The town bells were screeching, warning us all of our biggest fear: pirates. Had I not been hiding with my mistress due to the invasion of our home, we would have been running to the admiral’s fort for protection from the savages.
Instead, we were both cramped in her closet, buried under the clothes that neither of us had ever been bothered to clean up. We were holding one another’s hands, both of us shaking violently as she prayed silently at my side. I was holding my breath, choking back the desperate sobs that threatened to escape, and I could see her doing the same.
One of the savages had already scoured the room, but he hadn’t bothered much because it was a maid’s room – my room. There were no silver candlesticks or jewels lying around, as there were in my mistress’ room that was right next door. We’d both heard the delighted whoops of joy as the men discovered the seemingly endless jewels that laid around in Beth’s room.
My entire body was cramping and stiff, but I couldn’t complain because the fear kept my mouth shut. Beth, clenching my hand harder, leaned closer to the hinges of the closet door and taking a peek outside. Her other hand was wrapped around a small pistol that neither of us knew how to use, but it seemed to give her comfort in a sense of protection.
At the exact same moment, the door of the room slammed open, and she flinched, leaning closer into me as her grip on the pistol tightened. My eyes were clenched shut, but Beth was alert and ready to fight. She’d always been the stubborn fighter.
I could hear the man coming closer, his heavy footsteps clomping to a stop in front of our hiding spot. His heavy breathing echoed in front of the closet, and my eyes shot open as I stared into Beth’s green ones. She looked afraid too.
The man wasn’t alone. He bellowed out to someone else, and a younger voice replied.
“Have you checked the closet for anything precious?” He mixed his words between Spanish and English, but the younger one replied in a mix of French and English.
“No, Sir. It’s just a maid’s room, so there can’t be anything precious in there.” He sounded condescending, sneering at the older man. At my side, Beth tucked the pistol under her dress and into her garter belt, but I was too afraid to make any movement.
“Well, you should have. Something’s moving in there.” We both froze. I could hear laughter in the older one’s voice. Beth stopped, slowly turning her head to meet my eyes. Almost mockingly, the man knocked on the door. “Anyone home?”
Then, the closet door was ripped open, and a deep, cruel laugh filled my ears as I was ripped out of our hiding spot by my hair. It felt like my hair was being ripped out of my scalp. I practically tripped out of the closet, and my knee crashed into the ground, throbbing in protest. A scream escaped my lips, and the tears finally slipped down my cheeks.
“What have we got here?” A goading laugh as the man leaned closer to my face while still holding my hair. I couldn’t find the words to reply, but that only made him laugh more. “And another one, aye?”
Before he could reach out to rip Beth out of the closet too, she jumped out willingly, tackling the savage who had me by the hair, and he tumbled backwards, letting go of me. Falling to her knees, she wrapped her arms around me protectively. He snarled angrily, glaring straight at Beth as she kept her head held high. Before he could throw himself into a brawl with her, she stopped him with her words.
With a loud, clear voice, she spoke in English, making the two men pause in their steps. “I am Lady Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of esteemed General Taylor, and I am the mistress of this house. You are not to harm us unless you wish death to come your way in vengeance from my father.” My tears wouldn’t stop, and I clung to Beth, holding her for support. Her confidence was enough for both of us.
The older man cackled, taking a few steps back to stand next to his younger companion. “This is why you check everything, lad. We found ourselves the royal treasure. Now, stay here with the precious ladies, and I’ll return with the Captain.” Then, he turned his head and spoke softer in Spanish to the younger one. “If they try to run, shoot the other one in the leg, but don’t hurt the lady.”
I understood every word, and I couldn’t help but flinch as the boy nodded and pulled out a pistol from his belt. Beth understood the threat too, so we waited there as the boy watched us with hawk eyes. She was smoothing down my hair, murmuring calming words in Danish as my sobs came to a stop. While we wait, she reached into her dress and pulls out the pistol, palming it and hiding it behind me.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, another man entered the room, followed by the older man who had found us, and his presence seemed to call for attention as I turned my head and peeked at the man.
I couldn’t quite make out his face, only seeing a faint stubble and high nose, as he wore a hood. He was tall and broad shouldered, wearing the hooded jacket over an unlaced white shirt that displayed the wide expanse of his chest. I could spot a scar that traveled down his chest, but my face was flaming at the blatant nakedness of the man. My eyes trail downwards to see a pair of tightly fitting pants and worn down boots that reached his knees but folded at the top.
My discomfort made me look away, and I hid my face while holding onto Beth. She only held me closer. This powerful man seemed to be the captain.
“Lady Elizabeth Taylor?” He asked, his voice deep and husky. He spoke in English, a pure accent clear in his words.
“That would be me.” She said stiffly, gripping the pistol tighter.
“I would like to formally apologize for any damage caused. No one was harmed.” That had to be true because Beth and I were the only ones who lived on this cottage on the cliff. I took care of everything, cooking, cleaning, and nursing Beth, and she tutored herself with the books that her father had shipped to us. She wasn’t sick, but her father pampered her to her every need, thus allowing the two of us to come live away from the civilization that made her feel ill.
“What is it that you want?” She asked, her diplomatic voice slipping through.
“You. Your father would pay a rather handsome price for his only daughter.” The man sounded calm as he spoke of kidnapping Beth.
“And if I refuse?” She asked, keeping her head high.
“We would have to take you by force. Without your little friend. Unfortunately, that would not be very pleasant.” A cruel note entered his voice, and I flinched, fully aware of him delivering his threat if necessary.
“You pillaging my house isn’t very pleasant.” She shot back, stubborn will clearer in her voice as she tried to fight back.
She was silent for a while, weighing out her options, and the savages stayed silent too, the only audible sound being the excited cries of the others as they found precious items in the cottage. Then, she spoke.
“I will come willingly.” A desperate plea of protest escaped my lips, sounding more like a terrified squeak, but she simply held me closer in comfort. “However, I do have a condition.”
“Name it.” The man said. There was no impatience in his voice, meaning he had come prepared for negotiations. However, they were still pirates.
“She will be coming with me.” Clearly, Beth was referring to me, so the fear returned, making me shake uncontrollably. Even her hand smoothing down my hair didn’t calm me down as fear claimed me in a death grip.
This time, the man went quiet, considering the possibilities. He seemed to have nodded and agreed, as Beth triumphantly gave me a tight squeeze.
“That would be more pleasant that shooting her in the head and kidnapping you.” The threat was laid clear in his voice. “You will be safe with us, Lady Elizabeth, and no harm will come upon you. After all, General Taylor could be dissatisfied with damaged goods.”