Granger was awakened by Winkler shaking him.“My lord, it is almost dawn.”Granger had spent most of the night writing and must have fallen asleep at his desk.He looked down at the letters arrayed in front of him, a testament to his labor.
“Thank you,” Granger said as he yawned.“Can you pass the word for Patton?”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Winkler said.Granger had taken care to finish his official letters so Patton could copy them for him.He handed them off to Patton as soon as he arrived, then focused on eating breakfast and getting ready for his day ashore.He wore his best dress uniform and brought coppers along to toss to the townspeople if that were necessary.
“I may sleep ashore tonight,” Granger told Winkler. “Mr. Schein is to take over command of Ursula today, so you may want to go over there and plan what we will need.”
“Do you think we’ll have a long voyage, my lord?” Winkler asked.
“I think the voyage will be very short.I think we will only be able to sail as far as Arensburg,” Granger said.
“Begging your pardon, my lord, but if it weren’t for the Russian cannon balls, sailing to St. Petersburg didn’t seem all that hard,” Winkler observed.
“That is true, but as you may have noticed, it has gotten colder over the last month, and it is common for the Gulf of Finland to freeze over by now, or at least be so close to it as to make it hazardous for shipping.In the same way, the Gulf of Riga will also be too treacherous to risk traversing by water, which makes it difficult for us to even get to Riga by sea,” Granger said.
“Thank you for explaining it, my lord,” Winkler said, digesting that information.
“It also may be necessary for me to wear civilian clothes at times,” Granger said.Winkler looked nervous at that, since he knew as well as Granger that if he were caught in Russia out of uniform he could be shot as a spy.Granger had to balance that risk against the need to be inconspicuous.“Mr. Cochrane was always a fashionable dresser, so I would like you to take whatever I may use from his sea chest, but keep an inventory so I can compensate his family.”
“I’ll do that, my lord, although he’s a bit smaller than you,” Winkler noted.
“That is where your excellent skills with a needle and thread come in handy,” Granger teased.“It will give you something to do while we trudge through the frozen Russian tundra.”
“I’ll make sure everything is ready, my lord,” Winkler said, feigning annoyance at being overworked.
“I will talk to Mr. Schein to see when he feels we can leave, but we will be here until the day after tomorrow at least,” Granger said.
He went out on deck to find Weston waiting to greet him.“Good morning, my lord,” he said a bit more formally than usual.It was probably inevitable, but it would be a shame if being in command robbed Weston of his perennial good nature.
“Good morning,” Granger replied.“I am going ashore for my tour of the city.You have the ship.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.Granger noticed that only Kingsdale and Treadway were waiting for him, and looked around curiously for Genarro.That seemed to spark Weston to explain the situation.“Mr. Genarro has contracted an ailment of sorts, my lord, and if it meets with your approval, Dr. Jackson has recommended he remain here in sick bay.”
“Is he alright?” Granger asked, concerned.“Based on his sneezing last night, he seemed quite ill.”
“Doctor Jackson believes it is just a normal winter sickness.He has a cough and a bit of a fever, my lord,” Weston replied.
“I would appreciate it if you would send me information on his status while I’m ashore.”
“Of course, my lord,” Weston said.
Granger walked over to the entry port and gestured for Kingsdale and Treadway to precede him into the boat.“I hope you gentlemen are excited for a day of sight-seeing,” Granger said to them.
“It is my life’s passion, my lord,” Treadway said, being humorously sarcastic.
“Then I am glad I will be able to indulge you,” Granger replied, getting a chuckle.His gig pulled up to the dock where there was quite the crowd waiting.He climbed out of the boat and stepped forward to greet the Governor.
“Welcome back to Visby, my lord, although I heard a rumor you were here last night as well,” he said pleasantly.
“Thank you, Your Excellency,” Granger replied, matching his courtly bow.“Your information is accurate.The weather was so pleasant, and the lights of the town so alluring, I opted to take a stroll with a few of my officers.I hope you do not find me doing so without seeking your permission to be impertinent?”
“Not at all, I am glad you were able to enjoy yourself,” von Rajalin said.“We will show you the town during the daylight hours this time.”He had expected that they would ride in a carriage, but von Rajalin led them by foot through the town, with Treadway, Kingsdale, Von Galen, and a few other aides following behind them.Granger did not normally like crowds, but this was different, since there were people, but not too many, and they weren’t massed together.In this case, Granger thoroughly enjoyed himself, pausing to talk to anyone who piqued his interest.
A young boy was alternately waving at him, then looking down shyly, as if trying to decide what was appropriate.He was probably all of six years old, with blond hair and starkly white skin.Granger paused and spoke to him.“And who are you?”
“I am Matteus, sir,” the young man stammered, in remarkably good English.“I want to be a sailor like you.”
Granger smiled.“I will be happy to share the seas with you.In the meantime, you must study your arithmetic, so you do not get lost on the ocean.”
“I will do that, sir,” he said.Granger handed him a few coppers, patted him on the head, and moved on.
“I seem to be more popular today than I was yesterday,” Granger observed to the governor.
“That is because news has leaked of the bounty you have given us,” von Rajalin said.“Not that we are a greedy people, but that certainly would enhance your stature.”
Granger chuckled.“I suspect it would.”
They toured around the ancient walls of the city, which truly amazed Granger.Now that he had a chance to really study them, he could see that this was truly a living archaeological site.“We were once a rich, bustling Hanseatic port, but now we are much more of a backwater,” von Rajalin said.“That has made us less prosperous, but has also allowed us to preserve our lives as they are, and avoid some of the painful conflicts other cities have endured as a result of their continued importance.”
“I think that a focus on prosperity can sometimes be counter-productive,” Granger said, even as he recalled his thoughts about bankers.
“Quite possibly,” von Rajalin said.
“I am wondering if I may impose upon Your Excellency,” Granger said.
“What can I do for you, my lord?” von Rajalin asked.
“We acquired Ursula from the Prussians, as you know, and one of my officers, a Mr. Erasmus Schein, has asked to buy her and establish himself in the trading business here in the Baltic,” Granger explained.He was surprised to see von Rajalin frown.
“I know of this Schein,” von Rajalin growled.“He is on the list of men who are to be arrested if possible, unless they can repay their debts.”
“I fear that he lost his ship to a Russian privateer, and that caused his bankruptcy,” Granger explained.
“That can happen during these accursed wars,” von Rajalin said sympathetically.“What did you need from me?”
“I am wondering how difficult it would be to have Ursula registered as a Swedish vessel, with Visby as her home port?” Granger asked.
“I would have no problem doing that, but Mr. Schein’s status makes that more difficult,” he said, then got frustrated.“You have brought us a gift worth much, and what you ask for is paltry, but I must answer to those whom Mr. Schein owes money.I am quite sure they are an unforgiving lot.”
“Do you know how much they claim he owes?” Granger asked.
“When we return to the town hall, I will check,” von Rajalin said.“How is he planning to pay for the Ursula?”
“I have agreed to invest the money to do so, in exchange for half of his enterprise,” Granger explained.
“I had not expected you to be such a man of commerce,” von Rajalin teased.
“Now, sir, there is no need to insult me!” Granger objected in a joking way, making both of them laugh.
“I have noted, based on your career, that you have the Midas touch.I am wondering if the two of you would fancy another partner?”
“Now who is becoming a man of commerce?” Granger joked back.
“I fear it is almost necessary, as rents from estates are not enough to support someone who spends most of his time in Stockholm,” von Rajalin said sadly.
“I understand,” Granger said sympathetically.Being at court was expensive, although in a more absolute state like Sweden he fancied it would cost even more dearly.Stories abounded of French aristocrats during the ancien regime who had bankrupted themselves with the expenses of living at Versailles.“I would be happy to hear your ideas, and I am sure Mr. Schein would as well.What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that in exchange for my share of the venture, I could clear Mr. Schein’s past sins from the record, and I could assist him with trading here, as my position does give me some advantages,” von Rajalin said.The governor of Gotland could easily steer business and opportunities to a favored merchant.
“That seems fair to me, but then again, I am notoriously bad at such arrangements,” Granger said.
“Have Mr. Schein call on me as soon as is convenient and I will discuss it with him,” von Rajalin said.
“There is one more favor I would like to ask,” Granger said. Von Rajalin looked at him quizzically, telling him non-verbally to continue with his request.“While I was in Courland, I discovered the joy of the sauna.It is especially nice for someone like me who isn’t used to these temperatures.I am wondering if there is such a thing here in Visby?”
“There is indeed,” von Rajalin said.“If you will allow me to join you, I will make arrangements to have it available after we dine.”
“That is something to look forward to,” Granger said, thinking of how nice it would be to thaw out his frigid bones, while also relishing the opportunity to see von Rajalin’s handsome form without his clothes covering it.They passed by a bookstore and Granger paused.
“You are a bibliophile, my lord?” von Rajalin asked.
“I am not, but Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, has a passion for it, Your Excellency,” Granger said.
“Then you are being a good diplomat,” von Rajalin joked.“Let us see if Svenson the bookseller still has his rare Aldine Press edition, and then let us see if you can get him to part with it for a fair price.” He led Granger into the shop where they met with an old bespectacled shopkeeper who seemed as musty as his books.Granger was able to extract the book, Tragaediae septem cum commentariisSophocles, that had been printed in August of 1502, for a substantial price, but he knew such a prize would please Spencer greatly.Granger worried briefly that cynics would say he was trying to bribe his way into Spencer’s good graces, but he dismissed those fears.He was already in Spencer’s good graces, and in any event, he wasn’t even sure if Spencer was still the First Lord.
They arrived at the Town Hall to find a nice dinner waiting for them.Granger found himself seated in between the governor and von Galen.They had a festive time, and drank a great deal of alcohol, such that Granger had to steady himself when they rose to drink the health of their sovereigns.Throughout the dinner, Granger seemed to find von Galen physically closer to him, although it may have been a distorted impression based on how drunk he was.Granger felt the young man’s fingers run against the outside of his thighs in what may have been an innocent gesture, but almost certainly wasn’t.On the other side, Granger engaged in a very enjoyable conversation with von Rajalin, whose attractiveness further fueled Granger’s libido.By the time dinner was concluding, Granger was plotting a way to sneak off and fuck von Galen to ease his pent up sexual energy.Realizing that he was soon going to have to stand up and take his leave of the various attendees, and simultaneously realizing that he was sporting a raging erection, Granger worked diligently to reduce his aroused state.His normally effective remedy for such situations, to envision a naked Lady Elgin, was fortunately effective in this case as well.
“My lord, if it meets with your approval, we’ll be heading back to the ship,” Treadway said to him, barely hiding his slurred speech.Kingsdale must have been in even worse shape, since he said nothing.
“I will see you aboard later on,” Granger said, wondering if he sounded any better than Treadway.
“My aide can walk you to your boat,” the governor offered.It was fascinating that von Galen was so irritated by that, he was temporarily unable to hide it.Ultimately, he pulled himself together and led the two drunk British officers off to the shore.
“This was a wonderful outing,” Granger said to the governor.“Thank you so much for your hospitality.”
“Ah, but now comes the best part,” von Rajalin replied.“Follow me.”He led Granger out of the Town Hall and down the street to a building from which seemed to be emitting an inordinate amount of smoke.They entered and were immediately led to a bathing room, where there were facilities to disrobe and two tubs to rinse off.
“This looks very inviting,” Granger said, trying not to sound too flirtatious.
“It does,” von Rajalin said, and began to disrobe.Granger followed suit, carefully removing and folding or hanging his clothes, while sneaking furtive glances at von Rajalin.He realized that once again he was well on his way to an erection, and forced himself to focus on the business of undressing.
He got into the tub quickly, which was a bit unfortunate since the water was cold.Granger cringed at that, since he was already frigid from being outside, but gritted his teeth and made the best of it.“I have installed baths in my homes so I can indulge in this quite often,” Granger said conversationally.
“You should add a sauna to your rooms, as that makes it more pleasant,” von Rajalin said.Granger stopped himself from observing that if the water temperature was warmer, that wouldn’t be necessary.“Let us go and enjoy the heat.”
Granger followed him into a small room, probably 8 feet by 4 feet, with a bench lining each long wall.On the short walls, at one end was the door, and at the other was a large stove.Granger looked at the stove curiously, which seemed to be heating stones that were situated on top of it.Von Rajalin took some water and poured it on the hot stones, causing steam to fill the room. “This is different than the sauna I enjoyed in Courland, although I find it is just as enjoyable.”
“They are like the Finns, in that they have smoke saunas,” von Rajalin said dismissively.“We have evolved to use stoves, so we can vent the smoke out and it does not pollute the air.”
“Very nice,” Granger said, although he thought the smoke saunas were quite charming.
They sat across from each other, and with the dim light and copious amounts of steam, it was difficult to see clearly.Granger could see von Rajalin’s broad chest, covered with reddish gray hair, and his abdomen, which was marred by a scar that went from the left side of his stomach diagonally down to his groin.After a few minutes, von Rajalin leaned back to relax, and gave Granger the view he was looking for.His legs were spread wide, and his cock was fully erect.Granger found he was studying it and licking his lips.It was of normal length, but very thick, probably as thick as any he’d encountered.He looked up at von Rajalin’s face to see him smirking, so Granger returned the favor and leaned back, exposing his own hard dick.“Some more steam?” von Rajalin asked.
“That would be wonderful,” Granger said, as he sat more upright.Von Rajalin stood up, his hard cock pointed right at Granger’s mouth, and no more than two inches away from it.Neither one of them moved for a moment.“That is quite a scar you have,” Granger said, as he reached up and touched the upper end of it. His fingers began to slowly trace it down toward von Rajalin’s groin.
“I received that in battle with some rebellious natives in the Caribbean,” he said, then moaned slightly as Granger’s fingers neared his pelvis.“The bastard got me with one of their curved knives.Any lower, and it would have been much more tragic.”
Granger allowed his wrist to brush against von Rajalin’s throbbing cock, getting a loud moan in return, so he allowed his fingers to gently stroke the monster.“Very tragic,” he said, then enveloped von Rajalin’s cock in his mouth.
“Ah yes, that is good, so good,” von Rajalin moaned.He grabbed Granger’s head and tried to fuck his mouth, but he was too big for Granger to deal with that, so Granger put his hand around the base of von Rajalin’s cock, to regulate his depth.“If von Galen was here, we could both fuck him,” von Rajalin said, surprising Granger enough that he stopped and looked up at the handsome governor.
“Well since he is not, you will have to fuck me,” Granger said.
“You…you would do that?” von Rajalin asked, stunned.
“Sit down,” Granger ordered, and von Rajalin did as instructed.Granger straddled von Rajalin’s lap, and using his own spit for lubricant, slowly lowered himself down onto the Swede’s thick cock.It took a bit to work him in, because he had shown no indication to help Granger prepare, and because there was no better lubrication available than saliva.But finally, they were linked, and Granger began to slowly move up and down, savoring the feel of the handsome governor inside him.He lowered his mouth to kiss von Rajalin, who moved away purposefully, but Granger was having none of that, and forced his face to line up to him and kissed him.Even as they fucked, they struggled as von Rajalin tried to break off their lip lock, until finally he surrendered to the moment.
He pulled out of Granger, then pushed Granger off of him and onto the bench, and then onto his back.With Granger’s back pinned to the bench, von Rajalin entered him again, and this time he really began to pound him.He went on for some time, until Granger grabbed his head, forced him to lower it, and they kissed again.That set off the Swede’s fuse, and he ejaculated into Granger’s bowels, pushing himself in as far as he could go, until finally he was spent.He pulled out of Granger’s ass, even as Granger reached down and stroked his own cock enough to bring off his own orgasm.As a result, von Rajalin was over his euphoric state much before Granger was.“That was a very nice surprise,” von Rajalin said nervously.
“I thought so too,” Granger said, and looked at the uncomfortable Swede in a confused way.
“You are welcome to stay here and enjoy the sauna for as long as you want, but I must return and deal with some issues, and meet with Mr. Schein,” von Rajalin said now, almost in a panic.He left the room with indecent speed, while Granger lay back and enjoyed the heat, the steam, and the afterglow.He peeked out the door a few times, and then when von Rajalin was gone, he went out and relaxed in the bathing tub.The water that had seemed so uncomfortably cold now seemed wonderfully restorative.Granger was just about to get out of the bath and get dressed when von Galen entered.
“Welcome,” Granger said pleasantly.
“I was hoping to join you before you were finished, my lord,” he said, sounding very disappointed.
“I will be happy to go into the sauna again if you are going as well,” Granger said.He almost laughed as von Galen all but ripped his clothes off, so quickly did he undress, exposing his lithe body, one that was as white as snow with sexy tufts of dark hair under his arms and in his groin.He got in the other tub long enough to bathe, then they went into the sauna.
“Would you like some steam, my lord?” von Galen asked, as he walked over to the stove, giving Granger a view of his beautiful little ass.
Granger walked up behind him, wrapped his arms around von Galen, and nuzzled his neck.“I will show you another way to make steam.”
“Yes,” von Galen muttered as he sighed, then totally surrendered to Granger’s ministrations.When they orgasmed, they did so almost in unison, then hastily exited the sauna because they were both so overheated.“That was the most amazing experience of my life,” von Galen said.
Granger smiled.“I enjoyed it as well.”
“I have been with other people, but not someone who worried about my enjoyment,” von Galen said a bit too bitterly.
“Well I am happy to do that with you any time the opportunity presents itself,” Granger said.He had forgotten how easily aroused a young man like von Galen was, and that led to another round of sex.Granger was almost glad to get dressed and escape back to Valiant, where he spent his night writing letters and reports, determined to finish them so as not to delay Valiant’s departure.
Granger allowed his eyes to take in St. Mary’s Cathedral.It was an eclectic and provincial church, in Granger’s mind.It had soaring gray stone pillars and was cavernous as a cathedral should be, yet the altar and other carvings were done in wood that seemed only a bit grander than one may find in a merchant’s house.The stained-glass windows lacked the same vividness and bright colors of British, French, or Spanish cathedrals.There was one thing this church had in common with those other churches, Granger noted wryly, and that was that the sermon was deadly dull.
Granger glanced at the people who had assembled for the funeral service of The Honorable Angus William Thomas Cochrane.The pews were filled with approximately 100 of Valiant’s men and marines, along with all of her officers with the exception of Meurice and the Masters Mates, who were aboard the ship supervising the rest of the crew.The men here were those who had not had the opportunity for shore leave.In addition, there were a couple of hundred townspeople in the pews, along with all of Visby’s leading citizens, as well as many from other parts of Gotland.Evidently having a foreigner of some distinction (Cochrane being the son of an earl) die here, and having other distinguished foreigners attend the ritual, was quite the winter social event.While their expressions were dutifully solemn, their eyes gleamed as they stared at Granger and his officers, and no doubt thought about the splendid feast they’d have after this to celebrate Cochrane’s life.
Granger’s daydreaming was abruptly cut short by the mention of his name, which was his cue to rise and climb up to the rector’s stand and deliver a eulogy.In such a position, he was even more able to see the people and watch their reactions.Granger pulled out his notes and read his prepared statement, talking of Cochrane’s family and the illustrious history of the Earls of Dundonald, and then more obliquely about Cochrane’s own career.That had been especially difficult, since most of Cochrane’s activities had been at a seemingly low level, hiding his deeper responsibilities as directed under the Secret Services.He ended by applauding the current family members, especially his brothers, Thomas and Archibald, who were serving in the Royal Navy.He finished and noticed a few nods of approval as he returned to his seat for the rest of the dreary affair.
After the service, they went in procession, in the freezing cold and blowing snow, to the gravesite to inter the body.Von Galen had explained to Granger that they’d barely finished digging the hole this morning, as they’d had to burn fires on the ground to thaw it enough to remove the earth.The weather was horrid enough that even the Swedes hurried the affair along, and in no time at all, Granger found himself at the Town Hall, mingling with the elite attendees.A more plebian reception was held elsewhere for the crew and townspeople, who had gotten along remarkably well during Valiant’s short stay here.
“Ah Lord Granger, I must commend you on delivering such an eloquent yet to the point eulogy,” von Rajalin said, as he greeted him.Ever since their encounter in the sauna, he’d been friendly but somewhat nervous around Granger.That contrasted sharply with von Galen, who could barely conceal his lust whenever Granger was around.The entire situation was made even more strange by the tension Granger sensed between von Rajalin and von Galen.He decided that the sooner he left Visby, the better it would be.
“Thank you, Your Excellency,” Granger said.“I have learned that to speak at such an affair for longer than five minutes tests the patience of those listening.”
“That is a good rule to follow.Will you be staying ashore with us tonight?” von Rajalin asked.The governor had graciously offered to allow Granger to stay in his home in town for the next few days while Ursula was readied for sea.“I am most anxious to be able to show you the same hospitality you showed me aboard your ship, although I fear the food will not be as good.”
“You are too kind,” Granger said.“I fear I must stay aboard tonight, as I must address my crew in the morning and formally hand over command to Mr. Weston.”Granger was worried that he was offending von Rajalin, as he had yet to spend a night ashore.
“I understand,” he said politely.“It is difficult for you to separate yourself from your command, a pain I understand all too well.”
Granger smiled, and was amazed yet again at how well the governor seemed to comprehend his moods and his thoughts. The smile faded as he sensed the governor’s discomfort as he realized the same thing.“I am fortunate to be here with you when this happens, as I fear there are many others who would be much less understanding.”
“Those who have not experienced it cannot fully understand it,” he said philosophically.
Granger socialized with the local gentry, and then after the monstrous feast was over, he headed back to Valiant with his officers.Treadway would send marines to round up the men in a few hours.
“I daresay that Cochrane got a bigger funeral here than he would have had in England,” Treadway said to Weston, slurring just a bit.
“I daresay,” Weston agreed coolly, as if to shut down Treadway’s somewhat inappropriate comment.Granger smiled, noting that Weston was already steeling himself for the rigors of command.
He got back to his cabin and wondered if this was the last night he’d spend in it.He avoided those maudlin thoughts by focusing on finishing his correspondence, then finally allowed Winkler to put him to bed.He was almost asleep when a knock at the door brought him fully awake.Weston walked in quickly, then shut the door behind him to keep the heat in.“I’m sorry to bother you, my lord, but I was wondering if you’d fancy sharing your cot this evening?”He was being flirtatious, and was just adorable.
“Nothing would give me greater pleasure,” Granger said, and pulled back the covers to invite him in.Weston stripped off his clothes quickly, then climbed into bed and wrapped his arms around Granger.
“I’m hoping that’s true,” Weston said, as he nuzzled Granger’s neck.