1626; off the coast of Saint Thomas, a small island in the Caribbean.
The massive ship was but a toy for the raging sea as a churning cauldron of thunderous black clouds turned day into night. Briefly, the sky of ink shimmered with brightness and the sound of rumbling cannon fire filled the air as lightning bolts were hurled down from the heavens by Zeus himself.
Heavy wooden timbers creaked loudly, twisting and bending under the strain of the battering white caps. The royal Spanish galleon rose and fell with the turquoise waters of the angry Caribbean, its fate seized in the grasp of Poseidon, and he was in a bad mood.
Below deck, frightened men huddled together helplessly listening to their ship struggling to survive. Cannons broke loose from their moorings and rumbled across the fo’c’sle deck above their heads, crashing into the ships battle tested structure with the force of Thor’s hammer.
All hope was lost when the foremast snapped and collapsed to the ship’s starboard side. Thrashing around while still tethered to its rigging, it caused the mighty vessel to list drastically and set a new course for the jagged volcanic rocks guarding the harbor.
The proud figurehead that protruded from her bow exploded on impact and those who could not hold on tumbled through the air as the razor sharp rocks ripped through the wooden hull of the doomed vessel. Roaring, ocean waters rushed in and seasoned sailors wept with the dreadful prophesy of a watery grave in Davy Jones locker.
After viewing the galleon’s fate through a long spyglass, the tall man perched high atop his rocky crow’s nest considered the risks. There was a very small window of opportunity but it was too good to pass up. “To the long boats, men; we’ve no time to lose,” he yelled. The landing crew of forty-three men knew no fear as they rushed to the boats, screaming cries of battle and plunder.
She was the San Cristabol, a Spanish Galleon bound for the new world but blown off course by the storm. Before she sank, Sir Guy Ainsley, alias Captain Hawkins would capture its bounty of treasures in the name of mother England.
Large, open boats maned by eight oarsmen on either side put their backs into it and rowed with all their might as the furious sea lifted the crafts high in the air only to plunge them back down to the depths of another rising swell. If not for the expertise of the crew, the dinghies would certainly be no match for the violent tempest.
As the small fleet neared the sinking galleon the men tossed grappling hooks tied to knotted ropes over her gunwales and started the treacherous climb aboard. With sabers ready, their feet hit the deck prepared to fight but there was no one to meet their challenge.
Captain Hawkins looked aft to the damaged door of the ship commander’s cabin. Therein would lay a treasure of gold doubloons and silver pieces of eight. “This way, men,” he called out, holding his cutlass high over his head.
As they entered the officer’s quarters a shot rang out and a steel ball went wide, blistering the wooden bulkhead and missing its intended victim by four inches. The impeccably dressed Spaniard, having missed with his only shot, stood proud ready to face his fate. Hawkins took pity on him but before he could give the order to stand down, his men opened fire and the brave captain fell dead.
There was no time to honor the courage of their foe. The angry sea had reached the top deck and was lapping at their boots.
“Look around, men,” he ordered.
“Captain, here it is.”
The chest was even bigger than anticipated. It would take four of his strongest men to bear its weight. The water was now ankle deep as the men maneuvered their plunder into the waiting long boats. Now only captain Hawkins remained on deck the drowning vessel. As skipper, the men under his command were his responsibility. As such, he was always first in and last out.
Just as he was about to disembark the sinking ship, he heard the unmistakable shrill pitch of a woman’s scream. He knew they left no one behind in the captain’s quarters. That left only one other cabin from where the scream could have come. It was the only other cabin still above water. “Keep’er steady, I’ll be right back,” he yelled to the disgruntled men trying desperately to keep their craft from being swamped.
Captain Hawkins ran to the cabin, fired a shot into the locked door, and broke it down the rest of the way with a couple of good kicks. The water was now starting to rise more rapidly and partially covered the prone figure of a woman. Her colorfully lavish dress floated with the sway of the ship. She was unconscious from a blow to the head. He could see blood dripping from a wound over her left eye. Evidently the young lady had lost her footing and bumped into something when the ship shifted. Luckily she fell on her back and her face was still above water.
He rushed in, cradled her in his arms then threw her over his shoulder. A moment later he reappeared to the shocked expressions of his men. Carefully, he handed her limp body over the rail to his first mate then climbed aboard himself. It was a death defying trip back to shore but all were safe as they stood on the bank and watched the once proud and imposing ship slip beneath the pounding waves.
Captain Hawkins and his men braved the weather while they headed for their homes. The force of the horizontal rain stung their flesh as they hiked up the trail to the fortress. The treasure chest was locked in the crypt so temptation wouldn’t befall any of his men. The woman’s fate would be of a similar nature.
“Bring her inside, men,” he ordered as he entered his quarters.
“And who is that?” Asha looked concerned.
“A wench we captured from the galleon,” barked the captain. “She can give assistance with your chores around here.”
Asha had been the captain’s personal servant for many years. She, along with others, had been dragged from their homes in Africa by Dutch slave traders when they raided her village. Once they were all forced aboard the slave ship they were shackled and corralled below deck like cattle.
They had been at sea for several days when they heard the cannon fire. By that time several had already perished from lack of food and water. The rest of them were terrified as they heard the fighting from above. They had no idea what was going on; only the sounds of gunfire and the clanking of swords told them the ship was under siege. Would they be saved or would they be imprisoned or killed by someone other than the Dutch?
After an hour the noise died down. A rough looking crew, some bleeding, came down and unshackled them. They were brought up and addressed by the captain. The ship’s cargo was his. As for the slaves, they could go with him or he would give them the damaged ship and they could try to make it back home.
They were villagers, farmers, they knew nothing of sailing. Reluctantly, they chose to go back with the pirates. Once on the island they disbursed. Some of the men joined with the captain, some farmed while others became domestic servants. A small group of women offered themselves as prostitutes.
“Bring her in here,” Asha said, directing the men.
They carried the pretty Spanish woman into an unused bedchamber within the captain’s residence and laid her down.
“I will get something to clean her wound,” said Asha.
Sir Guy sat on the side of the bed after his men left and took a better look at her. Carefully, he pushed some of her long black hair from her face. He had never seen a more beautiful woman. Her facial features were sharply defined with high cheekbones and a strong chin. Her ruby lips were smooth to the touch and the silky flesh of her bosom billowed over the restraint of her wet dress and corset. What a pity, he thought, that such beauty came from a backward country like Spain.
“Here,” uttered Asha as she showed with a clean cloth and a bottle of rum.
“Thank you” he said. “You can go, Asha, I’ll take care of this.”
The captain poured some of the rum disinfectant into the rag and gently wiped the wound. Once the blood was gone he could see it wasn’t as deep as he thought. He rinsed the rag in some cool rain water and laid it over her forehead.
Just as he was about to leave the room he heard her stir. He watched as her eyes flickered open. The fear he saw in them could not mask their sparkle. They shown like liquid black pearls of splendor. She gasped at the stranger and tried to scoot away but the wall behind her gave no yield.
“Who ... who are you?” she cried.
“Captain Hawkins,” he replied. “We...”
“Hawkins ... the pirate?” she shrieked. “Wha ... what happened to our ship? Where am I? What happened to Captain Ballesta?” she charged.
“The good captain is at the bottom of the sea along with his ship,” he explained.
“YOU BASTARD!” she screamed. “You killed him. You animal!”
“He fired on us. My crew acted in self-defense. If it wasn’t for me and my crew, you also would have suffered a watery grave so I would belay that ungrateful tongue of yours and I would think a little gratitude would be in order,” he snapped. “You are in my castle on the island of Saint Thomas where you will serve as my personal wench...”
“WENCH!” she screamed. “I am the Marquesa Camila Aritza, wife of the Marquis’ Aritza. I am nobody’s WENCH. My husband is waiting for me in the new world. I demand you take me to him immediately.”
He smiled, her eyes shown like fiery black emeralds. She had heart, this one. He liked that but alas; he would have to break her spirit if she was to serve him. It was a shame but she could not disrespect him in front of his men.
“Sorry, wench, but you won’t be going anywhere. You are my captive, my property and will serve me in any capacity I demand. That includes using the pleasures of your body.”
Her beautiful, black eyes widened. “Don’t you even try to touch me you...”
“Enough,” he barked, cutting her off. “You’ll soon learn that, that attitude will only cause you trouble. And--ah, if I were you I wouldn’t say anything about being a Marquesa. That will only get you into more trouble. I’ll have Asha bring you something to eat and some clothes more fitting your chores,” he stated.
Chores? Surely this had to be a bad dream. Tears ran down her pampered cheeks as reality started to set in. She was trapped with a pirate; a savage who would rape and beat her and treat her as a slave. Where was her husband? How could she get word to him? Oh God, if he hears of the ship going down he’ll think she drowned and won’t even look for her. She was bawling by the time Asha entered the room carrying a bowl of soup on a sterling silver serving tray.
“Ah quit your caterwauling,” she admonished. “Things could be a lot worse you know.”
“Who ... who are you?” she sobbed.
“The name’s Asha. I’m the captain’s personal helper.”
“Do you know what he plans to do with me?”
“You will work with me during the day and sleep with him at night.”
“But, I ... I’m married. I cannot...”
Asha laughed. “Hell, girl, I really don’t think he minds.” She laughed again and just shook her head as she set the tray on the bed. “Eat,” she cackled. “You’ll need your strength. You’ll find some clothes in the wardrobe over there,” she said as she left the room.
In a fit of anger and desperation the Marquesa threw the bowl to the floor and wept into her pillow. Somehow, she thought, someway she had to get word to her husband. Maybe she could bribe one of the men ... but with what? She had no money.
As she sat on the bed staring at the floor, a feeling of loneliness and depression consumed her like an evil fog. It soaked into her pours. She felt, not only helpless, but hopeless. Would she never see her husband again? She would rather die than spend the rest of her life as that monster’s whore.
Time meant little to her now. She had no idea how long she had been crying but she was out of tears when the captain re-entered the room. He did cut a dashing figure with his long brown hair, broad shoulders, and strong physique. The trimmed mustache above his lip curled down when he saw her.
“You’ve not changed. You can’t do work in that,” he angrily sermonized. “Since you refuse to obey I will dress you appropriately myself.”
“Don’t you come near me, you...” She screamed as he reached for the top of her dress and ripped it open with two hands. She tried to gouge his eyes but he gripped her wrists tightly. She fought and struggled, finally bringing her knee up, hard into his groin.
“Aaaahh,” he yelled with pain. In anger he raised the back of his hand in the air but the look of fear in her eyes prevented him from striking her. He had never met anyone like her. Behind the fear was defiance and courage. It stirred feelings in him he thought were long past; feelings he once knew as a young man in love. He pinned her against the wall, forcing her to concede. Her now freed breasts heaved with her ragged and heavy breathing. Slowly, he moved his lips closer to hers but just before pressing them together, she turned her head.
“No,” she cried. She felt the grip on her wrists loosen.
“You have no recourse but to submit,” he told her. “Even if your Marques’ knew your location he could not penetrate my fortress. The bay is littered with broken ships that tried.”
“You don’t know him,” she spewed. “He is the greatest fighter in all of Spain. He would chop you up in pieces.”
He laughed at her boast. “The greatest duelist in all of Spain would be no match for my most incompetent swordsman,” he told her. “No, if you love him you should pray he never learns you are here and attempts your rescue. It would mean his sure death.”
“Why?” she questioned. “Why make trouble for yourself? Take me to my husband and he will give you riches in appreciation.”
“We already have his riches. They were on the ship. I now possess his money as well as his woman. Why, you ask, because you are now mine ... and no one takes what is mine,” he snarled.
He looked over at the bowl of spilt soup on the floor. “That was foolish. You’ll not get anything more until breakfast tomorrow morning.” He turned to leave but looked again at the bowl. “If I were you I’d clean that up real good. It’ll draw the rats if you don’t.” He was almost out the door when he stopped and turned around one more time. “I will return tonight,” he said. “You can fight me or you can submit; either way I will bed you and enjoy the pleasures of your body. How much you enjoy it will be up to you.”
New tears burst forward as if from a breached dam. She threw herself on the bed and wept harder than she had since her early youth.
The captain could hear her from behind the door. He actually felt bad for her but they were at war with the Spanish. He would be risking the life of anyone he sent with word of ransoming the Marquesa. He couldn’t take that chance even if he wanted to.
He needed some time alone. He needed to think. Strong winds whistled through the stones of his citadel and the sound of heavy rain pounded down as he took his favorite seat in his sanctuary. He loaded his fine English pipe with tobacco they had taken from a French merchant’s ship returning from the Americas. He leaned back and took a puff. Had anyone else been in the room they would have easily notice the worried look on his face.
Two years after receiving knighthood for bravery in battle, Sir Guy Ainsley decided he could do more for king and country on his own than by staying with her majesty’s navy. He took another name, commandeered a ship, and set sail. That was six years ago. Since then he and his loyal crew had raided and sunk over twenty enemy ships. They, of course, kept a portion of the seized riches but sent half of it back to England. They had earned a reputation and were feared by their enemies more than the queen’s entire fleet.
Since embarking on his quest, Captain Hawkins’ only love was for England. The cruelty of battle and lost love from many years in the past had hardened him to a woman’s affections.
He took another draw from his pipe and absentmindedly stared out the window at the clearing skies.
Like gold and silver, women were nothing more than the spoils of war but just being near this one had awakened feelings—forbidden feelings; feelings of excitement and passion. He had been enraptured by her beauty, captivated by the fire in her soul. It had been a long time since he felt like this. He wanted her, not as his wench but as his lover, as the mother of his children.
The ghostly skull of a pale moon was barely visible as the sweltering sun forfeited some of its heat to a cool breeze of the evening. After joining the conquistadors for eight months of exploring and fighting natives of the new land known as La Pasqua Florida, the soothing sounds of the pounding surf were welcome as the incoming tide claimed more of the sandy beach with every breaker. The spit-shined Spanish leather boots of the gentleman searching the horizon would soon get wet if he didn’t move.
“Stop your worrying, Diego, I’m sure she’s okay. The San Cristabol is one of the finest ships in Spain.”
The Marques’ looked out at the darkening sky. There was a storm coming. It was still miles off to the south but headed their way. “I’m sure you’re right, Juan,” he replied to his friend. “If they left on time she should be here sometime this week. I guess I’m just a little anxious. I miss her.”
“I understand. I miss my Sophia but she is scared to make the journey. To tell you the truth, I fear she has found herself another man back home.”
“Juan, just because she’s afraid to make the trip here doesn’t mean she doesn’t still love you.”
“Yes, but there are other things too; she doesn’t write me as often as she used to and the tone of the letters is different. No, I believe I’ve lost her, Diego.”
“I ... I’m sorry, my friend. Why haven’t you told me this sooner? I can get you passage back home.”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about it but to tell you the truth, I’m afraid of what I’d find when I got there. No, this is my home now.”
Later that night, as the storm raged outside his garrison window, the Marquis’ thought of the conversation he’d had with his friend. It reminded him of how lucky he was to have the love and respect of such a woman as his wife. He thought back to the last evening they’d spent together.
He closed his eyes and moaned with imagines of her naked beauty ... He remembered the softness of her lips as they gently met his own; a softness that was rivaled only by the feel of her skin.
There is nothing like the dawning of a new day in the Caribbean. Beautifully colored tropical birds sang with appreciation as the sun rose from the depths of the sea. Gulls called the cadence for sweat burdened brows of working men toiling in paradise.
Since the captain didn’t spend the night with her, Asha figured she’d find him in bed with his new woman. She was surprised to see the pretty Spaniard sleeping alone. “Wake up,” she yelled. “The captain said you’re to be my helper so get dressed and come out to the kitchen.”
It took a minute for the Marquesa to get herself oriented. She cried most of the night thinking captain Hawkins would come in and rape her at some point but it never happened. It must have been around two or three in the morning before she finally fell asleep. Her eyes were still red and puffy and her nose was stuffed up from the crying.
She staggered out of bed still dress in the only remnant left of her former life. Between her intervals of blubbering through the night, she had come to a rationalization; as terrible as it was, she had two choices, submit or die. She was too young to die so she would submit with the hope that she would be rescued one day.
She checked the wardrobe closet and found her new attire. They were little more than rags and they certainly wouldn’t cover enough to be worthy of a respectable woman. Again, her choices were extremely limited. She looked back to make sure the door was closed, then with a red face, got undressed. She went through what there was and picked a tattered dress that must have been worn by a commoner larger than herself. It drew a chuckle from the captain who was sitting at the table when she entered the kitchen.
“Not really,” she replied. He didn’t look like such a bad man sitting there. She had to try one more time. “I ... please--you have to let me go. They ... they say you’re a fair man. Is it fair that you hold me here against my will? Is it fair that you deprive me of my husband? Is it f...”
“Enough,” he said, angrily hitting the table with the side of his fist. “Had you not screamed when you did we would have never known you were even aboard. It is fate that you are here and it is your fate that you will remain on this island with me. Now let that be the end of it,” he said, scowling at her. “Asha will show you what chores she wants done and I don’t expect any trouble from you. Remember where you’d be right now if it wasn’t for me.”
Defiantly, she stared at her captor with hate and maybe a little fear. “I would have been better off,” she sneered at him.
He remained stoic but the words hit him like a dagger in the heart. She did not hide her hatred as he looked at her. In part it was that passion that drew her to him, that and her undisputable beauty. If only he can somehow turn that hate into love ... The pain behind his expression was imperceptible. He was at a loss for words and figured it was better to extricate himself before saying something stupid. “I have work to do,” he snapped as he rose from the table. He heard her start crying again as he left the room.
Asha was not without empathy. She also missed her man. The last she saw of her brave husband he was valiantly fighting against overwhelming odds to save her. She had no idea if he survived or was possibly taken as a slave by one of the other ships.
She sat down opposite the pretty Spaniard who still hadn’t stopped crying. “Please, don’t judge him too harshly, he’s not a bad man, you know.”
The Marquesa lifted her head and looked at the dark skinned woman. “How can you say that? He is holding me prisoner. I am a married woman and he expects me to be his whore, his slave.”
“You are the spoils of war. He could have just executed you or given you to his men to pass around.”
“War; what war?”
Asha looked at her with surprise. “Are you not aware that Spain is at war with England?”
“Oh, of course I know that, but what has he to do with England? He’s a pirate!”
“Yes, he’s a pirate but still very loyal to King Charles. He sends half of everything he captures, back to his homeland; some goes directly to his son.”
“His son; he has a son?”
“Yes. I don’t know the whole story but he was married and very much in love at one time. He was serving in her majesty’s navy and at sea when she got the Black Death. By the time he got back she was dead.”
“Then why is he not back in England with his son?”
“The boy was very young and couldn’t understand why his father was away and didn’t save his mother. He denounced the captain, said he hated him. Jack, the captain’s first mate was there. He said it ripped Sir Guy’s soul right out of his chest.”
“Sir Guy? Who is Sir Guy?”
“That’s the captain’s real name. He was knighted by the king. I guess he just couldn’t take losing his son and his wife together like that. He left England and came here to the islands.”
“And his son is still in England?”
“Yes, he’s being raised by his mother’s sister. The captain gets a letter from them sometimes. Their last one said, now that the boy is older he understands his dad couldn’t have saved his mother. He wants his dad to come back but he no longer can go back. He would most likely be hanged for piracy.
“So—he stays a pirate. Most of the time, he goes after merchant ships of any origin, except English of course; but when he sees Spanish colors flying atop a mast, he still fights for king and country.”
His story didn’t move her. “I don’t care. I don’t care how much of a patriot he is, I want to go to my husband.”
Asha sighed. “If you were from any other country I’m sure he would accommodate you but the way he sees it, that would be aiding the enemy. He considers you a prisoner of war and his property to do with as he pleases, just as if he’d won you in battle. He also likes you. I can see it in his eyes. I don’t think he’s going to give you up.”
She could see the woman was about to break out in tears again. “You’ve got to stop that. It won’t do you any good anyway. Now, take some breakfast for yourself but don’t be long ... what is your name, anyhow?”
“Ma ... Camila,” she answered.
“Okay, Camila; hurry up and eat, we have work to do.”
Sir Guy was back in his sanctuary. He had been awake all night while his head and his heart where locked in battle. Pirate logic told him there was only one way to go; send word that they had captured the Marquesa and was holding her for ransom. It was very dangerous but he could pull it off if he really wanted to. The problem was that he felt he’d be ransoming part of his soul. Damn, he cursed himself. Why, after all these years, why did his heart suddenly open to the charms of a woman again ... and why the enemy ... someone who hated him?
That was another problem, how could he exchange her hate for love and not break her fiery passion in the process. Give her some time, possibly? Maybe after a few months she will no longer miss her husband. That would certainly free her up to love him. He had suffered the loss of one love, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing another.
Maybe it was time to go back out to sea for a while. He could order his ship, the Devil’s Mist, be prepared to set sail. A small smile stretched across his face. The more he thought of it the more he felt it was a good idea. Being separated from the wench would also give him time to think more clearly, as for his men, the sea was their home not the island; they would be raring to go. He set out in search of his first mate.
“I think it’s time we set sail, what do you think?”
A big smile stretched across Jack’s scarred face. “I think that’s a great idea, captain. The men are getting restless. Raiding that galleon yesterday was just enough to wet their whistle for action.”
That was music to his ears. “Good; get the men together and load up the Devil’s Mist with a month’s worth of rations. We leave at high tide.”
“YES, SIR,” he enthusiastically replied.
Sir Guy felt much better on his way back to his castle. If nothing else she would be out of his sight.
Camila was relieved when he announced they would be departing that evening at high tide. At least she didn’t have to worry about him raping her—not yet anyway. It still didn’t give her anymore hope for getting off the island though.
She heard him tell Asha they would be gone a month, maybe longer. By that time her husband would surely know she was missing. Maybe they would come to rescue her before the pirates got back. It at least gave her hope.
All day long the captain helped his men as they paraded back and forth to the hidden, Pirate’s Cove, home of the Devil’s Mist. Fresh fruit was loaded along with hardtack, spices, salted beef, vegetables, nets for fishing, and plenty of ale.
It was almost sundown by the time everything was loaded; just enough time for the men to go to their homes for dinner and say goodbye to their wives.
The sea was a dangerous place. The captain would have given anything to make love to his Spanish beauty before he left but he knew it would just inflame her hatred toward him and he didn’t want to leave with that on his mind.
As a loyal subject of his majesty’s, the scrupulous Englishman cut a smart looking figure as he stood atop the quarterdeck with his bullhorn. His full hundred and eighty man crew took to their posts, readying to get underway as they heard the first command. “Lay aloft and loose all sails.”
The gathering onlookers from shore watched as the men scampered up the ship’s rigging and untied the sails. Large sheets of white canvas were lowered on the three towering masts with the next order, “Lower topsails!”
The men could feel the frigate’s deck under their feet anxiously straining to get underway.
“Starboard fore braces,” the captain called; “Port main and mizzen braces. Brace up fore and aft.”
He smiled at the rumbling sounds of the braces racing through the blocks. “Weigh anchor,” called the captain and immediately men jumped to the winch while others helped with anchor irons. Soon the enormous mass of iron crested the water’s surface, freeing the proud lady from her moorings. “Hoist outer jib,” was called and giant sheets of canvas rustled and billowed as they filled with the breath of Eurus. “Haul out the spanker!”
With Jack at the helm the craft was deftly navigated through the narrow straights of the hidden cove and into open water.
“Full canvas,” was ordered and you could almost see the hull of the majestic ship bursting with pride as the rest of her sails swelled with tropical winds. A pale yellow moon lay dead ahead.