Year of the Oar
By Clare Seven
She asked me again as I glanced about the drab office.
“Justine…Justine Laing. It’s written on the form.”
The large bespectacled woman looked up from the pink form in front of me, her
manner betraying the fact that she was having a bad day, in a bad week, perhaps in a
“Thank you Miss Laing,” she replied, her voice dripping with venom.
“Now,” she continued. “You are out of work yes? And what was it you’ve been
doing?” She glanced at the form. “You’re 33 now is that right?”
I nodded. “Yes. I’ve been a professional triathlete, with lottery funding. I injured a
knee last year. I’ve recovered but, I won’t be at my peak again.”
The regret bit at me as I looked away. A career, a life; over completely since the
injury, and now I was forced to talk to some fat angry office jerk in order to try and
get a job.
“I see. A failed athlete then?”
I stared at her, bit my tongue. No point getting angry.
I ignored her comment. “I have some coaching skills.”
“Can you type?” she interrupted.
“What? No of course not.”
“I see,” she said, face now fixed to the notepad on the black file.
“So you have few skills then, would you agree?”
I nodded. “And so, what would you recommend?”
“Oh we have many courses that you can…”
“But I need a job now!” I retorted angrily.
The woman stared back at me.
“Well shouting won’t get you anywhere Miss Laing.”
I remember storming out of the employment office with a high heartrate. Training
over the years had helped me listen to my body. I hadn’t been that stressed in such a
long time. Well, not that type of stress anyway. At least before a race I knew that I
would burn up the frustration and fear as soon as we got started. The end of my career
as a triathlete could have gone better I guess. The knee was better, but the prospects of
getting back into the national team, and achieving funding were a lot less hopeful. I
had considered focussing on one element of the sport aside from running which the
knee put paid to. Cycling, swimming maybe. But I was thirty three, recovering from
injury, and despite my experience, I would never be as fit as I had been and less
competitive that the twenty somethings who were looking for places on the
I mulled over my future as I sipped the glass of wine in my apartment. I’d been
invited to a party by a friend, who promised that I could get a job with some of her
‘networking contacts’. Great, I pondered, a desk job somewhere working like a slave
for some exec who didn’t really give a damn. I couldn’t wait. I’d go to the party of
course. What the hell else was I going to do?
The little black number that I’d chosen to wear was a poor fit. Either it was the muscle
around my buttocks or the small amount of weight that I’d put on during my
convalescence for the knee injury. Dresses weren’t designed for triathletes with large
thighs, wide shoulders and arms and legs like pistons. I felt distinctly uncomfortable
as I stood in the corner of the bustling room. Jennifer had been kind enough to invite
me, even make me feel welcome, though the site of a well built, muscled redhead who
looked angry enough to bite the head off any potential suitors seemed to make the
prospective approach of most a little unwelcoming.
I sighed as the party got into full swing and as I found a seat near the kitchen of the
well furnished apartment. Jennifer gave me an awkward smile, as if she knew that not
only was I not enjoying myself, but every attempt that she had made with one of her
‘friends’ to approach me about a job had so far failed. It didn’t look like the situation
was about to improve anytime soon either.
I stood up to leave, and placed the empty glass on a nearby table.
“Jennifer tells me that you are looking for…employment?”
I gasped and spun around. The man had appeared behind me. I must have seemed
visibly shocked. He was tall, dark, middle aged and obviously fit.
“I…yes…well I’m not desperate yet,” I grunted, immediately regretting how the
words might sound.
“Oh, do I appear to be desperate. I do apologise.” He laughed a little.
“No, not at all. I’m sorry.” I extended my hand. “I’m Justine,” I said. I could feel my
He took my hand lightly and bowed to kiss it gently. “I am Joshua,” he said, in a
Oh tell me he’s trying to pick me up, I thought idly.
“You…mentioned a job?”
“Yes,” he said, his eyes boring into me. “It would be a one year contract”
“A contract, oh.” I found it hard to hide her disappointment, I had been hoping for
something a little longer term.
“Well yes, but a very lucrative one, if I might say so.”
He sipped at his wine, glancing at my hips and thighs. Was this guy some sort of
“Doing what exactly?”
“Well, Jennifer tells me that you were a top, well, a professional triathlete. A business
partner of mine has need for your…skills, shall we say.”
“Yes. Your fitness and physique for a start?”
“Oh, coaching or something?”
“Not exactly, more…labour.”
“Yes. But trust me,” he said smiling. “the amount of money concerned is
“How much?” I said.
“Well, for an athlete of your standing, working for one year.” He paused to consider,
again looking at my hips, legs, shoulders.
“One million pounds!”
I almost choked on the wine, but tried to remain calm. I wasn’t going to give away the
fact that I was needed the money and the distraction, never mind a direction in my
“That’s a lot of money for…labour, as you call it.”
“Yes,” he replied. “It’s exhausting, a high pressure environment, with extremely bad
hours. So much so that your benefactor would seek to financially reward you
handsomely for each year that you do. It would be a challenge, but then, I thought you
were the type of person who might respond to that.”
He sipped at his wine, taunting for a reaction.
“So, what is the job?”
“You would row on a galley.”
I stared at him. My first thought was that he meant a galley kitchen on a yacht. But he
had said row, hadn’t he?
“Yes, like in Ben Hur. Have you seen that movie?”
“I…I have. You mean where the slaves row?”
“That’s it yes. You employer has had a replica ship rebuilt. He uses it to cruise
around…well, some of the more isolated areas of the med.”
“Sounds like good training?” I said, sipping from my own glass.
He laughed, smiled at me. Again I noticed how he looked, as if sizing up my
“Are you checking my physique, or is it some sort of pervert thing?” I heard myself
“Neither. I am imagining you at the oar, Assessing whether your frame would take the
workload, over time.”
“Oh I think I’d be fine,” I said.
“You’d be surprised. We’ve had athletes before. A lot of them show even less
endurance than the prisoners.”
“The prisoners. Oh they’re locals for the most part. They get a reduction in their
sentence for agreeing to row on the Master’s galley. But of course, he loves to employ
those more, shall we say, fit, western women.”
“It’s a prison ship?” I said, a little too loudly.
“After a fashion. But you need not fear the prisoners, discipline is swift and
I nodded, apparently understanding, but not entirely sure that I did.
“I see. And the volunteers? They are protected in some way?”
“That is often a question that the volunteers ask,” he answered, considering his
”The paid rowers are treated exactly as the prisoners in all ways. They are paid for
their service after all. And you are all there to work. All rowers are chained, lashed
when they falter, punished if there is persistent poor performance.”
“Lashed? You mean they are whipped?”
“Of course. It is very much a traditional slave galley. Did you expect something
“That can’t be...allowed?” I blurted, astonished at his blasé tone. “So we…they sit in
chains and rags and get whipped as they work?”
“Oh no,” he sniggered. “No rags. All rowers are completely naked.”
I gasped, wide eyed as I stared at him, finding it hard to believe that he actually
wanted me to go through with this. I put down the drink, conscious that I might throw
it over him.
“So let me get this straight,” I said. “You want me to row naked, in chains and have
people whip me, for a year, for a million, is that it?”
He nodded slowly, a smile growing on his face as I stared back at him.
Year of the Oar -Part 2
I wanted to throw the drink over him and walk away. I wanted to slap him as he continued to stare at
my body. I could see his eyes, his mind imagining how I might look, chained, whipped and working
like a slave at the oar. Something stopped me. My next words seemed to come from someone else’s
lips, as if I was watching the conversation from across the room.
“And how would you guarantee that I would receive payment? How do I know that after a year I’d be
He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Are you used to receiving shocked answers to your question?” I whispered.
“Yes,” he replied curtly. “Though we do get our share of volunteers. I can draw up the papers for your
solicitor. In fact, we will pay for his fees and he need only know that you are doing work for a contract
of some nature.”
His voice was hushed now, serious, as if he knew that he had hooked a fish with his bait.
“Your point of release in twelve months will be decided and recorded. The money will be placed in
your account upon your agreement. Of course, at that stage, there is no turning back. You row for a
year then, one way or another.”
The words were rehearsed, familiar to him.
“One way or another?” I said.
“If you decide to change your mind a month in, the overseers are not going to simply say ‘yes of
course’, you understand?”
“Overseers. The ones with the whips?”
“And if I do, change my mind, as you say?”
“There is no choice,” he replied sharply. “You will be forced to row on, until the end of your contract.”
“Yes. As a slave would have been on a galley ship.”
His eyes indicated how serious he was. I found the whole conversation intense now, as if I had been
waiting for an opportunity like this. But to be whipped, effectively a slave on a galley in modern times?
Sure, I might never need to work again, but at what cost?
“I still have questions,” I whispered, feeling isolated and alone, despite the number of people in the
room. I raised my head to check that they weren’t all watching us. I caught a glimpse of Jennifer
staring. She looked away as she saw me. Was she in on this? Did she know this man and the fact that
he was recruiting for a slave galley? My heart was pounding.
“Of course you do. You are wondering whether the marking of the lash will be permanent. You are
wondering whether, if it is, you will be able to live with those marks and whether the amount of money
makes it worthwhile.”
I nodded. “How…how did you know?”
“Because that is what all attractive women wonder. But, you are strong.”
He sipped his wine before continuing.
“Most of the work will require strong thighs and shoulders. You have both from your chosen sport,
which is fortunate. The lash is used to keep rhythm and punish infraction. The overseers use the whip
without mercy upon the back and breasts or thighs.”
He pointed at my legs as if to illustrate his point. I stepped back slightly in response, as if his words
could bring me stinging pain. I was sweating a little, in fear? or was I excited at the prospect of this
“As to whether you might bear marks upon completion of your contract? Probably. These would fade
with time however. Much would depend on your stamina and obedience. I feel that you, might be
defiant, a problem for the overseers, no?”
“I…For that sort of money, I might be compliant.” I tried to smile. It wasn’t convincing.
“Indeed,” he snorted, a cruel grimace wrinkling his features as he continued to stare.
As he talked, part of me felt that I had been waiting for this chance. It was a challenge. Despite the
erotic illusion that appeared to have opened up in my brain like a tidal wave however, the sensible side
was telling me that I would be chained and whipped. What the hell was I even considering this for,
despite the vast sum of money? As if reading my thoughts, he passed me a business card, before
For days after the party I found it difficult to get the conversation out of my head. I dreamt of rowing,
on a crowded galley of sweating women. So much so that I rented the Ben Hur movie, watching it and
imagining how difficult the work might be. A million pounds. It was enough cash to ensure that I never
need worry about money again. Joshua had left me his card. It had a simple business style, giving little
indication that he worked for a pervert who used prisoners and volunteers to row a galley in some
isolated area of the Med. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So much
I had another appointment with the unemployment office coming up, I had bills to pay and it seemed
that coaches and colleagues from my days as a triathlete were taking little interest in a ‘has been’
whose injury had put paid to their career. I spoke to Jennifer, in hushed tones, trying to find out if she
had, in fact, known anything about this Joshua fellow and the work that he actually did. If she did know
anything, she made a good job of hiding it. She had known him through a business colleague and was
aware only that he had employed ex athletes, she assumed, for coaching jobs. I hadn’t had the courage
to tell her what he really did.
A week passed. The sensible part of me was saying that I was crazy to even consider the offer. How
did I even know that the contract would be honoured? I’d be naked, in chains and being whipped for a
year. Was I really going to be able to fight back if they said I had to stay a while longer? Despite these
thoughts, the challenge and the image of me rowing hard, showing them all what I could do, would not
go away. It intruded my daily routine, my morning runs, my dinner, my conversations with people. I
thought about the labour, the constant gnawing work, the prisoners and how terrible the conditions
might be and of course, the money.
I wasn’t having any luck getting a job. Coaching seemed to be out, I wasn’t experienced enough.
Interviewers for office jobs took one look at me and guessed that I wouldn’t fit into an office position.
Even working in a factory seemed out. I was considered overqualified, told that the work would not
fulfil me? Did that mean that rowing like a slave on a vile prison ship would? I was beginning to doubt
myself, doubt what my mind was telling me, doubt whether I would actually regret making enough
money so that I might never have to work again. All for a year of my life? A year where I would show
them how powerful an athlete I was? How difficult could it be, with mostly prisoners? They couldn’t
fail but be impressed by me.
The interview had been one of the worst. They had even insulted me, leaving me with the impression
that I shouldn’t have applied for their damned job. So why had they asked me to come in? Did they
think that public transport cost nothing? I was so angry. Angry enough to call Joshua.
The card was soggy when I pulled it from my pocket. I remember that it was raining when I phoned. I
let the water drench my hair, not caring that it dripped down my back or soaked my trousers and coat. I
walked slowly to the bus stop, letting the tone ring.
“Yes.” The tone was dignified and official.
“It’s…It’s Justine, from the party. A while back?”
There was a pause. I could almost hear his mind working.
“Ah yes. The triathlete.”
“Yes,” I replied, suddenly wondering how he knew, I had only mentioned that I was an athlete of some
“How’s the knee?”
“It’s…better, better now.” And he knew about my injury.
“So, it can cope with the pull of the oar, your legs pushing against the wood at your feet, keeping pace
with the drum, despite the stroke of the lash across your naked back, thighs, even breasts?”
I gasped. He heard it.
“You are having second thoughts?”
“I haven’t even asked or agreed for that matter?”
“But you did call me Justine. You did call.”
His voice was low, serious.
“You knew I’d call, didn’t you?” I said slowly, finally understanding that he must have known all
along. I felt the rain soak me. I didn’t care any more.
“I knew from the moment I saw you Justine. You want to row. You see it as a challenge and the
seriousness of your impending situation is diluted by the fact that you need never worry about money,
for a long time afterward. But I want to hear you say that you want to be a galley slave.”
“What?” I replied.
The rain got heavier. I looked around. People ran for the bus that had just arrived. The one that I
needed to get. Instead I stood still, watching them. Cars drove past, horns blaring for no good reason.
People rushed by, ignoring each other, hurrying in the rain, and for what? I had worked hard to achieve
a dream and now I was on the scrapheap of ex average athletes. No one cared; not colleagues, coaches,
friends. Was I doomed to live alone, looking for a dead end job for the rest of my life?
“I want to be a galley slave,” I said slowly.
Everything seemed to happen so very fast after that. After I had said the words, that I wanted to be a
Joshua had made arrangements, efficiently leaving me little to do but turn up at the right place at the
right time. Thoughts of how well organised he might be however were tempered with the knowledge
that he had the benefit of obtaining a willing slave for chaining and the ‘lash’ as he called it.
His solicitor and mine made short work of the contract. On paper it was a was a twelve month
arrangement which meant that I would earn the money that I was paid up front. It was entered into a
secure bank account. I checked and signed for everything without really thinking about what lay ahead.
Instead, I focussed on what I would do with the money, even though a clause precluded me touching it
until I had completed the contract successfully. I remember asking what that meant and Joshua
indicated that I should merely be at the locations required for the full twelve months. I nodded in
agreement, assuming that the lawyers knew nothing of what was about to happen to me.
I signed confidently as Joshua gave me papers with a summary of the itinerary for the coming days. I
would get a flight in the morning, stay a night in a hotel and be driven to a remote port during the next
day, where the galley would be anchored. It was all happening so very fast.
The city was hot, even at night. I found it difficult to sleep, knowing that the next day saw the
beginning of my galley service. I slept little, rising early for breakfast, wearing only the light clothing,
of a disposable nature, that Joshua had told me to wear. I had tied my hair up, and sat in the blouse,
jeans and sandals that I had brought, with practically no other luggage. The sun shone through the large
windows at the front of the hotel, as the black car pulled up slowly and Joshua stepped out.
“I said, remove your clothes!”
The muscular unshaven man hefted the whip. I nodded. It was too late to turn back now. Joshua had
said very little during the journey to the port, which seemed to house only a few rough buildings, which
were not air conditioned, and the massive galley which sat along the pier. I had gasped when we left
the car, not at the sheer size of the massive wooden ship that sat at the dock, but at the smell that came
from it. Joshua had laughed when I said that it smelt like a zoo, or even a sewer.
I had been taken to a large corrugated steel shed, a workshop of sorts. Tools and steelwork were
scattered about. Benches with assorted stamping machines with steel tags, rings and thick rounded steel
pieces. I gasped as I realised that they must be fetters, for chains.
My hands were shaking as I began to undo my blouse. The overseer watched me slowly undress.
“The boss says you’re to be left alone woman, since you’re not a prisoner. But that doesn’t mean that
you won’t be treated like all the others on board otherwise. That clear?”
I nodded, pulling the blouse away now, revealing my bra.
“Will I get my clothes back…after…after a year?”
I stared at him.
“I said clothes off NOW!” The whip had a long handle, which ended in a thick leather lash, maybe a
metre long. His muscled arm flicked it expertly as the lash caught the flesh under my ribs, slapping
“YAHHH.” I reeled back as I screeched, having tasted the whip, its sting and fire, for the first time.
“By the time you leave the galley bitch, you’ll be a lot thinner and those rags won’t even fit you.
Though your thighs and back will be crisscrossed with the marks of the whip by then and your nice
round mouth will have tasted my cock!” He laughed, his large muscled chest vibrating, as I shivered.
I closed my eyes, body still stinging from the lash, removing my bra. I still had large breasts, despite
the training and they were still firm, a fact which the overseer noted. I grimaced at the smile on his face
as he stared.
“A pity you’re to be left intact, otherwise…” he whispered, staring at me, the reaction in his jeans very
I undid my own jeans and slid them down my muscular legs
Pulling my feet from the sandals I took the trousers off and lifted my clothes. The overseer, still staring,
lifted a clear plastic bag, indicating that I should dump my things inside. I did so and embarrassed,
brought my hands back to my body, slowly hooking my thumbs into the black thong that I wore.
“I don’t get to keep this?” I said, my voice shaking as I slid it down my legs, revealing the small
triangle of dark pubic hair.
“No, Now hurry up. I have to get you tagged and fettered!”
He let the lash slide out from his grip as he said it, angling it with expertise and lashing out at my chest.
The tip of the leather strip struck me near the nipple and I cried out in pain, almost falling over as I let
go of the thong and it slid to the ground at my ankles.
Staggering to one side, gasping, I stepped out of the garment as it lay on the filthy stone floor, grasping
my breast with one hand, looking back at the smiling overseer.
“Yes,” he muttered, moving to one of the workbenches. “You’ll have a steel tag, with your release date
stamped on it, on a piercing through your nipple. Helps us know when you’re to be freed.”
“A..piercing? I wasn’t told about that!” I said, almost defiantly.
He looked up, his stubbled face ugly and angular in the sunlight and shadows of the sweltering hut.
“Too late to back out now. And if you do decide to protest, I’ll have you whipped and put on the horse
before you even get rowing blisters on your hands and feet. Clear?”
I wanted to run, but realised that not only was the place surrounded, but he was much stronger than me
and I was naked. I might get to the road, but without being caught? It was unlikely. I closed my eyes,
almost in despair. Had I really done this for money?
I yelped as he pulled me toward the bench by the arm.
“Do I have to tie you, for the tag? You seem strong?”
He drew his face close, smelt me. “You’re defiant, but the lash will make you obey. So, you’ll take the
tag without much of a word I think.”
I stared at him, watched as he raised a hammer and punch, moved toward a flat plate, maybe six
centimetres by three, attached to an open metal ring. I tried not to react, realising that he intended to
stamp it and place it through my breast. I watched silently, naked and vulnerable as the date was
stamped, noting with dismay that the date was in the future, exactly one year in the future.
I gripped the bench with each hand as I was pierced, watching with gritted teeth as he inserted the ring
and tag and closed it with pliers. I did not cry out, though I could see that leaving me untouched was an
effort for him. Clearly he had been ordered. My breast ached as I gasped, pushing away from the
bench, the large tag on my left nipple feeling awkward and big. I felt his hand rub along my thigh,
toward my pussy as I shuddered.
“You’re strong. Very strong. It will be good to see you row.”
I stared at him, still defiant.
“Put your foot on the anvil. I need to fit your fetters, for the chains onboard.”
The anvil was filthy, He saw the look on my face and laughed.
“Oh don’t worry. This place is clean compared to where you’re going. At least the dirt here is honest
grime from metalworking. You’ll be sitting above a river of shit! HA!” His laugh was evil and intense.
I raised my head, still defiant, and placed a foot on the grimy anvil, hooking my toes around its
curvature as he lifted a hinged steel fetter, coated with brown rust and obviously heavy. I winced as the
steel encased my ankle, the weight already grating against my skin. A ring dangled from the fetter,
destined, I guessed, to carry the chain that would restrain me to the ship that I would row upon.
My heart was pounding now. It was bad enough that the rusted steel fetters grated terribly on my
ankles, bad enough that I had been handcuffed for my walk to the galley. Neither the tag nor the cuffs
had been the greatest indignity however. Sitting on the rough steel chair, having my head and pubic
hair shaved had been obscene. Worse even than the slave accoutrements which had been attached to
my body, the shaving had seemed to bear my soul for all to see. I had held back tears. He had told me
that I was strong, that many broke down during the shaving, He had told me that it prevented lice on
board and that I might not be shaved again for the year, though by halfway through my contract, I
would be craving it as my hair grew back and provided a home for the parasite population. I had tried
not to let the degradation affect me, tried to convince him without words that I was strong and would
be one of the best rowers on board, better than any prisoner. There would be no need to punish me.
“You’ll be forced to offer the mouth. Do it without resistance, or the overseer has every right to have
you punished. Do it badly and he can do the same. You won’t be touched in any other way.”
“Uh? Offer the mouth?” I winced as the weight of the fetter grated against my ankle. I limped along,
trying to avoid letting the weight nudge against my ankle bone.
“You’ll be chained to the bench, “he sighed, as if explaining in simple terms. “You’ll have to suck their
“What? But I’m a volunteer, not a prisoner!”
“It makes no difference. Do it, or you’ll be punished.”
I was sweating now, in fear, anticipation and, even though I tried to deny it, excitement.
My shaven head felt cold as I placed a bare foot on to the wide gangplank that led onto the deck. The
stench was awful, like an open sewer. It had got much worse as I had got closer. I could see movement
through the open oarports, flesh, dark skin. Were they the prisoners? I heard rattling of heavy chains
from inside, some speech in a foreign tongue as I paced slowly up the creaking wooden boards. More
rattling and then the swish and slap of a whip. I flinched instinctively as I heard a desperate cry of
anguish. I reached the upper deck, the cry had faded away. My movement attracted the attentions of
another overseer, in sandals, shorts and t-shirt, smoking by the handrail. Were it not for the long
handled whip that he carried, I would thought of him as just another tourist, though he was well built
I shuddered as he approached as I was pushed forward.
“Another prisoner?” he smiled, intent in his eyes as he said it.
He reached for my tag and pulled it, stretching my breast, as I cried out, wide-eyed and staring, pulling
on the cuffs that held me bound. I gasped as his hand played with my shaven mound, fingers exploring
“No. This is one of Joshua’s finds,” the man who had tagged me said. “But she’ll still offer her lips I’m
sure.” They both laughed as I was pushed toward the wooden steps that led down to the rowing deck.
My first sense was the smell. It got worse, even as my bare feet descended the creaking wooden boards
that led onto the rowing deck. I gagged, unable to cover my mouth, the cuffs still pinning my hands
behind my back. The wood of the deck was slimy underfoot, as if the filth that I could smell had
somehow made its way onto the dark timbers. The light was extremely poor, but I could discern shapes
as my eyes eventually adjusted. As I cleared the end of the stairwell, I gasped.
The light from outside illuminated that part of the deck. Added to this, the effect of the sun shining
through the oarports created points of light across the bodies of the assembled women. I had been
brought onto the bow of the vessel, not at the stern where the cabins that I had seen from the dock had
been. I could never have been prepared for the sight that greeted me as my eyes began to adjust to the
The first thing that struck me were their backs. Most of them were darker skinned, locals I reasoned. A
few were pale white, but all were sweating and clotted with grime, then covered with red welts from
the whip. Many of the heads had been shaven, though all were bowed across the thick wooden oars,
which had been pulled in from the water.
There were two levels of rowers. Something which I should have noted from outside, but which had
not been immediately obvious. A catwalk divided port from starboard. As I slowly walked along it, the
horror of the conditions began to sink in. The women in the lower tier sat on a rough bench, maybe
half a meter wide with scarcely ten centimetres length for their buttocks, so that their rear ends hung off
the back of it. Judging by the condition of them, I guessed immediately that the rowers simply went to
the toilet where they sat. I grimaced, tried to hold back the bile building in my throat. A river of slurry
ran beneath the lower tier, with some of the rowers letting their heels dip in it. I noted too, that their
ankle fetters were fastened as I had suspected, a length of rusted chain running between each ankle and
under the catwalk. The heads of the women on the lower tier were at the height of my waist as I walked
slowly past them.
The women in the upper tier seemed to have a much better life, though they too had seen their share of
the whip. The bench here was longer, so that two women might sit and ply the oar, which was much
longer in their case. Their benches were staggered so that as I walked, I passed a lower tier, then higher
tier, then lower again. They pushed their feet against a horizontal timber, which was supported via an
upright at the deck, the rowers on the lower benches must have moved beneath this as they pulled,
looking up at the filthy legs and feet of the upper rowers. I noted with horror, that the women on the
upper tier had little option but to urinate, and worse, onto the legs and feet of the rowers below. A
white woman, on the upper benches, coughed and gurgled noisily as I walked past. Her body bore the
scars of the lash, her hair had perhaps once been shaved, but now was matted and longer. Welts
decorated her naked back, thighs and breasts. Her body was coated with the grime and slime of the
work, the back of the bench coated with waste. I wanted to be sick.
I hadn’t noticed the wooden spikes that coated part of the deck. The men guiding me barely felt them in
their shoes. I winced as I walked across them, ducking to avoid the large wooden contrivance which
was suspended from the ceiling. As I reached the end of the spike portion, they noticed my discomfort.
“We attach the yoke to rowers, make ‘em stand there for a few days. Makes them obey.”
“S..Stand on the spikes?”
“Yes,” the overseer whispered from behind me. “Row well, and you won’t have to find out what it’s
“Oh this one will be on the horse I dare say,” the rugged man who had chained me chuckled.
I continued to walk. Row upon row of rowers extended into the darkness, some wearing wrist manacles
that had been nailed to the oar. Many of the whiter…volunteers seemed to have these. I noted also that
few of the newer women seemed to be in the upper tiers. I judged that the lower benches must be some
kind of rite of passage, a method of breaking those that might fight back. I grimaced, noting the empty
bench ahead on the right, on the lower level. There was a grille on the floor nearby. I tried not to think
of what conditions might be like down there.
I stared forward, noting a large dark woman sitting at a drum, but my attention was quickly diverted to
the poor creature in agony behind her. She was a local, perhaps in her forties, her body lithe and
muscled from time at the oar. Despite her dark flesh, I could still see the marks that the whip had left
on her breasts and belly. She wore a thick wooden yoke, which held her wrists and neck in place above
the terrible wooden instrument which she sat astride. The dark wood sat on four sturdy legs and was
triangular in profile, so that her thighs were separated by it and her pussy was forced to straddle the
apex of the wood, which, far from being dulled or flattened, formed a perfect apex. I stopped, staring.
They pushed me on toward the empty bench. I gasped, noting now how her legs seemed bowed, as if
pulled downward. As I slowed down, closing with the bench, I noted how a wooden bucket had been
tied with thick cord to her big toes, its weight, and its contents, pulling her down onto the agony of the
wood. Her face was a picture of dull agony, as if the core of her being concentrated on making it
through the ordeal. I stared, as the men behind me laughed.
“So, you like the horse? She has the next shift to do. Another three hours. You’ll do your turn too.”
I turned sharply. “No, I don’t want to. I’ll row well ok?”
They laughed again.
“Get on the bench!”
I looked down. The narrow bench was slimy and covered in filth. Beneath it, the brown water of the
bilge, a rusted length of chain running from underneath the catwalk to the wall, still unfastened.
The end of the lash fell across the back of my knees.
I gasped and moved forward.
“Get on the bench…hurry up!”
I had no option but to comply. I moved slowly, carefully climbing down, knowing that I would have to
step into the foul bilge water. I did so, wincing at the feeling of the muddy liquid, dropping my other
foot into the water, turning as if to sit as they grasped my arms and unlocked the cuffs.
I lowered myself down feeling the bench underneath me, lifting my feet from the vile liquid, noting the
wet stain on the back of the wood, left there by the previous rower. The overseer grabbed the chain, his
fingers dripping into the filthy bilge. Grasping my ankle he threaded it through one and then the other
fetter, locking the chain onto a bracket on the hull. I pushed my feet against the thick timber, watching
myself become one with the ship, my heart pounding. I hooked my toes about the wood, realising that
it would be impossible to row without my heels dipping in the filthy water. I stared forward as he
rubbed his filthy hands on my thighs, smiling.
The stink still assaulted my nostrils. I was naked, chained and isolated, seeing only a sea of whipped,
bloody backs in front of me, together with the woman at the drum and the woman in agony behind her.
I thought with horror, of how I might sit here for a year.
The oar sat in front of me, pulled toward the back of rower ahead so that I could sit down. Now, the
overseer in shorts pulled it toward me. dropping it into my lap. I grunted as the heavy timber, wet from
the salt water outside, and mired with grime, landed on my thighs. The heavy thump against my legs
forced my feet into the bilge water.
“Get used to the oar bitch, it’s yours for the next twelve months.”
As he spoke, I watched another man behind him, a thick set local, watching me intenly, the reaction in
his grubby jeans betraying his wish as he spoke excitedly in a foreign tongue. The two white men
replied, laughing as they did so.
“Looks like you’ll have to offer the mouth sooner than you think, right after the first shift at the oar.”
“Do as the others do, row well and obey and get an easier time. Rebel or fight back, and you will be
I looked up, in awe of the men standing over me, overwhelmed by events.
I heard the swish of the whip before it welted my back. I cried out,,wide eyed and twisting as the tip
curled around my belly.
“Yes…YES…I understand,” I gasped, wincing, my back on fire.
“No, wait!” I said, watching as he raised the whip again, raising my hands as he brought it slashing
across my legs.
I pulled my legs together, watching the red welt rise on my muscled thighs.
“That’s yes OVERSEER!” he shouted.
I paused, groaning, part of me wanting to tell him to go to hell.
I didn’t see the local overseer bring his whip down across my lower back. I yelped loudly and arched
again, my mouth agape.
“Good,” he said quietly, moving the handle of the lash under my chin, holding my head high. I
shuddered instinctively as the leather dangled amidst my stung thighs.
“You’ll learn the discipline of the lash and row well, or else, you’ll be punished.”
Instinctively I looked at the poor wretch on the horse. He followed my gaze, before turning to me once
“Obey, and you may avoid it.”
I nodded as he removed the whip handle.
“Yes Overseer,” I whispered, staring at him, a little defiance in my gaze.
I pulled again, my arm joints aching, thighs bulging with the effort, listening to the collective moan of
the women as they pulled agonisingly against the resistance of the oar in the water, all of the naked,
filthy, welted bodies moving in perfect synchronicity. I leant forward again, lifting and pushing the oar,
in time with the beat of the drum ahead of me. That was the hardest of all, lifting the heavy oar and
pushing it forward before dipping and pulling again, moaning and gasping with the other women as we
used all our effort and weight to move the ship forward in the water. Despite my training, despite my
ability to deal with exertion and pain, I was clearly carrying a little more body weight than the other
rowers, who were lean and wiry, their bellies rippling only with muscle and slight folds of skin as they
leant forward and pulled back. I imagined that I would be like them in a few short weeks as my
reserves of fat and fuel ran out. I reasoned that we must be fed some high carbohydrate mix, but the
evidence around me told me that it was just enough to provide fuel for the vessel’s human engines.
I had been rowing for an hour now and I was drenched with sweat. I bore four new welts across my
back and two across my thighs, and could still feel the fire from the sting. Most of the strokes had been
early on, until I got the rhythm that the rowers were forced to adhere to, in time with the drum. I slowly
became used to timing my movements with the monotonous dull tone of the beat.
BOOM! Push forward with the oar above the water.
BOOM! Dip the oar in the water and make ready for the pull.
BOOM! The pull, where I realised quickly to use the power of my legs, at times extending so far that
even my toes pushed against the board in front of me.
BOOM! Push down on the oar to lift it from the water and ready for the push again. I found this hardest
of all on my shoulders. Somehow, my training had made the efforts of the pull easier on me as I flexed
my leg muscles, but lifting the oar from the water exhausted me.
I had not been able to help but urinate on the bench once as I rowed. I was disgusted as it came, as I
was forced to keep to the rhythm as I did it. I could not move from my position on the bench since it
would attract the whip and no one seemed to notice as the pool of liquid formed about me and dripped
into the bilge. I had not got used to either the smell of the deck, or the fact that my heels dipped into the
foul material beneath my feet. I supposed that over the next twelve months, I would become so.
Most women seemed to find the pull hardest of all. Some grunted as they moved, their heads lolling as
if they were poorly oiled machines. I focussed on the rhythm of the exercise, bathed in sweat,
conscious that one slight deviation from the rhythm would earn another stroke from the cruel whips of
the overseers. They were experts with the long handled instruments, causing agony with a flick of their
wrist as the thick leather snaked out gracefully to slap against the back or thigh of a poor rower. I was
slowly getting becoming accustomed to the sound of the swish in the air, followed by the slap and cry
or gasp of the victim. Instinctively, I would close my eyes each time I heard the sound, praying that my
back had not been targeted for their discipline.
I pulled hard as I heard the footsteps behind me, the motion of the push disturbing the foul bilge water
as my heels moved in it. I glanced up as I finished the motion, grunted as I pushed my weight down on
the oar to raise it from the water. As I moved with the drumbeat, my muscles tense, I realised that I had
slightly missed the beat through not paying attention. I gasped as I tried to push forward, to correct,
tensed as I saw him bring the lash down.
The whip caught me on the upper back, its end actually flicking round to catch my shoulder. My mouth
was open, eyes wide as I pulled, trying to keep pace. I had not expected the second lash across my
belly. It threatened to upset my rhythm entirely as I screamed, head down as I pushed, gasping for air.
It was the dark skinned overseer at my side now, coiling the lash as I ached from its bite. He spoke in a
language I could not understand as I regained the rhythm. As he began to laugh, the man who I had
first seen on deck emerged, as I grunted with the pull again.
“He says that he looks forward to you offering your mouth slave.”
I dared to glance at them as I pulled, the oar banging against the tag at my breast. I watched as they
stared at my stretched body, glistening with sweat. I tried to stare back, but did not want to risk missing
the beat again as the boom of the drum continued.
The overseers smiled as they watched.
“I’m Simon by the way and after Jareth here is finished with you, I think I might want to try those lips.
I grunted with the pull, staring hard at the back of the moving woman in front of me.
“I said CLEAR?” he repeated, slapping the lash lightly against my thigh as I winced.
“UGHHH y..yes overseer Ughhh…”
I closed my eyes as they walked on up the deck, pushing my feet against the board for another pull,
wrapping my toes around the top of it.
The oar shift continued. By now, with the movement of the massive galley, the woman on the horse
was screaming for release. So much so that she was gagged so that her cries would not upset the
rowers’ rhythm. I shuddered as I watched her ordeal, realising that if I did not ‘offer my mouth’ to
these people, I would end up riding that vile instrument. I winced with the effort of the pull, my arms
and legs numb from the exertion, but my heart rate strong. Jareth, who appeared to be tasked with
patrolling this particular section of the deck, took his anger out on the women, whipping
indiscriminately, constantly looking at my naked body, which was still reasonably clean, compared to
the others. I could tell that he looked forward to the end of the shift, when he was sure that my lips
would be around his cock. Would I have to do it? Surely if I said no, they would not force me to ride
that damned horse. Yet, I knew that it was hopeless, that I would indeed have to do it, offer my mouth
like the galley slave that I had truly become within a few hours of sitting on the vile wooden bench.
I gasped, breath tight in my chest. I was sweating so much that I was starting to become dehydrated, as
stars began to appear in front of my eyes. Hours had passed. I had received several more lashes from
Jareth, who it seemed, now specialised in whipping me across the thigh and belly, reasoning perhaps
that these softer parts of the body made the resultant sting of the lash more painful, yielding more
results in the longer term. I could not fault his reasoning, as thick red welts across my legs and body
bore testament to the number of times that he felt that I could do better. A muttered word as he walked
past and a movement of his hand to his crotch indicated that the shift was almost over. If I would get
water, it might almost be worth having to give him something in return. At least the rest of my body, it
seemed, would be left untouched.
My head lolled backward as I pulled, arms and legs shaking, mouth open as I gasped for water.
“Lower tier… Stop!”
The shout was gratefully received. The first three hour shift was over. The collective moan of relief
from the rowers just above the bilge was a cry of exhaustion and the desperate need of almost broken
bodies to stop. The upper level continued to row as I fell across the oar, my feet falling full into the
bilge water. I didn’t seem to care about the filth anymore as my exhausted body found some respite. I
watched the others pull their oars in, covered with water and spray. The whip slapped across my
buttocks as I had leaned forward followed by a scream in foreign tongue. I had not pulled in the oar.
The lash fell again and again across my ass and lower back as I screamed, pulling at the thick wood.
“I...I didn’t know. AHHHhH..PLEASE..I didn’t know. YAHHHH!”
The strokes ceased as the wet oar was pulled in and I fell shivering across it.
As I lay across the timber, breathing heavily, trying to recover from the pain that wracked my lower
body, he pushed the handle of the instrument that had dealt the blows under my chin. He shouted at me
in a language that I did not understand as he slowly raised my head. He pushed the handle until my
upper body was elongated to an awkward sitting position, my sweating breasts rising and falling as I
panted with exertion. His hand flashed forward to grab the tag at my nipple, pulling it savagely as I
screamed and raised my hands instinctively to his wrists. This simple action seemed to make him
incessant with rage as he backed off, tongues of spittle flying from his mouth as he raised the whip. I
cowered, trying to slink further along the rough wooden bench, which was slick with sweat and my
own urine, stretching the rusted chains and fetters that pulled at my ankles, as the whip came down
again and again.
I remembered receiving seven very hard strokes across my body, one particularly accurate stroke
striking the very tag that he had pulled, creating a sting of agony in my breast as I screeched, hoping
for respite from the fire of the lash. I heard words from the language that he spoke again, but this time
in a familiar voice.
I dared to look up as the whipping abruptly stopped. I was shivering as I stared into Joshua’s eyes, as
he in turn spoke sternly with Jareth. For the first time, Jareth no longer appeared to be the monster with
the whip that had towered over me a moment before. He nodded his head in understanding, bowing
apologetically to Joshua, as if he had carried out some major infraction against the rules.
“J...Joshua,” I gasped. He had never been kind to me in the brief time that I had known him, but if I had
been asked to offer him my mouth at that time, I would have done it without question. He had stopped
the whipping after all.
“Justine. I see you have started well on your first day,” he said sarcastically, adding that characteristic
smile that I had last seen at Jennifer’s party. Jennifer, I recalled, if she could see me now. It all seemed
such a world away from here.
“Jareth was a little overzealous on your first day. He tells me that you were to offer the mouth to him,
He said it in such a matter of fact way. I was disgusted yet amazed that such a place could exist, that I
was in it, that we were talking about me servicing this man with a whip in such a blasé fashion. I
nodded, still shuddering and sore from the beating that I had received as I cowered at the side of the
“Well, you will not have to do that today. I have informed him that he will not get the gift of your
mouth at all. I am sure you are pleased.”
I began to sit up, delicately, head bowed.
“Yes, quite. Though he tells me that you raised your hands to him. You do realise that such behaviour
is unacceptable onboard. Though you are new, so we will restrict the spikes or indeed the horse until
I shuddered, staring, not knowing how to react.
“You will have your wrists chained to the oar however…oh and another thing…”
He nodded at Jareth, a non-verbal communication which he had perhaps given thousands of times in
the past, a message which imparted his order in combination with an indication of his power and
influence. Jareth, without mercy or warning, brought the lash down across my back. I fell forward as it
slapped across my flesh, breath knocked out of me, a dry throated cry my only response as I fell over
the wet oar. Grunting, I moved my feet in the bilge and began to raise my head slowly.
“Call me Master, slave.”
Whether by luck or cruel design, the chaining of my wrists to the oar had added a vicious torment to
the actions that I was required to undertake whilst rowing. During the pull, when my legs and feet
pushed against the board in front of me, when my naked body stretched to its full extent to pull back on
the oar, the chain from my wrists brushed against my breast, stroking the tag on each pass. With each
successive pull, the movement against my still swollen nipple was aggravating, causing ever increasing
pain and discomfort. I rowed hard, conscious that if the overseer decided to lash me across the breasts
and strike the tag, the pain would be unbearable and I would lose all rhythm. I stared at the wooden
horse, now empty, conscious that a loss of rhythm might cause me to be perched there. I closed my
eyes, concentrating on remaining invisible – a good slave, gritting my teeth as the chain grated against
the tag once more.
Unlike the fetters that I wore at my feet, the wrist fetters had been padlocked into place, the chain
between them approximately forty centimetres long. A thick nail at the centre link secured them to the
oar, meaning that if I had to pull the oar in, I had to move awkwardly along the bench with it. Such a
simple change to my conditions made every action hell. Even eating the hard biscuit that they fed us,
drinking water from the ladle that came along the deck, were made more difficult since my hands were
no longer free.
Joshua had not stayed long below decks, though I realised that he must still be on board, since we had
not docked anywhere. I neared the end of the third shift of rowing, though could not spare time for a
glance through the narrow oarport to determine where we might be. Jareth and Simon had swapped
their responsibilities in terms of the areas that they patrolled, perhaps through Joshua’s intervention.
Simon seemed less cruel, though no less efficient, using the whip only when required on his charges,
and then, usually across their sweating backs. He too watched me as I rowed.
I gasped for air as the shift ended, wasting no time in pulling in the oar, grunting as the steel manacle
bit my wrists. I had no option but to sit close to the overseers’ walkway as I pulled it in, my elbow
upon it. Simon’s whip handle rapped it sharply as I moved quickly away.
“Stay off the walkway slave. Wrist chains make it difficult eh?”
I nodded. “Yes, Overseer.”
“M…May I ask a question Overseer?” I stammered, fearing that he might welt me across the breast tag.
He nodded his assent.
“How might I have the wrist chains removed?”
“Good slaves are rewarded. Those who are pleasing are rewarded more quickly. You understand?”
I nodded, slowly raising my head. Turning to him and opening my mouth in an o shape, as sweat
dripped into my eyes from my hairless head.
I had used my mouth to please men before. I could remember the athlete in Paris and my old coach in
London. The difference then was that I got some modicum of satisfaction from them during the
activity. Moving my head backward and forward, while sucking the rough white skin of Simon’s large
erection, created stirrings in my own loins, as if he or indeed I should be pleasuring myself. There
seemed little chance of that, even had I been able to overcome the humiliation that I felt, as a naked
chained and whipped galley slave. I glanced up at him, my mouth filled with his cock, gagging as it
struck the back of my throat, his rough thrusting motion threatening to choke me. He tensed, moving
uncontrollably as he began to reach climax. I gripped the thick oar, unable to move my chained hands
very far, sitting awkwardly on the bench in an attempt to give my head enough room to move. I could
sense the movement of my breasts in time with the fluid motion as he pushed faster and faster, griping
my bald head as he forced himself to cum. I could sense the stares of the two rowers above and behind
me, watching as I offered my mouth to the overseer.
I gagged as he pulled his member away, gripping it and grunting as he masturbated, the hot liquid
erupting into my face and breasts as he gasped in relief. I closed my eyes, and pulled back, my mouth
numb from the exertion, as I was covered with the spray of his seed. I bowed my head as he continued
to pump the last of it out. I winced as the droplets landed on my head. I turned slowly, gripping the oar
as the liquid slowly dripped from my nipple into the bilge. The desperate nature of my situation hit
home once more. I was but a naked slave, destined to row amidst the stink and filth, while my wrists
and ankles were chained and my mouth was used merely to sate the lusts of the overseers.
“Here, you deserve it,” he said, putting his cock away, back in his trousers.
He threw the hard biscuit that we fed on into my sweating lap. With difficulty, I moved my body and
legs amidst the rattle of heavy chains, so that I might grasp the food.
“That will be the first of many. Do you understand?”
I nodded slowly, tearing away at the food, as crumbs spilled onto the translucent fluid dripping down
me. He moved to the side, lifting a deep steel ladle from the water trough that emerged during each
break and offered it to me. I drank deeply, wanting to use some of the water to wash the filth from my
body, but guessing that the overseer would frown upon such actions.
Instinctively, I tried to move my hands to support the ladle, as the chains rattled and I remembered how
cruelly I had been tethered to the heavy oar. I grimaced. The inability to move freely, to remain bonded
so closely to the oar, with my feet chained above the disgusting bilge, became maddening after a while
and I longed for release, from the wrist chains at least.
As the days passed, I learned to become one with the rhythm of the oar and ignore the filth and stench
of the captivity and slavery I was forced to endure. My subconscious mind became fixated on one
single objective, that of removing the vile rusted chains that held me to the oar. Simon had used my
mouth every few shifts for the first four days, even waking me from my fitful slumber across the bench
at night, so much so that I developed a painful swollen sore on one side of my mouth. This, it appeared,
made him choose another – a new prisoner further down the deck, and after the first week of toil, I had
become little more than another galley slave to him. He had used the whip cruelly and often, as he
correctly interpreted that I was pulling too fast for the rhythm in an attempt to impress him.
I welcomed the rest periods now as relief from the work, as drenched in sweat I fell across the oar. The
days of constant toil, with the wrist chains continuing their tortuous brush against my tagged nipple,
had desperately inflamed the area and despite the generous coverage of congealed sweat and dirt, I
could see that my breast was sore and reddened. Indeed, the pain with each pull grew every day.
“No. WAIT! NO!”
I turned my head slightly, having been fed during the rest period. The movement caused me a muscular
pain in my back, the result I guessed of being unable to properly stretch or warm down between shifts
of rowing. One of the Europeans, who I had passed so many days ago in the upper tier, was having her
ankle chain pulled through the rings on her fetters, even as Jareth, the cruel overseer who had formerly
been in my area, begin to pull her from the wooden bench. The two women that sat behind me merely
stared downward, both exhausted -locals who were obviously prisoners, probably wondering why
these pale skinned women would ever volunteer for this hell.
“Please…not the horse!”
I gasped, staring back now as they pushed her up the deck, her filthy feet, trying to stop the momentum
of the movement as their strength overwhelmed her meagre resistance. I reasoned that this might have
been the first time she had walked in months. Her auburn red hair was growing back, but like the
others, was matted and dirty. She was tall, lithe and thin, with long legs. Had she been clean and well
dressed, I might have guessed that she was a muscular model, or perhaps a fellow athlete. She was
terrified as she stared at the terrible contraption that lay ahead of her.
I didn’t see the lash snake out until it was too late.
“Eyes FRONT slave!”
The whip curled around my upper body, lashing me cruelly, right across my tagged nipple. I screeched,
writhing terribly, instinctively pulling at my wrist chains in an attempt to touch it, cover it. I cried out
again, staring at my breast. The whip had caught the tag and drawn blood. I fell across the oar in agony.
They yoked her first, placing her wrists and neck in heavy wood which weighed against her collarbone.
Tears had formed in my eyes from the lash, and I cried, as they lifted her, screaming, into place, as they
placed her legs across the apex. It didn’t seem to hurt at first, but the fear in her eyes, as she realised
how it would feel with the passing hours, was reason enough to pity her plight. Sweat and dirt covered
her flesh, further graced by the criss-cross decorations of old and new lash marks across her thighs and
belly and breasts. Her tag jiggled with each movement of her muscled body.
I watched as they tied the thick string of the heavy wooden bucket to her big toes, hearing her grunt as
they let it dangle, as she moved her feet to try and pull at the weight that dragged her down onto the
apex. She said nothing, as if she was resigned to her fate, as if she knew that whatever she did or said
now mattered little and would indeed only make matters worse. She made no sound until they dropped
the first piece of brick into the bucket. She yelped in agony as more and more hunks loose masonry
were dropped from the overseer’s grasp. I blinked as each piece banged in place, seeming to drag her
bodily, forcibly, further against the wooden horse, splitting her pussy wide. By the fifth drop, she
screeched, eyes wide as her long legs quivered with the weight, her shrill cry sounding throughout the
I looked away, down at my legs and feet, covered in the mire of the galley and my own sweat. They
would keep her there for at least three hours -as she treid to balance as the galley plied relentlessly
through the waves, as the apex bit into her, every minute adding to the pain as her own bodyweight,
albeit reduced by the toil of the oar, weighed her down onto the agony of the horse. I tried not to watch
her, but could only feel sorry for her as we began to row again, as my body creaked into motion, as my
eyes shut with the snap and slash nearby of the whip on some poor woman’s back or legs.
One of the local women behind me had collapsed during the shift. This misfortune had however helped
the poor wretch on the horse, who, only halfway through her punishement, had been given a reprieve
and been chained above and behind me. Despite the mistreatment she had suffered, a few lashes across
her back were all it took to have her rowing again, even though I could hear her weeping as she pulled,
undoubtedly due to the ordeal that she had undergone.
Simon had been watching me since I had offered my mouth. The sore on my face, that I could feel with
my tongue seemed to have put him off, though I noted that he seemed to use the lash on me less and
less as the shifts passed. I could see myself that I was fitter than most of the prisoners at least. Indeed,
the only lashes that I had suffered in recent days, were to inform me that I was rowing ‘ahead’ of the
I rowed on, finding the rhythm easy now, stretching my sweating body with the pull, easing into the
lifting of the oar and moving forward, always aware of how close the lash might be. I had learned that
having my rear end hanging over the narrow bench was a godsend, allowing me to urinate or defecate
into the bilge as I rowed, while trying to keep my feet away from the woman doing the same not far in
front of me. There was no way to avoid the spray or solid matter from above in many cases as I knew
that objecting to it would simply earn me bloody stripes across my body, or worse.
Simon watched closely as I eased into the rhythm during the first hour of the next shift, as I tried to
ignore the cries and moans of those who suffered the lash. I shuddered during the pull, as he closed,
unfurling the whip.
“You were an athlete slave?”
“Y..Uhhhh..Yes Overseer,” I grunted, pushing down with the movement of the oar.
“I can see that you were. Your body has accustomed well to the labour. Your problem will be your feet
and hands. They are unused to hard work and will blister in the coming days.”
I nodded, afraid that such an eventuality would earn me the lash.
“Deal with that, and keep them as clean as possible. If you fail because of blistered soles, I’ll have you
stand on the spikes for two shifts.”
He knelt beside me, breathing in the scent of my sweat.
“And if blistered hands mean that you let go of that oar. I’ll see you perched on that horse bitch. You
I gasped in terror as he rose, pulling back the whip and slashing it across my belly.
As I screeched, trying to hold the rhythm, he bellowed again.
“I said, understand?”
After a few days, they used water and even hoses to clean the bilges and hose us down. Despite the
cold water I was relieved that at last, with the build up of sweat and dirt, I was being cleaned. As I
gasped at the cold water being cast and hosed about my flesh, I wondered if this happened weekly or
whenever the stench got too much for the overseers. Either way, this mild comfort was the first that I
had experienced since my time on the wretched ship had started. I tried not to dwell on thoughts of
regret; regret that I had effectively sold myself as a slave, to be tagged at the breast and whipped like an
animal, forced to offer my mouth to these vile men. I did not realise however that worse was to follow.
I had wondered a few times at the statements made with regard to my not being ‘touched’. It seemed
that the volunteers were exempt from some of the worst depredation that was carried out on the
prisoners, as they were dragged from their positions toward the back of the ship. I wanted to protest, to
scream that they couldn’t do such things, but I knew that I would earn further strokes of the whip and
perhaps even time on that vicious horse. I had wondered what had happenend to the woman that had
been removed from the oar behind me, but did not dare ask.
At night, during the moments of silence, punctuated by moans or creaks of the anchored ship, I cried –
distraught at the realisation of what I had done, having condemned myself to a year of desperate labour
as a filthy slave under the whip, subject to the whims of the overseers. Equally quickly however,
realisation dawned with regard to my plight. I had little choice, chained as I was hand and foot. My
goal, I quickly realised, was to please them, my every action directed at having the manacles removed
from my reddening wrists, to prevent further scraping and consequent pain to my breast. How simple
the concerns of a galley slave were, I reasoned, simply to labour with backbreaking effort, while
striving to keep the overseer happy and remove the chains from my wrists. Even removal of the ankle
chains would have been a godsend, but that would not happen for a year. I had seen the bloated and
wretched ankles of the longer term slaves, and the damage that the rusted steel had done to them. I
reasoned that the marks would stay with me forever. For years, I would be reminded of my labours
when I wore sandals, or walked on the beach.
The redhead behind me seemed to have gathered some strength since her short ordeal and began to row
powerfully. At night, during whispered conversations, I learned that she was a New Zealand athlete
called Kim, who in a similar manner to myself had been convinced to join the galley for many
thousands of pounds. I learned that the operation seemed to be a worldwide network. In fact, she was
convinced that hidden cameras recorded most of the rowing on deck for the gratification of some
mysterious owner who she was convinced ‘got off’ on watching us suffer. Kim had suffered greatly
during the ordeal of rowing here yet held great hopes, since in a few short weeks she would be
released, or so she believed. She had been keeping a tally of days in her head and figured that she did
not have long to go. In the pale light before sleep as we whispered to each other in hushed
conversations, amidst the stares of the native women, I noted her thin muscled frame, the rough red
flesh on her soles and hands and the criss cross welts across her body. I tried to picture how I would
look in a year. I had no concept then, of what lay ahead.
The daily labour of rowing continued as I discovered two immediate disadvantages. I was fit and
survived the first few weeks quite well but it became obvious that rowing as a slave was completely
unlike training of any sort. My training periods before had rest weeks built in, so that my body could
undergo the physiological changes that were required as the hard running, swimming and cycling took
their toll. Here, my routine was the same each day, each week and presumably each month to come.
There were no rest and recovery weeks, only the promise of the whip if I decided to change my routine.
My naked body was decorated with welts that I had received, while my breast, though not as swollen as
before, now had a bloody red welt where the whip had struck hard days before.
Each day became the focus of backbreaking rowing, as I grunted and let the rhythm of the oar become
second nature to me. With each stroke I looked up at Kim’s pushing feet and muscled legs above me,
hearing her grunt with her new partner, feeling the spray of urine as they relieved themselves as
required. I tried not to let the thoughts of panic engulf me as the fact that I would be chained here and
subject to misuse, for the next year.
As the days passed, I slowly realised that Simon had been right to warn me. The soles of my feet,
subject to the daily pressure of pushing against filthy beams that formed the hull of the ship, had begun
to blister. My hands had fared a little better, Though blistered, they did not stop me rowing, the main
issue seemed to be with the sole of my upper left foot. Pushing constantly against the dirty beam with
each stroke had blistered the skin and I raised my foot up, pushing instead with the heel, gasping
desperately at times when urine from the upper tier splashed against the raw skin.
The slight change in my rowing position brought additional problems as over the next few days the
degree of rhythm that I had begun to find, slipped. The whip made short work of my slack motions as I
screeched with the burning pain of the lash. Beneath the sweat, as I rowed now, I could see that weeks
of rowing with food enough only to provide sufficient fuel, were slowly taking their toll as I became
lean and muscled. The constant brushing of the chain against my breasts even became a dull ache
rather than a repeated pain. Was I becoming a true slave? I considered the dreadful thought, numb to
the agonies, surviving just enough to pull the oar and feel the whip across my body. Ugly red welts
crossed my thighs and belly, where the overseers had encouraged me during the pull, my gasp or cry
their reward. It seemed that my aching, thinning body was now either covered in sweat or shivering
during the rest periods, the ache of the labour and the lash ever present. The training that I had
undergone for years helped, and I was fit enough to take the punishment, yet I wondered how long for.
As the days turned into weeks and the sole of my left foot worsened as it became swollen, I watched
women ride the horse; its ever present threat a reminder of what might happen should I falter or let the
injury on my foot detract from the efficiency of my rowing. In each case, they struggled, trying in vain
to defy the apex, their toes pulled agonisingly downward by the weight of the bucket, almost sucking
their loins onto the aching wood. Some screamed after three hours, others groaned agonizingly, barely
conscious for much of the ordeal. All screeched in pain as they were taken off and returned to the oar. I
tried to keep my feet clean though the task was impossible chained as I was to the oar with my heels in
I reasoned that I had been at the oar for a period of around six weeks when we made port. I had no idea
where in the world we were. My nights now were filled with nightmare. I dreamed that I was whipped,
made to stand on the spikes, made to ride the horse, my screams of agony filling the deck. I dreamt it
again and again, only to waken shivering and sweating in my awkward position on the bench, my
chains rattling and pulling at my limbs. In those moments, as I stared down at my thinning, filthy body
in the pale light, I despaired, feelings of utter desperation threatening to overwhelm me. In those
moments, I realised how terrible the life of a slave must have been and prayed that I might find a way
through this ordeal for which I had actually volunteered.
I used the free time to rest, lying back as far as I could beneath the filthy feet and legs of the rowers
above, moving my limbs to avoid the bodily function that took place around me. I had even got used to
these myself, simply using the bilge when I needed to, cleanliness or indeed privacy a luxury of the
free and unchained. They would wash us soon I hoped. My attempts to get Simon to release my wrist
chains had come to nothing. Indeed, my mouth had only been used twice in the last few weeks. I
reasoned the painful sore that I felt at the side of my mouth had something to do with it, but of course I
could not be sure. Galley slaves did not normally ask the deck overseer why they did not use their
mouth. Oh what had I become? A deck whore? I closed my eyes, trying not to fall into despair.
I looked up, past the stretching legs and chained ankles of the slaves behind me, toward the deck.
Someone was moving up there, I could hear footsteps and the distinctive click of heels…a woman? The
steps moved around, combined with laughing as they moved to the steps that descended down into the
I could hear the heels click as well as the footfalls of the overseers. I was terrified to look behind me
lest I might attract the attention of one of them and receive the lash.
“So where is Justine?”
My heart missed a beat. They were looking for me?
The voices were close now. Joshua, and a voice I recognised.
“Oh my God, look at the state of her back – the whip has taken its toll. I hardly recognise her, she has
lost a lot of weight.”
I gasped as I turned my head slightly.
The whip landed squarely across my lower back, leaving a welt, as I screeched and shook my head.
The overseer had made the most of the room he had for the swing as I writhed in agony, the rattle of
chains accompanying my movement.
“Oh…you didn’t have to do that,” I could hear Jennifer say.
“She didn’t have permission to speak,” grunted Simon in return.
“Her back is a real mess. How does she row?”
“She is one of the best.”
“I knew she would be. She is strong and fit. Not a prisoner or in debt like the others. I knew she would
relish the challenge,” Jennifer said.
I could hear Joshua laugh now.
“Yes. It would appear my little chat with her netted us a fine slave. Her price is worth the effort.”
“I told you Joshua. She would vounteer. I told you.”
I flashed a stare at Jennifer, unsure whether to speak. She was as I remembered her, short, plastered
with make up, wearing a dress and high heels as she looked down at the naked, filthy, rowing slave
“Yes Clare. I’m afraid I know all about this ship. I recommended you to Joshua. How do you feel? You
have my permission to answer.”
“You…knew?” I croaked. “you knew that I would be put in chains and whipped like this, above a river
of ….of filth?”
“Yes Clare. As did you. Did Joshua not explain?”
“Not…how bad it would be.”
I was angry and defiant, covered in lashes and filth and Jennifer, who I thought had been a friend was
“She is a fine rower. In six months, if she doesn’t break or rebel, we have the makings of a good slave,
powerful at the oar. She was fit before she came here and will become stronger.”
“And,” he added as I glanced up. “She offers the mouth without question. The horse was enough to
“She has ridden?” Jennifer said, noting the look of shock on my face.
“Oh no, merely the threat has been enough.”
“Oh she must ride, and while I am here.”
I looked at her. “Jennifer. No. Why would you say that?” My voice grated, my heart pounding. “I
haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Can she be put on the horse Joshua?”
I heard myself cry out, saw Simon release his hold on the furled lash as the cruel leather dropped to the
filthy deck. I could feel his evil smile as he considered adding further stripes to my raw back should I
protest too much.
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