Not The Tree – part 3 : A Simple World

Posted: October 16, 2014 in Alfar & Duergar, Stories
Tags: , , , , , ,

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‘Better not to over-pledge, as a gift demands a gift’

I was unusually clearheaded when I woke this morning. “My name is… Shining Song?” I whispered. My bed felt like a layer of moss. Where was I ? Alfheim… I’d been journeying to find the World Tree and ended up among the elves. After delicious feasting and delirious dancing, my host Ársalf asked how I was going to repay his hospitality. Having nothing of value, I’d been working off my debt for years.

Sitting up, I looked around. I was in a tiny dark room with smooth-rounded whitish walls and ceiling, light streaming in from under a roughly woven curtain. It had taken me weeks of work to pay for that curtain! Standing, I bumped my head. Right, I had to stoop. Pulling the curtain off its two wooden pegs, I looked out the small round window. The weather was perfect, as always, golden light streaming between the leaves of our tree home. I folded the small woolen cloth, then the larger blanket that had cost two months of work.

Sighing, I swept the pile of dead leaves into a corner with my hands. Why my floor was littered with them, I had no idea. Then I dressed, tying a strip of white cloth around my breasts, a larger square around my waist as a short skirt, and ran fingers through my tangled brown hair. These were all I had here, beside the clay chamber pot and wine-jug.

I went to my door-hole, pulling aside the brightly woven tapestry and stepped into the home proper. It fell back into place behind me, completely hiding the opening.

Master was here in the living room, looking out a large window to the gigantic Tree of Tribes as he painted, wearing what looked like a baby blue bathrobe. “Mulberry wine” was all he said as I came next to the easel.

“Yes Master,” I bowed, and made my way up wooden stairs into the kitchen. The cook looked like a ten year old girl, but I knew she’d been there for centuries. Naked she stood at the table –no need for clothing where she wouldn’t be seen – and looked up from the dough she was kneading to give me a nod.

“Fine morning,” I said as I took a clay jug off a shelf.

“As always,” she responded flatly. She didn’t talk much, having long ago lost hope of going home to Germany – or whatever it was called back then.

I poured the wine into a silver goblet and carefully walked back down. If I was too slow, I’d pay a fine, but if I spilled it would be worse.

“Your wine, Master.”

He put the brush under his thumb atop the paint palette, and took the goblet without sparing me a glance.

“Master, may I speak?”

“Hmmm. What is it now, slave?”

I stared at my feet as I said: “I was wondering… am I close to paying off my debt so I can go home?” Head bowed, I looked up through my lashes in hope.

His gaze turned to me, eyes narrowing as he smiled. “Let us go to your palace room to find out” he said as he cocked his head and inspected me.

“My… palace?” I blinked.

“Yes, follow me.” He extracted a small pouch from his robe’s pocket before pulling aside the tapestry for me. “After you,” he said.

I sat on my mossy bed-mat and he soon joined me there. Pouring a small amount of sparkling powder into his palm from the pouch, he softly blew it into my face.

“Whaaaa…” I said, trying to clear my eyes and struggling not to sneeze into Master’s face.

He grabbed a handful of dry leaves and waved them in front of my face.

“This is the money you’ve earned. Go ahead and count it.”

I took the stack of paper money from his hand and tried to count. Alfar currency was so confusing! They looked like regular dollar bills with a picture of the King, but all values were fractions! I stared at the top one, seventeen fifths. “Um… let’s see… seventeen divided by five is… uhhh… about three dollars?”

“Very good. Keep adding,” he said encouragingly.

The next was three-hundred-and-forty-seven dollars over thirteen. Was that a lot of money? I wished for paper and pen to do long division, my heart beating faster. “About… fifty dollars?”

“Excellent, just keep going.”

I was starting to sweat, my breath short and shallow. Math stressed me out so much! The next bill was seventeen hundred over… oh Gods… a hundred-seventeen-and-a-quarter? My head swam as I got increasingly dizzy.

“Can’t I just… count these later? W-What do I owe?” I said with a hand over my pounding heart.

“These are the debts you’ve incurred as my guest,” he said as he waved to the unruly pile of parchments in the corner.

Carefully I put down my precious money and crawled unsteadily over. They looked like credit card statements, save for being crumbly parchments written in elvish – hundreds of them!

“M-Master… could you p-please read these for me? I can’t read elvish,” I stuttered.

“Of course my slave, I’d be happy to,” he said pleasantly as he took one. “Let’s see. Weekly rent of your palace room, five thousand dollars; food, seven hundred; chamber pot, fifty-three. Wine, three-hundred-and-forty. Speaking privileges, two hundred… shall I go on?”

“N-No,…” I said, trying to catch my breath, sharp pain piercing my heart as I went into a full blown panic attack.

“You forgot to take your medicine again, haven’t you?” he asked with a mocking smile. Uncorking the jug, he helped me sit up to drink it.

It numbed my tongue as I gulped, sweet and soothing. What was wrong with me? But the medicine worked, and my breathing slowed along with my heart.

“You are a dumb slave,” he gently scolded, “a dimwitted human.”

I slowly nodded, fuzzy-headed, peace spreading across my body like a warm tingling blanket.

“I gave you a magnificent palace room with everything you could ever want. Look around.”

It was true, my room was enormous, fit for a queen with a lavish canopy bed, gold encrusted chairs and a vanity. A large armoire held the fancy dresses I so loved.

“For granting your every wish, I ask only that you serve and obey me. That’s very reasonable, isn’t it?”

“Very… reasonable,” I nodded, absently smoothing out the folds of my beautiful fairy dress.

“You need not worry about anything, you’re completely happy serving here as my slave. ”

“Completely… happy,” I said with a smile.

“Don’t think, just drink your medicine three times a day and attend me.”

With a deep breath all tension drained out of my body and I stood, head low in respect. “How… may I serve you Master?” I said in a sing song voice, grinning and drunk with joy at seeing him smile. Oh how I love serving you Master were the last thoughts before my mind fell silent.

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