Chapter 1: Master

Fierce seas I crossed and merciless battles I fought. I captained a small ship by the name The Lady Death. She was feared throughout the oceans; far and wide sailors of every caliber knew her name. From her rigging a dark red flag flew, and I was called the Crimson Queen. No man had stood against me and lived. I had a small crew, loyal and stone hard to the grit, good men, each one; good pirates. It was well rumored that the captain of The Lady was a man, and that the title Crimson Queen belonged to the ship herself, but there were those who knew better, though few spoke. According to pirate code females were forbidden, if found a woman was likely to be raped then keel hauled. Only one man ever made the grave mistake of reminding me of this canon. I ripped his tongue out with my own hands then severed his head from his pathetic body.

After years of plundering the high seas and all her island troves and beaches as the most feared pirate, a new threat arose, a new pirate. He was called Admiral Master by many, by others just Master. No one knew his true name; it was shadowed beneath a dark mask of cruelty and ruthlessness. He was by far the most brilliant sailor to ever sail the high seas. He captained not one crew but four. As he plundered he chose to capture rather than kill. He commanded four small ships under his iron fist, the greatest of these being The Grey Ghost. Second in command was The Black Death, once captained by Captain Boone, an old sea dog if there ever was one, killed by his mutinous first mate when the Master attacked. His first mate was quickly slain by the Master and the bosun of the ship sailed now as captain under the command of the Admiral Master. The third ship was The Aaryanna, a private Schooner stolen from Lord Craven on its return to England from the Caribbean. The fourth, and smallest yet deadliest of them all, was a little Square-Rigger called Scylla. With this small armada the Admiral Master commanded the respect of every pirate and sailor on the high seas, every one, but me. I forbade my crew to speak of him with fear in their voice. I once caught a sailor speaking warily of the Master; he called him "the scourge of the sea" and "the greatest of all pirates", 'might even be a match for the Queen'. I let him feel 30 kisses from my cat, and his comrades who stood by and listened were given 20. I addressed my crew as they picked their bleeding comrade off the floor.

"If anyone is caught speaking of the Master, I will personally teach you the true meaning of fear."

I vowed then that it would be him or me. I would comb every sea and port till I found him and delivered his worthless corpse to hell myself. Months went by and no conflict with the Admiral Master occurred. I was miserable; I had chased him far and wide over the deep. Ever I caught word of his deeds and exploits and ere I followed him he had departed. I advanced my efforts, plundering every port I came to. My ship and name were feared more than I thought it possible. The entire ocean knew that no port was safe from me and mine. Yet the Master remained aloof.

One day I sat on the beach of a small island I used to store loot from time to time. I sat on a piece of driftwood pondering once again how I could ensnare the great Admiral Master. Some of my men were on the ship but most were a few miles inland in the cave we stored our rum and swag in. Five men stood by my side as the bell on the ship began to ring. My thoughts were slashed as I looked up and The Grey Ghost came around the cove, followed by the Black Death. My men sprung into action on beach and boat, and I stood with a gleam in my eye and a new vigor. I pursed my whistle to my lips and blew, letting the men in the cave know we were under attack. The men on the ship had already begun to fire upon Master's ships with their pistols but they were out of line for the canons. No one moved on the decks of the Grey Ghost or the Black Death. It looked as if only the fewest sailors needed to work the ship were on there. There was no sign of the Master.

"What devilry is this?" I asked quietly to myself. As if in response to my question a pistol shot was heard in the jungle behind us. Cries of many men erupted from the trees and steel clashed and many pistols rang out. I turned and stared hard into the trees, far back into the growth my men could be seen fighting a whole host of pirates. Master had anchored on the far side of the island sending his largest ships to the front while he and his men dispatched my crew in the caves. He knew we'd be here and what we'd be up to.

"Bastard!" I spat. Just then out of the trees, as if on cue, Master walked into the clearing of the beach with one hundred of his men. The battle in the jungle was over; those of my men who had not been killed were being lead into the clearing as prisoners. Master marched forth as if on a field of victory, but his victory wasn't certain yet. My five men on the beach raced forward with their sabers outstretched. I stood on the beach as still as a statue, waiting for Master to reach my spot. He walked towards me, a battle raged around us yet neither noticed; a smirk played across his arrogant lips. His blonde hair swept around his face underneath his hat, his blue eyes pierced my soul; he had a rugged build and his skin was a sun kissed gold. He was gorgeous, and I hated him ever the more for it. He was within ten feet of me and his pace slowed; my saber reached forward hungering for his blood. Finally we leapt into battle, somewhere around us the battle on the beach came to an end. Neither of us noticed it, we were locked in each other's gazes; our swords meeting every time they could. Memory escapes me as to how long we fought, it felt like ages but it must have only lasted a few minutes. In the matter of a second I had lost; I had taken a high guard and he struck low. He sliced open my stomach and the moment it took for me to recoil from the pain he had raked his hilt across the side of my head. I fell to the beach unconscious.

I do not know how long I was out; it could not have been more than a half hour. I awoke to someone throwing water in my face, it was hot and salty, I coughed and gagged from it and the pain in my stomach flared. My head was throbbing as if someone had thrust a knife in my temple and my abdomen blazed with a searing pain where I had been sliced. I was lying face down on the beach with my feet bound and my hands bound behind my back. Whoever had thrown water in my face had pulled me up by the hair and then dropped my wet face in the sand again; it burned my eyes and stuck in my nose and mouth. I rolled over despite the ripping feeling in my gut. As I looked around my surroundings were hazy but I could tell my ship had been taken as well. Every one of my men who were left alive was lying prostrate on the beach. Some were badly wounded, others not a scratch. Each was tied and bound and standing before us all were about fifty of Master's men, and not five feet from me was Master himself. As I rolled over he turned his gaze towards me. I scowled at him best I could, considering I was looking at him upside down. He gave his head a cocky tilt and laughed deep in his throat.

"So it's true, the captain of the Lady Death is a woman. No wonder you crew was taken so quickly." His men gave out a loud guffaw.

"Tell me, how easy was it to take us seeing as you out numbered us four to one and attacked from behind. Bad form, Master," I said, spitting out sand at his feet. He turned from me and began speaking to his men.

"Unbind their feet," he told them, then looking at me and smirking again he said, "But not her, she will remain bound." Then he smiled, more arrogantly than ever before. Then he turned to my company and spoke to all.

"Sailors, you need not die today. I am taking the Lady Death under my command and I need men to crew it. Whoever will swear death to your Queen will live and sail under me." Of the fifty men lying on the beach 33 men sprang up and ran, walked, and even crawled towards him. They stood and lay in a line in front of him. Then without warning he and his men pulled out their pistols and shot every mother's son of the traitorous scum. The sixteen men on the beach beside me still loyal all had a look of surprise on their faces. None of the ones left were badly wounded, my best men, and the best fighters; prime stock for Master to take. He addressed the men left alive on the beach.

"You will sail under my command on each of my ships without any contact with your previous fellow shipmates, or," and he turned towards me, "your beloved Queen." He turned to his second in command and said, "Take them to my ships, if they have wounds dress them, split them up accordingly to their skills and other mates." All of his men scurried off at that and began dragging my sailors towards the shore where I noticed all of his ships were now anchored along side my beautiful Lady Death. I couldn't stand the thought of her being under anyone else's command but certainly not his. I would have rather set a fire in her and had her sleeping at the bottom of the cove than in his command. As his men scrambled off to follow his orders we were left on the beach alone. He looked at me and grinned triumphantly. I turned my face towards the sky; I did not want to give him any satisfaction as he killed me and took my ship. He came and stood over me, blocking my view of the sky until I was forced to look into his eyes once more. He bent down till his face was inches from mine and smiled at me. I grinned and asked, "So, will you leave me lying here to die or are you going to do a lady the pleasure of a quick death?" He laughed and ignored my question saying, "You put up quite a good battle lass, I wasn't even sure that you weren't a man till I knocked your hat from your head. Though I suppose that's the way you like it, rough." His grin increased.

"Bite me," I said. He laughed a deep guttural laugh and picked me up into his arms and began towards his ship. "Perhaps I will honor that request, but later, first your wounds need tending to, you won't be any good to me in the shape you're in."

"I won't be any use to you any way! I will die before I become your whore!" I screamed.

The bastard laughed again, "I have plenty of whores at every port, I don't need another plaguing me on my ship. No, you will serve as a sailor under me."

"I will never serve you," I spat. "Kill me now, for if you let me live I will surely kill you."

"You will serve under me without so much as a smart word my way on the simple prospect of one day regaining the command of your Lady. For now, she'll be under the complete command of my men." He grinned down at me.

"Bastard. Your filthy hands aren't worthy of touching her," I spoke, seething. He said not another word to me as he sat me in the boat and began to row towards the Grey Ghost. I was hoisted onto the ship still bound. When he sprung over the edge he took me from the arms of the sailor who had hoisted me up. He said to the man, "Have a bin of hot water and clean rags brought to my cabin," and turned and headed towards the captain's quarters. I despised being carted around like a weak child or some highbred lady. He carried me into his quarters and sat me on his desk. He took his hat off and his hair flowed freely about his face and shoulders. He turned toward me and sat in the chair at the desk.

"Now, tell me your real name love, for I won't be calling you Queen anymore."

I smiled silkily, "Would you prefer Empress?" He did not have time to answer as a knock sounded at the door that moment. He went to the door and opened it. The sailor came in with a large wooden bin of warm water and rags draped over his shoulder. He sat the tub on the floor in front of the desk and handed the rags to Master and walked out the door. Master closed and locked it behind him.

"Afraid some of your men might try to interrupt," I asked scowling. He eyed and me and simply said, "No, I don't want you to interrupt by trying to escape."

"If you haven't noticed, I'm still bound hand and foot. I'd be hard pressed to get past you in my current state." He only grinned and removed his knife and slit the bonds on my wrists and ankles. He dipped one of the rags into the basin of water and walked over to a cabinet and began rummaging through it. With his back still turned he said, "Take off your shirt and corset."

"I'd rather not."

"Take them off or I will cut them off." I removed my shirt and corset and threw them on the chair by the desk. When he turned he grinned.

"Not shy are we? You complained earlier about being my whore and now here you sit tempting me. I would have thought the Crimson Queen to be a prude, yet here she sits topless on my desk at my bidding," he gave a short laugh.

I grinned, "I have nothing to hide, or anything to be ashamed of in front of you." I gave a slight toss of my hair and said slyly, "Besides, I am going to kill you anyway, so there is no worry of you seeing my breasts this once." He scoffed and said, "Drink this," and handed me a small bottle of rum. "It'll help with the pain, now lie down, I'm going to clean that stomach wound I gave you. Do try not to wiggle and squirm or cry. It would be unseemly, and hinder my work," he said grinning even wider. I took a long swig and lay back on the desk. He dabbed the warm rag across my stomach and it felt wonderful, the warmth cooled the fire that had been burning there since his sword had sliced me. His hands were coarse but gentle and I caught myself too late enjoying his touch; my stomach quivered as he brushed across it once and before I could compose myself he looked into my eyes and to my ever disappointment I blushed. I turned my head quickly but caught out of my peripheral vision him smiling. He opened the bottle he had gotten out of the cabinet and it gave a horrible reek. As he poured the contents over my abdomen the intense fire came streaming back through my entire body. I took in a hissing breath but did not move. After pouring the reeking concoction onto my stomach he applied a thick mixture liberally onto my wound and began to wrap it up. When he was through he gestured towards the basin and said, "You can take a bath if you like, just don't get your bandage wet."

"Don't speak down to me as if I was a child," I snapped. He merely walked over to the chair, laid my clothes on the desk and sat down watching me.

"Are you going to watch?" I asked. He smiled and said, "I have many valuable things in this cabin not mention my weapons, I couldn't have you roaming about and tearing things up. If you prefer I could have that carried down the men's bunks and you can bathe in front of them if you like."

"Could be interesting," I said. I turned from his gaze and began to take my trousers off and kicked my boots into a corner. I could feel his gaze burning holes in my back. I stepped into the tub and balanced on the edge. After washing the sand and blood from my hair I noticed a small bar of soap was floating in the tub. I picked it up and began to wash myself. The water felt good to my aching body. I had not realized how much the battle and being bound up had taken a toll on my body. I turned to face him.

"Got a razor?" I asked. He guffawed.

"You're going to shave!? Ha! I would never have believed it. And here I was beginning to think you might make a pirate after all. I suppose the Crimson Queen must keep up her lady like appearances." He went to the cabinet again and brought out a small razor and handed it to me. I gave a small, "Hn," and turned my back on him again. After I had finished bathing and shaving I stood and turned towards him again. His eyes roamed over my body.

"When you're through salivating on yourself, mind handing me my clothes?" I asked. He looked into my eyes and grinned. He tossed my shirt and corset to me. I put my shirt and trousers back on. I slipped my boots on and headed towards the door.

"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.

"To the crew's quarters." I snorted, "You weren't expecting me to spend the night with you?" He smiled, "If you are going to the crew's quarters then you will be spending the night with me. I never sleep in my own cabin. I'll escort you down there."

"No need, I can find them on my own, as well as a bunk as far away from you as possible." I shoved my corset into his extended arm. He gave me a questioning look and I smiled and said, "Your spoils," and walked out the door.

Immediately after exiting his cabin I was assaulted by every gaze on the ship. The sailors had made way while I was being tended to and were now about their regular duties. I saw none of my crew on deck. Dusk has settled about the sea and it seemed a blaze before the ship. I walked along the deck about midway and stopped; I turned starboard and saw The Black Death coursing smoothly at our side. The Aaryanna wasn't far behind her. Port side was Scylla and behind her my beloved Lady Death. I kept on my course and crossed the deck and entered the fore castle. Nearly 20 men were already in there and all turned and glared through the dim light at me. I walked up to a large man, who had been bossing the others around when I had entered.

"Find me a bunk." I demanded.

"I don't take orders from no wench. Who says you're even supposed to be in here. Thought you'd be keepin the Master company." As he said this he grinned wide showing his repulsive and partly missing set of teeth.

"I'll be keeping no one company on this boat, least of all your filthy Master. Now find me a bunk!"

"Oy, I don't take orders from no wench and I'll listen to no one bad mouth our Master either." His smile immediately failed and he took a loose swing at my head. I dodged easily though and as I swung back to deliver my fist into his jaw a hand caught it in mid air. I swung around to face my new opponent. Standing before me was the bane of my existence, Master.

"Master, she was a bad mouthin you and I wa-"

"Silence, go back to your work." The men turned their backs on us and resumed whatever they had been up to before I had entered. I looked up at him; his eyes were no longer gleaming with amusement as they had been earlier, nor was he wearing his famous grin. His eyes were cold and his lips pursed in anger. He did not let go of my wrist but addressed me firmly.

"You do not give orders any more; you take them. None of my men will take any heed to you. You are not to start fights on my ship. You are no longer a captain; you aren't even an officer." His grin returned once more. "In our battle to take your ship, I lost my cabin boy, poor lad, but I suppose you will be good enough to fill his position." Though his men had turned their back they had apparently been listening intently because a great laughter broke out within the fore castle and even above deck. Apparently every encounter with the Master and his new Queen was worth spying on. My eyes blazed at his words. I desired nothing more at that moment to rip his heart out. I knew I was outnumbered and one hand held tight and even if I was able to get one good swing on him it would be the last thing I did for a long time to come, if not ever more. I bit my tongue and felt the blood ooze into my throat. Through clenched teeth I asked, "Would you have me lick your boots as well, Master?" He grinned down at me. He released my wrist and with that same hand lifted my chin towards his face. I was trembling with rage as he leaned in and spoke beside my cheek, "I will take great enjoyment breaking that feisty spirit of yours."

I released myself from his grasp and walked to the far end of the fore castle where it appeared there were few hammocks hung. I grabbed a spare hammock and began to string it up. While my back was turned Master had unstrung his own hammock and brought it over to mine. As he began to string his up I turned and spoke to him.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Protecting my interests. Wouldn't want any of my men taking advantage of you now would we?" his infuriating grin came back.

"Your men would not dare touch me, and if any did they would soon learn to direct their attention elsewhere. And I am not you interest, I am not some spoil of battle."

"Oh but you are. You are mine, and I will do with you what I want," he said leaning against the side of the ship and smirking ever more. I simply growled deep in my throat and turned once more to my hammock. I felt his presence leave my side. I heard him walking towards the entrance, and then he stopped.

"Get to your duties, I assume you know what that entails," he said gruffly from the door, and then exited the fore castle. I sighed. I gritted my teeth and glared at the dark wall in front of me. I decided then and there that if this was to be my fate for now, then I would make every moment for him on this ship hell, and anyone else I could take along for the ride.