Voyage of the Istanbul Tigress Ch. 04byEricCalder©
June 1799, Off the Island of Kefalonia
The Tigress was under a full press of sail with the wind on the aft starboard quarter, her best point, in a moderate following sea and fair weather. The island of Kefalonia, laying off the larboard beam, was a pretty sight, with steep shorelines and numerous small coves with stretches of sandy beach. At any other time it would be a fine cruise.
Hamilton stood by the taffrail, with the best telescope steadied on Zuberi's shoulder, and scanned the ship in their wake; how many men were on deck, how well they worked their sails, the state of her rigging. The enemy was polacre-xebec, a sleek ship with two masts carrying large, triangular lateen sails and a mainmast that was squared rigged with courses, topsails, and topgallants. The bow wave was impressive, he guessed she was making fourteen or fifteen knots. She would close enough to fire her chasers in an hour and within effective range of broadsides perhaps an hour after that. The xebec was more lightly built but carried 24 guns to the Tigress' 16. A fight would be settled by the first lucky shot, and that was not the sort of action he wanted to risk.
And yet there was more. The renegade Irish pirate Mor Cuanaich's ambush included a pair of galleys. They had also chased the Tigress in the Strait of Ithaca but, as Hamilton had feared, once the xebec began the pursuit, the galleys had reversed course, no doubt to try and come round the southern capes of Kefalonia to cut him off. So while the xebec was pulling on his stern the Tigress was on course for the galleys.
"Thank you Mr. Zuberi." Hamilton snapped the telescope shut. He went down to his cabin. Hamilton had known officers who needed drink to control the stress of command, far too many of them in fact. It was a noxious habit to fall into. Hamilton stopped in the fore-cabin, looking down over Katherine Abington, the Lady Dunsbrooke, and her servant Rachel Palmer. Both women wore the hip wrap of a slaves, though Katherine had a blanket around her shoulders. There were other ways of relieving stress, other bad habits.
"In here, both of you," he ordered.
The two women followed him into his cabin. They knelt on the deck, their legs wide and hands behind her their backs, just as he liked it.
They both pulled off their slave wraps. Katherine was a striking blonde, with hair that curled slightly as it fell over her shoulders. Rachel was shorter, with softer features and larger breasts.
"Turn and face each other. Put your hands under your breasts. I want you to press your nipples together."
"Yes, master," they said in unison. The two women obeyed, Rachel holding her larger breasts up as Katherine squeezed her own. They each twisted back and forth just enough for their nipples to rub together.
He really didn't have time for this. But the appeal of controlling these beautiful women, these slaves, was impossible to resist. He pointed to a folded sailcloth. The two women pulled back from each other and then spread the canvas in the center of the cabin. It wasn't much, but it was better than lying on the bare deck.
Hamilton pulled off his shirt as he walked closer. "Lie down Rachel."
Rachel lay back, her hair haloed around her head, her legs spread slightly and her arms out. Hamilton crouched down and then laid near her, with his mouth near her right breast. He licked her nipple, round and round, then opened his mouth and began to suck on her breast.
"Join in, Katherine."
Rachel lay back as Hamilton sucked and caressed one breast, and Katherine licked and kissed the other. They both slid their hands down Rachel's body. Hamilton's right hand began to knead one of Rachel's soft pussy lips, while Katherine did the same to the other. They slowly spread Rachel open, as they also kept their attentions on her breasts. Rachel began to moan, she brought her hands up and rested them on the two people using her body.
Dimly, somewhere in his mind he knew he did not have time to waste with slaves. There was only one to break his mind free of their beauty. His cock was hard and it was tempting -- very tempting -- to simply roll onto Rachel and take her. But, if he had learned anything about slaves, it was that for the sake of harmony, or some semblance of it, the attentions of the master should be spread around.
He rolled to his back. "Katherine, suck on my cock. Rachel, sit up and play with her cunt."
The slaves obeyed. Katherine leaned over him and began to gently kiss the tip of his cock. He looked down at her, catching her eyes, and smiled. Then he took hold of her head and pushed down. She took the hint and opened her mouth, sucking deeply and sliding his cock over her tongue.
Rachel had slipped behind and put her hands on Katherine's ass, the leaned close and pressed her tongue to the Viscountess' slit. Katherine wiggled with a sudden start, but kept her mouth firmly on Hamilton's cock. Katherine began to moan, a muffled moan, as she pulled back to let his cock slip out past her lips though with her tongue still on the shaft, before plunging her head back down and letting his cock go deep into her throat.
As Katherine wiggled her hips to the soft touch of Rachel's tongue, Hamilton began to respond, feeling the pressure rising in his cock. Katherine sucked faster, moving only two inches back and forth as she slid his cock in and out of her mouth. The pressure grew and then engulfed him with the burst of orgasm. Katherine kept sucking, her mouth making a slight smacking noise and she sought every drop of cum. Rachel had never paused in her licking of Katherine's pussy.
Hamilton stood up. "All right, enough."
Rachel brought over a soft, damp cloth and wiped his cock, looking up at him and smiling, then Katherine buttoned his trousers.
"Put the sailcloth against the bulkhead and send word for my officers." Hamilton went to his desk. The women both seemed somewhat flushed. "And continue your activities in the fore-cabin, if you wish."
"Thank you, master," Katherine said. She put her arm around Rachel and lead her back out.
The principle officers of the Tigress entered his cabin.
First was Qatadah al-Jameel ibn Ta'ullah al-Gizah, known as Ahmar, a Yemeni with years of experience in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean, and who was effectively First Lieutenant. Zuberi was next, from lands on the southern border of Egypt, far from the sea. Hamilton considered Zuberi as Second Lieutenant for sailing, and by far the most adept man he had ever meant for understanding languages. Ghanashyam, from Andhras in India, put his mathematical skills to work as ship's purser. While not nautical, Ghanashyam had a wide range of knowledge. Pieter Van Schoonhoven, who actually owned the Tigress, remained in his cabin with his slave and bottles of wine. Van Schoonhoven, who had fled the Dutch Republic following the French Invasion of 1795, had been the English representative to the Bey of Tunis. The Dutchman was not nautical either, and rarely had anything useful to contribute towards the sailing of the Tigress. Hamilton did not send for him.
"Now, gentleman," said Hamilton, "we have a bit of a problem astern and ahead."
"We may simply pass the galleys," Ahmar said. "If the winds hold."
"Perhaps, but that would still leave the xebec. We can't outrun her." Hamilton pulled out a chart of the islands of western Greece. He pointed to their position, two miles northeast of the Cape of Atheras. "We have to be careful, if there is an action and so much as a single yard is brought down then we have lost. If we are to have any chance of reaching Istanbul we cannot risk losing even a half knot."
"Captain, I do not wish to appear cowardly," said Ghanashyam as he leaned over the chart, "but if we went into here, into this bay --"
"The Gulf of Mirtos."
"Yes, the Gulf of Mirtos. If we went into there and simply abandoned the Tigress, we could make our way by land to the other side of Kefalonia. We have gold, we could buy a new ship, perhaps here..." he tilted his head to read the chart, "...Argostoli. It seems situated like a port town, we may find what we need and can then continue on to Istanbul."
"We would have to give up our slaves," Ahmar said.
"Yes, but we will lose them as well as our lives if we are taken by the renegades."
"Could we simply sail to the west?" asked Zuberi, "and take a course that swings wide around these galleys."
"I thought of that, Mr. Zuberi," Hamilton said, "but Mor Cuanaich's havens of supply are also to the west, and we might find ourselves in a more serious trap. He clearly has more than galleys and galliots, perhaps he has been given them by the French, so we could meet a squadron of xebecs."
"West takes us away from Istanbul," Ahmar added.
"Indeed." Hamilton took a moment to consider. "Mr. Ghanashyam does has an interesting idea," Hamilton said, doing his best to pronounce the Indian's name. "Mor Cuanaich wants many things: Lady Dunsbrooke, myself, the cargo of slaves. Right now all of these are together. But...if I were to take the cutter and go into the Gulf of Mirtos while the Tigress continued south, that would leave the captain of the xebec in a bit of a quandary."
"He would have to give up the chase for a few hours. He would enter the Gulf to put out his own boats," Ahmar said with a nod.
"Yes. It's not much, but that would give us at least ten leagues on him."
"Perhaps we can pick you up later, Captain?" Zuberi asked.
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. I'm not actually planning on leaving the ship." Hamilton stood up. "Send for Almas and Akouta."
Fifteen minutes later Almas stood, awkwardly, in Hamilton's undress uniform. She had been chosen to play the part of Captain Hamilton simply because she had entered the cabin slightly ahead her twin sister. Rachel Palmer worked furiously to shorten the sleeves, tighten the waist on the breeches, and pin up her hair under his cocked hat. It was, by necessity, fast work, and the end result would not fool anyone standing next to her. But through a telescope on a rolling deck a mile or two distant, it would work well enough.
"Beach the cutter, don't try to keep it or sell it," Hamilton instructed. "I'll give you more than enough money. Go south and east, then over the ridge, that will make it hardest for them to track you."
The twins nodded.
"I have confidence in both of you. Indeed, of anyone aboard, the two of you are the best suited for this." He stuck out his hand. "It has been an honor serving with both of you."
They shook hands and both women blushed.
"We will find you in Istanbul," Akouta said.
Hamilton shook his head, "Make your own lives now."
Hamilton, not wanting to risk the ruse unraveling, stayed in his cabin as the others went on deck. The contents of his sea chest had been dumped out. He kicked through some of it, and laid back on his cot. Above him the men were going through the motions of a tense confrontation between the crew and the "Captain." He hoped they weren't overacting. He could overhear the commands and, even though they were in Turkish and Arabic, he knew the cutter was being lowered. The sea chest, the sort of thing a marooned English Captain would insist on taking, had been filled with power and balls for muskets, a brace of pistols, clothes and small bags of food. Two men had volunteered to go with the twins. They had, in fact, tearfully begged to go. Hamilton didn't like losing experienced hands, but these men had grown close to the women and it seemed only right. The cutter would soon be away, veering southeast by east for one of the beaches in the Gulf of Mirtos.
Akouta and Almas were slaves, their names meaning the emerald and the diamond. He had fucked them in Tunis and found that, as with everything else, they worked best together. They were not slaves anymore, somewhere along the line they had risen above that. He wished now he had learned their real names. There seemed to be something missing with their departure, perhaps it reminded him of the best parts of his time in Tunis. And Tunis reminded him of Nasira.
"Damn!" Hamilton snapped off his cot. He paced and then burst out and went on deck. He barely noticed the cheer.
"The xebec is following the cutter!" Ahmar said, triumphantly.
"Good. Very good," said Hamilton crisply, "now, less us stand off and bend a course west-sou'west."
"Are we going back to Tunis, Captain?" Zuberi asked.
"No. But while the xebec can still see us let's make them think we are." He relaxed a bit. "After all, once you have thrown me over the side, the rest of you would want to return home."
Zuberi laughed and then translated the orders. The Tigress heeled over as she shifted course.
"When we clear Cape Atheras, Mr. Ahmar, you may put us back on a southerly heading. If we are very lucky the xebec will come out of the Gulf, make for Tunis and trouble us no more."
Van Schoonhoven had arrived on deck to say goodbye to Almas and Akouta. He turned now and hugged Hamilton. "We have escaped, yes? Such cleverness, Captain Hamilton, such guile! An admiral, yes? You will become an admiral in your Britannic Majesty's service."
"That remains to be seen..." said Hamilton as he pried himself loose. "We have delayed the xebec. Now we have to deal with the galleys."
"Oh." Van Schoonhoven nodded gravely, then asked, cautiously, "and you have a cunning plan?"
Van Schoonhoven went back down to his cabin and his personal slave, Rana
Ahmar walked behind Hamilton and said, quietly, "Your orders, Captain, for this new ruse?"
"I'll let you know when I think of something." Hamilton went to the stern and leaned back on the taffrail.
An half-hour later Hamilton called the crew on deck. They would not encounter the galleys for three hours, at least, and it wasn't good to leave the men in a set of alert for so long. Better to supply them with a diversion, then pipe them to dinner and let them have that to discuss rather than a looming sea battle.
Hamilton stood at the rail, looking down on the crew, flanked by Ahmar and Zuberi.
"Bring them up," Hamilton ordered.
Two women were passed up from below, hand-over-hand. Both were naked, with their wrists tied behind their backs. Orhan took hold of them by the arms and brought them before the Captain.
"The slaves on this ship are the property of the officers and crew of the Tigress," Hamilton said in a booming voice as he looked at the women. "You, both of you, through your constant fighting are guilty of damaging that property by injuring other slaves and injuring yourselves. This will no longer be tolerated. You will be punished." Hamilton paused as Zuberi translated into their South Italian dialect, while others in the crew translated into Turkish, Arabic, Gaelic and Spanish. Hamilton waited and then added, "know this slaves, with every further incident the punishment will double."
"What are their names?" asked Hamilton quietly.
"The one to starboard is Irene," said Zuberi, indicating a tall, thin, but muscular woman. "And the other is Claudia." She was shorter, somewhat stouter and with larger breasts, but still a strong woman.
Irene twisted in Orhan's grip and started swearing. Claudia merely looked at Hamilton with contempt.
Hamilton raised a hand and the ship's cooper, a barrel-chested man from a mountainous village north of Greece, stepped to the mainmast. He pulled back a damp tarpaulin and uncovered a linstock bucket swaddled in damp canvas, from which protruded a metal handspike. The cooper slowly wrapped his hand with layer after layer of heavy cloth, and then checked his grip. He took hold of the handspike and pushed it around the contents of the bucket. A thin swirl of smoke wafted up.
Orhan held tightly to Irene as two more sailors stepped forward and took hold of the struggling Claudia. They pushed her down on a grating where she was tied with ropes above and below her breasts and on her hips and thighs. Her left leg was restrained especially tightly, two loops around her thighs, more above and below her knee, and two at her ankles. The sailors then lifted the grating and set it against the keel of an inverted boat, letting Claudia's head rest on the deck while her feet were lifted up.
The cooper slowly pulled out the handspike. The bucket, which contained coals taken from the brig's stove, were not hot enough to leave the tip of the handspike red hot. The cooper spit and the rapid fizzing showed it was hot enough.
The bound woman pleaded, saying the same things over and over, as the copper stepped closer with the hand spike. To Hamilton's relief the man did not try to toy with her or tease her, he simply placed the hot tip hard against the sole of her left foot.
Hamilton enjoyed the struggles of slaves bound and tormented with a cat or short whip. He enjoyed that a great deal. But this was something different, the poor woman was pulling and fighting against her bonds, her back arching as she screamed a pure agony.
"Enough!" he ordered.
Claudia was removed from the grating, and the bonds on her wrists cut as well. She was in no condition to resist and collapsed to the deck. A wet cloth was wrapped around her foot, but Hamilton did not allow her to be sent down to a sick bed just yet.
Irene tried to be stoic, but as she was pulled towards the grating she suddenly began to kick and even tried to bite one of the men holding her. It didn't matter. She was quickly bound as Claudia had been, with her left leg restrained by a dozen loops of the line. The cooper had been reheating the handspike. He pulled it out and walked closer. Irene just shook her head back and forth. The cooper was grinning when he pressed the hot metal against the sole of her left foot.
"Enough!," Hamilton ordered when he thought she had been tortured as much as Claudia. "Take them below and treat their injuries." He turned to Ahmar. "You may send the men to dinner."
Hamilton didn't go to his cabin, although he was sorely tempted. He stood by the taffrail, his hands behind his back. While the clothing was wrong, he could still take the stance and attitude of a proper English naval captain. As the men went below, their laughing and gestures showed that they had been pleased with the spectacle. Hamilton didn't want to have to repeat it.
"The galleys will try to lay athwart our fore," Ahmar said.
"They'll attack from the side? Is that what you mean?" asked Ghanashyam. "But that is good, is it not? It seems men-of-war are always trying to come across the enemy's stern or bow, and so these galleys will be ripe for a raking shot."
"A galley is not the same as a ship. The freeboard is low. There are no masts or rigging in battle. It can be a difficult shot."
"They didn't have more than a few guns at the bow," Zuberi said, as he tapped out the weevils in a hardtack. "The largest was only a 12-pounder. They will move in close, as fast as they can, and try to take us by boarding."
"Well then, gentlemen, it is simple, yes?" said Van Schoonhoven, who had rapidly downed three glasses of French wine, "we simply stay far, far, far away from them."
Hamilton took a small sip of his wine. They sat around the table in his cabin, with plates of the usual indifferent shipboard fare. Rachel Palmer waited in one corner, ready to pour more wine. He had told Katherine to attend to that as well, but she had angrily refused and gone below to stay with Claudia and Irene.
"A catapult," Hamilton said suddenly, the idea forming as he spoke.
The others looked at him and waited.
"I want a catapult. There isn't much time, so just set up a jury mast on the fo'c'sle and lash a spar horizontally."