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Saw'ahya—was more than he wished for [Lore]
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the once-slave and now-champion swore his fealty to Duke Usifan. He is one of the Grand Flock. And this is the highlight of his life.

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Part One:

The whip cracked through the air, startling all those in its vicinity, though the one it was intended for did not so much as pause in his flight. “Stop, slave,” a harsh and brittle voice yelled, alerting all those in the market to the fact that a scrawny, malnourished boy was committing the worst crime imaginable, that of attempting to flee his master and righteous punishment.

The boy squirmed under a stall, upsetting jars of oil, dodged a flock of sheep and leapt over a beggar, only to be tripped by his staff. He fell hard, hitting his head, momentarily stunning him. He sat up with a hurt look on his face as he gazed at the one who had betrayed him. He had thought to find sympathy from a fellow unfortunate, but there was none. The toothless, bedraggled old man merely smiled slyly and then shouted, “Over here—I have caught him for you, fair mistress.”

The heavily made up, grotesquely obese and sweaty woman, Saw’ahy’s mistress, glanced over from the oil merchant’s stall where she had been haggling over the appropriate amount of reparation for the spilled merchandise and ordered her taskmaster to retrieve the wayward slave. Saw’ah began to shiver in fright, knowing full well what awaited him at the hands of grizzled man. Even at his tender age, the boy had seen and experienced enough to know that there were truly evil men and women in the world who enjoyed inflicting pain on others, who gained a pleasure from it that could be seen in their flushed faces and sparkling eyes, moistened lips and quivering bodies. Saw’ah had been forced to watch the last ‘disciplinary’ session and had witnessed the death of fair Lala—a young girl just on the cusp of maidenhood. It had been whispered she had been disciplined for refusing to go to his bed, but the official story was she had stolen a comb from the mistress—which had been found under her pillow. Her death had been long, bloody and painful and the taskmaster had walked around in a state of euphoria and good cheer for ten days after. It seemed, though, that his euphoria had ended and a new sacrificial lamb was needed—Saw’ah.

He had accompanied his mistress and the taskmaster to the market in a state of anxiety, knowing his mistress to be surly on the best of days, apt to inflict the harshest of punishments for the smallest of misdemeanors. And so he had held onto her purchases as best as he could, hoping none of the silks were soiled, though they piled so high in his tiny arms that he did not see the outstretched foot that had tripped him, spilling the fine cloths into the muddy road. He had leapt up, his alarm compelling him to do something he had not considered—flee. It had been an ill-fated attempt, all things considered, and a very short one, as the taskmaster grabbed the little boy by the arm, hauling him up and wrenching his elbow in the process. Saw’ah cried out in agony, only to receive a slap on the head. The beggar who had betrayed him received a gold coin from his mistress before she, too, smacked him around his head and chest with her purse.

Something snapped inside the boy, a font of rage which he had always kept hidden, knowing that his mistress and the taskmaster would see it as a challenge to their authority and would discipline him all the harsher in an effort to break his will. This anger which overcame him, rolled over him as a black mist, blotting out all sense and will power. He growled like an animal, kicking at the taskmaster’s limbs and then wrenched his own arm even further, slipping out of the man’s grasp. Saw’ah leapt on the mistress and bit, sinking his teeth into her arm. She shrieked, trying to get him off, but even the lashes of the whip from the taskmaster did not deter him. His jaw was clenched and his teeth kept their hold, severing skin and sinew as they scraped against her bone.

His mistress had by now fainted by the time the city guard had ripped him from her side and hauled him off to the jail to await certain trial and execution by crucifixion. It was a crime to accost one’s master, an upending of the social order and set a dangerous precedent to other slaves and so must be punished accordingly.

Saw’ah, still unconscious, did not feel a thing as they threw him into the cell on a pile of stinking and soiled straw, there to await his merciless fate. His arm was turning purple; his back flayed from the whip lashes and his face a mass of bruises and contusions from the repeated blows of the gold-filled purse, yet he felt nothing. How long he lay there, unconscious and dying, he did not know, but he awoke to the sound of birds chirping, with gauze over his eyes. Panicking, he tried to lift his arm to take the cloth off of his face, but found his arm heavily bound. Raising his left arm, he found that his torso and chest had been wrapped in bandages, as had his head, with only his mouth and nostrils opened to the air. He began to scream, thinking this a new punishment of his mistress, when a soft voice said, “Be calm, you are safe.”

He did not know that voice, but he believed it a trick of his mistress and so he began to scream in primal terror, willing his anger to return. His left hand pulled at the bandages around his eyes, causing wounds to reopen and fresh blood to spill. “Silly boy,” the voice said sternly, “You will have permanent scars if you do that.” The man who had spoken called for help and soon another pair of hands restrained Saw’ahya’s left hand, tying it to the bed and then a reed was inserted into his clenched jaw and a warm, sweet liquid poured down his parched throat. He spluttered, half drowning, until he swallowed it. Whatever the liquid was, its efficacy could not be disputed, as he felt himself suddenly cocooned in a soft, warm light and drifted off to a painless slumber.

He awoke sometime later to the sound of voices by his bed. Not wanting to alert them to the fact he had returned to consciousness, he instead lay very still, hoping to find out more about the strangers and what they had intended for him.

“Oh Sam’uel, what have you done?” the female said.

“I’ve rescued him,” the soft male voice said.

“I know that—but—well, if only you could see him. He has been horribly beaten and may yet be disfigured. Is that the life you wish for him?”

There was a long pause and then a gasp from the woman, “oh, I’m so sorry. I spoke without thinking.”

“No, I understand what you mean Hana. Yes, life is difficult at the

best of times and 100 times more so with a disability such as mine. But what was I supposed to do? Leave him on the cross? I was there at the market that day. I heard everything. That child committed no error and was beaten harshly. I had to do what I could to save him.”

“How much did you pay the guard?”

“Three gold coins to ensure he was taken off the cross early and brought to the criminal’s graveyard right away. I was waiting there for them and the transfer went smoothly. The city does not care once the example has been made and so I was able to bring him here to you.”

“Very well, I will do my best to heal him. What will you do with him?”

“Do?”

“Well yes. You saved him, he belongs to you.”

“He is not my slave,” Sam’uel said harshly.

“Indeed, he is but a child. You cannot save him and then abandon him. You must have some idea what to do with him.”

“I, uhh, hadn’t thought that far ahead. I suppose I will take him with me and teach him my craft, if he shows an aptitude for it.”

The two continued speaking as they left the room, leaving little Saw’ah alone with his thoughts. The man seemed kindly enough, but the boy did not know whether he should feel any gratitude to his savior or not. Life had been cruel. Born to a tavern wench who had popped out more children than she could care for by diverse fathers, he had been labeled a ‘difficult and unruly’ child since his birth and had been left to fend for himself, until his mother realized she had a secondary stream of income at her disposal and subsequently sold all of her children, except the two youngest, who showed promise of becoming beauties. It was his misfortune that he had been sold to the most feared of all mistresses in the city, well known for the speed of which she disposed of her slaves and required new ones. He had been eight at the time and had lasted one year in the household, avoiding the eye of the taskmaster—until that fateful day.

His malnourished and unformed brain knew, as he lay there, that in death there had been release and that his next life might have been better, as it was through no fault of his own that this one had been so pitiless and filled with suffering. He had not even felt the crucifixion and so could not remember any of the events since being wrenched up by the taskmaster clearly. It would have been an optimum way to pass out of this life for one such as him, an ending to the suffering. And he had been deprived of it but one do-gooder.

The rage rose up in him again, angry that he had been forced against his will, with no thought of his wishes, to remain in this life with the exchange of three gold coins. Once again he belonged to someone and his life was not his own. He screamed then, in terror, anger, pain and frustration. He screamed out his wrath against his fate, until he could scream no more. A soft pair of arms lifted him up and enfolded him in an embrace, the first of his young life and the little boy began to sob with heartbreak and despair.

“Shh, young one. You are safe now. You must heal and then you will see—all will be well.”

Through the hiccups and the sobs, Saw’ah said only, “I will never bend my will to another again.”

Sam’uel heard him and frowned, thinking of how best to help the young boy he had saved.

The day finally dawned when the bandages came off and Saw’ah found himself looking at the craggy face of a kindly man, but where his eyes should have been, there were gaping holes. Saw’ah gasped in spite of himself and Sam’uel just smiled and said, “I know. It always takes a little getting used to.”

“What happened?”

“Some priests of Daemon came to my farm when I was younger than you. They burnt my pregnant mother and father at the stake and forced me to watch.”

“Did you put your own eyes out?” Saw’ah said, a vision of horror filling his young mind. Though he could not comprehend sorrow at losing a father or mother, he still knew that death by fire was the worst imaginable.

“No, one of the men, a high ranking official in Dilmunia, had his mask slip during the ceremony. It was he who put my eyes out, so I could not identify him. He was caught anyhow by the Grand Flock and put to death.”

Saw’ah nodded his head sagely, “It is good that he and the others died. I should very much like vengeance on all who hurt me.”

“Will it make you happy?” Sam’uel asked.

“Very happy.”

Sam’uel said nothing, but began to feel the boy’s head, neck and right arm. “It feels fine to me. I cannot tell if there are any scars or not. How do you feel?”

Saw’ah raised his right arm, swinging it around. “There is no pain, but it is weak.”

“That is to be expected. It will take time to heal completely. What about your senses? Can you see well? Hear? Smell? Taste?”

Saw’ah tested his senses, satisfied all was as it should be. His eyes fell on a looking glass on the other side of the room. He rose unsteadily and tottered over to it. He looked in the glass tentatively, ever mindful of what Hana had said about his injuries. A small smile came to his lips as he saw that there was but one line, just above his right eyebrow, but that he was otherwise unmarked. In fact, that scar gave him a sort of ruffian look, he thought. It would make other boys think twice about picking a fight with him.

“Well?” Sam’uel asked.

Saw’ah suddenly remembered the man could not see and said, “it looks fine, just one scar.”

“And your nose?”

“It is straight as before—no, straighter.”

Sam’uel grunted, “Hana has done excellent work again. Your nose was broken, though not for the first time, I think?”

Saw’ah shrugged, not knowing of any such injury.

“Perhaps when you were a baby then,” Sam’uel said, when no response was forthcoming. “But it does not matter now. You are healed and with the proper diet and plenty of fresh air and exercise, you will grow into a fine, healthy man.”

“What am I going to do?” Saw’ah asked.

“What do you wish to do?”

“I want to fight,” Saw’ah said bluntly.

“It’s a good thing Hana isn’t here to hear you say that. She would box your ears for threatening to undo all her hard work,” Sam’uel said with a laugh.

Saw’ah unused to gentle conversation and humour, took offense at the laugh. He stood very still, his face red with anger. “Why are you laughing?” he yelled.

Shocked by the sudden outburst, Sam’uel stopped his laughter. A serious look settled on his face and he said, “Little one, much has happened to you that you did not deserve. Your life has been harsh. But you must learn to control your temper if you are serious about being a warrior. You cannot hold a weapon in your hand while there is unchecked rage in your heart or you will kill the innocents.”

“Oh, and how would you know, blind man?”

Sam’uel stood up stiffly and said, “I know more than you think, young fool. Now, get some rest. We leave early in the morning and there is a long journey ahead of us.”

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” was the enigmatic response.

End of Part One...


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8/12/2016 12:19:31 PM #1
+12

Part Two

They walked for two lunar cycles, stopping at every village and township along the way. Everywhere they went, they were welcomed with open arms by the villagers, who loved the blind old man. Though Saw’ah did not speak a word of their language initially, through listening to Sam’uel’s stories around the campfire and being tutored by the man during the day as they walked, Saw’ah soon learned to speak it well. In fact, his knowledge of his new language and his ability to express himself in it was soon much better than in his native tongue, which he had only learned to speak in the guttural form, having grown up around the roughest sorts and not expected to answer his mistress with anything but, “yes, mistress”.

Saw’ah soon found that he enjoyed the sudden freedom, the open air, sunshine, the forests, rivers and mountains, and he enjoyed Sam’uel’s company. He had never experienced being outside the walls of the city in which he had been born, and so the sudden change was both exhilarating and overwhelming. For the first time in his young life he was free, and he reveled in it. He swung a staff with his right arm and tossed stones, hoping to strengthen it, he ran through the meadows chasing butterflies, he dove into the icy waters to try and catch fish, he slept on the hard ground wrapped in his cloak and he foraged for mushrooms and berries, guided by Sam’uel. Even the cold and rainy nights could not dampen his enthusiasm.

There was but one thing that could ruin his mood, and that was other people.

He soon discovered that in every village or town they stopped, there was always a bully. A boy or girl bigger or richer than the rest, who enjoyed picking on those deemed weaker and who had a group of followers eager to join in. Saw’ah found that when he entered a town, he would be sized up. If the bully thought he or she could take him on, he would be made a target during his stay. If not, then the bully would turn to the usual victim. In either case, Saw’ah found he could not restrain himself for long and he would be compelled to do or say something. Although Sam’uel urged restraint, quite often Saw’ah would do his best not to fail his friend and yet, should the bully push too far, Saw’ah would snap and fists would fly.

Though the visit would then be cut short, Sam’uel never punished the young boy, no matter how much he was urged to do so. He would merely smear a healing ointment on the boy’s cuts and bruises and they would be on their way.

Saw’ah eventually asked why he wasn’t punished and Sam’uel said, “I understand your heart and your mind. This is not your fault and you do not pick the fights. Why should I punish you?”

“But I don’t control my temper.”

“I know. Which is why I am bringing you to the Grand Flock in Dilmunia.”

“You—you’re going to leave me?” Saw’ah asked with tears in his eyes.

“I must, if you wish to be a warrior. They will train you and more importantly, they will temper you, so that you always remain in control. You have a great future, young Saw’ah, and I will not deprive you of it, no matter how fond I am of you and how selfishly I may wish for you to stay with me.”

Saw’ah found it difficult to sleep that night, but stared at the stars, thinking. He had come to love the blind storyteller, having been shown love for the first time in his life. The thought of being separated from his was like a stab in his heart, yet he understood Sam’uel’s reasoning. He swore to himself that he would make the old man proud and that he would become somebody.

By the week’s end, he found himself in the headquarters of the Grand Flock, staring in awe at the wealth and splendor around him and at the huge black tulip inlaid on the floor in marble, outlined in silver. Twelve mighty pillars supported the ceiling, which seemed to reach the heavens. All he saw were mighty warriors clothed in simple white robes, healers and teachers in brown robes and acolytes in black robes. All had the tulip embroidered on their left shoulder. Sam’uel stood a little ways off, talking earnestly with a teacher, who was shaking his head.

“He’s not even from Dilmunia. Does he follow the path of Angelica?” the teacher asked.

“He has been raised in a Vittori society, though I doubt that religion was taught to him. Rather, he was aware of it insomuch as he knows of the basic tenets and beliefs.”

“But—this is most unusual, Sam’uel. We don’t even allow our Barons to bring us a cousin five times removed from another country without good cause. What would they say to this?”

“I know. But Mahmold promised me a boon, if you recall. One that I have not yet claimed.”

“Sam’uel,” said the other voice in warning. “Think on what you’re asking.”

“I have thought on this. Angelica led me to save this child. He has a mighty future ahead of him and I wish for him to be trained here.”

“Very well. I will send a message to Duke Usifan and await his response. In the meantime, why don’t you rest in your old room?”


In the end they spent three perfect days there, with Sam’uel introducing him to everyone and showing him around the buildings, from the library to the practice yard to the herb gardens. Saw’ah knew then that no matter what, he had to stay and study there. He knew that the Grand Flock would give him the training and education he needed to become what he wanted to be.

Finally the response came from Usifan: Saw’ah could stay, but as a helper rather than an acolyte. The difference was subtle, as he would be fed, clothed, educated and trained, but he would not be guaranteed a place within the order at the end of his time there, unlike the acolytes. Sam’uel’s disappointment was palpable, but he did his best to be grateful. For his part, Saw’ah did not care, as he had given no thought to becoming a member. All he wanted was the skills of a warrior so that he could wage war on slave owners back in his homeland.

That evening Sam’uel said his farewell, reminding his young friend to learn the ways of the Qin and to always listen to his teachers. He reminded him to control his temper, warning the boy that if he committed a serious infraction, boon or no boon, he would be cast out. Saw’ah nodded earnestly, as he cried. He hugged Sam’uel fervently, not wishing the only father figure he had known in his life to leave. But leave, the storyteller must, on some business for the crown. And so the two said their farewells and did not meet again for many years.

Saw’ah spent eight years in total in the Grand Flock, learning to read, write, wage war, fight with all manner of weapons and to survive in the forests and the deserts. He learned the courtly ways of dress, deportment and conversation, and could pass himself off as an aristocrat with ease if he chose to. He learned to show compassion to the weak, the infirm and the disadvantaged, never forgetting his own beginnings. He learnt the value of diligence, patience, charity and kindness, and strove always to exhibit those qualities. He became a fervent follower of Angelica, recalling Sam’uel’s words of who had guided him to save a young slave’s life, and he swore to uphold her teachings and protect her followers from those of Daemon.

The Duke, ever mindful of those who studied at the Order, received regular reports on the young man Sam’uel had brought back, and took an interest in the young man. Hearing good reports from the weapons masters, he sent Saw’ah out on missions to the border, where the young man proved himself time and again.

Usifan, always knowing the value of a righteous and pure warrior of faith, sought for a way to reward the boy and keep him in the kingdom, without upsetting the aristocracy. In the end, he sponsored the boy to participate in the Grand Feast Game, which he won. This allowed Usifan to reward him in the ceremony that evening.

It was the highlight of Saw’ah’s life, incomprehensible to the young man who had been sold as a slave, crucified and then saved by a blind storyteller. He walked into the grand hall of the Palace to the shouts and applause of the gathered merry-makers, barely feeling the injuries received during the contest. More than one maiden tried to kiss him and many a man embraced him. He reveled in the praise and affection that evening, though none compared to the face he saw next to the Duke himself—Sam’uel. Saw’ah all but ran to the old man’s side, almost forgetting to salute the Duke, before he wrapped Sam’uel in a mighty hug, almost crushing him. Usifan smiled gently at the display of affection and then bade Saw’ah kneel for the pledge.

With his sword at his feet and helmet in his arms, the once-slave and now-champion swore his fealty to Duke Usifan and to the Kingdom of Dilmunia. In return, he was given control of a small outpost on the border between Dilmunia and his old homeland, with enough men to properly secure the borders.

Later, in the Duke’s library, Usifan had told Saw’ah the reason for that new outpost being created. Slave traders had been making incursions into the border of Dilmunia, kidnapping children and solitary travelers. Saw’ah’s mandate was to vigilantly guard Dilmunia against such men and women, showing them no mercy. If he could prove himself, then he would be raised in rank, until one day he would become a Baron of the Realm.

Saw’ah grinned; this was more than what he had wished for as a child and he would take great delight in capturing as many of those monsters as he could.

He arrived at the misshapen, crumbling old fort the very next week and immediately laid plans in rebuilding it and shoring up the defenses. He sent messages to all the Headmen of the villages 5 days ride in each direction along the border, inviting them to the fort. Together, they drew up plans for a proper defense force and a system whereby one village could request the aid of the others quickly. He personally undertook the training of the villagers-both men and women, teaching them how to fight with staff, rake, copper pot and cast iron skillet—whatever they had on hand. In return, the villagers ensured he and his men were well-fed and amply-clothed.

His name grew back in the capital, along with tales of his daring exploits. The would-be slave traders soon ceased to make incursions, the sight of their fellow slave traders impaled on the trees along the borders warning enough. The citizens of Dilmunia were sage once more and Saw’ah was rewarded with the title ‘Baron’,

He remained in his fort—now well built and comfortable in any weather, and planned his next campaign. He waited until Sam’uel came on one of his frequent visits and then he announced his plans. He would teach a select few of his men the language and dress of his homeland and together they would make incursions into that damnable place to free as many slaves as they could. They would have to be silent and it could never be known that it was they who had done it, lest it drag Dilmunia into war, but if they succeeded, then they would know they were doing Angelica’s work and that she would be pleased.

“What should we do with the slaves we free?” One of the men asked.

“If they have no family to return to, then we bring them here and offer them something they have never had: a choice. They can choose to be a farmer, a tailor, a cleric or a warrior. The important thing is that they realize their life is now theirs, to do with as they please.”

All of the men banged their tankards of ale on the table in celebration, with many volunteering to be part of his taskforce. Saw’ah looked over at Sam’uel and saw the old man’s face was shining with joy, though he said nothing. He did not need to, Saw’ah knew exactly how the old man felt. In fact, Saw’ah had begun to dream of the day when he could rescue a little tyke and train him as he had been trained, completing the circle.

The end

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8/12/2016 4:00:46 PM #2
+1

That was great! Thoroughly enjoyed it! Perhaps even more so than the others.


11/24/2016 10:41:21 PM #3
+0

Jeeeeez Usi. Great read, looking forward to more posts.


3/14/2017 6:46:29 PM #4
+2

Thank you for your encouraging words. I'm glad you find it a joyful read. Stay tuned for 'The Battle of Owl's Watch' and the founding of 'The Kingdom of Al-Khezam'.


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