I hope I’m wasting my time doing this, but just in case I’m not, I want to tell you the truth, all of it, because you deserve to know. If things go tits-up and I die before I get to see you again, I want you to know what I know and understand what I’ve done as truthfully as I can possibly put down for you.
The truth is, I don’t actually hate dogs. There’s nothing wrong with dogs, dogs are great. Abraxis is great too, he just scares the piss out of me, primarily because I’m not used to guys being bigger and more intimidating than I am, but also because he’s a giant dog and giant dogs terrify me. But you knew that part; what you don’t know is why.
I can’t – okay, honest time – I’m not ready to put down all the things that happened before I left home that you weren’t around for. I’ll get to it, eventually, but knowing what I do now it’s going to be a lot more difficult to write all that down than it would have been before. Right now, I want to tell you what happened after I left, and why the whole… dog thing.
After the row with Da, I signed on with a whaling ship. Yeah, I know, you’re already rolling your eyes, but that’s the first stupid thing I did was go on a murder cruise, and I didn’t last after the first take. Have you ever looked a whale in the eye before you harpoon the poor thing? I have, and I hate that I have, and I regret it. I’ll tell you the details later; honestly it’s not that much of a story other than I was a miserable little pissbaby for three months before I jumped ship in Edius. It was some no-name little port town we were passing on the way back to Alastin; I doubt I’d even remember the place if I landed there again.
Anyway, this forgettable little place had the usual crap, a cozy little inn and everything. I shacked up hoping to sign on with a ship heading further South (because let’s be real here, deliberately sailing among the ice floes is only a thing stupid people do, and at that point I’d had enough of being a stupid person. Ha-ha.) and I lucked out with a crew of fellas looking to pad their crew for a long haul down and around to Kendor. They sailed a ship called Iron Tears which was a pretty solid vessel; The promised pay was high, but they were desperate and not a lot of folks from Edius are that willing to go that long at sea. They said we would be hauling precious cargo.
There’s no easy way to say this, though I’ll be the first to admit I was an idiot. The crew were privateers, and they were headed straight for Feduria to sell their new recruits as slaves to the cargo ships that run supplies along Feduria’s coast. You know, the ones Da goes out to-
The ones he used to liberate and sink.
That’s where I ended up. As soon as we were in deep water, the bounty ship’s crew had the new kids stripped, shackled, and shaved. Anything we’d brought with us was divvied up among Iron Tears’ crew. I didn’t pawn the meteorite ring you gave me like I said; it’s probably on some slaver’s greasy finger or at the bottom of the sea or Gods know where else. I’m sorry for lying about that, too.
So, where do we go from here? I was sold in Feduria, bopped around on a few cargo ships for two years, then escaped. The details aren’t very pretty, but you were never one to turn up your nose at awful realities, so. Here we go.
‘Wretched,’ I think, is the best word to describe the whole scenario. Iron Tears and her crew kept us – fifty young kids in all, with a couple older fellas to round out the herd – crammed into the cargo bay for the better part of two months, when we weren’t crewing the ship. It was like a dry run for what was to come; we were brought out in shifts to man the ship under the crew’s supervision, fed twice a day and then shackled in the cargo hold for six hours or so of sleep, until the cycle started again. If anything can be said about those guys, at least they knew that bringing us to port if we were sickly or injured would hurt their take; the work was intense, but they kept us fed, healthy, and alive. In all, only five potentials died on the trip – all of them varying levels of deliberate. That’s about all there is to say, really. Two month voyage, though the time started to run together pretty quick. By the time we were taken in for sail in Feduria, you could have told me two years had passed and I probably wouldn’t have argued. They kept us too tired and hungry to try and escape, but not enough that we couldn’t work. Once I was sold, however, things changed.
I think it was around the time I was finally brought to bid that the surreality of the situation had started to sink in. I don’t know if you ever heard Da talk about how the Fedurians do slave trade, but they have a specialized system in place to avoid what are referred to as ‘problematic purchases.’ IE, when someone who definitely would be a bad idea to keep as a slave has been bought, through whatever circumstances. There’s a massive lexicon in Nimphelis of all the known noble houses in Kalidria, ours included on both Mum and Da’s sides. Anyone caught with a symbol of a noble house on their person, or who can prove their lineage, is separated from the herd and then negotiations are begun to ‘safely transfer’ the ‘erroneously captured’ to a neutral harbor to be sent back home. A lot of money – I mean a serious amount of cash – is exchanged during these negotiations; I never personally witnessed one, but rumor had it that entire families could live generations on the amount of grease that kept those judiciary palms slick on the slave market, all in the name of avoiding an all-out war in case the wrong person had been captured.
So, with this in mind, you’d think that I at least would have had a chance at being pulled from the line, right? I hadn’t left home entirely empty-handed, after all; I had the earring with Mum’s coat of arms on it, which is recognizable enough just on its own. That’s why Da had each of us wear one; Mum’s banner, like Mum, is just one of those things you don’t want to fuck around with. Crewmen bringing in slave bounties were required to show all the loot that had been brought in with the potential slaves, in case of a Problematic Purchase. They had Mum’s banner, at least Iron Tears’ captain did. I saw him wearing the damn thing, pinned to his vest like a badge when he pointed me out to a potential buyer. Slavers are foul, Shannie, but most of them are smart enough to stick to the few laws they do have. That bastard, for whatever reason, deliberately made sure I was sold. I have my suspicions, but right now isn’t the time for conspiracy theories, just the truth.
Anyway, I was sold, just like that, and sent right back out on the water.
The thing about slavery in Feduria is that it’s completely jumped track from being a necessary industry to being… something else entirely, I’m not sure what. There’s about a 60-40 split of slaves that work on the water as opposed to land; since it’s an island nation and so Gods damned packed with people that slavery isn’t really all that vital. The agricultural economy is pretty much driven by tenantry and indentured servitude, and sometimes even family labor, depending on the family. I really don’t think anyone could dispute me if I said that Slavery as an institution in Feduria is more an economy of spite than anything else; they’re a nation run by the most Xenophobic assholes ever burdened with immortality, and most of the population is pretty willing to go along with the ride. If it wasn’t for the fact that Feduria is basically at an oceanic crossroads, and their loose dealings with privateers, Slavery as an institution probably would have ebbed considerably after the first couple centuries, or turned out more like how Xephos runs things. But again, Feduria is run by people who cling to tradition like hateful little barnacles, and the tradition of slavery keeps the Fedurian Elves at the apex of their social pecking order, which is exactly the way they like it.
Slaves that did get to stay on land were primarily factory laborers, and a good chunk of them went straight to the shipyards – which is it’s own kind of awful. Being forced to survive a trip on the slaver ships they send out is one thing, having to come back and build more of those monstrous vessels is another entirely. I wasn’t picked for that job, clearly, Iron Tears’ captain had gave a sterling review of my skill at being a crewman to my new owner, so they put me first on one of the cargo barges that pulls supplies along the coast and then upriver further in-land.
So I’m pretty sure by now you’re thinking, ‘Oz, you were on a boat that sailed either the coast or the river, how the fuck did you not escape you silly bastard?’ I mean, I ask myself the same question sometimes, because it would have been relatively simple to just dive overboard and outswim the ship to a safe harbor, steal a skiff to get me going, and make for dark water before anyone could sound a loud enough alarm. Logistically it would’ve been a gamble, of course; if I didn’t get caught I’d have to find a boat I could sail alone out of coastal waters and into the open sea, not to mention I’d have to get provisions and money and all that extra nonsense. But, it was not impossible.
I just… really couldn’t bring myself to do it.
This is the part where you yell at the book and throw it to the other side of the room because I’m a moron. Go for it, I can wait. Done? Good, let us continue.
What we first need to accept is that, yes, I was 17 and rock-stupid and thought I could save the world. Or at least, thought I could free the slaves on the barge I’d been sold to. I mean, we’ve all been raised on stories of Mum and Da’s heroism since before we could understand language. We’re the children of living legends. If I couldn’t step up to that kind of insane legacy I didn’t deserve the name I was given. So, I tried to play the hero.
Shannie, I got hammered down so hard by those motherfuckers I don’t even know how to write it down properly.
In the first six months I was on barge duty I tried four times to start a mutiny. Look at that, look at what I just wrote there! Four times!! It’s like I was carved out of the essence of pure idiot, straight from the ether of insanity. But the thing is, what really kept me from wanting to go it alone, was that the people thwarting my attempts at escape weren’t even the slave drivers themselves, it was the other slaves.
I need to explain this, because I need you to understand why they kept stopping me, and why I stayed.
The first few months I was still high on the fumes of righteous indignation and, like I said, stupid from years of heroic stories about people who weren’t me at all but who I was lucky enough to be related to. I tried everything from rallying speeches to bully tactics to straight up begging to get the other slaves to work with me and mutiny. But for some of them, Shannie, even if they wanted to escape, the fear and uncertainty of what would come after earning freedom was enough to stop them. There are a lot of reasons for this.
Primary, of course, was that nobody wanted to die. Even if it meant a lifetime of backbreaking labor, poor nutrition, and soul-crushing psychological torment, they still had their life to cling to, and for some the idea of dying before freedom just wasn’t that good of a lure. I remember one man telling me after my second attempt that the problem with the saying ‘give me liberty or give me death’ is that ‘liberty’ will never be guaranteed or permanent; death always is. I tried twice more to argue with that logic, stupid me.
Another reason for their refusal was the pure insanity of trying to mutiny a barge. It was still easy for me to forget that not everyone can swim or sail as well as you or I or Jacob can, and while the three of us together would have no trouble making a river barge seaworthy – at least long enough to get something better – these people were all slaves. Most of them had been put on barge work because they couldn’t swim, and thus the potential for escapees was lessened significantly. I was an anomaly among the group.
The biggest reason, though, is the one that also got me to stay. I don’t know if it’s because I was stubborn or susceptible, but I suppose I’ll figure it out someday. Maybe. Anyway, there’s one other thing about being a slave in Feduria I’ve waited to mention, and it’s what keeps the cogs greased in the sinister machine that runs the whole operation.
Feduria is a fascist theocracy, that much we know. But what a lot of people don’t see outside of the borders is the massive amounts of propaganda all over the place. I’m not just talking about posters and pamphlets and heraldry here, I mean the superiority of the Elves is etched into every brick of every building, into the architecture and the food and the music and the art and the fashion, into every piece of manufactured ware that is produced by hands of the state. If you’re an outsider and don’t know what to look for, you just see a pretty building, or a well-manicured garden, or a beautifully arranged plate of food. But in the very shape of everything present in the whole damned nation is the assurance that these things are made to glorify the Elves, to sing their praises, to enhance all things about them at all times. It’s hard to explain, but the idea of form following function is strong there, and the function is primarily ‘show that the Elves are superior in all things.’
I know this already sounds sinister enough, but the thing is Aihros and Lysa Halifausti are really fucking good at making the people of Feduria, from the highest Elf down to the lowliest Slave, actually believe their propaganda. It’s not magic, and I don’t actually have proof that it’s deliberate… But when you’ve manicured the presentation of an entire continent to propagate that the only beings that belong there are the beings that are the most beautiful and powerful, and those beings are the Elves, you have fucking succeeded in turning your home into a love anthem to yourself. A mortal walks into one of the ancient family houses (and I have, briefly) and you know you’re out of place. Every line of architecture is made to make you feel small, inferior, ugly. Ugly things are unworthy of being in those places, but are allowed to exist there as long as they are useful. I don’t know if Halifausti planned it this way or it was a happy coincidence, but whatever happened for the country to evolve the way it did has turned it into a living propaganda machine that fuels itself simply by dint of existing. Their beauty, grace, intelligence, artistry, and martial prowess was advertised on every space available. The Elves Are Superior Because They Are The Most Beautiful Of All Things In All Ways. It would have been easy, so very easy, to believe I was meant to be a slave, simply because the pure ugliness of my being was incomparably inferior to those that now owned me.
But I don’t like things that are easy, thank the Gods, so I rebelled hard against the idea that I was meant to serve simply because my owners were prettier than me. Even so, after the fourth attempt to escape I resigned my quest. By then I’d exhausted my last window of opportunity to make a break for it without having to contend with the weather, so it was best to lay low and try not to cause any more trouble. And I did pretty well for myself for a while; after I’d healed up and stopped causing a fuss, some of the Overseers even started to like me a little, I think.
(I mean, it helped that I was allowed to exercise some of the social skills I’d learned working at the docks back home. By the way, if you read this and I’m still alive, you’re never again allowed to tell me that being excellent at blowjobs is not an applicable life skill.)
Things were okay if not ideal for the next year I spent on the barge. I worked, ate, slept, woke up and did it again. Most of the time the Overseers were easy to work with and not too sadistic on the weaker folks, but near the end of Green Daire there was a change in management. My owner had gotten word that our barge was working at some fractional percentage less efficiency than another he had running up the western coast, so our Overseers were replaced by new fellas who were… ridiculous, to say the least.
Ten people died in the first month of the change, from exhaustion or starvation. The maniacs he had running the ship had doubled our workload and halved the food we were allowed, pushing us to the brink and further. I watched the few friends I had waste away to almost nothing as we were driven to push the barge faster than it was even designed to go. I hardly slept in those months, food was a luxury none of us could afford. We had all the fresh water we could drink, at least. The Overseers weren’t stupid enough to have us starving and dehydrated. It was terrible; we were sitting on tons of cargo, a good majority of which was food, and we were starving to death just to make it move a little faster. It made no sense; the cost of the ten people we’d lost would cripple the profit my owner would have made, bringing him right back to zero. Whatever his reasoning had been to let this idiocy happen, it was stupid. I’ll work for a profit-hungry slave driver, Shannie, but only if he isn’t busting nut in stupid for no reason at all.
So, I decided to do something about it.
Working on the docks back home taught me a lot of valuable things, sis, not just the crap I joke about from time to time. I learned how to tumble locks, pick pockets, scale walls without being seen, all the tricks of those nighttime trades. I’d been keeping in practice under the old guard, occasionally swiping extra rations for myself and the few friends I’d managed to make (though ‘friends’ might be pushing it. Nobody really wanted much to do with me after around the third time I tried to get them to escape) among other petty little crimes. This time, however, was anything but petty.
There was no way I could steal enough food by myself to feed the entire crew, and no chance in hell anyone would help with swiping rations. Everyone was either too tired, hungry, or resigned to even fight over what scraps we had. I couldn’t escape because no one would come with and it was still some time before the last storms off the coast would subside. So, I decided to take a more direct approach.
I scuttled the barge. Yeah, wow, how the fuck am I still alive after that one? I don’t know. I honestly could not tell you what the hell possessed anyone to let me live after that stunt. But I did just that. I picked the lock on my shackles during my sleeping shift, snuck out of the bunks and into the hold. I turned every vent and valve I could find and flooded the barge. Initially, I had planned on just turning a few cranks and letting the water build up gradually. And that went fine at first – I’d been doing a pretty good job at sneaking through the barge for the first few minutes, but being tired and hungry and riding on the fumes of a day of insane labor may in fact have crippled my abilities at subterfuge quite a significant bit. One of the Overseers found me, but instead of calling for an assist to take me down, he decided he could do it himself.
So, I keep saying I’m not going to lie to you in this book, and what I’m going to write next is going to probably make you think I was lying about not lying, but I swear to you every word of this next sentence is true:
I righteously trounced that asshole.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Didn’t I just get through telling you that I – a malnourished teenage slave laborer – could barely manage to sneak through a barge at night when half the crew was asleep? Because that’s true, but it’s also true that, somehow, some fucking way, I got a lucky hit on the Overseer and knocked him clean on his ass. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, just that it did, and it was wonderful.
Well, it was wonderful until he picked himself up and started screaming for backup, but by then I was already tearing up the hold, ripping open any holes I could to flood the place before they could stop the water. It was absolute chaos, but after is pretty much a blur. I’d made it from one end of the barge to the other, but someone caught me a solid hit on the back of the head with something. Whatever it was left a nice scar for my collection, and when I woke up again, I was in chains on the mainland, about to be sold.
Yeah, how’s that for a kick in the ass? Like I said, I still don’t know why they let me live. I learned later that the barge had in fact sunk entirely, all of the cargo lost. The other slaves had been snatched up immediately (minus a few, and to this day I hope to the Gods that they escaped, but I know better than to hold my breath) and, like me, were sold off to make up for our owner’s profit loss.
And yet, for some reason, I was still alive. How long I would stay that way, however, was a question I was going to start seriously asking myself very soon.
You see, Shannie, I was lucky, extremely lucky, to have been on the barge as long as I had. There are so many worse places a person can be sent, with people who made the second shift of bargemasters that had pissed me off look like angels. The ship I was sold to was another beast entirely.
A few decades ago some genius Elf noticed that there was a popular industry among certain privateers that had a little flavor of heroism to it. The biggest offenders were Alastinian pirates, who made a little extra coin in plundering Fedurian slave ships for the actual slaves. Honestly from what I’ve heard the ‘heroism’ part is more of a thin shellac of legitimacy painted over a much larger and more awful picture, considering a lot of those pirates lauded for ‘freeing the poor slaves’ turned around and sold those very same slaves back to their home countries, but it felt heroic and frequent enough for someone to want to put a stop to it. So it came to pass that some shipwrights were conscripted to build bait ships.
Basically how it works is this: The ship is be built to the exact dimensions of a regular slave cargo vessel, but houses only a fraction of its intended capacity. While outside it’s made to look like it’s crammed with bodies begging for liberation, the ship’s interior is filled with several months worth of provisions, a payload of canons that could take out a medium sized Alastinian war cruiser. I’m not kidding, the weapons on these ships are stupid levels of overkill. Thing is, most of the time the crew never even needs to use them, because the crewmen themselves are as much weapon as anything in the hold. And they have dogs.
So these ships are built and crewed by about ten Elf Overseers – and their dogs – with about 100 or so slaves on board to make the ship look lively. Then they head out to sea and fish for likely prey. The idea is to discourage the pirates by either driving them away by sheer force, sinking the ship, or capturing the crew. Usually it’s the last; more slaves for the mainland and on top of that, they can usually come away with the pirates’ ship intact and sell that for a hefty commission. It’s a nasty, efficient system, and they’ve gotten very good at not being recognizable as bait ships until it’s too late for their quarry to escape.
The thing of it is, sitting out in trade waters, waiting for a likely ship to pass by, was tedious and boring. There’s only so much work to be done on a ship that’s riding anchor half the time, and in temperate months the lack of even clouds to watch over the sea can make a body go mad for some kind of distraction. We slaves had our own ways of keeping lively – telling stories, drumming, playing games with found objects, that kind of shit. Nothing to really write home about, but you know how it is when you’re on still waters too long; you have to have something to keep you busy or you’ll go crazy.
So the question is, what happens when people who are already crazy crave entertainment in a barren landscape. Answer: you don’t want to know. Secondary answer: I don’t want to tell you, but I’m going to.
The Overseers on the bait ship liked to keep their dogs hungry. Not the growl-snap kind of hungry most dogs get when they go without a good meal for the day, I mean starving and ravenously hungry. The dogs are huge, pony-sized animals that are mostly bald from mange or whatever by the time they hit adulthood, and their owners train them to fight right from the beginning. They fight for food, for a place to sleep, for everything, until out of a litter only the strongest, most psychotically violent animal is left, and that’s what they bring on board for these fishing trips. The pitiful things are then chained up on deck on short leashes – only a few inches shorter than the chains we were strung to while working our shifts – and left to their own devices until their owners got bored.
It was bad enough working while having to dodge teeth snapping at your heels. But it was worse, so, so much worse, when one of the Overseers finally cracked from the boredom and let one of those hounds of its chain and steered it at an unsuspecting slave.
I was on one of those ships for five months, from Green Daire to Beldon’s Moon. I’ll remember the face of every man I watched get ripped to shreds by those things until the day I die; probably even after that. Up to this point I’d been beaten, starved, and worse, but nothing, nothing was more terrifying than looking down the maw of a ravenous monster and then up into the eyes of something so broken and wronged by the world that killing was the only respite it had from its own wretched, miserable existence. Almost nothing I have personally experienced is worse than witnessing that kind of violence.
There’s not much more to say about dogs from this point on. But I get the feeling you understand now.
The bait ship I was on, the Pilotfish, was managed by a complete idiot. Not saying the Overseers were stupid; in fact they were a savvy, sharp bunch of scary bastards who didn’t let much slip past their notice. But the Elf who owned the Pilotfish, whoever it was, had made the spectacularly unwise decision of crewing the damn vessel with ‘problem children’ collected from other slave owners across Feduria. Not the whole crew, mind, only about twenty in a hundred, but it was enough. Probably we’d been bought so the Overseers would have convenient targets when they wanted to let their dogs loose, instead of taking the more valuable, obedient slaves. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful for that kind of executive idiocy. I’d be dead otherwise.
Now, it was an unspoken agreement among the slave crew that we wouldn’t go marching around trading stories about our battle scars, but it wasn’t hard to pick out which among us were the Problem Children that had been brought aboard. There’s a look a person gets when they’re ready to break out or die trying, and a look shared among those who understand it. But still, still when I finally got up the courage to suggest mutiny, the others hesitated. They were right to, of course; a mutiny would probably get most of us dead and far too many others wounded or killed as collateral. We wanted our freedom, but even then not at the cost of the slaves who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, fight with us.
It was maddening. I had in front of me a crew of men who were willing and able to fight their way to freedom, but the cost would have been too high. I knew I couldn’t sway them, because I couldn’t even sway myself. So, I resigned again.
No, that’s not true. I didn’t resign. I thought every day of plans for escape, trying to account for every detail that would minimize the loss of life on our side. For the first two months I preoccupied myself constantly with these thoughts – to the point where I once strayed a little too close to the hungry dogs. You’ve seen the scars, and it was a damn miracle someone dragged me out of range before I lost anything other than skin (and pride. I wish I had a better story for those scars, but no. I just got distracted and walked into a pile of hungry killer dogs. History will thank you for never sharing that knowledge with anyone.).
For all my planning, though, there was little I could do. Any weapons we could have used were stored in the gallery, far out of reach either when we were chained on deck or down below in the cargo hold. The dogs patrolled the rest of the ship freely at night, and during the day we were under constant surveillance. Already the Overseers had started setting the dogs on us; we were down sixteen non-fighters and one older sailor who had seemed to almost… beckon the dog to him…
The frustration of it all was close to driving me crazy, I think. Out there on the clear summer waters, anchored with hardly a breeze to cool the ship, fishing and maintenance and nothing but endless blue and white on blue and white – yeah. I kind of got a little insane. Enough that once, in the dead of night, I said a prayer.
I’m not going to tell you what it was. You know I’m not the praying type, so let me just say it was as sincere as I can make it without being deliberately a cynical jackass. But I did pray, and decided that, the next opportunity I had, I was going to make for the weapons cache and see if I couldn’t at least kill some of those miserable godsdamned dogs on my way out. If nothing else, the others wouldn’t have to worry about getting eaten.
It turns out, the next opportunity was in the shape of a nightmare.
Do you remember when we were little, I think I was maybe seven, and we were stuck in a grotto on the southwest coast during a hurricane? Jacob sailed us ahead of the storm and you were fighting with the map, then the rudder broke and I had to rope down to fix it. I remember being down there, lashing it back together, and when I looked up at the storm in our wake it was like looking into the eye of a dragon. I think I was crying when I came back on deck, you screamed something at me and we almost bottomed out on a bed of coral before making it to the grotto and taking cover. I had nightmares of storms for weeks after, I think you did too, and Jacob never talked about it so I assume he did as well.
What if I told you that same storm returned in the dead of night five years ago and saved me from slavery? You already think I’m crazy, but I know putting something like that on paper really puts the bucket on the head, right? I know, yes, that sure is a crazy thing I wrote there but I will believe it until I die.
The storm blew in some three or four hours before dawn. I couldn’t sleep in the pre-storm chop and when the first heavy hit us the ship lurched like an animal scared out of its den. You know the feeling when a sudden surge hits? It’s bad enough when you’re floating free, but we were anchored in bait waters. The ship jumped. I wouldn’t be shocked if we actually cleared the water for a second, it certainly felt like we did. When we settled again, waiting for the next swell, I could hear that the dogs were howling and had retreated somewhere back near the bilge. The stairs up to the gallery would be free, and the Overseers would be too concerned with getting the deck in order before the storm really hit to waste any time grabbing slaves to do the work for them. We weren’t caged in the cargo hold; just chained, and the shackle locks were easy to pick. I was out of them before any of the others could stop me. The Pilotfish was really starting to churn up in the water now; I could hear the rode straining as some of the Overseers attempted to stow the anchor, but something was dragging it, keeping it moored below.
By then the storm was almost on us, the wind was so deafening even the thunder couldn’t compete with it. Picking the weapons locker was hell; with the ship rolling and the wind screaming overhead I was a paranoid wreck, but eventually the lock clicked and the door flew open, spilling swords, daggers, a few harpoons, whatever sharp thing not used for kitchen work had been shoved in there for safe keeping. I grabbed what I could and ran back down to the hold.
Honestly, I didn’t really expect anyone to pick up the weapons I’d dropped in front of them. In the thundering chaos I could see almost a hundred faces staring at me like I had completely lost my mind. For ba very brief second, I seriously felt like apologizing for the mess, picking the weapons back up, and putting them away neatly in the gallery locker.
Then someone said, “well, get the key and get us out of these damn chains, boy. We don’t got all night.”
The rest… how can I describe the rest? It was total insanity. I found the key (also hung in the gallery locker, it had slid out of sight initially), freed the other slaves, grabbed a sword, and headed up to the deck. I didn’t check to see if anyone was following, I figured if they wanted to they would, at this point I wasn’t going to worry about surviving the night. If the Elves didn’t kill me, the dogs probably would, and if not them the storm would take its price. But, in the moment I emerged on to the deck, I looked into the storm again. It was the same storm, Shannie, with the same eye of light and noise at its center staring right into me. I felt like I’d been struck by lightning. For a second I really believed I had been, but it was just the storm… looking at me. Waiting for me to act. So, I did. I swung at the first Elf I saw, and what followed after was combat. Chaotic, bloody, terrifying – I was tired and hungry and half-insane, surrounded by death on all sides. The other slaves had followed; the carnage was swift. In all, I think, it only took about twenty minutes.
I think… the worst part about it was afterwards, when we had to dispose of the dogs. I’m sorry, I don’t want to put down the details on that part.
Anyway, that’s how it happened. The ship didn’t capsize, and in all we were left with about 65 people. We took a vote, decided to head for Xephos, and that’s where I met you again. You know pretty much all the rest from there. At least the parts that matter.
I guess I’ll put this down for now. Shannie, I’m sorry that this is the opening chapter to a sad book.
All my love to you,