Up until that point, her birthday had been perfectly lovely. It was a bright and sunny day in August, perfect for an excursion out of doors for a bit of fresh air before half the neighborhood descended upon them. Not even the disapproving glare of her younger sister Becca could ruin her fine mood. (And really—just because a girl looked her best in breeches and boots was no reason to glower so fiercely.) Instead Acacia snatched an apple from the fruit basket in the family parlour, teased her quite proper sister in regards to imminent wrinkles, and strode off with her latest adventure novel to the folly at the edge of the property to await her father’s return.
Captain Robert Carlisle, air privateer for the queen, was often away. But Acacia did not mind overmuch. In point of fact, she longed for the day she might join him on his journeys. Word had reached his family just last week that he’d landed safely in London and could be expected home to Glen Garrogh in the upper reaches of Scotland that very day. As much as Acacia looked forward to the magnificent curios her father always brought back with him—not to mention the gifts—her greatest anticipation was for his stories. She imagined there was nowhere in the world her father hadn’t been. She hoped against hope that today would be the day he declared that Acacia would accompany him on his next trip.
Acacia supposed she could have ridden her horse to the folly instead of walked. But she had been too impatient to wait, and in any case all sensible horses grew anxious where airships were concerned. Upon landing dirigibles of any class were loud, hot, and smelly. So walk she did, taking the woodland path that eventually turned toward the sea cliffs, which offered an unparalleled view of incoming ships. Anyone who wondered why Captain Carlisle had chosen to settle his family in the Scottish wilds soon understood upon seeing it for themselves. If even just to visit.
The folly Acacia sought was a leaky stone tower standing between the estate woodland and sea cliffs, tilted like a crooked tooth and just as drafty. It was also a favorite perch of gulls and ravens alike, who had long since grown used to her presence among them. On the way she waved to their Ghillie, Jock, who had taught her from a young age everything she needed to know about fishing, hunting, and shooting. While her sisters had spent their days indoors, Becca to become the lady Acacia was most definitely not while Lucia holed up with their grandfather in his lab instead of with governesses or tutors, Acacia and her brother Archie had been out of doors with Jock, running as wild as the animals the Ghillie managed with aplomb.
She wrenched open the tower’s lopsided door that stuck in the wet and climbed the twisting stairs. At the top she uncovered her belongings from the tarp that protected them from the weather: her nest of old blankets and pillows, and a trunk filled with maps and books. Everything was perfectly arranged so she might recline back on the blankets and pillows and prop her booted feet up on the trunk, all the while managing an excellent view from the window. So this is precisely what she did.
It was not her father’s arrival that pulled Acacia from her book several hours later, but her annoyed sister. At the sound of her name, Acacia leaned from the window and tossed her apple core to the ravens.
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