Barbary Coast, North Africa, 1780
David was forced to duck yet again as a cannon ball screamed overhead, this one slamming into the ship's mast, the cracking of the wood drawing everyone's attention, but miraculously it held. More cannon balls whizzed and shrieked as they tore through sails or broke off some of the smaller spits holding the shrouds aloft.
Slipping further back into the shadows, David cursed his stupidity at ignoring the perils of travelling in the Mediterranean as he watched the Barbary Pirates pouring across the ship's tilting deck, its surface already awash with blood. The crew manfully attempted to fight the pirates back but they were not only outnumbered, they were outfought. David had no weapon and weighed his chances if he tried to help.
His attention was drawn by the angry bellowing of a pirate who was chasing Miss Bateson, her long blonde hair coming loose from its tortoise shell grip and streaming out behind her. As she looked back over her shoulder, her eyes showed fear yet her mouth was set in a determined line. David was debating his options when he saw young Tom Bateson struggling with one of the pirates.
Almost immediately David understood that Tom had been attempting to help his sister, who ducked hoping to avoid another pirate trying to intercept her.
Without a second thought, David ran out of his hiding place and launched himself at the pirate who shook the sixteen-year-old youth like he was a rat in the teeth of a dog. The man was huge, his bare arms bulging with muscles where the split sleeve of his shirt fell open, his legs braced with a wide stance. David landed on the pirate's back but the man was not even unbalanced. He dropped Tom instantly though, and twisting from his shoulder he reached back and cuffed David upside the head.
David hung on even though his head was spinning and his ears were ringing. With a growl, one of the man's beefy hands gripped David's right arm and his vice-like hold broke David's grasp as if it was nothing. He yanked David toward him and his other hand slammed into David's chest, throwing him clear across the deck where he landed heavily, his head ringing.
Suzanna Bateson's forward rush came to an abrupt halt when she ran into a solid object. Strong arms wrapped around her, keeping her from falling. For a moment she looked grateful for the help, until she glanced up and gasped in shock.
She was held tight in the grip of another pirate. A tall man whose dark eyes were all that could be seen of his face, the rest of it covered by a black veil edged in silver attached to his burnoose, the long hooded cloak favoured by the Turks, which was also edged in silver. The burnoose fell over loosely fitting black pantaloons and a loose silver shirt worn split open to the waist where it was tucked inside the wide waistband.
"What have we here?" he asked in English but with an odd accent.
The woman struggled in his grip, but he merely pulled her closer to him. "I like a woman of spirit. I think I might keep you," he said as his eyes swept over her.
He leaned in toward her, obviously intending to kiss her and she shouted in shock, "No!"
Ignoring his increasing dizziness, David attempted to roll to his side to try and get his knees underneath him but just then Tom Bateson barrelled out of his hiding place among some fallen sails and leapt at the tall pirate.
"Leave my sister be, you bastard!" he yelled as he attempted to land blows on the man's kidneys.
The tall pirate swirled the girl away into the arms of her erstwhile pursuer while he grabbed the fair-haired youth. "I can clearly see you two are related," he said with a smile, his oddly accented voice warm with amusement.
David just managed to hear the captain say, "Take them to my cabin, Achmed," before everything dimmed and he gave in to the pain pounding behind his eyes, momentarily losing consciousness.
A rough voice calling out in a language he knew he ought to recognize dragged David's attention back to his surroundings. He tried to open his eyes but swiftly closed them again as the brightness seared his pupils. He tried to listen to what was being said, but at first he could not even remember which language it was, let alone interpret it.
However, he realized it was the pirate captain speaking and with growing horror he did recognize a few of the foreign words, "...kill the injured men too. They're no use as new crew and even less use on the slave block."
Abruptly a rough hand grasped his shoulder, shook him once sharply and forcefully hauled him up.
"Get to your feet!" a voice demanded. "They're throwing the badly injured over the side. You mustn't let them think you're too hurt."
David rocked on his feet for a moment before gathering up his waning strength to stand as straight as he could. He glanced over at the man who had spoken and recognized Mr. Winstanley, the first mate of the ship, Windjammer. Winstanley had a gash down the side of his face and he was pale, but he stood upright.
The pirate captain moved over toward the group that David was now a part of. Winstanley stood almost in front of him and there were a few other sailors with them as well as a few passengers.
"You are my prisoners," the captain began, speaking clearly in English. "You'll be taken on board my vessel and held until we reach port. Obey my commands and you will be treated fairly. Once in port you'll be taken ashore." He glanced toward those obviously well-to-do passengers and said, "If you can raise the ransom you will be freed; if you can't then you will be sold."
There were gasps and sobs as their captor put into words the fate all knew awaited captives by the Barbary Pirates. The passengers and crew would be stripped of all their belongings and then the human cargo would be forced into slavery.
Passengers knowingly took the risk, human nature being what it was. David Jordan was no exception, realizing now he had been naïve. Desperate to finally reach the destination of his dreams, he had taken a ship heading for North Africa, the known hotbed of the Barbary Pirates, dismissing the possibility that his ship might be raided.
David felt fingers of ice run down his spine. He had no one who could ransom his freedom. He had no family and no friends who had the funds to release him. He was honest enough to admit to himself that no one in the whole world cared that much about him. He was facing a life of slavery. He had heard that those who had any special skills might be bought especially for them, but his only currency in life was for learning and teaching and he doubted that had any particular value. For the first time in his life he was really afraid.