I was walking on the golden sea, the sun glaring above me. My lips were cracked and bleeding. My tongue had never felt dryer. I had gotten away, but I was left alone to die. Who knew if I was even walking in the right direction? The bag of water was empty. My hands were stained with the blood of a hunting lion. The food I brought was gone. I felt myself tilt forward, but there was no catching myself. I fell forward into the sand, the heat burning my skin. I felt like I couldn’t move. Then a shadow came upon my face. I tried to look up but my body wouldn’t move.
“Kamilah!” My eyes burst open and I sat up quickly, bringing a dizzy feeling to my head.
“Yes Tabia!” I said, standing up, and putting my bedding back in the closet.
“You were still asleep.” She said gruffly, taking a broom out of a cupboard and handing it to one of the other girls. Tabia was a short and stocky woman who cooked for the master. She was like our mother. She took care of all of us girls.
“Forgive me, Tabia.” I said, lowering my eyes as she passed. She just grunted in response. That had been the fifth time in two weeks I had that dream. Or maybe it was a nightmare? I didn’t know. Everyone was already awake and starting to clean the kitchen. I grabbed a cloth and wiped the table, while another girl came and set bowls down. Tabia came round with a pot and slapped beans on each dish. We were all seated in about five minutes. Tabia took a knife and served the bread, and then we all said our thanks to the gods and ate.
I glanced up at Oseye as I ate. Despite being cursed last night by our master for spilling his wine, she still seemed to live up to her name – happy. She was probably just glad to have a roof and a mat to sleep on, and food to eat. Most of us were. Some slave masters were cruel. They left their slaves in the barn where it was cold, or even the homeless children who had to be thieves to stay alive. We slept in the kitchen, where the oven kept us warm, and since there were a lot of us girls in a small space, we easily huddled together. It tended to be extremely hot in the day and cool at night.
Oseye took the dishes to clean. Tabia started making breakfast for the master and his newest guest. Salia, myself, and four others were going to serve breakfast, so we were sent to clean up. Our master, Lord Grisar, tried to impress every guest he had with his slaves, his lands, his money, and his food. Tabia had a lot of work ahead of her in only a couple hours.
“Who is this guest we are supposed to serve?” Salia asked me as we walked to Grisar’s impressive slave baths. Not that we were allowed to use them unless we were permitted by the guard.
“I don’t know. He only arrived last night.”
“Are you sure it’s a man?” Salia asked. The others giggled. Grisar tended to also have many women guests.
“Maybe he brought a woman with him?” I suggested.
The guard stopped us at the door. “We are to serve the master and his honored guest his breakfast.” Salia said, as we bowed all of our heads and looked at the floor that we would probably be washing later today. They returned their spears to their sides, and we entered the small crowded room with a few buckets and cloths. To the side was water, flowing out one wall into a basin and out a hole in the basin out the other wall. Grisar had hired many inventors during his renovation of his house and they had showed him many interesting ideas. None of which we had actually seen unless they were miniature models and we were in the same room serving the master and his guests.
I wondered what it would be like to be in their sandals. A free woman, maybe even a lady. Their sandals would probably be replaced as soon as they looked a little bit worn. Not like mine; they were worn almost to the soles. Lords and ladies ate as much as they wanted, wore as many pretty things as they had or could buy. I removed my pendant and rings. Everyone wore jewelry to honor the gods, even slaves. When we had finished washing, we had to put on a simple blue kalasiris. By the time all six of us were done with everything we had to go set up the table and get the food ready to serve.
We kept their wine cups full, stood in silence, and pretended we weren’t even there. My mind wandered to a fantasy where I was a lady. I wouldn’t have slaves. Servants sure, but not slaves. Slaves were bought and sold and traded. Servants were free men. I wanted to be free. My mind had wandered so far that Salia had to creep over next to me and nudge me. I looked at her with question in my eyes. She tilted her head towards the master. I frowned. His cup was full. So was the guest’s. I shook my head slightly. I didn’t know what she was nudging me for.
“Well? What’s your name, girl?” The master sounded annoyed. Salia looked at me, he’s talking to you.
I cleared my throat and bowed, “Kamilah, ma- my lord.”
“Interesting.” The master’s guest said, in a voice that sent tingles down my spine.
“We can talk about slaves later, my lord, what we were saying about the high masters, now that’s an interesting topic!” Grisar said, drowning another glass of wine.
“Yes, of course.” The guest murmured. My head was still down, but I could still feel his eyes on me.