Keric Dorsis' Tale: The Arrival in Safe Haven
His first memory was the sound of a woman crying. His second was the burning smell of flesh as he felt the pain of the brand on his back. The third was the stinging slap; he was given because he was crying. He looked up at the person standing before him, through blurry eyes.
The elven lord looked down at him, examining him like a piece of meat. “He will do, toss him in the wagon with the rest of the ones being shipped out.”
The guard nodded, grabbing the child by an ear, “Come on you.” The little boy didn’t even think to struggle as he was dragged off to the large wooden wagon in the courtyard. The guard picked him up under the arm pits, practically throwing him in the wagon. “Here is another one, to join the rest of the lot.”
A slightly older boy caught the child, “Easy,” he whispered in the child’s ear. The child pushed the older boy away, wiping at his nose, “I don’t need any one to tell me what to do.” The older boy laughed, “Better get used to it, you fool. Everyone is going to be doing that for the rest of your life. You’re a slave now.” The child curled up, wrapping his arms around his legs, shrugging.
The first master the child had treated him fair enough, but that didn’t last long. “Keric, come here!”
The child knelt before his master, “Master?” he softly whispered.
“What am I going to do with you? My son tells me that you attacked him.”
The child flinched, keeping his head down, “He hit me, Master.”
The master reached down to lift the child’s chin, making him look up. He gently smoothed back the child’s hair, looking closely at him.
Keric fought the urge to look away. He knew that he would be punished if he did.
“I cannot have an unruly slave, you know that. Especially one that has attacked my son. I am afraid I am going to have to get rid of you.” The master looked up at the guard, “Put him in the wagon going on the other caravan route.”
The guard took the child by the arm, “Understood milord.”
Keric went quietly with the guard to the wagon. “In you go, brat. Some of us will miss you around here.” Keric nodded miserably, wrapping his arms around his legs. He didn’t even notice when the motion of the wagon, gently rocked him to sleep. Keric woke up with a start, when he heard voices yelling outside the wagon. He buried himself down amongst the other slaves, hiding. He winced at the bright light from the door of the wagon opening.
“How many are in there?”
“Looks to be about twelve of them, Captain.”
“Good, find the bastard in charge of this crew, and get the damn keys from him.”
Keric slowly crawled to the edge of the wagon doorway to peek around to see what was going on. He blinked in surprise as he saw the caravan crew being held at sword point, by a bunch of armored men. Slowly so he wouldn’t be noticed, he crawled back into the wagon. One of the men in armor came into the wagon, a ring of keys jingling in his hand. “Step right up, people. As of this moment, His Majesty King Nairyck is giving you a new life.”
Keric looked up at the man in armor, “What kind of life?”
The man smiled down at him in kindness, “A free one, son. A free one.”
Hesitantly, Keric knelt before him, “As you wish, Master.”
The man knelt next to him, “There are no masters or mistresses where you are going, son. Trust me.” He searched the ring of keys for the right one to unlock the collar around Keric’s neck.
Keric shivered, rubbing his hand on his neck, once the collar was off. It felt strange to him not to feel the weight of the collar there. Keric scurried out of the way so that the armored man could get at the others in the wagon.
“Thank you, son.”
Once again, Keric wrapped his arms around his legs and waited. He was at a lost as to what to do. The mercenaries treated him well enough, but the life of a slave was too well trained into him. He snuck to the edge of the camp, watching the mercenaries talk, eat and drink. For the most part, he wasn’t sure of what they were saying; he knew that some of them were elves. There were even a few half elves, like him in the group. But the language they were using he wasn’t familiar with. He only knew the elven language he grew up with. Each night that the wagon stopped, he would sneak to the edge of the camp and watch the mercenaries, and learn. He was sitting, curled up, at the front of the wagon when the caravan pulled up at a decent sized town. “What’s that?” he asked the driver.
“That, me lad, is Safe Haven. Your new home. If you want it to be, that is.” He sat up straighter, as the word home finally registered with him. There was something about the place that called to him, making him it’s own. He wasn’t sure what it was, but Keric knew that his life was tied to this place. His eyes were wide in wonder as they passed through the market place. There were so many things to see and do here. He had never seen anything like it. He blinked in astonishment, as the wagon pulled up to the barracks for the town guard.
A woman was standing there, leaning on a sword. “Greetings Captain, I see it was a successful run. Steryn is on duty today. You can give your paperwork to him.”
“Thank you, Zerynna.”
Keric just stared at the woman, like him, she had a half elven cast to her features, but what fascinated him most was the large pair of dove grey wings on her back. She chuckled, shifting them a bit. “Never seen their like before have you, boy?” He mutely shook his head. “I would say you never will again, but I would be lying to you. All of us Hordelings have them. Welcome to Safe Haven.” She reached out to ruffle his hair. “This one is cute. A real heart breaker.”
The captain laughed, “So we were noticing, Zerynna.”
“Well I’ll let you get back to work, Captain Vherys. I’ll send a runner over to Lady Rissa’s to let them know a new caravan has come to town to be taken care of.”
“That will be appreciated.” Captain Vherys lifted Keric from the wagon. “Go on boy, go exploring. Learn your way around. You are going to be here for a while.”
“Thank you, sir!” as Keric ran off. The first thing he did was explore the market place. “I may be free, but that doesn’t stop me from wearing that thing on my neck again,” he softly whispered to himself. As he wandered the market, he realized he hadn’t seen any signs of slavers. Screwing up what there was of his courage, he cautiously walked over to the most harmless person he saw in the market. He reached up, to pull gently on the elven gentleman’s robe, “Excuse me, sir...,”
The elf stopped, leaning on a long wooden staff, “Ah, how can I help you, young one?”
“Where... where...,” Keric swallowed nervously, “Where is the slavers’ section in town?”
The elf knelt down, looking slightly off to the side of Keric. “And why would you want to know that?” he asked, gently.
“So I know which parts of this place to avoid, Sir.” Keric looked the elf over, noticing the design of his robes, that he thought marked the elf as a priest.
“There are no slavers in Safe Haven. Slavery is against the law, my boy.”
Keric blinked in surprise, he had never heard of any thing like that. “Then what that mercenary said was true?”
The elf laughed, “I don’t know, I didn’t hear what the mercenary said. So I can’t tell you if it’s true or not.”
Keric for the first time felt a stirring in him of something, he wasn’t sure what it was, but he knew he liked it. “He said I was free.”
“Ah, yes. If you have come off of one of the caravans, then yes. What you were told is true. You are free. Do you like that idea, boy?”
Keric nodded in glee. “Yes, Sir!”
“Good. Have you been to the temple yet?”
Keric shook his head.
The elf chuckled, “I hope I haven’t scared you, boy. What’s your name?”
“No Sir, you haven’t scared me. My mother named me, Keric. It’s the only thing I have from her,” softly. “I barely remember her. They took me from her, when I was little.”
“Well then, young Keric let us walk to the temple, so that you can learn about your new life.”
“It’s not a bad temple is it?” Keric backed away from the elf, cautiously.
“Goodness no. I can assure you that, every priest and priestess in the temple serves a god of the light or a god of neutrality.”
“Oh. Are you a priest?”
The elf slowly stood up, nodding, “Yes.”
Keric’s eyes opened wide, as he took another step back. “Which god do you serve?”
“I serve Lady Khahleen. How rude of me, you gave me your name, but I did not give you, mine.”
Keric made a face as he tried to figure out which goddess of evil, Khahleen was. “I don’t know that one. Who is she?”
“I would be surprised if you did, young Keric. Most slaves don’t learn about the gods of Light. She is the Lady of Hope. And I am her, High Priest. I am called Lihrarryn.”
Keric let go of the priest, dropping to his knees, looking down. “I am sorry, Holy One, I did not mean to offend you,” he whispered.
Lihrarryn held his hand down to the child. “No offense was taken, my boy. Now, take my hand, and we shall go to the temple. By the time we get there, it should be meal time. And I’ve never known of any child that would pass up a free meal.”
Keric looked up at the priest, “Food?”
“Yes. Food, my boy.”
Keric hesitated for a second, and then much to his dismay, his stomach reminded him that it was a while since his last meal.
Lihrarryn chuckled, “You may be considering passing up a free meal, but your stomach says otherwise to the offer.”
Keric laughed, as he took the priest’s hand. “So where are we going?”
“Greetings, Lihr.” Keric paused to look at the new person now standing next to his new friend. The person stared down at Keric, looking him over critically. Lihrarryn squeezed Keric’s hand in reassurance, “It’s alright, son. Hello Khelis, what can I do for you?”
“I saw you wandering standing there, and thought that you might need a guide, but I see that you have one already.”
Lihrarryn chuckled softly, “Yes, I do, it seems. Khelis, meet my new friend, Keric. Keric, this is another priest from my temple. Although, he serves a completely different god than I do.”
Keric really looked the new priest over now, all nervous again. Lihrarryn seemed nice enough, but this one, he seemed a bit stiff and formal. There was also a slight accent to his speech, which hinted that he had contact with the Drow Lords. “Are you a Drow, sir?”
Khelis chuckled, “No. Just from one of the few elven families that happens to have some power in one of their kingdoms. Unfortunately.”
“Oh,” Keric let out a sigh of frustration, as once again, he didn’t recognize the symbol on the priest’s robes. “Which god do you serve?”
Khelis looked at him, eyebrow raised, “Blunt, aren’t you, young man.”
Keric flinched, expecting to be hit. Lihrarryn chuckled, “It’s alright, my boy. Khelis isn’t used to someone being as straight forward as he is. I’m sure that he finds it rather refreshing.”
Khelis laughed, “After dealing with His Majesty all day, you could probably say that, although Aerys makes up for what Nairyck lacks in straight forwardness.”
Keric’s first instinct was to drop to his knees, like he was trained to do, but Lihrarryn had a firm grip on his hand, and he did not want to offend any one that was being kind to him. Moments of kindness were rare to one such as him.
Khelis offered his hand to Lihrarryn, “So, are you joining us over at the Town Hall, or are you just out for your usual walk?”
Lihrarryn blinked, “Ah yes, I had almost forgotten about that.”
Khelis shook his head, “You forget something? Impossible.”
“True, well my young friend, do you wish to continue to explore your new home or do you wish to continue your travels with me? It seems that in my enthusiasm for meeting a new friend, I did forget that I do have business to attend to over at the Town Hall.”
Keric looked around the suddenly crowded street, with everyone bustling about on their own business, and swallowed nervously. He took a step closer to Lihrarryn, and the comfort he offered, by holding Keric’s hand. Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, Keric was reminded that he was a child all alone in the world, with no one but himself to rely on. He looked down in embarrassment, as once again, his stomach made noises saying that he was hungry. “If you don’t mind, Sir, I think I will stay with you.”
Lihrarryn smiled, “Excellent. Then you shall be my guest over at Evon’s, after I am done with my business.”
Khelis steered both of them down the street, towards a large center building. “Our Inn away from home, where the town fathers meet after our weekly meeting, boy.”
Keric hesitated for a second, “But I’m a sla...child!”
Khelis stopped to stare down at the little boy next to him, “And?”
“I’ve never been in an Inn before.”
Khelis gently placed a hand on Keric’s shoulder, “Welcome to Safe Haven, I am sure that now that you are here, you will do a lot of things that you have never done before, Son.” Khelis knelt in front of Keric, gently shaking him, “It’s true you are a child. You are not a slave any more. You are free. Free to do whatever you want. Go where you want.”
Keric stared at the priest, kneeling before him. He sort of knew what the priest wanted. But he wasn’t going to give in. No one saw him break down and cry. Tears didn’t mean a thing to any one. If anything, the few times he did cry, when he was going through his training, tended to please his former masters. And he was never going to do that again. “Thank you, Sir.”
Khelis stood up, slowly, impressed by the child’s resolve to keep his troubles to himself, “Alright, you two, let’s get over to the Town Hall and get that meeting over with.”
Keric just let the two elven priests lead him around the town. As they approached the door, a young woman walked up to them,
“Hello Uncles, who is your new friend?”
Khelis smiled, “Hello Lizdra, are you joining us today?”
“Yes, I am,” she looked down at Keric, smiling at him. Keric looked down, flushing in embarrassment. “Is something wrong?”
“No, milady,” Keric answered quickly.
Lizdra gently lifted Keric’s chin, smoothing back his hair from his forehead. “That’s not hair, that’s a mop,” she teased gently.
Keric giggled, despite his nervousness.
“That’s better,” Lizdra laughed softly.
Keric smiled shyly, enjoying another rare moment of kindness in his short life. He came to the conclusion that he would be perfectly happy, hearing this young woman before him laugh as much as she wanted. “So, do you have a name, or do we just call you, hey you?”
“Lizzie,” Lihrarryn chided her gently. “His name is Keric.”
“Hello Lady Lizdra,” Keric whispered softly.
“Lizzie,” Lizdra corrected gently. “I leave that whole lady thing to my sisters. Just plain little Lizzie.”
Keric gasped, “I could never be so familiar with you, like that, milady. And you are beautiful, more beautiful than any of the Ladies at my master’s house.”
“Why thank you, Keric,” Lizdra gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Uncle, I may steal this one from you. He’s so cute.”
Khelis shook his head, “I can see that the resident Hordelings are not the only ones that can ooze charm around here. Shall we go inside?”
Lizdra put an arm around Keric’s shoulders, “Lead the way, Uncles. I think my new friend and I will just sit in the back here and watch.” Lizdra lead Keric to a pair of chairs, towards the back of the room.
Khelis nodded, “Alright, while we will head to the front of the room and sit with the rest of the stuffed shirts.”
“Uncle Khelis! My father is not a stuffed shirt,” Lizdra protested.
Khelis paused to look at the table where everyone was sitting, then looked back at Lizdra, “Tell me that again, when the Judge is on duty.”
Lizdra opened her mouth to protest again, pausing to think about what Khelis said, “Oh, maybe you are right.”
“The Judge?” Keric asked nervously.
Lizdra pointed at the half elven gentleman sitting at the end of the table. “That’s my father,”
Keric detected a hint of pride in her voice. For a moment, he envied her for knowing who her father was.
“Is something wrong?”
“Oh! No, milady,” Keric answered quickly.
“Lizzie,” reminding him, gently, “Lizzie. I am hardly a lady.”
Keric just nodded, keeping his opinion of that to himself, so he wouldn’t offend her. “Very well, Lady Lizzie.”
Lizdra laughed, as she sat down on one of the benches.
Keric sat down properly, as he was taught on the floor at her feet.
Lizdra leaned forward, “You can sit on the bench with me, I don’t bite.”
Keric turned his head to face her, and then just stared, since he was at the right angle to see down the front of her bodice and shirt.
“Umm...,” he sat there, at a loss for words, “Ah...”
Lizdra offered him her hand, so that he could stand up, “Come on; keep me company on the bench.”
Keric took the hand, sitting on the bench, too flustered to protest. He spent the next two hours, sitting quietly, as the people over at the table went over what sounded like to him, the details of the working of this town he was in. Although at some points he was a little confused, as to whether they were talking about a town or a kingdom. It almost sounded like to these people it was the same thing. When the people were finished, the half elven gentleman that Lizzie had pointed out to him earlier, walked over to them. “Greetings, Daughter.”
“Hello, Papa. Keric, this is my father, Whren. Papa, this is Keric.”
Keric nodded, “Hello, Sir.”
Whren smiled at his daughter, “Polite, isn’t he?”
“I am sure that in time, that will change,” Lizzie giggled, hugging Keric.
“So, what brings you here to the meeting? You don’t usually attend,” Whren asked.
Lizzie shifted her weight slightly on the bench, bouncing a little, “I found him!”
Whren pulled up another bench, to sit down. He paused, as he was about to sit, “Found whom? Young Keric here?”
Lizzie laughed, “No! The one I’m going to marry. I think Uncle Lihr found Keric, or it might have been Uncle Khelis, I’m not sure.”
Whren closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on, “And do I get to meet this young man that has captured your attention?”
“Of course, Papa, as soon as he knows that my attention has been captured, as you put it.”
Whren opened his eyes, to stare at his daughter. “Are you saying that he doesn’t know this yet?”
Keric just sat there, trying to be quiet. For a fleeting moment, he felt anger at this nameless person that didn’t know about his Lady Lizzie’s affections.
“No, papa, he doesn’t. But that will change.”
Whren let out a weary sigh, “And how do you know this? What if you are wrong Lizdra?”
Lizzie looked down at her hands, now folded in her lap, “I can’t be wrong,” she whispered softly.
Keric reached out, impulsively, to place his hand on her hands, “Don’t worry Lady Lizzie, if he doesn’t want you, I’m sure that the Holy Father won’t mind if you steal me to take care of you.”
Lizdra looked at Keric, laughing softly, “Oh you little scamp.” She pulled him in for a hug. “I’m sure that one day, someone will steal you, as you put it, and you can take care of her to your hearts content.”
Keric leaned into the first real hug, he had ever experienced, “He better like you, or I’ll... I’ll... I’ll kick him.”
Whren chuckled, “It would seem you have a champion, Lizdra.”
Lizzie tapped Keric playfully on the nose, “So I do. Are we ready to go eat?”
Whren stood up, offering his hand to his daughter, “Yes, let’s go eat. Are you joining us, young Keric?”
Keric blinked, he wasn’t sure what to do. No one had ever asked him to eat with them before.
Lizzie took Keric’s hand, “Come my champion, you deserve a meal before fearlessly charging into battle to defend me.”
Whren put a hand on his head, wincing. He couldn’t believe his daughter had just said that.
Keric giggled, “As you wish, Lady Lizzie.”
Next Story: Aeryk Shalnar's Tale
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