Wednesday 1 May 2013

Violetta the Pirate Queen

By Sarah Begg

The audience went wild with applause as the cast completed their encore piece and each of the main actors stepped forward to take their bow.
Violetta was last, of course, sweeping forward in her pirate queen costume. The audience jumped to their feet in a standing ovation, some even forgetting themselves and letting out loud cheers and screams as she bent forward in an elaborate bow. Relishing the attention and catching one particularly lovely flower as it was thrown towards her, she blew kisses to the audience and smiled coquettishly at the rich potential benefactors sitting in the front row until the curtain fell and concealed her fans.
Ignoring the fawning cast members that tried to approach her, she left the stage haughtily and returned to her private dressing room, closing the door firmly once inside.
“What a charming performance,” a deep and foreboding voice came from behind her.
Violetta started and spun around, about to demand that the intruder leave her chamber immediately. But the words caught in her throat as soon as she saw the man standing behind her.
At first, he might have been mistaken for a cast member – his waist-coat and breeches were impeccably clean, he had a crimson sash tied about the waist and a matching crimson feather in his hat. But Violetta spotted the rich gold chains about his neck and jewel encrusted rings on every finger. He also wore an eye patch over one eye and the scar that Violetta could see running out from beneath this and across his cheek made her blood run cold.
She had learnt all she could about the dreaded Captain Mordensa when she was preparing for her role on stage – he was, after all, the most fearsome pirate the country had known in hundreds of years. So ruthless and deceptive that his crimes were well known even when the Captain himself was never to be found. His reputation for appearing and disappearing without a sound was told to small children to frighten them.
Violetta swallowed, drew herself up straight, and tried to make her voice steady when she spoke.
“What do you want?”
Captain Mordensa chuckled and took a step towards her.
“My dear, do not fear for your safety. I have not come here to harm you, I have come to employ you for the night.”
“Sir, I am an actress!” Violetta spluttered her outrage. “I am not available for hire in the evenings!”
Again he chuckled, and stepped towards her again. She tried to back up as far as possible, but already she was pressed against the dressing table.
“No, my dear, that is not what I meant. I require your skills as an actress. There is a scene already taking place not far from here, and one of the main characters has yet to arrive. That is where you come in.”
“Oh,” Violetta was frantically casting about for an escape from the room. Why had she been so insistent on not allowing visitors into her dressing room after a show? “Well, I am under contract to this theatre. I am not allowed to perform anywhere else.”
The pirate grinned, displaying an array of golden teeth. “Do not worry, darling, this will be a private performance. And don't worry about trying to escape before you have played your part – if you do not perform as I expect, I will kill you. If you perform properly, however, you may return home later this evening and forget that you ever had dealings with Captain Mordensa.”

An hour later Violetta sat nervously in the back of an ornate carriage, as it bumped along the cobbled roads of the city. The carriage had been locked from the outside so that she couldn't escape – not that she would dare try after Captain Mordensa's repeated warnings about her imminent death if she did not cooperate. Closing her eyes, she focused on the character she would be playing for the night as a way to calm her mind.
Her name was Countess Valova, a young but wealthy widow of the city. Captain Mordensa assured her that the gentlemen they would be meeting that night had never been to the city before and so would not recognise her, but even so she had been given a wig of tightly wound golden curls and a trembling maid had painted her face expertly so that her features seemed altered from their norm. In fact, she was completely unrecognisable from Violetta, star of the Royal Bibalski Theatre.
She had been briefed very carefully on the role she would play that night, the lines she must say, and despite the fear she had felt earlier, a small glimmer of excitement began to uncurl itself in her belly. If she pulled this off, not only would she survive the night, she was sure it would also be one of her greatest acting achievements.
Suddenly the carriage pulled to a halt, the door was thrown open and the play began.
Countess Valova swept from the carriage, clutching her rich furs about her chest.
“Where is he?” she demanded in a loud and piercing voice. “Where is the scoundrel?”
“This way my lady,” a fawning servant bowed and ushered her into the dingy and rather dangerous looking bar they had stopped in front of.
She did not have to act in her disgust for the place, but she did make a careful point of glaring haughtily at every filthy patron in the room, as she had been instructed to do.
“If you please, my lady,” the servant was ushering her towards the back of the dubious establishment where a door led to a private parlour.
“Yes, let us make this quick, before my slippers become soiled in this detritus.” She pitched her voice so it would carry.
When she entered the parlour her character's facade did not drop, but she felt her heart skip a beat. Aside from Captain Mordensa sitting in a luxurious parlous chair and dressed even more luxuriously than he had been earlier, there was a group of three exotic men seated opposite him.
She surveyed the strangers with the slightest flicker of her eyes and felt a small trill of excitement – from the looks of them they were part of the notorious Black Sailors, a gang of merciless pirates from across the seas whom she had also researched extensively.
Lifting her chin in a commanding manner she addressed Captain Mordensa in her most cutting voice. “If you have brought me here on a wild goose chase, Captain, I will ensure that you never set foot in this city again.”
There was a pause as everyone in the room surveyed her and she glared back at each of them, hoping none could see the drumming pulse in her neck.
Captain Mordensa cleared his throat.
“Gentlemen, as mentioned previously, Countess Valova is willing to pay a hefty price for the return of her late husbands amulet.”
The leader of the Black Sailors, as Violetta was sure he was, stroked his beard as he surveyed her.
“Show us the gold,” he spoke in a clipped accent.
“Not before you have shown me the amulet,” Violetta countered, stepping forward menacingly.
The leader chuckled, then glanced with amusement at Captain Mordensa.
“As you wish, my lady,” he replied and reached slowly into a pocket of his coat.
A small parcel was produced, and from within an exquisitely carved, ornate medallion on a solid gold chain.
Violetta played the next part to perfection, falling on the amulet and weeping, pressing it to her cheek and muttering affectionately. She even put in a believable swoon, practically falling on the table before recovering herself.
“The gold, my lady,” the Black Sailors had become agitated during her performance, concerned with their reward.
“Oh, oh of course” Violetta pulled the coin purse that Captain Mordensa had given her earlier from her skirt and threw it carelessly on the table before making a pointed attempt to recover her composure while still clutching the amulet to her chest as if she could never part with it.
“Well then, gentlemen, I certainly have what I came for and I believe you have too.” She said, drawing her haughty composure back again. “Now, I pray that I never have to set foot in this establishment again. Good evening sirs.”
And with that she was gone, sweeping from the tavern as quickly as she could, climbing back into the carriage and flopping down on the plush seat as the carriage pulled away.
The journey back passed in a heartbeat and soon they were pulling up out the back of the humble Royal Bibalski Theatre.
When the carriage door opened Captain Mordensa was standing there waiting, hand outstretched to relieve her of the medallion.
She felt lightheaded as she climbed out of the carriage, not quite believing that the ordeal was over. She handed the medallion to him as she passed, and made for the door to the theatre.
“You did well, my dear,” the Captain caught her arm and whispered in her ear as she went to push through the door. “Who knows, perhaps I will have need of your services again.” He grinned at her, then pressed a small coin purse into her palm. “For your trouble.”
Stunned and frozen to the spot by the payment, by the time she spun around the Captain had already vanished into the night, the carriage just seen disappearing around the end of the street.
Violetta turned back to the familiar theatre door and paused before pushing it open, weighing the purse in her hand as she considered. So used to playing exciting characters on a stage had she become, that she had forgotten how exciting real situations could be. Perhaps it was time for her to start her life afresh as a real life pirate instead of a pretend one.
Smiling wickedly, Violetta pushed her way into the theatre, the heavy stage door closing smoothly behind her.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun story Sarah! Great way to kick off our little short stories club. Can't wait to read more!



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