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From his viewpoint hidden in a shadowed corner on the deck Artemous watched the inhabitants of the city with growing unease. They were a dark race, with coffee coloured skin and hair as black as night. There was no variation. Each and everyone of them had the same colouring and no matter how much he searched he could not see anyone with the familiar blonde or red hues of his countrymen. He had never felt more alone.
He tipped his head over the side of the boat and eyed the churning water warily. He briefly considered throwing himself overboard in a desperate and stupid escape attempt. True, he didn’t have the slightest idea how to swim but after looking out at the dock and seeing the hundreds of unfamiliar faces the idea was beginning to look inviting.
“Calm.” he told himself, flinching almost immediately when he saw a woman out on the dock in a pair of tight red trousers and an equally tight blue shirt pull out a knife and brandish it at a small child. He was so surprised at seeing a woman in trousers that it took him a moment to really notice the blade, but when he did he could barely believe his eyes. The woman grabbed the boys hand and forced it against a wooden block. People walked around the pair, not even sparing them a look as the child started sobbing desperately. The blade was raised –
“No need to see that little brother.” Jostlin said, a moment before an arm wrapped around the mages waist and he was spun him away from the dock.
“Wait!” Artemous sputtered, squirming in the sailors grasp as he tried to turn back to see if the poor child was hurt. “That woman was about to chop off that boys hand!”
“That’s what happens when you get caught stealing.” Jostlin said without his usual cheerfulness. “One handed beggars in the city are hardly a rare occurrence.” The easterner looked back over his shoulder before giving his head a quick shake. “Handless beggars even less so. Now come, the captain wants to talk to you.”
The knowledge that a child could be maimed for so little was outweighed by the sudden dread the sailors word invoked. “Why?” He asked, not ashamed to admit to himself that he was utterly terrified of the man and had no desire to be trapped in close quarters with him.
“He asked me to collect you.”
“But why?” Artemous asked insistently, digging his heels in and resolutely refusing to take another step. If Jostlin wanted him to go into that room he would have to carry him.
The younger man hesitated, allowing his grip to loosen enough that Tate was able to pull free. He managed less than three steps before a forceful weight knocked him down onto the deck.
“Dires Tits boy, he’s a slave, not an honoured guest.” Galerias said in common. Artemous barely had time to tense before a big arm hooked over his chest and he was being pulled towards the cabin. He looked up at Galerias and gave an involuntary yelp of distress as he was literally dragged to the captains door. “If you need him to move them move him. If you come across one too big to move yourself then you hurt them. That güvenilir bahis soon has them obeying” He grinned down at Artemous’s paltry attempts to push him off, displaying a mouth full of blackened teeth “Isn’t that right little mage. Now come, the captain wants you prepared.”
“Prepared for what?” He asked, pulling back now with all of his weight, little good it did him. He was yanked forward, stumbling and unable to catch himself. Galerias kept him upright with the firm hand he had wrapped around the mages bicep, pulling him closer towards the captain’s cabin. “Galerias, prepared for what?”
“The necromancer of course, he’s the one to own you. Captain thinks he’ll want you prettied up before we disembark so that’s where we’re headed.” The repugnant soldier pulled a thoughtful expression. “Piece of advice little brother, don’t antagonise him. He’s got a fearful temper on him today.”
The captain was sat as his desk, his expression as hard as ever as he watched the mage’s feeble attempts to escape the sailors hold.
“El ibackn shiran.” He said in their own language, resting his dark eyes intently on Jostlin. “Was he too much for you?” He asked in common.
Jostlin ducked his head, blushing furiously. “He was frightened.”
“He has reason to be.” The captain said, striding purposefully forward until he was towering over the mage. He reached out and pulled off Artemous’s ridiculously oversized hat, ignoring the way the smaller man shied away from him. “The travel has not damaged him.” His dark eyes swept the length of the younger man, considering him thoughtfully before he gripped Artemous’s chin in his big hand and twisted his face to the side. “The sun has not damaged him either. He’ll make an excellent addition to the little queens court.”
“They said you were gifting me to a necromancer.” Artemous said, unable to contain the burning desire to know what was going to happen to him. He flinched when the captain turned back to him, frowning so deeply that Artemous could count the lines in his broad face.
“You will learn to be silent. To only speak when addressed.”
“Please, I can’t -“
The captain raised his big hand, open palmed but still capable of serious damage. Artemous tried to flinch away but he was still firmly held in Galerias’s hold. “I told you to be silent. Speak again and you will be struck. Am I understood?”
Artemous nodded his head quickly, too frightened to speak but afraid he would be punished for not answering a direct order. The captain watched him for a long moment before eventually lowering his hand. “You will bathe and you will change into the clothes laid out for you.” He gestured behind him to a crude tub and brightly coloured clothes folded neatly beside it. “Quickly now, mage.” He said, turning away to address the two sailors in their own language.
Artemous looked at the bath and back at the soldiers with a feeling of dread. Surely they didn’t expect him to strip naked when they were all stood in the bloody room with him. He noticed how Galerias’s eyes kept flickering over to him and realised with a twist of distaste that it was exactly what they expected.
He turned his back, stripping off and jumping into güvenilir bahis siteleri the bath with as much speed as he could manage. He felt shame burn in his stomach as he scrubbed at himself, trying not to think about the eyes he could feel watching him. Soon, the two sailors left the room and he was alone with the captain. He didn’t know if he felt better or worse. The captain clearly hated him but at the same time he was showing very little interest it what Artemous was doing. The mage dried himself and changed into the clothes provided, desperate to be covered and giving little thought to what he had been given.
He realised as soon as he had covered his nakedness that they had dressed him in a dark midnight blue silk, a material no one in the north would ever consider wearing given the poor protection it provided against the cold. The trousers were loose and billowy whereas the shirt was tight and showed off an indecent amount of his chest. The shoes were embroidered and curled at the end. He felt like he should be wearing another layer of clothing, or at the very least be readying for bed.
“The hair.” The captains said, walking towards him. Despite himself Artemous stepped back. “Brush you hair.”
Artemous accepted the comb and quickly set about working out the many knots in his long locks. Once he was satisfied he braided the hair and settled it over his shoulder.
“You clean up nicely mage.” The captain said, his expression hard. “You will no doubt please our queen.”
“I – may I speak?”
The captain walked up to him, grabbing his arm before dragging him outside the cabin. “No, you may not.” He was pulled towards the gangplank, panicking as they neared the edge. The captain seemed to recognise his reluctance because suddenly an arm was wrapped around his waist and he was being half dragged and half carried onto the dock. He barely had a moment to adjust to the changes beneath his footing before the captain was dragging him into the crowd.
The noise, the smells, it was all too much. Artemous looked back and was met by Jostlin’s sorrowful gaze a moment before the crowd swallowed him.
It seemed that all of the market people were screaming at them, or more likely at the captain. They raised their wares to him, shaking them as they tried to be heard above everyone else. People watched him, staring openly and speaking words to him he couldn’t understand.
They stopped beside a stall, bigger than the others but partitioned off. Artemous was pulled inside and had a sudden coughing fit from the thick smell of smoke within. He instinctively tried to pull back and the captain cuffed him painfully around the head. “Be still.” He hissed.
A man emerged, his dark eyes locking immediately onto Artemous before falling on the captain. He spoke words the mage couldn’t understand before slapping the captain hartley on the shoulder. He turned to the mage and grabbed his forearm, lifting his wrists and examining the manacles with interest. The hand quickly moved to Artemous’s hair, tugging on the braid until Artemous was forced to meet his gaze. “Hello little one.” He said in broken common.
“What is happening?” Artemous asked, looking at the iddaa siteleri captain, more afraid of the unknown that what the easterner might do to him.
“This man is going to take you to your new mistress.” He said before grabbing Artemous’s ear and tugging painfully. “And now you will be silent.”
And with that the captain turned on his heels and he left.
Damen pulled his new acquisition out of the carriage, eyeing him carefully to ensure he didn’t cause another scene with his hysterics. The boy was behaving for now, his large blue eyes open in wonderment as he eyed the palace before he remembered to drop them.
“This is him then” Bradey, the little queens caretaker asked, meeting him at the gate as she looked the new slave over. “Her royal highness has been incredibly excitable all day.” She stepped closer, no doubt drawn to the boys prettiness. “The northerner is lovely, is he not? His skin is so pale it reminds me of milk.”
“Aye he’s fair but then all northerners usually are.”
“They’re also usually huge towering brutes. This one is slighter and finely boned. Is he from a different region?”
“We usually capture their warriors or soldiers.” Damen caught the northerner by his manacled wrist and lifted it to eye level. “This one is a mage and would have been kept far from the heat of battle. They’re quite rare. This is the first we’ve ever owned.”
“What is his name?” Bradey asked as she reached out to grip the fair man’s chin. Shockingly vivid blue eyes met her own for a brief moment before flickering away.
“I believe he is called Artemous. Ah yes, that caught his attention. Is that your name boy, is it Artemous?”
“Artemous.” Bradey repeated, increasing her hold slightly. “Do you understand anything we’re saying?”
The slave raised his eyes and blinked owlishly at them before sobbing some sort of plea in his own tongue. He tried to pull away abruptly and Damen quickly caught him by the root of his thick braid. “He is skittish.” He explained as he gave the slight man a vicious shake. “He usually calms down after a bit of discipline though.”
“What sort of discipline?”
“Nothing too severe. I slapped him a few days ago and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. I don’t think he’s used to being manhandled. Here, watch.” Damen raised his hand as though he meant to strike the slave and Artemous flinched violently. They held the pose a moment before Damen released a slightly chuckle. “That was cruel of me. The poor things thinks he’s being punished and we won’t know why.” He reached out and gently patted the northern on his head. “Here now, he’s trembling.” He said, somewhat shamefaced.
“He’s safe though. You’re sure of it?”
“He’s shown no hint of violence. I left him alone with my own little ones and he didn’t so much as raise a finger to any of them. Not the sort I’d say.”
“That was risky of you, to use your own children.”
“Not so risky. I see desperate men every single day and like I said, he’s not the sort to hurt anyone, especially not a child. He doesn’t have it in him.”
“As you say.” She said, looking thoughtfully at the slave. “Artemous.” She said, gently. The slave looked at her, forgetting again that he was not supposed to meet the eyes of his betters. She held out her hand. “It’s time to come with me.”
The slave very hesitantly placed his hands in hers and when she led him away he obediently followed.
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