I've used this lockdown period to write a few chapters of this story...hope you're pleased. I'm hoping for weekly postings for the next month at least.
Granger left Weston and a squad of marines to secure the fort, then Treadway formed up the remainder of his marines for the march into town.Now that the surrender had been orchestrated, it was more of a procession, with Russian dragoons leading, followed by von Beckendorf and Granger, and then the marines.They proceeded up the road to Arensburg with the band playing jauntily.If it weren’t so cold, it would have been a pleasant parade, but with the frigid temperatures, it was all Granger could do to keep his teeth from chattering.He wondered how the men playing wind instruments were faring with the cold metal coming into constant contact with their lips.Although the weather was clear, the ground was blanketed in snow, which gave the entire town a very quaint appeal, but did nothing to make Granger any warmer.
“That was very well done,” von Beckendorf said, smiling at Granger.
“It will hopefully be enough to save you from recriminations,” Granger replied, returning his smile.
“We will go to the town hall, where you will meet some of the dignitaries, and then I had planned for us to dine,” von Beckendorf explained. “After that, I am sure you will want to tend to affairs, then I will show you the sauna, followed by supper.”
“You appear to have my entire day planned out for me,” Granger replied pleasantly.
“And your night,” he said, with a raised eyebrow.Granger swallowed, exposing the lust he had for this young Germanic Russian, who taunted him with a knowing grin before continuing his sentence.“We will have a performance in the theater in your honor.”
“I am most obliged,” Granger said, trying not to sound disappointed.The dragoons wheeled about and took up positions along the side of the road facing them as they trotted the last yards to the town hall.It was a square solid structure, with a large door in the center and four windows on either side, two for each floor.The snow covered the roof, but where it had blown off, the red shingles boldly shone through.Granger thought it was a typical Baltic building, but the smoke coming from its chimney’s suggested there would be warmth inside, and that made it all the more attractive.
Treadway chose that moment to come trotting up, interrupting Granger before he could dismount.“My lord, I’ve designated a sergeant and five men to remain here with you, while I take the others back to the fort.”
“That is more than adequate,” Granger replied.He didn’t see the need to have a guard with him, but it would probably look better that way, and he was reluctant to engage in a lengthy argument with Treadway about his safety when his entire focus was on getting out of the cold wind.
Granger and von Beckendorf dismounted, and Granger found one of the marine sergeants, Smyth, standing at attention with another marine to hold the horse’s bridle.“I’ve been tasked to watch after you, my lord,” he said.
“Well Smyth, I suspect I can take care of myself.I’ll trouble you to ensure that you and your men find somewhere warm to tend to your duties,” Granger said jovially.
“Thank you, my lord,” he replied, smiling slightly, something rare for this marine.
“I’d also ask that you keep an eye out for my staff, should they try to find me, and send them in my direction,” Granger added, thinking of poor Winkler and the chore it was for him to keep up with Granger.
“Aye aye, my lord,” he replied. Granger followed von Beckendorf into the town hall, meeting people as he went, and then thankfully found himself in a large room heated by roaring fires.A footman put a glass in his hand, one that contained a very good wine.He found himself largely shielded by four people:Von Beckendorff; the mayor, who was a large, stolid man; the mayor’s wife, who was a large stolid woman, and a very attractive young woman named Madame Klaus.Granger mingled with this group of provincial Estonian officials and townspeople, indulging in inane conversation, feeling as if he’d been transported to some obscure town in Derby.
As they chatted with people, it became apparent to Granger that Madame Klaus was quite intimate with von Beckendorff, and almost certainly was his mistress.Granger fought back the jealous feelings that rumbled around in his head, while simultaneously damning himself for supposing the connection he had with von Beckendorff was not just one of a budding friendship but one that was sexual.He distracted himself by glancing around the room, but was dismayed to note that this functional building was uninteresting, and the most colorful part of it were his marines stationed against the wall.At least it was warm.
They were ushered into a large room approximately half an hour after they arrived.A large table was set up, with the equivalent of a chamberlain directing people to their seats.Granger found himself stuck in between Madame Klaus and the mayor’s wife.Despite her ability to speak fluent English, the mayor’s wife was deadly dull, while Madame Klaus was aggressively flirtatious, so much that Granger had remove her hand from his thigh several times.The food was adequate at best.
Granger noticed some movement at the door and was relieved to see Weston looking in, giving him an excuse to absent himself from this tedious dinner.“I must thank you for dinner, but I fear duty calls,” Granger said to the mayor’s wife, as seemed appropriate.Von Beckendorf made to get up, but Grangers’s words stopped him.“Pray finish your dinner.We will talk afterwards.”
“Of course,” von Beckendorf said, coupling those words with his trademark smile.
Granger strode confidently out of the room, then met with Weston in the reception room he’d first entered.“I’m sorry to bother you, my lord,” Weston said hastily.
“I’d eaten enough food, and the company was boring, so your interruption was timely,” Granger said pleasantly.
“I wanted to know if you’d join me in the fort, my lord,” Weston said.“I’ve been having some difficulties with the merchant captains, and Mr. Andrews wanted to meet with you as well.”
“Then let’s be off,” Granger said.He went outside and found his horse waiting for him.He paused to hand the sergeant a few coins.“Find somewhere to feed your men, but take care they do not become inebriated.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Smyth said, “and thank you.”
Granger and Weston mounted their horses for the brief trip down the road and across the bridge to the fort.“I am surprised the merchant captains are raising problems,” Granger said, to distract himself from being in the frigidly cold weather again.
“One of the captains is Comstock, and as he seems to be the leader, my lord, I think you’ll be able to understand why their being unpleasant,” Weston replied.
Granger shook his head as he remembered Captain Comstock, Lady Elgin’s stooge who had originally commanded the army transport that Valiant was tasked to convoy to Sicily.“And what did you do with these recalcitrant captains?”
“I locked them back up in the dungeon, my lord,” Weston said, and he did it in such a matter of fact way that Granger actually laughed.
“We’ll see if that improves their moods,” Granger noted.They arrived at the fort and Granger decided to let the captains wait while he toured the structure.It must have been formidable at one time, with relatively modern ravelins and bastions, but the masonry was old and had not been maintained very well, so that made the structure much less imposing.
There was a large room which included a desk and several chairs, one that would be good for a small conference.It also had several roaring fireplaces, which made it that much more appealing. Weston had clearly commandeered the space as his office, so Granger took it over in turn.He had no sooner poured himself a glass of wine than Andrews came striding in, his gait being that of a sailor who had suddenly found himself on land.Granger noted that he rarely maintained his sea legs when he was ashore, but knew many of his contemporaries would have to spend at least a month on the land before theirs would abate. Schein followed him walking in much the same way. “My lord, I have been working with their victualing people here,” Andrews said, then suddenly realized he needed to explain why Schein was here.“Mr. Schein was serving as an interpreter.”
“I didn’t know you spoke Russian, Mr. Schein,” Granger said in a welcoming way.
“I speak a little, my lord, but people in these parts mostly speak German,” Schein answered.
“My lord, there is no food shortage here,” Andrews said, getting to the point.“The victuals can be fully loaded onto the ships.”
“That should make the captains happier,” Weston said to himself.Granger ignored him.
“So Count von Beckendorf was not being honest about that?” Granger asked, worried that if that was the case, what else could the handsome Teutonic be lying about?
“My lord, I was led to believe that it has to do with keeping a certain amount of food in reserve,” Andrews said.
“The men have shared with me that the harvests were not good last year, and there is fear they will be bad again this year, my lord,” Schein added.
“Well I will take that up with Count von Beckendorf this evening,” Granger said. “Mr. Andrews, you can arrange to load the victuals on board their ships.”
“What of these people, my lord?” Andrews asked.
“I’ll trust you to investigate how we may acquire additional grain stores to tide them over,” Granger said.
“Aye aye, my lord,” Andrews said.Granger nodded at them to dismiss them, then turned to Weston.“Bring up the captains, along with a sufficient guard.I’ll want the marines ready to haul at least Comstock back to the dungeon.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, and left to execute Granger’s orders.Granger walked over to the windows, but it was so cold he opted to stand by the fire instead.He began to worry that he’d let his attraction for von Beckendorf to cloud his judgment, and internally almost began to panic, then he relaxed.With Valiant in the harbor, and with control of the fort, there was no real threat to him, at least not at this point.He would be well away from here before the ramshackle Russian Navy could put together a force to come chase him away.The Russian crews would be disbanded by now, and the officers would have no desire to round them up and brave the cold Baltic waters in December.
“My lord, I see they have sent you into the Baltic this time,” Comstock said with a sneer as he entered the room.
“I see that you have encountered the same fate, although I will note that your new ship is much smaller than your prior command,” Granger replied, taunting the man.
“It is a ship, none the less, my lord,” Comstock retorted, the anger in his voice unmistakable.
“For now,” Granger said menacingly.
“We demand that you release us, release our stores, our crews, and our ships at once!” Comstock all but bellowed.
“Mr. Comstock, you are in no position to demand anything, and in any event, I have decided that you will remain here in Arensburg as part of my arrangements with the Russian authorities,” Granger said.
“You cannot do that!” Comstock shouted.
“I can, and I will,” Granger replied coldly.“Mr. Weston, take Captain Comstock below and secure him.”
Weston nodded to two marines, who went over and seized a struggling Comstock by each arm, while another marine stood beside him, jabbing him slightly with his bayonet.“You have gone too far this time, my lord!” Comstock yelled.
“I would be mindful that the marine behind you has orders to run you through with his bayonet if you resist,” Granger replied, then looked at the marines.“Take him below.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” the marines chimed, and led a cooperative Comstock out of the room, his departure followed by the eyes of the assembled captains.
“Gentlemen,” Granger said, addressing himself to the other skippers, “we are in the heart of a hostile country.I will offer you two choices.You can either join Mr. Comstock below, or you can follow my orders exactly as given, as surely as if you were one of my officers.”
The men looked at each other, as if trying to decide who would speak for them solely through staring into each other’s’ eyes, when an older seafarer sighed and stepped forward.“My lord, I’m Jasper, and I got no problem following your orders.”
“Thank you, Captain Jasper,” Granger said pleasantly.“Quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised you all weren’t happier to be released.”
“My lord, there’s some rumors that the Tsar was going to release us when the Baltic thawed,” Jasper said.“If we sail now, they’ll have to pay salvage money, and it’s likely the owners of our ships will decide that money should come from our pockets.”
Granger nodded, understanding all too clearly their dilemma.When a captured merchant ship was recaptured, the recapturing ship was entitled to salvage money, much as Granger would receive from Renown’s recapture of that merchant vessel on her way back to Spithead.“I will leave it to you gentlemen to take your chances on the whims of this Tsar, but I am willing to forego any salvage money for the recapture of your vessels.”
The men, all of them, stared at Granger, blinking in amazement that he would sacrifice his own share of the booty to solve their dilemma.Granger internally sneered at their merchant minds, which valued money above all else, then almost laughed when he thought how irate Admiral Dickson would be over his largesse.“Thank you, my lord.Thank you,” Jasper said emphatically, which was echoed by the other captains.
“You’re welcome,” Granger said.“We are going to have your stores returned to your ships as soon as practicable.”
“I was led to believe the Russians were intent on keeping them, my lord,” another captain opined.
“I think that if we find them another source of food, they will not mind surrendering your marine stores,” Granger noted.“I had instructed my purser to inquire about where such stores, such as grain, may be acquired.”
“Begging your pardon, my lord, but the best place to do that is probably Memel,” one of the captains said.He was younger than the others, probably in his early thirties.
“Isn’t Memel fortified?” Weston asked.
“Ha,” the man snorted.“They have an imposing fortress, but it’s gone to disrepair.”
“Disrepair?” Granger asked.
“My lord, the fortress looks quite imposing, even more than this one does, but it’s nothing but a shell inside.I’d be surprised if they have a single cannon that’s workable.”
“How recently were you there?” Granger asked, wondering if this was old information.
“Six months ago, my lord,” the man said.“I had a chance to actually go inside.Even the parapets was falling down.”
“That is most illuminating,” Granger said, even as his mind was frenetically working on a plan.“I will want to talk to you later.”
“My name’s Osbourne, my lord,” the man said.“I am at Your Lordship’s disposal.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Granger said.“I’ll speak to all of you later, but in the meantime, I’m charging you to work with Mr. Weston to get your ships ready for sea.Mr. Weston, I’ll want a firm estimate on when we can depart completed by tomorrow.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, answering for all of them.
“Then I will return to the town, and join the lovely reception I was compelled to leave,” Granger said sarcastically, getting a smile from Weston.He left the fort and mounted his horse, braving the cold weather, and began his trek back to the town.It was but a short ride, but night came early in these northern lands at this time of year, so what little warmth the sun seemed to provide soon vanished.He arrived back at the town hall to find that dinner was over, and most of the guests had vanished. Granger was relieved to see that von Beckendorf was alone, and that Madame Klaus had gone with the others.
“Welcome back,” von Beckendorf said as soon as he saw Granger.“We have saved you some dinner, in case you did not get enough to eat.”
“A bit more food would not come amiss,” Granger said, and followed the handsome Teuton back into the dining room, which was deserted except for the two of them and a few footmen.
“Your man was here, and I directed him to establish a room for you upstairs, for tonight at least. I stay here or in the fort when I am in town.” Granger was glad to hear that Winkler had been able to track him down.
“Where do you stay when you are not in town?” Granger asked curiously.
“I have an estate not more than five miles from here.It is an easy ride, but at this time of year, or in spring when the rains come and turn the roads to mud, it is better to have alternatives,” he said, flashing his amazing smile at Granger.A footman arrived with a plate of food for both of them.
“It is always good to have alternatives,” Granger said suggestively, then focused on eating with less than polite haste.He was relieved to see von Beckendorf doing the same thing. They finished eating, then Granger followed von Beckendorf up the stairs.
“This is the door to my room, and that is the entry to yours,” von Beckendorf said, gesturing at the two doors, which stood side by side.“I would advise you to be cautious you do not pick the wrong door, lest your virtue be challenged.”
Granger smiled at the flirtatious Teuton.“So if I go through this door,” he said, gesturing at von Beckendorf’s room, “it is possible that I will be deflowered?”
“It is possible,” he said.
Granger walked towards von Beckendorf’s door and put his hand on the latch.“Sometimes risk can be most stimulating.”
Von Beckendorf came up behind him, so Granger could feel the head of his body on his back, then felt his hand on top of Granger’s, opening the latch.“Most stimulating.”
They walked in the door and then closed it behind them, and then the seemingly magnetic forces that had connected them when they first met pulled them together.Their mouths met, their arms pulled their bodies together, until finally breathless, they broke the embrace.Granger reached down and grabbed the front of von Beckendorf’s breeches, which were tenting out as far as his own.He pulled them down, releasing von Beckendorf’s dick, and stroked it lovingly even as he studied it, getting a moan in return.It was a good size, probably all of seven inches long and of average thickness, but it was most unique in that it curved up in a pronounced way.“You have a nice sabre,” Granger said, since that’s what it looked like.He made to drop down to his knees and engulf this beautiful dick in his mouth, when von Beckendorf stopped him.
“We have two kinds of sex here in the Russian Empire,” he explained.“The first kind is fast and basic, best for when one has not properly bathed.The other is more long and satisfying.We will do the first now, then we will visit the sauna and bathe, then we will try the second one.”
“I am agreeable with that plan,” Granger said, even as he turned around and lowered his pants.Von Beckendorf spit on his cock extensively to lubricate himself, while Granger used his own saliva on his hole.Satisfied that Granger was ready, von Beckendorf pushed into Granger, and as promised, took him on a quick but very satisfying ride.Sated, they quickly pulled up their pants and got themselves together.
“That was much more fun that I thought it would be,” von Beckendorf said.
“Indeed? You did not think I would be a skilled lover?” Granger teased.
“I did not think you would be that skilled,” he replied, making Granger laugh.
“I will see if I can surprise you even more this evening,” Granger said, raising an eyebrow.
Von Beckendorf escorted Granger out of his room and left him in front of his own door.“I will meet you downstairs when you are ready.”
“I shall be there shortly,” Granger said, smiling broadly at the thought of having more sex with this handsome young man.
He watched von Beckendorf descend the stairs, then turned and opened the door to his room. He must have done so quietly, because the sound didn’t bother the two occupants, Winkler and Jacobs, who were over in the corner, doing much the same thing Granger had just been doing.He was of a mind to embarrass them by saying something, but he opted to repay their loyalty by an act of kindness.He shut the door gently, then listened through the door, where he could hear their hushed panting.It reached a crescendo, then abated.Granger waited a minute, then noisily opened the door.“My lord,” Winkler said, looking a bit flushed and very nervous.
“I see you found me,” Granger said pleasantly.“I am to meet the Governor downstairs to experience a sauna.I’ll probably spend the night here ashore.”
“I’ll alert the ship, my lord,” Winkler said.
“I would be obliged if the two of you would stay ashore as well,” Granger said, trying not to smirk.He turned on his heel and went down the stairs to find von Beckendorf waiting to lead him out behind the town hall to a squat building that was smoking so much it almost looked as if it were on fire.
“Have you ever experienced a sauna?” von Beckendorf asked.
“I have not,” Granger said, looking at the building dubiously.They entered and found a bathing area, and Granger was pleased at how warm it was.
“Our saunas are different than the Finns,” von Beckendorf said.He led Granger over to a dressing station where there were two servants there to help them undress.
“Indeed?” Granger asked, then forced himself to focus on the sauna and not von Beckendorf’s handsome form.
“Yes.There is no chimney, so the room is heated and becomes very smoky, and now when we are ready to go in, a window is opened to let out the smoke, but not the heat,” he explained.“I’ll show you.”
Granger followed him, ogling his gorgeous ass with its bulging but dimpled cheeks, into a room that smelled smoky but was not.“It seems to have worked,” Granger mused.
“If there are skilled attendants such as we have here, it works,” he said.“So we stay in here until we get too hot, then we can either walk out back and get some fresh air, or go into the bathing area.”
“This is marvelous,” Granger said.They sat on a bench next to each other.“I have a question for you.”
“Go on,” von Beckendorf said cautiously.
“You said that you needed ship’s stores to feed your people, but I have since learned that in fact, there is plenty of grain to feed them, and that the stores merely constitute a reserve,” Granger stated.
“I did not explain things quite correctly, rather I simplified things since time was of the essence,” von Beckendorf said.He faced Granger so Granger could look into his blue eyes and see that he was telling the truth.“I am sorry for that.I am worried that now you will not trust me.”Granger found that the man’s candor, combined with his stare, almost cast a spell on him, such that he was overcome with lust.
“I think that I will forgive you, but first you must perform a penance,” Granger said.Then their lips met, and this time Granger entered the young Teuton, and found that he was just as skilled at being penetrated as he was at being the penetrator.
They separated and lay on parallel benches, sweating from the sauna and from their exertions.“I have been with people like this, but I think you are the most fun,” von Beckendorf said playfully.
“I would have to agree with you,” Granger said, exaggerating things to be polite. “What is Madame Klaus’ status?”
“I do not understand,” von Beckendorf responded.
“You two seemed quite intimate,” Granger said to him with a grin.
“She is my mistress,” he said, as if that was of no consequence, which it probably wasn’t.
“Your only one?” Granger teased.
“The only one here in Arensburg,” he responded, making Granger chuckle.“You do not have a mistress?”
“I have a wife,” Granger replied.
“That is not a disqualifier for having a mistress,” he said, making them both chuckle.
“It is not for most men, but it is for me,” Granger said, then went on to explain himself.“I have vowed to not have sex with other women, and she overlooks my liaisons with other men.”
Von Beckendorf looked at him, truly surprised.“So she knows about this, and approves?”
“I am not sure she approves, but she tolerates it,” Granger said.
“She must be an extraordinary woman,” he mused.
“Indeed she is,” Granger said, smiling as he thought of Caroline.
“I had invited Madame Klaus to see if you found her attractive.If you would have, she would have joined us,” he said.
“She is attractive, but I much prefer being here with just you,” Granger said honestly.
“I agree with both of those statements,” von Beckendorf said, making both of them laugh.“Let us take a bath, then we will reheat in the sauna.”
They went out and dipped into bathing pools that were primitive versions of what Granger had in his house, little more than large vats filled with warm water.After that, they returned to the sauna and had sex once again.Granger mused that every time they coupled, it seemed to get better.It was that stage in a relationship where they were learning each other’s body, an exciting time of discovery.
They found themselves lying on the benches as before. Von Beckendorf seemed to sense that while they were enjoying themselves and the afterglow, there was an underlying tension in the sauna because he had not explained his reasons for trying to keep the stores.“I do not know if you are aware of how our society works,” von Beckendorf said.
Granger was a bit surprised, since he assumed it was much as in any other European country. “I am not sure if I am either,” he responded with a smile.
“Most of our people are serfs, and are tied to the land,” von Beckendorf explained.“Perhaps 2 out of 10 are not bonded to an estate.”
“That kind of feudalism has long been dead in England,” Granger said, thinking out loud, but with a bit of arrogance that annoyed von Beckendorf.
“I have heard some Europeans deride it with scorn as nothing more than slavery.It is ironic that many of those people live in countries where slavery is indeed legal,” von Beckendorf shot back, with anger in his eyes.
“Hypocrisy is certainly a prevalent trait in diplomacy,” Granger said in a joking way, to avoid escalating this conversation.“Explain how it works.”
“While serfs are bound to the land, they are technically allowed to leave on certain holidays and break their bonds,” von Beckendorf explained.Granger thought that was a dubious claim, knowing that the landlords would have all the power, and that it would be almost impossible for a serf to leave if the landlord wished otherwise, but he held his tongue.“The trade-off, if you will, for the loyalty of the serfs to the nobility is that we will ensure they are taken care of.”
“So you’re saying that the lord of the manor is like a father to his people, who must ensure that they do not starve and have adequate housing and the like?” Granger asked, keeping the snarkiness out of his voice.
“I am not sure that housing is a big concern, but starvation is,” von Beckendorf said.“We are required to keep a minimum level of food stores, mostly in the form of grain, in reserve to ensure that there is no starvation.”
“I see,” Granger said, even though he didn’t get what von Beckendorf’s point was.
“The level of granaries is examined by an intendant appointed by the Tsar.If he finds the levels too low, we are fined.The current intendant in Courland is not a friend to my family,” von Beckendorf said.“The stores we took from your ships would allow our food reserves to meet the minimum, assuming he comes to inspect.”
“I understand,” Granger said, seeing clearly that the intendant would be happy to strike a blow at a family he didn’t like.“How is it that your granaries are depleted?”
Von Beckendorf shrugged.“Our harvest was bad last year, and looks to be no better this year.It is expensive for me, and my family, to be in St. Petersburg, but it is the only way we can maintain our position and our interests.It is why the intendant must at least treat me with respect.So to stock our granaries as they should be, we would have to give up our status at court.That would be a disaster, especially with this Tsar.”
“So you are here to try and preclude this intendant from causing problems?” Granger asked.
“That is one reason,” von Beckendorf said.“I am also here to support Count von der Pahlen, and I am also here for our people.It is important that we show up and participate in the local activities, as if for no other reason, it is part of the pact we have with our serfs.”
“I have ordered our ships to reload their stores,” Granger said.
Von Beckendorf looked annoyed and worried simultaneously.“That will leave me in a bind, and would seem to breach our agreement.”
“Not at all,” Granger said calmly.“Instead, we will have to find food to fill up your granaries.”
“You would do that for me?” von Beckendorf asked.
“I will require some incentives,” Granger said with a leer, making them both chuckle.“I have been advised to go to Memel and seek stores there.”
“The Prussians are probably not willing to relinquish their stores unless you pay them much more than they are worth,” he spat, showing his disdain for his German cousins.
“I have forty-four reasons they may strike a good deal with me,” Granger joked, referring to Valiant’s armament.
“That may indeed be persuasive,” von Beckendorf said.
“I think it is time for you to offer me an incentive again,” Granger said, making them both laugh, laughter that was drowned out as they had sex, and just like before, this time it was even better.