The Governor's Queen
Rosamund woke up late again. He could tell from how bright the room was, even through his closed eyes. The servants pulled the curtains away, but didn't yet call Lilac. Or perhaps Lilac saw fit to let him sleep this time. Judging by how hungry he was, it was probably nearing lunchtime. He could also feel a weight on the bed on his right. He opened his eyes, the daylight already giving him a headache.
"Oh," he said. He expected Lilac, not her. "Good morning, Captain." He slowly sat up, minding his injuries as he leaned back on the headboard. "Or... day?"
"Day," she said. "It's almost noon."
"I see. I apologize. What can I do for you?" he asked. The sunlight was dancing on her freckled skin as the sea breeze outside blew through the branches of a mulberry. She looked worried, didn't she? Did he do something?
"Nothing, really," she said. "I was just worried about you, I suppose. Your brother forbade me from coming in, mind you. Something about me disturbing your rest. I broke in through the balcony."
Suddenly alarmed, he looked towards it, but the glass doors were undamaged. A knife could be used to remove the latch from the outside, he supposed, relieved she didn't opt for a rock. If the guards thought that he was in danger, it would have been quite a mess. He leaned his head back, closing his eyes. His mind was sinking away again. Not to sleep, but more of a strange apathy. He was tired. Perhaps he simply needed to... exist, for a day or two.
"You didn't look too well last night," she said, dragging him back. "But from what I understood, your talk with the Queen went well."
"It's more of a belated reaction to everything, I suppose," he said. "The plan and its consequences seemed more distant until I had to look her in the eyes and lie."
"Failure is... death."
"It always is, isn't it?" she asked.
"Hah." Perhaps to her. Considering the life she had lived this far - was this why she was so easy to convince to join him? She saw her death once already, after all. She was now trying something radically different than the last time. It felt as if he got some profound insight, but he also felt like a fool for not realizing it sooner. His death was in the past. There was nothing he could do about it anymore.
"How did you spend your morning?" he tried instead.
"I went to town with Teo and your secretary," she said. "They are managing the situation surprisingly well. But... the way your citizens look at me makes me uneasy. I don't think they will do much at this time. The situation is tense but not... like before. Although, your servants flinch at my every move. I feel unwelcome."
"They need time," he tried, but she shook her head.
"I don't know if it's me," she said. "Perhaps I am too paranoid from before. You walked through the Cove with no fear, and I can tell you my people were at the very least just as suspicious of you. And you were alone, unlike me now. I don't know if you weren't sensitive enough to the people's moods to notice, or if you knew and kept going anyway. In either case, I find it hard to follow your steps. I am not sure whether you realize just how amazing you are."
Rosamund was touched. There was a strange, overwhelming feeling in his chest. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes to look at her properly. Did she come all this way just to tell him that? "Thank you. I know."
"Hah! Ever the picture of humility, Lord Governor."
He gave her a smug smile in return. "In my case, any attempt to be humble would be an open lie."
She let out a laugh, but quickly quieted down. She wasn't here, after all. She continued sitting there in silence, looking out the window. Rosamund entertained himself by looking at the soft light reflecting on the gold in her hair. It took him quite a bit to realize that she was trying to copy how he waited until the other person spoke. He considered testing the limits of her patience, but it wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be fair.
"Sometimes..." he tried, forcing the words out. "I find it difficult to keep myself... in my mind. It feels as if I am... not here."
He fell into a deep silence, although she was clearly waiting for him to continue. He didn't want to. He wanted to sleep through the day. Saying things made them real, in a way. It was bringing the darkest parts of his mind into the broad daylight. He tightly gripped his cover with his right hand, the pain in his arm keeping him at least somewhat grounded.
"I don't really know how to describe the feeling of looking into the mirror and not seeing yourself," he said. "At this point, I am used to the body I am in, but sometimes when things get so wildly out of any normal... I feel as if the reality I am in fades away. My hands are not my hands, and I am only observing as I move. My body feels like a puppet, and I barely hold onto the strings. I died almost forty years ago. Why am I here? Is this just a dream, or my personal hell? And, should I die again... what if I continue existing?"
He was trembling. The horror of being was sometimes impossible to handle. Especially if you continued being even when you shouldn't have. If he had simply died on Earth, he would surely have been fine. If he was only born as Rosamund, the first son of the Earl, he would have been fine, too. But this - this was too much. It was a form of torture, certainly. He continued going for the faint hope that things would get better, and that he could find happiness as long as he reached the next dawn.
"The, uh... the realization that never in my lives have I chosen a path for myself - it didn't help," he tried. Perhaps she smiles. He didn't want to look her in the eyes right now, so he wouldn't know.
"What do you mean by that?" she asked. "You accomplished quite a lot."
"I simply did things I am good at." Could she understand? Someone as free-spirited as her? Perhaps it was too much. "On Earth, my parents wanted a successful, ambitious, rich son. Here, too... or perhaps I simply projected old expectations on them. My parents now are much kinder," he said. "They love me," he added confidently after a moment of hesitation. "I am being unfair to them. In either case, I kept going. Upwards and forwards. Until I became the Governor. Forced march with no real reason behind it. Simply doing things because you feel like you should be doing them is... a strange way to live."
She placed her hand on his. He winced from the sudden touch, but didn't pull away. Focusing on the warmth of her hand was patching his mind up again like a sewing machine, at least the parts he didn't manage to patch himself. This was his body. His breathing slowed down. He relaxed his shoulders and turned to face her again. I am a sad, pathetic shipwreck. I am sorry you had to learn it like this. He searched her face for signs of disgust or disappointment, but there were none. If she had also began to place him on a pedestal - no. She didn't, and she wouldn't. He pulled himself together before his spiral could continue. She squeezed his hand, too, clearly aware where his mind almost went.
"I sometimes think that what I lived through was just a dream, and sometimes it feels as if I am there again," she said. "It feels as if I am losing my mind. I don't really know what to say to you. Or to... other things you said. Do you want to help us? Continue your plan?"
"Absolutely," he immediately said. "Not because it's too late to change our minds, although it is. I need to do it to keep the people I care about safe. I don't want Lilac to suffer."
She nodded. "Then we'll keep going. Not because it's too late now, it never is. We'll keep going because you want to. And after that... I can help you find something new you want to do. I believe that would be the best way to repay the kindness you've showed us this far."
"You really know how to motivate a man," he said with a weak smile.
"It comes with the title," she said, smiling back. "Nobody would vote for me otherwise."
"And what if I decide to become a pirate?" he joked.
"Then I will bring you the horizon myself," she promised. His heart skipped a beat. For just a moment, the time stopped. Her orange eyes were shining like gold in the sunlight that danced across her skin. Her face was serious and determined. Adanita Vervain never spoke words she didn't mean. And then, goodness. She continued, and he wasn't sure how much more his weary mind could take. Never stop... "And as for the rest, you said you will be there to hear me out when my nightmares return. Well, when you start to lose your grip on reality, find me. I will be there to listen. I don't think I can help with words, but at least I can understand."
What an understatement. Just her offer was enough to bring him back in full. He had a long day ahead. A day he planned to ignore, but there was no need to anymore. He had regained more than enough strength and sanity to meet with those Captains today.
Although, he could use another moment of peace before heading out. He unclenched his fist and took her hand in his, looking outside towards the beautiful day. Just a moment longer...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Adanita sneaked out the same way she came, and Rosamund had an entire menagerie of servants make their way through his room, along with doctor Soxhlet and Lilac, who came to check on his wounds. Lilac also stayed to talk for a bit, clearly concerned about him. Feeling considerably better, he joined everyone for lunch. Nivelir and Teodolit weren't present, and Ekliptik was playing the role of a servant, so it was just his brother and Adanita. It seemed they were getting along somewhat, which made him happy. It was important to him that they stay on good terms. It seemed they were aware of that, so they were both making an effort.
After lunch he sent for the first of the arrested captains, and went to his office with Ekliptik trotting along. They were very determined to pass themselves for a servant boy, and he was determined to let them. So far they somehow managed to avoid detection from other servants, which was certainly a testament of their skill. You'd need to be a master manipulator to get people to think you should be wherever it is you are, without anyone checking. Although, to prevent any misunderstandings, he will have to tell Nivelir when he returns.
Sitting at his table, he watched as two guards walked in with the first Captain. His clothes were clean, and his hands were free. He seemed deeply concerned when he saw Rosamund. Guilt was written all over the face of the young man. His eyes were darting around the room and he was avoiding looking at Rosamund. He was looking for a way out of the hole he dug for himself. Rosamund was in a mood to throw him a shovel. Let's see how low he can go.
"Captain Alanin, have a seat," he said. "I would like you to answer a simple question. Which person on the ship holds the authority to command it?"