Rais was leaning against a thick stained post when Mitchell was jostled across the courtyard. He was acutely aware that his mates behind were still watching his every move. Worried that they might do something rash.
Rais was cockily leant back, muscled arms across a powerfully built chest. The image of a man supremely confident and self-possessed .. who knows he holds the power of life-or-death over other men’s fate. And as Mitchell was shoved closer, he felt the hackles going up on his neck.
Against the dimming of the light a ring of oil lamps had been set up. Illuminating the post against which Rais conceitedly was stood. Behind him Mitchell saw the tell-tale stains of old blood that had dried on the stake. A whipping post. That .. and that smugness on Rais’ face .. exploded in Mitchell’s guts. Another shove from behind …… Mitchell felt his blood rising .. his instincts tightening. Seeing Rais .. confident, conceited .. that brought out the warrior from deep in Mitchell’s guts.
Would he ever get used to the idea that Rais thought he owned Mitchell’s hide? He hoped not. He remembered the dullness in those slaves’ eyes on the galley .. their resignation, they’d given up on hope. He wouldn’t, he vowed. That image .. and the sight of Rais’ arrogance .. made him swear. The fighter in him stood toeing the line, fists clenched, fight-ready. He promised .. he’d fight that damned conceit as long as he still drew breath.
Long straps of leather dangled down from a metal ring high up on the post. As Mitchell had been shoved forward, Rais had condescendingly vacated the stake letting his slave be bound there. Mitchell had not resisted .. though his heart was thumping in his chest. A whipping post, another thrashing. Rais had really got it in for him.
Resist? What was the point? Look at how many Arab thugs stood around. And besides Mitchell feared that any rash move on his part would only provoke his crewmates into something even more reckless. He stood with his arms tied to the ring high above his head, back to the post, the leather straps tight into the flesh on his wrists.
Something snapped. Was it that conceited look on Rais’ face? Or that Mitchell was on edge in case his mates made a false move? But whatever .. he’d had enough, this whole thing .. slavery .. it had suddenly got to him.
Throwing caution to the wind, he sneered at Rais.
“We started something …..”
“ …. back there on the ship. A fight. Man-on-man. You-and-me.”
He shook his hands above his head. The strong fighting arm that had taken on Rais. Now cowardly held captive by the long straps tied to the ring.
“Unfinished business, we’ve got. You-and-me.”
He sneered. Mitchell rattled the bonds above his head.
“This the way? How men settle their differences? Real men?”
He jeered into Rais’ face.
“What you say? Let’s go for it! Let’s finish it off. Finish what we started ……”
“If you dare …….”
He was glaring into Rais’ face. Blood up.
“ ‘Fraid to get shown up?”
Temper up. He’d called the bastard out. To finish it off. Man-on-man.
“Man on man? Yes. Back then ……”
Disappointingly .. but not unexpected .. Mitchell saw Rais’ features crease into a look of disdain as he answered back.
“NOW? A fight? With a stinking infidel slave? Something I own?”
Rais was shaking his head. Mocking back.
“A SLAVE? Shit on my shoe. Take up swords against WHAT? A worthless slave?”
Rais spat in Mitchell’s direction.
“And the point would be …. WHAT? Exactly?”
Rais’ lip curled up with contempt.
“Stupid infidel prick!”
Mitchell hadn’t believed he could taunt Rais into risking his face. Rais had too much to lose .. even if he managed to win. He’d never lower himself to feel called out by a slave. But Mitchell’s temper was clutching at straws.
Mitchell twisted his head to the speaker. He recognised that Zidan from the ship’s cabin. From Mitchell’s session of mock-rape on the slave galley.
“Rais! This can’t be. A slave talking back like that. Let me shut up his mouth! Gag the fucker!”
Mitchell’s eyes travelled back to Rais. For some gut reason he was desperate not to be gagged. Being able to talk back .. this back-chat .. taunts .. if he wasn’t to be given a sword to settle their differences .. answering back – that was some way of carrying on this fight-back at least. Mitchell was relieved then when Rais shook his head.
Then Mitchell followed Rais’ eyes down his body, worryingly. What was the bastard thinking? Taking in the strength that dared stand up to him? From his Mitchell’s defiant gaze downwards .. over a muscular chest, filthy dirty .. sweeping over armpits reeking with grime and old sweat. The image of the stinking infidel slave Rais thought of him. Mitchell felt his pulse pounding. Angry at this possessive appraisal. Rais’ eyes grasping at each solid muscle mound in his belly .. arms raised, the power of his strength there stood out. And on the scrutiny went .. downwards.
Mitchell felt naked under that gaze. His rags had disappeared with that beating. He’d had no clothing since the quarry, he’d gone naked without a thought. But now .. the way Rais devoured his nakedness .. it felt much worse.
“So this is what you Americans call a MAN?”
Rais was glaring down at his manhood. He was as endowed as any other. But under that shaming glare, Mitchell felt suddenly wilted.
Rais head had turned away. Mitchell followed his gaze. Into the darkness, beyond the circle of light thrown up by oil lamps. Mitchell couldn’t see them. But he knew his mates were all there .. looking on. Rais had turned to his audience. This was a show!
Then Rais’ sneer returned to taunt Mitchell’s show of impudence.
“So the rest of these infidel pigs can see what kind of man this stinking filth is ……?”
Mitchell was acutely aware again of his “audience”. He felt their scrutiny all over him. He couldn’t see his crewmates. Out there in the darkness. But he was encircled by a ring of lamps. They could see him. Again stood stripped-naked before them.
Being naked didn’t shame him. He had a body others envied, he’d seen the looks he got .. from other men. Down south, he was as well built as any other man. So what was the issue nagging in his gut?
It wasn’t being naked before his shipmates that shamed him. It was feeling helpless. That he couldn’t stop this. And being seen to be helpless .. stood helpless before his shipmates .. that was what made him feel shame. And anger.
He heard Rais laugh.
“Let’s see the real man here.”
He sneered into Mitchell’s glare. With a sadistic snort, Rais twisted the screw.
“Get the pig hard.”