Chapter Two

“Name?” “Alastair Groovybeard” “Former occupation?” “Merchant Rum Runner” “Crime?” “Spy for Spain” “Put em in with the rabble-rousers” This was the last point of conversation that Alastair had with representatives of the outside word. His cell shared by three other people that he would not otherwise meet in the outside world. His world was under constant watch, and any attempt to escape was met with the power of the English military stationed at the prison. His home was not laced with curtains, pillowed beds or many different foods or drink. He did not hear the sounds of music, or laughter, only the sounds of howling screams, frightened wails, and the cries of agony by the tortured souls languishing in prison. He was left to rot, decay in a forever quagmire state, where the only entertainment can be seen from prisoners getting into fights, watching people hung or shot day after day, save for the occasional moments where people eat other prisoners to stay alive. In the summer, people would be burning in the sun, or their cells would be killing them alive, in the winter, the prisoners would be found with severe death by extreme frost, or would sometimes lose fingers and whole legs because the cold consumed their bodies. This would be his home, the final demise of Alastair Groovybeard.

Upon leaving the courthouse, Alastair traveled in the iron box for over a week. His personal humanity was stripped, no bathroom breaks and barely minimal food to sustain himself. Alastair almost could not survive the journey, sometimes falling asleep for hours at a time, until one day he was introduced to a blinding sunlight, and two sets of hands grabbing him out of the transport. Barely able to walk, Alastair found himself on the northeast coast of Scotland, in the city of Aberdeen. He was welcomed to a sight that he only heard about, whispers of a place where malcontents, thieves, traitors and criminals were interred. Alastair’s new home: The Tolbooth. The Tolbooth had a long history of use by the English to remove people from society that were deemed…unfit by the courts, upsetting to the natural order of things. People would die in droves while interred here, and England did not shed a tear for their loss. These were people that England could not have spreading rumors, making the country out to be run by tyrants or vandals.

The criminals of the Tolbooth, for some, were lowest form of society, the ones who could not fulfill the societal qualms and customs of England. Others were the unfortunate ones, the polite victims of England making a more “perfect society”. But they were all the same in the eyes of the King and country: Monsters, for that was the only way the god-fearing, taxpaying subjects of George I that remained untouched could make sense of things, and know how not to “behave”. To believe that England has a system of government that works, and only those who chose to rebel would depart from civilization. Alastair knew his status, and he knew that his wits wont be the only thing tested. Upon arrival, after getting his paperwork processed, Alastair was greeted by a cacophony of cat calls, lifeless threatening stares, all of which were delivered by what could only be described as lifeless faces, shapes of the very monsters that were once regular human beings that knew the basic principles of humanity. Those interred had embraced the monster, content that since England has cast them as such, they must embrace it.

 

 

~

Entering his cell, there stood three figures: One was tall with a long red cloak, with a wooden peg leg held together by rope, another was a bald man of medium build with beads in his beard, and a bright blue coat with only one arm, and another was what could only be described as a frail tiny man, thin as a skeleton with his white shirt and purple silk pants barely fitting around his waist. All three figures just stared, without a word, as if wolves ready to strike an unsuspecting hare. The tall one stood up, walked slowly over to Alastair, and offered him his jacket and a piece of bread he saved for three weeks “You need this, you look you haven’t eaten in days mate” the tall man spoke in a very deep voice. “Thanks” Alastair replied in a dry almost breathless voice. The bread was hard as wooden planks, but he still needed the energy. The bald man came over, and offered his hand “Simon Cooke, at your service” he replied with a near toothless smile. Taken a bit aback, Alastair shook Simon’s hand, greeted him, until Simon twisted Alastair’s arm and put him on the ground. Leaning over, Simon calmly replied to Alastair “You know who I am? Killed me wife and child, and now Im in this…hole while the real murderer is out there. Ten years I spent, I saw that Red Giant over there came into this here pit. Best be careful, laddie, they’ll kill ya here. If not the guards with their muskets and swords, if not the prisoners with their own…appetites, then certainly me!” Simon released Alastair from his grip, and he stood smirking over Alastair as he got back to his feet. The thin man in the corner did not move a muscle, forever in a locked position that renders him seemingly immobile.

The next day, Alastair was brought to his feet by armed guards, who dragged him out of the cell and into the prison yard. But he wasn’t the only one, there were five other people lined up with Alastair, while the guards kept watch over them, keeping them in a straight line. Within five minutes, the entire population of the prison came flooding into the yard, held back by a score of armed guards. One man emerged from the crowd, wearing an all brown ragged cloak, long black boots, and a black tricorn hat. As he walked, all the prisoners looked away in fear, as if knowing what would come next if they stared at him. He carried at his side a double flintlock pistol adorned with the Crown insignia, and a great broadax that had thirteen lines scratched into the handle. This man would become of importance to Alastair’s future here at the Tolbooth: He was the Warden.
            Standing behind all five inmates, including Alastair, the Warden raised his broadax with one arm in the air, as to proclaim himself to the population. Speaking profoundly and for all to hear, he was quite confident in his words “You! Every last one of you, have been brought here for a reason! You are all under my control, and my guards have commandeered your souls for me to collect. These four are new members to your home, and I welcome you all!” “Four?” Alastair looked “There’s five men here”, and this is something that everyone knew. The Warden’s cheerful roaring demeanor changed quickly to a dark, and malicious look. Without a second to wait, the Warden took his broadax and cut one of the new prisoners clean in half, as Alastair and another prisoner took a heap of red all over his face and clothes. Picking his axe back up, the Warden then faced the remaining four prisoners, half his face covered in blood, with only a solemn warning spoken a soft as a whisper: “Whoever you were before, whoever you are now, whoever you will be, shall be decided here, by me and me men. If any of you get…out of line, if you do anything to upset the way things are here, you won’t be cut in half”. Looking at the prisoners with a cold dead stare, the Warden concluded with a solemn threat: I’ll use your skin to lace my cloak. Looking at the clothing, Alastair noticed many stitches holding it together, believing the Warden, and taking his words to heart. As the crowd of prisoners became dispersed by the guards, returned to their cells, Alastair’s complexion went from gray to an almost pale white, the only thing he needed to know was how to survive this place.

~

            This became the repeat for weeks, months at a time, Alastair and the other would hear the words of the Warden, and each day another man would fall victim to the Warden’s sick intimidation schemes. The day-to-day life of the prison involved morning physical activity, followed by a healthy breakfast of rotted vegetables and fly infested fruit. Then physical activity again followed by what could only be described as a lunch of bones with little meat. Then the remaining events of the day would be spent by the prisoners in their cell, without any newspapers or any activity of any kind. Sometimes, prisoners would be sent to an area of the Tolbooth known aptly as “The hole”; a six by six pit dug into the stone floor of the prison where one prisoner was chosen, each day, to spend the day in. No food, no water, no activity or contact of any kind.

            By the time Alastair approached his first year of internment at the Tolbooth, he had changed his long hair for a clean cut, his sideburns for a great moustache, and his posh clothes for a white shirt, green bandana, and black trousers he had traded with prisoners for food. His color remained pale, but he was still something of an outsider to most of the prison population. He had won the respect of his cellmates, safe for the skeleton man, who did not socialize with him at all. Simon and Alastair would regularly talk about art and music, to remind themselves that even in this place, they are still human, while the Red Giant and Alastair worked out, found time to do extra physical activity in their cell, bonded together through tests of physical strength and endurance that can only be done in a crowed room with two other people. One day, the Red Giant could not work out with Alastair, as his body had suffered an injury and he was transported to the prison hospital for immediate evaluation.

            Alastair grew concerned for his friend, but knew he would be okay. The Red Giant’s real name was James Morley Gates, former Lieutenant of the Eurydice for King Georges Navy. Before going to hospital, Gates told Alastair his story, and truly Alastair knew only too well the feeling of betrayal. “My father was an underachiever, and my mother could not read”, Gates told Alastair “I went into the Navy, because the power of England, I felt, was a force unmatched in the world. Not even Spain, who I felt had rushed to compete with us for control of the ocean”. “One day, I was to be summoned to meet with Sea Lord Hennessey, Lord of the Indian Ocean, about matters regarding an attack we were going to launch on Spain’s controlling efforts in Kingston. I walked into his study and found my Captain, Walter Browne, standing next to him. They told me that I was to be discharged form service, after my Captain received word from another officer for making…advances towards him. My affection for men was targeted, and I was to be imprisoned on grounds of mental disease.” In a tear fit rage, Gates could only reply “I could only attack with brute force, I knocked out the Sea Lord in one punch, and I strangled my former Captain, hanging him by my hands till I crushed his neck. It took six soldiers to take me, and then I find myself woken up inside this very cell. No memory of how I got here”. “Shame, that” Alastair replied, “I lost my crops and my profession to my pupil, runt named Dunne, that decided to make his own name by destroying mine”. An amazing kind of connection made by these men, one too easily relatable for the evolution of civilization.

~

            Alastair became numb to the lifelessness of the prison, knowing everyday the routine of life, as well as the sanctimoniousness of the Warden, but he knew that this was the only way the Warden could control the population. Through fear and intimidation, Alastair began to learn that the prisoners were both fearful of this place, but also determined to escape. Now, within his time, Alastair saw many people try to break out, and each one was met with their death, or sent to the Warden never to return. But while each of these men failed, Alastair remembered what he reminded himself when he first arrived: Keep your wits about you, take in everything, and never forget what is around you. And that is exactly what Alastair did, as he took in everything about all the attempts made by prisoners, figuring out guard shift changes, points of access that others tried to use, creating his own mental means of escape that he could employ. The only problem was that Alastair could not do this by himself. He needed some help.

            Alastair realized that the best way to get out would be to use the thousands of souls left to die, give them one more chance at life. Using his silver tongue that he was taught by his father, otherwise known as the “art of the merchant”, Alastair reached out to the various communities in the prison: the Irish, Africans, the Welch, even his kin the Scots. In each of these meetings, he all said the same message to the representatives: “Amazing setup yeah? Theres a life beyond these walls, and we have the power to take it. We are stronger than them, and we can take over this place”. While the word went out, Alastair sat silently in his cell waiting for answer, and soon hours turned into days, days turned to weeks, but not before a representative of the Welsh, a man named Rooke, accepted his offer. Then one by one, the people Alastair talked to came up and showed their allegiance, with no words or notable actions, just simple acknowledgements. Support for escape had begun.

~

            Within his one year of internment, Alastair Groovybeard had already earned the respect of the entire prison, one man, with the power of his words, would be able to win the hearts and minds of so many people who for years had no hope. No hope for escape. Returning to his cell after recovering from his injury Gates found the state of the prison to be a bit more…active, seeing prisoners walk through the halls and chambers he hadn’t seen in years. “Place is very alive, what did I miss? They actually give us whole carrots?” Gates asked Simon. “No, big things are happening, and we need your help” Simon replied “Meet him in the yard around noon”. Removed of his cloak, Gates found himself empty in the yard, but then two men followed in. Bearing his fists for a fight, Gates was ready to knock in their heads, but not before they parted to allow Alastair through. “What’s going on here Al?” Gates asked. “Well Jim,” Alastair started, “We have an opportunity to strike against the Warden, and I need to know you’re with us” his cheerful voice changed to a more stern and aggressive. “Do you doubt me?” “No, I don’t, MILTON!” The two men then grabbed Milton, the enforcer that beat up Alastair before he lost everything, disguised under a false name, and they brought him to his knees. Alastair then grabbed Milton by his face, and started to look down on him with pity, if nothing else. “I have a use for you.” Alastair sneered with the same lifeless look Milton gave him that day when Alastair’s life was taken from him. “You will…be my main enforcer, my right hand man” Alastair asserted, “in return, I promise you the revenge on the prison. You have boiled your temper against this place for a long time, Im going to need that when we rip this place down”.

            Regaining his footing, Gates offered his support to Alastair. To Alastair, gaining Gates’s trust was important, because a man of his stature was already something to behold. Alastair knew that he could lead men as a second in command, but even more conveniently, Gates got injured trying to push the bricks that held the walls of the prison together. So with garnered support, and with a suitable partner, Alastair had all he needed to plot a solid escape plan. Alastair knew that the guards changed shifts every hour, but that the slowest time to hit the change of shift was around five in the evening. He also learned that the powder magazine was left unguarded, save for a locked door, around seven in the evening, which can easily be broken down. Where Alastair ran into some issue was trying to get the keys to the prison cells, armory, and shackles. He knew the Warden had all of those, and there was only one sure way to get at them: Give the Warden an audience.

~

            But how could that be done? Get into a fight? Nah, he’d be shot on sight. Sabotage? Nah, he got nothing to destroy with. But then he realized: Call out the Warden. Alastair wanted a big turnout, so he waited until a day of physical activity to strike. But he had to make sure that all prisoners saw him getting taken up to the Warden’s Quarters: Alastair wanted this plan to work and for all to know that they are no longer anyone’s subjects. During the middle of the physical activity, Alastair taunted and teased, proclaiming outlandish acts the same way the Warden does, and it grew from a small annoyance by the guards, to downright slander. The guards then grabbed Alastair, punched him in the gut, and then carted him off to the Warden. Grabbing his chest, Alastair cried out “YOU SEE THIS LADS?! IS THIS CIVILIZATION? IS THIS ENGLAND? THIS IS WRONG! YOU HAVE TOILED HERE FOR TOO LONG! YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE THIS RIGHT! CHOOSE! LIFE OR DEATH!”

            Chained to a chair, under rotating guard, Alastair waited for three days before being presented to the Warden. Shifted from the chair to horizontal restraints, Alastair was greeted by both the Warden, as well as a man standing with his back to the corner, keeping his face hidden. SLAP! The Warden delivered a loud smack across Alastair’s face “Who are you?” he asked. “Who are you…to come into MY prison, and make a fool out of ME?” He asked sternly. “I have been for less than a year-“ SLAP! “You don’t get to talk, boy”, The Warden advised. “Don’t be too tough on him, Trotter” The Voice replied. “He knows a lot, because Ive seen him looking around at this place”. “Okay, who are you?!” Alastair boomed out. The Voice stepped out of the shadows to reveal himself as Dunne, the little rat that set him up and took his life. “YOU” Alastair roared trying to break free from his restraints. Alastair did feel some looseness in the ropes, saving his strength for an opportune moment. He also noticed the warden’s keys on the table, so he knew where to strike. “Surprised?” Dunne jabbed at Alastair. “Nah, control of other peoples lives? Place screams you, ya traitor” Alastair chastised. “You best watch your tongue, or I’ll put you in The Hole”. Dunne snapped back. “So what’s a rat like you doing here anyway?” “I had to lock up Milton, his issues were not looking good for certain members of Parliament” “So you lock him up for being himself?! Mate, what did you get for that?” “Promotion to Merchant Rum Runner, for all of England, especially when I took over all the small business. I get it all” “You never fail Dunne” “Oh no? Then what do you make of this?” Dunne held in his hand the ring of his family crest, belonged to his father Alfred Rubybeard. Alastair could only stare in anger at what this monster had done to his family: The family of Alastair Groovybeard was now effectively nonexistent, its members either dead or, in Alastair’s case, imprisoned. He knew that the time to strike to be now: One hit to the Warden’s forehead with right fist, first point of attack, disrupt how he thinks in the moment. Then, take left palm to bash the cur’s head to knock him out, take the keys while both gentlemen are knocked out. Using all his rage provided by Dunne, Alastair broke out of the ropes and nailed the Warden and Dunne in both spots as he thought out. Perfectly. Alastair then hid the keys in his bandana, while both men regained consciousness. Confused about how they ended up on the floor, Dunne and the Warden had nothing else to say to Alastair, and ordered him back to his cell. They did not know that he had the keys, and thus the plan to escape was moving forward.

~

Now that Alastair had the keys, he could launch the assault on the prison. Unfortunately, that could not come to pass, as of yet, when the Warden ordered all prisoners to the yard. This time, he did not have his usual outfit on, but rather a huge knot on his head from what looked like hit with a blunt object. “Now, I have been reasonable with you lot, easy going, until now. Order is based on trust, and it seems that that trust in you all is lost, because someone in this yard stole something from me, and only I know what that is. And if none of you will come forth, I will be forced to take drastic measures”. The prisoners knew his brutality, but they did not know the limits that the Warden would break to get what he wanted. He started first by shooting random prisoners, those who kept to themselves, he randomly asked prisoners what they knew about the theft. What followed next was so drastic even Alastair did not know his limits: The Warden took Simon Cooke and proclaimed, a dark a solemn oath: “TO THE ONE WHO STOLE FROM ME, YOU HAVE THE END OF THE WEEK TO RETURN WHAT YOU STOLE. OTHERWISE, THIS MAN WILL DIE! PUT HIM IN THE HOLE!” Simon was not terribly well known by many, but this proclamation by the Warden was evident of one thing: The Warden has become a tyrant that must be stopped.

He blamed himself, at first. But then, he realized that what needs to follow next would come at a price. Milton did not blame him, he wanted out, and he has convinced the others to see this through. Milton knew that he wanted to be free, to remember the life he once lived. But he also knew that Alastair was not going to see Simon be subject to such horrid actions. Alastair could not see Simon, the try and talk him out of it, but Simon would not acknowledge. It seemed that Simon was content in his status. And that Alastair could not sway him only made Alastair more concerned about him. On the third day however, word reached around the prison that the Warden will be shifting the population out to other prisons across the British Empire, some will stay on the continent, while others will go to the territories in India, Australia or the Caribbean to rot. Alastair thought that nothing could be done for Simon, except we give him the retribution he deserved: The prison will strike when Simon is dead.

So a week passed, no one gave up the keys that were taken from the Warden, so Simon was to pay that price. He was paraded for the whole prison to see, until he was brought in the yard where a makeshift gallows was created. The noose was fashioned around Simon’s neck, tightened by the Warden himself, and he asked one more time for the thief to come forth. No answer. Then without a blink of regret, the lever was pulled. Justice was done. The Warden exercised his law, but not before all the prisoners converged on the Warden and the guards. Alastair had used the keys to unlock their shackles, had the prisoners put them back on to make it look like they were locked on, but then released them from their hands. Freedom would come, by remorseless pieces of metal, fueled by the hatred of an oppressed people. The time was now.

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