Assassin's creed : Black flag, стр. 3

There was something else too, apart from the foolish notion that Edward in his cups was a better salesman than Edward sober, and that was my state of mind.

Because the truth was, I thought I was different. No, I knew I was different. There were times I’d sit by myself at night and know I was seeing the world in a way that was all my own. I know what it is now but I couldn’t put it into words back then other than to say I felt different.

Either because of that or despite it, I’d decided I didn’t want to be a sheep-farmer all my life. I knew it the first day, when I set foot on the farm as an employee, and not as a child, and I saw myself, then looked at my father, and understood that I was no longer here to play and would soon go home to dream about a future setting sail on the high seas. No, this was my future, and I would spend the rest of my life as sheep-farmer, working for my father, marrying a local girl, siring boys and teaching them to become sheep-farmers, just like their father, just like their grandfather. I saw the rest of my life laid out for me, like neat work-clothes on a bed, and rather than feel a warm surge of contentment and happiness about that fact, it terrified me.

So the truth was, and there’s no way of putting it more gently, and I’m sorry, Father, God rest your soul, but I hated my job. And after a few ales, well, I hated it less, is all I can say. Was I blotting out my dashed dreams with the booze? Probably. I never really thought about it at the time. All I knew was that sitting on my shoulder, perched there like a mangy cat, was a festering resentment at the way my life was turning out—or, worse, actually had turned out.

Perhaps I was a little indiscreet concerning some of my true feelings. I might on occasion have given my fellow drinkers the impression that I felt life had better things in store for me. What can I say? I was young and arrogant and a sot. A lethal combination at the best of times, and these were definitely not the best of times.

“You think you’re above the likes of us, do you?”

I heard that a lot. Or variations of it, at least.

Perhaps it would have been more diplomatic of me to answer in the negative, but I didn’t, and so I found myself in more than my fair share of fights. Perhaps it was to prove that I was better than them in all things, fighting included. Perhaps because in my own way I was upholding the family name. A drinker I might have been. A seducer. Arrogant. Unreliable. But not a coward. Oh no. Never one to shrink from a fight.

It was during the summertime when my recklessness reached its heights; when I would be most drunk and most boisterous, and mainly a bit of a pain in the arse. But on the other hand, all the more likely to help a young lady in distress.

THREE

She was in the Auld Shillelagh, a tavern halfway between Hatherton and Bristol, which was a regular haunt of mine and sometimes, in the summer when Mother and Father toiled over the shearing at home, when I’d make more frequent trips into town, it was regular to the tune of several times a day.

I admit I hadn’t taken much notice of her at first, which was unusual for me because I liked to pride myself on knowing the exact location of any pretty woman nearabouts, and besides, the Shillelagh wasn’t the sort of place you expected to find a pretty woman. A woman, yes. A certain type of woman. But this girl I could see wasn’t like that: she was young, about my age, and she wore a white linen coif and a smock. Looked to me like a domestic.

But it wasn’t her clothes that drew my attention. It was the loudness of her voice, which you’d have to say was in complete contrast to the way she looked. She was sitting with three men, all of them older than her, who I recognized at once: Tom Cobleigh, his son Seth, and Julian somebody, whose surname escaped me, but who worked with them: three men with whom I had traded words if not blows before—the kind who looked down their noses at me because they thought I looked down my nose at them, who liked me no more than I liked them, which was not a lot. They were sat forward on their stools and watching this young girl with leering, wolfish eyes that betrayed a darker purpose even though they were all smiles, thumping on the table, encouraging her as she drank dry a flagon of ale.

No, she did not look like one of the women who usually frequented the tavern, but it seemed she was determined to act like one of them. The flagon was about as big as she was, and as she wiped her hand across her mouth and hammered it to the table, the men responded with cheers, shouting for another one and no doubt pleased to see her wobble slightly on her stool. Probably couldn’t believe their luck. Pretty little thing like that.

I watched as they let the girl drink yet more ale with the same tumult accompanying her success, then as she did the same as before, and wiped her hand across her mouth, but with an even more pronounced wobble this time, a look passed between them. A look that seemed to say, The Job Is Done.

Tom and Julian stood, and they began, in their words, to “escort” her to the door, because, “You’ve had too much to drink, my lovely, let’s get you home, shall we?”

“To bed,” smirked Seth, thinking he was saying it under his breath even though the whole tavern heard him. “Let’s be getting you to bed.”

I passed a look to the barman, who dropped his eyes and used his apron to blow his nose. A customer sat down the bar from me turned away. Bastards. Might as well have looked to the cat for help, I thought; then with a sigh I banged down my tankard, stepped off my stool and followed the Cobleighs into the road outside.

I blinked as I stepped from the darkness of the tavern into bright sunlight. My cart was there, roasting in the sun; beside it another one that I took to belong to the Cobleighs. On the other side of the road was a yard with a house set far back, but no sign of a farmer. We were alone on the highway: just me, the two Cobleighs, Julian and the girl, of course.

“Well, Tom Cobleigh,” I said, “the things you see on a fine afternoon. Things like you and your cronies getting drunk and getting a poor defenceless young woman even drunker.”

The girl sagged as Tom Cobleigh let go her arm and turned to address me, his finger already raised.

“Now just you stay out of this, Edward Kenway, you young good-for-nothing. You’re as drunk as I am and yer morals just as loose. I don’t need to be given a talking to by the likes of you.”

Seth and Julian had turned as well. The girl was glazed over, like her mind had gone to sleep even if her body was still awake.

“Well”—I smiled—“loose morals I might have, Tom Cobleigh, but I don’t need to pour ale down a girl’s throat before taking her to bed, and I certainly don’t need two others to help me at the task.”

Tom Cobleigh reddened. “Why, you cheeky little bastard, you. I’m going to put her on my cart is what I’m going to do, and take her home.”

“I have no doubt that you intend to put her on your cart and take her home. It’s what you plan to do between putting her on the cart and reaching home that concerns me.”

“That concerns you, does it? A broken nose and a couple of broken ribs will be concerning you unless you mind your own bloody business.”

Squinting, I glanced at the highway, where trees bordering the dirt track shone gold and green in the sun, and in the distance was a lone figure on a horse, shimmering and indistinct.

I took a step forward, and if there had been any warmth or humour in my manner, then it disappeared, almost of its own accord. There was a steeliness in my voice when I next spoke.

×