190 The Madame*
The Madame, as it turned out, was quite the powerful individual on Herguard. It didn't take long among her subordinates to work that out. The gossipy young slave girls primed and pruned and poked at Ebony until she was sure her skin was raw and they'd ripped half the hair from her body. When they were finally done, an old woman, whom from her behaviours Ebony assumed was their physician, assessed the damage to her leg. She barely spoke, only asking Ebony when the injury had occurred. After that was over and done with, she wrapped the leg in a new splint and encouraged Ebony to eat foods good for her bones. Ebony assumed the slave girls around her were taking note of that seeing as Ebony doubted she had a say in what she ate.
Following this, Ebony was taken to a sitting room in a building above ground. A building that appeared to be a part of the massive and grand castle Ebony has seen from the port. The room was tastefully decorated. Even to the point where Ebony questioned whether she was still on Herguard. Surely they wouldn't have the taste or the means to design such a magnificent castle?
It took Ebony only moments to work out that she was very wrong on that point.
The Madame was perhaps a middle-aged woman, but she wore her age better than most. She gave the air of an elegant and refined noble woman, and made sure everything she wore, ate and drank was a symbol of her class. Her mere presence demanded respect in a way even Ebony had never encountered before.
It was a command, not a request. Ebony hobbled over thanks to the crutch the physician had given her to help her walk. She took her seat as gracefully and respectfully as possible in her condition, then she patiently waited to be spoken to.
It was a long moment of silence before the Madame spoke again.
"You've been a slave before," she said, "Were you stolen from your masters or freed?"
Ebony realised then that the manner in which she'd sat, in which she avoided eye contact and kept her head lowered, it was the same manner she'd been taught to adopt as a slave when interacting with superiors. She'd adopted the manner unconsciously now. She hadn't had to adopt it for over four months, and a tinge of disgust at how easily she'd slipped back into it fluttered in her chest.
"Neither, Madame," Ebony spoke softly.
"Oh?" asked the Madame. It was permission to elaborate more than genuine interest.
"My Masters were slaughtered, the man responsible allowed me and a few others to go free," said Ebony.
"Who did you serve before?" asked the Madame.
"My most recent Master was an overseer of the Jerrica Prison Mines," said Ebony.
"Eldovia?" asked the Madame, "You don't look or sound like you are from the South I suppose".
There was silence before she spoke again.
"Well, Ebony, I have been informed that your…friend, though I can only assume lover from what I hear, has brokered a deal with the Slave Master. A foolish thing to do but lovers are fools so we can expect nothing less," said the Madame, "You will heal your leg, and as you heal you will learn what I teach. Given your previous experience I would assume it will not take you long to pick it up. You will not be touched, at least for the time being. However, should the Slave Master grow bored of the deal with your lover, or he fails to keep his end of the bargain, you can guarantee that you will have a regular place in one of my brothels. You have a pretty face, and should you grow out your hair a little more I have no doubt you'll fetch quite a price".
Ebony knew it. She had not been innocent to unwanted sexual advances, but after having been freed she assumed she'd be spared of such things. The only thing working against such advances was the splint on her leg and the crutch under her arm. Some however, would probably consider such things a part of their advantage.
"Is this understood?" asked the Madame, "I'm sure you can guess what is expected of you. You do not appear as stupid as your fool of a lover".
"It is understood, Madame," Ebony replied.
That was the last word that Ebony heard from the Madame before she was taken below ground once more. Her one reprieve the fact that she would not have to service anyone for the time being.
It was not until three days later that Ebony saw Aegin again. And, if the guards and gossipy slave girls she'd been around were to be believed, it was only because he'd threatened to kill a few of the Slave Master's prized warriors should he not be able to see her state.
Ebony had seen Aegin fight before. Of course she had. But never had she seen him quite so…unhinged.
He looked to be like one of those Barbarians she'd heard about on the western continent. He'd been given new clothes, bland and minimalist as they were. Brown cotton pants and a top. His hair had been shaved at the sides again, and though it had been washed, his brown hair was still braided from the crown of his head and down his back.
It had only been three days, so he had yet to gain back the weight he'd lost while stuck in the brig at sea, but he never let any weakness show on his face. Not until he saw her.
She was brought to sit at a table opposite him, both of them chained and held away from each other.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Ebony's eyes skimmed over him, and caught glimpses of the bandages beneath his shirt.
"Are you hurt?"
He sighed, "I'll be fine".
He'd clearly taken her answer that she was okay.
"Are they treating you well?"
"We're slaves, Aegin," Ebony replied, "They're treating us as such".
Aegin sighed, "It won't be for long. We'll find a way. Rassa will come".
"Rassa?" asked Ebony, surprised, "Rassa was drowned and then he disappeared. The only thing that tells us he's alive is the tracking charm, and that line fades and flickers more by the day".
"He'll come, Ebony," said Aegin, determined, "He promised. He promised he wouldn't leave us behind".
Ebony sighed and turned away, then, after a moment, turned back, "Fine. But I hope you don't set yourself on waiting for him. If he was awake, surely he would have gotten to us by now. If not…well, you know better than I what it takes to wake him back up, and if he's at the bottom of the ocean, it'll be a long time before that comes to him".
Aegin sighed, then nodded in agreement, "We stick together. Agreed?"
Ebony nodded, "Agreed. Just…try not to get killed".
Aegin gave a half-smile back, "I may have never spoken of my past, Ebony, but I think we both know a little of what the other has lived through. I'll survive".
There was no promise, but Ebony somehow knew he didn't need it. He would survive this. The question was whether or not they could do it together.