Naunet hums along to the [Bard]’s tune as she relaxes in the inn. The melody is soft and peaceful, a far cry from the loud hubbub of the marketplace where the merchants hawk their wares.
One of the wisest actions the master took was hiring that [Rune Mason]. The sound dampening enchantment is just one of the many things needed to stay competitive in the city of Nundinae.
Continuing to hum, she takes a casual glance across the main floor. Only the regulars are here at this hour. The [Merchants] and [Traders], who make up a majority of the customers, are currently out, trying to pawn off whatever commodities they’ve got. Naunet expects they’ll slowly trickle in over the next few hours. For now, she’ll just savor the little peace their absence brings.
“Oh come on!” shouts a young man outside the inn. The cloth door is brushed aside and a masked man enters, followed by a masked entourage.
“Does nobody fucking use doors in this city?” he whines, much to the audible amusement of the others. Foreigners, Naunet notes as the group makes their way to her. With practice, she makes sure that her hijab is tightly wrapped and that she has most of her skin covered. Though they seem like foreigners, it would not do to accidently insult her people.
“Welcome to the Sandy Patch Inn!” she greets them in a slightly higher tone than her natural one. She’s been told it makes her sound more feminine. “My name is Naunet. How may I be of service to you?”
“You can be of service to me by installing a goddamn doo- Ow!” the whiney man exclaims. “Jess, that hurts!”
Naunet raises an eyebrow as one of the women stomps on the skull-masked gentleman’s foot.
The masked woman called Jess steps forward. “Sorry about him. Bone can be a bit of a jerk. Um, could we get four rooms?”
“Three rooms,” interrupts the other woman.
Naunet bows. “As you wish, sirs and madams. That will be three silver drachme,” she recites professionally. It’s a good opening price to haggle from.
“Here, catch,” the masked man flicks her a coin. Naunet panics, and juggles the coin haphazardly before she gets a firm grasp. Her eyes widen at the glint of gold.
The man leans forwards onto the counter. “Alright, that should pay for the rooms and for a bunch of answers to a bunch of my questions.”
“Y-yes sir,” she startles at his words and the gold drachme in her hand. Her heart-rate quickens as the man removes his mask to reveal a perfectly smooth, clean-shaven skin.
“First question, and probably the most important one,” the man grinds out. His violet eyes meet Naunet’s and she flinches at his naked rage. “Why the fuck does not one damn building in this entire city not use any doors? Why is everyone using fucking cloth of all things?”
The masked woman next to the man sighs and shakes her head. “Miss Naunet. Where are our rooms?” She gestures at her other two masked companions. “We would like to get settled in.”
“Ah, yes,” she starts from her daze and resettles into her receptionist persona. She points to the stairs. “It will be on the second floor. Rooms seven, nine, and eleven.”
“Thank you, Naunet.”
The masked woman walks to the stairs alongside her companions. As they leave, Naunet looks at Bone, who remains, waiting patiently for her.
“No doors. Why?” he demands again.
She swallows nervously.
“Right. Um, wood is expensive and the hinges tend to get stuck after sandstorms. It’s very costly to repair or replace.”
The man frowns straightens up from her counter. “Okay, fine. Why not stone doors? Why not cloth covering a frame?” He leans back forwards with renewed madness in his eyes. “Who cursed this desert to be without the truest artifact of civilization!?”
The man slouches and sighs. “Whatever. I’m sure I’ll find other doors,” he shakes his head. “Next question then! I’ve heard that only the [Sultan] can give permission to traverse the desert. Is that true?”
“Oh,” she blinks, “yes. The [Sultans] supply the [Caravan Masters] with a [Runed Slave] for safe transport.
“A [Slave]? You have [Slaves] here?”
“Yes?” she has to almost ask at the raw ignorance of the foreigner. She raises her hand to her chest. “I am a [Head Slave] owned by master Asim Omari,” she explains.
The man frowns and blinks. His eyes focus elsewhere. “Huh, you really are a [Slave]. Level seventy one? That's actually a pretty high level.”
She can't help but smile proudly at the man's compliment. “Thank you,” she answers.
“Wait, what?” Bone scratches the side of his head with a look of confusion. “Why are you thanking me? Isn’t being a [Slave] a bad thing?”
She is taken aback in surprise at the shift and growing curiosity of the man's tone. “Why would it be?” she waves her hand at the quiet inn, “In accordance with Ptolemaic Law, I have safety, food, and a way to level. In return, all I must do is serve my master until I reach level eighty.”
The man raises an eyebrow. “Eighty?”
She nods. “When I become level eighty, my current master is required by Ptolemy to sell my freedom to the [Empress] for a sum equivalent to my worth.”
“And Ptolemy is…?”
“It’s the law that dictates the treatment and sale of [Slaves] for all those that live on the sands.”
Bone scratches his hairless chin. “So, what? How different is that from whatever laws the eastern countries have?”
Without thinking, Naunet leans forward and slams the counter with her hands. “Those heretics don't have any!” she exclaims with emotion, only realising her outburst after the fact.
“I’m sorry,” she quickly bows in shame, “I did not mean to yell.”
The man snorts. “It's fine. I’m already used to getting yelled at by my companions.” He taps the counter. “On that note, mind informing me on the differences?”
Naunet slides her hands off the counter and tries to settle her rapid heartbeat. Such outbursts are unacceptable by a [Slave]. Especially by one of her level.
“Absolutely,” she says and then clears her throat, ”Ptolemaic law has seven commandments that must be followed.” She raises her hand and starts listing them on her fingers. “The first commandment forbids enslavement of anyone under the age of sixteen. The second commandment forbids enslavement of those unwilling or unable. The third commandment requires all [Slaves] to be released once they become level eighty. The fourth commandment forbids excessive harm or punishment of [Slaves]. The fifth commandment forbids the release of [Slaves] unless in accordance with the third commandment, or ownership of a [Slave] is transferred to a direct descendant of the [Slave]. The sixth commandment requires that all [Slaves] be fed, clothed, cleaned, and given work that promotes leveling. The seventh and final commandment states that if any of the commandments are not followed, then the punishment is death.” she takes another breath, “please note that this is a simplistic telling of the Ptolemy Law. There are many nuances that I have glossed over.”
Bone raises an eyebrow. “So, you willingly became a [Slave], yourself?”
Naunet nods. She recounts her childhood. “Yes. My parents died when I was fourteen and my sister was nine. We were poor and me and my sister struggled to get through life. I worked as a [Maid] and used my meager earnings to feed myself and my sister. But, it was not a good life, nor a safe one as many times, me and my sister were forced to sleep on the streets. It was only when I came to the age of sixteen that I was able to sell myself into [Slavery] and use the money to pay for my sisters entrance into the Royal Maid academy at Luxor.”
“You sold yourself for your sister?” Bone interrupts in surprise.
Naunet smiles. “Yes. I was a virgin, so my price as a [Slave] was much higher than normal. I also had twenty levels of [Maid], so my worth was even more than just a simple bed warmer or concubine.”
“So, what, you were bought and used for sex?”
She frowns at his tone of words. “Assisting a master in all ways is a [Slaves] duty. Sex is but one of such duties, and I was aware of it.” She waves at the inn. “Another such duty is to run establishments for the master. Though,” she frowns, “if I am able to birth a child and that child were to take ownership of me, then I will be given my freedom.”
“Which, I’m guessing, you don't have,” Bone notes to her dismay.
She nods slowly. “The master who bought me initially did not intend to use me for child bearing. He used me for pleasure for two years before selling me off to my current master, Asim Omari, who is unfortunately too old to impregnate me.”
Bone tilts his head and glances around, noting the well cleaned and organized inn.
“So, since you can't birth a child, you’ve chosen to level yourself instead. That's some dedication there.”
Naunet bows proudly. “As a [Head Slave] of this establishment, I have learned to cook, clean, read and write, work with finances, run a business, and many other tasks that befit a woman,” she blushes at the last assertion.
“Alright, that's nice to know. Especially the first commandment. It’s probably the only reason this city isn’t trinitite yet.” He waves his hand as Naunet gives him a strange look. “Anyway, I’m looking to travel to Luxor and I need to get permission, or a [Runed Slave] as you mentioned. So, what would be the best way to get an audience with the [Sultan]?”
Naunet frowns, unsure how to answer such a question. “Usually, most well known, high level [Merchants] are able to pay a fee to speak with the [Sultan], but you don't seem like a [Merchant], or well known, either.” She taps her chin. “I think your best bet would be to go to the Grand Auction today or tomorrow and buy items at the auction to grab the [Sultan’s] attention. I should warn you, everything at the auction is very expensive.”
Bone nods. He unstraps his mask from his side and fits it on his face. “Looks like I’m going to an auction then.” He turns to leave but pauses. He looks back. “Naunet, if you can, inform my friends that I am going out for a walk.”
“Of course,” she answers with a smile.
Naunet watches Bone leave. She hears him growl as he pushes aside the leather tarp covering the entrance to the inn. She sighs, relieved that the man was reasonable despite his insanity. Too many foreigners have asked for far more than merely answers. Many have demanded other aspects of herself, all of which would insult her master.
The minutes tick by. Naunet leans down and grabs a rag and a basin. She’s noticed several empty mugs and plates from the few patrons in her inn. As she prepares to step away from the counter, the door flicks open and two armed [Guards] enter her inn.
“[Head Slave] Naunet,” one of the guards calls out.
“Y-yes,” she answers in surprise. Has her master done something wrong?
“Four hours ago, Asim Omari was found dead from a heart attack. Since no immediate family members are present to take responsibility over you, you are to promptly make your way to the Grand Auction where you will be auctioned.”