The unexpected is a constant visitor to life.
Plans invite disruptions, and predictions call change.
It was a usual day in Ahalad, Erzin – bright, veered to warmth, and seeing a flow as busy as this town could see.
Wilhem Faust was among those journeying into Ahalad. He was a man more than fifty in age, fairly fit, of moderate height and build. His hair, thin and pure white, was kept long and tied. His face was thin and lined, and his eyes were kind, but not as bright as they once had been.
From his clothes, one could tell that he was rich. Indeed he was. He was a landowner, whose main home was on a nice estate in Coser. He also had a few more properties to his name – one of which lay here. It was why he had come. He had business to settle with a potential tenant.
What Mr. Faust didn't know, however, that this was not to be any normal trip.
He took up a room in a nice local inn, before going out to settle his business. His duties took all of the day and much of the night, thus it was quite late when he started the walk back.
His boots pattered in a soft pattern as he sauntered down the streets. Shadows of figures drifted about him, but he paid them no heed. He crossed his arms for warmth, sauntering on. He came to a blind turn, and went round it, only to collide directly into someone. He drew back in a moment, looking up to see a trio of young men. By the looks of them, they were common workers, laborers, probably. They were muscular, dressed grubbily, and held bottles in their hands. They straightened up at the appearance of Mr. Faust, glancing at him with worrying interest.
"What's this?" one of them, whom he had bumped into, spoke up. "An old rich lord?"
Nervousness washed over Mr. Faust like a wave. He panicked, turning to scurry away. But the youth grabbed his sleeve, holding on. "What? I am not good enough for an apology?"
The other two came forward, looking menacing.
"No, no," Mr. Faust said quickly. "Of course not. I apologize. It was an accident."
"Look at him," said another of the men. "In his nice fancy clothes. You must think you're too good for us, don't you?"
He was smart enough not to answer.
"What should we do with him, boys?" the first asked of his companions.
"Well, we require compensation, don't we?" One of them grabbed at Mr. Faust's belt, pulling off one of his money bags.
"Hey!" To this, Wilhem Faust couldn't help reacting. Unfortunately, the moment he moved forward, all the men set upon him, launching fists and kicks.
Mr. Faust stumbled back, pulling out his sword and managing to slash and subdue two of the men.
But very quickly, he realized that the third had somehow escaped his sight. A warning went off in his head, and he whipped around. Indeed, his third attacker had rushed up behind him for a sly backstab. But before the youth could bring down his dagger, there was a sound of something loud shattering, and bits of green glass suddenly burst out over his scalp. The young man's eyes rolled upwards, and he collapsed heavily to the ground, unconscious. In his place stood but a young girl, a broken half-bottle in hand.
Mr. Faust stopped, and the two stared at each other. Neither of them spoke. The young girl glanced down at the man she had struck, and she took in a gasp. She looked as as if she couldn't believe what she had just done.
Mr. Faust swallowed, his mind finally starting to think. "Come with me," he whispered to the girl urgently, taking her arm.
She did not object, dropping the bottle and allowing him to lead her away. He took her across street upon street, only stopping when he felt that they had gone quite a safe distance. He paused then, the two of them standing behind a house. He surveyed the girl, noting from her warm skin and black hair that she was a Brokan. She was perhaps little more than ten. Her cap, apron, and docile demeanor suggested that she was a servant.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She took a moment to find her voice. "I'm … just a servant girl, sir."
"Yes, I know. What is your name?"
She hesitated. "Moira."
"Moira. why did you involve yourself like that?"
She didn't answer.
"You must have known it was very dangerous."
"I'm sorry, sir. I acted without thinking."
"Sorry? No, do not be. It seems you may have saved my life."
She lowered her eyes silently, and he gave out an uneasy sigh.
"I am most grateful to you, Moira. That was a very brave deed."
"Your thanks is appreciated. But … I must return to the home of my master."
He frowned. "Why is it that you are out alone on the streets at this time of night?"
"My master needed me to pass something to a friend. That is all."
"Well, at least let me take you back."
"No, no, please. That is hardly necessary."
"I insist. It's the least I can do." He held out his arm, but she didn't move. "Come now, Moira. It would not be best for us to linger. Let me take you back so that you may quickly be in the safety of your master's home."
She sighed at that, and her expression darkened as if in memory of what had just happened. "Very well," she relented in a quiet tone, holding on to him.
At her direction, they walked quickly to her master's. As they stopped outside the door, she let go of him, looking up and giving him a small smile. "I thank you, sir, for what you have done. You've treated me most kindly."
He nodded, but was startled when the door to the house opened, and a large woman appeared. "Moira! There you are! What took you so long, you stupid girl??" The woman came rushing up, only to stop at the sight of Mr. Faust. "Oh." She cleared her throat. "Excuse me, sir. Are you wishing to see someone? Master Pilson?"
"No, no. Please forgive me. I meant not to trespass." He gave little Moira a parting glance, then turned away. As he moved off, he heard the woman drag Moira inside, still nagging.
He heard a door shut, and then the fall of silence. Yet, as he walked, he felt as if something of that little girl was now stuck in his soul.
By the middle of the next morning, Wilhem Faust had almost fully formulated his idea. He went out, getting some breakfast and finishing up with his business first.
Soon as that was settled, he took the route to the house that Moira had led him to, and knocked on the door.
A servant led him in, and he asked for the master.
Mr. Faust was then ushered into a study, where a middle-aged, dark-haired man was writing, possibly doing accounts.
"Master Pilson, a Mr. Faust here to see you."
Mr. Pilson raised his eyes, blinking curiously. Slowly, he got up. "Mr. Faust?" he addressed his visitor in a puzzled tone. "Forgive me. I'm afraid I do not think we are acquainted …. "
"Indeed, we are not, sir. My name is Wilhem Faust. I come from Coser."
"I do not know anyone from Coser … " Pilson murmured, scratching his chin. "May I ask then what is the purpose of your visit, sir?"
"Actually, there is something I would like to purchase from you."
Mr. Pilson stared at him, then started to laugh. "This is quite odd. And what would I have that a stranger desires?"
"I wish to purchase a particular servant in your employ. She is a young Brokan girl named Moira."
There was a moment of silence. "You want one of my servants?"
"And why is that?"
"The reason is not important. Name your price, sir, and I will be happy to give it."
Mr. Pilson drew back, indulging in another hearty laugh. "Good Gods. Forgive me, Mr. – Faust, was it? – but you are starting to strike me as quite mad. I will not sell you any of my servants, so please, I would suggest that you take your leave and do not return."
"I'm willing to pay a hundred gold for her."
The other man stopped, stunned. This was an alarmingly high price for a servant, and he knew it. "A hundred?"
Mr. Faust nodded. "I'm sure that is much more than worth your while. You can buy a few more new servants with that." He took off a money bag, dumping it on Pilson's desk. "So? Do I have your agreement?"
Mr. Pilson furrowed his brows, reaching over and looking inside the pouch. He rifled through the gold coins, looking up at Mr. Faust with a careful eye. "You may be a little mad, Mr. Faust … but you're a madman with money." He turned then, calling out loudly for someone to bring him the girl named Moira.
A minute later, Moira appeared, and Mr. Faust brightened.
"Sir!" she gasped, surprised to see him.
"Moira," Mr. Pilson spoke. "You are, as of this moment, in the employ of this man, Mr. Faust. Take any possessions you have and leave. You are hereby discharged from this house."
Moira blinked, obviously stunned.
"Well, go on," Mr. Faust encouraged her.
She stared at him, questions in her eyes, but at last, went away. She was quite soon back with a small bag of things, and Mr. Faust led her out, down the walk and onto the street.
The sun shone warmly on their faces, and the chatter of people around them served a steady buzz.
Moira stopped, looking to her companion questioningly. "Sir … if I may?"
"What just happened?"
"I bought you from Mr. Pilson. You are not his servant anymore."
She blinked. "Oh. So … I will be yours?"
"Oh, no, no," he exclaimed. "I may have paid money for you, but you are not my servant. I have quite enough workers in my employ, and have no need for another."
"Then … why did you buy me, sir?"
"I bought not you, but your freedom for you. Do you have any family, Moira?"
"Where are they?"
"Would you like me to help you to return them? Is that possible?"
She looked up at him, wide-eyed. Then she stopped, her face becoming more neutral. "That is kind of you, but I cannot go back to them. They are the ones who sold me to slave traders."
Mr. Faust gazed at her. He sensed her sadness, and his heart was touched. "I see." He drew in a breath. "Therefore you have nowhere to go?"
"I do not, sir. But I will be happy to work for you. I am sure you are a very good master …. "
"Alright now, let's get some things settled. Firstly, I do not wish you to call me sir, my child. My name is Faust."
She nodded slowly. "Oh. Alright. Um … Mr. Faust?"
"Yes. That's better. Now, I want for you not to see yourself as a servant, a slave, or a worker any longer, Moira. You gave me my life, and I wish to give you yours. Today, I plan to journey back to my home in Coser. I want you to come with me. I have taken you, and now you are my responsibility."
She glanced back at him, too surprised to answer for a moment. "Well, I … I do not know what to say, sir. I mean … Mr. Faust."
"It's alright." He leaned over, putting an arm around her shoulders. "You are a special child, Moira. I could see that yesterday. You're surely one who deserves to be of higher rank in life than another's servant."
She lowered her eyes, not answering.
"Come on. Let's get you back to the inn so you can clean up."
Moira stood in a corner of her room at the Dusk's Inn, before a washbasin. She dampened a towel, then began scrubbing her face and arms. She wet her black hair, then straightened up, looking around.
The night sky reflected in a small square mirror on the wall. She walked over, taking a look at herself.
She was a very young girl, only twelve really. She was small and slight, and tan compared to the Erzinians. She gazed at herself, touching her skin, her mind still thinking over the words of that man, Mr. Faust.
'Today, I plan to journey back to my home in Coser. I want you to come with me. I have taken you, and now you are my responsibility.'
His responsibility. He had spoken as if he wanted to take her in to his home, like a charge.
Is it possible that there exists a man so kind?
She sighed, worry filling her great brown eyes. She turned away, glancing about the room. She walked across the floor, staring out the window towards her former master's house. It seemed so odd to think that she would not be returning there. That she would not be seeing the other servants, or the Master's family.
She remembered having felt that same way when she'd first been taken in to the Pilson household.
She had been bought from slave traders, who had in turn bought her from her father.
She paused, the memories seeming to drop a shadow over her heart. Yes, she could still remember clearly that day – that day when her father had taken her and two of her sisters out, only to give them over to slave traders.
One of her sisters, Medria, had screamed and struggled when she'd realized what was going on, only to be scolded by their father, and slapped by the trader.
Moira and her sisters were taken away, and soon separated as different buyers took them.
Her homeland was far from her, and now she was in the massive land of Erzin, among strangers, and where nothing was familiar to her.
She frowned, thinking of Mr. Faust, who seemed so unlike anyone she had ever met before.
Her recollections were sad and dark. She wasn't sure if she dared to imagine that she could actually have a hope for happiness in his care.
Was he really a kind man? Did he really mean to take care of her indefinitely? It all seemed far too good to be true.
"Moira?" Mr. Faust's voice called from outside her door. "Are you ready? I'd like to leave soon."
She didn't answer at first. Instead, she shut her eyes, saying a prayer to the Gods for her own sake, hoping fervently.
Let this be a real chance. A real chance for a real life.