The Light of a Different Moon
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by Patric Michael
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: Family love and a new love conquer the glowing hell during a storm in A LIGHT OF DIFFERENT MOON by Patric Michael.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [124 KB]
Reading time: 72-102 min.
July 7th 1819
Zander Carlisle sipped his brandy and listened impatiently to his partner equivocate. The man had a positive gift for machinery, and that alone should have earned him some leeway. Unfortunately, whatever concessions Oliver Kellaghe might have earned in Zander's eyes over the last twenty-three years were all but negated by the fiasco currently locked in the breaking shed.
"Oliver, get to the point, please."
"The point is, we need the new slaves."
"No. They're too much trouble. The overseers still haven't broken them and they're disrupting the old ones. What on earth possessed you to buy so many new Negroes?"
"Cost versus sustainable output," Oliver said promptly.
Zander hated it when Oliver spoke like that. Oliver was an educated man, had to be to run a plantation this size, but when he spoke, Zander sometimes felt like he was fresh off the boat himself. "But you failed to factor in the time it would take to break and train them."
"No. What I failed to factor was how pervasive their superstitions are." Oliver studied his hands for a moment. "Nor did I account for how the others would be affected. Even the baptized ones."
"All the more reason to be rid of them and cut our losses." Zander swallowed the last of his brandy. He hated losing anything, and the admission rankled. "Replace them, Oliver. Our profitability is far too thin." He scowled at his empty glass, then caught Oliver's gaze. "Replace them, or break them. I don't care which."
Oliver sighed. "Aye, Zander. I'll do what I can..."
Eammon reluctantly followed his father through the sticky mud to the breaking shed. He hated having to deal with recalcitrant slaves, and his father seemed bent on making him into some kind of an overseer, so every time a new batch came in, and there seemed to be more and more of them, Father insisted he help with the breaking. Eammon sometimes wondered if his father were trying to break him as well.
"Father, why do you keep insisting on this charade? We both know I'll never make a good overseer, and besides, that's not what I want for the rest of my life."
Oliver Kellaghe whirled on his son. "Don't forget, Zander went to considerable expense to cover up your indiscretion and keep you out of jail, so we owe him. Now he is putting considerable pressure on me to make these new slaves useful as quickly as possible, and I have every intention of making good on our debt. As much as you might not like it, you do seem to have a gentling hand with the worst of them."
"All right, Father. I'll help if I can, but for your sake, not his. His interest in protecting my reputation was purely self serving." Eammon's voice was hard edged. He had never told anyone about Zander Carlisle's proclivities, or about how the threat of jail was Zander's way of keeping him silent about his discoveries. Still, Eammon was hard pressed to keep the injustice from his voice.
Oliver frowned. "I simply do not understand why you would be so vitriolic towards the man who has been our benefactor since you were a baby."
"Because he's been taking advantage of you, Father. All those improvements to his machines, and your knowledge, he snaffles it up like grain to a horse."
"For which I am compensated very well, Eammon. And by extension, so are you," Oliver replied.
"And treated not much better than a prized household slave."
Oliver shook, trying to contain his anger. Never mind that his son was probably correct, he still had no right to castigate the decisions Oliver had made so many years ago. "My son, someday the Lord will smite you for your insolence. I rue that day." He turned his back on his son, his feet squelching in the mud, and walked away. Eammon had no choice but to follow.
The Overseer hauled the chain that bound a group of slaves, making several stumble as they exited the breaking shed. He locked one end with a heavy padlock to a ring-and-post set deep in the ground. He stood back and watched as they staggered and fell against one another, squinting at the bright sunshine.
Eammon automatically looked to the center of the line and saw a tall Negro buck staring defiantly back at him. His skin, a deep ebony color found only on the purest stock, bore a number of crimson slashes, mostly about his shoulders and face. Oliver had devised the chaining pattern, putting the strongest and most rebellious at the center of the line, leaving the weakest at the ends. The result was that, even if the male tried to resist, tried to run or cause trouble, he would have to drag his fellows with him, and everyone knew slaves had to be taught to work together. The pattern was further enhanced by including women and youngsters in the chain line because even slaves seemed to respect the limitations of the weaker in their species.
Eammon made a face at the smell. "Faugh, Jack. Did you not let them at least wash?"
The Overseer scowled, looking at Oliver for direction. Oliver shrugged and looked away.
"It's to break 'em, young Master. These lot are particularly stubborn," Jack said.
"I wonder if you know the difference between honey and vinegar," Eammon muttered. "You. Buckets and water." Eammon pointed to one of the whip handlers. "And clean rags."
"Slave's work," the man said, alternately glaring at both Eammon and Jack.
"Then get a slave to do it," Eammon snapped. "Now."
Oliver put a hand on his son's shoulder, but Eammon shrugged it off.
"No, Father. You said I had a hand for this and you were right. Give me my reins or I walk away."
Oliver sighed. "Very well, Eammon. See what you can do. Jack and his men will heed you." He turned to Jack who nodded, though his eyes smoldered. "But only a week. Longer than that and Jack gets them again."
Eammon nodded. Jack would break them, but he would also rob them of strength to do it, and they would be far less useful in the fields afterwards. He might also kill them.
"Mama's boy," the whip handler whispered as he deposited the first bucket at Eammon's feet. Eammon ignored him and the water that sloshed onto his shoes. He was not particularly surprised to note the tall slave watching the exchange.
"How much of the language do they have, Jack?"
The Overseer shrugged. "Basics, I think. You can never really be sure, you know."
"All right. Then let's assume none, for now." Eammon brought the bucket to one of the women nearest the end of the line, and pantomimed washing. He dipped a rag into the cold water and squeezed it over his own head. The woman looked startled, and Eammon saw her look to the tall slave. He nodded in reply, and Eammon handed her the rag. She began to sluice water, not over herself, but over the small boy beside her. He held his mouth open like a baby bird, and she squeezed water into it.
Eammon felt sick to his stomach. "When was the last time you gave them anything to drink?" He was very much afraid to look directly at the Overseer lest he lose his temper completely.
"Three days ago," Jack said evenly.
"In July? Locked in the breaking shed? Let me guess. To make them more docile, right?" Eammon angrily waved off his reply. "Never mind. Get them all out, get them fed, watered, washed, and into clean shifts. Draft a couple of the mammies to help with the women." He followed the whip handler down the line, examining cuts, bruises, and lash marks. "And for God's sake, ease up with the whips. Anyone looking would think you enjoyed your work too much."
The whip handler whirled, his left fist already snaking out. "I don't take that from no mama's boy!" His fist connected squarely with Eammon's jaw, knocking him sideways against the tall male chained to the center of the line.
"No." The slave's voice was not loud, but it was clear, and Eammon froze as chains rattled over his head. He looked up to see the slave holding his hands out to forestall the whip handler's advance. "No," he said again, then bent and lifted Eammon to his feet. "It, her," the slave said, struggling for the correct word. "Mate. Me, mine." He nodded to the female Eammon had given water to, then spread his arms as wide as the chains would allow. "Family. Not break. Die." The slave pushed Eammon toward the Overseer. "Not break."
Eammon stared, dumbfounded. Conviction, determination, and steadfast certainty informed the slave's sparse words, and he felt himself grow cold with the implication, despite the July heat.
"You're gonna have a time with this lot," Jack said. The overbearing prick sounded like he was trying not to laugh.
Eammon ignored him. He faced the slave, catching the man's gaze with his own. "Not break?"
The slave regarded him steadily, and yet, to Eammon, he seemed almost sad. "Family. Die."
Eammon took the words and the facial expression, often so difficult to read on dark faces, as regret for his conviction, but he was disabused of his error when Jack spoke up.
"Oh, you'll break, you dark bastard. A few more days in the shed and you'll be puling in every language you speak to be let out."
The slave immediately straightened to his full height and his face filled with scorn. "No!" To Eammon he added in a milder tone, "You no break." His gaze flicked over Eammon's shoulder at the Overseer and back again.
Eammon struggled to understand the meaning behind the broken phrases. Is he asking me not to try and break him? Or is he telling me not to break? Is it because I showed them kindness, or is he counting on me to safeguard his family?
Calvin, the whip handler who had struck him, jeered and broke his reverie. "Aw, I think he likes you, mama's boy."
Eammon whirled, not on the whipper, but on Jack. His face suffused with anger as he snarled at the Overseer. "If Calvin is not off this plantation by nightfall, I guarantee on my family's name you will be his traveling companion down that long road."
"Have you forgotten who I am? Who my father is?" Eammon stared at Jack, stared until the Overseer's angry gaze faltered.
"I want their galls bandaged, I want them fed to repletion," Eammon said, ticking the list off on his fingers. "And I want him gone, by nightfall!"
Jack glared, but it was a useless gesture and both men knew it. "Yes, sir."
Eammon turned to leave, pausing long enough to look at the slave. The man's face was as stoic as ever, but Eammon thought he caught a glitter of amusement in the dark brown eyes.
As he strode back toward the big house, Eammon felt cold dread gnaw at his guts. He was afraid he would be unable to break these slaves after all, but more than that, he was very much afraid he wouldn't be able to save them, either.
When Eammon returned to the breaking shed that night, he was surprised to see Jack and a new whip handler coming away from the building.
"Is there trouble?"
"No, sir," Jack said, turning his head to look at the new man. "This is Martin. I was just showing him around."
"Ah, good. Martin. Nice to meet you." Eammon shook hands with the man, holding his lamp high in his left hand to look at his face. There was something furtive behind Martin's eyes that Eammon didn't like. "Have you been with us long?"
"Ah, nossir. Just a few days is all, sir."
"Good. Welcome." Eammon turned to Jack. "I trust you sent Calvin packing?"
"Uh, yes. He left hours ago." Jack turned to Martin. "He's the one who hit the young sir this afternoon."
Martin's eyes widened.
"Yes, well. Carry on then." Eammon nodded to the two men and walked away, leaving them to find their way by the light of the full moon overhead.
As Eammon approached the shed, he heard the usual sounds through the thin slat walls, clinking chains, soft moans, and occasional sobs. He also heard something that sent fiery bolts of anger down his spine: male laughter.
Eammon threw open the door, expecting to see one of the field hands, or God forbid, one of the whites rutting at one of the women. What he did not expect was Zander, fumbling at his trousers while bumping his hips against the naked backside of the father. The slave was stripped bare and tied over one of the chain rails while Calvin looked on, rubbing his crotch and grinning like a jackal in the lamp light. The rest of the slaves, still chained, watched fearfully, and Eammon suddenly understood why Jack and the new man had been out in the moonlight.
Eammon froze, horrified. "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"
Calvin startled like a deer in the woods, but Zander merely snorted and freed his cock. "Jack told me about your touching little confrontation with this big bastard." Zander slapped the man's naked buttocks, making him flinch. "By his telling, it seems he has a soft spot for you, though I'll be damned if I can figure out why, so I decided to lay my own hand to his breaking." He paused and glared at Eammon. "Go back to the house and sit at your mama's knee, boy. Leave man's work to those best suited for the task."
Zander positioned himself, and one of the women started shouting. A harsh, guttural language Eammon had no hope of understanding. He did understand the outrage implicit in the speech, and he felt it fuel his own outrage at the injustice. "Stop, you bastard. He's not an animal!"
Zander laughed, a harsh, cruel sound with no mercy in it. "Nobody gets the best of me, boy. And besides, he's animal enough for what I want him for."
Red rage and the memory of a broken, determined plea shattered Eammon's paralysis. He dropped the lamp and launched himself at his father's partner. Both men fell in a tumbled heap at Calvin's feet, and the whip handler skipped backward to avoid their sprawl. Several of the women tried to reach him, but the rattle of chains was enough of a warning, and he jumped out of reach.
Eammon landed a few punches before Zander scrambled clear, shoving hard at Eammon to send him rolling into a forest of scarred black legs.
Zander stood and brushed himself off. "That was the biggest mistake you'll ever make in your worthless life, boy. I'll see to it!" He nodded to Calvin, who circled around to the doorway. Zander picked up Eammon's lamp and held it high. "In the meantime, I think a night in the shed with the slaves you seem to love so much will do you a bit of good."
Eammon, still crouched on the floor, was eye level with the tied slave, and even in the shadows he saw grim determination, not fear or anger, shining in the black man's eyes. The sight filled him with self-loathing that, by the chance color of skin, men such as this would forever be held in contempt by men such as he.
Eammon shouted and leaped toward Zander. The older man whirled, swinging his lamp and crushing it against Eammon's side. Immediately, hot oil soaked through Eammon's clothes and ignited, fed by the still burning wick. An immense bolt of pain threw him to the ground. He rolled back and forth and finally smothered his devourer, but his back and legs were already a blistering ruin. Eammon clutched at the chain rail, barely aware of the slave still tied to it, and managed to stand, at least long enough to lurch toward the white men.
Zander cried out, a curiously childlike sound, at the horror he created and jerked a large belt knife from Calvin's waist. Without thinking, he slammed it into Eammon's chest and buried it almost to the hilt. Eammon fell backward against the tied slave and slumped at his feet. Despite the restraints, the man tried to reach him and howled when he could not.
"Not one word of this to anyone, or you'll join them. Do you hear me?" Zander snarled at Calvin, who nodded, his eyes wide with fright. "Give me that," he said, and snatched the lamp from Calvin's hand. Zander threw it against the far wall and it shattered, spilling oil and flame against the tinder-dry lumber of the shed. Without another word, he dragged Calvin through the door and bolted it shut from the outside. The white men took barely ten paces before the screaming began.