The Adventures of Ratha James Part Four
The crew of the Raven’s Wing was completely comprised of women; no man was allowed to set foot aboard her, not even to keep her from sinking. Most of the women were runaways, orphans, poor, but some were ladies of English society who had given up their fine titles and jewels because of abuse or mistreatment at the hands of their fathers, husbands, brothers or others. All those who boarded the Raven’s Wing, boarded as equals; there was no discrimination of rank allowed other than that of Ratha’s officers. Traveling home was a cause of joy but it was also dangerous, should the women fall foul of their old tormentors or the crown. “Be safe, all of you. Should you need me or become separated and cannot return, give the signal and I will come.” The women nodded solemnly at her, they knew she would find them, return any one of them that was stolen from her. It had happened before, they all prayed it never happened again. “The rest of you, let’s move. St. Clare, if you would be so kind to lead the way.”
Amalee had only been in this chamber once but still, everything was as she remembered it: the massive, white bed, the cream colored desk and chair, the scarlet drapes, framing the view of the sea, of the ship that was now hers. It had not been hers the last time she was in this chamber, not yet anyway. It had been night then, pitch black outside, with no moon to shine down on the two runaways as they raced to their friend to beg her to join them, to leave this awful place. They had run to her for help, they had run for their lives and now six years later Ratha was back inside the chamber that St. Clare had led her to that night. She wondered if Maddie was feeling the same in her chambers next door, did she feel this confliction of joy and sadness, of hope and hopelessness, of love and fear.
They were eighteen when their fathers sent them to England to be wed. It was a heady journey across the channel, filled with anxious joy and nervous excitement. When finally, they arrived the three dressed in their finest and fixed one another’s hair as best as they could before stepping onto the dock where their future husbands waited. They had known Eric St. Clare their whole lives and had known since early childhood that he was intended for Joona. In their youth they had had even nick-named her St. Clare, a name Eric found amusing and when he met them on the dock, he embraced all three of them like sisters. But though he loved them, he had eyes only for Joona, who sparkled in a fine, pale lavender that accented her fiery red hair and softened her watchful green eyes.
Madeline’s intended was a southern gentleman who made his fortune in tea leaves, which he imported from India and China. Lord Robert Gamsley was a fair-haired grey-eyed man with an unsettling smile and a slick countenance. Maddie had dressed in her nicest blue silk and a halo had shown around her golden head as she stepped forward to greet the man who would give her his name but would take much more from her. He kissed her hand and drew her away with sweet promises of the years to come.
But it was Amalee’s husband who drew every female eye; he was breath-taking in a way that left women shaking. With his dark chestnut hair slicked back framing his strong, marble chiseled face, dark arrogant eyes and a cruel, perfect lip, Lord Derek Richards was a lion amid lambs. And what’s more, he knew it. Derek had shown like a godling in his austere blacks when Amalee approached, a hesitant smile twitching on her nervous lips. Instantly she knew he approved of her golden dress that highlighted the gold flecks in her eyes and hair and curved dangerously low over her high, full breasts. The cut of the dress had not been to Amalee’s taste but her new husband had commissioned the gown and so she tried to wear it proudly.