stumbled up the ladder only to be instantly blinded by the sunlight, unbearably
intense after the darkness of the cable tier where Captain Pollard had sent her
before the attack. The tropical air was heavy with humidity and after the noise
and turmoil of the recent battle, the deck of Charybdis seemed quiet,
deathly quiet, an unreal, unearthly quiet that blanketed such significant
sounds as the lapping of waves, the creaking of ships' hulls grinding together,
the slap-slap of slack sails and the groans of wounded men.
moving!' growled the burly pirate, prodding her unceremoniously with the hilt
of his cutlass. Sophie stumbled forwards, blinking to make sense of the ghastly
tableau. She cast rapid, desperate glances at the surrounding carnage. Captain
Pollard was slumped against the ship's rail, his face ashen beneath its
leathery tan. He clutched his chest vainly trying to staunch the blood gushing
from an ugly gash that ran from shoulder to belly. The dashing Lieutenant Bates
lay sprawled and dead beside the main mast. Other corpses littered the deck,
its habitual snowy whiteness violated by bloodstains of wounded sailors. A gun
lay shattered into pieces amidst the torn woodwork that had once surrounded it.
Remnants of the crew huddled on the fore part of the ship, menaced by levelled
pistols in the hands of more pirates.
turned sharply, alerted by a scuffle and shrill protests. Her maid, Jane, was
being manhandled up the steep ladder. 'Leave her alone!' she commanded.
smacked Sophie soundly across the rump with the flat of his sword, its ominous
thwack splitting the pregnant air.
roughly, Jane fell to the deck in an untidy heap. Another pirate came toward them brandishing a fine sword, a sharper
weapon of quality, suited to fencing, its slender blade stained with blood.
Barefoot, clad in well-cut tight breeches of fine leather and a showy silk
shirt, he was handsome in a dark menacing way.
find?' He snarled the question at Sophie's captor in thickly accented English.
the cable tier, Mister Mate, two of ‘em.'
he snarled. 'You, who you are?'
herself up. 'Lady Sophie Trethowern,' she announced regally.
snorted. 'Take them to captain.'
movement Sophie's guard slid his cutlass into his thick leather belt, grasped
her round the waist and hefted her onto his hip. Sophie yelled in protest,
kicking the air, hammering at his massive trunk with futile punches. He stepped
onto the rail, balancing their combined weight effortlessly above the sea
boiling between the grinding hulls. Sophie screamed in mortal fear, terrified
of being hurled into that seething cauldron, tensing her body in mad denial of
the danger. Undeterred, the man poised, waiting his moment.
landing on the other ship with the grace of a ballerina. 'Welcome aboard El
Draco,' he announced.
unceremoniously dumped to sprawl in an untidy heap of arms, legs, petticoats
and skirts. As she struggled upright she saw another pirate swinging across by
rope, his free arm clasping Jane's slim waist.
hand on Sophie's shoulder forced her to her knees facing a fearsome bearded
figure. He stood on an elevated part of the pirate ship's deck, surveying the
scene with disdain.
'We find two
hiding, Captain,' explained the pirate, his hand continuing to grip Sophie.
'Let me go!
I demand you allow me to stand.' A lifetime of commanding servants added real authority
to the power of Sophie 's voice. 'Do you know who I am?'
captain scrutinised her slowly, as if viewing something repellent. 'So?' He
spat the word.
struggled to regain her feet. The iron grip held her down, but she managed to
raise her head, striving to project her dignity. 'I am Lady Sophie Trethowern,
daughter of Vice-Admiral Viscount Trethowern.'
remained unmoved, regarding her with utter contempt. Then he turned to bark a
string of orders in a foreign tongue to his men on Charybdis.
The sound of
one loud shot came back.
attention back to the scene before him, the pirate captain considered for a
moment then ordered, 'Strip them!'
grasped the collar of Sophie's dress. She struggled, protesting volubly. Her
captor struck her, a hard calloused palm slamming
across her mouth snuffed out her protest. She could taste blood.
drew his sword, driving its point into the seam of her gown at the waist.
Sophie screamed in mortal terror.
drove upward, slicing through gown, bodice and shift like so much butter, she
felt the cold metal sliding over her skin, describing a path between her
breasts. Her clothing parted, falling away to bare her torso. Her wrists were
dragged behind and bound with coarse rope. Immobilised she could do nothing to
resist the hands unceremoniously stripping away her skirts, petticoat,
stockings and drawers.
came Jane's shrill voice spewing profanities. The sound of struggle was cut
short by the crack of hand on flesh. Tearing sounds were followed by wails,
either distress or fury.
down at her body, the skin white, soft and vulnerable where the rope had not
already scoured it red; rope coiling malevolently around her, binding,
immobilising. One loop wrapped her belly. Another crossed the top of her
breasts and another below, forcing them into prominence, mocking her,
accentuating her exposure. She could not understand why her nipples were so
huge or why they tingled so intensely. The deck was rough under her feet, bare
and spread wide by more ropes. Between her open thighs heavy, humid, tropical
air caressed her most secret places, adding to her shame.
fastened further round the mast out of sight, but her protests were evident:
loud and shrill, amply laced with expletives learned in the fish market, words
unknown to Sophie, but unquestionably clear in their meaning. Sophie empathised
with the girl's terror, but the revelation of Jane's baseness was sickening,
ceased to sob. Her eyes still streamed tears of utter despair, but she battled
to regain some composure. Scrambled emotions tumbled around in her head: fear,
humiliation, degradation and anger. An anger that infused every response,
resentment at the summary way in which her liberty had been usurped, anger at
the affront to her dignity and an even greater anger that she could not as yet
Sophie was a
mass of contradiction. Although outrageously exposed she was being ignored amid
the frenzied activity around her. Although relieved at being spared the horrors
conjured up by her imagination and grateful that she had not been sexually
violated, this was one young lady accustomed to being
the centre of attention. Why was no-one bending the knee to beg her
immediate priority appeared to be looting. They worked frantically to move the
weighty wooden chests that had been secreted aboard at Falmouth; Sophie guessed
that this had been the reason for the attack. There were other trophies:
barrels containing gunpowder or spirits, both highly valued.
The sound of
more shots came flatly across the dividing space. Sophie twisted to see, but
had insufficient freedom. Speculation suggested only one explanation.
corner of her eye Sophie imagined that the wrecked warship was drifting away.
She strained to focus on it as if by seeing it she might draw it closer and
precipitate her rescue. Foolishly she hoped the crew could not see her
nakedness, yet would know and remember her vile treatment when they reached
Kingston. How long would it be before a vengeful fleet cornered these
blackguard pirates? Soon she hoped: hoped to see their carcasses dangling on
the gallows, bodies rotting in chains.
passed, nothing happened.
was standing still.
boiling blood turned cold as realisation dawned: it was she who was moving. Charybdis's
sails hung limp, untended: the ship was unable to come alive again. Then
across the sea flashed vivid blinding light. There followed a roar of such
intensity that her ears seemed to burst. A terrible shock like an almighty
punch, hit her naked belly. A wind, hotter than any tropical heat, tore past,
causing the pirate ship to heel over violently. The power of it plucked at her,
trying to wrench her body from its bindings. The ropes dug deep, burning her
skin. Sophie, gasping and choking, struggled to make sense.
had been was a huge cloud of smoke in which tiny
particles were dancing. Slivers of glowing wood and fragments of smouldering
canvas skittered around her feet: like rain from hell.
cheer rang out from the pirates lining their ship's rail to gloat over their
began shouting orders. Pirates, sailors of a sort Sophie supposed, began to run
purposefully across the deck, some springing into the rigging. During her long
voyage, she had become familiar with the process of setting sail. Some of the
running men paused momentarily to stare at her nakedness. She trembled; leering
eyes and tongues drawn through lips were more eloquent than words. Sophie read
their faces and was afraid.
came alive under her feet and Sophie swooned in face of unknown terrors.
experienced the pirates' callous disregard for life, Sophie could no longer
deny the helplessness of her position. In her mind despair and anger wrestled.
That she was about to die was certain, her wedding would never take place.
Hopes, plans, expectations had been in vain. She would never know what it was
like to experience intercourse, to discover whether it was the pinnacle of
pleasure proposed by her more romantic friends, or the depths of degradation
claimed by her aunts. She mourned lost opportunities and cursed the countless
overtures cunningly devised to preserve her precious virginity. Virginity, she
now realised, was simply a commodity for her father to trade away: twenty-two
years dedicated to a lost cause, such injustice! Would that fate might yet give
her a chance to know how it felt to be a complete woman; the wish was fervent,
or was it really a prayer?
frantic introspection was interrupted by the return of the burly pirate. With
the merest glance at her body he released the ropes and took her arm. Stark
naked, possessed by paralysing fear, she was steered through the turmoil on deck,
moving toward the stern, climbing steps onto the poop where it was quieter,
less frenetic away from the sails. A seaman was tending the wheel to steer; the
captain, the mate and two other men watched the ship come to order.
made to stand still. The sun beat mercilessly on her skin, mocking her
nakedness, emphasising her lack of defence. Time ticked away very slowly.
the captain turned from his preoccupation, seeming to notice her presence for
the first time.
commanded, pointing over the after rail.
propelled Sophie to gain a closer view.
Sophie saw a
small boat heading west. Its oars flashed as they dipped rhythmically into the
sparkling ocean. She counted four and there was perhaps one other man doing the
steering. In the vastness of the ocean it seemed so small and frail.
announced, 'They go. Four seamen and Sailing Master. He have message to Admiral
in Kingston. Send ten thousand gold guineas, Milady return in good health. No
gold, no lady.' He shrugged his shoulders and smiled a merciless smile. 'It
gamble: boat might not survive. Meantime we have much pleasure, if no gold, we
have more pleasure.'
fun, eh Mr. Mate?' From behind Sophie came a voice with an Irish lilt. Its
owner laughed, pre-empting his own humour. 'Lady returned in good health, but
not necessarily intact. And, Admiral, if you're really lucky you'll have a
bonus for the illustrious Viscount. A little mulatto grandson. Bring her
dragged along as Carlos, her burly captor, hurried her after the little
Irishman, one of the men she had seen assisting the captain. Despite the
burning sun she felt cold, a chilling internal cold that sprang from the very
core of her body. She recalled the Sailing Master on Charybdis: Mr.
McCloud, an elderly, dour Scot who took his work seriously. Her future life,
her freedom, any happiness she might find, rested in his hands. Would he be
strong enough to survive in that tiny boat? Could he find a port or some
friendly ship on this vast and featureless ocean?
shoved her toward one of the guns lashed into its position on the main deck.
More seamen came in response to the Irishman's order. 'You three, help Carlos lash her to the gun.'
Mister Reilly,' replied a thin man clad only in cambric breeches. He took a
coil of rope from his belt and wrapped it professionally round Sophie's ankle.
Carlos pushed her against the gun, forcing her down so that her belly rested on
black metal burning from the sun's heat. Sophie cried out in shock, but no one
paid any heed. The thin man lashed her ankle to one wheel of the carriage.
Another seaman did the other. Carlos released her wrists and her arms were
pulled over to be fastened to wheels on the far side. There she was left,
sobbed, humiliated by her exposure: legs parted, her sex displayed to the
world, her breasts distorted by unyielding metal, all the openings in her body
revealed to public view.
It was some
time before the realisation that she was alive and likely to remain so allowed
Sophie to open her eyes. She noticed that she was level with the mast where she
had first been tied. Jane was still there. The sight of the trussed, naked girl
was both disgusting and arresting. Possessed by motives she could not explain,
Sophie was unable to tear her gaze away. Overlaying her fear and physical
sickness was a turmoil of feeling. Hotness welled from within. Tightness
churned in her bowels. Dryness soured her mouth. The image of Jane's rounded
bubbies distorted by coarse ropes was surreal yet alluring. The neat triangle
on her pubis appeared enticing. Contrarily, in direct denial of her own
desperate anguish, Sophie recalled once seeing Jane bathe in the river. How
attractive she had seemed, in her small peasant way: pert bosom, trim waist and
plump buttocks: lovely, perfect womanliness. Sophie had cherished a desire to
possess that perfection, to caress that soft nubile body.
experience of lust had excited her then and despite everything, it was exciting
depths of degradation, her mind and body were reacting in ways she could not
comprehend. All her training, the whole of her upbringing had been focused on
achieving the dignity, deportment and decorum befitting a lady, and that
involved the denial of sexual desire. Within the shrouded world of social
propriety, sexuality was carefully codified. Love, romance, might be her fate
or they might not. Copulation might prove enjoyable or it might not, there was
no guarantee and most importantly, declared her training, it was her
predestined duty to be an obedient wife, whatever the pains or pleasures that
lay before her.
closed her eyes, ashamed at her thoughts, ashamed of betraying her heritage.
became aware that she was herself the object of lust. Reilly stood behind her.
His lewdness was palpable, his eyes probing her sex.
he crooned. 'Like a juicy fig. A little bit of sun will ripen it, ready to be
He moved to
face Sophie, who instinctively looked away in shame and avoidance. 'In His
Majesty's Royal Navy they call this "Kissing the
Gunner's Daughter." I think we can offer Milady some very special kisses.'
He roared at
his own quip and some nearby the seamen joined in, more selfish anticipation
than approbation, but Reilly did not seem to notice; his eyes feasting on
Sophie beamed rabid lust.