Tasman Excerpt: On the Ship
Backstory: Ean has been falsely accused of stealing from his sweetheart’s employer, Lord and Lady Colridge. After several days in London’s Newgate Gaol, he’s removed by a constable. He thinks he’s to be freed.
We walked along narrow, twisting streets. The smell of wood and tar mingled with that of stale beer and rotting vegetables. A sea of barefoot men dressed in rough jackets and canvas breeches steered past, hauling boxes and crates on their rickety carts. The constable yanked my tether and used the loose end of the rope to whip my back and head. He smiled as the sailors jeered and spit on me.
Overhead, gulls wheeled in descending circles near tall masts that crowded the sky. We’d arrived at the sailing docks next to Blackstone Bridge on the Thames River.
A two-masted brig lay tied to the closest pier, its name hidden by draped rigging and sagging sails. The constable pushed me up the gangplank and handed papers to an officer in a blue cutaway coat. In return he received a bag that jangled with coins. The papers passed to a soldier, who grabbed me by the neck and shoved me down worn, wooden steps. I crashed into a pole and fell onto the floor.
“Ah-h!” I shook my head to clear away my confusion and the pain shooting through my shoulder. “This is a mistake. I’m to be freed! Ask Lady Colridge!”
A burly soldier clamored down the steps. He shoved me against the wooden planks, laughed, and shook papers in front of my face. “And who do ya think signed these? Your savior’s husband, Lord Colridge, he did. Ya belong to the government for the next three years.”
I rose to my knees. “What? Three years? This isn’t right. I stole nothing! Lady Colridge gifted Fiona.”
My secreted coins fell from my waistband and rolled across the splintered wooden deck as men scrambled to grab them. I didn’t bother trying to recover them. “No matter,” I whispered to myself, “I’m to be freed.”
A second young soldier clomped down the steps and secured my ankles with rusty leg irons. He yanked them to check the tightness. I screamed. He slapped my head hard with his open palm. “Silence! You’re on your way to Van Diemen’s Land, where all thieves, murderers, and luckless Irish belong. Pulled me a rotten duty this, watching over the likes of you!”
Knife-like pain zig-zagged through my shoulder as I pulled myself upright. I inhaled and shook my head, trying to understand why I’d been kidnapped and brought here. Lord Colridge must have wanted me away from Langstone. Why?
A small, dark-skinned man scooted from the shadows and leaned in to speak to me. The light from the open hatch allowed me to see the long scar that bisected his right cheek and disappeared into the haphazard whiskers around his chin. “Don’t do no good to talk back or say anything.”
“But this is a mistake. Three years for a piece of silk, I…”
“Don’t matter. You’ve been sold, and now y’ur a slave to the gov’ner.”
I leaned against a post. Pain and wintry cold penetrated my body like a spear of ice. “What? Where are we going? To the hulks?”
“Didn’t ya listen?” The dark-skinned man coughed and cleared his throat. “We’re on our way to the other side of the world.”
Author’s Note: Continue your journey with Ean as he sets sail into a life he never anticipated.How will he cope with the struggles ahead?
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