Merrisol was a Pirate Captain's moniker, but it was the only name he knew. Seeing it had invoked the only memory he would have of the past, of pursuit by Captain Flame, of a chaotic struggle and a man's murder by his hand. For him to face the consequences of that deed, he and Maggie needed to uncover the true story behind it. A slipped name corresponding with a penned signature within the pirate crew's Articles of Agreement: Lirre Lens-Cavendish was all the hint they had to go on, though as there was a sense of great foreboding in the possibility of learning his real name, it was not revealed to him right then. Maggie's mother, Amelia Lasair, a royal Captain of Minos with great influence, agreed to investigate the name for her.
The name 'Lir' is rare in Minos, let alone the 'Lirre' variation, possibly due to the bad blood with Rebma dating back to the Minos-Amber conflict. Nevertheless, there is always some bucking of the trends, and there are a few randomly scattered about the census as middle names or re-imagined as a girl name. Of Lirre Lens-Cavendish specifically, there is no such person in the books.
The Lens-Cavendish name is known, of course, belonging to a successful merchant family dealing in paper products and ink supply, the business appropriately named Pen and Parchment Inc. and based in Cameron. They have satellite offices in various ports across the Golden Circle, in Amber, and a few Silver Circle realms, with a goodly fleet to handle transport. However, none within the family registrar, by direct lineage, by marriage, bear the name Lirre (or Lir, or any other possible variation).
Left out of the official geneology, of course, are unrecognized bastard children sprung from the loins of errant Le-dishes (as such black sheep are called), although they are of course tracked in private ledgers. None of these commoners bear the name Lirre, Lir, etc. However, in cross-checking through the various unpublicized versions, the name Lirre suddenly pops up in two working drafts of yearbooks of the family tree dated from 21 and 20 years ago. Lirre Lens-Cavendish (nee' Windward), was included underneath Gregor Lens-Cavendish and wife Madeleine, alongside Simantha and Anystasia, his natural children, with the notation (adopted) scrawled officially under his name. In the years going forward from those transcripts, the name is gone without even an empty branch to suggest its previous existence.
Lirre Windward appears in the census starting at about 37 years ago, and remains subsequently up until about 10 years past, and hasn't appeared since. The surname Windward is rather popular in Cameron, as it turns out.. although many of those bearing it are of no apparent relation. It only takes a few moments' thought before the why of it becomes clear: Windward is the name held by a regional Parish, and given that it maintains an orphanage, the foundlings (children without proof of parentage) are given the Windward surname.
Amelia next went to Windward Church to see if they kept a file on the foundling Lirre Windward.
It would take weighted influence such as Captain Fidelity's to pry open the 'confidentiality' of the church, although a nice gold donation surely crushes opposition. According to Parish records, Lirre was an infant boy of much less than a year, delivered anonymously to their doorstep with only that name given. No pictures available, although a lock of baby hair, golden blond, had been kept on record. Standard literacy and arithmetic are taught there, as well as basic life skills, however the facility cannot avoid a certain work camp feel, falling well short of the romanticized ideal of adorable cherubs in a window awaiting adoption by a line of excited young couples.
Records indicate, aside from the usual developmental milestones and informal schoolhouse grading, that the boy was noticeably strong and clever, and had good prospects to be taken in by a tradesperson or aboard a ship once he reached a suitable age. Earlier than expected, however, Lirre was 'rented' from the Windward Parish Alumni at around the age of 5 as a 'nursery playmate', which among wealthy families with pretensions to aristocracy, could easily mean 'whipping boy', the kid who got the licks when the beloved children misbehaved. The arrangement continued until at 9 years of age he graduated from the nursery into a position in the family menagerie (mini-zoo).
Three years later, he was selected for apprenticeship by family artisan Gregor Lens-Cavendish, whose specialty is weaving, although he is also the family's chief parchmenter. Lirre formally joined the House staff at that point and there the church records end.
Finally, she went to the estate lands of the Lens-Cavendishes, following the trail in hopes of getting a story out of someone who had been acquainted with Lirre.
Salisbury Mills, as the country estate of the Lens-Cavendishes is called, covers a stretch of white sand coastline, meadow, farmland, and densely forested hills. It supports a quiet village (Salisbury), two paper mills and other related industry, and a game reservation and animal menagerie, much reduced. The Jacobean-style mansion is surrounded by somewhat overgrown gardens and hedge mazes, the work buildings tucked off beyond a woodland ravine. Gregor Lens-Cavendish does not live in the mansion, but in a more modest beachfront cottage of twelve rooms on the edge of the estate. He is the younger brother of the current family head, Richtor, and his line not likely to inherit, as Richtor has a son, and Gregor, two daughters.
Gregor is not available, gone on a 2nd honeymoon trip with his wife Madeleine somewhere, but one daughter of 40 years, Simantha, remains to occupy the beach home, all spinster-ish! But she seems to have a good disposition and a sweet countenance, and welcomes Amelia to sit a spell on the veranda while the housekeeper brings out some of her special ginger and honey iced tea. "Please forgive the lack of finer reception for a Lady of your great stature to Salisbury Mills," she smiles. "There was a time the family used to be of much more grandiose tradition, but since the takeover of the business we have all had t o reduce our standard of living to a degree.
"Of course I remember Lirre," she continues. "A sad tale with an awful ending. Father has never quite gotten over it, and I am not at all certain he would have agreed to speak of it to even you, Your Ladyship. There was a time when Lirre Windward was like a son to Father and Mother and a brother to my sister and I. I don't mind admitting to that fondness now, myself. After all we grew up together from an early age, even though he was primarily the playmate of Henri, my cousin, the baby of the family at the time, his own brother Louis grown too old for childish games. That was, oh, more than 30 years past, 33 to be more precise. My sister Anystasia and I were always visiting the manor, so we both became well-acquainted with Lirre, who was only 2 or 3 years younger than myself. Henri could be a little terror, unfortunately, so Lirre was always catching it from the governess. But he never cried. Henri had not been sympathetic to the previous boy's tears, but he was impressed by Lirre's willpower, and I think that's what inspired him to try and behave himself, eventually. We children were all pleased when nursery days came to an end and they kept him on in the menagerie, even though it meant mostly chores and less time to gad about with us.
"When Father decided to take an apprentice again and accepted Lirre on recommendation from the chief handler, we figured it would be more of the same, but it was not. Father began to include him amongst our number during social functions where the older children were permitted.. garden parties, carriage rides, beach outings.. oh. He saved Henri from drowning once, in an undertow that pulled my cousin almost out to sea. Lirre was as strong a swimmer as he was a student, and got to him before Louis, a fast swimmer himself. Henri wouldn't speak to him for weeks after.. and even Uncle Richtor acted rather strangely around Father at the time. I was too young to understand why there was such fuss over a simple act of bravery, and I confess I still do not entirely. It is possible both of Uncle's sons and heirs might have perished at sea that day had Father not made the choices he did with regards to his apprentice. But... he had made them. But then again, if he had not, we might have avoided tragedy later.
"We were all old enough to appear at the soirees and balls hosted at the estate, by the time Father began to talk seriously about formal adoption. Lirre was not yet 18, and if all the legal work was settled before that birthday, provincial law would entitle him all the inheritance rights afforded a natural child of Father and Mother. Needless to say it was a wildly unpopular decision with the rest of the family, for a number of reasons, not all of them... all that kindly put. Lirre made it worse by putting on airs; one time he told us he had something that put him above any claim to moneyed inheritance. When that got 'round to the cousins, it made quite an awkward stir, though really, his fanciful imagination was harmless and amusing. Louis was the estate's heir and us having Lirre as son and brother could make no difference.
"Until it did, during a grand celebration for the long-sought after addition of a flagship to the company fleet; the barque was christened Brightstar. She still commands the fleet to this day, although time and trial have surely taken the shine out of her. The party aboard her splendid new deck was a gorgeous affair, with many honoured guests and celebrated Sea Kings in attendance I'm told. I was just so dazzled. You might have been there yourself, Your Ladyship, and I could not have known. There was one young lady there, however, who drew many admirers, Louis and Lirre included. Although, of course both Henri and Lirre were just a bit too young still to join the formal dance and had to confine themselves to the young peoples' area with the littler ones.
"But Lirre's fault was impulsive temperament, I'm afraid, and yes.. the airs once quaintly charming had developed into vain pride as well. And he did presume to slip back into the adult affair, I saw him myself, and the next thing we knew, he was dancing with the same favoured young lady. I don't recall her name, but her hair was the most brilliant rippled shades of red. Then Louis was intervening to expose him for an interloper, I gather. She said something.. cutting, no doubt, to get rid of them both. I learned later she was a Captain herself.. she did have a brusque, tense manner as I recall. And no patience for squabbles. Whatever was said, Louis left in a cold fury and Lirre received a very stern talking-to and was sent back to shore early with the rest of the children, where the servants of this cottage, numbering a fair amount at the time, had organized a little bonfire roast for them.
"Everything after they left the Brightstar I learned from various servants, as it happened before I personally returned home. Ghislaine, a girl of 14 and second cousin to us, came into the light of the fire from out of the dark, moonless night, hysterical and soaked. She said Lirre had grabbed her, dragged her out of her depth, pushed her under when she tried to escape. Louis was there to support her accusation, he had been on hand to dive in, wrest his cousin free, and bring her attacker to heel with a rock to the head. The whole estate was in an uproar! By the time I returned home with Anystasia, our new brother Lirre was in irons and being hauled away in disgrace. He didn't know what was happening. We were so deeply shocked, Anys slapped him and I'm afraid I had no words to offer him at all. The parents arrived next and it was bedlam then; Mother and Father were overwhelmed and there was no choice but to accept the charges as writ.
"That was the last any of us saw of Lirre in Salisbury Mills, I'm sure. And, the last time anyone ever mentioned the adoption. The legal work was quietly reversed, I imagine, and as it had not been officially announced, none of the outside world was ever the wiser. As for Lirre, I saw him but once more when his day in court arrived, and we sat the gallery as the witness accounts from that night were read out. It had been a number of months since, and I think we were all a little afraid of him by then, the changes in him, the way he looked up at us from the prisoner's box. Even without that, there already existed a great need to distance ourselves from his association.. lest it call Louis' testimony into question, thereby offending Uncle Richtor and family.
"I learned later however, that Father had submitted an appeal post-sentencing and asked for leniency. That must have been why Lirre was released the following year and put to work as general crew in service to the fleet. But Father's act of mercy turned to dust as a surge of pirate predation on the fleet took the ship upon which Lirre served. It was not long afterward, we all had additional cause to suffer from the loss of control over our family livelihood. The third and final blow came when Louis passed.. drowned, if you can believe the tragic irony of it. Him being such a good swimmer.. but he just kept swimming out farther and farther.. as though demons and monsters awaited him on shore. One day, he just.. declined to return.
"Now Henri is last in the direct line, and he is as irresponsible a man as I have described the child. When the estate goes to him, I fear the slow decline of our fortunes will be cemented in ruination." Simantha puts her glass aside, smiling resignedly as she concludes, "So you see, Your Ladyship, I remember Lirre quite well. His story is entwined with that of the Lens-Cavendishes, and his sad ending was the beginning of ours, if only superficially. But I do sometimes wonder what might have been had Father never seen a son in him. Or if Lirre had not gone swimming out after Henri that day and had let him return with Louis as brave rescuer.. or perhaps not. Or neither of them at all." She laughs quietly at herself. "Now who is burdened with an abundance of fanciful imaginings..?"
Excusing herself briefly, the woman returns with a palm-sized ovular frame, which contains a finely detailed watercolour portrait of a young man, obviously Lirre. Brightness is made evident in the tossed blond hair and laughing green eyes, and although the subject is otherwise smiling or smirking, a stubborn keel is applied to the brow and lip lines. Not yet fully grown into adult skin and bones, and experiences, he is vulnerable and the artist knows it. But the future cannot be hinted in this rendering, and it would not have been the artist's place to try.
After Amelia shared her collected data, Maggie confirmed the young Captain in the tale had been herself. She had declined to put an appearance at the trial, to speak for or against the defendant. That she had then become the lead bounty-hunter on the trail of Captain Merrisol, twenty years later, only to befall disaster in pursuit, to lose her memory, then meet and fall in love with the fellow amnesiac who would turn out to be Merrisol himself? To say the least, it was a strange twist of fate.