Dana gasped for breath as she struggled to drag herself out of the clutching waves and onto the shore. Slowly she crawled up the beach away from the sea that sought to reclaim her, the sea that had just killed her family. When she suddenly found her way blocked by a large rock, she paused and after gathering what strength she could, tried to reach up, seeking a hold that would let her pull herself to her feet. The wind was still wild and rain pored down. Dana found the effort to haul herself to her feet beyond her and sank back onto the sand. Gasping she dragged herself around the rock to the side which sheltered her from the wind somewhat, curled up into a shivering exhausted ball and after a while fell asleep.
Next morning found Dana standing on the shore looking out to sea, seeking for any other survivors from the ship. She could see none. She looked up. The sun beat down on her intently as her green eyes peered out to sea reliving the terrible events of the previous night. She took stock. She had no shoes or stockings, her only garment a sleeveless ankle length summer sleeping shift. She knew she needed to find water and help if she was to survive. She turned her back on the sea and looked up the cliff. There appeared to be some places where she thought she could find hand and foot-holds leading up the side of the cliffs. Dana headed up the cliff. It was a hard climb for the all-but exhausted girl. Slowly she dragged herself up the cliff as the sun beat down without mercy and she struggled to complete the climb.
She finally dragged her body over the edge of the cliff and lay gasping on the cliff-top for some time. When her heart finally steadied and her breathing returned almost to normal, she sat up and looked around. The area was desolate. The grass she sat on was wet but fast drying out from last night’s storm. There was no sign if human habitation, just a few straggly trees that broke the otherwise featureless plain. There was no sign of a river or spring.
However Dana did not have to rely only on her eyes. After the physical search was over, Dana took a deep breath closed her eyes and reached. However her odd ability was not working as it usually did. She was usually able to sense if there were people around for quite a distance, but this time, perhaps because she was so tired, she couldn’t push her awareness out very far in the usual way. There was a vague feeling of people a little distance off but this time she couldn’t tell in which direction they were moving. After a long moment, the girl sighed and opened her eyes. Once again she wished she could find out if there were others with her odd abilities. But her parents had ordered her to not tell anyone of the odd dreams and visions she sometimes had and had punished her when she had spoken of them. She lay back on the grass for a while longer resting and gathering what strength she could. Finally she managed to stand up and began to slowly walk along the cliff-top.
She staggered along with the sun beating down on her for what felt like hours. The sun was high by the time she had reached the nearest tree on the cliff-top, and wearily sat down in its shade. By now her feet and legs were cut and scratched. Her tongue felt swollen in her dry mouth. She leant her head back against the tree trunk and knew no more until she was rudely awakened by a hard slap on her face.
Sorrel stood on the deck of her command, the Swift Deliverer . The cargo galley was sailing slowly up the coast towards their destination, the free port of Akdil, which did not please Sorrel. But they had a cargo to deliver there and if they failed to deliver their reputation as the most reliable cargo galley on the coast would be gone. Sorrel stared up the length of the ship. The crew was washing down the deck and repairing the damage from the storm of the previous night. Their passengers had left their cabins and were strolling the deck watching the crew at work and talking amongst themselves. At this moment the ships oars were not manned, most of the slaves were still in their cramped quarters below deck. Sorrel’s blue eyes could see none of this. She gazed fixedly ahead as she thought of her last visit to this port, when the son of one of the port’s leading families had tried to rape her after she had refused his advances.
Sorrel recalled what her mother had said as they said farewell. “If Orelo tries anything, Sorrel, tell him what I told you. For that matter his father may have already told him. I sent Jordan a letter telling him what happened. He may want to meet you, you know. To apologise, I mean.” Sorrel had doubted that.
Sorrel pulled herself out of her musings with a jerk. What was done was done. She gestured to her friend and first mate Helene as she approached the afterdeck. “Time to bring the slaves up and ready them at the oars. We will be needing them soon since this wind seems to be dying.”
“Right.” Helene turned and strode back along the deck and down the hatch to the slave quarters. She signalled to one of the small squad soldiers the Swift Deliverer carried for both protection and to police their slaves if necessary. “Bring out the slaves and put them ready at the oars,” she said.
“Will do,” The guard collected the keys and headed for the door in the bulkhead followed by Helene and several other guards. The door was opened and the guards and Helene entered. The slaves, Mostly males in the 20 to 30 age group, were chained to the walls of the room by their neck rings in batches of 2. Their hands were chained together in front of them. They wore loincloths, and little else Soon the slaves began to appear from their quarters, blinking in the light. . Batch by batch they were bought up and placed at their oars, two slaves to each oar. They sat facing the stern of the galley.
Sorrel nodded as Helene joined her on the afterdeck, beside the helm. Sorrel glanced at the slaves as they readied the oars. She noticed that one oar-bench on each side was not manned. She made a mental note to herself to purchase more oar-slaves soon. The two women looked ahead. The opening to the bay on which the Port of Akdil stood was appearing on their left about 2 miles ahead. The Swift Deliverer was about 1 mile off the coast. Sorrel felt again the pride she always felt as a voyage neared its end and they prepared to enter harbour. She searched the sea’s surface for the shadow that indicates the sandbar that blocked this side of the entrance. On spotting it she glance at the helmsman. He caught her glance and nodded silently once. He had spotted it too. The Swift Deliverer passed the sandbar then Sorrel broke the silence, “Bring us round to port, Coxan.”
“Ay, Captain.” The galley began to turn. Sorrel shouted orders to the sailors on the deck to reset the sails as they settled on the new heading. Their speed dropped and after another half hour had brought them closer to the headlands between which they had to pass, Sorrel spoke again.
“Out oars.” The oars slid out of the sides of the galley.
“Ready.” The oars reached forward as the slaves leant forward.
“Pull.” The oars entered the water and the slaves pulled them back as they leant back to complete the stroke. The timing drum began a slow steady beat to give the slaves the speed of the stroke. The galley continued on its way into the bay.
As they entered the bay and the port of Akdil opened up before them. Sorrel had never liked this port, although it was one of the largest and busiest that the Swift Deliverer came to. It was probably because they were more likely to have problems with the officials of this port because the Deity followed by the majority of the citizens of this port was a very patriarchal one, that taught that women should stay home and could not lead or command a ship.
“Furl sails, please Helene,” came Sorrel’s voice. Helene began to shout the orders that bought the sails down and furled up against the masts. The galley continued under oars towards their dock. Helene continued to shout orders that bought the ship near the dock then she ordered the oars on the port side of the ship to back water while the starboard side continued to pull forward. The ship slowly turned side on to the dock and ropes were thrown and secured. The Swift Deliverer was now secured to the dock and the gangplank was slid across to the dock.
Next came the bustle as their passengers gathered their possessions and left the ship while arrangements were made to unload the cargo. There was the usual hassle to return the slaves to their quarters when they, like anybody else, were curious as to where they were. Sorrel noted that their one female oar slave, an ex-soldier sentenced to slavery for striking an officer, did not try to peer out at the port. Sorrel remembered that Akdil was the woman’s home. As she passed, Sorrel put her hand on the slave’s arm and squeezed it. The woman looked at Sorrel and gave her a nod of thanks and a wistful smile then disappeared into the slaves quarters. Then there was the usual argument with port officials, some of which were after a bribe to ensure the quick processing of the Swift Deliverer’s papers.
Dana staggered along at the end of the short string of slaves. She was exhausted, thirsty, hungry and dirty. She felt dizzy and had thrown up the food scraps the slavers had given her. The slavers that had found her under the tree had decided not to spend the money that would be needed to make her more presentable to buyers. She would be offered as a cheap work slave. The slaves on the chain ahead of her were all males. So were the slaves on the other string beside her. All were strong young and had good physiques. The very sort owners would want to use as cargo handlers or oarsmen. Most were captured from farming villages, although some were captured warriors. Dana looked disinterestedly around her as they were led into the market-place. There was all the usual noise and bustle of a market as sellers hawked their wears. Across the way a man called out that he had the freshest apples and oranges for sale. Beside him a woman shouted she had the freshest mushrooms. Another woman called she had the finest lettuces and cucumbers. Dana was just glad they had stopped moving. The other slaves sat down on the cobbled ground. Dana did the same. Elsewhere in this corner of the market other slavers were offering beautiful female slaves which seemed to draw many admirers. These slaves had been washed, their faces painted and their hair done. They wore little in the way of clothing. One of the slave girls noticed Dana and pointed her out to her companions. They laughed at Dana, showing with gestures that they saw she had not been prepared for sale as they had. Dana was to tired to worry about them.
The number of customers exploring the market was rising. Rich women in long gowns and veiled faces followed by slaves appeared and strolled through the market, pausing to make purchases which their slaves carried. Other women not so richly dressed and without slaves, shopping baskets on their arms, were also in the marketplace. Dana noticed how the salesmen bowed to the rich women but not the poorer ones. The rich women didn’t haggle with the seller over the prices The poorer women did haggle but when an agreement was reached with the seller and the money paid there was no bow from the seller. Dana also noticed that as was in her home country, where men and women appeared together the man was always in front.
The Market was going full swing as Sorrel entered the Market Square the next morning accompanied by Helene, two guards and a seaman carrying chains. As she pressed through the crowd Sorrel could feel the hatred from the men as they identified the badge of Thara and the fact she and Helene wore seaman’s trousers. The women of Akdil were never allowed to wear trousers. Sorrel ran her eyes over the crowd until she found what she sort. She headed for the area in which the various slavers had their wares displayed. As she moved through the crowd she could almost feel the hatred of the men and the scorn of the women. Sorrel stopped and ran her eyes over the various strings of slaves offered for sale. The ones with the type she needed, slaves with well developed arm and shoulder muscles and good lungs, were in the corner, against the wall of the building. She moved closer and examined the rows of slaves. Those four on that short string looked a likely set. She moved in to make a closer examination. It was only then Sorrel noticed the girl. She was filthy and was sagging back against the building wall, her head bowed and her eyes closed. She looked like she hadn’t eaten for days. Then the girl slowly as if with great effort, raised her head and opened her eyes. Sorrel had never seen such clear green eyes in her life. Something seemed to pierce through her mind into her very being, sinking down inside her and making her shiver. Sorrel blinked and stared at the girl. What was so special about this girl that Sorrel felt she should recognize her? Sorrel fought down the urge to take the girl into her arms and comfort her. Sorrel turned to the slaver and indicated the string.
“How much for the four males?”
The reply was a ridiculously high figure. Haggling went on for some time until finally an agreement was reached for the four male slaves. The slaves were released from the Slavers chains and chained together by Sorrel’s seaman. Dana watched all this in silence. She no longer cared what would happen to her, she hurt to much inside as well as outside after the beating from the slavers because she couldn’t keep up on the march to Akdil. The slaver looked at Dana with distaste.
“You can have her to if you like, Captain,” he said, “She may make a kitchen hand. We actually found her under a tree a days march south of here.”
“Very well,” replied Sorrel.
Dana stared up at her purchaser in silence as the slaver’s shackles were removed and her purchaser’s shackles replaced them. She was ordered to stand up and when it was clear that the act was beyond her, her purchaser bent and lifted her to her feet and they prepared to leave the marketplace. Dana didn’t know what to think. As soon as their eyes had met Dana had felt she wanted to throw herself into the tall blue eyed woman’s arms and stay there forever. She had not felt this way about anyone before and couldn’t understand why she should feel this way about a total stranger now. She struggled to understand her feelings as she also struggled to keep up with the pace set by the tall woman. The procession began to wend it’s way out of the market. There were a few jeers and whistles as they left. Sorrel quickly saw the girl, who had not spoken at all, was so weak she could barely walk. Sorrel slowed her pace and they walked slowly back toward the docks and the Swift Deliverer .
They had only one more block to go to the docks when Sorrel found herself confronted by the one person she didn’t want to see. Orelo, son of Jordan stood in their path, standing with his arms folded across his chest, his sword at his side and six arms-men at his back.
“Well now, look what we have here. A woman who thinks she can command a ship. What will women be saying next, that they are as good warriors as men as well,” he sneered. His men chuckled.
“Hello, Orelo,” replied Sorrel civilly. She was careful not to reach for her sword. She waited.
“I don’t think women should carry weapons,” he continued, “They can’t be expected to understand them. Put those swords on the ground, now, both of you.”
“No, Orelo,” replied Sorrel calmly, “Stop this nonsense. I think you need to speak with your father before you do something you will regret. Go home Orelo.”
“Don’t you try to give me orders. woman,” shouted Orelo, “Hand over those swords at once, woman.” By now a crowd was beginning to gather and Sorrel knew that she could be in big trouble if it became an angry mob.
“You speak bravely with six arms-men behind you Orelo, come and take it yourself if you dare, coward.” *You said a man’s pride was important to him Mother. Hope your right.*
Orelo’s face went very red and he slowly came forward, unfolding his arms and heading straight for Sorrel, his hand folding into fists.
“I have had enough of your cheek, woman. Give me that sword erkkk…”
Orelo now found himself gripped by one arm and swung round facing his men with one arm twisted behind him.
“Orelo we came here only to trade. Do you think trading ships will continue to come to Akdil when they hear the leading citizens are assaulting customers in the street and stealing from them,” Sorrel spoke loudly for the crowd’s benefit. She saw that her words struck home in some of the crowd at least. She heard murmurs of “That’s true” and “We don’t want to loose our trade” from several quarters.
“Now Orelo order your men to stand aside so we can be about our peaceful business.” Sorrel still held Orelo firmly and waited.
“Let me go woman,” shouted Orelo, “Release me at once.”
“When you order your men to stand aside. Look at the people. Do you want to continue to be a laughing stock? Wake up man.” Some members of the crowd were now beginning to laugh at Orelo’s predicament. Orelo glared at them.
“What are you doing standing around there. Help me here,” he shouted to the crowd.
“You started this, Orelo. You finish it.” someone shouted. Others laughed.
“Has a woman got the better of you Orelo?” another shouted. The laughter increased.
“Let me go,” he shouted.
“Tell your men to stand aside and let us pass,” replied Sorrel.
Orelo seethed. This woman, who should have been an easy mark for a man since it was what women were made for wasn’t it? She had beaten him again. And the people were laughing at him. Him! Orelo! Son of the most powerful Councillor in Akdil.
“Let them pass.” The men looked at each other then silently moved to one side. Sorrel at once released Orelo, but remained alert. The crowd laughed as Orelo moved away from Sorrel and started to disburse as they thought the fun was over. But the laughter seemed to send the furious Orelo over the edge. He drew his sword and charged. Sorrel made no effort to draw her own weapon. She brought up her hands and at the same time stepped to the left at the last moment before contact. She grabbed Orelo’s sword arm and twisted. Orelo screamed as he lost his sword and was forced to his knees with his arm twisted high behind him.
“So Orelo that is how it is, is it? You try surprise attacks when numbers don’t work, is that it?” snapped Sorrel, “What is your father going to say when he hears of this, Orelo?”
“You wouldn’t dare,” gasped Orelo.
“What’s going on here?” The voice was one clearly used to being obeyed. Sorrel looked towards it and recognized Jordan, Chief Councillor of Akdil. And Orelo’s father.
“Father she attacked me,” shouted Orelo desperately. “Make her release me.”
Councillor Jordan’s clear blue eyes surveyed the scene before him. They settled briefly on Sorrel. “Did she now, my son. Why would she do that I wonder? It appears to me she was leaving the market after purchasing some slaves. Why would she attack you while she was doing that. Hmmmm?”
Sorrel continued to hold Orelo firmly. Clearly Councillor Jordan could see what was happening and was seeking a dignified was out of the situation. “Well my son? Do you not have an answer for my question?” Orelo remained silent. “You disappoint me Orelo. Why do you cause this trouble with one of our city’s best trading partners? Can you not see the damage you could do to us? No Orelo, there will be no more violence over this matter. You will come home with me immediately. Is that understood? There is something you must know of importance my son. Sorrel.”
At Jordan’s nod Sorrel released Orelo who staggered away to where he had dropped his sword, retrieved it, then joined his father. He did not look back at Sorrel. Councillor Jordan nodded again to Sorrel, turned and swept away across the market place, Orelo and his six arms-men following. Sorrel led her party away towards the docks. The crowd dispersed, many of its members talking excitedly amongst themselves.
Once on board the Swift Deliverer the new oar slaves were handed over to the sailors who would wash them and put them in their quarters. Dana found herself taken down into a cabin where she was stripped of her dirty sleeping shift and held steady by a woman while the Captain, much to Dana’s surprise washed her with hot water and sweetly scented soap. After the wash Dana was told to stretch out on a couch supported by cushions and covered by a blanket after which she was given first water and then a thick nourishing soup which she gulped down eagerly. She was also questioned.
“What is your name, girl?” the question was from the Captain.
“Dana, … Captain,”
“And where are you from, Dana? The traders said they had found you under a tree.”
“From the South, Captain, and yes they did find me as they said,” Dana took a deep breath. Naturally her owner would want her story. She struggled to gather what little strength she had left and looked at Sorrel, “I am -I believe-the only survivor of a ship that foundered a days travel south of this port in a heavy storm two days ago. I think it was two days, it may be three, my memory isn’t good at the moment. I don’t know how or why I survived. All I remember was the storm, the ship being tossed about and beginning to break up. I went up on deck and was washed overboard as the ship sank. I didn’t see anyone else leave the ship. Certainly no one else appeared on the stretch of beach I was washed up on. My… my parents were on board. They told me to stay in the cabin with them, but I couldn’t. I could sense the ship was in trouble and it would be fatal to stay inside the cabin.”
“What was the ships name?”
“The Dedora, Captain.”
“Thankyou Dana, I’ll let you get some sleep now. I’ll see if there has been any word of other survivors from your ship.” Sorrel turned towards the door.
“May I know your name?”
“Thankyou Captain Sorrel.” Sorrel nodded and left the cabin. In two minutes Dana was asleep.
She did not stir when half an hour later Sorrel returned and draped the garment she carried over a chair, then came and stood looking down on the sleeping girl. Sorrel stood their for some time wondering what it was that drew her to this total stranger. Finally she quietly left the cabin the way she had come.
When Dana opened her eyes she couldn’t at first remember where she was. She looked around her. She felt the gentle rocking indicating she was on board a ship. She was lying on a couch in a cabin. There were two doors leading out of the cabin. Slowly her memory returned. She was now a slave owned by the mysterious Captain Sorrel. Dana looked around the cabin. She realised it must be late afternoon or early evening by the lack of light. This cabin appeared to be a dining room since its biggest piece of furniture was a dining table that could seat at least eight or ten people. Against one wall was a rack holding several rolled up sheets of paper that could be charts.
Dana slowly sat up, only to grab the blanket covering her when she realised she was naked. Then she noticed something draped over a chair near the couch. Dana took it up. It was a short sleeveless tunic. She stood up and pulled it over her head. It dropped down to her mid thigh. Dana couldn’t remember wearing such a skimpy garment ever. However she was a slave now and so she had to do as she was told and wear what was given. Dana knew some slave owners kept their slaves naked for long periods, so she knew she should be grateful. Dana took stock. She felt a lot better than she had been but she was hungry and thirsty again. She flexed her arms and legs and found much of the tiredness had gone though she still felt weary.
Dana tried one of the doors. It wasn’t locked. She peered through into what was someone’s sleeping cabin. It contained a large cot supported by four ropes hanging from the ceiling, and several storage chests, a night stand set before a mirror fixed on the wall and a chair. Dana closed the door and tried the other one. It opened onto a passageway, at this moment deserted. and at one point in the passageway a set of stairs led up presumably to the deck above. Dana hesitated briefly then began to climb. She emerged onto the main-deck that was almost deserted. For a moment no-one noticed her as she stood and looked around the deck. Then she heard a cough behind her and swung around. Captain Sorrel was looking down on her from what she remembered was called the after-deck where she could also see a large double wheel.
“Good. Your on your feet,” Captain Sorrel sounded calm enough.
Sorrel gestured to a set or stairs Dana had not noticed. “Come up here. You can see the ship a lot better from here.”
Dana ascended the stairs and joined Captain Sorrel in looking out along the length of the ship. She realised this ship was much larger than the one she had been a passenger on. This ship had two masts and must carry much more sail as well.
“What do you think?” Captain Sorrel asked cheerfully after a moment.
“It looks very nice. Different though to the other ships I’ve seen.”
“Different? In what way.”
“There seems a smaller number of oars for it’s size then other ships I’ve seen. Or is it my imagination?”
“No you are quite right. The Swift Deliverer is designed to rely more on the wind than its oars. I usually use oars only for close manoeuvring in harbour. We carry more sail than most ships. And how are you feeling?”
“Still tired Captain but if you want me to serve you in some way.. ,” Dana replied uncertainly.
“No. I just want to know a little more about you. How old are you, where did you come from, have you any family waiting back there and why were you aboard the ship you were on?”
Dana was surprised. Slave owners usually didn’t care where their slaves came from or what their previous life had been . All that mattered was what happened and how they worked from now on. Then she froze. * What would Captain Sorrel do if she told her the true reason she had been on the Dedora and where she had been bound?*
” I am in my sixteenth summer. My father was a merchant in the Southern port city of Cedra. He and my Mother were deeply religious. About three years ago I started to have strange dreams that seemed to foretell the future. The priests my parents consulted decided I had been taken over by evil spirits. After they failed to ‘cure’ me themselves they advised taking me to the temple of Gea at Knor to have the priests cleanse me of these spirits. They… said if the priests couldn’t cure me then I would have to die to stop the evil spirits from taking over other people. Which was why I -and they- were on that ship.” Dana shook with fear. Would Captain Sorrel have her thrown over the side so protect her ship from evil spirits? She grabbed onto the rail and waited, head bowed for the Captain’s next words.
“What were these visions like? describe them.”
Dana blinked and slowly turned to face the Captain. “You don’t mind?”
“Don’t mind what?”
“That the priests said I have evil spirits in me. They were going to kill me if they couldn’t free me of them. Aren’t you afraid you or your ship could be harmed if I do have evil spirits in me?” Dana looked up into Captain Sorrels blue eyes in fear, astonishment -and perhaps hope? Sorrel looked back at the girl who she realised was terrified.
Sorrel reached out and gave Dana a reassuring squeeze on the arm. “No. I have met people who have had visions. The priestess at home sometimes has visions of what type of weather we could expect, or when there is going to be a change in the weather or if the crops are going to be a success. Whether these visions are from the Goddess as she claims or if it is a gift you are born with, I don’t know. But I don’t believe that you have evil spirits in you.” * Damn it I want to kiss her and hug her and…* ” Tell me about these visions.”
Dana took a deep breath and tried not to sag on her shaky legs as it sank in that she was not going to be killed. “They come as dreams usually. I may dream of an area that I recognise, usually near where we lived was either having rain or storms or hot dry weather. Something would tell me whether the dream was to happen soon or in the future. The visions have never been wrong yet. Also I sometimes have flashes while awake, in which I see the answer to a problem. For instance I had a flash while on board the Dedora that told me I would only have a chance of surviving if I went on deck, not stayed in the cabin with my parents. I foretold the storm too. Usually my visions got me punished. Some months ago my father was having trouble with a customer who wouldn’t pay what he owed. I had a vision while still awake of the customer riding away from Cedra in a hurry. I told my father the man was preparing to leave but he ignored me. The next day we learnt the man had ridden of in the night. My father punished me because of this. He claimed I had influenced the man to run off and caned me for this.”
“Another time while at the market shopping with my mother, I warned my mother not to buy the nice looking fruit at a particular stall. She ignored me, bought from the stall and made me carry the fruit home. When we cut them up we found they were all bad. Not just one or two but all. Mother said I had hexed the fruit out of spite. She punished me for that. I tried to stop telling my parents of my visions, but sometimes it would just come out in conversation. And I would be in trouble again.”
“Were all your visions or warnings to do with the future?”
“No. One time walking in the street with my father I picked up a broach with a broken clasp. As I held it I had a vision of the face of a woman with a large mole on her chin and I told father. My father was very angry when later that morning a woman with a mole on her chin claimed the broach.” Other times I have had visions of where an item has come from or who last held an item when I held it myself.”
“Remarkable. Well Dana I think your parents were misguided to think as they did. Is there any other family member who would be waiting for your return? Your fathers business. Who is looking after it now?”
“An Uncle, my fathers brother. But don’t send me back there please. He believes as my parents do. Anyway with my father dead, the business is his now, as women can’t inherit in Cedra.”
“I see. So you are saying you have no other place to go anyway,” Sorrel’s voice was gentle.
“Yes.” Dana heaved herself away from the railing she had been clinging to as she told her story. As she turned towards Sorrel her head became dizzy and she swayed uncertainly. The next thing she felt a strong arm encircle her as Sorrel steadied her.
“Easy there. I think you need more rest. Come on, back to bed, my girl.” Dana suddenly felt very safe with Sorrels arm around her. She allowed herself be led down the steps and back into the cabin. In a few minutes she was asleep. She never knew that Sorrel spent the next hour sitting in a chair near where she lay, looking at her and wondering.
Dana woke early next morning feeling much better although very hungry. As she sat up she found most of her aches had gone. She looked around as a door opened and a sailor entered carrying a tray. The sailor set the tray down on the table and proceeded to lay the table. He completed his task just as the inner door opened and Captain Sorrel entered the room.
“Ahh.. Thankyou Wills. Dana, awake just in time I see. How are you feeling this morning? Come and join me.”
“Thank-you Captain,” Dana only then realised the table was laid for two. She sat down conscious that it could not be normal for a slave to sit like an equal with her owner.
As if she read her thoughts Captain Sorrel spoke smiling, “You understand this is not normal, a bondswoman and her bondholder dining like this. It won’t happen often. When we have finished I will find you your bond-chain and then you can start work You will be serving here and sometimes to my officers in their quarters. You will eat in the kitchen. Your main duties will be to see that this cabin is kept clean. A bit different to what you are used to but that is how things are for the moment. You are not strong enough to help with the loading and we will be busy with that all day today and tomorrow. Your status will be that of captains servant. You will replace Wills who is better suited to deck work. At night you will sling a hammock in the kitchen.” the Captain sounded almost apologetic.
“I’ll do my best, Captain. I’ll be fine once I find my way around.” *Why do I feel so happy at being a slave? Could it be because I want to be with Captain Sorrel? What’s wrong with me?”*
After breakfast Dana started work. By midday she had cleaned her way her way around the lower decks at the stern of the Swift Deliverer and also knew the layout of the Captain’s and officer’s quarters. She then served the officers their midday meal while the cook served out the food to the crew at their mess tables. Dana found most of them treated her well enough, others simply ignored her as people often do ignore slaves or servants. There were some complaints as she made mistakes in the serving, but a woman who Dana remembered as being with Captain Sorrel in the marketplace and whose name Dana learnt was Helene, pointed out to the others it was her first day on the job. Dana was grateful for the support and took extra care when serving Helene’s meal. Dana also noticed that Helene and another female officer, whom she later learnt was the junior navigator named Gretal, were sitting very close together.
After the officers had been served Dana was able to sit down in the kitchen with the cook whose name was Cimon and eat her own meal. Cimon demanded her story which she gave him, feeling sure it would be all over the ship before sundown. But she knew she needed to stay in his good books as she would need help to learn her way around the ship. He had already helped her with information as to the whereabouts of the tools she needed for her cleaning duties and serving tasks, and warned her it would be a lot more difficult to serve meals when the ship left port. Dana believed him, recalling the difficulties of the servants she had seen on the Dedora as the ship was tossed by the waves. She wondered how she would cope when they were at sea. Dana wondered where Captain Sorrel was, as she had not been aboard for the midday meal. *Why do I keep thinking of her?*
Sorrel strode briskly back to the dock. It had been a good day for her and her ship. She had signed contracts to take cargo to ports along the coast with at least one guarantee of a return cargo along with a couple of possibilities. She found herself eager to return on board which was a change since she had been in the habit of visiting one of Akdil’s brothels when in port. But now she wanted to get back on board. Before her minds eye was a face that had been there all day. She had been unable to push it out of her mind.
As she approached the berth of the Swift Deliverer a voice called her name. She turned and found herself facing a male slave in the livery of the Merchant House Jordan. Sorrel waited for the slave to come closer. “You called me?”
The slave stopped and bowed. “Yes Captain. My Master asks for you to join him immediately, if it is convenient.”
Sorrel hesitated only briefly. To insult the most powerful merchant house in the port would not be wise. And anyway she wouldn’t learn what Jordan wanted unless she went. She nodded. “Certainly.”
Councillor Jordan who was seated at his desk in his business office off the main street. He rose as Sorrel was shown in. “Good Evening to you Captain,” he replied courteously, “I trust you have had a prosperous day? Were you able to get the contracts you sought today? I know your unloading is nearly completed. You must soon be ready to load again.” To the slave, “Wine.” The slave immediately headed to the wine cooler in one corner.
“Good Evening to you Councillor ,” Sorrel greeted him. She wasn’t sure if he wanted to acknowledge his parenthood of her. “Yes thankyou, Councillor. Loading will begin tomorrow afternoon. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Yes. Will you sit down and join me in a glass of wine? I have something to say to you.”
“Certainly.” Surprised, Sorrel seated herself across the desk from him and accepted the glass the slave set before her. She sipped the wine and looked at Jordan who suddenly seemed lost for words.
“I wanted to apologise to you for yesterday, Captain,” he began, “I have now learnt just what Orelo had intended and I can only say it will not happen again. I have told Orelo of your relationship to him. I am sorry I put off telling him the truth. I believe it is now clear to him that he should leave you alone. Also I thank you for showing the restraint that you did yesterday. I am fully aware you are a better fighter than Orelo and could have killed him easily,” Jordan leant back in his chair and looked calmly at Sorrel, “And how do you feel about my being your father?”
“I find I am feeling very proud that I have a father who has made himself what he is today. Mother said that when you two met you were a ‘soldier of fortune’ but her instincts told her you were ‘slated for higher things’. Those were her words. She said you met about 23 years ago just before the battle of Natil Downs. She was with the contingent from Thara. You quickly came to being bed mates. She said she decided to have a child by you because she hoped the child would have your ‘level-headedness in times of crisis and your determination to win’. Again her words.”
Councillor Jordan’s usually sombre face had relaxed into a smile as Sorrel had spoken, “I am pleased your Mother’s hopes were realised,” he said, smiling as Sorrel flushed, “I certainly am very proud my daughter has shown to be as capable as any father could hope. Captain of her own ship at 23 is quite an achievement.”
“Not really, I would be foolish to deny that it is thanks to Mother I received command of the newest ship out of our yards and not the oldest which is what the most junior captain should normally expect.”
“But you have made the Swift Deliverer pay. I expect she will soon have paid for her own construction.”
“If I get enough business, she will be paid for in another 2 years,” replied Sorrel pleased.
“Then perhaps you will allow me to contribute towards that goal. Do you have any passengers for your voyage north?”
“Good. Then permit me to supply one. My eldest daughter is to marry Eddard the eldest son of the Merchant House Kelon of Port Weldon. I would consider it a favour if you would see she gets there safely. And I’m not being alarmist when I say that, Sorrel. I have it on good authority that enemies of mine may try to stop this marriage. If you would rather not accept the risk I will understand.”
“No, Father. I will accept the commission. We should be ready to sail by the end of the week. Has Robina been to sea before?” Sorrel looked at Jordan as she set her glass down and was surprised at the look on his face. “What’s wrong? Did I say something I shouldn’t have?”
“You called me Father,” replied Jordan.
Sorrel went red, “I’m sorry. It slipped out, I guess. If you rather I didn’t….”
“On the contrary. It was just so sudden. Please continue. In answer to your question. Yes Robina has been to sea and does have her sea-legs though I’m not sure of all of her women. I’ll see she is ready to leave by weeks end.” Jordan rose, and Sorrel did likewise. The meeting was over.
“I really am relieved you agree to take Robina, Sorrel. I know she will be in good hands.”
“She will arrive in Weldon in about two weeks after we leave, Father, all being well. Until the weekend, then.” Sorrel took leave of Jordan and headed back to the docks.
Dana found herself feeling anxious as the afternoon wore on and there was no sign of the captain. She had cleaned the captain’s quarters and had the evening meal laid out ready. She had even persuaded Cimon to let her prepare a special delicacy for the captain’s evening meal. Finally she took to standing quietly in a corner of the deck waiting and so was the first to spot the tall long-haired figure striding onto the wharf, heading towards the ship. a call from her to the officer on the afterdeck brought the other seamen to life as they set to their assigned tasks with more vigour. Dana found she was also pleased the Captain was back safely. She slipped down in to the kitchen and collected the Captain’s meal she had ready and was in the Captain’s quarters just before Sorrel entered, sniffing the aroma from the bowls appreciatively.
“Dana, You have dinner ready I see. It smells good. Please inform Helene I will be ready to dine in five minutes. Oh. And Dana,” Dana stopped and turned to face Sorrel, “I stopped at the port authority’s office today. I’m sorry but there has not as yet been any other survivor reported from the Dedora. But it is early days yet. They may still turn up.”
“Thankyou for bothering, Captain,” replied Dana, “It was very good of you.”
Soon after Dana was facing having to serve the captain and the first mate, Helene, at the captain’s table. Dana served the meal as best she could and listened silently while Sorrel told Helene of the cargos she had arranged and the passenger they will have in the deckhouse, a luxurious cabin bolted to the deck just forward of the main mast.
“So we will sail with full cargo and an important passenger. Another profitable voyage, Sorrel. Your mother will be pleased. Perhaps now she will allow the building of a sister to the Deliverer .”
“Perhaps. If so, it should go to you. By rights the Deliverer should be your command.”
“Never mind that. I’m fine,” Helene glanced over at Dana, “Your new bondswoman. Will she be able to handle serving here and the deckhouse?”
“Robina will have her own maids. They can make themselves useful in that respect.”
“Once they get their sea legs, that is,” Helene grinned. Sorrel grinned back and nodded.
“You have decided to keep Dana as personal servant then,” asked Helene quietly.
“Yes. She says she has no home to return to now it appears her parents are dead.” Sorrel turned and looked at Dana, “Come here Dana,” Dana approached Sorrel who had pushed her chair back from the table. As Dana approached Sorrel drew a chain from her pocket and handed it to her. “What does that say, Dana?”
Dana took the chain and looked at the metal tag at it’s centre. “It says ‘I am bound to serve Captain Sorrel of Thara Isle’,” replied Dana quietly and returned the chain.
Dana dropped onto her knees before Sorrel who proceeded to fasten the chain around her neck while Dana gazed up into Sorrel’s eyes. The chain fastened, Sorrel’s hands rested on Dana’s shoulders as their eyes met. Then slowly Sorrel bent forward and kissed Dana’s eagerly waiting lips. Sorrel slid of the chair and into Dana’s waiting arms, wrapping her own arms round the kneeling girl’s body and holding her closely for the duration of the kiss. Dana felt her heart pound as their lips met. Passion’s fires swept over both women as their tongues went exploring. Finally they broke apart, both gasping and staring at each other, both stunned at the strength of the passion between them.
“I… I’m sorry Captain, I… I don’t know what came over me….I,” Dana’s voice was cut of by Sorrel’s finger on her lips.
“Shhh… You have nothing to apologise for, Dana.” Sorrel rose to her feet drawing Dana up also. She looked round, but Helene had politely left the cabin. Making a mental note to thank Helene, Sorrel led Dana over to the inner door into her sleeping cabin. Dana followed willingly and immediately began to undress Sorrel. who had already slipped her hands under Dana’s shift. Dana unbuttoned Sorrel’s shirt, exposing the most beautiful pair of breasts she had ever seen. She kissed them both, eagerly nibbling on each nipple before easing the shirt off its wearer’s shoulders. Sorrel slowly lifted Dana’s shift, continuing the exploration of Dana’s body with her hands. Dana was kissing and nipping Sorrel’s neck and shoulders as her hands slid lower and began to search for the fastening of Sorrel’s belt. Dana barely noticed as Sorrel worked her shift up and freed her arms from it one at a time and finally lifted it over her head. Dana sank onto her knees as she released Sorrel’s trousers and feasted her eyes on the treasure they had hidden. She lent forward and kissed the lips she found there. But Sorrel gently pulled her head away ad drew her up, at the same time kicking her shoes and trousers off. She then guided Dana over to the hanging cot and into it. The two women merged into one very happy mass of lust and love, making love to each other until they both fell asleep.
Dana woke the next morning to find herself wrapped in Sorrel’s arms and Sorrel smiling at her as her eyes fluttered open. “Morning, Dana, hope you slept well,” she whispered, then she kissed Dana who returned the kiss happily. When they finally broke from the kiss Dana began to slide out of the cot.
“I will go get your breakfast,” she said.
“Enough for two, Dana. You will eat with me,”
“Won’t that start people talking? The Captain eating with her slave.”
Sorrel smiled, “No. Such things are considered normal on Thara. Go fetch breakfast for two. You’ll probably find most of the people know about us already.”
Dana pulled on her shift and went into the other room where she quickly cleared the table of last nights meal and headed for the kitchen with the tray of dirty dishes. She found Cimon there as usual.
“So you and the Captain are together are you. Good. She hasn’t had a bed-mate for months. Are you going to breakfast with her? Right you will need this and..” Dana was surprised that Cimon and the other crewmembers she met just grinned their approval at her. Confused, she headed back to the Captains quarters with her heavy tray of breakfast dishes.
As she set the table she described the reactions to Sorrel, who was now dressed in a clean shirt and trousers and was standing by the stern windows. “It’s true we of Thara have a different attitude to sex to the people of the mainland, Dana. We consider sex a natural and beautiful thing to be shared amongst us. The rules of marriage as followed here we think are unnatural. Our Goddess blesses each union as an individual act. Children belong to the community more than to individual parents as it is seen here. While each child knows their parents and looks to them for care and sustenance, they know that there may be a different person in mothers bed from their father. Children belong to the mother on Thara not to the father as it is here.”
They sat down to breakfast. “Dana, about last night, I’ll try not to overburden you, but you have your sea legs so you may have to serve the deckhouse at first until Robina’s maids get theirs.”
“I understand, Captain. If you could ask the officers to be patient though as I will probably be delayed there.”
“You won’t have to serve there from today, their own steward should be back from leave. His name is Daryl. He asked for leave to visit relatives. Your duties will then be here and initially at the deckhouse. We will be able to breakfast together often, although I have to be ‘social’ with the passengers and occasionally my officers too.” Dana nodded.
During the next few days while the Swift Deliverer took on its next cargo Dana finished learning her way round the ship. She had found she didn’t mind sleeping in a hammock although she quickly decided she preferred Sorrel’s cot. She became used to going bare-footed around the ship as did most of the sailors. Her daily routine settled down to fetching meals and running messages for the Captain, cleaning the Captain’s quarters and helping in the kitchen.
She cleaned out the deckhouse cabin and saw that it had plenty of blankets, pillows and cushions. The main bed was similar to the captains, a cot hanging from the ceiling from four ropes, but also fitted with a lace canopy for the sleeper. There were rings in the walls for the maids hammocks , which were stored in a cupboard during the day, as well as a dining table bolted to the floor with chairs tethered to the floor by lengths of rope secured to rings in the floor and easy chairs also secured to the floor. Dana saw that the sheets and blankets were clean and polished the silverware to be used there.
The day before the passenger was to come aboard Dana went ashore with Cimon to purchase fresh fruit, meat and vegetables for the voyage. She was grateful that Sorrel had given her a pair of sandals for off-ship wear. Special delicacies for the passenger were also on the list. Cimon explained to Dana that the officers and the Captain purchased their own cabin stores and the sailors purchased delicacies with their own money if they wanted to. “Not everyone wants to spend money on such things, Dana, but some do. Some are quite satisfied with ships fare as it saves them money.”
“I see,” said Dana. She had been afraid she would be stared at when she had gone ashore since it was the first time off the ship for her since Sorrel had locked the bond-chain round her neck. She had forgotten the port was full of slaves and bond-servants and no-one took any notice of one more. Dana and Cimon were returning to the ship after arranging to have the supplies delivered to the Swift Deliverer that afternoon when Dana was suddenly hit by a mental flash. She screamed, clasping her head and whimpering in pain. She staggered, swaying on her feet. Cimon caught hold of her and held her. “Dana, what is it? Are you ill?” he demanded.
“No. Not sick,” gasped Dana, “Captain is in trouble… danger.” She struggled to remember and describe her warning and explain it. “I sometimes have visions, Cimon. Usually they come in dreams, but sometimes, as now, they come in waking flashes. I saw the Captain in danger. Its nearby. It’s…. THIS WAY.” Dana raced off, a very confused Cimon hurrying after her. Dana ignored his calls to stop. She couldn’t stop. Her mind was full of a clear picture in which she clearly saw Sorrel being held by a man who was waving something in the other hand and trying to drag her away.
On rounding a corner they found themselves part of a small but growing crowd watching an argument between Captain Sorrel and a swarthy long haired man who was holding Sorrel by the arm with one hand and was waving a half empty beer bottle in the other. The drunken man was being urged on by his drinking buddies. to “give her a kiss and anything else she wants”. Just as Dana and Cimon arrived, Sorrel obversely decided she had had enough and lashed out with her free hand clouting the man in the side of the head. The shock of the blow was enough to make him let go and he staggered back, staring at her, his face contorting in anger. “So the little girl wants it rough does she,” he exclaimed and leapt forward. Sorrel only just managed to dodge aside and the man stumbled and sprawled into the gutter. His friends howled with laughter asking him if a woman was going to best him. Angrily he jumped to his feet and drew his sword. Dana heard Cimon sware as he reached for is own weapon.
“Put that up, man,” snapped Sorrel, “And no one will get hurt.”
He ignored her words and moved towards her, his weapon at the ready. Sorrel sighed and drew her own weapon and stood waiting. “Women shouln.. wear shodess..,” he slurred. And swung at Sorrel’s head. Sorrel ducked easily and came up with her sword point against his throat.
“Drop it,” Her eyes bored into his and he saw his death before him. He’s sword slipped from his fingers. Sorrel kicked the sword away and stepped back. “Don’t do that again. Next time I won’t be so forgiving.” Sorrel stepped well clear of the man who just stood there, mouth gaping, as Sorrel turned, and spotting Cimon and Dana, she sheathed her sword as she came over to them.
“Captain, did he harm you?” asked Cimon anxiously as Sorrel came up to them. Dana just rushed into Sorrels arms her eyes overflowing as she wrapped her arms around Sorrel and hugged her tightly. Sorrel wrapped her arms around Dana and squeezed back.
“Hey.. It’s alright,” whispered Sorrel, “Nobody was hurt, Dana, calm down.” But it was a few minutes before Dana could speak. Sorrel steered the three of them over to the fountain in the centre of the square and they sat on the edge and waited for Dana to calm down.
“I’m ss…sorry,” gasped Dana as she tried to regain control of herself.
“No problem,” replied Sorrel soothingly. She squeezed Dana tightly and rocked her for a moment. “OK ready to head back now?” Heads nodded. “Good. Lets go then.” Sorrel led the way out of the square towards the docks.
That night Dana curled up around Sorrel in the cot and hugged her tightly. “Promise me something Sorrel, please.”
“That you will be more careful where you go in future. Don’t get to close to strange men. Please.”
“I’ll try not to, that’s for sure.”
Dana knew she had to be satisfied with that answer. She wrapped her arms around Sorrel, who did not seem to mind and was happy to reciprocate. Eventually, she slept.
She was awakened by a hand shaking her shoulder and a voice calling “Dana, Dana, wake up, wake up girl.” Dana opened her eyes and blinked as she looked around.
“Wa…what’s wrong?” It was still dark. Dana looked at Sorrel.
“You were dreaming, Dana. You were thrashing about and calling my name like you were in trouble.”
“I was having a nightmare, actually. But Sorrel, it was a vision nightmare.” Dana faced Sorrel, “We’re sailing tomorrow aren’t we?”
“My vision showed a bad storm for very early the day after tomorrow. It will start in the second hour after midnight. We could be wrecked if we are to close inshore at that time. We will need plenty of – is sea-room the right term? Anyway room to ride it out.”
Sorrel patted Dana reassuringly. “Then we will stand well out to sea after we leave port.”
Dana nodded and took a deep breath and reached for her tunic, “I’ll fetch your breakfast. Our passenger comes aboard today doesn’t she?” *Did I say ‘our’?*
Sorrel smiled, “Yes she does. She will probably have three or four maids.” Sorrel finished dressing while Dana hurried to the kitchen.
Dana was on deck later that morning and saw the procession headed towards the Deliverer. It was led by a carry-chair in which sat a richly-dressed beautiful young woman. Close behind her walked a middle-aged woman and two maids. They were followed by six barrows propelled by male slaves and piled high with chests. Dana called to Helene who was on the after-deck. “Is that our passenger?”
“Yes,” was her reply, “Tell the captain.” Dana ran below.
Sorrel was on deck to watch as the young woman descended from the chair and climbed the gangplank followed by the three servants. Sorrel came to the side to greet their passenger.
“Lady Robina, welcome aboard the Swift Deliverer . I hope your voyage will be a pleasant one. Dana here will show you to your quarters.”
“Thankyou Captain Sorrel. Father told me yours is the fastest merchant ship of its size afloat. I hope we have a swift voyage. I understand you have been told there are people who seek to block this union of our houses.”
“Yes. But we can out run most other ships afloat, Lady Robina. Perhaps you would dine with me this evening? We sail tomorrow morning.”
“Thankyou Captain, I would like that.” She followed Dana along the deck to the deck house, her servants following close behind.
“Here we are My Lady,” said Dana as she opened the door to the cabin. “Your luggage will be along shortly. Is there is anything you require?”
“No nothing for now. You may go.”
Dana returned to the deck as the Lady Robina’s luggage was brought aboard. She knew there were more supplies to come aboard this afternoon or Sorrel would have sailed immediately.
That evening Dana wearing a clean tunic, nervously served dinner to Captain Sorrel and Lady Robina. Dana noted Sorrel was the perfect host, complementing Robina on her choice of dress, speaking highly of her father and his business and position on the Council, the importance of Robina’s forthcoming marriage. Robina in turn was the perfect guest, complementing Sorrel on her fine ship and her high birth, enquiring about Queen Gorga’s health and the coming possibilities of trade.
Finally the meal was over and Dana accompanied Robina back to her cabin carrying a lantern to light Robina’s way. After seeing Robina safely to her cabin Dana returned to Sorrel’s quarters and began clearing the table. Sorrel had left the table and was staring out the stern windows. “Robina seems a nice enough person, Sorrel, don’t you think?”
Sorrel didn’t turn round. “She is. She is also my half-sister.”
“Your half-sister?” Dana stared at Sorrel who now turned to face her.
“Yes, her father, the merchant Jordan, is my father also. He and Mother met years ago and Mother decided she wanted him to father her child. At the time Jordan was a mercenary soldier. Mother saw he had greatness in him and so it proved. You understand it is quite normal for women to have children from several fathers on Thara. When they’re old enough they are told their father’s identity if they want to know. Many don’t ask.”
Dana stared at Sorrel. “But you did?”
“No. Actually I didn’t.”
“Then how come you know this?”
“Last time we docked here Jordan’s son Orelo attacked me and tried to rape me. After that Mother sent Jordan a letter telling him of this and saying that Orelo should be told of our connection. Unfortunately Jordan hesitated and so when we arrived this time Orelo still didn’t know of our kinship. He tried to get me again but I fought him off and this time Jordan told him we are half-siblings. I can only hope it will make him leave me alone. You understand Orelo is one of those who believes women shouldn’t be allowed to carry swords. Anyway Robina does not seem to know this. She certainly didn’t mention it. I guess Jordan only told Orelo.” Sorrel yawned. “Anyway I’m for bed. Coming?”
“Soon as I get these to the kitchen.” Dana picked up the tray and headed out of the cabin.
The next day was sunny and clear. As she paused on the main deck to breathe in the fresh air, Dana noticed a figure in the shadow of a warehouse staring at the Deliverer . Dana felt a sense of foreboding as she looked at the figure. Then she shook it off and went to collect the breakfast dishes for the Captains cabin. Afterwards all were soon busy preparing to leave port. Then with the slaves chained at the benches the Swift Deliverer moved from the dock and headed slowly out of the harbour under oars. Lady Robina was on deck with her three maids as Swift Deliverer moved out to sea. Dana, standing at the foot of the steps to the after-deck, saw her staring back at the harbour and its buildings. Obviously she didn’t expect to see her home again.
Once out to sea, Sorrel gave the order to set sail and the Swift Deliverer picked up speed. Oars were shipped and the slaves herded below. The Swift Deliverer continued to stand out to sea until there was no longer any sight of land, then Sorrel gave orders that turned the ship on course for Port Weldon.
All went well for the rest of the day. For the ship that is. Dana soon found herself called to the deckhouse. She found the place a mess. Lady Robina’s maids were busy being seasick. Dana cleaned up the mess and emptied the buckets over the side and did what she could to make them comfortable. Robina’s elderly waiting woman was sprawled, moaning, over the table a bucket nearby. One of the young maids was curled up in a corner over a bucket while the other had made it outside to the side the ship and needed no help. Dana took empty buckets into the deckhouse and helped Robina put her elderly waiting woman into a comfortable position on the cot. She then went to tell Cimon to prepare only soup for the deckhouse that evening. He nodded in understanding. Dana then headed for Sorrel’s cabin.
As night settled in the wind freshened and the ship began to roll with the heavier waves. As she laid out the evening meal in the cabin Dana felt another flash of warning in her mind. “Sorrel this storm will break about the first hour after mid-night and continue until just before dawn.”
“How can you be so precise, Dana?”
“I don’t know. I just know that those times came to me just now and I believe their right. The vision is clearer too and without the pain that used to come with them before. Its like I can make better or easier use of this ability now I’m away from my family or something. Perhaps it is because you believe me or at least you don’t threaten me or condemn me for having these visions. Before I was trying to block them because I would be punished for having them.”
“Punish you for warning about a storm? I should say not. We sailors need warnings like that Dana. You need not fear punishment on that score. I think it is wonderful you can tell us when a storm will start and end. After dinner I will have the ship secured for the storm. How are our passengers handling it?”
“Lady Robina is fine, but not to well for her maids. I told Cimon to only make soup for them tonight. They probably won’t want much.”
After delivering the soup to the deckhouse – which was rejected by the maids but accepted with a smile by Robina – Dana took the evening meal to the cabin. The two women ate and talked quietly. Then Dana took the dirty dishes to the kitchen and went to check on the deckhouse. Meanwhile Sorrel directed the battening down of all hatches and the securing of all loose equipment in preparation for the storm. Finally Sorrel and Dana went to bed. Later that night Dana woke gasping from a nightmare to find herself being held tightly by Sorrel.
“What was it Dana? Another vision?”
“Yes. We are going to be attacked by pirates, Sorrel. I saw a man watching us as we left port this morning. In my vision he rode a horse out along a coast road to a cove where this war galley was waiting. It was flying a flag showing an eagle with a spear in its talons. Then the galley put to sea and after a day and two nights of sailing, met us. It was full of men and attacking us. What will we do?”
Sorrel was silent at first. “After a day and two nights you say, Dana. That will be the day after tomorrow. In your vision, could you see where the sun was when the attack took place?”
Dana was astounded that Sorrel was so calm. She frowned as she concentrated. Trying to recall the horrific scenes that had passed through her mind. “On the left side of the ship. Why? Is it important?”
“It means the attack will take place in the afternoon the day after tomorrow. We have time to prepare. But for now do you think you will be able to sleep?”
“I think so. I’m sorry I woke you, Sorrel. I..” Sorrel silenced Dana with a kiss.
“Shhh… Its all right. Try and sleep. We will talk more in the morning.” Sorrel’s words calmed Dana. Sorrel wasn’t worried so why should she be? Dana snuggled up to Sorrel and soon was sleeping again. But Sorrel lay awake thinking hard on what her bond-slave had said. How will they face the attack? Her ship was fast but not as fast as a war galley. And her crew were trained with weapons but not to the extent the pirates would be. But they had time to prepare. Could they surprise the pirates? Ideas began to form. Finally Sorrel slept with Dana in her arms.
Sorrel stood on the deck of the Swift Deliverer watching the approaching warship. It was flying the flag of the port of Akdil. Sorrel knew that without Dana’s warning she may well have been tricked by that flag. In her mind she made a final check of her arrangements. Not that there was any time now to change her plans. The galley was clearly out to attack as it had already lowered its mast. It’s catapult was set up and may soon be hurling flaming objects at the Deliverer. Sorrel glanced at her deck. Dana was guiding Lady Robina and her maids below decks to what little safety there was there. All the other members of her crew were at their stations and trying to act as normally as possible. Their weapons were nearby but hidden in piles of ships equipment scattered over the deck. Sorrel was hoping that the galley would close in and try to board them, not stand off and bombard them with fireballs.
The galley closed in on the Deliverer with little attempt hide its intentions. Her crew were all on deck and were openly carrying their weapons. Its oars rose and dipped rapidly. On the deck of the Deliverer crew members now hurried about in a confused manner to create the impression they had been surprised. The galley was approaching from the north and appeared to intend to board not ram them. Arrows sped through the air from the galley.
“DOWN”, shouted Sorrel, and all her people dropped flat on the deck as the arrows flew over them. Sorrel crawled to the side of her ship and peered at the galley. She said nothing for a moment as the galley drew nearer, then,. “Everybody UP! Shields up,” and all the Deliverers crew rose up again now carrying shields and other weapons.
“Ready archers,” called Sorrel and archers drew back on their bows then paused to touch their arrow-tips to a candle flame.
“Release,” called Sorrel and a score of flaming arrows headed to the pirate galley. The reaction was swift. Men screamed in terror and threw up their shields. The helm of the galley was put over and the galley veered away. At once the Deliverer changed course and came towards it. The Deliverer went charging along side, crashing into the pirate galley’s side and smashing through her starboard oars.
Before the galley crew knew what was happening the Swift Deliverer was passing close along side and while their comrades protected them with shields, a group, including Dana, appeared carrying whine-skins dripping oil. These whine-skins were set on fire and quickly hurled onto the deck of the galley. Howls of fear and pain came from the galley. As the burning wineskins hit the deck they burst open and the oil they contained caught fire. The pirate ship’s deck was being swept by liquid flame. Some of the flames were seen to catch a hold and soon part of the starboard side of the galley was burning.
Some ten or twelve of the galley’s worriers took the opportunity to jump aboard the Deliverer , apparently assuming their friends would follow them. They raced towards the crew waving their swords but were fiercely engaged by Sorrel, Helene and others of the crew. However no others made the jump and those that did were quickly subdued.
Sorrel gave orders that turned her vessel away from the galley as the galley’s crew fought the flames or gave up and jumped into the sea. The flames were seen to build up and take over the galley. Sorrel ordered the Deliverer hove too while the galley burned to the waterline. Those survivors who could swim struck out for the Deliverer and were hauled onboard and immediately stripped and shackled. The galley finally sank and after the last pirate survivor had been hauled aboard and secured, the Swift Deliverer resumed her northward course.
With the fighting over Sorrel looked round. She found Dana kneeling beside one of the Deliverers wounded crewmembers cleaning his wound, a nasty gash in the side. Dana finished cleaning it and proceeded to sew it closed. Sorrel saw that there were two other crew members waiting to be seen to. Helene, Sorrel suddenly saw , was sporting a bandaged arm.
After having seen the Lady Robina back to her cabin with her maids, Dana joined Sorrel on the quarterdeck. The ship was now sailing peacefully for her destination.
“Is life with you always so exciting, Sorrel?,” Dana queried as she came up to her.
Sorrel slipped an arm around Dana’s waist. “Not always, my love. There are occasional quiet times. Don’t you like excitement though? Wouldn’t you be board without it?”
Dana slipped her arms round her captain’s waist and rested her head on her shoulder. “Perhaps you are right. What are you planning for our next adventure?”