The beginning of a story the writing of which will probably end prematurely? Coming right up.

Here’s something I’ve been working on for a short time. I don’t know whether I should continue writing it or just scrap it like the rest. I would, however, greatly appreciate any feedback if you have the time to read it, whether it is on the style of writing, flow of the sentences and events, or anything else you might like or dislike. 

As for the theme, I’ve been taking a history course on slavery, and I started writing this after reading a passage on slavery in Ancient Rome, and a part about slave rebellions piqued my interest.

Why did I post this here? I haven’t written anything for Neatly Random in a while, and I’ve got loads of drafts and scrapped works that could use feedback. Killing two birds with one stone! Moving on, here’s the draft, I hope you like it. 

Powerless and humiliated, Josiah’s fate couldn’t get worse. He was surrounded by the enemy, and the tables had now turned; he was the captive and they were the captors. They were laughing their hearts out, loudly relishing these moments of power while he was drowning in despair, trying to find a way out of this mess.

“Release me! You curs will not hear the end of this, the Emperor will raise the entire army to dispatch you, fools!”

If anything, Josiah’s attempts at intimidation riled them up even more, and the slaves began wildly dancing around him while chanting in a strange language he hadn’t heard in years. Each one looked more hideous and grotesque than the next; their faces were naturally deformed since birth, yet worsened even more by the brand each slaves was bound to hold on his forehead. Their malnourished semi-naked bodies covered in whip marks and glistening with sweat twirled around him like a flame dances around its next meal; graceful and mesmerising all the while ominous and terrifying. In the distance, drums began echoing through the entire estate. They began pounding slowly, in long intervals, but then became faster as they approached towards his location. Josiah saw no end to this cruel ritual, and somehow he wanted it to end as fast as possible. His end was certain and there was no point in delaying it any further. He only hoped his family had made it out safely of the carnage that preceded the takeover of the estate, and that they were well on their way to the Capital.

“Josiah Darktree, this is your final hour,” exclaimed the eldest of the slaves. Josiah had never seen him standing so tall and proud, as he was always toiling in the fields with a hunched back and a blank expression on his face, “you and your kind have tormented us for far too long, and it is time for retribution!”

The old man’s vocabulary were surprisingly well-chosen, and his articulation was flawless, hinting that he might be a literate one, quite rare for a slave. I should’ve treated this old coot better, would’ve made more money off him Isiah regretted, even while knowing he was a few minutes away from gruesome death. The old man started speaking again, but the former master stopped listening to him. With his demise drawing nigh, he couldn’t help but get engrossed in his own memories. His former glory as an Empire centurion, his rise from the bottom of society to one of the richest plantation owners in all of Pelium, the feasts held in his honour, the rich women he courted…Those he used to amass his fortune were now trying to kill him. These slaves, destined by nature itself to do nothing but mindlessly serve and accept their fates now rebelled against him and the whole establishment. He had no doubt each one of them would be condemned and crucified by the Emperor himself, and he only wished he would be alive to see them slowly perish, nailed to the crosses of shame they’d brought upon themselves.

Drunken in his own thoughts, Josiah saw the figure of a bulky man approach him, wielding a heavy hoe with both hands. It was already dripping with fresh, crimson blood. Josiah didn’t even want to wonder whose it was. One of the overseers, he’d hoped. The executioner lifted his instrument of death, and like a maestro with his baton, silenced the cacophony around him in an intense moment of anticipation. Everyone stood still, awaiting for the moment they’d been eagerly awaiting. The hoe rushed downwards, and, with an underwhelming “thuk”, settled itself in Josiah’s neck after slicing through his spine. Roars of victory and intoxicated happiness rose again, and wild cheers emanated from all the slaves at once, celebrating their oppressor’s death. For them, it was the dawn of a new age, where the former slaves would walk forward, leaving in their wake the shattered remains of the Empire and the bodies of all Pellians.

*****

For the citizens of Frederica, life was as peaceful as ever; either citizens didn’t hear of the provincial unrest, or they simply chose to ignore it. Either way, the city seemed completely unaffected by the sprawling slave rebellion. Whether it was on the teeming merchant streets, popular hot baths or the luscious gardens that adorned each neighbourhood, the general atmosphere seemed as bliss as ever. Frederica was a majestic city, the crown jewel of the Pellian Empire and the pride of all its citizens. The City of Life as its inhabitants liked to call it, is the busiest centre of trade in the entire continent, boasting a population of over a million inhabitants. It comprised of traders, craftsmen, men of letters, artists, swindlers, beggars and especially the finest metalworkers in the Empire. Indeed, whilst most crafts were regarded as demeaning jobs, only given to slaves, metalworking was an art and Frederica’s staple products were fine tools, sharp blades, and impenetrable armour.

With its smoke billowing from the chimneys and deafening clangs of hammers on soft steel, Isaac’s smithy didn’t really seem to stand out from the dozens of other ones in Wayland Street. While its outside made it look fairly typical in Frederica, Steelarm Metalwork produced many generations of skilled metalsmiths, and Isaac Steelarm belonged to its fifth one, also accumulating the fame his forefathers had created in and outside the city. True to their memory, Isaac diligently took over after his father, who’d taught him everything he knew, passed away. Although lacking in experience, Isaac worked as hard as any man could to carry on his family’s legacy. He never cut corners or shied away from using as much steel as it took to get as close to perfection as he possibly could.

“Hey Isaac!”

It was Astrid, the baker’s daughter, who was passing by the smithy, just like she did every morning. Her golden locks bounced with every prance she made, and her cheerful smile created an aura around her that almost seemed to repel the smoke and bad odours of Wayland street. As per usual, she held a small basket to carry the usual bread deliveries for some of her father’s clients.

“Good morning Astrid!” Isaac, who was in the middle of forging a set of horseshoes, lifted his head up and wiped the sweat off his forehead. He’d had a crush on her for several months now, and he was determined to make a move. He’d never engaged in a full conversation with her before, and their interaction always ended after the usual daily greeting. After a moment’s hesitation, the young smith built up enough courage to say something, and dropping his hammer on the anvil, he blurted, “How’s your day going?”

Almost as if taken by surprise, Astrid tripped on a loose flagstone she failed to see, but quickly recovered herself before collapsing. Isaac rushed to her help and picked up a fallen loaf. “Are you alright?” he exclaimed, with almost exaggerated concern in his voice.

“I’m fine thank you…this stupid tile,” she chuckled, “first time I trip on it in a while.”

“It’s probably new or something, these heavy carriages are ruining the roads every day.”

“Well, I guess it’s a perfect conversation starter since we never seem to talk.” Astrid smiled while dusting her blue dress with her hands.

“I suppose so,” Isaac’s olive skin turned red with embarrassment, “would you like to come in and catch your breath?”

Astrid stroked her thin chin as if thinking, “I don’t like this street; it’s too noisy and always smells of sulphur. Maybe a small walk in the park?”

“Sure,” he exclaimed with excitement while removing his heavy leather gloves, “I’ll be right back, got to wash my face really quickly.”

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