BRON Part III
The Girl with the Golden Ankle
AD 406 - Fleeing from the conflagration in Byden, Bron and her family arrive on the south coast and board the Juniper for the long sea passage to Ostia, closely pursued by High Priest Vortin. Her only wish is to follow in the wake of the troop ship carrying her young lover, officer Aurelius Catus, and his legion back to Rome.
She is befriended by the captain of the Juniper, who seeks to protect her from his unscrupulous bo'sun. Bron, however, is unprepared for the effect the seaman has on her and the dire consequences of their actions.
And no one on board is prepared for the terrifying conclusion to their voyage.
The excitement and pace never falter as Bron sails on to fulfil her destiny in Rome.
There was nothing more to say or do then but wait for the impact. A hush descended on deck. All that could be heard was the rhythmical boom! boom! of the rowing drum, faster now than before.
Veneta was mouthing a prayer as they clung to each other and to the rail and its stanchions, anticipating the moment of collision.
It took longer than expected. As they watched, the high, curved stem post of the attacking ship loomed larger and larger, its plumed carving towering above the decks of both ships. Suddenly, there was crash after crash and the sounds of splintering wood as two sets of oars converged and interlocked and were woven together or sheared off and riven into thousands of lethally-pointed stakes and spars.
The plight of the men on the other end of those oars was only too obvious from the high-pitched screams from below both decks.
The Juniper shuddered as the pirate ship continued to advance and then the hulls collided, the forward momentum carrying the locked ships a further length before both came to rest. At least, by the slight alteration of course, the ram had not pierced their hull as intended.
The children were thrown to the deck on impact, Bron and the babies on top of them. They scrambled to their feet, too terrified to cry now. Amid all the commotion, the warning was relayed around the ship, "Prepare to be boarded!"
There was just as much noise from the pirate ship as her crew whooped and catcalled while crowding at her rail or swarming up the rigging of her foremast, brandishing weapons in one or both hands or with knives and daggers clenched in their teeth as they clung to precarious perches. Their features and skin colouring betrayed men from every province in the empire and beyond and Bron shrank back at the sight of this near-naked baying, howling enemy.