A stray named Skye

The pair walked down the path speaking in low tones.  Astryyd lead the bosk cart easily over the wide smooth path while Bear listened to her never stopping his scan of the area surrounding them.  She had so far been very pleased with her decision to secure his services.  He was clearly good at his job ever alert to what was going on around them and was able to carry on an intelligent conversation with her at the same time.  The company was good and she felt safe with him.  They spoke of many things but she still knew little of his past and she knew only that she was alone because a raid had wiped out her village.

There was a rustle in the bushes ahead of them.   Bear stepped slightly up and Astryyd slid behind him where she could still see quickly checking behind them as well. Sliding a hand slowly down to lift her hem and draw the dagger from her thigh.  She kept a close watch around them as Bear cautiously approached the bush.  Using his axe to part the branches then reaching in with a hand and dragging the would be bandit from the bush.   He spun and tossed the small naked blond women to the ground between them.  Astryyd stared, gaping at the women, filthy and bruised, small cuts covering her body as she attempted to cover herself.  The women screamed something in an unfamiliar tongue as she scrambled into a huddled crouch.

The look on Bears face was that of amusement.  Astryyd stepped forward and bent down, touching gently the soft blond locks and brushing it from her face to see her better.  The girl was clearly terrified eyes shifting quickly from Astryyd to Bear and flinching away from Astryyds touch.  She pulled the girl to her feet and walked around her looking at her badly abused body.

“Escaped slave?” she questioned Bear.  He simply shrugged.  She noted the lack of collar and brand on her thigh.

“Girl, where did you come from?” she asked.   The girl just shook her head and again said something Astryyd could not understand.   Grabbing her chin and lifting it, “She wears no collar.” She walked around her examining her wounds.  “These seem more like injuries from falling though this one,” she touched a particularly nasty bruise on her cheek, “is from being struck.”

Astryyd moved to the cart pulling from it her cloak.  “We will take her with us.  She’ll not survive out here like this and it would not hurt to have an extra set of hands to help.”  Bear gave her a shrug and walked up to the girl roughly looking her over assessing her worth.

“She looks like she might be pleasing to the eyes once she is cleaned up.”  He stated plainly as he examined her.  She flinched and cowered under his examination.  “You will need to teach her to speak in something other than the babble she is now but it is as you wish, Lady.  This trip is your tarsk.”

Astryyd covered her with the cloak then pulled a small simple collar that the Blacksmith from Vahalla Cliffs had given her from her bag in anticipation of her one day taking a girl to help with the Brewery.  The girls eyes widened and she started to run.  Bear grabbed her and held her arms tight as Astryyd latched the collar about her neck.  Tears streamed downed the girls face and Astryyd fought the urge to just not use a collar but she knew better.  This was for the girls own good.  She would die or be found by someone less kind if she did not collar her.  Once the simple collar was latched secrurely, she secured a chain in the single link in the front.  Going into her bag once more, she grabbed and extra set of boots and tossed them on the ground at the girl’s feet and pointed.  “Put those on.” She ordered.

The girl looked at them then bent to pick them up and pulled them on.  Her eyes clearly confused.  Astryyd walked up and touched her own chest.  “Astryyd” then pointed to Bear, “Bear”, then she pointed to the girl with a questioning look on her face.  “Do you have a name, girl?”  Astryyd could not understand the response and resigned herself to working on her speech later that night.  For now they needed to continue on their journey.

They walked the rest of the day until dusk.  Astryyd put the girl in the back of the cart once she started stumbling and falling behind.  The girl had obviously been through a lot in the past days and she could not help for feel sorry for the girl.  Once camp was established, Astryyd set about getting food prepared and taking the time to speak the names of the things she was touching clearly to the girl who picked up what she was doing and repeated the words.  Bosk, Cart, Astryyd, Bear…..she begin to have a slow understanding of the speech.

Astryyd pointed to herself and Bear then to the ground and said, “This is Torvaldsland”.  The girl nodded understanding and repeated the word.  “Where are you from, girl?”  pointing to her questioning.  The girl struggled obviously not knowing how to voice what she wished to say and she finally pointed to the stars.  Astryyd followed her finger and looked to the sky…..and grinned slowly.

“Then from now on you will be Skye.” she smiled pointing to the girl and said her name again.  “Skye”  The girl nodded and touched herself smiling slightly and repeated, “Skye”.

Astryyd her the rumbling chuckle from the man behind her.

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The hiring of Bear

Astryyd enters the port city leading the bosk pulled cart through the busy streets.  Heading straight for the docks where she knew she would find trade and a tavern.

She was aware of the eyes that watched her and dropped a hand to her thigh touching the knife hidden below for reassurance.  Her dream had set her nerves on end and made her question the motives behind the looks that followed her yet she walked proudly and confidently through the cobbled streets.  She had never been this far south.  Though still in Torvaldsland, this port was right on the edge and people from many regions gathered here.  She soon came to the docks and was approached by a tradesman.  Trading some casks of mead for much needed tarsk.  She counted as the merchant tasted her mead and smiled in approval.  She had four large casks and 6 small ones left.  She would need to conduct her business here and find a place to settle soon.
The merchant directed her to the tavern when she inquired.  Seeing a young boy stand around outside the tavern, she approached him.
“I am in need of a strong axe to protect my belongings and you look like the strongest about.” she said to him.  His face beamed up at here as he noticed the tarsk in her hand.
“I am, Lady, I am the strongest here and can protect for you.”  He squared his shoulders proudly and she handed him the tarsk and entered the tavern.
It was dank and smelly place and she fought the urge to pinch her nose.  Striding up to the bar drew the attention of several in the place.  She was sure that few Free women visited this place.  The bar keep was a pleasant round man busy filling pitchers of mead and ale  and handing them to waiting  bondmaids.  She waited patiently until he brought his attention to her and smiled.
“Tal, m’lady!  What brings such a beautiful Valkyrie to my humble establishment this fine day?” his flattery over done but Astryyd just smiled pleasantly at the man accepting his compliments.
“Thank you, Sir.  I am seeking an Axe for hire and wondered if you knew of someone, maybe a recommendation?  I am looking for someone trustworthy and willing to travel.”  she asked politely.
“Well,” he said, scanning the room, “There a few that  I would say fit that description in this room.  I know that Jared over there will work for hire.”  He pointed to a young boy barely old enough to be off the farm.  Lanky and wearing armor too large for him.  Astryyd shrugged a bit and he continued to point out men he knew.  Her eyes then fell upon the blond hair of a well muscled man sitting with his back in the corner.  He tipped his horn up and took a drink and Astryyd saw brilliant blue eyes over the rim of the horn.  She stared for a moment not hearing what the bar keep said until his voice poked into her attention.
“Ah, I see you have spotted Bear.  He would make a fine axe as well m’lady but I do not know his status as of late.  He is relatively quiet and some what private.”
Turning back to the barkeep smiling, “Thank you for your  help, sir.  It has been most informing and truly appreciated.”  She places a small cask of peppermint mead on the counter.  “Please accept this as payment for your hospitality.”  Turning back to the room, she strode across to the man in the corner and stood for a moment before speaking.
“Tal Jarl, may I join you at your table?”

b

Looking up at the sound of the voice where he drank the Northman shifted ever so slightly the back at his side where a large round propped a Axe of almost Kur size. The blonde warrior was a bit of a recluse at tim
es, traveling from Village to village working as he could taking jobs… he narrowed his eyes to the barkeep and raised his horn slightly in his thanks … and then cleared his throat.. “I am your servent Lady… ” he spoke up “What can Bear do for A freewoman as out ofplace  as you are this day?”
His question was quick and to the point as he was not used to being approached by Freewomen at the table of his Bar time.
Nodding in thanks to him, she sits across from him and spoke getting straight to he point.

“My name is Astryyd Dalgaard, Jarl.  I am a brewer by trade and traveling seeking a new home.” she pauses a moment choosing her words carefully.  “Due to circumstances beyond my control, I find myself without escort and seek to hire a worthy axe to accompany me.  I am able to pay in warm meals, some tarsk and the finest mead to pass your lips.”  She places her hands on the table before them, one holding a small bag of tarsk and the other her drinking horn.
“A small advance and a taste of the goods I offer.”
“How long do you look to travel the roads … and mead and hot meals I can obtain in any tavern and village I pass along with the warmth of a Bond to amuse me… My Axe is for sale but you will have to convince me of a more worthy reward than what I can provide for myself all ready….  He chuckles slightly his laugh deep and like thunder rumbling   Where do you seek to go, Lady, south to the Land of the Priest Kings or over the seas to parts unknown?”
She thinks for a moment then pushes the horn of mead over to him smiling offering him the horn.

“I am seeking to find a home on a strong village, Jarl, to set up my brewery again where you will find plenty of bonds to ‘warm your bed’.  I do however wish also to travel to the south in search of more…..exotic herbs.”  she eyes the man trying to decide what would convince this man on the job and thinking about the prospect of lands unknown…..
“Of course you can obtain anything you need on your own, Jarl.  Perhaps the company of another and some coin in your pocket would be motivation enough, not to mention the gratitude of a humble Brewer for your service.”  She glances at the gangly youth the bar keep also suggested and prayed silently to Odin that this man would take her offer.
“How much coin will it take to secure your Axe, Jarl?”
Bear looks over the woman a moment… “The coin will be based on where and how long and if you choose to secure my services for just trip or be on a retainer for a time…but it is reasonable.”
The giant of a man chuckles softy taking the offered mead and sits back.

“I am called Bear, although that is not my real name, and you look to be trouble which I have not had in a while…….so I accept.”
Astryyd let’s out a breath she had been holding and smiles as the man named Bear laughed then cocked an eyebrow at him amused by his comment about her being trouble.  “Let’s start with a trip south though I think keeping you on retainer for a bit would be prudent.”. Without taking her eyes off of the man she motions for a bond and orders a mead.  “I’d like to leave shortly after noon if you have no objections?”

The worst thing that could happen……

She wakens with a start feeling pain in her scalp quickly realizing she is being pulled to her feet by her hair.  She quickly struggles to her feet as she feels locks loosen and pulled from her scalp.  Gritting teeth she brings herself upright and glares at the man…..no the BOY, that grins toothless at her priding himself in his capture.  He holds her head back forcing her chin up coming in close enough for her to smell the stench on him and she winces in repulsion.  She feels the weight of her wool kirtle against her skin and inwardly counts it as a victory that they had not stripped her on the journey.

He releases her roughly tossing her head to the side and she struggles to keep her feet under her.  She notices the boots have however been stripped from her and she pain shoots through her foot as it scuffs the hard wood on the deck of the boat.  The man speaks in a guttural dialect that she does not recognize but with a wave of his hand he orders the slaves taken from the boat.  Astryyd stands straight and just glares at him.  He brings himself in close, her defiance displeasing to him.  He slowly grins as she is jerked forward by a rope bound around her waist and her wrists.  She stumbles again trying to stay on her feet.  She has no choice but to move with the others.

The three slaves are paraded down the docks.  Astryyd had not seen the first girl before.  She had dark hair and was wearing very little.  This girl was a bond, she carried herself as one and she was quite in tune with what her captors wanted and obeyed without hesitation.  The other girl was a young blond probably no more than 13 and was dressed much the same as Astryyd.  She, however, was sobbing outright and had been since she was brought on the boat.  The man stepped quickly approached them and shouted for her to shut up.  This sent the girl into hysterics and the man raised his hand high and brought it down hard but it did not connect with the child.  Astryyd had taken a half step forward turning her back to man.  His hand struck her hard in the shoulder as she blocked the child from the blow.  The girl gasped with wide eyes as Astryyd took the blow and then managed a weak smile.  There would certainly be a whelp there in the morning.  He then grabbed Astryyd’s hair again and threw her to the ground and glared at the child who stared at him in horror cringing.  But for the first time, she stopped the bawling.  He turned on Astryyd and kicked her hard in the stomach.  The blow removing the air from her lungs.  She lay there gasping for breath, trying to recover when she was pulled to her feet again and forced to continue walking.  Each step brought wracking pain as she struggled to breath.  Her breathing eventually returned to normal though the pain still persisted as they were brought into a courtyard full of people.  She was very aware of the faces that watched them though many paid them no attention.  With a horror that made all of this a reality, she realized that they were about to be sold to the highest bidder.

They were moved through the crowd towards the platform where she could see other women and girls being displayed, most looked like they were used to the process but occasionally there was one that looked haggered and beaten down.  Not of one of the women on that platform was wearing clothing and a fear rose in Astryyd that she choked back.  She felt the child behind her huddle close to her back, hiding her face in Astryyds kirtle as she wept.

As the line of captured women was moved forward she watched carefully ahead of her to see what was happening and what would happen.  She watched as bound women were pushed forward and just before being dragged on the platform, their clothing was ripped from them.  All but the women who were already slaves.  It appeared that they were left in the scraps of fabric that passed for clothing barely covering them and in some cases NOT covering much at all.  She watched a one hysterical women who tried to run from the men and was yanked off her feet and dragged naked across the rough wooden platform.  Astryyd winced feeling the women’s pain as she shreked and squirmed against her bonds as the men laughed and dragged her to her feet.  One man grabbed her roughly by the hair and she struck out at him flailing her bound hands in the mans face and spitting on him..  Another man grabbed her hands and the first man just smiled as he lifted his knife and slid it effortlessly into the womens ribs.  Astryyd closed her eyes and pulled the girl from behind her into her arms and let her cry into her.  The men tossed the dead women aside and Astryyd put all thoughts of fighting out of her mind for the time.  She shushed the child as they moved closer to the front of the line.  She took the girls chin and turned it up to her and whispered.  “Don’t fight, do as they say.  They can break your body but they can not break this.”  she placed her hand on the girls heart which was beating so fast, Astryyd was afraid it would leap from the girls body.  “They can not break your Torvie spirit, child.  Keep your strength here and when they beat you down, slip away into your heart and visit the long halls of vahalla in your mind.  Disconnect from this.  Do you understand me?”  The girl nodded and stood straight eyes still wet and shining up at her.  Astryyd looked and noticed how close they were and push the girl back behind her as a man approached and took the dark hair girl in front of her to the platform.  The slave bounced her step and obediently performed just as the men had wished.  Astryyd fought the bile that threatened to rise in her throat.  The man came back to her and looked her up and down as if he were inspecting a bosk for sell.  Astryyd stiffened her stance and looked straight ahead not meeting the man’s gaze until he grabbed her chin and forced her face to his.

“You’re a Torvie slut, aren’t you?”  Astryyd stared silent at the man.  “Answer me women!”  She still kept silent.  He grabbed her roughly and jerked her forward a bit then took out his knife.  She heard the child behind her gasp and then clamp hands over her mouth to stifle a scream.  Astryyd just braced herself for the pain that she was sure would follow his knife sinking into her but no pain came. She felt the tugging against her kirtle and realized that he was slicing the laces. The dress loosened and the man grabbed at the shoulder where she had taken the earlier blow causing Astryyd to wince and shrugged away.  The man jerked his hand back confused and she took that moment to slide the kirtle off of her shoulders herself and let it drop to the ground then kicked it aside glaring at the man with pure hate in her eyes.  She took a step forward toward the man and the platform and looked at him like he was in her way.  The man, still a bit stunned, stepped aside as she stepped up on the platform of her own proud volition and turned to face the assembled bidders.  She fought hard against the instinct to cover her naked body as the auction master begin his prattle.  She glanced over at the girl who was quickly removing her own kirtle before she could be forced to do it, tears still streaming down her face but holding her head high.

Astryyd heard the man speak of strong Torvie women and then he loosened the bonds on her hair letting it fall about her shoulders.  She let out a brief sigh of relief as her thick blond curls fell down her back and covered her breast some in the front.  That was until the man brushed it back over her shoulder almost gently exposing her breast again.  He traced a riding crop about her features as he spoke about her making up some bullshit of how she was the daughter of some important Torive Jarl and how she had been captured in a long fought battle.  The truth was, she had been taken in the night as she slept from the side of the road.  She cut her eyes in disdain at the man letting him know that she knew he was full of shit even if these men bidding on her did not.  She heard the bidding as it rose and was amazed at the amount people pay for owning other human beings.  She finally heard “Sold” and it slapped her in the face taking the breath from her again.  She looked around to try to see the one who bought her as she was pushed from the platform and taken to the side.  She was brought before a hugely grotesque fat man and she fought the urge to run.  She could not fathom being owned or touched by such a beast.  He stood there leering at her then spoke.

“Would that I not need the money my dear and I would have kept you for myself.  But you brought me a very pretty price today.”  He stepped closer to her leaning his horrible face close to hers.  She could smell the stench on his breath and drew back as he took in a deep breath, smelling her.

“Are you fondling my merchandise, old man?”  the voice was strong and young and the man quickly drew back from Astryyd.  She could now see the man behind the voice.  He was tall and dark haired with chiseled harsh features.  He tossed something at her feet and ordered the merchant to cut the ropes that held her hands and waist.  He did so and she rubbed the marks the bonds had left.  

“Put that on, girl.”  he ordered pointing to the fabric he had tossed at her feet.  She picked it up thankful for anything that covered her.

The merchant made some rude comment about wanting to ‘pop that’ and Astryyd turned following his gaze to see the child on the platform standing stiff and flinching at every movement of the auction master.

She quickly turned a pleading face toward the man that would be her new master begging with her eyes to do something.

He looked at her puzzled and then to the girl. “What is she to you?  A daughter, a sister?”

Astryyd just stared at him.  “Well answer me girl!” he said harshly. Astryyd found her voice and spoke,

“No, she is just a scared child who should not be going through this at the hands of monsters calling themselves men.” she blurted and regretted it as soon as it left her lips.  The merchant stepped up and lashed out slapping Astryyd across her face hard enough to knock her to the ground.

“How DARE you speak to your master like that bitch!  You address him as ‘Master’.  You should be lashed for that tone!”

As he drew back again, the man grabbed the merchants arm and glared at him.  “This is my property, merchant.  You will do well to leave the disciplining to me.”  The merchant stepped back nodding curtly to the man.  He looked back at Astryyd sternly and spoke.  “Get up. You will do well to remember to hold your tongue lest it get you beaten.”  Astryyd rose and stood with her back to the man, watching the others bid on the child.  She was going for a much higher price then Astryyd because the men were sure she was a virgin and the thought sickened her.  She looked back again at her new master begging him silently to bid on the girl then turned away with anger as he stood there and did nothing.

Once the bidding was about to be closed, he finally spoke up with a price that was almost double the last bid and all grew silent.  The next thing she heard was “Sold!” and she gave her master a slight nod of thanks.  She did not know that the girl would be any better off with this man than any other but at least they would have each other.

Her master leaned in close and handed her another camisk.  “Get her in this, and don’t think for one minute that I bought her for you.  She is young and fresh and will warm my furs.”  Astryyd wanted to slap his face but she held her anger as the girl was brought over.  She helped her into the camisk and they both were ushered over to another man who put metal shackles about their wrists and ankles and a collar about their necks.  The man came and attached a chain to both and walked from the market with them both in tow.

The three walked silently through the streets of the city.  It was a dirty place much different than what she where she was used to living.  The streets were of cobblestone and more than once she stumbled on the rocks struggling to keep up with the mans fast pace.  After walking a bit she realized that they were heading toward what looked like the city gates.  They were massive and grew larger as they approached.  They continued walking for a bit leaving the city and coming to a small camp outside the gate that had a few men with other slaves.  The other slaves looked well trained in their jobs and were milling about some loading items on the bosks and some on their knees at the mens feet.  It sickened Astryyd to see how some of the slaves fawned over the men that claimed them.  All eyes were upon them as they approached.  The men regarded the girls in tow, assessing them, the slaves the same.  The slave girls looked at Astryyd and the child with disdain.  One even went so far as to pinch her nose implying that the new slaves smelled.  Astryyd shot her a look that dared her to speak and the slave looked away.

A loud squeal jolted Astryyd as a short dark haired slave ran towards them and threw herself prone in front of the man.  “Master has returned” she squealed looking up at him through thick lashes. “And you brought me TWO sisters.” she smiles crawling forward to kiss the mans feet.  Her eyes flashed a look to Astryyd that was less than friendly but the man took no notice.

“Get up girl and get my new slaves settled.  Explain to them their fate so that they understand.”

“Yes master, of course”  she rose and stepped around the man to give the same sort of assessment that the men had given her and Astryyd fought the urge to spit at the girl.

“Come” she said haughtily.  Astryyd and the child followed.  “There is much you need to learn about the master.  My name is Honey.  I am first girl, you will have to do everything that I say.  The master loves me first so you will not be his preferred but it is ok, he will love you too…..eventually.”  Honey prattled on about the master and how important she was as she had us help her with the chores.  She helped Astryyd pull her hair back up and for a moment looked somewhat envious.  Then returned to her chatter.  She pointed out how we we to display ourselves for the master.  She showed the child whose name was Gertie how to sit with her knees closed as was proper for a white silk.  “You are a virgin, right?  That is the only reason I can imagine that my master bought you too.”  Gertie turned crimson as honey poked at her then said, “Lay down, lets see!” giggling.  Astryyd stepped in and blocked Honey.  “That’s enough.” she spoke firmly.  Honey looked like she had just been slapped but moved in and narrowed her eyes.  “Be care, girl.  With a word, I can have you wiped.”  Astryyd just stared at her and dared her to do it.

“So you do speak after all.” Honey said, “What is your name?”

“Astryyd, and yes when there is something worth saying, I speak.”

“Well neither of you should get used to using your names as the master will give you new names.”  Without missing a breath, Honey continued.  “Astryyd, you will sit like this before the master.” and she dropped to her knees then spread them wide exposing her heat to all in front of her.  Astryyd turn red and looked away.  “No need to be embarassed.  It is how all Red silks sit.  Non-virgins.”

Astryyd listened to Honey for the rest of the afternoon and took in what she said ignoring her selfish comments.  Astryyd recognized them as defenses for the girl was clearly threatened by the presence of Astryyd and Gertie in her masters entourage.

That evening, Astryyd was handed a horn full of mead and told to serve it to the master.  She smelt the brew and wrinkled her nose.  It had soured and she was sure would taste horrible.  She walked to the man and stood there hesitating.  When he turned his attention he waited expectantly.  She glanced over and saw Honey prompting her to her knees.  Taking a deep breath she lowered herself into a kneeling position and left her knees closed still holding the horn.  The man looked at her waiting.  “Well girl?  You were instructed on how to sit before me?”  Now the attention of every man in the camp was on her.  

“Yes”  she answered.  He frowned at her omission of the ‘master’ and leaned forward.  “You WILL address me a master or you will bare the scars of lashings across your back. Is that understood?”

“Yes……………master”  she had to practically spit the word from her mouth.

“Now for your kneeling.  You know the difference in White and Red silks girl?”

“Yes,…..master”.

“Yet you come before me and sit as a white?  One thing that you will learn is that you are not allowed to lie to me girl……ever.  Now sit as you should.”

Astryyd did not move but fidgeted a bit under the eyes of so many.  The man moved to use his foot to push her knees apart and Astryyd snapped her head up at him and she resisted the push.  She could see that he was getting angry with her but she was not about to give in.  She opened her mouth and chose her words carefully.

“Master, if I am unable to lie to you then take my stance as an admission of my lack of …….experience.”

He looked down on her and glared at her.  “Are you trying to say you are a virgin?  Do not lie to me!”  he raised his hand as if to strike her and she did not flinch.

“Yes master.” she simply said.  His gazed bored into her and the men around him begin to laugh.  

“Seems you won yourself an ever greater prize than even you knew.” one of the shouted to him.

“It will be easy enough to prove. We will take her to the Green in the morning or maybe I will just find out myself tonight.”  the man spoke loudly and that brought a roar of laughter from the men.

He sat back down in his seat and took the horn from Astryyd throwing his head back and gulping the vile concoction down.  “Be gone girl.  Honey, get her to a Green in the morning.  Bring me the other girl.”

Gertie was brought forward for his inspection and Astryyd just watched as the other men pawed at her and leered.  It was all surface though as her master did not let anyone really get their hands on her.  That was at least something decent of him.  

Astryyd and Gertie were both later placed in a cage to sleep.  Astryyd sat there awake and watching over Gertie as the child cried herself to sleep.

Astryyd woke as the sun came up.  Her shoulder stiff and aching from the blow.  She was unable to move it much.  Her ribs screamed as she attempted to move and she cried out at the sharp pain.  Gertie woke at the sound and Honey came over to unlock the cage.  “What is wrong with you?”

Astryyd struggled out of the cage and attempted to stand straight and could not.  Honey pulled back the edge of Astryyds camisk and gasped.  She looked down and saw the horrible bruise across Astryyds side and ran for the master.

Astryyd propped herself on the edge of the cage and waited.  Honey came back with the master in tow and showed him the bruise.  He frowned and ordered Astryyd to remove the camisk.  She angrily took it off and threw it at the monsters feet.  She stood there exposed again as he circled her looking her up and down lightly, almost tenderly, touching her side then seeing the whelp and bruise on her shoulder.  He brushed hair out of her face and ran a thumb over her cheek where the merchant had struck her the day before.

“This I know of but tell me what you did to earn these.” referring to the other bruises.

Glaring at the man she spat out, “I blocked the man from striking the child just because she was crying.  A suitable punishment by your standards I assume?”  Once again, she inwardly cursed her mouth and winced waiting for him to strike her but the blow never came.  A little too late she added, “Master”.

“Don’t presume to know what I deem suitable girl.”  He turned from her and ordered Honey to take both girls to see a green.

The green was a women and one who was very kind to both the girls.  Honey stood off the side of the room and ran her mouth constantly until the green sent her from the building on some usless errand.  

While wrapping Astryyd’s ribs she spoke kindly to her.  “You are new to this aren’t you?”  Astryyd did not answer.  “It’s ok girl, what we discuss stays here.  You were a free women and Torvie I would bet. To take this sort of abuse and still be standing strong as you are and I bet you are doing it for that scared child.” she nodded at Gertie.

Astryyd looked at the child who was somewhat relaxed here.  “Yes on both counts, Lady.  I did not know her before we were captured but I will not stand by and watch her be abused.”

“Well, for you troubles, you now have a cracked rib and a nasty contusion on your shoulder but both will heal.  Your master will be happy to know too that you are indeed a virgin as well.  Too bad the merchant didn’t know that or your price would have been 3 times what your master paid for you.”

Astryyd turned her head sickened by the thought of men buying women just to spoil them.

“Well my suggestion to you both is to do as you are told and learn.  This is your fate now.  There is no need to fight it.”

Astryyd flashed her a defiant look and the green laughed.  “You are not the first slave to think that she will fight her way to freedom.  Give this a chance girl.  Your master is not one of the really bad ones.  He does take care of his slaves.  Swallow that Torvie pride girl.  It will get you nothing but hurt.”

When the girls returned to camp, Honey dropped prone at the masters feet and he reached down to touch the top of her head in approval as he stepped around and stood before Astryyd.  Gertie dropped to her knees like Honey had taught her but Astryyd stood and handed him the scroll from the Green.  She started to attempt to bow and the master grabbed her arm and stopped her.  

“This one time, girl.” he read the scroll and cocked an eyebrow at Astryyd.  “Seems you told the truth about your …..experience.”

Astryyd nodded, “Yes master”  the word still tasted bad in her mouth.

“Honey, take them back the kennels.  Astryyd is to rest, Gertie is to work.  We will be pulling out tomorrow.  I have a merchant to go beat for selling me damaged goods.”  Astryyd’s temper begin to boil at being referred to as ‘goods’ but she hurt too much and was too groggy from whatever root the Green had given her for the pain so she just followed honey back to the cages.  Surprisingly, Honey placed her on the fur that she assumed was her own pallet and no sooner had her head hit the soft fur did sleep take her.

Astryyd woke at some point during the night to find Gertie curled up beside her on the furs both of them secured with chains anchored to a nearby bolt sunk deep in the ground.  She rose quietly so as not to disturb Gertie.  Pulling slightly on her chain she tested the strength of the restraint. As she suspected, it was anchored solidly.  She bent low wincing from her tender ribs and examined the bolt and chain then followed it up to finger the collar about her neck.  She could feel where the lock was but could barely slip fingers beneath it.  The same was true of the wrist and ankle restraints.  She jerked hard on the chain in frustration for a few moments then plopped hard on the ground bringing another wave of pain.  She dropped her head into her hands and sobbed quietly.  A rustling from behind her drew her attention.  She did not move but sat very still.  She then felt slender hands on her arm and heard Honeys voice.  “He really is not so bad, girl.  He will be gentle with you and the child.  Only do not anger him and there will be no reason for you be hurt.  Come back to the furs.   Please?”  Astryyd looked at her seeing the anxiousness in her eyes as if she would somehow be punished for Astryyd’s disobedience.  

“Have you always been a slave?”  she asked the dark hair slave as she wiped the tears from her face.

Honey looked back to the masters tent then tentatively sat down beside Astryyd and lowered her voice.

“No but I have been since I was a child.  I don’t remember much of anything before this life.”

“The you would not understand.”  Astryyd told her.  “I was a free women with a trade and a life.”

“My master said you were a High Jarl’s daughter captured in a raid.”  

Astryyd snorted at the story.  “Hardly!  The “brave warriors” did not raid my village.  They captured me while I slept beside the road while travelling.”  she growled.

Honey’s eyes went wide.  “Why were you alone and not travelling with guards?”

“Honey, you live in a very narrow sighted world if you think that every free women can afford such a thing.  I have no father, brother or companion therefore would have had to pay an axe for protection and that was not an option when I left my village.  Yes, I knew it was dangerous but I thought I could make it to a safe village.  I did not and now I am thrust in this life.”

Honey stared at Astryyd as if seeing something completely foreign to her then spoke again.  “But you will like being with master.  He is a wonderful fighter and a good master.  He doesn’t get angry much and rarely has to punish.”

Astryyd fought back the tears again as she fiddled with the chain that bound her.

“Come back to bed, Astryyd before he wakens and hears us.  You don’t have to sleep in the kennel tonight.  See, he can be kind.”  she said hopefully.

“Take yourself to the furs, Honey, or go curl up with your master.  I don’t know that I will ever be able to sleep again.”

Astryyd wakes from the nightmare with a start, her body covered in sweat still wrapped in her furs, the sun just barely visible through the trees cresting the horizon.  Wiping her brow with a shaking hand, she gathers her composure.  ‘NO’, she thinks to herself, ‘That will NOT happen to me’.  Gathering her belongings and rolling her furs securing them to the cart, she heads towards the port to look for an axe to hire.