Journey to the South: Six of Thirty

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     Despite my polite declines and the protestations of Decurio Amat, we found ourselves reluctantly bundled into the carriage and our turma of legionaries escorting us to the estate of Natallu I’igaruu Jaa. While I had no deep desire to spend any more time with this haughty nobleman, and while the Decurio was quite right that it deviated from the approved itinerary, Natallu was the current Father of one of the I’igaruu clan’s major families and to insult him would not be a good idea.

     Our carriage and escorts followed behind Natallu’s carriage, weaving through the streets of Tarahn until we exited through its southern gates and took the Imperial Road through the rolling, snow-covered countryside. Natallu spoke honestly enough: his estate was not far from the city, only a handful of miles from the southern gate. As we approached closer, the main house of the estate rose up, it’s whitewashed walls and snow-laden tile roof standing in contrast to the surrounding firs and naked oaks. Beyond, we could glimpse several orchards, a few empty fields that no doubt would hold corn when the land began to warm, and an extensive vineyard. We passed through the gates of the main house and into the central courtyard, where we came to a stop behind Natallu’s carriage. Amat and a handful of his men entered the courtyard with us, but the main contingent of the turma circled around the house to the barn.

     “I humbly welcome you to the House of Jaa,” Natallu said with a flourish as we stepped out of our carriage, Viro and the children standing behind me. Natallu took one look at Rajak and frowned. Turning to Cuahuatec he glared down at the Gromothim. “You! What are you doing standing there? Go get Millaro and have her attend to the young master’s wounds. Quickly now!”

    Nodding fervently, the Gromothim slinked off through one of the doors leading off of the courtyard.

    “We appreciate the gesture,” I said to Natallu, trying to sound as grateful as possible.

    The young nobleman grinned broadly and gestured for us to follow. “Please, come. I will have the slaves take your belongings to your quarters while we sit down to supper.”

    We followed from the courtyard into the house’s atrium, which was decorated with several mosaics depicting the House of Jaa’s bravery during the conquest of the Tijhori peoples and during the Years of the Warring Clans, along with several abstract tapestries done in the Gharanese style. We were quickly shown the quarters where we would be staying – “we” including the Decurio, of course, but his men would be sleeping in the slave quarters and the barn. Amat and I were less than happy with this, but I counseled the legionary that we must be gracious guests to this uninvited host. After all, it would only be a night or two at most, and surely the men in his turma had slept in worse conditions.

    Supper was roasted goose, cornbread, a variety of cooked vegetables, and – I must admit – a wine of a particularly good vintage. Sadly, the food was the best part of the meal as Natallu insisted on regaling us with tales of how his ancestors had served the Moy, of how his dearly-departed father had led a legionary wing during the conquest of the Mughri’i which had led to him losing a leg in battle. After that, the elder Jaa had experienced declining health ever since he had returned from the eastern province, until five years prior he had slipped away from consumption and left the running of the House of Jaa to Natallu, his heir. Natallu told us all about his younger brother, a Tribune in the legions stationed along the Tijhori River the last that he had heard, and about his elder sister who had married into the House of Paniil, one of the other major families of the I’igaruu.

    However, Natallu said little about the accomplishments of himself – aside from the timely death of his aging father, that is. But, during supper we unfortunately got to see what it was that Natallu I’igaruu Jaa did best: act the part of petty tyrant to his slaves. He constantly redressed them for being too slow, for not showing enough respect to his “honored and distinguished guests”, and at one point offered to let me personally whip Cuahuatec for not bringing the matronly Millaro quickly enough to tend to my son’s wounds. Never mind the fact that master had not told slave where to bring the nurse, of course. In Natallu’s mind, it was obvious that if his slaves did not anticipate his every whim and choice, they were doing a terrible job.

    Looking back upon the man, I still find it baffling that his younger brother had not been called back from service to charge of the House, due to his elder sibling being found dead of poisoning.

    I, of course, declined the offer to whip the Gromothim male, but nevertheless we had to bear witness to the slave’s muffled cries of pain as Natallu applied his “firm and just hand”. While slavery is a reality of the Moy and the world, I despise any man who refuses to recognize the innate personhood of his slaves – whether they be Men or Gromothim. To treat a slave in the manner that Natallu treated his, lowers a man beneath even the type of creature who would abuse his own animals simply because he could. And so, my heart went out to Cuahuatec and the others owned by Natallu I’igaruu Jaa.

    No doubt, it was that empathy which forced my hand.

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