It wasn’t the fight .. it was what he did .. he went into battle .. he plundered ships. He’d won most fights .. his sword arm had beaten down the best. He’d have out-fought this infidel too .. and cut him to pieces.
It was the insult .. attacked after surrender .. as if their victory over the American navy counted for nothing. Like this pig’s assault said the fight would never be over. They’d never give up.
Everyone looking on. Getting the message .. it was right to raise your arm .. cowardly to be cowed. Everyone reading the message .. it was their duty to challenge.
They had to be taught, these slaves. A lesson to be learned. An example had to be made.
Mitchell had buried his head into the mast. In dread. His forehead pressed into the hardwood. Fearing the worst. Fifty lashes for raising a hand against a handler. But for attacking a “master” …..? That question .. meant for him. In this pirate captain’s eye .. Mitchell was the one he had in mind. Mitchell’s captain had surrendered. Before Mitchell was taken by his impulse and drew his sword on the corsair. By surrendering the captain had made the crew the pirate’s property .. his slaves. In this pirate’s twisted mind, Mitchell had already been his slave. And one slave had been dumb enough to threaten the Master’s life.
“Till the pig screams its last breath ……”
The reply was worse than Mitchell had dreaded. A shiver passed through his very being. Whipped to death. Only minutes ago he had feared getting stabbed in the gut. Bleeding to death slowly from a wound in his belly. And now …..? He stood before an even more agonising death.
“Whipped to death.”
A shiver ran down his legs. He dug his forehead into the mast. Instinct dictating he’d not show his fears .. however much his gut had knotted up.
“Every bit of skin flayed off its back.”
For daring to raise his sword against this corsair captain. Acting on impulse. Angered that his own captain had surrendered. There had still been plenty of fight left in the boys. They weren’t beaten. Not till their own captain had surrendered his sword. Impulse. Mitchell had given in to his urges. Driven by anger. Done without a thought.
“Whipped till it screams its last infidel breath.”
Murdered. Whipped to death. Screaming out. His agonies taken over him .. his body under the control of his pains. Whipped to death. In front of his mates. Would they stand for it? They were all around .. the whole crew assembled on the deck. Would they stand there and watch the skin flayed raw off their shipmate’s back? Their ears tortured by his unstoppable screams? Could they stand there and do nothing? Would his captain stand by and let that happen?
What COULD they do? Protest? Murmur disapproval? They were unarmed. There were just as many corsairs surrounding them. Armed with swords. Some with crossbows. They tried to help .. the corsairs would cut them down. They rioted .. it’d be a bloodbath. And still this shipmate pinned to the mast would have his skin flayed off. Until he screamed his last.
“Tossed overboard then. Shark food. No use to man or beast ……”
Mitchell found himself panting. His nerves had taken over. Betraying his fears. His back rocking as his nerves panted for air. Quickly he stopped himself. He made himself stop. He held his breath. Then slowly, controlled, he drew in long deep breaths. Fighting back. Fighting himself back into control. He didn’t want to die. He certainly didn’t want to die in an unimaginable way. He was a free man. An American. This damned corsair had no right. NO SLAVE. He’d fight. As long as there was still breath in his body .. whatever it took .. as long as he still could .. he’d fight this bastard. With everything he’d got.
The corsair’s voice suddenly aroused Mitchell from his own thoughts .. preoccupied with the effort of steeling himself .. momentarily distracted as he made himself build up a steely resolve. Lashed back by the corsair’s voice .. ripped back to a chilly reality. Arms wrapped around the thickness of the mast. Centre-stage, every single one of his shipmates looking at his bare back. Stripped for punishment. Exposed. To be whipped to death.
“Hassan, the infidel pig has himself a nice thick belt …….”
Mitchell’s thoughts rushed to the belt around his waist. Seeing it clearly for the first time in ages. And chillingly seeing the point of the remark.
“Appropriate, don’t you think? Hassan? Whipped with his own belt?”
How many times had Mitchell cinched it around his waist? Without a thought? Not seeing it as the corsair saw it now. Bought at a local market, his latest girl on his arm. Good thick leather. As wide as his hand. Now to be laid across his bare back. Battered into his broad back. Bludgeoning his strength of will. Whipped by his own belt. Till he screamed out his last breath.