Chapter 2 :: The Slave Caravan
Published: 09-09-04 - Last update: 09-09-04
Comments: J'espère que l'histoire va vous plaire. Bonne lecture et merci de me laisser des reviews ^_^
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The Slave Caravan
I awoke from my sleep when harsh voices called out. Without even thinking I quickly got to my feet and went to stand in line next to the others. As I was standing there I felt as if my mind suddenly woke up. Whoa, wait a minute... What is all this? Where am I? Who are these people?
As the questions surged in my mind, memories of the forest and the lightning bolt came back. But that didn’t explain where I was. Suddenly I remembered the pain I experienced in the free fall environment. I looked at my arm and discovered a design on it. I rubbed it but it didn’t come off. A tattoo ?!? I got no opportunity to wonder any further as the line began moving and the man behind me pushed me forward. I followed the person in front of me, out the damp and dark cell, down equally damp corridors and up a staircase. The line slowed down until I moved only a step at the time. Finally I came to the end of the stairs and gratefully filled my lungs with fresh air. Only to have my breath knocked out of me in shock. A few meters further I saw two men, standing on either side of the line. I wasn’t shocked by the men although I did notice their strange clothes, or lack of it. No what froze me to the spot was the fact that the first man put a heavy metal collar on the woman in front of me while the second man threaded a heavy chain through the collar’s loop. The shock rooted me to my place. I couldn’t move.
What kind of sick joke was this? I tried to cry out but my throat was too dry and only a croak came out. Suddenly I was propelled forward while an angry voice said something I didn’t understand. Loosing my balance I fell on my knees between the two men but before I could react they had already snapped the collar around my neck and pulled the chain through its loop. My hands flew up to my neck to tear the collar off but with no success. When a tug on the chain forced me forward I fought it with all my strength and will. This obviously didn’t please the person in charge because suddenly I heard a voice call out, still in a language I didn’t understand. The men next to the line grabbed me, knocking me down. While one held me down the other took a piece of rope and secured my hands behind my back. That done the man got me to my feet and pushed me to a line of collared people. While my chain was attached to a ring behind an ox wagon I realised that none of the other people had reacted to my scene. No move to help me, no cries of outrage or help, no reaction at all … I looked at them but not one of the ten people chained with me returned my look, in fact they were ignoring me as well as each other. I started looking around when the wagon began moving and I nearly lost my balance. The man beside me helped me regain it but when I thanked him he ignored me again. The pace set by the wagon wasn’t quick but it was steady which allowed to look around. I could see other wagons with people chained to them, armed men walking next to the wagons as well as a few mounted men who were barking orders to the teamsters. The sun was just rising when the slave caravan left the fortified outpost …
The caravan kept moving all day, always at a slow steady pace but never stopping. Every hour one of the guards would take a waterskin out of the wagon and hand it to the nearest slave who drank and passed it on. With my hands tied behind me I couldn’t take the skin nor could I make a sound of protest because of my dry throat. The second time the skin was handed out a woman noted my longing and was kind enough to hold the skin for me. The water restored some life to me and I could finally refocus my thoughts enough to wonder where I was. Observing my travel companions I noticed that they weren’t really clean, but then neither was I. Their clothing was strange: I couldn’t see a single button, zipper or other commonly used item. Observing the guards I could notice that their clothing had a different ‘look’ than what the slaves wore, including myself I noted. I also noticed how few steel or iron objects were used or carried, it was mostly bronze, tin or copper. It wasn’t until the caravan turned on a more heavily used road that I was confounded. There, coming towards us from a camp, was an orderly group of soldiers dressed up as Romans. Their leader stopped the first wagon, asked something and then moved on to the second wagon. When he came to mine I heard him ask in Latin the wagons destination. I knew enough Latin to know he spoke it fluently, there was no trace of accent or hesitation. Suddenly everything fell into place, the clothes, the ox pulled wagons, the language, the soldiers, I had somehow been transported to the Ancient Roman period ! Or else someone was doing a hell of a good job on the reconstruction.
When dusk fell the caravan turned off the road into some sort of fortified camp where a fire was blazing and I could smell something cooking. I was weak with hunger, we all were, as well as very tired. But to my disappointment the caravan didn't stop at the fire or the expected meal. Instead we were led to some sort of walled encampment. At the door our chains were removed from the ring, my hands were untied, and we were herded inside the structure. Just inside the door someone handed me a bowl, a cup and a piece of bread. I went in and found myself a spot to sit and eat. The bowl contained something resembling a vegetable stew, although it wasn’t a lot it stopped my stomach growling for food. The cup had been empty but once inside I saw pitchers circulating. When a boy came to me I found out it held water, clear and cold. I drained two cups before I knew it, but the boy just smiled and filled it up again. When he saw I was no longer parched he moved on to the next person. When my bowl was empty I looked around and followed other people to a door I had not spotted. Inside were big kettles of warm water where I washed the bowl before stacking it on a shelf. Still following other people I found what must be a sleeping room where I found an empty spot, collapsed in two and went strait to sleep.
The following morning was exactly like the day before, stand in line, get attached to a ring and walk all day. Nobody talked much but as the days passed I began picking up words in the language I didn’t recognize as well as refreshing my memory on Latin vocabulary. I tried to talk to my travelling companions but all I could get out of them was their names and their home village, after that they remained silent. However their name as well as the name of their village led me believe they had been captured in Gaul, the ancient name of France. Remembering my History lessons I recalled the Roman expansion as well as Julius Cesar’s conquest of Gaul around 50 BC. Of course the Romans had attacked the Gauls before that, but even if incorrect, I at least had a time reference. Whether my guess on my ‘time travel’ was correct or not I kept trying to remember all I could on the period for the simple fact it kept my mind occupied and I could focus on something else beside my hurting feet.
Although the pace set by the wagons wasn’t a fast one the caravan covered quite some distance each day. A week after leaving the slave camp the caravan arrived at a small town or a very large village. We stayed there for two days, resting, healing blisters and regaining our strength. When we left I noticed that two wagons were missing and when I inquired with a talkative guard I had found, he explained that some of the slaves had been sold, either to the villagers or another slave caravan, and that the wagons would return to the slave camp with supplies. Since he didn’t object to answering my questions I continued. I noticed that although they weren’t looking at the two of us my travelling companions were closely paying attention. The guard explained that this caravan was heading to the nearest Roman town where we were going to be sold to the slave markets. From there it we could go anywhere in the Empire, after all he didn’t know who would buy us. Interested I asked how the price of a slave was determined, whether a slave had rights, if it was possible to become free again, and so on. And so we talked the whole way and my information on this world increased until I thought I would probably be able to survive long enough to find my way home, if there was one.
The next week, after another two villages and three wagons less, the caravan arrived in Massilia, the port town that will later be known as Marseille. We were taken to the slave pens where we had a chance to clean ourselves up a bit before we were taken to the market and divided up in groups of five and sold as a group. From the slave market we were taken along with several other groups to a ship and loaded in the hold. While sitting on the planks of the deck I was wondering where we were sailing to and if I would ever return home, see my parents again, start my medical studies and so on. In the two weeks that had gone by I had been to exhausted and preoccupied to really realise I was far from everything I knew and cared about. Wrapping my arms around my knees I laid my head down and I wept for the first time since it had all started.
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