Author Topic: A great fortune is a great slavery - Shausek Dyengothra  (Read 1257 times)

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A great fortune is a great slavery - Shausek Dyengothra
« on: October 05, 2019, 08:11:23 PM »
Shausek Dyengothra



Age: 21

Ethnicity: Rashemi

Birthplace: Sly-Var, Hazlan

Profession: Slave

Appearance: Shausek's hair is short, atypical of Rashemi, but he otherwise has the characteristic dark eyes and hair of his people. His skin, however, has not seen much sun, suggesting he has not toiled in the fields for much of his young life. Although short like most Rashemi, there is a dark beauty about the young man. When he speaks he seems educated, but he is not loud or forceful in manner.





Theme Tune:
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 11:55:43 AM by Kleomenes »

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Hearth and Home
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2019, 08:13:56 PM »
Hearth and Home

"I am tired, father." Helmaisa whined, sluggishly picking up her half of the basket again. Shausak was more diligent than his sister, and had already hefted his side back up.

"Hush, Hel. There's still an hour of light left." Said their father, already lifting his sickle to cut yet more wheat and fill this basket to the brim. There was a wiry strength about him, his copper, sun-drenched skin firm like old leather. Despite the hardships of Rashemi life, Shausak had never seen his father waver in sickness.

It was more like half an hour until their father called an end to work, the sun's amber rays gave way to dusk's growing gloom as they walked back to the little barn by the cottage. The trio would be there until dinner, bundling the stalks of wheat to divide them between the produce for their masters, and that they could keep themselves.  The Nathskuld family was not especially kind to its serfs, but nor was it especially cruel, and in truth beyond yielding up the lion's share of the produce of the land, Borivis Dyengothra and his family saw little of them.

Dinner that night was dolma, roasted peppers stuffed with mashed corn and nuts, accompanied by goats cheese and washed down with goats milk. Shausak ate eagerly, giving himself a moustache of milk.

"I am too tired to work tomorrow. I think I'll go and play in the stream instead." Said Helmaisa nonchalantly, reaching for the cheese. Borivis laughed, a fond look at his daughter as he shook his head. But Chathi tutted, as she stood to get a rag to wipe Shausak's face. She had less patience with her daughter's dreaming. "You're too old to think like that, Hel. You're nearly ten. You work. Even your little brother works, he's old enough. We all are at harvest."

Borivis laughed, mirth twinkling in his dark eyes as he looked over at his wife fussing over Shausak, who held his face up obediently. "And the boy is old enough to wipe his own face, Chat." He said in a voice like honeyed tea.

Chathi's face twisted at his words; or perhaps the use of her pet name, but the fondness in her eyes belied her apparent annoyance. "Still. If you aren't going to the fields tomorrow, you'll stay here with me to thresh the wheat. Your choice, Hel."

Shausak's sister rolled her eyes dramatically, tossing her wild hair. "I'll go with father." She said, as she hopped down off her chair, cheese in hand, to go and lounge by the hearth. Shausak hurried after her. Story time always came after dinner, and it was mother's turn tonight. She always told the best ones.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 04:56:35 PM by Kleomenes »

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Tall Tales
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2019, 05:35:20 PM »
Tall Tales

"We won't wait for you!" Helmaisa's voice was stern and petulant in one, a strange combination of childhood and womanhood. Just like she was herself, now she was seventeen.

"We'll wait, but you had best get moving, Shausek." Said his father as he tied the harness onto the goat. Shausek grunted as he loaded the second bail onto the sledge. "It's not far, Da. I'll be back before you set out."

An abhaebstzan troupe of puppeteers was performing today at the monthly market, and the whole family was going to spend the afternoon there. Beforehand, though, Shausek had a delivery to make.

The autumn sun was bright as he took the trail that passed close to the Ulnoga Cottage. Medik Ulnoga and his family lived further out of town than Borivis Dyengothra, on the edge of wide pastureland where he herded goats. Nisami Ulnoga was sat on the fence alongside the track, legs swinging in the sun, as he waited for Shausek. Nisami was shorter and stockier than Shausek, despite being the same age, and was brown as a nut from long days of herding.

"Shau!" He said, hopping off his perch. "About time."

"I'm early" Shausek lied with a wide smile. "Where are these going?"

The Ulnoga had a small shed to the side of their cottage where hay for the winter was stored. The two bails were heavy, but Nisami and Shausek weren't boys anymore, even if they weren't men. Soon the two friends were patting each other's backs and congratulating themselves on their grown-up strength.

"I don't know why you're both so smug. You aren't done." A female voice cut through their congratulations. Yuldra, Nisami's sister, leaned on the doorframe, her wild hair tied into a pony tail down her back and her lips formed into a mocking smirk. She was a year older than the boys and while they had all played together since children, recently she'ed...changed.

"What are you talking about, Yul" Said Nisami, frustrated.

"Papa wants all the hay in here up in the winter shelter. He will give Shausek Dyengothra cheese in return for him helping with his sled." Yuldra looked at Shausek. "Hello Shausek Dyengothra."

"Hello" Said Shausek. "Of course I'll help." He smiled. He felt silly for smiling.

The winter shelter was up at the top of the pasture It took three trips to get all the hay up there, even with both of them and Shausek's sled. It was tiring and thirsty work, and the sun was high in the sky when they were done.

"I'm late" Said Shausek mournfully, wiping his brow. "You're going to the  abhaebstza?" Asked Nisami, jealousy in his tone. "Lucky. I've gotta be on the pasture this afternoon."

"Yeah, but I'll have to..."

"Shausek Dyengothra! Are all your family as hard workers as you? I wanted the hay moved tomorrow, and you do it straight away?" Medik Ulnoga was as short and stocky as his son, his eyes like chocolate and his white teeth visible through his mirthful smile. He approached with Yuldra, who bore a beaker of water.

"But Yuldra..." Shausek answered helplessly.

"Oh. Are you trying to impress me?" Teased Medik, rewarding Shausek's blush with a hearty laugh.

"I may have explained it wrong by mistake, Papa" Said Yuldra. "You aren't going to get in trouble, are you, Shausek Dyengothra?" She added innocently.

"Yes!" He exclaimed, frustrated.

"Oh no, Papa, let me go and explain what happened. This is all my fault...I guess I will just come back here and watch the fields with Nisami, while you all set off for the abhaebstza."

It was a good act, to be honest, and Shausek fell for it. "Yuldra, you could walk to the  abhaebstza with us, I am sure."

Yuldra smiled brightly at Shausek. "Papa?"

Something made Medik laugh again. "Go on, Yul. Just be back before dark."

Walking down the trail back home, Shausek gave a sidelong glance at Yuldra, and caught her giving him the same. He looked away, cheeks flushing, and smiled.

She had changed, indeed.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 04:56:54 PM by Kleomenes »

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In the Moment
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2019, 03:53:25 PM »
In the Moment

She came, as she promised. The moonlight made her raven hair shine as it hung over her shoulders, tied in a long, pretty braid. She wore her best kaftan, lined in deep dark red that echoed her lips. Her dark eyes glinted with curiosity as Shausek ceased his pacing and looked towards her with a sudden smile.

“You look nice.” he said, and cursed himself silently. Yuldra laughed, stalking towards him. “Why did you bring me here, Shausek Dyengothra?”

The seconds before he answered stretched long in his mind, but they weren't silent. No, the babble of the stream and the rustle of leaves stirred by the evening breeze rang loud in his heart, mocking him for his hesitation. She had changed even more in the months since that autumn afternoon, but so had he, dammit. “I have some quøvusp.” He said, with more confidence than he felt. “Wanna try it?”

Yuldra's eyes widened in surprise, and a smile broke on her lips. Quøvusp was expensive and used in moments of great importance. Even the tiny pouch Shausek displayed proudly represented a substantial amount of begging from his parents and odd jobs for neighbouring cottages. “I don't have a pipe” he said as they sat by the little fire he had built. “So we'll have to burn it in a bowl.” Yuldra nodded, scooting closer.

Shausek's efforts over the summer had bought three and a half small, tuber like roots. They looked tiny, lying in the clay bowl he had brought. “What do we do?” Yuldra asked, hesitantly. “Breathe deeply.” Shausek replied as if this was the thousandth time he had done this, not the first. He poked the fire with a stick, setting fire to the end before using it to burn the fruits of his labour. The two of them hunched over the bowl, careful not to bang heads, sniffing and snuffling like tracker dogs following a trail. Naturally, it didn't do much, but in their own minds it did, and that was all the excuse they needed.

They lay back, watching the stars twinkle up above, and they spoke of this and that; hopes and dreams of the future, and fond memories of the past. They laughed and teased, and tiptoed closer towards the moment.

Shausek lay on his side, resting his cheek on his palm, looking down at Yuldra during a lull in the conversation. She looked up at him, shifting a bit to meet his gaze. She tore a blade of grass out of the ground and reached up with it, tickling his nose. “What are you thinking about, Shausek Dyengothra?” She asked, as he twitched away, a snuffle. He held his breath to stop a sneeze as Yuldra's laughter rang out into the air, and into his heart.

When he looked back to answer, it wasn't with words. She met him halfway, their lips meeting tentatively.

It felt like they'd waited too long.

It felt like this was the thousandth time, not the first.

It felt like nothing mattered but this moment.

It felt like a truth revealed.

It felt like summer's heat and winter's chill.

It felt right.

Their lips parted, his eyes opening first. Yuldra's smile enchanted him, and he gazed down at her. “Mm. Shausek Dyengothra” She said fondly, and her eyes flickered open.

The fear swept over her instantly, and she swatted aside Shausek's hand on her cheek. “What?” He asked, confused. “Yul, what?” Yet her response was only to push him away from her, and scrabble to her feet. On his knees, Shausek looked up at Yuldra, stunned, as she clasped a hand over her mouth, eyes boring into him.

Finally he saw it, the motes of light orbiting around him, the glow, even as both faded. He knew it was magic, just as he knew it was born from him. “Yul...” He said, standing, reaching out to her.

“Stay away from me!” Yuldra shrieked, stepping backwards. He stepped closer, panic in his own voice. “Yul, quiet! Let me..!” His hand reached for her, and she whirled, turning to flee. She had only moved a step before she tripped on some root or stone, and crashed into one of the bushes. “Yul!” he cried, running to her side, trying to help her out. Yuldra screamed like a wildcat, clawing at him to drive him off, her kaftan torn by the sharp thorns. Already it was stained read from where the skin underneath had been cut.

Shausek backed away, tears in his eyes as Yuldra rose, radiating fear and hate. As she turned to flee, she spat the last word of venom at him.

Witch.”


« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 04:57:05 PM by Kleomenes »

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A Dish Served Hot
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2019, 02:37:22 PM »
A Dish Served Hot

Shausek cowered behind the door, clutching onto his sister. "I'm sorry Hel, I'm sorry Hel." He kept repeating, but her only response was a whimper, overwhelmed by the fury she could hear outside.

"Give him up, Borivis." Snarled a gravelly, sharp voice laced with anger. Rolkhun Ulnoga, Yuldra's oldest brother. He was rarely seen around these days, spending most of his time in Sly-Var proper, doing things outside the Lawgiver's sight.

"When you're calm." Shausek's sire replied evenly. He imagined his father standing tall like an oak, and the anger of Yuldra's being merely a wind in his branches.

"Calm?" exclaimed Rolkhun. "Calm? Why you..."

Another voice. Less furious, but no less resolved. "Shausek tried to bewitch our sister, Borivis. We aren't going anywhere until we've looked him in the eye." This was Anzar, Yuldra's middle brother, closer to Rolkhun in age than the girl.

"I've spoken to your father. We're due to meet man to man tonight to resolve this." His father remained calm. "Lets leave this until tonight, when the fires have died down a bit, and we can work things out."

A silence. It drew on. Helmaisa held her breath.

Finally, the silence broke. Anzar's voice. "Fine." There was a shuffling of feet, growing quieter. Shausek sighed, relief pouring over him.

He could hear mother whispering to father, but he couldn't make out the words.

Then suddenly, Rolkhun's voice rang out. Further away than before and, it seems, directed at one of his brothers. "...bastard speaks like Yul's a liar."

Footsteps approach. Fast and heavy. "Out of the way! I'm done with your words Dyengothra!" Rolkhun again, angry. "Out of the way, I said."

"No, wai..." His mother said, before she let out a strange cry, a squawk of surprised. There were scuffling footsteps. The door rattled.

"Rolk! Wait!" A high pitched voice called. Nisami, Yul's youngest brother, Shausek's friend.

"That's my wife!" Said Shausek's father. A thudding, slapping sound. The door clattered again, and was silent. Someone growled, feral and menacing. More footsteps approached. "You shouldn't have done that, Borivis." Anzar's voice, anger in it.

More shuffling footsteps. More thuds. "Stop it! Stop it!" Shausek's mother pleaded.

Something fell heavily against the door. Helmaisa screamed, twisting free of his grip to run across to the other side of the cottage and hide behind the table. More thuds, and a deep groan of pain. Rolkhun's voice was pure fire. "Hit me would you?" Thud. "Hit me to defend your little rapist?" Thud, thud. "Don't get up!" Shouted Anzar. Thud, thud. Grunt. Grunt.

"Scream, damn you!" Shouted Rolkhun.

"Don't!" Shouted Nisami. "You'll kill him!"

There was a sickening crunch. The wail that left his father's lips chilled Shausek to the core, but not as much as the sobs that followed.

"Bor!" His mother shrieked. "Bor!"

"I think thats enough, Rolk." Anzar said. There was a final thud, and the sobbing stopped. "Now it is" said Rolkhun.

Footsteps moved away, leaving only the sounds of his mother's despair.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 04:57:18 PM by Kleomenes »

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The Bargain
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2019, 12:10:40 PM »
The Bargain

Chathi Dyengothra knelt by her marital bed, head bowed, a smooth stone cradled in her hands. She spoke with crude, hoarse words, her tears long since exhausted. The same words repeated for an hour or more since the veiled witch had left, saying that all that was left was prayer.

“Goddess Hala, ease my love’s suffering. I beg you. Goddess Hala, ease my love’s suffering. I beg you.”

Behind Chathi, her children knelt with her. Helmaisa and Shausek fixed their gazes on the floor, silent in grief and guilt, respectively. And before her, on the bed, lay Borivis. His shattered legs were in splints and his torso bound in bandages. The corded muscle of his frame, earned in long days in the field, did little to dispel the effect of his pale, lined face. He still hadn’t woken, or spoken.

“Goddess Hala, ease my love’s suffering. I beg you. Goddess Hala, ease my love’s suffering. I beg you.”

And so it went on, until finally Borivis awoke. “Chat.” He whispered. Chathi’s head snapped as she sobbed a single word. “Bor.” The wife reached for the husband’s cheek. The husband’s eyes fixed on the wife’s, and his voice was laced with confusion. “I can’t feel my legs.”

It was later that day that they came, announcing their presence with a heavy knock on the door while Shausek was sweeping the floor and Helmaisa was stirring some gruel on the hearth. Chathi looked up from where she was perched next to her husband, her hands both wrapped around one of his meaty fists. Borivis’s eyes flickered open at the second urgent knock.

A harsh voice growled outside. “Borivis Dyengothra, open up!”

Shausek shared a fearful gaze with his sister, their tasks forgotten. Shausek’s mother stood up with one last squeeze of Borivis’ hand. “Rest, my love.” She said softly, smoothing down her hair as she shuffled across to the door. Her husband’s guilt-filled gaze followed her all the way.

Two men pushed their way inside, both in rough leathers bearing the sigil of the Nathskuld family. Both men had rough coshes hanging off their belts, with one also having a cruel looking shortsword and the other a hatchet. Enforcers, with weapons to capture and kill, as commanded. The shorter of the two was the owner of the voice, his long greasy hair bound by a bronze clasp and his eyes like cold granite.

“Get up, Dyengothra. The Master’s son wants to speak to you.” He growled.

“He can’t walk.” Shausek’s mother replied, eyes downcast.

“Then carry him…” Said the enforcer, his bulk looming over Chathi.

“No need.” Said a softly spoken, educated voice. “If the man cannot walk I will talk to him in his bed. The enforcer stepped back at once, allowing a third person to enter the cottage. He was tall and slight compared to the Rashemi, as all Mulan were, and his scalp was shaved bare. Likewise his chest, not covered by the red silken travelling robe he wore, was free of hair. Both were covered in tattoos depicting snakes and lions. The lions had hairs made of flame. Over his forehead, a particular tattoo looked akin to a flaming circle with lines through, and beneath this tattoo lay cold blue eyes. He looked like he was in his late twenties.

All the Rashemi in the cottage bowed their heads except Borivis, who instead closed his eyes, unable to move. His guilt seemed to weigh twice-fold in this moment. The nobleman looked around the cottage with a poorly veiled distaste. “I am Ossan-Ke Nathskuled, heir to your Master.” He said at last. “I heard about the disturbances that have cost us a worker. I wish to speak with you.” Ossan-Ke then looked to Chathi. “Both of you.”

The message was clear. “Helmaisa, Shausek, go outside. Now.” Their mother ordered. Helmaisa took the pot of gruel off the hearth. Shausek set aside his broom. One of the enforcers wordlessly closed the door behind them as they stepped outside.

Long minutes dragged on. “What do they want?” whispered Helmaisa. “I don’t know.” Shausek shrugged, looking at the cottage.

Suddenly, a muffled sob came from within, bearing the unmistakable hallmarks of sorrow. It only lasted a moment, and was gone. Shausek and Helmaisa held their breaths. He took his sister’s hand.

The door opened and the Rashemi who had spoken stepped out, his stonelike gaze settling on Helmaisa. “Your mother wants you, girl.” He barked. Shausek squeezed Helmaisa’s hand when she hesitated. “Go on. Mama needs you.” Helmaisa slipped inside, keeping her distance from the Enforcer. Moments after, Ossan-Ke and his other guard emerged from the cottage. The trio walked over to Shausek, Ossan-Ke looking down at him with a faint smile. Shausek dipped his gaze.

“Nooooo!” Helmaisa wailed inside the cottage, her despair echoing out. Shausek stiffened, took a step towards the door, until a cosh struck him hard in the back of the head.

“It’s amazing what people will do when tested.” Ossan-Ke remarked softly. His words fell on deaf ears, no response coming from the comatose youth, the enforcers, or the Goddess.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 04:55:54 PM by Kleomenes »

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A Promise
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2019, 04:56:16 PM »
A Promise

The first thing Shausek became aware of was the throbbing in his head; a slow pulse with his heartbeat, shooting pain through his entire being. The second was the feeling of movement, as if his body was being carried. His eyes flickered open, and as the world came into some sort of focus so did the pain, spreading from a sharp point - a lump - on the back of his head.

“You’re awake.” Came a voice. Shausek looked over to see a familiar bald man lounging on cushions, nibbling on a bowl of grapes. Shausek’s eyes widened and he sat bolt upright, a cold sweat on his brow. Ossan-Ke only let out a cruel laugh. “Calm yourself, Shausek. No harm will come to you here, if you obey.”

They were in a covered litter, with blinds guarding them from the sun and from prying eyes. The swaying that accompanied each step by the slave bearers did little to aid Shausek’s stomach.  “Here, Shausek.” Said the master, and he held out a pouch under Shausek’s nose. He recoiled from the pungent smell, but seemingly so did his nausea.

As Ossan-Ke tied the pouch once more and slipped it into a bag on his belt, he regarded the Rashemi, his face giving away little. “I don’t think the girl was telling the truth about what you tried to do to her, Shausek.” He said at last, his voice calm.

Shausek stiffened, chewing his lip, his gaze averted. He dipped his head in a nod. “Thank-you, master, I…”

“Speak when I give you permission only, Shausek. Remember that rule, I will punish you next time you break it.” Ossan-Ke said, without threat in his voice. He spoke merely of a fact, not with relish or cruelty. “I do not believe she was lying that she saw magic, though. Tell me now, was she lying?”

Slowly, Shausek looked up, his heart in his throat. Ossan-Ke’s face was calm, without judgement or anger. Likewise the frost in his eyes was devoid of malice, although it did speak of truths known, and of a promise death in return for lies as inevitably as night follows day.

Shausek’s gaze dipped again. The truth would bring death too, across all Hazlan. But truly, he could only run for so long.“She wasn’t lying.” A breath of relief issued out of the youth along with this first admission of what he was.

“Good” Said Ossan-Ke, although he did not dwell. “Your blood is tainted in the eyes of many, and they say the Lawgiver sees it in the same way. I, I do not question the Lawgiver’s plans and purpose. If your blood has magic, then He willed it.”

Shausek trembled, looking up. His head was swimming again, but this time thanks to unheralded words.

“I would see it used as He desires.” Said Ossan-Ke, a tiny, brief smile. As close as he got to reassurance. “So I offer to hide you from those who lack vision, and nurture your gifts, Shausek. All I ask in return is that you serve me well, and let me teach you your purpose in the Divine Plan.”

Something must have showed on Shausek’s face. “You may ask your question.” Said Ossan-Ke.

“I promise I will learn. How….how will I...when can I go home?” Shausek’s voice was thick.

Ossan-Ke’s response was without pity, but without malice. “Your parents share the view of many. They were glad to be rid of tainted blood and they offered you as a slave to me in return for a reduction in their rents.”

Shausek’s eyes burned. His stomach churned.

“Sad, really, how they turn on their own child out of fear.” Mused Ossan-Ke as the litter came to a halt. “But you are Dyengothra no more; now instead a slave of House Nathskuld.”

Attendants drew the blinds back, and Ossan-Ke debarked from the litter. “Follow.” He commanded, and Shausek stumbled to obey, thereby setting his eyes for the first time upon the Nathskuld estate.

They stood by a pair of finely wrought steel gates adorned with decorative leaves gilded in gold. White stone walls stretched to either side, and a looming, opulent manse lay behind them, surrounded by verdant ornamental gardens. A beautiful vision of Mulan architecture, symbolically spoiled by three posts set up nearby. The broken and beaten corpses of a trio of Rashemi men hung from them in full view of the road, and a gaggle of men and women, presumably  relatives of the deceased, wept and held up their hands in grief. The three men were so badly beaten they were barely recognisable as anything but lumps of meat. Shausek quickly averted his gaze.

“They are still here? Disperse them.” Commanded Ossan-Ke to one of the nearby enforcers. Orders were barked and a quartet of men in Nathskuld colours moved towards the half-dozen mourners, cudgels raised. One of them, an older man, saw them coming, and began to entreat Ossan-Ke.

“Please, Master, let us take them down now. Please!”

Shausek knew that voice. Shausek knew the man. Shausek knew him well. Medik Ulnoga. Tear stained face lined with pain and grief, and soil and dirt. But Medik Ulnoga.

So the ones hanging were…

Shausek fell to his knees, vomiting.

Ossan-Ke stepped back from the stench with barely a look of distaste, as the mourners suddenly erupted into a paroxysm of anger, only for their shrieks to be replaced with yelps of pain as the enforcer’s clubs did their work, driving the serfs back.

Shausek’s stomach was empty when he retched a second time. He was on his hands and knees, so he didn’t notice Ossan-Ke wave over one of his men. “Lorach, to me.” Some murmured words were exchanged, and Lorach went off to grasp one of the mourners, sparing her from further beatings for the moment and, conveniently, freeing her to shriek her hate at the author of her misfortune.

“Shausek! Look at my brothers! Look at them! Look at them! You did this, you bastard, you did this!”
« Last Edit: October 26, 2019, 05:15:35 PM by Kleomenes »

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Devolution
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2019, 03:38:47 PM »
Devolution

“My father won’t see your value, not at first..” Ossan-Ke had said “So you will be put to manual work for a while….” The Mulan had given Shausek a little smile. “Until I can change his mind.”

Manual work, it turned out, was at an open cast copper mine owned by the Nathskuld family some distance outside of Sly-Var. Just over a score of miserable slaves worked the rock face at any one time, their scant rest hours spent in a pair of sheds on the site. A third shed housed the overseers, heavy set rashemi men in Nathksuld heraldry with heavy, liberally applied clubs. Otherwise the masters were distant. This was a place that was far below the sensibilities, or concern, of Mulan. All that mattered was the mineral wealth that came out; the human workforce certainly didn’t.

Shausek had lost count of the days after he got a fever, blundering through long days of febrile exhaustion had left him little energy for thought. That fever was but a memory now, and the days had given way to an endless monotony: Rise. Work. Collapse. Repeat.

That morning Shausek was more exhausted than normal. The previous night, the man on the pallet next to Shausek had coughed for hours, just like he had throughout their work that day. It had given way to a gentle wheezing at some point before dawn, letting him get some sleep, but all too soon the guards were ringing the morning bell and bringing in the urn of thin gruel that passed as breakfast for the workers. Shausek dragged himself up, waiting behind the cluster of older, stronger men, their bronzed, scarred backs and wiry arms forming a wall as they reached for the bowls dispensed by one of the guards.

“Wait your turn or you’ll feel my hand.” The guard growled, settling the gaggle of hungry workers down. Shausek didn’t know his name, none of the slaves did. He was known as “Finger”, so called because he favoured breaking a finger or two when delivering a punishment. Depending on the fingers, that could be a death sentence. A slave who couldn’t work was just a waste of gruel.

Shausek was one of the last to get a bowl, going back to sit on his pallet. The water and oats tasted of milk and honey to his famished form. It clung to his bony ribs as it went down. So he was nearly done when he noticed the still form in the pallet next to him. The man, Gazra, that was it, lay on his back, cheeks sunken, skin waxy, his eyes half open and staring blankly at the roof of the hut.

“Whose not eaten?” Finger called out, the last bowl in his hand, empty. The slaves murmured, looking amongst each other. Dark eyes settled upon Shausek, and poor Gazra. They weren't friendly.

“You lot know what to do.” said Finger. The mundanity of the task barely needed expressed, as four of the men moved over to carry Gazra out, to one of the waste heaps at the back, and almost all of the rest went back to their meagre breakfasts. Almost all, except two. Ag and Byn Shausek knew them as, taller than him by a head and despite the ravages of the mine, possessed of a lean strength. He shivered under their gaze, the silence drawing on. 

Finger stopped dragging the urn away to watch what might happen.

The fury was felt as soon as it came.

“What did you do to him, witch?”

Savage kicks and blows, his head swimming.

“Cursed him in the night?”

His head thudded into the ground again and again.

“Filthy ….stinking ….witch…!”

A cosh beat Ag on the back of the head and he slumped forwards, his weight pressing down on Shausek. Strong hands pulled Byn away, Finger and another guard finally stepping in.

“Leave it.” Finger snarled as he kicked Ag aside, and the two men were hauled off for a beating.. “Leave it.”

Why do they always save me? Why don’t they let me die? Shausek asked himself as blood dripped from his nose, from his busted lip. And why do they leave it so long?

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Carefully Chosen Words
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2019, 10:31:38 AM »
Carefully Chosen Words


The water was ice-cold, and Shausek let out a little yelp. One of the enforcers, Madi he was known as, thrust the young man's head down, submerging him fully in the tub. Panic rose, Shausek's hands clawing at the air uselessly. Is this it? ....please no.....please yes. Suddenly the pressure forcing him down was gone and he resurfaced, gasping for breath as he hung over the side of the large, round bath. The laughter of the gathered camp guards rang in his ears, until Finger's voice cut through it. "Enough fun lads, orders said unharmed. It'll be all our pay that gets docked."

Madi gave Shausek a final thump, throwing him back to sit in the water again. "Get clean, you little streak of piss." He scoffed, and a rough brush was tossed towards the youth. Static confusion only brought beatings here so Shausek wordlessly followed orders, teeth chattering as he scrubbed himself clean of months, years of dirt. A scum gathered in the water as he shivered.

The tub had been set up in the yard, and the work gangs were filling out to the quarry for the first shift. More than a few of Shausek's fellow inmates cast hate filled glances at him as they past. The news that he was leaving the camp had taken all by surprise, even the guards, it seems, but it hadn't taken long for the hate to show.

Eventually Shausek was dragged out of the bath. "Get this on." Madi threw him a relatively clean kaftan of simple wool at him, to replace his work rags. Once it was on, Shausek wrapped his arms around himself and waited. His cheek throbbed where he had been struck, the bruising coming out a lurid purple.

Mid-morning, a cart bearing a pair of men in Nathskuld livery clattered into the yard. The driver stayed on board, but Shausek recognised the squat man who vaulted off the back and walked up to Madi and Finger as one of those who had taken him from his home with Ossan-Ke.

"Morning Droga." Said Madi, smiling.

"Where is he?" The man asked, before his eyes settled on Shausek. His face creased with judgment, and he whistled through his teeth. Shausek shrank back.

"What?" Said Finger. Droga's granite gaze moved to the man, wordless. Madi broke the silence. "He's fine."

"Just shackle him and get him in the back." replied Droga with a grunt.

The cart journey was bumpy but silent. Shausek knew better than to speak out of turn, keeping his gaze averted until Sly-Var came into view, at which point he started at the nearing buildings in confusion until Droga barked a warning for him to stare at the floor.

The Nathskuld estate was just as it was on the day of his enslavement, white stone and scented gardens. The broken bodies of Nisami and his brothers were long gone, however. Nothing marred the appearance of beauty other than Shausek's memory, and the ice in the pit of his stomach.

He was taken in by a side gate, past the slave's quarters. They were empty, of course, all at their daily tasks, so it was only a maid sweeping the already spotless marble floors that saw his arrival into the main house. Or could have, if she had not kept her gaze down. Droga soon led him to a wooden door, carved with images of a lion hunt by Mulani masters and their entourage, behind which lay steps down. Shausek swallowed, hesitating before Droga nudged him down. "Go."

The passage at the bottom was well lit, and Droga led Shausek to another, plain door. Within was the finest bed the young Rashemi had ever seen, a desk, a chair, and an empty bookcase. A lush carpet was in the centre of the room. "Wait. The Master wants to see you." Commanded Droga, and left, the lock clicking behind him. After some time the ache in Shausek's legs forced him to sit. He picked a spot against the wall, avoiding the furniture and the carpet. The bare stone wasn't comfortable but...


Shausek jerked awake at the sound of keys, scrabbling to his feet. He stood with hands clasped behind him, gaze lowered, as the door opened and two persons entered. Ossan-Ke's voice and presence had not changed, either, but his role in the house clearly had "I thought I was clear, Droga. Unharmed."

"Yes, Master." Said Droga. "The men probably didn't think you meant…”

"Initiative and disobedience are two different things. Make the necessary corrections." Ossan-Ke interrupted. "Yes, Master." Said Droga.

The soft sound of Ossan-Ke's slippers moved towards Shausek, but then paused. "Oh, Droga?"

"Yes master?" There was apprehension in the enforcer's voice.

"I expect some scarlet in your report. I'm not my late, lamented father. Now wait outside." Shausek's master's voice was without passion.

"Yes, master." Said Droga.

The door shut quietly as Ossan-Ke moved before the trembling youth.

"You may look at me." It was a command though, not an invitation. Shausek looked up, to see the familiar nobleman.

"Shausek." he said. "Did you think I had forgotten our agreement?"

Shausek didn't react, this was unfamiliar territory. Ossan-Ke's smile was brief.

"A lesson is learned here, Shausek. I make good my promises; both promises of punishment and reward."

Shausek's eyes were wide, confused. This seemed to amuse Ossan-Ke. "For you, now I am the Master of this house, there is reward. Your training begins tomorrow." He turned to leave, knocking on the door for Droga to let him out.

"I'll send people to make you look something like a human before then, Shausek. You look disgusting."

The door shut, keys jangled, the door clicked. Shausek huddled against the wall once more because surely, that fine bed couldn't be his.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 02:46:51 PM by Kleomenes »

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The Key
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2019, 10:26:40 AM »
The Key

Like Ossan-Ke,  Aobaris was slender and tall, but there the similarities ended. Where Ossan-Ke spoke with a quiet certainty, Aobaris was fond of snarling and spitting out his commands. Where Ossan-Ke was calm, Aobaris' twitching movements and nervous glances wrote large his anxiety for the world. Ossan-Ke moved with purpose, while Aobaris's steps stank of a cocktail of paranoia and resentment. Ossan-Ke always seemed in control whereas Aobaris, despite his Mulan ancestry and the laughably overdone lion tattoos on his scalp, always seemed to be hanging on for dear life on the edge of a cliff.

“Let me see.” He barked to Shausek, reaching out for the paper even as the ink dried. Shausek leant back as the slender hand snatched it up, and Aobaris' watery eyes scanned over the work, the switch in his other hand tapping agitatedly on his thigh. They were well past the basics of literacy now, and Shausek was being tasked with learning and copying out complex prose. Today the test was an extract from a treatise on the Years of Tattered Banners and the prominent warring families of that tumultuous period.

By now the ritual was well rehearsed. Shausek stood up from his desk, ready for judgment, hands clasped behind his back and gaze averted. Aobaris would tut, snort, and roll his eyes each time he spotted something less than perfect, and count out each mistake. “One....two....three.” The lowest yet, and the acerbic tutor was almost disappointed with the verdict he was forced to give. “Even savages can improve, it seems. Fist.”

Shausek barely hesitated before extending his left hand, balled into a fist. The switch lashed out one, two, three times, rapping his knuckles painfully, leaving the skin red. Pain is a teacher he reminded himself suffering a lesson. No sound escaped the locked gates of his tightly pressed lips.

“Mmh.” said Aobaris, silence falling a moment. Shausek kept his gaze low. “We'll continue on to...” But Shausek's tutor was interrupted by he door to the tiny classroom opening. Ossan-Ke's voice was velvet and honey. “Only three? Progress. Remarkable progress.”

“Even a dog can be taught tricks, Ossan-Ke.” protested Aobaris, “I still think this is a waste of time.”

Ossan-Ke chuckled as he came to a halt by the pair. “I think its a perfect use of your talents.”

The silence was heavy for long moments. Shausek stayed still, his gaze fixed on the floor. He heard the paper flutter as it was passed between Aobaris and Ossan-Ke, the exchange having finished without words.

“This is progress.” Said his master at least. “I'll take over today's lesson, Aobaris. You're welcome to enjoy the gardens.”

It was not an invitation. “Thank-you, Ossan-Ke.” And then they were left alone in silence, beyond the sound of Aobaris' retreating footsteps.

“Being able to read and write is like holding a key to knowledge.” Shausek's master began, his voice thoughtful, soft. Like he was sharing an intimate secret. “I held that key out to you, trusting that you wouldn't squander the opportunity to take it. You haven't. Now your true lessons begin, as you turn the key in the lock.”

A well used, dog-eared journal was placed on Shausek's desk. “Look at it.” Shausek obeyed. The pages were filled with a precise hand, recording lectures and lessons; experiments and diagrams, symbols and signs. “My notes on basic magical theory, taken in my first months at the Academy.” Ossan-Ke explained. “Your power comes from your blood, but the principles are the same.”

Shausek leafed through the pages. There was power here, in these words. He felt it. He felt something in him find it all familiar.

“It is not your blood that is cursed. You are part of the Lawgiver's plan, so long as you can master yourself, and his gift to you. Only if you fail in this are you a heresy to his ideals. This is what those without vision do not understand. But I do.”

Magic. Magic. Unbidden, unheralded, his blood boiled at the promise of it. “Look at me, Shausek.” Ossan-Ke commanded. He obeyed, and met blue eyes as cold as ice.

“I will teach you magic, Shausek, but I will also teach you discipline. The Lawgiver watches me as well, as I have taken the responsibility of making you what you were meant to be. You will know pain in the coming years each time you fail. Yet prove yourself worthy of the gifts given to you, and you will be rewarded.”

Shausek shivered at these unfamiliar words. Something must have showed on his face, some doubt, or some unspoken question, because his master's right eye squinted before he spoke again.

“Choose now, Shausek. Are you a beast of the fields, as your mortal blood defines you? Or can you master that, and embrace the divine gift...the choice to be more.”
 
Shausek took a breath, and made his promise. “I choose to learn.”

« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 02:47:03 PM by Kleomenes »

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The Pursuit of Perfection
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2019, 11:01:22 AM »
The Pursuit of Perfection

Shausek sat at his desk with the book open before him, the page being a mass of darkonese script and arcane symbology. His head swam looking at it. It was not that it did not make sense, it just seemed  so... unnecessary. So much writing for something so simple. He could just not make the link between the page, and the balls of light he made.

“He knows it like a dog knows to piss on a wall, the same with all his theatre tricks..” Said Aobaris with his usual sour tongue. He was having a quiet conversation with Ossan-Ke at the front of the classroom, but not so quiet that Shausek couldn’t hear.  “Unpacking the magic is a waste of time. Might as well teach the pissing dog algebra.”

Ossan-Ke gave out a small, clipped sigh. “His potential requires direction, and that must come from his own understanding. Lights and fanciful charms are worthless. If…” His bald head turned to regard Shausek, as if remembering he was there for a moment. Shausek buried his head in his work again.

“Nothing has worked. I rap his knuckles for every mistake and for all his lowness the boy seems to truly try.” This was, in fact, as close as Aobaris got to praise, although it was likely aimed at saving face from his own failure.

HIs master didn’t reply immediately, lost in thought. When he did, it was cryptic. “I will teach him tomorrow.” 

The day began as any other. Shausek stirred in his silken sheets, luxury beyond that which most Rashemi dream of, when the day’s maid knocked at the door. It was the eldest one this time, he thought her to be somewhere in her twenties. She was silent, as they always were, not even deigning to took at Shausek when she placed a hearty breakfast of eggs and ham before him. He had given up speaking to the maids, and any of the other servants he came across. When they acknowledged him it was with looks of silent terror, like to even acknowledge his existence was a crime.

He caught himself sparing a look at the maid’s womanly form as she left. If she did not look at him, there was nothing to stop him looking at her. The thought troubled him, but he dismissed it.

After breakfast another servant came. This one was always the same, a middle aged man who would bring Shausek what he needed and take him to his lessons. This time he was not taken to the classroom next door, but a few doors further down the passageway, and through a steel door into a bare stone room. A cell, clearly, from the manacles hanging on the wall. He swallowed. The door servant left, locking the door behind him.

The few minutes that passed before Shausek heard the approaching footsteps stretched on an age. Heavy, hobnailed boots scraped on stone outside, as well as the hissing sound of something heavy being dragged along the floor. WIth a jangle of keys the lock clicked and the door opened. Two enforcers threw a large sack inside that landed with a heavy, meaty thud. With it came a sweet, putrid odour. If that troubled Ossan-Ke as he stepped over the sack’s bulk and into the cell, he did not show it. “Leave us.” He said, softly with a will of iron.

The door was locked again when Ossan-Ke next spoke. “Remove your tunic.” There was no prospect of disobedience, but the trembling in Shausek’s fingers made it a challenge. When it was done, he clasped his hands behind his back, head bowed, awaiting his master’s command in a stance of subservience.

“My magic is a function of my will, my reason.” his master began in a smooth tone. “Some in the west hold magic as a part of science, and I suppose in many ways they are right. It is the highest science though, divine and transcendent. Magic is the expression of my will upon reality, through the use of its fundamental laws.”

Ossan-Ke walked around Shausek, inspecting him from each angle. Finally, he said. “Yours is not. Why is that, Shausek?”

“My magic is a gift f-from the Lawgiver, and it’s the Lawgiver’s Will…” He began. Ossan-Ke cut him off. “No, Shausek, it is not the Lawgiver’s Will. That is what it should be, and will be, if you succeed. Divine magic.”

Ossan-Ke walked around, lifting the slave’s chin to look him in the eye the eye, blue on brown. “But while it remains driven by your emotion, it is impure.” He let Shausek’s chin go, letting him look down at the floor once more. “Why do you fail to understand the magic you produce, Shausek?”

“I d-don’t know.” he replied, but as the words left his lips he already knew that would not be good enough, so he spoke again. “Its hard to connect what I f-feel to the page…. I understand the page, but, it’s just words, not magic.”

“Yes. I’m forced to conclude that the methods of teaching have not been appropriate, a failure on my part that I will now correct.” Said Ossan-Ke, with a trace of apology. He turned towards the sack. “Observe.” He commanded.

The words that followed out of his mouth were foul. Shausek felt them as much as heard them. They tainted the air with something foul; like the smell that came with the bag, but felt in soul instead. Beads of energy surrounded Ossan-Ke’s pale hands, dark red like blood, before they span out to settle on the sack before seeping in like water. Yet they left no stain, they were gone, and all was still.

Until the sack twitched.

A low, wordless moan split the air and whatever was within began to writhe. There was a tearing sound, and pale hands tore through the fabric. The sweet, rotting stench grew overpowering, and Shausek gagged. The sack was rent asunder as a man burst forward and stood, awkwardly, and slowly. He turned to face Shausek and Ossan-Ke, head slouched to his left shoulder. Shausek could see from his bloodshot eyes that he was dead. He didn’t need to look at the ligature marks on his broken neck, the paleness of his skin and the pooled blood in his legs.

“Hold him.” Ossan-Ke said softly. “No!” Shausek screamed, stepping back as the corpse lunged forward. “Leave me alone!” Yet it ignored his cries, and when his back thudded into the stone of the cell wall it was on him, vicelike arms gripping the youth tight, its foetid presence overpowering him. “Noooo! Nooooo!” He wailed in terror, bucking wildly, but he was no match for it.

Ossan-Ke’s orders to the thing were calm. “Turn him to face me.” The thing obeyed, wrenching Shausek around and holding him from behind in a perverse version of an embrace. He could feel the cold skin pressed into his back. He screamed with fresh revulsion.

HIs master showed some annoyance, talking through the screams. “My will can even conquer death, Shausek Dyengothra. The Lawgiver wants you as a weapon, against people with the will to be like me, but without the faith.”

Shausek whimpered and wailed as Ossan-Ke continued. “You have to choose, now, Shausek, if you will stay the Rashemi I found, or become a blade of divine justice.”

The zombie was heedless of Shausek’s cries, but his master less so. “Calm yourself, Shasuek!” He snapped. “Or I’ll deem you a lost cause.” This brought yet new terror to Shausek, his cries descended to wailing sobs, but the fear in his dark eyes finally focused on Ossan-Ke.

“Watch.” Said the wizard “And learn, for your life.”, in a tone brooking no disobedience. He weaved his hands, a simple cantrip of disruption. A white beam shot out, striking the zombie. It let out an inhuman moan of ghost-like pain, and its hold on Shausek lessened, the magic binding it weakening. Shausek pushed the corpse-arms aside, racing to the far side of the room, getting as far away as he could.

The zombie  began to shuffle towards Shausek. “Kill him.” Ossan-Ke commanded the revenant. “Crush his ribs.”

“No Master!” Shausek begged. “I was listening! I promise!” Tears flooded down his cheeks. “I’m not interested in your weakness and your emotion, Shausek. I’ve showed you what you need to survive. The rest is for your will to shape.”

Each of the corpse’s heavy tread was like thunder on the stone floor. Closer, closer. Ossan-Ke’s blue eyes hard on his property, his project. Shausek trembled and whimpered. Closing his eyes, He felt its presence close…its foetid stench. Death, coming to bring him death.

And there it was. The common point between Shausek’s harmless light, the theory of magic, Ossan-Ke’s words and gestures, and…

“Be Unmade!” Shausek cried, and a brilliant bright light struck the zombie in the chest as it loomed over him. A gurgling moan gave way to a heavy thud as the thing fell, corpse once more.

“Good.” Said Ossan-Ke. “Strength. Good.”
« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 02:48:38 PM by Kleomenes »

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Re: A great fortune is a great slavery - Shausek Dyengothra
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2020, 09:17:50 AM »
The Divine Plan

She left in silence, just as she had arrived. A silence she had kept throughout her presence, just like all those who had come before. All that was left to tell Shausek she had not just been some fevered, passing dream was the cooling warmth on his sheets, and soon that would be gone too, leaving him alone once more.It was the same with all the servants who visited, whether they brought him food and drink, new reading material, or just themselves. They never brought words.

Today during language lessons he mustered his courage and asked about it, abruptly, in the middle of translating a Darkonese text. ”Aobaris, why is everyone forbidden from speaking to me except you and Master?”

Aobaris looked up from his daydream, face twisting in frustration. “Stop bothering me boy, get back to work.”

Shausek thought that would be the end of it, but he was proven wrong during lunch, while he quietly ate grilled meat and salad in his room. Footsteps outside the door were followed by a jangling of keys. No knock signalled only one possible visitor and Shausek rose at once. When Ossan-Ke stepped inside, clad in a burgundy zarong and his ever multiplying tattoos, he saw his slave stood with, hands clasped behind his back, gaze to the floor.

“Come,” the Master commanded.

They walked silently through the corridors and halls of the great house, two guards in Nathskuld livery following at their backs. Each slave and servant they passed stood aside and bowed their heads.The sun stabbed Shausek’s eyes when he stepped out into the garden, but despite the pain, the smell, the smell, took his breath away. Yet Ossan-Ke had not brought Shausek from his dungeon to appreciate flowers and beauty, heading instead to the gates and stepping outside the compound, into the fields that were the source of much of the Nathskuld wealth.

Only there, amidst growing crops and toiling serfs, as they strolled the same paths that the enforcers did when keeping watch, did Ossan-Ke speak. “You asked why I’ve forbidden the slaves from speaking to you.”

“I did, master.” Said Shausek apprehensively, his gaze dipped.

“Look around you, Shausek.” Obedience to that command made the sorcerer acutely aware of the tired serfs, the shackled slaves, the whips of the enforcers. All rashemi.

“What do you see?” his master asked.

“House Nathskuld.” replied Shausek.

“And?” Ossan-Ke pressed.

“...Rashemi.”

“Good.” His master confirmed. “Look at them, look at their stances, their actions, their roles. Set in their tasks by dictat of the Lawgiver, just as I am.” There was a pregnant pause before Ossan-Ke continued. “Just as you are, Shausek.”

They continued to walk, the two guards at a respectful distance, allowing private conversation.

“Some call magic a tool of Mytteri,. And your magic, some would say is Mytteri’s curse, that you are a creature of chaos, outside the divine plan.”

Shausek bit his lip.

“I decry their lack of vision, lack of faith, Shausek. What impiety it is, to suggest that the Lawgiver allows people like you to be born, or is unable to prevent it. What impudence. The fact you draw breath shows us the scope of his reach.”

Ossan-Ke stopped now, although there seemed little obvious reason for where he halted his walk. “No, you have your role just as I do, as any of these slaves do. And you are marked for it with gifts. That is why I invest so much time into your training, Shausek, because I wish you to fulfil the special purpose the Lawgiver has for you. Never forget that.”

His master’s voice grew firm, strong. “Never forget that. Everything I do is towards that end.”

The wizard looked out again to the crops, the slaves, the chains. “You aren’t one of these, Shausek.They are not your peers, or your people, and treating them as such can only hold you back. Think of them as no different to the food you are served, or the quill you write with.”

Ossan-Ke turned back to Shausek, his eyes hard, his voice pressing on Shausek’s will like an avalanche.

“Your life, your skills, your capabilities, your very blood mark you as different, and to reach that potential you have to embrace that fully. This is why I uplift you…”

Shausek’s eyes were wide as he stared up at his master. Perhaps he betrayed it there in that first moment, when coils of pride first stirred in his heart.

“...and this is why I command silence from those who see to your base needs, Shausek. Whatever those needs are.”