So that everyone knows, this is supposed to completely mock as many things as I can think of that manage to worm there way into those historical romances one finds on the bookshelves at the store. You know the ones, with the shirtless men and the girls with the dresses barely hanging off of them clinging in rapturous joy to aforementioned shirtless man. This is meant to destroy as many of those awful cliches as possible and be quite funny in the process. It starts out pretending to be serious and degrades into outright farce by the end. I couldn't help myself. You are suitably warned. Have fun!

The Tragic Love of an Exiled Pirate Prince (Who Also Happens To Be a Scotland Resident, a Spy for the British Government, a Smuggler, and a Highwayman)

Lord Davien Garrette McMaclanahan stood on the rainy, windswept moors overlooking the storm-tossed sea. A dark castle loomed at his back. A gravestone lay at his feet. He gazed solemnly with brooding dark eyes at the stone and the words etched into its face: Her Grace, Lady Mathilda Chaswick McMaclanahan, Duchess of MacInerniny.

His wife was dead.

Lord Davien turned his clean cut, noble, Greek god-reminiscent profile to the wind, allowing a gust to flare his black cloak behind him and ruffle his black hair. He thought back on the events which had led to this moment.

His wife had seemed perfectly happy being taken from her warm townhome in the best part of London to live in the dark, forbidding northlands of Scotland, alone in their five hundred year old, ghost-infested Castle of Macinerniny. Certainly, she had dwindled to wraithlike proportions, wandering about with her pale hair and alabaster skin almost translucent, but he had always assumed that to be her gratifying attempt to match the permanently gloomy atmosphere of his abode. He had assumed her love for him would uphold her, as his love had upheld him. Wasn't that the way it was supposed to work? He had even bought new tapestries for her, completely destroying his favored colour scheme.

So what had changed when he abandonned her for eight months to serve in the war? It had never occurred to him that something could go wrong in that short span of time. He had returned after single-handledly defeating Napoleon, sporting even more dashing war wounds than ever. He had rushed to her chambers, overjoyed to be home at last. But had she been there? Nay.

He followed her horse's hoofprints and a trail of lost luggage to the cliffsides, just in time to see his wife trip trying to run into the arms of Another Man. Her lover. Her stumbling steps had led straight over the edge of the barren cliffs where she met her death in the violent sea below.

Her permanently unnamed lover also met his death in the violent sea below, however it had less to do with an unfortunate misstep and rather more to do with Davien's hands.

And thus, Davien stood before his wife's marker, ruminating on things past. He rubbed absently at the white scar running across one eyebrow from one of his highwaymanning forays in Yorkshire. He shifted a little to take the pressure off of his sensitive knee from a bad incident on his ship from a pirating expedition along the English Channel. He shifted again to take the pressure off his other sensitive knee from a sting operation gone bad during one of his spying missions for the British government. He sighed and scratched at the particularly dashing scar on his jaw which had almost taken his life while escaping from his castle in France after his enemies had discovered that it was he and no other who was the rightful heir to the French throne.

Life was dark indeed. Davien assembled his features in proper tragic heroism, planted his feet yet more firmly (without endangering his bad knees of course) and vowed in most heavy tones, "I shall never love another."

Little did Lord Davien know that one of his smuggling ships carrying a load of forbidden French brandy carried something else in one of its caskets, his Fate.

Amabelle Johnson muttered something not terribly ladylike under her breath as the ship tipped nastily and her chosen method of travel shifted and slid along the rough wooden planks. Her feet were both asleep now and the sensation was traveling swiftly upward. She knew her fiery red curls were a complete (albeit attractive) disaster and her emerald green eyes would have flashed in annoyance had there been any light at all to reflect in them. Out of sheer contrariness, she made them flash anyway. She tried to shift her position, but barrels such as the one she currently inhabited were intended for large amounts of fine brandy, not small amounts of independent, overzealous, not terribly prudent young females of noble birth, unfortunate circumstances, and plot-altering intent. She wondered where her twin sister Sally was. They had both escaped from the wicked Count Duhurst's dungeon together by way of the usual picking of the lock with a hairpin, but had become separated while trying to find their way through the castle's upper levels. Amabelle hoped her sister had escaped the count's grasp. Unfortunately, she knew her sister was not as clever as she herself was. Sally could not have thought up such an ingenious escape plan as this. So she was out there somewhere… defenseless. Amabelle sighed tragically. Then her beer barrel slammed into another one and she said a naughty word.

Sally Johnson moved her book until the crack of light shone on the words she was reading. The ship beneath her tipped yet again and the ale cask she was hiding in bumped into another. She grumbled unhappily and continued reading. She wondered if her twin sister Amabelle had succeeded escaping. Sally tried to smooth her curly black hair away from her dewy violet eyes. She turned the page. Was the ship slowing? No, that was just her barrel settling down again. Many bad things could be said about Count Duhurst (even beyond the usual drinking, gambling, womanzing, treacherous, murdering ways), but he certainly did have a good library. Sally was glad she had slipped away to grab the book. It had been a long cask ride across the channel.

Lord Davien brooded as he ate his breakfast. His silent servants did not disturb his brooding. The butler, most of all, sent them all cautioning glances. Lord Davien was known to throw temper tantrums when his brooding sessions were interrupted and temper tantrums were far more difficult to deal with than brooding.

Davien was trying to decide how to spend his day. What would distract him most from his wife's terrible demise of two days past? He would have tried pirating, but stealing British gold was no fun when the British gave up without a fight at the sight of the infamous Dread Pirate Blackeyes (as Davien called himself). He had done some highwaymanning along the main highway between his castle and his neighbors, but he had already robbed his neighbors of everything they owned and they were so used to it that they simply handed everything over to Blackhaired Jack the Highwayman without a fuss rather than cause him to use his pistols on them.

Davien had gone to the British Intelligence outpost in town yesterday, but even capturing a French spy who had inflitrated Parliament failed to detract from his anguish.

Davien thought about writing another threatening letter to the French king letting him know that his days were numbered and the Exiled Black Prince of France would soon return! But he had written one just the week before and had yet to hear from King Louis the Ninety-Third about it. It didn't seem polite to write yet another when the first had not been answered.

There was nothing for it. He would have to go and meet his ship of smuggled ale. Maybe he could drown his sorrows for a few days with one of the finer French brandies.

So Davien donned his black cloak and black tricorn hat with its large, fluffy black feather, pulliing on black leather gloves before his black stallion was brought out for him. He gave the stable boy a dark look for no reason at all and mounted Black Demon, riding out into the night.

Down by the coast, Davien could see little lights from the ship. He gave the secret password to the sailor guarding the path to the ship and went to select a large brandy cask to take up with him while the rest were hidden in a large conveniently located cave nearby.

"I'll have that one," he commanded, pointing to the largest of them. It was loaded onto a wagon and sent ahead of him while he spoke to the captain.

Amabelle knew she was moving again. Her entire body up to her armpits was numbed from disuse except her back itched in just that place that is unreachable, not that she could move her arms anyway. Her barrel rumbled unpleasantly in tune with her stomach, bumping along in a very unshiplike way. Where was she going? She knew she would have to escape soon or her secret mission would fail. Plus, she knew Count Duhurst would follow her across the sea and she couldn't have him distracting her from her quest either.

Using her keen feminine wit, she soon ascertained that she was on some sort of land transport that involved large, ponderous wheels specifically constructed to find and hit every pothole in the road. She hoped they were not too far south, else she would have yet more traveling to do. And traveling was so very bad for her complexion!

Davien supervised the unloading of his barrel and had it taken directly to his room so he could drink himself into a stupor in comfort and privacy. His old valet muttered something about drunken binges as he hobbled about his business. He gave the duke and his barrel one last deprecating look and shut the door behind him.

Davien assembled a few large mugs on a small table by his favorite chair and then proceeded to open the barrel. It creaked in protest once before the top came loose. He pulled it off.

To his eternal amazement, a fiery redheaad sprang from the barrel, gazed at him with wide emerald green eyes, and then fainted dead away on the chair behind her. His chair!

"You are not brandy!" the frustrated duke accused, looking despondently into the depths of the very much empty barrel. All that work for nothing but a fainting redhead.

"Ohhhh," moaned the girl. "Vile seducer. Stay away!"

"What?" Davien protested. "I wasn't going to seduce you. I was going to drown my sorrows in brandy. I'm not such a wretch as that." Then he thought for a moment. "And who are you?"

"I shall not give my name to you, lest you use it against me!" declared the redhaired girl.

"Ummm," said Davien. Then he remembered his debonair ways and gave a bow, "My name is Lord Davien Garrett McMaclanahan, Duke of McInerniny among other things. You appear to be a lady in distress. How might I help."

"Do you have anything to eat?" the girl asked faintly.

Davien, who had not intended to eat until late the following afternoon when his hangover had worn off, glanced about and located a plate of bland biscuits his valet had left. He handed them to the girl, who devoured them immediately.

"Not to seem rude, but might I ask why you were, ah, hidden in a brandy barrel onboard my- er, that, um, ship?"

"I was escaping the grasp of a vile seducer." She blinked wide green eyes at him. "He looked rather like you, only without the Greek-god profile."

"Well," Davien said modestly, "it does run in the family, for the most part. Is there a place I might convey you? Where do you call home?"

The girl's lip trembled in a most delicately nurtured way and she burst into eloquent tears.

"I'm sorry?" Davien offered uncertainly.

"Nay, the fault is mine. I am merely put to mind of my most terrible predicament."

Davien's first impressions of a maiden in distress confirmed, he immediately urged her to continue her story. With one lovely tear upon her cheek (which made Davien's eyes begin, most unaccountably, to smoulder) she narrated in short:

"My father has recently died, leaving my twin sister and myself as orphans cast out upon the world. He was a wealthy man, my father, but alas! His will stated that all his lands and possessions would go only to the one who holds ownership of the family heirloom." She sniffed a little. "Sally and I, we had the heirloom in our very hands and were traveling toward our father's estate to claim the property as rightfully ours when that beastly highwayman, Blackhaired Jack, waylaid us and stole it!"

Davien coughed violently. The girl stared in surprise. "Are you alright, my lord?"

"Yes," he wheezed. "Merely horrified by your tale." He tried to think back on his highwaymanning trips, but could not for the life of him remember relieving two girls of anything remotely ressembling a priceless family heirloom. He wondered if it was somewhere in the attic. He rarely sold the things he stole. Highwaymanning was more of a hobby than a profitable business after all.

"Well, we tried to find out where Blackhaired Jack sells his goods and we found out through a very reliable source that he sells them to none other than the Dread Pirate Blackeyes!" Her eyes went very wide. Davien went very pale.

"And the Dread Pirate Blackeyes conveys them to the renowned smuggler Blackfingered Bill who is known to be able to transport, hide, and/or sell anything anywhere for anybody. At least, I think that's his motto." Davien gave a modest smile and affirmed that he had heard something to that effect. "So my sister and I determined to track down Blackhaired Jack the Highwayman and demand he tell us where Dread Pirate Blackeyes is. Then, of course, we would kill Blackhaired Jack for all his naughty deeds," she added virtuously.

Davien indulged in another coughing fit and the girl kindly handed him the glass of water that had accompanied the bicuits. "We would find Dread Pirate Blackeyes and force him to tell us where the renowned smuggler Blackfingered Bill resides, after which we would rid the world of the Dread Pirate forever, earning the title heroine rather nicely in the process." She looked quite smug.

"We would discover the location of Blackfingered Bill and make him help us find our family heirloom once and for all and then…" she trailed off.

"And then you would kill Blackfingered Bill?" Davien suggested dully.

"No, of course not!" she laughed. "Smugglers provide all the lovely French silk we use for our gowns and I couldn't live without my silk gowns. No, we would nobly let him live once we had our heirloom in hand. And then we would reclaim our family lands forever! Well, after we confront Count Duhurst about his despicable deeds."

Davien's first reaction was complete relief that he did not hold that particular title (at least he didn't think he did). Then, "Who is Count Duhurst?"

"Why, the vile seducer I told you about! He kidnapped us and demanded the heirloom so he could steal our lands. Of course, we didn't have it anyways so we were trapped. We only just escaped…but I lost my sister along the way." Another tragic sniffle. Davien proferred his handkerchief.

"And now, kind sir, I must leave you and track down the wicked Blackhaired Jack at once."

"Erm," Davien said, "I think you'd best stay here for tonight."

Her look was that of the accusing heroine and he hastily corrected himself. "I mean, not here here. But in one of my other bedchambers. Not my bedchamber, where I will of course remain through the entire night. You probably need to rest before you undertake your, ah, mission."

"I suppose," the girl said at last. "And because you have been so kind and un-seducer-like, I shall tell you that my name is Amabelle Johnson."

"Your servent, Miss Johnson," Davien replied with a gallant bow, feeling more himself, despite the fact that she, and apparently her sister Sally, planned to kill him twice over.

Davien called his valet, who naturally expressed no surprise at the entire situation and took Miss Johnson to another room immediately. Then he sat in the recently vacated chair, nibbled on a half-eating biscuit, and brooded.

Sally Johnson, with the use of some unexplainable twists and turns of her small form, managed to use her feet to kick the top off of the barrel. It had been quiet for some time and she was so sick of her barrel she was ready to scream. Plus, there was no longer any light coming from the crack and she couldn't read the last three pages of her book. She was not pleased.

She stood, swaying a little at the dizzy rush of blood to her now upright head. Then she looked around, or tried. She was in a cave, explaining the lack of light, surrounded by many other barrels. No one was about, unless of course they were in the barrels.

Well this was wonderful, wasn't it? How was she supposed to find a horse to track down Blackhaired Jack when she was stuck in some cave who knew where?

And with her luck, Count Duhurst was probably outside for no reason at all and would pounce as soon as she emerged. He was that sort of scurrilous knave.

But Sally was a resourceful girl. She still had her hairpin which was rather dangerous when used properly, as every girl is taught sophomore year in finishing school. She crept out of the cave by way of the secret entrance that she happened upon. The guards to the cave had apparently decided that they deserved to split one of the smaller brandy casks and were snoring in a drunken haze outside.

Sally sneaked past them and found one of their horses tethered nearby. She leaped onto its white, saddleless back and galloped away, leaving the shore far behind. The wind caught her hair behind her and she wished she had a cloak at least. It didn't seem quite appropriate to be riding so wildly across the countryside in the ballgown she had been wearing when they escaped from Count Duhurst's dungeon. At least, she thought, she probably looked quite dashing and ethereal as she road in the moonlight. Some small consolations could be found in that.

Blackhaired Jack would be on one of the highways, of course. And she would find him somehow.

Davien came down to breakfast to find Amabelle already there, eating far more than any female had the right to eat while still remaining that small. He admired her for a moment, her hair now brushed and primly caught away from her face, before reminding himself of his vow to Never Love Again, which he had only made three days before. Funny how quickly that was wearing off.

Amabelle looked up and smiled in greeting as he came in. She continued to demolish a plate of ham and eggs and three biscuits while he picked at the remains of what would have been his breakfast.

"So I was wondering," Amabelle ventured when she had finished eating. "Could you perhaps show me where Blackhaired Jack is known to rob unfortunate travelers? I plan to trick him into thinking I am one such lonely wayfarer and then I shall seize him and force him to talk!" Her emerald eyes looked rather dangerous.

"Well, highwaymen are known to be rather difficult to pin down," Davien began nervously. "How do you plan to force him to do anything?"

"Why with my pistol, of course," Amabelle replied, reaching beneath her skirts to pull out a dainty silver-inlaid piece of weaponry with the initials A.J. engraved on the pearl handle. It looked like its bullets might not have the strength to puncture a napkin. Davien nodded slowly, feeling better.

"Blackhaired Jack does highwayman around these parts, but only on the nights of the full moon when the road somewhat resembles a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moors."

"Well, I suppose that makes sense," Amabelle allowed. "Is it a full moon tonight?"

Davien bit back a groan. It was, of course. So he said, "I don't think so. Besides, he only comes out if the moon looks ghostly and it's somewhat cloudy."

"It looks like a storm might by blowing through," Amabelle pointed out.

"So it does," Davien agreed grudgingly. In fact, at that very moment, the wind began to howl nicely, just begging Davien to plan a highwaymanning expedition later. He squelched that desire immediately.

Then he heard a horse come riding along. Well, how odd. No one visited him. Unless it was females in barrels, apparently. He rose and glanced out the window to meet a very strange, yet appealing sight. A girl with night black hair in a purple ballgown was galloping across the moors through the sudden onslaught of rain toward them.

"Another one," he sighed, but not without some pleasure. She was very pretty and somehow familiar.

He heard a gasp. Amabelle stood beside him.

"That's my twin sister!"

Twin? Davien thought. AH, so that's why I thought she looked familiar, despite the fact that she seemed shorter than her sister, had black hair, purple eyes, and completely different features. The family resemblance really was there.

"Hurry! Let her in! She's being pursued!" Amabelle shrieked in horror. Indeed, a rider dressed all in black was close behind her. Sally Johnson came charging toward the entrance of the castle.

Davien made haste and had the door opened to her. Sally stumbled in, falling into her sister's arms in tearful reunion.

"Quickly!" shrieked Sally in a voice utterly identical to her sister. "Shut the door before He gets in!"

Davien looked aggressively out into the stormy weather, his eyes smouldering ferociously. "Who is he?" he growled.

"Count Duhurst!" Sally uttered in horrified accents.

"Oh no!" Amabelle said faintly. "He has found us! Now, how will we ever escape?"

"I will save you," Davien promised. "He would never dare face me."

The black rider came to a halt in front of the castle door. He dismounted and came face to face with Davien, rain lashing both of their faces. Black eyes beneath curly black hair smouldered back at Davien. Count Duhurst glared.

Davien gasped in shock. "It is you!"

"Aye, it is me, your younger brother."

"What are you doing here?" Davien demanded, angrily. "And since when were you a count anyway?"

"They are brothers?" Sally asked.

"I thought they looked something alike, though not enough to be brothers," Amabelle said critically. "See how un-Greek-godlike Count Duhurst's profile is in comparison?"

"Oh yes," Sally agreed. "I do see."

Count Duhurst glared at them. Did they hve to remind him that the family genes had skipped him in that particular area. At least he had good teeth. Then he looked at Davien. "You will pay for ruining my life."

"Ruining your life? You ruined mine! You forged those papers accusing me of treason and convinced Louis the Ninety-Third to chase me out of France!" Davien snarled. "You forced me to lose my inheritance. I would have been King of France even now!"

The sisters gasped. "King of France?"

"It's the Black Prince," Sally whispered. Her violet eyes were shining in admiration. "Well, we can't kill him now."

"What?" Davien sputtered, turning around. "I thought you wanted to kill Blackhaired Jack and the Dread Pirate Blackeyes."

"Well, everyone knows that Blackfingered Bill works for the Black Prince of France and we decided that the Black Prince was behind all our problems," Sally explained. "It all makes perfect sense when you see it written down."

"But, that means that Lord Davien is the one who caused us to lose the heirloom!" Amabelle protested. "I say we make him give it back and then kill him!"

"What about Blackhaired Jack?" Davien said, desperately. "How about you go look for him first?"

Count Duhurst gaped a little. Then he snickered. "What, you didn't tell them that you are Blackhaired Jack? And Dread Pirate Blackeyes. And Blackfingered Bill?"

"What?" the girls shrieked in unison. Amabelle looked furious. Sally merely looked impressed.

"Ummm," said Davien, rather unimpressively. "I can explain. I mean, some of them were just hobbies…"

"But that's not why I am here!" Count Duhurst continued, trying to recover lost ground. The girls and Davien looked at him expectantly.

"It is on account of your last mission as Black Shadow, the greatest British spy that ever lived, that I come," Count Duhurst told him. "You seized a French spy and had him executed. That was my best friend, Francois l'Espion. I want revenge!"

"What?" Davien sputtered faintly. "But…"

"Count Duhurst," Amabelle said in a firm voice. "There are more important things going on right now than your silly revenge. I thought you were chasing us! Remember? You were holding us ransom and everything. You wanted our land. You forced us to attend your balls and made me dance with you and…and… Oh, Count Duhurst have you forgotten about me already?" She gazed at him with her huge, tearful green eyes.

Count Duhurst looked at her and his eyes softened a little. "Of course not, Amy darling. I just thought I'd take care of this while I had the chance. I mean, he's right here. Besides, don't you want me to kill him, dearest? He stole your heirloom after all."

"Yes, please do! And then we can find the heirloom hidden somewhere in this dreadful castle and be off home again," Amabelle said with a happy sigh. "I'll even share my father's land with you."

"Hey, now wait just a second!" Sally retorted. Davien merely said, "It's not that dreadful here. I like my castle this way!"

"You can't kill him," Sally continued, standing possessively beside Davien. "Because I am In Love!"

Everyone stared, including Davien, who was vaguely recalling some phrase or other that had to do with Never Loving Again. But the sight of her dewy violet eyes made the words evaporate entirely.

"He is a highwayman, a pirate, a smuggler, a spy, a prince, and a duke! I mean, that's every daydream all rolled into one! And I want to marry him. You can keep your silly count and the heirloom. But you can't kill my Davien." Sally planted herself between Davien and the others. Davien peered past her head of black curls and tried to look dashing and dangerous even while he was rather grateful for the protection.

"Never!" Count Duhurst declared, ripping his sword from his sheath.

"Oh no!" Sally squealed, quickly dispensing with her role as protectoress and running to hide behind a black suit of armour.

"En garde!" Duhurst roared.

Davien yanked the sword away from the suit of armour and assumed fencing position. They faced each other.

"Thou hast not the skill to defeat me," Duhurst snarled.

"Knave!"

"Varlet!"

"Poltroon!"

"You couldn't smuggle brandy to save your life!"

"Hey, I do better than you do with that silk transporting operation," Davien retorted.

"I knew you were the man of my dreams," Amabelle sighed.

"At least Davien has a Greek god profile," Sally reminded her.

"Die, brother!"

"Treacherous scum!" Davien declared.

"Knave!" Duhurst roared.

"I already called you that."

"Are they going to start fighting at some point?" Amabelle wondered.

The brothers looked at each other for a moment. Duhurst was still very wet and tired from his ride and Davien hadn't finished breakfast. There was a potent, thoughtful pause.

"If I find that heirloom for you, will you leave?" Davien finally asked grudgingly.

"I suppose. As long as you don't kill anymore of my French drinking friends," Duhurst sniffled. "Francois was…" his voice broke. Davien felt rather bad then and patted his brother on the shoulder.

"Reconciliation!" Sally cried happily.

"So, brother," Count Duhurst said with an awkwardly proffered hand.

"Oh, why not!" Davien said with a benificent smile and embraced his brother with great enthusiasm. Duhurst returned it in full.

Then, as one, the brothers cried out, "Argh, my torso!"

The girls shrieked, also in unison, as they watched the brothers accidentally slash each other's chests with the swords they hadn't quite gotten around to putting down. Both dropped their blades and clutched their sides.

"You vile creature!" Amabelle accused Davien as she knelt beside her beloved.

"It was not his fault," Sally defended. "Well, not entirely anyway," she amended. She looked at the bloody tear in Davien's shirt for a moment, assessing the situation.

"What do we do?" Amabelle whimpered.

"I told you, you shouldn't have skipped that seminar in the Binding of the Manly Chest senior semester at finishing school," Sally snapped. "But oh no, you said that it would never come in handy since you were going to marry a peaceful man."

"Well, fine! I should have gone, but the seminar on the Artful Swoon looked like so much more fun and it's already been useful a dozen times over. I used it only last night when I first met Lord Davien. See? I had some foresight," Amabelle said defensively.

"Ouch," Count Duhurst proferred weakly, still clutching his side.

Amabelle panicked. "What do I do, Sally?"

Sally rolled her eyes. "Observe." She pulled Davien's shirt off with businesslike proficiency, only allowing herself five seconds to admire the view, as the seminar had directed, before ripping off a strip of her petticoat. She wrapped it around Davien's wound until the blood stopped coming through, gave it a firm pat which made Davien flinch, and turned to smile superiorly at her sister.

"Okay," Amabelle said, biting her lip. She struggled a bit with the pulling the shirt off part, spent a full fifteen seconds on the admiration bit, swooned quite prettily (even Sally admitted) at the sight of all the blood, before finally reaching for her petticoat.

"But…but, Sally. It's my very favorite petticoat. Must I?"

"Amabelle, it is for your One True Love," Sally coaxed.

"My dearest…" Count Duhurst said faintly, looking very pale, "I promise to smuggle a load of petticoats of the finest silk for you, if you would just…"

Amabelle smiled ecstatically. "I knew you were my One True Love." She ripped her petticoat with zeal and managed to wrap it around Duhurst's wound, tying it somewhat tightly so that he wheezed a little, but still accomplishing the task.

"There."

"Not terribly awful," Sally allowed.

"Come, darling, let's get you on your feet," Amabelle said, feeling confident now. Duhurst staggered upright even as Sally said, "No, he is too weak from blood loss!" The count swayed, turned an even more sickly colour and sat abruptly down, his elbow knocking a conveniently situated Grecian urn onto the floor with a resounding crash.

"My urn!" Davien shouted, eyes smouldering.

The contents of the urn spilled all over the floor. Spare keys, random watch chains, a few bracelets, necklaces, a traumatized spider, and…

"What is that?" Amabelle demanded, stepping over the prostrate form of Count Duhurst in her haste. He moaned pathetically.

"Oh, nothing," Davien said hastily. "Just random, um, items that I picked up, here and there."

"Pirating?" Sally suggested, admiringly.

"Erm, highwaymanning mostly. I throw the little things in that urn. Or I did until you broke it," he said with an annoyed glower in Duhurst's direction.

"It's the Johnson Unicorn!" Amabelle shrieked, picking something up off the floor.

"The what?" the brothers said together.

"Our heirloom!" the sisters replied.

Davien examined it from where he sat propped up against a wall with Sally snuggled in the crook of his arm. It was a small, pink and gray marble figurine that fit in the palm of Amabelle's tiny hand. It was very fat with short legs and the only indication of its noble unicorn status was the vaguely pointed nub in the center of its forehead. Its mouth gaped grotesquely open as if it had just seen a dragon, or maybe a female unicorn.

"We are saved!" Amabelle cried, throwing herself into Duhurst's arms. Duhurst, who had just manged to struggle into something resembling a sitting position, gurgled in pain and fell back over.

"Let us be married, my love," he wheezed out. They kissed passionately.

Sally turned expectantly to Davien. "Well?"

"Um, congratulations?" he said hopefully.

Her dewy violet eyes narrowed dangerously. She said again. "Well?"

"I, uh…"

"Love me?"

"Um," he mumbled. "I…"

"Would like to marry me? Of course, I will!"

"But I took a vow!" Davien protested. "To Never Love Again. My wife, you see…"

"Oh, I do see," Sally agreed. "Well, if her ghost does show up to haunt us, I'll pack her in one of those brandy barrels. Don't worry, darling. I am a fiery, independent heroine! I will protect you."

Davien thought he saw a wisp of cobwebby whiteness floating down the hall, but the encouraging words of his beloved fortified him.

"Then let us kiss passionately and plan our wedding," he decided. "After which, I will reclaim the French throne."

And so the Exiled Pirate Prince (who was also a spy for the British government, a smuggler, and a highwayman) and his beloved, as well as his brother and her sister, kissed passionately.

The End