to say?” Bianca’s brow furrowed.

“Do you remember the Shadow Walkers helped remove the body of that pirate I found on Antonio’s skiv?” Valentine slipped her hand back to the controls. 

Bianca’s eyes flew to the tarp in the bow. 
Photo by Shane.

Bianca’s eyes flew to the tarp in the bow.  

“No. You can’t be serious. How . . . ? Where . . . ?” Bianca stammered, her face turning green.

“Shadow Walkers embalmed the pirate in the brackish waters of one of our hidden estuaries when we got word of Antonio’s imprisonment. It became apparent that we would need a decoy to avoid suspicion if we hoped to successfully help Antonio escape.” Valentine slowed the skiv at the edge of the Forest of Arden. “The Hallers won’t even notice it’s a different person, though the salt did shrink him closer to Antonio’s height. As long as they have a body, they’ll think Antonio died, and their uneasy alliance with the Guild will be complete.” 

Bianca, mouth gaping, stared at her sister’s calm face. Although she knew the lengths the Shadow Walkers went to in order to complete the missions Leonato set for them, she was somehow unprepared when it was her own sister that was given such a grisly task. Bianca reached forward and pulled back a corner of the tarp. She found a pair of black boots identical to Antonio’s awkwardly pressed against the bulkhead. Her hand flew to cover her mouth with the sudden fear that if she removed the rest of the tarp, she would see Antonio’s face instead of the pirate’s. Valentine reached over Bianca and replaced the tarp over the pirate.

“Bianca, think for a moment. What a fitting end for the pirate that attacked Antonio, ultimately  bringing on all of this heartache and strife. Left in a cell to rot, it is exactly what a scoundrel like him deserves.” Valentine steered the skiv into a tall patch of shrubs and killed the engine.

Bianca intertwined her fingers to keep them from shaking. Valentine wrapped her arm around her sister, holding her for a moment. Bianca gave Valentine a squeeze back and a half-hearted smile in an unspoken gesture to let Valentine know she was okay once again. Valentine returned the squeeze then reached into her pack and pulled out a scroll.

“This is the map you’ll need. It will lead you to the wall to find Antonio’s cell. When your medallion blinks, send the key through the window slit. Then return here and stay out of sight.” Valentine handed Bianca the scroll. “Emilia will meet Antonio in the cell block and escort him through the Vestra work passages to an external door. I will get the pirate to his final resting place with Cleo. We will all meet you here.”

Bianca unrolled the map. Valentine used the secret code they had created as girls to label the landmarks. If someone found the map, they wouldn’t even know which way was up let alone where it led. The last bit of tension melted out of Bianca’s shoulders, knowing Valentine had thought of everything. 

“Okay, I will see you soon.” Bianca smiled at her sister, confident the plan was going to work. She would have Antonio in her arms again soon.


Bianca carefully made her way to the edge of the forest when Whitehall’s shining exterior wall came into view. She stayed within the safety of the treeline but kept the wall in her line of sight. Bianca read the next map point, labeled Anchor’s White to Bitter End. A white light usually was lit at the top of the mast when a boat was anchored. The boat Valentine meant must be Antonio’s cell. Bianca scanned the exterior wall again. Sure enough, she found a floodlight illuminating the pristine white wall. Through the light’s glare, she saw it.

“A window slit!” Bianca gripped the map tighter. “And to Bitter End . . . That means the end of an anchor. Antonio! It’s Antonio’s cell! Valentine, you clever girl.” Bianca hugged herself knowing Antonio was so close.

Bianca pulled the key out from her pocket. She unwound the twine Antonio had put on her finger and tied it into a small bow on the key. With the key in one hand and her eel medallion in the other, Bianca waited for her signal. Her legs shook and her palms became pools of sweat. She could barely restrain herself from running straight across the open field while screaming Antonio’s name. Bianca closed her eyes and took a long meditative breath. When she opened her eyes again, the eel’s eye pulsed blue. A jolt of electricity shot through Bianca’s veins. She carefully looked to see if the coast was clear. Satisfied that it was, she pulled her hood over her head and silently crossed the open field toward the light. 

When Bianca reached the edge of floodlight’s reach, her melody from the clifftop echoed in her mind. She waited just outside the pool of light and whistled her siren song, hoping Antonio would know she was close. A whistle of the same tune echoed in response. Antonio! It’s him! Bianca’s heart sang within her. She crossed into the light only long enough to throw the key through the slit. She heard a faint clank of metal hitting metal. She leaned against the wall separating her from Antonio for a moment to say a silent prayer of protection to Elizabeth Hathaway before she raced into the darkness to wait for her love.


Bianca tried to sit patiently in the skiv while she waited for everyone to return. Thunder clapped overhead and rain started pelting her cloak. The unease she felt watching the storm roll in over Newlondon’s cliffs earlier settled back in the pit of her stomach. She climbed out of the skiv to get some cover from the pounding rain. In a concealed patch of shrubs and trees, Bianca paced to keep warm and keep her mind from drowning in dread. 

A bolt of lightning illuminated the dank forest for a moment followed by an explosive rumble of thunder. Photo by Sebastian Unrau.

“What can be taking so long?” Bianca muttered to herself, feeling the panic rise in her throat as she squinted into the rainy darkness.

A bolt of lightning illuminated the dank forest for a moment followed by an explosive rumble of thunder. Bianca jumped at the commotion, gripping her cloak tighter around her shoulders. She slumped into the squishy patch of muddy grass, pulling her knees into her chest.

“What if they have been captured? I can’t bear to think what they will do to Antonio or Valentine, or to poor Emilia!” Bianca buried her face in her hands. 

“We can worry about that another day,” a deep voice called in the dark.

“Antonio?” Bianca bolted up. 

Squelching footsteps crept closer and Antonio, Valentine, Emilia and another woman came into view. They were dripping under the cloaks that Valentine had brought to conceal them during their escape. The new woman’s eyes were a light violet that shone in the darkness. The deep hollows of Antonio’s cheek were covered in long stubble and dark circles rimmed his eyes. Bianca leapt up and threw her arms around him, tears already streaming down her cheeks. 

“My dearest Bianca! I knew you would come for me.” Antonio nestled into the curls of Bianca’s hair.

“Always and forever, my love.” Bianca kissed Antonio deeply.

Antonio brushed the tears from Bianca’s cheeks as they both smiled. Antonio replaced the twine onto Bianca’s finger and kissed it gently. Bianca squeezed Antonio’s hand and turned to Valentine and Emilia. She wrapped them in a strong hug.  

“Bless Hathaway, you are all safe. Thank you, both of you. You have no idea the gift you’ve given me.” Bianca squeezed them both tighter. 

“I could not have done it without Cleo.” Emilia drew Cleo into the group hug. 

“Thank you, Cleo. I thought Emilia was unique in her willingness to aid a complete stranger, but I see it must be a remarkable trait you Westies share. It is a pleasure to meet you.” Bianca’s eyes glittered with new tears. 

“No one should be caged. I am glad that more than one of us could be freed tonight.” Cleo winked. 

Bianca’s heart felt as if it would burst out of her chest. Her family was complete once again.

Bianca entwined herself in Antonio’s arms. “Let’s go home.” 


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, feel free to leave comments below. 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!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Will her lost love hear her siren’s song?

Bianca stands atop the seaside cliffs of Newlondon

Siren’s Song

BY SHANEL WILSON

PART ONE

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.
The scent of salt and sea accosted Bianca’s senses, her heart filled with dread. Photo by Gary Yost.

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.

She knew each cobble from years of racing Valentine to be the first to help Father open the office.
Photo by Niklas Hamann.

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. 

Photo by Rachael 🪐.

“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. 

Before turning in for the night, Bianca would anxiously wait on the edge of Valentine’s bed to hear the latest update from Emilia.
Photo by Annie Spratt.

“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.

She sat in the window, staring at the sea, waiting for her love to return.
Photo by Zero Take.

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!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

In a time of crisis, Valentine and Emilia’s love blooms

Swift as Shadow

Part II

BY SHANEL WILSON

Emilia looked out a window overlooking the Newlondon Harbor. She had eaten the food Valentine gave her and took a short rest. She couldn’t really sleep with the events of the last day flashing through her mind. When Emilia made the choice to stay with Valentine, she imagined a beautiful world by her side, free from worry and full of adventure.

Such a world would never have been hers if she had become a Bride as planned. Once in Whitehall, she would have been registered and taken into surgery to enhance her already ultraviolet-sensitive eyes for a job either repairing defense systems as a Vestra or monitoring the beasts around the Globe as an Artemis. Neither of those tasks had ever seemed appealing to Emilia, but her eyes destined her to be prized for their usefulness instead of Emilia’s own talents and desires.

Photo by Håkon Grimstad.

She longed to get to know her beautiful Shadow, the name she had given Valentine before she learned her real name, and to explore this new world lying in front of her. Now she was stuck in a room with a window, not unlike the one she had left behind in Westminster. Emilia knew she was in unfamiliar territory, so she tried to accept her place and wait for Valentine. But waiting was getting hard.

I can help. I should be doing something! Emilia thought to herself.

But all the things she thought of would jeopardize them all by exposing her eyes to anyone in Newlondon. Instead, Emilia decided to study Valentine’s room. It was sparse and tidy. Emilia’s own room in her father’s house was filled with all types of glass blown into the most intricate and beautiful shapes. It was an explosion of color. In Valentine’s room, the only color came from a few small paintings tacked above the small desk. Each was a beautiful landscape; a lush green forest with accents of golden sunlight filtering through the branches, craggy mountain peaks swirled in grey mist, the teals and blues of an outlook over the sea. The last one was vibrant oranges and browns of sand dunes. Valentine had clearly explored each piece of the Globe, from the top of the Elizabeth River and down to the sea.

Emilia understood then just how little she knew about the Globe, and Valentine for that matter. Emilia studied the painting of the sea cliff further. She should have felt terrified to come all this way, leaving her father and ignoring her fate, to be with a stranger. Instead, a calm washed over her. She smiled at the thought of this new adventure with this new, beautiful person by her side. Emilia looked back out the window. She caught a swish of a cloak as the front door creaked open.

“Emilia?” Bianca called.

“Yes! I am here. Did you find your Antonio?” Emilia said, as she descended the stairs.

Bianca embraced Emilia and led her to the sitting room through the carved wood archway on their left. Dark wood paneled the walls, and a few paintings like the ones in Valentine’s room hung from them. Heavily carved chairs with striped cushions sat around a tea table with a beautiful inlay of sea creatures swimming in the wood’s surface.

Photo by Wonderlane.

“I did. By the grace of Elizabeth Hathaway. It is as Valentine feared. He was made a member of the Guild upon returning from slaying the kraken and was made the representative to go to Whitehall to meet with the Polity.”

“Why would they let the newest member be their representative?”

“That is a very good question, Emilia. I am positive the Guild means to use him to their extreme advantage, but there is something I am not seeing yet. The Guild is somewhat of a necessary evil here in Newlondon. Us Newlondoners are born a bit restless, with the sea in our veins. Some choose more dubious ways of life than others, but that is the charm of Newlondon. Our destinies are our own. The Guild maintains the thinnest semblance of order in exchange for carte blanche in their racketeering and shady dealings. That’s why people like my father have tried to tip those balances to protect those unable to wield such power. Those like my sweet Antonio.”

“If the Polity is to be feared, as we’ve been taught, and the Guild protects themselves first, as you said, perhaps they feel Antonio is expendable?” Emilia suggested.

Before Bianca could answer, Valentine appeared in the room.

“Valentine!” Emilia crossed the room to greet her.

“Taking your Shadow business seriously, I see. You don’t have to sneak into your own home,” Bianca said playfully.

“You never know who is watching, sweet sister,” Valentine replied.

“You sound just like Father,” Bianca said. “Come, tell us what you know.”

“We retrieved the dead pirate from Antonio’s skiv and left Antonio a warning. It’s up to Antonio for now,” Valentine shared, as they took their seats.

Bianca let out the breath she had been holding.

“We will protect him, my sister. All have been alerted along the river. And those in Newlondon have brought more news,” Valentine said, taking Bianca’s hand in hers. “Solanio has also left the harbor on his way to Whitehall. The word on the wind is that he is to represent Newlondon to the Polity.”

“That scoundrel! I knew there was something I could not see.”

“And more still, Solanio is how Antonio ended up on the Tempest. Antonio had panicked about the pirate and went to Solanio for help. The only help he offered was certain death.”

“A death that did not occur. Perhaps he will correct this error on his way to Whitehall?” Emilia interrupted.

Bianca’s hands involuntarily tightened around Valentine’s.

Bianca’s hands involuntarily tightened around Valentine’s. Photo by Zoe.

“Solanio cannot risk another failure. If he has persuaded the Guild to trust him as their actual representative to Whitehall, he certainly has been able to twist the Guild’s questionable motives to enhance his own. Antonio is the only thing in his way to a rightful spot in the Guild and to your heart,” Valentine said, looking deep into her sister’s eyes.

“Me? He knows I find him wretched.”

“Yes, but men like Solanio only want the things they cannot have. So, we must be vigilant and ready for what lies ahead. I am leaving to organize a crew of Shadow Walkers that will go to Whitehall. That way we will be prepared for any ills Solanio or the Guild, for that matter, have planned.”

“You aren’t leaving without me! I cannot rest while that vile bottom-dweller lurks toward my beloved!” Bianca proclaimed.

“But I need you here with Emilia, staying safe. I promise I will stay in constant touch,” Valentine said, touching her eel medallion.

“Dear Valentine, my Shadow, please. I can help. I cannot be confined to another set of walls when I just left my old ones behind,” Emilia said, breaking in.

Bianca stood, reaching her hand out to Emilia. Emilia stood and took it.

“We are coming with you. We will obey all your orders except those that say we cannot help,” Bianca said. Emilia nodded in agreement.

“Father will have my head if I let anything happen to you and with being newly installed . . .”

“Installed? Oh, Valentine, I am so proud! You are ready for this.” Bianca wrapped Valentine in a hug before continuing. “As far as Father goes, nothing will happen to us. We spent our girlhoods together where we both learned the skills and secrets of Shadows, yet I always knew my life and love would be bound in Newlondon. I slowly stayed behind but never forgot all I have learned at your side. Now that my love is lost in the sea of this turbulent world, I cannot sit idly by. Besides, when have you let Father decide what you did? And in the short time I’ve had with Emilia, I can tell she is wise and cunning. She has put her full faith in you. Would you not return that to her?”

Valentine looked into the two faces before her. She still had so much to prove, to the Shadow Walkers, to her father, and to herself. She couldn’t let any of them down, let alone Bianca and Emilia. Their lives had been diverging, but Valentine and Bianca were as close as two sisters could be. Halves of the same whole.

Valentine wanted to protect her sister from the dangers she had seen around the Globe, yet she could not imagine trying to take this mission on without Bianca. Valentine’s heart swelled seeing Emilia standing so boldly next to her sister. Valentine knew she was inextricably connected to Emilia, with their connection deepening every moment they spent together. Through their journey so far, Emilia had proven she could hold her own, so Valentine could not stand in her way.

“I will have to scrounge up one of Father’s broken medallions to reconfigure for Emilia. We will need to gather supplies and be ready at the drop of an anchor.”

“I knew you’d come around!” Bianca danced around the room.

Valentine brushed the hair from Emilia’s face.

“Are you sure you are ready for this?” Valentine asked.

“Of course not, but I already told you. I can help and I will follow where you go,” Emilia said with a wry smile.


In the shadows and mist, a small skiv bobbed at the secret dock at Limnoreia estuary. Bianca gave Emilia a sisterly hug and stepped aside for Valentine. Valentine hung the newly fashioned eel medallion around Emila’s neck. The amethyst crystal eye of the eel matched Emilia’s eyes perfectly. 

“It’s not too late to change your mind, Emilia,” Valentine said.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi.

“I am ready, my Shadow. This will give us the best chance to save Antonio. I can do this.” Emilia pressed her forehead to Valentine’s.

“She’s right, sister. You and I cannot go where she will be allowed to,” Bianca said, adjusting the strap on the shoulder bag she wore.

Valentine closed her eyes tight. She knew they were both right. Their admiration was blossoming into the sweet first buds of love over the past few days as they gathered information and made plans to help save Antonio. Valentine didn’t feel ready to let Emilia go. She felt a squeeze from the hands holding her own.

“It’s time,” Emilia said gently. She placed a delicate kiss on Valentine’s lips and stepped aboard the skiv with the Shadow Walker that would escort her to the gates of Whitehall to report as a Bride.

Valentine subconsciously touched the medallion around her neck as she watched the skiv unlock and pull back from the dock.  She saw Emilia touch her own before she slipped it back into her dress. Bianca came and stood next to her sister.

“Is this what I am like when Antonio is around? No wonder you call me insufferable.” Bianca giggled, lightening the mood.

“Ha! You’ve always been insufferable, even before Antonio, dear sister!” Valentine prodded back.

“I must have learned it from you!”

“No, we learned it from Father!”

The sisters laughed and shared a long hug.

“Come, sister. There is much to do,” Bianca said as she turned toward Newlondon.

“Swift as shadow,” Valentine said, and she slipped into the darkness of the wilderness.


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Valentine always wanted to be a Shadow Walker

Swift as Shadow

Part I

BY SHANEL WILSON

Spray from the river studded the hood wrapped tightly around Emilia. Valentine’s face was set firmly forward as she pushed the throttle as hard as she could, steering to make their wake as minimal as possible. The rocket could not mean anything good as far as Valentine was concerned and they must get to Newlondon immediately. Emilia patiently followed Valentine’s lead. She had learned from her trip across the desert with her that Valentine worked best in silence.


“Put this on.”

Valentine released Emilia from their embrace and gave her a dark blue cloak like her own.

Emilia obeyed as she watched Valentine sweep into action. Valentine prepared the hover and unlocked the maglock holding it to the dock. She paused for a moment, then went to the controls. Emilia curiously peered toward the spot Valentine had paused. She caught a faint glimpse of a pulsing blue light under the water. She inched toward the edge of the hover to get a better look.

“Hold on!” Valentine commanded.

Emilia fell back into the bench behind her. The hover raced down the river.

“I’ll get us to safety,” Valentine said, turning to Emilia. Her expression was clouded.

Even when the creature had attacked them when they crossed from Westminster to the river, Valentine had remained calm and cool. A chill rose in Emilia that wasn’t from the wind rushing past them as they traveled farther and farther from her home. Emilia stood and placed her hand on Valentine’s. Valentine looked meaningfully into Emilia’s violet eyes and turned back to the river ahead.

Emilia gazed with wonder at the towering trees that lined the left bank of the river as they flew past Finsbury. She had never seen anything like them in her dusty desert home in Westminster. The water then became more turbulent, and the fog spiraled around them. Valentine’s shoulders seemed to relax as she steered into a pocket of fog and the world around them disappeared.

“Home,” she said.

Emilia gazed with wonder at the towering trees that lined the left bank of the river as they flew past Finsbury. Photo by Anna Goncharova.

They soon heard the cawing of sea birds through the fog. Tall masts pierced through the grayness and Valentine slowed the hover to a slow crawl.

“Welcome to Newlondon,” Valentine said, motioning to the shadows of ships and lines of docks cutting through the mist. “The grand tour will have to wait, unfortunately.”

They quietly cruised through the bay and into the docks. Valentine turned into her private dock when a loud groan of an engine behind them grabbed their attention. A dark-black ship laden with a huge creature strewn on its deck crossed into the bay.

“A kraken? That’s impossible!” Valentine exclaimed, while Emilia gawked at the size of the monstrous beast.

Shouts from the docks grew and echoed across the water.

“The Tempest returns!”

“Kraken is slain!”

“Antonio slayed the beast!”

Valentine’s face lost all its color.

“Antonio? It can’t be. The fool. I’ve told Bianca as much so many times.” Valentine wove her fingers through her curls. Emilia reached out and took Valentine’s hands.

“Tell me what you need me to do. I can help. Who is Bianca?”

“She is my sister,” Valentine responded.

Valentine reached into her cloak and pulled a chain with a medallion on the end of it. The medallion was ornamented with a swirl of long, slender body with a fin running the length of its back and a crystal eye.

“It’s an eel,” Valentine answered the question in Emilia’s eyes. “We have to see my father, but I need Bianca too.”

She squeezed the medallion, and the crystal eye pulsed a deep blue.

“That light, I saw it in the water at the dock!” Emilia leaned closer to examine the medallion.

“It’s an alert of sorts. I will explain more soon, but we must get to my father, and quick. Keep your hood covering you and follow close. We will use the distraction at the docks to slip away unseen.”

“I’ll follow where you lead.”

Hearing Emilia say those words transported Valentine back to the Westminster dock and how her heart had stood still when Emilia asked to come with Valentine instead of going to Whitehall as planned. No one she encountered in all her travels so far came close to creating these unfamiliar feelings Valentine was having. Emilia had shown strength and poise through their journey so far, through all the twists and turns that seemed to be coming faster as the day dawned. Valentine embraced Emilia and gently kissed her cheek.

Photo by Meritt Thomas.

She led Emilia around a long loop through the docks away from the crowd growing to get a glimpse of the kraken. They silently raced through the visitor docks when Valentine stopped short. She motioned to Emilia to stay on the dock as she jumped into a skiv covered in nets and tarps. Valentine swiftly searched the skiv and peered under a corner of the tarp. She winced at what she saw. She secured the tarp and returned to Emilia’s side.

“This is Antonio’s skiv. It shouldn’t be here, and what’s on it shouldn’t, either,” Valentine whispered to Emilia. “Come, quickly.”

They raced towards town staying in the shadows.


Photo by Jake Oates.

Bianca paced her bedroom, clutching the medallion at the end of her necklace, its crystal eye pulsing a deep blue. She stopped occasionally to peek out the window, then continued pacing. When she heard the wooden creak of the front door, she sprinted down the narrow staircase to the entry.

“Sister!” Bianca cried out.

Valentine swooped in with Emilia close behind and shut the door as quickly as they had entered. She wrapped her arms around Bianca in a tight embrace.

“Where’s Father? I sent a ping up the river after I saw the rocket,” Valentine asked.

“He’s meeting the others at Selkie’s Kist. He’s not going to be happy to learn you are the one that sent the ping. He hasn’t installed you yet.”

“What was I supposed to do? Ignore the giant rocket in the sky and not warn the Shadow Walkers? My installation is a formality at this point.”

“You know that’s not how Father feels. And who is this, dear sister?” Bianca peered into the dark hood Emilia was still wearing.

Emilia shifted quietly at Valentine’s side. Valentine looked at Emilia apologetically.

“This is Emilia,” Valentine said, as Emilia lowered her hood gently.

“The Bride you were escorting?”

Bianca couldn’t hide her shock. She had never met a Westminster Bride in person before and half wondered if it was just a myth that their eyes were really violet. She should have known better than to assume that myths aren’t real when she knew the truth of the Shadow Walkers. When Bianca looked back to her sister, she saw something else. The warmth growing in Valentine’s cool-blue eyes as she looked upon Emilia was the same warmth she saw in Antonio’s.

“I chose a different path,” Emilia said, speaking for the first time since the docks. “I am pleased to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine. I am sure this tale between you two is worth sharing, but there are more pressing matters at the moment.”

“Yes, more than you know. We must all get to Selkie’s Kist immediately.” Valentine motioned to the door.

“Neither of us are Shadow Walkers! Father warned what would happen if we attended a meeting without an invitation. Sending a ping is one thing, but why should we risk our lives over some rocket?” Bianca’s face flushed with anger. 

Selkie’s Kist. Photo by Kristine Weilert.

“It’s Antonio. I think he is in more trouble than he is even aware. Come, I’ll explain on the way.”


Mist swirled in coils, making the air thick and humid. Silhouettes of trees and marsh grasses loomed as they got closer to Selkie’s Kist. The way to the inlet led further inland than Emilia had expected. Valentine explained that some of the natural inlets had been deepened to provide cover for meetings such as these. In hushed whispers, Valentine told Bianca of the ruckus at the harbor and what she had found on Antonio’s skiv.

They fell silent as the forms of people took shape through the mist. Valentine motioned that she would emerge first.

“Swift as shadow,” she said, signaling to the others gathered.

“Short as any dream,” a deep voice responded.

In a clearing surrounded by reeds and marshy trees, the group before Valentine was composed of about ten people with a tall, slender man standing opposite her. His face was stern and weathered from many years along the river and the sea. Some in the group eyed the newcomers with distrust, while others remained hidden beneath their cloak hoods. Emilia was reminded of the first time she saw Valentine, concealed beneath her midnight-blue cloak as they left Westminster. Valentine waved for Bianca and Emilia to join her at the edge of the circle.

“What is the meaning of this, Leonato?” said the shorter, stouter person to the right of the man in the center.

“Please, I know I have not been fully installed, but this is urgent,” Valentine said slowly.

“We don’t have time for your trifles, child,” said Leonato.

“Father, I am not a child! And I am the one that sent the ping from the Westminster dock when the rocket etched the sky.” Valentine responded with a step forward into the circle, her shoulders back.

“Your arrogance will lead to trouble, Valentine. Do you think you were the only person with their eyes skyward when the rockets passed by? We already have scouts gathering information about the landing and what the Polity are after. And you have already been warned not to interfere with our work until you are fully installed. Perhaps the responsibility is too great for you.”

Valentine shook her curls as if to shake off her father’s rebuke, but she stood strong. Emilia took Valentine’s hand. Whispers wove through the circle.

“Father, please, there is more. Please let Valentine speak.” Bianca lowered her hood revealing herself to the group.

“Both my daughters defy me? And who is this stranger you brought to our secret meeting?”

Before Valentine could respond, Emilia stepped forward and lowered her hood.

“I am Emilia, Eglamour’s daughter of Westminster. I am sorry for my intrusion here. My father hired Valentine to guide me to Whitehall for I was to be a Bride. Valentine saved my life from a beast in the savagelands. I now follow where she goes.”

More whispers rippled through those gathered.

“It’s Antonio, Father. We must help him!” Bianca interrupted as tears started streaming down her face.

“I understand he has slain a great kraken. I am sure the Guild will no longer ignore him after today. We will monitor the situation,” Lenato responded, his face troubled.

“There’s more,” Valentine interjected. “When I arrived with Emilia, I discovered a dead pirate concealed on his skiv.”

“My Antonio would never kill anyone. He is being framed, or he was only protecting his cargo,” said Bianca.

Another person from the circle spoke up.

“Aye, he may be a simple trader, but his ideals are high.”

“Yes, I know this to be true as well,” said Leonato. “If the Guild becomes aware of this, they will use it to their own devious ends. We will take care of it. Bianca, go now to Antonio. The Guild will have spoken to him by now. Find out what you can.”

“Yes, Father. Thank you.” Bianca gave a glance to Valentine and Emilia as she quickly disappeared into the mist.

Leonato turned to Valentine. He saw an echo of himself in her crystalline blue eyes. One from many years ago when he joined the Shadow Walkers to protect the peace of the Globe. Now he stood, as their leader, facing the most challenging times the Globe had seen these many years. Leonato could no longer deny that this was the path his daughter had chosen and was destined for.

“How I tried to keep you from this life, but you girls always found ways to follow my footsteps. I perhaps should have seen this coming.”

“I am ready, Father. This is the life I have chosen.”

Leonato’s eyes fell to Emilia. She blushed and gazed at Valentine, waiting patiently.

“With the landing of the Polity rocket, that peace is threatened in every corner of our beloved home. Now a daughter of Westminster is here and the word from Oberon is that another has left Belmont. We will need all of our most skilled Shadow Walkers at the ready to preserve the Globe’s peace. My fellow seafarers, I ask you to allow the installation of Valentine as a full member of the Shadow Walkers. All in favor say, aye.”

The stout person to his right scoffed, but slowly each of the members of the circle responded.

“Aye.” “Aye.” “Aye.”

“Valentine, by taking the Oath of the Shadow Walkers, you must honor all of our codes and aims. Do you accept?” Leonato asked.

“Aye. I accept.” She nodded gratefully to her father and to the others. “Thank you. Thank all of you. I will not fail.”

“You will be in charge of this mission to clear Antonio’s name. Bring Emilia to our home, and I will send instructions shortly.”

“Thank you,” Valentine said meaningfully to her father. She turned to the rest of the group and bowed deeply. “Swift as shadow.”


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

New release of the conclusion of “Eyes Up the River”

After Antonio slayed the kraken, the Newlondon Guild inducted him as a member. They sent him to Whitehall as Newlondon’s ambassador to greet the spaceship from the Polity of Unified Planets.

Eyes Up the River

Part II

by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage

A line of hovers stretched up the river, veering off along the road to Whitehall. Antonio hated the thought of skipping ahead of his fellow Newlondoners on their way to the city, but he had no time to wait. Antonio swerved over the riverbank and thrummed across the savagelands. His barge shook as the dust beneath his skiv plumed to cloud him in sand. He grasped the knife from his boot, and his keen eyes darted around, ready to pounce on any wild beasts hunting in the low plains that sensed the vibrations of his engines.

Drones appeared overhead. They cast their shadow across his scow, and scanned him, emitting a buzzing whine to ward him off. He rammed the throttle, but the roar of his hover couldn’t outrun the buzz of the pests above.  

He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he scoped the trajectory of the drones. A green glow flashed over his body and his hand. Upon reaching the gold of his ring, the glow emitted by the drones faded, and they vanished, skimming ahead of him to the gate. I guess Prospero was right. This ring gets you out of just about anything. 

A beam of light shone from the city gate across the sands, guiding him to the entrance, and clearing a path for his arrival. Walls surrounded the towers of Whitehall. Blue lightning fizzed across them as the shields’ halo danced over iron and stone. Behind the colossal walls, glass shards loomed into the heavens, light skimming over the sand from the reflections. 

Antonio swerved over the riverbank and thrummed across the savagelands. Photo by Alessio Soggetti.

Antonio’s skiv rocked, slowing to approach Whitehall’s officers, who guarded the city gate and checked each hover seeking entry. 

“State your designation!” The guard’s voice boomed through his helmet. 

“I am Antonio of the Newlondon Guild. I was summoned to Whitehall.” He raised his hand and showed them the ring. 

The guard strapped a set of portable anti-gravs to his boots, which lifted him above the surface, and he drifted towards Antonio. He tweaked the visor on his helmet and verified the gold ring. “Antonio. Welcome.” The guard raised his helmet’s visor, flashing a toothy smile. “You don’t mind if I search your vessel? Just as a formality. We wouldn’t want anything unsanitary smuggled into Whitehall.” 

Smuggled?” Antonio spat the word. “Are you trying to offend me, Whitehaller?” 

The guard’s smile widened. “You people really don’t like smugglers, do you?” 

“Smuggling is the worst crime a Newlondoner can commit. Not even the scum who board the deathships would stoop so low.” Antonio wiped his hands on his chest, as if to rid himself of the accusation’s stain. 

“Then you won’t mind if I search your craft?” the guard asked. 

Antonio crossed his arms. “I hide nothing.” 

The guard landed on deck and passed a cursory glance over the oddments scattered about. He ruffled the nets and kicked at the helm-panel. “Looks clear.” 

“Then I can pass?” Antonio reached for the throttle. 

“Just a moment. I haven’t searched the underside.” 

Antonio frowned. “Since when did a Whitehaller search the underside of a skiv?” 

“What’s the matter? You nervous?” The guard cocked his head. 

Antonio flapped his arms. “Fine.” 

The guard returned his visor over his brown eyes and stepped off the deck. Anti-gravs floated him beneath the hover. “Well, well, well. What have we here?” The guard reappeared on deck carrying a satchel. He emptied it, and a glut of weapons spilled over the barge. 

Drones appeared overhead. Photo by Karl Greif.

Antonio straightened. “What is this? What are you trying to pull, Whitehaller?” 

“I could ask the same of you.” The guard trained his gun on Antonio. 

“You set me up!” 

The guard’s smarmy grin returned. “Not me, friend.” 

Antonio lunged for the guard. The man loaded a blaster round, but Antonio flew so fast, his knuckles slammed across the guard’s helmet before their arms had even lifted an inch. Beneath Antonio’s fist, the guard’s visor splintered and cracked, knocking his anti-gravs off balance, and he lurched unsteadily, grasping the hull’s edge to keep upright. 

Drones swarmed the craft, darkening the sun from Antonio’s pale face. 

Antonio stopped. His chest pumped. From the guard’s pocket, a trail of doubloons scattered, all bearing Newlondon’s seal. Antonio stared at them. His jaw gaped open at the familiar crest stamped on every piece of silver. 

The guard readjusted his helmet, stooped to collect the precious coins, and approached through the swarm of drones. “I’m placing you under arrest for conspiracy to smuggle, Antonio of the Newlondon Guild.” He bound Antonio’s wrists in iron manacles and removed the Guild signet ring. 

Antonio was hauled from the skiv on an anti-grav platform. Drones forced him through the city, to a chamber in the city walls. Bars sealed behind him, and he looked through a slit to the desolate plains of the savagelands beyond. 

When I accused the guard of setting me up, he said, ‘Not me.’ But if not him, then who? 

Antonio paced the cell, his manacles weighing on his arms and his heart. Those doubloons remove all doubt. Someone is behind this. Someone wants to paint me as a smuggler. Whose mind would be so sick to arrange such a thing? The thought of being branded as the lowest of men made him wretch. 

He slumped on the iron floor, raking his fingers through his hair. From his pocket spilled the crumpled note he’d found hidden on his barge. His eyes ran over the words. 

The gold a monster slain bestows. His signet ring! Once the drone had scanned it, the ring had led him straight to the Whitehallers. Straight into the jaws of their trap. Conceals a secret hid below. The weapons had been snuck on the underside of his craft. Below. Whoever had made that note had known. They’d tried to warn him. Beware of what you think you know.

From the other side of Antonio’s bars, a latch cracked open, and footsteps ricocheted beyond his cell. Antonio scrambled to his feet and clanged his manacles against the bars. “Hey! I’m not supposed to be here! I demand to speak to someone!” He shouted to the newcomer walking toward the cell in the darkness.

“Oh, but you are right where you are meant to be, dear brother.” Solanio slid into the sliver of light from the slit in the wall of Antonio’s cell.

You!” Antonio lunged at the bars, trying with all his might to reach far enough through to get to the monster looming before him.

You are right where you are meant to be, dear brother. Photo by Larm Rmah.

“Come now, Antonio. Calm yourself. Don’t make a scene.” Solanio surveyed the dingy cell.

“If there is a scene to be made, it is of your own making,” Antonio roared. “Or would you still claim that putting me on the deathship was all a mistake? What have I done that offends you so that you wish me dead or condemned?” 

A shadow swept across Solanio’s eyes as he pursed his lips and shook his head. “You always had the luck, Antonio. Ever since we were children. Oh, yes. My father might’ve owned half the boats along the dock. I may have had fish on my table every night, and a free room in one of those sordid little hovels on the seafront. But you? You had everything. It was as though Elizabeth Hathaway looked upon you from the heavens, and smiled.” 

“What are you talking about? You know better than any how I used to scrounge bread from your own table.” 

“Bread, maybe. But affection? You were never in want of heart, Antonio.” 

Antonio gripped his chest. “And neither were you. You have been loved, Solanio. I loved you as a brother.” 

Solanio grimaced. “And I you. But she should’ve been mine. Do you understand? You’re nothing. You’ll always be nothing. A woman that beautiful should see straight through a dock rat like you.” 

Understanding flashed through Antonio, and he rubbed the twine around his finger. “Bianca?” 

Solanio nodded. “She would never have loved me while you still lived. You came and boasted of your engagement that day on the pier, and I had to stand there and smile, all the while thinking, knowing, it should’ve been me.” 

“Who Bianca loves is not for you to decide. It is her choice, and hers alone.” 

“I know it. She chose you, and all I could do was sit and watch. I spent that afternoon in the company of thoughts darker than the night itself. And then you came to me and begged for my help. I thought it would be easy to fix. With you locked on the deathship, she would never know the truth.” 

“You were supposed to be my friend, Solanio. My brother!” 

“And you were supposed to have suffered an unfortunate death. She would’ve turned to me in her time of despair. She’d have found solace in me, first as her friend, and then, as her husband. But then you went and cheated death, and even returned with a kraken in tow. It isn’t fair, Antonio. It’s never been fair!” 

Antonio raged, his manacles tearing at the skin of his wrists as he flung himself at the bars. “Bianca would never fall in love with a snake like you, Solanio! She already sees through your gutless, vile ways.”

“That might be true,” Solanio responded simply. “But what respectable Newlondon woman would love a smuggling criminal? That is something even Bianca can surely not forgive.”

“It was your silver that bought the Whitehall guard, wasn’t it? Just wait until Prospero finds out that you’re the reason I didn’t make it to Whitehall as he commanded. When the Guild realizes you’ve threatened one of their own, what do you think they’ll do?” 

Solanio tossed his head back and laughed. “Why don’t you ask them yourself?” 

New footsteps echoed in the metallic chamber. “Greetings, Antonio. How do you like Whitehall so far?” 

No. It can’t be!  

The gold from Prospero’s chain rattled into the light. His waxed moustache and beard framed a sinister smile on his smug face. “Come now, don’t look so surprised. Who else could have sent Solanio to take your place at the summit?”

“Prospero? What trick is this?” 

“No trick, Antonio. I’ve actually come to thank you. You’ve brought great wealth to Newlondon. Well, I should say you brought great wealth to me and the Guild. But the Guild has never been overly keen on sharing.” 

“The kraken’s eye? Is that what this is all about?” 

Prospero rubbed his portly stomach.

“Well, we couldn’t let you sell it and keep all the wealth for yourself, could we?” Prospero said. “So we welcomed you to the Guild to split the profits. But of course, with you out of the way, there’ll be no need to split anything.” 

Antonio’s nostrils flared. “I’d have given it all to you. I’d trade anything for a chance to live free with the woman I love.” 

“You betrayed me brother.”

“Foolish child. Did nobody tell you that trading for love will get you killed? Or worse? You really are as gullible as Solanio said.” Prospero laughed heartily. 

Antonio closed his eyes. “You betrayed me, brother.” 

Prospero shook his head. “You think this was his idea? When you landed with the kraken, I checked the deathship’s manifesto. It didn’t take long to track the Tempest back to Solanio. If it hadn’t been for this woman of yours, I’m not sure I could’ve convinced him to turn on you. You should have heard him beg for your life. Pathetic, really.” 

Antonio looked at Solanio, who turned his face away. 

“You won’t get away with this,” Antonio said. 

Prospero raised an eyebrow. “And who’s going to stop me? You? What are you going to do, appeal to Whitehall for compassion? Perhaps it would’ve been kinder to have killed you than leave you to the mercy of these ’Hallers.” 

“Is that why you stole the body from my scow? So there’d be no way for me to appeal.” 

Prospero frowned. “What body?” 

“The pirate. From the river.” 

Prospero waved his arms. “I assumed you’d dumped the body. Besides, who needs a murder charge when you’ve been caught red-handed smuggling? You know the penalty for smuggling, Antonio. I’m sure the Whitehallers will be delighted to exact every last morsel of your sentence.” 

“Solanio, please.” Antonio stretched his hands towards Solanio, but the young man turned away. 

Prospero held up the signet ring the guard had taken from Antonio and twisted it in the dim reflection of the light. “You’ve proven useful, both of you. But I think I’ll have to wait to see how you handle the summit, Solanio, before I can place it on your finger.”

“We had an agreement!” Solanio sputtered. “Frame Antonio, and in return, I’d be a member of the Guild and have Bianca’s hand.” 

“Report back to me in Newlondon, my dear boy. I’ll keep this ring warm for you while I wait. Perhaps the young lady will need some company, as well! Goodbye, Antonio. And thank you again for the riches, and all the, shall we say, benefits that come with them.” Prospero chortled as he left.

“Stay away from her, you fiend!” Antonio yelled, but the door slammed shut on his words.

Solanio stared at the door, trying to calm his ragged breathing. 

“What have you done?” Antonio said. 

Solanio wheeled on him. “Do be a good friend and stay put this time. I’m running out of favors to counter your incessant heroic returns home.” 

“You really think you’ve won? That they’ll let you have her?” 

Solanio snarled, and a serpentine smile crossed his lips. “Everybody’s luck runs out eventually. Even yours.” 

Solanio slipped out the door, his footsteps fading into nothingness. The blood drained from Antonio’s head, and the room started to sway. He grasped the edge of the slit to steady himself. Beware what you think you know. The words rattled in his skull as he tried to comprehend all he had just heard from Solanio and Prospero. He was friendless and hopeless. He laid his head against the wall as tears stained his cheeks.


Nightfall darkened the cell. Loud pops and booms drifted to Antonio from beyond the shields, followed by cheers. Colorful bursts filled the sky through the slit. 

Fireworks? Antonio had heard of them, but he had never seen them with his own eyes. What are the ’Hallers trying to do? Show off for the Polity? Make friends before enemies? The commotion grew. It reached such a fever pitch, Antonio shivered as if the celebrations were an ominous warning. 

Isolation crept into Antonio’s skin. He lost himself, giving his mind over to flashes of memory, closing his eyes so as to better glimpse the way Bianca had looked the last time he saw her on their cliff top. How she’d told him to return to her. They’d stood so close to the precipice. So close. 

Time passed without meaning while Antonio remained locked in his cell. He lost count of the days in his solitude. 

“My Bianca,” he said each day, reaching out for her. “My darling Bianca. I didn’t sail too close to the wind, but it caught me nonetheless.” 

Time passed without meaning while Antonio remained locked in his cell. Photo by Diego González.

His voice bounced from the walls, the only response to his call. But he never let up. Every day he closed his eyes to speak with the memory of her. 

“My beautiful Bianca. I’m here, my love. Keep your eyes up the river for me.” 

‘Always,’ she had told him, a promise he replayed in his mind over and over. 

One night, a low whistle stirred him from sleep. He followed the sound, and it led him to the window slit. An exterior floodlight shone a narrow path around the prison wall, but all was dark beyond its beam. Antonio’s eyes strained to see into the darkness beyond the light.

He heard the whistle again. The tune seemed so familiar. And then he placed it. Yohoho, row, nonny, row.

Antonio returned the whistle and waited.

A flicker of a shadow cut through the light, but Antonio’s eyes weren’t fast enough to see who it was. Something came flying through the slit above his head. It clattered on the iron floor. Antonio dove to the ground feeling his way through the dark. His fingers brushed the cold, small object.

Antonio held it up to the light of the slit. A small key with a familiar piece of twine was tied in a bow at the top. 

“My clever Bianca! You did it, as you said. You kept your eyes up the river for me.” He snatched the key in his grip. “And now it is my turn to come back to you.”


If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier‘s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. We will be seeing more of Antonio, Bianca and even Solanio in the coming weeks. But in two weeks, we turn our eyes down river to Finsbury, where young Panthino discovered on the Night of the Rocket a cache of weapons buried beneath a field. In the next installment of Nights of Revelation, a secret society turns Panthino’s life upside down. Somehow, they learned his secret and kidnapped his unrequited crush, Desdemonia. Check back next Friday week for “The Shambles.”

If you would like to prepare for “The Shambles,” you can read “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross and meet the hulking-but-shy Panthino and the talented and popular Desdemonia.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross