Dark Victory
by Cindy

Parts 1 - 4

The young lady stood silently on the deck of the ship, Titania. Her only
movement was the soft swaying of her body in rhythm with the gentle rocking
of the ship, and the slow clenching of her hands around the rail. Her
strange, topaz colored eyes caught the sun and seem to blaze in it's glare.
Her golden skin glistened as it reflected the light shining from the water,
and her auburn hair glowed with the same intensity as her eyes.

To the men of the Indefatigable, she was a spellbinding sight. As the frigate
was slowly eased into her berth at Portsmouth, every man aboard stopped in
the midst of their duty to watch the solitary figure. Even the intractable
Captain Pellew stood just as entranced as his men. Everyone noted that
nothing seem to move around her, even the soft breeze that was gently
rippling the water. They each held their breath, as if waiting for something
to happen. Suddenly, she moved.

She tilted her head a little to the side as if listening for something. There
over the city, a great cheer rose, her hands released the railing and a
grimace of sorrow, pain and soulnumbing rage crossed her features. Then she
roughly yanked the chain she was wearing from about her neck and flung it
into the water. A low, heartwrenching sob escaped from her lips; and as she
turned around to run into her cabin, a single tear shone in the sunlight.

The sob seem to hang in the air before being slowly carried out to sea by the
breeze. After her disappearance, the men looked about them. It felt as if
they were awakening from a trance; they stared at each other warily, with
some of the awe still on their faces. Though none would admit it to the
other, they each had to blink the moisture out of their eyes.

"Back to work, the lot of you!" bellowed Pellew, and like the lash of a whip,
they all fell into motion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That night Horatio lay in his hammock, his mind thinking back to the sight of
the young woman. He knew that everyone's mind was on the young beauty and her
astounding grief. Though they each tried to hide it, being the manly sailors
that they were, he knew the truth. He could tell by the way everyone was
subdued tonight, even the piper could play nothing but melancholy laments.

"But why?" he thought, "I saw her visage clearly. She has a mouth made for
laughing, I'll bet there are even dimples. That is a face usually filled with
joy and humor, but, now, why the desolation and despair I saw upon it? She
contemplated the water as if she would have liked to have flung herself and
not the locket into it."

"And the rage, Dear God, the rage," he continued," never have I witnessed the
like. Such an ugly look upon so sweet a face. I wonder what could have been
the source of such raw emotion?"

"Horatio? Are you awake?" a pair of sapphire eyes shone in the candlelight.

"Aye, Archie. Could you not sleep either?"

"No. I keep thinking about the girl on the Titania," Archie Kennedy replied,
then added with a small smile, "and not in my usual course, either."

"She has been on my mind this night as well, I cannot help but wonder what
could cause such...such...emotion," Horatio supplied with a small shrug as he
searched for the right word to explain the force of her feelings.

"Oh, Horatio, many things can cause such emotions, I know first hand; but you
are right, it seems...somehow...misplaced upon her," he shrugged
apologetically,"I cannot explain it better."

"I understand, Archie. But I must say, even in the depths of my own despair
upon the Justinian, I don't think my feelings were half as strong as that. Of
course, it could just be us seeing it upon the face of a woman, that has us
all coiled so."

"What do you mean?"

"Think, Archie, we credit women as being the fairer sex. We are brought up to
see them as ornaments. They are there to comfort us, and not to burden us
with their own emotions. They are raised to be obliging and cheerful to their
lord and master. In other words, we do not see the true side of them or we
pretend not to notice."

"I believe I get your meaning, Horatio," Archie replied thoughtfully," We do
not often see such unguarded emotions upon a woman, so when we do it's a
bit... disconcerting, to say the least."

"True, but does that make it any less real?"

They both sat in silence for a moment, contemplating the revelation. When
suddenly Horatio burst out, " D@mn and blast it, this is going to drive me
mad, it's like starting a book in the middle. We must find out more...mayhap,
we could be of assistance."

*****************************************

He watched her from the shadows, his eyes avariciously devouring her every
move. He gently fingered the scar that cut across his left eye and cheek. A
cold, evil smile settled on his mouth as he thought of revenge.

"Soon, my beauty, soon" he whispered hoarsely," you shall get exactly what's
coming to you."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Kat? Kat? Katrinia Abigail Campbell, are you listening to me?" A voice
soaked in exasperation boomed from the doorway.

Kat smiled mischievously," Sorry, Da, I was wool gathering. What is it you
need, sir?"

Captain Augustus Campbell smiled at his youngest child fondly," I asked,
lass, if you were going to join me for dinner aboard the Indefatigable.
Captain Pellew has graciously extended an invitation for us to dine with him
and a few of his officers, And I would like to know how I should reply."

"Of course, by all means, accept," Her dimples cut deep holes into her cheeks
as she added," after all, with the war, my chances of meeting handsome young
sailors are slowly diminishing. I shall enjoy it whilst I can. Besides, you
know how I long to be the center of attention."

"You vain? Never!" Captain Campbell laughed and patted her affectionately on
the head, then he regarded her solemnly,"Kat? Are you all right, lass? I
could decline if you don't feel up to it? Don't feel you need to humor your
old da, I don't want to push you into doing too much too soon."

Her topaz eyes clouded for a moment as she rubbed the small scar across her
collarbone," I'm fine, Da, really. I think it best if I try to act
normal...besides it's over. Yesterday, it finally ended. I'm free."

Then her eyes brightened once more, and she rushed to her father to place a
kiss upon his weather-beaten cheek,"Da, I'm free, and I shall enjoy myself
once again...without fear."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Her laugh rang out, causing every man in the room to smile and chuckle
indulgently. Her sparkling wit and knowledgeable conversation on the
seafaring life endeared her to the older gentlemen, while her gentle beauty,
sweet smile and playful nature made her popular with the younger officers.

"To answer your question, Sir Edward," She told him with a dimple-deep
smile," I practically took my first steps aboard The Titania. Da used to take
my mother, brother, sister and I with him when he had the opportunity. That,
of course, was before the war, and families are now no longer able to travel
on board Navy vessels."

"So you'll miss sailing then, Miss Campbell?" asked Archie, who was clearly
enraptured with her, as he had not taken his eyes off of her during the
course of the meal.

"Please Mr. Kennedy, it's Kat," She replied," and it's not exactly the
sailing I'll miss, but being with my father. And, of course, the memories and
some of the places we've been, I think I am rather lucky now to get the
chance to sail aboard her once more, as it is. I suppose I do have The
Admiralty to thank."

"Why's that, Miss Kat?"Mr. Bracegirdle queried.

"They gave the special dispensation that allowed me to come to England with
my father this time. I understand, they weren't too keen on the idea; but
with the unrest in the islands, they could hardly leave me to fend for
myself. Especially since I do not have a living relation in Kingston. No,
better I come back to England and stay with my sister and her husband."

"You must miss Jamaica horribly," Horatio spoke up at last,"more so, when
compared to the dark, dreary days of England."

"Well, Mr. Hornblower, I will miss quite a lot about my homeland, the weather
most definitely being one of them,"Kat replied, her eyes dimmed a little,"but
I think I needed a change, and I can't wait to see Sybella again. Besides, I
cannot very well expand my social horizons on a small island."

"Oh, and are you planning on taking in the social scene, Miss Kat?" asked
Pellew with a small lift of his brow.

"No, Sir Edward," Kat replied with a mischievous grin," I plan on being
Captain Campbell's true daughter, and take London in a well-planned siege,
sir. The beau monde shall fall at my feet in complete surrender."

They all laughed at this sally, and conversation once more droned on about
all that is nautical and life to these men.

**************************************

"Well, Miss Kat, this is the point where the ladies would leave us gentlemen
to our port, but considering you are the only lady present and we cannot bear
to part with your company just yet, I say hang convention. Would you care to
stay and join us? I have some sherry." Pellew invited.

"Sir Edward, I would be delighted to stay and since we are hanging
convention, mayhap I'll join you in a glass of port instead," Kat said with a
regal bow of her head," I always wanted to know what it was about port that
made men have to drink it in privacy. Does it loosens one's inhibition? Or,
is it just the tongue?"

The men looked at her in shock. A woman...drink port? Kat looked at them
archly for a moment, taking in their unblinking stares of horror, then with
an impish smile she teased, "Well-a-day, I suppose it's a good thing I didn't
ask for a cigar."

Archie was the first to recover, he chuckled appreciatively, "Gentlemen, I
think she well and truly had us. Miss Kat, no offense, but you are a caution.
Poor London will not know what to make of you."

"Why, thank you, Mr. Kennedy." She said effusively, once more aiming that
killer smile in his direction. He groaned internally, he was well and truly
lost. Cupid had hit his mark.

Horatio looked at him searchingly for a moment, noticing Archie looked as if
he had had the anchor dropped on him, then smiled.

"Poor Archie," he thought.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So, Archie, what do you think of our Miss Kat?" Horatio teased, later that
night.

"Our Miss Kat, Horatio?" Archie asked trying not to rise to the bait," She's
very pretty, quite charming. Yes, I had an enjoyable evening, all in all."

"Good God, man!" Horatio exclaimed, "How dare you pretend to be nonchalant!
There were times when I quite feared for her virtue."

"What in the world are you going on about?"

"Archie, I swear, the look on your face every time she blew on her soup. I
thought I'd have to nail you to your seat so you wouldn't attack her."

"Oh, she was quite safe...then," suddenly, he grinned, "but if I had to watch
her eat another strawberry. My God, Horatio, never had I envied fruit until
that moment."

Horatio laughed, he couldn't help himself, he could picture Archie issuing a
challenge to the strawberry! When he told him as much, Archie laughed and
shook his head.

"What do you say in that situation, I wonder," He said playing along, "Unhand
that berry, Madame! It is unfit to touch your lips and, therefore, I demand
satisfaction from such an unworthy fruit. How dare it tempt you to partake of
it. Oh, vile villain!"

Horatio leaned against the rail of the ship, holding his sides, "Stop,
Archie! This is too much!"

Archie sobered," Horatio? She was far different from what we saw when we
first docked, but I cannot, do not, see that rage as a woman's passing fancy."

"Neither do I. There was something in her eyes when I mentioned Jamaica, I
wonder what it is?"

"Aye, I noticed too. Horatio, I'm determined to help her, whatever it is,"
Archie said softly, but with such feeling that Horatio glanced over at him,
once more consideringly.

**********************************************

"No! No! Nooooooooooo, please, Remie, No!" Kat thrashed about her bed, as
nightmare images tore through her mind. She raised her hands as if warding
off a blow and came in contact with human flesh.

"Kat!" Campbell shook his daughter, "Kat, wake up, lass. It's all right,
dearling. It's your da, girl. Come on, love, wake up!"

Kat opened her eyes and threw herself into her father's arms and cried with
deep racking sobs. Her father held her trembling body and rocked her gently.

"Shhhhhh, lassie, shhhhh, tis alright." He soothed, "Damn, I knew I shouldn't
have taken you out!"

"Oh, Da," she gasped, "not your fault. It must have been the mention of
Jamaica that brought it back. Da, will I ever be free of these dreams? Will I
ever be free of Remie Dumont?"

"He's dead, lass, they hanged him yesterday."

"I know, I know, but he's alive in my head and he's very much alive in my
body."

"What do you mean, Kat?"

"I carry his child, Da...I carry my traitorous, murdering husband's child."

To be continued...