[Nell]: 226.Stories.The Queen Marie

Rating: 0.75  
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2006-09-13 01:35:06
The Queen Marie
The air smelled of dank silence and mystery in the early hours of the morning. Matthew shifted uncomfortably in the chilly mist that wrapped around his ankles. He didn't like mysteries.

Matthew Warden was a straightforward young man, twenty-two years of age, tall and well built, while still managing to have a wraith-like appearance about him. He had a shock of blond hair and brooding green eyes. He was engaged in his father's fishing business, which for some reason included a number of vague dealings with some very vague people. Matthew had kept to the fish rather than the fishy side of the trade, and would have been happy to keep it that way except for a small problem; his father had gone missing, and it was a mystery as to where he was.

Matthew hated mysteries.

He stamped his booted feet on the cobbled walk, which curled around the docks of New Port, and looked about at his surroundings. New Port might have been 'New' when it was founded, but now it was a collection of moulding warehouses leaning precariously against one-another, most of them empty. The docks themselves had either rotted away completely, or were so badly in need of repair that the first creature who stepped on them would find themselves floating down the Glalarden River, and spit out into Frances Bay. Across the river and a ways from New Port, the thriving city and docks of Fredericktown lounged on the edges of the bay, ignoring the spot of rot that was sitting on its border. In other words, New Port was the ideal place for a large portion of the criminal populace.

One of whom Matthew was waiting to meet, if the character showed up at all.

As the sun rose higher on the horizon, with the promise of clear skies and another warm April day, Matthew shivered in the shadow of what looked like a towering collection of mildew, but was actually the Burns and Bogs' Warehouse. He was getting very annoyed. It had taken him a lot of searching, a lot of bribes, a fistfight in a bar, and being mugged, to talk the man he was trying to meet, and now it didn't look as though the person was going to show up at all.

Matthew had half a mind to jump into his little fishing boat and turn it back across the river, when a smart tap on his shoulder made him start.

"Are you a Mr. Warden?" asked a young boy of about thirteen. His dark brown hair was a filthy mop and his dirty clothes looked a bit too big for him, but he had bright eyes and mischievous twist about his lips that belied his helpless-street-urchin appearance. Matthew unconsciously patted himself to make sure his purse was still there, a habit he'd gained of late, and glared down at the boy suspiciously.

"Yes, I'm Mr. Warden. What? Have you got some news as to where Mr. Collocks is up to?" he demanded.

"I'm Mr. Collocks," said the boy, crossing his arms. "Brian Collocks."

Matthew blinked in surprise. He had assumed he was meeting a man, a powerful man too, not a street urchin. Everyone he had talked to had spoken about Mr. Collocks with the utmost respect, once they actually spoke about him. Yet the boy seemed very sure of himself, so sure that Matthew was partially inclined to take his word for it.

"You'll be a wondering about where a Senior Mr. Warden is, aren't you?" the boy went on. "Well, it's true that I be the last person he spoke to, but as to where he's run off to, I don't rightly know."

"Oh for goodness sakes!" Matthew burst out. "All this, and you don't know? Well, do you know someone who does? This is really-" The boy held up a hand for silence.

"As I said, I don't know where the old cod's got up to, begging your pardon, but I do have a proposition for you. Mr. Warden owes me something, and I want to make sure that I'm gonna be able to claim what he owes. I don't usually go chasing around, looking for lost fathers, but in this case I think we might be able to set up a deal."

Matthew was relieved and annoyed at the same time. "I guess I don't have much of a choice! What do you want?"

"I'm going to need money to make some inquires and to buy a few supplies. Then you'll be funding my passage on the steamer, the Queen Marie, and I'll also-"

"If you think I'm going to hand over any amount of cash to you so you can disappear without any kind of reassurance, you must think I've got fish guts for brains," said Matthew sharply.

"In that case," replied Brian Collocks. "You'll be funding both our passages on the Queen Marie. As I told you before, I don't know where you father is, but I've taken the liberty of asking around, and I might have a clue. But we'll need to get a move on; the Queen will be leaving in two days."

"Fine, I'll get some funds and you get the supplies," Matthew took out purse he'd brought with him for just this reason, but stopped just short of handing it over. "If you try to just take off with this, I'll-"

"You will never find me again," said Brian simply. "But I give you my word that this will not happen. I will meet you in two days time in front of the Crossings Pub, and we'll go on from there. As a matter of curiosity, why are you trying to find your father?"

Matthew thought the question over. It was true that it was more than just a matter of being related to the man; Matthew's father had never been anything but trouble, and the affection with which Matthew bestowed upon him had always been coupled with scorn. The young man had to admit that it was also the mystery and confusion that his father had left behind with his parting, desperate, words; "I got something to tell you, it's very important! It might be the end to all our troubles, or it might be the beginning. But not here, not now. I'll be back in a few days, then we'll talk about it. Now take this, and whatever you do, don't let anyone see you with it! Farewell, then." He'd left Matthew alone on the docks with a bizarre gadget, and that was two weeks ago.

"As a matter of privacy, I'll keep that information to myself," he replied to the young Mr. Collocks.

The boy shrugged. "I'll see you in a couple of days, then." And he disappeared between the buildings.

"Strange boy," muttered Matthew. "Stranger circumstances." He hopped into his little fishing boat, and set her off across the sun-crested waters of Glalarden River, and into danger.

2006-05-27 RiddleRose: ooh, a mystery. thank you! will this be continued?

2006-05-27 Nell: Perhaps at another time! I just finished reading an excellent story by Phillip Pullman called The Ruby in the Smoke, so I was feeling mysterious!

2006-05-28 RiddleRose: ahhh... good ol' philip pullman. you've read his dark materials i trust?

2006-05-28 Nell: Of course! I have the series sitting on my shelf.

2006-05-29 RiddleRose: yaaaayy! i found a person who hadn't read them! *gasp* i lent her my spare copies... XD

2006-09-12 Mister Saint: Right then. *dusts off his magnifying glass and gets to it!*

Apart from a few ommitted words (you'll funding) and extra commas (only two) this story holds a high grammatical standard. But thash not terribly important, what's important is that I was roped after the first paragraph. You've established in an obscenely short time a viable character, supplying him hints of personality and a wealth of potential backstory, as well as set the premise for the current plotline. This is a remarkably mature piece (in style, not content), and I would like to see some more when it comes along.

One thing I'd like to point out, that someone pointed out to me way back, is the use of "The Paragraph". In a short story, a popular mechanic is to use the first paragraph to try and hook the audience or set up a scenario involving the main character, and then use the second paragraph to tell exactly who he is and what he looks like. We've all seen it, and all done it (even though it's not bad here, just present). I've found that slipping those details into the story later works well at getting around The Paragraph, which has a way of dampening the action of the opener.

For example, instead of saying "Bob had eerie blue eyes, a tattoo of a bum on his bum, and long green hair," you might slip those details in elsewhere. "Bob's eerie blue eyes bored a hole in the soup can." "The pimpslap sent Bob's head whipping back, tossing long green locks wildly around his head." That sort of thing. ^^

But anyway. Great story, very inviting!

2006-09-13 Nell: Thank so much! It's really great having another head for these kinds of things! Ah, the evil Commas I tend to get carried away with. Glad that I caught most of them this time!

Oooh. I haven't heard of "The Paragraph" before, but now that I look at it, that is technique I use all too often. Hm, I shall try to use the other method more frequently. Thanks for pointing it out!

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