One year ago, Vince Knight walked away from his role as crime lord of Port Knot. In his absence, the gangs he founded went to war, and frightening new factions have risen from the ashes to tear at the town’s throat like hungry wolves.
Now Vince is back and has taken command of the Watch—working side-by-side with the very people who spent years trying to put him behind bars. Unbeknownst to him, Captain James Godgrave has been given his own team to deal with crime in the town, but while he and Vince share a common goal, they are not allies.
The murder of one of James’s crew puts Vince in a delicate position. Facing pressure from the council, the townsfolk, and the Watch itself, Vince must find the killer because if he doesn’t, James will, and Vince’s tenure as Watch Commander will be the shortest in history.
As Vince and James clash in their public and private lives, Vince starts to understand the damage caused by his abdication as crime lord, James sets about putting down the gangs once and for all, and the mysterious power behind the new factions exacts a terrifying plan that will change Port Knot forever.
Series: Knights of Blackrabbit #1
Release Date: December 20, 2022
Cover Artist: Jaycee DeLorenzo
Category: Literary/Genre Fiction
Word Count: 84900
Spinning off from the Moth and Moon trilogy, THESE YOUNG WOLVES — THE KNIGHTS OF BLACKRABBIT #1 sees burly former crime lord Vince Knight attempting to make up for a lifetime of mistakes. Under the scrutiny of the island’s ruling council, a distrusting local population, and a certain dashing captain, Vince will battle against the very criminals he trained. As the new Commander of the town’s night watch he’ll also have to win over the very people who spent years trying to lock him up.
To reach their common goal, Vince and James need to find their common ground.
ABOUT THE STORY:
This is an historical fiction story, set in the late 18th century. It’s also a spin-off from The Moth and Moon trilogy. It is not necessary to have read that series before this book, however those who have read it will recognise former villain Vince Knight, who is now trying to make up for past mistakes. From the moment Vince Knight first walked onto the page in The Lion Lies Waiting, I knew there was something special about him. Some characters require a degree of finessing and moulding to reveal their true selves. Not so with Vince. He appeared on the page fully formed and ready for action. It is a genuine thrill to be able to bring you this, the first in his adventures as head of the Port Knot Watch.
The Knights of Blackrabbit series is set in the Pell Isles–a group of islands situated off the coast of Cornwall. The isles and their inhabitants have been heavily influenced by the Cornish language and culture. As such, you will see words such as backalong and bleddy crop up in the dialogue. These are Cornish words which have been adopted by everyday Pellans. Backalong means in former times and bleddy is simply the word bloody in the local vernacular. Other words and phrases have been rewritten to make their meaning clearer, but I felt it important to leave some elements of the local dialect intact. I hope that Cornish people will forgive me for any little errors!
It’s worth noting that in this world, an event named “The Illumination” coincided with the fall of the Roman Empire and ultimately led to the abandonment of religious practices across the world. In England, in the year 1141, Queen Matilda passed a law declaring women equal to men with no restrictions placed on their education or the roles they could hold within society. The dearth of religious doctrine led to those who experienced life outside of the traditional to blossom and become accepted as simply another part of life. Prejudice based on gender, race, or sexuality became almost unheard of. If only our world had taken a similar path. When I started writing my first novel, The Moth and Moon, I wanted to create a world where no one would face any hardship because of their sexuality. The Illumination was my way of explaining that. It isn’t the focus of the story, and is only mention in passing during the second book in the trilogy, The Lion Lies Waiting, but I felt some kind of explanation was warranted.
This story begins on 23rd October 1781, the day after the events of We Cry the Sea (the third in the Moth and Moon trilogy). It is not essential to have read that book, nor the rest of the Moth and Moon trilogy, though doing so will provide a more detailed insight into how Vince Knight came to arrive at his current position in life.
You might be interested to know that there is a free story that acts a little prequel to THESE YOUNG WOLVES. It is available to my newsletter subscribers (there had to be a newsletter plug in here somewhere!). You can sign up for it here: glennquigley.com/newsletter
THESE YOUNG WOLVES — THE KNIGHTS OF BLACKRABBIT #1 will be available in paperback and Ebook, and will be released on 20th December 2022 by Ninestar Press. https://ninestarpress.com/product/these-young-wolves/
HE CLICKED HIS pale, meaty fingers twice, sending Crabmeat running along the narrow Entry while he hurried up the dry, cobbled road. He readied himself at a corner and stuck out the tip of his octopus-handled cane. A young man with a thatch of blond hair slammed into the cane at full speed, turning head-over-tit onto the cobbled road. A necklace and a handful of coins spilled out of his pockets, splashing into a horse-made puddle. Crabmeat—a tubby, short-nosed little bulldog—darted after him, barking furiously.
The young thief rolled onto his back, holding his shin and crying out, before being lifted wholly off the ground and slammed against the nearest wall. Vince Knight spoke with a voice like rolling thunder, “Assume you know the way to the Watch House?”
No one in the town of Port Knot could remember a warmer October than that of 1781. As the hazy sun rose in a saffron sky, the harbour stretched its cranes like waking arms and prepared for another day. Already several tall ships had docked and become targets for hungry gulls searching for scraps.
The briny air, awash with the stench of yesterday’s catch, stung Vince’s nose in a familiar and welcoming way. With his bag over his shoulder, he took the thief by the scruff of his neck, and marched deeper into town.
The crowds of traders, dockworkers, and sailors sundered themselves before him and fell quiet when he drew near. He kept his head down and carried on walking. He no longer needed the aid of his cane but thought it added some sophistication to his appearance, especially given his newest acquisition of a patch over his left eye.
Had he not already towered over the townsfolk, his clothing would still have set him apart. Sartorially speaking, he never truly overcame his brawler beginnings. His cream-coloured top shirt had seen better days and his black trousers had long ago begun to fray their edges. Yesterday, he’d attended his brother’s handfasting on the nearby island of Merryapple, and he’d accidentally left his favourite claret overcoat behind. Not that he needed it that morning. His tricorne cap, cracked and scaly in places, covered his snowy white hair and kept the morning sun from his lone icy blue eye.
Port Knot’s sole Watch House sat at a crossroads on the west side of town. Three storeys tall, it had a low front door painted in cornflower blue and a single window set with rusted iron bars. Above these, the sand-coloured bricks rose to an arch and then to a gable, in a wholly unnecessary architectural flourish. Like most buildings in town, thin copper pipes ran across the surface like veins under sallow skin.
The bridges of Port Knot infested the town like rats. Long, short, arched, flat, and each one different from the last. Lickbeer Bridge connected the road above Vince’s head to the first floor of the Watch House and protruded from the side of it like a hernia. The arch had been carved to resemble the open mouth of a bearded man, swallowing all who travelled through.
As with the rest of the town, the Watch House had been built too close to the surrounding premises, and indeed the entire street had the appearance of an overstuffed bookshelf. Within, Vince found a grimy pit of browns and mustards. The Watch House saw hardly any sun, so a plethora of lanterns fought bravely against the gloom.
Vince all but threw the thief onto a chair. “Stay,” he said, pointing. “Or else.”
Crabmeat sat in front of the thief and growled.
Vince let his bag of clothes slump to the dusty floor. He tapped his octopus-handled cane on the knotted wooden floorboards. “Anybody in?”
A voice from a backroom called out to him and presently a slim, dark-haired woman in her early twenties greeted him. She wore oversized tan trousers held up by braces, a striped shirt splattered with oil, and a pair of goggles perched on top of her head. She gripped a hammer in one hand and scowled.
“Got you a present,” Vince said, nodding to the thief.
“Ah, sure that’s very kind of you, altogether.” She raised the hammer a little and steadied herself. “And who might you be, now?”
“Vince Knight. Watch Commander.”
She recoiled but caught herself and recovered. “Oh. Oh!” She set the hammer on a table and cleaned her hand on an oily rag. She shook his hand, hers so tiny in his. “I didn’t know you were coming today. I’m Sorcha Fontaine, Watchwoman. There’s no one else here; the others don’t start until nightfall. I came in early to fix the plumbing. It’s not very reliable.”
The thief rose from his chair. “I can see you have your hands full; there’s really no point in me hanging around.”
Crabmeat barked at him and he sat back down immediately.
“I must admit, it was a surprise to hear you were taking over,” Sorcha said. “It wasn’t so long ago we were trying to arrest you.” She tried to laugh but it didn’t come out right. Too dry.
“Things change.” Vince strode around the Watch House, taking it all in. It held a few tables, a few chairs, and not much else.
“Well, I suppose it takes a criminal to catch a criminal,” the thief said.
“What did he do this time?” Sorcha asked.
“Helped relieve a woman of her purse and necklace,” Vince said.
“It wasn’t me, I swear! I didn’t do anything!”
Vince rushed over and grabbed the thief’s arm, pulling up his sleeve to reveal a vambrace. “Explain this.”
“I’m looking after it for a friend…”
“Frogblade,” Sorcha said. “Nasty little things, they are. Tool of choice of the Clockbreakers. A twist of the wrist is all it takes for a little arm tipped with a razorblade to flash in and out, quick as a frog snatching a fly. The blade slices the pocket of the unsuspecting victim, their wallet slips out into a hand or an open bag, and the victim is none the wiser. How long did it take you to learn not to cut your own hands open with it?”
“Longer than you’d think…” the thief said. Faded white lines crossed his palms.
“Clockbreakers?” Vince asked.
“It’s what they call themselves now,” Sorcha said. “I thought you’d have known all about them?”
“Been away from town for a while.” Vince had spent most of his fifty-three years living in the town but recent events had taken him to the countryside for a spell.
“All the pickpockets, housebreakers, and shoplifters banded together last year, after you and Councillor Mudge…well…left. They started using all this fancy horological technology, thanks to Flowers and his contacts in the industry. And they’ve been a right pain the arse ever since, haven’t yis?”
Vince wrenched the frogblade off the thief’s bony arm.
Sorcha rooted in a deep drawer and withdrew a set of rusty shackles. “Now, we’ll just trade your bracelet for these and drag him to the magistrates for sentencing. Then it’s off to the gaolhouse with him.”
“Him has a name,” the thief said. “It’s Walter. Not that anybody cares.”
“I already know your name,” Sorcha said. “And if I thought it mattered, I’d have used it.” She clamped the manacles onto his bony wrists. “Who do you report to? Merlin or Flowers?”
“Flowers,” Walter said.
“Know him,” Vince said. “One of my boys, once.”
“He’s moved up in the world since then,” Sorcha said. “He’s one of the higher-ranking Clockbreakers now.”
“Knew he had potential.”
“You taught him well,” Sorcha said.
Vince wasn’t sure if he was supposed to hear that. She was right though. Vince had taught Flowers everything he knew. Taught him how to be a thief, yes, but Vince had taught him how to live in the corners of society. How to make a life for himself in a world that insisted it had no place for people like him. Vince had done the same for so many people, taken so many lost souls off the streets and given their lives purpose and meaning. And now he was going to betray them. Every single one.