Monday, November 19, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 9

Episode 9 - "Like Horses at the Fair"
by Camille LaGuire

Jackie couldn't decide which was the worst part, the gag, or being sold.  Perhaps it was being sold, since they put the gag back on him while doing it.

Though he had behaved himself recently, he had thoughts of making trouble when they were sold, just to keep the price down.  They must ahve seen it in his face, for on went the gag again. But that, at least, made him look like trouble and might keep the price down anyway.

So there they stood, filthy and squinting in the unaccustomed light, shirts off in humiliation, being inspected like a line of horses at a fair.

The thought of Mary came to him, unbidden, how she'd been humiliated in front of those soldiers.  He'd often wondered if more had happened to her that she hadn't told him about, but she had come through it all right.  She said she'd just separated her mind from it, was all.  She was a strong woman.  He saw her face suddenly, looking at him with that wistful quizzical look that always grabbed at his heart.  He could almost smell her, and feel the curve of her back on his arm....

No, the worst part -- worse than the gag or anything -- was thinking about Mary.  By far the worst.  And those thoughts, painful as they were, were all he had of her.  He couldn't turn them away, and he'd been a fool for trying.  She'd called him a fool plenty enough times.  And now here he was crying, which undoubtedly negated the effect of the gag on the buyers.  They would think he was broken and therefore more valuable after all.

But it was his broad shoulders and the fact that he was a smith that was of real interest.  Leave alone the fact that he wasn't a very good smith.  He went for a hundred and fifteen crowns, which appeared to be a high price.

He was bought by a man named Clement, a man with a sharp face, who wasn't much taller than Jack, but a good bit older and thinner.  He'd bought two others, a boy named Tim, and another young man who kept to himself in depression.  Jackie thought his name was Denning, but he wasn't sure.  Clement glanced them over once he had them together, but he didn't really look at them the way you look at a person.  They were livestock, after all.

"Get the gag off him," said Clement.  "I want my prisoners to answer when I talk to them."

But once the gag was off Clement apparently had nothing to say to him.  He turned away with a vague gesture, and left them to the man who stood behind him.  This fellow was a big man, a good deal taller than Jackie, and at least as broad -- strong and lean.  He wore a white shirt and no jacket.  He had a whip and a wicked looking bush knife -- almost like a sword -- which hung from his belt, and he carried a cane, which he did not lean on.  He stood and looked at them, arms crossed, his cane dangling and twitching from one hand.

"I'm the overseer.  My name is Rocken," he said.  His voice was strong, and had a touch of an accent to it, but not much.  "If you make trouble, I'm the one who'll beat the hell out of you.  I'm the one who decides what work you do, and how much to feed you.  You'll make me happy, won't you?"

"Aye," said Jack, and the two others were quick to agree.

"I'll also remind you that you're on an island.  Everyone on this island is required to have papers, even the aristocrats.  So if you're thinking of escape, there's no place to go, and when anyone catches you without papers, they'll string you right up from someplace public, and leave you there until you rot as a warning to others.  You've already had your trial.  You won't get another one."

With that he let them climb into a wagon, which was a relief, because their chains were heavy, and they were weak from being cooped up on a boat.  But then Clement called Rocken aside and they proceeded to argue.  Jackie was certain it was because Clement didn't want them to ride in the wagon.  He thought he heard Rocken say something about wasting time and work.

While they discussed the matter, another man came up to them.  He was tall and plain, and wore a straw hat, and carried a book of the prophets.

"Remember that you have souls," he said.  "And that there are those who are praying for you.  And that endurance is holy, as we were taught by the Prophet Kodil.  There's freedom for the soul that needs it."

Jack looked close at the man, and couldn't tell if he was just quoting platitudes, or if he was trying to tell them the overseer was wrong about escape.  He'd like to have spoken to him, but the argument was over, and Rocken came back, and the man moved away quickly.  Rocken must have won the argument, because he just signaled and the cart started moving.

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.

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