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    Grumpy Bear
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Arctic Roots - 4. The Expedition

The next day in the Common Building over meals, the other bears attempted to get Adam to spill more information about Axel’s mysterious past, but he politely refused, letting them know that some tales were meant to be shared just between Papa and Cub.

When they arrived at their cozy home again after dinner, Axel rewarded his cub by snuggling with him under a blanket next to the fire and telling him the next chapter of his story.

“Where did I leave off, Cub?” Axel asked.

“You were just leaving Yakutsk to go on the thousand-mile journey to the frontier river fort and start your expedition with Semyon Dezhnev,” Adam replied.

“Ah yes. With ninety men and a caravan of supplies, it took a month to reach the river fort at Srednekolymsk…”

****

Alexei surveyed the seven ships moored along the docks of the wide river just outside the walls of the fort. He instructed the men on which ship each load of supplies was to be stored and orchestrated the preparations for the launch of the expedition.

The ships were the stout two-masted vessels called ‘koches’ that were specifically designed in Russia with additional skin planking for voyages through the Arctic ice. If they ran into a sea of ice floes on this expedition, these koch would be able to sail right through them without any damage.

It was determined that each of the four investors be given command of a vessel, and that Dezhnev, Alekseyevich and the Guselnikov brothers could each select one man from their ranks to captain the other three ships.

Alekseyevich chose a sturdy Russian named Ivan who had accompanied the wealthy explorer on the second expedition to captain one of the vessels, and the Guselnikov brothers chose a man by the name of Piotr who was a loyal employee of their merchant house.

Dezhnev chose Alexei, of course, due to his officer training and mastery of sailing upon the Dnieper River and the Black Sea in his Ukrainian homeland. And so it was that Alexei was given his own ship and a crew of fifteen Cossacks to command on their voyage.

Inspecting his crew on the eve of their expedition, Alexei found one man so young, he looked as if he had not yet even begun shaving.

“Who are you,” Alexei asked the lad, “And who convinced you that this expedition was any place for a boy such as yourself.”

“With all due respect, sir,” the boy replied, “I am Igor, and I am a Cossack Warrior. Eighteen years of age. I have come to Siberia to find adventure and fortune.”

“A Cossack Warrior at only eighteen?” Alexei mused, “What made you think that finding your fortune in Siberia was worth leaving your home and all the pretty girls who would likely claw each other’s eyes out for a young handsome Cossack husband like you?”

“Sir, I…” the boy began, and his eyes darted around to the other crewmen nervously, “I wasn’t interested in any of the girls at home or becoming their husband. I wanted to join my Cossack brethren on the frontier to make a name for myself.”

“A wise choice, Igor,” Alexei said, clapping the boy firmly on the back, “You remind me of myself when I was your age. I welcome you to my crew.”

Alexei gave the boy a sly wink, and then continued his inspection of the rest of the crew and ship.

The expedition set sail down the Kolyma River at sunrise on the twentieth of June 1648. Two weeks later they reached the rich river delta as it neared the Arctic Ocean.

“Fork in the river ahead!” Dezhnev shouted to Alexei from the bow of his ship. “It is imperative that you take the left fork!”

“Are you certain?” Alexei called back. “That way appears to grow very narrow. The right fork is wider and would better accommodate our ships!”

“I’m certain!” Dezhnev said, “The left fork runs narrow and deep. The right fork is wide and shallow. If you do not go left, you will damage your ship upon the rocky riverbed!”

Alexei nodded and relayed the message to Piotr, the captain of the lead ship.

Somehow, the importance of the instructions was not properly conveyed to the two ships bringing up the rear, captained by the Guselnikov brothers. Alexei was already at his wits end with those two, who seemed to revel in being defiant to any orders given. As the first five ships steered left at the fork into the narrow, twisting waters, the Guselnikovs viewed the straight and wide waters on the right side of the fork to be the better choice and they laughed among themselves that their ships would be the first to reach the sea while the other five spent days navigating the narrow streams.

“Captain,” Igor said to Alexei, “I need to report that the last two ships have left our company and turned the wrong way at the fork in the river.”

“Son of a pus-filled whore!” Alexei cursed. He called across the water to Dezhnev.

“Were the Guselnikov imbeciles not told of the dangers of the right fork in the river?”

“They were told,” Dezhnev replied, “I’m sure they think they know more than the two explorers who have already navigated this river once before. If they have not arrived at the sea by the time we get there, we will deploy the small skiffs back upriver to see if they have run aground.”

“Their insolence is going to get good men killed,” Alexei called back, but there was nothing they could do but continue their journey down the twisting and narrow river and hope that their companions found safe passage.

After two days of treacherous sailing, the five koch ships emerged into the waters of the Arctic Ocean. They deployed full sails and journeyed east to the mouth of the right fork of the river. If the brothers’ gamble was successful, they should be anchored there, waiting for them. If they were not, then a search party would need to be formed.

When they arrived at the river’s mouth, it was apparent that Dezhnev’s predictions were correct; the river in that location was shallow and clear enough that the men could see the rocky bottom, and they knew that any attempt to sail their koch back upriver in search of their missing companions would only end in the destruction of their boats.

Alexei spoke to Dezhnev and Alekseyevich, and it was decided that he would take fifteen men in three skiffs upriver to locate the missing ships.

“You’re with me, Igor,” Alexei told the young Cossack. “I want you to bear witness to the fate of those who believe that their own ignorance is just as good as another man’s knowledge.”

They rowed their skiffs against the current of the river and traveled upstream for nearly a full day. It was Igor’s sharp eyes that first spotted the masts of the brothers’ koch ships extending above the tundra at angles that were all wrong. The closer they rowed, the greater the feeling of foreboding fell across the explorers.

When they just had to round one last bend in the river and the ships would be in sight, Igor, in his position in the bow of the lead skiff, let out a muffled cry and pointed to the water. The river, once so clear and clean that they could see the rocky bottom through its shallow depths now ran red with blood.

Cautiously, they paddled around the bend, and the sight was enough to freeze the blood of the most seasoned warrior.

The ships were indeed grounded in the shallows of the river and their keels broken and torn upon the rocks, but they had also attracted the attention of some very unfriendly natives. Native men, women and children crawled over the wrecked ships like ants, tearing them apart and scavenging anything they found to be of use. Of the thirty sailors and the two conceited brothers, their fates were already sealed. Their bodies were stacked like cordwood along the banks of the river, their life’s blood mingling with the waters of Siberia and drifting downstream to the sea that they would now never reach. Their heads lay in a separate pile, and the explorers noted with disgust that some of the children were making a game of kicking one of the heads back and forth along the riverbank.

“We can do nothing for those men now,” Alexei whispered to the men in his three skiffs. “We must make haste back to our ships, lest we suffer the same fate.”

****

“Papa, stop,” Adam said, interrupting Axel and pulling him from his memories. “The natives slaughtered thirty-two of your men and let their children play soccer with the heads?”

“This was part of the nature of these expeditions,” Axel explained. “We did not expect all men to survive the voyage, and that is why we traveled with so many ships. You must also remember that if I had encountered these natives when I was still commanding the Zaporozhian Host, I would have most likely slaughtered them all first!”

“Didn’t it hurt your expedition to lose two ships and all of the supplies that they carried so soon after starting out?” Adam asked.

“Well…” Axel said, searching for the right words, “Let’s just say that I didn’t expect those two morons to last very long anyway. Since I was in charge of loading the ships, I made sure that they only carried the food and water that their crews would require, and any equipment essential to the expedition was stowed safely aboard the ships that lasted longer than two measly weeks!”

“Very clever, Papa,” Adam remarked. “You were a born leader. But I’ve interrupted you. Please… continue.”

“Yes,” Axel said, “Once we returned to the ships, we were able to finally start the real expedition. Since it was summer in the Arctic, we encountered the same loose ice floes that had stopped the second expedition, but with the improved hull armor on the new ships, we made our way easily to the East and the riches we desired…

****

Alexei had Igor and two other trusted Cossacks in a skiff on the open sea, a few miles out from shore. They had already half-filled the cargo hold in their koch with the most beautiful sable furs that any man had ever seen, but Alexei was not going home without filling the other half with the walrus ivory he so desired.

Igor was a quick study and an eager student. Alexei had taken him under his wing and taught him the ways of hunting that he might have passed on to his own son had he gone against his nature and taken his mother’s advice. As he now stood in the skiff, holding the harpoon level with his shoulder, Igor watched him closely, almost in awe of the skill of the older man.

With a swift motion, Alexei thrust the harpoon into the water, expertly finding his target within the icy depths. Quickly, Igor and the other two began to haul in the rope, and with a great effort, pulled a huge beast to the surface of the water. None of the men had ever seen a living walrus before, and the one they saw now was no longer among the living either, as Alexei’s harpoon had pierced the animal’s heart. However, they knew what walrus tusks looked like, and their prey had two ivory tusks, each of them three feet long and worth a small fortune back in Yakutsk.

The walrus was easily two thousand pounds or more, so there was no way to get it inside of the skiff, so they secured it with ropes and towed it behind as they rowed back to the ship.

Reaching their koch, Alexei set the crew about hauling the beast onto the deck, skinning it, and storing the precious ivory within the hold as he and Igor retired to his quarters to clean themselves up and rest.

Alexei heated a pan of water on the wood stove in his cabin and stripped naked, dipping a cloth into the warm water and scrubbing himself well. Igor followed his Captain, and removed his clothing, washing the sea salt and walrus blood from his arms and body. As Igor washed, he couldn’t help but stare at his Captain’s muscular body and thick cock, laying atop a pair of hefty balls. The young Cossack was proud of his own lithe body, but as he gazed at the nude body of the male he idolized, his manhood began growing long and hard.

“I take it by your reaction to watching me bathe myself that you prefer to lay with other men. Am I correct?” Alexei asked Igor as he continued to scrub his heavy ball sack with his washcloth.

“Sir…I, uh…” Igor stammered. “I’m sorry, I will leave if you wish it.”

“I do not wish it,” Alexei said softly dropping his washcloth back in the pan of water and stepping closer to the young Cossack. “I too, much prefer the company of men over a young girl. Tell me, boy, when was the last time you lay with a man?”

“Well sir, on my journey here to Siberia, I sucked off my traveling companion a few times at night. He made me swear to tell no one once we reached Yakutsk. That was almost a year ago.”

“And have you taken a man up your ass before?”

Igor blushed, and hid his hard cock with his washcloth.

“No sir. Those nights sucking off my traveling companion were the only times I’ve ever been with a man at all… or a woman… but I’ve fantasized about taking a man inside of me.”

Alexei took Igor’s washcloth from his hand and dropped it back into the pan before grasping the boy’s cock firmly in his fist.

“Igor, I have laid with many men in my life, but I have not had anyone to share my bed for the last three years. In my position, I could not afford to let others to find out about my true nature, do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Igor replied.

“Would you care to share my bed with me now?” Alexei asked.

“I would, sir. But… sir…”

“Yes, Igor? What do you need to feel at ease?”

“Please be gentle with me. I can see what you have there between your legs, and it reminds me of the donkeys on my father’s farmland. I… I don’t want you to hurt me.”

“I promise boy, I will do my best to keep any pain to a minimum when I take you the first time. I think that once you grow accustomed to it, you will find it quite pleasurable.”

And so, Alexei took Igor as his lover, and they shared his cabin from that day forward. If any of the crew suspected what was going on between their Captain and his young Cossack warrior, they spoke not of it.

Each day, Alexei and Igor would take two men with them in the skiff out to sea, and each day they would return with another prized walrus. Soon, Igor was wielding the harpoon himself, and before long had achieved his first kill. The crews of the expedition did not waste any part of the animals, and after Alexei had claimed the ivory and added it to his hoard in the cargo hold, the carcass was butchered, and the meat was distributed evenly between the five ships.

As Alexei spent his days hunting furs and ivory, Dezhnev and Alekseyevich had their eyes on a vein of silver ore on land. Forty men worked each day to dig silver from the earth, and they filled many chests with it. Dezhnev marked the location carefully on his maps. There was enough bounty here already to make the expedition a successful one. They could return the way they came and use their new wealth to bring more men and women and start their own settlement. If they could simply stake their claim to these lands and report those claims to the proper officials in Yakutsk, their futures would be set and secure.

Dezhnev, however, was not satisfied. Yes, the furs and ivory were bountiful and yes, they had found enough silver ore to justify bringing more men and creating a mining camp here, but this was not the Pogycha River that he searched for, which was the ultimate goal and inspiration for the whole expedition.

Alexei and Alekseyevich were hesitant to venture further into the Arctic unknown, but Dezhnev persuaded them with tales of what may be waiting further along the Siberian coast just over the horizon, until they finally relented. With their ship holds already mostly full of the treasures that would make them all incredibly wealthy men, they pulled anchor, and the five ships sailed east in search of even greener pastures.

****

“That is enough for tonight, Cub,” Axel said with a yawn. He stretched his big body underneath the blanket and reached for the fireplace poker to shift the remnants of the night’s logs over the coals.

“Aw, Papa!” Adam complained, “You’re going to leave me on a cliffhanger? It felt at the end that you were setting up for some sort of disaster.”

“Well, since I didn’t end up an old, rich Cossack in Russia, but instead I ended up a grumpy, never-aging werebear in America, you know that there has to be a twist coming up soon, right?”

Adam grinned at his Papa’s assessment and nodded.

“I’ve told you all the happy parts of that expedition, Cub,” Axel said wistfully. “There is only tragedy and heartbreak remaining.”

“Okay, Papa,” Adam said with a sigh, “I’ll let you off the hook for tonight and you can continue your story tomorrow. I do appreciate you taking the time to tell me your history. I feel like it’s bringing us even closer together.”

“It’s important for Papa and Cub to bond,” Axel said, “That’s something that I never learned until I came here to Atikokan. I just wish that my own Papa had known that.”

“Oh, that’s right!” Adam exclaimed, “I’ve been so wrapped up in your story that I forgot that it’s all leading up to you meeting your Papa!”

“There’s so much left to tell,” Axel replied, “But that’s for another day. Are you ready to come to bed?”

“Only if we can pretend that I’m a young, lithe, Cossack cabin boy and you’re my manly, rugged, donkey-dicked Captain!”

“Oh Gods,” Axel moaned. “All right, get your ass into my bunk on the double or I won’t be so gentle with you!”

“Yes sir, Captain!” Adam shouted and scurried off to the bedroom.

“I tell an exciting tale of adventure, and that’s the part he takes away from it,” Axel grumbled to himself as he got up and trudged through the living room. “What am I going to do with this horny Cub of mine?”

“You’re going to fuck him!” Adam shouted from the bedroom. “Hurry up and get in here!”

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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I love that Adam has a one track mind, and wants to be the young cossack lover as in Axel's story.

Axel has a fascinating story to tell.

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Axel's story is riveting, and I can't wait for more! With tragedy and devastation left, I'm scared to learn of Igor's fate. 

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Looking back for a man like Alexi would not be easy; all those you had lost and the tragedies that you had seen.  They all may make up who you have become now; but the memories could still hurt.

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