Doctor Who and the Empire of Glass

Andy Lane

The Empire of Glass

by Andy Lane
July 1587
One month.
Mary Harries gazed out across the sparkling blue ocean at the departing ship. From her position on the cliff she was looking down upon its deck - freshly scrubbed and glistening in the hot summer sunlight. Its sails were swollen with the breeze, and it listed slightly to one side as it began its long tack out of the harbour and its longer journey home. Gulls swooped low around its bows and, higher in the sky, the black squiggles of larger birds were wheeling and soaring. She couldn't tell what sort of birds they were, but there was a lot about New Albion that she couldn't recognize.
Turning her attention back to the ship, she could see sailors scurry across the rigging like spiders on a cobweb. One of them turned around and gazed back toward the coast, shielding his eyes with his hand. His chest was bare, and he wore a bandana around his head. Seeing her, he waved in big, sweeping gestures. She waved too, choking back a sob. It was Jim: even at that distance she recognised his sun-bleached hair, drawn back in a tarred pig-tail and bouncing against his back as his powerful arms moved. Those arms, which had pulled her close and held her, tight. Those arms, in whose embrace she had slept on many a night. Those powerful, tender arms.
One month.
She blinked, and the ship was blotted out by tears as if by a sudden squall. They spilled, hot and salty, down her cheeks and across her lips, and it was like tasting the salt on Jim's skin again as her mouth explored his body. A sudden sob made her shoulders convulse. Grief and loss twisted her stomach, and she hugged herself despite the heat that made her dress stick to her body, wishing that her arms were Jim's arms and her tears were his lips. But it would never be so again.
One month.
That's how long she and Jim had been given together. That was how long it had been since the ship docked and the colonists had emerged, blinking and unsteady, into the heavy heat and the ever-present humidity. The voyage from England had taken three months, and of the seven score and ten colonists who had started the journey, the inspirational words of Sir Walter Ralegh still ringing in their ears, almost two score were now held in the bosom of Jesus. The rest had followed Governor White onto the soil of New Albion. While he sketched the strange new plants and the strange, rust-skinned primitives, they had built their cabins and planted their crops. The sailors - who, on the ship, had laughed at them and called them 'puke-stockings' - watched at first, amused, but after a few days some had joined in, lending their expertise and their strength. Mary had been cooking one night when Jim had walked over and told her that she was beautiful. He had a sailor's directness and a sailor's weatherbeaten face, but he had the eyes of an angel, and nobody had ever told her that before.
She had been happy, for a while. So happy that she hadn't minded rising at dawn and working until long after the sun had set, trying to put the colony on a firm footing. Then the fever came, and the crops showed no sign of growing, and some of the sheep that they had brought with them from England sickened and died, and Governor White had decided to return to England when the ship left and ask advice. And the perfect idyll of hard days working and long nights spent in Jim's arms were at an end.
The ship was smaller now, and Mary's eyes were half-blinded by the sparkle of the sun on the water, but she could still see Jim's arm waving. It would be six months at least before Governor White returned, and it might not even be on the same ship. Perhaps the colony would survive, or Good Queen Bess might decide that it was not worth sustaining. Wherever she ended up, Mary knew that it would not be with Jim.
A movement in the sky caught Mary's attention. Glancing up, she noticed that the large birds were swooping lower, almost as if they had been waiting for the ship to leave. She dismissed the notion as fanciful: even in the New World, birds were just birds. Casting one last glance at the departing ship - just a piece of flotsam, dark against the blue of the waves - she turned away toward the trees that hid the settlement. No doubt there would be half a hundred things to do when she got back. There always were. Governor White's daughter was almost seven months with child now, her belly stretched like
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