Chapter 36:

Chapter XXXIV – Be swift my hands, to construct them!

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

13th of Summer, 5859
Mount Curry, Casamonu / Azdavay

Clouds. Rain. Even more rain. A torrent of slaves. John Brown. They were all heading down, and down, slowly rolling over the mountains until they found a place to stop and rest. The clouds turned to rain, rain came down and turned into puddles, and slaves rescued themselves and turned into freemen.

Of course, the freemen weren’t returning empty-handed. Brown had, in the day before the arrival of Count Leon’s army, made sure that everything that wasn’t bolted down would be taken back to the cave. It was odd to see so many freemen, in tatters and rags, carrying luxury furniture down to a spot below the cave; old John Brown could’ve switched careers, from abolitionist to shopkeeper, and opened a furniture store with all the stock that he had appropriated (some may call this action “stealing” and “a crime”; Brown would argue that the freemen were just taking back what they were owed with added interest from late payment by the late Sir Algernon).

By the end of this wild evacuation, there wasn’t a soul left who wasn’t tired. The plateau below the cave was filled with soft chairs, thick books, and tired freemen. Tired they were, free they also were. The air felt ever fresher, to the likes of Ekene and Ejike, whom now found themselves in a society not of masters and servants but one of equals. Where the whip cracked no further, inbred ingrates lived no longer, and one was free to loiter and prattle.

The big blue sky, even if it was mostly blocked by clouds, looked vast and nice, yet it also signaled a problem that they all soon would have: rain combined with a lack of shelter. Everything that the freemen had brought over had already been thoroughly drenched in a layer of rainwater.

“Gather around!” Brown clapped his hands to get the attention of the resting men. He added a forced cough to catch further attention. “Ahem!

“What’s with the commotion, old man?” Ayomide was among those who were resting, and she was now forced to get up. She was surprised by how an old man like Brown could still have such a loud voice. It was as if an occult hand had replaced his vocal cords with that of a lion.

“Young lady, cease your idleness and lend an ear, won’t you?” admonished Brown “Idleness is the Devil’s work and all that, I don’t believe I have to make that point once more.”

“Yes, you don’t.” This time the one replying was Shinasi. He himself had been busy carrying all the booze (and food) from the estate’s cellar. “Because you make that point multiple times every day.”

“Young man!” Brown bellowed in greater admonishment. “I wouldn’t have to make that point if you weren’t actively searching for more ways to be idle!” Everyone else seemed ‘idle’ to a man like John Brown. His puritanical work ethic was hard to catch up to for any sane person; the freemen definitely wouldn’t be called ‘idle’ if you were to ask someone else other than old John Brown.

“Calm down, Mister Brown is speaking.” Tubman ended their little spat with this sentence. “You’re only being more idle with your arguments.”

Brown nodded. “You’re right, General Tubman.” He took a deep breath. “There is a time and place for everything.” By now everyone’s attention had drifted, so Brown began with an “Ahem!” to get their attention once more. “We have managed to make a successful retreat from the estate, praise be to the Holy Spirit for guiding us through these turbulent times. I’d like to remind you, that we have not ended anything. No, this is only the beginning of the beginning, and we have only borrowed time until we’ll eventually have to fight once more.”

It was an inevitability that adventurers would soon descend upon these mountains like vultures. Bounties would be put up, rumors would spread, and every downtrodden git looking to make a quick buck would visit Mount Curry. There wasn’t much difference between a monster and a fugitive.

“Which is why I propose we should be quick, quiet and efficient.” Brown took hold of a chair, and raised it on to his shoulders. His old spine protested, but Brown was a protestant against this protest. “Come on now, we should get all of these off the low-ground. We’ll make our refuge up in these mountains, away from prying eyes.”

Seeing the old man begin working was quite effective, a whole lot more effective than his evangelism in fact. Everyone grabbed something or another, and they made their way up the cliff and into safety.

An entire day passed, the freemen busying themselves with evacuating their loot on to higher ground. Their haul was great: Sir Baha had paid his ransom with various tools as Brown had asked, and they were ready to begin construction on a level that was higher than the Stone Age.

“[Wind], [Wind], [Wind]…” Ayomide was tasked with drying wood, as there was no one else who had the ability to cast so much wind magic in a serial fashion. Her days of sitting in the corner of the slave quarter, doing her best to learn how to cast silently, came unexpectedly useful in the field of lumberjacking. “This one’s dry. Tater! You can skip stones later, come here you little brat!”

On Ayomide’s command Tater reluctantly rose up from the ground and took the dried log to the site where a house, if such a building could even be called that, was being erected under Brown’s supervision. He was no stranger to construction, and he had personally surveyed suitable land on the mountains where temporary housing could be constructed. Their population had increased by two dozen or so, meaning that the cave was no more sufficient for housing.

The “housing” itself was quite simple: A few log posts buried to the ground, with even more logs for roofing, reinforced with mud, straw and slime. Brown had noticed how quickly slimes dried up and hardened, which was why making soap from them was possible, so he used it as coating to harden the mud of the houses against the constant rain. He planned on making houses out of brick later, though they’d have to first figure out a more efficient way of firing clay than “putting clay bricks in a covered hole and lighting the hole on fire”.

For the purpose of finding better methods of firing, Baha and his former comrades from the Algernon estate’s copper kilns had gotten to tinkering on that front while the others were busy on construction. They had seen and used kilns a plenty, the problem was that the kilns over at the Algernon estate were larger ones that were constructed out of proper bricks. It wasn’t as easy to adapt such a design when all you had was mud, spit, slime, and no experience in engineering.

Construction in general was quite slow. The freemen were experiences in mining, which was, in a way, the opposite of constructing. Brown’s plans for a more conic design, similar to the ones used by the Native Americans he had observed, failed as the men didn’t have enough experience in construction to reliably construct such a shape without it falling apart. The rain didn’t help either; construction with mud in a rainy climate wasn’t among the greatest of ideas. By the end of the first day, they had managed to construct a half-finished square box.

“Woah, that looks…” Ayomide had come over to inform them that it was lunch time, but she was confronted with a building that looked like it was born as a ruin. “…quite… artistic?” She held her tongue, not wanting to break everyone’s spirits.

“We aren’t making art, young lady.” Brown didn’t look too disappointed. He turned to address the construction crew. “Don’t be dispirited. We are all flawed sinners; it’d be weird if we were constructing masterpieces on the first day. The Lord rewards those who work hard, so let us work hard and be rewarded!”

The men didn’t care much about what the Lord would reward them with, but they did agree that making anything good on the first day was impossible. It was quite odd, after their experience with Sir Algernon, to be led by someone with compassion and (despite what some might think of Brown) common sense.

“No matter what, you people are not going to be working on an empty stomach.” Ayomide was too tired to be motivated. Chanting “[Wind]” countless times had exhausted her greatly. “Come on, Hakim’s gotten something cooked up.”

Nobody was going to object to eating food, so they all went back into the cave where a common area had already been established. The cave now looked quite posh and extravagant as it housed a gold-trimmed dining table with silver cutlery, elaborately carved chairs with silk cushioning, and the finest flatbread baked by master chef Hakim. Coming back to such an environment after busying oneself with mud felt quite odd, though it was a welcome change of pace.

Ayomide jumped onto a chair, groaning in utter ecstasy when she felt herself bury into silk. “My arse has never felt this comfortable…” commented she while closing her eyes.

“Young lady! What did I tell you about such vulgarity?!” Despite Brown’s countless protests, he had been unable to curtail profanity within his camp. Especially words like ‘damn’ or ‘hell’, which meant a whole lot less to the heathens he was now living with. “Such words,” he of course refused to repeat back what Ayomide had just said “are definitely not suitable for a young woman like you to mutter.”

“You’re not my father, old man.” Ayomide gave her usual response.

“I’m thinking of adopting all of you just so you can stop using that excuse.” replied Brown sarcastically. He sat down, having done his duty as a good Christian to warn his fellow men. The construction crew followed, entering in a disorderly line into the cave.

“You’re not having dinner without me, are you?” Shinasi entered the room, having come late as he was busy watching over the periphery. He had not forgotten to bring something to drink for everyone: a small barrel of beer replaced the space in his hands that’d normally carry a shield.

Much to Shinasi’s dismay, Brown had set aside the wine for use during Communion. He had a small Christian community now, with Tubman and Kyauta, and they made sure to gather every seventh day (for there was no such thing as a “Sunday” in Gemeinplatz). Brown, now that their situation was a whole lot less dire and in need of constant daily work to scrape by, had also began observing Sabbath once more as he had regularly did back in the United States where he’d worship all day without pause.

Shinasi set down the barrel, filling a cup for himself, before slowly making his way towards the seat next to Ayomide. He hesitated for a bit, before she patted the empty seat next to him and said “Come on, you were on your legs for the entire day. Why are you so hesitant?” Shinasi took this as an invitation, so he sat down next to her. This made him come face to face with John Brown, who was too busy joining Tubman and Kyauta in prayer to the Lord to notice anything. “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” etc. etc.

With everyone seated came Hakim and Tater, whose hands were full of flatbread and, thanks to the looted pantry of the estate, bowls filled with mashed potatoes. This was quite a plain meal, but it was quite the luxury compared to the scant gruel that they would usually receive as slaves. Spirits were quite high, and the table was filled with lively chatter.

From the despair of chains came the joys of freedom, and freedom was quite enjoyable indeed. Shinasi suddenly raised his cup and shouted. “To liberty!” He had only newly learned of this word, but he had taken quite a liking to it.

“To liberty!”

Countless clay cups clanged together in the far reaches of a mountain in Northern Gemeinplatz.