Chapter 11:

Chapter IX – Blessed are the guild-members.

His Soul is Marching On to Another World; or, the John Brown Isekai (Fall of the Slave Harem)

“Oh, Mr. Brown? You’re awake.” Shakir had found Brown sitting alone on a stool that sat far away in the corner of the guild building. It was still early in the morning, so early that the sun hadn’t even come out in fact.

“You know, us old folk can’t get much sleep.” Brown had been spending these early hours in prayer while waiting for everyone else to wake up. He planned to go out to the market, to see if there was anything that could help him and Ayomide, once the hour was more suitable.

“You’ve got that right. I haven’t had proper sleep in like, what, ten-twenty years? Not to mention the horrible back pain. Sigh. Oh, how time flies by…” They were having the idlest of conversation, the sort that only old men would be able to have.

“I’m surprised that you’re doing, as far as I’ve been able to tell, such a dangerous job at this age, Mister Shakir.” Brown didn’t fully comprehend what these adventurers were doing, but he had understood that it had something to do with hunting weird beasts akin to the giant onion he saw in the forest.

“Well, you know, I do think that sometimes. But the Adventurer’s Guild the only real way some commoner like me can make a living outside of working the fields.” Shakir took a look at Brown, scanning him. “You’re an otherworlder, right? From Awmereighka. I can tell from your name. Why don’t you join us in adventure? Most otherworlders advance quickly through the ranks with the cheat skills they get when they die.”

“Cheat skill?” Brown stroked his beard with his hand as he thought of what ‘cheat skill’ he could have. “Well, if I do say so myself, I have skills in tanning, herding sheep, grading wool, surveying land and marksmanship, not anything I’d call a ‘cheat skill’ by any means. I’ve all acquired those skills through years of honest work, not through cheating God forbid.”

“Still, your skills in combat aren’t bad. Especially that move of yours with the bar of soap, it was pretty clever. I think we would work as a quartet pretty well.” Shakir extended his hand forward, meaning to shake the hand of Brown. Having an otherworlder in our party would certainly increase our prestige.

Brown refused to shake the man’s hand. “Thank you for the offer, Mr. Shakir, but I’d rather earn my living through honest labor, like tanning and herding, not through being a bounty hunter. Our Maker rewards hard and honest work, you see.”

Shakir looked puzzled and frustrated. “What about our work isn’t honest? We protect the people of the town from monsters, and they pay us in return. I don’t know any work more honest than protecting the lives of people, do you?” Shakir shrugged in a rhetorical manner. “Plus, forget about making your work through craftsmanship in the city. The Adventurer’s Guild of Azdavay isn’t the only guild in this town, the Tanner’s Guild and the Leatherworker’s Guild would be on your tail the moment you tried to encroach on their business. I don’t think you could gain membership for them, being very much an outsider in every way.”

The only experience that Brown had with anything guild-like was his brief stint of being a member of the Freemasons in Ohio as a Master Mason, though the Freemasons were a fraternal organization and not a trade guild like those in Azdavay. He had already grown tired of what he saw as vain and silly ceremonies back in America; Brown truthfully didn’t want to try entering any guild even if he could.

Being unable to sell anything outside the permission of guilds did present a challenge though… It seemed that he’d have to court these adventurers, for a bit, to be able to earn funds. “I’d not have any problems helping you out, as long as you do not involve yourself in unsavory work like catching escaped slaves.”

“Ah? You were angry about that? Well, I don’t really have anything against the slaves, but a man’s gotta eat, you know? Somebody else would take the job if we didn’t do it.”

“Then, we shall not have a deal, ever. ‘Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.’, sir. I believe it’d benefit you to keep this in mind.” Brown didn’t want to, even indirectly, help slaveowners in any manner. He was not a man of compromise in this matter.

Shakir contented with letting out a grumble of disappointment, before excusing himself. “Bunch of bleeding hearts…” He walked out the building, to take in a whiff of fresh air and tobacco.

Brown was not left alone for long, after an hour of lonely prayer a few visitors entered and exited the guild building as daylight slowly returned. Most of them were there to get updates from the receptionist on the quests they had put up, some had come to put up new ones.

“I need someone to slay five hungry wild dogs. No, not wild dogs, hungry wild dogs.”

“Have you still not found my dear boy Rucio?”

“Could you do me a one small favor? I need a piece of red mahogany…”

Brown got up his seat, intending to head outside now that the town had woken up. He had to do shopping, although he had no idea how much he could shop using the meager amount of money he had earned. It’d be useful to find out what (and for how much) was available at the market regardless.

The market wasn’t lively, as it was still early in the morning, providing opportunity for Brown to quickly march around and mentally take note of the prices. Thankfully, the people of this realm predominantly used Western Arabic numerals, making Brown’s job much easier. All of the items on sale were items of food or drink, along with what Brown assumed were small items of religious artwork of some sort like statues, carvings and other bits and bobs.

There wasn’t anything of much interest in the market square, so Brown moved onto browsing the workshops of Azdavay’s artisans that lay alongside the town’s busy streets. He couldn’t avoid bumping into people as he walked.

These artisans, in a pre-industrial economy like Gemeinplatz where goods couldn’t be made and shipped from China or mass-produced in factories, made up the heart of the town’s economy. Since a majority of folk, currently including Brown, were illiterate the artisans hung up signs that visually communicated what they did. Tongs for blacksmiths, hammers for masons, barrels for coopers… Brown again checked the prices as he went by.

Brown learned that the bear fur worn by Ayomide cost something around 100 libra, which would be a great boost to their economic fortune if they could find a way to sell it. Another item of interest for Brown was weaponry, he found that the most advanced form of ranged weaponry on offer were crossbows, the cheapest ones starting from 200 libra.

Eventually Brown stumbled upon a sign that interested him, one that had a crude drawing of a scale and some coins, and he entered the workshop. On the inside of the shop sat innumerable bundles of textile consisting primarily of wool and cotton with a few bundles of shiny silk locked behind a glass showcase. No, this place looked too fancy for what Brown needed. He turned back and left the shop, only to see what he was actually looking for across the street. It was a building, with a sign in front that read (in English, and all the other languages common in Gemeinplatz) “Second Hand”. This was more in line with what he was looking for: somewhere to buy cheap items that’d help him back home.

Upon entrance however, Brown was greeted by something that was clearly not a secondhand but a second hand shop. This ‘second hand’ shop was shaped like an alleyway that extended around 150 feet (50 meters) long. Under this alleyway were cages were laid various people, of all sexes ranging from children to the elderly bound in chains, and a podium of sort at the end of the alleyway where prospective buyers were inspecting their chattel to see if they had any physical problems. Some inspected the teeth, some commanded the slaves to walk to see if they were lame, some inspected their bodies for musculature. A cacophony of screams and shouts, from the frightened slaves and the shop owners berating them with words and whips, could be heard.

It was thus, slavery in its purest form, “the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens against another portion, the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment and hopeless servitude”.

Old John Brown had expected to encounter slavery. He had expected to encounter crimes against humanity. He had not expected these to play out in same fashion.

Brown felt greatly sickened, he’d have personally annihilated every proprietor and customer in that damned building if he had the power to. Seeing similar scenes play out in a completely different realm only steeled his resolve, though his resolve to carry out his divine mission to liberate every man on not-Earth hadn’t died down one bit. Gemeinplatz was a land that was foreign to him; humanity was not foreign. Humanity deserved to be free no matter where it came from.

For now, Brown stood silent as he observed the happenings inside the second hand shop. He had to keep himself for doing anything brash that’d ruin his chances, Providence rewarded those who were patient after all.

“Sir Smith, I think she’d be of use?” And reward Providence did. Brown noticed a name that was of interest to him.

Jacob, who was being presented a group of olive-skinned slaves, replied. “Nah, the skin’s too dark. My customers like them white, not exotic. I need only the best for my café. Gimme something that’s like jade.” Brown recognized him from Ayomide’s accounts of the young man.

“Sorry sir, but Sir Dong came by earlier this morning to buy all the ‘jade-beauties’ as he calls them.” The seller scratched his head, thinking of the ways he could salvage this situation. “We have a new batch coming from Kafkasy next month, would you like to reserve one of them?”

“I’d like to reserve three for picking.” Jacob extended his hand to signal that they had a deal. The seller shook his hand in agreement.

“I’ll be sure to reserve the finest for you, sir. Pleasure doing business with you.” The seller had a pleased smile on his face as he parted with Jacob. Clearly, he had just concluded a very profitable deal.

Jacob left, having concluded his business, and Brown tailed him. He thought that he should begin this emancipation business with a man that he had come to know well through Ayomide. Brown patted his pockets to look for the knife he had acquired from the late Watanabe Generico, to check if he was ready to conduct business if it came to that point.

Brown was pleased to feel his knife in its usual spot, but surprised when he felt a flat object in his other pocket. He took out this foreign object from his pocket, which turned out to be a paper with a message in the Gemeinplatzian language transcribed into the Latin alphabet. It was a bit hard to understand the transcribed language, but Brown was able to eventually understand what was written.