Glenn Quigley has a new queer historical action-adventure book out (MM, FF), The Moth and Moon, Book 3: We Cry the Sea. And there’s a giveaway!
After the explosive events of The Lion Lies Waiting, life has returned to normal for burly fisherman Robin Shipp. That is until the innkeeper of the ancient Moth & Moon approaches him with a surprising proposal, and an unexpected arrival brings some shocking news that sends Robin on a perilous journey alone.
While he’s away, his lover, Edwin, anxiously prepares for the birth of his first child with his friend, Iris. Her wife, Lady Eva, must travel to Blackrabbit Island for a showdown over the future of the family business. Meanwhile, Duncan nurses an injured man back to health but as the two grow close, the island’s new schoolmaster makes his amorous intentions clear.
Robin’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted his entire life will take him away from everyone he knows, across a dangerous ocean, and into the very heart of a floating pirate stronghold. Pushed to his limits, Robin’s one last chance at finding the truth will cost him more than he ever imagined.
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Finding a gull in one’s bathroom has a way of bringing into sharp focus just what massive beasts they truly are. They certainly appear large when harassing people at the seafront, or circling overhead, but coming face to face with one in a domestic setting really shows them in a whole new light. It wasn’t actually using the privy, of course, though its demeanour suggested it could have if it wanted to. Rather, it seemed content to simply sit there and wait out the bad weather.
It wasn’t until Robin Shipp approached that it began to caw and squawk furiously, flapping its wings with an air of indignity, as if protesting at him having the temerity to walk in without first knocking. Which, in all fairness to the gull, he had done, but then it was his lavatory and up till that point he’d never known it to be frequented by any type of wildlife whatsoever.
Despite his name, Robin had little affinity for, or interest in, birds. Especially gulls. He found them pests, for the most part. He was a fisherman and spent more time than he’d like trying to shoo them away from his catch. This one in particular was known to him as the Admiral, one of a pair of seagulls who fought a never-ending battle for supremacy of the harbour. Robin stood there, in the whitewashed room, shouting at the bird to leave for a good five minutes before accepting it wasn’t going to be quite so easy.
He slowly slipped off his woollen overcoat and held it open, advancing as cautiously as his enormous frame would allow, then flung it quickly over the toilet. The gull was not amused, nor was it shy in expressing as much. After some kerfuffle, Robin managed to bundle it up in his coat, fearful the whole time of injuring its wings. He didn’t like gulls, but he’d never be needlessly cruel or violent towards them either.
He wrestled the creature out of the room, across the narrow hall, and into his bedroom. The doors to his balcony were open. The method of admission, he suspected. He shook his coat open and the gull tumbled out, mewing loudly, before plodding to the balcony and flying away into the rain. It looked back to squawk at him one last time. An insult, Robin was certain. He shut the doors and sighed. He was late.
He pulled closed the front door of his tall, thin house and trudged down towards the harbour. He tugged his flat cap low over his eyes though the weather was already beginning to ease. With his meaty thumb, he rubbed the palm of his left hand. Injured the previous year, on the night of the winter solstice, it had never properly healed. His hand was always stiff now, with a deep ache and a white, weblike scar. Rubbing helped as he found it seized up if he neglected it too long, especially in cold weather. He’d been advised by the local doctor to keep rubbing it as often as possible as it kept the blood flowing, or some such.
Robin didn’t really understand the mechanics of it. He’d been eager to resume fishing after the worst of the winter season had passed but quickly discovered his efforts hampered by his injury. He tried to pass it off as a minor inconvenience, but deep down he knew it was serious. He’d been a fisherman all his adult life, and before. He’d started when he was a young boy after his father had died and he couldn’t imagine any other way of living, didn’t want to imagine it, even. The hurricane of the previous summer, just over a year ago, had turned his whole world upside down and while he couldn’t have been happier about it, the upheaval had been daunting. What he craved now more than anything was some peace and quiet.
With his bull neck, jug ears, and hooded eyes, Robin had never considered himself an especially attractive man, so quite what the undeniably handsome Edwin Farriner saw in him, he couldn’t rightly say. Yet there Edwin was, sheltering from the rain against a market hall pillar, waiting for him. He was tall, though not as tall as Robin, in his early forties, so ten years Robin’s junior, with receding and close-shaved ginger hair. His smile never failed to light up Robin’s heart.
“You’re late,” Edwin said. “He won’t be happy.”
“Ho ho! When is ’e ever ’appy?”
The rain stopped and the clouds broke. They stood gazing at the roof of the Moth & Moon, shielding their eyes from the midday sun. Atop the enormous inn, workers hammered nails and sawed wood. A framework was coming together—six sided and spacious enough to comfortably fit ten men. Robin pulled his cap lower and cupped a hand around his mouth.
“Oi! Duncan!” His deep voice carried clear across the little harbour. “Time to eat! Come on!”
From the rooftop, Duncan Hunger waved and began to climb down the many ladders strapped to the rain-slick tiles. The Moth & Moon was expansive and ever-changing. A hunk of wood, glass, and lime wash, which seemed to regularly sprout fresh bay windows, bud whole new rooms, and blossom balconies. Its roof, or rather roofs, rose and fell like the sea—a tiled wave here, a slate swell there—and took some skill to navigate. Duncan grasped one of the numerous chimney stacks and used it to swing himself around to firmer footing. When his boots finally touched the ground, he shook raindrops from his coat.
“You’re late,” he said.
“Only a little!” Robin said. “I ’ad a visit from the Admiral.”
“It’s all well and good for you two to swan up whenever the mood strikes you,” Duncan said, “but some of us have work to be getting on with.”
Robin chuckled again. Duncan’s natural state was irked, and he never needed a particular reason to complain. He cleaned all the lenses in his unique spectacles with a handkerchief. Small, round, and fixed with multiple thin armatures, they were of Duncan’s own design. He was forever fiddling with them, setting first one lens in place and then another. Robin wondered if Duncan would be forced to add even more arms with even more lenses as he grew older. Duncan was Edwin’s age but a couple of heads shorter. He was squat, burly, with wavy black hair, long sideburns, and an expression that indicated he had somewhere more important to be, so if you wanted him to stay, you’d better make it worth his while.
“’Ow’s it goin’?” Robin asked, pointing upwards.
“Slowly,” Duncan said, fixing the spectacles back into place on his button nose. “We should have been finished with the basic frame by now. The others are dragging their heels.”
“Nothing to do with you resetting the wood every ten minutes and telling everyone they’re doing it all wrong?” Edwin asked.
“Whoever could have told you such a thing?” Duncan asked. “It’s a gross exaggeration and a terrible slight on my good name. Can I help it if I’m a perfectionist? I want this new bell tower to stand the test of time, to be…”
Duncan trailed off and pointed out to sea. “That boat’s coming in a bit fast, isn’t it?”
Robin turned and squinted before reaching into the pocket of his long, navy-coloured overcoat from which he produced a battered copper spyglass. He extended it to its full length. The glass was a touch foggy, but it was enough to determine a single occupant at the helm of the lugger.
“Can you see who it is?” Edwin asked.
“No,” Robin said. “I can’t see ’is face. But whoever ’e is, ’e needs to slow down or ’e’ll run aground.”
Robin ambled down to the pier, quickly overtaken by the much sprightlier Edwin and Duncan. All three men frantically waved their arms and shouted, trying to alert the sailor to the danger. The sailboat began to turn, taking it away from the harbour and straight towards the headland. Straight towards the rocks.
With a terrifying crack that landed like a lightning strike, the boat splintered against rocky outcrops, and its occupant was flung into the water. Without a moment’s thought, Robin ditched his cap, overcoat, and jumper. He hopped around, pulling off his boots, before diving into the sea. Edwin followed suit. They splashed about in the choppy waters, unable to find the man.
“Robin!” Duncan said. “Over there! To your right! No, the other way… Starboard, man! Starboard!”
Robin kicked his massive legs furiously to avoid being dashed against the rocks himself. With one deep breath, he dived beneath the surface to search where Duncan had indicated, but there was no sign. Underwater, Edwin was pointing furiously. Robin turned to find the figure of a man floating limply. Together, he and Edwin grabbed the victim and brought him to the surface. Robin’s lungs were burning, and he gasped for air.
Once ashore, they lay the drowning man on his back. He was breathing and coughed up some seawater. Blood poured from his left eye, dying part of his white beard crimson. He was huge, as big as Robin himself. A crowd gathered around them. Robin brushed the man’s lank hair away from the wound.
“Easy, easy,” Robin said. “You’re safe now. What… Wait. Vince?”
“Hello, brother,” Vince said. His usually growling voice was weak and cracked.
“Let’s get him to the inn,” Edwin said.
“No,” Vince said, grabbing firmly onto Robin’s arm. “Too many people.”
“We’ll take you to my ’ouse, then,” Robin said. “It’s not far.”
They loaded Vince onto a borrowed cart and took him up the steep slope of Anchor Rise. He placed one huge arm across Edwin’s shoulders, the other across Robin’s, and together they all sidled through the blue front door of Robin’s home. Scarlet dots gathered on the black and white tiles of the hallway floor as blood dripped from Vince’s eye, yet still he stared at the oil painting on the upstairs landing. Once inside Robin’s front room, they put him by the fireplace and wrapped bandages around his head and leg. They would have to do until Doctor Greenaway could be summoned.
“I didn’t recognise you under all the hair,” Duncan said.
“Haven’t had much chance to get it cut,” Vince said. “Been busy.”
“Too busy to visit us, like you said you would.”
“Here now, aren’t I?”
Edwin handed him a mug of water and Vince sipped it, then pawed at his throat, obviously in some discomfort.
“How did you end up running aground?” Duncan asked.
Vince sipped his drink again but said nothing.
Robin frowned. “Vince? Did you ’ear ’im? What—”
Edwin coughed and placed his hand on Robin’s arm. “Let’s just give him time to get his head clear. He’s obviously had a terrible shock.”
Robin had only met Vince once before, around the same time he’d injured his hand. Before then, he didn’t even know he had a brother. They’d promised to stay in touch, and they did, after a fashion. A couple of short letters had been exchanged but nothing more.
“Well, you can stay ’ere as long as you like, of course,” he said. “My ’ome is your ’ome.”
“How’s he going to manage all those stairs with his leg the way it is?” Duncan asked. “You’d be better off staying with me, I suppose.”
Vince growled something approaching gratitude. “Help me up,” he said.
“You don’t ’ave to go right now,” Robin said, as he once more he let Vince lean on him.
“Hallway,” Vince said.
Robin guided him back out onto the black and white tiles. Vince pointed at the painting upstairs.
“Oh, right, you never met ’im. It’s our dad, Captain Erasmus Shipp,” Robin said. “It were painted a few years before ’e died.”
Vince shook his head. “Can’t be Dad.”
“Because just this morning, I saw that man in Wolfe-Chase Asylum.”
Glenn Quigley is a graphic designer originally from Dublin and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He creates bear designs for www.themoodybear.com. He has been interested in writing since he was a child, as essay writing was the one and only thing he was ever any good at in school. When not writing or designing, he enjoys photography and has recently taken up watercolour painting.