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The Resistance is gathering.
[Introduction] The Resistance was growing. After years of being forced into slavery, the smaller tribes in the Land of D'ar have escaped and are gathering for the bloodiest battle of their history. Fate seems to be on their side as they gather together and find out just who is fighting for them, but will it be enough?

Michal: A sex-slave turned theif who has obligations to fill
Thatcher: A Masterson trying to make a better name for himself
Garius: A fighter willing do anything to stay free
Yia: A young girl who doesn't remember life outside of her dungeon
Michal casually walked through the marketplace, her cloak wrapped around her tightly so that you could only see her doe brown eyes. She glanced at the items before her and stealthily snatched a loaf of bread for her meal and a sac of goat's milk that someone had foolishly left on the counter. She was halfway across the market when she heard the exclamation of a thief.

She smiled behind her cloak as she ducked into a vacant alley. She pulled back the hood so that she could enjoy her meal and quickly polished off the small loaf, but kept most of the milk for later. She sighed with satisfaction as she righted her hood before stepping back out into the open market.

She hadn't gone three steps when someone grabbed her arm and twisted her around, causing her cloak to loosen and her hood to fall back, revealing her distinguishable red hair and brown skin. She gasped in surprise when she saw her capture was a slaver. She quickly wrenched out of his strong grasp and started running. She heard his shouts behind her and could tell by the sound of footsteps that many others had joined him in his chase. She cursed and pushed herself harder. She had outrun them many times before and she could do it again. Or so she hoped.

Ahead of her she saw an alleyway that she knew opened up into another street and she quickly ducked into it. Her head filled with the roaring sound of her blood pulsing as she pushed herself forward. She concentrated so hard on her breathing that she wasn't paying attention to the ground beneath her until she tripped and was flung flat against it. She gasped for air as she struggled to get up—but she knew it was already too late.

The guard reached down and took a fist full of her hair. He jerked back her head and she closed her eyes from the pain, but refused to give him the pleasure of hearing her cry out. He grinned, showing her his rotting teeth, and spit on her. "'Bout time we caught you, slave." He sneered and jerked her to her feet by her hair. He chuckled as he twisted her arms behind her back, letting her cloak fall to the ground. He whistled, "Look at that, boys. Looks like the Master's going to have fun with this one." The men that had joined the chase laughed with him and she inwardly winced. She knew exactly what kind of 'fun' Keil would have with her. That was the very reason she ran off. For years she had slaved along with the rest of her people, until Keil saw her. His revolting attraction made him take her away from the manual labor and make her a different kind of slave.

The guard jerked her out of the alley and shouted out to one of the men: "Wake the Master," He sneered down at her, "Tell him his breakfast is ready."

:::


The ugly guard shoved a cuffed Michal towards the throne. A large man, dressed in silk robes of cream and red, sat on the cushioned seat regally. He leered down at her as the guard threw her to the ground and dragged her by her chains to the base of his golden throne. Michal glared at the guard and twisted her body so that his hand was wrapped tightly in the iron chains. The man cried out in pain as they dug into his skin and cut off his circulation. Three guards had to tug at her in order to free his hands. He growled at her as he left to get bandaged up and Michal's brown eyes gloated her victory over the bag of bile.

She glared at him until her attention was reverted to the front of the room, where she heard the unmistakable sound of clapping. She looked up to Keil, and he smiled approvingly at her as he stopped his lone applause.

"Well done, my pet," He said as he stood from his throne and ascended the stairs. He crouched in front of her and lifted her chin, moving her head as if she was a cattle that needed surveying. She bared her teeth and snapped at his fingers, but he quickly removed them before her teeth sunk into his flesh. He raised his eyebrows, "I do like them feisty." The people in the throne room laughed. He stood and smiled at those who enjoyed his honest humor. "It's nice to have you home, my little fox. I've missed you." He brought her hand to his mouth and he kissed her palm. "But you see, Michal. Something arose while you were away and now I have a different job for you." He looked down at her, "All I need is a deal from you."

Michal had to keep herself from spitting at his feet. "What will I lose if I don't fulfill my end of the agreement?"

"Your body, naturally, if not your life," his thin mouth twisted in a vicious grin.

Michal grimaced as memories filled her mind, "And if I do? What will I get?"

"Your complete freedom," he smiled convincingly.

"And what will you get?"

Micho laughed at her as if her question was a foolish one. "A friendship between the other Masters' in the land and a promise of protection from them, of course."

She thought about it for a while and when she didn't answer, he kept talking.

"Admit it, freedom to you is like honey to a starving bear. You relish after it. And I want you finally out of my hair, or at least," he glanced around the room as he ran his fingers through his thinning hair, "what's left of it." More chuckling. "It's a win-win situation, my pet, that is, unless you fail your 'quest', so to speak. Then, we're back to where we were before or you will lose your life. I think you will see it's best for you if you go; considering my bed or chains as the alternatives."

Michal sighed and bowed her head into submission, "I will do it." He laughed. She looked into his cold eyes, "What is it I need to do?"

"It's quite simple, really. It seems all of the escaped slaves have formed some sort of army. Using our counts we've figured it to be around thirty men and women in this small band. I will give you your freedom if you tell me the location of these outlaws, agreed?"

She had already given her word, so she knew there wasn't anything she could say but "Agreed."

"Good," Keil grinned. "Oh, and Michal?"

"Yes?" He gave her a look. "Master?"

He lifted her chin and bit her neck gently, a sign of ownership between her people. His almost friendly grin quickly turned impious, "Because of your insolence today, you are going to get a sound reprimand. Plus, I can't stand to send you away after all that we have been through together, at least not without a 'good-bye'. Guards!" Michal's mouth dropped and she started to back away. "Take her to my chambers." He started up the steps to his throne. "And make sure she doesn't get away this time."
Dawn broke over the forest, casting a fiery glow upon the crowns of the towering trees. A low hum of voices was barely audible over the wind skating through the thick wood, at least to the untrained ear. With swift movements Thatcher flung himself from tree to tree, following the sound. They had finally gathered, hiding themselves among the leaves and the thick mist of morning. This would be their safety, for a moment, until they would have to run again. Grappling on to the trunk of a Cypress, he pressed his ear to the solid trunk and began to listen.

Nothing.

It had become quiet.

Then breathing.

Footsteps.

Stealthily he lowered himself to the ground and instantly was face to face with a man that was easily twice his size. The mans thick neck and shoulders tensed when he spotted the Lorrec and his black eyes narrowed at the lithe body before him. "Speak your name, son." He demanded in a scratchy, aged voice.

Without wavering his gaze, Thatcher spoke his name: "Thatcher, son of Thaedon of the Lorrec's."

The mans eyes widened, "Thaedon?" He grabbed Thatcher's arm roughly, "Where is that son-of-a-bitch? I have it in my right mind to--"

"Seanon, hold your tongue," a voice interrupted. From behind the mist a form took the shape of a woman as she stepped out into the clearing. Her bright gaze captured Thatchers green eyes and held fast as she spoke clearly to him. "Thatcher, welcome. Ignore the greeting of our large friend here, it is his job to protect us. Please, tell us your business, as your fathers name does hold a story that is not your own."

Thatcher bowed his head. More figures approached as he spoke and he began to realize how not alone he really was. "I am afraid, my lady, that his story is my own for I am to follow in his footsteps."

"You may look like your father, but I sense in you a different spirit. You are more like your mother than you realize," the lady countered.

Thatchers eyes narrowed, "And who are you to know of my mother?"

She lowered her gaze with a soft smile, but ignored his question.

After a pause, Thatcher spoke again. "Please, hear me out. I know you have run from my fathers Land, and believe me when I say that I am one of you. I want to help. In any way that I can. He thinks I've gone for further study, and it is his own fault for not questioning what my studies were for. I believe I can be a part of a better world, such as you believe, one where we are treated all as equals."

Someone huffed from the back of the crowd, her high voice calling above the heads, "And what would a spoiled Masterson as yourself know of us? What makes you believe you can speak into our lives?" A murmur of agreement followed and the large beast of a man stepped menacingly closer.

"I deserve that, for I only know what I have seen. But the things I've witnessed, the things I've been forced to do, have been too much. I did not choose my birth, just as you did not. I am certain that none of us would have chosen the lives that we have recieved from the Higher Powers. We cannot change the circumstances that have already happened, but we can have a say in our future." He paused, emploring them with his eyes. "What is it you plan to do? Hide? That is futile. They know how many have left and it wont be long until they find you. They have been trained just as I have and I found you within a few days of hearing of the resistance."

Their silence spurred him on, "My father was your Master, but trust me, he was a harder Master to me. I know we all come from different families, different backgrounds, but we have one thing in common.... we want change. I can be used! I don't have the mark of a slave on me, I can help you find the others and in a sense offer you protection. How many of you are there?"

The lady spoke up again, "There are just over twenty. Big enough for a Caravan."

"A Masterson's Caravan," Thatcher pointed out.

"You just want to use us then you will take us back to your Land!" An older gentleman called from the back. This shook up the others and started a commotion. They began to fight amongst themselves, those who believed in his plea and those who felt like the others were fools.

"Silence!" The Lady called out and in an instant all had listened. It dawned on Thatcher that this maiden was more than what met the eye. She nodded her head at him, and captured his brown hand in her pale one, "I believe you are on to something, young Masterson. I accept your cover. Within a day we should have enough supplies to continue this disguise." She turned to the two men beside her, "Mede, Seanon; gather all of the extra clothing and material that we have." Seanon and a lean young man, not more than thirteen, nodded their heads and went about their task. "We will need to patch all of our clothes and look more appropiate for a Masterson's Caravan. Adana and Merle; that will be your job." Two matronly women smiled and curtseyed at the Lady and started gathering the young girls together. There were no further questions from the group, no outrage at her acceptance of him... just understanding. Naively they followed her every command and once she was done setting about the preparations he approached her again. Two young girls followed him, giggling and pawing at his clothing. The Lady smiled at them, "These girls, Thatcher, will mend your clothes. You look as if you've been living in the trees for quite a few days."

He nodded, "I have, my lady." She smiled warmly at him, with a gaze that said something more. It wasn't attraction, and yet there seemed to be this force that pulled them together. He cleared his throat, "Thank you, for your kind words and your help. I know my father has done many of you wrong and if we can join the resistance against the other Masters in the Land I feel as if we can make a difference to how things have been run. They've been selfish, and they won't realize that unless we force them."

"It was the least that I could do for you, Thatcher. I know your heart is in the right place, and I pray to the Highest that it stays that way."

"You know of me, very well if I may point out, and yet I have not heard even a murmur of your name. May I enquire to what it may be?"

"You may." Her smile grew, "I am no one of concenquence, though. I have been like a mother to many of them here, young and old alike. I cared for their wounds after a days work, and fed many of them from my garden."

"Garden? No slave was allowed a slot of land for such a luxury. Are you not of my Father's Land?"

"I am, but I was not known by him to be alive."

"How is this possible that you were able to live so freely?"

"That is the mystery I will have to leave for you. Right now you can just call me Anamadandra, or Adandra, for that is what the others call me."

"Anamadanra? Meaning...." Thatchers green eyes grew wide at hearing the name of the ghost of legend.

"Yes, Masterson, I am the Lady of the Wood."
Past Member 'weewriter'
The sun was high in the sky and hot, beating down on the world below without mercy. A giant arena stood under its angry glare, surrounded by mounting stone steps so large they looked like a staircase to the heavens curving around the ring in a half circle, its landings manned by eager spectators. A sheer cliff signaled its end and below a deadly fall to the colossal, violent swells of the frothy ocean.

Sweat trickled down the side of his face along with a single bead of blood, leaving a red a trail in its wake. Heaving a deep breath, he widened his stance and gripped the saber tightly in both his fists. His rival, a man perhaps fifteen years his senior with a plethora of scars covering his arms, face and legs, smiled grimly.

All was quiet. Even the crowd had hushed. Apparently they, like the two men, knew the end was near.

Garius watched the man intently. “We don’t have to kill each other.”

A frown. The man replied, “I’ve been killing for twenty years. I don’t suppose I’m gonna stop now.”

“Why not?” Garius grinned. “It’s never too late to piss these people off.”

“Or die,” countered his foe with a sniff.

“There are worse things than dying…Like being a slave.”

“I’ve thrashed you thus far and I’m not the sort to not finish his job.”

The younger man nodded, but made no move. If he was really going to end this, he had try to stop it first. Otherwise the guilt would be too heavy to bear. “What’s your name?”

The man’s eyes went wide with surprise and for a moment he was silent. “Deagan,” he finally answered.

“Garius,” he introduced himself in turn. “I don’t want to kill you…not for the mere entertainment of these tyrants.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to give you a better incentive.” Deagan sprung forward, swinging his broadsword around.

The attempted blow was well conceived, but Garius had expected it. One instant he was inches under the gleaming blade, the next, he caught it with his own and stepped aside. Deagan staggered forward, eyes full of fear, for he knew in the next moment he would be dead.

Pain erupted in chest as he felt his flesh give way to the weapon piercing him from behind. His cry of agony was met by the boisterous cheer of the audience. Blood rushed down his front, pooling on the dusty ground at his feet. “It’s over…” he whispered. “At last.” He fell to his knees and then his face. With his last breath, he realized that after twenty years of satisfying the oppressing swine by slaying foe after foe, he had brought just as much amusement by dying.

Garius grimaced at the sight of Deagan lying dead. “I didn’t want to kill you,” he whispered. Suddenly he looked up to see the warden striding toward him with a large smile, clapping jovially.

“Well done, Garius. Another opposition defeated. Master Dylis must be very pleased.”

“I’m sure he is. How pretty is the penny this time?”

“Several hundred golden crowns pretty. You couldn’t believe how many betted against him. They should have known though. Deagan was old.”

“He fought well,” protested Garius.

“Yes, but you fought better, of course. Come. Master Dylis is sure to want to see you and reward you.”

“I want no reward and I deserve none.”

The warden laughed, patting him on the back. “You say that every time, but you know the Champion must be requited for his victories.”

“I’m a slave; I do as I’m told with or without being paid,” Garius spat, hating himself.

“That’s right,” agreed the fellow with a cruel smile. “So do as you’re told and receive your reward.”

It was no use arguing; he would only listen to Garius for while before giving a direct order and, as always, he would obey, and only a waste of time would’ve been gained.

The applauds of the audience followed him as he walked behind the quartermaster to the pit. Under the latticework gate he stepped into its comforting shade where he had first stepped into the arena. He was immediately relieved of his weapon and given a sponge bath as was custom treatment for the winner of a match. The two woman, slaves like himself, worked without pause, never meeting his gaze as they washed him. When clean, they donned him in colorful silken clothing. It felt nice against his tan skin, but he would not allow himself to enjoy it.

“Let’s get this over with.”

The Warden laughed. “Very well, Champion. They are expecting you, after all.”

He was lead through a series of cold dungeon halls and then up several staircases. As they climbed higher, he took note of the way the air grew warmer and the strong smell of incense, and knew nobility was near.

At last, he was beckoned into a chamber heavily arrayed with couches, pillows and glossy surfaces. Carpets paved the floor, soft and inviting, large windows draped with weighty curtains, drawn to only let a weak amount of light it. The room was full of nobles drinking deeply from crystal glasses full of burgundy wine and snacking on delicious morsels of seasoned meat. Back and forth, they exchanged their opinions on the match between Deagan and Garius without remorse for the dead man.

Finally, he was spotted.

Master Dylis caught him by the shoulder and smiled. “That was a superb melee, Garius. Truly fascinating. It has, as you see, spurred some curious conversation.”

Garius wanted to spit in his face. Instead he smiled as best he could. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, sir.”

“Ah, here is our Champion,” a man in lavish robes exclaimed, purchasing the attention of many others. “Tell me, how did you manage to defeat Deagan? He had not been defeated for two decades.”

“He had a poor taste in weapons.”

The room burst into laughter.

“Dylis, you are cruel. The slave is dead after all!”

Dylis sniggered. “But it’s true; the old drudge should have known to abandon his favorite weapon upon seeing Garius chose the scimitar. The curved sword certainly doesn’t do as much damage as the broadsword, still it is lighter and, unless armor is involved, the superior for it. Oh, but no reason to degrade him; he went twenty years undefeated fighting in the Tournaments. It was a good run.”

The others agreed.

“Yes, it was a damn good run.”
“His master must be furious with this loss, though. Two Champions battle and his comes out the lesser. Truly embarrassing.”
“It’s about time that slave died, I say. Twenty years is far too long to watch one man go at it again and again. Give me diversity, please, for the High One’s sake!”

“Deagan was a free man, whose death should be regretted - not discussed as if he was nothing more than a mutt!”

Dylis frowned, brows arching. “Garius, don’t speak to the High Delegate in such a manner.”

Garius nodded and smiled haughtily. “Forgive me, sir, but his conversation offends me.”

The High Delegate glowered. “And who are you to be offended? You’re a slave!”

“I’m a man, sir, and you’re a damned serpent that should be squashed…”

“SILENCE, SLAVE!”

Garius growled and received a blow to his head. It hardly hurt. Dylis fancied himself a warrior, but Garius knew he was as soft as the rest. If he didn’t have a trio of guards, there would’ve been nothing him holding him back from tearing the aristocratic apart.

“Please pardon my slave’s insolence, High Delegate. I assure you he will be punished for such behavior.”

The man nodded his approval. “I will forgive his manner today, but be wary, Dylis, I will not suffer it again. What punishment do you administer?”

“I will let you be the judge.”

The High Delegate’s gazed swept Garius from head to toe. “What say you now? With so many opinions, certainly you have a preferred penalty.”

Garius remained silent.

“I think a good whipping would do him good. Thirty thrashing ought to be plenty, I think.”

The others murmured their approval eagerly.

“Yes, beat him good!”
“Trounce the talk out of him!”
“Nay! Make it forty whippings.”

“Forty whippings?” The man grinned slowly. “Yes, I believe forty is a much more appropriate number. Master Dylis?”

“I’ll see to it at once. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. Guards, take him, he will be led in irons like the criminal he is.”

Garius made not attempt to resist. The manacles clapped around his wrist with a cold ring, and he was tugged forward.

-=-

Garius had been whipped many times. It was a painful process that ailed him for a few weeks following, but it was a worthy price for the chance to push at the bonds that held him.

He had hated listening to those men talk so disrespectful of Deagan. True, he had only known the man for the short while that they combated, yet the man had been akin to him, made the same by chains that garbed them.

“Garius, I want you to understand that I have no wish to see you in pain.” Dylis stared up at him.

He was strung between two stakes by leather binding tied so firmly around his wrists it was painful.

“Then let me free.”

His owner laughed weakly. “You know I cannot. Our laws dictate that a slave must be punished for any defiant behavior…severely punished.”

Garius made no reply. He had heard such words a thousand times. It was the law that required this punishment, not the evil citizens, though they were the wielders of the whip. He knew it was merely an excuse, a maneuver to stack the guilt on the government so they didn’t have to suffer it.

“Warden!”

The man stepped forward, releasing the coils of his whip and poising himself to strike.

“I hate to do this on such a day.”

“Don’t then!”

Dylis seemed taken aback. For a moment, he was still, perhaps contemplating the suggestion. His face was unreadable. “You push too hard, slave. Cast an additional five strokes, warden, for his persistence.”

“Persistence is what makes me a good fighter! Do you really want to punish that quality?”

“One!” bellowed Dylis angrily.

With a sharp crack! the lash landed on his back, forcing him to wince. The sting was terrible. It burned like fire, throbbing. He felt a lone trickle of blood slide down his back.

“Two!” the warden yelled.

Again, he felt its bite. He stilled himself, though he felt like screaming in pain, rage, fear.

“Three…!”

Dylis watched, his arms folded and his nose thrown in the air. The look of disdain was easily recognized.

“Four!”

“I didn’t want to do this, Garius. I didn’t want any of this.”

“Five!”

The man began to pace in front of him, fingering his chin. “I would have been all too glad to bestow upon you riches and glory if you had just cooperated.”

“I shouldn’t have to cooperate!”

“Six!”

Garius growled. Already the pain was getting unbearable.

“You’re a slave! You should do whatever I say!” Dylis shouted. His face was red with anger, his fingers curled in tight fists. Breathing deeply, he calmed himself, and eased his face close to Garius’s. “But I won’t have to worry about you much longer, will I?”

“Seven!”

“W-what do you mean?” Garius grimaced.

“Eight!”

Master Dylis sniffed. “I’m selling you, Garius. I’ve had enough of your disrespectful manner.”

“Nine!”

This time the whip struck him on the shoulder, curling around his arm and snapping his bare chest. A raw, pink line formed under his left pectoral, oozing blood. He did his best to choke the whimper building in his throat, but alas it broke free.

“Where are you sending me?” Garius managed through a ragged breath.

“Ten!”

“To the fields. Capital place to learn discipline, I think.”

“Discipline! They work the slaves like dogs. I’ll be dead within the year…”

“Eleven!”

Garius growled, arching his back away from the coming blow. It did little to ease his pain.

“Then pray to the High Ones for a good place among the Order of Servitude, though I doubt very highly they’ll answer it.”

Unlike the citizens, who it is said will be rewarded with everything their hearts desire when they pass; the Priesthood of the Higher Powers believed that when slaves died they continued their work as slaves. It seemed the natural way of things to them, damning their vassals once, then again when they entered the afterlife.

“I have served you…”

“Twelve!”

“I have brought you riches…”

Dylis wagged his finger in Garius’s face. “No, I have. You are my property thus the fruit you bear is mine by right.”

“Thirteen!”

Garius slumped against his bonds, hanging limply by the wrists. “I cannot forgive for this, Dylis, no matter the cost. May I burn in the Three Fires, I will never forgive you!” With a grunt, he pulled against the leather straps.

Dylis took a few steps back, sneering in disgust.

Garius used every once of strength, feeding off the fury that stormed in his being. He pulled. Pain crawled down his arms, but he ignored it. The warden beat and beat, abandoning his count. Garius wouldn’t relinquish. Finally the leather began to stretch. His wrists felt like they were going to snap long before his restraints would.

“Stop him. Call in the guards!” Dylis screamed.

“Too late,” groaned Garius and the cords broke with a pronounced snap!

The warden would not discontinue his beating. He thought perhaps if he kept whipping the slave, it would, as he had learned they all did, yield and whimper. But Garius was beyond acknowledging the pain. He swung around, raven hair wet and sticky with blood, clinging to his anger stricken face, and caught the Quartermaster’s whip as it came slicing down. Its coils wound around his wrists, painting lines of blood in his forearm. His eyes locked on the man’s face, laden with hate.

“How dare you!” the warden growled. “Let go at once or you shall suffer the consequences.”

Garius grinned. “You’ve mistaken the situation, warden. I have seized your weapon and with it your power; it is you that is now at my mercy.” He sprung forward, grabbing the man and throwing his head against the wall with a wet crack! A patch of blood marked the place there his skull had made contact with the wall, and the warden fell limply to the floor.

“Garius, calm yourself,” came Dylis’s voice. His face was full of fear.

In response, the slave burst into laughter, mad with pain. “Don’t tell me to calm…I’m going to kill you. At last, I shall see you dead by my hand. How I’ve longed for this day.”

Dylis held up his hands, tears coming to his eyes. “Please, please, spare me. What I did was wrong. I see that now.”

Garius paced toward him. “After all you have done, do you truly expect me to spare you?”

The noble now openly sobbed, sinking to his knees. “Garius, I beg you. I only did as they told me, as they expected. The consequences of doing otherwise would have been…”

“I don’t care! I took everything away from me; my life, my family, every thing good. Even myself. The goodness has fled, exiled by the things you made me do. I would have never …killed those men.”

“I know, I know, you were a kind boy,” bawled the fool. “I’m sorry, Garius, forgive me, please. Please…”

Garius curled his fingers around Dylis’s throat. The man made no attempt to resist; he merely stared up at the dark ceiling, tears streaming down his face. Tighter, tighter, he squeezed, feeling his throat contract. He had wanted this so much, to feel the life of this man seep out under his hands. It felt good, so good…but he couldn’t go through with it.

Gritting his teeth, he released Dylis. Unconscious, the noble fell against the floor. Watching him angrily, Garius backed away slowly. Finally he tore his gaze away and rushed to the wardens crumpled form. Hastily, he searched the man, smiling slightly when he found a ring of keys. They jingled in his trembling fingers.

After being a slave for so long, the prospect of being free at last scared him, but also thrilled him. Knowing he would never allow himself to be a slave again, he slid the key into the lock and stepped away from the manacles…

She was alive? Her hand twitched. Unforgivable. Why was she still alive? Had the Ones Above decided she had not had enough punishment? Punishment for what? She often wondered for she had long forgotten. Maybe it was in a past life, maybe she had once lived a life. Maybe she was being punished for living. The newly opened scars on her back must not be enough. The Ones Above must want more pain.

Yia's blue-green eyes opened slowly, she knew the sight she was going to see before she decided to open them. The same sight she had seen for the past forty days. The stone ground beneath her cheek and the stone walls surrounding her.

She tried to sit up, whimpering at the pain that coursed through her body at every motion. She gingerly felt the heavy chain around her neck, none seemed to forget to lock it properly. The door to her dungeon was unlocked, free for anyone to open and use her as they pleased. Torture, sex, some even liked to mix the two. It was all the former to her.

The man Yia only knew as Master put her here. He said for punishment, though Yia had no idea what she had done. The answer came the day the chain was locked around her neck, and every day afterwards. Master's mistress came that night. Yia's screams could be heard throughout Master's land. The Mistress said that Yia had tempted Master. Yia's protests that she had never even seen her Master, fell on deaf ears, though her renewed screams did not.

She learned to never speak to the Mistress, only scream when the whip ripped her skin open anew. Though the pain made that quite easy, for the sting of the whip never dulled, only worsened.

The door creaked open, Yia looked up moving her long hair out of her eyes. Her hair was a dark blond, but had long since been stained red by her own blood in some spots. It was a man she hadn't seen before. She didn't know what to expect this time, it scared her not knowing who the visitor was, since those that visited usually had a favorite way of torture. She memorized faces so she could know what the steel herself for, but she didn't know this man.

The man stepped towards her. Yia moved back as far as her chain would allow, unable to hide the fear she felt. The man reached for her. Yia shut her eyes, waiting for pain she was would come. The chain feel from her neck, but nothing else happened. She slowly opened her eyes and saw the man standing in the door, "If you want to get out of here, follow me," he said simply.

Yia stared at him, could it be real? Could this be a different form of torture or is this a genuine offer? Yia stood up hesitantly and took a step towards the door. She looked at the man again, he remained where he stood, she could see no trickery in his face. She took another cautious step. The man let out an exasperated sigh and grabbed for her hand. Yia let out a startled scream and jerked back.

The man growled with impatience and grabbed her arm, "Come on or I'll leave you here," he pulled her as she resisted, still wary of him.

As they emerged outside, Yia stopped resisting. She had forgotten what outside looked like. This man had actually brought her outside, she was out of that dungeon! For the first time in years, a hint of a smile reached Yia's lips.
Michal hunkered under the shade of a thick ash tree in the middle of the glen. She had been watching this group for two days and she still thought it was to no avail. They looked like people trying to hide, but at the same time she saw a man and woman, whom seemed to be a Lord and Lady of some kind, order the large body of slaves around. Their brands were easy to spot, but the two who were at the center had to brand of any kind. Master's at least had their rings to help identify them, not to mention their distinguishable arrogance that is hard to miss. But these two seemed very calm, orderly, and even act like they cared for their slaves.

At her best guess she figured they were a travelling Caravan that ran into some bad weather and had to regather before they could set off again. Either that or a nasty group of theives helped themselves to their belongings. Personally, that's why Michal liked to work alone. Less messy and you can keep whatever you take, rather than having to split any of the cache.

Her stomache protested its emptiness when she caught a sniff of the evening meal they were preparing. The lord seemed to be an excellent hunter and provider for his people. Another thing that was unusual about the group. She didn't understand why either of them showed any compassion toward their slaves. They should be seen as nothing but animals and yet he would go out every morning to find a boar or deer for them to roast. It seemed suspicious and with her stomache growling like angry bear she was spurred to make herself known.

She stood up, dusted off her cloak and quickly pulled her sleeve down to cover up her mark. Thankfully, Keil was stupid enough to brand his slaves on their arms instead of the neck like most. His claim was that the fleshy part of the forearm was more painful than the neck. She didn't know where he got his ignorant information from, but at that moment she was grateful.

She didn't know how to approach the Caravan, but hoped her excuse as a lost traveller would work. What if they were sent out to search for slaves too? They would assume that she was a run-away and capture her for a prize. Well, her prize was greater than any coin purse they would gain, so she had to try. If anything, when they returned her back to Keil she would just be sent out again on the same task. It was very important to Keil to have his slaves back. While not many left, he didn't have many to spare in the first place and she knew how much of a sacrifice it was if he would rather spare her and give her freedom than lose ten slaves. And she knew that if she didn't meet up with his man at the Grey Creek Inn in a fortnight, she would be hunted and killed and he would have to reach into his pocket and send someone out for a cost rather than her for "free". Ever the miser he was.

She took a deep breath and began to walk toward the Lady of the group. She knew better than to approach a Lord or Master; it would be innapropiate and she could be beat for it.

A risk she would rather not take.
Thatcher sat around the large fire, next to his new comrade Seanon. He pulled a piece of meat off the roasted boar in front of him and chewed slowly as he studied the newest member of the group. If she was another run-away slave there would be no issue and they would welcome her with open arms, but a quick look from Adandra told him that this wasn't the case. She was too clean, too pretty, to be a manual labor slave. Her hands weren't calloused, which would be the case if she worked in the yards, in the looms, or in the kitchens. There was nothing about her demeanor that said "slave"; she held herself with high confidence and didn't seem to be afraid.

He felt a nudge and it knocked him out of his thoughts. He gave Seanon a look that told him to "piss off" but the older man ignored it, "Sorry, my lord, but you were glaring and I think it was making the girl uncomfortable."

Thatcher returned his gaze to the girl and realized he was looking into a pair of gorgeous brown eyes. He reddened and quickly looked down to concentrate on his meal. He wondered how long she was staring back at him and wished he hadn't been so vehement in his thoughts to not notice. Thatcher turned to Seanon, "Thanks, brother, I just am trying to decide if I should direct her and send her on her way, or if we should let her in. Can you tell if she is one of us? I do not see a mark."

"Look at her sleeves," Seanon said, "See how she keeps pulling the right one down. Either it is a nervous habit, or she is trying to hide something."

"Can she not tell who we are? Most of you can not hide your marks, the only ones that are free of it are the Lady and I. I know we wanted to seem like a traveling caravan, but at the moment not everything is together so the guise could easily be dismissed." Thatcher thought for a moment, "Unless she thought we ran into some sort of trouble. That would require us to repack and stay in one place for a few days."

Seanon nodded but his attention was elsewhere. "The Ladies are on their way over here, my lord." He said, and then bowed his head down as Adandra approached with her new ward.

Thatcher stood and gave a slight bow also, "My Lady, I was wondering when you would introduce me to our guest."

"My Lord," the Lady curtsied and the girl mimicked the action, "I wanted to be sure of our guests intentions before I introduced her." She placed a hand on her wards arm, "This is Michal. She has lost her direction and has no provisions and was hoping we could provide her with what she needs before she heads on her way. Is this something we can do, Master?"

Playing his part, Thatcher nodded. He looked her over without shame and noted that she blushed from the attention, but Thatcher had to keep his head about him. She thought he was the Master of these slaves, and he needed to act as one. "Send for Alethea to help her bathe. Tonight she can rest with the other ladies. We will talk first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun rises." He looked straight into her eyes, "Do you understand? We have alot of things to accomplish tomorrow so I required you to be punctual."

Michal averted his gaze and nodded her head, "I understand my Lord." Her voice caught him off guard. It was beautiful. It was low and calming, but it also quivered. He saw too that she was holding on to her dress so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. She was afraid, but he wasn't sure what she was afraid of. She was so confident when she first approached, but something between then and her meeting him had changed her attitude. He would have to talk with Adandra later and see what their conversation entailed. "In the mean time," he turned to the group and spoke to them as a whole, "We have alot of work to do tomorrow. Everyone needs to have a good nights rest and we will start up again first thing in the morning. Those of you who want to continue working tonight, may, but I urge you to get your rest as we will hopefully be off to continue our journey before the sun ends its journey through the sky."

Alethea approached and took the girl by the arm and lead her away, with one last glance at Thatcher that made his heart sink. She looked so little at that moment. So young. He again wondered what had transpired between the two women and quickly took Adandra aside.

"What is it that you said to her? She seemed like a different person from the girl that initially approached you."

Adandra smiled, "The girl who approached me was not a slave, the girl who I introduced you to, was."

Thatcher nodded, "You noticed that too. Her demeanor did not say 'slave' to me, but Seanon pointed our her mark on her arm that she was trying to hide."

"I told her I would keep her secret, and that I would convince you to let her travel with us. I am not sure about her yet, or her intentions, but I feel that we must help her. Once I confronted her about her mark she seemed to lose her mask and instantly became afraid. I wonder who she is running from, and why she is by herself."

"That concerns me also. She can travel with us for a few days and maybe you can find out more? I know it goes without saying with you, Anamadandra, but take special care of her until we figure out her story. Also, the last thing we need is her to be captured and then to tell her slavers our location. At this moment it would be a better idea to keep her safe with us than to send her away."

"My lord, are you certain? At the moments she still believes we are Lord and Lady over these slaves, a few days with us and she may figure us out."

Thatcher thought about it for a moment, "Honestly, I think keeping her with us will help us with our guise. It will require everyone, at all moments, to play their parts, which is incredibly important if we want to find the others, however many there may be."

Adandra nodded her head, "As you say, Masterson. I agree with your logic and I will keep my worries silent."

Thatcher placed his hand on her shoulder, "Adandra, keep more than your worries silent. This girl cannot know who you are. To her, legend cannot become reality, your legacy is too great and we must keep it hidden. You have a way, a magic of sorts, about you that can't be explained, and I don't want to have to try, for her sake, to do so."

Adandra's demeanor changed and she narrowed her eyes at him, "I can't believe that you would assume that I would show her my identity. I was blessed with my abilities and I know when to reveal them. Furthermore, it is not magic, it is who I am! You, my Lord, will do better to remember your tongue and to whom you speak. These people are really following me, while you, sir, are just playing a part."

She turned to leave but Thatcher grabbed her arm to keep her from getting away, "My Lady, I apologize. It was not my intention to let you assume that I thought less of you. I do not. I just wanted us to be on the same page, the warning truly was more for me." She still kept her head turned from him so he let her arm drop. "Please, forgive me, we all need to stay together in this. Forgive my mouth as I obviously have no control over it."

She turned to him and smiled. Pushing his brown dreds away from his face as she cupped it in her hands, "I forgive you, Thatcher." She stood on the tips of her toes to kiss his forehead before turning away again, "Get some sleep, young Masterson, we have a big day ahead of us."
Yia looked around, no one was around. The place was empty, not a person in sight. It was how she wish her dungeon was most days. She didn't know where the man was leading her, she just followed, not trusting, but willing. Yia was too entraced with the outside world to care where this man was leading her, although it could be to her death.

"This is where I leave you," the man's voice snapped Yia's attention to him. She stared at him, startled and more than a little scared. She wanted to ask why he was leaving her, why couldn't she go with him, and most of all, why, if he was just going to leave her to her death like that, did he save her anyway. All that left her were whimpers, words wouldn't form.

Then she understood, this really is a different form of torture. It was one that would lead to her death. She wouldn't beable to travel anywhere safely, the mark of a slave would ensure that. It would be safer back in the dungeon, under the Mistress' whip.

Suddenly, the man threw a cloak around her and put the hood over her head. He placed a pouch of coins in her hand, "The cloak should hide your mark and the coins should last a while, you are free." He turn and left quickly at that, without a single backward glance.

Yia gasped at the last three words and stared at the man's back, if this was torture, it was a very cruel form. She would be much less scared of the whip. Yia had no idea how to go about being free. What does a free person do?

Yia's mental wonderings was interrupted by a shout behind her, "Hey! What are you doing over there?" It was a voice that Yia had feared for a long time now, the man that was always with the Mistress when she came on her nightly visits to her dungeon, was walking towards her. Yia was frozen in fear, what could she do?

Yia did the only thing she could think of. She ran as fast as she could, not able to make out the shouts behind her. She ran hard, she lost track of how long she was running. Going in no direction in particular. She didn't dare look over her shoulder, as if the action would show that the man was chasing and gaining on her.

A pain in her chest caused Yia to snap back to reality, the sun a sank in the sky. She chanced a look behind over her shoulder, relief filled her when she saw no one.

Yia cried out as she slammed into something...someone and fell to the ground. She looked up, unable to hide the fear in her face, and saw another man standing over her.
Michal had never felt so clean in her life. Alethea had had one of the young men, one not yet old enough to grow facial hair, to gather a two small tubs of water for her. She heated them over the fire while she instructed Michal to strip. They were away from the others, but Michal was still afraid that someone might happen upon her while she bathed. She soon found out she had no reason as before she started to peel off her road ridden clothes, Alethea had already started hanging up long pieces of cloth from tree to tree to enclose her and give her privacy.

Within minutes the stout woman was scrubbing her arms with pig-fat soap and quickly went through her whole body. Michal's skin felt numb from the scrubbing, but even the baths at the king palace never made her feel as good as she did just then. After Alethea rinsed her body she poured the last of the water in one tub over her head and started scrubbing through her firery hair. Michal had to bend down and flip her head over in order for the smaller woman to lather up her hair. Alethea then instructed her to dunk her hair in the second tub and within seconds her hair was rinsed. She flipped her head back, her long hair slapped against her lower back. She sighed with contentment and allowed the woman to wrap one of the sheets she used to hang up on the trees to cover her body. She then rapidly brushed through Michal's hair, but her pulls were too much for Michal and she asked the woman to leave the brush with her and she would do her own hair. The woman agreed and took her leave, taking Michal's travel clothes with her.

Michal waited, hoping she would return with something to cover herself with, and she was pleasently surprised when the Lady herself returned with some garments. Adandra smiled warmly at her and handed her a frock to sleep in. "Alethea will have your clothes scrubbed in a moment and they will dry overnight, that way you will be able to leave when you wish."

Michal put her head down sheepishly, remember her part as a 'found out' slave. She had no real fear when the lady caught on to her act. She just didn't know how she did it. She knew she kept her brand covered, but maybe that was it, maybe she tried too hard to cover it and it drew attention to what she was doing. She put on her best, soft voice, "I must admit Mistress, I would rather not have my old clothes returned to me, much less take my leave."

Adandra's hand reached out and lifted Michal's face by her chin so she had no choice but to look in the womans brillant blue eyes. "Michal, remember, you will talk with the Master in the morning. Do not forget that you are a traveller, not a slave. He wouldn't have bestowed the same courtesy on a slave as he did you tonight. He thinks of you as a lady, so you must play your part." Michal covered the brand on her wrist with her other hand and pretended to swallowed her fear.

Michal nodded. "I will do my best, my Lady." She had to keep herself from sighing with relief. It was easier to allow herself to be strong and much like the lady she felt she deserved to be, than to put on this facade.

"Good," Adandra said. "You may stay with us as long as you like. Where was it you needed to go again?"

At that moment Michal's stomache announced its emptiness. Michal herself almost forgot about food because the bath was so fulfilling. Adandra dropped her milky white arm, "Never mind, you can tell me more later. Right now let us worry about filling you with a warm meal and then I will show you where the ladies will be sleeping for the night."

Michal smiled, more from relief than at the thought of finally being able to eat. She didn't tell the lady where she was going, and she wasn't planning on it. Her final destination wasn't the issue, it was all of the stops she will have to make on the way. Picking out Keils slaves from the crowds will be easy. Not many people look like her as her race was a dying one. They were almost all now slaves to her Master, with only a few who lived in the caves, still owning their freedom. Regardless, they didn't travel out of those caves often, and finding a man or woman with bright red hair and light cocoa colored skin should not be a problem.

© Copyright 2008 Radiator, Plankeye, WhiteFire, Taiah, (known as GROUP).
All rights reserved.
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