Page by HFS: 2002 Designed by: FW Viper
Copyright © 2001
This is set in the Gifts world, but aside from three minor characters has no connection with the main Gifts story. Set 5 months after Gifts 3-The Mute part2.
He was a pretty child and he was wearing a slave collar, so of course he was naked. It was a high class inn, so normally being alone, he would have been turned away, except that he wore the bracelet on his wrist, which indicated that he was a Bonded Messenger.
He asked for Turc Senson, and he was directed to a middle-aged bearded man, richly dressed, who was nursing a bottle of wine at one of the tables. He stopped about a yard away from the man, so that he could be easily be seen. The man ignored his presence. So Kith just stood there in the way he had been taught by his owner, feet a little apart, hands at his sides, so that nothing was concealed and just waited. If the man thought he could outwait Kith, he was in for a surprise. The boy could stand there for hours without moving.
After an hour, Kith was getting a little bored, but as long as he was a slave, while in Varryn, he couldn't speak until he was acknowledged, despite the fact that he was a Bonded Messenger. Finally the man looked at him, and with curiosity he asked, "How long would you stand there, if I didn't acknowledge you."
Kith explained, "My owner purchased me and several other boys at the age of four. While this was a minor part of what he wanted us for, it was the first thing we were trained to do. We would be put in a position and required to remain in that position until told we could move. Any movement and we would receive a severe whipping.
"By the time we were five we had to be able to remain unmoving for at least four hours, by the time we were eight, a minimum of eight hours was required."
"So you don't think I can outwait you?" the man asked.
"It's highly unlikely, but not impossible, since you are a soldier, you might have received special scout training, which would have included training in how to go into a trance, which would allow you to stay unmoving for long periods. Our owner, never taught us how to use trances, he wanted us unmoving and helpless, yet completely awake and always conscious of our helplessness."
"How do you know I'm a soldier," asked the man.
"Both of your hands are calloused, in ways that could not occur in any other way. You have the same type of callouses, on both hands so unlike many soldiers you can use both arms equally well, but also you have the added callouses on your left arm which indicate that you carry a small shield on that arm. You could be an Armsmaster, but most could not afford to stay at a costly inn like this on a regular basis, but you show no sign of discomfort at being here, so obviously these are the type of quarters you are accustomed to when not in the field."
"Why would the Temple of Flarston, send... a what, a ten year old, to me." asked Turc Senson.
"I was either born a slave, or sold into slavery when I was too young to remember, and many slaves never know exactly when they were born, and that is the case with me. The feeling is that I am about ten, plus or minus six months. I have a message from the temple for you." said Kith. Placing his left hand on the bracelet, he began to speak, and while it was still his voice, it resonated with the voice of the Priest in charge of Bonded Messengers at the local temple. "Kith, is the only fully trained Bonded Messenger we have available at the present moment. It will be at least a week before any others are available. He has never been more than one hundred miles from Corson. If you have a long journey in mind, it would be advisable to wait."
Kith released the bracelet, the jewel ceased glowing, and he brushed the lock of blond hair which had fallen down over his large gray eyes, back into place. The man stood up and dropping a silver coin on the table, "Come with me, what I have to say needs a little more privacy."
He headed for the stairs Kith following obediently behind. He entered the second room and closed the door after Kith entered. He said, "Sit, and we can discuss this."
Kith sank to the floor, into a crosslegged position. Not expecting that Turc was a little disconcerted. "I meant for you to sit on the chair or on the bed."
Kith shook his head, "As long as I'm a slave, it would be very unwise of me to get into bad habits. While I have divine protection when I am carrying a message, that doesn't extend to forgetting my station in life. I can be whipped, just as severely as any other slave, if I offend. The God would only protect me from punishment which was severe enough to affect my ability to deliver the message or unjust punishment."
Turc with a shrug of resignation, sat down facing Kith, despite his years, doing it as easily as the boy had done.
"Why are you still a slave. I thought that if a slave was called to be a Bonded Messenger, the owner had to give him to the temple."
"That is the custom that has been followed, however it is just a custom, not a law. My owner refused to give me to the temple, who would have freed me. He demanded that they pay him the sum that he now considered me worth after the years of training that I had gone through. He put that price at three thousand golds. The temple does not pay for slaves, at least not in one lump sum. As long as I remain a slave they give my owner fifty percent of the sum that is paid for me, to deliver a message."
"Since I have never been more than one hundred miles from Corson, as the message from the temple Priest told you, I haven't earned much money toward my price, and it will probably be years before I have a chance to earn any substantial sums. Once I have earned my freedom price, then I get twenty percent of the fees charged."
"I'm sorry, I hate to do this to a kid, but I have an urgent message that must be delivered. If I have got it right the ritual request is, 'Messenger, I request that you deliver a message for me.'"
Kith smiled, "That is the phrase most commonly used, but actually no ritual is required. Just asking me is sufficient. As long as our God Flarston accepts the message then we deliver it." He held up his wrist and Turc could see the jewel in the middle of the bracelet was glowing. "Where is the message going."
"The County of Wymark, Regent of Wymark, Kalli Senson." Turc said. Kith looked at him completely flabbergasted. "You realize how much that will cost, it's one gold a mile inside Varryn, and two golds a mile outside, and that's there and back. It'll cost almost four thousand golds for the entire trip, and since most of it will be outside Varryn, I'll need expenses as well."
Turc took several pieces of paper out of his pouch, which Kith recognized as the special script, the Bank of Varryn issued, and counted out six of them and handed them to the boy, who placed them on the glowing jewel of the bracelet and they disappeared.
"Can you do that with any paper, I thought the messages you carried were mainly verbal." Turc asked with interest.
"We're limited to about a dozen sheets in total, it's mainly for script, maps and things like that." said Kith, "as you say the messages are generally verbal, but they don't have to be, as long as you remain under the total limit of pages that I can carry."
Turc took a piece of thickly folded paper out of his pouch and unfolded it to reveal three pages showing the faces of three men. Kith took them and looked at each and then placed them in the jewel without comment. "Your message, do you want it to be private, or does it matter. If not start anytime."
Turc, "More and more surprising all the time. No it doesn't matter. Dear Kalli, this is your Uncle Turc, I'm in a country called Varryn which is about twelve hundred miles south of where you live. I have been fortunate, at least I hope it's fortunate to discover that before the Count of Wymark died, he was able to get a message off to Varryn, where he banked much of the money that he got out of Camron. His representative here was authorized to hire assassins to kill you and your children. I am sending this message by a Bonded Messenger, they represent a small sect that worships. Flarston, Bonded Messengers will take messages anywhere as long as they are paid the appropriate sum and Flarston approves. When they are carrying a message they are protected by Flarston personally, the only God I have been able to find who actively intervenes in Lythean life. The other Gods do not object because mostly the Bonded Messengers are confined to Varryn and only rarely travel outside of it. The Messenger has sketches of the three assassins hired to do the job. If you can manage to survive, you should be safe, because I have been informed that the money spent on the assassins has drained the account Count Wymark set up here. Your Loving Uncle Turc Senson
Kith said, "Message memorized. Do you wish me to repeat it or any portion of it."
Just out of curiosity, Turc asked, "Repeat the ten words starting from the forty-first word from the end, before Your Loving Uncle."
Kith repeated the ten words requested.
"All right, I didn't really think you had forgotten I was just curious. The reason it's so urgent is that the assassins found out that I might know about them. If I head north, then they'll be sure." Kith started to say something. "I know if they're watching the inn and saw you, and realize that you're a Bonded Messenger, then that will make them sure as well. However I'm not alone here, I have a dozen of my best men with me and half were watching the inn, the other half are watching the assassins."
"There's a ship leaving for Tenve in Scart on the outgoing tide, I want to make sure that you're on it and I intend to make sure the assassins aren't." Kith just nodded, not caring how he planned to stop the assassins.
It was about nine PM and the ship was sailing on the tide, and Kith was a passenger. And the captain was royally pissed by that fact. Being a Varryn ship Kith was traveling for free, and as usual he was being ignored. Being a slave, even the ship's boys thought themselves above him, despite his divine connection, and besides being told to get out of the way, he didn't expect to hear any talk addressed to him, during the entire trip.
He curled up, out of the way on the hard deck, and went to sleep. In the morning he got his portion of the bad food and went out on deck to eat it. The deck was too hot to sit on, but with the leather hard soles of his feet, he didn't find it too bad being on his feet as long as he didn't stay in one place for long. So during the moving he kept moving, again getting a share of food at noon, and then spending the afternoon in the same manner as he had spent the morning.
About an hour before supper, the lookout called down from the crow's nest that he could see another sail on the horizon. Kith could see everyone was apprehensive wondering if it might be a pirate vessel. As it came closer, they see could that's exactly what it was. The ships boys looked at it with excitement. They knew they would not be hurt. They would just be trading one ship for another, or at worst, they would end up as slaves.
A few of the crew might also end up as crew members on the pirate ship, but most of them would end up dead, so they raised as much sail as they could. When they could see that they were not drawing away, the weapons were brought up from below and the men prepared to sell their lives dearly.
Kith, along with the ships boys, and four crewmen who's lives had been spared, watched the burning ship they had been on, go to the bottom. He turned to look at the captain of the pirate ship. Unlike most of his men, he was clean shaven and well groomed, but his face showed that he was a vicious as any of his crew, and much more dangerous.
Kith walked up to the captain. He looked up at the man, and said, "We will be going to Tenve, in Scart, Have your men set sail in that direction."
The captain snarled, "Who do you think you are, you little whelp." and he swung his fist at the boy, intending to teach him a lesson he would not forget. His eyes widened when his hand just stopped, three inches from the boy's head. If he'd been holding a weapon the stop would have been a jolt.
Kith pointed the arm with the bracelet at the sails, and a beam of light arced out from it to touch the sail, and where it hit, the sail burst into flame. As quickly as it had started the beam and the fire stopped. Kith said, "We are going to Tenve. If you do not give the order, I will set fire to your sails, and you will be drifting, ready for any passing ship to snap you up, or in the end perhaps run ashore."
After questioning those survivors from the Varryn ship, and finding out that Kith was a servant of the one God who actively interfered in normal life, the captain headed to Tenve, which was a little further than he would normally go just to get rid of a cargo, but he had been there before and didn't expect any trouble. Despite the fact that the rulership had changed hands since he had last been there, and that there was now a Princess instead of a Prince, he was able to sell his cargo much as he had been accustomed to doing. He found the tax was a little higher than it had been, but it wasn't a great deal more, and since he had gotten the cargo for nothing it didn't cut into any profit margins.
The survivors of the Varryn crew were watched while they were in port, but they didn't have any problems with working for a new captain, and the whole crew was glad to see the back of Kith as he walked up the gangplank, not even looking back.
Kith wandered the wharfs for a while, hoping that there would be a ship heading for a Camron port. The only ship that he found that was heading for Camron, had just pulled in and had a cargo to unload and then had to find another cargo, and had some minor repairs to make, so they would be at least four or five days, and might be a week or longer before they left. The urgent nature of the message that he was carrying, meant that Kith would have to start spending some of the expense money that he had been provided with. It took a little searching before he found someone willing to answer questions posed by a slaveboy, but he finally found a sailor who didn't object to his status, and he inquired the way to the temple of the Mother Goddess.
He did not go into the public portion of the temple but headed for the private quarters. He rung the gong that announced guests, and the door was opened by a doorkeeper, a young novice. Seeing that it was just a slaveboy, she was about to close the door in his face when Kith used the bracelet again, to burn a hole in the floor, a couple of inches deep.
The novice stared down at the perfect circle burned into the floor at her feet and took a second look at Kith. He said softly, "It's not a good idea to judge a person, just from the way they look. Please fetch a Priestess or a Priest. Please tell them there is a Bonded Messenger of Flarston at the door."
She looked down at the hole, knowing she would be disciplined. She had made a presumption, and that was against the tenants of the Mother-Goddess. Without a word, and leaving the door open she went to fetch someone in authority. He ended up in the presence the Chief Priestess of the temple.
While not from Varryn, she had read all the books available on the countries immediately surrounding Scart, and knew what a Bonded Messenger was without having to consult written records.
Respecting Kith as she would any servant of the Gods, she asked, "What may I do for you, little one. It is unusual to find one of your kind outside of Varryn, though since we are so close here, it is not uncommon. The doorkeeper should have known about you. She will be disciplined for discourtesy, but we will have to find out whether she neglected her studies, or if someone didn't provide her with the proper information, before we decide whether any other punishment is warranted."
Kith placed a hand on his bracelet and handed her one of the Varryn scripts, he had been provided for expenses. Since the sender hadn't asked for privacy, Kith was able to mention a little about his message. "I have a message to deliver, to a County in Camron. It is an urgent message, about an assassination attempt, and there are no ships leaving for there for at least several days, possibly a week. The message can't wait for that long. I wish to hire a fast carriage, to go the rest of the way. I would have your temple hire it for me, and perhaps if you have any Priests or Priestesses who must go to Camron, they will provide company," and smiling, "and a banner proclaiming, that the passengers are all of a religious order. That will save any problem, about crossing the borders."
"I know that your services are expensive, why not use a Far-speaker?" she inquired.
Kith giggled, "I'm afraid you're guilty of presumption, Priestess. Mind-speech is just as common as in the rest of Lythea. We don't know if Flarston changes the talent to another, or if the other Gods do so. but there are no Far-speakers in Varryn. Also while the Astral Spirit can be invoked in Varryn it is limited to a maximum of about twenty miles even for Great Mages."
She looked surprised and a little embarrassed, "That was not written in any of the books that I have read. I will make sure that fact is written down and conveyed to the rest of the religious orders as well. As for companions, we do have a couple of Priestesses and one Priest traveling to Camron, and while we cannot pay based on the amount that a fast carriage will cost, we can pay a portion based on what it would cost to take a wagon or a ship."
His companions had reached their destination, a hundred miles back and Kith was alone as he passed through the gate in the carriage. If the servant who opened the carriage door was surprised to find a nude slaveboy, he made no indication of that fact. He conveyed the boy into the Great Hall with great aplomb.
Being very practical, Kalli and her two sons and their tutor were sitting at the high table, having lessons. Kalli looked up and despite seeing the slave collar, she got up and tapping her eldest son on the shoulder, he also rose and she came around the table to greet their guest.
Before she could say anything, her son, burst out, "Why are you naked. You're much older than me, anů" Kalli snapped, "Forsen." cutting him off in mid-word. He tilted his head back and looked at his mother.
Unhappily, he said, "I'm in trouble, aren't I, Mama?"
"Yes," said Kalli, "Do you know what you did wrong?" He thought for a minute, "I was discourteous, Mama, we hadn't even greeted him, when I started asking question."
"The questions were impolite as well, what you asked is none of your business. If you have a chance to get to know him, then the questions you asked might be all right, but not when you don't even know his name. Do you wish your punishment to be later, in private or here, now."
He bit his lip, thinking, looking at Kith, he saw sympathy on the older boy's face. "Now, I want to get it over with and he should see me being punished, since I was discourteous and impolite to him."
She gave him a little push, "All right, go over to Phyl, for your punishment." When he was standing in front of his tutor, and his cousin, Phyl Senson, he unbuckled his belt and let his short trousers fall to his feet, and stepped out of them. Phyl bent Forsen over his knees and taking a short strap from the table, he gave the boy half a dozen strokes on his bare bottom.
Knowing from experience just what a belt or a strap sounded like on bare flesh, Kith could tell that the strokes weren't very hard, but when Forsen stood up he still had a sore bum, which he was rubbing ruefully.
Kalli said, "Now that you've been punished, and you are aware of what you did wrong, you may leave your trousers off for the rest of the day, unless we receive other guests."
Forsen's face which only had a few tears, lit up and he rubbed the tears off of his face. Kalli explained, to Kith. "He only turned seven last month, and started wearing clothes, but he still prefers to be naked. The reason I'm so strict with Forsen and for that matter Kanen though he's much younger, is that I was Count Wymark's mistress, not his wife, therefore both boys are illegitimate, and unless they have impeccable manners, it could cause problems for them later, so they must learn now."
Kith nodded his understanding, "I am a Bonded Messenger, and I have a message for you from your uncle." He placed his hand on the jeweled bracelet, and in his treble voice, which had an echo of Turc Senson he began to speak 'Dear Kalli, this is your Uncle Turc, I'm in a country called Varryn which is about twelve hundred miles south of where you live. I have been fortunate, at least I hope it's fortunate to discover that before the Count of Wymark died, he was able to get a message off to Varryn, where he banked much of the money that he got out of Camron. His representative here was authorized to hire assassins to kill you and your children. I am sending this message by a Bonded Messenger, they represent a small sect that worships. Flarston, Bonded Messengers will take messages anywhere as long as they are paid the appropriate sum and Flarston approves. When they are carrying a message, they are protected by Flarston personally, the only God I have been able to find who actively intervenes in Lythean life. The other Gods do not object because mostly the Bonded Messengers are confined to Varryn and only rarely travel outside of it. The Messenger has sketches of the three assassins hired to do the job. If you can manage to survive, you should be safe, because I have been informed that the money spent on the assassins has drained the account Count Wymark set up here. Your Loving Uncle Turc Senson' Touching the jewel of his bracelet, to retrieve the sketches, Kith handed them to her.
"My uncle isn't an alarmist, how serious does he think the threat is?" she asked Kith.
"My Lady, we are very expensive messengers. The cost to deliver the message and for the return journey will be almost four thousand golds, and he provided me with an additional two thousand golds for expenses. I would say he regarded it very seriously." Kith said, earnestly.
Kith decided to stay at the castle for a while, but he arranged with Kalli to pay off the carriage. If he stayed close to the children, he could at least give them some protection, since until he returned with the payment to the temple the message wasn't considered delivered and Flarston would warn him if there was any danger. For the first time in his life, he had time to play. He was interested in the model of the castle that had been made by the carpenter, which duplicated the castle in miniature, and he was very amused by the trouble Kalli had in keeping Forsen inside of his short trousers instead of out.
He discovered that though Forsen was beaten quite often, they were fairly light beatings, most noble children were beaten much more often and much harder. He did witness several others, Forsen with an insatiable curiously, seemed incapable of staying out of trouble. Kanen, since he was a couple of years younger was given a bit more leeway, and he seemed more able to stay within the bounds than Forsen did.
He satisfied Forsen's curiosity about why he was naked. That while slavery didn't exist in Camron, there was a treaty between Camron and Varryn, that a citizen of Varryn could bring up to three personal slaves into the country if they were willing to pay twenty percent of their value each year in tax to the Camron crown. He himself was naked because he was a servant of Flarston and when he had gone into the service of the God, his owner had not agreed to give him to the temple as was the custom, but demanded he be paid three thousand golds as Kith's price.
Since he had no owner with him, in fact Kith was not a slave in Camron, and if he chose to stay there he could have removed his slave collar anytime he wished. As a servant of Flarston however, he had to return to Varryn and the collar and his nudity served to remind him that he was still a slave in Varryn, and several other of Varryn's allies, and that he shouldn't start doing things in other countries which would earn him severe punishment in Varryn.
The assassins showed up about a week later, and if Kalli hadn't known they were coming, they could have been very dangerous, and several of the men sent by Kalli to make them quietly disappear, ended up dying themselves. But in the end, though the assassins didn't disappear quite as quietly as Kalli had wanted, they did indeed disappear, and no questions were asked by the Royal bureaucracy. Prince Tamen and the rest of the Royal family considered assassins fair game.
If Count Wymark had still been alive, he would have made his way somehow to Varryn and strangled his agent personally. He had specified, Camron assassins be hired, and the agent, both lazy and greedy had ignored that part of the instructions.
About a week after the assassins disappeared, Turc Senson and his men showed up, They had been trying to follow the assassins, but through no fault of their own had been delayed. Turc was relieved that Kith had delivered the message in plenty of time, and he was aware of why the boy had stayed.
Turc said to the boy, "You can keep the rest of the script that I gave you."
Kith looked up at him seriously, "I can't do that. You made a deal through me, with a Priest of the temple of Flarston, and once made it can't be altered. Even if you had made the deal directly with a priest, not even he could alter it. I can't even return the script for one thousand golds that you gave me. I must return all money received to the Priest in charge of Bonded Messengers. They will arrange for you to receive the money back. But I want to thank you, This trip will pay off almost two thousand golds of my purchase price, and since I completed it successfully, I will be trusted as much as any other Bonded Messenger, so that I should be able to pay the remainder off fairly quickly."
He shook Forsen's hand and was surprised when the boy gave him a quick hug. Forsen said, "How many times do you think I'll get whipped before you get home."
Kith considered it, "At least half a dozen times."
Kalli said dryly, "You can't be going very far then."
She and Turc laughed and Kith giggled, while Forsen looked puzzled. He said goodbye to Kanen last, and being a very demonstrative five year old, he put his arms around Kith's neck and gave him kiss on the cheek. Kith waved at them from the seat of the wagon which Kalli had hired to take him to the nearest port, where he could get in touch with one of the religious orders to turn some of the remaining script into enough money to pay for his passage home by ship.
He put his hand on the glowing jewel of the bracelet and handed the remaining script to the Priest responsible for Bonded Messengers. As soon as the Priest took the script in his hand the jewel stopped glowing and his assignment was over.
He was glad it had ended well for the Wymarks. For the first time in his life he had not been treated like a slave and he was pretty sure he had gained a friend in Forsen. Even most of the Priests of the temple tended to look down on him because of what he was.
He headed to his small room in the temple complex to write a letter to Forsen. Since he had no money to pay for its delivery he would go to the temple of the Mother-Goddess to ask for it to be delivered. Eventually it would reach Forsen. If he answered, he would know he had a friend.