Last year, I had to put together my undergrad thesis. For this year-long project, I had to do a heavy amount of research as well as a creative piece that furthered my discussion. I focused on historical fiction and characterization, using Irish historical figure, Grace O’Malley as a case study. The following is the first half of my creative piece. I thought you might want some fiction to break up the depression of summer ending! Enjoy!
I waited until I could see the last of his men crest over the hill and out of sight, the morning fog enveloping them hopefully not to release them for many hours.
“Muireann, now! They’re over the ridge,” I cried, almost giddy at the thought of my plan. If Richard Bourke thought I had been put in my place, he had another thing coming.
We had argued most of the night about whether or not I should sail to England. Tibbot had been held captive under Lord Bingham for a fortnight now and that arse upon the throne of England had another thing coming if she thought she was going to take hold of my clan and my son. Bingham, her watch dog in Galway, had been nothing but a pricker in my corset from the day he set foot on my island and I figured if I went over his head to the bitch herself, I might just be able to accomplish something.
Not that Richard agreed with me.
“I don’t think you can accomplish much short of your own beheading. That’s all I’m saying,” he had said the night before.
“And what am I accomplishing here? Our son’s death instead?” I continued pacing back and forth in front of the large fireplace. He sat across the chamber in the four poster bed, trying to sleep. My barefeet made small slaps as I walked back and forth on the hearth-warmed stones.
“He’s bait, Grania. It’s your neck Bingham wants, not his.”
“He’s your son and heir!” I groan, looking to the ceiling for divine assistance. I was on my own against Richard an iarainn – the man of iron.
“And as such, he is perfectly capable to taking care of himself.”
“He’s seventeen! He’s hardly been captain of his own galley for a year.”
“And by sailing into their hands, what do you expect to do?” He sat up at last, finally putting in an effort to reason with me.
“I plan to get my boy back.”
“You’re planning your own murder!” he cried.
“As if they would try to take me with all of our men there,” I laughed.
“As if you would not send your men away if they threatened Tibbot. I’m telling you, it’s a trap.”
I stopped mid-pace, stamping my foot on the stone floor. “And so we must outthink their trap. Blast, Richard, it’s not as hard as you think. We take every ship we have and we sail it up the bloody Thames!”
“Ha!” his bark of laughter caused me to raise my right eyebrow. “Granuaile, the day you make England yield to you is the day Iyield to you too.”
I crossed my arms in front of my chest. Standing directly in front of the fireplace, my shadow covered the headboard as well as the wall behind the bed. Even Richard was half covered in darkness. The flames made the shadows around the tapestries flicker and my own shadow seem to tremble with the frustration lit inside me.
“You’re still leading the hunt tomorrow?” I asked.
“Aye.” He nodded, settling back down into the bed. Suddenly he straightened. “You’re not leaving this house, Grania. I’ll not have you sailing to England without me.”
“So you’ll go with me,” I tried.
He stuck me with a hard look. Even covered in my shadow, I could tell the answer coming from his blue eyes.
“Fine.” I rolled my eyes and made my way to the bed.
I walked with the symbols of surrender – slunched shoulders and grimace.
Climbing under the silk sheets and woolen blankets, I realized I couldn’t sleep without attempting at the last word.
“You know we’re going to England.”
He turned in bed, his back to me. “Good night, Grania.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I began to play the plan through my mind.
I beat Muireann to the narrow stone steps that led down to the third story of the hold. My handmaid was slow on the uneven steps, but I was almost as used to the castle as I was my own ship. We both rushed around the great room beneath my chamber
“Have Evin bring up a boulder to put over the privy,” I commanded. “They may try to climb up during low tide.”
“Granuaile, really.” Muireann clucked her tongue.
“Really. This is going to work, I tell you.”
She looked at me uneasy before going down the stairs to fetch Evin, the steward. To no doubt tell him I had gone mad as well. She generated half the gossip around Clew Bay, but was loyal when it mattered. She would shake her head at me, but she would follow my orders more fervently than they most steadfast of my sailors. Nevertheless, I would bet the mainsail off my galley she was alerting everyone in the hold I was being overcome by lunacy.
I rolled my eyes at the thought, double checking all the shutters were securely latched before going down to the second story to do the same. It was unlikely anyone would be able to fit through the narrow windows of the castle, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I had seen some of the younger pages make crafty escapes when they needed to. This plan was going to succeed and as such, it couldn’t be sloppy.
When I reached the ground floor, the rest of the servants had caught on to the plan. From the doorway, I could see Evin urging along two foot soldiers with a rock large enough to cover the privy hole. The windows were shut and secured and many had begun to light the torches to provide the light they needed to work by.
With Evin, the boys, and the rock headed to the third floor, the front door was shut and the deadbolt locked in place. I then had everyone corralled up to the great hall.
The great hall seemed small all shut up and quiet with the sounds of Clew Bay muffled behind the windows. It wasn’t preferable, but it was necessary. And we had plenty of supplies in the store should Richard try to starve us out. ‘Course he only brought supplies for an overnight, should they need them. I’d last longer than he.
“You all know Richard and I have been at odds on whether we should go to England to negotiate Tibbot’s return,” I began. “I would like to inform you all that, should we all be successful, we shall be off to England in a fortnight.”
A few of the servants cheered, some of the men who had stayed behind snickered.
I began to pace before them as I explained my plan.
“And should any of you attempt to unlatch the door or open a window, so help me –” I fixed the room with a hard stare. “There will be naught but torment and embarrassment at my hand. You got that?” I asked.
A few more rounds of laughter went up as I gave a wink. One of the men raised his fist with a shout.
“Long live Grainne Ui Maille!”
The entire room cried in echo, “long live Grainne Ui Maille!”
The call bounced off the stone walls and the timber floor and I hoped to heaven it echoed all the way to England.
As dusk fell, I could hear him and his men approaching.
He had to notice something was afoot, with three floors of windows plugged and not an outer torch lit. Still he went all the way to the door, banging on it like a fool. I could hear it all from our chamber. I had left my windows all open, but I didn’t dare stick my head out until absolutely necessary.
The muffled curses of his men began to ring out from below. I could pick out Richard’s amongst the rest.
“Damn woman!” he shouted.
I tried to suppress my smile, but it wasn’t possible.
“Granuaile!” he bellowed. His cry was punctuated by a kick at the door which echoed through the castle.
I went up the stairway in the corner of the chamber which led to the upper ramparts.
Upon seeing me, the cries of the men became more insistent. I stood at the east wall, hips slanted and arms crossed as I stood directly above Richard. Below me, I could just make out his features, squinting against the twilight to see me.
“And what, pray tell, do you think this is accomplishing?” he shouted.
“Richard Bourke, I dismiss you!” I shouted down the words of divorce.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” His mumbles echoed against the stone walls and up to me. “All because I won’t take you to England?”
“Aye,” I shouted down.
“And you think divorcing me is going to make me take you to see the queen? I love you, Grania, but this,” he gestured to the castle “isn’t the sort of thing that is going to inspire me to prove it.”
“No, I don’t think divorcing you will get you to come to England with me. I’m going to England with or without you. I’ve dismissed you to gain your castle.”
It was too dark to really see his face, but I’m fairly certain his eyes expanded to the size of tea cups.
“You heard me fine,” I laughed.
“You cannot be serious.”
“Of course I’m serious. You left your hold unprotected and I have fortified it,” I bragged, thinking about the huge rock covering the privy. “You said the day England yielded to me was the same day you would yield. You have yielded your castle by leaving and I have dismissed you,” I spread my arms in demonstration. “You no longer hold any claim over Rockfleet castle.”
He groaned loudly. “Really, Grania, this is asinine.”
I leaned over the rampart. “So you yield?”
Some of the men snickered from below. I could feel Richard’s eyes boring into me from below, even though darkness had covered both of us by now.
“Oh, come on, m’lord,” one of his men shouted. “Take the woman to England.”
Silence settled over the crowed and my heart tensed and unclenched with each beat.
“Fine,” he growled at last. I couldn’t help but smile in victory. “But the castle is mine.”
Part II: London
Greenwich Palace stretched out before us, long and narrow like a cathedral. Its stone work was tan and seemed to shine in the rain that was beginning to die off. I stared up at the rounded towers, feeling intimidation I hadn’t known since I was a child. Standing on the deck of my old galley, surrounded by loyal men, I felt like a little girl, striving to earn the respect of her father’s sailors. Only this time, I was a grown woman, hoping to gain the respect of the most powerful woman in the world.
“Everything is well, Granuaile.” Richard came up behind me, giving me a conciliatory squeeze on my shoulder. “You are her equal, if not her better. Don’t let grandeur dissuade your purpose.” I looked up at him. He smiled reassuringly at my side. “You areIreland. I yielded to you. Now it’s England’s turn.”
“You don’t actually think that’s what’s going to happen.”
“I think you’re stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.”
“Richard, this is the queen. Why did I think—”
“Why do you think you’ve accomplished any of this?”
“Because I sailed here.”
“No, I mean any of this. I mean why do you know how to sail this ship? Why do these men respect you? Why where you not only your mother’s heir, but your father’s as well? Why is your name the one feared over my own?”
I looked to the deck, unable to meet his gaze. “Because I wanted it that way,” I mumbled.
“That’s right, because you’re stubborn.” He nodded.
I gave him a hard look, smirk pulling at the edges of my lips.
“You’re in the right here. Bingham is a cream-faced loon. You need only give her your plea and she’ll understand. You’ve already sent her letters. She’s been sympathetic thus far.”
After I had taken Rockfleet, Richard and I had come to an agreement. I could have the castle as long as I didn’t just sail off to London. I had drafted a letter to Elizabeth and the court sent a series of questions. She seemed at least peaked by my story. Bingham had told her all sorts of lies, no doubt. I ate English children for desert and the like. As long as the queen’s ear was toward me, Tibbot’s neck was safe. Still, standing before one of her many palaces, I couldn’t help but feel daunted.
I pulled my cape tighter around me, trying to pretend the rainy air was chilling me. Not that I was trembling with nerves.
“She’s the bloody queen of England,” I grumped. “I’m just a chieftain’s wife.”
“When have you ever been just a chieftain’s wife? Good Lord. If anyone is the chieftain’s wife it’s me. You’ve fought long and hard to be a captain and ruler. You were never justa chieftain’s wife. You’re not here on behalf of my clan. You’re here on behalf of your own.”
“I am not nearly the woman in there. She has armies at her command and money to burn.”
I looked up at him, his gray gaze heavy with sincerity. “Finery is not the mark of a ruler. It’s what they will do for their land.” He paused and then smiled. “Besides, she’s takin’ your money to pay for all of this.” He gestured at the palace before us.
“Long boats ready, M’lady!” Gannon, one of the deckhands called to us.
“Ready now?” Richard asked me.
I looked up at him and nodded, renewed by his speech. “Bess has got something coming if she thinks I’m given up my clan so easily.”