"Still nothing," Tai Huang informed his captain. "No sign is found of the pregnant woman."
While making his report, the pirate stared openly at the changes wrought upon the cabin in the last several days. At his suggestion, the captain had divided Sao Feng's effects among the men, keeping only his maps, books, instruments and alterable pirate garb. (Most of Sao Feng's weapons had gone to Tai Huang himself, and though he made gruff protest, it hadn't been sincere.) Silks graced the walls again, furniture had been replaced, and Chinese influences were interwoven with the material remnants of her life in Port Royal.
The chest was at the foot of the bed, atop a lushly dyed coverlet the rusty color of fresh blood. Looking from it to the dark circles under her eyes, Tai Huang wondered if the heart kept her up at night.
Elizabeth felt his curious regard and stifled a sigh. She'd come to accept that deference would be earned through experience, not given on the basis of title alone. It would be a long time before she felt secure enough in her position to sleep long and well, with or without the thump, thump of her husband's heart making rest difficult. And she'd be even less likely to rest without it, in all honesty. Wherever Elizabeth went, the chest followed.
"Very well." She ceased her examination of the new, lighter planks of wood patching the jagged hole left by that one murderous cannonball, and turned to face him. Eyebrow arched, she asked, "Do you go ashore?"
"Tonight, yes. One day, maybe two. All repairs will be finished," he said, eyes betraying his pleasure. Soon, the Empress would once more be worthy of her name, the jewel of the South China Seas.
A wry smile curved Elizabeth’s lips. "Best enjoy yourself while you can, then."
"You stay behind?"
"Yes," she answered quietly, shifting her gaze to the map spread out on an intricately carved table. It fascinated her, the way the fluid designs became part of the delicate looking legs themselves. Will would like it. "One evening in Tortuga’s taverns was enough for now."
Both pirates smiled knowingly, at that.
"Leave enough men to protect the ship," continued Elizabeth. "The rest have my permission to do as they like."
Tai Huang started to say something, thought better of it, and gave a quick nod before exiting. Elizabeth watched until he was out of sight, wondering what suggestion or information he had withheld.
Lips pursed, she retrieved the silver and black tunic from the back of her chair and slowly wrapped it into place. Buckling her sword belt, she smiled grimly as a cheerful shout went up and a loud splash signaled the lowering of a longboat.
I'll sleep when we're at sea she thought to herself as she hid the chest and stole up the curved staircase, pausing to wipe dust from the wood paneling. Until then, she would search for Tonks... and keep a weather eye open.