You Were: The Headmistress

July 17, 2010

On an island in the middle of a bottomless loch in the coldest, dreariest county in Scotland, there sits a school for wayward girls. It’s abandoned now, little more than a ruin. But in its day, it was the most dreaded institution in Northern Europe. You were its headmistress.

For many decades, you were a frequent visitor to the courtrooms of Edinburgh and Aberdeen. There you would sit in the very last row, awaiting the trials of Scotland’s most hardened young criminals. Poultry snatchers and counterfeiters. Swindlers and murderesses. You collected them all. As soon as a sentence of death was pronounced, you would rise and glide toward the bench.

This was hardly standard courtroom procedure, but no judge ever stopped you. The mere sight of you—raven hair pulled into a bun, a plain black dress with only buttons for ornament, and eyes as frigid and dark as Loch Ness—left most spectators speechless. Some said it was like watching the Grim Reaper come to claim a soul. You would whisper in the judge’s ear and leave seconds later with the little lass in tow. No matter how heinous her crime, everyone in the courtroom pitied the girl. Death, they would have told you, was not always the cruelest of punishments.

After each trial, you and your trembling young charge would settle into the school’s luxurious black carriage for the long journey north. As soon as the horses were off, you would personally remove the girl’s shackles. Most would immediately attempt an escape. You carefully observed the level of finesse or brute force each girl displayed. You let her catch a whiff of freedom before you taught her your very first lesson.

After the child had been slammed back into her seat with a seemingly effortless flick of your wrist, you would tell her, “Someday you will be as strong as I am. Until then, you best mind your manners.”

Few people in the north of Scotland could have guessed what went on inside the massive stone school that had never been given a name. They knew it had been built by a wealthy member of the McLeod clan, but no one had ever encountered a graduate. Residents of the fishing villages surrounding the loch claimed that screams of terror often arrived on their shores along with the waves.

The screams were real, but they weren’t screams of terror. Frustration, maybe. Physical strain more likely. Training girls to be spies is a grueling, often noisy endeavor.

Your pupils were first schooled in self-defense. Then came cryptography, propaganda, and the black art of poisoning. All were taught multiple languages. They learned the seven fastest ways to kill a man, where to hide on a train as it crosses an enemy border, and three best places to conceal a dagger.

Graduates were often loaned out to the French government, but most stayed in Britain as secret agents in Scotland’s ongoing (yes, ongoing) war against England. One of your girls was even responsible for the untimely death of Prince Albert in 1861. Many hoped that his demise would weaken the queen. Unfortunately, the tiny monarch proved to be as tough as any of your graduates.

Despite your best efforts, Scotland didn’t win its independence during your lifetime. But the girls you had saved from the noose considered your life an unparalleled success. You had been strict, sometimes harsh, but you were still a saint in their eyes. When you died at the age of seventy-nine, boats filled with hundreds of women were spotted rowing across to your island. All of the travelers hid their faces behind lacy black veils. They stayed a single night and vanished the next morning, taking all the school’s students with them. The lights of your academy have remained off since that day.

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8 Responses to “You Were: The Headmistress”

  1. Toodles*** Says:

    Wow! I think that’s one of the best ones yet! So does this mean you finished your draft early? I saw your post on the Kiki Strike blog, and I was thinking, ‘Hey, why did she post here on Saturday, but not on the other blog? But after a while of waiting I saw this post. By the way, since I still can’t post one Ananka’s Diary, Dumpster Diving? So cool. Sorry. I’m rambling. I’ll stop typing now.


  2. Hey Toodles,

    Nope, still working (on the sequel to The Eternal Ones). But I needed to take a break, so I wrote a couple of blog entries! Thanks–glad you liked this one!


  3. Oooo! A sequel to the eternal ones!!! Can’t wait untill that cones out! By the way this is one of my favorite who were you posts yet, I love the whole spy school thing!

  4. Anna Says:

    I pre ordered my book on Saturday… SO EXCITED! Borders said I might get it on August 10th… 😀
    Eeep!

  5. maxima Says:

    Love these stories!! I want one but I can’t find a picture of myself. 😦


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