Broken & Beaten
The boat creaked and rocked on the ocean waves. Through a slitherous crack a solitary beam of sunlight hit the Drow’s face. His grey skin was blackened now and like charcoal was covered in cracks and fresh scars. Torn and burnt by the beating of the harsh sun and his new ‘masters’. Celdor pushed himself off his stomach and tried to sit up straight. His shoulders seared with pain as the wounds from the ropes tore open again.
Weeks had passed since he arrived on the boat. He wasn’t sure how many. Attempts at keeping track of time had become a redundancy that only caused him more grief. Celdor’s gaze drifted down to the open palms of his sweaty hands. They were once used to create some of the finest leathers and shelters. He was an excellent hunter and a legendary shot with a bow but that was a distant memory. He knew only exhaustion and anguish now. His robes and cloaks were gone, replaced with tattered rags and rope. Everything he knew was gone, as lost to him as he was to the world.
Unwittingly his thoughts wandered to his friends. This only ever caused him more anguish so he stifled them deep. He’d developed a process for this. He would envision a black cloud at the base of his consciousness and at the centre of the cloud was a chain locked chest. He stored his thoughts and memories of his friends here. All their adventures and escapades were locked away. It was the only we could he could survive his current ordeal but every now and then a small flash would jump to the forefront of his mind. This hurt more than his wounds ever did.
There was a loud rattle as the door to the deck opened and a large muscular ork came down. He was clanging chains together, waking the ‘crew’. Celdor hated this ork more than most. His name was Ger-luk and he took particular pleasure in causing pain. “Get up, maggots. It’s your turn now.” More orks carrying chains lumbered down from the deck. The slave quarters were alive with noise and movement now as orks dragged and pulled the various inhabitants into chains and to the upper deck. Ger-Luk stood at Celdor’s cell grinning. His yellowed and wooden teeth visible even in the dusty dark. Cledor didn’t move. He sat there, legs crossed staring at the ugly mess of an ork. Ger-luk, laughing, swung the chains across Celdor’s chest. His body wracked with pain as he was sent clattering into the steel bars. Then he too was dragged to the upper deck.
The sun was blisteringly hot. It beat down on the deck with a voracious need to burn. Celdor’s skin flashed all over with pain. Pain was a constant on this ship. The drow looked around hoping to see something, anything but all he saw was what he always saw. The horizon. The vague line where the ocean met the sky. That was the moment, the one moment of each day where he allowed himself a modicum of hope. The moment when he walked up the stairs, just before his eyes acclimatised themselves, before he saw only the sky. He hopes. Hopes that he may see land. For land would mean the potential for escape but alas, as with every other day his hope was dashed as quickly as the moment passed.
Like the others he was attached to both the oars and the other slaves by a series of ropes. These ropes were tied in such a manner that when one person pulled on an oar they all pulled forcing everyone to row in unison. These ropes were coarse and cut through their skin. Enduring this all day and sometimes for days at a time meant the wounds never fully healed. The slaves were beaten and whipped if they dragged. For if one dragged, then they all did. It was said to be the fastest slave transport on the sea but Celdor could say nothing of this for all he saw was the same 2 shades of blue. With burning rope and the bashing beat of the deep drums, pushing them ever onward he knew it may well be.
The sun had long since gone before Celdor was taken back to his cell. He often shared it with at least twenty others but when occasion took him he would stir up what little trouble he could. His energy for any kind of physical altercation had left him long ago but whether he would actually attempt to raise a hand or even just spit, his rebellious streak would shine for the briefest second. This was always futile and ended in a more furious beating, usually from Ger-luk but every now and then they would confine him to his own cell. He actually preferred this but he’d been a ‘good boy’ lately so he was returned to the communal cell.
The slaves were fed daily but not everyone ate. There would be a plate of old meat, rice and mouldy bread thrown into the middle of each cell. Everyone would scramble just for scraps but other slaves weren’t the only contestants for food. There were also giant rats, bigger than most dogs. They would bite and snarl their way through the fighting nest of the starved and beaten. Everything on the boat came with a struggle.
As ever the concept of time eluded the broken drow. He knew it was still dark for he watched the moon through the crack that sun had woken him from. He was trying to focus his mind and meditate but that was also difficult for him now. He was peering through, counting stars so as to lose himself when he saw it. He was exhausted, wretched and perhaps delirious but he was sure he saw what he saw. Through that tiny break in the wood. He saw the blink of a beautiful and golden eye and stared right at him…