Pelaam October 2007.
Captain Diego Alverez strolled jauntily through the colourful marketplace. Occasionally a stallholder would call out a greeting and the buccaneer would shout his reply or simply doff his red, feathered hat and affect a sweeping bow. He smiled widely. The financial success from his last cargo had been safely salted away, the swashbuckler retaining only a part to be able to spend freely. His raven-black, glossy hair was securely fastened at the nape of his neck by red ribbon matching the feather in his hat. His thin moustache covered the length of his upper lip and trailed either side of a generous mouth. His breeches were tight, tucked into knee-length, black leather boots and displayed his lower body to good advantage, as the ruffled white shirt did his torso. The buttons were unfastened enough to partially display his tanned, furred chest. The outfit was topped by a red bolero jacket. All in all he knew he looked powerful, masterful and oozed raw masculinity and sexual charisma. He drew admiring glances from men and women alike and revelled in the attention. His intelligent brown eyes caught a flurry of activity at the day's slave auction. His curiosity piqued, he went to investigate.
He stifled a gasp at what had caused such an interest by those around him. He stared at the young, male slave. The only thing that preserved his modesty was a tiny scrap of material that barely covered his groin. Long, smooth-skinned legs were hobbled by thick rope, the same kind of rope binding his hands tightly in front of him. The boy's hair was a little shorter and lighter than Diego's, but they shared the same deep, brown eyes, although the youth's were currently wide with fear. The buccaneer found himself mesmerised by the expanse of honey-gold skin displayed and then his eyes were drawn to the large dark discs adorning the smooth chest. He wondered how they would taste and licked his lips. Once again he looked at the expressive face. The boy was afraid and with good reason. Diego let his eyes survey the crowd. There were some here he would not even sell his worst enemy to. He shook his head lamenting the circumstances that had brought the youth into such a precarious situation, intending to move on. However, every time he tried, his feet seemed to remain in place and his eyes were drawn to the terrified, angelic visage. Then they opened wide with shock.
"You can see his beauty, ladies and gentlemen and we can also guarantee his virginity. Just think, a blank canvass onto which you can paint you desires. A boy perfect to train to indulge your every whim. Are we ready to commence bidding?" The auctioneer stroked his hand over the youth's thigh as he spoke, smiling at the futile attempt at evasion, and his question was answered by a roar from the crowd.
Diego was disgusted by the naked lust he could now see in many eyes. His heart ached at the thought of what depravity the chaste young man might face. He gave a frustrated growl of disgust. He had no need of a slave-boy and yet something would not let him walk away and abandon the youth. He fingered the medal he wore around his neck, which hung low enough not to be seen. The bidding was high, but his voyage had been unusually profitable. He gave a trilling whistle that the crowd either failed to hear or chose to ignore. A non-descript man appeared silently and listened to Diego's precise instructions before scurrying away. Diego smiled as, just a couple of moments later, a blond man, in attire similar to his own, rapidly approached him.
"Why?" the tall, broad blond asked succinctly.
"Because," Diego shrugged, his fingers playing absently with his medallion. The action was noted by the other man, who nodded.
"What She wants, She gets, my friend," he smiled. He looked at the youth. "Go and do what you must. He looks like he could do with a decent break."
Diego waited till the auctioneer had called a price twice before putting in his own bid. It was generously higher than the current price.
The auctioneer caught the dark-eyed gaze and rapidly called the bidding to its conclusion. He was savvy enough to know it didn't pay to cross Captain Alverez, especially when the seafarer could jeopardise his future business. He pulled the trembling youth from his pedestal and bowed obsequiously to Diego and his companion as he handed over the rope-bound slave.
"A pleasure to do business with you, Captain," he said, his voice oily. "I'm certain you will be well-pleased. He is a high-quality piece of flesh."
Diego barely heard the odious man's words. His eyes were appraising the slender body. The boy needed feeding up and filling out. He thought the youth could perform basic cabin-boy duties to start with and then they would see whether he would make a crewman. He glanced askance at the lithe form. He was certain there was a hint of steel in the slim frame.
"What language does he speak?" the blond asked, seeing Diego's attention was elsewhere.
"English, Mr Sharpe," came the reply. "I'm sure your good self and the esteemed captain will train him well."
Diego gave a snort of disgust and pulled at the rope that was attached to the bound hands.
"Follow us," he commanded, as he strode away, his blond companion easily matching his pace. "Dios mio! I detest that man, Boro."
"Let us get the boy safely aboard 'Maria', Diego. We are attracting unwanted attention with our silent beauty," Boro murmured, his eyes darting back and forth and his hand resting near the pommel of his sword.
"Swiftly, boy," Diego commanded, then cursed himself for his own stupidity. The youth was still hobbled. He unsheathed his sword and sliced easily through the rough hemp. He heard the gasp of fear and clasped the boy's thin shoulder in what he hoped was a friendly gesture of reassurance. "I will not hurt you. Now let us hasten."
They boarded his ship, the 'Santa Maria' without incident, although the two older men were aware of being followed. Diego headed to his quarters, slave in tow, whilst Boro went to his own cabin. Diego sighed as the young man huddled fearfully, his hands trying to protect his crotch.
"I have said I will not hurt you, boy," he reminded the youth patiently. He could understand the young man's fear and did not want to consider what he may have suffered to be so scared. "Let me untie your hands." He scowled at the abraded wrists. They would need some treatment. He knelt to cut the rope attached to slender ankles and could see these were equally damaged. Up close he could see bruising to the youth's body that spoke of abuse or futile attempts at resistance. He stood to answer a knock to his door.
"They boy will need clothing," Boro said, as he thrust an armful of items at Diego. "These either don't fit or I would not choose to wear them again. He will probably feel better when no longer as good as naked."
"Gracias, mi amigo," Diego said, clasping Boro's arm.
Diego sorted through the myriad clothes, selecting what would be suited to a cabin-boy. He set aside breeches, shirt and a woollen waistcoat. Shoes would have to wait until he could buy the boy a pair. He held them out with a friendly smile.
"Dress yourself," he said kindly.
"P...Please, sir, may ... may I wash?" The question was so quietly spoken Diego barely heard the words.
The older man poured water from a jug into a basin, set the towel where it could be reached and indicated the boy could proceed. The water would be cold, but it was clean. Diego tried not to watch as the youth's hands traversed the golden sea of silken skin. He especially tried not to watch as the loincloth was removed and lax genitals and creamy mounds were cleansed. As the perfunctory wash was completed, the youth donned the offered apparel. He now looked marginally older, although from his discreet glimpses Diego was certain he was looking at a grown man; a young, beautiful, afraid man.
"You have been purchased by Captain Diego Alverez. I am not in the market for a slave-boy, but could make use of a cabin-boy. You will need to demonstrate your obedience to me before I can permit you to wander freely aboard 'Maria'. So, firstly, your name?" Diego asked.
"N ... Nathaniel," came the whispered reply.
"I will call you 'Nat'," Diego declared. The Spaniard growled his discontent as there was another knock at his door. However, the bearer of news brought something of importance and Diego huffed angrily about having to go and sort something about his next shipment he thought already well in hand.
"You will remain in my cabin," he said to Nathaniel. "Do not attempt to leave. Food and water will be brought to you and I will send someone to tend to your wounds."
As he left, Nathaniel watched with a mix of relief and regret. Although the handsome Spaniard had shown him kindness, Nat still didn't feel able to fully trust him, but neither did he want to be alone. He stared at the cabin that was now his prison. The bunk had pillows and coverlet in crimson damask. The wooden table was highly polished and of good quality. There was a chaise-lounge in red and gold brocade. A shelf held a crucifix and several images of the Virgin. A large, polished chest of wood and bronze was under the porthole. Seeing the small window to the outside world, Nathaniel walked over to peer outside. He stared at the expanse of sea and sky, there was no escape, except by death and Nathaniel wasn't ready to die. Perhaps Captain Alverez was a man of honour.
True to Diego's word, an older man came in to clean and dress the damaged flesh at Nathaniel's wrists and ankles. The chamber pot was pointed out to him with instructions to empty it through the porthole when necessary, then he was left alone again. The man came back twice more; the first time bringing soup and bread, the second with bread, cheese and an apple. On both occasions, Nathaniel received fresh water. Nothing was said about how long Diego would be absent. As the cabin became dark, too afraid to take a cover for himself, Nathaniel simply curled up on the chaise-lounge to sleep.
Nathaniel had no idea how long he had slept, but as he awoke he could tell by the motion of the ship they were already at sea. Returning to the porthole, Nathaniel stared at the unending vista of turquoise and azure, then started as Diego breezed into the room.
"We've put up sail and are away on our next voyage, Nat," he said, speaking as though Nathaniel was already a seasoned member of his crew. His mind was immersed in ensuring there was nothing he had forgotten either regarding his cargo, crew, supplies, the tides...that he forgot one vital component.
Nathaniel knew nothing of Diego's thoughts or expectations. All he had to fall back on was the cruelty he had experienced at the hands of his last ship's captain. He stared in mounting distress as Diego continued immersed in his own thoughts.
"I need to take you out on deck so you can swear your fealty to me in front of the crew," he muttered, finding and donning a clean shirt from his chest. "You were a slave, but they need to see what you are now," he said.
Nathaniel had been dazed to find himself staring at Diego's broad chest and was dizzied by Diego's rapid-fire, accented speech. His mind focused on just one thing. He was to be taken before the crew. He began to tremble, his head shaking his denial. He could not ... not again. Diego's voice became a drone that Nathaniel heard buzzing in his ear and was then pulled behind the bigger man as they headed out on deck.
Boro was already stationed at the ship's wheel. He watched with mounting concern as Diego approached; a vacant-eyed Nat training in his wake. Diego was an excellent seaman and could juggle a multitude of things in his mind, which was an admirable trait as ship's captain. However, the Spaniard could become so involved with the wider picture he could easily miss important things underneath his nose. As now. Coming to stand close to the blond, Boro tried to take advantage of Diego's proximity to alert the dark-haired man to Nat's clear distress, but Diego remained oblivious. Even from the main deck, some of the gathered crewmen were pointing and shaking their heads. Boro groaned in frustration. He indicated for a crewman to come and replace him at the wheel as Diego commenced his speech.
"Our last voyage was a most profitable one," he declared, receiving a cheer from his crew. "I have a new member to bring before you. Although purchased at the auction, Nat is to be my cabin-boy for the present and I am certain you will welcome him aboard and teach him anything he needs to know. He will now kneel and offer his fealty to me and to 'Maria' and those who sail in her. "On your knees, Nat," he said, his eyes never leaving his crewmen's faces. When he wasn't instantly obeyed, Diego simply tightened his grip on Nat's arm, believing to look at the boy would be perceived as a weakness he couldn't afford to show.
Boro could see the disaster looming and immediately took steps to avert it.
"Forgive me, Nat," he murmured to the trembling youth, certain his words would be as unheard as Diego's had been. Using a move he and Diego had learnt from a Chinaman, Boro gripped tightly at the junction of Nat's shoulder and neck and, applying pressure, pushed downwards.
With a soft yelp of pain, Nat dropped to his knees and as he did, Boro met the angry gaze from his friend and captain.
"He is petrified," Boro whispered and then turned to the crew.
"I expect you all to offer Nat any assistance he needs in the future. For now Captain Alverez will teach him his duties as cabin-boy." Boro looked at Diego to see the concern in dark eyes. "Let's get him back to your cabin," he whispered.
Nat followed as unresistingly back as he had out onto the deck. As he was pushed inside, Diego reached to him and was stunned by the scream of abject fear.
"Do not touch me, do not touch me." Nat huddled at the side of the chest, shaking and crying.
"Nat, please," Diego tried again. This fear was worse than when he'd brought the boy aboard and he had no idea what he had done. He felt powerless. //How did I fail to see how afeared the boy had become? I promised I wouldn't hurt him// Diego thought bitterly.
"Diego?" The Spaniard heard Boro call through his door and opened it to let the blond enter.
"He will not let me near. What have I done?" Diego said helplessly.
"Let us see if we cannot find out," Boro said. He dropped to his knees and inched slowly forward to be closer to the sobbing, shaking youth. "Nathaniel, can you hear me?" he asked softly. His response was a small whimper. "Nathaniel, please look at me." Boro was pleased at the tiny movement of Nat's head. "That's it," he said holding out his arms. "Come on, son," he coaxed and was stunned at the reaction.
Nathaniel was terrified. Diego wanted ... would ... he was just like Le Diable Mal. His thoughts were fractured and circled endlessly in his panicked mind. Slowly he became aware of a soft voice that called to him. He latched onto the sound. At the word 'son', all the pent up emotion of the last week surged to the fore. He launched himself into the open arms and clung desperately to the large, warm body seeking warmth, safety and comfort.
"It's alright, son," Boro crooned, kissing the top of Nat's head affectionately. "It's going to be just fine."
Diego fought to damp down the jealousy that ignited in his breast at the sight of his friend's intimacy with the beautiful boy. He reminded himself that Boro was simply comforting the distressed youth. He knelt alongside his companion and stroked Nat's hair soothingly.
"I swear by the blessed Virgin that you will come to no harm aboard my ship," he said quietly, but firmly as he turned Nat's face from Boro's chest to look him in the eye. "Por favor, Nat, tell us what scared you so much that I can ensure it never happens again."
Slowly Nathaniel sat back to look from the blond to the dark, both men wearing the same expression of concern. They were not...? His head tilted to one side then the next, reminding Diego and Boro of a confused puppy, then he began to speak.
"I was on a ship with my uncle and aunt," he said, his voice stronger, but still quiet. "They had been my guardians since the deaths of my parents. They were good enough, but very distant, they knew nothing of being affectionate towards an eight-year-old child. I tried to do all that they required of me and undertook schooling, where I did very well. However, they had no intention of paying for university education. They began canvassing for marriage for me when I was just sixteen and a year ago, not long after my seventeenth birthday, found a lady they thought most suitable. She and I corresponded, although all I really knew of her was her love of poetry and that she was almost ten years my senior. Uncle and aunt were very cautious regarding vetting letters we exchanged. They purchased carriage aboard a small cargo ship. It was a new and wonderful experience. The captain was an elderly man and delighted in my interest, teaching me to use maps and charts.
We were attacked by pirates and it was all over as soon as it began. His crew offered no resistance and yet were slain. When the pirates burst into Captain Kellen's cabin, my guardians were also amongst the dead. I failed to understand the pirate Captain, Le Diable Mal's, innuendoes. The captain told him I was an innocent going to meet my betrothed and begged for clemency. Instead Le Diable Mal just laughed as his men slit Captain Kellen's throat.
They sank my ship and took me aboard theirs where I was instantly taken to the captain's cabin." At this point Nathaniel took a deep breath to be able to continue with his tale. "Le Diable Mal lived up to his name. He stripped me and touched me, telling me that if he had weeks rather than days before reaching port he would have taught me how to pleasure men. Instead he would sell me as untouched at auction and command a good price. He spilt his seed on me, lying atop me and grunting like an animal in my ear."
When he'd pleasured himself enough that way he touched me over and over till my manhood rose and spurted, telling me I was made for pleasure. He made me stroke his flesh till he spilt again. He finally fell asleep with me beneath him tied to his bunk. When he awoke, he took me out on deck. He laughed, as his crew ran their hands over my flesh, before forcing me to my knees and putting his organ in my mouth. I thought I would choke; I could barely breathe. He made me swallow some of his release and let the rest coat my face and hair as his crew laughed and jeered. That became my routine for the next three days. Then he sold me once we landed, swearing my chastity, and the auctioneer insisted on... on checking." Nathaniel's voice finally broke as he concluded his tale.
Diego moved to envelop the slender frame in a tight hug.
"I am not that monster, although I have heard the name of the man of whom you speak. You will not be used in that way aboard my ship, Nat. Nothing you do not desire will be done to you. I swear it."
"As do I," Boro added.
Nathaniel looked from one man to the other. He could see the sincerity shining in deep brown and earnest blue orbs. He thought back carefully of his time aboard 'Maria'. Nothing had been done to harm him. He'd been fed, clothed and cared for. Diego was different to Le Diable Mal. It had been his own fear out on deck, neither of the men before him had tried to... hurt him in any way."
"I ... I believe you," he said slowly. "I just thought ... thought ... I was so very scared."
"There is no need to fear either of us, Nat," Diego promised. He placed a chaste kiss to the smooth brow and cupped the angelic face in gentle hands. "I cannot change my course now, but after this journey is complete I could take you anywhere you wished."