The Heir of Kennedy Manor, Part Two
by Maryanne

 

 

She sat beneath the dimmed gentle glow of an oil lamp,
seated beside the crackling fire burning cheerily and
radiating soft waves of warmth through her slender form.
Silky strands of soft long flaxen gold hair, damp from a
recent bath and now undone across her shoulders, fell before
her eyes, brushed aside by her fine-boned hand as she
daintily dipped the pen in the inkwell. She delicately
stroked the fine point across the paper, writing her thoughts
urgently, but cordially. Her cousin Charles had promised his
assistance when she had spoken of her plans, but reaching the
British Admiralty would likely strain his precious high
connections and convincing them to change their mind made her
grateful for the first moment of her young life that she had
been born of a wealthy, well-respected line.
The old clock ticked through the halls softly, as shadows
from the dim flickering flames cast their figures about the
richly furnished room, darting on the high ceiling. She
paused for a moment, carefully setting her pen down on the
stones of the hearth as her soft, bright blue eyes traveled
the dim evening shadows. Annalise wrapped the warm scottish
wool shawl further around her slender shoulders, and tossed
her hair back in front of the flames, slowly drying it beside
the fire as she once more picked up the pen and smoothly,
elegantly, continued to write. She spoke the words softly
aloud in her mind, penning her feminine script across the
paper silently and methodically.

**My dear cousin Charles,

You have been most kind to us, and in that regard, I am
gratefully indebted to you. Thank you for locating my
brother; it was a gesture of kindness to honor any gentleman.
But now I must call upon your assistance once more, if you
would be so kind. I need you to do me a favor, dear cousin.
I need you to contact the Admiralty, or perhaps even the
illustrious Captain Sir Edward Pellew himself, who, as you so
generously informed me, command's my brother's latest
assignment. If it ëtis true that Archie is under command of
such a great leader, then I am aware of how unfair this is to
him to pull him away, but as you are probably well aware,
this is a matter of great urgency.

Now that his lordship, my esteemed father, no longer rules
this house, I am gravely afraid that all the grounds and the
house itself of Kennedy manor will go to waste or will have
to be sold. As you are well aware, my inheritance is hardly
enough to tend to an estate such as this. But I am willing
and determined to try, so attempting to convince me otherwise
will have little effect. This wouldn't pose such a danger
should my brothers, your cousins, Edmund and Tobias return.
Unfortunately, as the days and weeks pass, I grow more
concerned as neither of them has returned to claim their
right as an heir to Kennedy Manor. Though you are,
undoubtedly, one of the kindest men I have ever known, I
would much rather keep this place in our line of inheritance
rather than have the estate entitled to you.**

 

Annalise paused for a moment, briefly, between lines, her
soft blue eyes scanning her written words. She touched the
delicate tip on the back of the sleek, elegant pen to her
lips, the sharp point on the front pointed carefully above
her paper as she read. She dipped the pen with a tiny clink
of the crystal once more, and continued to write.

 

** Which leaves me only one other alternative, Charles. I
need you to get word to my brother Archie as soon as is
possible. This is an urgent matter, and I am afraid I cannot
wait. Tell him I send my apologies and I would appreciate
it, dear cousin, if you didn't tell him of all of the details
about this situation until he is here safely back at Kennedy
Manor.

I bid your family good health, and pray this letter does
find you well. My sincerest gratitude to you all.

Your loving cousin
Annalise **

 

She dropped the elegant pen back in its inkwell with a
dainty sort of finality and blew very softly across the
drying ink, carefully setting her urgent letter on the stones
of the hearth to dry before the flames. The young woman
smoothed her soft gold hair back across her shoulders,
running a soft-bristled brush through it to keep it's
slightly damp, silky texture. After a few moments, she
tossed the flowing waterfall of blonde back, the ends
brushing her waist, and drew the shawl back around her slim
shoulders once more. She lifted the light piece of paper
from the hearth, blowing her breath softly across it to make
certain the ink dried. Then her slender fingers neatly
folded the paper into a letter and she rose, crossing the
wide hall of this spacious, if not haunting, grand parlor.
Annalise ascended the steps to her bedchamber, on the way
passing the manservant of her late father. She nodded to him
graciously, though a little hurried, and entered her room.
Gingerly, she took one of the lighted candles in her hand,
dribbling wax across the paper. She inprinted the elegant
seal of her wealthy family. After a moment, still dressed
only in her sleeping gown covered by a silk robe, the young
lady exited her room. She paused, her hands on the elegant
smooth mahogany railing above the gently curved staircase.
"Saunders?" she asked barely above a whisper, her voice soft
as she called down.
The manservant halted below, his gaze lifting to hers.
"Yes, what ëtis it Ma'am," he responded gently.
A small smile touched her lips. "Saunders, I realize it is
late, and you know I don't try to make you do unreasonable
things..." she began softly.
He bowed with a flourish, acsending the steps swiftly only
moments later. "No indeed; you are the kindest of women in
all of fair England. I am humbly at your service, m'lady."
A genuine, though small, smile touched her lips to the
praise, her gentle cobalt blue eyes glinting briefly in a
hint of amusement. "Thank you," he half-curtsied. After
another moment, Annalise drew in a quiet, worried deep breath
and let it out softly, handing him the precious paper in her
small hands. "If you would please send this letter post at
once. It's quite urgent."
"At once, Ma'am." The manservant nodded curtly, bowing
stiffly once more and disappearing down the stairs. Annalise
remained there for another few seconds, listening silently to
them ticking away softly inside the elegant clocks in the
luxuriously grand halls. She ran her fingers across the
smooth, rich wood carved into the railings and banisters for
the grand staircase. Her eyes lifted then, to the windows,
as a crack of evening thunder could be heard rumbling
ominously in the midnight darkness. They shone in bright
determination, bright and full of life and hope.
**Someday, Archie,** she whispered silently. **Someday,
there will be laughter and music in these halls again. She
supposed she knew she should be grieving, but her father had
rarely spoken to her and held barely a piece, she had to
confess, of her emotion. In a starnge way, a gentle peace
had settled on the Manor since her esteemed father had passed
away, and a quiet, wild-born, fiery determined freedom had
been born deep within her heart, hidden just barely by the
lady she had become. She promised herself that she would
bring back the spirit of her mother. Annalise smiled
slightly, her eyes glowing with the softness of the rebirth
of her hidden passion, and retreated to her bedchamber.

 

**************************************************************

 

Archie lay in a dim, reflective silence, curled into his bed
inside the small cabin he and Horatio shared. Somehow, he
could sense something... not wrong, but it was like something
was happening. He tossed aside the thought, dismissing it as
too many events had been happening lately. He didn't like
his strange ability to at times sense danger, though he was
sure many a captain could envy that trait. There were
moments when all Archie desired was to hide away somewhere
and rest. He would have no such good fortune, as the
Indefatigable was now sailing back for Portsmouth. Captain
Pellew's questions hours before had left him inwardly with
more questions within his mind than answers. It had come
completely unexpected, and yet he wasn't surprised. There
were ways, always, even when he tried to hide, that men were
found in the British Navy.
As for Arthur Chesterson... The young man's jaw tightened
to that thought, his eyes hardening slightly in bitter
resent. He hadn't hidden his disapproval of the man, but
neither did even horatio know how he loathed the man. Arthur
reminded him in every way of Edmund, his tyrannical eldest
brother, with perhaps a hint of Simpson thrown in there as
well.
Archie drew in a deep breath and sighed heavily, forcefully
averting his thoughts along more pleasant paths. He didn't
want to remember Arthur, or how the bastard had always
treated him. Pellew had given him the assignment the
Admiralty had offered, but not without discussing the topic.
Archie recalled clearly how he had given his word to not
allow prejudice to overcome the mission. What he would be
searching for once in the right place, would be evidence that
chesterson was smuggling British plans to the French as a
spy. He hardly put that ability past the man.
He knew Horatio didn't understand, but how could he? His
friend had never lived the life he owned, and that had been
understood years ago. He didn't hate or despise Horatio in
any way for the good fortune of his childhood, and he could
never be even the slightest bit bitter towards his friend.
Though there were moments at times when he would admit that
he felt jealous. His family had been so cruel, such a... He
sighed again, and shifted position in frustration, watching
the flickering shadows from the candle dance through the
small cabin. "Rest, Archie. Just rest," he whispered to
himself, knowing he couldn't and even if her attempted sleep,
it would be restless with the dreams and faces already
hanuting his memory.
He heard soft voices talking through the cabin door, one of
them familiarly Horatio's. After a moment, his friend ducked
through, a small smile touching his features for a brief
moments. Archie lay there on his side and flashed a small,
if not genuine smile of friendship in return. Horatio's
words took him off guard. "Archie, are you all right?
You've been terribly grim all evening."
He had noticed. **blast it..** Archie shifted position
restlessly again and lifted his shoulders in a small shrug.
"No... Just thoughtful." He managed to grace Horatio with a
real smile this time, though it was small. "The discussion
we had with the captain earlier... I'm just trying to ponder
it." He paused for a moment, as his friend fixed him with a
pointed stare. "Really, for heaven's sake, H'ratio! I'm
quite fine!" he teased.
After another second of studying thought, the dark-haired
young man nodded. "Alright." The younger officer watched
him strip down and fall back into bed, drawing his blanket
around himself. Archie watched him, his eyes unmoving for
minutes on end, then he slid out of the bedding and softly
blew across the top of the oil lamp, casting the cozy little
cabin into the shadows of night. A familiar voice reached to
him through the darkness, surprisingly warm. "Goodnight,
Archie..."
The blond nodded, his eyes watching the darkness of the low
ceiling. "Night, H'ratio," he whispered half-absently.
These were common words, offered to one another each night,
but at this moment, Archie could take no comfort in that. He
settled back underneath the blanket, forcing his eyes to
close and his mind to leave the problems of the past with
Chesterson to rest. Sooner or later, he had found he'd
drifted into an uneasy sleep, light and unrestful and Archie
slept fitfully as the night wore on...

Captain Sir Edward Pellew paced the length of his dimmed
cabin thoughtfully, the smooth wood around him gleaming
elegantly underneath the gentle glow of candlelight. He
clasped his hands behind his back and pursed his lips, his
forehead creasing in a frown. The Indefatigable lay at
anchor now, at Plymouth on their journey to Portsmouth and
gathering necessary supplies as gunpowder and ship rations,
with barrels of fresh water. He listened as he crossed the
cabin, to the familiar watchbell, and spared a glance out the
ornamental glass panes to the black midnight. After a
moment, he resumed his pace, his mind preoccupied with the
disturbing information Mr. Kennedy had so dutifully related
earlier regarding Arthur Chesterson.
Kennedy had appeared so disturbed, his easy manner shifting
restlessly, when he had broached the topic, and it brought
him to wonder what had happened between the two men in the
past. The reaction had been similar to that of whenever the
name Simpson was passed around the ship. Archie just seemed
to shudder and withdraw, his voice falling soft, and then
would usually have a fit thereafter. Pellew's frown deepened
to that thought. Where any other captain would have likely
decommissioned the young man, he had made a decision
eventually to let the suffering acting lieutenant stay. He
had never known a man who would loathe more having to return
home. The decision hadn't been without its doubts, but he
continued to watch young Kennedy, and he hadn't found a
problem large enough in his medical condition to give him up
yet. Also, if he had discharged him, he would have a problem
with Mr. Hornblower. Oh, he wasn't pampering a favorite pet
officer, but Mr. Hornblower was possibly the best officer who
had ever served under him in his career, and it would be such
a shame to see that change.
The two appeared to have a mutual need for each other,
Hornblower and Kennedy. Whether or not they realized it,
they seemed to need to lean on one another for stability and
when together, they were strong. The captain was right proud
to have them as his officers on his ship.
As for the problem with Mr. Chesterson, the information
Kennedy had given caused the possibility of him being a spy
or informant to grow larger in his mind. According to the
young officer, he had been brutal years ago, and had more
than once slandered the British services. Chesterson was a
childhood acquaintence of Kennedy who had abused him when he
was young. Archie had related no details, but the flash in
his eyes, the whitening slightly of his well-tanned face
caused Pellew to wonder, perhaps even suspect... The story
had been that after one particular attack toward Kennedy,
Chesterson has slipped away and vanished. That had been
eight years ago, according to Kennedy, and hadn't heard of
either the name or the man since. There were rumors circling
around that he had caused problems occasionally, once even in
a private court, but then he had always vanished yet again.
Pellew suspected he had left the country and changed his name
to make himself more elusive. Obviously, there was something
there to hide.
Pellew stopped in his pacing, standing tall and gazing
toward the splashing black, moonlit waters below of the
midnight bay. He might have to speak to Kennedy again, or
emplore one of his friends to. This sudden change to
uneasiness in the man alarmed him. The circumstances had a
chance to grow very ugly, unless Kennedy could be calmed.
Finally, the captain shook his head sharply with a sigh,
deeply perplexed. What had this man done to Archie that
could make him so bitter, so distressed?
It was best to let it rest for now; if Kennedy would have
any problems after such a deep discussion on the subject, he
knew the man was in Hornblower's very capable hands. And he
would leave it at that; he didn't want to know the deep
secrets of his men. But he couldn't help but wonder...

 

**************************************************************

 

He was choking, being strangled..!! He felt it oncoming,
knew it was happening as hands ripped and tore at him from
all sides, scorning voice hissing as fingers dug like claws
in the breathless black. No! NOOOO!!!!!!!!! He tossed
around, fighting desperately to get away. He felt the
fingers around his neck and he coughed, choking. He couldn't
breathe! He was going to die! But he could only desperately
hope it was so before these men had their way! Voices
taunted him, echoing loudly, fists slamming hard into his
body all over. He cried out, moaning softly and coughing as
he tossed more, feeling the world spinning around him,
reality giving way! He couldn't even feel where he was
anymore!
Suddenly he was thrown, hard, lifeless, then other hands,
hands that evoked terror beyond belief, clawed at him,
ripping at his clothes. He silently screamed this time,
fighting for all he was worth as the black, torturous flashes
around him spun more furiously, abusing and racking his
entire body. He knew wahat was happening, and he lashed
dasperately, flailing for anyone's help... Help me, somebody
*please* help!!!! he cried silently. He was tossed and
thrown into a wave of blackness, drowning, still unable to
breathe, and choking. A name snapped into his mind, as hands
gripped him again, his shoulders, his chest, a weight
pressing in on him. He moaned again, wanting to scream.
Simpson, Simpson! No, please God, not Simpson!!! **Horatio,
help me!!!**
The weight remained, unmoving, then shaking him, new words
entering like echoes through the flashing blackness.
Words... he couldn't understand... a somehow familiar voice,
familiar presense... Then his name drifted, echoing through
his skull as he lay trembling, shuddering uncontrollably.
"Archie! Archie wake up, it's Horatio!" the urgent call
came, and suddenly his eyes snapped open, gasping to draw air
into his lungs as reality came snapping back. He didn't even
realize hid fingers were digging into his friend's bare
shoulder hard enough to claw, as he grasped for stability.
He lay there in silence, unable to bear closing his eyes and
trembling as Horatio knelt beside him, almost... guarding
him, protecting him. He drew in a deep, shuddering breath
and felt his body suddenly fall limp into soft trembling
shivers.
He swallowed, whispering shakily. "H-H'ratio..?"
A hand rested gently on his chest, over his rapidly beathing
heart firmly, his friend's face hovering close to his own.
He nodded, his eyes deepened in worry. "Yes. I'm here,
Archie," he assured calmly, quietly.
Archie concentrated on softly breathing, quieting his pulse
and the shivers involuntarily still gripping his body from
the seizure. After a moment he spoke again, brokenly. "Was
I... Was I having a-?"
A hand covered his mouth, accompanied by a soft shush.
"Yes. You were having a fit," he interrupted.
Archie took the hand in his own, tossing it away by the
wrist. He rolled over onto his side facing his friend to be
able to breathe better. He could still feel the shivers
trembling across his body, the blackened chill that still
gripped him. "I'm.. I'm..." He broke off, swallowing again
and took a deep breath, steadying his voice. "I'm sorry,
Horatio." He clenched his fist angrily. "Oh, why can't I
stop having these damned fits!"
Horatio paused, his eyes falling to the deck, his features
illuminated only barely by the glow of a single candle on the
small table between their beds. After moments of silence,
Horatio emitted a soft sigh. "I.. I do not know, Archie."
His eyes lifted, attempting to catch Archie's but he
carefully kept them averted. "Are you alright? You nearly
suffocated yourself," he asked, a hint of worry there.
Archie suppressed a shiver and burrowed his shoulder
underneath the single wool blanket for the familiar comfort.
"I am all right, Horatio, my friend," he assured softly. He
sighed and rolled over in frustration, his voice soft. "I
was dreaming again..." he whispered softly, a shadow of
words. He heard no response from Horatio, but somehow sensed
he was listening. This was unfair to him to dump on him, he
knew, but he could not rest. "It was from my past...
nightmares..." He paused, resting on his back and tilting
his head to nod to Horatio with a slight attempt at a dry,
humorless smile. "Simpson again. And..." he paused, drawing
a deep breath, "Arthur Chesterson."
The frown creasing Horatio's forehead deepened, as he sat
carefully on one of their chests beside the young blond in
the silent near-darkness. But the dark was never silent for
Archie; with it always came voices, and restless, if
pictureless dreams of silver mist... He couldn't recall a
night of peaceful sleep since young childhood. The quiet
words broke him from his trance. "I have to wonder sometimes
but... who is Chesterson? Why does he give you nightmares?"
Horatio wondered.
Archie breathed slow and deep, shuddering slightly as he
curled upright. He touched the tip of his tongue to his lips
for a moment, biting on it. He began slowly, tentatively.
"Arthur was... a man I knew in my childhood. A young man,
seventeen." He wished he didn't have to tell, but somehow he
needed to and at the moment Horatio was the only one he would
trust, but the words came slow, stuttered, hesitant. "He was
a friend of my eldest brother Edmund, and an aquaintance of
my other brother, Tobias. They would love to go...
hunting..." He swallowed hard, not wishing to say more.
A hand rested on his shoulder, quietly urging him on. "It's
alright. You don't have to tell me."
Archie blinked, startled and his eyes widened. "No! No, I
began, I might as well finish the tale." He paused, his eyes
drifting distant, his voice soft as he spoke the pictures of
memories slowly returning. "They always went hunting...
Hunting but not for the fair game; for the poor animals who
couldn't run. They would shoot them, not instantly killing
them but killing them slowly, exercising torture." His
throat tightened, his eyes burning bitterly. "I used to try
to get them to stop... I even saved a few. But then they
found out. Arthur was... furious. He had always been an
influence on Edmund. So he took me by the collar and..." He
broke off, shuddering once more and staring off distantly to
the close walls. He felt a familiar hand brush his arm and
gathered his final amount of courage to speak, though it came
as a whisper. "They.... beat me. Hard. Until I nearly
blacked out. And then Arthur tried to grab me and-" He
broke off abuptly, flushing at the very thought angrily,
inwardly terrified. He shook his head sharply. "I escaped,
but only because Tobias pointed out the danger if he were
caught. He never beat me again after that. But the look in
his eyes... I never forgot it." His eyes flashed bitterly.
"And I'll never forgive him for the rest of my life." He
snorted softly. "But at least he wasn't like Simpson."
Horatio was silent for a long time, and Archie's eyes
lifted, watching him shake his head. "Oh, Archie, I thought
Simpson... Oh," he whispered softly, simply.
Archie sighed again and gripped his friend's arm briefly.
"It's alright. I'll be fine, Horatio." Eyebrows rose
critically. "No, really, I mean it. I shouldn't go into a
fit again," he attempted to assure him, his eyes firmly
telling how he didn't want to talk any more about it. The
trembling had finally subsided, but his head ached painfully
in the familiar blackening aftermath of a seizure.
Eventually, Horatio nodded defeat, attempting a slight,
humorless smile that twitched terribly at the corners of his
mouth. His hand rested on Archie's, his eyes falling to his
hand. "All right. Let's go back to bed then, shall we?" he
suggested softly. Archie nodded his reply and rolled over
toward the wall, burying himself, still somehow cold from the
resurfaced memory. But no matter how hard he tried in the
deep night around them as the room once more was thrown into
blackness, he couldn't bear to close his eyes.
He glanced out toward the stars. "Help me," he whispered
softly.

***************************

Morning dawned among the ships at Portsmouth, the thickening
fog swirling and hazing the ships as a soft, cool blanket of
dreary mist billowed across the smooth, moisture-slickened
planks of the Indefatigable's main deck. It swept softly its
chill against roughened features, beading with the sweat on
sailors' skin as they worked steadily into the early morning
hours. The botswain's cry echoed through the thickening deep
soup, calling out routine orders for the crew. It was a
familiar music to Matthews' ears, not pleasant, but not
unpleasant either. He found life abord the Indefatigable to
be rather a good one, and found no reason to want to change
anything right at the moment.
Matthews was supervising the loading of their much-needed
extra supplies, not minding or even noticing the damp, deep
fog curling around them all. It did make working slightly
harder but he and the others were used to it, even if a man
could barely see his shipmate five yards ahead of his own
feet.
He turned his sea-grizzled face up towards the crate their
rigged crane pulled on board. "Steady there, Styles," he
warned, gesturing his hands for the other men to slowly ease
up on the rope and rest their precious gunpowder supply on
the deck. The rope jerked, and the wooden supply barrel
nearly falling but he and Styles managed to make it without
accident. He wiped the back of his arm across his face as
the other men hauled theit cargo down into the magazine and
cargo hold. He nodded to his shipmate. "Better go ën help
ëem, Styles." The large man followed the task and Matthews
left the rigged rope, crossing the deck. He heard more calls
now, near the boarding ramp and stood watching as a figure
slowly made its way through the fog up the ramp. He paused
beside another crewmate, resting his hands on the hips of his
begrimed sailor's trousers. He ignored the mist, his eyes
following the figure approaching the ship from below. A cry
sounded, a challenge from the sentry, but the words coming
back were hardly discernable. The stranger flashed some
papers to the sentry but what was written there remained a
mystery to the crewman.
"Wonder who ëe is," his fellow shipmate muttered.
Matthews shook his head, his forehead wrinkled in curiosity
and natural suspicion. "I dunno, but I'm aimin' to find
out," he declared back, crossing the deck toward the tall,
lanky fingure emerging from the fog, bundled in an overcoat
that was way too big. Not a man who spent much time around
ships, and not during early morning watch, that much was
obvious. He spoke as he approached the man who glanced about
himself uncomfortably, appearing definitely lost. "Sir?"
The man spun, then nodded quickly, his face flushed with a
greenish-looking pallor that confirmed Matthew's suspicions
that the man was definitely a land-lover. "Uh -- yes. Yes,
where could I find your captain. Captain Sir Edward Pellew?"
he requested. "I have papers signed from the Admiralty
themself that permits me to see him," he related quickly,
briefly flashing his papers, as though he had no clue of how
the seamen had nothing to do with politics.
Matthews nodded and pointed. "Go speak with Mr. Jenkins,
sir," he replied simply, stepping away from the man. He
watched the man show his papers once more, and it was as
though the king himself had spoken the order. The young boy
midshipman nodded and led the way toward the captain's cabin
with this strange man who had spoken of Admiralty orders.

 

Captain Pellew's eyes glanced up to the knock on the door of
his cabin as he paused between words of writing in his log.
"Yes!" he called commandingly across the space.
"Jenkins, sir," a light young voice came back. "There's a
gentleman out here sent from the Admiralty. He has signed
papers from the Admiralty itself. He wishes to speak to
you."
Pellew sighed quietly, raising both eyebrows patiently and
replacing the sleek elegant black pen back in its inkwell,
setting the writing tool aside and folding his hands across
the table. "Bring him in."
The door unlatched and opened, and the young midshipman
stepped through and aside. The man behind him followed,
ducking and glancing his eyes about nervously through the
misted morning shadows cast about the cabin. His eyes
widened nervously, not quite a shifty personna on his more
than slightly pale, sickly features. Quite frankly, Pellew
wondered if he should see this man on deck merely to avoid
the possibility of a mess in his cabin. The man standing in
the doorway was unfamiliar to him, quite lanky and tall,
draped in an overcoat. After a few moments, the eyes finally
took their rest toward the captain. Pellew nodded to
Jenkins, who retreated and latched the cabin door closed
behind him. "Captain Pellew?" this unfamiliar man began
quickly, his eyebrows raising questioningly.
Yes," he replied simply, studying the figure standing before
him. He appreciated the calm composure the man held, despite
the fact that he appeared slightly seasick. His appraisal of
the man edged higher a notch, but barely.
The man's eyes closed briefly, a expression of relief, and a
small smile twitched the corners of his mouth faintly. "Then
it is an honor, sir, to be in your company." The captain
nodded briefly in acceptance of the praise. The tall young
man continued; yes he was young it occurred to him. Possibly
only a mere five years or less older than his Lieutenant
Hornblower. He withdrew a set of papers and dropped them
before the captain.
Pellew glanced over them, scanning the written permits that
allowed this man to be here, and the signatures attached to
them. His eyebrows rose slightly in surprise. This would
obviously be a matter of great importance for this young man
to have been sent with such high permission. He nodded
slowly, lifting his eyes from the paper to the other man's
somewhat suspiciously. "All right. State your business
here."
The young man extended his hand, the gesture met but only
briefly. "Charles Danhurst, sir. I am the son of the Earl
of Danhurst. I am here to ask a favor... It involves one of
your officers."
Pellew's brow creased and his lips drew together into a taut
frown. He gestured to the seat across the smooth table.
"Please, sit down, Mr. Danhurst." He paused for a moment,
then directly broached his concern. "You say it involves one
of my officers?"
Danhurst nodded once, slowly, his eyes raising slowly to
Pellew's own. "Yes, sir."
The captain's frown deepened in concern for what great
trouble this could possibly involve. Surely one night of
leave hadn't been enough as to create an uproar or problem.
He laced his fingers together on the table, meeting the other
man's regard carefully. "Which one?" he inquired.
Danhurst touched the tip of his tongue to his lips briefly,
his eyes and features almost uncertain to admit it.
"Lieutenant Archibald Kennedy, sir," he related quietly.
Captain Pellew's eyes widened, definitely concerned now, and
more than slightly alarmed. "Good God, sir! Mr Kennedy!
What has Kennedy done?" he demanded.
The young man raised both hands up, attempting to quiet him,
and inwardly that just infuriated Pellew further. "No no,
sir! You are mistaken!" Danhurst interrupted, a slight smile
on his features now. "Mr. Kennedy is not in trouble; I was
sent here to simply inquire after him. This is a family
matter."
The captain quieted, his eyes falling to the smooth polished
wood underneath his hands. He nodded in acceptance. "All
right, Mr. Danhurst," he began levelly. "Pray, continue."
The smile widened, a light briefly in the young man's dark
eyes, and he gave a curt nod. "Thank you, sir." He reached
into one pocket inside the overcoat and cloak, withdrawing
yet another folded piece of paper and unfolding between his
fingers. "I have a letter here from the Admiralty, allowing
me permission should Kennedy wish to return to Kennedy Manor,
for him to cut his commission short. He has permanent leave
from the British navy, should he desire it," Danhurst
continued.
Pellew's eyes narrowed slightly, drawing his lips tight
together in a thoughtful, taut line. He knew almost nothing
of Kennedy's past or Archie's relations, and the particulars
were a mystery to him. But it had never been a secret to
recognize Kennedy's slight apprehension and dread whenever
his home or family would be mentioned. Archie never longed
for home, he knew, and so he could never force himself to
directly order him to take his leave home. Whever Kennedy
went ashore, he generally remained fairly close to the ship,
as it seemed to be one of his sources of stability. The
captain drew in a deep breath and sighed quietly, rising to
his feet and clasping his hands behind his back as he paced
slowly to the window behind him. "I am sorry, Mr. Danhurst,"
he broke the silence nearly like a whip. He turned. "This
is a matter you have to bring up to Kennedy himself. This
must be his own decision."
Danhurst's eyes fell, nodding a little in quiet acceptance.
"I can accept that. Thank you, sir," he spoke quietly.
Pellew just stared at him.
"Mr Jenkins!" he suddenly called out and the latch clicked
open on the door as the young man instantly stepped through.
"Sir?"
"Pass the word for Mr. Kennedy," Pellew ordered, nodding the
lad off to do his job.
The boyish midshipman's eyes widened, startled. He bowed
away quickly to the task. "Aye aye, sir."

 

**************************************************************

 

Soft mist curled through the window, in gentle tendrils of
moisture and fog that caressed Archie's features. His senses
were brushed and instantly, tired cobalt eyes fluttered open
with a soft breath of a gasp from his throat. They glanced
about the small cabin, it's shadows, then lifted to the small
window, and the fog billowing by, brushing cool salty
moisture through the cabin. Archie remained motionless,
resting beneath the blankets.
A small smile tugged at one corner of his mouth slightly to
know that he had fallen asleep only covered in one, but
sometime or other during the night another warm blanket had
been laid on him. He knew Horatio cared, despite his claims
of doing nothing but for loyalty and duty. Another small
smile pulled gently at the corners of the blond's mouth. But
this time, he decided he wouldn't tease him about it.
After another few moments of stillness, he planted his hands
under himself and shoved himself to sit upright, tossing back
his head to throw back wayward strands of dark blond hair
that had come untied during the night. His gaze fell softly
to his friend's face, still asleep, and he shook his head
fondly, his eyes sparkling in almost amusement. Archie left
him resting, silently rolling up to his feet on the floor of
the small cabin and beginning to dress.
As he buttoned his waistcoat over the linen shirt, he heard
the stirring behind him and turned as brown eyes lifted
tiredly to his. The blond young man's eyes sparkled. "Good
morning, H'ratio. Welcome to the land of the living," he
teased softly in the shadows.
Horatio snorted quietly, though in his partially-awake state
he couldn't suppress the small smile of doubtful humor.
Archie's features lit up with a small grin in response, the
expression softening to just a smile for the most part to
keep the teasing more subtle. He watched his friend lever
himself up and give a heavy sigh, trying to awaken further.
"Good morning, Archie," Horatio replied blandly, though his
eyes did perhaps shine.
Archie grinned again and tossed his head back, stepping
toward him and gripping his shoulder briefly before
continuing to button the waistcoat and the jacket. He tied
back his hair in a smooth queue, while watching his friend
absently out of the corner of one eye. It was so pitifully
easy to tease him, to jest. He let it be and nodded briefly
toward Horatio, taking his leave from their cabin and walking
up toward the deck. As he climbed atop the deck from the
depths of the ship, he felt the cool, salty spray whisper
across his cheeks. Curls of fog drifted before his eyes,
dancing in the damp wind that flapped the sails.
"Pass the word for Mr. Kennedy!" a young man's voice
suddenly cried from above him on the quarterdeck, cracking
slightly in its urgency.
The answering calls drew nearer and Archie turned quickly,
snapping his eyes in slight concern up toward the young teen
Jenkins, uncertain about the pressing in his tone. "Here!"
he called in return. The calling ceased, as he continued.
"What is it, Mr. Jenkins?" he inquired quickly.
The young man ran fingers absently through short red hair,
then appeared to realize the mistake and dropped the hand,
curiosity in green eyes. "Um... there's a man from the
Admiralty here sir. Captain's talking with him now, but this
man wishes to speak directly to you," the boy related.
Archie's features pinched a little in a small frown of worry;
he hadn't found many of the direct calls from the Admiralty
or anyone for him to be spoken of as good news. He turned,
ducking past a pair of men and crossing the deck in a quick
stride toward the quarterdeck. "I'd wager it's important,"
Jenkins continued as he joined him, following beside and
slightly behind the senior officer.
Archie's eyes flicked sideways for a moment. "You can bet
on that," he agreed more quietly, pausing. He rested one
hand almost gently on the young teen's arm, an officer he
knew was only a few years his junior. He continued, guarding
his voice quietly, without issuing orders. "Would you please
go and personally summon Horatio for me? I believe I should
inform him of this." He knew it could hardly matter whether
he knew or not, but it helped his stability to imagine he
could always have someone to stand beside him should he need
it. On top of that, it seemed natural, almost alarmingly so
when he thought about it. **Then don't,** he reminded
himself.
Bare minutes later, he approached and paused hesitantly
before the door leading into his captain's privacy and cabin.
He moistened dry lips hesitantly, and cleared his throat,
rapping his knuckles politely against the sweet salt-smelling
wood. "It's Mr. Kennedy, sir," he announced quickly.
The words barely had time to leave his lips when a firm,
almost slightly warm, though he believed he was having
delusions there, voice replied. "Yes, come in!" Archie
obeyed, ducking halfway through the door and scanning the
shadows of the small room. His eyes rested on Pellew, eyes
widening slightly in silent question. The man's features
flickered annoyance for an instant. "Don't stand there until
you graft onto the deck, man! In or out, Mr. Kennedy!"
Archie obeyed with a slight flush, twisting through and
latching the door behind him. He had heard the slight tint
of honest amusement Pellew had offered in that last, and
could barely stifle a tiny smile of relief. Perhaps this
wasn't trouble. **Really, Archie, you're getting as bad as
Horatio!** he scolded himself. He would hate to call himself
a pessimist, but life had generally tended that way. He
tried his best to remain as optimistic as he could, though.
The captain continued, as cobalt blue eyes swept over to the
man seated across the polished table from his, then same
instant the man turned... "Mr. Kennedy, this is Mr. Danhurst.
He brought orders from the Admiralty itself, and this matter
concerns you-"
Archie barely hushed a soft gasp that escaped, his eyes
widening, genuinely startled as the other man's face met his.
"Charles?" he wondered in disbelief.
The other young man grinned, despite the slight tinge of
green in his pallor. "Archie! Lord, you look well,"
Danhurst appraised, his eyes falling across the blond,
dressed in full uniform, without the hat.
Archie's eyes twinkled in quiet mirth, recalling the many
pleasant days they had spent ogether in youth. "As do you,"
he offered softly, wondering what on earth had brought his
cousin to the Indefatigable. He heard a throat clearing
pointedly from his left, capturing his attention. Pellew's
expression was entirely too patient, and perplexed. "I'm
sorry, captain; it's just we know each other well. Charles
Danhurst, sir, is my cousin," he offered an explanation.
The captain nodded. "I see." He stood and stepped away
from them, pacing slowly across the cabin.
"So how *is* our naval Kennedy doing as of late?" Charles
finally inquired quietly, recapturing Archie's attention.
His gray eyes shone warmly, despite the shadows that mostly
hid them.
Archie shrugged slightly, perching himself carefully so as
to get off should the captain become vexed, on the edge of
the table. "Perhaps better than I ever have," he spoke
softly, his vision skimming across the deck wood panels. He
lifted his eyes slowly from the floor directly to his
cousin's quietly, serious. "Let's skip the unnecessary
small-talk. Why have you come?" he pressed.
Danhurst sighed softly and leaned back in his seat,
appearing to choose his words with articulate care. "I
responded at someone's request to ask permission from the
highest source, the Admiralty, if they may allow you long or
perhaps permanent leave."
"Permanent leave?" Archie interrupted, slightly alarmed.
"Do you mean leave his majesty's service?"
Charles drew in a deep breath and sighed, as the young
blond's mind pondered this, so many questions spiraling in
his mind, mingled with touched of his restless dreams of the
night before. "You might say that, yes..." He continued
quickly before Archie could slip in a word in edgewise.
"This concern's your father, Archie." The young lieutenant
silenced, the questioning alarm growing stronger inside him
as he allowed his cousin to go on. "Lord Kennedy... died
weeks ago. We attended his funeral nearly a month ago, and
he left a will."
Archie remained silent for a lengthened space, until the two
young men were growing intensely more uncomfortable. The
feelings inside himself nearly confused Archie, as they were
neither happy nor upset. He felt no sadness to the thought
of his father's death. The beast had virtually attempted to
send him to his own death years ago. Though he did have to
wonder how the man had died, and perhaps had he changed even
slightly..? "And?" he eventually prompted softly.
Charles cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Kennedy Manor,
as you know belonged to your father but was in a ghastly
state. Recently, certain persons have been attempting to
restore the place, but I fear we may not be able to support
it and our own estates and connections. What we need-"
"Is the rightful heir to take his place, right?" Archie
finished the sentence quickly, his eyes sharpening as his
forehead creased in a confused frown. His voice rose from
its soft manner now, somewhat louder. "Then why hasn't
Edmund taken his place!" he demanded, his eyes flashing anger
toward the brother he so despised.
Danhurst's hand rested on Archie's arm, his eyes growing
more quietly pointed, slowly smoothing ruffled feathers, so
to speak. "We haven't been able to locate either Edmund or
Tobias for months. I fear that should they be dead, there
can be only one person left to care for Kennedy Estate, and
that's you."
Archie eyed this man who had been a friend, a comrade, and
who was his close cousin carefully, wondering who those
ëcertain persons' were who had influenced him to come and
bring this matter up. Memories drifted back, pictures of
home, flash-feelings drifting to his senses from memory of
scolding, cruel jibing, and the fists of his elder brothers
on him. Pictures of how the joy and beauty of Kennedy Manor
had been stripped before a young boy's very eyes. The answer
was whispered after a few minutes, tightly. "Why?" He
brought his eyes back to his cousin's. "Why me, Charles?"
A calm voice echoed from behind him suddenly, splitting the
near-silence as though a boom. "You are reminded that you do
not have to accept this offer, Mr. Kennedy. But may I point
out a possibility should you accept?" Pellew interrupted,
crossing back through the fairly small space toward Archie.
The young blond turned, his eyes shining in question, as he
attempted best as he could to hide his feelings from his own
eyes. The captain continued. "If you should go back,
Archie. You could do your government and service a great
favor."
Archie was a bit surprised to hear his captain use his
shortened given name, for it wasn't customary for a captain
to know his men by first name. Much less speak to them as
such. The possibility he brought startled him equally. He
narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, studying Pellew sidelong in
uncertainty. "How so, sir?"
The captain waved a hand almost dismissively. "Didn't you
yourself tell me how acquainted you were with the Chesterson
family?" Archie nodded slowly, his bright blue eyes widening
as realization caught on even before the captain's next
words. "This could be a perfect and rare opportunity to
discover the truth about Arthur Chesterson. You could be our
eyes into this situation, Mr. Kennedy."
"Excuse me?" Charles queried, clearly confused.
"Later, Charles," Archie dismissed absently. He slid to his
feet from his perch, resting one hand thoughtfully on the
polished wood surface as he diverted his entire attention
toward Captain Pellew. He drew in a quick breath, whispering
a soft prayer. "Sir, are you trying to make me do this? If
so, then you might as well order me."
Pellew shook his head, meeting the blue gaze with a calm
commanding regard. "No. The choice is entirely up to you,
Archie."

 

**************