Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
~ William Blake (1757Ð1827)
Chapter 1. Batavia, Java 1724
"Is this the trader Schooneveld?" the blond boy asked from the foot of the gangplank.
Short and slightly built, barefoot and wearing only a sarong wrapped low around his hips, sweating in the tropical heat, he looked up uncertainly at the great sailing vessel that would be his home for the next few years.
"You must be the new cabin boy. I am Willem Luyken, first mate," answered a tall good-looking red-haired young man in his very early twenties.
"Yes, sir, I am Jan Dekker. Captain de Sitter said I should report aboard this morning."
"Indeed, so he told me. Found you in a tavern did he, waiting tables? An orphan?"
The man let his statement hang as a question. It was his business to know something of the background of all the crew on his ship.
"Yes, sir. I was actually born right here in Batavia, but my folks died when I was ten. Except for a few years in an orphanage, I have been on my own ever since."
"Done any sailing?"
"Only trips to the nearer islands in the East Indies. All on local vessels with a crew of lascars. I was the only European aboard."
"Well you certainly dress like a lascar yourself in that sarong. And your bronzed skin is nearly as dark as theirs too."
Jan admitted that he had lived like a native for virtually all of his life, bared to the waist and barefoot. He couldn't remember when he had ever worn trousers. The sarong he wore slung low on his hips was one of only two that constituted his entire wardrobe. And yes it was the lascars who had pierced his earlobes for the gold rings that graced his shell-like ears.
"Well, let's see the rest of you then." the mate indicating with a wave of his hand that he should slip off his sarong.
Flushing, Jan tugged his garment off his hips and laid it over the rail, turning to let the first mate and most of the crew get a good look at him.
A few months short of seventeen, Jan Dekker was a comely lad, short for his age and slender. Standing no higher than four inches over five feet (163 cm) and weighing only 112 pounds (51 kg) he had a fawn-like physique but with a wiry musculature, toned and taut from hard work. Jan was pretty as a girl with delicate features, a straight nose, high cheekbones, and large green eyes with a blond thatch on top. He had virtually no hair on his body, just wisps under his arms and at the fork of his legs, with hardly a dusting on his lower legs and arms.
Jan turned again to face the officer who took his time appraising the boy's physique. He wasn't just gauging his suitability for sea duty. He looked at the boy with a prurient interest. As well he should. From his tiny red nipples to a deeply indented navel, to narrow hips framing a surprisingly ample manhood for one so slight in build, Jan was real beauty. He carried so little body fat that his flat belly showed a tracery of downward pointing veins just under the skin. The beat of his heart was visible on the left side of his smooth chest. He was sleek and smooth, deeply and evenly tanned. The sheen of sweat on his skin made him shine in the bright sun, his wiry physique a vision of youthful male pulchritude.
"You'll do," the first mate affirmed, apparently satisfied. "What is in the pack, lad?"
"Sir, all I have is a Bible, my extra sarong, a nearly empty purse, and my kris, I mean my knife. That's the sum total of my worldly goods."
"I know what a kris is lad. A Bible you said. Can you read and write then?"
"Certainly, sir and I can do my sums too."
Jan did feel awkward, standing there stark naked in front of an audience, whirling around as the mate twirled his finger, to display his back and bum, but he had often gone about naked aboard ship with the lascars. Indeed they had insisted on it when out to sea and had used him for sexual relief off watch. As part of his job at the tavern, sailors who had developed a taste for 'sea pussy' took him upstairs for a modest fee, most of which went to the owner. He had long ago accepted that his looks and small size meant he was fated to serve men as a sex toy. A sexual submissive anyway, he rather liked having strong men take control of his delectable body and impale him at both ends. He got his own satisfactions as they used him to get theirs.
As for the constant nudity the lascars had insisted upon, he found that exciting, even arousing. Jan really liked the kiss of the tropic sun on his bare skin, especially on his bum, and would happily go for days or weeks without clothing, displaying himself to onlookers. The mate could see for himself that Jan's tropical tan extended evenly all the way down to his ankles, just as he had suspected it would. Here was a bum boy who might as well put his sarongs into storage. The lad wouldn't be needing clothing aboard the Schooneveld which sailed only in tropical latitudes.
The mate directed one of the hands to show the lad where he could stow his gear including both his sarongs. The man grabbed the sarong on the rail before Jan could put it on, cocked his head, and simply said. "Come with me." With nothing for it but to follow the man, though still completely nude, Jan followed him to the forecastle.
The mate's eyes followed his progress across the deck, entranced by the sight of the boy's perfectly formed buttocks, dimpling fetchingly as he stepped sure-footedly across the planking before following the crewman down into the bowels of the ship. Jan quickly reported back to the mate nude and empty handed.
"Did you really think you could climb aloft in a skirt?" Will remarked. "On this ship your skin will be your uniform. That's much more practical, for all sorts of duties."
"Yes, sir" the boy replied, not entirely surprised nor displeased.
Jan knew what fate awaited pretty boys like himself who hired out on long sea voyages. Captain de Sitter had already sampled his wares at the tavern as a sort of job interview. So enforced nudity was only the beginning. Indeed his last three years had been spent as a part time whore either at the tavern or earlier for the lascars on the ships he had served on. Jan knew he was a sexy lad, whom stronger males lusted after and vice versa. He knew he himself felt no attraction to the female of the species. The first mate in particular was his type, tall, lean, handsome, with beautiful blue eyes and a ready smile.
The first mate explained that besides his duties in the officers' cabins serving meals, fetching, doing laundry, and tidying up, Jan would also serve as a lookout in the crow's nest where his keen young eyesight would be useful in guiding the ship. He would not be required to work the sails but was expected to help with cargo and deck work too. For starters, he could help the work party that was scrubbing the deck. The bosun showed Jan the simple requirements of the job, The boy got down on his knees and started on a section of the deck.
Both the first mate and the bosun smiled as they watched little Jan work at that task, on his knees, pushing a scrub brush back and forth, a nude sailor boy, taut brown butt cheeks flexing, crinkly hole visible in between, genitals dangling between his slender thighs, back and shoulder muscles rippling as he thrust forward and back. Almost like getting down on all fours to get pronged. Well, there would be time for that later.
The trading ship Schooneveld was in the service of the Dutch-owned United East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). The charter of the VOC granted it exclusive trading rights in the Indies and gave it virtually sovereign powers to maintain armed forces, to wage war, to conclude treaties and to govern the areas it controlled, even to coin money. The Schooneveld carried supplies to Dutch garrisons around the rim of the Indian Ocean, especially the all important gunpowder manufactured in Batavia on the island of Java, the center of Dutch power in the East Indies.
The ship plied the sea lanes to the Dutch factory (trading post) at Surat in Gujarat, India and the port of Cochin in the Dutch territory of Travancore at the southwestern tip of the Indian subcontinent, to the coastal regions of Ceylon controlled by the VOC, and occasionally as far as Capetown in South Africa. It transported supplies in its own hold, carried mail and company messages, and it could act as an escort to large convoys. Its heavy armament of cannon made it ideal for suppressing piracy or bombarding coastal towns, in an exercise in gunboat diplomacy.
Captain de Sitter came aboard at mid-morning pleased to see that the new cabin boy had reported as ordered and that his mate had already stripped him naked and put him to work. The boy was just about finished with his chore of scrubbing the deck. He had done a good job of it too, no doubt trying to impress the mate with his conscientiousness and attention to duty. After Jan finished cleaning the deck he pulled a bucket of seawater up on a rope and let it splash down over him. Cleansed and cooled off, he looked over to the bosun for further orders. That worthy simply nodded toward the captain, so Jan went over to him.
"There you are lad. I see my first mate has already told you that you are to stay naked the whole time you are aboard ship. Those sarongs of yours are for when you go ashore on liberty. Meanwhile I want you to step into the cabin for a moment so I can pluck your feathers."
"Feathers?", the boy wondered for a moment, then realized what that meant.
He dutifully trooped behind the captain, the mate resting his hand reassuringly on his shoulder. He looked up at the man who toward over him by a foot (30 cm). The man's gaze was amused but in a friendly sort of way. Jan thought he could quickly get to like the man.
"Don't be worried about the razor lad. The captain has the steadiest hand aboard. He'll soon have you smooth."
Captain Adrien de Sitter was a big man, still in his early thirties albeit with a touch of grey in the dark hair at the temples. Though three or four inches shorter than the mate, at six foot even (183 cm) he still loomed over little Jan. Whereas the mate was tall and lean, his superior was massively built. He looked as strong as a bear though fortunately nowhere nearly so hirsute. Indeed, as Jan had seen for himself the evening before, the man sported only a splash of chest hairs around his nipples and a treasure trail leading to a triangle patch at his loins.
De Sitter explained why he was plucking Jan. It wasn't really to prevent an infestation of body lice, or because he liked underage boys. To the contrary, he wanted an older boy like Jan who had reached his full growth but was still quite small and slender and no bigger than a pretty lass. He had been very excited last night at how good little Jan looked kneeling before him, pouty lips locked around the captain's huge cock, looking up at the older male worshipfully. He pointed out to his new cabin boy that with his body hair gone, Jan's cock would sprout directly from his belly wall and look significantly larger.
Most of all, removing all body hair would make the cabin boy even more naked than he had been, as naked as it was possible for a boy to be. Nothing human looks quite so deliciously naked as a hairless lad: in the first blush of youth; no overlay of extra flesh; no distracting and off-putting hairiness; slender limbs with veins just under the surface of the skin. The slender thighs of a lad join at narrow hips, letting him strut his sprouting manhood. That was what the captain wanted for Jan.
Jan had misgivings about what amounted to partial emasculation. Slight as he was, he already looked a couple of years younger. A total loss of body hair would turn him back into the hairless boy he had been before his abbreviated growth spurt. For crying out loud, he was actually on the edge of seventeen, approaching manhood. But Jan put his trust in the captain he had pledged to serve. He also found himself excited at the prospect of presenting himself to everyone aboard ship even more naked than he had been.
So Jan humbly submitted to de Sitter's razor. It took but a moment to denude the lad of the sparse wisps in his arm pits and at his groin, though the boy was visibly nervous as the sharp edge of the razor glided along the bottom of his shaft and all around the root. Not that it really needed it, smooth as it already was, but de Sitter stretched out the boy's scrotum and drew the razor over that too, turning the blade so it glinted wickedly and threateningly in the sunlight streaming through the cabin window, running it over the ridges and curves of the boy's vulnerable ballsac, even bouncing the spheres lightly on the flat of the blade.
The captain smiled at the way the boy gulped as de Sitter toyed with his precious balls, then squeezed his eyes shut unable to bear the sight of the razor teasing him so intimately, only to fling them open again in alarm at what might be happening to his manhood while he was not keeping watch.
For good measure, and because it was sexy and provocative, the man shaved the boy's anal region too, making him get up on all fours on the sturdy table securely fasted to the deck. Jan really had nothing back there to shave. The captain just wanted Jan up there like a dog being groomed, trembling on all fours as the straight razor scraped along his cleavage, across his tiny pucker, and then down the back of his dangling and vulnerable ballsac. He even swatted it gently a couple of times with the flat of the blade. The boy held still for all of that though he did whimper once or twice. De Sitter rather liked the sound of Jan's soft whimpers.
De Sitter was pleased that his new cabin boy was so complaisant, presenting himself to the older males utterly naked atop the table, legs wide apart, offering the most intimate parts of his body for inspection, for exploring fingers, and so trustingly, for the edge of a blade that could emasculate him in an instant.
Afterwards Jan ran his fingers over his smooth groin and armpits. The captain let him check himself out in the half-length mirror hung on the inside of the door of his wardrobe. Jan put his hands behind his head, elbows back, legs wide apart, pelvis thrust forward as he gazed at his hairless torso. He turned left and right to see himself from all angles.
The older males smiled indulgently at the excited boy who practically shivered with lust and embarrassment both. This was so exciting, being in the presence of strong handsome men who knew how to treat a little bottom boy like Jan, taking command of his genitals like that, plucking him smooth. He grabbed himself down there, his knees going weak. He nearly swooned with the frisson of his own naughtiness.
Afterwards, as the mate escorted the boy on deck he stressed to Jan that though the captain would be friendly and familiar with him in private, on deck the captain would be all business. He wouldn't play favorites or accept any hesitation in carrying out his orders. Jan was to remember too that his delicious body was not for everyone to share. He was required to give himself to the captain and the three mates and the bosun. Anything else he did was on his own, and he had the right to refuse any other member of the crew. The cabin boy would live in officer country where Jan would share the officers' cabins just as he shared their beds. Indeed the captain preferred he not get too friendly with the sailors who lived in forecastle, and to keep what he overheard to himself. No gossip mongering.
Chapter 2. Across the Indian Ocean
Three months later, as the Schooneveld was returning from India and Ceylon to Batavia on Java, it crossed the Equator for the second time on that voyage. Jan smiled as he remembered his initiation on the earlier outward leg of the trip.
Born and raised on Java, he had spent his whole life in the Southern Hemisphere. After leaving Batavia outbound, the ship had sailed past the west end of the island then south through the Sunda Strait, which the VOC had long used as its gateway to the Spice Islands, despite the difficulties of navigation. The Shooneveld's route took it past the then dormant volcano Krakatoa, which would erupt explosively a century and a half later. Rounding the southern end of the island of Sumatra, the ship had headed out on a northwest heading 2,000 miles (3,200 km) across the broad Indian Ocean to Colombo, Ceylon, which, despite the similarity, was not named after the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo.
The open water route was an alternative to the more usual commercial passage through the Strait of Malacca, between Sumatra and the southern part of the Malay Peninsula. The coasts on both sides of the narrow 500 mile long strait (800 km) was dotted with ports and harbors. Commercial shipping had to run a gantlet of pirates, shallow waters, and tricky currents. The ship's open water route paralleled the great island of Sumatra, sixth largest in the world, which runs for 1,100 miles (1,800 km) southeast to northwest and is bisected by the Equator.
In the time honored traditions of the sea, sailors who had never 'Crossed the Line' had to endure a humiliating rite of passage. The seasoned sailors, the Shellbacks, lorded it over the newbie Pollywogs. The tradition was originally a test for seasoned sailors to assure themselves that their new shipmates could handle long watches and rough times at sea.
As it happened, Jan was the only pollywog aboard on that trip, so he drew all the attention (and pent-up mischief) of his shipmates. Instead of making him dress in female garb (the usual thing), the sailors simply kept the boy naked as they made him crawl on his belly across a deck strewn with rotting vegetables. He had to scuttle on hands and knees between their straddled legs as they swatted his rump with a tawse or rope-end. They dunked him in the sea and towed him behind the ship for a while, then pulled the bedraggled lad back up on deck where he had to endure all manner of poking and verbal humiliations, with much reference to his diminutive size, hairless body, pretty boy looks, and his active sex life, sucking cock and taking it up the ass all the time.
Then the lusty sailors put the hapless lad in bondage, tying his hands behind his back, roping his ankles separately then hanging him by his feet upside down from a spar, legs spread wide apart, his head just about waist height. The sense of helplessness and vulnerability as he dangled there, balls and ass so totally exposed and handy for the sailors to reach for and grab fed his teenage libido. He could feel the bare chests of the men pressing all around him, the touch of their crinkly chest hair on his skin sent shivers through his trussed up body. The men ran their hands along his thighs, delving into his exposed cleavage, toying with his genitals and his hole. The lusty sailors took turns spanking or caressing or even kissing the sublime bums so conveniently to hand. Most were envious of their officers who could play with the luscious youth every day.
To make things interesting, 'King Neptune', with the captain's permission, mixed brandy and red wine from ship's stores and poured it through a funnel stuck in the boy's anus to fill up the rectum within. The youth could only squirm deliciously as the warmth of the liquid heated his insides. The men chuckled at this new way they had found to get the boy's ass hot and to get a fire going in his belly.
Poor Jan! The lad was not used to spirits anyway and taking so much fortified wine that way got the alcohol into his bloodstream far faster than through the stomach. That particular body cavity is lined with blood vessels just under the surface. It wasn't long before the youth was tipsy, then giddy, and finally hopelessly inebriated. He abandoned himself to the sexual excitement of the moment as the men made him suck them all off, many of them twice.
Hands were on him everywhere, touching him, stimulating him, squeezing and fondling and stroking. Those who couldn't wait simply jerked off and splooged his chest and belly and face. Despite his feeble protests the sailors worked Jan's own cock, bringing him off again and again till he was utterly drained. One man got the idea to use a belaying pin to churn the mixture in his rectum, so he got fucked by a hard wooden cock as well. They used the round head of the belaying pin to probe him, leaving the cylindrical shank poking obscenely up out of his hole.
As Jan struggled and squirmed, some of the fortified wine got forced out of his anus, spurting over his ass and draining down his back and belly and chest.
"Poor lad!" someone intoned with transparent insincerity. "See how he sheds his virgin's blood."
That provoked a general chuckle among the participating shellbacks. One sailor used some of the red fluid to paint Jan's nipples, making them even redder. Next came the head of his cock, his scrotum, and even his lips even though they were already locked around the huge cock a sailor. This was a crossing the line ceremony, no one would soon forget.
Afterwards the bosun had a couple of the sailors clean Jan up and carried the boy's limp and virtually comatose body to the first mate's cabin. Willem laid the boy gently in his bunk. Even when he climbed in with the youth later that evening, the mate merely caressed Jan's shapely form as he made room for himself, spooning their bodies together. The boy looked so peaceful in sleep, small and lovely, like an angel come to Earth. Will left him alone to sleep off the effects of the alcohol.
The next day, Jan was sore all over and had such a horrendous hang-over he swore off spiritous liquors for the rest of his life. Willem laughed at that, arguing that his lover could hardly blame strong drink for his current misery, teasing him about his decision.
"How can you swear off strong drink, little one, when not a drop of liquor passed your lips yesterday?"
"Very funny, sir. Maybe I didn't drink anything, but a lot of King Neptune's potent brew did indeed pass my lips, the ones in my bottom guarding the hole you so very much love to penetrate."
The mate could only laugh at the brazenness and shamelessness of the uninhibited youth who could speak so easily of a physical relationship that many would disapprove of and even think sinful. Willem was glad that the boy felt no guilt about what the captain and he and the other officers did with the lad every day, or at the way they kept him on display constantly naked and hairless. If anything were a sin, it would be covering the youth with concealing cloth.
Admittedly the boy did have a point about overindulgence in spirits. Still, with the resilience of youth, within a couple of days Jan he was his usual cheerful self. Truth is he had enjoyed himself hugely at the initiation. It had been so very sexy, being the center of attention, having so many strong men play with him for what seemed like an endless procession of hard cocks.
For their part, the sailors had been impressed with how well Jan had taken his punishment, being a good sport and all. They already knew that he was a good worker, always ready to lend a hand pulling on a line, shifting cargo, or scrubbing the deck. He had proved himself a good comrade, so he became accepted by the rest of the crew, almost as a mascot. Of course mascots often get petted, so the boy often found friendly hands on his shoulders, patting his back, giving his rump a friendly swat, or rubbing his belly.
Aside from the ceremony at the Equator, the outbound voyage had been largely uneventful. Jan was delighted when they made port at Colombo and later in Travancore and Surat. It gave him a chance to see something of fabled India and its multitude of races, languages, cultures, cuisines and music. India was not merely a country but an entire subcontinent.
Jan and Willem took liberty together when in port. Jan got to wear clothing for these excursions, one of his sarongs. Jan had always liked sarongs, glad that first his parents and then the orphanage had not insisted on trousers in the tropical heat of Java. As he looked at himself in the captain's mirror, he could see how the thin cloth wrapped low and tight around his hips flattered his trim rump. Well, he couldn't very well go around town stark naked, so the next best thing was a sarong. Still if he had his druthers, Jan preferred total nudity. As far as he was concerned, that should be the case when you were young and pretty, putting yourself on display just as God made you.
After weeks spent totally nude, the touch of cloth rubbing against his skin, especially down there, was arousing. Jan sometimes found himself plumping up and poking out, much to Willem's amusement. The man challenged the youth to wear his sarong even lower on his hips than before, low enough to flash the top of his cleavage in back.
They made a striking couple walking about the port towns they stopped at: one standing a foot taller than the other, the older male dressed in Western clothing, the younger one, dressed, if that was the word for it, in a low slung wrap, the taller one virile, powerfully built, and handsome, the shorter one delicate and pretty with a trim wiry physique. Some suspected, correctly, they were a couple with Willem playing the handsome swain to Jan's pretty young thing.
Willem took Jan on an overnight trip into the Western Ghats, the high hills that lie inland from the coast. They swam in a cool pool at the foot of a dramatic waterfall, ate the spicy food of the region, visited ancient temples and fortifications, and marveled at the strange creatures they encountered, including elephants and a tiger.
The two would talk together for hours of seamanship, the different countries Willem had visited, the peoples and creatures he had encountered. The older man widened the boy's horizons, showing him something of the wonder and variety of the wider world. For a man who was largely self-educated, Willem was knowledgeable about so many things. He let Jan borrow books of poetry and travel narratives from the small chest of volumes he kept in his cabin. Willem could see that though half-educated as he was, Jan was a clever boy. He already spoke two native languages plus his native Dutch.
Now Jan liked the captain well enough, and their sex together was great, but he had fallen in love with Willem Luyken and the first mate with him. Willem didn't just use him for pleasure and treat him courteously, as captain de Sitter did. He clearly enjoyed Jan's company and not just when they were in bed. The time they had spent together on that voyage was the happiest of his young life so far.
So all was well the second time Jan crossed the line, which was coincidentally his seventeenth birthday. The cook prepared a special supper for the boy with just the captain and mate. The captain even let him have a small glass of sherry and led them in a toast.
"To our lovely cabin boy Jan on his seventeenth birthday. Many happy returns, but please Lord, not too soon."
"What he means, Jan" the first mate explained with a fond smile at the captain, "is that cabin boys grow up much too fast. Sooner than you would think, they become first mates."
That provoked a rueful smile from de Sitter.
Jan made a face at his first taste of the fortified wine, but gamely drank it all in small sips. Jan vowed to stick with beer if he drank at all. At least beer had food value, and the bitter taste cleared the palate. Too bad they hadn't been served beer with that spicy Indian food he and Willem had both liked so much.
After the festivities, the captain and first mate played together with Jan, giving him a double birthday fuck. Laying him on his back crosswise on the table, the two of them took off their clothing and addressed the boy's orifices with their rampant cocks. De Sitter took Jan's talented mouth and Willem his ass. Magnanimously the captain let his first mate go first and get himself fully seated in the boy's fundament.
In part he was just being careful. Jan was a good boy and a compliant lover, but he really was tiny and tight back there and the mate's formidable cock could be painful as it pressed its way inside. Jan's face always contorted wryly when that happened and he moaned softly as he struggled to accept the invader and deal with the pain. The man's shaft always forced his anal sphincters wider apart than perhaps nature had intended. Jan had come to crave that initial pain as a foretaste of so much pleasure, but he could not always control his writhing at the penetration. Hence the captain's forbearance during the preliminaries.
It was easier then for the captain to wait for the mate to get his cock in the boy's ass fully set then slide the rest of his shaft down Jan's welcoming throat. The wait had not been wasted. Jan's lips and tongue had been working on the head of de Sitter's cock, smooching the knob, licking around the rim of the glans, kissing the top of the shaft, letting the heavy acorn shape rest on his tongue while giving it a good soak. As the captain slid his cock in deep, Jan's pouty lips closed tight over the shaft forming a seal. The boy had been taking cock for several years and had long since mastered his gag reflex. For his part, the captain knew to set a predictable rhythm in and out so the boy could breathe when de Sitter withdrew for a moment then plunged back in. Jan was one of the few boys who could swallow him fully, burying his nose deep in the captain's pubic hair and pressing his lips his belly. That was really remarkable given the girth and length of the captain's truncheon of manhood. It would take three hands the size of Jan's small ones to cover that monster.
De Sitter liked to watch the play of a boy's abdominal muscles as he lay impaled at both ends, struggling to breathe at one end and to squeeze and milk the cock in him at the other end. Jan was talented, his small body taut and tight and exciting to fuck. He loved to have cocks in both orifices while the men who took him played with his delectable body, twisting his nipples, tugging on the small gold rings that now pierced their nubbins matching those in his earlobes, running their fingers over the chevron of his ribs, tracing the channel between his pectorals and the corrugations of his belly. This was what he was born for, to pleasure strong men while they aroused him, making him giddy and lightheaded with lust, shivering and shuddering as he abandoned himself to the good feelings coursing through his body.
Willem came first, shooting his seed deep into the boy's bowels. The feel of the wet warmth spurting into him set Jan off in turn. His ass muscles squeezed Willem's cock even as it pumped his gism into the boy, while Jan's own ejaculation arced out of his cock to splash on his face and chest. The sight of the white cream on the boy's tanned chest and belly pushed de Sitter over the edge. His cock throbbed as it spurted into the boy's throat. In his excitement, the captain kept his shaft buried deep, forgetting to withdraw to let the boy breathe. Both males were too absorbed to realize the import of the boy's struggles as he grew dizzy and weaker, deprived of air. His sight faded as he started to black out.
Suddenly de Sitter saw what was happening and pulled back so that just the head of his cock was in the boy's mouth. Jan sucked air into his lungs and looked up at the captain and smiled gratefully. He resumed his tonguing of the cock head, squeezing and tugging on the captain's extra sensitive cock. De Sitter's bent forward and put some of his weight on his elbows as he shuddered in the mix of pleasure and pain that shot through his belly as his boy teased him.
No doubt about it. Jan gave better head than he had ever known before. He was a treasure, so uninhibited and complaisant, always eager to please, and so very pretty of face and body. He positively reveled in his perpetual nudity and hairlessness. Taking Jan on as cabin boy was his best hire since he had given the same job to Willem Luyken nearly eight years before on their old ship the Utrecht.
Chapter 3. Into Danger
The disadvantage of the open water route usually taken by the Schooneveld was that it lay far out at sea, too far from safe harbor in the case of a big blow. The Indian Ocean is beset by cyclones, the same kind of tropical storms that were called hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific. A master mariner like de Sitter could read the weather signs and had prepared his ship as best he could, but the old trader still took a battering.
Some cargo got loose in her hold and hit the planking of her hull hard enough to spring the seam. Men had to work the pumps to keep the ship from taking on too much water. Else she might bury her nose into the troughs of the great waves that were tossing her about. Several of the old salts told tales of monster waves in past storms that were as high as the mast. The thirty foot waves that beset the Schooneveld were problem enough. Besides the damage to the hull, the ship lost most of its mizzen mast, which cracked in two just above the spar for the mizzensail. The wreckage fell over the rail of the ship, jammed in the bulwark, dragging in the water but still connected by standing rigging and lines. Its drag could cause the ship to broach, turn it sideways to the sea where the waves would roll it over.
The first mate led a party with axes and knives to cut loose the downed mast. Jan's small size made him ideal for wriggling through tight spots to get to the crucial connections, taking care not to get entangled and then swept into the sea when the rigging was finally freed. Under the keen edges of the sailors' blades, lines parted and wood chips flew, till the whole mess of tangled rigging went over the side in a rush. Willem flashed a smile of satisfaction to Jan that their timely action had kept the ship from going to the bottom. Jan grinned back, ignoring the wind that whipped his hair about or the rain and the spray that pelted his naked body. A wave did wash over the deck, but the boy simply held on to the rigging and, and as the ship shook off the heavy sea, emerged from the frothing waters like a mer-boy rising from the sea. Willem pressed the small water slicked body to his breast and kissed the top of his head, immensely proud with his lover's courage and cool-headedness at the critical moment.
Abruptly the ship broke into calm water and blue sky. Everyone looked about in wonder. The Schooneveld was at the edge of a circle of still water and fair skies. Sunlight slanted down onto the deck. Jan closed his eyes and turned his face up to the sun, basking in the warmth after his dunking. Even as he turned to clear the deck of the remaining wreckage, he could feel the sun's heat on his shoulders, his back, and his rump. What a sudden change from what they had just gone through. The calm sea gave the crew a chance to tamp canvas into the sprung seams and nail it in place. The intake of water slowed to a trickle easy enough for the pumps to handle.
"Just in time, too" de Sitter warned. "The wind at the far wall of the eye of the storm will be stronger."
And so it proved to be. The waves were mountainous, green hills rolling across the surface of the ocean. The wind blew so hard, it was impossible to distinguish sea spray from rain. Still, thanks to the courage and seamanship of the crew the old trader survived the storm and resumed its course, limping southeast toward Java.
Now ships in those days did not have any reliable way to determine their longitude, their distance east or west. So the Schooneveld found itself sailing closer than planned to the chain of islands that guarded the west coast of Sumatra. De Sitter dropped anchor in a sheltered cove just around a headland from a native village to effect repairs and to take on fresh water.
Called the Mentawai islands, they are volcanic in origin, the result of an upwelling of magma from the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate into the Sumatra Trench to the west. Their inhabitants spoke Austronesian languages and were culturally distinct from the peoples of Sumatra, but like them they were not above a little opportunistic piracy. A crippled ship with an exhausted crew looked liked easy pickings.
The villagers waited till the ship had anchored and sent a work party ashore to refill the water casks. Sailing ships seldom passed up a chance to exchange water that had been sitting in casks for weeks developing a bad taste for water right out of spring or stream. That was when the islanders fell upon the work party and killed all but one of them who swam inexpertly out toward the ship. They took the ship's boat and added it to the small flotilla of canoes that swarmed out to the Dutch ship, finishing off the last member of the work party who was struggling in the water.
Aware of the possibility of marauders, de Sitter had had the guns loaded with canister shot, a tin cylinder filled with dozens of lead balls that turned cannon into giant shotguns. The ship's gunfire made bloody work of the marauders, driving them off with heavy losses. Only a few canoes made it to the side of the ship where the crew used short swords and axes to repel the boarders. A few of them tried to swarm the quarterdeck, to take the captain hostage, pointing at, laughing at, and contemptuously dismissing the naked cabin boy as no real threat, armed as he was with only his knife, a Javanese kris, but Jan had been taking knife fighting lessons from Willem. The kris was as long as Jan's forearm making it practically a short sword. The kris and de Sitter's sword blade held the pirates off long enough for the mate and others in the crew to cut them down from behind.
"Didn't I tell you, Willem, that this boy was a treasure? I take full credit for deciding to hire him on as cabin boy back in Batavia," de Sitter said with a smile, looking proudly at the stout lad who had proved his pluck in storm and savage fighting.
Jan bowed to show his appreciation, though his utter nudity made the gesture less courtly than it might otherwise have been. The captain pointed up to the crow's nest telling Jan to keep an eye peeled for further trouble. Both officers watched the boy scramble up the rigging, admiring the flexing of his glutes and thighs as they propelled him upward.
They were pleased with how well the boy had taken to life at sea. He had never been seasick and was always cheerful and hardworking, and he had shown real courage there in both the storm and the skirmish with the villagers. The two men were pleased too with how well the boy had adapted to perpetual nudity aboard ship and his role as sex toy for the officers. He was always complaisant and enthusiastic with the men who took him to their beds. He did not need to be cajoled or ordered, and he certainly wasn't coquettish or teasing. He knew what he was there for and he did it, evidently getting as much pleasure out of it as he gave.
He was unconcerned about his reputation with the crew as the officers' catamite. He shrugged it off if any of the crew teased him or smirked at him, glancing at his bare ass or hairless crotch. He welcomed the physical attentions, the caresses and pats the officers favored him with, as compliments to his beauty. What could be more natural for men who lust after pretty boys than to recognize his sexiness and vitality. He knew he was exquisitely pretty. Everyone told him as much. Was it vanity then on his part to accept that as the truth? He thought not.
With the wind blowing strong from the west, de Sitter decided to sail down the Mentawai Strait in the somewhat sheltered waters between the chain of islands and Sumatra proper. The captain did manage to stop at another island and effect some repairs, jury rigging a short mizzen mast with a long spar. The repair crew patched the hull well enough that the ship was no longer taking on water, so they did not have to rely on the pumps to keep her afloat.
Seaworthy once again, though still crippled, the ship sailed southward, proceeding cautiously for they had no reliable charts for those waters. The weather bid fair, blue skies and wind from the north. At the southern end of the strait they found their way blocked by a pair of pirate junks. Unlike the opportunistic villagers they had encountered before, these were professionals. Their ship could not turn north to sail away from the threat for the junks could sail closer to the wind and would overtake her. They would have to fight their way into the clear despite being outnumbered and outgunned.
This would be no skirmish with small boats close to shore but a real sea battle under sail to be decided by cannon. If the pirates could immobilize their vessel with chain shot through the rigging, they could swarm aboard and settle the issue with cold steel. Merchant vessels carried just enough crew to work the ship and the guns. Pirates had large crews, including swarms of fighters who could sail, shoot or board at will.
Despite the strange sounding name (which is simply the Javanese word for 'ship') there was nothing unworthy about junks compared to square-rigged ships like the Schooneveld. Junks were efficient and sturdy ships. Their sails can be aligned with the long axis of the ship making them better at sailing into the wind. The horizontal poles or battens in the sails strengthen them against tearing. A cannonball through one batten cannot ruin a whole sail. Junks pioneered the use of stern mounted rudders centuries before their adoption in the West. So captain de Sitter did not despise his native opponents. He knew they might well sink or capture his vessel and enslave any of the crew left alive.
"At least we have the weather gage, sir." Willem told his captain.
"And we had better make the most of it." the older man said grimly.
The first mate meant that their position to the north of and upwind from the two enemy vessels gave them an advantage. With the wind at his back, their ship could sail faster and maneuver at will toward any point downwind. The enemy had to attack upwind, tacking back and forth, going slower and liable to be headed off by the faster vessel. Equally important, a vessel heading (diagonally) into the wind cannot use its guns very easily. The sideways force of the wind makes the vessel heel over, leaving the windward side elevated, its guns pointed to the sky while the gun ports on the leeward side of the point toward the sea or even actually awash.
Even with the weather gage their ship wasn't really faster than the enemy junks. The loss of the mizzenmast had significantly reduced the trader's speed and maneuverability. It would take guile and grit as well as the weather gage for the good ship Schooneveld to get through the enemy gantlet. De Sitter maneuvered so he could attack one enemy at at time, when they were on different tacks, aiming for the one on his right, to the west of the other junk. He stationed his three best shots in the bow crouched down so they could not be seen. At the designated signal they were to fire at the pirates manning the ship's wheel. Each man had three loaded muskets and another sailor to reload for each of them.
As the Dutch ship came abreast of the enemy, sailing on opposite courses, she gave the enemy junk a broadside. Immense clouds of smoke filled the space between the vessels as the pirate ship returned fire. Meanwhile the shooters in the bow went to work. The sharpshooters fired at the two pirates manning the wheel, killing or wounding them and the next two men who tried to reach the wheel to take over. The enemy junk fell off into the wind, temporarily out of control. That was the chance de Sitter was aiming for. He turned on the opposite tack, slowing his own vessel down and leaving the sails luffing in the wind for a brief time, but he got his ship turned around to present her starboard broadside to the enemy's stern. The great cannon roared, some double-shotted, and fired their iron balls the length of the enemy vessels. Then de Sitter wore ship, turning it around again and gave it a second broadside into the stern with his port guns which had been reloaded in the meantime.
Round shot does its damage to a ship by smashing a ship's structure: breaking timbers and bulkheads or masts and rigging. Additionally, as the shot smashes into the wood of the ship it breaks off huge splinters a foot or more long and propels them with frightful force into or through anything inside the hull. A broadside into the belly of a ship can turn the below decks into an abbatoir as the splinters impale mens' bodies or simply tear them apart.
The first enemy junk lost way, turned and crashed into the second, fouling her. That gave de Sitter his chance to get away. The sailors fired two broadsides into the second junk as the pulled away from the tangled ships. Damage to her own rigging made their own progress painfully slow, but the second junk was in no condition to pursue, battling a fire that had started on the wrecked first ship.
Still their guns could reach out to batter the Schooneveld as it retreated south, carrying away the jury rigged mizzenmast entirely. As the wreckage fell to deck. it caught the first mate a glancing blow. Stunned, only half conscious, he could not get clear as the tangled spars and lines slipped over the side. Jan did not hesitate. Seeing Willem in mortal peril, he put the blade of his knife to his mouth and, gripping it with his teeth, he dove over the side, swimming to where Willem struggled feebly to free himself. Jan cut at the ropes desperately, finally getting his lover free. They clutched each other while treading water, trying to think of what to do next.
It was no good to swim for the ship. It was moving too fast and Captain de Sitter dared not slow down or stop. His duty was to his ship, its crew, and its cargo. He could not risk everything for just two men, however much he cared for them. Suppressing tears that he would allow himself only in private, he gave orders to continue south, away from the pair left behind in the water. Jan called out to the ship, but it was no use.
There was nothing for it but to swim to the eastern shore, no more than half a mile away, and try their luck on Sumatra. Fortunately, the current pushed them south away from the junks. Not that they two young men had escaped the attention of the pirates. Too far away for their muskets, the pirates fired cannon several times at the retreating duo, but without success. All that their round shot could do was make a big splash in the water. Together Jan and Willem staggered up onto shore and pushed into the jungle.
They marched inland, away from the coast till they came to a hill. Looking back they could see the Schooneveld was much farther away now. The second junk had untangled itself and put out the fires it had caught from the first, now only a burning shell, sinking rapidly. It was time to take stock of their situation. Their ship was gone and could not return to look for them, even if de Sitter thought they were still alive. The VOC would not again risk a ship in the Mentawai Strait. Jan and Willem could not stay near shore either in hope of rescue or to try to find some means of transport south to Java. Villagers along the coast would simply turn them over to pirates. That left inland.
"Inland. We have to go inland, Jan, to get away from pursuit."
"All right, Willem, I can see that, but then what?"
Their options were to head east, over the mountains and then across the flat coastal plain to the Strait of Malacca, a journey of maybe two hundred miles (300 km). Or they could follow the Barisan mountains all the way to the south end of the island, maybe to Palembang. The sultan there had a long-standing treaty with the VOC. That was longer, maybe 300 miles (450 km).
Either would be a grueling journey given their lack of equipment and supplies. Willem wore his uniform trousers and white shirt and stout boots. His sword belt still held both sword and knife and a pocket with flint and steel to start fires. Jan had only his knife but was entirely naked and barefoot. They had no food or water nor anything to carry it in. Water would not be a problem, given the heavy rainfall and many streams and rivers. Food would be, especially since they would have to skirt any settlements. Strangers could expect to be killed or enslaved.
Jan trusted his friend's good sense so he raised no objection when Willem decided that their best chance was to make for Palembang but to travel on the other side of the mountains, away for the coast. The foothills on the other side would be easier going than the swamps and jungle of the flatlands beyond and probably less disease ridden. Without a compass, they would let the mountain range itself guide them. Once in the eastern foothills, all they had to do was keep the mountains on their right and head southeast. They would be able see the lay of the land better from a higher elevation. One section of flat jungle or swamp looked much like another.
Chapter 4 Sumatra 1724
It proved surprisingly easy to get across the mountains. The Barisan mountains ('row of hills' in Malay) are a string of volcanoes rather than a continuous folded range. There were many low passes between the jungle shrouded volcanic peaks. The slopes the youths climbed to get away from the pirates were gentle and covered with rich soil derived from weathered volcanic deposits. They tried to avoid rocky areas. Rough volcanic rock could be hard on Jan's bare feet no matter how toughened with calluses they were. Just sitting down to rest was hazardous for his bare butt. At least the air was cooler at the higher elevations, and the boys were more likely to catch refreshing winds.
The real problem was finding food to fill their bellies and provide them with strength. For all its luxuriant growth a rain forest has very little that is edible by humans: some fruits, grubs and worms, bird eggs, and such, plus elusive game animals. Willem made snares for small game, twisting strips of cloth from the bottom of his shirt into cords. Set out at night the snares snagged small critters to provide them with meat, though they did have to abandon one snare to an unlucky skunk that stuck its head through a noose and died of strangulation. Neither of them wanted to get anywhere near the horrid smell. They certainly could not imagine eating its flesh.
As something of a native of the East Indies himself, and as a blond, Jan could cope better than Willem with biting and stinging insects. Insects are much likelier to plague those with darker hair, and Willem's was a fairly subdued shade of red, nearly auburn. Jan also located familiar plants whose juices would discourage insects from bothering them. The oils could be spread on the body at dusk or the plants themselves thrown onto the fire to create a cloud that repelled insects. Willem very much liked to spread the oils on Jan's back and rump. He knew how much the boy liked the feel of strong hands gliding over his smooth skin, massaging the muscles underneath.
These measures provided quite good protection against troublesome insects. As long as they stayed out of the flat lands to the east, mosquitos and other slow fliers were much less likely to plague them. Tropical peoples had long ago learned that often the best "repellent" is a fan or a gentle breeze because mosquitoes do not like moving air. Both youths took to using a big leaf to stir the air not only to get cool in the evening but to discourage mosquitos and such.
Sometimes they dug a small trench a few inches deep around their sleep site. The moving waters of a stream partly diverted into the trench created a moat around a sort of island that discouraged at least some creepy crawlies. Though once Jan did get bit by a centipede when he shifted in his sleep. Yelling in surprise and pain he brushed it off him with the back of his hand then lashed out with his kris, chopping the offending creature to bits, but the poison was already under the skin at his hip. Although not toxic enough to kill, the poison hurt rather a lot. Jan was lucky that the bite was on the boniest part of his hip. The toxin created a boil that swelled up but, confined by the bone just under the surface, burst immediately, thus letting much of the venom drain out. Had the creature bitten his fleshy buttock, the poison would have spread throughout the muscle and into the bloodstream. (Which is why in modern times folks get shots in the rump before traveling to the tropics.)
It was fortunate that their preventive measures against insects were generally successful. Comfort aside, insects are vectors of many debilitating or even deadly diseases, even if the role of insects in spreading disease was unknown at the time. It was a wonder neither lad came down with malaria or dengue fever.
Although unshod, Jan had gone barefoot all his life so the calluses on his feet were as good as a pair of moccasins. The long miles tired them out till they became conditioned to walking. Life at sea is fine for developing the muscles of the upper body but bad for the wind and for endurance. Still they were young lads in the prime of life and health. Willem was now twenty-two and Jan seventeen, so they had the resilience of youth. Most important of all, they had each other.
The moral support the two lovers gave each other was as important than their sexual relationship. Alone either might have given in to despair, but together they made a formidable pair. Jan's naturally sunny disposition bucked Willem up. In turn Willem's sound good sense gave Jan confidence in their chances of winning through. Two heads really are better than one, for no one has all the answers.
Jan was quick and nimble and by far the better climber. He was clever with his hands, making a sling with a strip of leather from Willem's belt. He used it to fling stones to bring down small game as he had done as a young boy. Willem contributed greater strength and his deadly weapons to their enterprise. He had fashioned spears for both of them and hardened their points in fire. Together the youths had surprised a young tapir, cornered, and killed it. Its tasty meat gave them strength and very much improved their morale. Sometimes Jan fashioned a fish spear from a light cane of bamboo and tried his luck in ponds and streams.
Not that their journey was a lark. There were many dangers in the jungle: poisonous snakes, venomous centipedes, and swarming ants. Poor Willem once brushed by a colony of fire ants. They swarmed over him by the dozen biting and stinging. A fire ant is doubly bad news. It first bites to get a grip then injects a venom with the stinger in its abdomen. Jan was some little distance off and looked up in surprise when he heard his friend yell out. Willem ran a short distance away from the ant nest, swatting at himself, yelping, tearing his clothes off, abruptly sitting down to pull his boots off too, then stamping on ants and jumping up and down in frustration all the while cursing in Dutch and fluent Malay.
It looked so comical that Jan burst out laughing. He was still giggling when, realizing what had happened, he chopped a big leaf free and used it to swipe the offending insects off his red-haired lover's by now naked body. Jan got stung and bit a few times too for his trouble, which did not keep Willem from snapping at the boy.
"You thought that was funny?" he asked with understandable asperity.
"I am sorry Will, but you should have seen yourself. I couldn't help laughing. Please forgive me."
Jan did make it up to Willem with a medicinal poultice he concocted from a plant mashed with a rock into a paste and applied to the skin. It provided some relief, but Willem was in considerable discomfort for days afterwards.
There were also large animals that might look at them as prey. Indeed little Jan especially was just the sort of naked prey that the Sumatran tiger or perhaps even a clouded leopard would like on the menu. With his tanned hide entirely in view, he looked like a sort of upright deer or antelope or maybe a hairless orangutan. The first time they saw a tiger from across a valley, Jan was very glad he was not alone. He would have felt very much like the beast's natural prey, small and naked as he was and armed with only a crude spear and his kris. It did not help that his light yellow hair stood out against the green of the jungle, helping any predator that hunted by sight.
A formidable weapon, the Javanese kris has a cranked or bent hilt which transfers more power to the blade for a stab than a straight hilt does. The bend also increases the pressure to the blade while slashing and cutting. Jan's did not have the sinuous blade typical of the kris. His blade was straight on top with single curve below from hilt to tip, with the broadest part in the middle of the blade. For a scabbard Jan used the bottom third of the scabbard for Willem's sword tied to his right thigh with two lengths of vine. That way it would not slap about as he walked or ran or climbed, but would still be handy when he needed it.
Obviously even the formidable kris would not prevail against a tiger much less a rhino or an elephant. Rhinos can weigh more than a thousand pounds (500 kg), are bad tempered and have both horns and teeth. The jungle also harbored bears and packs of dholes or wild dogs.
Each night they looked for a defensible camp site. Yes they could climb trees but so could snakes and leopards and other creatures, and it is hard to fight while perched on the limb of a tree. On the ground at least you had your feet on terra firma and you could build a fire that would cook food, provide light, burn herbs to repel insects, and discourage predators. Sometimes they found a defensible slot among boulders, blocking the entrance with thorn bushes or the fire itself. The youths did not try to keep a watch, not with only the two of them. That would just exhaust them.
Their lovemaking was intense, driving by primeval needs in the face of danger as well as their strong sexual attraction for each other. Willem liked to let Jan straddle him while he was stretched out on his back. With Jan sitting atop his hips, they could both see each other's faces and firmly muscled bodies. Willem loved to run his fingers up and down the chevrons of Jan's ribs and to tweak his tiny red nipples before turning his attention to the boy's painfully hard erection. Or Jan could bend over so the two youths could kiss lingeringly as their passions built slowly to their exciting climax.
They both slept naked, usually spooned together, which had been the most comfortable way for them to share the narrow bunks on board their ship. Jan liked to dock his small body into the welcoming bay of Willem's large torso and limbs. Engulfed and comforted by Willem's masculine presence, Jan savored those last moments before sleep took them, feeling the strength in the arms that embraced him, rubbing his legs lazily against his lover's long lower limbs.
Sometimes in the half light before dawn he would awaken to feel the red-head's morning wood pressing against his rump, into his cleavage. He knew they both needed their sleep so he did not try to awaken his lover early. Instead he simply reached down and bent the tumescent cock till it slipped between his thighs, welcoming Will's manhood into the intercrural space that some overly fastidious males actually preferred for intercourse with a boy. Occasionally he dilated his hole and let Willem's hardness slip inside, giving him a pleasant surprise when he finally did wake up.
Willem had offered to cut his shirt up for a loincloth, but Jan elected to stay entirely nude. He was long past embarrassment at constant nudity and actually preferred it for the chance to put his trim body on display. It certainly fit in with the primeval setting of the deep jungle. Nor was he bothered overly much by insects. His coloring and plant extracts gave him enough protection against bugs and his deep tan all the protection he needed against the sun of the tropics.
The youths worried more about dangerous beasts than hostile natives. The area they traveled through had few settlements of any kind. In those days the island of Sumatra was sparsely settled. The flat plains east of the mountains were little good for crops. The region lacked easy access to seaborne commerce, essential for their economy. Hence the reluctance to settle the interior when there was better lands along the coasts Willem had chosen their route well to avoid potentially hostile villagers.
Keeping clean was not a problem what with numerous streams and pools and frequent rainfall. Jan did not hesitate to point out yet another advantage to being naked. The rain did not soak his clothing and make it chafe against his skin. The waters literally rolled off his back. He also couldn't get blisters from his boots.
The island of Sumatra is bisected by the Equator, so every day was hot and humid. Even for a boy who had grown up in the tropics, the heat was stultifying especially given their exertions in hiking a dozen of so miles a day (20 km), the best they could manage on a good day in the terrain and with the need to hunt or gather food, make camp and cook. Willem suffered even more from the heat because he was bigger and fully clothed. He sweated a lot more than Jan did and not just from exertion. Jan could not explain it, but when he was relaxed in the shade and sitting still he hardly sweated at all in temperatures that blinded Willem with the sweat that got into his eyes.
Modern science eventually explained that persons born in the tropics metabolized brown fat at a slower rate than persons born in cooler climes regardless of ethnicity. The adaptation lasted a lifetime as long as it got started during the first two years of life. Otherwise it was impossible.
More than once the primeval streak in Jan led him to suggest that the youths lie down on the ground, right in the pouring rain, and take a break to get cool and boost their morale. The cooling rains gave them welcome relief from the oppressive heat. Willem too was happy to strip off when they found a comfortable spot and let the rain wash over him. The rain drummed on their chests, the waters flowing down their sides and their bellies, dividing around the prow of their proud cocks, sluicing down their cleavages.
The youths held hands and looked up at the clouds, blinking away the raindrops that fell onto their faces and plastered the hair to their heads. For that moment they were just two headstrong boys without the sense to come in out of the rain, and they loved it. It felt so sexy to be there under the rain. The way it washed so totally over them, touching them everywhere made them feel utterly naked.
They turned their faces upwards, opening themselves totally to nature's cleansing and cooling rains, reveling in life, in their sexuality, in their closeness, and in their gratitude at not being alone in that forsaken place. Sometimes one or the other reminisced about his boyhood or spoke hopefully of their future, once they returned to civilization.
"What is Holland like, Willem?" Jan asked.
"It very flat and low lying. A good part of the country is actually below sea level. Dikes keep the sea from flooding in. It is a pretty country but cold in winter. It snows often then, covering everything with a blanket of white. I loved playing in the snow as a lad." Willem sighed.
"What is snow?" Jan asked.
Willem was astonished then amused that he had to explain the concept of solid or frozen water to a very skeptical Jan who could hardly credit the notion of the snowball fights Willem remembered fondly much less ice skating on frozen ponds. Water you could walk upon? The look of disbelief on Jan's face was priceless. Of course, his ignorance was pardonable as there was no snow or ice in the East Indies -- not even on the tops of mountains.
Besides the rain breaks or baths in pools, their toilette was simple. Willem did not much care for facial hair and kept clean shaven using his well honed knife. Jan helped with the tough spots since they had no mirror. Jan had no beard at all, not even a fuzz but Willem did use his blade every ten days or so on Jan's armpits and his groin, to keep him smooth and bare. The boy hardly needed it that often. He was basically a naturally hairless boy. The only complication in their personal hygiene was that one youth was always on guard if the other had to answer a call of nature. It would be only too easy for a predator to sneak up on a man preoccupied as he was that way.
After two weeks, Willem decided to go about bare to the waist, except at dusk and dawn when the bugs were most active. He kept his shirt tied around his hips by the sleeves. Not only would he need it when the got to their goal, the cloth had proved useful in itself. He had a light tan already but no more than that. Aboard ship, officers wore uniforms to maintain the dignity of their station. Only naughty cabin boys pranced around in the altogether.
This journey bonded the two young men as nothing else could have. Even more than on the ship they were thrown into each other's company, only now exclusively. Some couples might have found excuses to squabble, especially given the primitive conditions and their occasionally empty bellies. Not these two lads who were compatible in every way: physically, sexually, intellectually, morally, and temperamentally. More than anything else, their joint struggle for survival and the implicit trust it engendered in them made them sure that they belonged together for the rest of their lives.
Chapter 5. Predators
"Why in the world would you want to kill a poor skunk, Jan?" Willem asked, perplexed. The blond boy had just felled one with a slung stone to the head.
"They are inoffensive creatures who won't bother you as long as they don't feel threatened." Willem added. "They give you plenty of warning too before they spray you with that horrid smell. So what is this all about?"
"Just something that may come in handy if we ever find ourselves tracked by a pack of wild dogs. One whiff of these mephitic vapors will put them off the scent for sure."
Jan used Willem's knife to carefully cut away the skunk's small anal glands. He used a thorn as a needle and threads from Willem's shirt to sew their openings firmly shut, then wrapped both in a leaf, handing the packet to the older man to put it into the leather pouch of his sword belt.
"No pockets" Jan explained with a smile as he whirled his nude body about, running his hands down his bare flanks.
"Harrumph" Willem returned, but he did take custody of the unusual weapon Jan had fashioned. He could see the sense of it, however apprehensive he might be about accidents. Jan's eyes twinkled as he added mischievously.
"If you see a tiger on your trail, don't bother squirting the stuff on the ground. Tigers don't hunt by scent as much as dholes do. Just upend one of the sacs and squeeze it all over yourself. Toss the other one to me so I can do the same."
"Aaah, right. Sure thing. No self-respecting tiger would come within a cable's length of that noxious smell."
Actually Willem was quite proud of how resourceful his young lover was proving to be. First the sling, then the fish spear, insect repellents, now this. Not to mention saving his life when he got dragged overboard during the battle with the pirates. No doubt that Jan was pulling his weight. He had a native intelligence that deserved better than the skimpy education he had had till then. When they got back to civilization, Willem resolved to offer the boy a full education in mathematics and seamanship and the natural sciences. He couldn't very well be a cabin boy and officers' catamite all his life.
They were two thirds the way to their goal when the youths found an unusual cave at the top of a low hill. A trickle of water flowed from a rain fed pond on the flat top of the hill through a crack in the roof just wide enough for Willem to squeeze through. It led down about five feet (1.5 m) to an old lava tube. One way was blocked but the other went about thirty feet (9 m) to the face of a low cliff. perhaps twenty-five feet high (8 m), over which the very small stream in the cave fell to the ground in a wispy waterfall. Lianas grew down its face allowing them three different ways to enter their new found shelter: squirming through the crack in the roof, rappelling down from the top or climbing up from the ground below. Best of all the cave was completely uninhabited except for some inoffensive spiders and a few toads.
Jan thought the nearby ponds and streams would yield fish for their larder. Game had been scarce the last week and they knew that they would soon have to leave the foothills and strike out across the plains to Palembang. So they decided to stay several days and exploit the area's fish and abundant wild fruits. The cave would make a good base of operations. It would shelter them from rain and wind and wild animals. The back door was an especially good feature for a cave shelter.
On their second day operating from the cave, Willem turned his ankle. It was a bad sprain not a break but he would have to stay off it for a week. Jan let his lover put his weight on him as he hobbled to the foot of the cliff. It was no problem for the experienced sailor to haul himself up by his arms to the opening in the cliff. Jan helped him get inside and made him comfortable.
Since they couldn't go on for a while anyway, Jan cut grasses and bushes to make a comfortable bed for them. The cave itself provided fresh water, shelter, protection from animals, and a place to keep their larder away from scavengers. Fortunately the top of the hill was rocky and unattractive to the smaller critters that might have infiltrated from above.
So the lads saw Willem's injury and the resulting delay as a setback not a disaster. They even welcomed it as something of a break from their grueling routine, always on the march. It is not like they had a deadline. The two of them had been making good progress. Another week would make little difference.
So for the next few days Jan speared fish, collected wood for their fire, and gathered fruit and roots. Willem cooked, sharpened their blades with his whetstone, and kept watch from his perch at the entrance to their snug cave. Their duties took only a few hours a day so they had plenty of time to talk. Willem broached the idea to Jan of a real education. Jan agreed to that immediately and expressed his gratitude both verbally and physically. The time passed pleasantly enough, and they felt stronger and better rested than they had before.
On their fourth day of occupancy, as Jan approached the cliff face carrying a big fish he had speared, Willem spotted movement in the jungle behind him. With horror he realized that a Sumatran tiger was trailing the boy, stalking him.
Though Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the different subspecies of tiger, this cat was a large male near the upper limit for its kind at just under 300 pounds (134 kg). Its size made it easy to move through dense rain forests. The webbing between its toes makes Sumatran tigers very fast swimmers. They have been known to drive hoofed prey into the water, especially if the prey animal is a slow swimmer. The cats will take fish or fowl too if they can. Tigers are not fussy eaters.
Aghast, and dreading the worst, afraid to shout, Willem signaled Jan to look behind him. The boy stopped, turned slowly, and saw his danger. He froze in place, uncertain whether to run or fight, as his fear made his scrotum pull up close to the fork of his legs.
The dark eyes of the striped cat gleamed as they stared at the boy, standing there so still and small and vulnerable, naked prey, caught virtually defenseless, armed only with a fishing spear and a kris. The two of them held still for what seemed like the longest time, a tableau vivant of beauty and terror.
Willem was afraid that any sudden movement on Jan's part would provoke the creature to pounce and to rend and to tear. He was sick with the thought that the warm and welcoming body of his young lover might be transformed before his very eyes into just so much dead meat for the great carnivore to carry off into the jungle to devour. His heart went out to the brave boy who stood there strong and proud despite his fear. Barely seventeen, a boy, yes, but with the heart of a man.
Jan let the big fish slip to the ground. He wanted to run. Every fiber of his being told him to turn and sprint for the cave, but his rational faculty told him to back away slowly and to keep his eyes on the big predator. Tigers prefer to pounce from behind, or so he had always been told. Jan backed away, careful not to trip. Any sudden movement would set the big cat off.
The tiger padded forward confidently, but instead of attacking the boy, it stopped and snatched the big fish up in its jaws then bounded away. Meanwhile Jan lost no time swarming up a liana to where Willem awaited him.
The red-haired youth crushed the blond boy's small sweat slicked body to his breast. Hands roamed and touched everywhere as confirmation of the physical reality of his continued existence. The youths murmured reassurances, still fearful, knowing how easily the beast could have slain the boy but for the chance of having that fat fish with him to satisfy the tiger's hunger. Finally letting go of his lover, Willem tried to make light of the close call.
"Too bad you couldn't try out your famous tiger repellent." he remarked, indicating the package of amputated skunk glands in his pouch.
The boy too wanted to pass it off with a joke, so he gestured to his nude physique and said:
"No pockets! Remember?"
"Just the way I like you, Jan."
They dissolved in nervous laughter though the truth was they were both badly shaken and frightened. Their lovemaking that night was tender and lingering, an affirmation of life and love rather than simple sexual gratification. Jan slept in the circle of his lover's arms, reassuring Willem with the touch of his smooth limbs, his body heat, and his clean fresh smell of healthy boy. They woke up the next morning and looked out finding no sign of the tiger. From caution, Jan went out the back door to gather fruits and birds eggs, keeping the hill between him and the cliff-face entrance to the cave. He saw no sign of the tiger during his abbreviated expedition.
Alas, they got their hopes up too soon. The down side of feeding a cat, any cat, is that it encourages him to return for another handout. Now you can ignore the importuning of a house cat, but tigers can be rather insistent in such matters. The area around the cave was within the animal's normal range, so it started checking back every afternoon. The tiger had his eye now on the two tasty looking creatures up in the cave, slender and smooth versions of the hairy orangutan he rarely managed to find down out of the trees.
If only he could get at them. The smaller one was more the size of his normal prey: things like wild boar, mountjac, and tapir. Though disappointed daily, the big cat was successful in catching fish in the same pools that Jan had visited. So he hung around. Fish were well and good, but they were bony; he wanted red meat.
Jan had seen that the cat stalked by at about the same time every afternoon. So on the fourth day he took a chance and ventured forth early in the morning to spear a fish. He made his way to an overlook above the pools only to find the tiger already fishing at his spot. Unfortunately the movement of Jan's long shadow cast on the rocks below by the morning sun made the tiger look up at him, licking his chops. He left off fishing and bounded up the rocks toward the boy.
Jan knew that the tiger could beat him in a race to the bottom of the cliff below their cave, so ran down a different path. The big cat was confident it knew which way his naked prey was heading so he made straight for the cave, not trying to pick up a scent. Anyway, Jan's scent trails were all around the area. Jan managed to circle around and climb the hill in back, entering the cave through the slit in the ceiling. He looked down at the big cat who snarled up at him, realizing that his prey had somehow reached its lair in safety.
The tiger padded over to where the little waterfall splashed into a small pool in the ground then settled down to wait out his prey. He stayed all night and all the next day, slaking his thirst at the pool. The next night he disappeared for a couple of hours, perhaps to hunt, or maybe to lie in wait. Either way, neither of the young men cared to venture into the jungle after dark with a tiger lurking about.
With food running out, Jan suggested retreating out the back door and putting distance between them. Willem wasn't so sure that would fool the tiger long enough. If it took after them, they would have little chance if caught on open ground.
They had no missile weapons, no guns, no bow and arrows, nothing but a sling. True, Jan had improved their crude spears. Not satisfied with mere fire hardened points he had set and bound chunks of obsidian, volcanic glass, into their heads. That made the points sharp as any razor. The problem was that tigers can stalk and pounce on their prey without warning.
"What if we knew it was coming?. That's his greatest weapon, isn't it? Surprise. Cats stalk and pounce. Take that away from him and we'd have a chance."
"I don't know Jan. Even without surprise he has fangs and claws."
"True but we have our spears and blades. That's got to count for something."
"Maybe, but how can we ever know that he is tracking us? Big as he is, he moves silently. And we can't smell him, like the animals do."
"Yes, we can, if we douse him with my tiger repellent!"
Willem lookup up with both surprise and hope on his face.
"That just might work. But how?"
"Leave that to me!"
Jan explained his plan then started pelting the tiger with small rocks and spoiled fruit to get it angry. It growled and snarled and even jumped up the face of the cliff only to fall back. The tiger backed off across the small clearing to get a running start, then sprang forward, jumping up, trying to get purchase with his claws to pull him high enough. Good thing the face of the cliff was sheer rock. His claws found no purchase on that unyielding surface.
Jan was surprised and frightened at how high the big cat could leap. The fact is that the rear limbs of a cat let it raise its center of gravity pretty far off the ground before the hind feet lose contact. He would have to gauge his next step carefully. Jan drew up one of the smaller more flexible lianas, bracing a loop around Willem. He lay flat and twined his legs around the vine, feet toward Willem. The idea was for him to hang upside down as bait. When the tiger jumped up, Jan would give him both barrels as Willem pulled him back up and into the cave.
"I don't know how I let your persuade me to try this hare-brained scheme, Jan. I don't want to lose you. Not now. Not when we have so much to live for."
"We have to try something, Will. I cannot do this alone. Trust me. I know this will work."
Actually he gave himself less than an even chance of surviving -- much less succeeding. But they had to do something.
Jan pulled himself forward till only his belly and legs were still in the cave and picked up the package of skunk scent glands, placing one in the palm of each hand. He used his elbows to nudge him over the edge while Willem paid out some line. Jan now dangled upside down from the mouth of the cave. The tiger was waiting for him, having backed up across the clearing to get a better look up into the cave. He sprang forward at frightening speed and leaped as high as he could go. Just as he got to the top of his arc, Jan let loose right in his face with the scent gland in his right hand. The tiger yowled and turned to drop to the ground. Jan sprayed his flank with the gland in his left hand just as Willem pulled him back up and into the cave.
Willem moved to hug his lover, but Jan held up his hands.
"Wait, Will. I have to get this stink off my hands."
Jan had gathered herbs and fruits whose juices, when mixed together, pretty much neutralized the scent of the skunk. This was an old home remedy he had learned during his childhood on Java. They had to get the smell off Jan, not just for their comfort but so they could smell the tiger without the stink on the boy's hands confounding things.
There was no sign of the tiger when the youths looked out from the mouth of the cave. Nevertheless they went out the back door, intending to head north a bit, directly away from the cave before swinging southeast. Just as the started down the slope of their hill they caught a whiff of skunk smell.
"That isn't me." Jan said defensively. "And the wind is wrong for it to be from in front of the cave."
"My God. There he is."
Willem pointed at the tiger which was rubbing its flank and face in the grass trying and failing to get the smell off its fur. It looked up, saw its tormentors, and bounded up the slope in pursuit. The boys realized that the open slope of the hill was no place to make a stand. There was nothing to shield them or to channel the tiger's attack. Better then to make a stand at the cave entrance than fighting right out in the open, so the turned and ran. Willem's longer legs let him get there first. Jan was close behind but with the tiger almost on top of him. With no time to lose, the boy dove headfirst into the slot in the roof of the cave, yelling as he felt the tiger's claws slash his rump. Luckily for Jan, the angry tiger was moving so fast it actually ran past the cave entrance and had to jump back. That brief delay was a literal life saver for Jan.
Willem's caught Jan in his arms as he tumbled headlong into the cave, narrowly avoiding the spear in his hand. Jan got to his feet to check the damage which was not serious. The cat's claws had left two shallow cuts about three fingers wide on the flat of Jan's right buttock.
The tiger peered down the entrance snarling and tried to force its way through, though its deep chest and the shape of its hips hindered it. Jan and Willem saw that the tiger just might be able to force its way inside. Their best option was to attack while it was half way through.
The boys used their spears to stab the tiger in the chest and forelegs. The spears gave them greater reach though a swipe of a paw snapped Jan's spear in half. Willem was standing to one side and jabbed into the big cat's face, blinding it in one eye, though taking a slash to his left arm. The tiger redoubled its efforts to squirm inside and get at its foes, roaring and yowling in pain and anger and bloodlust. Claws flashed trying to reach the two humans. Jan sidled close to tiger, on it blind side, ignoring its roars and fetid breath. He saw an opening as it swiped a paw at Willem. Jan swept his kris down in a mighty slash putting his weight behind it, nearly cutting the paw right off the beast's foreleg.
Despite its wounds and its agony, the tiger surged forward and dropped into the cave right in between the two youths. It turned toward Jan, the one who had cut its paw and gathered itself for a leap. At that moment, Willem swung his sword into the spine of the beast. That cut the spinal cord, depriving it of the use of its rear legs. With only one sound limb left and bleeding out from the wound on one foreleg, the tiger was doomed, but the boys were taking no chances. Willem retrieved his spear and stabbed deep into the flank of the beast searching for the heart. It turned its head, roaring defiance, giving Jan a chance to reach with his kris and cut its throat. The roaring stopped abruptly as the great beast collapsed and bled out from three grievous wounds.
It was done. The youths could hardly believed that they were alive, but the dead body of the tiger was there right in front of them as proof. Neither wanted a trophy though Jan did retrieve the obsidian spear point from his broken spear. He would set it into a new shaft the first chance he got. The pair slid down a vine and into the clearing in front of the cave.
Both took the chance to use the waterfall as a shower to wash the sweat and blood off them and to clean their wounds. Jan put a poultice on their cuts that helped them heal clean, leaving white scars on their tanned bodies. In later years they would show their scars as proof of their close escape. The parallel white streaks on Jan's brown buttocks were more beauty mark than disfigurement, "adding character" as Willem always said, to a very sexy rump.
Afterwards they set their faces to the east toward Palembang, reaching it six days later. The inhabitants hardly knew what to make of the strange pair, both obviously European from their hair alone, the red head bared to the waist, the yellow haired boy entirely nude. Strangely both spoke fluent Malay and asked politely to be shown the way to the palace of the sultan.
The guards and the sultan's chamberlain were startled by the appearance of the two petitioners and their state of undress but sent word to the monarch who agreed to receive the young men in a private room rather than in the main audience chamber. The Sultan was himself a young man, in his mid-twenties and well-favored: tall and lean with a neatly trimmed mustache and a fringe of beard around his chin.
The sultan had not been able to take his eyes off Jan from the instant he had walked into the room. He drank in the sight of Jan's tiny red nipples ringed with gold like his ears, his blond hair and green eyes, and those narrow hips framing an ample manhood on a slight physique. Smooth, hairless, tanned, and toned, Jan was real beauty. The sultan found himself enthralled by the musicality of the boy's voice, and the animation in his face as he and Willem described their adventures.
"Truly remarkable overcoming a cyclone, pirates, the jungle, and a tiger. Your survival was undoubtedly the will of Allah, the compassionate and the merciful. Thanks be to him for preserving the lives of two such brave and handsome young men. I am particularly grateful for the chance to gaze upon all of your delightful body, young Jan Dekker, as you stand there nude before me."
"I can see, young one, that you are deeply tanned all over with a shade too dark to have happened only during your expedition overland. Am I right in guessing you are one of those cabin boys who disports himself entirely naked while at sea?"
"Indeed, your highness. That is why I had no clothing on when I dove into the sea to rescue Willem, that is the first mate."
"I don't suppose Mr. Luyken that you would be willing to sell the boy to me. I would give much to add him to my harem."
"No, your highness. I am sorry, but that is impossible. As flattering as your proposal is to the boy, in the VOC all sailors are free persons. The lad is simply not for sale. No offense."
"None taken. Alas for what cannot be." the sultan sighed. "I suppose history will repeat itself then."
He told the two Dutch youths that Jan presence reminded him of what had befallen his great grandfather who, eighty years before, had been similarly smitten by a pretty blond Dutch boy named Pieter Havelaar, a member of Abel Tasman's expedition in search of Terra Australis, the Great Unknown Land to the South. Unable to acquire the lovely lad, the sultan had commissioned artists to sketch and paint the boy as he worked entirely naked on a ship careened in the harbor. Of course the artists pretended they were portraying the Dutch ship, not the nude sailor boy.
Till the end of his life the old sultan had treasured the likenesses of young Pieter, numbering them among his most valuable possessions. And now Jan here had showed up, another pretty blond Dutch boy, also naked, bearing a strong resemblance to that boy of the previous century. His forbearer had always regretted that he had never even touched the boy, much less taken him to his bed, the young sultan related, shaking his head sadly, then looking up expectantly at the duo.
Recognizing his cue, and with an approving wink from Willem, Jan accepted that it was his duty to promote good relations between the sultanate and the VOC. So he offered himself up for the sultan's pleasure. After being bathed and groomed and scented, Jan spent several long nights in his company and found the monarch to be an ardent and thoughtful lover. Jan also posed for nude sketches and miniature paintings as keepsakes. After treating them as honored guests for a week, the sultan put one of his ships at their disposal to take them to Batavia.
The junk transporting them to Batavia had hardly sailed two days before encountering a ship of the VOC outward bound for the Indian Ocean. It was their old ship the Schooneveld. Their Sumatran captain signaled the Dutch ship that he wanted to lay alongside and transfer passengers.
"Passengers?" Captain de Sitter wondered aloud to no one in particular. "What passengers?"
As the two ships closed he spotted a tall red head standing on deck with his arm over the shoulder of a diminutive blond boy wearing a sarong. His heart leapt with joy, but his blurring eyesight kept him from confirming what he dearly hoped to be true. Wiping his eyes and trusting that none of his own crew had spotted his public moment of weakness, he looked through his telescope confirming the identity of the 'passengers' he was supposed to take on. He gave heartfelt thanks to his deity for the deliverance of the fine young men he had come to respect and care for and whose loss had been so bitter a blow to him.
The bosun and some of the other crew were not so careful of their dignity, waving and cheering, openly weeping, to see Willem Luyken and Jan Dekker virtually return from the dead. They assisted them aboard and conducted them to the quarterdeck talking excitedly.
Now there was only so much dignity that a man could stand on, so though de Sitter first took his mate's crisp salute he then stepped forward smartly to embrace both his missing friends.
"Will, Jan. I never expected to see you again in this life. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. Why we are even carrying a letter back to your family in Holland, Willem. Tell me how this wonderful thing came to be."
And so the youths did. Willem gave full credit to Jan for his staunchness, courage, and cleverness on their journey. Then, eyes twinkling, he related how the Sultan of Palembang had been smitten by Jan's pretty face and boyishly nude physique. The monarch had offered a considerable sum to buy Jan from Willem for his harem! He was keenly disappointed when Willem insisted on their rights under the treaty though Jan did make it up to him by spending several nights with the sultan.
The captain ordered a double rum ration for the whole crew, and the cook prepared a special supper with Jan invited as a guest of honor, entitled to sit at the table instead of serving the others. After a convivial dinner, a lengthy telling of their adventures, and final congratulations and toasts, the captain pointed out that one member of their party was out of uniform. Knowing what that meant, and with a grin on his face, Jan slipped the sarong off his hips, and snapped off a salute, happy to be back in his role as cabin boy.
Jan worked as cabin boy for the next three years till Will got his own command and took Jan along with him as third mate. The two young men spent another four years in the VOC before buying their own ship for the local trade. They sailed to Sumatra many times, occasionally calling upon the Sultan at Palembang, but only once, a decade later, returned to their cave on a sentimental journey. The bones of the tiger had been picked clean. Jan and Will brought its skull back as a memento.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]