Swift as Shadow
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
Act 1: Night of the Rocket
- “Pillars of Smoke” by Frasier Armitage
- “Shadow of the Dunes” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Towers of Whitehall” by Jim Hamilton
- “The Beast Below” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross
- “Kite Night” by Matthew Cross
Act 2: Nights of Revelation
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Sands of Change-Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Sands of Change-Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Principle” by Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Shambles” by Matthew Cross
- “Interrogation” by Matthew Cross
- “The Burning Flame–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Burning Flame–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- You just read: “Swift as Shadow–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Song of Thieves” by Frasier Armitage