Chapter 0:

A Visitor at Night

The Governor's Queen

The grandfather clock by the wall struck eleven. The deep chime of the bell rang in Rosamund's ears as he finally set aside the last document of the day and rubbed his tired eyes.

It has been, what, three or four hours since sunset? The heavy air of early summer was barely starting to cool, and a welcome breeze, not strong enough to throw his papers about, finally came through the open windows of his study. It couldn't be healthy, working late like this with only the light of some candles or oil lamps. For one, it was a fire hazard, so he didn't dare to bring more onto his desk. But the dull light really had him straining to read the cursive letters which were an unfortunate standard handwriting of this time. Printing presses have already long since been invented, why wasn't anyone using them for official documents? He took a moment to imagine that large monstrosity in his office and quickly abandoned the idea.
Hopefully some young brilliant mind will find a way to bring electricity to this world. He didn't pay enough attention in his high school physics classes to invent a generator, and even if he had, most of that knowledge was lost during more than eighty years of his continued existence.

He'd apologize to his teachers if he had remembered their names.

He leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms. The clock finally stopped its slow chime as he was getting up. He turned off the oil lamp before going over to the balcony window and pushing aside the curtains.

A few deep breaths of the night air cleared his mind in an instant. He always wondered why his servants were all so deathly afraid of drafts and open windows. It was hardly chilly, and the gentle breeze brought with it the scent of the sea and various flowers that bloomed in the gardens below. The two full moons shone brightly enough he didn't even need another light to see, and the view of the stars was incomparable to that on Earth. Light pollution didn't truly hit this world just yet. Perhaps electricity could wait a few more centuries. He leaned on the cold stone rail and closed his eyes, enjoying his well-earned moment of respite.

He heard a quiet thud in the gardens below. He immediately looked down to see a shadow sneaking between the trees. Someone had jumped over his garden wall and was now heading for the manor. He straightened up and tightly gripped the rail. He was ready to call the guards, but the way the shadow moved was familiar. Could it be?

And it was. It was just a moment, but the shadow had to cross the moonlit yard below. The tricorn hat with a feather and the sky blue coat were unmistakable.

The Pirate Queen had arrived.

For a moment he wondered if he should call out to her, but he opted to lean back on the railing while looking down directly at her. She was currently alert and busy avoiding the patrolling guards, but it shouldn't take her too long to notice him on the second floor balcony. She had very good senses.

And really, it didn't take her long to realize she was being watched. She immediately turned to the ornate windows of the manor and it took her only a few seconds to notice him. He permitted himself a smile and received a flash of teeth from the darkness as she grinned in return. She silently made her way to the manor. She easily climbed the wall all the way up to the balcony, hanging on its edge.

"Good evening," he greeted. "What could the Queen of Hannau Cove be doing at this time of the night? Does she not fear the guards as she trespasses onto the estate of the Governor?"
"Hah!" She was breathing a bit heavily, trying to find a foothold to properly get on the balcony. "And what of the Governor? Does he not fear a thief when he keeps his windows open in the middle of the night?" She held her hand out for him, and without hesitation he leaned over to help her up. She was heavy, but she was also strong. It wasn't hard to pull her up for a moment, enough for her to find footing and stand up on the other side of the railing. She turned her back to him and sat on it, looking up into the night sky.
"Not a cloud in sight," she said.
"The night is beautiful," he said, leaning on the railing once more. This time, with her by his side. "What brings you here?"
"I couldn't sleep."
"Oh? And what would you have done if I was already in bed?"
"Hmm... Perhaps I should've brought Teo and sang you a serenade," she said. There was some laughter in her voice, and he could see her smile again.
"I'd have arrested you both if you had. And I can still push you down, you know."
"Rosamund, no! Think of the peonies!" she dramatically exclaimed.
He looked down, leaning over to see the ground below. "Those are pansies."
"Does it matter? Imagine them crushed beneath me. My heart would break either way."
And her bones too. No, actually, there was nowhere near enough height for someone like her to get injured. "Perhaps I should have had roses planted here. Or blackberries."
"Really now! If you want me gone, then fine."
"Oh, Queen. Forgive this foolish Governor." He could see her face turn a bit darker, even when it was in the shadow of her hat. "Let's go inside. I will listen to what keeps you awake." There were no guards nearby at this moment, but there was no need to start a possible drama over the fact Adanita just broke into the Governor's manor.

She turned around and finally landed on the balcony. He always wondered how she could move so quietly with those long and heavy boots of hers. She took off her hat, and her short curly magenta-colored hair immediately poofed out, blown by the wind in all directions. Only the strands that were weighted down by golden beads stayed in place. She left the hat on his work desk and lit up the lamp while he fetched them each a glass of brandy from an ornate cabinet. "Make yourself comfortable." Not that there was a need to say it. When he turned around with drinks in his hand, she was already sitting on the couch with her legs crossed. He gave her a glass, and opted to sit on the armchair.

She downed her glass in silence while he only sipped from his. She didn't seem to be willing to say what kept her up, but he could guess.

Tomorrow, she will be getting a royal pardon, along with a title and a land. A land that was, in all fairness, already hers. And a title that was lesser than that of the nickname she was already given.

And not only that, but from her perspective, this had all already happened once, and it ended in her death.

Perhaps she didn't need to say anything and perhaps all she wanted was to sit in silence with her only ally on this side of the law. He could understand that. For the time being, he could indulge her. His work was done and he felt refreshed from this short time outside. There was no need for him to go to sleep just yet.

"Are you not worried?" she asked. "I can never tell with you."

He thought for a few moments. "Well, there should be nothing dangerous happening tomorrow, should there?" He leaned back. "Worst that can happen is some noble offending you without you realizing. I can handle that." He could take on all of them, if needed. There will be no need, of course. There won't even be that many people attending the event. A royal emissary, of course, but not the Queen Herself. A few nobles with ships and vested interest in managing piracy in this area. His younger brother. And of course...

"Is - is that woman here yet?"

"Yes. She is sleeping in the guest rooms in the east wing. It is far from here," and more importantly - she was far from Lilac, "so don't worry." She seemed worried, though. "You won't need to speak with her if you don't want to. Although I suppose if she approaches you, you will need to to entertain her for a bit. Just the polite amount."

"Hah... I have no clue how you can stay so calm."

"Perhaps..." He thought about it, but he had no answer. He was like this even in his past life, and his death wasn't brought by scheming nobles and backstabbers. Unlike Adanita, who was about to face her deepest fears, he always felt right at home among them. He briefly wondered what that said about him and came to a conclusion it didn't matter. "We all have fears, I suppose. And we all react differently to them, too." It was strange to see someone who confidently led a fleet of pirates into a storm while fleeing from his Armada reduced to this state. Too frightened of the dawn to be able to sleep... She was truly imposing when in her element and if what awaited them tomorrow was another battle on the sea, all attendants would easily be reduced to flotsam. And corpses pulled into the deep abyss... He shook those thoughts off. There was no need to go on a downward spiral at this time. Adanita was enough of a doom and gloom for both of them. "I'd not teach a fish to fly, is what I'm trying to say."
"You do know there are flying fishes."
"Yes, thank you for ruining the metaphor. The plural is 'fish'."
"We'll be fine."
"If you say so."
"I know so."
"So what, should I leave now?"
"You don't need to if you don't want to. Tomorrow is nearing. I wouldn't mind to wait for the toll of midnight with you." Perhaps she'll feel better if she stays for a bit longer. He didn't think she was here for a distraction, she easily could've gotten it on her ship. There was alcohol there too, for gods' sakes. She was here for some reassurance. If sitting with him like this was helping, then he could do that much for her.
"Thank you," she said.
"Don't worry about it."

She gave him another smile before looking away, suddenly very interested in the interior decor.

After a few minutes of sitting in silence, her eyes closed.

By the time midnight struck, she was in such deep sleep that not even the chime of the clock would wake her.

He patiently sipped his brandy.

After all, this was the least he could do.