The House of Books
The Sun smiled on Udachi on the 4th day of Summer, 879. I had recovered enough that we could return to my chieftain's keep, which was not much or less than, but precisely a hut on a smelly marsh, by the southern shore of the Wetty. First, my chieftain Tinytusks wanted —so he said— to follow the Dwarf Law on slaves, and then, do a bit of shopping before reuniting with the warband.
Incidentally, from now on, whenever I write about the warband, I mean his warriors and all those under his command, willingly or not, for that is the goblin custom. However, if I refer to the retinue, that is to be understood all of the warband which accompany our great hero.
At dawn, we all went to “The House of Books”. This was not a library but a Royal office of records, staffed mostly by dwarf bred and trained, slaves.
I had not yet been to many official buildings, as you might expect from a boy who had only worked as a muleteer and then had gone through this, should we say, adventure. Even so, I could tell that office was anything but an ordinary office of government. The whole thing was a square tower of stone that seemed plucked out of a castle. Its door was a huge double board of oak and brass nails, to which, some young rascals, —as it was the local custom— had been nailed through their ears; they would not be freed until the next sunrise. So, you can guess I was a bit iffy when my chieftain told me, and to me alone, to follow him inside.
We were made to wait for some while, and then a soft voice called us not in Goblin, but in Koiné, which then I could only half understand.
Sir Tinytusks, may your wisdom grant us the benefit of your presence?
He went in first, in his flashy new clothes, bought, no doubt, with the money he had acquired from his human prisoners, including my own. I cannot say that made me happy, but I had to go humbly, for my master had the right of Law and King.
The room inside was austere: a cabinet filled with books, a fancy chair for the new knight, a small desk with an open record book, and a stool where a tall, gaunt, salve goblin was sitting. I have just written an error, that I shall correct sooner than it took me, then, to realize my mistake. This was not a goblin, but a high elf, lowered to the condition of servant, by the same ordeal that I had just gone through. Laugh, if you need to, but I could not help but to pity him: an elf, who would disdain a human kight, how could cope becoming a slave, and worse of all, a green goblin of the lowest caste.
Greetings done, the elf told me to sit on the cold ground and invited my Lord to take the chair. It all went quickly after that.
“My Lord”, the elf was speaking then a perfect goblin, odd only for how polite it was, “Zary is the name of the boy, shall he retain it?”
Tinytusks looked at me. “Zary's a fitting name for a slave, short, weak, and the boy seems to like it.”
“Very well, my Lord, you may want to sit and relax outside with your retinue. There is some work to do and I am sure you have better things to do than to see my poor self working. Or, if that is your preference, you may pay the King's Tax on the office at the ground floor.”
Tinytusks knew he had to pay the tax at once, for the King of the Orcs took tax dodgers as traitors and bandits. “A tax? Argh, very well, I am loyal to the king, of course.”
“Of course, sir.”
Marked by magic
Once Tinytusks was gone, the elf/goblin spoke to me in our own language.
“Zary, hope is magical. And I should know of such things for I am proud elf. Well, not so hefty, I have known better days… I've seen many terrified kids like you before, and I shall see many more. But, all things considered, you should pity the slaves of the dwarves, orcs and even humans, and may the Goddess keep you from falling into my own kin. But I think you'll be able to smile often, if you try hard enough. Yes, despite your present situation. From time to time even I am able to sing again… Goblins… they are an odd lot, but be loyal to them and they, well— they won't be too harsh. So don't escape without a plan or do anything stupid and, it will get better, eventually. Right?”
“One day, I, Derodriel, the elf, shall be free, too. But, today, I must do what I can, and no more.”
He then went to the desk and proceeded to record my name and appeareance in his book. At once, I felt pain rushing through my heart, but I ascribed that to the feeling of the hour. Little I knew of the way of the elves.
That done, he raised his eyes and said. “Almost done, Zary, can you read?”
“A little.” But that I meant I've got some lessons from street teachers so I could read the notices at the markets and such necessities.
Without uttering a word, he took a book, a flask of white ink and a shining pen. Then, he asked me to go to the desk and present my arm. He tied it to the board, running the rope to elbow and wrist and through four holes, drilled for such use.
“Zary,” he told me as he made the rope tight, “one generation ago, before my coming, goblins used to mark their slaves with hot irons. That hurt terribly, for days, and left an ugly scar that could get infected to the point of death. My pen will leave a jewel to behold. Well, it will be painful, very much so, but it will not hurt you, and the pain will subside as soon as I am over. Keep still, or it will take much longer. Oh, and unlike the brand of the iron, this will leave a jewel to behold. So, breethe and let it pass, I will try to me gentle.
I nodded. ”Thank you, Derodriel”. I closed my eyes.
“Open them, and read from this book, it will help with the pain”.
This was the “Sangs for ma dearie deid boygie”, Imperial Poetry I could barely understand, and could only read aloud, slowly, like a small kid, for I hadn't have much instruction but it did work, or perhaps he fooled me, for there was no pain that I felt. Except, perhaps, when I saw three lines of white letters on my green skin.
This boy belongs to Sir Tinytusks
Entry 3,422 = Book 5 = Page 53
Udachi Slave Record
That was bit to remember, another was that when my chieftain came, Derodriel begged him to teach me to ride and write and other useful skills that will make me more valuable in the long run. Tinytusks refused and asked me later why the elf was so interested in my education, but I had no idea.
“Perhaps”, I ventured, “he thinks I'm smart or, he was a teacher, before…
“Nah! Impossible! Odd!… perhaps in winter, if the king wants to feed you.
I did not know it at the time, but Deodriel could sweet talk to the King, from time time. In anyhow, we forgot the incident as we went into the maket.