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Chapter 21 – Side Story – Blue’s Escapades I

Ashen’s parent’s marriage is a very strange case.

Her father is royalty, even if he is very far down in the line of succession as the fourth son, and that the next ruler will often come from a generation or two after the current ruler due to the life expectancy of the elves.

Her Mother is primarily known as an outlaw pirate who had great accomplishments, but still a criminal, even if she was pardoned.

The fact that she is still technically a slave is not very well known, but it has already been set in belief by many that she must be a former slave. This is because of the way that her Pirate Fleet operated regarding recruitment.

Blue’s method of recruitment was to go and buy Slaves; generally slaves that were undesirable and cheap, slaves that would make good sailors, and slaves with unusual or special skills.

The latter is important because of how traditional Elven society is; things that are unusual are usually avoided until proven beneficial and adopted at large.

So even obviously (to her mind) valuable slaves would be left to rot because their abilities were avoided, unknown, unwanted, undervalued, not understood, or whose benefit was not yet proven to society at large.

But the biggest part of her recruitment method was how those slaves were bought. Slaves would be bought by both legal and illegal slave merchants. In general, it was illegal to enslave an Elf unless certain conditions were met, the most common being that they were either a criminal, or that they had a large debt that they were not expected to be able to pay off even over a long period of time.

Illegally, there were kidnappings, unwanted children, prostitutes, formerly indentured servants, children of criminals, relations of a disgraced house that had fallen from nobility despite technically only either the person who caused the fall and/or the head of house being legally the only one who could shoulder the blame, and other such circumstances.

Indentured servitude, which was essentially slavery, was where a poor family would sell the rights to their children to nobles where they would be given an undesirable or dangerous job to do with little care for their safety. Unlike a slave, which had value and could be sold or invested in, an indentured servant usually had a contract to pay their family a certain amount of money, and to provide for the servant the basic means of life, and would be for a set period of time (usually from ten years old until thirty years old). As such, they were used for tasks that had a high rate of sickness or injury that would lower the value of a slave, which was seen as an investment rather than a means to an end.

Another form of technically illegal slavery was practiced by the nobility. To ensure that their servants loyalty and silence, there would often be an understanding that they would have a slave seal applied to them to prevent them from betraying the house. It was hoped that the seal would be removed if and when employment ended, though it was not unheard of for such servants to be sold illegally as slaves depending on the circumstances.

Children of slaves are considered slaves themselves, and thus children of servants who have a slave seal, even if it is hidden/secret/illegal would still be considered legal slaves. This was mainly because of affairs of nobles who would take servants as mistresses and wanted to control or deal with the children resulted from an affair. This was done to make the lines of succession clear, and as punishment by the legal wife to the servant who dared interfere with her marriage, even if it was the husband’s betrayal.

Incidentally, because arranged marriages are much more common among the aristocracy, resulting in more frequent cases of incompatible matches, both parties often have lovers or concubines themselves. This behavior gave nobles an ill and tarnished reputation by the rest of society when it came to concepts of loyalty and faithfulness, but their power would overshadow that.

Blue’s recruitment method was to buy a slave, then have them work for the fleet in a training or apprentice phase, depending on their talent level when they were purchased. Once they reached a level of talent where they could be given a role, they would then be paid wages.

These wages, however, would be docked a certain percent. When a certain amount was reached that was roughly equal to the cost of the slaves original purchase, the slave would be taken to a Slave Dealer.

There, with the assistance of other members of the fleet, they would purchase another slave whom would ‘replace’ them.

Their slave seal would then be removed, and they would be given the choice to continue working with the fleet, or to cut their ties and be on their way.

Most of the former slaves would overwhelmingly stay with the organization. It was very difficult to get employment without connections, and most slaves either had no family, or had their familial connections cut off long ago.

If they could find employment, their wages without connections would be low. If it was known that they were a former slave, their wages would be paltry. The wages provided by the fleet were not lofty by any means, but they were far higher than most slaves would be capable of earning on their own without some special skill or talent that made them valuable.

Wages were, though, understood to be highly dependent how the fleet was doing in general as well in their various different enterprises.

Most former slaves would also stay because of the loyalty and camaraderie felt for the fleet that had taken from from the despair of slavery, treated them very well as slaves go, gave them training and skills, then provided them with their freedom in exchange for giving another the opportunity to take that path themselves.

The former slaves were not treated much differently than the current slaves, which was mainly a factor of how well they treated the slaves in generally, but were afforded more freedom, not compelled to do work against their wills, and were given more freedom of choosing the work that they would be able to do with the fleet including more prestigious jobs or positions.

Slaves were, however, still occasionally given highly valued jobs relating to their skills or talent, and rather than being seen as usurpers by the others, were instead seen as respected and valuable talents that had been acquired. This was mainly because of the low literacy and mathematical ability of those who had fallen into slavery, as education was something that was provided by a home tutor by the parents at an early age, by nobles schools when they were maturing, or by apprenticeship of a trade. Otherwise, education had to be slowly gathered through experience of their long lives.

Because of this, often the former servants or children of servants of nobles were valued highly if acquired as they were often more likely to be educated or be familiar with etiquette that was needed for the more public facing enterprises of the Fleet.

Most former servants or children of servants did not come up for sale often because they were usually killed to silence them or prevent another noble family from trying to use them, if they were the child of an affair, to take over a house by fighting for inheritance rights.

One thing that was almost universal among all current or former members of The Fleet, be they slave, former slave, or hired, was an intense loyalty or admiration of Blue Testarossa.

The Fleet’s operations included; Prostitution, Smuggling, High Sea Piracy, Black Market Goods, Front for Selling Stolen Merchandise, Covert Intelligence, Escort Protection, Banditry, Fishing, and Foreign Trade.

The fleet started out as unorganized raiders and bandits.

Blue had been the child slave of a servant mistress of a high noble house that served the Ruler of the country. Her mother saw only her job and duty to serve the house, and was an unenthusiastic mistress. The head of the house, however, was very smitten with her, would not let her refuse, and would try and dote on her to try and win her favor, even if he already had control of her body.

The wife detested the servant, and treated her with disdain whenever she could get away with it, and treated Blue with abuse. But because of the Head’s favor, the wife had to be cautions about the abuse.

Growing up, to get away from the abusive environment as much as he was able to do so, Blue would often sneak away. In doing so, she began playing with other children who would also sneak away from their families to play and do mischief. This included other slave children, but also the sons and daughters of nobility that found their life constricting and would flee their handlers whenever they could to find a breath of freedom.

As such, even though they were associating with slave children, they would often be envious of them and treat them well, without understanding that their freedom was the result of no expectations and the expectation that they would become servants when they were old enough to work.

The playing was done with the tacit approval of the parents, who had done so as well in their youth, as a way to form bonds between nobles of different classes. A slave child might be such now, but if they managed to spark a compatible relationship with another family, they could turn into an unexpected windfall of tying together a relationship between the houses, or a way to control the other houses heirs.

Even the Royal children were allowed to take part in these escapades as a way to make connections with different strata of nobility which would serve them when they grew up and they needed eyes and ears into the different layers of nobility that they themselves could not penetrate and would be on guard against them There would be family servants or guards that would watch over the children from the shadows as well. This, of course, was all unknown to the children at the time, and is only something they would come to realize on their own after they had matured.

As such, it was often a shared cherished memory of childhood that bonded them together.

Amidst all of this came Blue.

Blue was unusual.

She had a large amount of charisma and would captivate all of the children regardless of their status. They would be willing and eager to move as her hands and feet, and did so because of their faith in her as she never abused or took advantage of any of those who came to follow her. By always being aware of their concerns, fears and desires, she would easily garner trust.

Not only that, but she had not just one group of followers in this way. Being particularly clever and agile, she was able to move across the noble districts to the hidden areas where children would gather with ease. As such, she would become a member of, and eventually the defacto leader, of three different groups of noble children, whom were only vaguely aware of each other.

She did all of this by nature, and not by any clear purpose or motive.

That is why everyone was drawn to her.

This did not, obviously, escape the eyes of the servants and guards that watched over the children. And Blue was one of the few observant enough to notice them watching from the shadows. As she approached them and gained their favor, they would begin teaching her their own skills and specialties as well as a matter of course.

She learned sword fighting from the Assistant Knight Captain, Hand to Hand Combat from a Body Guard Maid, Cooking from a trainee cook, scouting and camping from a guard who was a former adventurer, stealth and knife skills from a family spy, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic from a family tutor, and Archery from a former Ranger.

Blue somehow as able to gather an abundance of skills, and master all of them, with ease.

She was the leader of the children, but she was not particularly close with anyone. There was only one who she would confide in, and that was a boy who was the fourth prince of the royal family. She only knew he was related to the royal family, but was very far down, though.

The boy idolized and fell in love with Blue, though she did not understand his affection. Love and affection in that sense was not something she understood. She was treated as the enemy by the wife of the house, and her mother treated her as a cross between a burden and the daughter of a noble that she happened to be taking care of as she was the reminder of her bond/shackle with the lord.

Though missed by the house that she belonged to and her mother served, other servants, and their masters, began to pay more attention to this girl who seemed to be poised to control the next generation of the nobility. There was fear that she, even if she did not directly marry into the royal family, would eventually assume so much control over people that she would become Queen just by merit.

Her talent and charisma was that great.

Plans were made often to eliminate her, but she was protected from the shadows at the same time by the servants who she had befriended.

But, a certain event occurred. Her father fell ill and died suddenly. On a hunting trip, he had broken his leg falling off of his horse, and a blood clot formed in a vein. It detached, and he suffered an aneurysm. With her mother’s protector gone, and the widow’s grief, Blue’s mother was quickly silenced and killed through the use of slave seal. With the chaos of the house, the loss of her mother, and the realization of her fate if she stayed any longer, Blue fled the city.

There was a witness to Blue’s mother’s murder, however.

The fourth prince had had the habit of sneaking over to Ashen’s house. He would try and coax her to play if she was there, under the auspices of leading her to the rest of the group.

If she was not there, he would have talks with Blue’s mother about her.

Because of the talks, her mother’s attitude her had begun to soften over time.

The fourth princes talks with Blue’s Mother, of course, were done in secret since he did not want to reveal himself to the rest of the family and be found out (and sent back home), and she did not want the mistress to know that she had contact with the royalty and to stir up even more resentment.

Thus, they would often meet in a secluded area of the house that was normally under guard. The guard would turn the other way and ignore the two of them, as if he saw nothing.

Soon after the death of Blue’s father, the mistress’s grief and rage ran wild. During a talk with Blue’s mother, the mistress charged over to the area. Hearing the commotion, the guard and Blue’s mother told the prince to hide or to leave quickly.

The Prince did have some talents though. Unlike the other children, he was especially skilled at escaping his guards and getting to places he was not allowed. Unlike Blue, who could do so with ease with her natural agility and strength, the Prince was not very physically fit. Instead, being clever, he was very skilled at picking locks and hiding in shadow. He quickly picked the lock and slipped into the storage shed behind where they would meet while Blue’s mother and the guard panicked at the on coming roar from the mistress as she charged towards their location, and closed the door.

He hid in the back and watched. The mistress charged in, and accosted Blue’s mother.

The guard, fearing what could happen in the altercation, rushed off to get help and to restrain the mistress and left to get a servant to bring the mistress back to her room.

The mistress went off about how Blue’s mother was a filthy whore, and now she finds her attempting to steal the key to the slave seal (that she was coming to retrieve).

Under protests, she tore open the door (not realizing it was unlocked in her anger), unlocked the case with the servant’s slave seal keys, grabbed the key for Blue’s mother and with a look of triumph, ordered her death on the spot.

It is normally impossible to order a slave to do harm or kill themselves. But there were tricks and techniques to work around this problem. The trick was to command the slave to do multiple small actions that would lead to her death. Hands to your throat, stop breathing, swallow your tongue and vomit. All reactions that could be ordered at least temporarily, and all that would do harm. But with all of them together, the slave would choke and strangle themselves to death while they suffocated, a horrible and painful way to die.

The prince watched this in shock as the mother of his most important friend died horribly in front of him with nothing he could do.

With a spit down at the corpse, the mistress walked off triumphant.

The prince stared at Blue’s mother’s face in horror. This, for sure, is the future that awaits Blue. He knew of it. It was only because the mistress was engulfed in triumph that she had forgotten Blue’s key as well. He quickly climbed up, found Blue’s key and fled the scene with stealth and haste. He had to find Blue and warn her.

Blue never heard that warning.

When she returned, the house was in an uproar. The guard spotted her, and grabbed her as fast as she could. He did not allow her to see her mother’s body, but calmly and coolly told her of her mother’s death, and that she must flee at once or she would surely follow. That she could not risk being seen by anyone else in the house.

No goodbyes were allowed. Even what meager possessions she possessed were not allowed to be collected. The guard reached into his coat, and pulled out a purse with all of the money he had on him. He pressed it into Blue’s hand, and told her to flee the capital at once. Get to the countryside. Get to the sea, Leave the country if she could manage it.

It was only a manner of time before the mistress would remember her existence and seal her fate as well. Any venture into the house and she may either run into the mistress or encounter a servant who may speak of her. The slave key was still locked up, and no one would be able to get access to it but the mistress. But if she ran far enough, perhaps there was hope that somehow, the signal of the slave key would not reach her if she could only get as far away as possible.

And thus, Blue Fled.

 

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