The Spirit of Mystery anchors off the Cornish coast. It’s a little after dusk on a warm summer’s eve. A lone mount navigates the narrow pathway that snakes around the cliffs. The wind is low and the determined tap of iron shod hooves carries over the loosely packed stones to the cove below. The small band of smugglers cast a nervous eye from the hidden opening of the cave to the cliff face above. Red Nose Riley, aptly named thanks to his 30 year love affair with a certain Caribbean elixir, speaks to the young man at his side,
“Blayne would have my bloody tanned hide if we don’t get this lot out a sight”
The young man nods and motions a silent gesture towards the men. Making quick work of the booty, boxes are lifted, crates are dragged sideways and the group disappear into the hidden opening, leaving nothing but a trail of fine shingle to be quickly washed over by the rising tide.
At the far side of the cliff, the determined rider steers the horse along the winding trail, shuddering in the dampness and the cold that’s whipping in the air from the sea spray below. A loose fitting hood shields the rider’s face as a dark, heavily woven cloak billows behind and envelopes almost a third of the majestic looking stallion. Most knew the path as treacherous, and many a man and even a few hysterical women have fallen to their deaths, splayed in a blooded heap on the ground below. Unless you knew the curves of the cliff, like you would the fine seam of a glove, it was nigh on impossible to use. Fortunately Ebony Treblayne was as good a seamstress as she was a rider and steered the horse faultlessly down the perilous descent.
Ebony had watched for the ship these last 3 weeks. There had been no news in town and that was surely a good sign. The towns along the coast all carried shipping reports as eagerly as they did news from the crown. No wrecks had been reported within 30 miles of this section of inhospitable coast and the custom guard were still filling the taverns coffers as regularly as ever. When the signal had finally come last night Ebony had been as suspicious as ever. The whisper trail was open to danger, and whispers often got into the wrong ears.
She’d buried herself in her father’s library after supper. Mrs Winstanley the housekeeper, thought nothing amiss. Ebony was as intelligent as she was beautiful and it was her alone who had fought to keep the estate running when her father passed. Most of the staff knew she spent many an evening locked away, reading through her father’s papers; studying farming techniques and crop rotations. Yet, as the library was to the back of the house, facing the sea, nobody saw the burning lantern ensconced on the sill or found the hidden drawer in the mahogany writing desk that held various maps and charts. God forbid they found the latest cargo reports from the crown owned shipping companies in Portsmouth that she had hidden away. Tonight Ebony had sat by the window, a glass of whiskey in one hand and her father’s trusty spy glass in the other, waiting for the ship to anchor.
Ebony quickly dismounted, and walked the horse to a small cluster of trees hidden from above by a projecting cliff ledge and secured the reins. She consciously scanned behind her and raised her eyes to the cliff face above, nothing. Following the shingle by the cave edge she walked around till she came to the hidden opening. Large stone boulders, 6ft across, blocked the gap, and overlapped in such a way to look as if the hole was completely sealed. It wasn’t until you were stood right in front that you could actually see the gaps between. Ebony followed the hidden path, as she had a hundred times before. Coming out into a vast open chasm, blazing wooden torches secured to the rock face illuminated the hoard that was stashed inside. Red Nose Riley, watched her enter and quickly stood, swiping a trail of rum from his grizzly red beard.
“Gods splinter, they nearly got us this time” he cursed across the crates and boxes littering the space.
Ebony raised an eyebrow and tried to stop the corner of her mouth rising into a smirk.
“Riley, am I not always right, did you not think I would be” she questioned the towering pirate as she opened her cloak and let it fall against one of the opened crates.
Without the cover of her cloak, Red Nose Riley could see the two brass flintlocks laced across her hips. He coughed, trying to hold down the tension rising in his gut. He shifted uncomfortably on his stout squat legs and lowered his eyes from Ebony’s steely glaze.
“If your questioning my lead Riley, show it now you rotten toothed son of a bitch” Riley gulped and looked across at the others. Fear etched in their eyes as well as his.
“Now Blayne, you know I’m only jesting, I’d never run with them there custom guards” his choked laughter sounding flat against the echo in the cave.
Bang! Bang! Two shots went through his belly and ricocheted off the cavern walls behind. His body fell with a thud, face down. Ebony blew on one flintlock then the other, calmly put them back in her belt and walked over the dead pirate’s body towards the others.
“Right lads, get to work, we’re in for a long night” she said to the small group of smugglers, who stood wide eyed and awe struck in the face of Blaine the Black, the most feared pirate this side of Christendom.