Chapter 1 (Sophia)
Uncle Abe’s locked me in my room. Again. I lean my forehead against the cold, iron bars he fitted when he realised I could get out. It wasn’t hard, not after the first few times, and I hate being cooped up here, in my highest room of the tallest tower, guarded by a fierce dragon of a man who drinks too much, despite Prohibition. Any Prince who braves the scorching heat of Kentucky, USA, to rescue me will really have their work cut out. For a start, even if they could get through the bars, my hair is nowhere near long enough for them to use as a rope. I cut it myself a few weeks back—it was far too hot—and it’s scarcely past shoulder length, black and kind of wispy. You really should have seen Uncle’s face when he realised I’d cut it. The look was almost worth the beating I got afterwards. Still, Robert, who’s as close to a Prince as I’m ever going to get in this hell-hole, even if he is black, came and helped me up here. He’s really sweet Pa, I think you’d like him, because you weren’t like Uncle Abe is.
Unless you fly up here in your aeroplane and save me Pa, I’m doomed to marry the ugly, ancient farmer down the road who’s more than old enough to be my grandfather. Uncle’s determined to ‘acquire’ his land one way or another. Either that or he’ll marry me off to the Sheriff to cement their truce. He’s already married, but around here, anything goes as long as you’re rich enough. If you happen to be Black though, or foreign, or, heaven forbid, both, it’s a different story. Slavery may have been abolished years ago, but it’s cruel legacy still lives on, especially with people like Uncle around. He treats his servants like they’re still slaves, especially Robert, the gardener. He beats him if he does even the tiniest thing wrong, and it’s the same with me. Then, for good measure, he locks me up here. This time, it was for rolling up my sleeves ‘in public’. I felt like screaming at him, it’s so unjust. I was in the field at the back of the house, so it’s not even as though there was anyone much to see.
I hear the muffled roar of an aeroplane, and look up, hoping to see the source. It’s pretty rare around here, and for a moment, I think you’ve heard my plea and are coming in to save me. And then I sigh, because I know it will never happen. The ‘plane comes in lower and Uncle goes racing across the fields on his big black mare and clutching that foppish cowboy hat he thinks makes him look cool. At first I think he’s trying to stop the pilot landing—Uncle hates aeroplanes almost as much as you loved them—but then I realise no, he’s showing him where best to land.
The aircraft comes down slowly, taxiing in close to the house and I can see it’s a biplane painted deep green save for the front edge of the wings, the middle part of the propeller and the struts, which are red. There’s a man made up of thin grey lines painted on the front of the fuselage, and the centre of the top wing, and written over it in red, curling scrip are the words ‘Shadow’s Slayer’. The pilot jumps out, tossing his helmet back into the cockpit and draping his thick leather jacket over the side, but he keeps his goggles on for some reason.
He glances up at my window and smiles slightly, and I wonder why he’s keeping his goggles and what his eyes are like. He’s got fair hair, like you did, but fairer even than yours, almost white. He looks strong, despite being pretty small and thin, and I remember you telling me some ‘planes are real pigs when it comes to handling, try to leap right out your hands, so you’ve gotta be strong. I miss you Pa.
Ok, just ignore the dodgy spacing thing, don't know why it's done that...