Characters (so far): America, Canada, Seychelles, Spain, Belarus, Hungary, Liechtenstein, hints of various others.
Warnings: Some violence, a bit of blood, and sailors cursing the way they do.
Summary: AU. When a dying sailor leaves them the fabled map to Captain Roma’s Treasure Island, orphaned brothers Alfred and Matthew will have to stick together to survive an adventure full of pirates, new friendships, danger and betrayal.
Chapter Three: In Which Our Heroes are Forced to Flee
The twins barely had time to comprehend the fact that Antonio Carriedo – their friend for all of two months, or had that all been a lie, like his name? – had passed away when the sound of a gunshot and a shattering window echoed from downstairs.
They glanced at each other for a split second before leapt into action. Matthew grabbed is bear, Alfred grabbed the map and together they ran out the door, keeping perfect time with one another’s steps.
Seychelles was stepping out of her room as they entered the hall, equally startled by the commotion from downstairs. “For god’s sake, boys, what’s happened now?”
“Run, Miss Seychelles!” Alfred cried, grabbing her by the arm. “We have to get out of here!”
“Yeah!” Matthew chimed in, seizing her other wrist. “We can’t stay here anymore!”
“What on earth are you boys going on about?” the governess sputtered, not quite letting herself be led away.
“It’s pirates, Miss Seychelles!”
“Yeah, they’re after this!” Alfred shoved the hastily-rewrapped map under her nose. “Antonio said they’ll kill us to get it!”
Seychelles shook her arms out of their grip. She now stood at the top of the stairs, her hands on her hips, dead-set against going any further. “That’s absolutely ridiculous! Really, what is that man thinking, getting you both so worked up at a time like this? And in his condition!”
“You don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Matthew muttered, but his words were so soft and so muffled by his bear that she didn’t hear him.
“And all over something like this!” Seychelles snatched the map from Alfred’s grip, ignoring his protests. “There is no way that anyone would be willing to come after this worthless thing! Especially not Antonio Carriedo’s imaginary pir–”
Her words were cut off by another shattering pane, this one the window beside the front door. A beer bottle arched through the broken glass, curving an elegant arch through the air and into the building. For a split second, time seemed to stand still. A piece of cloth dangled from the bottle’s neck. It was on fire.
“Get down, boys!” Seychelles screamed, and dragged the twins below the banister just as the bottle shattered against the dining room floor. The oil and gunpowder mixture inside ignited instantly, setting everything flammable – and it was all flammable – aflame.
Seconds later, the front door, which had been hastily pushed to after Natalia’s departure, was knocked off its hinges and fell to the floor.
“Oh, Espa~aña,” called a heavily-accented voice from the dark. A maniacal chatter unlike anything they’d ever heard followed soon after – kol kol kol kol kol…
On the landing, Seychelles clutched the boys, Matthew clutched his bear and Alfred clutched the map close to their respective chests. With a weak, unsteady voice, Seychelles whispered, “Boys. The back stairs. Hurry.”
Alfred nodded, though she couldn’t see him, and grabbed Matthew by the hand. They untangled themselves and fled as a group towards Seychelles’s bedroom, using the thick smoke from the burning dining room as their cover.
“Hey, you hear that?” called a new voice with a new accent, cackling with crazed laughter. “Footsteps upstairs!”
“You can’t hide from us, España,” said the voice from before. “You know you’re there.”
Matthew slammed the door shut behind them, blocking out any further taunts and the inevitable discovery of Antonio’s body. He barely had time to get clear before Alfred shoved the heavy chest of drawers onto its side, barricading the door. “C’mon!”
“Wait!” Seychelles insisted, running to the toppled furniture. “I have to get something!”
“But we don’t have time!”
Matthews screech was very nearly right. As Seychelles tugged open the chest’s top drawer, a black cracked through the door. It was an axe, but not the simple kind they used for chopping wood. This one was huge, craft and sharpened to perfection, meant for removing human heads from their necks in the head of battle.
“Can’t get away from us!” its wielder cackled, yanking it free for another blow.
“Miss Seychelles, come on!” Alfred begged. He was standing at the door to the rear stairs, the only entrance to the back door, their wine cellar and emergency exit.
As another stroke crashed over her head, Seychelles pulled away from the dresser with a five-colored cloth clutched to her breast. Wrapped inside was a fish made of beaten silver, the symbol of her family and homeland and the only thing she had left from either of them.
She joined the boys and they fled down the back stairs, bolting the doors behind them to buy a few more precious seconds. Pumped on adrenaline as they were, it took only ten minutes to hook old Annabelle, their only horse, to a market cart. Alfred took the reins while Matthew and Seychelles leapt into the back. They burst through the stable doors just before the pirates caught up with them, charging into the night. Someone tried to take a few pot-shots at them as they disappeared, but none of the bullets ever came close to hitting.
They were all the way down the hill and half-way to the village before anyone dared to glance back. It was Matthew who risked it first, and the sight nearly made him swallow his own tongue.
The Admiral Benbow – their home for the last six years, and Seychelles’s pride and joy – was going up in flames.
The inferno chased them through the night, even as they curved away from the village and headed deeper inland. It remained, a fiery cinder in the distance, as a haunting reminder of the peaceful past to which they could never return.
They road the rest of the night in silence, broken only by quietly whispered directions from Seychelles. They switched off drivers every two hours to stay alert. Those who weren’t driving slept in the cart, curled around each other and their respective treasures as though the scattered hay could hide them from their nightmare.
Finally, as the sun was arching over the horizon, they arrived at their destination: London.
Seychelles took the reins then, guiding them through streets the boys had only known once and long ago. She steered them away from the marketplace and the seedier parts of town until they finally came to a pleasant, tree-lined boulevard with cobblestone streets and lovely, distinctly similar houses lining every block.
“This is it,” she finally announced, pulling the cart up in front of a fancy brick house that looked similar to, but not exactly like, all the other fancy brick houses on the street.
The twins scrambled out of the cart, still clutching the map and the bear and each other’s hands and trying to ignore the odd looks that the passerby were giving them. They were all covered in soot, singed, disheveled and tired after being tossed around all night like vegetables in a salad. Seychelles chose not to acknowledge any of this, striding straight up to the door with barely a flick of her hair. She rang the bell. The twins tried to huddle behind her, and instead, she pulled them around to the front.
A moment later, a shy-looking young servant girl with short blonde hair cracked open the door. She peered at them wearily and croaked, “Yes?”
“Is this the home of Miss Elizaveta Hardestvey?” Seychelles asked politely.
Before the girl could answer, a much louder, more eager voice chimed from further inside. “Why of course it is! Open the door a bit more, Liechtenstein, and let me see who it is!”
Liechtenstein obeyed, stepping back and letting the door swing open to reveal the lady of the house. She was well-dressed and well-built, with a broad smile and long brown hair decorated with flowers. She was holding a coffee cup, enjoying her morning meal, but dropped it when she caught sight of the disheveled innkeeper on her doorstep. “Seychelles! My god, is that really you?”
“Elizavetta,” Seychelles said with familiarity, placing a hand on each of the twin’s shoulders. “I’m afraid we’ve found ourselves in a bit of a bind. May we come in?”
“Yes, yes, of course!” Elizaveta gasped, rushing forward as though she would scoop all three of them into a hug if only her arms had been long enough. “You poor things! Come inside, quickly, we’ll get you cleaned up and you can tell us all about it.”
Seychelles smiled, and the twins grinned back at her. If nothing else had gone right today, at least they still had friends.