Mediterranean Sea, early March 1565
The Ottoman merchant ship didn't stand a chance. The Knights' Galley was better armed and its crew outnumbered the Turkish one. So the Ottoman captain opted for escape. Yet he could only rely on his sails, whereas the Galley was propelled by oars as well.
Serena stood on deck, clinging to a rope. Shouting men were swarming around her.
"What are you doing here?" one of the sailors yelled. "Get lost! Let us do our jobs."
Serena didn't like it below deck. The air was hot, humid and smelled of salt, algae and the stored spices. The mixture made her queasy. She obeyed only because the frantic activity on deck and the prospect of the battle scared her.
Serena climbed down the narrow stairs and stopped dead. Two men were talking in hushed voices.
"Those Christian dogs will capture us. No doubt about that."
"What about the message? Destroy it?"
"No. It's too important. It must reach the Sultan. Take a boat, two men and provisions. Leave. Nobody will notice in the confusion. I'll go to the powder chamber and blow the ship up. Wait for me. I'll jump over board as soon as everything is done."
Serena had to cover her mouth with both hands not to scream. That man planned to kill them all!
(To be continued)