Chapter 1 Slavery Like always magical ink was once again embedded under his fingernails. Damiken stared at it staining his skin in multicolored hues. I can’t wait, he thought wishing again for the unknown time. Soon I will be free to work the magic I am only allowed to write runes for. His master, Toros, only allowed him to create magic on paper, he never allowed his indentured slaves to practice any of the magic that they wrote. The master writer constantly praised his work though, sometimes even saying, “Your work, Damiken, is sometimes even better than mine.” But, he always followed by saying, “Inks used to create runes for enchantments are too expensive for a slave’s personal lessons.” Unknown to his master, Damiken had hidden a couple hundred rune works outside of the scribe house. After he sold a few more tonight, when Toros allowed some of his older indentured slaves to roam the city, he would finally have enough gold to buy off his collar. The first thing I will do, he thought daydreaming again, is let my hair grow. Long hair, not the shaved stubble of a slave, was the sign of Freeman. I will travel to Sororia as well and see the wonders of where I was born. He had no memories of being sold into slavery. He assumed his parents were poor and when it was revealed he had enough magic to write the runes that commoners used in place of wizardry they had sold him for a better life. He knew nothing more of his history other than that a slave ship had brought him here. Several slaves had told him that was how they had become writers, the only thing he knew for sure was that he hadn’t born in Cadzia. Cadzians were of darker skin. He was fair featured with light blue eyes and sandy colored hair. He would never be mistaken for an islander. Once he returned to his homeland, he wanted to learn how to work runes without parchments, without having to rely on ink. Something only a Sororian rune wizard could teach him. A bright blue drop fell off the end of his quill and broke his thoughts. “Ruin that page,” growled Toros, “with your daydreaming again like you ruined the last one Damiken, and it will come out of your monthly stipend.” His master’s beaded, black mustache brushed up against his cheek as he leaned down over his shoulder. “No, change that,” said his master writer his black eyes glittering. “Ruin it any way you want. Maybe if you do you won’t have enough coins this cycle to buy your freedom and I will own you for another seven years.” He knew his master wasn’t serious, soon, he was going to be too old to stay on as a rune writer, that’s why indentured scribe slaves were allowed to buy their freedom. Older scribes took too much pride in their work and that pride slowed down production. Leaning back, Damiken looked up into his master’s dark eyes. “That won’t be, Master Toros. You’re not a bad owner, but I will not be a writing slave much longer. You’ve already had me for three cycles and that was one cycle too long.” On his twenty-fourth birthing day, less than a week away, Damiken was going to pay Toros’ price of twenty gold farens, and be free. Free to live his life his way. “You could still stay,” offered Toros. “I know you want to be free but staying here gives you more than anywhere else. More of a start than you will ever get as a Freeman in Sororia. I will pay whatever price you ask to start, within reason, Damiken. Enough to make your life comfortable as a free man here, for a long time.” Gesturing dismissively with his elegant hand at the rest of the bent over bald-headed scribe slaves, he said, “You are worth more than any four of these and we all know it. Power flows out of your hands like a river. You can have your own share if you stay. You can even own your own slaves.” “Toros, you’re a good man and a good master and I have learned a lot from you, but I want only one thing. In five days, please take my gold and remove my collar. I want my freedom.” The master writer stopped speaking, knowing there was nothing else he could offer. Grudgingly laying his hand on the younger man’s shoulder he stood back up saying solemnly, “It will be so.” Toros wasn’t hard or cruel, thought Damiken, but he had to be free. Why, he wasn’t sure, but once a farcaster told him that he had a destiny elsewhere and he’d believed her. Two hours later his work was finished and Damiken set down his quill and went out into the night. Toros allowed his older slaves to roam about the city, a reward for the toll of writing runes all day. They couldn’t really escape from the small island. Not a shaved and collared indentured slave, not without any freedom papers. Damiken had seen those that had tried. The public flogging and being dragged through the streets to their owner’s house by the scruff of their neck was enough for him. He had three more magical parchments, written today, hidden under his brown robes and would add them to his collection. The small mountainous island city was completely covered from end to end with colorful buildings of all shapes and sizes. They sat side by side, interlocked together on cobbled streets that rose, fell and dipped at all levels and heights. In some places one could almost walk onto the roofs of houses from a higher street level and it was to one of these raised spots where Damiken headed. After a few scrapes, earned climbing over a tall wall, he was up on a low roof. Walking along it, he stepped over its walled edge onto another higher building. After climbing, jumping and scrabbling across several more multicolored tiled roofs he finally reached his destination. At one of the highest points of the city, he crawled into a spot where he couldn’t be seen or heard by anyone on any of the nearby rooftops. Looking about, he moved in close to an old broken down chimney replaced by a new one, put in beside it. Sliding aside a few of the older chimney’s bricks, he uncovered a space between the pair. Sticking his arm into the dark gap, he felt around with his fingertips until he found two large leather wrapped packages. Smiling, he pulled them up. Cradling both packages close to his chest, Damiken turned and leaned back against the old broken chimney. Carefully untying the first satchel, he unfurled the magical rune parchments and examined them. This one contained practical runes for many different types of magic, everything from healing to death and all in between. Some of these he intended to sell to Moretti Staef who ruled Cadzia’s underside. Satisfied with the conditions of the first satchel, Damiken set it aside and opened the more important of the two. The second held multicolored inked rune sheets created and crafted personally. Unknown to Toros or anyone, he had been practicing a different rune magic of a sort, secretly for several years now. He felt with a little more training he could work the magic without the sheets, something only Sororian rune wizards could do.