Thursday, November 22, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 10

Episode 10 - "Clement Farm"
by Camille LaGuire

Clement Farm wasn't large and was still new.  Most of the land was yet to be cleared, and Clement only had fifty-four prisoners and four slaves to do it.

The slave trade had been restricted in Agritaine, but never stopped.  No one was freed by modern laws, and those born to slaves were still slaves as well.  But even so, the law had put the islands in a crisis, because the practice in profit-minded Sabatine was to import only men, and to use them up quickly.

Now slaves were too valuable for a small, new farm.  And female slaves -- at least those of a child-bearing age -- were at a premium.  Still Clement had managed to have two women, one well past childbearing, and the other a girl who was barely coming up to it.  He had the money to buy them for the same reason the whole island was still successful:

The Acton Peninsula was a steady source of cheap labor.  Prisoners were still expendable.  Furthermore, Clement liked the idea that he was the hand of justice, and that his profit was their punishment.

Clement's overseer, Rocken, took his job seriously. He had no qualms about being as brutal as anyone, but he didn't see brutality as his job.  No, he was a manager, a herdsman.  It was his job to know the men, control them, and use them to the most profitable advantage.  He kept things unpleasant enough to satisfy Clement, but over all, he tried to keep them healthy.

That new man, Jack Alwyn, had Rocken's attention from the very start.
For one thing, he had marks across his back.  They were old marks, and they had the look of a judicial whipping.  Then there was the chafing at the corners of his mouth, from an iron gag, and his crime, which was listed as treason.  Not that treason meant much by itself.  A lot of traitors came to Sabatine these days, most of them frightened and bewildered ordinary men.  This one, though, seemed to have earned the charges.  He bore watching.

All the same, Jack gave him no trouble.  He wasn't eager to work, but he didn't slack.  He was more sociable than most, right from the start, and seemed to have made the acquaintance of nearly all the prisoners quickly.  The only sign of trouble Rocken could see was that he had no difficulty looking anyone straight in the eye.  Not in a particularly defiant way, but it left Rocken uneasy about him.

On the very first night, Tom and Old Steve maneuvered Jack into sleeping right under the place where a leak in the roof sent down a torrent during the squalls that went through most nights.  Not the cruelest of pranks, but no man's in a good temper when he's sleepless and soaked through.

That morning, as the prisoners bent over their bowls of gruel, Jack sat down, still wet, with Tom and Steve.  Rocken watched for trouble, but they simply talked.  Laughed a bit even.

He rang the bell early to move the men out to the fields, but then he stopped Jack.

"What did you have to say to Tom and Old Steve?"

Jack looked him straight in the eye, with no sign of concern.

"I thanked them for the shower," he said.  "Since I haven't had a bath since I left Acton."

"Making friends to avoid trouble, then?"

"Better than making enemies."

Rocken walked around him.  "How did you earn those stripes on your back?"

"I'm too free with my tongue."

"And did you learn your lesson?"

"Not at the time."

Rocken came to stand in front of him.

"But you've learned it since?"


"Then why did they gag you?"

"Well, that's how I learned it, wasn't it?"

"A whipping didn't teach you, but a little gag did?"

"I don't talk though my back, do I?"

Rocken sighed and shook his head.

"I'll give you a bit of advice, Jack, and then you're on your own," he said.  "Don't look me in the eye.  Don't look the guards in the eye, and for god's sake, don't look Clement in the eye."

"Why not?" the man asked in genuine surprise.

"Because you're a prisoner, Jack.  You're supposed to look broken, and if you don't, we'll have to break you."

"Oh," said Jack, and he looked away, although it was more in thought than obedience, it seemed to Rocken.

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.


sgl said...

I got very curious and picked up on this serial. FYI - a few of the links are broken on the bottom navigation (from 4-5 and I think 6-7).

Enjoyed the smart,witty opening very much. It set up a nice voice moving forward for me.

And although I didn't read your first book, I think this so far has a good amount of info for me to understand what is going on.

Looking forward to additional installments. (Added you to my RSS!)

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, SGL!

This serial has been kind of a hard-luck project, with lots of things going wrong. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I screwed up some navigation links. (Fixed now.)

This week I was concentrating on going through the summer serial (Misplaced Hero) to optimize links and headers and footers. I was just going to get to a double-check on these next.

I grabbed your book off Smashwords after reading that you want to "write Jane Austen in fantasy." I'm not a huge fan of either of those -- but each supplies the exact thing the other lacks, imho. So it sounds like a perfect combo.