Journey to the South: Fifteen of Thirty

Posted: February 16, 2013 in Fiction
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     As we traveled from Yantih to Akhem, crossing from Tijhor province into Yevij province, the countryside slowly changed from thick forests of oak, ash, and fir to more sparse forests of pines, olive trees, and fig trees interspersed with grasslands. I found it a contemplatively interesting transition, for though Yevij province was just as cold as Tijhor province, it has a drier climate and snow is much less common.

    After our fortnight in Kallanha, I would have been quite happy to never see snow again.

    As we traveled, my mind kept alighting back upon the story that Cuahuatec had told the villagers one night during the blizzard. The story traditionally told by his people about their creation as the slaves and playthings of horrid creatures and spirits, called the quinpazli, deep within the earth. One day, as we traveled through Yevijiri country that was stark and hibernating underneath a grey, winter sky, I turned to the Gromothim male who was accompanying us in our carriage that day, helping my youngest learn her letters.

    “Cuahuatec,” I said, “I have been thinking on that story you told in Kallanha. The one about your people’s origins.”

    The male lifted his goggled eyes from the scroll that Tama, my daughter, was slowly sounding her way through and regarded me curiously. “Yes, sir?”

    “I simply find it…curious, I suppose? Curious how your folk claim origins in servitude, being freed by a divine being, and yet here you sit: a slave still.”

    “I…I did not choose servitude, sir…”

    I remember being embarrassed by the inelegance of my words and holding up a pacifying hand. “My apologies, Cuahuatec. It seems that I misspoke. I mean to say, that I find curious that you find yourself in the same situation as your mythic ancestors. How do you feel regarding that?”

    The Gromothim lowered his head shyly. “Sir, you are nothing like the quinpazli,” he said softly. “And like all beings, I would prefer my freedom. But you delivered me from cruelty and abuse, you have shown me nothing but kindness and respect. If I am to be a slave – which seems to be the fate allotted to me by Pilzanuatl – then I could ask for no better master than yourself.”

    “And if I gave you your freedom? What would you do?”

    Cuahuatec was silent for a moment. “I do not know, sir. The last I knew, I had family living in the Warrens of Noharnu, perhaps I would return to them? But, I have no means to do so…likely I would continue on with you, if you would have me, as a free servant.”

    I nodded, thinking over the Gromothim slave’s words. “When we get to Akhem, my family and I will be traveling to Sirr by ship with only a handful of the legionaries currently escorting us. Decurio Atam and the rest of his men will be traveling back to Kravnu by ship a fortnight later, if I remember the Decurio’s orders correctly. I propose this: when we reach Akhem, I free you, I entrust you to the care of Decurio Atam, and I give you…ten gold Krakens to see yourself set up properly? I will write a letter explaining a small deviation in Atam’s orders, compelling the captain of the ship taking them to Kravnu to make port in Noharnu – which they likely would do, regardless. What do you think of that?”

    The slave dropped the scroll that Tama was reading and stared at me, mouth agape. “You…you speak truly, sir?” Cuahuatec asked.

    “Of course.”

    “But…why, sir?”

    Viro and the children were looking at me expectantly, seemingly almost as shocked as the Gromothim had been. “Because you deserve your freedom, Cuahuatec,” I said after a moment considering my words. “I have no other reasoning other than a deep-seated impulse that you should be free.”

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