Summary: On their ride from Hampshire, Tom and Jane’s carriage is attacked by bandits. They must find a way to escape before it’s too late…
Writer’s note: I started this fic a couple years ago as a NaNoWriMo piece. I wrote most of it in a notebook. Some times I feel like typing it up and editing it for posting. Becoming Jane is one of my favorite movies and this fic is special to me because it was the only NaNoWriMo that I worked on the entire month.
Chapter 1: In which Tom and Jane’s ride goes a-rye
She had read the letter from his mother. There was no doubt in Jane’s mind that she had to go back home. Tom was forsaking his family for her, and she could not allow that. At the next stop she would tell him…
“Jane, are you well, my dearest?”
Tom’s voice wrenched her heart. She tried to hide her emotions. “I will be fine, Tom.”
He did not press her. What they were doing was unsettling for their reputations, but to be together, Tom knew it had to be done. He would find a way to make it work.
It had only been five minutes after the tires had gotten stuck in the mud when the carriage suddenly came to a halt. Tom sat up from the seat. “We are not even halfway to the next stop.”
“Are we stuck?” Jane asked, looking at him.
“I do not think so.”
The door opened, slamming against the outside of the carriage. A bearded man in mud-caked clothing was standing there, a knife in hand. “Get out now!” he snarled.
Jane gasped, her hands covering her mouth. Tom stared at the man for several seconds, the events not registering yet. “I said, get out!” the man yelled, brandishing the knife higher.
Tom’s eyes fell on the knife. He turned, grasping Jane’s hand tightly. He could feel her shaking as he helped her from the carriage. They were pushed to the side with the other men that were driving the carriage. Tom peered around taking note that they were outnumbered. Twelve bandits stood against the five of them, all with some sort of weapon in hand. Two of the bandits were atop the carriage rummaging through the cargo. Assuredly, they would find all the money he tucked away in his bag.
Jane stared down at the leafy ground, her clutch on Tom’s arm becoming tighter as her fear grew. He held onto her protectively, hoping that his presence would ease her fear. But what happened next no one had suspected.
One of the bandits - a man in fine clothing that had been tattered from traveling – caught sight of Jane. He stared at her for a moment, his eyes mischievous. He sauntered over to her, looking her up and down. Tom pulled her back instinctually, feeling the threat of the man.
“The lady is of no interest to you” Tom said, a slight shake in his voice.
The man never took his eyes off Jane. “I believe she is. She’ll fetch a good price.”
The blood drained from Tom’s face, and Jane could feel her knees weaken. “Sir, please” pleaded Tom. “She is to be my wife.”
“That’s too bad” the man sneered, reaching out to grab Jane.
“NO!” Tom screamed. He pushed Jane behind him. The drivers of the carriage moved to help, but the rest of the bandits had jumped in, their body language threatening them to step down. “Take me instead.”
“Tom!” gasped Jane.
“I am the nephew of the chief judge in London. A mighty ransom will be paid for my safety.” He did not know if they’d believe him, but he had to try. Jane’s life was at stack, and he’d do anything to keep her from harm. “Please, sir, take me.”
The man glared at Tom for an agenizing moment. He then gestured to his comrades. “We’ll take them both!”
Tom’s face fell. He drew Jane closer to him, her body racked with sobs. “I will protect you,” he whispered into her hair.
The carriage drivers stood helplessly as the bandits descended on their passengers. The man with the knife, along with another bandit, laid hands on Tom. The man in the tattered fine clothes, who appeared to be the leader, took hold of Jane.
“Tom!” screamed Jane as they pried her away. Tom’s hand slipped from hers as they pulled them apart. Jane kicked and sobbed trying to get away as Tom was knocked to his knees, his hands roughly pulled behind his back. The bandits tied his hands then placed a blindfold over his eyes.
The leader clapped a hand over Jane’s mouth, preventing her screams from being heard. The last sight she saw was of her dear Tom falling lifelessly to the ground.
Chapter 2: In which two lovers are torn apart
His head ached as if it had been slammed into a wall. Tom wondered what he had drunk to cause such a throbbing. He slowly cracked his eyes open. The light in the room was dim thankfully, and seemed to be coming from a single window close to the ceiling. He blinked a few times trying to clear the blurriness from his vision.
Her face was the first sight he saw, comforting the pain his head felt. Tom crooked an awry smile, finally realizing his head was pillowed in his lady’s lap. Her chilled hand rested on his cheek.
“Tom, how are you?” her voice, full of concern, cut through the thumping in his head. “Can you sit up?”
His eyes shut tightly, and he rubbed them with the heels of his hands. Then it suddenly occurred to him: the carriage ride from Hampshire foiled by a band of kidnappers and thieves. He pleaded with them to take him for ransom, but the bandits insisted his betrothed be taken as well for ransom or selling or for their own pleasure. At least they were still together. As long as Jane was by his side, he could keep her safe.
“I will be fine, Jane” Tom replied, attempting to sit up. “A bit of a headache, but it shall pass.”
Tom peered around slowly to examine the surroundings. They were being held in a damp square room, seeming to be a small basement or cellar. A short wooden door stood to the left of them with a large, round pull in the middle. He knew the door had to be locked, but he would try it, Tom noted to himself, as soon as he regained his bearings. The floor was hard dirt covered by old straw. The round window close to the ceiling was covered by iron bars.
“This must be the bandits’ hideaway.”
“I’m afraid it is” Jane replied. “Oh Tom, what are we to do?”
Tom reached for her hand, planting a warm kiss on the back of her chilled palm. “I do not know, but at least we are together.” He gathered her to his side. Jane laid her head heavily against his shoulder, the exhaustion of the events weighing her down.
“Did you see where they have taken us?”
“No. I was blindfolded after you were knocked out and manhandled back into the carriage. One man guarded me, not taking his grip off my forearm the entire journey. I fear his grip has left bruises.”
Tom flinched at the information, his blood boiling to the point of wanting to jump to his feet and slamming his fist into the stone wall. But losing his temper would not do any good, and he only pulled Jane closer against him as if his hold would shield her from any more pain.
Jane nibbled her lip, settling her breath to continue. “I lost track of time, seeming to fall into a daze when the carriage final halted and we were brought to this room. Only minutes ago I could hear two men speaking just outside the door, but only heard one pair of footfalls leave.” Her eyes filled with tears. “What if your uncle will not pay a ransom for both of us? I am so scared, Tom. What if we are separated and cannot find each other again?”
Tom loosened his hold, pulling Jane far enough to meet her eye. “We will make it, Jane. If we are separated, I will walk through the pit of hades to find you. Whatever it takes, I will protect you.”
Suddenly, footfalls echoed through the area outside the door and both went quiet to listen. A lock rattled and the heavy door creaked open. Tom stood instantly, putting himself in front of Jane, headache forgotten, ready to fight. The guard was the first to appear in the doorway. He strolled in slobbishly and stepped aside as another man entered. He was the same man who branded a knife at them in the carriage. He grinned toothlessly at them.
Behind the toothless bandit was a taller man, who had been assumed to be the leader of the band. An amused smirk crossed his face as he sauntered in. “How are my guests?”
“If you will release us, we’d be fine, sir” Tom snapped, daggers in his eyes.
“That is not an option. Mr. Lefroy, is it?” the man replied, and Tom realized he spoke with a French accent. It was quite muted, but still lingering in certain words. When Tom did not answer, he continued, “I have one of my men off to London gathering information on your supposed relation to the chief justice.”
“You will find I have not lied to you.”
The man stepped forward, dangerously. “I trust you have not.”
“What of my betrothed?”
“Oh yes, I will see that your uncle know of the circumstances with your betrothed.”
Jane’s hopes fell. Chief Justice Langhorn did not agree with his nephew’s courting of such a women. When he becomes aware of their elopement, he may not pay the ransom for them. Or worse, save Tom but leave her to damnation in the hands of these thieves.
“For now I would like a word with your betrothed. Miss?”
Jane cleared the horrible lump in her throat. “Miss Austen, and what are you called, sir?”
“Monsieur Girard” the man replied, extending his hand for her to accept. “Come, Miss Austen.”
Jane’s face turned instantly pale as the fear of them being separated materialized.
“Whatever you have to say, you can say it to the both of us” Tom insisted, his stance daring but his voice desperate.
Girard towered over Tom as he snarled, “I will speak to her if I please. You’re treading on deadly ground, Mr. Lefroy.”
Tom was not one to back away from a fight, and before he could rationally think, he had thrown a blow to Girard’s face. The taller man blocked his fist, yanking Tom’s arm behind his back and tossing him to the ground face first. Jane screamed, rushing to Tom’s side but an arm wrapped around her middle and she was lifted into the air.
The door clattered shut as she was carried, thrashing at her capture, from the cell. Her screams were echoed with Tom pleas through the hallway until she could hear him no more.