|The Highwayman's Legacy
Author: Vaneria Potter PM
Some love stories are brief and fleeting, but others echo through the ages. Still more are unspoken, unfulfilled, until the right circumstances. When Tina and Lizzy decided to go on a tour of Historical and Haunted locations, they weren't expecting to become the instruments that would resolve a love story that had waited centuries to be told.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 3 - Words: 6,103 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 02-09-13 - Published: 11-19-12 - id: 3075651
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Rage and overwhelming grief, consuming him.
Grief, at the loss of half of his heart, of the pure, innocent soul that loved fiercely and was loyal to the death. Rage, against those who had sinned greater than any crime he himself had committed, rage that blocked out thought and reason and left only a thirst for revenge.
Four foot of razor-sharp steel pointed up at the sky, a sky as grey and cold as a world without his love, his scream of anguish a wordless vow of retribution.
He saw them ahead, and…
Tina swore loudly as she jerked and cracked her head on the raised lid of the tour bush storage compartment.
Of an entire several miles of road, a violent death just had to have occurred on exactly the spot where she had stepped to return her suitcase onto the bus. Why had she thought that this trip would be a good idea, rather than a Terrible Life Choice, again?
A pair of gentle hands guided her back out from under the lid, brushing aside Tina's blonde hair as the owner of the hands gently probed for a goose-egg. Tina swore again as they found it, and could almost hear the disapproving frown. "That hurt!"
The brunette beside her frowned. "It isn't serious, and there's a butcher across the road. I'll see if I can't get some ice for it."
She was already walking away before Tina could protest that she didn't want ice on her head if it had been anywhere near a dead animal, and the blonde woman sighed. Oh, right, that was why she had agreed to the trip.
Christina Barnes was on a tour of 'Historical and Haunted Places of England and Scotland' because her best friend Elizabeth Hall was a history nut and had managed to find a two-for-one deal at the travel agents that coincided with the two weeks leave (plus weekends, as a thanks for taking her holiday in late spring, rather than summer when everyone else was fighting for annual leave) and Tina's current client going on a month-long holiday of their own.
Tina didn't need to be psychic to lay even odds that the two-for-one deal was something to do with the Managers of the travel company owing their son's graduation from university to five years of Tina's tutoring and Lizzy's plethora of random but relevant facts as extra credit when he ran into assignment trouble.
This was good, because being psychic had caused Tina enough problems already.
Oh, she wasn't the kind of psychic that told fortunes at fairs, or did a bit of research before holding séances for the particularly gullible, though she admired those ones for managing to keep a straight face through the whole thing. Nor was she the kind of psychic who claimed to be able to divine the location of riches by reading auras and speaking to the dead – though to be fair, those psychics could listen to the examples of centuries of charlatans and read body language in order to find riches by staging 'reality' TV shows and telling rich people or large audiences what they wanted to see and hear.
No, Tina's talent stopped at flashes of memory at places where someone had died horribly or in a particularly spectacular fashion, and the occasional ghost or restless spirit.
That was why the Tower of London had landed firmly on Tina's "Never Again List" after exactly five minutes, when she was forcefully reminded that a surprisingly large number of Historically Famous places are famous because of some kind of horrible tragedy, great battle or supposed haunting that took place there.
With the number of people who had been tortured, imprisoned and/or executed at the Tower of London, Tina had been lucky to go five meters without metaphorically bumping into a ghost, nearly all of whom were thrilled to explain their fate to someone who could actually listen. Whether the listener wanted to hear it or not.
If she had been born only a few centuries later, Queen Anne Boleyn could have been an absolute powerhouse of a woman, and while Henry VIII's second queen said nothing against her husband, Tina would bet that her death had less to do with suspected adultery and more to do with treason being the only way for the King to be rid of her, after tearing the country apart to divorce Katherine and marry Anne in the first place.
Guy Fawkes had some amusingly creative insults for and about King James, and a number of comments about the fellow conspirator who had been fool enough to give them away, and it was interesting that his cheeky smile was almost exactly the same as those masks. She still found herself mentally cursing him to hell and back half an hour later. For a man who had lasted several days before even giving up his real name, Guy Fawkes was a surprising chatterbox.
And he wasn't even the worst.
Tina could have cheerfully gone the rest of her life without knowing those things about Mary Queen of Scots, and it was a pity that no academic panel in the world would accept 'a ghost told me' when asking for sources for her information about the true fate of the Princes in the Tower.
Tina had feigned sickness when they were scheduled to visit Newgate Prison, though she did feel a bit guilty about Lizzy's insistence on staying behind with her. Tina had convinced one of the other tourists to get a historical guide book, complete with photos, as an apology.
She didn't need to feign sickness the first time they visited the site of a battle, where she turned green and threw up what felt like a week's worth of meals. Severed limbs and head, bodies with their guts spilling out from a belly-wound, or shredded by shrapnel, or flattened by a boulder… it was not remotely a pretty sight, and not worth the glory that the centuries-ago bards sang about.
The only bright side that Tina could see was that it gave her an excuse to stay on the bus the next time, after convincing Lizzy that it was an overactive imagination and that she should go on and give Tina the edited version when the tour group got back.
That was one of the best things about having Lizzy for a friend. Lizzy would worry, and had an sixth sense to rival Tina's for when someone wasn't telling the whole truth, but if you didn't want to talk about something, she wouldn't press. With Lizzy, Tina didn't have to worry about making up excuses for why she randomly shrieked and jumped away after leaning against a tree that had been used as an impromptu gallows, and since there were a few places where the hauntings were benign or interesting, she didn't have to use the 'sick' excuse often enough for Lizzy to become concerned about chronic illness.
That didn't stop the rest of the tour group from giving her funny looks, but since Lizzy didn't look worried, most of them just assumed that it was some kind of random spasmic twitch or food allergy.
At least this time, any disorientation could be blamed on a crack to the head, rather than an awkward explanation that she had experienced a semi-vision of someone dying.
Lizzy was looking ever-so-slightly amused and mostly sympathetic, as opposed to concern that made Tina feel guilty for not telling her the truth. Lizzy raised an eyebrow in a silent question. Tina shrugged, conveying that yes, her head was killing her, but she would be fine. They had been friends long enough that not all communication needed to be verbal, and body language would do. Tina changed the topic, rubbing her head. "What did the driver say?"
Lizzy glanced up at the sky, where storm-clouds were starting to loom. "Well, the Gap-Year students had better show up on time for once, because the bus is only going to wait five minutes, instead of half an hour while they finish trying on 'just one more dress'. There isn't even a hostel with any vacancies at this stop, so he wants to get to the next town before the storm hits."
Tina shrugged. That was another thing they had missed while researching the whole vacation. "Serves us right for timing our trip at the same time as a national music festival, I guess. It shouldn't take too long to get to the next stop, though."
Five of their fellow tourists were ex-students who had just graduated High School, and were taking a year off before they went to Uni or got a job or whatever else. They also had a bad habit of being chronically late when it came to meeting points and times. Tina and Lizzy had time-keeping skills bad enough that they normally sympathized and didn't complain, but no-one wanted to get stuck out in the middle of a storm, either.
Lizzy looked back up at the sky. "If the weather holds. The driver said that there's a tourist town about halfway between, if the storm hits before we get to the stop we're supposed to be spending the night at.
Tina had already banged her head less than five minutes ago, so she stopped herself from doing it deliberately when Lizzy continued, her eyes bright with anticipation. "We were meant to be stopping there anyway, because of a local legend that says you can sometimes see the ghost of a Highwayman riding to meet his love."
Sometimes, Tina wondered if she should tell Lizzy about being psychic, if only so that Lizzy would stop telling her these things. She settled for rolling her eyes instead. "You're a ridiculous romantic, you know that?"
Lizzy stuck out her tongue, not even slightly bothered by the affectionate exasperation in Tina's voice. "And you're a hopeless pessimist, so it evens out."
About half of the tour group were back when Tina had got the flash of memory, and more had slowly trickled in as they were talking. The sound of running feet made them look up to see the Gap-Year students approaching at a sprint, probably having seen the sky and drawn the appropriate conclusions. Moving aside to avoid being trampled, the two young women exchanged grins and boarded the bus, quietly bickering over who had the window seat.
Unfortunately, the weather did not hold, and to make matters worse, the bus broke down a mile before they reached the tourist village, which meant that they could sit and wait for hours before Roadside Assistance answered their call and got out to them, or walk to the village for an early dinner at the Inn house.
Tina had been wary of Inn houses and 'Old Town' restaurants ever since two days ago at 'The Rogue's Destiny', where she hadn't understood Lizzy's remark about an interesting play on words until they walked into the outdoor dining area… that had been the execution yard of the town gaol until it burned down and was re-built by a family of Danish immigrants.
Apparently, 'Destiny' had been used interchangeably with 'Doom', another of Lizzy's random historical facts, so anyone who had been up-to-date with the building's history could interpret the name as 'The Criminal's Fate'. Lizzy was one of those people who could spout a hundred useless facts and see a double-meaning in everything, but drew a blank when you asked who won the last football match between schools.
Tina hadn't caught on until she looked into the garden and knocked over her milkshake when she saw a flash of a man hanging from a gallows, jerking and twitching from a hangman not experienced enough to have caused the quick end of a broken neck.
With the number of inns that had been the location of clandestine, revolutionary meetings or fatal bar-brawls and arguments that turned deadly, dining had become a bit of a picky choice.
Even more unfortunately, the skies opened just as they reached a large Inn, the 'Journeyman's Rest', and while Tina could feel a deep sense of sorrow penetrating the very walls, it wasn't bad enough that she was willing to run through bucketing rain to see if the small town had another Inn, which it probably didn't.
The sense of sorrow and loss was strongest in the common room, especially near the fire, where Tina caught a glimpse of a man, aged far beyond his years by grief, who had fallen asleep in his chair one night and never woken up. Tina brushed the tears out of her eyes along with the rainwater, thankful that Lizzy was in front of her and unable to see.
In the first stroke of good fortune, the small tour group was welcomed inside by the walking definition of a kindly old couple, who had beds to spare and wouldn't dream of sending them back outside in this weather. No, no, of course they would stay the night, and we'll see what the weather is like in the morning, there's a lamb.
It looked like they wouldn't be going anywhere for a while.