Written for the Summer 2003 Pirate Challenge
Constance Norwood looked over the worn wooden railing and out onto the calm empty sea. Watching the myriad stars reflected on it, she wondered if she would ever again see the shores of home, or for that matter, even the next dawn.
Had it only been four days since her nightmare had begun? No, she answered herself as she drank deeply of the night air; her ordeal had begun two months before. Her current set of circumstances, horrendous as they seemed, were but the latest tragedy to take hold of her young life.
Seven weeks ago, only days before her seventeenth birthday, a messenger had appeared at the convent to which she had been sent when she was ten. In his pouch he carried written instructions to the Nuns into whose care she had been placed upon her entry into young womanhood. Instructions that forever shattered the peaceful, if mundane, existence Constance had been living.
The seventh and youngest daughter of Edmund Norwood, a prominent British merchant, Constance had learned that day that she had been promised in marriage to Rowland Torrungton, a business associate of her father's. That this day would someday come was hardly a surprise to the young woman. After all, it was no secret that her father had little use for the daughters that three wives had bestowed upon him. It had been cruel fate that had let his only son die hours after his birth, despite his mother haven given her life for his.
What had shocked Constance was that she had been betrothed to a man her father had never even met face to face, as well as nearly two score older than she was. Rowland Torrungton lived in far off Jamaica, His Majesty's colony in the Caribbean, some three thousand miles distant. A decades-long trading partner, the older man had mentioned in one of his correspondences to her father of his desire to take a bride in order to produce an heir to his fortunes. Quite sympathetic to his desire, Edmund had wasted no time in offering him the youngest of his offspring. An offer that Rowland accepted just as quickly as he knew that despite his wealth, few women that young would ever be interested in sharing his bed.
Edmund's reasons for the match were twofold. It would make their profitable business relationship one of blood, and ever more secure. Also, if he couldn't have a son, perhaps he could have a grandson that could inherit both mercantile empires. It was a thought to warm an old man's bones. That Constance hadn't been informed of the negotiations until long after they had been finalized bothered neither man. After all, even in the year of our Lord, 1724, what were women but just another commodity to be used to serve the interests of men.
So without much fanfare, Constance had been bundled off on the transport, Esmerelda, just one more piece of cargo on its way to the colony. She hadn't even been granted the luxury of a companion, as neither her father nor her betrothed saw the need to waste the cost of another passage.
Instead, the young woman had been entrusted to the care of the ship's doctor, a disreputable looking man who constantly entered her cabin unannounced to, as he always said, check on her welfare. When Constance had pointed out to him that a gentleman would give a lady time to make sure she was presentable, the doctor, and that was a title she soon grew suspicious of the validity of, would insist that as a man of medicine, he was hardly a stranger to women in a state of undress. The result of his unwanted visits was that Constance soon learned to make sure her door was locked at all times.
In was behind that lock that, four nights before, Constance had awakened in the early hours to the sounds of screams and gunshots. Fearing the worse, but afraid more of not knowing, she opened her door just in time to see the blood covered body of the doctor tumble down the stairs that led to the upper deck. Her hand had covered her mouth in horror as she looked away from the body and up the stairwell, only to see a half naked man carrying a pistol and cutlass appear on it. One word screamed in her mind before she mercifully blacked out - Pirates!
Much to her astonishment, Constance awoke the next day, alive and unmolested. Two contradictions the stories she had heard of pirates seem to contradict. Especially after she had pieced together what had happened to the Esmerelda after she had lost consciousness. Aside from her, there had been no survivors. Quarter had been offered and accepted, she had been told, only to have the truce broken by men who foolishly valued their cargo more than their lives. The ship itself had been set afire, after being stripped of valuables.
She was no longer bound for Jamaica of course, but for some island she had never heard of, San Cristobal. Despite the opinion of her father, Constance was a highly intelligent woman and had been well educated by the Nuns. She had even read books that dealt with many non-religious matters, giving her a vast knowledge of the world beyond the convent walls.
It was soon apparent to her that she was being held for ransom, as the papers in her cabin readily identified her as the fiancée of a rich and powerful man. One that might pay a handsome sum for the return of his bride in one piece. Aside from leaving her in peace as well, they had given her a cabin of her own, one that had belonged to the second mate. In size and comfort, it surpassed the one she'd had on the cargo ship. If they expected to make a profit on the merchandise, it stood to reason that they make sure it stayed healthy.
That sounded logical to the young woman, but she well knew that life was seldom logical. It was true that she had never met her future husband, yet just the same she had little reason to think that his reaction would be any different than her fathers. Mainly that Edmund Norwood had six other daughters, four of which were still looking for husbands. No, she told herself honestly, there was little chance that she might be ransomed.
As an additional, unexpected courtesy, the first mate of the Falcon's Claw had informed her that the Captain, whom she had not met, had granted her the privilege of the poopdeck during the night watch as to get some air. With most of the crew asleep, it would be the least disruptive time for her to be above decks. He warned her, however, not to venture out of the small area. On the last two nights that she had accepted the offer, she had been too nervous to move more than a few feet.
But tonight, with the certainty that there wouldn't be many more beautiful nights for her to enjoy, she didn't pay as careful attention to his words. Watching the moon drift in and out of the clouds, Constance strolled past the small passageway along the quarter-deck and onto the large expanse around the main masts. Scattered across the deck were the bodies of a number of crewmen, driven from their hammocks below deck by the early summer heat.
Paying little heed to the sleeping men, Constance's eyes wandered up to the mainmast where the ship's colors flew. There, in place of the black jolly roger she had read about in forbidden books, flew a blood red flag adorned with a bright blue falcon. It was the symbol of the infamous pirate, Morgan the Red, of whom it had been whispered that no man had ever seen the face of and lived. Not for the first time, the young woman wondered what kind of man could be to both the bearer of such brutality towards the crew of the Esmerelda and yet kindness towards her.
Intent on her thoughts, the long haired blonde didn't notice that her passage had awakened two of the crewmen she passed. Half naked men who silently rose from their makeshift bedding and followed her steps. They were upon her before she realized they were there, trapping her in a small dark alcove that was hidden from the eyes of the second mate who had the watch back on the quarter-deck.
One, a tall, skinny man wearing only a torn pair of trousers, grabbed her from behind, his hand over her mouth and a deadly edged cutlass resting against her neck. The other, clad in little more, moved in front of her. His hands were empty, but just his appearance was enough to fill her with dread. The stench of both men was overpowering.
"Cry out and it'll be the last sound yer pretty throat ever makes," the man behind her, whose name was Rourke, warned as he slowly removed his hand from her mouth, applying the slightest of pressure with his blade to reinforce his words.
He need not have bothered as the young woman was far too terrified to even gasp. Feeling no resistance on her part, Rourke brought his hand to her left breast and squeezed it roughly. The feel of her flesh, even beneath the layers of her dress, was enough to cause a stirring between his legs. He pressed up against her from behind, until she could feel his manliness hard against the cheeks of her ass. At the same time, he dropped his hand lower, until it rested between Constance's legs, groping her there as well. It was the first time any man had touched her, much less than in that manner.
"Don't hog it all to yeself, Rourke," the second man, Griff by name, insisted as he produced a dagger seemingly out of nowhere and moved closer to the two of them.
For a heartbeat, Constance thought he intended to kill her with the knife, then realized that he had a far worse fate in mind. Griff reached out with the tip of the dagger and quickly cut the laces that held the top of her dress together. Once gone, the material fell away quickly, exposing her ample breasts to the night air.
.... There is more of this story ...