She is obviously new in Tevinter. Danarius had bought her from one of his contacts from south. I had to accompany my master to get his new acquisition. Along with the girl, more slaves from the south arrived in Minrathous. Many of them had been kidnapped, or so it seems. And just like all newly arrived slaves do, they all look frightened. Their fate uncertain; will they live or will they die? She too looks scared, as her green eyes are looking around her in fear and her body shivering.
As I stand behind my master, while he inspects the newly arrived goods, I watch the girl. She seems to have barely passed down her eighteenth birthday. Nonetheless, she doesn’t seem to be meager or untended. In fact, she looks very neat: her skin doesn’t have any dirty spot and her long light brown, curly hair looks very well cared for. Even the dress she is wearing, a brown one with golden embroidery, looks very rich, with exception of the tears in the skirt.
In the end, Danarius had bought them all and he hadn’t spent any attention at the girl. The whole time, the girl had looked down to the ground, as she is brought in Danarius’ mansion. Like all new slaves, they have to wash themselves in the big open bathhouses, especially made for the slaves. Women, men and children are mixed together, so no one has any kind of privacy. It is even more humiliating that people are watching them from the outside, to make sure that no one escapes. This is all very familiar, at least that is how I had experienced it that first time, after the ritual. The water is at least clean and warm enough to wash yourself with.
The girl is, like all the others, striped from her clothes, leaving her in nothing but her undergarments. It is easy to see that she feels uncomfortable, as she clenches her arms protectively around her naked skin. She walks towards one of the washbasins. Hesitantly, but in the end forced to do so, she has to remove all of her undergarments as well. I doubt that anyone except me is actually watching her, but she seems very conscious of her own nakedness. Nevertheless, I look away from her. I feel that it is indecent to see her in that state. After a short time of washing, they all get new clothes; a simple grey linen pair of clothes. Once dressed, they are all getting their function and chores in the household of their new master from the steward, the one who is in charge of the housekeeping. The man, small but in uniform, parades before them and tells them the simple rules of their new lives. It is his role to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Becoming steward is probably the highest rank a slave can ever achieve in this life.
“You get twice a day food, unless you have displeased the master. Then you’re meals are cut to one till none. If you displease the master severely, you will be severely punished. You are allowed to wash yourself three times a week, each time half an hour. The sleeping quarters are over there-“ He points down the road to some old complex, “-The day starts one hour before sunset. Get going.”
I don’t remember much of his past. In fact, I can’t remember anything, but this- the moment when you stand there and someone tells you how your whole life will look like- that, I shall never forget that moment. I can’t remember my family or anything from before I got my markings, but I have always been very grateful that I can’t recall anything. That way, I never had to hope that someone out there is waiting for me to return home. My master was my home. The only home I can remember. That day, when the steward gave me and many others the same speech, I didn’t lose anything that day. I only won something.
The girl I had watched all day, had disappeared into the kitchen. No surprise. Men were used for the heavy works, like cleaning the horse stables and women were used for the chores in the household, like cleaning and cooking. If it seems that you’re useless after working for a while, then you had been a bad investment and you are easily disposed by any means. That is either by being sold to another buyer or being killed for a ritual. No matter what, you lose your position in the household. I hope that that girl will make it.
I heard my name being called.
“Fenris. The master has asked for you to return to him. It seems that he is planning to visit his pupil. Make sure you’re ready.” The steward says.
I nod and walk off to my master. I shudder at the thought to see my master’s most beloved pupil tonight. She is probably going taunt me and torture me in any way she can find. I shall not sleep well tonight.
It has been a whole month now. The weather is becoming hotter and more humid. Danarius had complained about it and the slaves of the household had done what they could to please their master. I, as always, stand beside him and watch out for any kind of danger. Not long ago, an assassin from a rival had tried to kill him. Luckily, I had been able to stop it and save my master’s live for now.
Lying in the richly upholstered lectus, Danarius is reading some kind of book. The room’s wall is decorated in blue mosaic and the marble floor is shining perfectly. In the corner of the room, a lovely girl is playing the lute impressively, which apparently pleases the master enormously.
Some other slave places cold cubits of ice against the palm of the magister, hoping that it will cool him. When the boy accidently spills a couple of drops on his expensive robe, the boy gets a harsh lash against his right cheek, hearing a soft and startled gasp out of his mouth. The music stops immediately. I too look at the boy, whose cheek has now a long red scratch from the master’s ring.
“Watch it, you fool!” He thunders against the boy, who rises up shaky from his knees. “This robe is more than you’ll ever be! Now leave!”
The boy mutters an apology and leaves the room hurriedly. Danarius lets out an annoyed groan. The slaves around him wave with big fans, made out of big lilac feathers. He growls out that he didn’t order anyone to stop the music.
“Little wolf,” He coos to me. “Get me a cold bowl of water for my feet.”
I march out of the double door and close it, but not after I had bowed before leaving my master. I walk with quick strides towards the kitchen. On my way, down the backstairs, which separates the masters and the slaves from each other, I am aware of the stares. It’s nothing new though; after all, I am Danarius’ living weapon. Next to that, the snow-white hair and the markings on my body also draw the unwanted attention.
The kitchen, hectic as always, is even hotter than the rest of the mansion because of the ovens and huge fireplaces. The strong smell of garlic infiltrates my nose. I look for the person who’s in charge and when I see her, I approach her as I cross through the chaos.
“What do ya want?” The chef, a round broad woman with dirty blonde hair on a ponytail under a white cap, sneers without ever looking me in the eye as she is busy with kneading dough.
“A bowl water for the master’s feet.” I say curtly.
She snorts, before barking out the name ‘Anne’ through the kitchen. From out of the corner of my eye, I see that a young girl appears with the slave-boy, who had just served Danarius, at her side. The chef barks out the order and when I fully turn around to see the girl, I then recognize her immediately; it’s the new slave-girl from the south.
She nods as a respond for the chef’s order. She turns around to look at me. Her expression goes from calm to stunned; I can see the surprise in her eyes. It takes a brief moment for her to collect her thoughts, or so it seems. Without saying anything, she turns around and walks through the sea of servants that are working in the kitchen. She already has a porcelain bowl in her hands, though I can’t say when she got that. I follow her without a word and so does the boy. When we enter the servant’s hall, the girl turns towards the boy.
“Wait here, Tom. And keep that cloth against your cheek. The swelling should slink at least for a bit.” Her voice is soft and well-spoken. Her thick accent however betrays that she is from Ferelden.
Without waiting, she continues with walking and we eventually enter the cellar without ever saying a word. While descending down the stairs, she looks a bit over her shoulder to me.
“The ice needs to be picked out, though it will take a while if I do that. If you do it, then I’ll fill the bowl with water.”
Before I can actually respond, the girl already disappears into the dark cellar. With a sigh I go to the place where the huge block of ice stands, which is obviously made through magic. While I grab the iron pick and start lashing out at the ice mindlessly, I suddenly hear clattering noises from the darkness, followed by a painful groan.
I hurriedly walk over to the place where the sound came from and I see the girl on the ground with broken pieces of porcelain around her. She is holding her right hand, while blood is streaming down. She hisses at the pain.
“Are you alright?” I growl out at her, feeling a little annoyed at the fact that the bowl had been broken.
“It’s just a little cut.” She answers back and with kneaded eyebrows she looks at the mess around her. “How am I going to explain this…”
She is more murmuring to herself. I walk towards her and I see that she flinches when I get closer. Grabbing her hand when I kneel beside and studying her wound, I can only see that it’s a small cut indeed. At least it is nothing serious. I stand up and while towering over, I say that she should wait here.
I hurriedly walk back to the kitchen and I manage to get another bowl without anyone seeing me, along with an old cloth. When I get back down the cellar, the girl is still sitting there, though she is gathering the broken pieces together.
“Here…” I grab her hand and I wrap the cloth around her hand wordlessly. There is nothing but silence between us.
“I am Anne…” She suddenly says.
For a moment, my hand stops moving as I look up at her and after a brief moment of silence I say my own name. “Fenris.”
“I know.” Anne answers quietly. Of course she knows. Everybody in this households knows who I am.
“I’m going to bring up the water to master. You’ll clean up this mess.” I stand up as she nods at me.
“Thank you, Fenris.”
I snort at the words of gratitude. Filling the bowl with water and ice, I return to Danarius. My master looks at me impatiently, as sneers at me for being late. After all my years of service, I can read him and predict him almost perfectly now. Before I got back, I took some of Danarius’ favourite fruit with me, namely Antivan grapes along with Orlesian cheese. I apologize as I place down the bowl with water on the ground after I had presented the plate of food next to him. This seemed to calm down his rage a bit, as I am allowed to return back to my place behind him quietly.
At the end of the day, when I am allowed to wash myself in the bathhouse, I am reminiscing the girl whose name is Anne. Just as I pour down some water over my head, I remember how soft her hands had been when I had held them.
With a painful hiss, I touch the cut on my cheek. Bitch. Hadriana. Tonight I didn’t get another meal and, damnation, it is the second night that I would go without food. After she had ridiculed again by lashing out at me with her magic to please her master, while entertaining other magisters, I had somehow managed to get back to my cell; a cold dark room, with only a bed and separated from the other servants.
“Fenris…” I hear a soft whisper calling out for me.
With a raised eyebrow I stand up. I can’t see who it is, since the wooden door is closed with the exception of the high iron bars. I don’t initially walk towards the door the see who it is. Perhaps it is another joke from Hadriana, or a trick, or-
“Fenris…” This time the voice whispers more resolute. “It’s me. Anne.”
“Anne!” I whisper back urgently as I hurry over towards the door. “What are you doing here? It’s dangerous!”
I stand on my toes and I see that she has put her hand through the bars, as if she is reaching out for something. I grab her hand and squeeze it reassuringly. It has been a couple of weeks now, since we had introduced ourselves to one another and we have only met a couple of times.
“I came here to bring you some food.” She says, as she quickly gives a piece of bread and a bottle of water with her other hand. “I have to go now.”
All this time, I had her hand in my own and I quickly release when she says the later. I can hear her hurried footsteps growing distant. I eat quietly, while I slump down on the ground. I wonder how her face had looked behind that wooden door. I never liked it when people touch me. The markings burn whoever touches my skin, but when I feel her skin against mine, I can only feel a pleasant light buzzing feeling.
The next time I was able to meet Anne is several days later. It seems that she had managed to stay out of trouble, thank the Maker. Last time I had seen her was when Danarius had hosted some dinner party for his friends and she and a couple of other slaves had presented and cleaned up the table. When she stood there, serving the man wine and other delicacies, our eyes had briefly crossed each other a couple of times.
When I got to the kitchen again, to fetch something for the master, I was able to whisper in her ear that I wanted to meet her in the Barn. The Barn, as all the slaves called it, is an old, abandoned shed, for former horse stables. It’s the one thing that all slaves keep from the masters, since there is where most slaves trade, gamble and meet each other in secret. It is however very dangerous; you have to sneak out without being spotted by anyone. Not by the Master. Not by the guards. Not even by your fellow slaves.
It is especially difficult for me, since I have to escape my own cell. Luckily, the wall has a big hole in it, which I had discovered the first time I got in that cell. The stone was loose enough for me to move it and I can easily move it back in its to cover it up as well. It has not been the first time that I took a stroll outside, in the garden. Until now, no one has ever spotted me.
I know that it is dangerous for me. But maybe it is even more dangerous for her. Maker, it is probably already a bad idea to meet up with each in secret, but I have to see her. I have to see her tonight.
This night, I have been able to do the same thing as well. As the moon is covered by clouds, I can easily avoid the guards through the darkness and reach the Barn safely. I only hope she is safe there as well.
When I enter the dark shed, I don’t see nor hear anything. After a brief moment of silence, I whispered her name.
“Anne.” I did that a couple of times, before I heard a whisper above me.
I look up, through the darkness I can see the outline of someone there. Blindly, I am trying to find the ladder to climb up as well. When I reach the top, I stretch my hand out to find her and only stop doing so when I can feel her skin. Wordless, maybe even a little desperate, I feel her with my hands. Legs, arms, shoulders, neck; eventually I can feel that her long hair is lose and my hand rests upon her cheek.
“You’re not wearing your armour.” She whispers out softly.
‘No, I’m not’ is what I want to say, but my breath is suddenly stolen when I feel soft fingertips trailing down my arm. A small hint of pain goes through my body, alongside with pleasant tenderly caress. She is hesitant, but curious, just like me. Maker, I wish I could see her face.
“I just had to see you tonight.” I eventually whisper to her.
“Me too.” She says, though her voice sounds shy. It actually surprises me when she says that. I am used that people avoid me and I am fine with that as well. I only assumed that she would do the same. I hiss out when she touches my arm a bit too roughly. “Am I hurting you? You feel tense.”
“It’s alright. Just… be careful.” I manage out. I hear a soft mumbled of her agreeing.
We stayed there for a long time and all that time I could not see her through the darkness. I held her and she held me, until dawn. Then we would return back to our own places; me at Danarius’ side and she in the kitchen. We did however continue to meet each other in that Barn. For whatever reason there is, we both could find some solace in each other.
“Where are you from?” I ask, while lying next to her. I touch her back carefully. We are both tired and we are both about to fall asleep.
I thought so. I have once heard that Denerim is the capital city of Ferelden. Perhaps she’s a maid there? No. Her hand would’ve been rougher. Maybe she’s a lady in waiting, or something?
“How old are you?”
Just as I thought. She’s still a child. Not that I am much older, or so I think. I am probably not much older than twenty years.
“Why are you here?” I ask. For a moment she stiffens and then relaxes again.
“In Denerim, I was kidnapped and then sold.” She answers after a while. “How about you?”
I simply shrug my shoulders. It’s not like I can remember. All my memories were whipped away when I got the markings. The first memory I have is the agonizing pain I felt when I woke up, but I am not going to tell her that.
“Did they do this to you?” She then asks.
“Yes, they did.” I say, unintentionally placing bitterness in my voice.
“Don’t you hate Danarius?” Anne asks as she turns down on her stomach. I can feel her eyes upon me.
“Hate him…” I repeat thoughtless. How should I answer that? How should I feel for the man who took everything from me and in the end became the centre of everything that I know? “I don’t know.”
I hate Hadriana, yes. I hate the fact that I am stuck here. I hate being beaten and humiliated by magisters. I hate to see how my people is used, killed and tortured. But do I hate my Master?
“Perhaps is ‘hatred’ not the right word to use here.” Anne says, while she sits up. “Don’t you feel that you’re caged in here? That everything you do, whether they are horrible or despicable, are deriving from someone else’s will? Doesn’t that frighten you?”
“Frighten me?” I ask while I too sit up next to her.
“Don’t you ever wonder who, in all this madness, you are?”
I am not sure why, but at that moment the very realization hit me; can I do that? I remain quiet for a moment, not sure what to say. After that all I can say in the end is that I don’t know.
One day, Danarius’ lover came over for a visit; a human young man with brown eyes and blond hair named Virgil. He’s an Magister in making, enjoying power from both his family’s side, as the accompaniment of Danarius. He is very aware of the influence he has in Minrathous and is even more aware of the effect he has on his lover. I have seen it many times how had used that to accomplish something bigger from my master; whether it was power or a favour, it was always in his own benefit.
Anne is serving now; placing tea and teacups on the table, next to the plate of small sweet treats. The two men hardly notice the slave girl, as they are discussing a topic about political urgency, until Virgil looks at the right side where Anne is standing.
“My amatus, your slaves are getting more beautiful by the day.” He says, while looking at her as she soon leaves the room to get more plates of food that Danarius had ordered before.
“What can I say, I have a keen eye for good things.” He laughs, as he places the teacup to his lips. “But… if you would like, you can take her with you.”
Unconsciously, I hold my breath for a slight moment. It isn’t the first time that Danarius had given him one of his slaves and most of the time, it doesn’t end up well for those. From the corner of my eyes am I studying the young Magister, whose getting a wry smile on his face.
“You spoil me too much, love.” He says as Anne enters the room again with another silvern plate in her hand. “But, perhaps I can indulge with… other favours.”
I almost let out a sigh of relief. Thank the Maker, he’s not going to do that. I follow Anne with my eyes, who has no idea how close she got to actual danger.
I am starting to watch Anne more than I watch Danarius. My eyes these day now wander off to wherever Anne may be. I have also started to notice a couple of new things about her. How straight her back is when she walks; how she folds her hands before her; she’s able to Tevene, the Imperial language, perfectly; even her table manners are perfect, that it’s almost ridicules. If she hadn’t been a slave, then she would’ve probably been able to join the magisters at their table.
I will tell her that the next time when we meet at night. Our meetings are becoming more intimate and it starts to feel more secure and comfortable for me. it has started to become part of my daily routine; a moment of the day that I can look forward to. I can feel that warm feeling inside me growing whenever I am near her, or when I whisper something in her ear when we cross each other in the kitchen.
Once had the rest and peace been disturbed when suddenly the guards stormed the Barn in. We both froze for a moment. I had been convinced that they had caught us, but instead they had two other elves, a man and a woman, and had dragged them outside. We had been able to remain quiet and to crawl away from them without being notice, but it had been close. The next day, every one of us had to watch how both of them were hit by a whip multiply times and their screams had been echoed over the courtyard. It had been one of the lesser punishment; worst case scenario is that you’re killed for a bloodmagic-ritual. We didn’t meet each for a while. It would not have been safe for either of us if we did that.
Tonight, Danarius has organised a party. On the outside, it may look that the party is meant for good will for others, but everyone who knows a little bit of the Great Game can see that he is merely socializing for his own benefits. This is not the first time he has done that and it will not be the last. As Anne is serving food and wine to the guests, I stand at Danarius’ side as always.
Everyone has been dressed, which includes the slaves. Now I am wearing some armour that my master made for, in order to stand out. The women wear dresses and the men wear suits. In the bathhouse every slave there had happily talked about the great event, as it also meant that they would get extra food, an extra day to wash yourself and wearing fancy clothes. I hadn’t been able to catch Anne, but I was almost certain that she is just as excited as all the others.
When I see her, wearing a lilac coloured dress that while wearing it like a toga, I am surprised at seeing the unhappy expression on her face. Her snow white arms are naked, while carrying a bowl of Imperial delicacies, and her long hair are swaying in a lose bun. She is able to attract some eyes to her, which she is wisely avoiding.
As my eyes follow her through the great hall, that is used for the party, I suddenly notice another presence. My gut sinks deeper under the ground when I see that hateful woman, making her way down the great stairs; Hadriana.
I know for a fact that the other magisters are making fun of and are mocking her for whatever reason they have. I have watched this game for quite a while now and it still looks like a pit full of snakes to me.
The night continues, until deep into the night. The wine flows and the food is served in rapid speed. I had to see from a distant that the guest are becoming more… acquainted with the slaves. Some guests are starting to behave inappropriate towards the women, including Anne. I had seen how she had escaped from a couple of wandering hands quite a couple of times. The night even becomes worse when I hear that one of the magisters suggest that their apprentices should give them a ‘demonstration’.
I had felt my heart drop down when the suggestion came up and I had seen how the other slaves joy and relief disappeared from their faces. Of course, Hadriana is all too enthusiastic in participating in this little contest. Suddenly, the night of escape has suddenly turned into a frightening game; a horde of sheep being surrounded by wolves.
All the apprentices has chosen their sacrifice; which doesn’t include Anne. That bitch had tried to convince Danarius to use me for that damn ritual, but he had firmly refused that. Instead, she had chosen the young boy, who had served Danarius water and had accidently dropped a bit of water on his robe. The screams of their agony, along with the buzzling sound of magic fills the hall.
I can see the empty eyes of the young boy, who now lies dead a couple of feet away from me. I carefully look up at Anne, whose eyes are both filled with horror as with emptiness. I wish I could’ve reached out for her. I myself am used to this sight anyway, so it doesn’t matter of my eyes don’t have the glace of life anymore, but not Anne.
In the end, the evening is, and only had been, a small reminder that we slaves live under the mercy of the magisters after all.
After that night, I wasn’t able to meet up with Anne as much as I would’ve liked. Everyone, the guards and me included, are ordered to stay up sharp and keep our guards up for any activity. Danarius seems paranoid, as if he’s almost afraid for someone to come for him. When I was in his chambers, he would mumble to himself things like; ‘what do they want from me?’ or ‘why is she here?’.
I don’t get much sleep and I am starting to feel exhausted from the lack of it. My the dark lines around my eyes aren’t new, but they are growing darker each day. My body is starting feel heavy as well. Will I be able to defend Danarius properly?
No one, with exception of Anne, talks to me, so I don’t really know what is going on. I can only gather around some rumours that I’ve heard when I pass by. It seems that someone is trying to infiltrate Danarius’ household, a dangerous woman from the south who had once crossed the Tevinter Magisters path before in a bad way. If the rumours are true, then it’s about a woman who has killed hundreds of mages when they were trying to ship a new cargo of slaves from Denerim. Apparently the woman’s father was among them, so she had killed every mage out of revenge. Whether this is true or not, it is at least something to be afraid of.
After a whole week of patrol, I am finally allowed to take some rest. When I come back from the bathhouse, I somehow manage to get back to my cell and fall down exhaustedly in my bed. Maker, what am I tired. The marking on my body burn, since Danarius had repeatedly withdrew lyrium out of them for more power. I can barely hear how my cell is closed off, as the heavy lock is sealing the door closed, while I doze off to sleep.
At some point, in the middle of the night, I wake up due a horrible shift in the air and the foul smell of blood. Someone is using bloodmagic now. My cell is suddenly opened and I am about to storm out of it, until I see who has freed me. Anne.
Her face is bruised as if she had been beaten by someone. She has a serious expression and looks at me.
“Fenris,” She breaths out, as if she out of breath. “you’re here.”
“What’s going on?” I ask urgently, while I place my hands on her shoulder. I look over her towards the corner, but I can’t see anything. Raged voices and stumbling footsteps are heard, but no more than that. “Where is everybody going?”
“Probably towards Danarius’ quarters.” Anne answers, while lowering her eyes. I rise my eyebrow up. Does she knows something more? Before I can ask her, she interrupts me. “I have something for you.”
Her hand is taking something out of her right pocket, while she grabs my hand with the other. The lyriumlines, that cover my up whole hand, from my palm until the very tip of my fingers, are slightly glowing due the sensitivity. She places something small and cold in my hand. She holds my hand, so that I can’t see what it is.
“It’s my ring, with the crest of my family on it.” She says. “It’s very valuable, so please use it wisely.”
While I close my fingers around her small hand, I still can’t comprehend the reason why she is giving me this. “Why?”
“Because, after tonight,” She says, with a small voice. “I won’t be able to meet you again.”
The suddenness and surprise are destroying my stoic expression, as I can feel every muscle in my face working out whatever expression I have on my face. I shake my head slightly. “Wait, what? But how-”
“I have to go now.” She says with a thick saddened voice. Anne remains quiet for a moment. After a while she says: “I’m so sor-“
“Anne!” Someone calls out at her, down the hallway. The female voice sounds urgently and slightly out of breath.
Both of us are looking, but we can’t see who it is. I can vaguely hear how Anne repeatedly says how she has to go now, but I am still holding her hand. She pleads softly, but urgently that I should release her, but I somehow am unable to do that. It isn’t until she pulls herself out of my grip that she walks away. I heard a soft sound, as if something ricochets, but I ignore it through my haze of confusion.
I call out for her a couple of times, and she does look over her shoulder with a concerned brow on her face, but nonetheless she doesn’t walk back to me. I can’t bring myself to chase after her, as a part of me that fears the consequents pint me down. Until she has disappeared completely, am I able to move again.
It then occurs me that she has actually escaped from here. From her master’s grasp. I didn’t know where or how to look, until I see something shiny on the ground. I kneel and see that it’s a ring; the ring that Anne had given to me. With a furrowed brow am I studying it, as I am seeing how richly the golden ring is with small and fine silvern lines, along with two red rubies, along with a family crest.
I crawl back to my cell, as I hear the footsteps of the guards approaching, while keeping the ring close to me. I am not a fool though; I am aware that it would be stupid to wear it on my finger. I know I have to hide it very carefully.
The next day, I heard that Danarius’ lover had been murdered by the infiltrator. It seems that nobody notices the absence of Anne though and I keep my mouth shut about it. Am I the only one who has noticed that someone is missing?
While standing, as always, behind my master, the sudden unexpected and unfamiliar feeling hits me. The ring she has given me is burning in my pocket, as I suddenly realize that I may never see her ever again. The thought makes me… sad, but moreover than that, it makes me lonely to think that. I blink a couple of times, as the people before me, the slaves who are serving a master simplemindedly, pass before me.
When I return back to my cell, my mind remembers Anne and how much I actually had loved her. Breathing becomes harder, as the pain increases; I am all alone now.