"I listen to you, yada, yada, yada. All right, unless you say something really stupid. What's the second condition?"
"You will, before any major operation on our part commences, use private Jiang at least five times within one hour. We will need his powers."
Jiang managed to hide about zero percent of his smugness.
"Five times?" Glow said. "In one hour?"
Jiang bit his tongue.
"I find it a most stimulating and exhilarating experience, Ma'am," Captain Ember said. "Once one gets used to it. I sometimes lose count due to the flow of the exercise, and need to be reminded that the hour is up."
"And what does he think about this deal?" Glow said.
"He's just doing his duty, Ma'am," Captain Ember said.
"I perform my duties with extreme zeal, Ma'am," Jiang said.
"Private Sam, though," Captain Ember said, "will be unused unless his services are absolutely required."
"That's fine," Glow said and turned her innocent gaze upon me. "He looks real hot in prison pants."
I felt that life had just delivered me one of those occasional kicks in the balls. Didn't want to look at Jiang's grin anymore.
"We will bring along a fifth person as well," Captain Ember said.
"Who?" I said. Let it be a woman, let it be a woman, let it...
"I found a gift slave secured in a cage down below. I ordered him to rest for a while, as he was in pain and most uncomfortable in that crouched-up position. His powers may be very useful to us."
Yeah. Of course. Useful five times an hour. Fuck me, but that was a second pair of steel-capped toes to ring the old family bells.
"By the way, Ms Glow," Captain Ember said. "I had a short interview with him. Despite his temporary infatuation with me, he seems both to know you and be very devoted to you. It was his powers that created the winds that propelled this ship. His name, he said, was Hurricane."
Glow shrieked and ran through the door.
Life pulled back her boot and kicked my nuts so hard I got a new pair of salty, hairy tonsils, then spat in my face.
We left the ship the next morning. All of the Sea Hag's women were still tied up and stuffed in a couple of cabins with several appropriately vengeful ex-slaves as guards. That is to say, they were not vengeful enough to execute them out of anger, but vengeful enough to make sure they were constantly watched.
Some of these men were skilled mariners or important people where they came from, at it was not hard for Captain Ember to convince them to follow her plan even though they no longer treated her like the Lady Desire herself. Most of them were caught up in remorse from the piracy they had participated in, the women they had transported to slave markets, and the wives, families, and friends they had betrayed. The hardest part for the Captain had been to convince them to not throw the pirate women or the various magical potions overboard, or smear tar over the wicked idol. Despite being mesmerized, the men remembered everything that had happened to them, and those who had been forced to commit atrocities in the villages they had raided were inconsolable. One man actually stuck a dagger into his own belly, then jumped into the sea. We never found him.
They had every right to be angry and resentful. Every morning they had woken up with the new sun, remembering what they had once been. Then one the female pirates had shown up, glowing with power, and wiped their minds clean for the rest of that day.
Several of them wanted to come along with us, but Captain Ember refused. She did accept detailed descriptions of the Sea Hag's Lair and other useful information, though. There was not much they could say about the enemy's organization or the way they operated, since the men were all kept in big pens when they were not out raiding or fishing or doing chores. They were treated as less than human.
Oh, I almost forgot. Captain Ember did actually allow one of them to join us. We needed a guide. She could have chosen anyone. A lot of them seemed like decent, intelligent, resourceful fellows. I pointed out several to her. She went with another choice. Midnight Glow's choice, her only one.
His name wasn't Hurricane, it was Sanat, and he wasn't an old sea dog who'd sailed the seven seas from Rotterdam to Savannah to Singapore and Yokohama, he was a bicycle repair man from Chennai in India. That was about as much as I was able to learn about him during the ten seconds we shook hands on the morning after his devotion to Captain Ember had faded. I noticed, too, that he was tall, handsome, a few years older than me, and very charming.
After the introductions were over, it was all about him and Glow. And nothing else.
When we searched the ship for useful stuff for our voyage, he and Glow walked around, talked, held hands, laughed, and kissed.
When we packed the sloop that had been stored on the ship's deck, a larger boat than the small ones I had been in so far, with a main cabin and all, he and Glow huddled together in a corner somewhere, fondled each other's bottoms, and kissed.
When we were lowered into the water, Glow sat on his lap and tilted her head back so that they could giggle at each other while they kissed.
When we prepared to set sail, Captain Ember had asked whether it was she or Glow who should use him in order to gain his powers of wind. Glow had laughed and said that was a real funny question, and why hadn't Captain Ember considered a career as a court jester? Captain Ember had wondered what she meant. Glow had told her not to worry, and would she please wait just a few minutes?
Then, they entered the single cabin.
I put my fingers in my ears so that I didn't hear the sounds they made, but I was the only one disturbed. Captain Ember brought out her instruments to find our position without looking bothered at all. Jiang just grinned as he scrubbed a little, polished a little, and prepared a little lunch for us.
Fifteen minutes later Glow came back out and conjured up wind in the sails, sending the sloop skipping along the top of the waves. It was a much stronger wind than the one her potion had given her.
"I take it you have finished your reintroduction?" Captain Ember asked.
"Wow, Captain!" Glow laughed, took the food Jiang offered her, and opened the cabin door again. "You only get funnier and funnier! Could you bring us dinner in a few hours, Jiang?"
"This is strictly to keep the winds blowing, I assume?" Captain Ember said.
"Captain," Glow said. "We're going to rip the sails to shreds today."
"That won't be necessary," Captain Ember said.
Glow winked and closed, then locked, the door behind them.
"How sweet!" Jiang said. "They've been separated for two months, and now they've finally found each other again."
"I assume a certain joy at their reunion is appropriate," Captain Ember said.
"Yeah," I said.
It was easy for Jiang to feel all mushy for them. He got to sleep with every woman he ever met. Why, he had probably slept with thousands of them since he came here. One more or less didn't matter to him. Was that what was troubling me? That Hurricane got laid instead of me? Or was it Glow herself? That despite the affection she'd shown me, she loved this other guy. It was clear in everything she did. How she looked at him. She even pranced in front of him, giggled like a silly teenager. And his jokes were not so hilarious she had to laugh herself to death over them. I wanted to hate Hurricane, but I just wasn't able. He had earned Glow's feelings fair and square. I, on the other hand, had spent most of my time drooling over her, then made two attempts to control her mind. Hadn't known that was what I was doing, but it was still a fact.
I'd also been with Captain Ember twice, but maybe she was right and it didn't affect her? Right now she was all about preparations for the upcoming trip, instead of, say, dragging me off and screwing me under one of the spare sails. It was I who couldn't take my eyes off her. She had sat Jiang and me down next to her, and spread a map out in front of us, using thorns to nail it to a small table. The sloop, like the ship we'd left behind, was made from a single tree, and it had several neat solutions, including a water closet with an ample supply of leaves.
From inside the cabin I could hear Glow and Hurricane laugh. Wow, was it really that funny, meeting each other again? Couldn't they have a normal conversation, telling each other how much they had missed each other, and so on? I didn't see the humor.
"This is a section of the Outer Myriad," Captain Ember said and pointed at the map, her eyes demanding that I pay attention to the finger instead of their green glow. "Here is Lamplight, and according to my calculations, we are now here. Inwards we have the Pebbles, and outwards we have Fairyland. I did not have time to interview the female captives properly, but I gather the Sea Hag is now trying to disrupt trade in this section of the Myriad by sending out vessel like the one we took to board any merchant ships they come across."
Her thigh was right next to mine. Why was that so important? Why did I try to move my leg closer without her noticing? I was pathetic. Glow giggled at me from inside the cabin, I was sure. I shivered and withdrew my leg.
"Here," Captain Ember said and pointed to the map. "This is the Red Tower, a towering volcano over in the Strewns. The Strewns have always been a rather desolate part of the Outer Myriad. Small islands, not much agriculture, no great towns, even. They're not part of the Republic, nor belonging to Fairyland. There used to be a fair amount of people living there, but as far as we can tell, the entire archipelago is now deserted except for the Sea Hag's creatures."
"Oh no, baby!" Hurricane hollered. "Don't do that! You know I hate that!"
"You love it, honey!" Glow giggled. "You just never admit that you do!"
"Yes, all right, I do!"
"I contemplated whether traveling on the ship we captured would enable us to masquerade us as the legitimate crew," Captain Ember said, "but one of the prisoners we took informed me that the Sea Hag has taken precautions to defend her lair against attacking fleets. There is only one sea lane that allow access to the port in question by large ships, and passengers on any vessel that arrives are shipped ashore in boats only after the identities of the women are confirmed. The prisoner did not explain why, she appeared most interested in informing me we would never be able to strike against them, but I presume that this is done to deter attacks by a fleet manned by women. This I would assume is the only real threat to the Sea Hag's power that they have considered before the arrival of private Sam."
"No, no!" Hurricane shouted. "Not that. Not like that!"
"I can see that, Ma'am," Jiang said. "Men would be useless against her. Even with private Sam's powers, it wouldn't work. When I was caught between Ms Glow and you as we set out from Lamplight, I was unable to act."
"Have you had enough now?" Glow laughed and whooped. "Giving up? Eh? Eh?"
"True," she said. "And someone invading to rescue the men would not want them to fight to death or be killed through indecision. But if there is only woman present with the proper powers, it seems that the man will obey her rather than the memory of others. The Advocate, Captain Ponder, gave preference to Sergeant Tease and me despite his previous infatuation with the witch Wicked Sprite."
"No! Don't stop!" Hurricane shouted. "Why do you always stop when... Don't stop!"
"So, if we sail around these islands here, we can make our way along the far side of her island, Ma'am?" Jiang said.
"Just say the word!" Glow shouted. "Say 'when' and I stop!"
"It is my intention that we infiltrate the Sea Hag's lair using your powers, private Jiang," Captain Ember said, "and if we are discovered, to either recruit the male prisoners or at least keep them out of harm's way. Our ultimate objectives will be to eliminate the Sea Hag and to gather information on how she facilitates creating potions that emulate male powers."
"When! When! When!" Hurricane shouted.
"What do we know of the island and the Lair, Ma'am?" Jiang asked.
"Well, I'll stop, then. Just like this," Glow said.
"Not much, private," Captain Ember said. "It's a very tall volcano, that's what my previous information indicates. Our only currently available source is now Mr Hurricane, but at the present he is otherwise occupied."
"No, don't stop! Come on!" Hurricane shouted.
Captain Ember and Jiang ceased their discussion and turned to look at the door to the cabin.
Hurricane went on begging and pleading while Glow laughed and giggled. I knew what was happening. Knew it so well. She was on top of him, tormenting him, making sure that whatever it was that she put him through, she was still doing other things that made him unable to refuse her. The play became wilder and and wilder, and at the end we heard the hooting and trumpeting that signaled the prolonged, intense gift slave orgasm. Glow had allowed him release.
Jiang grinned and shook his head.
Captain Ember looked back to her map, but before that, she looked at me. A searching look, trying to find out what kind of conflicts, perhaps, that went on in my head.
There was no conflict. Her green eyes had seen to that. While she and Jiang had discussed tactics and the other pair had fucked, I had sat alone, trying to control my emotions. I felt furious at Glow for going off with Hurricane, furious at myself for even thinking that, envious of the Indian guy, scornful of myself for being weak, lusting after Captain Ember and her braid and arrogant features, cynical with how I wanted to possess both women at the same time, that I wanted to be their slave yet have some strong opinions, and on and on.
Now Captain Ember looked at me, and I could not deny myself.
I fell to my knees in front of her, tearing at the map, sending bilge water splashing, and bowed my head.
"Please, Ma'am," I sobbed. "Let me serve you."
There was no visible gleam of victory in Captain Ember's green eyes as they returned to rest on me for a few seconds, but her face was so haughty that it was clear for all to see. And it was right and proper. I was nothing. She was everything.
"You wish to serve, private?"
"Yes, Ma'am," I said.
"All of a sudden?"
"Perhaps you simply wish to get sexual pleasure from my attention?"
She looked at me.
"If you had been properly trained by Sergeant Tease, private," Captain Ember said, "you would have learned how to obey your superior officers in order to please them, and not to achieve gratification for yourself." Her voice was turning robotic again. "You would not have needed to ask to serve, as performing your duties would be your top priority at all times." Her neck muscles tightened. "In the situation we are in now, it is up to me to instruct you."
"As you wish, Ma'am," I said. What would she have me do? Scrub away while rubbing my cock against things? Polish her boots while rubbing my cock against them? They were covered with salt, I could see it. Massage her feet while rubbing my...
She rose and grabbed my green tie. Before I had the chance to react properly, she pulled me along, towards the cabin.
"Foursome?" I thought in my stupidity as I struggled to my feet, getting a kick from the strangling sensation now. Or perhaps Hurricane was all knocked out and couldn't contribute anything. "Threesome? Even better!"
She veered away from the door and pulled me up on top of the cabin.
What was going on?
At last we reached the mast.
Oh, no. Not again. Not a third time. Come on!
She fastened the tie around the mast, looping it through a ring set low into the wood, making sure I was unable to even stand up.
"We have a seven day journey ahead of us, and you're staying here for the duration of it. You will not speak unless spoken to, or I will gag you. You will not cause a disturbance, or I will put a hood over your head and plugs in your ear. Do you understand me, private?"
"Please don't, Ma'am, I promise I will learn!"
"Yes," she said. "You will." Her face was so calm it was dangerous. Then, she jumped off the cabin roof.
What was going on with her? All right, I may not have been a perfect soldier, true. I had argued and taken Glow's side before the pirate ship appeared, and I hadn't acted all "Ma'am, yes Ma'am," the way you see in American war movies, but I hadn't been that hopeless, had I?
"Private Jiang," Captain Ember said and sat down. "You may tend to my boots, then give me a foot massage."
"Ma'am, yes Ma'am!" the Chinese man said, just the way you see in American porn movies imitating American war movies. He flopped down at her feet, his fingers already working her laces open.
Captain Ember grasped his red tie, the fastened it to a ring attached to the seat, just between her ankles. Fucking hell, how sexy!
At that moment the cabin door opened, and Glow and Hurricane came out. His arm was around her as she giggled and looked up at him, her look saying they were not exhausted, not yet, not by any means.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse on my end.
Glow didn't look around for me at all, and it was only by coincidence that she turned her gaze and saw me secured to the mast, looking down at them just like a dog that's leashed outside the house so that the humans can have a little peace and quiet from all the pillow-humping.
"Hello, Sam," she said. "Enjoying a little army discipline, are we?"
"He's not allowed to speak," Captain Ember said.
"Oh no!" Glow said and her face was that of a cherub feeling sorry for a cute, little baby lamb who gotten its wool stuck on some branches. "How horrible! Poor man! Is it all right if I got up there just to see if I-"
I did not get to hear what Glow had in mind to torture me with, for Hurricane bent down and kissed her until she forgot all about me. Which was worse than anything else she might have done.
I hated that Hurricane. He'd stolen my woman. One of them. That I didn't have any claim on. Yeah. He'd still done it, though.
"What's going on?" Glow asked and bent down to inspect Jiang's handiwork.
"Just a little pampering for the Captain, Ma'am," he said.
"Foot massage?" she said.
"Of course, Ma'am," he said. "It's one of her guilty pleasures."
"You know, Hurricane?" she said. "After I've been so good to you, I think I deserve a foot massage myself, don't you?"
"No," he said and grinned.
"No? You ungrateful beast!" She play-slapped him.
"No," he said, "after I've been so good to you, I think I deserve to give you a foot massage, don't you?"
"That's just what I said, baby," she said.
"That's in no way what you said, honey," he said.
"You're so sweet, honey," she said.
"Thank you, baby," he said.
"Now, go and bring the Captain and myself a bottle of wine," she said.
"Wine? Here, on this boat?" Hurricane said.
"Of course! You don't think I left the pirate ship without raiding their larder, did you? In that big bag over there you'll find some sweets as well. Chop, chop!" She slapped him on his butt.
Hurricane didn't have to be asked twice, but ran over and rummaged through the bag, then found two cups in the cabin. Captain Ember had to be asked twice. She said something about being on duty, but Glow managed to convince her to have a small glass with her without much trouble.
Far away on the horizon, outwards on the turning wheel that was this crazy world, there now rose an island. It was crowned by tall mountains, but Glow had set a course that wouldn't bring us any nearer than this. I wished I had been able to focus on the map when Captain Ember had shown it to me, perhaps I would have been able to figure out where we were heading. I was hopeless. If someone had shown me a map of Europe right now, I was sure that all I would take away was that the Baltic Sea looked like a man with the world's bigger wiener.