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Adventure

Elise

The small ship drifted in the still waters of the river, guards milled about on the top deck. An abandoned warehouse stood across the bank. Its firm foundations were a sharp contrast to the gently listing ship. I burst through the door leading to the roof, my colleague and ally, Joshua, right behind me. We opened our bags and drew out our rifles. I trained mine on the first guard who was unfortunate enough to walk into my scope. 

“On your mark, Joshua,” I muttered out of the corner of my mouth, finger tensing on the trigger. 

“Fire,” he hissed. We both fired, our poison-coated darts striking the first two guards in the neck. We reloaded. 

“Fire,” he said, again and again in rapid succession, until all the guards were dead in a matter of minutes. Without missing a beat, Joshua fired the harpoon into the mast with a dull thunk. We packed our rifles into our bags and slung them over our shoulders. Jumping onto the taut line, we climbed hand over hand down to the aft hold. We dropped, silent as the night, into the captain’s quarters. Joshua kept watch while I searched for our doom. 

Our orders were to grab the documents condemning Charles William, our employer. They reported him as the main man behind the atrocities committed by the East India Company. It was true, everything. It had records of it all, the murders, the massacres, the rapings, and the terrorizing. It all led back to me, his main man. So much blood stained my hands that I feared I would never look at them without seeing red. I saw the stack of papers complete with the seal lying on the desk. I stuffed them into my waterskin bag and replaced them with the false papers that Charles had given us. 

“Oy, these guys are dead!” Footsteps thudded above us. 

“Matt, we have to go,” Joshua urged, cocking his rifle. I turned to leave, our work complete, but something on the desk caught my attention. I turned back and ran my finger down the edge of the table, feeling a slight difference that indicated… aha! 

I pressed on the raised part of the edge, and a hidden compartment popped open. Another leaf of papers lay there, a replica of the papers we have orders to bring. I shoved them into the same bag, pressing the compartment closed again. 

“Matt, now!” Joshua snapped, and we launched ourselves out of the captain’s quarters window. The door burst open behind us. We plunged into the murky waters, swimming to our rendezvous point. Bullets pierced the water above us. 

***

The carriage rolled to a stop in front of a manor and I gathered my papers. I was about to get out, but I slipped up my mask in time. The world knew me as Matthew White, ferocious mercenary of the East India Company. But behind my mask, I was Elise Clément, daughter of nobody, and doomed to be a spinster. No one knew my true identity. I was careful to keep everything about my personal life hidden so far behind me. Even I didn’t know the full truth sometimes. It was better that way. For everybody. But after today, I could be free. I’d live a new life and put Matthew behind me. 

“Sir?” I asked, deepening my voice and lowering my mask. Charles looked up from where he was sitting at his desk. His eyes brightened upon seeing me, and he stood up. 

Charles was not much older than my twenty-eight years, but I didn’t know his exact age. He was a powerful man, with short brown hair and bright blue eyes. 

“You got it?” he whispered, eyes flicking to the bag at my sides. I curled my lip into a soft smile. 

“In the past fourteen years, have I failed you once?” I murmured. Charles smiled and rounded the desk. 

“Not once,” he said, watching as I pulled out the bag and laid it on his desk. 

He opened it and pulled out the documents with quick fingers. He ran a sharp eye over them to confirm that they were the same papers condemning him for his actions. He looked up at me with a smile. 

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to go to America?” He asked. I smiled and shook my head. 

“No, sir. I am done with traveling. I’m ready to settle down with the lands you’ve promised me.” Something flashed across Charles’ face, but it disappeared as fast as it arrived.

“I need you in the colonies, Matt. They are squabbling over nothing and impacting our foreign relations,” he pressed. Something akin to desperation gleamed on his face. But I knew better. Charles William did not resort to begging. I shook my head again. 

“I told you, Charles. After this job, I’m done. I need a new life,” I said. Charles’ face fell, and I saw true sadness flicker over his eyes. 

“I’m sorry for that, Matt. But here,” he said, handing me a sheet of paper. I looked it over and confirmed that it was, indeed,  the deed to the lands and money he owed me. 

“Thank you, Charles,” I said, then hesitated. “After I leave, please don’t try and contact me, all right? I’m… done with this life.” I said. Charles nodded, not quite meeting my eyes. 

“Have a good rest of your life, Matt,” he said, and I took that as a dismissal. But there was something ominous about his tone. I chalked it off as a feeling that I’d never quite get over, the feeling of someone always watching you. I slipped my mask on and walked away from Charles for the last time. I could feel his stare burning into my back the entire way out of his office. 

The servant at my carriage seemed a bit suspicious. One of Charles’s lackeys, Basil, had come from India but had switched over to the British side once things got hairy. He was staring at me a tad angrier than he does, given that Charles favored me more than him. But I didn’t think much of it. Nor did I contemplate much over the fact that he gave a sharp nod to the driver once I’d gotten into the carriage. 

Two sharp knocks on the carriage door, and we were off. I waited until we were outside of the gate before relaxing into the seat with a sigh. I had done it. I was free at last, and Matthew White was dead for good. I pulled out the deeds and looked them over with a keen eye this time. My gaze narrowed in on the part that claimed I was the rightful owner of the lands. Son of a- he hadn’t even signed the damn papers. They weren’t worth the dirt under my nails. Blood boiling, I cursed to myself for believing that Charles would deign to hold up his end of the bargain. I crushed the papers and threw them out of the window. The sound of hoofbeats behind us caught my attention. I turned and saw someone riding hard behind us. 

“Your carriage is on fire!” He yelled, and I got a tingling feeling that usually meant that something bad was about to happen. He tried to get closer, but the sound of a gunshot ripped through the air. He slumped backward on his horse, an expression of horror forever frozen on his face. 

The driver shot his gun through the front of the carriage, and red-hot pain shot through me. I flew backward into the seat. Groaning, I pulled aside the collar of my shirt and pressed down. My fingers came away slick with red. I had to get out of here, or I’d die. I scooped up my bag and gritted my teeth as my wounded shoulder moved. Another shot rang out, missing the top of my head with only two inches to spare. Wood sprayed as the bullet crunched into the back of the carriage. Splinters rained down on me. I grabbed my gun and fired in the middle of where the other two shots had come from. I heard a grunt as the bullet found its mark in soft flesh. Shoulder first, tucking into a roll, I dove out of the carriage door as it exploded behind me. 

***

The air was heavy, the rain tapering into a fine mist before I regained consciousness. The smoldering remains of the carriage sizzled as the cold droplets hit the cooling wood. I laid sprawled on my back, staring up at the inky night sky. It was lit up only by the myriad of stars splattered like little jewels across the velvety black.  I stayed in that position for a couple of minutes, the pain of my shot shoulder leaching through my brain. Groaning, I managed to pull myself up and assessed the damage. My entire left shoulder was soaking in blood, and I could feel the sting of the bullet still in me. I couldn’t do much about it right now. The best I could do was clean it off and hope for the best. Maneuvering around my body with one arm while trying to not move the other is a new kind of hell. It took me a long time to do so. The first thing I managed to do was to remove the binding around my chest. I had transformed myself from a flat-chested male into a not so flat-chested female. Matthew White was dead for good. Charles had made sure of it. What little I had left was Elise Clément, and I didn’t even know if that was enough. I used the binding material to make a tourniquet and tie it around my upper arm to restrict the blood flow. 

I heaved myself up and staggered to the man who had ridden behind us to tell us that there was a bomb on my carriage. I pressed two fingers against his neck hoping that there was a pulse. I slumped next to him, another victim of Charles. His horse was still nearby. I could hear her knickers from where her reins had caught on a tree branch. 

I took off the necklace that held my EIC tiger figurine and placed it over the dead man’s body. Nobody except for Charles had seen my face. He wouldn’t come to check himself if I were dead, so for all purposes, Matthew White was dead. I got to my feet, staring down at the dead man and vowing to get revenge for his death. I turned to walk over to the horse. It took a couple of tries, but I managed to swing myself up on her back and untangle the reins from the tree. I nudged her forward, and we walked into the lightening night, away from my past and into my future.

Nathan

“So you shake the rock in your hand to get the feel for the shape, then you blow on it for good luck. Then with a flick of your wrist, you release it,” I said, demonstrating to my eight-year-old nephew. Eight, nine, ten times it skipped on the calm surface before falling with a gentle plop into the lake. His bright blue eyes, the mirror image of my brother’s, lit up and he repeated the steps I told him. His rock only made it two times before sinking into the water and he pouted, looking up at me. 

“What happened, Uncle Nathan?” Joseph asked. 

“Lack of practice,” I replied, fishing around my feet for another river smoothed rock. “Try it again,” I said, handing it to him. We were standing in the cool water, our trousers rolled up at the cuffs, and our shirt sleeves folded up to our elbows. Joseph flicked his wrist, and this time he got four skips in. He jumped around, splashing both of us thoroughly. Laughing, I backed up a few steps, but slipped on the slick lake bed, full of moss-covered rocks. I fell backward into the water. I came up laughing and spluttering. Although it was warm for April, the lake water was still not warmed up, so after a few minutes, I was shivering. “Time to go, Joe,” I said, and clambered onto the bank. 

I turned around to give him a hand when a nicker caught my attention. I whipped around, wondering which of our horses was out. An unfamiliar one was walking about twenty yards down from us. Someone was slumped over on the animal’s back. We watched as they fell off into the water when the horse dipped its head to drink. 

“Uncle Nathan!” Joseph yelled, but I was already running to the horse. 

“Sir! Sir!” I shouted, splashing into the water near the person. They were floating on their stomach, and they would drown if I didn’t pull them out. I turned them around and realized it was a woman, not a man. She wasn’t breathing and the entire left side of her upper body was soaked in blood. Dried blood that was flaking off into the cold water. 

I scooped her up into my arms and struggled out of the water. For some reason, she was wearing trousers and shirts rather than a dress, but who was I to judge? For all I knew, this lady was a highwayman..er woman. I rolled my eyes at the way my thoughts were going. 

“Joe! Get the horse to the stables!” I called my nephew. 

“Yes, Uncle.” He answered, splashing toward the horse. I carried the woman into the main house. My mother, Elizabeth Eastaughffe, came running at my shout. 

“What is it, Nathan?” She asked, panting. Her eyes widened at the lady in my arms. “Who is she?” She asked. 

“She...well, fell into our lake,” I replied. Elizabeth’s hands fluttered at her side as she dithered back and forth between me and the woman.  

“Sam! Sam!” She yelled, calling for our butler. He came running and faltered at the lady in my arms. 

“Who-?” He asked, but I cut him off. 

“Fetch the good doctor, Sam. She might have an infection.” I said, taking the steps to our guest rooms, next to our wing of the house. I heard my mother coming up behind me. 

“Her skin is so pale, Nathan!” She cried as I set her down on the bed.

“She-She’s been shot,” I said grimly, pointing to the tourniquet around her upper arm and the gaping hole in her tunic. My mother gasped, hands flying to her mouth. This was, quite possibly, the most dramatic thing she had ever seen. 

“Nathan?” Sam called from downstairs. I poked my head out of the room. “The doctor’s here.” He said.

“Well? Send him up!” I said, ducking back into the room. I heard hurried footsteps, and the doctor, a round man with balding brown hair ran in. 

“Goodness, Nathan. Where did she come from?” He asked, unpacking his tools. I crossed my arms and watched him work, leaning against the dresser. 

“She fell into the lake," I said, tired of repeating the same thing over and over again. “And no, I have no idea where she came from, or who she is,” I added, seeing the doctor start to open his mouth. He closed his mouth and nodded. 

“Well, then. Give me some space to work.” He said and when I didn’t move, turned back to me with an exasperated look. “Out of this room, Nathan.” He said, pointing out the door. I sighed and walked out, shutting the door behind me. 

***

“Nathan, you can come in now...y-you were standing right outside the door, weren’t you?” The doctor asked as I entered. I didn’t respond. He rolled his eyes. “Well, she’s doing fine. She got the tourniquet on in time, otherwise, I would have had to amputate.” He said. I looked at her, taking in what I did not before. 

She had long brown hair that had golden highlights in it, speaking of time spent outside. Her light caramel skin was tanned to a golden brown, and her body seemed lithe yet muscular. A long scar ran from her ear down her neck, disappearing down her nightgown. I couldn’t help but wonder how long it had taken to heal from a wound that big. 

“Is she awake?” Elizabeth asked, startling me. I turned to see her and Sam at the threshold. 

“She’s regaining consciousness.” The doctor said. The woman blinked awake. Her eyes, hazel, took in her surroundings. She struggled to sit up, despite the gentle protests of the doctor. 

“Whe-where am I?” She rasped. Everybody started to talk at once, and I saw the sheer panic flit across her face. I stepped forward and motioned for everyone to be quiet. I looked at her, smiling. 

“You’re in the Eastaughffe household. I rescued you from the lake.” I added. Her eyes cleared and she looked down at herself, only now noticing that she was in only a nightgown. 

“Who the hell undressed me?” She cried, pulling the sheets up over herself. Everyone was startled by her outburst. She recoiled. “I'm sorry. I mean...thank you for taking care of me.” She whispered. My mother smiled.

“Of course, dear. But, who are you?” She asked. The woman’s eyes shuttered and she pressed a hand to her chest. The doctor took the opportunity to step forward. 

“Questions can be asked later. My patient needs to recover.” He snapped. I herded my mother and Sam out the door. I looked back as I crossed the threshold and saw her looking out the window, clutching her injured arm. Then the door shut behind me and I couldn’t see anything more.

April 13, 2021 15:01

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32 comments

Nainika Gupta
15:23 Apr 13, 2021

About this: I did write the first part of this and put it on here a while ago...but I deleted it..again a while ago. I rewrote parts of it to make it flow better and I also added Nathan's first part in here! Hope you enjoyed! N

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Michael Boquet
14:35 Apr 15, 2021

Love the first part. It's just full of action and excitement. Everything is well described and there's a great interplay of external and internal conflicts. I personally don't think you need the Nathan part. It doesn't have the same level of energy as Elise's, veers away from the prompt, and makes the piece longer than it needs to be. That's just my opinion though. Both parts are well written and stand up on their own separately. Nice job.

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Nainika Gupta
14:40 Apr 15, 2021

Thanks so much, Michael! Ok, that was my little conflict too. I'm writing this for my English class - our final paper, so I'll keep adding more parts to this story so that's why I added Nathan's part! :)

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Michael Boquet
14:46 Apr 15, 2021

Ah, I see. Yeah it definitely needs a third part, from Elise's perspective probably, to tie it all together into a complete narrative.

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Nainika Gupta
14:52 Apr 15, 2021

That's what I was thinking! Yep :)

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13:18 Apr 14, 2021

I can't tell you how much I lit up when I saw you on my Activity Feed— The girl disguised as a man thing is something I've read many times before, and it never grows old. You executed it well, and I really like all of the characters and descriptions. Great job! I hope there's a part 2!

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Nainika Gupta
13:26 Apr 14, 2021

:) Aw means a lot Annabelle! Yessssss its amazing :) aww yes there will be!!

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13:56 Apr 14, 2021

:) Hru?

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Palak Shah
10:29 Apr 14, 2021

Great story Nainika, I love the historical fiction aspect of it. Is the answer to your emoji puzzle "Chicken Little" ? Anyway, have a good day !!! ~Palak Shah

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Nainika Gupta
12:53 Apr 14, 2021

:) Thanks Palak! Yep! You as well!

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Palak Shah
14:37 Apr 14, 2021

Thanks :))

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Radhika Diksha
06:36 Apr 14, 2021

At last the reference of East India company by someone. Hum Tumse dugna lagan lenge. I loved the whole plot, She's the Man kinda. The assassin vibes and the horse, the cherry on top. You never disappoint me for sure. The end is good just like the beginning. Keep writing and great work.

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Nainika Gupta
12:54 Apr 14, 2021

Lol yep! Aw, thanks!

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Sarah 🖤💖
21:53 Apr 13, 2021

we got MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE Yeah I love historical fiction when done right, it's just so interesting and cool. Nathan seems like a cool dude (and I smell a lOvE sToRy coming onnnn!)

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Nainika Gupta
13:06 Apr 14, 2021

Aww, thanks Sarah! hehe yesss

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18:06 Apr 13, 2021

I was about to say that I think you've written something like this before. I like how you improved it too :) !

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Nainika Gupta
13:06 Apr 14, 2021

:) Yep! Aw, thanks!!

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Kristin Neubauer
17:15 Apr 13, 2021

What fun! A historic action-adventure! I love the woman-disguised-as-male assassin twist.... and with a horse! Funny enough, the story I was thinking of writing a couple of weeks ago (fairy tale of an outsider) involved a woman disguising herself as a man.... and a horse. I loved this - so vibrant, so fast-paced, great descriptions and characters. I feel like this could lead to a Part II. Another winner, Nainika!

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Nainika Gupta
17:38 Apr 13, 2021

Thanks! YES! I'm actually writing a story from a horse's perspective. I recently read (and watched) War Horse and I was so emotionally moved and inspired so I decided to do it! Thanks again, really appreciate it :)

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Kristin Neubauer
17:58 Apr 13, 2021

I can’t wait! Make sure you let me know when you put out your horse story. I miss a lot from week to week but I don’t want to miss that one. I read War Horse and loved it, but I couldn’t see the movie - the horse looked too much like my Bear and I didn’t think I could get through it.

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Nainika Gupta
20:08 Apr 13, 2021

I know :( It was a really emotional movie but I absolutely loved it :) Of course!! I'll be sure to let you know!

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Nainika Gupta
01:34 Apr 15, 2021

Hey Kristin! My horse story's out! It should be the newest one!

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Radhika Diksha
18:11 Apr 13, 2021

Sorry to Interrupt. I was in my 5th grade when I saw the movie. I could not see fully because I like started to cry at its beginning itself. I saw it like a bit like for a year, crying all the time. The movie is a masterpiece.

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Kristin Neubauer
20:32 Apr 13, 2021

It looked like a masterpiece but I know I will be a mess through it. I think I will have to watch it one day.... but maybe a day when I’m home alone and can bawl my eyes out.

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Nainika Gupta
12:53 Apr 14, 2021

Exactly :) I think I cried every second, it was so good

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I am in love with this!

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Nainika Gupta
14:41 Apr 15, 2021

:)

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00:01 Apr 15, 2021

1. I said this before, but welcome back! 2. I loved the plot and the details of this story, it flowed a lot better than the original. I loved Elise’s character, and her secret identity, and hmmmm my romance senses are tingling. 3. Minor piece of feedback: [“Have a good rest of your life, Matt,” he said, and I took that as a dismissal.] Perhaps use a full stop instead of a comma, otherwise it doesn’t look like the final word. Amazing work, Nainika! :)

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Nainika Gupta
00:12 Apr 15, 2021

1. <3 2. Aww thanks! Yep, I thought so too - hmm haha 3. Yes, technically it would SOUND better, but in grammar you don't have a full stop in dialogue if you're using pronouns. HOWEVER, I could rewrite it to be "“Have a good rest of your life, Matt.” Charles said heavily, and I took that as a dismissal. ??? actually I like that! Thanks!

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00:31 Apr 15, 2021

Ah, I see. I like that rewritten version better too :)

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Nainika Gupta
00:46 Apr 15, 2021

:)

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