Authors: Lana Axe
A Slave to Magic
Tales from N
Text copyright © 2015 Lana Axe
All Rights Reserved
Cover art by Michael Gauss
The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his
He frees himself and shows the way to others.
arious colors stained the wall of the tiny
room where Kwil practiced his magic. As they slid down the wall and puddled on
the floor, the various magics came together, popping and fizzing as they met.
Kwil approached with caution, choosing his steps with care.
Master will be
furious if he sees this,
Kneeling down near the mess, he waved a hand
lightly above it. A force field appeared above the mixing colors, neutralizing
the magic inside. Fading into nothingness, the magic disappeared before his
At least that spell works the way it should.
With a sigh, the
young man stood back on his feet and returned to his duties.
Kwil had long believed himself destined for great
things. His heart yearned to study magic, and despite the fact that entrance to
the Wizard’s College was forbidden to him, he still considered himself a
wizard. After all, he had studied every book he could get his hands on, and he
practiced at every opportunity. Why should he be denied his education? He had
already proved himself worthy to enter the College. From a very young age he
displayed a talent for magic. He should have been given his place and allowed
Unfortunately, Kwil was born a slave. He was a
mere human destined to serve a superior race. The Gatans considered themselves
above all other species inhabiting Nōl’Deron, and as a result, they
enslaved all others who came to their land. No species was safe, and none ever
returned. As far as the outside world was concerned, the land of Gi’gata did
not exist. There were only stories of a land of fantasy and mystery, where few
dared to travel.
Kwil’s parents had traveled aboard a ship that set
out to find the mythical land. Though no ship ever returned after making such a
voyage, the wandering spirit got the better of many people. Unsure which land
his parents had originated from, Kwil could only guess at his true origins.
Wherever they had sailed from, his parents had met a fate that awaited many
ships that sailed too near the waters of Gi’gata. They were attacked, taken
prisoner, and forced to serve as slaves to the Gatans.
Vaguely remembering his mother’s face, or at least
the woman he believed to be his mother, Kwil would often compare himself to
her. His own eyes were blue, his hair dark, and his skin rather pale
considering his long stints of service out of doors. With ears that stuck out
slightly from the side of his head, he knew he wouldn’t be considered handsome,
even for a human. The face he remembered, however, was lovely. She had golden
hair and deep brown eyes, and she sang to him in a soft voice. The image of her
face brought with it a sense of peace and warmth, and he took comfort in it
whenever he felt low.
His father was unknown to him, but he was certain
he must favor him in looks. How else could such a beautiful woman give birth to
a child such as him? His father had been a lucky man indeed. Kwil didn’t need
to worry about attracting the opposite sex. It was unlikely he would be of
interest to slave breeders. Looking down at the plain white shirt and woolen
breeches he wore, he felt inadequate, even for a slave. He was slight of build,
and as far as anyone else knew, untalented. Love was not allowed among slaves,
so Kwil didn’t give much thought to the slave girls he encountered. It was
likely for the best. Passing on his magical tendencies to offspring could be
With the colors of his magic swept away, he turned
his attention to the duties he was supposed to be performing. Stepping outside
the door of his quarters, he dropped his pretense as a wizard and assumed his
true role as a slave. First, as always, he had to collect water for the family
he served. They would insist on cleaning themselves before breakfast, and the
punishment would be severe if their baths were not ready.
Moving through the darkened corridor, Kwil found
his way outside. The well was not far from this side of the manor, and he was
glad of it. A chill had settled in the air through the night, and he would not
be given thicker winter garments for another month or so. Taking great care not
to splash any water on himself, Kwil filled two buckets and carried them
Fetching water was among Kwil’s earliest memories.
He had always been slender, and it was believed that by forcing him to carry
water, he would become muscular and strong. Unfortunately his body had other
ideas. He fell often, spilling the water and earning himself a beating. No
matter how hard he tried to be large and strong, he was physically incapable.
As he had grown over the years, he hoped to at least be tall. That too eluded
him. His height was average for a slave, slightly shorter than most Gatans.
Carefully opening the door, Kwil smiled to
himself. He hadn’t spilled a single drop. He might not be the strongest, but he
was meticulous and efficient—qualities required of a proficient wizard. Filling
his masters’ baths would require at least a dozen more trips, and that would
give him time to concentrate on memorizing his spells. Though having a moment
to read was rare, he would soak up any magic words he found and repeat them in
his head as he went about his chores. That way he would not forget, and perhaps
another day he would learn what the words meant.
Magic came as naturally to Kwil as any reflex.
Though he had been warned by other slaves to hide it, he desired more than
anything to let the magic flow. Humans in Gi’gata were forbidden to perform
magic. Death was the immediate sentence for any slave suspected of doing so. It
was widely rumored that humans weren’t intelligent enough to practice magic,
but the Gatan leaders were no fools. They were well aware that humans of other
lands practiced magic freely, and that their own slaves were quite capable of
learning. To avoid a rebellion, they kept their slaves ignorant, refusing to
allow them to learn to read or have any education worth speaking of.
Kwil had been lucky in that regard. His failure to
develop muscles had led to the easier job of brushing horses for an elderly
Gatan woman. She was quite eccentric and insisted that her slaves make no noise
in her home. One day while in the gardens, her eye fell on Kwil. She noticed
the easy gait with which he moved, and his gentle nature with her horses. She
favored him and invited him into her home. For years he served this woman,
always taking careful steps and tiptoeing as he went to avoid disturbing her. When
she fell ill, she insisted he tend her at her bedside. She helped him learn to
read, and eventually insisted he read all of her correspondence aloud to her as
she lay abed. With her constant corrections, he learned to read difficult words,
and to speak clearly and eloquently. As her mind deteriorated, she mistook him
for her own son.
Kwil’s memories of his mistress were mostly good.
Though she had been demanding at first, she rarely punished him or any of her
other slaves. Her tenderness toward him at the end of her life had been alien
to him. No one had ever spoken to him so kindly, nor cared whether he learned
to read. Her last words to him had been a whispered “I love you, my son,” which
had stuck with Kwil ever since. Though it’s doubtful she would have uttered
those words had she been in her right mind, it was nonetheless special to him.
After his mistress died, her estate was divided
among her real descendants, who brought in their own slaves. Kwil’s services
were no longer needed, and he was sold to Lord Orva. Rumors of Lord Orva’s
cruel treatment of his slaves had not escaped Kwil’s ears. It was said that a
graveyard existed near the manor, full of the slaves Orva had personally
murdered. Kwil was unperturbed.
He was a hard worker, and he would adapt to Orva’s
expectations in order to survive. Holding to the dream that one day he would
become a great wizard, Kwil’s outlook on life was not as grim as other slaves.
A bright future awaited him, he was certain of it.
As he reached the steps, he took great care to
balance the water buckets on each side of him. One splash of water on the
stairs would render them slick, and if his master should fall, Kwil shuddered
to think what might be in store for him. Carefully placing each foot, he
climbed to the fourth floor, where his master and mistress resided. Their
rooms, which occupied the entire floor, consisted of separate bedchambers, two
sitting areas, a trophy room—where Lord Orva’s prized dead animals hung upon
the walls—and two separate bath chambers.
Kwil made his way along the corridor, his eyes
ever looking down. Making eye contact with his master without permission would
lead to trouble. He learned upon their first meeting to follow the lord’s
rules. Kwil had been brought before his master along with three other slaves he
had worked with previously. Lord Orva barely looked at them before ordering
them to be whipped. “A reminder never to cross me,” he had called it. Kwil had
been dragged outside, his arms bound to a post, his shirt ripped from his back.
Three lashes were more than enough, the spiked leather straps tearing into his
flesh. The pain was excruciating, and the bruising lasted for weeks. Kwil would
not forget it. Though he refused to live in fear, he made note of his master’s
ill temper. He would mind his duties carefully to avoid Lord Orva’s wrath.
The following three months had not been all bad.
Kwil steered clear of both master and mistress, doing only as he was told and
making himself scarce. Rarely did he encounter either of them, and he intended
to keep it that way. As long as he remained unnoticed, they would likely leave
him in peace.
Emptying the bucket into Lady Orva’s tub, he was
startled by a maidservant who trotted past him. She was Gatan, a paid servant
rather than a slave. Her sleek feline form moved silently across the room,
adding rose petals to the tub before scurrying away. She barely noticed Kwil’s
presence, as if the tub were filling itself. He quickly dumped the second
bucket before heading back downstairs to repeat the procedure.
As he reached the top of the steps a voice called
to him. “Don’t forget to heat the last few,” the maidservant reminded him.
He turned to face her, bowing his head that he
understood. This was the same reminder she gave him each day. How could he possibly
forget? A cold bath would probably earn him more lashes, and he hoped to avoid
any and all forms of punishment. Perhaps the young woman thought humans were
too stupid to remember a daily task, or maybe she felt duty-bound to speak to
him. Whichever it was, the pity in her yellow eyes was unmistakable.
Silently he walked back outside, lowering his
buckets into the well and filling them. This time, he took the buckets to the
fire pit, which the stable hands had already lit. He hooked the buckets a few
inches above the flame, allowing the water to heat. If only he knew the correct
spell, this work would be much faster. So far, he could do little more than
manipulate objects at a distance. Looking around to be sure no one was
watching, he gently waved a hand, summoning the smoke toward him. Twisting and
shaping, he moved the smoke into spiral patterns, eventually swirling it into
the shape of a rose. A half-smile came over his face, but the sound of
approaching footsteps forced him to abandon his work. Waving the smoke away, he
spun around, grabbing two more buckets.
When both baths were finally full and warm, he
made his way downstairs to the kitchen area. He hadn’t eaten since midday
yesterday, and his rumbling stomach reminded him that he could not live on
dreams of magic alone. Jenn, the elderly slave woman who ran the kitchens,
smiled warmly at the young man’s approach. Taking two biscuits from the tray in
front of her, she shoved them in his hand and mussed his hair.
“Dear boy,” she said as she turned back to her
Kwil took a bite of one biscuit and observed a
moment as Jenn went about her work. She hummed as she dawdled through the
kitchen, checking various dishes as they simmered or baked. She took pride in
her kitchen, despite being forced to work in it. Here was a true example of
making the best of one’s situation. Kwil felt a fondness for the old lady, and
she reminded him of his former mistress in many ways. She was kind to him, and
even among fellow slaves, that was not easy to find. Many of them felt their
work was a competition, fearing that a younger man might outshine them.
Kwil had encountered opposition so far only from
those who worked outdoors, likely because they felt he had a more comfortable
position working inside the manor. They were probably right, but Kwil could not
trade places if he wanted to. The master told the slave where he would work,
and the slave obeyed without question.
Before Kwil could vacate the kitchen, Lady Orva
happened to appear in the dining room. Her black and brown fur was slightly
disheveled, her green eyes showing signs of fatigue. It would seem she planned
to eat before enjoying her bath this morning. Kwil knew what that meant—he had
better keep the water hot.
As he turned to leave, Jenn nudged him gently.
“She’s with child,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Kwil asked, wondering how much
extra work an infant meant for him.
“If I had a coin, I’d wager it,” the old lady said
with a crooked smile.
Kwil nodded. She would certainly know better than
As if reading his mind, Jenn looked up from her
cooking pot and said, “Don’t worry. They’ll hire on new staff for the kit.”
Reaching into her pocket, she said, “I almost forgot.” She handed him a small
With a nod of gratitude, he peered inside the
bundle to see fresh grapes. His eyes went wide. Normally his meals consisted of
day-old bread and a handful of raisins if he was lucky. “Thank you!” he said,
wrapping an arm around the old woman’s neck.
“Off you go,” she said, waving a hand to shoo him