In the year of our Lord, fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus set sail searching for a quicker route to India.  That same year the Lady Alexander Whesly was born in England.  her father, the Duke of Freemont, was devastated.  First, because his beloved wife of five years had died giving birth and second the boy he had so wished for had been born a girl.

He had decided to give the babe to his sister, who had married beneath her status.  But with one look at the baby with beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair as soft as corn silk, he could not part with her.  She looked too much like his beloved Alania.  So, he left the boisterous city of London to raise his daughter quietly and peacefully in the country.

Alexandra was not raised like any other girl of her status.  She could ride a horse by the time she was five, could shoot a bow and arrow by seven, learned to falcon at eight, and fence by ten.  Often times the work hands would see the young lady with her long braids flying in the wind practicing her fencing while her old father would watch shouting instructions.  After every practice, the reward was always a kiss and a hug.  His gray beard always tickled her rosy cheeks.

But of course, not all good things will last.  The small castle of Freemont was attached by northern raiders who wanted more land to make a bigger empire.  After twelve hours in the wine cellar, Alex came out to find only death.  She found her father lying next to his chair in the dining hall.  Sobbing Alexandra saw there was no hope for her father.

“Don’t cry for me Alex”, he said hoarsely.  Lord Whesly began coughing.  When he was done a fine line of blood ran down his stubbled chin.  “I fought bravely as any soldier would, at last”, he took a long breath that seemed to turn into a wheeze.  “At last, I will see her again.”  He looked closely at Alexandra and fiercely muttered “You are on your own now.  Remember, remember to keep the lads checked,” she laughed at the old hunting adage while tears streamed down her face.

“I will father.  I will”

“Never forget Alex.  You, are a Whesly”, and the Duke of Freemont died in her arms, and so the real story begins…

One month later, at sea, the old wooden ship creaked and groaned with every wave that hit it.  The strong wind blew the white sails full, making it look like a bright pillow against the black night.  On board, the weary crew fought the raging storm with every ounce of strength.

“Batten down the hatches” yelled the tall sea captain against the wind.

“Aye captain”, screamed the scrawny thirteen-year-old cabin boy.  After doing his job the boy fought his way towards the towering figure.  “How much longer sir?”

“I don’t know Alex” he sounded sad and dejected.  “I’ve been at sea all my life and this is the worst storm I’ve ever seen.”  The sea captain shivered into his coat as he seemed to look inward to something only he could see.

“Well sir, I have the utmost faith in you,” he said sincerely, shouting as loudly as he could into the wind.

At that moment, the ship dropped twenty feet and as the frigate met the water a large crack could be heard.  The ship gave way to the wind, rain, and sea.  After ten years of service, the vessel was no more.  Men and lumber were tossed by the sea like pebbles of sand.

Young Alex clung to the main mast fighting for her every breath.  She wondered what her mother had been thinking so near to the end of her life.  Did she know she was going to die? Alex asked herself.  Were her father and mother reunited?  She hoped so.  She gave a small prayer to them, wherever they were.  She hoped to be spared.  After all, she felt she had much more living to do.  She desperately hoped that she could hold onto the massive piece of wood and that she would be saved.  As the waves battered her back and forth in the inky blackness she began to grow tired.  She feared she had reached the end when she began to no longer care if she held on or not.

After what seemed several hours Alex was washed up on shore, unconscious. She awoke a bit later to the cry of a seagull and the warmth of the sun on her face.  She felt sticky from the salt water and sand.  She was badly bruised and battered.  Slowly, ever slowly, Alex moved from a prone position to a kneeling position to a standing position.  She thanked God and her parents for her life.  Then she looked up into a bright blue sky. Not a cloud could be seen.  As she looked out into the glassy water she could not quite see where the ocean and the sky met.  They both looked the same.

The laughter bubbled up from Alex’s chest and startled her.  She was alive! She was alive and looking at probably one of the most beautiful scenes ever placed before her.  She moved her wet short hair away from her face.  As she looked at her ripped boy clothes she could see ugly bruises all over her body.  On hindsight, pretending to be a boy and traveling by ship may not have been the best idea.  The work had been ridiculously hard, the food terrible, and the other sailors, in a  word, were disgusting.

Alex continued to laugh.  This time she took a deep breath to embrace the laugh so that it could come from deep in her chest.  She laughed so hard, her sides ached.  She laughed so hard, her eyes began to cry uncontrollably.  She laughed until it hurt and still she laughed and cried.  And still, she laughed on.