Chapter 1 -- The Lash
Hiss whap "Eighteen!"
Hiss crack. "Nineteen!"
Barok stared out of his upper window,
watching with prurient delight as the two pretty girls took their punishment.
"Yes…That's it! Give it to them!
Slap the worthless dogs! Skin the stinking bitches and leave them dead for all
anybody would care!" he rasped to himself as he clutched at his window
frame and watched the two girls beyond suffer the torture of the damned.
The executioners used the dreaded,
cat-o'five-tail whips on the pair, two men appointed to each girl, and the men
hurled their whips with well-practised brutality and indifference as they
flogged the pair. It was a flogging savage enough to be granted to horse or
camel thieves, or girls who had been caught in the act of robbing a high judge,
it…more…more!" Barok was so preoccupied by the scene without that he
scarcely noticed his vaunted visitor enter.
"Ah, Barok…! Your slave girl told
me I would find you within!" said a well-dressed individual, clad in a
blue burnoose, gathered at the waist with a red velvet cord and shod with gold
coloured sandals. His neatly trimmed dark beard and hair gathered in a blue
turban told anyone that he was a man of refinement and position. Barok snatched
a look at his visitor, knowing who he was before he saw him.
"Oh Emir! I am glad you have
Emir drew alongside Barok to witness
the increasingly bloody and pain-filled scene outside. Although he used his
title as a name, it was all the same to him and when called he answered to it
as he would his real name, Farouk.
Now, both girls were shouting as the
whips slapped and cut their way across their stripped backs and Barok seemed to
glean more pleasure, as he knew the girls' agony increased by the whip-stroke.
"Your doing, I presume?"
observed Emir. Barok sneered at his associate, for real friends they were not.
"I warned them!" Barok said
with unconcealed venom. "I told the pair of them, that if they dared to
set their market stall by mine again, I would take action against them!"
The evil man glowered. A fat, sweating man, clad in voluminous red trousers
tucked into large, black boots, white shirt and blue cummerbund with blue
jerkin to match and a blue turban, he looked every inch the galley operator he
was. He had a swarthy, bloated expression and an untidy beard on his fat face.
His chins shook with anger as he told Emir of his dire warning, talking in his
soft, effete voice that also had a lilt of refinement about it that made it
even more feminine than it might have been. Emir's gaze turned from Barok's,
back out to the sweat soaked, bloody scene outside.
Both girls had been strapped to the
infamous whipping frames, their feet restrained in stocks and their wrists
bound tightly to a broad beam that stood at head height. The frames were
stationed opposite each other so that both could see her friend taking her
punishment as she writhed and gasped in agony to her own. Each had two
strapping men, stripped to the waist, flogging them.
The one girl was a pretty girl indeed.
Blonde, her fair hair was tied in a knot on top of her head, though in her
distress and dishevelment, strands had torn loose and stuck now in wet, sweaty
clumps about her tortured face and neck. Her large, heavy breasts shook and
waved as she shouted in pain as the whip slapped her bare body, and though she
had the looks of a sultan's harem slave, she had the body of a well worked
galley or farm slave. Her brown eyes in a sweetly proportioned face were normal
enough, but her blonde hair marked her eternally as a Talasian, though in fact,
she was pure Provincial. That was why the Talasians hated her obvious
Provincial ways and beliefs and the Provincials hated her Talasian-looking
Her friend was a pretty brunette,
presentable, but overshadowed by the sweet looks of her friend. They both now
writhed and worked against their bonds as the whip count constantly and
Hiss crack. "Thirty!"
Both girls were yelling loudly as
their brutal flogging now hit already agonised flesh at every stroke. Emir
glanced at Barok who watched the increasingly sickening event with
"By the prophet's word, Barok. Do
the judges intend to kill them?" he asked, as it was clear that the guards
had no intention of stopping at thirty lashes.
"They deserve every nuance of it,
Emir! I said I would punish them if they came again, but still they set stall
alongside me, cutting the prices of my plates stock by as much as thirty
percent! How, I ask myself? How can they sell so low if they aren't buying
their plates with their gaping maws?"
"Are your prices not a little
high, perhaps?" Emir had difficulty hiding his cynicism as he said it,
which cynicism was lost on Barok.
"I have set the prices and there
they stay and these dogs will pay with the skin on their backs for their
attempts to undermine me!"
Hiss slap. "Thirty nine!"
Hiss whack. "Forty!"
Hiss crack "Forty one!"
Emir looked on alongside Barok,
slightly disgusted by the whole sorry scene. For such an offence, if offence it
was, any sane man would have been happy to see the pair lashed with two dozen
at the most, but this was beyond even Barok's normal love of brutality. Barok
grinned at Emir and tapped the side of his large, hooked nose in a
"Ha, it pays to have friend in
high places, Emir. It was my close alliance with the learned magistrate that
allowed me to get this stinking pair arrested and now, out of my hair for good
I'll be bound!"
Emir walked away from the window.
"I hear old man Hoque is ailing,
on his death-bed by all accounts. That means the fleet may soon be up for
grabs," he said airily and for the first time Barok's gaze left the
torture scene outside and was levelled directly at Emir.
"The whole fleet?" The
question's relevance was not lost on Emir. He gave an airy toss of his hand.
"One assumes so," he tried
to sound nonchalant while Barok's shifty eyes flicked about the cluttered room
as his voracious, money-motivated mind raced overtime to consider the news.
"Hmmm!" Barok mused to
himself. "You are interested?" Emir continued to try and look only
"Like you, Barok, I have a modest
fleet and make a very healthy profit. There is no reason to assume that if I
increase my fleet by fifty percent with another dozen vessels that my profit
would not correspondingly increase. I should only consider buying from them if
the order book came with the deal," Emir added. Barok mulled the
"A dozen boats and oars, that's
over seven hundred and twenty women!"
"Yes, they run their boats
top-heavy, it's eight hundred and sixteen to be precise!" It was clear
Emir had already been meticulous about the maths.
"Yah, they are going to sell
every third month; it's another dull rumour, but you do your research all the
same, Emir, I'll say that."
"Quite, Barok, and my research
assures me that the Hoques will sell the fleet before the old man's body is
cold, which will be very soon. The word has gone out already."
"Then it would be a trip to
"I understand the entire fleet is
already there and prospective buyers are looking the stock over."
"Hah, I'll bet they are. It would
take a good two weeks to get there, perhaps a little more," Barok was
musing as he mumbled to Emir. The unholy din outside was plainly audible and
both girls were not suffering silently. "I would not be sorry to see the
Hoques go. Both Abdul Hoque and Abdul Rob are a most objectionable pair,"
"I understand that is the general
"I have time for their father,
but those pair!" With that, Barok
returned to the scene outside, gloating.
Now, the two girls were hanging from
their bound wrists and were far less vocal as they were struck and their hot,
tired heads had fallen forwards and were only raised when they were hit. Their
backs were a discoloured mass of welts, bruises, blood and sweat and the pretty
blonde's baggy, cream silk harem pants stuck damply to her wet sweaty arses and
Hiss smack. "Fifty four!"
Hiss crack. "Fifty five!"
"Aaagh, yaagh!" Wept the
blonde in agony and her miserable wails were matched by her equally slumped and
sweaty friend, her dowdy fawn Zouave pants stained with sweat around her
waistband had slipped low on her hips and the guards were making good use of
the bare acreage of flesh she presented to them.
"I feel sure I know that
blonde!" mused Emir as he looked again out onto the sweaty, bloody scene.
Barok grunted in disgust.
"Well you might, the sweating
heap. That's Beeba, that stinking captain of mine!" he spat
contemptuously. Emir gave a low laugh.
"Yes, of course. I was sure I had
seen her. Quite a deal, was she not?" Emir was being deliberately obtuse.
Hiss smack. "Fifty nine.
Hiss crack. "Sixty. That's
it!" Called the presiding officer and Barok stared at the scene below, not
a little satisfied with what he had witnessed.
"Ha ha, that will teach the pair
of slags to try and deal me short."
Emir excused himself and left. He
could only ever endure Barok in small doses, as could most people. He went out
into the street and passed close to the tortured girls who were still hanging
from the old whipping frames, their backs an unholy mass of crossed and
re-crossed stripes. Emir looked at the pretty Beeba, her sweat streaked, tearstained
face a picture of pain and suffering; her pants hanging low on her bloody,
sweat-slimed body looked stained and stale. Emir approached the presiding
"What's to be done with this pair
now?" The officer seemed less than half interested.
"We'll throw them in the lock-up
and from there they have both been detailed for a spell of hard labour. Looking
at this pair, they'll be working the night shift as well!" he replied
Emir grinned and gave the officer a
coin. "I will be sending my man out. I want him to bring the blonde away.
I need to see her!"
The officer looked at the coin in his
hand. "Yes sir! Certainly and thank you for your generosity," he
added as Emir strolled away.
Emir looked at the sky and was sure
that before the day was out, the rains that had been reluctant to move away
from the distant hills that surrounded Tarak would at last move in and bring
the sweet relief they had been promising for so long.