Lef knew he made a bad slave. He wasn’t sure why, for he had been born into slavery. It wasn’t his parents’ fault either, for they, too, had been born into slavery. His greatparents as well. His was a long unproud heritage of slavery.

“You have to stop that, before the mistress hears you,” Mana scolded.

Lef looked at his mother after she had interrupted his speech. Next to her sat his younger sister, Mee. She was crying.

“I don’t care, mama. Let her hear. I’d rather she killed me for treason than send me off to fight in their stupid war!”

“Don’t die too, Leffy,” Mee softly cried.

“It is our war too, son,” Mana told him. her tired eyes seemed even mire tired. She was of the same age as the mistress, but looked many years older.

“What do I care about Kisholore and their dragon king? Defeating the Dragon of the Mount won’t give me my freedom!”

“Enough! This is the last time I want to hear about freedom! Now go to bed!”

Lef thought he might burst with rage and indignity and passion and the frustration that all of that emotion had no vent. He might feel the need to be free, but aside from running away and taking his chances in the desert, he knew he would never taste freedom. And now his own mother would not listen! In fact, she still treated him like a child!

“I’ve lived over a hundred seasons, mama! I’m not a child anymore! When the master comes back, he’ll probably take me to die in that dumb war.”

“It’s our war too, Leffy.”

Mee never raised her voice. She was the perfect female and the perfect little slave. Even now, after their father had been sent to die in the war, she still didn’t question anything.

“It’s not our war and I won’t die in it!”

“Lef, stop it. You’re upsetting Mee and she’s already had a hard day.” Though her words were sharp, that tiredness has returned to Mana’s eyes.

“What? Why? What happened?” he demanded as he looked at his crying little sister. She was no more than a child, but she seemed to be carrying a heavy burden on her shoulders that night.

Suddenly it dawned on him that she wasn’t crying for him. She was crying for herself. Something had happened to her that day.

A second realisation struck him in the silence where either his mother or Mee should’ve answered him.

“He summoned you,” he softly accused, making Mee cry even more. “You’re a child, but he summoned you anyway.”

“It is her duty,” Mana told Lef, but her words were meant to comfort Mee. “As it is your duty to follow the master into war. Now go to bed.”


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