The Castell Santa Monica stands alone in the darkness; nothing grows within sight of the castle for as far as can be seen. The people of the villages in the area avoid the family who lives there.
To the innocent observer, it would appear to be one of the most inhospitable places to live, and with good reason. The family who own the Castell Santa Monica are the feared Ballinger family. The Ballinger family have lived in the area for as long as anyone can recall, some people say the first Baron Ballinger found the most desolate and deserted he could to hide from a society that hated him.
The first Baron Ballinger was a rogue, and John Ballinger was a ship's captain who got shipwrecked trying to outrun the King's men. His ship, Prospero, sank before any of the crew had an opportunity to save any of their ill-gotten gains. Ballinger was the only man to able to swim ashore. He lay near death at the edge of the frozen water, shivering and frozen through from the icy water that had almost claimed his life. He realized he could never return to his home on the mainland, one of the reasons he became a pirate was to hide what Ballinger thought was his destiny.
John Ballinger came from a wild, and some say, vicious family but back then one's life depended on being able to defend your property. In the early days, that was all it was, defending his home but as he got older the urge to kill got stronger, and harder to control. That was when he took to drinking; he thought the drink would tame his demons, what John never realized is the bottle released what he was trying to hide - even from himself.
One thing that Ballinger never thought about was the consequences of his actions, as a man of war and with a violent streak, what people thought of him meant little. He knew finding love would be hard; his lover would need to be able to fulfill endless desires and have the strength of character to fight his dark side. The more Ballinger thought, the harder John drank to forget, and the more violent he became. John Ballinger had been a sailor for as long as he could recall when he wasn't at sea, he was too restless to stay on land for long. The sea drew him to her caresses, like a sultry lady drew her lovers and he was powerless to resist her charms.
He used to stand on the cliffs near his home, and dream of the sailing boats heading to sea - never thinking that one day he'd be hunted like an animal - at that time, the romance of the life of a sailor was his driving force.
As much as he wanted to settle, the life at sea pulled at his soul. There was little in his life to hold John ashore, his family's small fortune was dwindling owing to bad investments as the sailing trade became scarce.
The Manor house at Ferrington became too large for him to stay in with no company, and the upkeep became prohibitive. John needed to find a way to fund his lifestyle, but it wasn't easy for him. He learned to trust few people, those he'd trusted at one time, had let him down when he needed them most, and this drove him to the bottle. The drink didn't ease the pain, but it dulled the memory of betrayal for a while. The memory remained as did the hatred, and the desire for revenge, this urge became John's driving force and ultimately his downfall.
Ferrington Manor wasn't the home of the Ballinger family. Nobody knew where they had called home before they came. John won the house in a duel over a lady, who it turned out didn't want him. In the early days, John had a few friends who came to stay. These man like John Ballinger, were not to be trusted and totally ruthless and for a while things at the Manor went well. But, gradually they could see his changed personality and the coldness in his eyes. The time came when even the hardiest of the men left him alone, and the house grew silent.
All of his gains from gambling and piracy he put towards the Prospero; the ship was supposed to be fast enough to outrun the best of the King's ships and shallow enough draft to slide into the shallows where others feared to sail.
The raiding went well for several months, and Ballinger's wealth grew quickly; he felt the temptation to build a faster and more heavily gunned ship, but something had to be sacrificed. You can't have guns and a fast ship, so, he chose power over speed - fight, not flight became his credo - and for many trips, the Prospero was more than a match for her opponents. The trouble is when you gain a reputation, you don't only run for the King's men but people of your kind who want the ship you sail. It was during one such skirmish that Prospero met her match.
She was on what would have been the final run before Ballinger was going to upgrade the cannons when she came across the Prospect of Doom. The Prospect has a reputation for being a ship known among the pirates for not being boarded or taken.
The talk among the crews is that she was manned by a crew of skeletons, and could never be outrun. Another tale told along the docks is that if three captains see the ghost of a white lady - one of those captains will die shortly.
One stormy night, John was sitting with fellow captains, Joshua Moble and Hosea Martins, when a ghostly figure crossed the window of the Three Skippers Inn, at Bartleby Bay. Nobody said a word, they didn't need to, they all knew the curse. The only thing that was required was who was to be the next victim of The Woman in White?
The silence wasn't the enemy he feared the most. But his memories of life he had lost. He got stranded on a strange shore - he had no idea where he came ashore - far from home and with little money. His life taught him that nobody gave you anything without a cost, and the fewer people know about your past, the sooner you can bury the past - but how do you hide from yourself?
John realized this was his opportunity to start anew, but he had nothing but dreams and expectations for his new life, and you can't live long on air. The only things he had going for where he knew the sea, he could run a ship, and nobody had heard of him in this new land. Not everything was unattainable, but with a healthy body and a mind to succeed, John was determined to put his past to rest and try to become a respectable man.
John wiped the salt from his eyes, and tried to focus on his surrounding; all he could see was that the land bordered on a desolate stretch of ground on which there appeared no life. No birds or plants and the air was still - it seemed as if death had killed everything, even the air.
"Where did I land?" he muttered as he got to his feet, "this looks like the land has given up on the hope of life and died off. The trees have no leaves, and the soil is so dusty it seems to breed disease. Have I come ashore in Hell? Is this my punishment for being a bad person?"