* * *
Chastine walked into the junior suite of El palacio del gobernador. A very handsome woman sat with her legs crossed on a large wooden chest beneath a grand bay window. The chest had water damage, but Chastine had seen the chest in this very room since she started her employment as a handmaiden.
“Greetings, Mi’lady. What shall I call you?”
“You may call me what you wish. For what is in a name?”
Chastine blushed, and looked at her feet. “Mi’lady, if a name means nothing to you, why do you marry the Governor?”
Chastine nodded, and looked into the eyes of her new mistress.
“Sometimes the score is just too easy.” The woman sighed, as if the words conveyed a truth unknowable to a mere handmaiden.
Chastine furrowed her brow, trying to divine the meaning behind the last statement. “But I need to call you something, Mi’lady.”
The woman couldn’t prevent the amusing smile from rising on her cheeks. Cheeks that sat atop a square jaw, and framed intense green eyes. She was classically beautiful, but there was a stoic tenseness in the woman’s shoulders. “You seem to be doing perfectly well with ‘Mi’lady,’” She retorted.
“What do they call me?”
“It’s not my place to presume…” Chastine’s voice trailed off. She wouldn’t admit she had been told nothing as she reported for work in the mansion, and for the first time in years, she had duties to perform.
“Well than, what do they call you?”
Chastine felt the heat on her own cheeks. “I’d prefer they called me by my given name, Chastine.”
“Well, Chastine,” replied the woman, “I’ve been called many things over the years, but apparently, I’m just a prisoner. Prisoners have numbers, not names.”
Chastine looked around the opulent suite, staring up at the gilded crown molding, and inlaid metal frames. “It’s quite the lovely modern prison.” Chastine lowered her voice. “I must say, Mi’lady, the prisoner is as well.”
“It’s still a prison,” she replied, failing to have gilt guilt, “although I think I’d rather be exiled to one of those prison colonies than to resort to this.” She turned to take in the modern four-post bed, and glanced at the conservative frocks hanging in the closet. “Although, it seems more like ultra moderation.”
Chastine watched the woman wave her hands, encompassing the room, and her gaze fell upon the wedding gown amongst the grey women’s fashions. Chastine walked to the gown draped over a mannequin. “You would consider marriage beneath incarceration?”
“What is marriage, but a durance? If I am shackled to a man under God and the crown, I might as well cherish imprisonment.” She looked out the window at the Atlantic Ocean. “At least there my reputation will keep me safe. Otherwise I succumb to the call of the tame.” She stared at Chastine for a moment. “I suppose this durance will prove my endurance.”
Chastine squinted and scrutinized her new mistress. “Joining under God’s watchful eye defines divine, but I’ll not argue with Mi’lady. I am obligated to serve you.” Chastine performed a slight curtsey.
Chastine’s mistress rolled her eyes, and wiggled into a pair of breeches.
“Mi’lady!” Chastine squealed, her hands covering her mouth. “The impropriety!”
“Pah! Impropriety!” The woman stepped into a pair of riding boots, and thumped her heels against the door jamb. Unlike the Governor’s shiny boots, this lady wore boots that had seen plenty of use. Chastine could imagine these boots had a story to tell. A story as mysterious as her new patron. Chastine was so engrossed on the boots, she failed to hear what the woman had said.
“Excuse me, Mi’lady, could you repeat that?”
“I said, ‘Do you swear to guard my secrets?’”
Chastine nodded. “It is my duty to protect the reputation of the Governor, his family, and this great institution.”
“Provisional Governor,” she intoned, “perhaps Ersatz Governor is more accurate, and I’d hardly call Miami ‘great.’”
Chastine’s mistress tied an elastic red scarf around her deeply red hair. It was the only thing that she had done that was even remotely considered feminine. Chastine wondered about the particular union between this woman and the Governor of Miami. The woman in question removed the padlock from the large chest on the floor under a bay window.
“I can’t believe he kept this thing.”
The chest had never been opened as far as she knew, and was relegated as a bench. Her mistress reached into the now opened chest, and rummaged around inside. She started tossing items over her shoulder. Some of the items were what you’d expect to find in an old chest: clothing, trinkets, but mostly junk. A small chuckle was followed by, “Catch!”
The white object sailed in a short arc, and when Chastine caught the object, she gasped, and dropped it to the floor. “Mi’lady,” she said through a mouth covered by her hands, “why is there a skull in that chest?”
“Let us call it swift justice.” There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “It’s just more junk,” she continued, “but what I really want…” She smiled, leaned her head and shoulders into the chest, and after a grunt of effort, she stood straight with something in her hand.
Chastine watched as her new mistress swung a rusted scimitar, and performed several practiced sword fighting moves. Her eyes watched with interest, and after a particularly impressive move, a tangle of red hair feed itself from the cloth she had wrapped around her head. “The Scarlet Blade,” Chastine whispered and took a step back as she realized who this strange woman really was.
The Scarlet Blade rubbed the corroded spine of the scimitar against her boot. She turned to Chastine, placed her index finger against her lips and winked before closing the chest. The moon silhouetted the most feared pirate in the Carib sea, and Chastine was lost in the living legend as she clamored onto the chest, performed a stage bow, and disappeared out the open window.