34. Only Pharasma knows
Seven years ago – 29th of Gozran, Sunday
It was the last time I spoke with him. Though I of course did not know it then.
I watched him train with his greatsword, chopping wooden dummies resembling men into bits with easy two-handed strokes. Slaves of Eximedes Horryn worked every day of the year, but Sundays were special. We had spare time.
My brother, the bodyguard, or meat-shield as I called him, always trained on Sundays. Whack. Chop. Slam. He had told me once that if someone slipped past him and killed our sadistic master, he wouldn’t be disappointed because Horryn was dead, but because he had allowed a killer through him. He demanded a lot from himself, just like I did.
“Aye brother,” he called me out without taking his eyes off his oaken opponents. We were twins. Of course he knew I was present. He stopped as another dummy crashed to the ground and brought the wide side of the sword to his shoulder. Despite wearing only loose pants with an old belt and light leather armor over his torso, he was covered in sweat. He worked harder than I did. He said it was because he was less intelligent as I was – he had to make it up somehow.
“Aye”, I replied, and stepped away from the doorframe and inside the training hall. The Horryn estate had several, one for each group of warriors. Despite being slaves, we trained with the hired servants – assassins and bodyguards. The gladiators had their own fighting halls beneath the compound. This was well-lighted, with an open ceiling. Warm Spring sun shot its rays upon us.
“Old Kozov told me you’re leaving the estates tomorrow, to somewhere outside Canorate”, I started, uncertain. My brother just laughed and turned to face me. “Old Kozov has a tongue too loose. The Master will soon cut it out if he’s not wary.”
I nodded. The old slave was an aide to our slavemaster, a paper pusher and administrator who had had the keenest mind. With old age, it had blunted into senility. But that was beside the point.
“Care to tell me what’s it about? Why is he sending you out? He has me, and the other manhunters and assassins at his disposal”, I asked, not covering my perplexity. There was no sense in giving a mission to one of his bodyguards when he had a handful of people trained to operate at the outside. He just smiled carefreely and shrugged. I wasn’t surprised of his answer. Our slavemaster never divulged knowledge of his intentions until it was absolutely necessary. Part of his paranoid tricks.
“Only Pharasma knows, brother”, he said and made me groan. He was a follower of the goddess of Fate and Death, a quirk he had taken during our first years as slaves. It had been his way of coping with our loss. In his heart, he believed the death of Mother and Grandfather had been the will of Pharasma. We often argued heatedly when we discussed whether our captivity was also the will of his goddess. My coping mechanism was my hidden desire for revenge, a lump of hatred that boiled and grew with every passing year within my soul. I did not need gods to grant me strength. I wanted Horryn dead, for what he had done to us. My brother hated him equally, but he wanted to leave his fate to the hands of his goddess. I saw that as neglicence of responsibility and being disrespectful to our family.
I loved my brother unconditionally but by Starfall we had our differences.
The thing we agreed on was that we’d escape together. For weeks, I had felt that day approaching. We were eighteen, full-grown men. It was time to take fate to our own hands and become players instead of pawns.
But a new week began, and Macharius left the estates to his mission, never to return. Instead of relinquishing her control, the Lady of Graves apparently had something special in store for our fates.