Chapter 1: Captured

The boy was pleading for his parents’ life, but his father was too deep in debt and realized he would never be able to pay it. They forced the boy’s father to watch his wife die, and as he and his son screamed out curses and rage, they cut his father’s throat too.

Striking the boy in the back of the head, the burliest of them slung the slender body over his shoulder.

“Thin, but with a little food and a lot of training, he’ll make a good slave for the camp.”


The girl fought them with everything, running, screaming, cursing even at her tender age, but despite her father’s warning she’d wandered out too far, and they rode up on her suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere.

A bolo tripped her, and the breath was knocked out of her lungs as the rough dirt path scraped her face.

“Pretty one, this. What market?”

“Whore or scullery, but we’d best show her to the slave mistress first and let her decide.”

The girl was still cursing when they knocked her out to shut her up.

Chapter 2: Before the Mistress

The room where Slavemistress Karis viewed her prospects brought by the merchants was bright with late morning sun by the time Amsa brought the boy to be appraised.

Karis frowned when she saw him.

“Amsa, until now you’ve enjoyed a good reputation, so tell me, what are these bones on a rope you brought me?”

Those who were in attendance laughed as the boy grimaced and tried to curl in on himself even more than he was already. He reminded Karis of a distressed turtle prevented from ducking back in his shell.

Amsa tried to smile, but could only swallow; Karis had never disapproved of his merchandise before. Maybe she saw something in the boy that she didn’t.


“I asked you why you brought me this collection of bones on a rope. You insult me thinking I would have any use for this boy. I should have you whipped!”

To his own surprise, Amas, normally slow witted, came up with an explanation he didn’t know he had, though he lied about how long he held it to be true.

“It has been my experience, Mistress, that skinny orphans, once fed, can be turned to almost any purpose to express their gratitude. Feed him as you guide his hand, and he will perform it to his utmost effort, with a fierce loyalty to his patron.

“Our own urchins who pick pockets, deliver messages, and on occasion, kill royal inconveniences, are cut from the same cloth as this bony boy.”

Amsa looked down at his charge, who’d finally stopped trembling, and smiled at him.

The boy, in the first act of courage he displayed, met Amsa’s gaze, and the slaver knew that something he said had shifted something inside the child. He felt that somehow, he’d been marked for revenge, though nothing was spoken between them.

His smile faltered, and he turned his attention back to Karis.

She was looking at the boy again, appraising him more slowly.

“An intriguing notion, and from our many urchins, a sound one. Being slight, he could fit in the smallest of spaces. Being quiet, no one would notice him. Being nervous, he’d avoid being seen.

“Very well, Amas. I will find a space for him.”

“You honor a sinful man, Mistress Karis.”

“I merely pet a dog, slave catcher. Give the boy to our slaves so they can care for him, collect your bounty, and leave.”

Amsa bristled at the open insult, but gave his bow. He yanked the boy’s chains so that he stumbled, emitting more laughter from the nobles. Then he remembered the boy’s eyes, and how they’d changed.

He looked back and instantly regretted it.

That quiet look of pending vengeance had returned.

Neither of them knew the when, where, and how of it, but if either of them survived long enough, their paths would cross again.


Out of the hall and purview of the slave mistress, they passed another slave catcher who had a young girl at the end of his chains, similar in height and age to Amas’ captive.

Amas gave the man a nod.

The girl looked at the boy, and saw the dejection in his eyes.

He seemed resigned to his fate, whatever the decree.

She suddenly lunged at him, barking a sound at him and stretching the chains in her captor’s hand, hurting it.

The boy flinched, and she laughed.

His face heated, but he kept his eyes down as they passed, giving a little smile of his own when heard her cry out, and looked back to see her captor seized her by the hair.


Letting her hair go, he shoved her head so the collar dug into the side of her neck.

She winced, but quieted her temper and tongue.

“You hurt my damn hand! “ He yanked the chain for emphasis and pulled her along faster than before. “Let’s go, girl. Eyes down, and mind your manners. The slave mistress tolerates no insolence from anyone, and she sure as hell won’t from you.”

The girl gave him a single nod.

He hoped she talked back to Karis; small as she was, she’d put up quite a fight before they knocked her out.

Karis’ guards would kill her outright, and sweep up her corpse like a dead fly,

He’d seen how they killed before, and hoped never to see it again, seasoned in killing himself as he often boasted.

He spared no sorrow for the victims; some just seemed to prefer death to bondage, and whether it was foolish or brave was not for him to decide.

Of course, he hoped to never need to make that choice.

This one though, was a small fire that would bear watching.


She kept her head down, her lank, greasy locks covering her eyes, as she looked at the slave mistress through it.

She needed a bath as well, as they’d been on the road for days.

They tested her strength during that time, revenging themselves on her for being difficult.

She tried them too, willing them to damage her before bringing her to this, but they knew better and merely upped the levels of her chores, made her run behind trotting horses, staked her in the sun, and starved her until she stopped.

Now, she’d learn that Karis, for all the ornamentation on her, was not some clueless, cream-filled noblewoman.

“She’s not broken, Kadir.” It wasn’t a question, but he confirmed it anyway.

“No, Mistress Karis, she is not.” It was a mark against him, but nothing would be done about it right away, or in the presence of the nobles.

Bored, Karis decided to inspect the girl up close, and rose from her chair.

When she got to them, she reached out and cupped the girl’s chin with her fingers.

“Look at me, child.”

She merely lifted her chin from Karis’ loose grip, and kept her eyes downcast.

Karis smiled, not trying again, but looked at Kadir. “Leave her with me.”

The girl did look at her then, and Karis was pleased to see the flicker of apprehension that crossed her features.

Karis smiled at her unpleasantly, and the child lowered her eyes again

Kadir hadn’t expected that, but recovered quickly, having to now ask the question that affected his livelihood.

“Very well, Mistress. May I collect my bounty?”

“Tsk, Kadir. I can feel the fire in the girl’s eyes from here, and she’s not even looking at me. Tell me, slave catcher, if you think you deserve a bounty?”

“I don’t, Mistress, but I need it.”

“And I need broken product,” she mocked him with her tone. “Do you see one?”

He gave a subtle shake of his head. “No, Mistress.”

She sighed, looking down at the girl again, then back at him.

“Still, I am not without mercy. Normally, these little insects don’t give such defiance. This is a rare gem you’ve plucked with some difficulty, Kadir, and I take that into consideration.

“Collect your bounty.”

Kadir bowed low in thanks and kept his silence, though he wanted to gush with promises about how this would never happen again.

Wisely, he knew he couldn’t guarantee that, so he wisely said nothing, turned on his heels, and almost made it to the door before she called his name again.

“Yes, Mistress?”

“Tell the boy’s guard to escort him to me personally tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mistress.” Kadir went out.