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In Quest Of The Bloody Dawn

Chapter One

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Chapter One

    The early afternoon sun blazing down on the streets of Central Park,

Manhattan was unusually warm even for mid-summer. Slightly apart from the

throngs of people crowding the sidewalks, a young woman dashed sweat from

her brow as she ran; her long legs effortlessly eating the distance.

    Running was one of the few outlets that the seventeen year old Elizabeth

Drake had access to, and she enjoyed it immensely. Her jaw set in

determination as she rounded the next bend… every time, she pushed herself

just a little bit further and today she was determined to make the seven mile

mark running nonstop. Her thoughts wandered as she ran, her lack of

concentration causing her to almost run into a passerby. As it were, only

quick reflexes allowed her to avoid a hard collision. Both people dodged to

the side, but Elizabeth’s foot caught on a missing piece of concrete, and sharp

pains shot up her leg as her ankle twisted sharply causing her leg to collapse in

mid-stride. With a sharp intake of breath, she fell.

    “Are ye alright miss?” a concern filled voice asked as the speaker offered a

hand to help her up. “That was quite a fall.” Accepting the proffered hand, she

pulled herself up and took a good look at the kindly stranger standing before

her.

    He was relatively young, possibly in his early twenties, dark hair pulled back

into a low ponytail in an obvious attempt to keep it from his face. He was

trying almost too hard to keep apparent confusion from showing in his

expression – a futile attempt since even if he succeeded in it with his face, his

dark brown eyes would have given it away… they were of the type that

showed emotion (in this case, concern coupled with confusion) almost as soon

as he himself was aware of it.

    Elizabeth herself was confused… moving her gaze from his oddly

disconcerting eyes, she took in the rest of him, more out of place than

anything was his clothing… he wore brown breeches, black buckled shoes,

and his off-white tunic was loosely belted by a dark leather sword belt. The

latter he carried with the utter confidence of someone who knew precisely how

it was used and considered it no more than an article of clothing.

    Obviously noting how the girl’s gaze was glued to the filigreed sword-hilt at

his side, he smiled and said “It’s okay miss. I’ll not harm you.”

Elizabeth made no reply but to raise her eyebrows and try putting weight on

her injured leg. She cried out in pain and possibly would have fallen had not

the stranger still been gripping her arm.

    “You’re darn right you won’t…. thanks by the way for helping me.”

  “My pleasure” he said, bowing slightly.

     Several people passing by inquired if she was okay, to which all were given

the same reply: “I’m fine, thanks.”

The stranger looked at her curiously, “Do you really think that wise?”

  “What? I said I’m fine.”

  “If’n ye say so miss… aren’t you going to need help getting to your home?

Everybody with one eye can see that you’re ankle is sprained and that ye

won’t be walking home unassisted.”

  “I said I’ll be fine” she insisted, irritation flashing in her eyes. “I can take care

of myself… have been doing it for years” she muttered, half to herself.

  “I’ll assist you in returning, if ye are of a mind to accept help.”

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes, but made no protest as she guided him to where

she lived, leaning heavily on his arm.

    They walked (and limped) in silence for several minutes, the stranger spoke.

“I told ye before that there’s nothing to fear from me... swear it on my honor.”

Elizabeth made an unladylike noise as she retorted. “As I said… I’m not

scared of you anyways.”

  “Glad to hear it” he said with a grin. “I must apologize for not introducing

myself earlier. I am Jack Blackwelder, only son of Captain James and Elena

Blackwelder.”

  “Elizabeth Drake, nice to meet you;” Elizabeth wasn’t sure, but she thought

there was a touch of sadness in Jack’s voice when he said he was the only

son… I wonder what the story is behind that one…

  “The pleasure is mine Miss Drake.”

    Again they walked in silence, weaving through the throngs of people

crowding the sidewalk. Jack broke the silence with a question. “Miss Drake?”

Irritation at Jack’s formal way of talking, coupled with fresh lances of pain that

were shooting up her leg caused her voice to be more than a little sharp.     

    “Please don’t call me miss… it makes me feel like a teacher. I prefer to be

called by my name.”

  “Sorry Mi…. Elizabeth.”

In spite of her flash of irritation, she couldn’t help but hide a smile at his slip-

up. “You were saying?” she prompted.

  “Oh, nothing too terribly important really… I just wanted to inquire as to the

date.”

  “The date?” she asked incredulously, her brows knitting. “June 12.”

  “What year?”

  “What year? Gee whiz, you are out of touch.” She would have dismissed his 

question as a joke had it not been for the earnest expression on his face that

told her he really did have no clue. “It’s 1999… and before you ask, you’re in

New York City.”

  “1999?” Jack was aghast.

  “Yeah… what’s so incredible about that? ‘99 always follows ‘98.”

He didn’t even seem to notice her sarcasm; a clouded look came over his eyes

as he muttered to himself. “1999…. New York City… so it really did

happen...”

    It was difficult, but Elizabeth chose to ignore his obvious confusion as she

changed the subject. “So where you from, Jack?”

Jack shook himself back to reality – or at least what he assumed to be reality –

as he replied noncommittally. “Port Royal, Jamaica.”

    “As in the Caribbean? No way! What’s it like there?”

  “It’s nice, usually.” His answer was aggravatingly lacking much information,

but Elizabeth wasn’t able to ask more details for by now they had arrived a

large driveway with a sign hanging above it which read “Birkingham

Academy”.

    “We’re here.” She said somewhat sullenly as Jack helped her up the

driveway. Even though the grounds were beautifully kept and tended, and

there was a sense of peace and tranquility about the front lawn, there was also

a formal air to the large brick building that stood at the end of the driveway.

Like a silent sentinel remaining relatively unchanged throughout the years, it

stood, welcoming yet somehow forbidding. As if the building itself were a strict

but kind taskmaster from some long ago day.

    There was a set of broad stairs leading up to the heavy wooden door with

brass knobs, above which hung an elegantly carved white plaque, the year

“1776” painted on it in a glossy black paint.

    Jack was obviously impressed by some craftsmanship that had always gone

relatively unnoticed by most, and something bordering just short of awe could

be heard in his voice. “This is where you live?”

    “Yeah… pretty nice place actually.” Even distracted as he was, Jack could

almost feel her loathing of the place emanating from the very air itself. I

wonder why it is that she hates it so. He abandoned that thought almost

immediately, knowing that it was something he’d never understand anyways…

just the craftsmanship itself! The intricate carvings woven into the masonry

framework was unbelievably complex. But then, he admitted to himself.

Craftsmanship alone won’t make anywhere a pleasant place to live.

    They were halfway up the winding walkway when an accented voice called

out “Elizabeth! What’d you do to yourself now?” the voice was followed

shortly by a slightly built man, his black hair streaked with grey, and a deep tan

who emerged from some nearby shrubbery where he had been working. The

lines on his face were deepened with concern as he approached.

    Elizabeth was obviously close to the gardener because at the sound of his

accent, she smiled in spite of herself and replied. “Just a sprain… nothing

too bad this time.”

    “Hmph.” He obviously wasn’t satisfied with her answer. “Just a sprain,

Elizabeth? What’s this; the third so far this year?”

    “Second… this one wasn’t my fault though, so it doesn’t count.” Her voice

held an element of teasing that faded into a sullen attitude in view of Frank’s

patient stare waiting for the truth. “Okay… so it was kinda’ my fault.”

    This was a frequently played game between Elizabeth and her friend, and

Frank knew her well enough to realize that this was the closest thing to an

admission that he’d be able to get out of her when she was in this mood.

    As if just noticing Jack, Frank turned to Elizabeth; “Who’s he?”

“Oh, sorry” the girl said sheepishly. “This is Jack Blackwelder; he helped me

back after I fell. Jack, this is Frank, he’s the landscaper and pretty much all

around maintenance guy.”

  “Nice to meet you I’m sure.” Jack’s tone was back to its formal stiffness that

had just begun to wear off in the past few minutes.

  “Same here” Frank said with a faint smile. “I would love to chat, but

Elizabeth’s got to have that ankle looked at… the nurses will kill me.”

  “Okay, later then. ‘Twas nice meeting you… now if ye wouldn’t mind

pointing out the medical facilities.”

    “Umm… hello?” Elizabeth interrupted. “I’m here too guys, and Jack; I fully

know my way to the nurses’ office.”

The last comment caused a guffaw of laughter from the gardener. “You got

that right missy!” turning to Jack, he said conspiratorially “she could find her

way there in her sleep during a blizzard… she gets sent there often enough.”

    In spite of herself, Elizabeth giggled. “Yeah, whatever, Frank. Since it seems

to be such common knowledge, why not just tell everyone who doesn’t know

upfront and save them the trouble of figuring it out later on, right?”

    Frank favored her with his most irritating grin by way of a reply, causing her

to shoot him an icy glare as she headed for the nurses’ office. Releasing her

arm from Jack’s support, she started limping off. As the odd young man

moved to follow her, but Frank caught his arm giving him a warning look.    

“You don’t want to go traipsing after that one when she’s like

this… even to help her. She, ah, doesn’t take very kindly to it.”

    Jack nodded his understanding, but continued walking – not approaching

her, but merely following to make sure that she didn’t fall and injure herself any

further. It would seem, he mused, that Miss Drake has a certain facility for

getting herself hurt; and she doesn’t appreciate any discussion of the

subject.

    In a remarkably short while, Elizabeth had entered the large brick building

and been lost to sight. Deciding that it would be wisest not to attempt to follow

her to her destination, he retreated back to where the gardener was once again

trimming the shrubbery.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

 

 

 

    Elizabeth emerged from the office a short while later, not surprised in the

least to find that while she had been inside, Jack and Frank had formed a

tentative friendship. The two were working in the gardens, talking and

occasionally laughing uproariously at some joke one or the other told as if they

had known each other for years.

    How odd, she thought, that the two had hit it off so quickly. Frank was

much like herself in that he wasn’t inclined to make friends so soon. Not that

he was unfriendly; it’s just that he didn’t usually give people his trust until they

had earned it in some capacity. That’s what made it so interesting with Jack.

Here he was, and both Frank and Elizabeth had liked him right off, each

somehow knowing that he was trustworthy and honest.

    Elizabeth worked her way down the stairs, navigating with some difficulty a

loose board as she was on crutches. Making her way over to where her

friends were talking, she called out a greeting; saying “Sorry Frank. I’m not

going to be able to help you plant those new bushes… at least not for a while if

the nurse has her way.”

    He nodded as if this had been what he’d expected. Whereas Frank took

this as a matter of course, it was harder to tell with Jack… she hadn’t known

him more than two hours so that restricted greatly her perception of his

response. His face wore much the same expression of the past two hours, yet

his eyes were filled with enthusiasm and a trace of worry. The latter was

betrayed in his voice when he spoke. “How long will you be off it?”

    Frank’s eyes laughed as he answered for her. “How long will she be off it,

or how long was she told to stay off it? That’s long been two completely

different things with Elizabeth.”

    The girl’s cheeks colored slightly but she didn’t deny it.

    “What are those bushes she was talking about?” Jack asked, possibly trying

to cover Elizabeth’s slight embarrassment, but she couldn’t be sure. “If you’d

like, I can help ye plant them… I’ve some experience with gardening before.”

Frank smiled, yes, the strange visitor did have a knack for it… he’d shown

that much while trimming the verge - after Frank taught him how to work the

clippers that is. Odd it seemed to the aging gardener, how someone as young

as Jack could be so ignorant of modern technology.

    But then again… how many young people go around dressed like

they’re from a different time, and not think twice about wearing a sword

on his belt. I’m surprised he wasn’t ticketed or arrested for carrying such

a weapon.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

    The sun was sinking into the horizon, painting the sky in brilliant shades of red and orange when Frank and Jack were setting in the last of the shrubs and covering the roots with dirt. Stopping, they wiped sweat from their brows and leaning slightly on their shovels, they stood admiring the sunset. Elizabeth, who had been standing with them; commented on the sky’s beauty, breaking the peaceful silence that had crept over them while they stood there.

    “Beautiful isn’t it?”

“It is.” Jack agreed. “If you like watching sunsets, ye must go sailing someday… no sunset I’ve ever seen can equal those when you can no longer see land on the horizon. Just open ocean, alight with the sun’s fiery blaze.”   “Sweet” Elizabeth said admiringly. “Jack’s from the Caribbean in case he didn’t tell you.” She informed Frank.

    “Yes, he did mention it briefly.” He paused. “Speaking of which Jack… do you have a place to stay?”

    After a moment, Jack replied. “No. I must admit that I had rather hoped one of you could point me out to a place that was reasonably priced where I could stay the night.”

“No need, Jack, no need.” Frank said smiling. “You’re more than welcome to stay at my place. It’s nothing fancy mind you, and I don’t have a spare bed, but you can have to couch no charge.” At Jack’s rather reluctant expression, he continued. “Consider it a trade for helping be with the planting and trimming. It’s the least I can do… if you hadn’t shown up, and without Elizabeth’s help, it would have taken me at least a day what we accomplished in a few hours. It’s good for me too because I get paid by the job, not the

hour.” He grinned at this statement, obviously very happy with the thought.

    “Okay.” Jack agreed. “I accept your offer under one condition. Don’t let me be a bother to you. I have money enough to stay at an inn for a night if it’d be easier.”

    Frank however, wouldn’t even hear of that; and Elizabeth was inclined to agree with him. Anyways... she told herself, unless Jack has gotten really street smart to New York City in the past two hours… I wouldn’t count on ever seeing him again if he went off by himself to find an “inn” – wonder where that one came from. Too dangerous out there is what I think, and while he doesn’t seem to be the type terrified of danger, something tells me that he wouldn’t know about little things like street gangs and stuff like that. He obviously doesn’t even know how to navigate around the city, much less not to wander off by yourself.

    Now that the question of Jack’s accommodations had been settled, Elizabeth and the two men parted ways; the girl to her dorm room and the others to Frank’s apartment a few blocks away. After briefly telling her roommate enough of what happened to keep her from bothering her too much, Elizabeth went to bed.

    As she slipped off into the realms of sleep, she wondered who exactly Jack was, a brief concern about his sanity dismissed almost as soon as it entered her thoughts; as odd as he may be, there was nothing insane about him… except perhaps his choice of clothing.

    With a quiet giggle, remembering what he had looked like in the crowd of people wearing shorts and tank tops, she surrendered fully to her heavy eyelids and slept.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

    The sun that rose the next morning, hidden as it was behind a mass of grey clouds, greeted a world that was wet and grey. During the night there had been rain, and even now, it was still drizzling. Elizabeth had arisen bright and early, planning on going over to Frank’s for the day… at least until the rain stopped he would most likely be home.

    There wasn’t much he could do on the school grounds while it was raining. Quickly, she dressed and grabbed a bite to eat from the kitchen before letting the office know she was leaving. It was around nine o’clock when she knocked at Frank’s door, to be let in by a more conventionally dressed Jack, this time wearing jeans and a t-shirt borrowed from Frank’s closet – the only thing the same about his dress, was his hair and the sword at his belt. Does he never take it off? Elizabeth wondered, her thoughts interrupted by the sound

of his voice. “These peepholes are marvelous things.” He said after greeting her. “I’ll have to drill one in the door at home, not that it’d do any good since Mother wouldn’t even bother to use it.”

    Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “She wouldn’t use it? Don’t you live in a city?” Jack nodded, chuckling as he answered. “No she wouldn’t and yes a city… Port Royal.”

    Obviously not understanding, Elizabeth asked. “But if it’s a city, why wouldn’t she use it? There’s certainly enough burglars who rob when people are home as well as when they’re out. Those are the ones that depend on their guns more than anything – other than fear – to get them what they want.”

    She was surprised at Jack’s burst of laughter. Still laughing, he explained. “I almost pity any thief who was foolish enough to try burglarizing our house even when Father’s not there. Mother ah, let’s just say they’d be better off not having even set eyes on the place. Ye don’t have to be a genius to know better than to threaten her too… the only ones I can think of off the top of my head that would be so stupid are buccaneers. Even if the navy threat didn’t keep them away, I do think they’d think twice before attacking our house. I guess you could say that” he paused. “They wouldn’t want to have to deal with either my parents or I, came it down to a fight.”

    “I see.” Elizabeth said, although it was clear she didn’t. “Buccaneers?” she asked skeptically. “But, they aren’t around any more. Don’t you mean robbers?”

    Jack’s brow creased slightly as he replied. “No… buccaneers are a group of pirates."

By now looking utterly confused, Elizabeth asked “But they haven’t been around for hundreds of years practically.” As if realization dawned on her she continued as if afraid of the answer. “Umm… Jack, you’ve told me where you’re from; but… geez this is going to sound weird… when exactly are you from? No offense or anything, but I just have a hard time believing that you could be from Jamaica and yet have no knowledge of anything modern whatsoever. The way you talk, the way you dress… nobody does that anymore. Except for movies or reenacting that is.” She added almost as an afterthought.

    “1734. I was born July 15, 1712.” Even though his voice stayed normal, Elizabeth could feel his disbelief at whatever strange events had transpired to land him here.

    Justifiably apprehensive, Elizabeth worded her next question with great care. “How did you end up here? I mean, not just here as in 1999.”

    For a minute she was afraid something she said might have offended him for he didn’t answer immediately. In fact, he looked into the hallway outside as if making sure no one was eavesdropping. Satisfied that they were at least remotely alone, he spoke, but even then it was only to suggest they go into the living room. Obviously something was worrying Jack, so she agreed, walking over to a chair. He took a seat opposite her and after another minute of awkward silence, he made Elizabeth swear secrecy to not tell anyone, ever, the story he was about to tell her. As her nature tended to make her lean

toward such personal privacy that she was often seen as secretive – an unfair judgment for her, since she was quite open with people she knew well, like Frank for instance; but on this occasion it worked to her advantage for no matter how tempting it may be, it would be much easier for her to keep quiet about the story than almost anyone else in the entire city.

    So Jack launched into his story as the rain continued to drizzle down and they could hear occasional claps of thunder in the distance. Within minutes, Elizabeth was lost to the tale of a place long ago and far away. Not only was it true, but the teller himself had experienced it all first hand.

    “I guess you could say two days ago, is when it started. Phillip had just released me for the day, and I was walking back to my parents’ house by a rather roundabout route, as I often do since I much prefer the sea over the crowded streets of Port Royal.”

    “Hang on a sec…” Elizabeth interrupted. “Sorry for interrupting, but who’s Phillip?”

    “A family friend and my master.”

    “Master?” Elizabeth asked guardedly.

    “Yes; but not as ye are probably thinking. He’s a swordsmith and I his apprentice.”

    She nodded, and Jack continued. “Anyway… I often go out of the city after work and walk the length of the beach… what little there is, on my way home. This day was particularly hot and I was covered in soot, so I went for a swim before the tide came in.”

    Here he paused, and an amused expression crossed his features. “Mother always hates it when I come to the table at all dirty, so I often will spare her the effort of pouring water into the basin when I get home and put the horse in the stables.” Even though he didn’t say it, Elizabeth could plainly see how much he preferred the sea over his mother’s basin of well water; and the thought caused her to giggle slightly. Either Jack didn’t notice, or chose to ignore it she didn’t know, but he continued without pause.

    “Anyways, amid some coral, for I was not far from a reef, there was something glinting that caught my eye… no, glinting isn’t the right word… glowing would be more like it.” Jack stopped and hesitated as if unsure whether or not to continue.

“Hey, Jack.” Elizabeth told him. “It’s not like I’m going to be telling anybody… I told you I wouldn’t, didn’t I? Come on… please don’t keep me in suspense like this…”

    He grinned, but still hesitated before picking up his narrative once again.

    “So, curiosity overcame me and I just had to find out what it was. The tide wasn’t going to get dangerous for a little time yet, so I quickly slipped in. About eight feet under the surface I found the shining object. It was a ring. Nothing incredibly fancy – I’ve seen flashier – but the craftsmanship was incredible. I took it home with me that night and showed it to no one but my mother and father. Even Phillip wasn’t told, and he knows me as well as anyone.

    When I got home, my mother had a thing or two to say about being drenched with seawater yet again, but after the initial scolding, said no more.”

Seeing Elizabeth’s incredulous face, no doubt wondering what mother would scold her twenty-two year old son for being wet, Jack told her that while his mother might come over as being very proper… she was far from it, having had several run-ins and fights with pirates in her younger days… in fact, shortly after she was married, she sailed for a time with Captain Blackwelder on his privateer ship, and was involved in several pirate skirmishes. In fact, some of the crew viewed her as one of them, just as capable with a sword as the best of them… Except perhaps Phillip… he’s always been the best.”

    The thought of a woman whom Elizabeth thought of as a plump middle-aged lady fighting pirates was more than enough to prompt a laugh from the girl. For a moment Jack looked confused, and then it dawned on him what she was laughing at. She probably thought she was one of the typical middle-aged women as the history books nowadays seemed to portray them… not at all like his fiery mother. I wonder what the people would think if they only knew about women like Mother… they’re opinion would probably be

quite different. When she was younger, she wouldn’t have thought twice about taking up a sword and thoroughly beating the crew… of course, she never sparred with Father in view of any crew members except perhaps, Phillip… I think they would be too evenly matched; and it would hardly be proper for the crew to see their captain so hard pressed against her… at least that was always Mother’s explanation.

    Jack was jerked back to reality by Elizabeth’s voice intruding into his thoughts, asking if he was done.

“Oh, sorry; my mind was wandering.”

She shrugged and he continued. “The next day, I was again on the beach taking a couple minutes to watch the sunset, when I took out the ring which I had in my pocket. My mind was wandering and the sun was glinting off the ring, causing the stones to shine as if lit by an inner fire. I wanted to see if it would fit, so I tried it on. Within an incredibly short period of time, my eyelids drooped and I was unable to hold off the exhaustion.

    Wondering what the future would be like, and still wearing the ring, I fell into a drugged sleep.

    When I awoke, I was in a dark alley and it was morning. I had no clue where I was or what had happened, but something told me that I should take off the ring… wherever I was it wouldn’t be smart to be flaunting something of that value. When I left the alley is when I ended up amid honking cars and people everywhere wearing the oddest clothes.

    Shortly thereafter is when I met you.” He paused. “And there ye have it. The story of how I got here as best as I recall.”

    Elizabeth let out a low whistle. “Whoa… that’s amazing. Does anybody know you’ve left?”

“By now, definitely; actually, I haven’t an idea when I’m going to end up when I go back…” he paused. “Hopefully it won’t be too much later, otherwise I’ll have an infinite amount of explaining to do and let me tell you what… that won’t be pleasant.”

    Changing the subject slightly, Elizabeth asked, “Can I see it?”

“Sure.” Jack said, reaching into his pocket. “Just don’t put it on… I have no idea where you’d end up.” He held his hand out and she took the ring, being very careful not to slip it on, having taken Jack’s warning to heart.

    “No it wouldn’t be good if I ended up somewhere like Europe in the dark ages, would it?” she chuckled slightly as she looked at the small object in her hand. The ring was a wide gold band, set with a multifaceted rectangular ruby, and bordered by two smaller diamonds of the same shape. The gold was slightly tarnished, but lamplight from the nearby end-table caused the diamonds to sparkle and the ruby to shine as if lit by an inner fire. “It’s beautiful.” Elizabeth breathed in awe.

    “I thought so too… that’s why I found it so irresistible and I had to pick it up when I saw it laying there amongst the coral.”

    After a moment more of admiring it, she handed it back to Jack with a smile. “I can’t even imagine just finding something like that just like, laying around.” Shaking her head in slight disbelief she continued. “That’s just like… insanely cool, for lack of a better word.”

“Isn’t it?” Jack agreed. “I still don’t quite believe it myself.”

    They sat in silence for a few minutes, Elizabeth pondering what she had just been told, while Jack’s thoughts were hidden behind an unreadable mask. By now the drizzle had stopped and the sun was just beginning to peek out from the stormy grey clouds, bathing the dreary, wet, concrete filled world with soft rays of sunlight. The clock hanging above the glass door read one o’clock in the afternoon.

     “No way!” Elizabeth exclaimed.

Jack’s mask fell away as he replied. “What’s the matter?”

“Look how late it is? I thought it’d be something like eleven or so… not one! Geez, time flies doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does… I know… it didn’t seem that late to me either. Granted, I must admit that I still haven’t quite gotten used to glancing at a clock hanging on the wall and getting the exact time… it’s very foreign to my whole life if’n ye take my meaning.” Feeling his stomach growl, he asked if she would care to join him for lunch, albeit a rather late one.

    “Sure why not.” Jack wasn’t the only one who was hungry, nor was his only stomach that was protesting. “I’m starving.”

    “Where would you suggest we go?” Jack, who normally caught on to things rather quickly still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of the frozen food that Frank had in his freezer, nor did he understand completely why someone would consider the fast food he had sampled earlier to actually be life-sustaining.

    “Well, what do you want to eat?”

Not fast food.” Jack’s reply was so adamant, Elizabeth couldn’t help laughing.

“Why not?” She asked, teasingly.

“Because not only does it smell horrendous, but there can’t be any real nutrition in the stuff at all… I’ve had my share of ship’s rations, but that stuff beats all in that so many people seem to prefer it over a real meal.”

    “Okay, well there is a little sandwich shop a few blocks away that is really good… or we could order pizza.”

“Pizza? What’s that?”

“You’ve never had pizza? I can’t believe that you actually stayed with Frank last night and didn’t have pizza.” Jack was obviously in over his head, so Elizabeth elaborated for him. “Frank’s brother works for a pizza delivery company, so he’ll usually get pizzas either for free or for a really sweet discount. So Frank eats a lot of of it because his brother gets it for him cheap.”

    “I see” he replied, even though it was plain that he didn’t.

“So, what do you want to get?”

“I think I’d like to try this ‘pizza’… it’s not like the fast food though, is it?”

“No” she chuckled. “Not at all.”

    An hour later, the pizza arrived. Quickly they cleared off the coffee table and getting paper plates, heaped slices of pizza on it. After polishing off his first piece, Jack commented. “This is delicious! I must admit that I never would have thought that something with so odd a name would taste so incredibly good. Pizza… Italian isn’t it?” 

“Yeah, it’s Italian… pizza’s actually one of my favorite foods.” She smiled, wiping sauce from her lips as she did so.

   The rest of the day passed much the same, Jack regaling her with stories of the sea, and Elizabeth in turn telling him about what life is like at the academy. When the sun began to creep down past the high-rise buildings and the rush hour traffic was raging as ever, Elizabeth went home.

    Despite her insistence that she could make it herself, Jack walked her back to the academy, saying that it wouldn’t do for her to fall again and do something more serious than spraining her ankle. Not to mention that it was safer for two people to be walking the streets of Manhattan at night than it would be for her alone, on crutches, to be doing the same.

    Jack was left standing at the gate as he watched Elizabeth limping to her dorm, making sure that she arrived okay. When she closed the door behind her, he turned away and headed back to Frank’s apartment; in contrast to how it had been earlier, his expression mirroring his thoughts.

    Confusion, mostly, both at Elizabeth’s vehement dislike for the place she lived, and at the very odd outlook on life that most of the people he had seen here so far seemed to be possessed of. Why was it that everything was all rush, rush, rush, and that no one seemed to notice the little things… like the girl yesterday who had fallen and sprained her ankle… only a few people had stopped. Also how nobody even seemed to notice the care that whatever carpenter had built the academy building had put into the slightest detail of 

the woodwork. No, everything here was concrete, much was painted with graffiti, and the things with fascinating craftsmanship where simply glanced over. Makes me wish I was back home… at least there, I know people who have a good appreciation for a well-made sword. I doubt there would be many in this place… except maybe Elizabeth… she seems 

to be the sort who would appreciate a good blade, or hull for that matter. Perhaps that’s why she doesn’t seem to fit in here.

    The last thought gave him an idea, which he decided to keep to himself until he had thought on it further. After all… it may happen, but then again it may not. Heck, I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to get back.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

  

   The rest of the week passed in pretty much the same fashion… Elizabeth showing Jack around the city and him telling her more about life in the 18th century. After a few days, she almost felt as if she knew his parents and Phillip Ralter, whom Jack never ceased to talk about… every time he had a new story about different swords Phillip had made, or what stories Jack’s father had told him about when he was Captain and Phillip was mate of the English privateer ship, the Lady’s Hawk.

    One week after her sprain, Elizabeth’s ankle was now completely back to normal. This morning she had decided to try running again… now that she could walk without the slightest trace of a limp the girl was more than ready to resume her usual routine. The air had slightly more humidity than was comfortable after all the rain that had been falling over the past couple of days. As a matter of fact, this was the first clear day they had since Jack first showed up… and clear it was. The sun shone brightly in the beautiful blue sky, there were still a few clouds, but they were white and fluffy – hardly the type that  

threatened more rain. The sky seems almost more suited to a farm in the country than it does in Manhattan. Elizabeth mused as she stretched her muscles, tight from a week of nonuse. Or the Caribbean. She wondered where Jack was… she hadn’t seen him for the past few days whereas before she saw him almost everyday. A rather unpleasant thought weaseled its way into her mind as she finished stretching and headed out down the driveway. Did he go back to the Caribbean? What if he was only staying until my ankle was better and I got back to my life as normal? I mean… that is if he was even telling the truth and he wasn’t just trying to impress people. She continued her almost unconscious tug of war. But he wouldn’t have done that, would he? Jack seems as if he’d be honest to a fault. He’s probably just been busy helping Frank with the landscaping job he’s working on downtown… but then again… maybe not. Finally, she came to a decision that was at least semi-satisfactory. After my run is done and I shower, I think I’ll head over to Frank’s and find out for myself what’s really going on… if anybody knows it’s got to be Frank.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

 

    Elizabeth stood outside Frank’s apartment and knocked, but no answer came. Where’d everyone go? He’s almost always here this time of day… if he’s not, Jack usually is. After several minutes, she gave up and left; puzzled by why her friends hadn’t even called her for the past couple days when before they had seen each other every day. In almost the same thought she asked herself; and since when have I considered Jack in the same 

category as Frank? I guess probably ever since I trusted him. At school, Elizabeth had been notorious for not trusting anyone… it was rare that especially in such a short period of time could someone gain the element of trust that she gave Jack. Compared to most others though, he had never lied to her… but now she wondered if that was all a great joke to him – clothes, sword and everything. Or maybe it didn’t happen at all… maybe it was all a really weird dream. Mentally she slapped herself. Elizabeth you idiot! Of  

course it wasn’t a stupid dream! Don’t you dare get to be like everyone else.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

 

 

    Later that evening, a knock came at Elizabeth’s dorm room door. Frowning at who would be knocking on her door at night, she opened it, her eyes momentarily registering surprise. Jack stood there, looking as he did when she had first seen him a week and a half ago. She recovered so quickly that it was doubtful Jack had even noticed her relapse.

“Come in?”

    “No thanks.” Jack said somewhat stiffly. “Would you please like to go for a little walk? I need to talk to you…” he looked around the dorm, glancing pointedly at Elizabeth’s roommate who had just entered before Jack came to the door. “Privately.”

“Sure, just let me get my shoes on… be right there.”

    As Elizabeth was lacing up her shoes, Jack stayed in the doorway, looking most uncomfortable. What’s the matter with him? Well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough. Probably the cops giving him some trouble about his sword or something like that. She had to hide a smile at that… it was so easy to imagine a cop trying to get Jack to give up his sword… it was something totally incomprehensible to him she thought. Probably the only way to get him to give up that thing would be for him to be beaten in a fight and 

have to surrender it. I for one, have never seen him without it… I wouldn’t be surprised if he sleeps with it on his belt. Quickly she tied the last lace. “Okay, I’m ready.” She said, joining Jack in the doorway; “I’m going for a walk with Jack… be back in a bit.” Elizabeth called back over her shoulder to where her roommate was studying. 

    They walked in silence until they were off the school grounds and even then, it was Elizabeth who broke the silence. “So, long time no see.”  

“Yes, it was a few days… sorry about that… I’ve had a lot on my mind.” Even when her roommate wasn’t around, Jack’s voice still retained the formal stiffness that had infiltrated it earlier.

“I see.” Obviously her friend had something he wanted to say, but was having difficulty spitting it out. Elizabeth waited expectantly for some time before finally prompting. “It’s getting late and I’ll have to get back soon… did you have something you wanted to tell me?”

   “Yes, I did, yes I do.” He corrected himself. “Sorry… I was just thinking some more.” 

“No big deal.” She waited more than a little apprehensive. 

“I, well, I came to tell you that I’m leaving… I have to go back.”

“You mean back to Port Royal?” Jack nodded. “And the 1700’s?” He nodded again. 

    “Elizabeth, I’m sorry… it’s really fascinating what ye and Frank have shown me here… but I have a life in Port Royal and my parents will be wondering where I’ve gotten off to this time… especially since the  Kestrel is still at the docks.” 

    “The Kestrel?

    “My sailboat… my father’s ship was the Lady’s Hawk and so the Kestrel is a little play on words and birds. A Kestrel is a small hawk.” He explained. “And I thought it would be an interesting touch to name my boat similar to my father’s ship… a smaller version of the same species if you will.” 

She nodded understanding. “So, when are you leaving?”

“Tonight” he replied. “As a matter of fact… I came to say goodbye. I’m going to leave right after I see you back to your dorm. I’ve already thanked Frank for his hospitality and bade him farewell.” 

“I see.” Elizabeth’s tone was so neutral and lacking emotion that Jack couldn’t be sure if she was upset, or even glad that he was leaving. When she said no more, he continued.

    “I was hoping that you might be interested in coming with me… for a week or so, long enough that you can see what Port Royal was like in the 18th century. My father could tell you more about pirates than you would even want to know… he was captain of a privateer ship… anyone who was England’s enemy at the time were all fair game.” 

“Oh man, that’d be so cool! I’d love to!” then, as if bringing herself back to reality with a harsh jerk, she continued. “But unfortunately, I’m sorry, but I can’t.” 

    “If it’s safety you’re concerned about, I can promise you that nothing will happen to you if it is in my, Phillip’s, or my parents’ power to stop.”

“I know Jack,” she smiled, “and don’t think for a minute that I don’t appreciate it… but I can’t leave for other reasons. Hmph. You have no idea how many times I’ve dreamed of running away, but now that I have an invitation to go somewhere that no one will be able to find me… I can’t go.”

    Jack was so thoroughly confused that she explained. “I’m under eighteen you see. Even though I graduated from high school this year, I still can’t leave the school – it’d be illegal.”

    Jack frowned. “But since you are no longer bound to this academy by agreement… much like an apprentice is bound to his master for the duration of his contract, whether he likes it or not… but you have completed their requirements… surely ye can leave.” 

    “It’s not like that…” she sighed in exasperation more at her situation than her friend’s ignorance of the way things were run now. “The court appointed a guardian for me, and I’m under their authority until I turn eighteen. Depending on how you look at it, it’s fortunate or unfortunate for me that they are paying to have me stay here until my eighteenth birthday… I never did like who was appointed anyways… so it’s just as well that I don’t have to live with them.” She paused, and when he made no comment, she elaborated for his benefit. “Technically, they’re my foster parents, but I’m being sent to this boarding school. After my parents died, I had no relatives that could take care of me,  

so the court appointed a guardian.”

    Jack spoke for the first time in several minutes. “Sorry about your parents…. Frank a little bit, but not much." 

    “Thanks.” 

    Changing the subject, he asked “so, when do ye turn eighteen?” 

    “August 24. Why?” 

    “How about if I send ye the ring and then if’n you wish to see what it’s like, ye can. I promise you can return whenever you want. Ye can even keep the ring with you if you do decide to come.” 

“I’d love that… but how would you ‘send’ something to someone hundreds of years in the future?” Elizabeth asked incredulously. 

“I can figure something out.” He replied with confidence he didn’t quite feel. “Would ye not consent to at least try it?”

“Sure… never hurts to try.” Her voice held the same tone as his… one trying to project confidence whilst feeling none of it.  

“Good.” Jack flashed a devil-may-care grin that totally ruined the image of his carefully executed formal bow.

    They had talked for longer than either had realized, for now the sky was almost completely dark, several stars could be seen, though most were obscured by the intensity of the street lights. “We’d better be heading back.” Elizabeth said, glancing over her shoulder out of habit, making sure nobody was following them. 

    The rest of the way, they walked in relative silence, only interrupting it to discuss different paths through the labyrinth of streets. Finally arriving at the end of Birkingham’s driveway, they stopped.

“This is where I leave… I must go before it gets any later.” Jack said quietly, almost as if he was talking to himself.

“Bye… and thanks for stopping to help me when I fell.” 

“Don’t mention it.” He paused. “Hopefully I’ll be seeing ye in a few months, give or take a few centuries.” The last prompted quiet laughter from them both. “Farewell, Elizabeth. And thank ye helping me navigate the city.” He lifted her hand and bowed over it, gently kissing her fingers, he turned and with a wave, was gone.

 

 

 

*                    *                    *

    How long Elizabeth stayed outside, she had no idea. She made her way leisurely to her dorm… telling herself that she didn’t want to have to deal with her roommate’s (and by now everybody else who was staying the summer) questions about who Jack was. But still, she couldn’t escape the question of why Jack had so fast risen into the same category as Frank… who she thought of more as an uncle than a friend. After all, he treated her like the daughter he never had. 

    With these thoughts accompanying her, she headed indoors. There was time enough to deal with such confusing and conflicting thoughts in the morning. Then she could go talk to Frank about some of them at least. Her last thought before slipping gently into the realm of dreams was to wonder if Jack was back home, and how odd it was to have a friend living 248 years before you were even born.