Niamh was born in County Kerry, Ireland. Born of the day of Saint Patrick himself. Her parents always knew from birth that Niamh was special. She wasn’t like other young ladies. Who grew up to be prim and proper Irish house wives. No, Niamh was a free spirit, her grandmother often likened her to a fairy queen or the infamous Grace O’Malley. More intelligent then a girl child had a right to be. She was stubborn, mouthy and defiant. She was no high class lady by any means. She savored her grandmother’s stories of celtic queens of old. That she too could be as strong as the women who lived before her.
It did not help matters that she had seven doting big brothers that included her in on their mischief.
When she was a babe her father often had business dealings with gun smugglers and used the lie of “I’m taking Niamh out for a ride” as a code word. To check when ships would come to the tavern’s dock. The love of horses and land runs deep in the blood of the Irish. It was her fate from birth to be what she is.
Unlike most poor in Ireland, the Conroy’s fared ok. Her father ran a seaside tavern along the coastline of the county. Often small vessels could make their way to the tavern where backroom dealings could take place. Away from the eyes of the British authorities.
The red headed lass pretended not to listen in when her father and brothers spoke. Not to listen in when serving customers in the bar. Oh but she did listen and learn. Picking up quite the skill set of throwing knives, from silly “childhood” games with her brothers. Of who could hit the tree stumps behind the tavern better. From her rapscallion uncle, who had been in the new world and often favored houses of ill-repute she learned about playing cards. He saw no harm in teaching Niamh how to have a upper-hand on her brothers.
She was the gem of her father’s eye and was a beauty known in the county, amongst the farmer and peasant working class of county Kerry. By the standards of the upper class and aristocracy she was plain and common. At every turn to find her a suitable catch failed in misery as soon as Niamh opened her mouth. Often telling her father “Ah won’t have ah man who won’t believe ah can change the stars”.
It was unknown to her family, that Niamh was carrying on a relationship with her brother Ronan’s bestfriend. Ronan did not approve of Liam being interested in his baby sister, even though they were like brothers. Niamh and Liam were seeing each other in secret for several years until they could no longer hide their relationship nor the fact that she was with his child. It was a quick wedding at Fiftheen to make things seem proper. Changing of her last name from Conroy to McFarlane. Niamh moved just a mile from her parents tavern but still on occasion did she work in her father’s tavern. Helping her family while Liam worked for her father’s more illicit activities.
Not long after their first child was born, there would be another pregnancy that brought about the birth of their twin children. A boy and a girl, both with hair as dark as their father's and eyes and bright green as they could be. Niamh found herself a wife and a mother of a family. With feverant prayers that it would be bigger in the future if the good lord was willing.
Her’s and Liam’s children growing up much in the same manner Niamh had grown up in, though happiness was not to last. For Liam had to go out to sea, a smuggling ship had came in and where a few crewmen short. Her husband decided to go, to help her fathers friend out and make some more money. Just to cushion their pockets a little more. Rather than leave his young wife and children alone in their home. He insisted while he was gone she move back to her family’s tavern. Once a week, riding out to check on their cottage a mile away.
Serving ale in her father’s tavern did nothing to help the language she learned. She dreamed of the ocean when sailors came in from sea, telling wild tales about a world away from the oppression that was suffocating around her. Dreaming and working, waiting for the day Liam would walk back through the tavern door was all Niamh did. Waiting for the day Liam would walk in, smelling of the sea and brine and draw her into his arms. And possess her mouth once more with his kiss.
That would never come. “News” had came that the ship Liam had been on had sank somewhere between a place called Tortuga and Ireland. Her husband was dead. Niamh’s world was turned upside down, the only sanity in her life aside from her children was now gone. Niamh mourned the loss of her husband, but she had children to raise and work to be done. So she did the best she could. Getting out of bed each morning with the best fake smile she could put on.
The Conroy’s were for the most part hard working Honest Irishmen, they were also patriots. Her twin brothers Liard and Leith; being even more patriotic than their father. The twin brothers, believed in a free Ireland. That Ireland belonged to the Irish.
One evening at closing time her brothers left with a unknown man, she had never seen him in the tavern before. Liard telling her before she headed upstairs to their home above the tavern. “Keep a candle in the window fer us lassie”. Laying in bed, trying to sleep, thinking of Liam. She stared at the ceiling. A gnawing knot burned in the pit of her belly and she could take it no more. Her inner voice was telling her something was wrong but she didn’t know what. Niamh was no novice about sneaking out, she had already caused a scandal by rejecting every suitor that came to call. What worse damage could an “a widow” do, to a reputation she’d already sullied. Long ago, under the shenanigans of her brothers and her own hand.
She waited and waited on the porch for her brothers to return with the weapons, that she suspected they had went to buy but they never did end up with. Being the hardheaded young woman she was, Niamh would go to saddle a horse to investigate. She thought they might be in the cove that was a few miles away. Luck was on her side...but it wasn’t. Because the sight she saw was them being tied to the back of a wagon. And a pair of british army men standing there. Just the luck of the Irish and she was spotted by a soldier. Leith called out in gaelic for her to ride away, least she be taken captive to. It was a crime to speak Irish and to teach it to your children. A crime her father committed eight times.
Fortunately for Niamh, she knew the county like she knew the back of her hand and was able to out ride and maneuver the soldier that gave pursuit. Managing to get home, only to find it burning. Niamh’s mother’s family lived in the next county over. A days ride still.
By the time that Niamh had made it to her aunt and uncles, it wasn’t yet news to her family that her brothers and parents were arrested. Her children assumed taken into custody. She hadn’t been at the house, but she had been seen by a lone officer in the night. He likely did not get a glimpse enough of her because she had rode like a hell cat. But it as to be assumed, she likely was wanted as well. Instead of turning in his niece by marriage, her uncle (Who was also patriot of Erie and had connections to smugglers) decided that at first light. They would put Niamh on a ship to anywhere in the new world that would have her. If the british had her family and children there was nothing she could do about it.
Saint Patrick must have been watching over her that cold winter morning, because she was put aboard a smuggler vessel that was sailing for the West Indies. The smugglers had needed of a cook, and Niamh was decent as any having worked in a tavern and been a wife. She was rough around her edges and use to the coarse manners of a sailor. There was a young boy on the ship, who had only been with them for about a year who took a fancy to Niamh. She reminded him of his own dear sister, who had died two summers prior with the flux. From the young man she learned about tying knots. How to keep things from rolling around below deck and above. He also taught her how to darn a sail when they needed patching. Easily catching on with sewing skills she already knew.
She’d end up proving to the men on the ship that she was not just a mere woman. Niamh was willing to pick up the slack when some men were lost at sea. Once even going to fisticuffs with a man who thought he could have his way with her.
The ship was bound for Tortuga, out in the world, on the sea. Niamh made up her mind an was determined she’d not sit by and be nobody. She was going to be someone. Even if, that meant she had to lie, cheat, steal and murder to be that person. She craved fortune for herself when she saw what the male sailors could do. Making it her goal to find a ship that would be willing to take her aboard. She had become betwitched by the ocean and the lure of gold. The danger, it thrilled her, the adrenaline rush of getting caught, made Niamh savor the thrill. It kept her mind off her broken heart, the loss of her husband, children, family. In such a short time span. Thinking of the new life ahead, kept her sane. Kept Niamh from throwing herself to the sharks and joining her husband in his watery grave.
Landing in Tortuga, she was marooned there by the smugglers, who while they had been appreciative of a cook aboard, they could not stand another moment of her singing in gaelic and her obsession with wanting to play cards. Needing a way to survive, she found her beauty was useful in tortuga. She found that whoring made a decent amount of money. It kept her alive and she was pretty enough to be choosy. Only taking long term customers after a while. The men were mostly attractive, but gold was gold to Niamh, and she heard talk of pirates.
She'd meet a man, who would end up becoming a long time customer of hers, they formed a bond that could have been romantic if he wasn't married, was Irish, and not full of philandering ways and shenanigans. All those things he was not, more like a brother he became. One of her few friends.
Because Niamh’s heart was cold. It was in the sea with her husband Liam. She had loved Liam from the time she a young girl until the day he “died”. She loved him still and believed there was no man out there who could compare to Liam McFarlane.
There was talk of a captain who was not against women aboard his ship. Niamh would seek out Captain Sol, propositioning him with the guts of an Irishmen and her skill set. Declaring that “Iffa ya don’t think ah will hold me share, ya can tie anchor to mah feet and drop me to the ‘arks” Sol agreed to have her aboard his ship, he could use the hands and Niamh wasn't one to not pull her share.
Putting in time on the Rising Sun, she met another Irishman, with one look she felt a flutter, a knot form in her stomach. A man with whom she formed a semblance of a life with...at least for a little while. A man that gave her a daughter. A man that broke her heart more than once and left. His name forever engraved upon her soul. She loves her daughter and even if she hates to admit it. She loves her daughter’s father still. Even though only the good lord knew why.
Niamh would eventually learn that Liam was not dead. He had searched for her when he had returned to Ireland injured. They would be reunited for a while. He was still involved in illicit dealings only now, they were even riskier. He worked for the nobility. Liam’s career choices lead to some dealings that caused for Niamh and him to be separated once more during the uprising and rebellion in Hispaniola. Liam would end up sending his wife and children to Venice. But things were different this time. She went with money in her pockets. Letters of credit for two banks. She was a made woman from what Liam had done. How far they had come from their simple roots. Yet she was alone as ever before. This time with five children tow. But they could attend the the best schools and titles could be bought for them. Money was money in this part of the world.
So it was with a fire in her soul and shadow dealings of her husband that Niamh stepped off the ship's dock into the city of masks.