Tales from the Crusades, Part 4, The Slave-trader by Jean-Christophe, Illustrated by Amalaric

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Moussa Al-Khaldun is accustomed to the disdain being shown to him by the emir. He is well aware most men in high places look down upon him and view his profession with distaste. After all, Moussa knows that, throughout history, slave-traders have always been despised as mere peddlers in human flesh and not fit company for men of higher calling.

Once, this had bothered him! However, over the long years of his involvement in the slave trade, he has become inured to the contempt shown to him by his so-called ‘betters’. In fact, he’d turned their contempt back onto them and he secretly despises them for what they are – hypocrites of the worst kind. Moussa sees no distinction between what he does so openly and what men like the emir do secretly through their intermediaries. At least, he openly and personally buys and sells slaves for a living and he makes no apologies for doing so. In fact, trading in slaves has made him a very rich man – possibly richer even than the emir and his ilk.

But men like the emir are no less greedy than Moussa and they are quick to claim the spoils of their victories – in the emir’s case, the recently captured Franj prisoners – and to convert them into ‘respectable’ gold to fill their coffers. Of course, the emir doesn’t soil his hands by indulging in face to face negotiations with a despised dealer of slaves. Instead the emir acts through his chamberlain, an elderly, sedate slave who has the power to accept or reject Moussa’s offer to buy from among the Christian prisoners.

Forcing Moussa to haggle with a lowly slave is a calculated insult on the emir’s part but one that Moussa must overlook if he is to do business with him. Nevertheless, despite his apparent disdain, the emir subtly shows that he remains in charge as he follows their discussions with silent but keen interest. From time to time, he’ll summon his slave for a whispered conversation which usually means he is demanding more money from Moussa.

Moussa learns there are one hundred and thirty-seven Franj captives all of who are to be sold into slavery. On his way into the emir’s camp, Moussa had seen the captives huddled dejectedly together under armed guard and a quick perusal from the back of his camel had convinced him many among them are eminently suited to slavery. Moussa knows he’ll have no trouble in selecting fifty of the primest and fittest for his coffle.

And the slaves he selects today will need to be fit to survive the long, overland trip to Baghdad. Once a year, Moussa delivers one hundred slaves to Baghdad’s insatiable slave-markets. The trek is an arduous one for any man but even more so for a naked slave chained into a coffle and for that reason, Moussa only trades in hardy, male slaves.

Logistically, delivering slaves to Baghdad requires much planning. Moussa has made the trip many times and he is now very adept at doing so. He knows the distances between the oases and water wells spaced strategically along the route and how hard his slaves must be driven each day if they are to make camp at a watering-hole each night. However, he leaves the mundane duty of reaching each day’s campsite in the capable hands of his two African slave-drivers, Abou and Walid and their assistants who know at what pace to drive the slaves to keep to his tight schedule.

Moussa is most fastidious in seeing that his livestock arrives in Bagdad in as prime a condition as is possible and given the rigors of life in a coffle for the new slaves, this isn’t an easy task. For the most part, the infidels must be driven hard and his overseers have to apply their whips with monotonous regularity to keep the lazy dogs moving forward. Of course, Moussa doesn’t allow his slaves to be permantly damaged by the whip and to that end he has forsaken the use of the heavier hippopotamus or rhinoceros whips for the lighter ones made of buffalo-hide which still inflict much pain but do very little damage to a slave’s back.

Slave coffles for the most part are cumbersome and difficult to control and involve much hard work on the part of the slave drivers. Moussa is the first to admit there are problems transporting slaves in this way but over the years, experience has taught him the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. For a start a coffle is a great leveler which reduces its unwilling victims to the same lowly status. The haughty nobleman or the arrogant knight when stripped naked and shackled to a similarly nude teenaged squire or an uneducated man-at-arms soon realizes that he is no longer their ‘better’ and that he is doomed to share in their fate as a miserable slave.

Yes, Moussa has found the time his slaves spend travelling in a coffle to be very beneficial. Initially, as he begins the long trek to Baghdad, the new captives are defiant and even belligerent. But within the space of the first day’s march, they begin to learn the hopelessness of their situation and the first few cuts of the overseers’ whips convince them of their helplessness. Moussa finds it amusing to watch the changes wrought in his new slaves’ attitudes as they gradually adjust to the horrors of coffle life. Soon their defiance, gives way to impotent anger and then to sullen resentment of their fate. Inevitably, this resentment crumbles and is replaced with resignation and an acceptance of what they have become – slaves!

And by the time they stand naked and shackled on the auction-block with their heads bowed in humble submission, their spirits will have been broken by their long march into slavery. Truly, the coffle serves a worthwhile purpose; it tames and domesticates the most wilful of new slaves!

But now Moussa is anxious to conclude his business and be on his way with his new purchases and after much haggling, Moussa and the emir’s slave come to an agreement. Moussa will be allowed to buy fifty captives and to have first choice among them before the arrival of his competitors who, as Moussa rightly surmises, are belatedly on their way. He’ll need to move quickly before their arrival.

Moussa tells the emir’s man that he’ll need to thoroughly inspect the Franj captives before making his choices and for that to happen they need to be as naked as the day they were born. As Moussa jokingly tells the emir’s slave – ‘the wise farmer doesn’t buy a goat in a poke’. His feeble attempt at humor falls flat; neither the emir nor his slave show any response other than stony-faced silence

In truth, this is the aspect of his profession that Moussa enjoys the most. He relishes the prospect of inspecting his helpless victims and having his hands roam freely over their naked, trembling bodies. Oh, how he loves the feel of warm, naked flesh, of hard muscles and taut sinews quivering beneath his lecherous touch. Moussa finds it most pleasing to see the look of utter disbelief and humiliation in an unbeliever’s eyes as he takes the new slave’s manhood into his hands and arouses his unwilling flesh to powerful erection.

And it is most pleasurable to view a new Nasrani captive from the rear and to gaze lustfully on the suggestive curves of his bare buttocks. Moussa does enjoy the sensuous feel of a well-rounded, smooth buttock in each hand as he kneads them much like a potter molds his wet clay. As Moussa squeezes each ass-cheek, he knows he is in control and that the new slave’s fear renders him powerless to rebel. The slave must submit to Moussa’s superior authority or suffer the whip for his disobedience.

Usually, the new captive is unprepared for what is to follow as Moussa places a hand in the middle of his back and bends him forward at the waist. Even as Moussa kicks his feet apart, the slave is unsuspecting of the indignities that are to be heaped upon him. It’s only as Moussa spreads his buttocks and the most private part of his body – his Golden Portal – is exposed to view that the awful truth dawns on the new slave. However, his cries of protest and shamed indignation won’t spare him from the ultimate outrage as Moussa’s finger probes the inner recesses of his body testing for his virginity and tightness.

To Moussa’s amusement, the Franj captives always protest at this final assault on their manly dignity. But their anguished protests only add to the frisson of sexual pleasure that Moussa feels. And always, Moussa chortles with belly-rumbling derision as he loudly and dismissively slaps the new slave’s ass and orders him to stand upright. For Moussa, there’s personal satisfaction in the part he plays in ultimately degrading an unbeliever; he may not be a Holy Warrior taking the battle to the enemy but he does overseer the final degradation of the hated Christian foe. Truly, after Moussa’s inspection, the new Franj slave has a better understanding of his utter worthlessness as a man.

Moussa is anxious to make a start in selecting his fifty slaves. It’s imperative that he does so before the arrival of his competitors who will loudly protest to the emir about the unfair advantage given to him. Hopefully, he’ll have made his selection and be on his way back to the city before they realize he has chosen the pick of the new captives for his coffle leaving the less desirable ones for them to argue over.

One of the emir’s warriors reports that the Franj captives are ready for Moussa’s inspection. He takes his obsequious leave of the emir and, accompanied by the chamberlain, hurries to where the Franj are sullenly standing in line ready for his inspection. All the Nasrani are naked and Moussa smiles at their vain attempts to hide their shame behind cupped hands. Poor fools! By the time each takes his place on the auction-block, nudity will be the least of their worries.

As he approaches them, one young, golden haired Franj in particular attracts his lustful attention. Moussa decides he was mostly likely a squire to one of the defeated knights and he quickly and lasciviously appraises the perfection of captive’s young body. Tall, lithe of body and obviously sound of wind and limb, the young slave stirs a yearning in Moussa’s loins beneath his flowing garments.

Nights in the desert on the long trek to Baghdad can be very lonely. Surely such a young slave would do much to lessen Moussa’s boredom.

As Moussa moves towards the long line of naked captives his dilemma is – where to begin; which slave warrants his probing inspection?

 

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