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

Antonio returns a hero after slaying the kraken

The waves of the South Sea break against the docks of Newlondon on the morning after “The Night of the Rocket” . . .

Eyes Up the River

Part I

by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage

The Tempest’s engine sputtered to a halt as the deathship reached its berth. Creaks and moans rippled through the ship, its ropes straining against the hull in the still churning water. Laid strewn across the deck, the massive creature’s corpse towered above the sail. The only piece missing was its grotesque, green eye that Antonio cradled in his hands. 

“Your valor will not be forgotten, men,” Antonio said to the few remaining members of the crew.  

Footsteps pounded down the dock toward them, shouts growing louder as they approached. 

“It’s true!”

“A kraken! I never thought I’d see the day!”

Antonio scanned the crowd for Bianca’s blue eyes. 

Prospero, the head of the Guild, pressed through the masses and reached the ship first. “Antonio? Is that you?” Prospero gawked. His gaze slipped from Antonio to the eye in his hands and then to the slain beast. 

Footsteps pounded down the dock toward them, shouts growing louder as they approached. Photo by Doruk Yemenici.

“We have returned with a slain Kraken, and here is the eye.” Antonio stepped off the ship next to Prospero. 

Prospero gingerly accepted the eye as if it were a bomb ready to detonate. “But how? Why are you here, on this deathship?” 

Antonio searched for words when his eyes landed on Solanio lurking toward the back of the throng. Antonio flushed with anger, forgetting Prospero altogether.

“I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for all this, but now is not the time. There are more pressing issues,” Prospero said, grabbing Antonio’s attention. “We will secure the beast and you can report to the Guild House as soon as you’ve cleaned yourself up. Agreed? To think, all on the same night as the Rocket.”

“The rocket?” Antonio asked.

“Ah, yes. You’ll be filled in at the Guild House.” He turned to his men and motioned to the beast. “Get to work!”

Antonio twisted back to the crowd to find Solanio, but he was gone.


Dressed in his best shirt and pants, Antonio wound through the narrow streets of Newlondon to the Guild House. He wanted nothing more than to find Bianca, but he couldn’t keep the Guild waiting. The kraken would ensure a better future for them both. Besides, whatever the Guild decreed, Bianca was sure to find out soon enough. 

The jingling of keys caught Antonio’s attention. He turned down the alley toward the metallic rattle. “Why didn’t you stay at the docks and greet my return, brother?” he said to the figure who slipped a key in the door in front of them.

He turned down the alley toward the metallic rattle. Photo by Edoardo Frezet.

“Antonio!” Solanio stepped out of the building’s shadow. “Hero of the day! Quite the feat you’ve achieved, dear friend.”

“Yes, dear friend. An opportunity I would never have been given if it wasn’t for you, I think.” Antonio’s pulse raced as he approached the man he’d wrongfully trusted.

“A happy accident. You are alive with quite the prize in hand. No need to thank me for your good fortune. I wished only to help you in your time of need. Who knew I’d be more successful than either of us could’ve imagined?” Solanio’s tone dripped with affection to mask the biting jealousy barely hiding below the surface. The effect was not lost on Antonio. His rage burned brighter as he loomed large over Solanio, whose back was now pressed against the door he was trying to open.

“Solanio,” Antonio menaced, his finger digging into the other man’s chest. “Your great help was to lock me on a deathship knowing full well that none have returned before today. That is no ‘happy accident.’” Antonio reeled back to swing at Solanio’s smug, rat face. 

Solanio raised his hands in defense. “But it was an accident!”

Antonio dropped his fist, his shoulders still vibrating. “Enlighten me, then! How did this accident come about?” 

“You came back in the pitch-black, foggy night, desperate for my help!” Solanio roared in Antonio’s face, stepping forward. “Between the fog and darkness, I thought I was stowing you on one of my father’s ships. I returned to the docks this morning to fetch you when the deathship moored up. I was as shocked as anyone to discover you there.”

“Do you think I am that stupid? You can navigate the docks blindfolded!” 

“Stupid, no. Could a stupid person defeat a kraken? It’s clear you are exceedingly clever, dear Antonio. And as you can see, even I can make mistakes. I am just so thankful this mistake turned out so well. For you.” A mocking smile spread across his lips. “Aren’t you due at the Guild House by now?” 

Antonio glanced down the alley toward the street, then he turned back to Solanio. Before he could open his mouth to speak, Solanio had vanished. The door in front of him locked from the inside.

Antonio blew out an exasperated breath from his lips. “Will you stop disappearing like that!”

Solanio’s apparent betrayal churned in Antonio’s mind like a restless sea on his walk to the Guild House. Everyone makes mistakes, but Solanio wasn’t that careless. Was he? What would he gain if I hadn’t returned? 

People skittered in a frenzy along the dock, where seedy rooms-to-rent overlooked the bay. Trawlers queued for a berth to land. Everyone seemed to be searching for a skiv bound for Whitehall. All these people, and Bianca nowhere among them. Where can she be? 

Antonio passed through the milling crowds to the building jutting out at the pier’s end. He traipsed the stairs, his footsteps following him in echoes. A huge door with an emblem of a fish barred the way. He took the fish by its fin and knocked it thrice on the iron door. 

Creaking open, it swung on its hinges, and Antonio entered a lavish room. A dozen people sat in a crescent behind a ceremonial table. They sported the finest garb, all ruffles and trims. And their white moustaches were waxed with the utmost care. 

“Welcome, Antonio!” Prospero’s voice boomed from the center of the crescent. Golden chains hung around his neck. “On behalf of the Guild of Sailors, may I be the first to congratulate you on all you’ve done for Newlondon.” Applause shook the glass windows overlooking the sea. 

When was the last time any of these men were actually on the water? They might have owned the boats and gleaned the city’s wealth, but they’d lost their sailing legs a long time ago. 

“It takes a lot to impress the Guild, Antonio,” Prospero continued, rubbing his paunch. “But bringing back a Kraken? There’s enough pollium in the eye alone to restore prosperity to this city.” 

“I wish only enough to buy a ring for my bride,” Antonio answered. “As for the rest of it, you gentlemen would know far better than me what to do with it.” 

A murmur of smiles swept the room. “Your words do you credit, Antonio. And I think we’re all in agreement. Among the Guild, we recognise a good catch when we see it. And there’s no finer catch among men than you. Which is why we’re electing you to be a member of this Guild, for the services you’ve rendered to Newlondon. What do you say?” 

Antonio’s eyes popped. He’d have chosen wrestling with the tentacles of a kraken over facing the false smiles of the Guild any day. But how could he refuse? He knew better than to cross these men, or else any life with Bianca would sink to the bottom of the ocean. They might as well have placed an anchor around his neck. “I am honoured,” he said. “But what would be expected of me?” 

Prospero toyed with his golden chains. “Even when bestowed with this great honor, you are still thinking about how you may serve. Bravo, Antonio. There is one thing we were hoping you may do to cement your place at the table. I take it you saw the purple lights in the sky last night?” 

Antonio nodded. “They appeared after the battle with the kraken. I thought they were another beast coming for us.” 

Prospero raised an eyebrow. “You may be right about that. A Polity rocket landed near Whitehall. You know of the Polity, I take it?” 

Antonio frowned. “I know that Captain Elizabeth of the good ship Shakespeare warned of them when the first settlers landed all those generations ago.” 

Prospero folded his hands together, leaning forwards in his chair. “History is a funny thing. It has the habit of repeating itself. We heard from Leonardo at Whitehall that the Polity seek an audience with a representative from each of the five cities. We can think of no better sailor to send than you.” 

“You want me to go to Whitehall?” The blood drained from Antonio’s face. The drone. The pirate. That’s what landed me on the deathship in the first place! 

Prospero smiled. “It seems like all the world wishes to go to Whitehall. I take it you already have a skiv?” 

“Is there no one else more deserving of this,” Antonio paused, “privilege?”

Prospero shook his head. “None.” 

If the drone had reported back to Whitehall, I’d already be under arrest, from the moment I landed. Maybe it’ll be alright? Antonio chewed his lip. “Then I have no choice but to accept.” 

The only other chains he’d seen like the ones they’d bestowed upon him were the kind they kept in prisons. Photo by Vishnu Prasad.

“Excellent. Welcome to the Guild, Antonio.” Prospero stood and beckoned him forwards. He approached, and Prospero lowered the golden chains over Antonio’s head as the others applauded. The only other chains he’d seen like the ones they’d bestowed upon him were the kind they kept in prisons. 

“May I see my bride before I depart?” Antonio asked. 

“Of course. But don’t take too long. We don’t want to keep the other cities waiting. Or the Polity for that matter. Find out what they want and report back to us. We can then decide what should be done about the newcomers. And in the meantime, we’ll make arrangements to auction the kraken’s remains. Here.” Prospero took a signet ring from his pocket with an anchor engraved upon it. He placed it on Antonio’s finger before he lifted the chains from Antonio’s shoulders. “The ceremony is complete. If you get into any trouble, just show this ring. You’re a Guild member now, Antonio. Remember that.”

“Thank you.” Antonio stroked the ring as it pinched his skin. He bowed, and hurried out of the chambers, back along the pier. Bianca. I must find Bianca. 

Antonio sprinted to the one place he hadn’t looked for Bianca yet, their secret hideaway on the cliffs above the sea. He could barely fathom that it was at that very spot, two days ago, where Bianca agreed to be his forever. As he came over the crest of the hill, there she was. Her chestnut curls gently swayed in the breeze as she stared at the horizon.

“My sweet Bianca,” Antonio said quietly.

She spun toward him, her eyes wet as she wrapped him in a tight embrace. “Bless the Arrant Moon you are safe.” Bianca clasped Antonio’s face in her delicate hands, studying his face. 

A storm knitted in his brow and a fog clouded his eyes. 

Purple clouds over the cliffs of Moher. Photo by Simon Moore.

“I heard about the kraken,” she said. “I thought you had a trade run. And that same night, the Polity arrived? I believed they were little more than legend. Has the Globe changed so much in so little time?” 

Antonio looked away from her searching eyes. “The only thing that has not changed is my devotion to you, Bianca.” He took her hands in his and kissed her finger with the small cord wrapped around it.

“What are you hiding from me, Antonio?”

“I hide nothing. It’s just . . . there is so much to share but no time to do so.”

Then she saw it. The Guild ring on the finger where his matching cord had been. Bianca eyed the ring with surprise as she pulled her hands from his. A blush of suspicion spread across her cheeks to the tips of her ears. She knew his distaste for the questionable nature of the members. “There is no hiding that ring. Guild membership? How, when?”

“It is just one of the many things I wish to tell you about,” Antonio said. “The slain kraken secured my membership. You must understand, I could not refuse without risking both our lives. You know the rumors of what happens to those who oppose the Guild. And I am now to meet the Polity as their representative to Newlondon.”

“Luckily for you, that isn’t the strangest thing I’ve heard today. And how were you on the Tempest?”

“My trading run, well, let’s say it did not go as planned. I turned to Solanio for help and instead he locked me aboard. He claims it was an accident, but I have my doubts.” He paused and looked out over the sea. It had brought him a fortune. Perhaps it had really brought him a curse. 

“I cannot make sense of it. I have so many questions.” 

Antonio turned back to her. “Bianca, let’s stem the tide. Forget the Guild, the Polity, all of it. Let’s run, now. We can be free together.” The fog lifted from his eyes, revealing the man she had fallen in love with. Trusting, naïve, wistful. It made him beautiful, but also doleful. 

Bianca closed the gap she had made between them. “Why do I love you so much, my dear fool? You know we cannot flee, and that you must fulfill your duties. You have no choice in the matter.”

“Then come with me. To Whitehall. You are my compass rose. I have never needed your direction more.”

Bianca’s head fell. “I must stay here. Don’t forget, my dear, you managed to defeat the kraken. What awaits you in Whitehall cannot be worse, can it?”

Antonio swallowed hard, thinking of the chains and shackles awaiting him if the drone had indeed captured the ill-fated encounter on his skiv. And then he shook off his doubts. “No matter what awaits, know that I love you, with all the deeps of my soul.” Antonio looked deeply into her glistening blue eyes.

“And I love you.” 

“Keep your eyes up the river for me,” he said. 

“Always. Don’t sail close to the wind and return home to me.” Bianca cloyed at the twine of her ring as they parted, and she watched him leave. There wasn’t time to explain to him what had happened, why she must stay. And she couldn’t bring herself to burden him more. Not with the rocket waiting for him, and the Polity breathing down both their necks.

You are my compass rose. Photo by Aron Visuals.

She remained on the cliff for as long as she could, clutching her ring to her heart, knowing that beneath the Guild’s signet which weighed upon Antonio’s finger, the twine that bound them still remained. “Antonio, my love, you are right. If only we had more time.” 

Antonio forced himself away from their cliff top, wind scolding his cheeks with its frigid bite. He descended down the hidden path to the pier. Sea fret rolled in to cloud the air with a salty tang, masking the rush of crowds. 

He shimmied a route to the visitor’s slip and found the dock where he’d stored his skiv. There his ship hovered undisturbed. Waves sloshed beneath it. A roll of tarp made for a poor man’s casket, covering the body of the dead pirate. Antonio’s chest sagged. He glanced over his shoulder, but between the dense fret and the frenzy of the crowds, all eyes were up the river, and no one saw as he reached for the tarp’s corner to pull it back. 

He winced, and then his eyes widened. Where a body should have been, bundles of netting clumped together. A shiver swept through Antonio. He yanked the tarp back, scouring the empty nets, but found not even the trace of blood. Bodies don’t just disappear. Not without a reason. Who could’ve done this? 

A leather cylinder fell from the web of netting, and he scooped up the container, popping it open. From inside, he unfurled a parchment. In blotches of ink, a note was scrawled — 

The gold a monster slain bestows,
Conceals a secret hid below.
Beware of what you think you know.
Yohoho, row nonny, row. 

No signature hinted at the author of the elaborate handwriting. Antonio scrunched the parchment in his hands. His eyes flashed everywhere at once. I never told Solanio where I’d docked the skiv. And the weasel would never have left a note like this. Who else knows of what I’ve done? 

A storm tossed the waves of Antonio’s thoughts into chaos. He reached for the twine, and the comfort of Bianca’s promise to him, but he found the anchor of the Guild instead. The Guild. Could they have done this? He had no time to think. No time for doubt. He must get to Whitehall, and trust that with the body gone, he had nothing to dread from the city’s drones. 

I must get to Whitehall, no matter the cost. For Bianca. For both our sakes. 

He pocketed the crumpled parchment and swung the hover from its berth, charging upstream amidst the cavalcade of rocket-chasers. Spray kicked up from the hover’s pads. The Elizabeth River undulated beneath the pressure of so many barges all heading for the city, and the purple light of whatever monster waited for them.


On Friday, we release the conclusion of “Eyes Up the River“! The tentacles of Newlondon’s Guild of Sailors grasp Antonio’s future more closely than even the kraken’s deadly grip, and the unfaithful Solanio reveals his secrets.

If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier‘s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

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