Editing is still pretty rough at this stage, but I wanted ya'll to know what's coming.
The lists posted every morning. Not work assignments. If work were assigned, Alys thought perhaps the former slaves would have revolted on the second day, the free-born, the third. But they were simply blank lists. Sign your name under the Miller’s sign, make your mark beneath Gerswyr Hunter’s. Now you hunt, or spin. Or build houses under Pardal Norestrain’s guidance, or try to manage the inner workings of the Keep under Bennatus. There were always very few names under that list at first, and Alys was rather tempted to put her name down, just to see how the Keep’s government was forming.
One day we will have one. Mayhap not in my life, but in my children’s lives. We will have shops, and roads. Perhaps even a school.
It excited her.
The lists filled in early. Each employer only needed so many hands, and some of those places were filled by trained workers. Apprentices, craftsmen and the like. Getting one of those positions was up to Thread, or Smith, or whoever. But you’d get their notice if you were a list man and you worked well, and there was always a crowd of people in the mornings, standing near the list board with a pen or charred stick in hand. Leythorne had to post a guard at the board simply to watch and testify who made which mark on the lists.
There were some lists that never filled up. Someone had to clean the Keep, and there was an awful lot of Keep to clean. Just because the Lord’s magic had cleansed it of the Duskin’s evil didn’t mean that the dirt of living didn’t accumulate in corners. Hunting was never-ending, and the kitchens always had scut-work.
Alys always hurried to get her name down on the lists she preferred. Most days it was hunting and the kitchens. Today, however, she had another goal.
She wanted to go on the ships.
The lists are being posted early. Not all will want to go. There is still time to get your name in. You will not need to ask his favor.
There they were, sheets of parchment with the terms written out in careful script she could just read. A woman stood beside it, explaining what the job was to those who could not read. Alys hurried forward and reached for the pen.
The woman set a gentle hand on hers. “Not until these have had their chance to understand.”
“I understand it. Long journey on untested ships, with a mad Fae and a high chance of death.” She said. “Let me sign.”
“That sounds right up your alley.” A taunting voice came from behind. Alys did not need to turn. Of course it was Melphanie.
I will not respond. Not to her baiting. Not to her at all. Melphanie was here to supervise her own list, of course. Finding women wasn’t as difficult as Alys would have liked. Many in the Harem had simply begun their services voluntarily. They knew it, and she had heard that the exchange was fair; when the Lord had opened rooms in the main keep, most of Melphanie’s women had taken them. Melphanie herself had gotten one of the few houses outside of the Keep fit to keep rats in, let alone a human, and she had decked it out with silks and furs that no one would miss. That’s where her women worked, where he herself did.
“But can you not just ask for a place? You lie in his arms. It should be easy for you.” The dark woman continued.
“Mind your tongue.” Alys said, sharper than she’d intended. “Or else I’ll mind it for you.”
The crowd rushed forward to sign. Alys cursed Melphanie again, double curse because if every man and woman there were after the Lord’s mission, she wouldn’t get a place at all, and she would have to do what Melphanie accused her of doing. But there were only three marks atop the list, two exes and a badly scrawled flower. Alys wrote her name beneath it, then quickly added her name to the lower portions of the Kitchen list and the Hunt. The Mission wouldn’t be for another week at least. She’d have to keep her old places until then.
She dropped the pen into the next waiting hand…only to see Melphanie push forward and sign her name beneath Alys’ with a flourish. She dropped the pen to the next person and stepped away, a dazed look in her eyes.
“You’re going?” Alys asked, in shock. “You?” The other woman said nothing, her face flashing from pleasure to something very like pain. Quickly, Melphanie fled and Alys followed, pushing through the bodies until she found the other woman’s arm. “Why are you going?” She said. “How can you wish to go?”
Melphanie stopped suddenly and wheeled on Alys. “Because my job is not me.” She shouted. “And this place is not me. I do not know who I am. I was not given to swords and bows and hunting. I want to know me, and that means knowing the world. Do you think I care any less for our homes because you earn your room with your bow and I earn mine on my back?”
Alys had nothing to say.
“You all think I’m less of a person, that I am weak, or weak willed, or a fool. I am trying to survive. I don’t have to struggle to learn how to do this. It’s my job, and I do it well. Now here’s another for me to try. Complain to your lover if you don’t want me. Otherwise, leave me be.” She snatched her arm from Aly’s grip and walked away.