Fara'ji's Travels - Freedom
10 of Erastus, 4720
It has been a good night for our fledgling civilization and, although the victory celebration after the Battle of Madoro were jubilant, the energizing rush of victory quickly gave way to the fatigue of a battle well fought. As I walked throughout our camp, the silence was peaceful and welcome.
Although I’d had as much a need for sleep as any other, I found myself unable to slip into the bliss state of unconsciousness. I could say that my restlessness was due to the thrill of victory, or even my advancing years, but I would be lying. to be perfectly frank, I could not close my eyes without seeing the horrible arachnid abomination looming over me, it’s enormous mandibles just inches from me.
I don’t remember much of the combat after I was stuck, but I can’t seem to shake that impending feeling of doom as I bled out onto the stone floor and looked into the creature’s haunting compound eyes.
We were victorious, of course, as I am still around to tell the tale, but I am afraid that the final moments of battle will have to be chronicled by much less reliable narrators than I.
I have spent the better part of an hour walking the camp, building the courage to try to rest. As a mentioned before, there are few still awake. However, I found that there are others having the same difficultly finding the needed release of sleep: the rescued Bekyar.
I cannot say I blame them. To have had their oppressors defeated so brutally, they must be expecting the worst. I remember my time as a Bekyar slave all too well. They were not kind masters, and it would appear that Mezzani was intent on making an example of these people. As a Bekyar slave, there is an ever-present need to make yourself useful. Useful slaves are less likely to be used for hard manual labor. And if you were too weak of infirm to work…let’s just say that the rumors of cannibalism among their ranks are not wholly unfounded.
I was fortunate. My knack for detecting the ebb and flow of magic without the need for incantations put me firmly into the “useful” camp. This was not to say that I didn’t live in constant fear of daily beatings, but only that I was fairly certain, barring an unfortunate accident, I would not end up on the butcher’s block.
From my capture at the age of 8 to the age of 16, I served at the beck and call of one Bekyar master or another. I loathed them all, each as disgusting as the last, taking advantage of the weak and helpless for their own selfish reasons. Then, one afternoon in Kibwe, during a fateful “business meeting”, everything would change.
My most recent master was sitting across the table opposite a strange foreign man with a curiously arranged patch of facial hair. Each flanked by their own bodyguards, they were amicably discussing some aspect of their business. Unfortunately, due to the arrogance of youth, I refused to learn the language of my captors, and thus, remain ignorant to the details of their discussion. It didn’t matter, though. My master had pulled this particular scam so often that I could recite it in my sleep.
First, the mark would present some magical trinket of value. Sometimes a weapon, sometimes a bit of jewelry. After my master had my confirmation that the merchandise was, in fact, genuinely magical, he would offer drinks to finalize their business transaction. After a few drinks were had, and their guard was let down, my master’s bodyguards would spring into action, cutting down everyone in the room, keeping the coin and the merchandise.
I was pulled from my thoughts by a rough hand, practically shoving me onto the strange foreigner. I remember seeing a faint sign of worry, or perhaps concern, as he presented the merchandise to me. Today, it was a beautifully made spear, with gold filigree and set with marvelous rubies. I admired the craftsmanship for as long as I dared before allowing myself to see the magic weaved into the weapon. The faint pulsing energy confirmed that the weapon was magical, but I had not yet encountered it’s like before. It would be many years later, during my formal schooling that I would be able to recognize an illusory magical aura. After giving a quick nod, I was unceremoniously pulled away and shoved into a corner.
The foreign man continued to speak to my master, his words incomprehensible to me, but strangely soothing and comforting. So calming and distracting his words, I almost missed the accumulation of magic around him as my master and his bodyguards did nothing but smile and nod. I opened my mouth to speak, a reflex born of fear should I fail to provide warning, but a quick, dangerous look by the foreign man silenced the words in my throat.
The bodyguards went down first, drifting off to a serene sleep. I was astonished. I’d seen the spell before, but I had no idea that magic could be performed without elaborate ritual and powerful chanting. This man was doing the impossible! The loss of his bodyguards brought my master back to the moment. He reached for his weapon and froze, mid-draw. His eyes had widened considerably and, if he had not been paralyzed, he would have been trembling. In seconds, the foreign man was on the other side the table and neatly slit my master’s throat. A motion to his bodyguards brought similar ends to the slumbering men. I tried to move, but found myself unable, frozen in place, hoping to escape notice, but knowing how very impossible that was.
The foreigner wiped the blood from his knife on his sleeve and, with a quick incantation, the blood was gone. He looked at me, not with the cold dangerous eyes from before. Instead he regarded me with curiosity.
“Tell me, boy. What part have you in this scheme? Are you somehow in collusion with these misguided souls?” He spoke Zenj, a language I had not heard in some time. His voice had the same calming timbre I had heard before. I shook my head to clear my thoughts.
Taking the gesture for a denial, the stranger continued. “So a slave then. And what a rare find for these gentleman. It is not often you find someone with the gift of mage-sight, much less one so young. I assume you were born with it?” I nodded , afraid that my voice would further betray my fear.
“Alright, boy, stand up. I’ve decided you’ll be coming with me. I have use for one with your talents.” He walked to the door, gesturing me to follow. I looked from him to the slaughtered bodies of my former master and shuddered. Sensing my fear, the foreigner spoke, “Do not worry about them, boy. They had the misfortune of pulling this trick too many times on merchants in my employ. I finally had to intervene. Come along now, our window for escape is closing. If you leave now, the investigators will likely conclude you were consumed in the fire.” I looked past him. Outside were two more men, each with a torch, waiting to burn the building to the ground.
Sensing that, for the moment, I was safe, I followed the foreigner outside the tent to watch it burn. From one master to another. Would this one be as cruel?
“Come boy, you can carry the gold these find men were to pay me for my weapon.”
“As you wish, master. If it would please you, I have a name. you may call me—”
The foreigner raised his hand, silencing me with a gesture. “While I’m sure you have a name, boy, I’m afraid that, until you’ve earned me enough money, your name isn’t important. ‘Course, we can’t just go around calling you ‘Boy’ I suppose,” he gestured to one of the men packing his horse, “I already call him ‘Boy’. I suppose you can be Boy Two. And stop with all this master nonsense. Your life as a slave ended in that tent. Your talents should be used, but not advertised. Your former masters were fools to be so obvious with what you could do and slaves aren’t exactly welcome in all parts of the Inner Sea. You are of more use to me as a freeman.”
I blinked at his words. Free. No longer a slave. I could hardly believe it. “Thank you, Mister…” I paused mid-sentence as it occurred to me that I didn’t even know the foreigner’s name.
He smiled at me and extended his hand, “Jhaymes DuChaygne of the Four Winds Trading Company. Now, let’s talk about all the money you are going to make me…”