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BBW Lady Luck - by Marlow

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Well-Known Member
Feb 5, 2013
~BBW, History, Romance - elegant ballrooms, gallant paramours, swashbuckling adventures, and a world-famous appetite

Lady Luck
by Marlow

Chapter 1

April, 1809
- Bay of Biscay

HMS Tryphena rocked gently on the swell, sails furled. One of her lookouts had reported the sound of gunfire in the distance and all hands stood in terse silence, listening intently and staring across starlit water at the rocky coast of France.

Few aboard minded the waiting. The unlucky frigate had weathered a furious storm in the channel, delaying her departure for days. She’d finally made sail only to find herself with a rolling sea and an angry wind against her bows. With her newer hands belowdecks, too seasick to haul on a rope, she’d barely made it around Ushant without being dashed onto the rocks.

All that toil had carried Tryphena only as far as Douarnenez. It had been a miserable first leg of a long journey that only looked to be getting longer. The 250 souls aboard could only pray for better luck, knowing there was plenty of treacherous sailing ahead before they would reach the Mediterranean station and the tedium that awaited them there.

Pausing to listen offered a much-needed respite, therefore, but one tinged with anticipation. The sound of gunfire carried the tantalizing prospect of action, of glory, and, above all, of prize-money. There were rumors that Napoleon’s fleets might soon attempt to break out and the long-suffering men aboard Tryphena were starving for a chance at battle.

But as hard as they listened and as furtively as they wished, nothing more echoed across the water. The captain paced the quarterdeck in his shabby overcoat, putting on a fair display of stoicism. He had grown accustomed to disappointment through a long and miserable career at sea, but his junior officers found themselves less able to conceal their frustration.

After an hour the crew stopped holding their collective breath. The men of the foretop returned to their interrupted chatter, muttering about shoreleave, about Polly, an amorous tavern-keeper who seemed a little jollier and a lot heavier every time they put into Port Mahon, and about the exhausting, wretched beginning of their voyage

“What a run of misfortune,” sighed a new hand. “You’ve sailed with the Captain Muir, eh? Is it always like this?”

The older topman snorted. “Mate, everyone in the service calls him ‘Bad Luck Ben,’ ain’t you heard?” He glanced aft, where the captain paced in silence. “Nothing against his seamanship, of course. Not many men could have slipped us through them rocks yesterday. A good fellow, even if the wind’s always against him.”

“He’s hardly helping himself, ain’t he?” the young man scoffed. “Bringing a parson on board, setting sail on a Friday…and Joe here tells me he saw the captain step onto the ship with his left foot.”

“Joe told you that? Joe don’t know his left from his right.”

“Sure I do,” protested Joe, pointing to his shoe. “It’s the unlucky one.”

“Shut up, Joe.” The topman folded his arms. “Now as to luck, maybe our captain ain’t as blessed as some, and maybe he cares a little less about the calendar than he should, but we could always be worse off. I been at sea as long as anyone aboard, mind you, and there’s only one thing you can bring aboard a ship that’ll truly blow its luck.” He leaned in close. “And that’s a woman.”

Joe nodded gravely.

The new hand frowned. “And here I recall you leading a pair of plump young ladies by the arm across our very gundeck when I was stowing my chest.”

“Which it’s a different matter when we’re in port, you lubber, safely anchored and open to visitors…lovely, lovely visitors. And you call them plump, ha, you should’ve seen the woman Joe here met in Cadiz, during the peace. Hips were too wide for his hammock, so they were, and when he tried to sneak her out through the gun-port she ended up stuck. Chips had to cut her out.”

“A magnificent woman,” sighed Joe, smiling. “You know, I saw the Lady Hamilton before we made sail, being helped into her great carriage at Merton. The way that carriage leaned to one side, ha…talk of hips, ha…talk of lavish living, ha…”

“Quiet, you oaf,” hissed the topman, standing. “On deck there! Something in the water!”

“Where away?” came the response below. A midshipman dashed forward.

He pointed. “Starboard bow.”

All eyes swiveled to follow. They saw a ripple ahead and, emerging from the night into the glow of the ship’s lanterns, the shadow of a small rowboat. A lean figure hauled on the oars with clear desperation.

The ship burst into hushed activity. Marines hurried to the side, but it was soon apparent that the little boat was no threat: the ragged figure within took one final stroke and slumped over. The boat drifted on, bumping up against Tryphena’s hull.

Ropes were thrown over and hands raced down to secure the boat. There was some panicked whispering and one of the mates climbed back up. He said something to the first lieutenant, who promptly went pale.

“Pass the word for the doctor,” he called, striding aft to confer with the captain.

The men crowded close to catch a glimpse, but as the officers regained their composure they set about shouting them back to their posts.

One man raced to his mates in the foretop, waving a small, tattered slip of paper. “Couldn’t see much, but I grabbed this from the bottom of the boat.”

The old topman squinted at it. After shoving Joe aside, reminding him that he couldn’t read anyway, he declared, “I can’t say I know much French, but I’d wager it’s an invitation, see, to a big fancy soiree.”

“That some kind of party?”

“Aye. You know those grand balls aristocratic coves like to throw for each other. Big dinners, big ballrooms, big dresses...”

Joe examined the paper. “Is that...blood?”

The ship’s surgeon arrived on deck, bag in hand. He met the captain and the first lieutenant at the rail and they promptly went over the side.

Captain Muir was the last to drop into the rowboat. He dismounted from the ladder, raised his lantern, and followed the surgeon’s amazed stare.

A young woman sat in the stern, gasping for air and murmuring breathlessly in French. A pistol lay in her lap. Her trembling hands clasped the giant center-stone of a glimmering diamond necklace.

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