There is a woman, telling her young son a story, and like many adults, she is using the story to say something else.
In this case, goodbye.
He is the bastard, unacknowledged, unrecognised son of a great man – the public scandal, were his name known! They would disrupt the very foundations of the government! This heritage is evident in his aquiline nose and strong jaw; his hair, eyes and skin belong irrevocably to his mother.
Their eyes are summer-sky blue; and their matching inky hair, which in the boy’s case is neatly clipped for school (he starts tomorrow), falls in wild tresses down the woman’s back to tangle at her waist.
She shakes it back over one milky shoulder as she leans down to kiss him goodnight for one last time. Soon it will be tied back, and tucked beneath the collar of her men’s greatcoat. There is a cutlass upon her hip, the scabbard carved – most curiously – in arcane designs.
“Where are you going, Mother?” asks the boy.
“To seek out the Ocean, my sweet James.”
He clutches at her arm.
“Please, please don’t leave me!”
She bends, kissing his brow again. “Everyone leaves, my little love. You will have to get used to it sometime. Now don’t cry, you must be brave without me, and strong enough to stand on your own two feet in all the worlds.”
“But why do you have to go?”
“Because it was a part of the bargain, my sweet love. You shall be raised and educated a fine gentleman, whilst I obtain the wherewithal to depart these meagre shores.” She takes his chin between her hands, staring intently into his eyes. “When you grow up, prove yourself and seek me out on the Ocean that stands between all things. You will find me taking back the land I ruled as Queen, when I was a girl. Come to me there, with men for conquering, and I will make of you a god. You shall stand beside my throne.” Her lips are the colour of crushed berries, and fire dances in her eyes as she smiles. There are flecks of blue paint in the edge of her hairline, and the imperious arch of her eyebrows.
One hand cradling his face, she whispers many secrets to him, on that last night; of the truths of dreams, and a strange sea where all the stars are smeared in one vast nebula, and how those burning lights whispered, in the great dark reaches of the night, before they were chained to silence. Lady Niamh tells her son how to command and manipulate men, and bequeaths to him the rules of her own, merciless philosophies throughout the darkest hours of their last night together.
The following morning, a beautiful, serious-faced boy named James Hook presents himself at the gates of learning beside a disapproving secretary (who has turned out to see the potential embarrassment of Lady Niamh’s person departed, and faith kept), his steamer trunk in tow.
“Now study hard,” says the bespectacled fellow, “and you may come to something yet, despite your unfortunate beginnings.”
James turns the blue flames of his eyes upon the virtuous man, until he shifts with discomfort, thinking of the father he so resembles.
“Yes. I shall.”