Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"Long enough," Aleric grinned. He entered the stall far enough to lean against the gate.
"I suppose you think I'm a leech." Delrayna stared at her master.
"I think it's a little late to start worrying about that." Aleric stared hard at Delrayna. "You made your choice when you burned my name into your leg. Now, Eva is willing to teach you how to cook and I am willing for you to learn.'
Delrayna turned on her heel and stomped over to the ice box. She pulled out a piece of meat and all but threw it at Eva.
Eva just grinned as she took the meat. "Now watch closely," she instructed as she slipped th e meat into the pan. Soon the meat was sizzling. "The trick is to remember that meat has two sides, and both should be evenly cooked. Not charred on one side and raw on the other."
Delrayna watched as Eva checked one side. She did it by using the edge of a knife to lift up one side amd peering under it. She was quite happy with Aleric doing the cooking chores, despite any comments she might have nade about not being a good slave. Those were mostly for show anyway.
"See," Eva caught Delrayna's attention. She had flipped the piece of meet in the pan. "See how evenly that is browned? Do this enough times, and you get a feel for how long each side needs to be cooked." She waited for a period of time, that Delrayna judged to be approximately the same amount of time the first had been cooked for. Eva flipped the meat over, and Delrayna saw that it appeared as evenly cooked as the other.
"So, if both sides look the same then it's cooked?"
"Nope," Eva answered Delrayna's question. "But close. Now, we check to see if the meat is done." She turned to look at Aleric. "How do you like your meat?"
"Medium," Aleric grinned. Maybe owning a slave might not be so bad.
"Touch it," Eva told Delrayna.
"What?" Delrayna stared at Eva.
"Touch the meat."
"But it's hot," Delrayna.
"Just touch the meat," Eva said. "I guaranteee it won't feel as bad as the brand you applied to your leg."
"Delrayna," prodded a voice from behind.
Reluctanty Delrayna put oput a finger and poked the meat with it.
"What did it feel like," Eva asked.
"Like hot meat."
Eva rolled her eyes. "Was it squashy, not so squashy, or firm?"
"Not so squashy," Delrayna said.
Eva prodded tjhe meat with her finger. "Not so squashy it is, just a bit longer. See, when you cook something, you're removing water. Raw meat is squashy, because it has lots of juices. Well done meat is firm, because all the juices have been cooked away. Keep that in mind, and your master will be a happy master. Feel it now."
Delrayna did as she was told.
"Aleric said he liked his meat medium. It feel's medium now." She speared the meat out of the pan, and sliced a piece off. "See no red. Raw to medium will have red in it." Eva cut the meat into three pieces. Delrayna reached for one only to get her fingers rapped with the knife in Eva's hand. Delrayna looked startled.
"Masters eat first," Eva said curtly.
A soft chortle told Delrayna that Aleric was quite enjoying the show.
"Get a plate and some cutlery," Eva instructed Delrayna. "Place a piece of meat on it and present it to Aleric. It's not a full meal, as it has nothing to go with the meat, but there's no need to be rude about it. Place it in front of him, do not plunk it down. Remember, he is your master and deserves your respect and obedience. While he eats, I'll take the pan down to the stream and clean it."
"I'll go with you," Delrayna saw a way to escape this.
"And how will you attend to your master's needs if you are not here," Eva asked. She found it difficult to hide the glee she was feeling. It wasn't that Eva wanted to look down on Delrayna. Eva looked on slavery as a lifestyle, one that she enjoyed. Sure there were many inequities to that life, but the laws that governed slavery protected the slave more than they did the master. Eva knew many slaves that had chosen that protection over the vagaries of freedom, but they had all attached themselves to Masters that were willing to take them on as their slaves. Delrayna, as far as Eva could gather, had attached herself to a Master that had shown no interest in owning a slave. That, as far as Eva was concerned, was just plain wrong and, while she didn't want to show it, she had no qualms in finding amusement in Delrayna being required to be a slave. "You chose to be a slave so be one."
Delrayna stared at Eva.
"He's not my master," Eva stated. "It is your place to see that he has what he needs to enjoy his meal. Not mine." Eva disappeared with the pan. leaving Delrayna to glower, leaning against a wall.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Er ah sorry," stammered a flustered Delrayna. "I, ah, never really learned how to cook."
"Your Master is okay with this?" Eva speared a piece of meat and held it up. It was charred black on one side and raw on the other.
"Good man," Eva murmered, and raised an amused eyebrow. "You must be good in bed."
"It's been my experience that a man thinks about two things. His stomach or his bed. You can't cook so you must be good at bedding."
"He hasn't touched me," Delrayna squeaked. "At least not that way."
"Then why...," Eva gaped at Delrayna. The a slow smile slid across her lips. "You did it yourself, didn't you girl."
"What," Delrayna repeated.
"You made yourself his slave."
"Men are selfish. They don't take slaves unless there's something in it for them. You can't cook and he doesn't bed you..."
"I told you how that happened," Delrayna interrupted.
"You also told me that you wanted out from under your sister's thumb," Eva said, a harsh note entering her voice. "He could have left you at the nearest town, or just ridden off." Eva stared at Delrayna. "That's what he wanted to do wasn't it?" Delrayna stared back defiantly. "You leeched yourself onto the first half way decent man that came along didn't you?"
"What else was I supposed to do? It was either that or spend the rest of my life under Sarah's thumb, or as a whore."
"Better a whore than a leech," Eva snapped. "And what's between you and your sister anyway."
"She a selfish bitch," Delrayna practically shouted. "Why do you think I never learned to cook? Because she was always right there, making sure that she got the attention that Mama needed to give to me, so she could teach me how to cook. It's not like Sarah wanted to learn to cook, or cared about my wanting to learn to cook, or anything else. It was about her being the center of attention. Always her, and when she got magic. It wasn't enough that she was finally going to get a life where she could be the center of attention and be catered to, it was how Mama had stolen her birthright and needed to be punished. And how she was going to rescue me from a life of drudgery and how I would come to appreciate her and love her for what she did for me. She wanted to use me to punish my folks, and to cater to her."
"Well that won't happen now," Eva told her caustically. She grabbed a poker and spread out the coals in Delrayna's brazier. She grabbed a pan and slammed it on, dropping in a bit of pig grease.
"What are you doing?"
"Teaching you how to cook. Slaves don't always get to have a choice in their Masters. You might eventually have one that requires you to cook, and he deserves better than that." Eva waved at the trash bin where she'd scraped off her plate.
"You can't," Delrayna started to protest.
"Actually," a voice said from behind them. Both girls turned to see Aleric standing there. "She can."
Monday, March 16, 2009
Aleric chose a seat near the men and signalled for the barkeep. A pitcher of Ale, he ordered and glasses for my friends."
"Hey," a sloshed voice called out. "We ain't your..." The voice clamped off as shekels clinked onto the bar.
Aleric grinned as he eyed his new found companions.
"It is said," He said conversatiionally. "That the Glorious One comes to Osoyoos. Another shekel hit the bar. A coin that soon disappeared into a grimy hand, but not before the Ale was delivered and the glasses poured. Aleric took care not to let his companions know that he'd seen the owner of the hand.
"Aye," a voice said. "He does, runs the Hed Sed there. Like we care if he can rule the world or no."
Another coin fell on the bar.
"He may not this year."
"He did not reach Osoyoos, though it's said that his chariot did."
"A bit of free advice," The barkeep wandered over polishing a glass. "The Guard's antsy, and will be asking about strangers that nose about." He paused and studied Aleric's features. "What do you know?"
"Nothing," Aleric grunted. More coins landed on the bar as he ordered another pitcher of ale for his friends.
Monday, March 9, 2009
"Did you see someone else," Sarah sniggered as she put the lid back on a pot of cosmetics she's confiscated from a first year apprentice.
Cynthia thought a moment. "Well I did see that Anekhsenamun kid..."
"And she was walking funny."
"Not that I noticed."
Sarah's eyes narrowed as she turned to face Cynthia. That was clearly not the answer she was expecting. "Was she at least crying?"
"Was she supposed to be?"
"I sent her to Triboda with a note saying that she had refused Priest Jeremy..."
"Who's Priest Jeremy?''
Sarah rolled her eyes. "There is no Priest Jeremy. There never was a Priest Jeremy..."
"Because Anekhsenamun, and who names their daughter that, was a little too independent for her britches and needed taking down a peg or two. Can you imagine she actually refused to do what I asked. And all because she wanted to go to class."
"She needs her education."
"Why? She already knew how to scry. That's all I needed."
"Well Triboda is really steamed. You might want to ease up a bit."
"I'll ease up when I have Delrayna here, where she should be.," Sarah snapped. "Besides, what can Triboda do to me? I'm the High Priest's favourite."
"What so important about having Delrayna here?"
"Because she wanted to stay down on the farm with those people. After what they did to me."
"But she's not there any more. Didn't you say she was some barbarian's slave? She won't be accepted here."
"I'm not going to let my sister be slave to some ignorant savage," Sarah hissed. "I'm going to bring her here and they are going to accept her or they're going to find out the power the Priest's Favourite can wield."
"Didn't she enslave herself," Cynthia asked.
"If the little bitch wants to be a slave then she can be my slave and then I'll ease up on the underlings."
"What was it this time," a sympathetic voice came from the main counter. Mistress Triboda glanced up to see the clerk standing beside the counter.
"Anekhsenamun refused Priest Jeremy." Mistress Triboda particularly hated the fact that the OWETR actually realised that the Priests were men, and that men had needs and actively recruited girls to fill that need. Something that she had brought up time and time again, and had been shot down time and time again. With the same old tired excuse that it meant that the Priest would keep hands off children and. anyway, the Priestesses over at the competing World Delphic Religion did the same thing. Just in reverse. Every time Mistress Triboda heard that piece of logic her right arm started to tingle. True, the Priests were supposed to confine their needs to those who wished to learn the baser ritualistic types of magic, but it didn't always work out that way.
"Ummm, there is no Priest Jeremy here." The clerk looked confused.
"And I'm willing to bet," Misress Triboda snarled, "that none came calling either."
"Then how...," the clerk began. "Ap Nud," she finished.
"A sealed note," Mistress Triboda said, finishing writing up the punishment log, and slamming the folder back into the drawer. "I'm willing to bet Anekhsenamun knew what was in it too."
"And did you..."
"I gave her the standard lecture, then I put a pillow over her butt and gave her the strokes she had coming. Just so I could record the infraction, the fact that she had come to me, and had received the required amount of strokes." Mistress Triboda sighed. "I'd go to the Priest but Ap Nud's his favourite and he's got a rather blind eye when it comes to her."
"Maybe if you wrote a letter to their parents," the clerk suggested. "About how their daughters are being treated."
"What good would that do?"
"Probably not much," the clerk admitted. "Most of them are gullible enough that the Priest will win them around. Eventually. But it might be enough to delay donations and Luxor is begging for cash."
"Might be worth a try." Mistress Triboda thought. "Okay, give me addresses for the thirds years and below. Those are the ones she usually terrorizes."
Sunday, March 8, 2009
"I got enough hair for a couple more views," Nekki yawned and rubbed her eyes, cursing the day they had found out that she was good at scrying. She looked at her closest friend. "I'm interested because I don't want Ap Nud going nutso all over my ass."
"She still sending you to Mistress Triboda?"
Nekki nodded. "I kind of hope that if I can keep Mistress Ap Nud happy she won't keep sending me. Even Triboda's getting tired of it."
"But not so tired that she lets you off."
"You know she can't do that, and she never looks at me with anything less than the stern expression she's got welded to her face." Nekki grimaced. "You know how she likes to have you lay over three pillows when she wants to get in a good swing?"
"She's having me lay over two and covers my butt with the third."
"Whacks the pillow instead of me," Nekki finished. "Still though, if I can keep from being sent to her..."
"So," Clarissa rolled out of her bed and went over to sit beside Nekki. She peered into the mirror but could see nothing. "Telepathy was her thing, not scrying. "What's happening?"
"Delrayna, I guess her name is, is reading tarot cards." Nekki peered into the mirror. "She's using four cards, which doesn't really give the whole picture. She'd be much better off using a five card spread."
"Well," said Clarissa, if I could see her I could teletell her."
"She's in Penticton, you couldn't reach her there. Besides you have tom see her before you can teletell her anything. At least the first time. And you can't see her because you can not scry her."
"But," said Clarissa, "I can see you and if I can look inside your mind and see the image that you are seeing then maybe I can teletell her how to read the cards properly."
Nekki looked at her friend. "You really think you can."
Clarissa just grinned and sat cross legged and started some deep breathing excersizes. As she did so she imagined herself reaching our to embrace Nekki, slipping inside of her, seeing what she saw. Slowly an image formed inside her. An image of a stall, and a girl prodding at four cards, looking as if she was trying to make sense of it. "You're not doing it right," Clarissa thought. "Let me help..."
The girl in the image jerked, and the image was gone.
"I got a head ache," Nekki groaned.
Delrayna had a splitting headache. She'd been sitting in her stall when a voice had clearly said that she was, doing it right. Doing what right, and who had said it. There was no one in her stall and Mathilda was sitting on a stool near the entrance to the barn.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
"For how many," the pimply faced boy asked.
"Just me and my slave," Aleric answered.
"Two, a haorse and a mule."
"That'll be one single room and three stalls." The boy started writing in a book. Aleric stopped him.
"I hae only two animals."
"Yes Sir. That'll be one stall for your horse, one stall for your mule and one stall for your slave."
"Why can't she sleep in the Inn, share my room."
"We used to allow that sir, placing extra cots in the rooms for slaves. However that would lead to brawls if a guest interfered with another guest's property, or gave the appearance of doing so. Since most of our guests also frequent the taverns, we decided it best to remove temptation from their paths. Our stalls are clean sir, and your slave will be provided with a cot,and adequate bedding, no different than what you'll find on your own bed. She will have a small table for her use, and a brazier to supply warmth. For however long you are with us." The Innkeeper looked over his shoulder. "Mathilda," he called.
"Whaddya want Jon?" A massive woman came out of the back room. She was massive, not massive fat, massive muscular. She had blond hair, blue eyes, and a broad face. "I'm just getting off shift and I wann go home."
"You working the barn tonight."
"You know it," she growled. "Got three girls and a boy out there. Not that they're much company, sawing logs like they do, even louder than the animals, I swear. No activity, no nothing. Why?"
"This guest has some concerns about billeting his slave in the barn."
"Why my company not good enough for her?" Mathilda gave Alaric the once over. "You can rest easy sir, she'll be safe enough. Nothing ever happens on my watch. Never has and never will. " Mathilda winked. "Why don't you go on down to the Tavern and Jon boy here'll get you and your slave all fixed up right properly, and I'll be along to see that her beauty rest is not disturbed."
"Damn!" Delrayna cursed. She must not have mixed the cards right. For an hour now she'd been shuffling the tarot cards, getting a feel for them, and laying them out in a simple pattern. Of course it would help if she knew what they were casting for, but this four card layout. It was supposed to allow the Tarot to instinctively pick up on her energy and give her hints. What they were telling her was to evalutate everything carefully, rise above pettiness and not to overburden herself, to focus her emotions and to fullfill promises made. The only major promise she'd made int he last while was to be a slave. She'd even sealed the bargain with a brand.
Eva didn't seem to mind being a slave. The two of them had spent the day moving around the Market and talking. Eva had admitted to being enslaved at an early age, so didn't really know what it meant to be free. Except that free people didn't seem to be all that happy. Because they had to grow up, be mature, take responsibility for their own lives. They didn't have Masters to take responsibility for them so they didn't have as much time in their lives for carefree fun and laughter.
They'd run into Della at the Apple Seller's booth. What he had didn't look all that good, but they were cheap, and some of the more bruised. the Apple Seller let them have, free, so they wouldn't drag down the quality of his other apples. Eva grabbed a couple and tossed one to Delarayna before grabbing a couple more. Della sniffed and picked a couple better one which she had to pay for.
Eva ran off, leaving Delrayna with Della. There was a slight disgusted look on Della's face, but she agreed to walk Delrayna back to the Inn. They talked on the way.
Della didn't like being a slave. She'd been born to a dirt poor mothr, who'd barely been able to eke out a living for herself and Della. Her father had run off and left them with next to nothing. Della seemed to take pride that even though the roof over their heads was a wooden sidewalk, or a rat infested crate, they were free. Then she had been captured, marked as a slave. She dressed better, ate better, had a room and warmth at night. But she longed for freedom, even if it meant starving in the streets, and looked down on those that accepted their slavery.
When they reached the Inn, Delrayna watched as Dellla marched stiffly away. Della had asked how she had been enslaved. Delrayna had told her about the ambush, and her Master coming along and saving her life. She didn't tell Della that she had practically forced herself on her Master, and felt a twinge of guilt because it felt like too much of a lie.
Aleric entered the stall and hunkered down against the far wall. Delrayna glanced at him. "They told me you were at the Tavern."
"I was," Aleric grunted. "Hoping that someone there would know something."
"Like about the Pharoah running the Hed-Sed in Osoyoos." Aleric jerked his head up. " Should have asked a slave."
"Did this slave say when the Hed-Sed was going to be run?"
"No," Delrayna answered.
"So either the Pharoah was not travelling with his crown and will show up in Osoyoos. Or he did travell with his crown and was captured."
Friday, February 27, 2009
"Yassm," Delrayna said. She and Aleric had entered the Penticton Open Market that morning, and she was doing some shopping while Aleric found some rooms at the inn and visited the local tavern. "It did, er it still does."
"Oh you don't have to yassm me," the woman laughed. "I'm a slave too. I'm Eva."
"Delrayna? Usually Masters choose simple names for their slaves. Makes it easier to remember, especially if they have more than one."
"Its the one my parents gave me," Delrayna admitted, wondering if she should ask Aleric to give her new one. "Should I..."
"Oh never mind. Your Master will give you a new one if he wants to. Or if you ask. Some slaves do, to sort of separate themselves from their former lives, when they were free." Eva cocked her head to one side. "Say, didn't I see you riding in after that handsome hunk of a barbarian. Tall black hair, broad shoulders, muscles."
"He's mine," Delrayna muttered, not liking the gleam in the other girl's eyes.
"Not till next week he's not."
"What's next week?"
"Slave Master day." Eva looked at Delrayna, who was walking beside her, glancing at the booths they passed. "You really haven't been doing this long have you?"
"Not really," Delrayna said. "Only a few weeks. "What's Slave Master day?"
"Oh it's great fun, we do it once a year and have a party and all. You see, you become your Master's Master and he becomes your slave, for a day. "
Delrayna sounded dubious. "You'd think they wouldn't allow that."
"Most of the Masters go along because its expected of them, while some would have it abolished, and others think its great fun. Slaves are encouraged to treat their Masters the way they've been treated. The temple watches and they can infer how the slaves are treated by the way the slavers treat their masters."
"But, won't my Master punish me for that?"
"It would be unfair to punish a slave for what was done on Slave Master day, though some do. Those are usually the ones the Temple tries to watch for. Most take their licks in good sport and let bygones be bygones. But if your Master does punish you for something you did on Slave-Master day then you can take it to the Temple and your Master will have to prove that your punishment had nothing to do with Slave-Master day. For the first week, or two, the Temple will be inclined to take your word over your Master's, and if any punishments are scheduled most Masters try and have them cleared up before Slave-Master day. So there's no misunderstandings."
Delrayna thought about that while they wandered through the crowds. She kept an eye out for an that sold magic stuff as she wanted to purchase a deck of Tarot Cards. It was crowded and most people seemed friendly enough, even smiling at them. So she was surprised to see one girl, walking alone, and seeming to be treated with disdain by the others. She mentioned it to Eva.
"Oh Della," Eva sniffed. "She's a slave."
"But we're slaves, and we're not treated the way she is."
"People like honesty. Della tried to hide her being a slave. We're not. We're, letting it all hang out."
Delrayna thought about that, while spotting a booth that sold magic stuff. She found a stack of Tarot Cards and started to shuffle through them, looking for one that was inexpensive but of decent quality.
"Tarot Cards?" Eva frowned. "Are you a witch?"
I was supposed to be one," Delrayna said, setting aside a brilliantly coloured deck and picking up a faded deck. "I was on my way to the Temple, in Vernon, when I became a slave." Delrayna looked from one deck to the other and finally settled on the cheaper deck. She was rummaging in her pouch for the scrip when Eva interrupted.
"You don't want that one."
Delrayna looked over her shoulder at Eva. "Are you a witch?"
"Nope," Eva grinned. "Not hardly, but you are your Master's property aren't you?"
"Well, yes, I guess.."
"That means that your a reflection of your Master and your Master's not going to want to look like he's a piker now does he?"
"Well I guess not.."
"And it's your duty to do your part in seeing that your Master is not seen to be a piker." Eva grinned at the shopkeeper. "She'll take that one." Eva pointed at the colourful more expensive deck.
"Can I ask you a question," Delrayna paid for the cards and wondered how she was going to explain the added expense to Aleric.
"Sure, Eva called gaily over her shoulder, as long as I get to ask one."
"Is the Pharoah coming here?"
Eva giggled and lowered her voice. "Well, we're not supposed to know this, being slaves and all, but the scuttlebutt is that he's supposed to run the Hed-Sed in Osoyoos."
"Yeah. He going to carry a stone while running up a mountain. That's how he shows us that he can still be Pharoah."
"Now it's my turn to ask a question," Eva told her. "But first, we'll get something to eat. We can eat in the park, while you answer my question."
Very shortly after, the two girls were seated in the park, biting into greasy slabs of fried pork wrapped in some kind of flat bread.
"Now, I want to know all about you," Eva said.
"So I can go home and tell my Mistress, who's really a gossip-whore and knows that slaves get all the juicy bits. So feel free to fill in details."
"I was born on a farm, me, Mom Dada and Sarah, my older sister."Delrayna wondered how much was safe to tell her. "Dad was just a farmer, but Mom was a Witch who'd left the Temple when her hitch was up. They wanted her to sign up again but she never really wanted that life in the first place. In fact, she never even told us that she was a witch. She was kind of hoping that magic would just pass us by and leave her be. But that was not to be. Sarah was the first to show magic, and I can remember her screaming at Mom for not telling her about her birthright. Mom said she wanted to protect her. Sarah screamed that all Mom wanted was to keep her down on the farm, scratching at dirt. That she was better than that and Mom had no right to deny her a chance at the better things in life.
Oh we weren't rich, but we never lacked for the essentials either. It wasn't enough for Sarah, but it was for me though."
"You didn't want to be a witch?"
"I loved the land. I was born on a farm, I would have been happy living on a farm, dying on a farm. It was a good life and I wanted it."
"But you got magic?"
"I got magic," Delrayna confirmed. "And I got a letter from Sarah saying that it was time that I realized that I was meant for more than just a farmer's wife, that I had magic and I should be gratefull because I could leave the land and my parents behind. She specifically said that I should leave them behind. That they had no right to my love, which should be turned towards her in gratitude for finding me a place in the Temple."
"They were just letters. Couldn't you just ignore them?"
"I did and Sarah sent another which I also ignored. But I couldn't ignore a summons from the Priest."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Nekki groaned. There was only one person in all the Temple, besides the High Priest, who used her full name. Clarissa gave her a look of sympathy before hurrying into the class room.
"Mistress Ap Nud," Nekki made eye contact with the 'High Bitch of the Temple', as she was called by the lower years, though never to her face. The contact was brief and intended to let Sarah know that Nekki had heard and understood that Sarah wished to speak with her. Once contact was made, Nekki was careful to keep her eyes downcast and to appear as subserviant as she could.
"Your teachers inform me that you excel at scrying."
"Yes Mistress. Thank you Mistress."
"You have your glass with you?"
"Good follow me."
"Mistress," Nekki paniced. "I have classes Mistress."
"Then, when your classes are over," Sarah glared at the young apprentice who would place her own petty needs over Sarah's, "find me."
"Aleric son of Aleric." Sarah glared at the image in the glass, Nekki cowered in front of.
As soon as Nekki had appeared at her room, Sarah had jerked her inside and slammed the door shut behind her. "You can set up there," she pointed to a small table.
Nekki had wasted no time in covering it with a cloth of white linen, and placing her obsidian mirror on top of it. Round, black, and concave, it had its own stand, that held it at a forty five degree angle. Nekki placed to bowls on either side of the mirror. Into each she placed a lit stick of lunar incense. She sank to her knees before it and closed her eyes.
"What do I seek Mistress?"
"Do you have something of your sister, Mistress."
"I have a piece of her hair." Sarah had kept a few strands aside when the image of Apep had been made. "Two strands should be enough."
"That would be more than enough Mistress. Please, if you would, place a strand in each bowl so that it burns with the incense."
"Are your hands broken?"
"I am honoured to perform this service for you Mistress," Nekki chose her words carefully. "As well I should be. "I want to do this right and the sweat of my palms might alter the scry."
"Why would your hands be sweaty," Sarah asked with a smirk. "Surely you are not scared of me."
"Please Mistress," Nekki begged.
"Oh very well." Nekki heard a brief rustling as Sarah moved around her, and then there was the sharp tang of burning hair. "Done," sad Sara. "Satisfied?"
"Thank you Mistress."
Silently Nekki began to center herself, and took slow deep breathes, chanting inana with each inhalation and exhalation. She asked the gods to show the girl who belonged to the hair. The mirror cleared and an image formed, deep and smoky within its depths.
"The little fool went and got herself branded," Sarah seethed, speaking aloud and forgetting, for a moment that Nekki was in the room. But only for a moment.
"Gather your things," she told the frightened girl. "Mistress Triboda is waiting for you."
Mistress Triboda stood. at the door of her chambers, and watched Nekki stumble away. It was her task to be the Temple's Disciplinarian. A task she carried out efficiently and strictly in accordance with Temple Law.
An Apprentice could be disciplined for any reason by any one of her teachers, her den mother, an older Apprentice. Usually the reasons were good and sound. Sometimes the reasons bordered on the petty. But none so petty or self centered as the reasons Mistress Ap Nud would send a girl running to her door. They always made Mistress Triboda feel like she was part of Mistrees Ap Nud's pettiness, and she did not like it.
She looked forward to the day that she would open her door and see Mistress Ap Nud, the 'High Bitch of theTemple,' standing there.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
She was dressed now though. In one of the few summer dresses she had brought from home. With the right side altered. So that her mark of ownership could be easily displayed. Aleric scowled when he'd seen that. A caustic remark had leaped to the tip of her tongue, but remained there. Delrayna had grown up around enough males to know the warning signs.
Aleric was still angry. Not as angry as he had been yesterday. Angry enough that she didn't fancy the idea of testing her limits. Today, and maybe even tomorrow, she would be the meek, the mild, the obedient, little slave.
They had been riding half a day now. Delrayna had been careful not to let too much distance get between her and Aleric, and to always be sure that she kept her mouth shut. She'd been watching the l;ake shore, already it waas showing rapid signs of sinking back into the grounds. The days of Horus' Wrath were truly upon them.
She was the first to spot the golden object in the sand.
"What are you doing," Aleric growled. He had seen her drop off her mule, and try to gert closer for a better look.
"There's something in the sand."
"There." Delrayna pointed to the gleaming object. "I'm going to get it. " She started forward, climbing down the shallow embankment to the lake's sandy bottom. Her feet sank in about half a foot.
"Wait," Aleric commanded gruffly. With slow deliberate movements, he pushed his horse out onto the lake floor. He dismounted and handed the lead to Delrayna. "Stay."
Aleric's feet sunk deeper into the sand, and he appeared to sink as he removed two boards from his pack, which was much larger than the one tied to the back of Delrayna's mule. Tying them to his feet, he was able to move faster. He took one more look to fasten the object's location and was off. Delrayna gritted her teeth in frustration, but she had promised.
She watched as Aleric squatted by the object, and used something, probably a dagger, to pry it out of the sand. He returned with it swinging in his hand, and Delrayna grew more uncomfortable with every approaching step. "Stop," she cried when Aleric was still five paces awy. "That's close enough."
"Put it down in the sand."
"What," Aleric repeated himself. Then he saw the look on her face. He couldn't say why, but he let his fingers slacken and dropped the object in the sand.
"Move away from it." Aleric did so.
"Why, what is it?"
"Its the double crown. Worn by Pharoah and there is something dark about it."
That was all Aleric could think while leading the way down the valley. He was still angry. That could be easily seen by the way he sat stiffly in his saddle, the way he kept a modrerate trot, forcing Delrayna's mule to keep pace. Normally he would have allowed a little distance between then, knowing that Delrayna would catch up before allowing herself to get too far behind.
But this time, Aleric had taken the mule's lead rope and tied it to his horse's tail. Delrayna had objected to this, saying that such treatment was reserved for children who did not yet know how to guide their steeds. He'd told her to shut up, that he'd be well within his rights to whip her backside raw and then tie her to his horse's tail, forcing her to run behind.
In this world, there were strict laws governing the treatment of slaves.
By becoming his slave, Delrayna had consented to becoming his property. To be treated as he wished. To be commanded as he wished. To be controled as he wished. To be punished as he wished.
By becoming his slave, Delrayna had forced him to see that no unnecesssary risk was placed to her safety, even if it meant risk to his own.
It was a harsh world and many a master had died of hunger or thirst becauase to do otherwise would have meant withholding life giving food and water from a slave.
Aleric had not wanted a slave. He still did not and had harboured the thought that if he could find the right circumstances, he could leave her behind. Carry on with his life. Moving from one place to the next as fancy or jobs dictated.
She might as well have branded him. By marking herself his, she had forced him into a relationship tighter than even the most draconian marriage bond. A wife could be divorced, abandoned, walked away from, far easier than any marked slave.
And what the bloody hell did she mean with this constant whine...
"Are we there yet?"
Friday, February 20, 2009
Aleric tore her hands aweay, and the cloth she was using to protect her fingers. He saw the strip of metal, saw the glyphs, felt the heat. Delrayna Ap Nud had branded herself. Red rage filled his eyes and without thinking about what he was doing, Aleric flipped the metal away. Delrayna's shriek assaulted his ears.
"Aleric son of Aleric" was clearly branded on her right thigh.
His eyes found hers. "What have you done," he snarled.
"What you should have done." Delrayna glared at him through pain and fury filled eyes. "Marked me as your slave."
Aleric's knuckles whitened against the hilt of his sword. It took almost a physical effort to keep the tip of it's blade resting in the ground. "I should kill you for what you have done."
"I did only what you should have done."
"You marked something that was mine."
"I touched nothing that was yours."
"My slave. My property! Mine!."
Aleric stalked over to his pack and returned with a knife. Delrayna's eyes widened, and Aleric thought he saw a hint of fear, that was gone almost before he tossed the knife to the ground.
"Put some salve on it," he commanded. "Then go and cut me a switch. I have some questions and if I do not like the answers you will have some more marks to contemplate while riding your mule."
Delrayna returned just as Aleric was finishing his breakfast. Her arms and legs bore the marks of moving through thick brush, and she carried a three foot stick, which was about as thick as her middle finger. Aleric took it from her and whipped it through the air.
"You have questions?" The bite of anger was quite clear in her voice.
"Why did you mark my slave?"
"Because you did not, and I had no belonging. A belonging I would not have until I was marked."
"You had belonging. You gave yourself to me as my slave. You knew that and I knew that. Marking was not necessary."
"It was necessary. To me. To anyone that found me. It was important that I be marked as yours."
"A man marks what is his. What he values. I could not bear to have less value than your horse."
Aleric's eyes bulged, and he forced his fingers to open, letting the switch fall to the ground. His arm itched to use it for its intended purpose. Delrayna kneeled down to lift it up from the dirt.
"Why did you become my slave?"
"Because I had no choice." Delrayna's voice was firm and emotionless. She offered him the switch. Aleric refused to take it. "I was sent from home to be an apprentice at the Temple in Vernon. My father and my Brothers were killed on the way. So were the guards that accompanied us. I was raped, no longer qualified to be an apprentice. No man would have me for a wife. The only thing left to me was to be a slave or to be a prostitute. A two-bit whore, offering my services to the scum of the earth, for a stale crust and a lice ridden mat. Even slavery is better than that." Delrayna took a deep ragged breath before continuing. "I chose slavery and I chose the man that would own me."
"Why did you choose me?"
"Because you did not take me, when you had the chance, and then discard me ." Delrayna glared at him. "Because you could have left me behind and you did not."
Aleric stared at the girl. He was still angry. Too angry to take up the switch and do what his right arm still ached to do. She would take the beating. He knew that. He also knew that it would solve nothing and waste the day while she recovered.
"Get on your mule," he ordered, kicking dirt onto the fire. "We're leaving."
"How about some breakfast?"
"I've already eaten."
"Can I at least cover myself?"
Aleric paused. He had forgotten that Delrayna was still unclothed.
Monday, February 16, 2009
The door opened and a new apprentice entered. "Mistress," she asked, "are you harmed?" The apprentice spotted the bowl. "Oh, let me get that..."
"Leave it," Sarah snapped. The apprentice jerked back. :What were you doing outside my door?"
"Nothing Mis-Mistress," the apprentice, hardly more than a child, stammered. "I was passing by when I heard you shout..."
"Passing by," Sarah asked, her voice barely more than a whisper. "To where?"
"Mistress Triboda," the apprentice answered with a subdued voice and a bowed head. "I have a session with her."
Sarah winced taking care not to let it show. Mistress Triboda was the Temple's Disciplinarian and she well remembered her own sessions with the tall stern faced woman.
"You had a session with Mistress Triboda," Sarah almost purred at the Apprentice, who was now growing visibally frightened. "And instead you chose to enter my chambers."
"Yes, but you..."
"Ask Mistress Triboda to lay on a couple extra stripes to remind you that your nose should be kept firmly in something that is clearly your business and not mine."
"Why are you still here?"
The Apprentice fled.
Sarah Ap Nud sighed and grabbed a small whisk broom and pan before stalking towards the mess. Such petty revenge bullying a first year apprentice. But it would have to do until Sarah had her sister snivelling at her feet.
Sarah knelt down and glared at the knotted string. It had taken her hours to knot Delrayna's name into the black cord. It should have been easy to burn, thus destroying her sister's name. But it didn't burn. It didn't even scorch, she noted, as she swept it up into the pan, along with the sand and ashes.
Delrayna must have surrounded herself with an Aura of Protection. Something she should not have been able to so.
Sarah dropped the debris into the waste bin. She turned her mind to the problem of how to remove the aura. She didn't know, but soon she would go to the hall of memories. Surely someone there would be able to tell her.
If the Aura of Protection could be removed from the last great Pharoah of Egypt then surely it could be removed from a slave like her sister.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Prayer to Khonsu
The Sirius Connection page 183
Khonsu is a Middle Kingdom god, the son of Amun and Mut. He is a moon god, sometimes called The Navigator and an aid to those who travel by night, and Bestower of Healing. There is a temple to him at the Karnak complex.
A person's name was considered a symbol of his existance. If his name was lost or forgotten the individual ceased to exist.
A person's name could be represented by a knotted string.
The knot was also a symbol of Ptah the Craftman
The Eye of Horus or Upchat Usually his left eye.
Guardians of Egypt
Saturday, February 14, 2009
"Make a fire," she commanded instead of answering. "It's blessed cold out here. You want me to catch my death?"
"You could put some clothes on."
"No time and what are you waiting for?" Delrayna took a quick look around. "You can build it over by those rocks. It'll reflect the heat and hide the flames."
Aleric longed for the good old days when he was unencumbered by the need to care for a slave mainly because he didn't have one. With a long suffering sigh, he looked for matereal to build a fire with. "Anything else Milady?"
Delrayna smiled and said nothing, trying to remember what her mother had taught her in the months before sending her off to apprentice at the Temple. She took two silver cords and four strips of pure white linen from her pack and walked over the the fire. Her skin geaming under the light.
Aleric watched her and said nothing as she sat cross legged, facing the gibbous moon. Perfect for what she was planning to do, she hoped. Placing the cords and the linen plus a black marker on the ground beside her, she began to speak.
"O Khonsu, of bright appearance.
Mighty one of healing.
Thee do I invoke to be with me now.
Thee who banishes all ills.
Thee who conquers sickness and afflictions
Thee who banished strife and woe."
"What are you doing?" Aleric asked.
"Praying," Delrayna answered. "Now please be quiet."
"O Khonsu, Traverser of Centuries.
Beloved by millions.
Bright One in thy shrine.
Cast open thy doors before me.
Illumine my soul with thy light, reach deep into my spirit and heal all of my afflictions."
"Who's Khonsu," Aleric interrupted.
"He's a god. Now shut up."
"O Khonsu, only you can banish into eternity
The ills that are upon my soul, make me sound of body, clear of mind, pure of soul, and bright in my spirit's appearance."
"It sounds nice."
"It would be even nicer if you would let me finish."
"O Khonsu, who comes at the call of those who are sincere as I am now.
I am humble...."
Aleric snorted and Delrayna glared.
"...before thee and acknowledge thy majesty and seek to be with thee and part of thee.
O Khonsu, bless me with thy gift of healing, that I too might heal the sick of body of soul, of spirit."
Delrayna glanced over at Aleric, wondering if he was going to interrupt again. Aleric sat back and grinned at her.
"Lift me up O God of Light, smile upon my countenance, kiss me with thy breath of health.
That I too might know thy grace, know thy way.
O Khonsu, hear me,I beseech thee for I come to thee and make supplication at thy feet, they shrine, and I praise thee in my heart forever.
Hail to thee O Glorious Healer.
Anetch Hra-Ku Khonsu Heh!"
Delrayna let the sound of her voice fade away before moving.
"I thought you weren't a witch, or even an apprentice." Aleric's voice seemed harsh.
"I'm not." Delrayna picked up the silver cords and straightened them accross her legs.
"My mother taught me a few things before I left. Tell me your name."
"I want to make a charm, to make sure you don't lose your name."
"Its a name. I won't lose it."
"A name is a powerful thing, a symbol of your existance. It can be taken, lost to you, used against you. Now what is your name?"
"Aleric son of Aleric."
"How original," muttered Delrayna picking up one of the silver cords. Working quickly, she tied it into a complex seriees of knots, which she then wound around two fingers, before tying the two ends together, after using one end to make seven more knots and tying them together. This she placed upon her right knee. She took that second silver cord and did the same, this time using her wown name as she tied the knots. When finished, she placed the ring in the dirt beneath her right knee."
Aleric asked why she had done that.
"How else could I have placed them?"
"You have two knees," Aleric pointed out quite logically.
"I would then have had to have sat with one knee lower than the other and that would have been uncomfortable."
Aleric raised an eyebrow and motioned for her to continue.
"I am your slave. To put your name on the ground would be to dishonour the name of my Master. Therefore I plsced your name upon my right knee. I could not place my name above yours because that would indicate that I am above you and I am not. I could not place my name beside yours because that would indicate that I am equal to you and I am not. I placed my name under my right knee, so that my name would be beneath your name as I am beneath you."
For some reason Aleric thought of an old tale that had been told to him, when he was a child, and wondered if Gloria Steinmam was spinning in her grave.
Delrayna picked up a strip of linen and the black marker. "I'm going to draw the left eye of Horus, the Udchat, on these strips of linen. This will add protection to your name and to your sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. I will take one strip and bind your name within it, tying it with seven knots. This you must keep with you at all times. I will do the same with mine and keep it with me at all times."
"That's two strips. What about the others?"
"One will be tied to the bridle of your horse and the other to the bridle of my mule."
Monday, February 9, 2009
Delrayna Ap Nud did not eat supper that night. Choosing instead to sit cross legged a little way from the fire. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine herself in a quiet spot. Like the garden her mother had kept outside the little hut they lived in. She had always enjoyed the garden, after the day's lessons were done. She briefly wondered if it was still as pretty and peaceful as she had always found it, but harshly dismissed that thought. The thought not the garden, an image of which she created in her mind. The "happy spot" she would need to go to if she was to attain her Khu.
Delrayna imagined the Ankh symbol hovering over the center of the garden and focussed on that. When she felt she had reached her little oasis, she slowly rose to her feet and walked over to her pack. From them, she tool a black marker, a strip of white linen, a strip of black linen, a small bottle of oil and a small oil lamp. These she carried back to her original position.
Aleric watched her from where he sat beside the fire. His mother had been a waise woman, though connected to no Temple. It was she who had first alerted him to the world of magic that existed along side the world of man and had shown him the signs of a woman deeply immersed in ritual. Delrayna exibited such signs and his mother had warned him that it was best to not disturb a witch when she was about her business. Sio he had eaten her share of the supper, after she had refused, ad sat in silence watching. Magic made him uncomfortable.
Delrayna Ap Nud would have liked to have immersed herself in warm water, but that was not possible so he made do by pouring a cup of warm water over herself, using a cloth to spread it around as best she could. Picking up the black marker, she drew the image of Thoth on the white linen. She also wrote down the request, that the god show her anything of importance that should happen to her or to those she loved, adding Aleric to the list, supposing that a slave should love her master. That done, she poured oil into the lamp, and rolled up the linen to be used as a wick. Again she took up the marker and drew the image of Thoth on her left palm. She then lit the lamp with an ember she carried from the fire in a metal bowl.
Delrayna knelt before the lamp and re-entered her garden with the ankh and this time the symbol of Thoth. She began to speak, silently, barely above a whisper.
"Thoth, I invoke, blessed power of dreams divine,
Angel of future fates, swift wings are thine,
Great source of oracles to human kind,
When stealing soft, and whispering to the mind,
Through sleep's sweet silence and the gloom of night,
Thy power awake the sight,
To silent souls the will of heaven relates,
And silently reveals their future fates. "
Satisfied that she had spoken the words of the invocation correctly and respectfully, Delrayna put out the lamp, letting the small plume of smoke waft up past her face and to the skies above. She then took up the black strip of linen, which was to represent the Eye of Black Isis, and wrapped it around her left palm. Having done all she could do, Delrayna stretched out upon the ground preparing for sleep.
Aleric sat beside the fire, his blade accross his knees.
"You know how to use those?" Aleric had woken up the next morning to see Delrayna sliding daggers into sheathes she had strapped around her thighs.
"Papa trained me," Delrayna said, clearly distraught.
"You think you need them now?"
"Apep is going for Sarah."
"Who is Sarah?"
"She is my sister, the one apprenticed to the Temple of Amun in Vernon."
"The one that said you were an embarrassment?"
"The one who would not suffer you to live?"
"The one who sent Apep to kill you."
"You want to go back to Vernon to save her from the wrath of the god she sent to kill you?"
"She is my sister." Delrayna spoke in a tone that indicated that that should be obvious. Having gathered up all her belongings, she climbed up upon her mule and glared at Aleric, who hadn't moved from his bedroll. "You coming?"
"Fine," she spat., prodding the mule to a trot. "I'll go alone."
Aleric rolled over in his blankets.
Three hours later and cursing himself for a fool, Aleric was in the saddle and racing towards Vernon. They were already two days out, and he'd be hard pressed to make any acceptable time without pushing his horse to a gallop. Something he was unwilling to do. Not being willing to lose a horse for a recalcitrant slave.
Delrayna Ap Nud struggled against the ropes that bound her hands to the sides of the cage. She had barely reached Vernon, galloping her poor mule all the way, when she'd been waylaid by two massive brutes, and knocked unconscious. She'd woken to find herself stripped and tied in a cage meant for a waterstealer. Black haired Sarah, her sister, sitting just outside.
"You should have let Apep take you," Sarah said when she saw her sister moving. "It would have been so much easier and faster."
"I thought Apep was coming after you," Delrayna shouted at her sister. "That''s why I came back. To save you."
"Just like I knew you would," Sarah smiled. "You were always so predictable, and Mama's pet."
"What do you mean you knew I would?"
"How do you think? Do you really think that the gods indulge in petty revenge? . Nor do they answer the inane babblings of the untrained."
Delrayna stared at Sarah. Sarah laughed.
"I knew that you would try scrying."
"But how? The dream it was so clear."
"The gods do not send dreams," Sarah looked scornful. "They speak in words of power."
"I would slit your throat myself," Sarah snarled, turning spiteful eyes on Delrayna. "If it did not mean forfeiting my position here at the Temple. I am the High Priest's favourite." She cocked an eybrow. "I don't suppose If I slipped you a knife you would do it for me?"
Delrayna shook her head.
"Pity. Well I can sentence you to a waterstealer's fate. You'll be given just enough water to keep yourself alive. Maybe tomorrow you'll accept my offer. I hear it's going to be hot."
Aleric slipped into Vernon under the cover of darkness. Where Delrayna was he had no idea, but he had found her mule running free at the outskirts, it's pack still in place. It didn't bode well, and he decided to act as if she were captured. He figured the best place to start looking would be around the Temple. He stepped onto the cracked remnants of a sidewalk, and jerked up the sheath of his sword, making sure that it did not drag.
There were not that many people about this time of night, and for that Aleric was pleased. Except for the odd girl peddling her wares he met almost no one, and those he did kept well away, some even crossing the street to keep away from the uncouth barbarian. A sentiment that he welcomed.
As he approached the Temple of Amun, he noted the solitary cage seperated from the rest, and surrounded by fire. Four fires, placed far enough away to avoid major damage to the girl tied inside but close enough to cause discomfort and keep her from falling asleep. There were also two guards.
There was no time like the present.
Keeping to the shadows, Aleric crept as close as he dared. He did not dream that the guards wouldn't spot the moving shadow, but fortunately for him guarding a caged prisoner while tending fires was boring work, and both were more than half asleep. He palmed a throwing blade.
Aleric was no more than ten feet away, and behind the guards, when he made the first throw. Years of hunting practice made his aim true and the blade slid in at the base of the man's skull. He dropped like someone had cut his strings.
This, of course, alerted the other guard, and he was swift to check the first, finding the knife and realizing what had happened. He also realized what direction the knife must have come from, but by the time he looked Aleric had slipped back into the shadows, and was circling around just out of reach of the light. He lobbed another knife.
This one landed by the feet of the guard with a clatter that made him look around in surprise. "Coward," he shouted into the darkness. "Get out here and fight like a man."
Aleric grinned. So far the noise had been minimal and the shout could be anyone, a bar fight gone wrong. But sword play. The sound of that would be sure to alert the Temple Guards and as good as Aleric liked to think he was, that was something he would avoid if possible.
Aleric's next throw took the guard in the leg. He shrieked as he went down, but before he could do anything more, Aleric was all over him, and his throat was slit.
Aleric wasted little time seeing if Delrayna was okay. Quickly he retrieved his knives and replaced them in his belt. It would not do to leave them behind so magic could be tried on them. Then he moved towards the cage, and almost laughed to see that the cage door was tied shut with rope. He supposed that as Delrayna was tied well away from the door, she didn't need anything more elasborate.
First, Aleric circled the cage, slashing the ropes that tied Delrayna's hands to the bars. Then he cut the rope, keeping the door shut, and reached in for her. Grasping an arm he didn't wait on ceremony, just dragged her out, and down the street. He wanted to put as much distance as possible between them and the Temple before the dead guards were discovered.
Delrayna objected loudly and vociferously to being dragged, naked, down the street.
Finally they reached their mounts, and Aleric released Delrayna's wrist. She immediately stomped over to her mule and opened her pack. Aleric grabbed her, swung her up, and sat her on the back of the mule. "Stay," he commanded.
"I'm not dressed," Delrayna said indignantly, starting to slide down.
"You can ride that mule," Aleric snapped mounting his own horse. "Or run after it." A bell tolled and Aleric looked back to see a flood of torches entering the street. "Either way we are going now."
Thursday, February 5, 2009
A chore that he reserved for himself. Which didn't make Delrayna happy, since, as she put it, she was a slave and as a slave cooking should be fall to her. In fact the argument had gotten so vehement that he had had to promise her a beating if she so much as approached the fire with a piece of uncooked meat.
Delrayna was staring at a mirror with a smaoky black surface.
"What are you doing," Aleric asked on his way over to the fire.
"Scrying," Delrayna answered simply. She looked up at Aleric and arched an eyebrow. "Since I am not allowed to be a proper slave, I thought to give this a try." Her eyes returned to the mirror.
Aleric squatted down beside the fire and spitted two strips of rabbit. Magic unsettled him but the world was rife with the stuff, so he supposed that it was a good thing that he had a slave versed in it.
"No." There was more than just a hint of frustration in Delrayna's voice. "This is what they were supposed to teach me after I was apprenticed to the High Priest of the Temple of Amun. Not like that'll ever happen now." The last was said in a low resentful mumble.
"There are other means of learning," Aleric said, carefully watching the meat as it dripped grease into the fire.
"Yeah, like who'd teach a slave."
Aleric rolled his eyes. "Can you read slave?"
"Of course I can read." Delrayna Ap Nud looked at Aleric as if he were an insignicant child asking a stupid question. "One does not become apprenticed to the High Priest in the Temple of Amun if one cannot read or write."
"You can read and write," Aleric commented. "That is good for I cannot do either." He got up and walked over to his packs. Rummaging through them he pulled out a couple scrolls of parchment, tied with plain black thread. He dropped them into Delrayna's lap.
"Read," he commanded.
Still with that grin, Aleric placed a foot opn the body and pulled out his sword. The brigand shrieked, the sound dwindling to a gurgle and a gasp as Aleric drew a dagger from his belt and slit his throat. While he was bwent over the body, Aleric used the dagger to cut off the brigand's sleeve so he could use it to wipe the blood from his sword. That task done, he took a fast look around.
A girl sat surrounded by the bodies of four men. One looked to be her father, the others, they could have been any one. Regardless of who they were they were not fighters. No trained fighters could have been so easily slaughtered by two brigands. Both dead he thought. He kicked the body of the first brigand, the one he had killed by surprise when he first arrived on this scene. To find them finishing up with the girl amid the bodies of those that were trusted to care for her.
Aleric Kerthaw examined the packs that were strewn around. In them he found provisions and water, as well as other belongings and a few coins. He gathered them up and put them into one pack, which he threw down beside the girl.
"Enderby is but a few miles in that direction." Aleric pointed over in the direction of a few rolling hills. "If you start now, and walk steadily you should make it by morning." That said, he strode over to his horse and mounted.
"You would leave me here?"
Aleric looked back at the girl who had stood and was glaring up at him.
"You would really shirk your responsibilities?"
"You are not kith or kin," Aleric told her. "I have no responsibilities towards you. "
"You have the responsibilities of a Master towards his Slave." The girl's lower jaw jutted out at him belligerently.
"I have no slave."
"I am your slave, and under the law..."
"I have not claimed you as slave," snapped Aleric. "I need none and have claimed none."
"That man you killed, the one that was barely more than a boy. After they killed my father and his friends, he claimed me slave. Under the law, a slave becomes the property of the man who kills her Master. As you killed mine."
"As I have no wish for a slave, I release you from that obligation." Clearly thinking the conversation over, Aleric prodded his horse forward. A hand caught at his leg.
"A girl may be taken slave in secret but needs official sanction to be considered free. " The girl glared through coal black eyes. "I can not force you, my Master, to take me with you. But I can go to this Enderby and speak of a swords man who will not care for his property."
"I care for what is mine," Aleric snapped. "My horse is rather skittish and will not bear the weight of two. You would be hard pressed to keep pace."
"My previous Master was leading a mule," the girl told him. "I can ride that if it hasn't wandered far."
"Then find it," Aleric ground out. "While I see what else your father and his men were carrying."
The sun had moved in the sky when they set out again. The girl followed on her mule, and every time he slowed to ride beside her she slowed her mule so that she rode behind him. "A slave does not go before or beside her Master," was what she said when asked about it. Aleric sighed and quickened the pace.
"What is your name," Aleric asked after they rode in silence for an indeterminate amount of time."
"My name is what ever you wish it to be."
Aleric rolled his eyes. "And if I wish it to be nothing?"
"Then my name is nothing."
"What did your father call you?"
"He called me Delrayna. Delrayna Ap Nud."
"AP? You are a witch?" Aleric crossed himself.
"Not yet. I was to be taken to Vernon where I would be apprenticed to the Priest at the Temple of Amun"
"Perhaps you still can be."
"I am travelling further down south to Kelowna. I can, if you wish, drop you off in Vernon. No one need know of what happened."
"Do you think they would not look," Delrayna said with a bite of anger.
"To see that I have been untouched."
Aleric felt something thump off his shouder.
"Do you think," Delrayna cried bitterly, "that they would leave me untouched? What man would have given up a first if he had the chance. Would you have?"
Delrayna Ap Nud could not cook to save a lfe. To take a life maybe, Aleric thought as he poked at the crispy whatever it was that she served him, but not to save a life. He threw it into the fire and reached into his bag for some bread.
"You do not like it," came the harsh whisper.
"Tomorrow you learn to cook."
Delrayna stormed off to sit on a rock, staring out at the rippling waves. Soon the sound of her voice reached him. She was reciting something his grandmother had told him as a child.
"The Lord Amun returned to the world he had created and saw that the people he had placed upon it had strayed from the path of his desires and his anger was great.
So fearful was the world that it shook and hid itself under layers of ice. greater than any man had seen in the times before, and lasting longer than a hundred generations.
When the Lord Amun had finished with his speaking to Osiris and to Anubis, he commanded Horus to stretch out his hand over all the world, so that the ice be driven off and the world revealed for his anger.
Horus did as he was commanded and the layers of ice were melted. The earth dried and and the water was driven underground and high up in the mountains. Horus' work is not yet complete and it is in the days of his wrath that we must live. Until the Lord Amun takes pity upon us and commands Horus to withdraw, allowing the world to once again hide it's shame under ice and snow."
Aleric rolled over in his blankets.
The next morning they rode into Vernon. They were really just passing through for Aleric was still intent on moving further south but Delrayna had begged him to allow her to stop at the Temple of Amun. Delrayna had an older sister already apprenticed there and wished to relate to her sister what had happened. That she would be safe and would hope to see her if ever the chance arose. Aleric had agreed but if jher sister wished to speak to him she would have to come outside. He had no intention of going inside.
The Temple of Amun was a red brick tower, topped with a green metal dome that had a cock and arrow on top. One that moved freely under the breeze. That is it would if there had been a breeze, but the Days of Horus' Wrath was nigh upon them and the morning's heat was already unbearable. Made even worse by the stench of bodies, some still alive, in cages.
Each cage bore a sign stating that the occupants were waterstealers. The sign also warned of the penalties that went with giving water to the occupants. Those that hoarded water for themselves must learn what it is to do without.
"Let us go." Delrayna Ap Nud stormed out of the Temple of Amun mounted her horse. She looked angrily at Aleric. "Well what are you waiting for?"
Aleric lifted an eyebrow, as if to ask who is the master and who is the slave around here but said nothing, just mounted his horse and started up there, hill. "I take it the visit did not go well."
"My sister wishes I were dead." Delrayna spoke with a voice that barely reached Aleric's ears over the pounding thud of hoofs on flat hard road. "She has cursed me."
"Surely you are mistaken. Is she not your loving sister?"
I am also a slave and thus I am an embarrassment to her. One that she will not suffer to live. She has cursed me and Apep will come for me before this day is done."
"How do you know that she has cursed you?"
"Because she ordered me to make the wax Apep. To give it a hair from my head, breath from my mouth, skin from my body. I watched as she said the ritual and burned it in fire."
Aleric just stared at her. "You did all this? Why?"
"A slave does not refuse the commands of the free."
"Gods above and below," breathed Aleric. This girl was going to get him killed along with herself. Not having anything to say, he prodded his horse to a faster pace. Delrayna followed in silence. At least for a little while.
"You do not seem concerned over the fate of your slave," she said after some little time.
"My slave participated fully in her own fate." Aleric responded. "Who am I to stand in the way of such foolishness when I did not want her in the first place."
"Some Master you are."
"A slave owes obedience to her Master. Not to anyone who comes along who is free and not a slave. Even if that person is your sister."
Delrayna AP Nud sulked form the next little while and Aleric took pleasure in the silence. Truth to tell he really didn't know what to do about the situation. Apep was the crocodile god, the original evil and chaos. Crocodiles did not live here, but snakes did and Apep has been known to come as a snake, most commonly a cobra, but cobras did not live here either. Rattlesnake, they did live here aplenty and should he, a mere mortal man, try to slaughter them all because of a foolish slave? Logic dictated that the old god would use some local method, and as long as he and Delrayna stayed on the rock road and away from the thick grasses tjhey should be able to avoid the local snakes. Therefore the assault would come in a more mindane way.His reverie was broken by a stifled cry.
"It is Apep," Delrayna cried, looking at a dust cloud heading up the road. "He has found me."
"It is a man," Aleric said, studying the cloud of dust. "It is not an elder god."
"And if Apep took the form of a man?" Delrayna looked desperate. "Ride Master. Leave me. I am the one that is cursed. Not you."
"Slave," thundered Aleric, sweeping a leg over his horse and sliding to the ground. "Do not think to command me." Moving steadily to stand in the middle of the rock road, making sure that he was between Delrayna and the oncoming rider. "I go nowhere."
The rider stop[p[ed a good twenty feet awauy from Aleric and dismounted. He was the size of a man. He had thick muscled arms. He had the green scaly head and maw of a crocodile. He was not human.
"I am Apep. I come for the girl. Stand aside."
"If I do not."
"Then you share her fate."
Aleric unsheathed his sword and held it in the nebun position. He had no hope that Apep would be fooled by the same tactic he had used against the brigand. With his sword at a forty five degree angle pointed downwards and to his left rear, he hoped that he could counter whatever stance Apaep, who had drawn his own sword and had raised it to the roof guard position. He waited.
"You know something of what you do?" Apep did not look impressed. "Do you really think that you have the skill to defeat me?"
"My blade is made of the same iron and steel as the swords and spears that Horus defeated you with," Aleric answered.
"You are not Horus."
Aleric did not answer the crocodile man. What could he say. He was not Horus and he could not hope to defeat a god. What he was was stubborn and he did not back down. Not ever.
Apep was the forst to move. He brought his sword down in a cut that would have split Aleric's skull had he not brought his own blade up and around, ending with it in the roof guard. He did not hestitate in sweeping it down and around to the ox position. He stabbed forward and if Apep had been an ordinary man then Aleric might have done some damage.
But Apep was not an ordinary man and was easily able to duck his head under the thrusting blade while bringing his own to the plow. Aleric danced back, and brought his own blade down to the hanging door and batted Apep's blade to the side.
Bodies spun and feet shifted as both Aleric and Apep transitioned from stance to stance. The blades clanging as they made contact with each other.
The fight was short and brutal and ended the way it began. Apep held his blade up in roof guard, while Aleric had his down in Nabun. Both were breathing heavy and Aleric's arms and shoulders burned from the stress he had placed on them.
This time it was Aleric that made the first moove, swinging his sword up and to the right. Apep brought his blade down to counter, but at the last moment Aleric twisted his blade into an upper cut that caught Apep by surprise and sliced through his elongated maw. Apep roared in pain and blood flew everywhere, burning where it touched Aleric's skin. Aleric jumped back and stared. Apep howled his pain and dropped his sword. His body faded, its form losing it's firmness.
"Of course," Delrayna Ap Nud said from where she stood, beside Aleric her eyes wide in fascination and horror. "When your blade passed through his mouth, it lost cohesion. Apep lost focus and could not maintain it. You've won."
Aleric was not under the illusion that he had managed to kill a god. He bent down to retrieve the gods sword and hefted it. A good blade. "Get his horse," he commanded Delrayna as he turned to see where the mule and his own mount had strayed to.
Soon Aleric was continuing on his journey south. Delrayna, who was now riding the horse that Apep had left behind, and had the sword Apep had used, tied to it's saddle, followed, leading the mule which had been relegated to pack animal status. Delrayna held her silence. At least for a while.
"Why," she asked. "Why would you risk your life for a slave."
"You are more than a slave," Aleric told her.
"Oh? And what else am I?"
"You are my slave."
Okay, it sounded better when William Wallace said it on Braveheart, riding without a saddle on a horse galloping on the moors rather than standing on a toilet, hoping that the store clerk wouldn't check too closely when locking up. Then again William Wallace never wore red boxers over blue leotards in a uber cool super hero type costume.
No one would ever confuse Lennie Bruce with William Wallace and no one would ever confuse William Wallace with Lennie Bruce.
Lennie Bruce, like William Wallace, was ready and prepared to strike a blow for freedom. Freedom from the Evil Empire that chained computers and their users world wide. Freedom from having to rush out and purchase a new Operating System every time Microsoft came out with a newer version of Windows. Freedom from having to buy a new computer, or hardware upgrade, because what had worked so well in the past would not work so well under the new regime. Freedom from viruses and worms and stuff like that. Lennie Bruce only hoped that the story would end differently for him than it did for William Wallace. His threshold for pain was rather nonexistant.
Finally the lights went out. Lennie Bruce waited for what seemed a lifetime, but was probably only a few minutes, before he grew brave enough to scuttle out of his stall. Pressing the button on his lady bug light, he eased the door open and took a cautious peek out. Nothing, everything was dark, except little red lights, all in a row. Good that meant that the owner of the Internet Cafe left his computers on. Lennie smiled. That would make it so much easier. He slipped out of his shoes and into the cafe proper.
The first row was the hardest. It was the one closest to the windows, and while there was no direct lighting, there was always the chance that some nosy passerby would spot his lady bug light. Fortumately it didn't cast all that much lighrt, and if he was real careful, only to use it when necessary, he should be okay.
He reached the first computer, located the cherry red light of the powerbar it was connected to. He turned his ladybug light on. located, and opened the dvd drawer. Moving stealthily but with quiet resolve, he removed a cd from his pack, placed it into the dvd drawer and slid it silently back into the machine.
Then with trembling hands, he reached out a finger. And paused. This was it. The point of no return. The first strike. A moment to remember. A moment to savour, and Lennie wanted to enjoy every second of it.
But not too long. Every moment the cause was delayed was a moment in which he could be discovered. Something that couldn't be allowed. No Judge would appreciate the rightness of his cause or the crime that was perpetuated on innocent computers and their users. With a sigh and a smile, Lennie Bruce switched off the power bar. There was a sudden stillnes as the computer fan slowed to a stop. Lennie imagined it as the final gasp of Windows as it lay dying and brtoken at tjhe feet of computer users everywhere. He counted to ten, then switched the power bar back on. Using the ladybug light, he located the power on button, for the computer and pressed it. Lennie listened to the healthy beep and whirr of the computer coming back to life and imagined the look coming over Bill Gates face if he only knew that a computer was being set free from his hegemony.
The computer would boot from the cd Lennie had placed into the computer. It would load Ecopup into memory.
Ecopup was a derivative of Puuppy Linux, put together by a bloke accross the pond, who wanted to run an internet cafe with it. Ecopup had everything the average user of an Internet Cafe computer would need. A browser, a word processor, instant messenger, skype, even games, and you didn't have to pay anything for it, except, maybe, for the cost of the cd. Ecopup itself was free.
Including the modifications he had made.
The script that would reformat the computers hard drive. Windows had to be erased, not erased, excorsized. The Microsoft demon cast out to to the bottom most, and well deserved, pits of hell.
Lennie shed a tear of sympathy for the innocent data that would be expunged as well. But he took solace in the fact that in any war there were always innocent victims, collateral damage.
The script that would install a copy of Ecopup to the hard drive.
The script that would automatically configure the computer to use the Internet.
Lennie Bruce moved from computer to computer, repeating the process until finally all thirty had installed Ecopup or was in the process of installing it. He moved back to the first computer. It was giving him the swift beep-beeps that told him that Ecopup was installed and the CD was ready to be the out. He did so, and rebooted the computer.
The owner would come in to find a better working computer. Ecopup used less of the computer's resources than did Microsoft, so it would be faster, more responsive, cleaner. Ecopup's default wallpaper was XP's, espexcially chosen so the users would feel at home. The icons were especially crafted to look like XP icons. Lennie prayed to the data gods that the owner liked what he, Lennie Bruce, had done, and would not re-enslave these computers and the poor souls that used them.
Two and a half hours and thirty computers had been liberated from the Microsoft yoke of enslavement. Thirty computers, a tiny but significant weakening of the evil empire. Lennie smiled as he placed a stack of cds on the cashier's counter, beside the till, and prepared to leave.
As the store's alarm began to whoop, he lifted an arm and gave an exubrient shout...