Were there more fools like this one? More rash idiots to give him trouble? Stupid, troublemakers, reckless .. for whatever reason. Men proudly fighting in the service of their country .. the suckers .. as if their country gave a damn? Scared out of their white skins at the idea of slavery .. nerves getting to them .. prompted into doing something rash.
Broad-backed, strongly muscled .. tapering down to a tight muscle-packed waist .. this fool sweating at the mast .. plenty of heavy work to be squeezed out of a slave like that. Many years of back-breaking labour. A good buy, anyone could see that. Any number of discerning clients would snap up that muscular hide. And the corsair was in no mind to waste a good sale.
However … this impetuous idiot sweating at the mast .. he didn’t have to be the only hothead on this ship. Other fools could follow his stupid lead. Get the stupid idea in their thick sailor heads and riot.
Best make sure this crew was kept in line. And this reckless firebrand .. running sweat .. suffering in sight of the whole crew .. he was just the one to keep his shipmates on the leash …..
“This is what’s happening …. Captain.”
Resplendent in his uniform, the American scowled back at the Barbary thug he’d had to surrender to. He got the implication .. in the pause before offering his due title .. in the way this corsair had commanded one of his own men to the mast and had him lashed ten times. Captain of nothing.
As if to confirm the thug’s contempt the pirate continued with his declaration .. what was to happen to the captain’s ship and his crew..
“Your men will be transferred to my ship. Every last one of them. Put in the hold. Transported to land in the slave quarters ……”
The corsair paused at the murmur that sizzled around the ship. Anger, hostility. Not something he had not heard before. It took captured men a while to grasp the facts. From sailor to slave .. the acceptance took time. If required there were means to help .. many lashes …..His steely gaze traversed the crew. Unconcerned by their enmity. He had an answer for that.
His eyes still transfixed the rebellious crew but his hand stretched out to the whiplashed back pinned to the mast .. their shipmate .. running with sweat and pain.
“This pig’s sentence .. whipped till he screams his last breath …..”
He sensed every eye had now followed the direction of his arm. Joining their suffering mate at the mast.
“I am commuting it to ten lashes.”
Every spirit on the ship lifted. They weren’t to witness the brutal murder of their shipmate. It took Mitchell longer for the message to sink in. Struggling through the thudding of his heart against the mast. Distracted by the searing heat burning into his back.
“These ten lashes …..”
Mitchell had lost count. Only ten lashes? And he felt like this? Ten lashes from his own belt could have him panting this hard?
“Ten. I’ll settle for this ……”
Mitchell’s heart was pounding for joy. He was going to live! But still …… something at the back of his mind flashed a signal .. caution. He was not wrong.
The corsair addressed his captive captain.
“Captain …. Inform your crew …. They will be transferred to my ship. If I see one cross look directed at my men …….”
The pirate waited. He wanted the crew’s full attention.
“ … just one bad look ….. these ten lashes double. Another twenty.”
His hand waved slowly up and down. Directing the captive crew’s attention to their shipmate’s crimson-striped back.
“My men report a crew member had sneered at them .. doubled it again. Twenty becomes forty. Forty more.”
Still the finger of threat pointed at their shipmate’s bare back. Crimson-angry, glistening with pain.
“One sign of trouble .. defiant looks .. shoving back .. doubled again. Forty doubles up.”
The corsair glared back at the captive crew. He hissed out his warning.
“ANY sign. Just give me the excuse.”
The hand stabbed towards the marine trapped against the mast.
“Sentence commuted. To these ten lashes. For now. Subject to good behaviour.”
His gaze swept over this assembled shipmates.
“But the sentence still stands …..”
The corsair snarled his contempt back at the American captain.
“Tell them, “ the pirate ordered. “Inform your men. I am looking for the excuse.”
His hand jabbed at the suffering back.
“Have this pig whipped to death. Fed to the sharks. Tell them.”
The captain resented being ordered around. Humiliated in front of his men. Even if this mutinous marine deserved all he had got coming. A thorough thrashing was deserved. But THIS? An abominable thought. Ungodly.
The corsair snarled.
The captain scanned his crew. Looking to him for answers. There was no alternative. His crew had to obey. Not one of them wanted to observe the worst. His eyes went from man to man. Settling on the likely troublemakers. His eyes pinning them down .. warning them. He searched out the marines .. this mutinous fool’s mates. Hot-blooded as well. Likely to cause trouble. His stern gaze warned them. Ordered them to fall in line. Cautioned them. It was one of their own that would carry the consequences of any rash move.
The captain’s eyes directed the hotheads to look at their shipmate at the mast. Broad-shoulders, the muscled V-shape of his back emphasised by clutching the mast to his powerful chest. Hugging the mast in pain. Look at him, their Captain’s eyes ordered. This muscular back a grotesque roadmap of crimson stripes. That proud manly body glistening with the shock of his suffering. His part-naked torso racked with pain and sweat. Did they want to make things worse? This streamlined fighting machine, a marine — foolhardily he had brought it on himself. But were his shipmates reckless enough to warrant him being whipped to death?
The corsair snarled back at his captive captain.
The American captain still surveyed his crew as he answered back.
“They know where their loyalty lies.”
Pointedly he address the crew.
“They know their duty to their shipmate.”
The corsair snorted to himself. He had got what he wanted. Discipline. Good behaviour. Concern for their shipmate making things easy. This blackmail game he had played before. Hassan and that belt had been in on it. Smacked the living daylights out of that muscular back in just ten strokes. The game usually worked. He suspected this American crew would give them no more trouble.
But still he was going to emphasise the point. Just in case …. He had moved over to the mast. His hand was clutched tight around the scruff of the pig’s neck.
“Commuted to these ten lashes.”
His gaze traversed the width of the assembled captive crew.
His hand scraped down the whiplashed back. Nails digging in.
“Just give me the excuse …….”
Scraping over angry crimson-evil welts. Scouring pain out of whiplashed muscle.
“All I need ……”
The back went rigid. Flames re-ignited in embers of tortured flesh. Muscle frozen in anguish. Frozen .. yet then sharp spasms of agony shuddered in every cell of that whiplashed back.
“Life. Or death!”
The corsair snarled at the captive crew. His new slaves. About to be transported into the slave hold of his own ship. Going quietly. Tame as a lamb. Or else.
“Ten lashes. OR ….. Whipped till it screams its last stinking breath.”
His hand gripped the marine slave by the neck. Looking back at the crew the corsair paused. Then he slammed his attacker’s face into the mast.