The Renaissance Faire has always been a refuge for freaks and weirdos. A safe place for the socially awkward and misunderstood. For the last 3 years, however, Notts’ Renaissance Faire in Georgia has expanded it’s demographic to a new clientele. One with incredibly deep wallets and the need for total and complete anonymity.
But before we get into that, let me start with a bit of history. My name is Ali Rook. Ali’s short for Alison. Just your average, pretty, slender, freckled, 26 year-old redhead who happens to run a Renaissance Faire. Of course, “average”, by Ren. Faire standards, is antonymous with the conventional definition of the word “average”. Most average 26 year-old girls don’t inherit multi-million dollar corporations from their extended family members.
My uncle, Henry Notts, founded the Notts’ Ren. Faire 22 years ago. I was 5 years old when he drove my sister and me across the country to see the land that would become our new home. Uncle Henry had just adopted me after my parents died in a car crash.
My sister- well, half sister, Becca Notts, was 10 when we arrived. That was back when we used to get along. That relationship soured almost instantly upon her learning that she’d just inherited the full-time responsibility of baby-sitting her 5 year-old step-sister. Uncle Henry did his best to juggle the roles of single caregiver and bread-winner, but doing both proved to be more challenging than he anticipated. So, while Uncle Henry was off building his medieval empire, Becca begrudgingly looked after me. It didn’t take long for the two of us to become mortal enemies.
Becca was the Lex Luthor to my Superman. The Green Goblin to my Spidey. Hey- I told you I lived in a community of social outcasts. I happened to be a proud comic book nerd. But Becca had always been cruel to me. Vindictiveness may not have been my strongest suit, but as far as Becca was concerned, I did my best to dish it right back. I always attempted to conceal our mutual animosity when Uncle Henry was around. But behind closed doors, we were always ready to throw down.
It was several years later that I ultimately landed the final blow to our relationship. Once I became old enough, I dove into the role of helping my uncle run the faire. He took me under his wing. I was his shadow and dedicated myself to learning everything there possibly was to learn. Unlike Becca, I lived for this place. There was nowhere I’d have rather been. Uncle Henry and I had that in common. And the bond that created between us only drove Becca and I further apart.
Once Becca hit high school, she ignored me altogether. I don’t think we said a single word to each other for years. Once she graduated, she fled South Carolina without a trace. Other than the occasional letter or birthday card, Uncle Henry never saw his daughter again. But I stayed behind in her place. I had no interest in college or anywhere else. The Faire was all I needed. That and Uncle Henry, of course.
I was 22 when Uncle Henry passed away from a stroke. I know- sad shit. But I was fortunate enough to have another family waiting to adopt me. One that had a reputation for taking in all who needed refuge from the misery of the real world. It was the tight-knit staff here at Notts’ Faire. And as you might have guessed, Uncle Henry had willed the land and business to me. Me and Becca, that is. But none of that mattered. Because, Becca would be going away again after the funeral and I could get back to running the Ren. Faire, just as Uncle Henry and I had always done.
Or so I thought. Uncle Henry hadn’t even been buried yet before I discovered Becca seeking potential buyers for Notts’ Faire. I was in my office, speaking with the tomb stone engravers when I saw Becca through my window. She was leading 3 business men in suits down Centre Street, heading towards the old stadium. She was smiling! Our father had just died and she was selling his life’s work! She cared only about collecting her inheritance!
Grief does strange things to a person. For me, it apparently brings out my inner psychopath. Because, before I knew it, I was outside the castle, sprinting down the street towards her. I can’t say I remember much about the fight that ensued, but I’m told it was ugly. Bruises on my cheek and chin indicated that Becca had landed a few lucky punches, but my staff assure me that I still won the fight. Unfortunately, my victory was short-lived. It wasn’t a full day before I received a letter informing me that I was the subject of lawsuit. Becca was suing me for assault and battery.
While my staff would have had my back 100%, Becca had the testimony of the three respectable businessmen who accompanied her. She was claiming emotional distress and demanding payment in the form of the deed to Notts’ Faire. The bitch really knew how to hit me where it hurt. The next couple months definitely marked a low point in my life. Legal fees stacked up quickly and my odds at winning grew slimmer by the day. My second lawyer pressed me to settle in order to avoid jailtime. My whole life was slipping from my fingers and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I was nearly at rock-bottom when I received the miraculous phone call that would change my circumstances forever. A man by the name of James Mason was interested in buying Notts’ Faire. But not only was he interested in buying the faire, he also requested that I stay on as Operations Manager. It really was a miracle. Becca would be able to get the millions that she cared so much about, and I’d get to remain at the Faire that I cared so much about. Everything could stay the same! I could keep my staff. I could keep creative control over the company, and I could carry on my uncle’s legacy. Everything seemed perfect…
But the next details of our arrangement are where this story begins. I listened with baited breath as James Mason spelled out his one stipulation to the sale. During the faire’s off-season, (November through March), he insisted that no faire personnel would be permitted on the premises. Not even I would be allowed on the grounds during this time. Failure to oblige would mean immediate termination and prosecution for trespassing. When I asked what he planned to use the grounds for, he simply told me that he was unable to disclose further details. He insisted that discretion was the only way that this deal was possible.
It took me all of 5 seconds to agree. What other choice did I have? This was the best deal I was ever going to receive. I cast all of my skepticism aside and took the win. Days later, Becca and I had both signed on the dotted line. Notts’ Faire now belonged to James Mason, Becca had dropped the lawsuit against me, and I returned, once more, to honoring my uncle’s life’s work. Life was good again.
At first, I made the attempt to be in frequent communications with James Mason. He was rarely on location, so we mainly communicated by phone and email. I ran every decision by him. I copied every proposal to his inbox. But after a string of unanswered emails and texts, it became abundantly clear that he couldn’t care less How I ran things here. His only concern was the faire’s off-season…
Over the years, a shroud of mystery fell over the once reputable Notts’ Faire name. During the off months, locals claimed to hear loud horns echoing through the forest. Dark trucks were frequently seen traveling in and out of the faire’s brand new security checkpoints. Some of the staff believed that the military had begun using our facilities. Others insisted that pot farmers were brought in to grow crop on the southern fields. As the rumors spread, they became more and more nefarious.
So, early last winter, I finally decided it was time push my weight with the boss and find out what was going on around here. I cared too much about my Uncle’s legacy to allow his reputation to be soiled by any unsavory activities taking place in the off-season. So, I picked up the phone and called James Mason, demanding we speak immediately. Despite it being early December, Mason agreed to admit me onto the grounds for a meeting with him at the castle. Little did I know- this meeting would begin a chain reaction that would ultimately change my life forever…
Story continues in Chapter One