Adira, a woman who is as dangerous as she is beautiful, is tricked by the cruel, scheming Yasmina, into serving in her Court as her personal bodyguard.
However, both are cheated by the ever present Captain of the Talasian army, Valeraquez, and as a result both women end up hauling an oar on a Riff slave galley, after sharing a public whipping post in the market square.
The story revolves around how the two women endure torture, floggings and hard labour and drudgery, and how their pain and sweat merely serves to line the pockets of their cruel masters. Day after day, hour on hour, the drum would boom out across the slave galley where they had been sent, driving the girls on, incessantly and constantly booming, booming. The slave-girls, constantly dreading the rate of the drum being increased, constantly driven by the whip, dripping with sweat, nagged by constant exhaustion. Perhaps death in the stoning pits, or crucifixion by Alturuk's soldiers, would have been a greater mercy than this.