He stretched out his pale shackled arms towards the dying fire, trying to keep himself as warm as possible as the cold of winter froze his weary skin. He was emaciated and covered in dust and grim. Around him several other slaves groped towards the fire for warmth, the first slave was a little bit taller than his companions. The camp around him began to stir as the morning slave drivers awoke and left their shacks. They approached every slave and made sure they were awake with the assistance of whips and violent yelling. The camp was a slave camp. It sat at the edge of a steep mountain that had a network of mines that the slaves had been working for almost a decade. They were the personal field slaves of the liege Lord Grenweld the Kind-hearted, Ruler of the Kathara Isles. They worked the fields outside his castle during the summer and they worked the mines in the winter.
The camp itself wasn’t that large. It had six large shacks that served as the slave drivers quarters. Throughout the camp there were metal poles that stuck out of the frozen ground, attached to each of poles were chains that held a group of slaves together like a pack of leashed hounds. Around each pole was a fire pit that was routinely filled with bundles of firewood throughout the night to keep the slaves warm enough to survive.
The land was still dark as the taller slave was wrangled with all the other slaves to go work the mines. They were escorted by the slave drivers, who were on horseback, each armed with a bow in case a slave tried to run, but no one ever dared try. They lead them alongside the snowcapped mountain on a narrow trail. The land was still dark, but the tall slave could see the dawn cracking over the horizon
Finally, they arrived at the entrance of mine, which was about half way up the mountain. Each slave was then unshackled and given a tool. They began chipping away at the cold mountain stone. All day long they did this, but at the day’s end were brought down to camp to eat and sleep but then were brought back up in the morning. Every day they did this until the frozen streams of the Katharan range melted and the camp was flooded with river water.
The tall slave was weary, his hair was long and matted, filled with dust. His hands were blistered and broken, his back was covered with scars from whipping. He looked completely unrecognizable to how he once looked. He was a broken spirit, and he longed for freedom.
Months went by, and the streams began to flow down the mountain, flooding the slave camp down below. The slavers began to pack up, the slave’s services in the mountains were no longer necessary, they were needed now to work the King’s fields outside his castle.
The camp was flooded with icy water, flooding in the outskirts of the Fiecheon, or Great Range was normal during spring time, water gushed from the melting mountains, filling the valleys with mud and ice cold water.
Because the camp was now filled with a foot of water and the slaves could no longer sleep on the ground without the imminent threat of freezing to death, the slaves were locked into a small shack until the slavers were ready to leave for the Kings estate. The shack was small and cramped. Its original inhabitants had left a week earlier to clear a path back to the Castle. The winter months and waters of spring always overtook the path to the castle that was made the previous year. Because of this, a new path had to be made every year.
The tall slave stood on the porch of the shack. It was a Monday morning, and it had been eight days since the path-finders had left, they would be back anytime now. Since they left, the slaves only duty was packing up the camp, which they made quick work of. So, with no work to be done, the remainder of their time was spent resting. This was one of the very few times the slaves were able to rest, and they greatly relished it.
Eventually, the path-finders return, and it was time for the camp to depart. The tall slaves stepped from the porch into the water, the cold biting his feet. He joined the other slaves as they grabbed everything from camp, all the supplies, firewood, and resources they had dug from the mine and marched up the path away from the camp. The path was dry but often zig-zagged to avoid water logged areas.
The march was a little more than a day’s journey in total. They reached the castle at the break of dawn. The castle was magnificent; it was called Castle Parnassus and it was surrounded with a tall stone wall.
The slaves were marched around the castles wall to the south entrance, during the journey, the tall slaves observed the great castle, hoping to gaze upon the castle. most of the castle was out of the sight because of the walls, but the slave could still see the roof of the immaculate great hall of the king, which resembled a cathedral in the nature, with great flying buttresses and stained glass windows depicting kings of old and their deeds. They were brought into the dungeon that sat underneath the Staff living quarters. It was a musty underground room filled tightly with cells in which to house the slaves. They were told by the slavers to rest for a few hours after their journey, but were quickly put back to work.
Each was given a tool and was put to work in the large fields, they tilled the land and planted the crops. Each day from dawn to dusk they would work on whatever needed to be done on the estate, whether it be working on the fields, picking fresh apples from the orchards, cleaning the stables, repairing weathered parts of the castle, or even washing the dishes. The steward would often put slaves to work in the kitchens to help alleviate the stress of the kitchen chefs and servants who were notoriously understaffed and always worked questionable as hard the slaves did.
The steward was a portly old man by the name of Titus. He claimed to be descended from House Coiron, who had governed the lands of Morwatch in days’ past. Many questioned the legitimacy of his birth, but few could disprove it. The House was broken up after the Battle of the Clemtence Canal, all family records were lost concerning the old House. If one claimed he hailed from Coiron, no man could prove nor disprove the others claim. Even still, the king chose to believe his claim and Titus Coiron served him for more than two decades as his steward and royal advisor.
The steward was often cheery and friendly around the king, always willing to help and never wishing to be burden to anyone around him. Outside the king’s earshot, he was quite the opposite. he was a cruel and inhospitable man who’s only chief concern was himself. Most all of the castle suffered under him, but the slaves received the worst treatment from him. Beating were very common, some would even be beaten to death depending on the circumstances, but mercy was a rare thing to receive from Steward Titus Coiron.
The role of dish washer was often sought after by the taller slave, not only because it was a relaxing task but also so he could share the same room as a maid whom he found very fair. She was a slender, beautiful lady with a thin innocent looking face and pale skin. Her hair was the lightest of browns and was often tied up. Her eyes were a deep blue close to that of lapis lazuli. He greatly loved her, and would often daydream of them together in a life that could never be.
There was a particular day when the king was off on a journey and the Titus oversaw the castle. the taller slave was ordered to work in the kitchen to help them prepare for a party that in the great hall. The first that needed to be done was the dirty dishes had to be cleaned, he did this efficiently and picked up the many dishes to transport them to the kitchen closet. But, while walking to the closet, but he was then surprised! Out of the corner came the maid whom he loved, and then loves’ anxiety griped his heart and he tripped on the moist floors of kitchen, the dishes breaking. The slave arose instantly in horror, he and the maid tried to salvage anything they could of the broken dishes, but it was no use. Then to an even horror the steward came into the kitchen after hearing the crash, he observed what had happened and then with a great fury, grabbed the slaves by the hair and dragged him outside into a courtyard. He threw his to the ground, out of his pocket he pulled a whip.
He then addressed the workers who were in the courtyard at the time, “Behold! This slave you see here is guilty of breaking our Sovereign lord’s dishware and his punishment shall be a warning to any who is careless with their duties”.
Titus then began to violently beat at the slave. Each blow stung with excruciating and his back began to bled, covering the grass below him with spots of blood. He took the punishment with great humility, but after it was over he lay on the ground, groaning in pain. The steward then ordered the slave to get up, but when no response was made, he started to kick him until he finally got up.
“Good, now return to your duties!”, Coiron ordered sharply.
In severe pain, he got up and went to the fields. he tried his best to appear like he was working. The open wounds stung and the summer sun was beating down on him. He worked the rest of the day and was thankful to return to his slave cell. He shared his cell with another slave. They would often whisper in the night to make conversation, and they had become quick friends throughout the summer months. His cell mate, who was named Simeon Ratsherr, was a stocky man with dirty blonde hair, he had a scraggly beard and was a bit shorter than he was.
“I saw what happened earlier, are you alright?” he whispered to the tall slave.
“Yes”, he replied, “I was working in the kitchens and I broke some dishes.”
“I see; I am sorry my friend.”
The tall slave then then exclaimed, “If I were to be completely honest with you, and I only tell you this because you are my friend and I trust you. I hate this life; it has brought me much pain. Because of my forced occupation, I have no freedom no comfort, and no way to express my sorrows. So I must stay silent, holding my pain down for no one to see. And as I hold it, it only grows worse with every day. I feel as though I am losing my mind. I do not pray for death, no, I pray for a solution to my pain. I pray for freedom.”
“I understand your toil, I have been a slave for eighteen years, at first I was much like you. I was bitter and angry, but as time went on, it grew much easier. I promise, trust that The Remembered One has a plan. You’ll be alright.”
The way Simeon spoke and felt about certain often made the tall slave believe him to be Aurelian. The slave frequently spoke with Aurelian’s who traveled through his home so he became very familiar their culture, this was of course before he became a slave.
The Aurelian’s were a people group that lived in the south west portion of the Heart of the World; The large continent to the east of the Kathara Isles where many empires lay.
The two fell asleep in their cots, fast asleep until dawn. The morning light pecked through the dungeon window, waking both of them up for the day. They arose quickly as one of the castle guards came around the dungeon, yelling at each slave to get up. The guard released them from their cells and they were all brought to the fields and were told to work. They began to work and it wasn’t until midday when they were told to stop. They were stopped because it “feeding time”, and it was one of the few times when they could stop working. The chef of the castle would bring out a barrel of burnt or rotten food for the slaves to eat, once the barrel was devoured. Food given by the chef was often terrible, but the slaves didn’t care too much, they would take what they could get, sometimes they would be so hungry that they would never even notice the bad taste of the food. After they finished eating they ordered to return to their work.
Today, unlike most days though, the steward of the castle personally oversaw the slaves as they worked. The guessed the reason for this was because of the incident that had happened the day previous, with the tall slave and the broken dishes. The steward had a strong sense of anxiety about the slave making mistakes that could personally affect the King. So, whenever a mistake was made, the steward always tried his best to make sure it would never happen again, even if that required the killing of a slave.
Eventually, one of the guard came into the fields holding a mop and a bucket of water, he walked up to the closest slave to him, who happened to be the tall slave.
“Some guests spilled some wine over in the hallway near the kitchen, go clean it up, now!”, the guard ordered, handing him the mop and bucket.
The Slave did as he was told, and walked towards the castle. it was almost dusk now, and a gentle wind filled the air, the sun filled the sky with a beautiful orange. If he wasn’t a slave, perhaps he would have enjoyed it, he thought. He arrived at the spill and began to mop away the mess. He was keeping to himself when he could help but notice something. He noticed that the steward was sneaking into the kitchen. Strange, the slave thought, at this time of day only the Castle Chef would go in the kitchen, but that was only to grab something particular, like a special bottle of wine or a dessert for the king to enjoy.
Curiosity gripped the slave, the sense of rebellion that once plagued his mind plagued him once more, he walked up to the kitchen door mop in hand, he gently opened the kitchen door and looked in. Inside he saw the steward opening a bottle of wine, he then pulled out a tiny vial filled with an unknown substance. He opened the vial and poured the substance into the bottle. The slave shocked and confused by what he was seeing, pulled away and returned to where he originally was. He acted like he was moping while he thought about what he had seen. What was in the vial? Was it poison?
Eventually, the steward appeared from the kitchen and walked quickly towards the Great Hall, not even noticing the slave down the hallway. Again, curiosity gripped his mind. Making sure no one was watching, he headed into the kitchen. The wine bottle was placed in an empty wine rack. The vial on the hand, was hidden behind one of the stoves. The slave smelled the vial and recognized its contents instantly, it was tyleleaf. A poison notoriously used for assassinations. The slave remembered his father teaching him about when he was younger.
“It’s a perfect poison, it doesn’t kill quickly, it will stay in the body until, completely at random, it kills you.” His father would always say concerning it.
His father, who was nobility, had a paranoia about assassinations so he knew poisons very well, and made sure his sons knew it too.
This was tyleleaf, a notorious poison, in the king’s wine. He thought about what he should do, and he considered something sinister. Perhaps he should do nothing at all. He recalled all the suffering he had endured under the king’s rule, he decided to walk away, believing what he was doing to be completely in the name of justice. He walked down the hallway trying to not think about what had just happened, but he couldn’t help it. He began to feel guilty, he knew it was wrong to let the king die like this. He became very conflicted and he knew it still wasn’t too late to prevent this. He made his decision, he was better than this, he couldn’t let him die. He turned around and quickly headed back towards the Great Hall. He had never entered into it before; slaves weren’t allowed in but he supposed that this would be an exception. Before going in, he looked the kitchen to see the wine was still there, it wasn’t. He grabbed the empty vial and he ran into the Great hall. It was almost too late; they were handing the king his cup.
“No!” The slave shouted at the king. “It’s poisoned!”
The whole room went silent, everyone looked at him with puzzlement. The slave looked to the king, and was relieved to find that he had not yet taken a sip from his cup but what about to be served Royal Drink Taster. A man whose job consisted of drinking and eating from the king’s meals to check for poison.
“What is the meaning of this servant?” the Steward finally said to the slave.
“You poisoned the kings wine! I saw you in the kitchen.” The slave exclaimed.
The king then spoke up in a silent yet booming voice, “Poison? What is the meaning of this Titus?! Explain yourself. Now!”.
“Sir, my dear lord, this servant of yours is trying to frame me, I would never do such a treasonous task as assassination.” The steward replied with confidence in his speech, but fear in his eyes.
“If I may speak sir,” Begin the Drink Taster, “I did in fact taste your wine, I can assure you I feel quite well and I don’t believe there is any poison at all in this drink”.
“That’s because it was tyleleaf! A poison I am quite familiar with, it’s a very subtle poison that kills very slowly and is difficult to detect in drinks.” He then revealed the empty poison vial to king as evidence against the steward.
A look of fear filled the Drink Taster’s face, he sat down in his chair and was silent. Then the steward talked into kings ear, “do not listen to this servant, he is a-“
The king interrupted him, “Servant? This is no servant of mine, he’s in rags! I’d sooner believe him to be a beggar than a servant of the King. Who is he?”
“Well sir, he is a field-hand.”
“I do not believe you Titus. I will ask him myself”, the king then turned to the slave, “Who are you?”
The slave replied, “I am Hadrian, son of the lord Benjamin, 12th heir to House Cassius in Westhold. But despite my gentle birth, I am now a slave under King Grenweld of the Kathara Isles.”
The King’s face lit up with rage, “What? Slave?! There are no slaves in my court, it is forbidden. What is the meaning of this?”
Hadrian was confused, did the king not know that there were slaves in his court? When he thought about it, it all made sense, the steward always kept the slaves as far from the king as possible, perhaps the steward had bought the slaves without the king’s knowledge.
“Sir, I can assure that I am in fact a slave, we are held down in the dungeon of the servant’s wings, we’ve served you for years.”
One of the guards standing vigilant spoke up, “My king, if I may so bold as to speak, I can testify that what this man says is true, I have personally guarded the slaves under the orders of Steward Titus, this man is a slave.”
The king began to calm down from his anger, “Court Stewart Titus of Coiron, I regret to tell that you must be arrested, I have reason to believe you are at fault.”
The Steward shook with anxiety, and stammered in his speech, “Sir, uhh, I umm, you can’t possibly, uhh”.
“Enough! Now, guards arrest him until the grand inquisitor can completely prove if he is guilty.”
The guards pressed forward to arrest him, but then the steward let out a scream.
“No!” and he pulled out a knife and went to attack the king but he was too late, the guards unsheathed their blades and sliced the knife out of the Steward’s hand, taking several fingers off without. The Steward let out a shriek that soon became a death filled grunt as a sword was thrust into his belly.
He fell to the floor, blood pooled around him. He was dead.