Chapter 16:

Chapter XIV – Ye who art freed.

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

73rd of Spring, 5859
Mount Curry, Azdavay / Casamonu

As summer slowly came to Casamonu, so did even more rain. The elevated position of the freemen still kept cool however, and the rain was less of a bother now that there were more hands to do work that could help mitigate the effects of rain.

Hakim and Brown were laboring in the cave during noontime. “Captain, just… yes, right yonder.” It felt surreal, to Hakim and the other observers in the cave, to see a former slave give commands to an otherworlder. The newcomers had been cautious and timid around Brown the first few days, but they had quickly grown relaxed in their interactions with the old man.

Brown had been dragging a freshly cut log that was around his height. He put the log down, and called over Ayomide who was waiting to help them. “Young lady, do your thing.”

Ayomide crouched next to the log, and put her hand over its surface. “[Wind], [Wind], [Wind]…” She scanned over the surface with her hands, drying the log that had been subject to the rain. Thankfully, casting [Wind] was much cheaper compared to disinfecting an old man’s arm, otherwise Ayomide would have ceased living by now.

After the log was dried, it was Hakim’s turn. He was physically the strongest in the group, meaning that it was up to him to cut the logs. He had only been tasked with making the firewood up until now, but Hakim and the others wanted to try something special today. “Now, Tater come help us out if you could. My back isn’t suitable for this job. Just keep this log as straight as possible while Hakim cuts it.”

Tater stood up to hold the log as requested, and Hakim slowly began cutting it into a long plank with his axe. It was a long process that took about half an hour, and the end result was a highly uneven plank that’d cause all other planks to feel shame due to being associated with it.

“This is the best we can do with what we currently have.” Brown seemed content. “A couple more of those, and we can all stop sleeping on the floor.” Sleeping on wood would probably feel much better than sleeping on stone.

Ayomide had another idea. “You know, while we were travelling to Azdavay, there were plenty of bales of straw that were left unattended. I don’t think anyone is going to notice if some straw went missing.”

“Do reckon we can get some of that straw.” Hakim seemed pleased with this idea too. “Could get even more, stuff other than straw.”

Brown didn’t seem all to pleased with the idea of stealing anything from the peasants. Still, the idea of raiding places wasn’t all to displeasing. “I think it’d be better if we didn’t anger the common people of this realm. But your suggestion did give me an idea that I think would be a more reasonable course of action.”

The people in the cave seemed intrigued. “What’d that be, captain?”

“You are all long-time inhabitants of this land, so probably know this better than I do. Are there any farms or plantations, where only slaves are made to work?” The only farming that Brown observed in Gemeinplatz were the peasants and the occasional slave that he saw in the roadside.

Tater raised his hand. “Yes, I been there, in a sugar beet plantation. Made me work as a farmhand, when I was a lil’ kid. Kept me in the shed along with the others. The master then sold me to Jacob.”

“Then instead I think it’s better if we target those sorts of plantations instead of the peasantry. Making an enemy of the people would only make our lives harder, don’t you think?”

Shinasi, who had been tasked with keeping watch from the mouth of the cave, replied. “Eh, we’re going to be looting someone either way, captain. Better to target the peasants who are closer to us. It’s just a bit of straw.”

Brown seemed a bit distraught at Shinasi’s suggestion. “But think of stuff beyond straw, young man. Think of the future, we’ll need the populace to support us if we intend to enact any sort of liberation. ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth’, it is better if we are kind to the meek.”

For everyone in the room except Brown, the prospect of a full-on rebellion or revolution seemed as distant to them as Earth. Ayomide also raised a point that the former slaves had been considering themselves. “Ain’t those peasants lightskins? They’d enslave us like any other if they had the money to, they don’t seem ‘meek’ to me. I think it is more than fair if we take a bit of straw from them.”

Brown seemed offended at Ayomide’s remarks. “Yet, aren’t those peasants meek and oppressed under their lords? Am I not an otherworlder and a ‘lightskin’, am I to enslave you like you say so? Directing your anger and desire for revenge against the peasants, and not those who lead them and crush you and them under their boot, is a grave mistake, young lady. We’re making war on slavery, a system, and not on any men.”

He ended his short yet fervent speech not with Bible quote but a quote from Philip Doddridge’s The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. “He is a barbarian, and deserves not to be called a man, who can look upon the sorrows of his fellow-creatures without drawing out his soul unto them, and wishing, at least, that it were in the power of his hand to help them.”

“I…” Ayomide and the others, while being touched by Brown’s heartfelt speech, weren’t exactly convinced. “I thought we were going to fight the slavers? What’s this about the peasants?”

“Yes, and the peasants live another kind of slavery under their lords. One who lives under a lord, other than the Lord, also lives under a form of slavery in material and in mind. I know not and cannot know what you, or ye, truly fight for, but I myself fight for all of God’s Creation and that Creation includes all of humanity.”

Hakim also intervened in this discussion. “’side from that, we escaped from Azdavay recently. I think they’d be on high alert.” This point seems to have convinced the others more than Brown’s words that no one really got. “It’d be better to attack the plantations. Raise your hands if you wanna go with that.”

Everyone in the room raised their hands, showing that they had come to a consensus after arguing.

“Well then, we’d better get ready gentlemen… and young lady.” Brown was ready to go back to doing his thing (of fighting slavers). “Then I think we better get ourselves armed and ready.” They had been too busy with settling down to the cave and gathering supplies for the newcomers. “We also need to scout out these plantations, and find out where they are.”

“I can help with that.” said Shinasi. “There have been a couple of times where I had to deal with monsters threatening these places. Most of them are somewhere up the Tilia Stream, I vaguely remember where they’re located. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot these plantations.” He raised his spear. “I don’t need to be training much for combat, anyways.”

“I’d like to join you.” Tater stood up and pointed to himself. “Those siddity folk ain’t gonna suspect an adventurer and a darkskin. I can pretend to be your hand.”

“Alright, then Shinasi and Tater shall be on their way to find us a good plantation or two. The rest of us, me, Hakim and Ayomide, should be busy preparing weapons for ourselves and any slaves that we rescue.” Brown was pleased of this arrangement and his team’s initiative. He smiled as he clapped his hands together to signal that they should be getting into action. “Now, let us get ready to fight the Devil with fire!”

It was night, after their big decision. Ayomide was a equally worried and excited, making for a hellish mix that prevented her from catching one wink of sleep. She had decided to get a whiff of fresh air, hoping to calm her nerves.

Ayomide sat on the clifftop, watching the stars. She knew not that they were just giant balls of hydrogen, functioning as giant fusion reactors floating in space. To someone like her, from a pre-industrial society of generic fantasy magnitudes, these bright dots in the sky were a whole lot more mysterious to something mundane like magic or dragons.

She hadn’t had much of a chance to stare at them back when she was stuffed in a shed. Ayomide wanted to stare at the stars as much as she demi-humanly could for the rest of her free life. Perhaps this ‘holy spirit’ of Brown lay on these stars, watching over the old man. That’s the most likely place such a holy spirit would rest, or so thought Ayomide.

“Oh, you’re awake too?” Ayomide turned around to find Shinasi greeting him. She wasn’t too pleased.

“Right…” The old man would probably get mad if she beat up Shinasi like she wanted to. Ayomide calculated that it wasn’t worth it. “What are you doing here, looking for fugitives?”

“That was just a one-time job that the old man, another one who’s not the captain, coerced me into doing. I haven’t actually caught any slaves in my life.”

“You were pretty close to catching one. I was under the bear pelt when you first visited Brown.” added Ayomide sarcastically. “I’d be dead, and you probably wouldn’t care.”

“That’s all a ‘probably’. I didn’t catch anyone and I’m grateful for that.” Shinasi sat down next to Ayomide. “‘Blessed the merciful are, they will obtain mercy too.’, or something like that. That’s something the old man said, anyways. We’re on the same boat now anyways, I don’t think I can ever safely return to Azdavay.” He extended his hand toward Ayomide. “So, truce?”

“Fine… For the sake of the old man.” Ayomide reluctantly shook hands with Shinasi, Awmereighkan style. “There’s something I’ve always been wondering, what got you to help Brown during the uprising?” She had heard all about the uprising in Azdavay already.

Shinasi looked far away as he reminisced. “Well, you see, my mom and dad worked as porters in the Casamonu. We never had anything more than a few libra in my life while all those nobles and merchants they worked for lived in their mansions without breaking any of their backs. I was very young when I kind of realized…” he made a stomping motion to emphasize his point “…that slaves, darkskins and lightskins are all equal under the boots of those higher up than us. My parents weren’t much different than the slaves; they either worked or died, and die they eventually did.”

Ayomide scoffed. “At least you had parents and a few libra to your name.” She did have something serious to add after a moment of deliberation. “Though, I guess we do have common enemies to fight.”

“Well, I didn’t say my situation was exactly the same as yours.” Shinasi paused for a moment, as if gathering courage to speak further. “Oh, and there was something else that inspired me.” Shinasi was playing around with something in his pocket while talking. “While we were walking to Azdavay with Brown, a fugitive came and saved our life when we were ambushed by a weaponnapper. A- And I though she looked pretty beautiful and cool while doing it…” Shinasi took out the object he had been playing with in his pocket: a red ribbon. He looked pretty nervous while he continued to speak. “I- And… I thought that it’d- I’d give her this if I ever saw her again.”

Ayomide tilted her head in confusion. Does he not know that it was me? Why does he look so nervous? She decided to clear up this misunderstanding. “You know, the one-”

“Yeah, yeah… I- What a coincidence it’d be if I ever got to m-meet her again, right?” He laughed in a manner that was obviously fake. Ayomide could easily see the man’s face lose any semblance of composure. “A- Anyways, I- I’ll go to sleep now, goodnight!” Shinasi had lost his cool, Ayomide could easily see the young man’s flushed face in the dark. He finished the sentences with lightning speed and got up to go God-knows-where.

“Wait, you forgot this!” Ayomide now held the ribbon, which Shinasi had dropped in flight. He had already disappeared far away.

…was this an attempt at courtship?

Ayomide had no romantic experience whatsoever, but one didn’t need keen eyes to see the obvious.