The Other Way Around -9-

As always

Unpolished.
Read it at your peril.

( ver. 07 so to speak
At 1 it's almost working :)

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The journey took us nine days and of the priest I saw nothing under that whole time. The first stop of the vessel was the harbor of Bell. Disgus was a planet best known for its deserts and hardship as the Captain had told me. We made fast friends with a stable boy whose primarily fascination seemed to be Puss. He told us what he knew about Bell, it sounded a harsh place, not much joy to be found. It seemed as they had a rigid caste system going, with me and Puss belonging to the lower strata, one consisting mainly of servants, entertainers, and such. And below that? Well, there were always the slaves.

This was the first planet I’d seen that kept slaves, it was a unknown concept to me, but the first thing that meet our eyes as we embarked was the slave pens . It was a ugly idea, keeping men the same way one kept live stock, and the treatment of them made it even worse. We both wanted to get away from the noise and the stench of misery fouling the air there, but then i heard a voice call me from behind. ‘Boy! Yes, you with the animal!’ It was the priest. ‘Your Highness?’ I answered. ‘What is your pleasure?’ He looked at me sourly, wrinkling his nose at the odor of filth drifting from the slave market. ‘I will be having a private gathering this evening, Perhaps your act will introduce some novelty among my guests’ He almost lisped.

He gave me a krown and told me to go to the Watered Rose inn and take a room there. I should tell the proprietor that Slei of Beliam wished me to have a room and, here he wrinkled his nose even more, a bath with a side dish. ‘Go there, and wait, I will send a messenger for you.’ He ordered. I bowed humbly answering. ‘Your wish is my command Your Grace.’ With that we went our different ways. Me and Puss walked around a little to see the sights, finding it quite chaotic. There were priests everywhere, but the temple were nowhere to be seen. And such a jolting, screaming and cursing going on in the streets that we soon decided to take shelter in a tavern, ordering some watered wine for me, and water for Puss. 'It's best one of us keep sober' he growled as we went in.

I asked them for the directions to the Watered Rose and they gave it to me in trade speech. Their own language sounded hard and short to my ears with lots of clicking sounds involved. After resting some we continued our search and finally found the inn. The owner allowed us a small room with a bathroom and promised to send the serving wench up for a bath. ‘For half a krown extra you can have that one the whole night.’ He had said to me, an oily smile on his face as he pointed to a young woman wearing only a loose cotton dress riddled with stains and holes. ‘She is new and needs breaking in. You seem just the young buck for it.' It was a revolting thought to me, to treat humans as goods, on the other hand, it was probably normal for this disgusting town. And if that priest Slei would check me up later, he might find it strange that I didn’t take him up on his offer. So I gave him the half krown he asked for, and waited. After a short while the serving-wench came back, carrying a towel and something looking like soap.

Puss who had fallen asleep in the corner didn’t move a muscle as she came in. She seemed slavishly subservient as she went with me into the bathroom. Now, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to take her, but I had to let the others believe that I did. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub and looked at her, with one movement she lifted of her dress. She had nothing under it, and on her left breast there was a welt as after a blow, or was it a whip? I couldn't help feeling sorry for her. I don't know what made me do it really but I just stood up, holding out my arms, and she came into them as gently as leaf touches the ground. And there I was, just holding her. After a while she stopped trembling, I asked her as courteously I could if she would help me to bath. She gave me a shy look, hesitating but then nodded. So I bathed and at last i felt clean, well, as as was possible considering the circumstances. Then she helped me towel me dry, blushing most enchantingly. And I lent her a comb to fix her hair that had gotten all tangled and wet.

I dressed and went to my room where I invited her to sit down on the bed beside me. Sitting there feeling kind of clumsy, an idea appeared to me, out of the blue. ‘Wait for me girl, stay here, please.’ I said to then rush out down the stairs. If I remembered right we had passed a clothes store just before the inn. I raced into it, and well there I bought her a dress, and thinking of the comb, also a small mirror made of a shiny metal having a thin glass covering it. I then hurried back to the room finding her still waiting there, looking both forlorn and confused. I smiled at her and gave her the packet. ‘It’s a gift’ I said. ‘Go on, open it.’ She opened the package and lifted up the dress, then she saw the little mirror and her whole face seemed to cave in. She cried silently, her shoulders shaking.

Now it was my turn to feel confused. I had thought it to make her happy, instead it only made her feel worse? But suddenly I realized why. She had came to my room expecting the worst, instead there was this? No wonder she cried, Hers were tears of relief, not of anguish. I carefully suggested ‘Why don't you go in to the bathroom and try it on, please’ After she had gone in Puss lifted his head to study me ‘Now, what may you be thinking of now, then?’ he growled, and I had to admit that I didn't even know myself. The door opened and she came back. She looked lovely, it was a dark green dress that ended just under her knees, with a tiny flower pattern in white sewn on. It fitted her complexion that was light, and her brown eyes seemed to dance as she came in. I complimented her on the colors and she smiled shyly at me saying ‘Thank you, you made me very happy.’

We started to talk. She told me that she had been taken prisoner for ransom in one of the wars. She had then been sold to the proprietor as a slave when her ransom never showed up. She had only worked here a week but already been whipped twice for insubordination. It seemed that the proprietor’s wife didn’t like her to be there. I asked her how much it would take to buy her out. She said that she didn’t know but, maybe if I talked to the wife, perhaps? I liked her and so did Puss, we had to do something. Now, you cold call me stupid, but I thought it to be a good thing to have someone who knew the town and the people somewhat, also she told me most eagerly that she was a very good cook. And as they say 'the way to a mans happiness goes through the stomach'.

So you can see that I had a good rationale for the whys and how’s. It was Puss who stood for the 'What!' But I had made up my mind. I told her that we would try to get her out from there and even Puss had to agree that this food thing was most important, even though he looked at me a little oddly as he agreed. As I knew that a messenger would come for us shortly, and that we then would be gone for the evening I said. ‘You will stay here, and wait for me.’ She looked at me compliantly and said ‘yes master’ in a small voice. Aw sh**! Now she thinks that I’m gonna, ‘Listen girl, I’m not your master, We're just trying to help .’ I wanted to shake some sense into her, but looking at her I realized that it wouldn’t change a thing. She had got it beaten into her, or was she just being stubborn? First submission and now? Slavish devotion? It would sure take some time to understand her I realised as I studied her determined face, even with her eyes subserviently downcast. ‘We will help you, if you allow us?’ I tried. She looked up at me and apparently finding me trustworthy she seemed to relax a little. ‘Thank you.’ she said. ‘I will wait for you here.’ ‘Please, do.’ I answered.

Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. It was the proprietors wife coming to tell me that there was a messenger waiting for us downstairs. ‘Good.’ said I ‘And you’re just the person I wanted to talk to. Come with me please.’ We went aside for a while. I leaned over to her left ear and whispered ‘Do you want to get rid of that useless slave?’ ‘Can you afford to buy her then?’ she whispered back. We whispered some more, and after a while she decided that she would like to help me out.’ ‘I want her gone. I’ve seen how my man acts around her. It’s either that or I will..’ it seemed that her husband refused to sell her, and that his attitude around the new slave slowly was driving her mad. I promised her that the girl would be gone in less than a fortnight if she only helped. Then Puss and I had to go down to meet the messenger.

He showed us to a small carriage drawn by four slaves. In that we drove to a large villa consisting of impressive personal quarters coupled with some smaller farm buildings, all surrounding a courtyard and situated just outside the town. Here there were music and light. We went in the kitchen entrance, the priests secretary stood waiting for us, he explained the situation for me and how it was planned to go. We made our entrance under the light of a hundred torches in the courtyard and, talking for myself, I can just say that it went splendid. We made a overwhelming success, there were lots of guests that wanted us to come and play for them to, afterwards. If it had been our chosen profession we would have been overjoyed but as it was! The situation just seemed to get more and more complicated but I couldn’t refuse them, could I? Ah well, we were overbooked.

One of the guests wanting us was a high pries, when somebody mentioned his famous library I realized that he could be the one, the key to our dilemma. We had been lavishly paid for our performance, Slei who had seemed more than satisfied with us paid up handsomely, and with what the guests hat thrown us we had enough for a weeks good living. So to my surprise I found us being able to buy her with papers and all in just a few days. Of course our new influent friends, the priesthood I mean, could have to do something with the proprietors newfound willingness to sell, and then his wife to perhaps? But they got a fair price for her, She wasn’t cheap that girl.

When I took her to the magistrate to register me as her new owner, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She went down on the floor and tried to kiss my feet there, in front of the magistrates. They were all duly impressed with the overflowing of her filial love. If only all slaves had that kind of attitude, one could see their wishful thinking. But she was a good help to us, she quickly arranged a two room apartment, so we at last could have some normal living. That is, Puss could start to act as a sentient being instead as an animal.

We soon had to let her in on that secret, it was anyway almost impossible to hide, for someone living so close with us. I thought she would be happy over getting her own room, instead she got mad. That was the first time I’d seen her be anything but meek. ‘So what’s wrong with me then?’ she growled, oh yes, she could growl with the best of them. ‘So I'm to fat for you then? Or to thin? You find me repulsive? Tell me!’ Oh gods, what could I say? I tried to assure her that she was beautiful, and perfect in any way I could think of. ‘So you will have me?’ And when she looked at me, eyes brimming with tears, I gave my first notion up as being a bad idea.

In the end there was me and Ilisa sharing one room, and Puss taking the other. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted my Mouse, but she wasn’t there, Ilisa was. I did tell her about my Mouse, and tried to explain how her and me only could be friends. She listened and said that she understood, still, I could feel her disappointment. There were many nights that I had to hold her and whisper in her ears about Home and how sweet life could be, often with those whispers started by her silent crying. Sometimes I almost wished that I’d never had meet Mouse. Then it would have been so simple, we could have fallen in love, and she would, at long last, have been happy. She refused to tell us about her home, immensely bitter over her parent’s apparent refusal to pay up her ransom as she was.

‘They are dead to me’ she said, and then declined saying any more. ‘We won’t leave you.’ I said. ‘Not until we're sure you’re safe and happy.’ In the evenings we went out performing. Puss who was starting to become immensely popular among the crowds, had started to wander around on the festivities we usually ended up on. He learnt much on those occasions. It seemed, as there was some new radical insight into the ways of magic. It had come to by pure chance, and it had to do with a new lore called technology. Nobody was sure what it meant but it was said that the high priests had the powers to summon new and mighty daemons that would help the red Armada to victory. All wars they said and even, some whispered, perhaps the whole octagonal sphere. We desperately needed to get inside that library.

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Onward but Backward

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The Feast at The High Priest started with me getting a bitter taste in my mouth. Mostly people tended to ignore the slaves but there was always some that got a positive kick of, going out of their way as it was, abusing them. The High Priest was definitely one of them. As we arrived he had created what he called a classical festivity. The slaves walked around almost naked with only a token garment to shield them, All of them beautiful, and all of them debased and slavish. He also had introduced a novelty, called human torches. Those were the prisoners of war that originally should have been offered to Beliam in the red priests blood rites. As he told his guests. ‘This is not only a festivity, it’s so much more. A pious offering to our Lord Beliam, all for the blessing of Our Lord and his children.’ Some of the guests though, seemed ill at ease with it all, but more of them actually seemed to enjoy it.

The men and women bound to be torches were all drenched in some sticky black fluid. Something had to be done, there was no way to save them, but maybe, we could let them go to their Gods in an easier manner. One of the things Master Twizt had taught, don’t ask me why, was how to use the blowpipe. Disguised as a flute it had quite a punch to it. I had needles dipped in various substances, some of them quite fast and deadly. I picked a particularly fast poison made from the glands of a small sea snake. Master Twizt himself had told me that it one of his favorites. Then I stood myself under the shadow of the veranda quietly waiting for them to prepare their human candles.

As soon as they started to put the fire to them, I let my needles fly, and soon they were all out of their misery. The High Priest was not pleased with this performance, he took a man down to examine his sudden demise, but my needle was tiny and had such a force that it had buried itself deep inside the mans body. He tried to put it to a good light to by declaring that, ‘His Lord Beliam mercifully had embraced them before their time.’ But no, he wasn’t pleased at all. What I felt doing it? Like shit actually, but it had to be done.

Now it was time for our little performance. We went through the routines we had made up, and ended it with letting the high Priest wrestle Puss to the ground, as Puss seemingly assaulted him. That was a new routine, but the high Priest had insisted on it. As the High Priest had him down, all of a sudden I saw him draw his ceremonial knife, the blade was curved much in the same way as a snake moves and with a very sharp point to it. I realized that he was going to kill my friend, and I also knew that there had to be poison on that blade. Somehow the priest slipped, cutting himself in his fall. His was a death in agony, muscles contracting spasmodically, his eyes bulging as he gave up that last cry. Now bedlam erupted, people running hither and thither, some trying to revive him, some just staring. In the confusion Puss and I took our leave as fast, and quietly, as we could.

We found ourselves the way out. Running pass the library I saw a manuscript, made in some thin red leather, bound and sealed in wax, I swept it up as we kept on running. There was no time to lose now. Soon the hunt for us would be on. Even if was an accident, I knew that the blame was going to be laid on us as, soon as the chaos had settled down. There were no boats leaving port this late, but we had made our own preparations for escaping. We hurried back to our apartment, gathered Ilisa, and our belongings. Then down to the harbor. Thinking of escape routes earlier, we had sought out what small ships we could find. At the end of the dock there was an elegant yacht belayed. Belonging to some High Priest I guessed, perhaps the one that died tonight, who knew. We needed that one. It had a small crew and we knew there was a night watch guarding it. We also knew we had to leave as small tracks as possible after us. So there was no choice but to try taking them with us, dead or alive.

I went to the guard, looking as official as I could, and as the guard asked ‘Yes, sir?’ I smiled and opened my mouth to let out a needle. He went down as a stone. This was a variation that Master Twizt had taught me for emergencies. ‘Only in dire times, boy’ he said as he whacked that cane at me. ‘Only in dire times. Remember this' as he whacked me again just to be sure that I would remember it. Now, it is extremely dangerous to carry poisoned needles in your mouth, even if you know the trick to it, so please don't try this at home. I went down the boat as quiet as a churchmouse, found and needled the rest of the crew, and then, as swiftly as we could, we took of. The following morning we let them of at a small fishing port, away from Bell. We also left some money and pointed out that if they tried to go back they probably would pay with their lives. Then we continued our journey back to Gerak. There were no mishaps to talk about so in a few days time we sighted the harbor. Instead of going into port we decided to lay too beside a small island, staying as far outside from Gerak as we could but still in sight of the ships arriving. There, hiding in the shadow of the small island we waited for the Captain to come for several days. The priest Slei knew where we had came from after all, so it seemed only prudent to avoid that port. While we journeyed, I asked Puss what had become with the priest. Do you remember that I said that Mountain Lions reflexes are extremely quick?

When Puss wrestled the priest, he had what he himself called an almost mythical revelation. ‘I had found prey’, but what I would have called pure disgusted hate. So when he went down and the priest drew his blade he was already prepared, puncturing the tendon of the priest ankle with a claw, making the priest slip. And as soon as the priest was down, he had smelt the poison from his breath, realizing that the priest had slain himself in his fall, and you know the rest already. After waiting for a few days more we at last could see Cantors ship arrive so we set sails to meet him, hailing him as soon as we came into calling distance. He laid by aside us and we talked. After we had told him of what we had found out, and the dangers it had created, he lost no time laying out a new course. ‘We have to sink this yacht, now.’ He decided, and so we did, although not without sorrow. She was a beautiful little ship and I had grown much attached to her, so it was with some pain I saw her bowsprit finally go under, swallowed by the waves.

Still, we at least had some small mementos to remember her by. I had found some books, and Puss had found this massive gold chain, and Ilisa? Ah well, there were this closet filled with beautiful clothes and other ladies stuff. Then there was this little chest, quite pretty and filled with golden coins of course. So, all in all, ‘a fruitful little trip lads’ as our Captain so graciously found it to be, after he had gotten his share. We steered for open space as soon as we could after making sure that the yacht had sunk. The main reason for going to port had been to look for us Crator told us. And finding us the fewer that saw his ship, ‘the Indefinable’, the better he thought. Also we knew that we didn’t want this ship associated with us, if there now were informers searching, waiting ashore. When I asked him of his doings he described their Journeys through the battle lines as ‘quite pleasant, thank you, and profitable to.’

And that seemed to be all that there was to it. We had at last decided to leave this foul quadrant of Chmeer, the reasons twofold. Firstly the Captain badly needed to confer with some associates, secondly I desperately wanted to get in touch with my Lady Elisa to tell her about our travels and sightings. I also harbored thoughts of sending Ilisa to Home, but she flat out refused when i told her about it. For a devoted slave she sure had a mind of her own. Carefully finding our way back we had to weave our way through quite an ensemble of Red ships. But as our charm now worked again, and having Puss awake at the wheel at all times keeping a watchful eye, it all worked out in the end.

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