Chasa; a Remembrance and an Introduction
Chasa: A remembrance of Vek du Hendrake
In a dark twisty way of Chaos was a slave market called The Remainders.
The building sits high upon a hill surrounded by a vast rocky land, here forested, here desolate. The angles, towers, and walls hinted that it was once a colorful and mighty hall; a remnant of a once great house of Chaos that had first fallen on hard times and then fallen from the memory of the denizens of the dark land. The domain spread out black and green under the turning colors of the Chaos sky for miles and miles and changed from forests and rocky vales to splotches of seas, boiling with lava, flowing from the surrounding stuff of chaos. Trails and paths and rocky roads faded into being to link to the broken land. Travelers, merchants and the doomed came down these trails to the carnival of hell and the slave pens of the once proud Way.
Surrounding the building were campsites of merchants and traders, stock and pens, animals and creatures, lords, warrior guards and customers of every description. The trade of the Remainders was constant but certain items only came up for sale on rare occasion. As I scrawl this remembrance I am reminded of such a time.
If one came to the Remainders on a normal working turning one would first meet the stench of the stock. The smell would betray the merchandise.
Sometimes it was a thick smell, the hardened sweat of the warrior trained. On those turns the stock was muscled, armored, even armed creatures of war. Men, women, beasts, and demons, trained to the sport of death. There among the drab pavilions were sandy pits where the arts of death were displayed, if not finalized, and the skill of the slaves were shown. Some were meant for the gladiatorial games, great and small. Warriors were bought for the games to strive for victory and perhaps even honor while others were bought to fill the cairns of dead that the great ascended. Some were meant as household guards, or merchant protection. These lucky few might live long comfortable lives punctuated by sudden violence. But such was their livelihood. Some of the warrior slaves would fill niches of unknown diversity.
I once feared that I might find myself on the block on a warrior's sale day.
Sometime the air was sweet with the perfume of the dancing girls and boys raised in luxury or stolen from shadow to be sold as playthings. These creatures were dressed, undressed, or displayed to show the attributes most pleasing the the eyes of the Chaosians seeking to use such stock. Many of those sold on those turnings would live long lives of comfort as long as they performed the dances and depravities that are abundant amongst the elite. Some would think they lived lives of luxury till they learned despairingly that the tastes of the elite sometimes included cruelty.
Some days the stock and trade, both animals and sentients gave off the foreknowledge of death. These days provided meat for the cooks, rats for the snakes, sheeps for the lions, and men for the dragons. In the circle of life, even in chaos, every living thing is food for something else. My deepest fear was being brought to such a place on such a business day.
But the day I am remembering was a dry day and the scent in the air was one hard to define. It smelt of parchment and flour and paint and crisp noises.
I had been traveling at the time, as was my manner, to see what could be seen and to stretch the limits of my own leash. I had spent time in shadow and found many delights and interests to broaden my mind. I had begun my study of sorcery and my exposures to the Logrus and had come to suspect I was not to be killed outright if I returned to Chaos. I had been given a medallion showing I was of the blood of House Hendrake and not a possession of it.
Yet I knew that too long away would breed suspicion. So on a dark day, I found a dark path that led me to the Remainders on a Servants Day.
Servants Day was a turning when the stock was scholarly. Here were found tutors for the elite's children in innumerable arts and science. Books and scrolls were in abundance as the slaves proved their literacy and their penmanship. Calligraphers were always needed by Great Houses and they went for high prices. Scholars and philosophers were easy to find, and came from shadows far and wide.
There were markets for nannies and governesses, boys companions and girls confidants. These were the constant companions of the young and as such were praised for their skills and temperament. Houses must trust such servants with precious charges so they looked for the best flesh the market could bear. Such stock often came to the Remainders by choice, or believed they came by choice coming, often from such positions in shadow, lured or stolen. Another area was a place for specialists. Here could be found talented stock in many professions. Falconers, dog handlers, horseman, painters, builders, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, gem-cutters, masons, woodsman, foresters and gardeners could be found. Florists, and perfumers, painters and muralists. Cooks for the servants, chefs for the elites. Specialties beyond description.
In another place were performers. Actors, jugglers, musicians of every stripe. The scents here was face paint and perfume. There were carpenters in the stage trade. Colorists that worked with light and illusion. Singers that shamed the songbirds. Actors reciting monologues to lure rich patrons to their craft. Minstrels, and musicians and bards from the length of shadow came here seeking fine stages but found that a slaves collar was often the first step to greatness in Chaos. This last I knew as well.
In this place I took rest. I listened to the music while tasting something made by a chef-slave I had past. A pineapple bacon skewer with delightful overtones of cinnamon and bourbon. Suddenly heard a light riff. A running soft guitar strain with hints of Spanish jazz. I could detect a Cajun bass line, rising, falling under a spirited, but muted sound. I wandered over and saw a gaunt man sitting dejectedly against a broken wall. He strummed a 18 string guitar that was not quite what I expected but it sounded light and clear. His fingers played deftly over the crowded body. He played the frets like a typist, quickly striking, holding, moving.
A green-skinned horror walked to me with a look of disgust. My road-stained clothes and worn human features must have made me look like something more likely being sold this day then someone buying. Not that I had any intention to buy, slaving was not a thing I approved of.
“Move on, pinkskin, or I'll have my guards flay yours skin black and then flay your master's for letting you loose” The horror yelled at me menacingly.
Standing, startled slightly, staring at the creature, I bowed my head slightly in feigned submission before speaking.
“By all means do so. I shall inform my master to expect you to apply the whip to him. “ Drawing my family medallion and showing it to him from my palm, I said “I shall tell my master Lord Azor Hades du Hendrake, the Duke of Cardiff, that you will attend to his torment directly. Who shall I say is threatening him?”
His green skin paled to a pastel the shade of stagnate algae foam. His eyes widened despite his brow not being suited to the experience.
“Ah....sahib...I...I meant no insult, please, accept my humble apologies to your august self. I did not realize... How may I serve you this turning?”
It occurred to me that my threat was as hollow as a flute since I had no idea what the Duke of Cardiff looked like despite my new recognition in his household. But this slave master had no idea if his own life was ending. Such a turn was common in Chaos.
Looking at the musician I saw the years of torment in his crumpled form. The Spanish jazz had been haunted and that was a sound I knew well.
“Tell me about him”
Looking to the musician, he shrank further, fearfully.
“Ah, sahib, this is not a suitable creature for you. He was a musician in the Court of the King of Chaos. A capable enough musician, and a fine bartender as well, but he comes to me from the Hall of Punishments. He offended or dishonored one of the princesses, He fancies himself a comedian. The king took offense and sentenced him. I only have him here now waiting for the next turning when the chefs will be here. Please, sahib, I have much better musicians in my regular stock. I even have a harpist bard from a warrior shadow that would serve a Hendrake hall very well.” Looking to the guitarist, we met eyes. His were forlorn, shorn of hope, knowing he was doomed to the pots. I had once had that look. I had known that despair.
“Are you refusing to sell him to me?”
Stepping back, bowing deeper he said, “No, Sahib, I would give him to you at his stewing price if you will take him. I would make no profit, take a loss in fact, if you would take him thus and not mark me as having insulted the illustrious house of Hendrake”
Digging in my travel pouch I removed a handful of gold coins. Dribbling the coins at the horror's feet, to bounce amongst his clawed feet, I looked to his eyes, a stern look on my own face.
“Is this his stew price?”
Nodding, “yes, a sliver below but it is suitable.”
Dropping a final coin to cover the sliver. 'There. I wont have you claim I cheated you” The horror handed the slave leash to me, and waited till I had walked on with my new possession before bending to collect the coins. Breathing calmer, having escaped the encounter with his life. Bluffs are as dangerous as the slow blade.
Taking my new purchase I found myself at a loss as to what to do with him. I had not intended to buy him. I had no place to take him and no place to leave him. I had a cell of sorts in Hendrake Halls but it was hardly enough room for me. I was embarrassed to own him since I disapproved of the practice in the first place.
He looked at me with an uncertain face. Not a frown, not a smile, just a confusion that matched my own. Handing him the leash, I strode to the trail I had followed into the Remainders. Taking it up and away from the broken land and its sad wares I switched from trail to wispy to trail and soon left the place behind.
Seeking more heavily traveled roads we soon merged with others going here in their on their own errands in Chaos. Coming to a solid place with something of a tavern on it we went in to find a corner away from more local traffic. After taking tall tankards from a waitress and asking for the meal of the day I regarded my man closely for the first time. Thin, even gaunt, I could see tight, even strong muscles in his hands. Dark and stained fingers. Scars.
“So, shall I call you Sahib, Master?”
“No. Call me Vek. I'm not..Lets clear up this now. “
Reaching into my bag I withdrew my money pouch. Removing a few coins to to cover a few meals, I passed the heavy pouch over to him.
“Take this. I'll take you wherever you like. I'm not a slave owner usually. It was.. that creature's manner that pissed me off mainly. Call it an impulse purchase.”
Looking uncertainly at me, with something akin to confused gratitude he went on.
“I certainly appreciate the impulse. I'm certain that I would have made a stringy stew. Of course it would have been harder on my musical career. Frankly, I have no place to go. Anyplace out of Chaos would be delightful. By the way, I'm Chasa Birbiglia. I’d say your humble servant if you were inclined to have me such. If not, from wherever you can leave me will be fine.”
“Vek du Hendrake. I am afraid I don't really have anyplace to go either. I'm trying to avoid attention myself. I'm hoping your former owner doesn't go running to the Hall of Punishments to register your sale with them. I'm not sure of the procedure.”
Chasa chuckled. “They don't care. One does not argue with the food. Just keep me away from Theldane.”
“You dishonored a Princesses of Chaos? That should take some doing I would think.” I asked.
“Its easier then one might imagine. She took offense at my sense of humor. How was I to know her animal form was a bear? She told her father something else. I'm lucky he didn't kill me outright. I'm lucky he didn't make me into stew himself. I've heard he cooks. “ I laughed at the thought of the king of Chaos at the stove. “Well, Chasa. I spent some time at a place in shadow that I liked a great deal. The air is warm, the water is clean and the sky a bright light purple. Its a sailing place. Why don't we go there for a bit and see what we find? That pouch would do you well there.”
Weighing the pouch in his hand, “Lead on, sahib, this should do us both well.”
Smiling at the gaunt musician, "Chasa, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."