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The Colour of Bones

by  Freebird

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2011
Word Count: 953
Summary: historical fiction for 11+ I've only done the first draft so far, and by writing the synopsis, I hope to clarify the plot points. But I'm rubbish at synopses, so any comments gratefully received! I know it's a tad long, but I'm trying to get it all in. Does it make sense? Where do you feel the holes are?

The Colour of Bones

wordcount 96,000 (first draft)

Lancaster, 1755

Fourteen year old Eliza Legge wears a silver locket about her neck - the last memory of her dead sister, Hannah. Devastated by Hannah’s death, Eliza is also struggling to adapt to her family’s new status as wealthy merchants. She seeks comfort from her old village friend – and Hannah’s erstwhile suitor - Thomas March. But he has just received news of the murder of his dearest friend, Richard Brockbank, and she finds him preoccupied and elusive.

Beset by anxiety and overlooked by parents and friends alike, Eliza is shocked to discover a runaway slave in the cellar. The slave, Abi, shows Eliza a mysterious drawing and explains that she is here to find a holy relic, the Lazarus Cloth, said to have the power to raise the dead. Eliza knows that Abi is the rightful property of Father’s unscrupulous partner, Josiah Cottam. But when the cellar floods, Eliza rescues Abi and agrees to help her, hoping that the Lazarus Cloth might bring Hannah back.

Pursued by Josiah Cottam’s ruthless henchmen, Nathaniel Codd and Hooknose Matthew, Eliza and Abi are almost mauled by a dancing bear and narrowly escape capture and imprisonment. Thomas comes to their aid, and Eliza finds herself falling in love with him.

Eliza, Thomas and Abi take refuge with a travelling menagerie, where Eliza fends off the unwanted romantic attentions of the bear handler, Lank. She unsuccessfully tries to hide from him the secret of the Lazarus Cloth, but is surprised when he reveals that he already knows of it. She learns that Richard Brockbank hid it and laid the clues before he vanished to the West Indies. Eliza begins to suspect that Thomas is keeping a secret of his own.

As Eliza’s romantic feelings for Thomas strengthen, his words lead her to believe that he cares for her in the same way. They follow the cryptic trail of clues, only to come to the disappointing conclusion that the Lazarus Cloth is far away, in Jerusalem. Their quest seems to be fruitless.

Eliza’s whereabouts are betrayed by Lank, and Nathaniel Codd throws her into gaol, to await the death sentence. But Eliza is astonished to discover that Josiah Cottam has granted her pardon, on condition that she must be betrothed to him in marriage. Eliza is horrified at the thought – this is the same fate that Hannah suffered, and which ultimately led to her death.

Eliza goes to live in Josiah’s house, where she is imprisoned and abused. To her surprise, Nathaniel Codd proves to be an ally of sorts.

Eliza discovers that the Lazarus Cloth is split into three fragments, and that Josiah already has one. She is shocked to learn that Mother holds one and, having worked out the meaning of the final clue, Eliza is the only person who can find all three pieces. She could use them to bargain with Josiah for her freedom. But she also knows that Abi needs the cloths to resurrect her dead family.

Eliza’s hopes of escape are raised when Thomas tells her that he will come to take her away that night so that they can be together. She waits all night for him, but he never comes. Distraught, Eliza realises that she has misinterpreted his words, and that he must be truly in love with Abi. Overwhelmed by jealousy and embarrassment, she offers to lead Nathaniel to Abi. She plans to hand over both the cloths and Abi to Josiah, so that she and Nathaniel may go free.

Eliza leads Nathaniel to the travellers’ camp, intending to find out where Abi and Thomas have gone. To her surprise, Abi is still there. She is not Thomas’ lover after all. Eliza is astonished when Abi leads her to the old family cottage and Thomas is there... with Hannah!

Eliza hears how Thomas helped to fake Hannah’s death so she could escape from Josiah. Filled with conflicting emotions, she determines to make up for her betrayal of Abi by finding all three portions of the Lazarus Cloth and sending Abi back to Africa with them. But danger mounts when Eliza realises that Lank has overheard her explaining the final location of the cloth, and that he has gone to inform Josiah. Nathaniel takes their side and agrees to help.

They race to retrieve the cloth from a grave, but Josiah, Lank and the local magistrate catch them in the act and pursue them to the river, where there is a ship waiting to sail for Africa. Eliza now has two pieces of the Lazarus Cloth. She and Abi race home to retrieve Mother’s piece... only to discover a small hole cut in the middle of it. Incomplete, the cloth has no power of resurrection. And Josiah is at the door with the magistrate.

But evidence that Eliza unearthed from the grave and an eyewitness account from Abi see Josiah and Hooknose Matthew arrested for murder. Eliza ensures that Lank suffers an undignified exit, and she is taken by surprise when Nathaniel kisses her passionately. Eliza gives Abi her silver locket as a mark of sisterhood, and Abi boards the ship.

As she sails away, Eliza reflects that the Lazarus cloth may not be intact, but miracles have already happened. She has a new sister; she has a new love; she has her life back. And Abi is going home, though Eliza cannot guess what awaits her.

As the ship disappears, Hannah and Thomas appear, to the amazement of her parents. Hannah reveals that the missing piece of the Lazarus Cloth has all along been hidden in the locket.

And Eliza realises that Abi may get her miracle after all.