“We have had this argument before, Father. We will have it again and yet again until you give me my due. This sad life you have built, in this filthy country, does not interest me. You owe me a kingdom. I am stronger now. I have given you just a glimpse of the powers at my command. Join with me and we can recreate the inheritance that you threw away. Do this and I can be generous. I will forget your new family. Let us walk away together.”
I felt its eyes before I saw its face. The feather touch of a distant watcher on the back of my neck prompted me to turn to search the crowd. Bright sun beat on the skins of slaves and slave traders, drawing out sweat and making them glisten. My watcher did not glisten. Its skin was dry as stone. Its simple garments told me that it was not a purchaser and the expression on its face told me that it was no slave of men.
In the firelight Sissy had a stature never evidenced during the day. Under the sun, she was a little creature, of polite manners and raised carriage, a prim bird not to be mocked. This night, under this moon, Sissy Le Bon filled space like a tiger and moved like flame.
“Come Rose,” she laughed, “put down the weight of your hammer! Join the circle!”
We heard screaming in the library. It was the wail of a man who had lost all hope, even the hope of a swift end. Uncle Billy drew his sword. Uncle Boris laughed. “Steel is not the weapon we need now,” he said. “The prisoners of that box had no flesh to cut and no hearts to pierce.”
Brother Innocent had a voice like a snake hissing through sand. “I see through your guises, demon,” he said. “I know what thou art. I have not come for thee today but think not yourself safe. When I have fulfilled my calling I shall return for thee.”
Father bowed. “Of course, good brother. I would be disappointed if you did not.”
Mrs. Kindersley carefully refilled each cup upon the table. She smiled at me. “Miss Rose? Are you not tired of this place? Are you not weary of the heat and the wet and the smell? Would you not like to see better parts of this world?” I politely sipped my tea. “I hope to visit more of the world, Ma’am, than I have as yet. I thank you for your offer but I am not ready to leave home just yet. And I am not willing to leave without my family and companions.” Mrs. Kindersley’s face hardened. “That is sad,” she hissed.
Uncle Billy’s eyebrows came together. He scratched the side of his nose. “The ship’s been at anchor for more days than any of the men can remember. None of them can tell me when it arrived. No one has seen a crew. Yet, not a lad has been curious about it. They look at it like a rock or shoal to navigate around.”