We stole a Xebec a few years ago. The three-masted pirate ship stood proudly in the natural harbour, the wooden texture of the hull matching the wooden inlet we were hiding in. It’s design was of great popularity in the eighteenth century, and the pirates had lovingly polished and carved the wood to immaculate detail.
It was impressive and imposing; reflecting the captain standing astride the top deck. She watched the frenetic activity beneath her like a hawk, the skimpy red and gold clothes encasing her body and exhibiting her fine curves.
The whip stood to her side, a menacing symbol of her authority invoking fear from memories of her discipline.
We’d all been on the receiving end of her corporal punishment: all of the six “cabin boys” and five “cabin girls” from her and her twelve-strong crew. We’d all seen her vicious savagery unleashed on our fellow seafayers: the taut rope of bondage restraining the errant sub, and the angry swish of the weapon causing the air to erupt into passionate screams of mercy.
We’d witnessed every last hit: she made us watch it. Like last night, hauled from our slumber onto the deck, tired muscles aching as dreary-eyed Lucy squealed apologetically. It was already too late to be saved from her fate, everyone knew that, but we always begged to be shown clemency. The deck was cold against my bare feet, the wind chilled my naked body, but looking away during a punishment was a punishable offence in itself. Fear warmed me; I ignored the salty breeze curling around the sheltered inlet.
But Lucy wailed as our Captain barked: failing asleep on lookout was a serious abberation. One that would not go unpunished. All twenty-two of us, huddled on deck to watch the ferocious beating unleashed by moonlight.
It was a tranquil night. Another day, another place, it would be a perfect place for reflection and romance.
But our Captain was ready to discipline, to warn and to punish. A few choice words in her rural accent, punctuated by angry swearing and vicious barbs. My blood ran cold. We’d not seen her that furious before, the sweat on her brow sparkling from the lunar glow. She seized the whip from the ground and lay claim to the errant girl’s backside.
She was roughly gagged; the screams of the tortured woman muffled as the whip cracked against her flesh at a relentless pace. Cracking, slashing, striping.
The desperate cries carried in the cool night air, the sobbing pleas hidden by the dark gag in the night.
She struggled against the bindings; we all did that. She fought the inevitably and she screeched into her gag, but the Captain was unrepentant, her body twisting like an Olympian of old. The whip arced in the air, silhouetting majestically in the half-light.
It had been thirty slashes when she stopped, discarding the pain deliverer and clicking her fingers. “Clean ‘er up,” she barked and gestured for us all to return to our hammocks.
Today, she wanted to raid a village: to plunder and loot the enemy and return to our inlet by sunset. She surveyed the sight before her: of her red-bottomed crew readying the ship for the assault. Some of us wouldn’t return, but there wasn’t a single one of us that wouldn’t die for the cause.
We were loyal to our Captain.
To the last.