The Dividing Tide – Episode 37

Jenna’s mind raced as she hurried through the dark copse. Had one of the servants heard her climbing down the ivy? It would explain the light she’d seen.

They’d report it to Morwenna; she’d tell Jago and then the consequences didn’t bear thinking about. Whatever had made her think up such a childish scheme as running off in the night? Should she go back?

She didn’t, for one reason. She had to see how her grandmother was, and that was that.

The anxiety she felt did not diminish, though, and the deepening darkness played on her imagination. Each rustle became a phantom, every deeply shadowed trunk a highwayman waiting to accost her.

Once, it even felt as if someone were behind her and she stopped in her tracks, listening. But the only sound was the far-off hoot of an owl.

“There’s nothing here in the night that isn’t here in the day,” she said aloud to calm herself. “You’ve too fanciful a mind. Isn’t Mamm-wynn is always telling you so?”

Berating herself in this way gave her courage as she carried on, but the feeling she was not alone refused to go away, and she cast many uneasy looks over her shoulder.

It was when she reached an open glade where the path intersected with another, that she grew really afraid. Was someone calling her name, or had she imagined it?

No. There it was again.

“Jenna! Jenna!”

She began running, stumbling over tree roots, but the thud of boots grew faster and louder.

“Devil take it, Jenna. Stop!”

At first her terrified mind refused to respond, then recognition filtered through.

“Uncle Arthek?”

A tall shadowy figure appeared out of the darkness and stood before her, panting.

“What in the devil’s name are you doing out here, and at this time of night?”

“Please don’t try to stop me,” she begged. “I’m not doing any harm. There’s something I must do, that’s all.” She turned away, but a strong grip upon her elbow stayed her.

“Whatever it is you’re up to, you can’t do it on your own at this time of night.” His voice was firm. “It’s not safe.”

All fear had left her. There was one thought in her brain, and that was that she must get to Merrick Cove.

Perhaps, if she explained, he would understand and let her go on.

“I’m going home.” Only for a few hours. I’ll be back before anyone knows.” She could hear the wheedle in her voice. “My grandmother is old, and I must see how she fares. I’m all she has.”

His grip slackened, but his voice remained stern.

“There are those who think ill of me, and perhaps for good reason. But I am not without heart. I understand you are homesick and want to look after your own.

“Still,” he continued, “I cannot allow you to be about on your own at this hour. There are unsavoury characters hereabouts, Jenna, some engaged in matters it would serve you well not to know about.”

“Pooh, if you’re talking about the night-trade, you’re forgetting I’ve lived all my life on the coast. Smuggling is second nature to folk where I come from.”

“Brave words, Jenna, but I cannot in all conscience allow you to be exposed to danger whilst you are under our care. I must insist upon escorting you back to the house.”

Jenna pulled her cloak around her in a defiant gesture.

“I won’t go.”

His voice grew deeper.

“Let me speak more frankly. It is not only your actions that will not stand scrutiny tonight. When they find you missing, a search will be set up.

“The countryside will be swarming with people. All possible witnesses to the men in my employ,” he added cryptically. “Do you understand?”

Jenna nodded. She’d heard rumours about Arthek Nankerris. The word was that he was involved in intrigue of the highest order, and that he helped organise the safe passage of documents between the courts of France and England.

She hadn’t believed it until now, and felt a tingle of fear for him. If it was true, the game he played was dangerous indeed.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.