Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.

Rating: PG-13 (for adult situations)


Castaways of the Mind
Exile #1
by
Besterette

Besterette@aol.com

 

She emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. Blinded by the light after so many days in the diluted dimness of the underground cells. There had been nothing but shadow there, thin gruel, and the distant sound of the other captives. Everything muted by the numb horror of waiting for this day to approach. Market day. She smiled, bitterly, at the thought of the pleasure those words had once given her, trader's daughter that she was. Market Day meant a new town, new sights, new songs, new foods, new friends, and a bit of coin in her purse. Her choice of the new trinkets at the end of trading, a jar of perfume, a length of patterned cloth... perhaps they had even traded in this city before. It was night when they arrived, but now she could see it was a bazaar like any other, proper shops lining the walls, booth tents in the square. A fountain well at the center, all surrounded by a high, patterned brick wall. She knew it not. They'd been marched through a maze of chaapa'ai, and all was truly lost.

Still, as a leering man with lank, greasy hair shoved her forward and stripped the rough-weave shift she'd been given in place of her proper blouse and skirt from her body, displaying her naked to the crowd, she held enough hope to search the sea of faces for ones familiar to her.

They had been separated in the melee, as the slavers attacked their caravan, her brothers and their trading partner. The only thought that has sustained her through this was the hope that they were free, and had tracked her captors. For she could not be a slave.

Her heart sank as she saw only nameless, faceless strangers as far as the eye could see. She stood, bereft, as the auctioneer displayed her charms before the jeering crowd. Her face burned with shame. "Blonde, hair bright as butter! Eyes of lapis blue, skin like rose petals, see how cream blushes pink? The starting bid on this fine female is ten coppers."

A fat, bald man whose very appearance cried out 'brothel's pander' waved a beringed hand and she shuddered with horror.

"Fifteen coppers," a strong voice called out, and she looked to see her savior, a faint ember of hope nourished in her heart. A hedge-lord, to be sure, but a lord, nonetheless. Eyes as blue as her own locked onto her gaze, and stayed there instead of lewdly dropping to examine her nude body.

He had a round, open face, this lordling, thinning dark hair, and a nose sharp as a blade. Tall, too, and built like a bull. Her trader's eye marked his clothes, finest wool, brown tunic and trews, the tunic emphasized his wide shoulders yet skimmed his thickening waistline as only a garment well-made to his measure would. He pushed his way up through the crowd as the bidding continued, a third voice bringing her price to twenty copper coins. A glimmer of red-brown and pale yellow showed finely wrought embroidered silk oak leaves, a garland trimming the notched neck of his tunic.

She prayed to Hathor that this man would win her, if she must be bought and sold. A house-slave. One man's concubine, if she must, but not to the whoremonger. Perhaps the goddess answered her prayer, for the lord stopped the bidding flat with the offer of "Ten silver." Twice the price any man would pay for a slave... the price of a blooded mare or prize cattle.

The auctioneer quickly accepted the bid, and she found herself led off the platform, redressed in the coarse and baggy shift, leashed with a length of rope knotted around her neck, and presented to her new master. He led her away from the slave sale, weaving through the crowds, past a woman carrying a jug of water on her head, and a man selling peaches from a barrow, and darted into an alley-alcove between a pottery and an herb-wife's shop.

She flinched, but bowed her head submissively, not sure what to expect from this stranger who now owned her, body and soul. It took her a moment to realize that he was untying the leash, and he had spoken to her in the harsh dialect of some of the northern races. For a moment, she felt faint, from the blistering heat of the kiln nearby and the cloying potpourri of scents from the herb-wife, as what he had said registered.

"You okay, carter? They didn't... uh... Do I have to go back and bid on the rest of esgeewan?"

She seized upon the only words she recognized. "I am untouched, my lord. I am a carter, the slavers fell upon our caravan three days' travel from Petru. I was separated from my brothers and our trading partner. O lord, if any one of them remained free, he is surely searching for the others and would pay a ransom," she added hopefully, though she knew they could ill afford to meet the price he'd paid for her.

He merely stared at her for a long moment, with a look she could not read in his eyes, then finally asked, "What is your name? And your brothers'?"

"My name is Samarra. My brothers are Jaq and Daneel, and we trade with Teelik," she told him. He had known her for a carter, a trader, and she hoped he would recognize her eldest brother's name.

"Samarra," he repeated her name, slowly. "Come along."

He led her to the city's bathhouse, and she knew she should fear he meant to have her cleaned, free of sweat and nits before he bedded her, but it would be such a joy to bathe again, after so many days unwashed.

To her surprise, instead of the communal shower room she was used to, she was led to a private room. A great tub full of hot water, lavender scented soap and hair wash, seasponges, and soft towels. Samarra looked at the bath girl in surprise, as she showed her the extra towels, the cosmetics, the straw sandals and lounging robe, and the door that led out to the main swimming bath. Afraid that the girl had somehow misunderstood and would be beaten for it, Samarra protested, but the bath girl just assured her that her master had paid.

She soaked in uncommon luxury, letting herself linger until the water had cooled, admiring the mosaic tile that showed dolphins at play, blue green waves capped with ivory, and brightly colored starfish.

When she at last climbed out, and was drying herself, the bathgirl returned, carrying a bright armload of clothing, topped by a pair of fine leather boots. As the girl laid things out on a pine bench, Samarra saw that she now owned a wardrobe. The leather hiking boots belonged to a traveling outfit. There was also a demurely cut gown of wine red, with sandals. It was this the bathgirl prepared for her to dress in.

There were other pleasures that awaited those who could pay for such pampering. The bathgirl curled her hair with a hot iron, trimmed and filed her nails, and brought out jars and pots of cosmetics. Samarra kohled her eyes, and added a tint of lip-rouge to her mouth. She used no perfume, preferring the clean scent of soap that lingered on her skin.

The bathgirl then led her to a private lounge, and Samarra steeled herself for what was surely to come. She was no blushing maiden, at least, and knew what awaited her. It would be survivable. And perhaps... He seemed kind. A tradeswoman to her heart, she added up the coin that paid for this largesse. Kind, to have a newly bought slave bathed and dressed as a lady of his own class. Either kind or he saw to his own comforts so extravagantly that luxuries fell from his hands like crumbs from his table.

There were reclining couches, and a low table laden with delicacies. Bread and cheese. A flagon of wine and cups. Berries, grapes, and melon. Small cakes. The bathgirl left her. Samarra thought of the thin, watery gruel served in the slave pens, and fell upon the bread and cheese. Nibbling slowly, to savor it and keep from filling her stomach too fast.

Her lord and master caught her with her mouth full. She struggled to chew and swallow, to draw the breath to ask his forgiveness for eating his food, wary of the stranger's unknown temper.

"Eat, eat," he said agreeably, dropping to the other couch and popping a whole frosted almond cake into his own mouth.

She did. The raw edge of her hunger abated, she helped herself to a bit of fruit, then finished with a miniature chocolate confection. While she ate, he poured out two cups of wine. "Tell me about yourself, Samarra," he commanded, laying back and regarding her with curiously intent eyes over the brim of his cup.

He was not ravishing her, and the only reason for such interest in her past that she could imagine was that he meant to ransom her if a free member of her family could be found. So she told him of growing up a trader's daughter, with her brothers. Of traveling from town to town and world to world, selling and buying. Of their father's death of the sweating sickness and their mother's remarriage. Jaq setting out as new head of the family. Meeting the spice merchant Teelik who left his own people's caravan to travel and trade with them.

The horrible night raiders came upon their camp, a night of flames and screaming. Being dragged away. Marching through a maze of chaapa'ai to end up here, at this market. She spoke for what seemed like hours, taking cooling sips to soothe her throat. He listened, and when she was through, he looked into her eyes, and she knew she'd been right. He was kind.

"While you refreshed yourself, I went back to your slavers, seeking news of your brothers and Teelik. This agora is the largest market in the Chain Of Twelve Rings. They had no news of men with those names, but half their troop went in another direction, selling slaves along their way. I'm sorry, Samarra. They are beyond my reach."

She bowed her head, tears prickling at her eyes. Orphaned anew. "Then they are truly lost to me, and I must remain a slave. I thank you, my lord, for making the attempt, and I will serve you loyally and well."

"That's... not what I had in mind," he said slowly. Samarra stared at him.

"I have need of a wife," he paused, measuring his words. "I have no patience for courtship, and the few females of marriageable age on Caidos are prattling airheads." As he spoke, he took a small pouch from his beltpack, unlaced it, and set a pair of golden rings, matched, with green enameled laurel leaves, in a clear space on the table.

Her eyes went wide with disbelief. He continued to regard her, plainly. "My lord, I..." It was too much. A faery tale told to young girls, but goose girls were never really princesses in disguise, and landed lords did not marry trader's daughters. Certainly not enslaved trader's daughters at that.

"I'll take no offense if you refuse me. I treat my people well, and you'll stay under my protection. But I think you'll have a more comfortable life as a free woman and mistress of the household."

It was a dream. She'd gone mad in that slave pen, or between rapes at the brothel, and this was all just a pretty dream. Mistress of a household? A lady? Me?

"Be my wife?"

She wet her lips, and looked at him again. Not the handsomest of men, it was only the kindness and humor that shone in his eyes that transformed him from heavy-jawed brute to desirable man. She found her gaze drawn to his hands. They were large and square, strong, capable hands. Her life was already in those hands, dare she place herself there, willingly? He was totally beyond reason, a nobleman who would buy a slave in seeking a wife, gifting her with freedom and possibilities beyond her ken, instead of accepting some daughter or sister of a neighboring lord and the dowry she brought with her.

She gave the only possible answer, "Yes."

The customs of the Chain Of Twelve Rings were simple. They placed the laurel rings on each others' fingers, as simple as that. Raised from slave to mistress by the weight of an enameled band of gold. Samarra. A married lady. Wife of a lord. Mistress of his household.

The thought kept running through her mind as she returned to the small bath room and changed from her wedding finery into the practical clothes, the long gown and sandals packed into a new leather carryall.

He met her at the street door, also carrying a large pack. "I just have a few things to trade for, and then we can be on our way," he explained.

This agora was indeed a large marketplace, a shame her caravan had never passed through, there were small fortunes being made all around her. While her new husband bargained for ten pounds of coffee, she wandered away a few steps, to a jeweler's at the next stall. Watching him. He bargained fairly, but with an eye for a deal. And he glanced at her once, then returned to his trading, trusting her not to run from him. She admired amber and pearl ear-drops, and a string of pearls, adventurines, and blue glass beads.

She drifted back to her new husband's side, as they agreed on price and arranged for delivery. She noticed he put her on the inside as they walked, so she could browse among the stalls while his bulk shielded her from the jostling press of humanity that shuffled along the walkway. An old-fashioned courtesy she appreciated.

She followed him as he bought rice, cotton cloth, sugar, and other goods. Emboldened by his careful courtesy, she stepped in at a thief of a butcher's, and bargained for better cuts of beef at a lower price. Great Gods, if the man was paying prime rib prices for this dog's meat, he'd been badly in need of a wife indeed.

The butcher gave in with good grace, losing his profit but enjoying the game. Samarra watched her husband carefully for his reaction. Some men would rage, feeling they had been shown up for a fool. But he was merely smiling at her proudly. There were a few more incidentals to buy, a ready-made and secondhand clothing shop where Samarra was allowed to choose a few more items for her hasty trousseau. Blouses, skirts, and riding trews, simple dresses, a pair of sleeping shifts with intricate cutwork and embroidery.

Their packs full, the larger goods purchased to be delivered later, they made their way to the chaapa'ai at the far end of the market.

Samarra took one last look around as he set the control. This agora, this place where her life had changed forever. She let go of her old life as she looked around the bustling marketplace. The loss of her brothers and friend was a raw wound on her heart, but as a married woman with status, there was still a chance to search for them. She shivered for a moment, thinking of what her life would have been like if the whoremonger had won her at auction. That nightmare had not come to pass. By the grace of the gods and the benevolence of the man at her side, she was a free woman again, a landed lady, the wife of...

It had never occurred to her to ask. Events had carried her along like a swift river current.

"My lord husband, by what name may I call you?"

He hesitated, then said, "Robert," and stepped into the shimmering veil of the chapaa'ai and vanished.

Continue on to Exile #2: The Trader Bride...


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