Queen Emelia Kraven Quiesco slept not at all the night she ordered Dread Pirate Robin out of her room. The young woman stood in front of her favorite window overlooking the ocean. In front of her unseeing eyes, the heaven moved slowly over its sister, the sea, who reflected the object of her envy on her choppy black surface. Em filled the hours preceding dawn by contemplating a great many things: her life before being kidnapped; the past year; her "nascent reign," as Dread Robin had put it; and above all, Roger himself.
Immediately following the Pirate King's departure, the queen's ladies-in-waiting renewed their calls from the other side of the barred door to let them inside. These entreaties went unanswered, unnoticed for the most part. Their mistress didn't care for food. Her gut somersaulted constantly and turned within itself. She couldn't sleep. Her head swam with her sorrows, her worries, and her bittersweet joys; of her past and, most importantly, of her future. When the distant clock tower in the city tolled the midnight hour, the attendants gave up finally and their voices ceased to be heard for the rest of the night.
The young queen left her post just once, and that was when the night's vigil was almost over, and its starry, dark body was beginning to be overtaken by the soft hands of dawn. Only then did the queen leave the window to unlock the door. But as a stipulation for having it open, she allowed just Lady Louise access into the bedroom, to the consternation of the other women. As quickly as the queen had left it, she returned to her window and delved back into her silent musings. She blocked out Louise's gentle suggestions to take to bed or clean up her person or eat a bit of food. The kindhearted woman didn't waste her breath for long. She left soon after, but came back periodically to check up on her charge.
During Lady Louise's last inspection, the cusp of the sun's sleepy eye was just starting to peak above the invisible horizon line. The lady stuck her head through the door, but instead of her usual onceover glance at the queen, Louise announced that there was a visitor who wanted to bid Em goodbye.
An electrical jolt passed through the queen's body, animating the statue she'd become back to life. She spun toward the door as Michael Turnbull stepped across the threshold.
His sky-blue eyes observed Em's face fall at the sight of him. He smiled sheepishly, knowing who she had really anticipated walking through the door. Michael teased, "I had envisioned a more enthusiastic welcome."
The war had banged him up. He'd received a number of bullet wounds, concentrated mostly on his upper body. A minor fire in the helm caused by a flaming cannonball had burned the back of one hand. The cuts and bruises he'd received were enumerable. However, he recovered well since then. The burn ceased to sting, and its boil removed of its liquid. His cuts and bruises were healing, and it didn't hurt so much anymore to move his arms about and take deep breaths of air. The skin on the tip of his nose, which had that scrape with a stray bullet two months ago, had grown back, but the tip was now forever on the flat side, where it had once been round.
Michael and Em had not seen each other since her coronation. The captain of The Jolly Roger had anchored his first mate to the ship with the heavy responsibility of overseeing the repair of the war-damaged vessel. However, Em and Michael had sent frequent letters back and forth between them during their sightless absence. It was with these letters in mind that turned what should have been a warm reception cold from Em's end.
In an icy tone, Em said, "I can't believe you have the balls to show your face. You kept from me the knowledge that you were leaving."
In an apology full of guilt, Michael explained Roger had forced his silence, but he knew and she knew his excuse wasn't enough to mend Em's injury. A tense moment passed between them before Michael asked hopefully, "Will you accompany me to the city to see me and Roger off?"
Em declined sharply. "I've already seen from a dock how The Jolly Roger looks when it sails out to sea, and it was enough for my lifetime." Her point having been said, Em turned her back on Michael and glared out into the sea as if it had been the one to offend her gravely.
"Emelia, do not be this way," entreated Michael in pained tones, but the young woman who was queen could not be swayed. He bowed at the waist even though she couldn't see. "May the gods bless you in all your endeavors." Without waiting for the reply that wouldn't come, the blond man straightened up and left.
The door shut after him with a soft click, but not before the queen caught sounds of a lady's gown whisper over the threshold, the pirate's heavy footsteps replaced by lighter ones.
Not turning around or looking over her shoulder, Em asked her blurry reflection in the window pane, "Am I being a stubborn fool by refusing to go?"
Lady Louise's image became more defined and clearer as she drew closer to the queen. She replied politely, "If you would permit me to say, My Queen, supposing that this is your last goodbye, would you want to remember it like this?"
Em brushed away a few stray tears traveling down her cheeks before she turned to face the other woman. She sighed while looking at Louise, who had curtseyed.
"Come, Louise, stand up," the queen said somberly. "Help me out of these soiled garments. I have a long day ahead and have had so little sleep to get me through."
Dread Pirate Robin was standing in the helm's balcony when he was alerted from below on the main deck by the Twins. Someone on the dock landing was calling for him.
Roger scowled. As his murderous gaze fell on the identical boys, they flinched and instinctively drew closer to each other.
"If 'tis another blasted messenger, shoot him dead," retorted their captain.
"But," the Twins began together.
"The caller threatens—"
"—t'call the Politickans—"
"—on us, Cap'n," rejoined the Twins.
The hour was too early in the morning. The sun god, Solis, had just begun his journey out of the underworld. None but the pirates and the ocean waves and bellows of wind stirred in the harbor. The surviving Politickan soldiers and officers took their lodging in the city, but the distance between the harbor and the city was not great. The foreigners could be woken quickly and called down to the dockyard before The Jolly Roger and her crew had a chance to escape to a safe distance at sea.
From behind the great steering wheel, the first mate warned his captain, "You better hear what the messenger has to say. It might be important."
"No matter its supposed importance, nothing is delaying our departure this time," Dread Robin hissed over his shoulder. Determined to kill the messenger himself, Roger stalked downstairs after ordering Michael not to signal the riggers up in the masts to drop the canvases until he was back on the ship. The handful of men manning the capstan had paused under indecision following the Twins' announcement. Their irate captain ordered them to continue weighing anchor as he passed by.
Roger found not a messenger boy at the bottom of the gangplank, but someone who almost looked the sex of one. His black eyes narrowed as he observed Em's attire. She wore not a gown befitting a queen, but her worn-out sailing clothes, hanging loosely off her small frame.
Walking down to meet her, Roger said in a hard voice, "You cannot come with us."
"I'm not," Em said softly. She tilted her head back to meet his eyes as he came to a stop a few feet in front of her. "I didn't want your last memory of me as the angry queen of Tarym but as the scared princess you fell in love with a year ago."
Roger stared at her for a long moment, scrutinizing her. Finally, he said, "You look terrible."
Em's lips were dry and cracked, but the small chuckle that passed through them was music to Roger's ears. "Well, we both knew I was never a woman whose looks gave men pause," she teased. "And it doesn't help that I didn't sleep a wink."
Roger shook his head slowly. "You were right," he said. In response to her bewildered look, he added, "I can no longer call you a princess."
Em's dark brown eyes glittered like diamonds at the memory that followed those familiar words. She had some for him as well. " 'Tis quite flattering that you've bothered to remember everything." From the inside of her cotton shirt, she pulled out a leather-bound letter of marque and held it out to him. "Be my privateer," she said simply. "It just needs your signature next to mine to make it valid. You're still wanted in Politicka, but at least under Tarymian law, you'll not technically be branded a pirate anymore."
Roger remarked dryly, "I don't believe the Politickans will like me plundering their merchant ships under your name." However, he took the letter of marque anyway, and it disappeared inside his overcoat.
Em's upturned hand still hovered between them. "Give me your earring," she commanded. "So I'll still have a part of you with me when you're gone."
Roger gave her a weird look, eyebrow raised. He told her that she had a perverse sentimentality, but, after a long pause, he reached up to his left earlobe. Dread Pirate Robin unhooked the accessory which had defined both his past and present and put it into Em's hand.
"I will come back to report my progress once in a while," he told her as she curled her fingers tightly around the fang.
Em's smile was not as bright as the sun, but it was no less breathtaking. "I will hold you to that," she said before she threw her arms around Roger's neck. He jumped in surprise, and for a fleeting moment, the emotion even showed on his pale face before it disappeared behind the mask again. He looked down at Em with an unreadable expression as she looked up at him with tenderness in her features.
"My heart always belongs to you, my Pirate King," she whispered.
Roger placed his hands on her shoulders, but before he had the chance to push her off of him, Em lifted herself onto her tiptoes and pressed her lips against his. Roger's hands slid down to her waist, and he pulled her closer to his body. He deepened the kiss as a sudden outbreak of cheers and whooping rained down on them from The Jolly Roger.
Dread Pirate Robin broke away from his lover with a sharp jerk of his head. His searing glare drove his bothersome crew away from the side of the ship like dogs with their tails between their legs. Em's laughter registered in his ears, and Roger looked down into the mirth on her face.
"I blame you," he growled.
Em chuckled. "And I love you," she replied before his lips captured hers.
"As I love you," Roger murmured before he pulled away completely from Em and started toward his ship.
Fighting back tears, she called, "May the gods lead you safely!" as he began to climb the rope ladder left for him since the gangplank had been hauled onto the ship. Everything was ready but for the captain's presence.
Roger paused to reply, "May the gods bless you in all your endeavors."
Em watched him mount the ladder and return to his ship. As soon as he disappeared onto the main deck, his roaring voice traveled down to her on the dock landing.
"Back to work, the lot of you! Wipe those stupid grins off your ugly mugs! You tongue-wagging bilge rats act as if none of you have ever seen a man kiss a woman!"
A laugh burst forth from Em's lips. She clutched her sides and bent over slightly. Tears rolled down her face.
A whistle pierced into the air from the helm. At the shrill sound, all the sails were unfurled by the men on the upper yardarms. The men waiting on the lower yardarms caught the canvases and tied them down immediately.
Em sobered up and straightened to watch The Jolly Roger's white wings catch the morning seaside gusts of air. The magnificent sight overwhelmed the young woman on the dock. Her heart swelled, but tears did not burst forth from her eyes. From her lips came her voice, singing her mother's lullaby.
As The Jolly Roger began to sail toward the distant horizon, the wind took to the captain and his crew familiar melodic words.
The fully risen moon
Illuminates the sea
As you glide into my vision
Time stands still for me
I fear to end this dream
Come back to me, my lover
Return to hear my song
And we shall be together
We can be together
Every day, just each other
We belong together
In boundless seas, forever