A Slave to the Servants Ch. 35


I did note that every family from the camp seemed to have one or two families that followed them. My assumption was that the men's education had been delegated to different families. Everyone was going to help.

The freed slaves were in a state when I reached them. Perhaps sixty confused women trembled on several transports. I could see all the different species of "slaves" I knew about and two others. The men had managed to wrap them all in some sort of warm clothing, so I knew they'd tried to keep them comfortable. The women still shivered in fear.

The men with them seemed frustrated and exasperated. They were trying to coax them off and the freed slaves wouldn't move.

"Friends," I called out to them, "look at me."

Every set of eyes raised to me and I saw the shock in their faces.

"My name is Ciara, I was a slave like you. The men from these mountains have freed you. You are not slaves here. No one is going to hurt you. We will never allow you to be enslaved again."

The men that had been with them all disappeared quickly by bounding into the main camp, which irritated me. They had obviously been annoyed with babysitting these women, but Rose and I would need help. Two of us couldn't tend to them by ourselves; it would take forever.

The freed slaves needed to be calmed down before we went anywhere. I tried to relax them by explaining what had happened and where they were now. It didn't seem that I was making much progress.

My efforts were cut off when a large Paterian woman landed beside me and another behind me. Several of the freed slaves screamed and I saw the terror in their faces. I was irritated with the women until I turned and looked at them. I'd never been so glad to see Hannah and Ra in my life.

"Baby Girl!" I cried throwing my arms around Hannah's waist. "I'm so glad to see you! I worried about you both."

Hannah looked worse for the wear. Her arms were cut up and she had a deep, healing gash on her side. The smooth, human looking skin on her face was scratched and marked. None of it appeared life threatening, though. Ra stood behind her and I looked her over as well.

"Your birth Sister, Kennedy, how is she?" I asked anxiously. "Her Sisters, were they hurt?"

"They fared better than us, Mama," Ra snorted.

"Kennedy and her Sisters are thinkers, Mama," Hannah said grinning. "We thought we'd have to defend our campmate men. Kennedy knew more about their weapons and thought differently. Ra and I took a beating before we learned to trust the men."

I couldn't stop touching Hannah and evaluating her wounds. She laughed at my concern.

"Mama, we love you and we just wanted to check in. You don't need to worry for us. Kennedy and her Sisters will check in soon. They took a patrol on a wider loop. I told her I'd see you and let you know we were all well."

I smiled with relief at her and saw one of the former slaves step cautiously toward us.

"This is your...child?" the woman asked hesitantly.

"My oldest and her Sister, yes, this is my child," I responded gently, but proudly. Hannah and Ra were a lot to take in.

"I had a boy," the woman said as a tear dropped from her eye. "He was taken from me. I have not seen him in four turns of the moon. I do not know if he survived...this."

I felt horrible for the woman and didn't know what to say. Her boy could be anywhere, dead or alive. My heart ached for her loss. I should have known Hannah would know what to do.

"Can you tell us the name you gave him?" Hannah asked quietly.

The woman looked terrified of my child, but Hannah was asking about her son. She refused to cower away.

"Branden, Mistress," the woman told us.

Ra had a communication pad strapped to her waist. She pulled it loose and started to slide her fingers over the face of it.

"What name did the slavers call you?" she asked the woman.

"Hema, Mistress," the woman answered wrapping her arms around herself.

The other former slaves watched the interaction with interest. As Ra did whatever she was doing Hannah spoke to Hema. My daughter's calm, patient tone distracted from her terrifying visage. She asked Hema, the former slave, not to address Paterian women as Mistress now that she was in the camp. She was free and needed to act like a free woman.

"I am Hannah, born in the T'aran Mountains. This is Ra, my Sister, born in the T'scan Mountains. You are free now and you do not have to be called by the name the slavers gave you. Your free name is yours to use. We will call you whatever name you choose. When free people meet we introduce ourselves the way I just did. Can you tell me your name and where you are from?"

The woman's body literally shook and I knew it was a combination of excitement and fear. What we were telling her seemed too incredible. She was not a weak person, though.

"I am Molly O'Donnell from Dublin, Ireland," she said proudly.

Ra looked up from her work and smiled at Molly.

"He's not far from here and he's well, Molly," she said lowering the pad she had been working on. "One of the other boys in his family was bred by a free man. Those men took them from the compound and they are caring for the young family now. Give us time and we will talk to the Administrators about moving you to their camp or moving those men and the boys here. You will be reunited with your child if you wish to be."

There was a moving picture on the pad and Molly walked right up to Ra to look at it. She covered her mouth and looked at the communicator.

"Their images were recorded when they entered the other camp a day ago," Ra told her. "I know it is not a close picture, but the all the boys in his family appear well. I can narrow the focus a little on this screen, but not much. I see no injuries on any of them."

Molly trembled as she watched her boy enter the other camp. I knew how she felt. She probably thought she'd never see him again.

"He won't know you anymore, Molly," I said sadly looking at the monitor with her. "When you get to him he'll have to relearn you. The women of the mountains, the ones that kept the men, they had a way of wiping out the children's memories. My own boy doesn't know me."

Hannah sighed and laid a hand on my arm. "Mama, you mustn't let that upset you. The hold the slaving women have on the men can be broken. Jonathan will remember and you fretting about it won't do any good. He and his Brothers are tired and very stressed right now. Let them sleep and feel safe in the camp. The truth will come back to them."

I smiled at my oldest. Getting upset would lead to disorder and now was not the time for that. We had to deal with the issues at hand.

Shaking myself out of my gloomy thoughts before they led to depression, I remembered that I was suddenly in charge of all these women and I had no idea what to do with them.

"Thom left us with them," I said motioning to the freed slaves, "but he didn't give us any instructions."

Hannah shook her head and Ra laughed. "The men are in large part still responding to the Great Harmonious Spirit," Ra said. "They forget we don't interact that way. While the men are this way you have to remind them to tell you what they want. Be very direct with them and they will answer you. They will all expect that you already know what their plan is."

I was about to explain that did me no good now when a group of men approached us. Ratru and his Brothers, along with several other families walked up and looked expectantly at me.

"Are you here to help us?" I asked plainly.

The men seemed stunned by the question and Ratru answered. Of course, they were here to help. They were surprised I had not known they were coming to assist.

Our day was planned in detail already. First, we'd be going to get the freed women clothing from the shop and anywhere else we could find clothes that fit them. Next, we would be taking them to the Administrators to remove those horrid bands and explain things. Rooms had been assigned to them and a guard would be posted to protect them from their former owners. There was an organized plan and the men couldn't understand how I wasn't already aware of it.

After all, this had been decided many day cycles in advance.

With a sigh, I encouraged the girls off the transports. I had the shock of my life when one girl pulled away from me and bowed her head. It took a moment to recognize her, Vesa.

Vesa held her right arm close to her body and slid away from me. I heard a mumbled comment from her mouth. It was repeated instructions not to touch Ciara, not to look at Ciara, and not to approach Ciara. My old nemesis appeared like a broken shell of the brave girl she'd been.

"What did they do to you?" I asked sadly as I watched her.

Her friends stayed with her and refused to look at me. When I caught one girl's eyes the terror was undeniable. Whoever had done this had made sure these girls would never interact with me again.

"There are no owners here to hurt you," Rose said softly stepping forward. "You can talk to us without fear. It will be okay..."

Rose tried to approach and they backed off the other side of the transport. Vesa stumbled off and let out a soft cry as she looked up. I got a good look at her face and saw the glazed look in her eyes and the sweat on her face. She was pale and trembling, but different from the rest.

"She's hurt," I told Rose simply. "Something happened and she's been injured."

It took us only a short time to figure it out. Molly had to be the one to talk to her, though. Vesa's arm was broken and had been for days. The wall of the room she'd been in had been hit with a beam while she'd been standing near it.

The Keepers didn't notice the injury when they moved the girls. Things had been too frantic and confused. The free men didn't know enough about humans to recognize it, because she refused to speak to them. Vesa had just been holding her arm and suffering as they traveled.

The rest of the day was an awful mess. Taking Vesa to our Healers resulted in her having a full blown panic attack. They fixed her arm, but her reaction sent the other girls into a tizzy. Just as we got them calmed down, Reed and Hassar came and took their slave bands.

The removal of the horrid slave bands was a disaster. The bands had ensured protection in a dangerous and uncertain world. All the women displayed some level of terror when they were removed. They screamed, begged, and cried; several even tried to run from us. I was sorely tempted to ask Hassar for calming cream for the women, but I knew that would not be acceptable. All we could do was offer them support as we tried to reassure them.

I could see why their prior guardians on the transport had disappeared so quickly.

A few girls started to understand as the day wore on. Molly embraced her freedom and started to help us. A couple began to recognize that the Paterians surrounding them had no desire to control or hurt them. It was just a very slow process.

Ratru and his Brothers, as well as the other men left with us, were unfailingly polite and friendly. They encouraged healthy behavior and started to get some minimal response. It helped even more when one girl's prior owners attempted to approach her. They wanted her back. My campmates literally formed a wall between them and the object of their desire. Freed slaves were not at anyone's mercy in the camp.

Still every little moment seemed to be a drama. The midday meal had been a trial in and of itself. Food was brought to where we were and everyone got a plate and a cup. The girls cried when we asked them to feed themselves. I realized many had refused food and drink on the way here.

They were terrified that we'd give them poisoned food or somehow make them sick. Some thought it was a test by the men who had bought them. Only their owners would know what they could eat. All of them were sure of that. A simple midday meal took forever.

A few times when things seemed quiet for a moment, I would touch the ring on my finger and think of my family. My men and my boys were here in the camp and safe. Despite the stress it was the best day I'd had in a long time.

When I saw several young beaded Paterian women arrive in the early evening, I was surprised. We had the girls sequestered in a secluded room with its own set of lacquered pots. They'd be safe here and we could start to sort out what they wanted to do. Those of us that had dealt with them all day were just exhausted, but I hadn't been sure when reinforcements would arrive.

It had never struck me how dependent slaves were made to feel. The girls were uncomfortable doing anything for themselves. They were used to being absolutely controlled and cared for.

"We take the next shift," one of the beaded women announced as she strode in. She introduced herself as Yahn of the T'aran Mountains and gave us a fanged smile.

I looked back at my charges and then at the Paterian women being sent to tend them. These new faces would terrify the freed slaves. Chewing on my lip I looked back at the beaded woman who had spoken.

"They are very scared," I said hesitantly. "They've always been told women would hurt them. This may frighten them too much."

Yahn didn't seem put off by my statement and looked at the girls now staring at her.

"I owe these females the truth, Ciara," she explained. "In the past, it was my line of breeders that encouraged the horrible slave trade on this world. We have come to understand how wrong we were. Let me help make this right."

Molly was the one who decided me. "Go, Ciara," she said calmly, "we see how far along you are with child. You should rest for a while. It isn't good to be on your feet so much. You and Rose have been good to us all day, so have these men. We don't wish to be a burden."

A few other girls murmured assent and I had to capitulate. I really needed to rest. My feet hurt and my stomach felt crampy. The stress of the last several days had been difficult.

"Tomorrow, come here after your morning meal, if you will relieve my Sisters and me?" Yahn asked and I nodded.

The woman's head quirked at my response and Rose told her, yes, we would be here. Rose explained nodding and the woman seemed interested in the Earth tradition. She asked if one day we could talk more. Yahn and her Sisters would like to learn more about Earth.

Rose and I wearily made our way down the hall. The men that had been helping us seemed ecstatic to leave. They bounded down the hall intent on getting anywhere else.

My connection to my family was strong now that they were home. I'd felt them peripherally all day, they'd been busy outside running a search for invaders and doing some hunting for the camp. Now they were hungry and frankly so was I.

The halls of the camp were alive with men. It was easy to tell free men from men in the compound just by their actions as we walked by. Our campmates greeted us and we welcomed them home. The men the women had been keeping in the compounds and mountains seemed amazed by us and just stared.

The dining hall was absolutely chaotic. There was at least three times the number of men in the camp and they all had to eat. I saw families sitting in the main hall by the fire pits on the ground eating. The tables inside were very crowded. The line for food was enormous. The frustration with all of it evaporated when I saw my little boy standing with his family.

Damien and his Brothers were still dirty and scuffed, but the boys looked liked they'd been scrubbed clean. They each seemed to have a fresh outfit on and their hair was brushed. I assumed the Child Keepers had done that and I was grateful to them. Poor little Jonathan had looked quite unkempt when I'd seen him first. I'd never admit to my men that the Child Keepers were certainly superior with children. I kept that thought to myself.

"You had a difficult day, wife," Kein said as I approached.

"It's better now," I smiled, kissing a cleaner spot on his cheek.

I met each of my husbands with affection and a gentle kiss. It had been so long and I had missed them dearly. Once I was done I looked longingly down at Jonathan and his little family. How I'd love to kiss each of them hello. My desire resonated through Damien and his Brothers before I could reign it in.

Bane's eyebrow rose and Evan knelt by the boys. He explained about kissing again and told them that was how I greeted family. Mycah's family was mine, too, so I'd be greeting them that way.

"Oh, no," I countered waving a hand at Evan, "I don't want to upset them..."

What I really didn't want was to reach for Jonathan and have him back away again. That simple act had cut me deeply. I couldn't stand for it to happen again.

Bane crossed his arms and smirked at me. I heard his thoughts loud and clear. It wasn't something he could say outside the family, because it was too rude. He'd called me a 'shopkeeper'. All those days in Armant's shop had taken my backbone. Kein punched his arm hard as a reprimand for the nasty comment.

My eyes narrowed at Bane for a moment before I leaned over Mycah. I brushed my lips against his cheek and told him I was glad he was here. Each little boy got the same contact and different bit of spoken love.

Jonathan went last and I saw him watch me closely. It took every fiber of my being not to grab him and hold tight. Instead I placed a simple kiss on his cheek as I stroked his hair.

"I'm glad you're home. I've missed you," I said simply before backing away.

My hands were shaking and I clasped them in front of me to stop them. Bane smiled at me as Evan led the boys toward the line for the food. He thought a little encouragement in the family wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"You did good," Damien reassured me.

I wondered how the cooks were feeding everyone. This crowd was much larger than we were used to. Quietly I expressed my concern to Damien as we made it to the rapidly emptying bowls of the buffet.

"Things will be lean for a while," Damien shrugged, loading up Mycah's plate with a normal helping. "We will only take just what we need. There will be enough and none of us will starve."

I watched Damien put food on his own plate in an extremely conservative manner. All my men did that. They fed the boys well and took just enough to sustain their own strength. I frowned at them and found the answer quite shocking.

Growing boys had to eat or they would be stunted, especially young ones. Grown men could go without excess for quite some time . My family would not be harmed, they would just be uncomfortable. The boys would be hurt if they weren't cared for correctly. Children had to be protected at all costs.

As my men gave me their opinion on children, I was surprised. I had not realized they had been talking to the men who were male breeders with children in the camp. They had been training themselves for the day Jonathan and his family returned. Their knowledge about the boys' needs was not an accident.

When I'd seen the little boys all clean and well dressed I'd assumed it was the Child Keepers in the camp that had fixed them up. It had not been. Damien and his Brothers had put water in the pot in our rooms. They had wiped the boys down and found fresh clothes before delivering them to the Child Keepers.

I put some food on my plate and shook my head. Even being bonded to them there were things about them I didn't know. I couldn't rely on the bond and forget to communicate with them, that was obvious.

"Ciara," Kein said in an almost scolding tone, "you are a free woman and I respect you, but that isn't enough of an evening meal for a woman carrying my offspring. Grown men can afford to take less. You are not like us right now."

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