Naked Prey

by George Gauthier

Periplus

Chapter 1. Maldive Islands 1780

"All right Kristian. It's my turn to challenge you to a wrestling match. Are your ready?"

"No, I am not ready, Lars, and I never will be. You all stand a head taller than me or are twice my weight or both. It's not fair. I'm so much smaller. You are all grown men; I'm just a kid. There's no way I can win. You would just like to claim my ass again. Why should I have to give it up for these dumb challenges?"

"Because it's more fun for us this way, making a contest out of it. Sure we could all of us just go ahead, grab you and hold you down while we fuck you, but wrestling one-on-one lets us grapple with your trim body in ways we can't if we pile on. And none of us wants to have to beat you into submission with his fists. You're a nice kid, a nice looking kid too. No one wants to hurt you. But here we are shipwrecked on this island and you are the youngest and the smallest and the prettiest thing around."

"Besides, Kristian, you just don't realize how exciting it is for us to wrestle with you, to grab and hold on to your sexy little body as you struggle, all slick with sweat, tugging, pulling, and squirming in our arms, twisting and straining that tight little body of yours. That is until we overpower you, tame you once more, force you to yield to our superior power and so win another crack at your ass all fair and square. Now get on with it, there sure isn't anything else to do on this deserted island."

"You might try doing some of the chores around here" the smaller youth retorted. "Gather shell fish and birds' eggs the way I do or help collect firewood."

"Tut tut, little one. I don't think a boy like you is in any position to get uppity with his betters. Remember we are able seamen while you were just the carpenter's lad aboard ship, a landsman, if the truth were known."

"Maybe he needs another spanking." one of the others ventured. Hell, his rump looks so nice and red after a good licking, let's do it anyway. Nothing like a fiery ass to show he is all flushed and eager to get poked." The others chuckled in agreement.

"Come on fellas. I am pretty much tired out now from fighting the current and the breakers. Give me a break. Anyway, how did I get turned into everyone's sex slave and servant boy? And why can't I have my clothes back. You have kept me naked the whole time we've been stranded here. It's been six weeks. I'm turning brown all over like a native, if there were any around. Except for my blond hair, who would take me for a young Danish boy now?"

"We needed your clothes to make a flag to signal passing vessels."

They had taken his only garment, his breeches, and rendered them unwearable, splitting the seam along the sides to double the size of their improvised flag.

"Besides, in this tropical climate, it is not like you need protection from the elements. You look good that way too, all tawny and gold. It was you yourself who got started on turning bronze all over, running around ass bare much of the time, taunting everyone with your round rump and choosy ways."

That was some truth there though Kristian was not really a tease. His frequent and habitual nudity was in large part practical. Sailing in tropical waters Kristian had never bothered with a shirt, contenting himself with just breeches aboard ship or native garb on land. The breeches were actually hand me downs from his vanished father rather too large for his small waist. They rode very low on his narrow hips, exposing his flat belly almost to his groin and barely covered his rear cleavage, threatening to slip off entirely if the waistband ever lost its tenuous grip on his pert rump.

Many times on watch, whether up in the crow's nest or on deck, the boy had not even bothered with the breeches. Why risk getting them tangled in his legs or ankles as he climbed the rigging? Who could accuse him of being a tease all alone in the crow's nest and so high over the deck. He had only the one good pair and needed to keep those clean for use ashore. So he usually slipped the garment off for grungy tasks such as scrubbing the deck or clearing the bilges. More and more though he did not bother at all with breeches, remaining nude for days at a time even at ordinary tasks like his carpentry. About the only thing he had worn most days was a sheen of sweat and a darkening tan.

Kristian sighed at the hopelessness of it all. Why couldn't the other sailors pair off or something. Why did it always have to be his ass and mouth to provide the entertainment.

The answer was obvious. Little Kristian was a real beauty. A few months short of seventeen, Kristian was a comely lad, short for his age and slender. He had a fawn-like physique but with a wiry musculature, toned and taut from hard work. Indeed his small hands were thickly callused. He was pretty as a girl with delicate features, a straight nose, high cheekbones, and large green eyes with a blond thatch on top.

Beckoned by the older sailors, Kristian has clambered out of the water like a mer-boy, his bare skin dotted with droplets of sea water, glistening with refracted sunlight like tiny diamonds. He had virtually no hair on his body, just clipped wisps under his arms and at the fork of his legs, and he bore hardly a dusting on his lower legs and arms. Only 163 centimeters (five feet four) tall and weighing barely 50 kilos (110 pounds), little Kristian was often taken for two or three years younger, especially when he was naked. Only the marked definition of his muscular development hinted that he was past his growth spurt.

From his tiny red nipples to a deeply indented navel, to narrow hips framing a surprisingly ample manhood for one so slight in build, the boy 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 and deeply tanned, his wiry physique a vision of youthful male pulchritude.

The proportions of his physique were especially attractive. With many slightly built youths, the legs are disproportionately short, accounting for most of the deficit in height. Kristian's trim form was smaller in proportion, retaining the classic ratios which artists have discovered please the eye and excite concupiscence. Besides his alluring physique, the boy had one of those faces that literally turned heads. Men and women did double takes and stared at him wondering how anyone could be that good looking.

Sighing at what he could not change, Kristian resigned himself to the inevitable, and not bothering to take a wrestling stance simply turned around and grabbed his ankles, conceding the mock wrestling match, steeling himself for yet one more rough fuck. As it was he got a spanking first for his effrontery, ordered to hold his position while Lars strapped his shoulders, his rump, and the back of his legs.

"Don't think I am being unfair, little one, spanking you for disobedience and insolence. Here I just went to all the trouble to explain to you why we like to wrestle you into submission and there you went and defied me, presenting your rump like I was some kind of brute, a rapist instead of the winner of a genuine athletic competition entitled to his reward. You tried to shame me boy and deprived me of the fun of wrestling your sexy little body. That is the reason I reddened your butt just now."

For the umpteenth time Kristian wondered whether adversity had brought out the mean streak in his shipmates or it was just a case of aggressive young males asserting their dominance over a younger lad clearly perceived as not one of them. Not that they were so terribly much older. Even the oldest of his mates from the wreck of their ship, Lars, was only twenty-three. The other four ranged in age from eighteen to twenty-two. All except Lars were tall and well built like many Scandinavians. Lars was only a hand's breadth taller than Kristian but was powerfully built with corded muscle and sinew. That is why they all called him 'little one' and could force him to do their bidding.

It was not that Kristian objected on principle to sex with other males. Far from it. It was the only kind of sex he did enjoy. After some embarrassing fumbles with serving wenches, Kristian knew he felt no attraction to the female of the species the way males were supposed to. He realized he had been singled out by his fellow sailors because of that. They knew he was a bottom boy by nature not just a lad forced into that role by circumstance.

Just because the others fucked Kristian did not mean they shared a sexual orientation. Yes, they would take a boy if that was all that was available, but they really preferred females. Kristian on the other hand did prefer his own gender. That basic difference was why he could not make real friends with any of them, even aboard ship before the wreck on a submerged reef south of the island where they were finally stranded. They simply did not respect him or see him as one of them. It made for one rather lonely boy.

He had always known what fate awaited pretty boys like himself who hired out on a long sea voyage, but one at at time, please. Aboard ship that had been the carpenter and sometimes the first mate when that worthy was feeling lonely. Not all comers. Getting shipwrecked on a deserted island had changed the rules. Now Kristian was everyone's boy. Everybody's toy.

So once again the boy submitted as a more powerful male bent him over, slapped his rump with an already turgid cock, poked it playfully at the ballsac dangling between his thighs then shoved it into Kristian's hole. The boy's soft moans only made Lars more excited as he took his pleasure of the pretty blond youth, bent over so complaisantly, submitting himself once again to the sure and steady strokes of a man who knew how to long dick a boy, to make a boy's whole body shudder as the man's cock rubbed that little joy spot in his ass that made him go all weak in the knees. Lars would not let the boy stroke himself. He liked to time the boy's own arousal with his own so that when Lars was ready, he could set the boy off too, relishing the way the boy's ass muscles grabbed at and squeezed the firm member impaling him.

As many times as they had used him, he was still tight back there, clutching their cocks in a velvety warmth that excited them more than they cared to admit. Kristian may have been a male but he was still the prettiest thing on two legs any of them had ever had sex with. And nobody could do better justice to a male's anatomy with his mouth than another male. Kristian was second to nobody in that department.

You'd think with so little to do the sailors would pay better attention to personal hygiene. Most of them were letting their beards grow out, such as they were. Even lads who really had too little facial hair for a decent beard or mustache sported the scruffy look. They all had knives and whetstones ready to hand so they could at least have scraped their faces and stayed clean shaven. Only Lars bothered, maybe because he really needed it. Little Kristian had no beard whatsoever, not even peach fuzz.

The sailors also mocked Kristian for his fastidious efforts at grooming. He kept the tufts of body hair in armpits and groin clipped to a mere blond fuzz. He scrubbed daily even if all he could manage was to scrub with sand and salt water. The squeezings from a common plant helped loosen grime from his skin though even that was much less effective than real soap. After his ablutions, the boy liked to place a flower in his hair with the stem tucked behind his right ear, enjoying the pleasant fragrance of the blossom even if he could not see himself in a mirror. They had no mirrors in their lifeboat though the still pond in the center of the isle allowed Kristian, like the Greek youth Narcissus, to contemplate his reflection. Unlike the vain youth of the myth, Kristian did not fall in love with his own reflection and pine away from an inability to touch the lovely lad seeming trapped below the surface of the still waters. Even so the poet who first told that story might have had Kristian in mind, his face and form were that lovely.

Despite the way the other sailors imposed on him, Kristian did not resent his work assignment as their fisherman. He was no shirker and anyway, the work suited his preference for time away from his fellow castaways. Sometimes he waded in the shallows for shell fish or dove to the bottom to pry oysters or clams loose with his knife. He collected seaweed too for seasoning and as greens. A loop or cord secured the handle of the knife around his wrist so he could not lose it in the water.

Sometimes he threw a hooked line into the channel in the reef trying to catch fish for their menu. Occasionally this turned out to be a hazardous pursuit. At flood tide the waters over the seaward edge of the reef were thigh deep, enough water for sharks to approach. Twice the boy had been forced to perch on coral heads sticking out of the sea till the tide fell, while hungry sharks contemplated him as their catch, an uncomfortable switch in roles for the species that considers itself at the top of the food chain.

Well at least the work kept him away from the others most of the day and let him swim to his heart's content within the lagoon, safe from big sharks which could not cross the reef.

The Danish youth would dive from a coral head into the green waters, stroking back and forth in the warm waters of the lagoon. He loved to swim, to feel the water slide past his bare body, letting it touch him everywhere at once like a lover with a hundred hands, to revel in his mastery of this alien element. Most sailors never learn to swim and in cold northern waters that was perfectly understandable. A sailor who fell overboard into the North Sea or the Baltic could not last long except in the very mildest of weather. Kristian could hardly remember a time when he couldn't swim but then he had been born at Fort Dansborg in India and had never sailed the cold waters off Europe.

Once he had chanced upon a huge sea turtle swimming on the surface and grabbed the forward edge of its shell and went along for a ride. It was a lot of fun sluicing through the water effortlessly, letting his legs trail behind, all while going far faster than he could swim himself. The blue of the sky, the green of the waters, and the white of the clouds and the sandy beach painted the scene with a vivid palette of colors, one he would never forget as long as he lived. Finally the turtle tired of the sport and dove for deep water staying down for so long the boy had to let go and swim up to the surface for air. When he related the story of his adventure to the others all they could think of was to fault Kristian for not killing the big turtle for the pot.

"You mean you let all that red meat get away?" they shouted indignantly. "A sea turtle weighs hundreds of pounds. We could have smoked and salted enough meat to last many days, maybe provision ourselves for a try at sailing to India if we ever repair the lifeboat well enough."

Kristian couldn't understand them at all. It's not like they were starving that they had to kill such a magnificent sea beast. As for escape via the lifeboat, that was a pipe dream. Passage over the reef into the lagoon had sprung its seams. Without proper tools and materials even a skilled carpenter could do little to make it seaworthy again. There was little chance they could sail it to the coast of India some eight hundred miles away.

Thanks to growing up in India, Kristian knew how to shinny up a palm tree to get at the coconuts in the cluster of fronds the top. He used a length of rope tied to his ankles to grip the trunk of the tree with the friction against the bark. The daily exercise from swimming and fishing and gathering and from climbing and hiking around the island kept him fit and ready for any further emergency. Life at sea is good for building upper body strength but did nothing for stamina or the ability to cover ground via shank's mare if you had to.

At least the island had a tiny fresh water pond in the middle, enough for their needs anyway. Otherwise the castaways would have died of thirst. The pond had no outlet. The rains filled it and the sun drew its waters up into the sky. So far it had not gone dry during their exile on the islet. The storm that had sunk their ship had dropped enough rain on the islet to fill the pond to the brim, although the level had gone down since then.

"I don't like the looks of that sky." Lars muttered the day after their latest assignation. "There is a storm brewing, that is for sure. We had better move inland as far as we can to wait it out."

"Won't the reef and lagoon protect us? And the beach?" Kristian asked

"No, little one. This island we are on is just a low coral islet with the soil held in place by a stand of trees and shrubs in the middle. The Maldive Islands is the lowest country on earth with a maximum elevation of maybe 8 ft (2.5m) Most of the 200 islands were barely above the waves and uninhabited for that reason. A big storm can raise waves that sweep clear across the island."

The storm that arrived the next day did tear their crude beach hut apart and swept away the last rags of their improvised flag, Kristian's former breeches. Fortunately it passed to the west of the island so the big breakers did not scour the islet clean. Two days later they spotted a dhow threading its way through the passage in the reef. It turned out to be a trading ship with a friendly crew, happy for a chance to put in and fill their water casks.

The crew were Dravidian, Tamil speakers operating out of Karikal on the eastern coast of the tip of the Indian Peninsula, not far from Tranquebar, the capital of Danish India. Thanks to Kristian's command of a language he had grown up with, the sailors persuaded the traders to put in to Tranquebar and drop them off. It was not far out of their way, and the Danish governor would pay a reward for rescuing the shipwrecked sailors, standard practice in that century.

Kristian rather liked the look of his Tamil rescuers who looked like the boys and young men he had grown up among. They all had a slight build much like his own and did not try to lord it over him. Hindus to a man, they did not have the Moslem disdain and hostility for the infidel that often marred relationships between members of the two confessional communities. The dark skins and bright eyes of the young Tamils promised erotic delights, but Kristian did not have a chance to explore that possibility under the watchful eyes of his shipmates.

Chapter 2. Danish India

After an uneventful sea passage around the island of Ceylon, the shipwrecked sailors arrived at Fort Dansborg in Tranquebar, a coastal port built on one of the main channels in the delta of the Kaveri River. In Danish times Tranquebar (from the Tamil "place of the singing waves") was quite a busy port, though it became a backwater decades later after the railway bypassed it. In 1780 Tranquebar was in the hands of the Danish government. The former owner, the Danish East India Company, had gone bankrupt a year earlier, and the crown had seized its assets. Fort Dansborg was the military and political headquarters of Danish India.

The governor listened to their story, paid the customary reward to the native traders, and gave the sailors a minimal line of credit, just enough to tide them over till they found berths on new ships. As for Kristian himself, he found work as a carpenter's assistant in one of the shipyards that built and repaired sailing vessels of both European and native design. He wanted to spend some time ashore among congenial company after his mishap with his former ship and shipmates. He certainly did not want to sail with Lars or the others, forced to listen to embellished tales of his lasciviousness. To hear them tell it, the boy had flung himself at them, insatiable with his demands for their attentions.

"What could we do isolated and cut off as we were with no women available but take what sexual gratification we could from the little blonde sex pot. He kept begging for it anyway."

"And he wasn't satisfied with one of us at a time. No, he craved two at once, each plugging away at one of his orifices."

Their account made him look like a slut instead of a hapless victim.

Kristian lived in a small but comfortable European style cottage, one of several on a tree shaded lane close by the fort. Some of the homes had been abandoned by their owners, casualties of the bankruptcy on the East India Company. Across the alley paralleling the lane were native huts comprised of several rooms, servants quarters mostly. A native caretaker and his nephew had watched over Kristian's house while its owner was away at sea.

After the death of his mother Marta, a former tavern girl from Norway, Kristian's Danish father, Thorvald Deuntzer had given up on India and on his own son. He had never warmed to the lad nor taken a father's pride in him. Indeed he had become ashamed of Kristian for his puny physique, effeminate looks, and quiet, unassertive, and bookish ways. Leaving the property to the boy, he had abandoned his fourteen year old son, returning to his birthplace of Aarhus, a port on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula.

In the stifling tropical heat, the youth spent most nights sleeping on a bamboo platform fixed to the twin trunks of a tall tree out back. At thirty feet above the ground, the platform was above the height mosquitos normally flew and the breeze discouraged the few that got up that high. At bedtime, the neighbors could catch sight of the nude boy scrambling up the rope ladder to his sleeping platform above the bugs and in the path of a cooling breeze. On his days off, Kristian could be seen taking a book up to his lofty perch to read. The local Lutheran Church had a subscription library he had joined.

The rain that fell on the slate roof of Kristian's cottage drained into three small barrels set upon a scaffolding so their tops rose to just under the gutters. A spigot fed a short pipe constructed of bamboo with holes pierced into it near the end for a shower. As much as Kristian loved swimming in salt water, he liked to soap down and rinse off with fresh water before climbing to his sleeping perch. He relished the clean feel of his skin and the shower helped cool him down too. His neighbors envied him that outdoor shower. The closest they could come to it was to bathe in the rain. Otherwise they had perform their ablutions in a dirty stream that flowed through the hamlet. The thatched roofs of their bamboo huts could not serve as a water catchment. Still Kristian did help several householders build sleeping platforms similar to his.

Kristian reported for work at the shipyard every day barefoot and dressed only in a blue lungi, a native garment like the ones his Tamil rescuers had worn. A rectangular piece of cloth about the span of a man's arms across and only a little more than half that long, it wrapped around the waist, or in Kristian's case low around his hips and rump. A pretzel knot secured it in place. Its original dark blue had faded to a not unpleasant lighter shade that complimented the Danish youth's skin tones and blond hair. Though it normally reached to his knees he could shorten it to mid thigh by hiking the upper part around the waistband and often did so.

Actually Kristian preferred the native garment to breeches. Very lightweight, it was more practical in the tropics than any form of trousers, allowing full freedom of movement and better air ciculation. If he couldn't run around naked, a lungi was the next best thing for comfort and ease of movement. He also liked the naughty way it allowed glimpses of his upper thighs and bum when climbing or walking.

Despite having to work full-time at the shipyard, Kristian made a point of getting up early and going for a run in the cool of the morning, ignoring the looks he got from early risers surprised to see a European boy running nude back and forth along the beach. He finished off his exercise with a quick swim before slipping on his lungi, stopping at the food vendor for breakfast then walking the short distance to his job site.

After duty at the shipyard Kristian liked to dive from the end of the pier into the green waters of the harbor. The tides and the discharge of the river kept the waters clean. It was almost like being back in the lagoon. Afterwards he swam to shore and lay down on the beach, resting for a bit before supper, taking in the very smell of the sea. Though some thought it a sour smell, he had always found it intoxicating.

Onlookers found the sight of the dozing boy rather intoxicating too. The Danish boy looked utterly alluring, lying on the white sand atop his spread out lungi, eyes closed, small, naked, virtually hairless, his physique so trim and taut, angelic features relaxed as he dozed, unconcerned that with his legs spread apart he was totally exposed: even his well formed genitals and the small hole between his buttocks.

Some of the natives looked askance at the boy's casual nudity, rather unusual in that society for all the bare flesh males displayed in that climate. Males in southern India almost never wore anything above the waist and only a wrap below, such as a lungi or a dhoti, but complete nudity in public was unusual. For all the explicit eroticism of earlier centuries, as depicted on the temples at Khajuraho, (twelfth century) social attitudes had hardened. The influence of Islam on the subcontinent, especially under the Mughal Empire starting in the sixteenth century, brought more prudish attitudes. In her day too Victorian Britain would reinforce those attitudes. The result is that modern India is one of the most prudish of modern societies. As a European, the Tamils had to grant the boy a certain degree of latitude. Besides people soon learned that he was a good worker and a helpful neighbor even if he couldn't seem to keep his lungi on as much as he should.

Never much of a drinker, Kristian did like to quaff a big mug of ale to offset the spicy food served in local taverns. He had grown up on the cuisine and preferred it to bland Danish dishes. He got his evening meals free as part of an arrangement with tavern owner Jens Evald. Kristian knew from his shipwreck experience that he was intensely attractive to men who fancied pretty boys and had decided to capitalize on it. Quite a few sailors had developed a taste for sea pussy. Even ashore, some preferred a clean boy to a tired drab.

Clad in his hiked up lungi, Kristian ate at one of the common tables cheek by jowl with the lusty sailors who frequented the tavern. Sitting so close to him, the patrons could see how lovely he looked and how clean he smelled, exuding the sweet aroma of healthy boy. The sailors appreciated a chance to chat the boy up, to throw an arm over his shoulder companionably, to stroke his back and run their fingers over his spinal bumps and ribs, even poking a finger down the back of the waistband of his lungi. Free samples like that whetted the patrons' appetites for a full-service encounter with the boy.

"Yeah, I've been coming to Jens' place off and on for years, just for the food and drink, blondie." one of the rough sailors remarked, "but you are a whole new reason to visit. Where have they been keeping you?"

"Wait your turn Hans. The kid sat down next to me first. How are things going for you, little one. My, my, you are so small and soft and smooth," he said, running his hand along Kristian's thigh and even under the hem of his lungi.

For a fee paid to the innkeeper, the youth would take a client upstairs at the rate of three an hour for perhaps two hours three evenings a week. Evald provided a clean airy room with a big double bed. Not bothering with his wrap once he got started, the boy escorted each client up the stairs giving all a chance to scrutinize his charms.

They were always gratified with how much curvature a slender kid like Kristian could display from the rear. From the front, he looked so, well flat, though corrugated with rippled abs, pecs, ribs, and nicely formed muscles, but his fawn-like physique was the very opposite of the bulging muscles of a strong man. From the rear, the boy was all curves: the calves, the thighs, the firm globes of the buttocks, the swale of the lower back, the slope up to the shoulder blades which formed winglets on his upper back, the cylinder of his neck and finally the twin spheres and tubular cock lying so enticingly between the fork of the legs. Whatever Kristian was, he was not body shy. If the truth were known, he rather liked being the center of lascivious attention, as long as it was on his own terms.

Sounds of lovemaking might carry to the common room below. Revelers shouted encouragement and advice to the lucky man who happened to be in the saddle at the moment. Others waited their turn, impatient to get at the luscious boy who had just moments before pranced around the tables utterly naked, laughing and slipping past the hands that groped for him before taking his next client upstairs.

Many of the men left their mark on the boy, a reddened rump from a preliminary spanking, a bitten lip, a hickey at his throat, or just cum oozing out of his ass. One man raised bruises where he squeezed the boy too tightly in his passion, leaving the marks of his fingers on hips and buttocks, while another client left bite marks on his shoulders. Actually the only thing that really bothered Kristian were the local standards of personal hygiene, but a quick shower after his last client left him feeling clean again.

Kristian did reserve the right of refusal of any would-be customer. Some men were just too rough or too dirty or too ugly or even diseased. Evald and the youth split the proceeds right down the middle, except for a modest weekly stipend to the captain of the city watch to keep them looking the other way. All in all, this sideline netted Kristian almost as much as his day job, but he had too much pride to work at it full-time. He did not want to think of himself as a mere whore boy, even though he was in fact prostituting himself for coin. A level headed lad, Kristian deposited most of his proceeds into an account with a Danish merchant who ran an informal bank as a sideline to his mercantile trade.

One of Kristian's regulars was twenty year old Peter Madsen, second mate on a government frigate that sailed between the various territories comprising Danish India, the mainland factories (trading posts) and the islands. Madsen was a tall redhead with a lean build and vivid blue eyes. Over the next few months, whenever he was in home port, Peter called on Kristian at the tavern and spent happy sessions frolicking with the sexy lad. After a couple months, Kristian started inviting the officer to spend the night on his platform as a friend rather than a customer. That gave them rather more time for lusty sexual congress, though one evening, in their excitement, they nearly rolled over the edge.

"Yaaah" the boy called as he started to slip off the platform.

"I've got you, Kris" the bigger youth call as he gripped the boy' arm and grabbed a bamboo strut with the other hand.

"Don't drop me!" Kristian urged as he scrambled to get a leg over the edge of the platform and hike himself back on top. Their sweaty skins were slippery which made it harder to hang onto the platform and each other, but the powerfully built officer got him back to safety. Afterwards, as they lay together limbs tangled and panting, Peter added:

"Well, that was exciting. How gratifying to know that I can generate that much enthusiasm in a lover."

Which earned him a poke in the ribs. At other times, they slept quietly, spooned together, the small youth docking his back and rump into the much larger physique of the ship's officer. Kristian found an unlooked for sense of peace in Peter's strong arms. He felt both protected and cared for, the first time in a very long time. The fact is, for all his pluck and self-reliance, Kristian was a lonely lad without family or real friends. Peter Madsen's friendship filled the void in his heart.

The sleeping platform gave the duo a fine view of the harbor and of Madsen's ship tied up at the dock. Peter had not realized how beautiful a young male body could look in the moonlight. Kristian's skin positively glowed in the light of the full moon, silver shining on bronze. Madsen's uniforms had kept his physique largely untanned, especially below the waist. Well endowed as he was, his long member seemed spectrally white, almost ghostly in the moonlight, but there was nothing insubstantial about it. Longer than Kristian could cover with both his small hands, it was nearly bigger around than those hands could reach. He needed both hands and mouth to do justice to his lover's manhood. Careful this time not to get too close to the edge of the platform, Kristian got his supine partner fully erect then sat down on his rigid manhood, letting it slip through his orifice and into the welcoming depths of his body. As they fell into the accustomed rhythm of penetration and withdrawal, their hearts soared in the age old dance of physical love between two males, carrying their passions to their inevitable consummation.

The pair continued to sleep on the platform even after the end of the dry season, not minding the rain showers. They simply lay out on the deck and let the waters from the sky wash over them, cooling their bodies overheated from energetic lovemaking, washing away the sweat and salt that coated their skins. There they would lie, limbs still intertwined, kissing and nuzzling or stroking each other. Sometimes they rolled onto their backs, lying side by side, turning their faces upwards, totally spreading themselves to receive nature's soothing and cleansing waters, reveling in life, in their sexuality, in their closeness, and in their mutual joy in having found each other practically at the end of the world.

It felt so sexy to be together there in the rain. The way it washed so totally over them, touching them everywhere at once made them feel utterly naked. The rain drummed on their chests and the hollows of their bellies. The waters flowed across their ribs and off their hips, dividing around the prow of their proud cocks, sluicing down their cleavages. The boys held hands and looked up at the clouds, blinking away the raindrops which fell onto their faces and plastered the hair to their heads. Just two naughty boys without the sense to come in out of the rain, and they loved it, chortling at their own silliness.

Sometimes they made love right out in the rain, lying on their sides so both of them would get rained on the whole while. Peter loved to embrace Kristian's small rain slicked body, to hold it tight against him, thrusting rhythmically into his hot rump while using his talented hands to excite the boy with nipple play and stroking.

In the afterglow of their lovemaking, something about being naked and rained upon under the open sky made them cast aside their last reserve as they spoke candidly of their past and of their hopes and dreams for the future, a future they wanted to share. Peter aimed at becoming a naval captain.

"If I captured a ship as a prize in battle, whether from pirates or from another power, I would get two-eighths of its value. With that much money I could resign from the navy, buy a small trader, and go into business for myself. In time I might command a flotilla of trading vessels."

Kristian's ambitions were more modest. He wanted to return to the sea and visit all the fabled places he had only heard of. The voyage that had stranded him on that deserted island had been his first extended sea journey. After six months back on terra firma, the boy thought he might like to ship out once more. Yes it would mean giving up both his day job and his remunerative sideline, but he knew he was really just marking time in those pursuits.

"You are also risking the pox or some such from your customers, careful though you are with them." Madsen pointed out.

Kristian nodded knowing the remark was from the older youth's genuine concern for him, not from fear of contamination much less some kind of boyish jealousy. In Peter Madsen Kristian had found both a lover and a friend, and he did not much like the separations his duties forced on them.

An opening finally came up on Madsen's own vessel, the frigate Haas (24 guns) so Kristian signed on as carpenter's helper. His stint at the shipyard had secured his reputation for working with wood and ships.

Chapter 3. The Nicobar Islands 1781

Their first voyage together took them southeast across the Bay of Bengal, past the large island of Ceylon, then still in Dutch hands, and on to the Nicobar Islands which lie about 800 miles (1,300 km) from Tranquebar. Together with the Andaman Islands to the north they separate the Bay of Bengal from the Andaman Sea. Volcanic in origin, the Nicobar Islands are part of a great island arc created by the collision of the Indo-Australian Plate with Eurasia.

The sea passage allowed Kristian to regain his sea legs, so he could keep his footing despite the roll of the ship, and adjust once again to the constant motion of a vessel from the rise and fall of the swell. Some people never did adjust to it and got seasick. Kristian was a natural sailor. Once past a bit of queasiness on the first day, he was fine.

Although he did not work the sails, he did man the crow's nest where his keen young eyesight could help guide their ship. As on his earlier ship he often did not bother with the lungi he wore on land, going about his duties entirely bare. Naturally he drew admiring glances and not a few propositions, but it was soon clear to all that he and the second mate were a couple. He usually slept in Madsen's cabin, at least when the first mate had deck duty and left it entirely to his subordinate so that the pair had their shared cabin to themselves.

At first some sailors expected to see rank favoritism, but the boy's diligence and willingness to do his share of work won them over. His fellow sailors had little use for slackers who made more work for them, but Kristian was conspicuous in always being ready to lend a hand, glad to throw his wiry strength into hauling on a line, shifting cargo, or scrubbing the deck.

The men loved to watch little Kristian bent over at that task, on all fours, pushing a scrub brush back and forth, a nude sailor boy, taut tanned butt cheeks flexing, crinkly brown hole in between, hairless dangly bits framed by his slender thighs, with his back and shoulder muscles rippling as he thrust forward and back. Almost like being on all fours doggy style to get fucked. He wasn't too proud to clear the bilges either even if the task left him filthy. A naked boy not averse to honest dirt, who could think of him as a quarterdeck favorite.

He wasn't a disciplinary problem either. He never got into fights though he was not above a bit of mischief or a practical joke. His minor infractions never required the attention of an officer so drew no more than an occasional smack with a tawse on his bare rump or a light spanking from the master carpenter himself, with the second mate looking on rather enviously. If anyone tanned his boy's rump he would rather do that job himself. Kristian looked so cute afterwards, standing there nude, both hands rubbing his sore butt cheeks, trying to look properly contrite over his infraction but with a mischievous twinkle in his eye that made you think he would do it again if given half a chance.

Kristian's main job was working for the ship's carpenter, Soren. That worthy was soon impressed by the boy's instinctive feel for the grain of the wood, his discerning eye for shapes and sizes, and his meticulous habits in measurement and fitting, checking from all angles before taking tools in hand. He watched Kristian bend over looking at the broken lip of a hatch, checking for dry rot and split sides.

"Aye, lad. You have a real feel for the wood. It talks to ye. Doesn't it?"

"Well, maybe it whispers some, Soren, telling me to get everything right before I cut. Measure twice, cut once, is the way I was taught."

"Good lad. We'll get on fine, I am sure."

As further signal of his approval, the carpenter ran his calloused hand over the boy's back and spinal bumps, then down his firm buttocks. He delivered a friendly pat of approval, and not just for the boy's diligence. Almost to a man, the crew desired to fondle and penetrate those delightful brown cheeks. Most envied Soren his opportunity to get close to the lad and put his hands to the boy's shoulders or butt or chest, all in the line of duty of course. Kristian took those pats and stroking as tactile compliments to his fine form though he was always clear that the older man's advances should not go beyond casual petting. Fondling Kristian's genitals was really a bit much and the look on the boy's face conveyed that understanding to Soren the one time he had overstepped himself.


Despite their small size, even the largest of the Nicobar islands is only 400 square miles (1000 sq km), their vegetative cover is surprisingly varied ranging from coastal mangrove forests to evergreen and deciduous tropical and subtropical broadleaf forests to extensive grasslands in the interiors of several islands. Many animal species were found nowhere else. The Danes had dubbed the islands New Denmark.

"What are those ships, sir" Kristian asked Madsen.

"We shall soon find out, Kristian."

The Hass had found two foreign vessels at their destination, the anchorage of Nancowry Harbor. With Camorta Island just to the North, Nancowry Island forms a magnificent land-locked harbor considered one of the safest natural harbours in the world.

Their own captain had the Danish colors broken out and run up the the rigging. In those days, ships did not fly their flags all the time. Those fragile emblems of national sovereignty were too expensive to expose to the elements full time. The two ships responded by hoisting red flags with a black double eagle in the center.

"Imperial Austria?" Madsen wondered out loud. "What in the world are Austrian ships doing in the Indian Ocean in Danish Territory?"

It was clear that the Austrian vessels posed little threat to the Haas. One ship, much the larger, was careened on shore, leaning over on one side. A party of workmen were working on her stove-in side. The other ship had her rigging all askew, her foremast snapped off above the mainsail and only a jury rigged mizzenmast. The Danish captain did not run his guns out though he kept his swivel guns manned. These were small anti-personnel cannon mounted on pivots fastened to the bulwarks. Not that he really expected the interlopers to try to swarm his ship in small boats. They did not look like they had a fight in mind.

Signaling for a parley the Austrians put a boat in the water and approached the Danish vessel. The Austrians were represented by a Captain Wolf Scharnhorst, a grizzled veteran sailor in his late forties. Their own captain, Hans Jessen, was a deceptively mild mannered man in his early thirties. Once the introductions were made, the Austrian came right to the point.

"As you know, Captain Jessen, our two nations are at peace, so in that spirit I greet you. Our intentions are entirely pacific. We plan to set up a colony on these abandoned islands. My ships were battered by a great storm and we barely made it to this anchorage, indeed my own ship ran upon a rock just outside the entrance to this harbor. That is her careened on shore."

"You must have run into that cyclone we saw to our south. In peace, then I receive you, sir, but you are mistaken if you think the Danish Crown or the defunct Danish East India Company ever abandoned their claims to these islands. New Denmark, as we call the Nicobar Islands, is a recognized part of the Danish realm. Indeed we are here on a routine mission to show the flag. I am sorry that Her Imperial Majesty's government is so ill-informed on this matter."

"Actually it is His Imperial Majesty, these days. Evidently you have not heard that Empress Maria Theresa has died, and Joseph II is now Holy Roman Emperor and rules the hereditary lands of the Austrian Hapsburgs."

Joseph II was to be a reformer king, inspired by the ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment, as were the Founding Fathers in the United States, though they had greater freedom of action and much greater success in realizing the ideals of the Enlightenment. It was an age in in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority above custom and tradition, which were mere accidents of history. The intellectual and philosophical trends inspired moral and social and political reform aimed at centralized government, a rationalized administration, the primacy of the nation-state over local loyalties, along with greater rights for the commoners and a lesser role for the nobles. The old aristocracies and established churches were viewed as superstitious, intolerant, feudalistic, reactionary, and oppressive.

More entitled to the appellation Enlightened Monarch than his contemporaries, the militaristic Frederick the Great of Prussia or the autocratic Catherine the Great of Russia, Joseph II of Austria would abolish the death penalty, encourage the spread of education, secularize church lands, and reduce the religious orders and the clergy to the authority of the lay state. He would even decree the emancipation of serfs, mandating that cash payments rather than labor obligations should govern the relationship between the peasants and nobility, but the barter economy of the rural areas was too primitive to support this innovation.

The ambitious emperor also wanted to establish overseas colonies like those so many of the other European Powers had, hence the expedition to islands he had thought abandoned by the Danes. Under the doctrine of terra nullius, no man's land, a state could seize and settle lands abandoned or unclaimed by any other state. In those days, far off possessions might change hands several times over the decades -- either through war or by treaty or by purchase, or as hard pressed governments simply abandoned unprofitable commitments.

One notorious example was the islands named for Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the tip of Brazil that were discovered by the Portuguese a few years after the first voyage of Columbus. Later seized by the English for twenty years, then the French for sixty more until abandoned, in the seventeenth century they changed hands four times between the Dutch and the Portuguese only to be abandoned once more as a terra nullius until a final elimination tournament in the eighteenth century.

The Nicobar Islands were quite a stretch for Austria which had no other overseas possessions to act as stepping stones to the home country. The original three vessels in the Austrian flotilla, one of which had to turn back, had sailed the length of the Adriatic Sea and more than half the length of the Mediterranean Sea before reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Gibraltar for the long run south around Africa and across the Indian Ocean. At least Denmark held the Virgin Islands, Danish Guinea in West Africa (Ghana), coastal enclaves in India proper and the Nicobar islands themselves, not to mention the Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland in the North Atlantic. The sea route to Denmark was actually a little shorter too despite its greater remove.

Under the circumstances, with a Danish ship in these waters, the doctrine of terra nullius and the hope for a peaceful occupation of a vacant land had to be abandoned. Nor did their orders allow the Austrians to take the islands by force. Austria wanted no colonial war with Denmark. The Austrians would have to give up the attempt to settle the islands. Given that flexibility on their part, and as fellow Europeans from a nation at peace with theirs, the Danish captain offered his assistance in getting the two Austrian ships seaworthy. That meant a lot of work for Soren and his assistant Kristian.

The boy's pretty face and unclothed body soon became a familiar sight around the careened vessel as the ships' carpenters salvaged what they could of the damaged section of hull. Complete repairs would require new braces and ribs not just new planks. The best wood for that job would be from deciduous forests inland. They would have to use it green rather than seasoned but that was better than nothing. As a native of these regions familiar with the kinds of trees that grew there, Kristian was the best choice for the wood cutting expedition. He strode along, bearing an axe over his shoulder, lending new meaning to the native name for the islands, 'nakkavaram', literally, naked man in Tamil. Kristian would select the best trees for the new ribs and cut them down. Some of the sailors were skeptical that a small nude lad like Kristian, a beardless and virtually hairless boy, could fell a big tree but he soon proved the doubters wrong.

"He is not only doing it, he's making it look easy" one Austrian sailor remarked with reluctant admiration. "And here I thought he was just a pretty bum boy along for the excursion into the interior."

Kristian's wiry physique went into action, swinging the axe expertly, making wood chips fly as sweat ran down his trim little body. Soon he was positively glowing in the sunlight, a shining vision of a male beauty at the peak of his physical powers. He used his strength economically, without wasted motion, relying on the weight of the axe-head rather than muscle to give force to the chopping. He moved rhythmically, swinging the axe back in a circle, raising the head high, drawing a deep breath, with the muscles of legs and back and shoulders and arms tense, eyes fixed on the cut, finally leaning into the downward swing. Instead of the usual smile or sunny expression on his face, his exquisite features were drawn in a look of intense concentration.

The rhythmic swing of the axe was matched by the much smaller swing of his pendulous manhood, a smooth cock with a vein running along the top from his belly to where the foreskin hugged his cock head, outlining the ridge of the glans under the skin, leaving just the slit at the tip visible. Cock and balls were reasonably sized but he wouldn't be scaring the horses. It might take both his small hands to cover his erection, but only one when he was soft though it did look larger from the way it sprouted out of a groin bearing no more than a suggestion of blond pubes.

Such was the picture that little Kristian presented to those who watched him felling the trees. 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, not popping out grotesquely like big men with too many muscles. Kristian's physique was more about quality than quantity.

He worked away unselfconscious about his nudity, oblivious to the reality of his lubricious display of concupiscence and the effect it had on lusty males who had never seen anything in their lives, male or female, so physically desirable.

At times the boy had to run his hands through his blond hair to towel them off for a better grip, flashing a grin and his bright green eyes at onlookers. After a tree crashed to earth, he took a one-handed grip on the haft of the axe to trim the branches. Tired but happy, he pointed to the results, five logs ready to be hauled to the shore, two to be turned into planks and the rest shaped for ribs.

About the only time he lost his good humor was that time he brushed too close to a tree covered with biting ants and had to run away, twisting around and slapping at himself, cursing in two languages. Who would have thought that a lad who looked the very picture of youth and innocence had such a command of blue language.

He later helped at the saw pit, pulling on a long two-man saw to separate planks from the logs. A two handled saw cuts both ways but only when pulled. One man worked at the bottom of the pit pulling the saw down, another at the top, pulling up. Neither man tried to push the saw blade the other way. That would bend and snap it. It was a tedious and sweaty task, and dirty too from both sand and sawdust

All the sailors admired little Kristian working the upper end of the big saw, pulling his own weight, the muscle bundles on his arms and shoulders outlined under his smooth skin, his abs heaving with his exertions and deep breathing, the long muscles of thigh and calf standing out like an anatomy illustration, and his pert buttocks rock hard as he braced himself and pulled on the saw handle. With the way the wind blew his blond mane about his pretty face, and sweat dripping off him everywhere suggestively, the scene was just about the most erotic thing they had ever seen.

The sketch artist attached to the Austrian expedition worked rapidly to capture the scene in charcoal on paper. Not only would it document a significant incident during the expedition, the composition was one of the most dramatic he had ever drawn, centered on the diagonal of the big log, the contrast between the darkness at the bottom of the sawpit and the bright sun that shone on the young naked male at the top, the nearby vine encumbered trees plus the beach and the hill-encircled harbor beyond. The dramatic focus of the composition was the most beautiful male nude the artist had ever seen, a slender lad with amazingly defined musculature, totally and unselfconsciously on display. The boy switched positions so first one leg then the other braced him in front, allowing full documentation of his pleasingly shaped manhood.

Of course the boy must know that he was being sketched but did not play to the artist in the slightest. He did not strike a pose designed to draw attention to himself. Seemingly without affectation, the boy showed himself for what he was, a carpenter hard at work in the tropical heat, utterly nude because the work was hot and sweaty and dirty, and being naked was the best way to deal with it. Of course his deep and even tan was evidence that the boy seldom bothered with clothing in any event but liked to prance around in the nude for his own reasons.

But the sketch also caught what the onlookers and fellow workers saw too, the boy's admirable work ethic. This was one kid who really knew the meaning of hard work and shamed anyone else who did not keep up his end. He finished his shifts at the saw literally trembling with fatigue, muscles sore, too tired to feel hunger in his belly though his energy stores were depleted. No one could say he did not give everything to his work, yet he never complained.

With his cheery example as inspiration, the rebuilding went quickly, and the work finished ahead of schedule. No one on any of the three ships would ever again think of little Kristian as a merely ornamental bum boy, even though his close relationship with the second mate as well as his previous profession were common knowledge.

Even those who rather disapproved of same gender pairings had to admit that Peter Madsen and Kristian Deuntzer made a fine looking couple. Not so very far apart in age, Peter played the handsome swain to Kristian's pretty young thing. The Austrian sketch artist wanted to reward Kristitan for the many sketches he had made of him, some for his personal use. He persuaded the couple to let him document their pairing, sketching them in mock combat, grappling on the beach in the nude as the surf surged around their lower legs. He then produced a water color of the scene, only regretting that he did not have time to render it in oils, but he hoped they would frame it as a keepsake.

As second mate and navigator Madsen shared his charts with the Austrians showing them a safer exit from the anchorage. Nautical charts in those days amounted to state secrets, not yet published and shared with mariners the world over as a matter of course, as they are today. The sincere efforts of the Danes to help their stranded fellow Europeans any way they could impressed the Austrians with their generosity of spirit.

After a farewell meal and toasts and congratulations all around, with Kristian wearing a lungi for a change, the Austrians lifted anchor and set sail to the southwest for Capetown. The Hass went with them part way, for over a thousand miles, ready to take them off if the repairs threatened not to hold, finally peeling away toward the Chagos Achipelago to check for pirates who sometimes used the isolated islands as their lair.

Chapter 4. Chagos Archipelago and the Agalega Islands

The Chagos Archipelago lies about 300 miles (500 km) south of the southernmost Maldives. Small and insignificant islets for the most part, the entire land area is only 24 square miles (64 sq km). In the exact middle of the Indian Ocean, the islands lie halfway between Africa and Australia. They were uninhabited being too small and isolated and altogether unpromising for permanent settlement. Even the disappointed Austrians were not interested in trying there.

Sailing past Diego Garcia atoll, the most likely pirate lair, and finding nothing amiss, the good ship Haas steered for the Egmont Islands and the main passage into the Great Chagos Banks the second largest atoll structure in the world, though most of it is below sea level. Still, its islets like Danger island or the Three Brothers might provide an anchorage and fresh water. Enjoying a tropical ocean climate the islands get a hundred inches of rain per year.

Sure enough, they saw a pirate schooner which already had her sails unfurled and doing her best to reach another passage through the reef. In the shallow waters of a lagoon filled with coral heads, the warship had to pick its way slowly in the wake of the pirate ship. Once both ships were in open water the chase was on. The larger area of sail of the Danish ship gave her a small advantage but this would be a long stern chase, taking the ship out of her usual patrol waters. Pirates were fair game wherever taken and this ship, though not large, might be carrying pirate loot that would add to its worth as a prize.

Captain Jessen was a canny sailor and he realized that the initial course the pirates took was a ruse. Under the cover of darkness, they would mostly likely turn southwest to one of the main pirate anchorages in Madagascar. Abandoning the stern chase, Jessen took a gamble and cut across the same direction. The sighting the next morning of the pirate just three miles ahead confirmed the man's shrewd guess. The result also heartened his crew, always glad to see that they had a captain who knew his business.

During a chase the crew is not called to battle stations, not till a fight is imminent. So five days later at dawn the Haas was surprised to find itself confronted by two more pirate vessels, none quite their own size but together carrying more guns. With drums beating to quarters, the crew readied their ship for combat.

With the weather gage with him (the wind at his back), Jessen elected to try to cut one pirate vessel out of the pack before the other two could engage. Sinking or damaging her would lessen the odds. In the initial exchange of cannon fire with the lead pirate vessel, the Haas gave a good account of herself but found herself nearly boxed in by her other opponents, without room to maneuver except in one direction. It was the warship's turn to flee southwest lest they all gang up on her.

"Three to one, Mr. Madsen, are poor odds." Jessen said. "Even with the damage we inflicted on the gun deck of the one pirate ship. We pulled her teeth there."

"Yes sir. Too bad we could not do more to damage her rigging. As you said, her guns aren't much of of problem any more, but if she gets alongside the Hass she could swarm us with boarders. I would be more worried sir, if we had any other captain. You will think of something."

"Actually I already have, I am just not sure it will work." he replied with a grimace.

Nevertheless Jessen appreciated the second mate's expression of confidence. Madsen was a good man himself, as he showed with his decent treatment of that lad of his, not like some who took a boy to their bed.

What worried the captain most was that they were suddenly low on water. An unlucky cannon shot had smashed or sprung most of their water casks. Kristian and Soren had worked frantically to patch them so they could be refilled, but where? As luck or good navigation would have it, they reached the low lying Agalega islands and decided to put in there for water, anchoring on the west side away from their approach. Captain Jessen wanted to put the islands between him and the pirates, improving his chances if they showed up. The two islands totaled only 10 square miles (26 sq km) and were covered with coconut trees and mangrove forest. North Island is long and narrow, about 7 miles by 1 wide (12 km by 1.5 km) while South Island was tear drop shaped and half as long and three times wider.

Kristian was part of the group sent to refill the water casks since he was not needed to fight the ship if the pirates showed up. They had successfully transferred half the water casks back to the ship when all three pirate vessels showed up, having shrewdly followed the east coast southward rather than sail straight in. That gave the Danes very little warning of their approach.

Reluctantly, Captain Jessen abandoned Kristian and four others to their fate as he stood his ship out to sea to get some room to maneuver. Sick at heart, Madsen watched the island with his lover stranded on it fall behind as his Captain did what was necessary to save their ship. One pirate ship deployed a boat toward South Island where the Danish seamen were stranded before joining the chase of the Haas.

The odds were bad: a party of five seamen, essentially unarmed but for their knives against a boatload holding a dozen pirates, all bearing muskets or pistols and cutlasses. Kristian himself had only a small hatchet with him, a tool really not a weapon, to cut away brush if need be and to bang the bung home after a casket was filled. As usual, he was entirely naked.

"We should scatter in pairs and go to ground till the Haas comes back for us, the senior rating shouted to the other four. Kristian, your best chance is alone, away from the rest of us. You are the smallest and quickest of us all. Find a good place to hide till our ship returns. Good luck lad!"

Kristian nodded and grabbed an empty cask. A full one would just slow him down. If the pirates could not find all of them right away, they probably might try to smoke them out by controlling the sources of fresh water. The other four seamen stayed on South Island hoping its wider expanses would be harder for the enemy to quarter. Kristian figured the pirates would look there first and ran to the channel that separated it from the other main island in the archipelago and swam across floating the cask with him. His quick thinking had paid off. The pirates approaching in their long boat had not seen him cross to the North Island. With any luck, he had several hours at least before they sent anyone across and even then it would only be a flying squad to range the length of the island, only enough men for a perfunctory search.

Kristian stayed away from the open beach where he might be seen from afar or leave footprints, not that the pirates were much good as trackers, but even a sea dog could recognize the print of a human foot. He was pleased to find several springs or water catchment areas on the island, maybe even too many for the pirates to stake out full time. He drank at each, filling up as much as he could. Finding a good cache, he excavated a hole in the base of a stable dune, digging under the thicket of roots of beach grass, setting the drier top sand aside. He filled his water cask, rapped the bung closed, then put the cask in the hole and covered it with dry sand. A natural blaze on a tree trunk and a coral rock in the ground marked the spot well enough to locate even at night. Meanwhile he had to find a good hide or ideally several of them in case they flushed him out of one of them.

He found several good hiding places during his reconnaissance of the island. About a quarter of the way south of the northern tip was where he decided to go to ground. That flying squad could be on the North Island by now. An inconspicuous blowhole along the coral shore gave Kristian the idea to hide in a sea cave. He found the entrance about where he figured, carved by the waves. Its entrance was mostly underwater, unnoticeable from the shore. You had to swim out to see it. The roof was well above the tide line and a dry shelf in the back made for a good place to sleep. He even found a second entrance at one end. This was the best kind of hide, with two exits. The waves and currents would carry evidence and smells of necessary biological functions out to sea too. So far, so good.

As the afternoon waned he heard distant shots, too many for signals. His crew mates were being hunted down, maybe slaughtered by the pirates. Kristian knew he would be next. They would try to track him like an animal or, if that failed, to snare him as he went for water or food. This wasn't warfare but a hunt and he was the game they hunted, naked as any beast. Well that wasn't far wrong. What else would you call a nude boy unarmed but for a hatchet. The pirates were the huntsmen and he was their naked prey.

That first night, Kristian knew he would have freedom of movement. The pirates were not familiar with North Island and had not paid much attention to it when they sailed past. It was separated from South Island by about a mile and a half (2.5 km), which was why only a strong swimmer like Kristian could have tried to cross the channel. Most of the pirates must still be hunting the other four sailors on South Island. So he snuck out during the dark of the moon, slithered to an unguarded water hole and drank his fill. He also gathered coconuts to bring back to the cave with him. They would provide both food and drink.

That night he slept fitfully tormented by uncertainty. Had the pirates been able to count the number of sailors stranded on the island? Did they know that at least one was on the North Island? Had they captured anyone and made him talk about the young blond who had gone off by himself. He hadn't told anyone else his plan or invited another sailor along. Was that just because they were not good swimmers or was he callously hoping they would draw the pirates leaving him safe on the other island.

What of their ship the Haas? Was she at the bottom of the sea even now, lost with all hands? What Peter forever lost to him. As for his own fate, Kristian could expect the worst if they caught him: rape and torture. Or would his looks give them other ideas. They might keep him captive on their pirate ship, a sex slave for the whole crew to rape and toy with. They would kill him for sure if he resisted capture and managed to injure or kill any of the pirates himself. Only seventeen, Kristian had never killed a man, never really wanted to.

Even if he survived the search by pirates, Kristian might be marooned alone on these islands for who knew how long? Another Robinson Crusoe. What a bleak prospect, his second stranding in a year. With such thoughts in his mind the boy finally fell asleep, not waking till nearly noon the next day.

It was time to take stock of his situation, to make some real plans. His first task after hiding was to provide himself with food and water, without giving away his presence on the island with footprints or any sign. If he had to fight, he would need weapons. True he had only the hatchet for a weapon just then, but he was a skilled carpenter. He should be able to make weapons or mantraps of some sort. He could easily fashion spears of bamboo: a straight chop at the base and an angled one at the tip and voila. As a boy he had helped his father set out animal traps. He could adapt those designs.

Of course all this would have to wait till he was sure the pirates knew he was on North Island and had not given up on the hunt. Meanwhile it was better to lie low, maybe prepare some spears but not set out traps. Those would only confirm his presence there.

Over the next two days he made half a dozen spears from bamboo. The spears could be thrown or used to stab and had a longer reach than the pirates' swords though not their firearms. He could also made a fish spear so he could feed himself from the bounty of the sea, even if he had to eat everything raw. On the next day he heard the voices of strangers calling his name. The pirates bragged that they had killed the other four sailors mentioning their names. Under torture one of them had told them of the blond boy who ran off by himself, Kristian.

"Come out, come out wherever you are little Kristian. Don't worry. We won't hurt you. We just want to have our fun. Come on. Show that pretty face of yours and we will let you live."

They threatened to scour the island till they found him, telling him that his only chance was to surrender, to turn himself over for use as a bum boy, for the twelve of them for starters, and then for their fellow pirates on the ships, when they returned.

So there it was. The choice was fight or become a sex slave for the pirates. He might live for weeks till they tired of him or decided to use him for crueler games: maybe take a cat of nine tails to his back and ass or stake him out in the sun or bury him in sand up to the neck at low tide and watch as he drowned. Those were only some ways pirates toyed with their captives, those they could not exchange for ransom. An easy choice then. Kristian would fight. He owed it to his dead comrades, to his lover, to every right thinking person. Pirates, like bandits, were the scourge of humanity. They didn't build or work or produce anything. All they did was take and kill.

In this unequal fight, stealth would serve him better than confrontation. He was a single slightly built youth against a dozen robust pirates. That night Kristian crept halfway down the island to its center where the pirates had set up camp. They had a guard posted but the man was dozing at his post. That kind of complacency would not last. At a distance south of their camp, too far for them to hear the noise, he dug his first traps, fourteen simple holes about a foot deep sited in game trails, with sharpened bamboo shoots stuck into the bottom, points up. Covered by a palm frond and then a light coating of sand, the pits were unnoticeable and would be quite effective against the barefoot pirates. A man whose weight fell on those points could drive the bamboo right through his foot or deep into the soft flesh of the arch.

He learned of his success two days later during another pirate sweep of the island as his enemies cursed him for his sneaky success. No more sweet talk either. Yes they would have his ass, but after that Kristian was a dead man.

For Kristian, the good news was that his pit traps had crippled two pirates who could no longer walk on their infected feet. That made the odds only ten to one. That night he set out more pit traps north of their camp eventually injuring two more.

For his next kill he constructed a more elaborate trap then waited by a trail at dusk as a lone pirate, tired from tramping all day, headed for camp, discouraged by yet another fruitless sweep of the island. Kristian revealed himself as if by accident, tricking the man into rushing after him in the gathering darkness. Running past the tree to which he had attached his trap, Kristian pretended to trip and fall while he really loosened a slip knot in a vine. A pair of bamboo canes that he had wedged and bent back back horizontally along the path were released to sweep forward, each with three sharpened stakes attached. The elastic rebound of the bamboo canes and the incautious pirate's own momentum impaled him on the stakes. He took the man's knife but left his musket as too heavy and clumsy and noisy for his stealthy campaign. Kristian had no real familiarity or expertise with firearms. He was a carpenter when all was said and done.

In a week he had taken five of them out of the running. One was a quick kill. The man who ran onto the stakes bled out fast. Indeed some his blood got on Kristian himself. As for the others, they died of gangrene poisoning. The trick he had learned of using his own bodily waste to coat the tips of the spears paid off. Those were wounds that would never heal.

Time to really put the fear of death into them. So far their camp had been inviolate so they were likely to be complacent. Kristian fashioned a garotte with bamboo handles at the ends of a length of vine and a short bamboo section in the middle for the knot that would crush the windpipe. One dark night, the boy stealthily took out their sentry without raising the alarm. Twisting the cord around the man's neck, Kristian put his knee into the man's back and pulled with all his wiry strength. The only sound was a muffled death rattle and a minor scuffling of feet, as the small youth held on to the big pirate.

Taking the man's cutlass, he crept up to another man, one lying asleep farthest from the fire in the center of camp. Settling himself on the pirate's chest, he reached out with his left hand to cover the mouth and expose the throat. Just as cooly as that Kristian cut the man's throat with a single swipe of the cutlass. The man's blood spurted out of the jugular arteries baptizing Kristian's face and chest and belly. He crawled away, not daring to push his luck any further, heading first for the shore to wash the man's blood off him so he would not leave a trail back to the sea cave.

After that is was too late for the pirates to post extra sentries. There were no longer enough of them for two man shifts. It never crossed their minds to sleep during the daytime with only one sentry then stay on the alert all night when they were most vulnerable. So on another night Kristian used the garotte to kill a pirate not much older than himself, this time not a sentry but a youth who went to answer a call of nature. Kristian caught him just as he dropped his breeches.

That was real killing. Alone in his sea cave with his thoughts Kristian trembled with fear and self-loathing. He had deliberately taken human life, time and again, tricking men, killing by stealth, sneaking around like a coward, never giving those he slew a chance to defend themselves. The death of that youth in particular was utterly without dignity. What did those killings make of him? It is not that he enjoyed killing. That is not what he reproached himself for. It was because he had discovered that killing was something he was very good at. He was a natural: calm and calculating, ruthless and cold-blooded. Kristian Deuntzer had the makings of a professional assassin. What a discovery for a decent minded seventeen year old boy to make about himself.

In the clear light of morning he realized that his choices really were to kill or be killed. He must not let his conscience bother him. Whatever his skills might be, he was in command of them. Once off the island, he might never kill again, never have to. He sincerely hoped so for the sake of his soul. Though not particularly pious, Kristian was still a god fearing lad. He had enough worries about explaining his unorthodox sex life to Saint Peter, but all these killings were something else. As for his worries about cowardice, those were the unrealistic too. What untried boy who sets himself against a dozen experienced cutthroats could rightly be called a coward. His stealthy methods were just ways to cut down the odds. A coward would have just hidden away, cringing and hoping for the best.

In the last analysis Kristian had not only acted in self-defense, he had prevented any possibility of future atrocities by these evil men. In later years if asked who gave him to right to kill a dozen men, mostly in cold blood, he simply replied.

"They did themselves."

Now the pirates had become the hunted even in their own camp. With eight already dead, the other four retreated to the South Island taking the only boat. Kristian might have let them live but for the possible return of the pirate ships. If any were left alive to tell the tale, the pirates would search the island so thoroughly he could not stay hidden. He had to go on the offensive and kill the last four.

Using the emptied water cask as a float for his weapons, Kristian crossed the channel and found their camp. Now four men cannot maintain a watch all night unless it is one at a time. So that meant only one sentry. Kristian got in close enough to throw a spear into the man's gut. He cried out waking a second man lying nearby. Before he could get to his feet Kristian stabbed another spear into his chest. As the final two sprang up, he laid about with cutlass and hatchet, growling and cursing as he killed those two and then made sure of the others. Agility, speed, surprise and their own terror at the sight of a blond fiend they had come to regard as the spectre of death gave him the edge. The fight for survival was over, at least till a ship showed on the horizon. He sat down right in the midst of carnage and trembled all over with relief that his ordeal was over.

A few days later a pair of ships showed up at the island. Using a pirate's spy glass Kristian recognized the Hass sailing alongside one of the pirate vessels, under the control of a Danish prize crew. Kristian's signal fire directed them to South Island. There Kristian stood, his blond mane blowing in the wind, musket in hand, with a pistol and a cutlass thrust through the vine belt which was all he wore. Kristian had remained naked despite the opportunity to clothe himself. The thought of wearing a dead man's garments was repugnant to him.

Madsen's big arms practically crushed the lad to him in a joyful embrace. Words could not convey their emotions. Kristian let the tears flow unashamedly, tears of joy for their reunion, tears of relief that he was no longer alone and did not have to bear the burden of the fight, and, at last, tears of grief for his lost comrades, all of them decent sorts he had worked and joked with.

Then it was time for explanations. Kristian related that he alone of all the stranded sailors had survived after they scattered. His choice of North Island as his refuge had proved out.

"And the others?" Captain Jessen asked.

"Murdered on South Island and their bodies taken out to sea and thrown to the sharks, to hear the pirates brag of it."

"What of the pirates themselves? You said there were twelve of them."

"Dead. All dead." Kristian explained how he used his traps to whittle their numbers down then took the fight to the pirates. His matter-of-fact delivery stunned his listeners as the small and pretty lad described his deadly activities.

"I did not want their graves to give away what happened if the pirate ships returned, so I did the same thing with their bodies, all except their right hands. I kept those as proof."

Pulling on a vine buried in the sand, he unearthed a dozen boney hands, mostly picked clean by then, all that was left of the pirates. The hands were later buried at sea. He also revealed a hidden cache of captured weapons and the pirates' long boat boat secreted in the mangroves. It was too large for one man to handle at sea, and Kristian was a carpenter not a trained seaman.

Madsen explained that after leaving its sailors stranded on the Agalega Islands, the Haas had run southwest chased by the three pirate ships. During the last night, the Haas overtook the Austrian ships sailing steadily for home. Captain Jessen's gamble on making a rendezvous had worked. The three ships turned back together to fight the pirates. With their weight of metal, the pirates were quickly defeated, one of their ships blown clear out of the water, the other sunk with almost her full complement. Casualties among the allies were insignificant. Only one pirate ship was taken as a prize. Captain Scharnhorst graciously left it to the Danes, not claiming any share for his crews.

Epilogue

In time the Austrians returned safely to their homeland. The Austrian Empire never again tried to set up an overseas colony though it did expand steadily in Europe bucking the trend toward nationalism, till finally torn apart by its constituent ethnicities in the wake of defeat in World War I.

Peter Madsen got promoted to first mate to fill the vacancy left by the first mate killed in the second action with the pirates. Kristian resumed his duties as carpenter, doing much of the work himself until Soren recovered fully from his battle injuries. Working with wood again, smelling the lumber and oakum and turpentine, and using his hands constructively to grip tools and to build and repair things instead of destructively to wield weapons helped the young man adjust to peaceful endeavors once again.

It was the start of his long healing process. Still as much as the boy tried to act normally, every once in a while, the master carpenter caught Kristian staring out to sea with a haunted look on his face. With no ulterior motive now, the older man laid his hand on the boy's shoulder in a gesture of simple reassurance and support.

Madsen knew that his experiences would give his young lover nightmares for years. When that happened, the youth thrashed around and broke out into a sweat and sometimes moaned or spoke in his sleep. Sometimes he woke up in alarm, taking a moment to realize he was safe in bed with his lover and not on the island. All the older man could do then was to hold the boy and comfort him with his presence and his love. Eventually Kristian came to terms with what he had done. Peter was glad to see a smile play over Kristian's animated features once again.

Madsen was proud of the way Kristian always downplayed his actions, reluctant to talk of what happened on the islands, never bragging or boasting. Killing a dozen men before your eighteenth birthday, however justified their deaths were in the eyes of the law, was a transformational experience -- one much too serious for barroom talk. On those distant islands, young Kristian Deuntzer had become a man.

During the Napoleonic Era the British temporarily seized Danish possessions in India. In 1868 Denmark sold the Nicobar Islands, formerly New Denmark, to the British who made it part of their Indian Raj. The archipelago is now a part of the Republic of India. The Agalega Islands are governed by the island republic of Mauritius.

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