"Aleric son of Aleric." Delrayna spun to see a small black haired woman looking at her. "Recently branded too, the woman continued. "Must have hurt."
"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."