“Slaves don’t have a story, forget yours,” was a common phrase I heard, be it from a master or a fellow slave.
But I can’t forget my story. No matter how hard I may try, I can’t. I refuse to.
“No one cares to hear a slave’s story. They’re nothing to their masters, no better than the scum on the bottom of a boot. That’s why slaves don’t have a story.”
If you’ve actually taken the time to listen to my story, may the gods watch over you. No one cares to hear a slave’s story. But perhaps you’re different. I believe somewhere there’s someone who cares. I have to believe, otherwise I have nothing.
My father was my first master. He never called me a slave, but he hated me. My mother died a few days after I was born, complications with the labor, I’ve been told. Father never forgave me for it. From that day until the day he sold me, he blamed me for my mother’s death. And he never let me forget it. Since I was old enough to walk, he had me doing everything I could. If I didn’t do it right, or if I didn’t accomplish whatever the task was in a timely manner, he would lash out at me. Sometimes he beat me just because he could.
Kirrian, my brother, was the favorite child. He could never do anything wrong. He excelled in everything and anything Father taught him, be it leatherwork, hunting, fighting, or minor spells. I was never allowed to learn anything. I was too busy cleaning the cottage, running errands, or doing whatever minor task father could think of. Kirrian eventually began to pick up father’s habits as well. If he deemed I hadn’t done the task right, he would beat Father to my beating, and even then Father would finish the job.
One day, when I was ten years old, Father sent me out to the market to find my brother. I found him leaning against a tavern wall flirting with one of the tavern maids.
“Father sent me to find you. He wants to go check the traps,” I said meekly.
“I’ll be back when I’m back,” my brother snapped.
“Of course, I’m sorry to have bothered you.” I bowed my head and turned to leave.
“I didn’t say you could leave yet!” He turned to the maid, “Watch this,” he said with a smirk. “See that man over there?” he asked me, pointing out a man by the fruit stand, “He has a full coin purse. You’re small and semi-smart, I’m sure even you could handle pick-pocketing him.”
“Of course,” I replied.
I snuck over and scoped out the situation. When I believed I had found the opportune moment, I made to take it. Sneaking closer, I slipped my hand in this pocket, but just as I was turning to leave, he caught me. I took off running, clutching the purse to my chest. My brother watched as I ran toward him, laughing all the while. This was his fault, I knew it, so when I reached him, I took advantage of another opportunity. I threw the purse at my brother and darted down an alley next to the tavern. I paused halfway down to catch my breath when I realized that my pursuer had become preoccupied with my brother. A shouting match ensued and a crowd gathered around. But when I heard the sound of steel being pulled, I took off again.
Father then had another death he believed he could blame on me. Repeatedly he told me that I should’ve been the one to die that day. They were after me, not him. There was absolutely no reason he should’ve died. Frankly, I would rather it had been me who died that day. It would have spared me the coming events.
For about six months after my brother’s death, the beatings increased, that’s how my father dealt with the loss. Come the six months, he discovered drinking drowns his sorrows, but it also fueled his rage. Every night he would disappear to some tavern in town and stumble his way back before dawn. Until the drinking became worse and he just wouldn’t make his way back. Those nights I’d have to go find him. Typically, he was found in a corner gambling his possessions away.
That night though, he was in his typical corner playing liar’s dice with a merchant. His money was completely gone and he was deep in his cups. The merchant had a bemused smile on his face, as he knew he was ruining Father. I snuck up behind him, and put my hand on his shoulder.
“Father, it’s time to go,” I whispered in his ear.
“STAY OUT OF THIS YOU LITTLE WHORE!” he shouted back and slapped me across the face.
“Now, now, now, no need for that,” the merchant said calmly and gestured for me to sit.
I stood, shocked, as he signaled for a tavern maid to bring another round, plus one, over.
“Sit down, little one,” he said with a friendly smile on his face.
I looked to him and to Father, confused.
“Listen to him, wench,” he grumbled at me.
I sat on the bench next to Father as the tavern maid laid three tankards on the table.
“Now, we have matters of this debt to discuss,” the merchant said, “I’m an impatient man and will be leaving town in two days. I require my payment before then.”
“You’ll get your damn money,” Father grumbled into his cup.
“You have no money left. How do you expect to pay it back?”
“That’s not for you to worry about,” Father snapped.
“Ah, but it is, for it’s my money now,” the merchant said. His eyes twinkled as a smile crept across his face and he watched me timidly lift the tankard to my lips, “Or, I’ll consider your debt forgiven, if….”
“….if?” Father said, suddenly intrigued.
“If you give me her.”
I gasped and dropped the tankard on the table, spilling its contents. Father slapped me across the face again.
“Take her, she’s yours,” he snapped at the merchant, “I never loved her.”
“A pity, such a pretty little thing like her,” whispered the merchant, “I’ll take her and forget your debt.”
“Fair enough! She’s yours.”
The merchant stood with a smile on his face and offered me his hand, “Come along sweet one.”
I looked to Father, to the merchant, and back to Father.
“You heard the man, get along. I’m done with you,” Father snapped.
I hesitantly took the merchant’s hand and he led me from the tavern. I never looked back, and regretted it ever since.
He led me outside of town where an elaborate camp was set up. Immediately upon walking in, men gathered around to see what he had brought back. They started laughing and jeering, and my supposed savior gave a small nod of his head. Two of the men ran off, laughing, in the direction of what seemed to be a mediocre blacksmithing station.
“This way, my dear,” the merchant said, leading me towards the largest tent in the middle of the camp.
“GATHER ROUND GENTS AND COMEE MEET THE NEWEST MEMBER OF OUR CREW!” he called out to the camp.
Men came out of tents, pulling on shirts or pants, or stumbled out of the small feasting tent and gathered in front of the large tent.
“Gentleman, I am pleased to announce we have a new member joining us,” he paused and leaned down to whisper, “Uhh, what is your name, my dear?”
“Lineth,” I replied quietly.
“LINETH!” he announced.
The men cheered and jeered, clapping and whooping.
“MAKE WAY, MAKE WAY!” called the two men who had run off earlier at the top of their lungs.
A path cleared as the group parted for the two to approach. They stopped in front of the merchant and held something out as they knelt. The merchant smiled and grabbed the irons from the men.
“Are you afraid?” he asked me and clapped the irons on my wrist.
Panic rose in me, as the cheering grew louder. The merchant then grabbed my wrists and dragged me to the side of his tent. A large tarp covered what looked like a giant chest. Two other men pulled it aside to reveal a small cage underneath. The gaoler unlocked the cage and I was forced in. I rushed back toward the opening just as the door slammed in my face.
The merchant held the tarp then, and said with a smile, “And you thought life with your father was terrible,” and my world turned to night.