Elf Slave Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Sahara Sunrise by djluke9 via DeviantArt
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I washed again in my wagon, dipping a rag in lukewarm water and running it along my limbs and body. I put on my shift then sat and looked into my little mirror. What to do with my hair? I turned my head to one side then the other. I had no skill at hair dressing. I wore my hair in a braid, usually, under a kerchief, to keep the dust from it. I heard another knock on my wagon door.

“Delia, it’s Hilda. Master Corbet bid me come to you to dress your hair.”

I stepped to the door. “Come in, Hilda. Thank you.”

The woman climbed the steps and entered. She gasped at the sight of the dress spread across my bunk. “Oh, my.”

“Indeed. I can hardly believe it myself.”

She gave herself a little shake. “Put it on. I don’t want to drag it over your hair once it’s done.”

My initial thought was that she just wanted to see me in the dress but I thought better of it. It would damage her work if I waited. I nodded and moved to the bunk. I hardly dared pick the dress up.

“Let me help,” Hilda offered.

She turned the dress over and unlaced the back. Hilda stood in front of me, holding the dress open so I could step into it.  “I suppose I didn’t have to drag it over your hair after all.” She stepped behind me and laced it back up.

The dress rested just barely on my shoulders in narrow straps, then swept down in front, just over my breasts to a point just above my belly button. In the back, it came down between my shoulder blades to the middle of my back. It was sleeveless. I hardly understood how it remained on my body.

Hilda sighed in awe. “Just beautiful.” She grinned at me. “Sit. I’ll do you hair.” She combed and braided and worked with the few pins and ribbons I had until she was satisfied. I looked in the mirror. My hair was piled on top of my head in a tower I could hardly believe. Locks of hair dropped from one or two places, one attractively over my right shoulder, the other, twisting down my back.

“One more thing.” I lifted the necklace out of my writing box where I’d hidden it. Hilda’s hands flew up to cover her mouth. “I’m to wear this.”

Slowly, her hand reached out to take the gleaming fantasy from my hands. Carefully she draped it around my neck and fastened it in the back. The necklace covered much of my bare chest and the final sapphire rested between my breasts. I didn’t recognize the face in the mirror.

“You look like a princess,” Hilda whispered.

I had to agree with her. I reached into my box and pulled out a silver coin. “For dressing my hair, Hilda.”

She hesitated then held out her hand. I dropped the coin into it. As much as I valued my hoard of coin, I expected she’d never had so much for herself in her life. She ducked her head up and down as thank you’s flooded from her mouth. “You deserve it, Hilda. Go. Enjoy a treat for yourself.”

I opened the door and ushered her from the wagon, still calling out thank you to me. I closed the door. Master Corpet would be hear soon. I studied as much of myself in the mirror as I could in the tiny glass. It seemed as though I should have some sort of shawl but nothing I owned was fine enough to finish this ensemble.

I heard Corbet call out from outside. I took a breath and blew out the lamp. When I opened the door, Sam gasped from behind his master. I stood up, chin high. Master Corpet nodded. “Well done.”

I stepped down from the wagon. Master Corpet pulled a length of blue gauzy material from behind him and draped it over my shoulders. “Perfect.” He took a moment to admire the effect, then turned. “Sam. Open the carriage door.”

Sam gawped a moment more then ran to the caravanserai gate. Outside waited a fine covered carriage with four matching black horses to draw it. Same held the door while Master Corpet handed me inside. He followed, then Sam, who sat on the bench opposite us. Corpet knocked on the wall of the carriage and we were off.

We drew up to Lord Trayford’s palace and a palace servant stepped forward to open the door. Sam got out to help Master Corpet down and Master Corpet gave me his hand to descend. Corpet tucked my hand into the crook of his left arm and guided me through the opulently carved and painted double doors. At the door, a servant called out, Caravan Master Corpet and friend over the music wafting out of the doors from an orchestra on the balcony above facing the door.

Two servants stood on either side of the door with trays of narrow crystal glasses filled with something bubbly. “Champagne, Madame,” one of the servants asked. “I shook my head. I didn’t want to be mush-brained tonight. I had no idea why I was here and didn’t want to risk becoming stupid.”

“Don’t be shy, Delia.” Corpet took a glass from the tray and handed it to me. “I can feel you trembling. It will help.” Once I took it, he took one for himself and guided me into the center of the room.

I sipped out of sheer terror. It felt to me that everyone in the room was staring. Then it occurred to me. My ears. My pointed ears were in full view. I had all I could do to keep a grip on the slender glass my hands were so weak. The glass empty, a servant collected it, offering another. Fortunately, Master Corpet was speaking with a man we’d come across so he didn’t insist I take another when I refused.

“Delia. This is Lord Traford’s son, Alexis.”

I curtsied, my eyes downcast. “Lord Traford.”

“Rise, please.” He grinned at Corpet like a boy at his nameday gifts. “She is just delightful.”

“Thank you, my lord. You will be joining your father and I later this evening?”

Alexis clapped Corpet on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t miss it.” He raised his glass to me. “So wonderful to finally meet you, Delia.”

I nodded. I didn’t know what else to do. What did he mean, finally meet me? After that, Corpet moved from one man to another, some with their wives on their arms, some without. He introduced me to each person. I did my best to memorize all of the names and faces and lineages. At last a servant called us in to dinner. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was going to have to make casual conversation with the people around me. I had nothing in common with them and I was already exhausted. Corpet patted my hand on his arm. “You’re doing wonderfully, Delia.

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 4.

1179 Words

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Slave Elf Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 2

 

As the camels followed the wagon ahead of them, I sat, half-conscious on the wagon seat. How did this happen to me? I’d asked around over the years, humans staring at the slave brand on my hand. Elves were never slaves, it seemed, but me. What was wrong with me that the elves left me with these slavers? Were elf children so plentiful that one could be snatched away and no one cared?

 

I’d seen elves in the caravan’s travels. Aloof, regal, I longed to shout out to them but Master Corpet, and his father and grandfather, made sure I was chained in my wagon when elves were about. I didn’t even really know anything about elves. Their culture, who they worshipped, favorite foods. The darkness came over me, as had for years. Snippets of memories surfaced of me as a toddler, my parents, laughing, singing, making music. I could almost hear it.

 

The snap of a quirt on my thigh brought me out of my dream. Tears flowed unbidden at the sudden pain. When I blinked, Emil was on horseback beside the wagon, laughing. An evil laugh that reminded me he didn’t care if I hurt or not.

 

“Master Corpet bids you read this and write a response.” He handed me the paper. He didn’t want to throw it in case it blew away. He’d be the one chasing it down.

 

I took it and nodded. “Right away.”

 

Emil snorted then wheeled his horse around and galloped off to the rear of the caravan where the horses were being herded.

I opened the paper and read.

 

Master Corpet,

 

Greetings and well met. Lord Verden passed away last winter. A great loss to his family, friends, and the city, Katzin, as well. As his nephew and heir, I will greet you at the palace at your earliest convenience. Send word on your arrival and an audience will be arranged.

 

As to your business, Uncle left clear direction. I will continue to support you in your endeavors. We will speak of it in person.

 

Lord Trayford

 

Nothing unusual. Much of Master Corpet’s work was done in person, so I wasn’t concerned about that part of the letter. That the old Lord was dead, again, humans have so short a life, I wasn’t surprised by that either. I’d never met the man. I puzzled a bit over …your endeavors. As the master’s book-keeper I was sure I knew all the master’s business. Some of it less than legal, but there seemed nothing Lord Trayford could help with, unless it was protecting the caravan routes from competitors.  I folded the letter and tucked it in my sleeve pocket. No response could be written until the wagons stopped and we neared Katzin.

 

After we camped and I had fetched water for my wagon, I went to see Master Corpet. I stood silently at the back of his wagon as he gave direction to the camel drover leader, the slave minder, and Emil. Emil spit in the sand at my feet as he left the master to take care of his tasks.

 

Corpet grinned at me. “And you, little Delia. What do you have?”

 

I swallowed my gall at the diminutive. I was forty years older than he was. “Other than announcement of our arrival in Katzin, do you want anything else included in the letter to Lord Trayford?”

 

He shook his head; his turban ends swinging gently. “No. That will be all. We will arrive tomorrow. Give me the letter in the morning and I’ll send it from the gate. The lord won’t be ready for me until well after we get to the caravanserai and I have a chance to bathe and refresh myself.”

 

“Yes, master.” I bowed and turned to go.

 

“Delia.”

 

I turned back to him. “Master.”

 

He studied me a long moment. I could feel myself begin to tremble. What was he thinking?

 

“When did you come to us?”

 

I bit my tongue at his choice of words. Come to us? As though it were my idea and I was an honored guest? “I was six, Master. Sixty-three years, eight months, eleven days.”

 

He nodded. “My grandfather. Papa told me. That’s a long time to be a slave.”

 

I shivered, clasping my hands so that he couldn’t see them shake. “I think so, Master. That’s three human generations. A whole human lifetime.” I lifted my chin as I spoke then fearing I’d gone too far, ducked my head and shifted my gaze to the sand.

 

He grunted. “Indeed. That’s all.” He turned and went into his wagon, calling for his personal slave, Sam, to bring him wine.

 

That’s it? I thought. That’s all he wanted? Still trembling I hurried back to my wagon. I put the kettle on for tea and sat at my table, waiting for it to boil. What was that about? What is Corpet thinking? One more day until we arrived at Katzin. We went there every year, twice a year. Out and back on the Corpet trade route. The far end being Midton, the end we just came from, Kitgate. Over a thousand miles, back and forth for the last sixty-three years. Sandstorms, raiders, famine, drought, I’d seen it all, over and over. The water boiled. Half I poured into my mug and dropped in a few tea leaves. The rest I poured into the basin and added cold water.

 

I washed away the dust of the day as best I could and tossed the dirty water out the back of the wagon. I watched it disappear into the sand. Like me, I thought. I was tossed into the mass of humanity, never to be seen again. My chest grew tight at the thought. Lost. Lost.

 

 

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 3.

961 Words

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Death in the Desert: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Desert

Desert

I shook my water bladder, empty. How could it be empty? It had three liters of water in it. I felt my pack. Wet. The bladder leaked, obviously. With no water to put in it I couldn’t tell where it was leaking from. A pinhole of some sort probably. That didn’t help me now. I was about eight miles out from the nearest trailhead and the sun was beating down. The tiny thermometer on the back of my pack read ninety-six degrees. Just looking at that empty bladder made me thirsty.

I put the bladder back in my pack and pulled out my map. Maybe there was a water source nearby. After careful scrutiny the answer was no. I was going to have to hike out to that nearest trailhead and hope for help. The trailhead was twenty-six miles from nowhere. I sighed, folded the map and put it back in the map pocket. I hoped people were there.

Pack back on my back, I trudge off along the trail. Thinking about all the survival shows I’ve seen I wonder if there is something I can do to increase my chances. First, people do know where I am. That’s the first positive thing. Second, I’m an experience backpacker. Another point in my favor. A point against, I’m hiking alone. If I had another person, odds would be likely that their water supply was just fine and we could share. Too bad for me. No one was free to backpack with me this week so I came alone.

I stumble on the rocky path and nearly skewer myself on an agave. Pay attention, klutz. Anyway, I get around that and continue my inventory of possible tactics. No drinking cactus water, that will kill a person. All of those old movies just made that up. This is a popular trail—someone or someones may happen along and give me a hand. Unfortunately, it’s a weekday, so less likely of any traffic.

Crossing a dry wash I remember a popular TV survival show and the host digging in a curve for water. I look around. The wash runs straight across the landscape like someone dug it on purpose. No curves for water to pool in or sink down. I climb back out and keep going.

At noon I find a lone mesquite tree and settle in its meager shade. Two miles down, six to go to the trailhead. I dig out a food bar and stare at it. Do I want to eat this dry? Isn’t there some sort of requirement that the stomach needs water to process anything I eat? I don’t know. Food is fuel but if my body needs water to process the food, am I just hurting myself? I put the bar back in the pack. I’ll die of dehydration long before I die of hunger. I could stand to lose a little weight anyway.

While I rest I try and remember other tips. Maybe I shouldn’t be walking in the sun in the daytime. Don’t the border jumpers travel at night? Stupid. I should hang out here and wait till sundown to travel. Encouraged by this thought I dig my space blanket out of my emergency bag and rig it to the tree for shade. I unroll my sleeping pad and lie down. I could use a nap anyway.

Hours later I wake. The sun is going to set soon. The thermometer reads one-hundred and three degrees. I pack everything up and start hiking, headlamp handy in a side pocket of my pack. This should work, right? Just hike on out to the trailhead. Simple.

Even with the headlamp, three hours after sunset, I stumble over the rocks. Twice I’ve run into cactus spines overhanging the trail. My pants are torn and both legs now have long, bloody scratches. Slow down, missy. Don’t make mistakes. I stop to rest, my knees sore from jolting along the trail. I find a small pebble and wipe as much dirt off of it as I can and pop it in my mouth to suck. It’ll keep the saliva flowing at any rate. I check my scratches. They’ve stopped bleeding.

Break over, I get going again. I find it hard to estimate my mileage. Still, it’s been five hours since sunset. Estimating a mile an hour in the dark, I should be close to the trailhead. At least the night is cooler, about eighty degrees. I thank my lucky stars and keep going.

After another hour, I stop to assess. Where’s the trailhead? I’m on the trail, I’ve seen the markers and cairns. A butterfly of panic begins to move in my stomach. Stop it. Take a breath. Maybe you’re going slower than you think. Keep going. The map says it’s on this trail.

Trudging on, stomach growling, I keep alert. I don’t want to miss any directional sign. I tuck the pebble into my cheek. I’m thirsty, the pebble isn’t fooling my body. It wants water. Now. The panic butterfly, I imagine it black with scarlet markings, is still stirring. I resist the urge to cry. Don’t be a baby. Keep walking.

When the sun comes up, I reassess. I’m on the trail, but there’s no sign of the trailhead. I pull out my phone. If I’m close, maybe there’s a cell signal. No bars. I swallow and put the phone away. The landscape is flat but I can see what has to be the Superstitions in the distance. Desert birds are singing the sun up but I don’t see anything to be happy about. I’m lost while on the trail. Not good.

Should I back track? Maybe I missed the sign? Go on? The map says the next trailhead is sixteen miles away. I’ll never make it.

#

The recovery team covered the body on the stretcher. “Too bad, really. She was just a mile from the trailhead.”

 

 

 

Thank You!

987 Words

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