Chapter 1: Nine Odious YearsEdit
Normally, the stillness of the Oxyrhynchus desert in the twilight hours was a sort of sanctuary for Fiona; she enjoyed taking walks by the heaps of discarded papyrus, but tonight was different. Earlier that evening, she had been asked by her old friend to meet there that night. The message sounded urgent, but her friend was nowhere to be found.
Fiona sat down on a mass of papyrus to wait for her colleague. She gazed anxiously over the vast fields of wasted documents. With no warning, a nameless girl stood next to her. Her raven-black hair fell limply around her pale, gaunt, twelve-year-old face.
“You’re overdue.” The girl said.
“Overdue?” Fiona repeated. She barely had time to ponder that word before unknown girl kneed Fiona in her stomach.
Fiona awoke from the nauseating dream with a start, returning to the cruel reality of her life as a slave working for Selithiel Volfec, the most powerful ex-governmental man in all of Chor, and a well respected figure in the scientific community.
All of the people in his city had to scrape whatever they could together in order to survive while he sat at the top of the county seat. If you couldn’t pay your debts, there was the option of slavery. You’d be submitted to Selithiel Volfec, the head slave trader, he’d send you to work for someone, and after that you’re their possession entirely. Fiona served under two masters in general. There was the heartless and mysterious khatajeff, who was the head of food preparation and janitorial affairs, and then there was the kindhearted Shari, manufacturer of weaponry for the nation.
Today, Fiona was to work for Khatajeff, evident by her rude awakening from him.
“We’re repeating our work in the kitchen today.” Khatajeff told Fiona. “I’ll start you working in ten minutes. That gives you sufficient time to eat breakfast.”
“Yes, Khatajeff!” Fiona replied, wide awake. As she waited for Khatajeff to leave the room, she realized that she was the only one left in the room. Everyone else in the slave’s quarters had gone out to their duties already. Fiona jumped out of her bed and ran into one of the washing rooms. She didn't have enough time to bathe, but at least she would be able to wash up before beginning her day. To her dismay, the handle was taken off the water pump. Upon seeing this, Fiona went to the next washing room, only to find the same thing, so she gave up and headed straight to the kitchen.
Fiona arrived in the kitchen a few minutes later. For breakfast, there were laid out several pastry rolls, apples, and salmon. Fiona took only a pastry roll and two apples; she couldn't stand the taste of fish, especially when they appeared to be cooked in the medievalist fashion used in this kitchen, the spices and dressing emited a foul smell that only made Fiona sicker.
All of the seats in the kitchen were taken, so she sat on the floor to eat her food. As she sat, she watched a group of slaves striking their eating utensils against some rocks and watching the sparks emit from the metal with intense fascination.
She was soon approached by her long-time friend, Katherine. “So, you’ve made up your mind?” She asked Fiona.
“No, I don’t think I’m going to do it.” replied Fiona.
“Why not?” whispered Katherine.
“there’s too much risk, and besides, it’s stealing.” Fiona said.
“since when did you regard morality?” Katherine asked Fiona. “This is our one chance to get what we dese—”
“Voice down.” Fiona interrupted. Katherine looked over her shoulder and saw Khatajeff approaching.
“You finished eating?” he asked her.
“Uuuh, yes” she lied, she didn’t want to keep him waiting any longer.
“Good. Today, Selithiel has asked that you polish the floors to his anti-moneystorage. You know where that is, right?” asked Khatajeff
“No.” Fiona replied.
“Then,” he paused. “get the supplies supplies from the closet, enough for three people, and come back here, and hurry, we have about Ten Million more jobs to get done.”
“Yes, khatajeff.” She told him, and went off to her duty, because when khatajeff told you to do something, you’d better get it done.
“mmm, taste yummy.” she heard a slave mutter as he took a bite of the salmon. This put a pit in her stomach as she left.
The cleaning supplies were only a flight of stairs away from the kitchen; Fiona had barely finished eating her roll when she arrived at the supply room. There was an unfamiliar slave blocking the door. He looked worn-out and exhausted, his clothes were very dusty and his black hair was disheveled.
“What do you want?” he asked Fiona.
“I need supplies.” Fiona said while trying to remain calm.
“Supplies, huh? For what? Are you one of the ones who sits around and does hardly nothin’ while we sweat blood in the shops while the bosses look away?” he asked bitterly.
“Yes, but that’s not for me to decide, if you have a complaint with it, why don’t you take it up with khatajeff, and he can go to your supervisor and maybe they can resolve something for you.” Fiona remarked. The slave was dumbstruck by her remark. Immediately backing down, he trotted furiously past her, pushing her aside. Not wanting to start anything, Fiona got to her feet, brushed the dust off her pants and opened the closet door.
The supply closet was littered with huge piles of copper bars and handles.
“What is-” Fiona began.
“I had no other place to put those,” said the dirty slave Fiona thought had walked out. “but hey, maybe you can clean out that closet, since it’s your job.”
He maliciously walked away from Fiona. He obviously expected Fiona set the handle bars into more organized stacks, but that was for some other Messiah to redeem. Instead, Fiona edged around the steel handles and tried to find what she needed.
What are all these rods doing here anyway? Fiona thought in frustration. She examined them more closely. Each one had a ring on it that looked as though it was supposed to be attached to something. Closer examination made Fiona realize that she had been tripped up by the seventy missing handles to the water pumps. At this point, Fiona didn’t really want to know what they were doing there; she just wanted them out of the way. She immediately began clearing a trail for her to walk through. It wasn’t really much of an organized stack, just a cluttered pile of handles leaning against the open door, but they were still out of the way, enabling Fiona to find the scrubber, water bucket, a pump handle, and the polisher she was looking for. Once she obtained her supplies, she left of the room, dodging around the task of closing the door, which was the only think keeping the pile of junk from collapsing.
With the handle in her hand, Fiona now had access to city’s water, but first, she had to report to Khatajeff. When she got back to the kitchen, Khatajeff was nowhere in sight. Fiona sat down on one of the wooden chairs and awaited his arrival.
The working slaves around Fiona had put up a show of brilliance by gathering barrels of snow from outside and putting it in iron pails. They were now starting fires to melt the snow with, with no avail. Pitying their misfortune, Fiona went to the water tap and tried to attach the handle to the pump. Unfortunately, the handle wouldn’t fit over the slot. Fiona examined the handle and noticed that the attachment point of the handle was a hexagon, and the corresponding point of the pump was a pentagon.
“Is that our tap?” A startling voice called, causing Fiona to almost lose hold of the handle. Fiona turned around and saw a young blonde girl, about her age.
“Yes.” Fiona muttered. Not theirs specifically, but it still was a tap.
“So we’re gathering snow for nothing?” she asked Fiona, their conversation now attracting more eyes and ears.
“This won’t fit,” Said Fiona. “I think I-“ she was cut off as the kitchen door burst open. Khatajeff walked in carrying two five-gallon barrels of snow, his face darkened by the hood of his coat.
“I have to go.” She told the nameless slave.
“When you have the chance, get us a good tap.” the slave told Fiona, but Fiona didn't heed her words, as she knew Khatajeff was expecting her.
“Khatajeff.” Fiona called out to him.
“Yes?” he asked, and then realized it was Fiona. “You have the things you need?” He asked coldly.
“yes.” Fiona told him.
“Wait for us to melt the snow.” He commanded. He removed his coat and hung it on the handle to the door.
It’s amazing how much taking off the coat subtracts from his overall figure, thought Fiona.
Khatajeff then proceeded to start another fire up for the snow. After two attempts, they had enough heat for all of the pails. After accomplishing his goal, Khatajeff beckoned Fiona over and filled her pail with water. As she neared the wall with the stoves, she found that the section of the room was well-heated to a point which she was hardly able to stand the heat. After handing Fiona her pail, he filled two more for the others and madethem carry their supplies off to a very dirty room consisting of a vault and several locked doors.
“Man, talk about dirty money.” One of the fellow workers muttered.
“Eh, dirty money.” Said another. “Good one, Giles.”
“Thanks.” Giles responded. “Now let’s get going, Aquol. Don’t stop polishing, not even if it begs for mercy. Not even if your hands get cut up from all of the scraping. Am I right, Ms. Fud?”
Fiona left them to their conversation and began scrubbing.
“Not going to say anything?” Giles asked. Fiona then realized that She was ms. Fud. “I didn’t know you were talking to me.” Said Fiona.
“That’s fine, didn’t expect you to.” Said Aquol. “I do want to <know> your name, though.”
“Fiona, eh. Sounds familiar, are you acquainted with Katherine?” Aquol asked her.
“Yes, how do you know Katherine?”
“Eh, lets get working shall we?” Aquol told Fiona.
“yes,” Fiona muttered disappointedly as she walked near a statue with her water and cloth. There was silence for a few seconds, until Giles broke it by saying loudly: “That doesn’t mean we have to be quiet, we can talk while working. I mean, what’s teh point of working together if we’re going to stay in silence. Aquol, you’ve anyting to say?” Giles beckoned toward Aquol as though he were doing some sort of performance.
“eh, nothing special.” Said Aquol.
“How about you?” Giles asked Fiona.
“No.” Fiona responded in annoyance.
“I have the most boring friends ever.” Giles muttered to himself, as nobody was even listening. Fiona was too busy working with one ofthe two statues. She quickly washed the dust off it until the details of its marble face were visible. Fiona then turned to the other side and washed the back of his gnarled hair. Here, she noticed a mistake in the carving. Rather than have the hair grow out of the top of his head, like real hair does, the hair stuck straight out the back of his neck in a prothetelous angle.
“Weird, huh?” a voice called from behind Fiona that made her stomach leap up to her throat. Fiona whirled around and saw Giles standing behind her. “It’s like they just didn’t care, the sculptors, I mean. Anyway, enough talk, back to work.”
Fiona wished he really meant that, but he didn’t, or at least not all of it. For the remainder of the time, Giles was either wholly devoted to talking or wholly devoted to working. There was no gray with him and by the time they finished, Giles had already covered the topics of the factory, pyrotechnics, milk, chemical manufacturing, women, and Swine Flu, with Aquol adding his ‘I see’s and nods of approval every once in a while. Fiona wasn’t sure if he was actually listening or not, but it was driving Fiona insane. She wadn’t sure she’d ever make it through this annoyingly tedious task.
When they finally did finish this annoyingly tedious task, the room was covered in a beautiful ashiest tint. The statues now shined with life they never knew, and the bank vaults now gleamed with wealth in more <ways> than one.
“Fiona,” Giles called out. Fiona turned her head in response. “Vincent Volfec says thanks.” He told her as he beckoned toward one of the shoulder-up statues. The marble statue gazed at Fiona with an empty look in his marble eyes that gave it a blank face. It was strange, for unlike the other statue, the artist put his time into this one, but it didn’t look like he put his emotion. Either that or the statue’s luster just faded with time. “Is that Selithiel’s daddy?” Giles asked.
“Granddaddy, I think.” Said Aquol.
“Let’s just get out of here.” Said Fiona, feeling as though she had just swallowed a roasted salmon whole.
“F—Fine.” Giles muttered boredly. “You’re not as fun as Katherine, know taht?” he told Fiona, sounding as though he had become intoxicated. Fiona ignored this and gathered the supplies.
“You two going to help put these in the kitchen?” Fiona asked.
“Oh, yes.” Said Giles.
“Eh, we might as well bring them to the kitchen.”
“You’re right.” Said Giles.
They each gathered their supplies and went to the kitchen where they were met with the chaotic lunchtime masses.
“Man, I hate tihs.” Said Giles.
“Me too.” Agreed Aquol. “Why don’t they get a line of people? They’d get more done that way.”
“But that would make it unfair for the people who got here late.” Said Giles.
“Guess that’s right.” Aquol agreed.
“Of course the way they’re doing it now makes it unfair for the little guys.” Said Giles.
“Good Point.” Aquol replied.
“I think they should hand out numbers at random and base the line off of that.” Giles suggested.
“You’re right.” Said Aquol.
“Always am.” Giles complimented himself.
At this point, Fiona lost interest in the conversation and went to the mob of ravenous slaves. As she neared the table, the smell of the spices used in the cooking permeated Fiona’s nasal passages. It was something like a combination of licorice and cloves. With this scent in the air, Fiona began wondering just what was being served, so she went into aggression mode and cut her way through the selfish crowd. Her efforts were useless, as she was thrown to the ground like a useless item.
She was relieved; however that she toppled onto someone else, rather than hitting against the stone floor. Fiona got to her feet and ran into the crowd like a wild cat rinninf roer after its prey. Like vefowe, she hjad np luicj making ot theoivj, as rht overwhelming tsunbani of people submerfer jer. She tried top nack out, but the disorganized mass onlo trapped her. Fiona began to panic now, desperately trying to clear a path to the kitchen tables. She thern felt a sudden tug on her shirt ansd was pulled out by someone. When she regained her senses, she sawq thw friendly face of Katherine.
“you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.” She said with a stern look in her eye. She raised her voice and barked at the crowf: “All right, everyone, listen up!” She was met with little reaction from the crowd, so thid time, she gave a loud, shrill, whistle that made fiona’s ears start ringing. This got the response she desired.
“now listen up, you fellows aren’t getting anywhere like that!”
“Then how do you say we do it?” she was asked by a teenage boy in the crowd.
“A nice orderly line, just like you do when Khatajeff’s here.” She told him.
Upon hearing this, the slave laughed obnoxiously, stirring up more laughter among the rest. It was quite idiotic, actually. This one must have been the ring leader, but not for much longer, judging by the look on Katherine’s face. She walked up to the slave and stared at him. His laughter eroded quickly as Katherine grabbed the collar of his shirt, just as she had done to Fiona before. The boy was forcibly dragged from the kitchen and thrown into the dining room.
“Quite an obnoxious fellow.” she muttered as she turned around, now installing a sense of submission into everyone around her. She walked toward the crowd and selected a small child from the back of the crowd.