Slave Trader

Agnetha's heart was in her mouth as she approached the tavern. At long last she had located one of her sisters abducted so long ago, or so she hoped. It had been a long and often dangerous trail, but now seven years after that fateful day she was certain that her elder sister Æthelfrida was within the tavern. Here in N'Gorn the sale of humans as chattels was still within the law and the eldest Pendenick girl was a slave here in this remote roadside hostelry.

The visual image that Agnetha brought up in her mind of her sister was of the bespectacled girl of that last dinner. Fuzzy hair haloing her slightly angular face and dressed in close fitting trousers, her tunic for some reason seemed a tad on the large size with sleeves over her hands so she was continually pushing them back. The most striking thing though was her expression and manner; so much like their mother it was uncanny.

She pulled the cloak closer about her shoulders before opening the door; she was assailed by the pungent smell of worrywart being smoked and the yeasty smell of ale. The interior was fairly quiet, not many customers this night, those within sat in small groups, mostly drinking and talking, an occasional round of laughter echoing under the low-beamed ceiling.

The young woman found a box that was unoccupied and waited for a serving wrench to take her order, hopefully it would be her sister! However it was a small sickly looking girl who appeared and wordlessly took her order for stew and ale. Being a roadside inn, and dressed as she was in the clothes of an experienced traveller, she received nothing more than curious looks from the other patrons as she sat waiting.

The information which had led her to this establishment came from the local slave register and so its reliability was fairly assured. She had traced the girl known only as Fre for two years, the girl's description in the ledgers as much as she had for identification. The picture painted went something on the lines of ‘Female, blue eyes, frizzy hair, own teeth', not much to base her assumptions on but the blue eyes and frizzy hair were rare enough coupled to make her reasonably sure of her assumption.

A few of the patrons changed, Agnetha finished her meal and enquired about lodgings and still no sign of anyone remotely resembling her description of the girl apparently enslaved here. It was getting on into the evening before a subtle change in the room's atmosphere alerted her to an impending arrival. Chairs were shuffled and a sallow youth cleared an area to one side of the hearth of furniture. He disappeared to return shortly armed with a lute.

More ale was ordered, then unseen by most of the room, the girl appeared in the cleared area and struck a pose. The room hushed and it was only as the youth started plucking his strings that she took in the figure which began to gyrate not twenty feet away. It was, by the hair at least, the girl she had been trailing and one look at the face, so like their mothers, confirmed that she had found Æthelfrida. She wasn't however prepared for the vision that greeted her further appraisal. This was no innocent girl and hardly fitted her perceived idea of her sister as a slave. Most slaves were used as drudges, it was rare to come across a well fed and looked after chattel. In that at least she was glad for her sister, however the young woman's appearance was still shocking.

Fre gyrated in time to the lute in what could only be interpreted as a suggestive manner and allowed Agnetha to study her sister further. She was all but naked, only her jewellery adorning her body. Slave bangles circled each ankle and both arms, fingers adorned with rings. Her shaven crotch was pierced and hung with chains, another hung about her hips. Navel and nipples were also pierced with heavy rings hanging from the latter, a heavy gold coloured collar sat about her neck.

It was only in a slower part of the routine that the girl's pierced face became evident, both nostrils and lower lip bore metalwork and a chain ran from her left nostril to ear with tiny bells a constant jingle. A ring in one eyebrow and a chain across her brow filled out the picture. To someone like Agnetha, coming from a society where even ear piercing was not common and a ‘show' of this type unheard of, the fact that the girl was her sister almost had her in apoplexy!

One second she was there, the next gone, music stopped and only stomping and clapping of the other patrons giving any sign to what had just been enacted. At least after all this time she now knew it was her sister, the rest of her repatriation of the senior Pendenick sibling would have to wait until morn. Subterfuge in this land was out of the question; she was going to have to try to buy her sisters freedom.

It was with a feeling of foreboding that she sought the landlord next morning.

“What can I do for you mistress?” the inn keep was a stout chap, obviously handy with his ham like fists and not a man to try to cross.

“ I travel to Thunmarong, to my fathers manor, I always take him unusual gifts back from my travels. Last time he had a carved egg from Carantor.”

“A fine thing indeed” the landlord noted for indeed the bejewelled Carantor Eggs are known far and wide for their exquisite beauty.

“Before that”, she continued, “ I secured one of Baron Ythleggs finest hunting hounds, at no small cost I must admit.”

“Your pater is lucky indeed to have such a thoughtful daughter, but what would you of Jorge mistress?”

He was either genuinely slow or just feigning it.

“I was lucky enough to catch your entertainments last eve…”

“Fre? No mistress, I catch your drift, she isn't for sale, I paid nearly two hundred groate only a seven week ago for her, worth every penny mind. With the extra she brings in I'll be able to build a new wing next year, no, no, she's not on the market.”

Agnetha had been expecting this, but it was obvious from the mans tone that a bargain could be struck if she persisted.

“A pity that, I'm not known for a light purse in these matters, I paid most of five hundred for the egg.”

The man was obviously now waiting for her next move, he had played this game before.

“Well I wouldn't want to be hasty, but as you'll appreciate I need an edge to keep the punters coming, she's a great draw and the extra during the day don't harm any either.”

Agnetha noted but let that comment slide.

“For the sake of argument, what would you suggest a suitable replacement would cost?”

“Dancers is not easy to come by, and there's the losses until I found one, could be weeks, like as not have to get one from the city, say five hundred.”

It was less than she feared he would set and both parties knew it was there to be knocked down.

“You paid bare two hundred by your own admit, two fifty.” The bidding was opened.

“You'd have me a beggar mistress, four fifty, no less, your father deserves as much.”

“Let me see the goods before we further discuss money.”

Seeing a chance to bolster his position in the bargaining he was all too ready to prolong the procedure.

“Indeed that would be well”, he turned to shout a command, “bring Fre when she's done, all nice and clean mind, and bring some refreshment meantime.”

Whilst they waited, the brew master pumped Agnetha for stories of her travels, she filled him with only slightly altered tales, tales she herself had been told in her three years of this quest. That of course was not mentioned or hinted at. It was nearly a full turn of the sands later that Fre was brought into the room by the drudge. She still wore no clothing; the chill air leaving her nipples erect, only a pair of flat sandals increased her wardrobe.

“Ah, here it is, a fine thing indeed.”

“Indeed.” Agnetha agreed as she appraised her sister, who stared vacantly and unsmilingly ahead.

“Turn around girl.”

With no emotion Fre followed her owners instruction.

“See mistress, undamaged, worth every groate I ask.”

“I don't know, does it talk?”

“Certainly! You wish to speak with it?”

“Yes I think. Does it speak our tongue or some foreign gibber?”

“She can converse in our tongue, but see,” he rose to Fre's level and produced a key, intimating the girl to open her mouth he moved across Agnetha's view to turn about shortly displaying an object obviously removed from the girls mouth. “I always keep her tongue locked for she babbles oft times.”

“Girl, you understand me?”

“Yeth mithtress”

“From what land are you from?”

“Not know, always slave, always sold all over.”

‘Indeed', agreed Agnetha, ‘you took some finding!'

The inn keep was now keen to complete the deal to his advantage, Agnetha barely realised that her sister's tongue was again locked, seeing her look her protagonist saw his opening.

“The key and wench are yours for four fifty.”

Not wishing to appear too easy on the deal she made a further offer.

“Four hundred”

Avarice showed on the others face as he calculated his profit, Fre still stood blank faced, obviously no recognition, or concern, that she was about to be sold once more.

“You are a thief mistress, but I'll take your gold. You'll join me in some lunch?”

“Indeed sir.” The deal was done, now she could concentrate on finding Portia!

It was mid afternoon when Agnetha's cash was exchanged for indenture papers and key or as she discovered, keys.

Fre was by now outfitted in a plain shift of homespun and a deep hood. The two sisters left the inn with nary a backward glance, nor for that matter did eyes watch them.

They were half a league from the hostelry when Agnetha drew reign.

“Fre, come here please,” she offered the girl the keys, “can you unlock your tongue or must I do it?”

“Ee oo”

That seemed like a positive response as the girl took the proffered the keys and within moments both keys and tongue lock were in Agnetha's hand.

“What are the other keys for?”

“My maidenhead mithtress”

“Do you know who I am Fre?”

“Mithtress, mithtress.” The question seemed to disconcert the young woman; So Agnetha tried a different tack.

“How old are you?”

“Fifteen summers I think mithtress.”

“You're not sure?” Fre was actually eighteen, “and call me Agnetha, not mistress.”

”Yes mithtress.”

The slave mentality was obviously deeply embedded.

“Come join me on the horse”

The elder Pendenick clambered up behind her sibling and they set off anew.

With conversation a bit one sided, Agnetha fell to examining the tongue lock as the horse ambled along the turnpike. Made of hematite, it was a sphere the size of a pigeon egg that was split in two, joined by a finger thick bar. After opening and closing the mechanism several times, it finally dawned on her how it worked. One half was placed under the tongue, the other on top, the bar passing through the tongue to lock the two halves together. What a cruel implement! Apart from the bulk in the mouth, not enough to cause gagging but sufficient to prevent eating properly, the significant weight of the hematite effectively prevented speech beyond grunts. Poor Fre, no Æthelfrida.

They took lodging in a village inn some hours later, the not quite ex slave obviously in some discomfort from the ride. Once within their room Agnetha discovered just why. Her sisters simple dress was the only garment her previous owner had bequeathed them, no shift or bloomer, the rough material not exactly a comfort on a horse. She was surprised at first to find that her sister still wore the full complement of jewellery; perhaps the Jorge hadn't done so well on the deal.

After eating, Agnetha continued probing her sister's memories but Fre seemed to have no recollection of much beyond how long she had been with the previous owner. By the end of the evening all that Agnetha had gotten from her sister was a few basic facts. The gag was fitted first two winters previously, she couldn't recall not having her other adornments, clothing was not something she was much used to and, she had been unlocked for intercourse up to ‘a two hand' each day. Oh and she danced. She was proud of that.

Every time Agnetha tried to stop the ‘yes mistress' bit and in place use her given name, or worse her pet name Agii, her sister would get flustered and start babbling. She could understand why someone less caring had fitted the tongue lock!

Æthelfrida's appearance would mark her easily as a slave in this land, but even after trying to explain that she was now free, she was hesitant to remove any of her symbols of enslavement. Although the piercings remained, most of the metalwork was removed from her face at least, just the brow ring remaining. However no amount of persuading could get any other adornments removed, not even the plate locked across her nether lips. Underwear and Agnetha's spare boots made the return to travel easier and more comfortable and Fre looked more like the noble woman that in truth she was.

It was going to be a long trip back to the manor, around eight weeks and Agnetha was determined to use the time to return her sister's mind as well as body to their parents. So it was that the two women set off home.

By the time they reached Pendenick Manor, Æthelfrida, if not fully recovered of her memories, was at least aware of her heritage. It was clear that it was best to not dig into her years of captivity, the abuse of both body and mind sent the young woman into a catatonic state often for hours. She was still very insecure and was adamant of the manner of her return home. So it was that in a secluded clearing a short distance from the manor that Æthelfrida returned to Fre the slave, including all the removed jewellery and tongue lock.

Agnetha was full of concern and misgivings as they approached unseen in the early autumn evening gloom. A surprised page took their steeds but couldn't help looking into the hood of the woman Mistress Agnetha had brought home. Her parents were in the family room with old Lionel, her father warming his posterior, the others playing draughts.

Leaving her sister beyond the door, Agnetha went to greet Harald, Katja and her old tutor.

“Greetings father.”

“Agnetha, why didn't you send word?”

“Sorry mother, I thought I would be here before any message, I've been on the road for seven weeks.”

“No news?” her mothers voice was tinged with the disappointment of years.

“Not news exactly, but I do have something for you both.”

“What daughter could you bring that would ease or aching hearts?”

“This,” and with no more ado presented her father with a bill of sale and indentures for one slave girl, name of Fre and several keys.

“What's the meaning of this daughter? How could you of all people support such trade?”

“Sorry my father but it's how she wanted it father,” and raising her voice called to the door, “girl!”

Æthelfrida came in, a thin shift barely covering her nakedness, head bowed, she approached her enraged parents. Agnetha reacquired the keys to remove the gag while her stunned family looked on at this almost naked slave girl their remaining daughter had presented them. The younger sister moved to one side, the elder lifted her head so that her parents could see her features. It was Lionel who recognised her first.

“Æthelfrida? Is that really you?”

The Pendenicks reacted simultaneously as Æthelfrida replied.

“Yes it is your little Frida.”

Within moments, parents and daughter were embroiled in a round of hugging lasting several long minutes that soon grew to encompass the others. Although Æthelfrida's return brought much joy to the gathering, a hint of sadness was there too as they each remembered the other missing member of the family, Portia.

By the time Agnetha had recounted some of her latest travels, and Æthelfrida was redressed more appropriately, but still wearing her jewellery, it was well past the turn of the day and all were exhausted physically and emotionally. They all retired for the night, happy all except for Agnetha, thoughts of Portia now foremost in her mind. The search for the middle sister would continue, the last lead she had was two years cold and that trail had fizzled out near the sea port of Kranja. Ships from that port travelled far to the east, a lot more travelling was in store for the junior Pendenick sister. Still that could wait a few days while Æthelfrida tried to settle back to family life.


To be continued.

Maddy Bell ©1995

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