It’s near midnight, September 5th. 1589 A late September full moon drifts eerily between the darkening clouds hanging over Portsmouth’s ship docks. On the wooden jetty sailors gather, raucous, filthy and drunk; returning home after five months at sea on Her Majesty’s newest galleon, HMS Revenge, which had put to sea as Drake’s flagship and returned, as it turns out, after a failed attempt to invade Spanish controlled Portugal. With the ship now in an unseaworthy condition, and without prize, Drake will surely fall out of favor with his Queen. Along with the fruit and vegetables spoiling, urine puddles, rats in their hordes nesting in spoiled cotton bales, rain begins to fall, shining the dock and dampening the oil-fat lamps, making it hard for the flint man to re-ignite. The London dock area is no place for a lady; though with each ship’s return from the high seas women of a lesser station abound in assorted provocative dress, one or two breast feeding their babies, but all offering female companionship to the sailors ready to spend what bits of silver they had left after paying Dead Horse. Lady Sarah Belington, daughter of the fleet commander, Sir James Belington, fresh from her August bath and carrying a small bouquet of flowers, which she keeps close to her face, has disobeyed her mistress, fleeing into the night from her home high above the harbor, upon hearing that Pirates had anchored offshore. In her eagerness to get close enough to see the ship said to have outgunned several Spanish galleons laden with gold, something the Queen’s best naval ships had failed to do, the Pirates had been offered safe passage for food in exchange for the treasure. Drake’s men, with little money, and nothing to boast of, were in no mood to hear of the pirate ship’s victories over the Spanish. Lady Sarah had made a wrong turn, and finding herself on the jetty was trying to hide until a rat crawled over her shoulder. She let out a scream. A burly sailor, grinning toothlessly, reached out a callused hand to seize her by the hair, while pulling out his dagger with the other and holding it to her throat. “Wott we got ‘ere, then, lads, eh?” He growls, rubbing a stubble’d, scurvy chin into the exposed flesh of his victim’s neck. Another sailor, sporting only two more teeth than his colleague, jumps down from astride the barrel of a damaged Demi-Culverin, and gestures his admiration with a pouting of his hips. “Purty little thing, ain’t she? How much will ya cost me, sweet little trollop? I jest got paid, see!” He seethes, spittle spurting between the gap in his teeth, grinning and rubbing a nail-less grubby and scarred musket finger across her chin, while pulling a chip of a silver from his vest pocket. “But hell, this ain’t no hooeer. Can’t ya see, this ‘ere’s a fine lady, we should all be bending over for the likes of her.” Her captor mocks. “Aww, Jacko, ya blubber smellin’ sea dog, she’s a woman, ain’t she? She probably stole that fancy dress! Now, if ya doesn’t cotton to my plans, ma’lady, you’ll go swab a deck someplace!” He rants drunkenly, trying to wrench the woman from his Crow Nester sea-mate, giving him a shove windward and bowing sarcastically. Other sailor’s laugh hoarsely, not daring to get between these two, called Jacko and Lugg, and whom now starting brawling with each other as to who is going to feel them fine breasts first. The Lady Sarah takes desperate advantage of the situation, breaking free, leaving one clutching a fist full of hair, fleeing frantically into the darkness, knowing not to where. Her worst fear is realized when she hears the two men coming after her, calling out lewd suggestions and gaining on her as if they know every footing on the docks so well. She on the other hand does not, leaping and dodging barrels, coiled ropes, scurrying like a rat to the end of the pier where she whirls right, along a smaller dock plied with more cotton bales and timber, splinters tearing at her dress and underskirt.
To be continued….