The Island of Sarney was a quiet place. Twin sister to Guernsey in the channel isles, the weather was mild and lovely, the land was rich, and the fishing was good.
The few gentry who owned the island could prosper there, in a quiet sort of way. Dorian Lysa, Esq. – Dori to his friends – might have preferred to prosper in a less quiet way, but considering all his family's other lands had been lost piece by piece until this was the last holding, he knew he was lucky enough to have what he did.
Still, he sat in the garden with a glass of fine wine – Sarney's proximity to France was a benefit – and allowed his mind to wander.
The manor house was solid and in good repair, at least – if a touch small – and the weather was good, and those few servants they had left were competent and loyal to a fault. Dori knew he'd have lost the Sarney holding too without them. A thrifty housekeeper and an honest butler were more than worth their keep, that was certain.
It was just as well Dori was a widower, with no wife to disappoint, and his son and heir – known to all as Ori – had inherited none of his parents' and grandparents' expensive tastes that had left their family here. No, Ori was a good lad, quiet and studious, with a mind for numbers that never failed to astonish Dori when he was home from university.
In his lowest moments, Dori comforted himself that Ori might very well be the salvation of their house. Dori himself had begun quietly investing in commerce in hopes of increasing their fortunes, no more than was right for a gentleman – but if Ori took it up, with his mind...
They might no longer be gentry, a family of shipping merchants perhaps; but their family would go on.
They had to. They were, after all, the last of their house – and Dori spent a quiet moment to mourn again for his dear departed sister and her only child.
Who could know what had become of dear sweet Nori, run away to sea so many years ago? Killed, no doubt, when the vessel was taken by pirates. Nori was Dori's ward now, he'd made sure of that, but he had not been able to get Nori's father and stepmother to sign the papers until after Nori was lost to them all. Signed on as a deck hand on that poor doomed merchant vessel – and how cheerful Nori's final letter to him had been, praising the time spent visiting Sarney and learning to sail with the old salts. Such a wild little thing Nori had been, and Dori's sister – a bit of a wild thing herself – had only laughed and encouraged her only child's every impulse.
How hard it had been for Nori, to lose both mother and all that freedom in one fell swoop.
How different might things have been, if Dori's brother-in-law had been made to see reason before Nori took such drastic measures? Dori had little enough income for himself and Ori, but he'd have gladly made it stretch to cover Nori too.
Ah, but bygones were bygones, and Dori sipped his wine and sighed up at the brilliant stars overhead.
As far as his family had fallen since his opulent youth, at least they still had Sarney. Dori was glad he'd chosen it as the last holdout, when so much was lost. The weather was always mild and it was a quiet island, lending to a quiet life that did not overly strain an already tight pocketbook. There were few parties expected, and none at all of the lavish affairs that would have ruined him.
It was a quiet and peaceful island – still near enough to mother England to send Ori to the best schools, near enough to France that a few quiet boats trading fine goods back and forth was only inevitable. Sarney's sister island of Guernsey was near enough that an afternoon sail could end in a pleasant society visit, but far enough to keep out of each other's business. The town of Port Gorey thrived with trade from all over the world – and if some of the ships who came in were privateers of the Crown, there was no shame in that. It was legal. Where would the nation be without the private men of war? It didn't bear thinking of – and their goods were excellent and varied, as well. They might be a bit rough around the edges, but they stayed in the town and the countryside was left to its peace.
...and if there were some small, fast ships who came in quick and quiet at night to shelter in hidden coves and caves, bearing no flags... Sarney was a quiet island, and there was no need to make a fuss over it.
After all, they were not preying on British ships, and it was hard to judge any who brought fine goods and trade to the island. They could all use whatever they could get.
Dori made sure his own cove was kept empty, though. No sense letting pirates so close to his home.
Wouldn't want them finding the secret stair his grandfather-many-times-removed had carved into the rocks when he was just beginning to build the family's fortunes, leading right up to the old manor's back gate to unload treasure and goods.
Oh yes, Dori could hardly judge. There were bloodstains on the old family bloodline.
Dori sipped the last of his glass of wine, and sighed again. Sarney, the first of his family's holdings, and the last as well. It was almost enough to make him wish for another pirate in the family to refresh their squandered fortunes.
But he certainly didn't have the temperament for it, and Ori sweet lad – Dori shuddered at the very thought. Of any of them, Nori might have had the stomach for it – but Nori was lost.
Dori hoped that Nori had been killed quickly in the attack. The alternative was too awful to contemplate.