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All of the usual disclaimers none of them are mine. They belong to Petfly productions. This is hopefully the first in a series, so e-mail me with any times you would like to see out guys in. Thanks goes out to TAE for beta reading above and beyond the call of duty.
"Coming!" Blair Sandburg called out while scrambling to his feet from his horizontal meditations on the couch where he had been recovering from a week of almost continuous stakeout in an arson case.
"Oh, hey Cathy, come on in," the long haired detective said in greeting, "Jim's not home at the moment, I'm afraid, but can I help you with anything?"
"Actually, yes, you can. I was going through some of my great grandfather's old papers and ran into some things he was translating. I thought you might be interested in them." The fortyish principal handed some papers over to the younger man.
"Cathy, do you realize what these are?" Blair asked, amazed.
"Yes, they are some sentinel stories that my great grandfather had collected and was translating for a new book. He died before he had a chance to finish it, though. My Great Grandmother destroyed most of his papers but these were with my Grandmother and so weren't burned with the rest of his research. I think my Grandmother collected some stories as well. Jim thought you might be interested in them. My publisher seems to think that there might be some interest in these old stories, now. I was hoping you could take a look at this one and tell me if you think the translation has been done correctly.
"Your great grandfather was Sir Richard Burton?" Blair looked at her in awe.
"Yes he was. The explorer, not the actor." Cathy and Blair had finished the sentence together.
"I would love to! Blair said, already looking at the pages.
Guardians through the ages Translated by Sir Richard Burton
Translator's note: The word seneschal which from medieval times on has meant a head of household affairs originally appeared to refer to one who was in charge of the house, health and well being of a guardian.
-Sir Richard Burton
Two tall men, lean and tanned by the elements, stood guard as a group of ragged and dejected slaves were herded past. The taller of the two looked over the slaves to see that all of the men in his command were at their posts and that the people were being herded into some semblance of traveling order. The other, younger man, looked sadly at the people who would be sold on the slave market in two days when they arrived in the city.
"I have no stomach for this, Sefu. The Nile gives us everything we need. These people were no threat to us. That small one there on the left, he could not be more than a boy, I'm not certain he will even make it to the city. There was no need for this."
"I don't like it either, Jahi, but there is not much we can do about it. Our orders are to escort this bunch to the slave market in the city. If you do not care for this, be grateful we were not one of the army units that were sent over to conquer these people. Then we would have been killing for no reason other than expansion into a land that we do not need and that is too far away for us to really effectively control." Sefu shook his head, looking at the ragged and hopeless captives.
"And Jahi, if you start blanking, say something. I do not need to finish this trip short one senior officer, who just happens to be a friend, as well." Jahi looked away, nodding his acknowledgement of the command. Large dark eyes continued staring at him. "I am serious, Jahi. I may not understand this entire guardian thing, and I do not really want to, to be honest, but you are under my command and that means you are my responsibility. If I find out you have been blanking and not telling me about it, I will give my horse a rest and ride you. Are we clear on this, mister?"
"Yes, sir." Jahi stood before him at attention, in the relaxed alertness of a professional soldier. "Permission to return to my post, sir." Sefu shook his head, making waving motions for his lieutenant to be on his way.
A hand reached out to grab at the slim redheaded woman as she followed the other slaves. The middle aged Jewess braced herself for the mistreatment that she had seen others suffer at this soldier's hand. It never came, instead she felt a large horse pushed between her and the ill-favored man who had been about to touch her. Quickly, the woman was pulled into the herd of Jewish slaves by her son.
"If I ever see you touch another of these people without reason, you will wish you had never been born." The senior officer snarled at the soldier.
"My pardon, I didn't know you favored her." The younger man bowed as he leered at another of the women.
"I will not have ANY of these people mistreated while they are under my care!" The mounted officer roared down at the foot soldier.
"They are merely slaves from lands we have taken," the younger man sputtered in confusion.
"They are people." Jahi snarled reaching down to grab the startled man.
"Let him go, Jahi!" Sefu's quiet voice of steel said from behind him.
"He is not to harm these people again, sir," he said thrusting the younger man away.
"He will leave these prisoners in peace," anther voice said.
Turning Jahi saw the soldier's Captain motioning for the man to go.
"My apologies for his behavior, sirs. He is young and has a lot of learning to do, yet." The Captain said as he led his errant underling away.
Jahi and his Captain watched as the other two men walked off. With a snort of derision for the two departing men, the senior officer nodded to his own superior and returned to his post. Neither man noticed the young slave watching them.
A half-grown child stumbled in the heat of the early afternoon. Smiling in a way that he hoped was reassuring to the child and it's mother, The stoic senior officer rode forward a little and swung the child up in front of him. Before long all of the mounted men had younger children riding with them with nervous parents or siblings walking nearby. The young captive, who had been watching, merged himself back into the mass with a thoughtful look.
An oasis gave them shelter for the night, halfway to the large city that would sell the captives in its thriving slave markets. Jahi watched as the small man with the long hair wandered between groups making certain everyone was as comfortable as possible, giving reassurances and comfort where he could. Jahi observed him giving half his water ration to an older man, who tried to refuse, but was forced to accept the gift. Jahi thought back over the day and realized that the generous man had never drunk more than half his water and had given an equal amount of his food rations away. Always seeing to it that it was the old, sick and young who received the extra portions. By the time the boy had settled in, Jahi thought he must be exhausted, and yet he still took the time to comfort a half-grown boy, away from the only home and family he knew. Something about the captive had caught Jahi's attention. Jahi filed it in the back of his mind as something to think about as he bedded down for the night.
"Jahi, if you grind your teeth any harder, they'll crack. Of course, you will not feel it because I will have killed you for keeping me up." Jahi rolled over to look see Sefu smiling sweetly at him.
"Sorry, sir, I'm just a little uneasy about something." Jahi lay on his back, staring up at the stars.
"What has you chewing on your own teeth tonight?"
"I think that boy may be a seneschal." Jahi closed his eyes and sighed.
"He is a slave, Jahi! Even if he is a seneschal, that does not make him YOUR seneschal."
"We'll need to keep an eye on him, sir; he's giving half of his rations to others. Seneschal or not we need to keep him healthy. Sleep well, sir." Jahi rolled over, ending the conversation.
"Sleep well, Jahi." Sefu rolled over for the last few hours of sleep to be had.
As they rode on the next day, Jahi tried to keep an eye on the small figure that he now thought was probably a small man rather than the half-grown boy he had thought him. After taking his rations, he once again took the bare subsistance needed for himself, giving the rest away to the tired and weak.
As the young captive passed by, Jahi called him over. " Well, I see I was right about you're not being a boy. What are you called?" Jahi thrust a water skin at him as they continued.
The young captive simply stared at him, eyes scanning in all directions, missing nothing. Noticing the scowling Egyptian, he looked up. " I am called Taavi. Do you want something from me?"
"Your rations are given to you for your use, not for you to give them away. You need to be healthy when we arrive, this means you eat and drink what you are given. You have barely been taking enough to get by on. Here take these, I saved them for you." Grabbing hold of the slave again when the younger man moved to return to the others with his supplies, Jahi stopped him. "Eat it here where I can know that you did not simply give this away, as well."
Taavi looked up at him defiantly. "There are old people and children, as well as the sick and weak, any one of them needs this extra food more than I do. I may not be big, but I am healthy and young. I am not sick or weak, so why are you forcing me to eat and drink what I do not need?" A challenge issued as two sets of eyes clashed. Jahi grabbed the bread back and tore it in half. "Here. Eat half, the rest do as you please, the same with the water." Taavi did as told and scurried into the mob of slaves to divide his treasure.
Sefu looked on half in awe, half in shock, as he watched a slave work out a compromise from his hardest officer, one whose temper was the stuff of legend. The slave had already proven to have greater endurance than he looked to have. Never lagging, but going from group to group, helping as he could while they were herded to their fates. Sadly, he also seemed possessed of the kind of audacious courage that spoke of an interesting and usually successful life for a free man, and a short and harsh life for a slave. Sefu, noticing the interest Jahi had shown in the young man, had ridden up next to him. The longhaired slave was in the group next to Jahi on the other side, sneaking glances at the two men. Jahi seemed to have caught the young man's interest, as well.
"We're almost home, now, Jahi. Have you had any more of those blanking episodes?" Sefu asked.
"No, Sir. I've managed to avoid them." Jahi answered absently.
Sefu rode a little ahead, then, to reposition a new man who was leaving too large a space between himself and Jahi. He didn't notice as he left, that Jahi was staring off into nothingness, oblivious to everything about him. .
The longhaired captive noticed Jahi's sudden halt and blank stare. Approaching the guard, Taavi gently shook his leg. "Guard? Are you well, sir? We have to move on and we can't do that if you do not come back. Follow my voice back here, so you can finish this job. We need to reach town by nightfall or we are going to be out of supplies." The young Jew continued rubbing the officer's leg as he talked.
Sefu had come over to assess the situation and take whatever action was necessary. But stopped as he witnessed that the slave, far from hurting his lieutenant, was gently rubbing his leg and talking to him in soft whispers. Jahi slowly shook his head, coming back to himself. The slave returned to the others, never looking away from the older man.
Sefu rode up alongside the younger officer. "Somehow, he knew exactly what to do. I have never seen you leave one of your spells that quickly or easily."
Jahi continued watching the brown haired man, now disappearing into the herd of slaves. " Sir, I want a chance to talk to him. I can not explain it, Sefu, but he is my seneschal."
"Jahi, what he is, is a slave. I hate it, and you hate it, but there is nothing we can do about it. So unless you plan to buy him at auction, I do not see a future with him in it. I can try to arrange for you to see him, but don't count on it."
"There is something about him, sir. I may buy him. My father always has need of more slaves on his estates, as does my brother. Either one would care for him."
"You could use him yourself for that matter, my friend." Sefu looked over at the steel eyes glaring back.
"I do not keep or use slaves, sir. I have never believed in depriving a man of his freedom. If not for my orders I wouldn't even be here. I hate everything involved in this hideous trade. The man could have killed me back there, and instead helped me. Risking his life in the process, I might add, considering that his touching me might have been perceived as an attack." Jahi glared at his Captain.
"I will try to arrange for you to see him. And Jahi, I know you do not agree with slavery, neither do I. I was merely observing that if you really want to keep him safe, that would be the best way. " Sefu rode away mumbling about touchy guardians.
They approached the town towards evening; Jahi noticed the small captive was once again moving from group to group comforting and reassuring as he could. Closing his eyes, Jahi tried doing something he had never done, and deliberately tried to listen to the conversations, hoping to find out more about the young man. He looked over at Sefu who sadly shook his head. No meeting the captive unless he cared to purchase him. As the slaves were led into a holding pen and put under guard for the night, Jahi noticed a harsh, squint-eyed, scowling man looking at Taavi and the woman that Jahi had helped earlier. He was guessing she was the young man's mother, due to her scent being close to that of the longhaired captive. Scowling himself, Jahi rode away. He might not like slavery himself, but he knew too well how Omari treated slaves to be willing to allow the bright spirit that was Taavi to be bought by that man. He would have a short night to arrange things before the selling of the captives in the morning.
Jahi approached the slave master, nodding his acceptance of the offer for wine. The man was not a particular friend and had had few dealings with Jahi in the past. The times they had met had been when Jahi was dealing for his father or brother. Usually involving the injury of a slave due to mishandling in the delivery process.
"There is one of the slaves that I would claim as a seneschal." Jahi said, sipping the wine. The slave master choked.
"Is that a problem?" Jahi smiled at the man's discomfort. "The young man is a seneschal. As an un-bonded guardian it is my right to claim him and make first offer."
"No, there is no problem. I just was not aware, I mean I never saw," the man babbled and fell to silence.
"Well, now you have seen one, and he is claiming a seneschal." The large officer said with a little menace in his voice.
"I have simply never heard of a guardian that was not in the service of the Pharaoh." The man stuttered.
"All guardians serve the Pharaoh, but we are allowed to choose our service. I choose to serve his nephew, Sefu in the provincial militia." The large guardian growled with impatience.
"Then certainly the boy will be given to you for a fair offer. Is there any other way I can be of service to you this night?" The man simpered.
"There is a red headed woman and a half-grown, dark haired boy in this group, as well." Jahi continued, detesting the way this man was so fawning and deferential, but deciding to use it to get what he wanted.
"Yes, the woman will bring a good price on the market. Omari was in here just before you, asking about her." The man smiled as he dropped the name of one of the wealthiest merchants in the area. " The boy is too young to bring much, though."
"I would like to purchase them as well. My unit is leaving in the morning so I would like to get my business done, now." Jahi sat watching the man squirm.
"As I said, the boy will not be a problem since there would be very little interest in him anyway, but the woman will bring a good price." The salve master tried to sound intimidating.
"Perhaps if I were to offer you a price now that would exceed what she would bring on the market?" Jahi asked, half smiling.
As the night wore on, the final arrangements were made and the slave master swore never again to forget that while Jahi might be in the militia, he had learned negotiating at his father's knee. A rider left before dawn, taking the red headed woman and a wagonload of supplies with him while an innkeeper prepared for a new serving boy.
Jahi and the sun arose together. Standing by the pen, watching as the slaves he had escorted in were prepared for the sale, Jahi scanned the pen looking for a longhaired man with large eyes. He found him moving quietly among his people, one last time giving support and courage as the people were led out to the market. Jahi watched, allowing the young man a last goodbye.
Sefu came up alongside him "I heard you were busy, last night. Are you sure about this? I know you are worried about the boy, but this is crazy! You have never owned a slave in your life and now you suddenly have two? You do not believe in slavery. You hate the whole idea of it, and yet you do this?"
"Sefu, this is a guardian thing. I can not guard without a seneschal. Somehow, Taavi is my seneschal. Don't ask me how this happened, or how this is going to work, because I do not know. I just know that somehow it has to work. I can't explain it, but I have to have him with me. I have to know he is safe and the only way to do that, is to keep him with me. Besides, Omari was looking to buy him, and I would not wish my worst enemy to be slave under that man.
"That explains him, but what about the other? You bought his mother, as well as a child he adopted on the way here. Explain this to me because I do not understand it."
"Sefu, Like I said, I cannot explain it except to say that I think its part of this Guardian thing. When the old guardian died, he told me, when the time was right, I would find my seneschal. Somehow sir, Taavi is it. The others, I got to make him happy. I figured taking care of his mother and arranging a good home for the boy is a way of taking care of him. Besides, Omari was looking at Taavi and the woman and we both know how he treats slaves."
"I take it Taavi is the one you are so interested in?" Sefu said, watching the slaves with Jahi.
Jahi, never a talkative man, nodded his reply.
Sefu rose, looking again at the longhaired captive, doing his best to comfort his people. "We are leaving in half an hour; you have until then to have yourself and him ready, that includes his travel papers. Good luck, Jahi." He left, muttering under his breath again, this time about insane friends with big hearts.
Jahi moved towards the pen, motioning the guard to get the young man out. "Taavi, it is time for us to go." The officer called out as the guard moved towards the slave.
Taavi spun around to glare at the guardian. "You cannot be serious! This is not happening."
"Taavi, we have to be going. The shops are opening and I need to get us some extra supplies before we leave. My brother will be coming later for the boy. He had need of a hand at an inn he owns. He will be treated well and taken of, so you need not worry about that." Jahi tried to be patient
"Sure. The boy's just been sold into slavery; nothing to worry about, there. Taavi stalked out of the pen, glaring at Jahi as he passed him.
Jahi led them through the streets, finally stopping at a smallish, out of the way store. Motioning to Taavi, the two men entered.
"Mosi, you in here?" A red headed woman appeared at Jahi's bellow. Smiling, she came out from the back of the store.
"This is Taavi, my seneschal. I need supplies for him as quickly as possible." Jahi nodded towards the longhaired slave next to him.
"Yes, he just bought me, I'm his new slave. I guess I`m going to be a dress up doll, too." Taavi interrupted with a scowl.
"Could you see to it that he has both proper clothing and standard travel supplies?" Jahi smiled as the young man stared at him in astonishment. "You expected to be kept naked and in chains? You only have the clothes on your back."
"Actually, I guess I was kind of expecting the chained and abused thing. You own me, I haven't heard about masters being real concerned about their slave's creature comforts." Taavi stood, head cocked, eyes meeting his. There was nothing challenging about him, only an attempt to solve the puzzle of this man's behavior.
"Taavi, even my dogs are treated better than that. They live in the house with me. The horses live outside, but have a clean living space and comfortable tack. A master may not worry about the comfort of his slaves, but a man tries to make his companion comfortable." Without another word, Jahi, turned away; Taavi stared after him.
Mosi chuckled at the two men. "Here, Jahi," she said, handing him a packet, " Sefu told me last night that you and Taavi would be in here this morning and needing to leave immediately. I already had Taavi's equipment ready. Reshef picked up the extra supplies a half-hour ago. Go across the street and you can get the papers required for Taavi to travel with you." She laughed as Jahi tossed her a wave while he thrust the packet at the younger man and half dragged him out of the store.
The senior officer approached the magistrate, the young slave right beside him.
"I need traveling papers for one slave named Taavi." The large man said curtly.
"You are an officer with the militia?" The official asked, not looking up.
"Yes, and my unit is leaving soon so I need to be out of here quickly."
"Captain Sefu said that one of his men would be in here this morning to get travel papers drawn up for a slave. What level of slave will he be?" the man asked as he began filling out the forms that he had prepared the night before.
"He's my seneschal, so whatever level is allowed to remain with me at all times." Jahi snarled in frustration.
"Very well, seneschal level it is." The man said, handing the papers over to the militia officer. "Will you be wanting to collar or mark him?" He continued.
"What!" Taavi blurted out in shock.
"Neither, I prefer him as he is." Jim growled.
"Are you certain? It would only take a moment, and should he try and run, he would be easily identifiable. It is also the custom so that he can be identified as a slave." The man said imperiously.
"Well, I am choosing to break custom and leave him as he is!" Jim roared.
With a sigh of contempt, the bureaucrat handed Jahi the papers.
Snatching the papers, the senior officer left, scowling and pulling the longhaired man behind him.
Thanks to Sefu's help in forewarning the stores and the magistrate, the guardian and seneschal were back with the rest of the unit with time to spare. Jahi smiled and nodded his thanks to Sefu, who waved it off.
"Taavi, this is Reshef, Jumoke, Hondo, and that is our Captain, Sefu. Gentleman, this is Taavi, he is with me." Jahi had pointed to each man as he introduced him. They all gave Taavi a welcoming smile and a wave or nod.
Not knowing what to do, Taavi looked on as the men went about getting their mounts ready for the trip.
"Have you ever ridden a horse before, Taavi?" Jahi called over to the younger man.
"No. That would have required that I have a horse to ride." Taavi responded, heading towards Jahi.
"Very well. We can do this one of two ways. You give me your word that you won't run away and I let you ride this horse like a man, which will be faster and easier for all of us. The other would be that I put you on this horse and lead him like you're a child. Which way is going to be, 'schal?" The large Egyptian asked.
"I may not be able to ride like a man, but I won't run away, so you don't need to lead her." Taavi said looking up at his new title. He held out his hand hesitantly to the mare, which whickered in a friendly manner and nuzzled him.
"Horses are herd animals, so as long as you stay on her and give her her head, she will follow the other horses." Jahi instructed as he gave the young seneschal a boost onto the animal.
Mounted up, the men headed out. Taavi deciding it was best, tried to keep close to Jahi.
Sefu rode in front, leading the men. Hondo and Reshef usually rode together towards the back with Jumoke and Jahi in the middle.
"You men are actually militia rather than army?" Taavi asked, trying not to bounce on his horse too much
"Yes. We handle local law enforcement and peace keeping." Jumoke answered in his soft deep voice,
"All right. So that is what you all do. Now, what do I do?" Taavi asked, watching Jahi.
"You are my seneschal." The tall officer said, as if that explained everything.
"What exactly does that mean, though? I know that is the word for people that we call watchers, but what exactly are my duties as a seneschal?" The young man continued pushing.
"The same as a watcher, you stay with me and help me with my senses." The older man growled.
"Watchers and their Guardians where I come from are in a partnership of equals. That would be fairly hard to do, here, since I am a slave." the long haired Jew answered.
"We will find a way to work it out, `schal," Jim growled, ending the conversation by going up with Sefu.
As the group entered the town, Sefu and Jahi dismounted and handed their mounts over to the others. The senior officer motioned for Taavi to join him and Sefu. Dismounting by doing the reverse of mounting, the young man raced over to join the other two men.
"There is a place outside where your slave will be comfortable, guardian." An Egyptian merchant said, glaring at Taavi.
"He's my seneschal, He's permitted anywhere I go." Jahi growled
"He is a slave. There is no reason for him to be present." A Bedouin trader snarled.
"I want him here, and he is not doing any damage." The tall officer said in a quiet menacing way.
The mediating between the traders got underway grudgingly, with Taavi put in a far corner, but allowed to stay.
Jahi, cocked his head to one side, and grinned. "Nuru, if you look in a shed behind the inn, I believe that you will find your missing merchandise that was stolen by highway bandits."
Sefu caught the Arab as he dashed for the door.
"I wish all of the cases ended like that. How did you know about the shed?" Sefu asked as the two Egyptians walked back to the meeting hall after having returned the merchant's goods from the shed.
"Taavi told me." Jahi smiled shaking his head in astonishment. His captain raised an eyebrow in wonder.
"Why did you not mention being able to speak Arabic?" Jahi glowered, coming up to the other men.
"You never asked me if I could." the long slave said, almost smiling.
"Taavi, I am just curious," Jumoke asked, "Where did you learn to speak Arabic?"
"The same place I learned to speak Egyptian, from traders that I would meet," Taavi answered warily.
"Can you read and write those languages?" Reshef asked in shock.
"Yes, I can. I worked as a scribe for hire a few times," Taavi said quietly, "When things were difficult for my family."
"Things will never be like that for you again." Jahi assured him.
"You're right, they won't, since I no longer have a family to worry about, now," the young man shot back, glaring at his owner.
"I meant that I will make certain that you are never in need of anything again." The tall Egyptian explained.
"What I am in need of is my freedom, can you give me that?"
"I can see to your needs best by not giving you that." The senior officer answered as the men rode out.
Taavi glared at the older man but didn't answer.
Under the early afternoon sun, the men were eating, having settled the disputes in that town, and heard about a few new ones that would be watched. The guardian suddenly looked up, tilting his head to one side. Getting up and motioning for his seneschal to stay put, Jahi headed into the market square. Grumbling, Taavi got up and followed with the rest of the militiamen a second behind. The Egyptian officer was separating two combatants. Hondo grabbed one of the fighters, while Jahi kept his hold on the other. Sefu stood towering over both men.
"Enough!" The Captain bellowed, getting the immediate attention of everyone around him.
Jahi's man took advantage of the momentary quiet to break free and go for his opponent, only to have the senior officer tackle him to the ground.
"Jahi, explain this?" His superior snarled, glaring at the two fighters
"Bakari sent some linen to market with Shakir. Shakir came back with less money than he should have. Shakir says that he had less money because the market was bad that day and the linen did not sell for market value, Bakari says he stole the extra money."
"I thought this was settled last time we came through here?" Sefu glared down at the two men.
"Apparently, Bakari did not feel it was a fair settlement and withheld some of Shakir's money from this trip to market." Jahi went on.
"Bakari, it was proven to our satisfaction that the linens did not sell well that day. Give Shakir the money he is due, and then I don't want to hear of this again. Do you two understand me?" The militia captain roared at the two cowed men. The money was paid and the two men were escorted out of the market.
By mimicking what the others were doing, the Jewish man was able to tend his own horse that night with a little guidance from Jahi. With the horses settled, the men went into the inn where they were staying. Taavi followed when Jahi gestured that he was to come with them.
"Have a new friend there?" A good looking man sneered as Jahi entered.
"Yes. I do have a new friend, Tarik. I believe you know what I do to people who hurt my friends, so I suggest you leave my friends alone," The tall guardian growled at the man. Sefu and Jumoke had moved behind him to back up the guardian up while Reshef and Hondo had taken either side of the seneschal.
"Relax. I am not planning to threaten the little man, I just wanted to make him feel welcome." Tarik rose and sauntered from the room.
"`Schal, I want you to stay with one of us at all times, tonight, and stay as far away from that man as possible." Jahi looked after his rival, hoping there would be no more trouble tonight.
"Where would I go even if I did want to leave your company? What did you do to offend him?" Taavi shivered as he watched the man leaving.
"He was a messenger for the Pharaoh, once. Sefu and I caught him selling certain information that was in the documents he had been carrying. He swore that he never read the documents, just passed on some rumors he had heard and didn't even believe were true. They believed him enough to not kill him, but they locked him up for two years and removed him from government service. He blames the two of us for his not being wealthy and important, any more. He is still dangerous, though, so keep away from him, like I said." Jahi explained as a servant brought their food.
The night was quiet with all of the men sharing one large room, a safety precaution they decided on after meeting up with Tarik. Taavi was tucked next to Jahi, but inside a kind of circle. Taavi didn't know whether to be insulted or touched. This seemed to him either a sign of a lack of trust, or that they valued him enough so that no one would be allowed close enough to hurt him.
Whatever the reasoning behind Taavi's sleeping arrangement, the night was quiet. The morning found all of the men well rested and Taavi able to tack and mount his own horse. The dapple-gray mare Taavi was on followed the steel gray stallion that Jahi rode. Jumoke's bay mare was as kind as her owner and frequently seemed to be chatting to the other horses as they rode. Reshef's Dark gray mare was as much a showman as the man himself, loving to be brushed and admired. Hondo's chestnut stallion was as big and outgoing as he was, bouncing as he walked and making a game of everything. Sefu's light gray mare was large and dignified. The saying about the horse reflecting the rider was certainly true of these animals. Feeling her rider's growing confidence, Taavi's horse was showing more spirit today, trying to play with Jahi's horse as they went along. Jahi's horse seemed to have an amused tolerance of her.
Mid-morning found them in a small trading outpost. Not large enough for them normally to have stopped at, being only a few small traders, they had stopped more to rest the horses on a hot day, than anything. While watering the horses, a high-pitched scream made the men turn to seek the cause. Jahi snarled a curse and headed towards one of the smaller merchants. He had a thin, dirty woman by the arms and was shaking her, while screaming at her about being a thief. The hand raised to slap her was caught in midair.
"You do not treat a woman like that! Ever!" The lieutenant growled, tightening his grip on the man's arm until he let go of her. He got hold of her when the man dropped her, but just hard enough to hold her there.
"She was stealing my wares." The man spat at her.
"My child is starving I cannot find work, and I have no man since he died. I would be happy to work off the money for the food. I just need to bring some to my daughter. She is sick and dying." The woman said, sobbing.
"I would not trust one such as you near my goods." the trader sneered down at the woman.
"What did the woman take?" Jahi asked.
"These, she has ruined them with her filth." The man said holding out a handful of grain.
"Here, this should pay for what this woman took and some more besides." The guardian handed the man a coin while taking the food from the merchant and some more besides and giving it to the woman. The other men in the unit came up and purchased goods as well. Seeing the woman home and her daughter cared for as best they could, the men headed out.
Noon meal found them in another of the trading towns. Since the others usually ended up tending his horse, the young seneschal tended the horses while his companions went inside. Giving each horse a quick rub, he led them to the water trough. He was leading the last of the horses over, when the dappled mare squealed and the chestnut kicked out. Looking over, Taavi saw a man he recognized from the slave market by the horses. Quickly securing the bay, the longhaired slave turned to run for the inn, and the other men.
"Planning to steal your master's horse, Jew boy?" A voice sneered as a hand grabbed his shoulder.
"No, I was taking care of them, like slaves frequently do. A seneschal's job is to care for his guardian and his guardian's household and possessions." Taavi explained.
"If you were tending them ,why hadn't they been taken care of? The water trough was dry. You were stealing, not tending. No soldier would let your kind near his war horse." The man grabbed Taavi and dragged him towards another building. Taavi spun and head-butted the man, causing him to let go of the young man's arm. Grabbing the startled Egyptian, the slave shoved him into a nearby merchant stall and took off running, right into a chest of solid muscle, with more muscle right behind it.
"Taavi, are you all right?" Jahi asked, running his senses over his seneschal.
"Yes. I was watering the horses and this man thought I was stealing them and tried to take me away." The younger man glared over at the stranger who had tried to kidnap him.
"Taavi is mine, Omari." Jahi growled at the other man.
"It's not legal since he was never offered for sale." The man snapped back.
"He is a seneschal, which means that as an un-bonded guardian I had first chance at him," Jahi explained, trying to remain calm.
"He was not marked as a seneschal, and the woman was certainly not a seneschal." He challenged the guardian.
"A guardian doesn't need a mark to tell a seneschal! I discovered it while I was escorting the group he was in to the market. My Captain can back me up on this as he was there when I found out Taavi was a seneschal. My buying the woman was a private agreement, between the seller and me. He was satisfied that my offer was more than he would have gotten for her in auction."
"May I see the papers for the slave in question?" A magistrate asked. Having seen the crowd, he had come over to see what the problem was.
Examining the papers, the official handed them back to Jahi. "The purchase was legal and the papers are in order. Taavi does indeed belong to Jahi."
Omari was forced to go on his way as the city guards came between the two men. Since Jahi and Sefu, as well as the other men in the unit, were known and respected in the city, they were allowed to stay.
"Taavi, are you all right?" Jahi had spotted the younger man amidst the mounts. It seemed that the young Jew had a way with animals.
"I'm fine," the seneschal answered. "I am just sorry that happened. What was his problem anyway?"
"His name's Omari, he's a pain, but a powerful one in his own province. He is just upset because he was looking to buy you for himself and I got you first. I have seen how he treats slaves, I would not want anyone to be under that man. Here, I got this from one of the merchants for you; it is a sheepskin so it might ease some of the riding sores until you get use to spending time in the saddle." The older officer handed his companion a skin such as only the wealthy could afford.
"Thanks, I am certain that in a few days, I will be used to the riding, though." Taavi took the skin and put it over the riding blanket he was using.
"Taavi, what do you see over there?" The tall Egyptian asked, coming alongside the smaller Jew who was staring at something.
"The free slave quarters. If I can not go home, that would be a nice alternative."
"You have a much nicer place when we get home, 'schal, it has a courtyard, a garden, and everything." Jahi said, patting the younger man on the arm as they headed inside.
"Yeah, but it would not be home and I would not be free," Taavi said softly as they entered.
"It will be better, 'schal, I promise. You will never be in need of anything," Jahi said too softly to be heard.
Neither man noticed Tarik stepping out of the shadows, watching them.
"You sure you want to do horse detail again, 'schal? You don`t have to, you know?" Jahi asked as Taavi moved to take the group's mounts again that evening when they stopped for the night.
"I know, but I don't mind, really," Taavi said, taking Jahi's stallion, while the soldier-turned-militiaman ran a hand over the dappled mare Taavi had ridden.
"Something wrong, Jahi?" Taavi asked, concerned.
"I was just checking on Urbi. She should be in foal, and we went a little faster today than would be ideal. She seems fine, though." Jahi said patting the mare affectionately.
"Urbi is going to have a baby?" Taavi asked excitedly.
"Yes, she's barely in foal,though, so it'll be a while." Jahi smiled, having finally found something that his young seneschal was taking interest in. "Tell you what, 'schal, when her foal comes, that is your horse."
"Since when does a slave own a horse Jahi? I might ride him, but the horse would be yours." Taavi said, turning to tend the other mounts.
"Taavi.." Jahi started but stopped when the younger man didn't even acknowledge that he was being spoken to. Sighing, the Egyptian turned and left.
The afternoon was blissfully quiet with few towns needing more than a few disputes settled.
The last town of the day was almost as large as the one where Jahi had acquired Taavi. The inn with rooms available was large and crowded.
"I have need of room for six men." Sefu told the keeper at the door.
"I have room for you, but he will have to sleep in the barn," the man said pointing at Taavi.
"Why should he have to sleep in the barn? It's not like we want a special room just for him." Jahi growled.
"I don't want his type in when I have to turn other good people away," the man said trying to sound intimidating.
"Care to tell me why one of the people riding with my unit can't bed down with us?" Sefu asked, while four large men stepped forward glaring at the man.
"Um, I suppose," the innkeeper said stuttering, "As long as he is staying with one of you." He quietly took the money for the room from Sefu and scurried away to attend others.
Taavi had quietly taken the horses and headed towards the stable. Jahi went back and motioned that he was to join the men as soon as the horses were bedded down. The young Jew nodded his understanding.
"I'm going to go and check on Taavi, Captain," Jahi said, getting up. "He's been gone too long for just tending the horses."
Sefu waved a hand as Jahi passed on his way out the door.
An enraged Guardian stormed back in moments later. "Taavi's gone, sir. Omari and Tarik have both been seen in this area." Jahi was seething..
"You go after Taavi, we'll track down those two and see what kind of trouble they're trying to stir. Take my mare, Jahi, Urbi might not be up to this and heaven knows that stallion of yours would challenge every horse in sight," Sefu said as he and the other men got up and Jahi ran out the door.
Sefu's mare, being every bit the seasoned campaigner and veteran soldier that Sefu was, had settled down and was going after Taavi in no time. Taking a chance, Jahi used his heightened senses to scan ahead for any signs of Taavi, as well as any obstacles for the horse. Jahi stopped, cocked his head, and smiled, hearing something.
"Keep it up, boy, and I really will hand you over to Omari when Jahi's done with a little job I have for him." Tarik snarled at the younger man.
"Come out, come out wherever you are." A cold, singsong voice called out.
"Please, Taavi, whatever you do, do not come out where this demon spawn can see you." Jahi said to himself while following the hard voice he had heard.
"Got you, you little tunnel rat!" Tarik laughed.
Jahi gave the mare a kick, sending her into a run. Tarik dove to the side, while Taavi finished scrambling up the ladder he was on after grabbing the knife that Jahi handed off to him..
"Stay back there, Taavi!" Jahi called out as Tarik lunged to pull him off the horse.
The tall guardian crashed in to a tangle with Tarik, his knife still in its sheath and no time to get it out.
"I don't believe that I'm doing this." The seneschal grumbled. Hearing the two men fighting, Taavi leapt down from the wall into the alley where the two men were wrestling, as Jahi finally got his knife out, only to drop it as his hand was smashed against a building..
"You are finally going to pay for ruining my life." Tarik gloated, advancing on the cornered officer, only to drop with an echoing crack.
"I hate people who gloat!" The long haired-Jew growled, standing over the Egyptian.
"You've got good aim with urns there, 'schal." Jahi grinned as he headed towards his savior.
"I may hate being a slave, but as masters go, you're not bad."
"Glad to hear it, wait by the horse, and I'll turn Tarik, here, over to the magistrates," Jahi said, walking over to the city officials who had come to see what the noise was about,
Having seen Tarik handed over to the city guards for judgment, Jahi swung up on the large mare and settled the young slave behind him. The two men remained silent as they rode out of the town.
"Did you run away, Taavi, or did Tarik kidnap you?" Jahi asked hesitantly, not certain that he wanted to know the answer.
"I was tending the horses. I had just finished when I noticed Tarik in the stable with me. I turned to run inside, but Omari was standing at the door. I was going to scream or something, but he made a grab for me and I bolted. I wasn't even paying attention to where I was going, I merely ran as fast as I could," Taavi explained, pressing in closer to the Egyptian as the night cooled.
"Were you planning to run?" Jahi asked, still not sure he wanted to know the answer.
"In a couple of days. I was going to see what opportunities developed." The younger man admitted, a little embarrassed.
"Where would you go, Taavi? What is so important that you would risk getting picked up as a runaway slave?" The guardian looked straight ahead.
"I would go home. I would find my mother and go home." Taavi answered sadly.
"Your mother is the redhaired woman who you were with, right?" Jahi asked hoping that she was.
"That was Naomi, yes. She was bought before the market opened. So whoever has her got her by private agreement. The way some of the buyers were looking at her has me worried about her. I just want to get her back and go home." Taavi replied, a little wistful and a little angry.
"Your mother is safe at my house, 'schal. I bought her at the same time I got you. I noticed the men looking at her, too, and figured she would be safer away from them."
"Thank you for that, at least. I know from how you handled the other woman that you won't hurt her. I still wish we could go home, though."
"Your `home' is a big rock pile by now, Taavi. You have a new home with me where you and your mother are safe and will not need anything," Jahi answered, trying to get his seneschal to see how good staying with him would be. Whatever it took, he would keep Taavi safe and happy.
"Gee, wonder who's fault it is that my home is now a pile of stones?" The younger man snapped at the rider in front of him.
"Not mine! I never told the Pharaoh to go and take over your home in a land that was no threat to us and was too far away to rule!" Jahi snapped back.
"No, but you haven't done anything to stop him, either," Taavi half snarled at the older man.
"There was nothing I could have done. But if you promise not to run away, I give you my word that when we get home I'll free your mother." Jahi said, hoping to pacify the younger man.
"I promise I won't run away, although I really didn't this time, either. It was more like being driven away," Taavi said ,as he snuggled closer to Jahi against the night's cold.
"Why did you buy my mother instead of just arranging for her safety like you did with the boy?" The seneschal broke the silence after a few minutes had passed.
"I thought you might like to keep her close by so that you would know she was safe." Jahi said, hearing the curiosity in Taavi's question.
"Thanks, it means a lot to me to have Naomi close," Taavi said with a yawn.
"Are we almost back with the others?" Taavi asked tiredly.
"Almost." Jahi said, smiling.
"Glad to see you and the kid back here Jahi!" A voice boomed out of the darkness.
"Thanks, Sefu. Did you find out anything about Omari?" Jahi asked, handing the sleeping slave down to the Captain.
"Apparently Tarik was suppose to take the lad, and then you would do a little job for him to get the boy back; except that after the job, Taavi was going to be given to Omari as a runaway slave. He's in the city holding cell now, on charges of conspiracy to steal private property as well as acting to destroy the Pharaoh's peace," Sefu explained.
"Tarik is being held in the last town for attempted murder," Jahi said, stone-faced.
"It's a relief to get those two miscreants off the streets!" Sefu said, shaking his head.
Jahi grunted and nodded his agreement as he carried the sleeping slave inside.
Jahi groaned at the sound of puppies yipping and his seneschal's laughter. It seemed only minutes since he had gone to bed, but the sun was shining in the room brightly.
In the main room, he smiled as he saw Taavi rolling around on the floor, playing with a puppy. The innkeeper's wife smiled as well, obviously amused at the slave's enjoyment of her puppy.
"He seems quite taken with her, guardian. She is the runt of the litter and we were unable to interest anyone in her," The keeper said by way of explanation.
Sefu shook his head as he watched more arrangements being made, and a sack for the puppy to travel in being provided. "Mush. That boy has turned my best officer into pure mush."
"Hey, 'schal, collect your puppy and let's go." Jahi called, holding the sack out for Taavi.
"Thank you, Jahi!" The young man grinned as he collected the puppy and got her settled in.
"Do you have a name for her?" Jumoke asked as the men were mounting up.
"Can I name her, Jahi?" Taavi asked as he handed the bag over to Jahi and mounted.
"She's your dog, by all means you get to name her." Jahi said, give him a half smile.
"Chana," Taavi said, taking the bag back and getting the puppy comfortable.
"It's a pretty name for her, 'schal." Jahi said, as they started out.
"Jahi, how is it that you didn't have a seneschal, since you're a guardian?" Taavi asked, riding beside him.
"I came into my senses somewhat late. All guardians are required to be in the service of the pharaoh. My father wanted me to follow in his footsteps as a merchant. My younger brother was going to go into the military. Sethos turned out to not be the military type but was a great businessman. In order to keep me out of the service, my father made me repress my senses." Jahi explained.
"When did they come back?" Taavi asked in total fascination.
"The unit I was in in the army was on a boat, there was a storm. I got back home but it took a year and a half. While I was coming home, my senses reappeared," Jahi continued, while the other team members sat agog. Jahi never talked about himself to anybody, yet here he was telling all, to this relative stranger.
"Why aren't you in the army, now?" Taavi asked the second Jahi was through.
"Do you always ask this many questions?" Jahi asked, grinning.
"Yes, I usually do, and you still haven't answered the question," Taavi said, smiling.
"When my senses re-manifested I started having blank outs, so they transferred me to guard duty at the palace. I was in there, slowly dying of boredom, when Sefu asked if I would help him catch Tarik. Having nothing better to do, I helped; when it was over, he asked to have me in his militia unit," Jahi said, then held up his hand before Taavi could fire another question at him.
"My turn to ask something about you, Taavi," Jahi said. "How is it that you were never given the sign of a seneschal?
"You aren't given a seneschal badge unless a guardian has chosen you. None of the guardians wanted an illegitimate son from a poor family as their seneschal," Taavi explained without seeming to have any hard feelings about it.
"Well, one's chosen you now, 'schal." Jahi smiled over at him.
"I was always taught that the guardian/seneschal bond was one of equals. So does that mean you are going to free me?" Taavi asked, knowing the answer.
"You're safer with me." Jahi growled.
"I would rather be free than safe." Taavi snapped back.
"I've made you as comfortable and as happy as possible. What more is there that you want?" The guardian snapped at his seneschal
"Like an ancestor of mine told an ancestor of yours, let my people go!" the young Jew snapped.
"What would you do if you were free, Taavi?" Jumoke asked quietly, hesitant to jump into this fight.
"Since I know my mother is safe, I would go to Cairo and see the sphinx ." Taavi answered sadly as though knowing this was not going to happen.
"I live in Cairo, Taavi. We can go to the sphinx anytime." Jahi said, losing patience.
"What would you do after going sight seeing?" Sefu asked, having a hunch what the answer was, and hoping his stone headed guardian would hear it.
"I would come back home to Jahi and Naomi." Taavi said softly.
"So, you're willing to stay with me?" Jahi asked, now totally confused.
"The issue has never been staying with you, Jahi," Taavi said in exasperation. "The issue is that I want to be free. If I were free, Jahi, I would stay with you. You're the first person outside of my mother who has ever wanted me around."
"So you're saying even if you were free to leave, you would stay?" the lieutenant asked startled; no one had ever stayed with him by choice.
"As long as staying with you never means attacking my own people, yes I would stay with you," the young man said, grinning at the guardian's confusion.
"It'll never mean that, 'schal," Jahi said, smiling as he finally realized that his seneschal had chosen to become his friend.
"Does this mean you are going to free him?" The entire unit asked, almost as one.
"Since he's agreed to stay, yes I will." Jahi said, smiling.
Sefu and Jahi shook their heads as Reshef and Hondo immediately began planning a celebration for Taavi's freedom.
"Wow, this is so cool, Cathy! Burton collected stories like this?" Blair asked, bouncing in his chair.
"Yes. He felt that they offered proof that Sentinels had always been part of human society. He believed that they still existed," she said, sipping her coffee.
"And you're planning on publishing these now?" Blair asked, trying not too sound too much like he was begging.
"That's the only one that he had finished translating. That was why I was going to ask if I could hire you to edit any others that I find?" She laughed at his eagerness.
"I would love to! Man if I had had these when I was working on my dissertation..." Blair shook his head.
"I didn't know there was anyone wanting them, or I would have made them accessible," Cathy said apologetically as she turned her head and smiled at the man entering.
"Cathy, I didn't know you were coming over," Jim said, getting a kiss.
"Man, Jim, You have got to take a look at this! Cathy's great grandfather was Burton himself. Apparently he collected tales about Sentinels and guides throughout history."
"Whoa, Chief, if you don't calm down, you're going to wet yourself; what's so exciting?" Jim asked, smiling at this new trip to the wonderfully weird world of Blair.
Jim joined Cathy on the couch and was told a story about another Sentinel and Guide from a different time and place and how they came together.
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