34th of Saun, Arc 692 – Birth
The air was heavy with both humidity and sound, as the gathered members of the family prepared to deliver the second child of Re'ville and Dak'rost, rushing to and fro to prepare what was needed and take care of every detail. Night had fallen in the forest and shadow crept over the village, only to be dispelled by the dim torchlight around the dwelling where Rev'ille was currently in childbirth.
The father of the soon to be born child stood outside, his firstborn child held in his arms as they awaited the newest member of their family. The quiet breathing of the firstborn a juxtaposition to the cries of his mother and the yells of those tending to her. It was all that Dak'rost could do to wait patiently while his Dabi Uaya did the work.
It was hours before the cries of a newborn child brought Dak'rost back to full attention, the first rays of dawn breaking through the darkness as he moved inside, placing his firstborn on the furs before moving to lift his second son into his arms. A smile creased his features and he leaned in to place a kiss upon the forehead of the exhausted mother.
“Ibiti yeye.” He looked down to his newborn son, eyes beginning to fill with tears. “Ofïïsï ke’u osise cae'rou ceharav, miu ngumu.”
78th of Ashan, Arc 699 – The Raid
The sun was dipping in the sky, the orange glow cast onto the trees making it almost seem like they were on fire, signalling to Eskard that was to return home with his siblings. Before he was able to speak, his elder brother had already done so, pre-empting the second son.
“Äpäu tä ilanae skepek.” Tor'kril spoke monotonously, not quite sternly, but a firmness that came from being the responsible eldest looking out for his younger kin. In addition to Tor'kill and Eskard, they now had a younger brother and two younger twin sisters, named Nar'veth, Lai'sari and Lai'risa respectively. As the twins were only 3 arcs, it was up to the older of them to help them return, carrying or handholding them back towards their home.
As they neared home from their play spot nearby, the orange hues dancing upon the leaves of the tall trees shifted, flickers of red working their way into the mix, and the next thing that immediately assaulted the senses came shortly after.
“Kärä... èrè's av jere!” Eskard shouted to his elder brother who stood dumbfounded as they wondered what was happening, their worry setting them back for a moment before they quickened the pace to their home. The village was a mess, flames seemingly leaping from one dwelling to another, and ominous figures seen creeping amongst the trees. As Eskard kept his pace, he was abruptly stopped by the firm hand of his brother on his shoulder. “Ïdäkẹjẹ jasi tä dabaru! Mïsälï ar ibanirojọ, bọsẹyẹ anou tìkakpam!” The words momentarily confused the second son.
“Dẹọdọ av ke’u?!” Eskard could not keep the panic from his voice, the fear from what was happening coupled with his worry for his family, which transferred to the younger siblings and immediately made them burst into tears. As his brother set off for the village again, he choked down the sobs that threatened to overwhelm him and took hold of his younger kin. “jama'a teyngta!”
Running can only take your so far when you are half dragging, half carrying three other children, all of whom were panicked and crying, and the sound of plantlife being crushed beneath heavy boots drew ever closer. The fear and desire to protect his family brought on a second burst of energy, but his young muscles were tired, and his legs could only carry him and his kin so far before they were caught, the dwindling light making it harder and harder to navigate through the trees safely at speed.
Pulling the others to one side and into the hollow of a particularly large tree, Eskard attempted to catch his breath while simultaneously trying to keep the others calm and get them to stop making noise. The footsteps closed in on them and he instinctively closed his eyes, trying to will himself to disappear somehow, but to no avail. A few moments later, the harsh guttural sounds of the one who found them sounded out loudly, and Eskard thrust himself in front of his siblings, trying to shield them from the threatening figure. It did not take long for the hand of the large figure to swing down, and other than the swift jolt of pain that surged through him, it was the screaming of his brother and sisters that terrified him the most before it went dark.
53rd of Ymiden, Arc 699 – The First
Sailing did not sit well with Eskard, although it may have had something to do with the beatings and harsh conditions he was forced to deal with on the ship, the lack of sleep and constant rocking while also being shackled at the hands and feet robbing the young Sev'ryn of both freedom and hope. He did not see his siblings anywhere on the ship in the entire time he was there, and was not sure whether or not to be worried or relieved about that fact.
The crude language the slavers constantly shouted back and forth indicated something was happening and then the ship slowed, the only motion Eskard could feel being the rocking of the waves. Several bits later, and the chains that bound the captives together were yanked, and they were pulled up and out of the ship, onto dry land for the first time in a good season or so. It was hard to judge time while captive.
The bright light of the sun beat down upon them as they emerged, stinging the eyes of the captives who had spent the majority of a season in the dark holds of the ship. Eskard tried in vain to raise a hand to shield himself from the glare of the light, but the weight of the shackles and the fact he was tied to those in front and behind him made it difficult to do so. They were being herded into a pen, forced to line up before their shackles were removed. One of the older captives tried to make a run for it, but misjudged their own weakness, and was swiftly caught and beaten, a visual reminder of their current situation.
Each one of them was example, checked for marks of illness or injuries, before one by one being taken into a tent at the far end of the pen, the sound of metal and pain sounding out from the canvas enclosure. Eventually it was Eskard's turn, and he was half guided, half dragged to the tent, before he was pushed to his knees and head placed upon a worn block of wood. He panicked, beginning to squirm against the captors who held him in place while his eyes darted around the surroundings. It was hot, a small individual before his eyes working with metal tools and a small forge.
When he turned to face the young sev'ryn, his fear intensified and he began to cry, struggling harder against the unrelenting grip of the slavers. They grunted and yelled at him, and the small one spoke something in their guttural language, but he didn't understand a word, and tears rolled down his cheeks as the instrument the small individual held came closer, pressing into his right cheek.
He cried out at the initial shock and searing pain, but his face quickly became numb, the only sense that told him what was happening being the small of his own scorched flesh filling his nostrils. As the metal was pulled away, he was released, and he fought to choke back sobs, lifting a hand up to his face, only to have it slapped away. He was marked as property now.
His sale had apparently already been enacted and he was thrown into the back of a carriage to be taken to his new owner's home, a man not quite of middle age, with a look of harshness and frustration upon his features. Eskard sobbed quietly in the back of the carriage was he was taken further and further from the life he had known.
21st of Saun, Arc 700 – The Second
It had been almost an arc since he was sold off to his second owner, and even if Eskard felt his current situation was harsh and painful, it was almost nothing compared to his first owner. He had been with him for a mere handful of trials before exhaustion and pain had overcome him, the meagre sustenance and heavy beatings taking a toll on the child. He had been thrust back into the market almost instantly and sold on to recoup perceived losses, and while his current owner had no regard for his health, the market overseers had at least made sure the boy would not die, treating his wounds and feeding him, most likely just to ensure they could achieve maximum profits.
He was being used, as always, for hard labour. Carrying supplies, mucking out livestock pens, gathering firewood, and similar dumb errands around the estate. He had learned a handful of the words of the language his owner spoke, enough so that he could be ordered around effectively, even if the lessons did have to be swift, or risk the boy receiving yet another beating. These were all too common from his experience of owners thus far, every mistake met with the hand or whip, or even the blunt side of the wood axe on one occasion.
All Eskard could do was hope that one trial in the future, his family would find him, or he could escape somehow, and he clung to that hope, while enduring everything thrown his way.
8th of Vhalar, Arc 702 – The Third
He had been sold to a portly man, one with honeyed words and reassuring touches, someone who had gained off of the misfortune of his previous owner who resorted to selling Eskard to gain back at least some finances lost when her estate had burned to the ground. It was not the sev'ryn's fault, but he was blamed and beaten for it anyway, his body struck again and again until he was clinging to what life he had left.
Eskard was wrapped in a blanket, something that to him was a luxury he hadn't felt since living with his family back in the village. It was almost enough to bring him to tears, as the light of hope reignited within him, believing that perhaps this owner was different, and indeed, that is how it began. Eskard was cared for, fed well, given light tasks, taught a little more of their common tongue, and even dressed in soft clothing. It felt strange, seeing as he was by now used to the harsh treatment of his owners.
It was perhaps twenty of so trials before Eskard saw his owners true intentions, and one night, he was “prepared” by another slave of the estate, dressed in finery and directed to the chambers of his owner. Candles had been lit, and his owner was waiting for him, and instinctively Eskard knew what was happening, and he panicked. The owner rose from his bed and guided Eskard over, his hands sweeping through the Sev'ryn boys hair, fingertips lingering too long upon his skin.
He didn't want to be there, he felt sick, his stomach knotting itself as he endured the gaze and touch of his owner, his eyes searching for an escape. The doors were locked, and leaping from his level would just result in severe injury, and then he found his escape. Ironically, if his owner had neglected the care for his new slave, he wouldn't have had the energy to fight back, and Eskard dashed forward, grabbing a letter opener and hurling it with all his might at the larger individual. He had intended to hit the man in the chest or face, but the blade had managed to embed itself in his upper thigh, bringing out a bloodcurdling howl, blood pouring from the wound as the fat man fell back to the bed.
The other slaves had come in at the howls, and Eskard was taken away and locked in a small, dark room, all the while the screeches of the large man chasing him, some of them understood but not all of them.
It had been several trials, he was sure of it, and the finery and good food made this current situation all the harder to endure, so when he was finally wrenched out of the hole by the slaves of the estate, he was unable to stand, he reeked of sweat and excrement, and couldn't comprehend what was happening. A hard slap to the face did little to summon his attention and he was dumped unceremoniously into the back of yet another carriage and cast off.
He had been sold once more, this time apparently as a favour, under the promise that certain “tastes” were to be kept quiet and the sev'ryn was to be dealt with.
56th of Vhalar, Arc 702 – The Fourth, The Final
His fourth owner was an older man, a silent, imposing figure with a grim looking face that inspired fear in Eskard, for he had known nothing but the ill temper of previous owners. He was taken to a home that was smaller than those he had become accustomed to, and wondered whether or not this new owner had other slaves or servants in this household, and whether he would be needed at all... and if not, what would be happening to him.
When the carriage had halted, Eskard was lifted easily by the older man, his clothing removed and thrown to one side, before he was dropped into a barrel of cold water, the shock bringing him to his senses, even if it did almost cause him to faint. Minutes later he was scrubbed hard and dragged back out, his clothing left discarded as he was placed in a room next to a rough cloth and clothing roughly his size.
Dried and clothed, he left the room and was met by the grim figure of his new owner, who sat him down and spoke to him calmly and slowly. He wasn't one for slaves, and originally he was supposed to take the kid someone to deal with, but he was getting older, and needed assistance. So he would be permitted to stay with him for the time being, doing work and chores in exchange for food and a place to sleep. It was a simple trade, the old man kept the kid alive, and Eskard did work which was not even comparable to what he had been doing before. It was a deal seemingly too good to be true, and one that made him apprehensive, especially considering what happened with the last owner.
48th of Ymiden, Arc 704 – Training
It had been almost two full arcs since he came to be with his current owner, Vindemar, and in that time he had come to learn the old man's habits and schedule, and had grown used to the chores around the home, cleaning, cooking with what little knowledge he had, gathering wood, washing clothing, and all manner of basic household tasks.
The old man hadn't opened up much to him, admittedly, but Eskard had learned enough about him in their time together to have put together a few things. He was a mercenary, or at least, a former one, and a fairly decent one at that, seeing as he still lives, and he regularly has visitors seeking his aid or to take him into the field of battle again, something he always refuses. One of the benefits to having an owner who was more stoic and distanced was the time that Eskard had to himself, time he used to sit outside and experience nature when he could, and on occasion, study the letters and words in the book that Vindemar owned, which was actually something he had wrote himself on the subject of battle.
It was a fairly warm, humid day, when a guest came calling, a brash young man who demanded the attention of Eskard's owner, and ordered him fetch the older man at once. Upon notifying his owner, Eskard was told to send the man away without another word, which he rushed back to do so, the young man flew into a rage and attacked the Sev'ryn slave, using a wooden cane to beat and punish the messenger. It was only when Vindemar emerged from the house five bits later to check on the lad that he saw the situation and had to eject the offending male himself.
After carrying Eskard inside, patching him up, dressing his wounds and ensuring he wouldn't die, the old man left and was gone for two trials before he returned, not speaking a word about where he was or what he did within that time, and leaving the injured Sev'ryn to care for himself and find his own nutrition. When he did return, his first words to Eskard were simple.
“You need training.” The old man spoke firmly, it wasn't a question, it wasn't an order, it was something fundamental to him. “You will die without it. The yard at dawn tomorrow.” The injured Eskard couldn't respond, and nor would he fight against a rare decision made by the master. He spent the remainder of the day considering what the training would entail until he managed to get down to sleep.
The next day with the rising of the burning sun, Eskard stood before his master awaiting instruction, slightly worried about what was to come, his eyes watching the old mercenary closely as the master began to circle the Sev'ryn, studying him closely.
“Eventually, I will die, and when that day comes, will you still be a slave?” There was no compassion, no spite or malice in his voice, but Vindemar threw out the question with genuine curiousity, it was a challenge. He was asking Eskard if he had the resolve to take back his life.
“No, master... I wish to be free.” The younger individual's response brought a throaty chuckle to the veteran, the answer was simple, and it was no doubt the wish of most slaves, so it was more than a little redundant.
“Well of course... but you're going to have to fight for it.” Vindemar threw a thick wooden pole to the Sev'ryn, barely waiting for him to take a firm grip before darting forward and swinging his own pole down to strike. The desperate Eskard raised the wooden pole up to block the strike, stumbling away as Vindemar shoved him to one side. “First lesson, footwork. If you fall, you're dead. If you stumble, you're dead. Always keep a strong stance, know where your feet are, and know your terrain.” As Eskard righted himself, he leapt in and swung again, briefly clashing wood against wood. “Every morning from now on, we will train until it's second nature, understand?” He stepped back, watching Eskard and readying his weapon.
“Yes master!” The Sev'ryn responded eagerly, taking the initiative and swinging his practice weapon at his owner, the blow deflected easily and throwing Eskard off balance. The old mercenary laughed and shook his head.
“Too soon to try that, but I like your spirit.” Vindemar curled his lip up at the corner into a half smile, the most positive thing his owner had ever shown him to this point, and Eskard stepped back. “It will come in time if you have the talent for it.” The smile seemed to intensify, which sent shivers down the Sev'ryn's spine.
1st of Ymiden, Arc 710 - The Run
“No.” Both the tone Vindemar used and his facial expressions indicated to Eskard that perhaps he should drop the subject. “You cannot have a map, you cannot come with me, and you will be fine alone. If you don't make it, it's your own damn fault.” The old man shook his head and emitted a light sigh. “That being said, there is something I intended to give you regardless of the journey...” His ageing form rose and moved from the room, returning some few bits later with a bundle, dropping it into the arms of the Sev'ryn, almost knocking him off balance with the weight of it. “This is one of my more favoured weapons... take care of it and it will take care of you.”
Eskard slowly unwrapped the leathers that bound the weapon, the glint of metal catching the light as it came into view. Inside was an aged, but still well maintained flanged mace, something that Eskard had seen more than enough times in the armoury, as he had been tasked with cleaning and maintaining a lot of the inventory within. The young slave looked up at Vindemar, and gave a slight smile, bowing his head back down.
“Thank you master, I am unworthy of such a gift, but I shall try to honour both you and the weapon as I wield it.” He raised his head once more, to see the old man looking off and nodding to himself lightly.
“I'm sure you will Eskard.” His own lips curled up at the side as he looked back down to the younger male. “But now you'll have to show me, as from this point, you're on your own.”
It was several trials later, and with basic directions given from local villages, he had finally found his way to Bastard's Grove, moving through the lust verdant greens of the Volantan half until he met with the sudden sprawling mass of rot, a warning of things to come for Eskard, and something that brought feelings of apprehension bubbling from within. With a single footstep, he set out on the last, and most dangerous, half of his journey, steeling himself, mentally resolving to complete this challenge, and gripping the handle of his mace firmly.
Most of the challenge here seemed to lie in his own mind, the howls of the wind whistling through the trees and the perceived forms of figures looming over him seeking to cast fear into the heart of the intruder. The journey was slow, slower than it should have been, but the Sev'ryn was on edge, and as such, every single footstep was cautious and calculated, but that tension could not last forever, and exhaustion soon loomed in the heart of the fearsome forest.
Supplies were running low, and even though he had a simple bow, he had no confidence that this place would yield edible returns if he were to hunt, and so far he had seen little in the way of tracks, the situation was becoming dire, and in addition to little food, water supplies were running out swiftly... and thus far all Eskard had found was thick red fluids that he refused to think of as blood, but not enough like water for him to sample it... for now. It was a desperation backup plan for now, but hopefully alternatives would present themselves.
He was unsure of how many trials it had been, too many by his reckoning, and he was feeling weak. The scurrying of small creatures in the undergrowth tormented him, he had seen nothing thus far which could be considered edible, though maybe this was just his lack of familiarity with the creatures and growth here. His water supplies had run out in what he assumed was the morning, going by his innate sense of time, and despite all instincts, the Sev'ryn turned to the thick red liquids within the forest... it was die to dehydration or risk illness, possible death... either way, the odds were slightly better with the red liquids, as dehydration meant certain death. Using a small knife, he cut a wedge of bark from a nearby tree, bending it roughly into a shape that could scoop up even a small amount of the liquid, and tested it. His insides did not immediately burn, so this was a good sign, and after filling his waterskin, he took several apprehensive sips, before chugging it down and refilling. Within a few bits, he was actually feeling slightly better, the weakness was subsiding, although a sense of dread fell over him, with the thought that perhaps there was a sinister secret hiding behind that fluid.. either way there was no turning back now.
It was perhaps three more trials before Eskard emerged from the woods, the light of the sun burning his eyes when the shade of the treetops ceased their protecting of the slave. Despite the long journey through the woods, when the view of the city appeared before Eskard, his emotions surged, he was relieved, he was thankful, he was more than a little mentally fatigued, but fortunately due to the red water, and the meat of the few birds he had finally managed to hunt, he had been able to tough out the journey physically. All that remained now was that last leg of the journey, each step bringing him closer to completing the task set by his master, and perhaps he would gain his approval. And then finally, he was there, at the entrance to Yaralon.
12th Cylus, Arc 712 – The Death of Vindemar
They had been in Yaralon for roughly two arcs, not long considering the duration that Eskard had served Vindemar overall, and in that time, the Sev'ryn had learned just how rough the city was, that it was eat or be eaten, and why exactly it was his master had given him that training, because without it, he would have died long before now, perhaps when he first entered the city, even with Vindemar waiting there for him.
Time had passed swiftly, and while he still received some guidance from his master in the form of teaching and wisdom, the old mercenary was physically deteriorating, and where once he was no match for his master, now a strong gust of wind would most likely blow him over, but the city tolerated him for his years of previous service, and the wisdom he offered from his experiences. Eskard was taught about more than just combat, he was given a late education on the world itself, the city, the immortals, the races that he might encounter, it was no great in depth teaching, for Vindemar was no scholar himself, but he did his best, and tried to instil in the Sev'ryn ways to survive and morals that he himself had lived by, respect the immortals, even if you didn't see eye to eye with them... because even if they were terrifying or tyrannical, their strength was something to respect and avoid. Of them all, Eskard found himself drawn to the domains of certain immortals, and perhaps through the influence of Vindemar who had a strong personal faith, and his increasingly ill health, he seemed to have taken to whispering to himself simple words to Famula. Vindemar was due to die soon, and even considering his own state as that of a slave, Eskard found he wished more for Vindemar to be taken by the immortal rather than be warped by the multitude of things out in the world that he currently he did not understand. It had become something of a mantra to speak to himself asking that his master rest well, especially once he had become bedridden, and on a cold dark morning in the midst of Cylus, death claimed his owner.
The Sev'ryn was distraught, clinging to the body of his owner, crying out to the deaf ears of the shadows and deceased around him, a death in the dark felt impossibly lonely to Eskard, and he did not want that for his master, calling out for Famula to take him, so he would not be left alone to make his final journey. His crying and wailing continued for a good while, into what could probably be considered night, even considering the darkness. Eventually, he sat there with his former owner, and lit a candle. With the room lit up slightly, he took the papers from his masters bedside and glanced over them, his eyes welling up once more as he read the contents of a final message from the one who now lay dead before him. He was to be free, even if that meant he was going to have to fend for himself and try not to die in the process of surviving in Yaralon.