"Slave girl! Bring me some water!"
The young slave girl ran swiftly to the kitchen and poured some water into a cup, before scurrying down to her master. It had been three years since she had been caught by the slavers and sold to this pig headed bafoon. Three long years since she had been broken. She used to be a fiery spirited eight year old girl, stronger than most that dreamed of traveling the world one day. Her parents had been caught as well, and she had been ripped out of her mother's sob-wracked embrace. She strained her memory, trying to remember what her parents had called her. She used to have a name, that much was certain.
"Hurry up girl!" her masters voice jerked her out of her thoughts, and she ran as fast as she could, trying not to spill the water. Her master came into view, sitting on his favorite blue chair, his pudgy red face turned towards her. His eyes narrowed under his bushy black eyebrows.
"I have the water, milord!" the girl said, bowing low and presenting the cup to him. He leaned down, inspecting it, before sweeping it out of her hands. She stayed low, not daring to look up until she was told to.
"Good. Now you may eat. You will find your food for the day on the floor in front of your closet. Once you eat that, stay in your closet until I summon you," he said, flicking one of his pudgy hands as a way of dismissal. The girl straightened and backed up, never dishonoring the master by turning her back on him.
"Faster slave!" he barked. She started running backwards, a trick she had had to learn since her master was a very impatient man. When she was out of the room, she walked down the hall towards her closet. It was a grungy thing, out of sight and hidden around a corner. Her eyes widened with excitement as she saw the plate. Rushing towards it, she saw not one, but two pieces of bread and a half slice of cheese! Sometimes she was presented with food such as this, but only when she was really well behaved. She dropped to her knees, and shoved the pieces of bread in her mouth, chewing. These pieces of bread had no mold on them, a rare delicacy. She felt her belly cease its rumbling, and she started to feel sick with the sickness of eating too much. But she couldn't stop eating now! Cheese didn't appear on her plate every day!
She grasped the piece of cheese, ignoring her stomach's threats of emptying. Just as she brought it to her mouth, something hard hit her back, leaving her sprawling on the ground. She looked up, and saw a well-robed boy about two years older than her. Scrambling to her feet and swallowing her pride quickly as she had become accustomed to, she bowed deeply.
"Forgive me, I didn't see you-
His hand came down and struck her cheek, making it sting terribly.
"Foolish slave girl. You expect one such as me to forgive one as lowly as you? Be thankful I said anything at all. Do not expect me to warn you in the future."
The girl bowed her head as he strode away, carefully stepping on the piece of cheese that had been knocked from her hand. She gazed at the piece of cheese for a few seconds, sorrow welling up inside of her. But she dutifully picked it up and deposited it in the trash bin along with the poorly made bark plate. Opening the closet door, she looked at it disdainfully before slipping inside and sitting down. She closed the door, leaving her sit in the darkness alone. The girl had pondered a lot over her years as a slave, remembering the days when she had been free.
Someday, perhaps she would find her parents again. Although it was highly unlikely, she had to keep hope lest she fall into despair. She entertained herself with fantasies of being free again, of reuniting with her parents, and living like a family again. Being somewhere where they didn't whip you for not pleasing your master. Places where she would be able to explore and have fun…..play. The word popped into her head, along with a great sense of longing. The years of being a slave had robbed her of countless playing times. The first time she had asked her master if she could play, he had laughed and scorned her for being such a fool. Slaves didn't play or have fun. They worked to please the master, and they worked hard. She strained her memory, trying to remember the rush of joy she used to have when she was playing. She used to have a pony named….named Starry Night. He had been black, yes black. The image came clear to her now, his nose nudging her lovingly, the nose with the bright white stripe that she often fondled and fussed over while grooming him.
They used to play a lot, darting in and out of the fields, her running full speed while he would patiently trot after her, the white socks on his feet dazzling onlookers. The girl had ridden him many a time, galloping up and down hills and enjoying the wind on her face. She could remember it clearly, the rush of galloping as fast as the faithful horse would go, pretending she was riding some magnificent steed of legend. To her, he was her legendary steed.
The girl woke with a start as a sharp pain shot up her arm. She held in tears as a harsh voice snarled, "Get up slave! Your master requests your presence."
She squeaked in pain as she was dragged out of the closet roughly by her sore arm and thrown to her feet, nearly falling back down again. She heard the man above her snort in amusement.
"Wh-what does he-
Her question was met halfway by a sharp slap on the cheek.
"Incompetent slave! Do not speak unless prompted to!"
She bowed her head and followed the tall muscular man down the hallway to her master's quarters. The pudgy man lowered his face to hers, and she could smell whisky on his breath.
"Slave girl! I will be leaving for a week to go to King Galbatorix's castle to discuss….important matters. Get my horse ready and bring it here!" he snapped. The girl hesitated, before bowing her head and requesting in a small voice, "Milord, permission to speak freely?"
The fat man considered it, stroking his long black beard with a thick finger. He fixed his beady black eyes on the slave's face.
"Very well, permission to speak freely granted."
"Might I be so fortunate as to ask why you are leaving so soon?"
The master's face hardened and the girl cringed.
"No. You may not." He said curtly, and the girl hunched over, expecting to be whipped. She was surprised when he returned his attention to the food in front of him by way of dismissal. Another question quivered on her tongue, but she withheld it, instead bowing quickly out of the room and heading towards the stables. There must be something troubling him greatly if she had not been whipped for asking such a rude question.
She hurried down the hall way towards the door, where she opened it and broke into a run towards the stables. The master's bay stallion pinned his ears back upon seeing her, whinnying harshly.
"Easy, boy," she soothed, hurrying into the stables to grab his grooming bucket and tack. Her tired, frail body somehow managed to lift all of this at once, and carry it outside, where she placed the grooming bucket down and lifted the tack onto the fence. At once the stallion whirled and bolted away from her, screaming a challenge. She grabbed the bridle and went after him, driving him into the lean-to stall with practiced precision. She cornered him, and grabbed his rich brown head, trying to force the bit into his mouth. He snapped at her arm, making her jump. The stallion tried to use her moment of pain to flee, but she caught him with one arm around his neck, and as he turned his head to bite her, she shoved the bit into his mouth. He threw his head up high, but the slave girl hung on tight and as she was lifted, she pulled the rest of the bridle onto him. He let out a shrill whinny and tried to rear, but was unable to because the girl had his head.
She grasped his mane and forced his head down, folding his ears to finish putting the bridle on. As soon as she was finished and had the reins in her hands, he planted his feet and stared at her, defiance sparking his eyes. She took the end of the reins and smacked his hindquarters. He jumped, startled, and as she tugged on the reins, he folded his ears back, but followed her all the same. When she was halfway across the pasture, the stallion struck out his foreleg, and the slave girl gasped in pain as stars danced around her eyes. Pain throbbed from her shin, and she glared at the stallion, who looked at her in an almost smug way.
She smacked him hard on the flank, and he quieted quickly, letting her walk him the rest of the way there. She tied him to the fence, before heaving the saddle and saddle blanket onto his back. She jerked his reins when he tried to sidestep out of the way. Quickly, she fastened the girth, where upon he visibly sucked in. The slave girl untied him and walked him through the gate, before twirling and tightening the girth once his air had been let out.
"About time, slave girl," a voice sneered. The girl turned to see the same boy who had walked in on her when eating. He put his hand out.
"Now. Give me the horse."
She shook her head.
"No. The master ordered me to bring him," she replied. The boy's face twisted in fury at the outright refusal from a mere slave.
"Listen, girl, you will do what you are told," he snapped, trying to take the reins from her. She twisted and started walking away, the stallion oddly obedient. The boy's hand grabbed her shoulder, and she heard a gasp of pain. When she turned, she realized what it was from. The stallion had bit into the boy's shoulder. She flinched. She was going to get whipped for this.
"Come on, boy!" she said, tugging on the reins. The stallion snorted and trotted after her.
When she entered her master's quarters, she bowed low to the floor, presenting the stallion's reins. He swept them out of her hands before mounting the stallion. All at once the doors slammed open, and the boy from before ran in.
"Your slave girl here set your stallion on me!" he snapped, pulling up his sleeve to reveal a nasty bruise from the stallion's teeth. The master glared at the girl, then turned to the head slave, who he had been conversing with.
"Ten lashes," he commanded curtly, and the girl's eyes widened.
"No.." she whimpered softly, but did not struggle as the adult slave grabbed her arm for fear of being punished worse.
"Come, girl," the slave snapped, leading her to a corner of the room. He grabbed the whip off the wall. It was a long, black leather rope, with a sharp instrument attached to it. She cringed and braced herself for the pain. She didn't have to wait long. The lead slave ripped her shirt off, bringing the whip down. The slave girl screamed in pain, tears streaming down her cheeks as the sharp instrument tore up the skin at her back. She gasped as the whip was yanked out of her flesh, and she was given momentary relief before it was brought down again. Black dots appeared in her vision as she half screamed, half yelled in agony. The white hot sensation drove her to her knees, and she tried to crawl to escape it, only to have it follow her. She couldn't think, could barely breathe. All that existed was the excruciating, searing pain that she desperately wanted to stop. She tried to shut it out of her mind, desperate, but it was brought back, and she tried to flee, only to be pulled back. Her tears were coming down like waterfalls now, and she wanted, no, needed help. It hurt too much!
She screamed out for her mother, her father, Starry Night, anyone to make this pain stop! Slowly, her vision faded, and she fell into unconsciousness.
The slave girl woke up, and for a moment she thought she had died, and she nearly leapt for joy. Then she felt the familiar rhythm of her heart beating in her chest, and she sank back to the floor, wholly disappointed that she had not been freed. The memories of what had happened earlier flooded her mind, and she stretched her arm to feel her back and jumped as a surge of pain engulfed her. She felt around and found her shirt shoved in a corner. For the first time in a while, she pulled her legs to her flat chest and cried. She cried slow, silent sobs that became full cries of anguish and despair. She wanted her mother. She wanted her mother to hug her and comfort her, to rock her and sing her a lullaby to make her feel better.
She wanted her father to be beside her mother, rubbing the back of her neck to help. Her swollen back wracked with pain with every little sob the eleven year old girl made, but she couldn't stop. She wanted to go home, away from these monsters. She wanted to be loved like she used to be, she wanted to be cared for. She was just a child, why should this happen to her? She buried her face in her hands, despair overtaking her body. The slave girl raised her head as the door was opened.
"Come, slave girl. You are to work in the fields," said the head slave in a gruff voice.
"Put on your shirt so the free people won't have to see your back."
She ceased crying immediately so she wouldn't be punished more and slipped the dirty, torn shirt on. Tears threatened to fall as she stood up, scabs cracking. Wordlessly she followed the head slave down the hallway past the kitchen to the fields outside. There were many other slaves working in the fields, but none dared to look up or talk to the youngest slave. The head slave led her to a spot a little bit away from the others, and gave her a rake and some seeds.
"Start working, girl," he snapped. She picked up the rake and drug it across the fresh soil, trying her best to ignore her back. Soon she felt hot blood running down her spine, and when she looked up for help, she found that the head slave had moved on to check on the other slaves. The slave girl sighed and continued working, planting seeds along the row before moving on to the next spot. Her tongue felt hot and swollen, and the sun above her seemed to laugh, torturing her skin with long flaming fingers. Sweat poured under her brow, and she wiped it with the back of her hand, only to find that her hand was slick with sweat as well. The rake became difficult to grip, often times slipping right threw her fingers. Many hours passed, and the sun had disappeared under the horizon before she realized she was the only one out there. She stopped, puzzled.
Why hadn't they called her in? Did they want her to escape? Then she realized that even if she did attempt to flee, she would be captured. And she did not wish to be whipped anymore. The best choice would probably be to keep working. And yet, it was dark out, and the stars were twinkling above her. What if wolves came to eat her? She shivered, and leaned against her rake. Maybe a little rest would be okay. She had been working really hard. Her tired muscles felt as though they would pop right out of her skin. The full moon shone high above her, and the landscape about her comforted her.
The trees blew in the breeze around her, their great leaves reveling in the cool wind that healed what the heat could not. The slave girl felt an emotion creep into her, one that she had not felt in so long that she did not know what to call it. It calmed her and comforted her, embraced her like the wind that played gently with her dark hair. She bathed herself in the wonderful sensation before a word came to her, a word that explained how she felt. Peaceful. She sat down, a smile stretching her face uncertainly, as if crossing strange land. Everything would be alright. That she was sure of.
She brought the rake up with renewed strength, and dragged it across the soil once more. Her rake was stopped by something, and she tugged at it, puzzled as to why it wouldn't move. Her tug became a full out pull, a struggle to disengage her rake from the earth. But her tired body was in no condition to fight the earth's silent power. Startled by the sudden weakness in her body, the slave girl slumped to the ground, and started digging, her curiosity growing. What secrets were hiding under the ground? She scraped her nails across the soil, surprised when the dirt rolled away easily. Her hands brushed against something smooth. Really smooth. Excited, she dug more, her hands furiously working against the dirt.
"That's enough for today. Come back inside, slave."
The girl jumped, standing up and turning to bow to the man, cleverly replacing the dirt on her discovery with her feet. She would find out what it was later.