“Ah, you should have seen it. The leviathan comes up for breath only once every one hundred years.”
“A leviathan is real?”
“Of course, and it earns that name. When it pulls out of the sea, it causes massive tidal waves that threaten the coasts. Mages with a strong water talent all around the world are recruited to deal with it. He’s so large that he blots out the sky. Fortunately, he’s a passive creature, and after breathing air for a few days, he sinks back below the surface to slumber for another hundred years.”
“What is it all for? “ I asked. “Like, what about food and… um… procreation.”
“Few monsters concern themselves with survivability.” Angela shrugged. “That’s for animals to worry about. Monsters are about upsetting the balance, not maintaining it. That Leviathan, he’s the last of his kind, you see? His life is just on a completely different scale than our own. I suspect he’s just waiting down there to die, breathing his last few breaths…
“He’s not the only modern monster wonder though. There is the phoenix colony to the northwest. It’s where the last family of phoenix lives. When a mother dies, she bursts into flames, and her child rises from the ashes. Except, that environment isn’t very inducive towards expanding your population. It was a big deal thirty-some years ago when the mother ended up with twins. First and last time the population increased.
“Then, there is a massive golem. He lays dormant as a mountain. Actually, he is a mountain now. Years of dirt covered him and if you actually want to see any part of him, you have to look where to excavate. People live on his body now. If he ever woke up, it’d be devastation.”
“Kind of like living on a volcano, huh?”
Angela snorted. “Nothing like it. We can use magic to tame a Volcano. No one of this modern era knows how that great golem was built nor how he functions.”
So even volcano’s were no big deal in a world with magic. I was learning all kind of interesting things talking to Angela. Once, she had freaked me out and I had been a bit scared of her. However, after being locked in this small room in the dark for three days, she was the only company I had, and my opinion started to change. We passed the time by conversing in this manner.
As a pirate, she had sailed across the world and had as many tales as one would expect. I was once again realizing this world was much bigger than I ever expected. That was literal. The way she described it; this world likely had twice the landmass of the earth. It was no wonder I didn’t crash over an ocean, as oceans were much smaller things in this world. For example, this Leviathan she spoke of was the size of an entire ocean. Although it was also possible that the Leviathan was just far larger than I could imagine.
Her stories reminded me a bit of Rose. However, she made even Rose seem inexperienced by comparison. I felt part of this was because she was happy lying and exaggerating. She didn’t let a little thing like facts ruin a good story, where Rose would always tell it like it was.
Time wore on. Twice a day, a handful of snack bags and cans of juice would be tossed in the room, and we’d eat potato crisps and candy to pass our time and satiate our hunger. I told her my story, a complete fabrication of course. It didn’t matter, I suspected a lot of what she told me was I lie as well. It was simply the sort of relationship that the two of us shared. It was one of necessary companionship.
Fortunately, I hadn’t been revealed to be a man thus far. Furthermore, my face was definitely not one that she had recognized. She didn’t know Prince Caleb’s face. Even if she determined I was a man, she’d never be able to tie me back to that boy she had kidnapped some time ago.
“What happened after your ship went kablooey?” I asked, finally driving the conversation in this direction after days of patience.
Of course, my primary concerns were Brooke and Charlie. If anyone knew anything about what happened to either of them, this woman was my best chance.
“If a ship went down with a simple boiler explosion, no one would fly.” Angela snorted, her arms closed and looking distantly as she spoke. “Many died in the explosion. We landed to make repairs. By that time, I realized that boy I told you about had escaped. I had received reports that a few stowaways were causing trouble around the engine room. I reckoned it was sabotage. It took a while to realize it was actually that boy who had caused all that. Most the guy’s I know are pretty dumb. They’d never be able to get up to that much trouble. Well, he wasn’t much smarter. He was burned up to a crisp.
“Where….” I choked for a second but absolutely had to find out the answer to this question. “Where did you bury the body?”
“Body?” Angela raised an eyebrow. “He was the delivery. So, I delivered him. Of course, he was supposed to be alive. The pregnant one broke into tears, saying it was all my fault. The other one… she started ranting about how I destroyed all hope for humanity. The next thing I know, my ship is blowing up, and I’m being thrown into the sea. When I washed up, I was in chains. As to what they did with the boy, who knows?”
“Was he alive?” I asked carefully.
“Who knows?” Angela shrugged as if she didn’t care.
I fought to keep my cool. It wouldn’t do good to act foolishly in such a confined space. However, her information had been infinitely helpful. Two people had ordered to have me delivered to them. Things went bad. I died. There was some kind of altercation and the ship got blown up. Now, I was here. That meant my body couldn’t have been too far from this location when I died. What were the chances?
I touched my face and glanced at my brown-skinned hands. Am I even who I think I am? I had seen what Hannah could do with the right magic. I was hardly a skilled magic user. If someone wanted to, they could decorate me out to be the prince. The question was simply, to what end? Was I dead and reincarnated? Or was I burned to a crisp and then dressed up to look like this Prince.
The Mother, the sister, even the daughter were all convinced I was him. The disguise would have needed to be perfect. They told my family that I wouldn’t remember anything. Perhaps they were in on it? However, why did they think I wouldn’t tell them? The second I opened up to my mother and started talking about being from Amaryllis… well, knowing the woman who called herself my mother, it could end with my throat cut and another rolled up carpet. Perhaps that wasn’t the brightest idea.
At the very least, I should tell someone who I really was. Looking at the only woman across from me, I grimaced. Well, certainly not her. Perhaps Lyra would listen. Perhaps.
The door slammed open, and a bright light came into the usually dark room. I shielded my eyes, unable to see as about four people walked in.
“Take them down. Put them with the rest. They demand more workers.”
“Yeah… might as well. Neither is pretty enough to be a sex slave.”
Angela rose up and bared her teeth, but someone punched her in the gut. It was the last thing I saw as a bag was shoved over my head and I was bound roughly. Soon, we were walking, but this time I couldn’t see a thing in front of me. I had the feeling we left the warehouse and even traveled outside for a while, but the truth was that even if my eyes were open I wouldn’t have been able to see anything.
“Two more workers,” a voice said.
It sounded like were being passed off to someone else. Hands grabbed me roughly and pushed me into a building. I was waiting for a chance to escape, but it was clear that none came. A few moments later, we were shoved into some cold tight space. I felt the floor drop. We were in some kind of elevator, but it moved rather noisily. As we moved, I could hear rushing water, and the area became damper and cooler. This went on for about five minutes until we were finally pushed out.
I could hear the distinct noises of metal against rock. It sounded like a stone mason working or something like that. I was shoved down to my knees, and only then the hood over my head was removed. Breathing in some fresh air, I glanced around. I could see more women. Angela was there, forced into a similar kneeling position, but we were just two of a dozen women who were on the floor. Around us were other women, with pale skin and slightly harsher looking bodies. In my old world, many of these women would have looked average, which was downright ugly by this world’s standard.
Many of them had guns, and they had an expression on their faces that said, they’d think nothing of aiming those guns and taking us all out. I kept my head lowered and didn’t struggle, instead, using the opportunity to get more acclimated to where I was.
It was dark, with only a few small light sources to go by. We appeared to be in some kind of underground cavern, with very little of it looking manmade.
“Welcome to your new home, ladies.” A large woman with big tits stood up.
She had something kind of like overalls on, her hair tied back, and a large board on her shoulder.
“You are all now slaves of the Royal family.”
What? She just said Royal family. As in, me, Prince Caleb! How could I be a slave to myself? More than that, why did I have no clue this country had slavery?
“I-I’m not a slave!” A woman cried out. “Please… I have a child. They took me when I was walking-“
The big woman nodded, and someone behind her kicked the woman. She let out a cry and fell to the ground, still trying to protest and plead, but this only earned her more kicks. The remaining eleven could only remain on our knees and listen as the woman sobbed and bellowed. It was only long after the bellowing and crying ended that the kicks stopped. As for the woman, she didn’t get back up again as the punisher sneered at the group.
“As I was saying. The Royal family has… acquired you for a certain job.” The big woman continued again. “In essence, for the near future, and also likely the remainder of your short lives, you will be digging.”
“Digging for what?” Angela snapped.
A woman took a step forward, but the big woman held up her hand and stopped her. “Good question. I don’t mind questions here, as long as they’re to the point. You will be daggering in search of a lost artifact. The royal family would really like to have it back. That is all you need to know. You will dig and dig, and if you find something noteworthy, you will tell us. Understood?”
Other than Angela, who still had her head up, everyone else was too afraid to say anything. I had to admit that I was one of them. My thoughts were probably a bit different than everyone else’s though. I kept going back and forth on whether I should reveal my identity. After all, I wasn’t just a man, I was the prince. There was no way the royal family, particularly my mother, wouldn’t rectify this situation in an instant. Once I was back in the castle, I could also use my connections to question Angela more severely, and truly learn the fate, my friends.
However, that made one really big assumption. These guys were honestly under the employ of the royal family. It was very possible that they only said that to diminish fighting back. If we thought that there was no one we could run to for safety, we’d be less likely to run, or something like that. In that case, if I told them my true identity, that was the quickest way to get me killed.
It didn’t take long before they started sorting us out. The big woman left to go do something else, and it was now a bushy woman with much darker skin than most of the woman in this country. She had a permanent sneer on her face, and her words struck like a whip.
“You… you look weak, go to line 5. That way! Fool!”
“You… you’re probably stupid. You can do well here.”
That was all it took for her to decide what we would do. I knew very little about mining, but I suspected that some jobs were really easy and some jobs were very difficult. So, that meant, the rest of our lives, and possibly even our very survival, depended on her quick whip decisions.
“You…” She came up to me.
I was so lost in thought, that I immediately responded like a soldier. “Yes!”
A small smirk formed on her face. “A slave that knows their place. Not bad. In that case, I’ll give you a job in the kitchens.”
I stood and immediately curtsied, although badly. I really had no clue what was good or bad, but I wasn’t going to question it. It didn’t take more than a glance to see several jealous looks directed my way. It appeared as if the kitchen was an enviable job, and not everyone was given it. My eyes quickly scanned the hallways, and I saw the signs on the walls dictating which way to go. The mess was indicated, and through the mess hall that had to be the kitchen. I nearly dashed off in that direction.
I didn’t even give Angela another look. Rather, my mind was way too frayed and I was only just keeping it together. I kept asking myself what the point of these mines were. Unfortunately, there was no answer for me.
I was surprised to find that there was no one shadowing or watching me. Rather, as soon as I was set on my location, then I face no oversight. However, the walkway was narrow, and there really wasn’t anywhere I could go. It was a situation where I more or less had to act the way they wanted, and it seemed they knew that. We were underground, and the entrances were bound to be heavily guarded. In that respect, this was basically a dungeon.
If I didn’t do my tasks… I wouldn’t get food and would starve to death. This was that kind of environment, do or die. After identifying the mess, where a few hundred women at a time sat and ate in deathly silence, the slamming and cracking of pans were enough to lead me to the kitchens. As soon as I entered, I gave another lousy curtsy.
“My name is Calie, I’ve been sent to work in the kitchens.”
“You have?” A woman even bigger than the large woman who sent me this way pulled out a large ladle and waved it at me. “You look kind of scrawny. I bet you wouldn’t be able to scrub the grease out of a single pan.”
“I’ll do whatever you ask, m’ lady!” I put my arm over my chest as if making an oath.
The woman watched me more carefully. “ A new recruit, are we?”
“Yes, ma’am!” I said.
“Well, you’ve already got in the taskmistresses good favor if you made it this far. You’re quite adaptable. Perhaps I can use it. In that case, you’re on delivery duty. Get to know the compound on the job.”
I nodded. “Yes, ma’am!”
I felt a bit like a sham acting this way, but there was nothing else I could do at the moment but play the part. I felt like this woman understands the situation I was put it. At least, I was willing to fake it, even though I had been turned into a slave by whoever it was in charge of this operation.
“There is not much to it.” The large woman said. “Grab these meals, take them to the sections they’re labeled under. The miners might like to see a fresh young face like yours. Gives them hope they’ll ever get out of that pit again. When you’re done, I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping and so-on. Do your job properly, and you’ll live until tomorrow. Understood?”
That’s how I ended up loading a bunch of carts with plates. Certain people got complete meals, although most of them would just get slop in a bowl. That was the primary food geared to the majority of the slaves.
My first few attempts at deliveries ended up a little late, but thankfully no one seemed to notice. I could only go by the signs on the walls to find my way around the complex. As I did so, I did exactly as the kitchen chef suggested and I was mapping out everything. In essence, there were six areas under the ground. An administrative area where those in charge worked and maintained order, a kitchen and mess area where food was handled, a residential area where slaves were allowed to sleep in small hovels. There was the lift area where stones were sent up to the surface, and then there was the primary digging network, where people widened corridors and built supports. Finally, there was the pits, an area deep down, where the stability was unknown and death was common.
Those assigned to the pits were assigned essentially a death notice. They were not given residential access and had to sleep and work down there. After only a few hours, I was already getting a feel for how things worked. The primary enforcement people had were to not end up in the pits. “Hey, at least you’re not in the pits.” Is something someone would say to comfort another. “Shh… you’ll end in the pits if they hear you.” Might be a threat to warn people to be cautious. It was the final place I had reached. There was a pulley system, like an elevator, but without any protective rails in the slightest. It really did look like a pit which headed straight down into darkness.
“Alright, I guess I need to bring them their food.” I sighed, although all that was left was the gross looking gruel. “Lady, can you help lower me and my cart down?”
The girl leisurely lying by the pits drop shot me a surprised look. “You new here?”
“Ah… yeah?” I said, feeling a bit awkward that I was fitting in so easily into this environment.”
The girl grinned. “Ah… though so. Well, be my guest, get in. I’ll happily lower you.”
She had a surprisingly chipper expression on her face now, where previously she had just looked disinterested. Most everyone I had seen up until now had certainly not looked happy, so her sudden improvement in mood caught me off guard. Was she just happy that she was useful? I supposed that could be the reason. I really couldn’t come up with any other.
After getting on the trolley, she began turning the wheel and lowering me down. Ever so slowly, I was lowered into that darkness. So far, it had been rather cold and damp just about everywhere, but to my surprise, as I was lowered into the hole, it actually started to warm up. By the time I reached the bottom, it was hot enough to be mildly uncomfortable.
I pulled the cart off the elevator, but I barely took two steps when she started rolling it back up again. I turned around and looked up at the hole.
“Hey!” I shouted.
My voice echoed through the cavern. Then, other sounds started to come from the darkness. Several girls started to appear from the dark corners of the room. These women had unkempt hair. Their bodies mostly looked emaciated, and they were covered in dirt, filth, and scars.
“Oh, they brought the cart down?” One asked, snorting to herself.
“Don’t they usually just dump the slop down the hole and let us scrape it off the ground.”
“A new girl.”
“Oh… isn’t she pretty.”
My face started to lose its color as more and more severe looking women started to come out into the open. I only understood now that the pits were not the place for me. Other people just dumped the slop down the hole and called it a deal. I came down personally, with the cart and I realized it was not enough food to cover all the people here. Some of them were looking at me like I was food too, although a few I felt had more carnal desires in mind.
If they knew I was a man, I couldn’t imagine what would happen. The situation would be disastrous.
“W-well then, I brought your food.” I managed to get out nervously. “In that case, I’ll be on my way.”
“No, stay a while…”
“Don’t go until we’ve had our fill.”
Some of the women had gone to the cart, opening it up and pulling out scoops of slop with their bare hands. Others took more interest in me, bypassing the cart entirely. I was now surrounded by at least four women. They were licking their lips and looking ready for a fight. These ladies had been without proper food, water, or light for who knew how long. There was no reason I wasn’t stronger than them. I raised up my hands.
I wouldn’t be manhandled as I had been by those women on the surface who had enslaved me and dragged me down to this hell. This time, I would fight back. I’d give these women such a fight that I would even make Brooke proud. That’s right, she was my strength.
“Enough!” A shout shook through the room, and everyone there immediately turned as if being obedient as a stronger person came.
A short haired woman stepped out, her face grim. “Stop acting like animals. The lady was nice enough to not drop the slop down, we reward behavior that makes our lives better, not punish it. Would you rather keep eating off the floor!
All of the girls around her clearly respected the newcomer’s voice, as they were lowering their heads and considering. The ones who had been scooping slop into their mouths with their hands finally stopped, backing away with blushes.
However, none of that was within my notice at the moment, because my eyes were focused on the woman in front of me. My eyes started to water, and my knees felt week. The woman walked up to me.
“You’re new, but if you choose to bring the cart down here, I’ll personally guarantee your safety, or my name isn’t Brooke.”
Brooke… I had finally found her. I was in the pits. In a mere week, I went from prince to a slave. Now, at my lowest, there she was. At that moment, I could kiss her. No, I was going to kiss her! I grabbed Booke and then kissed her right on the lips. When she slipped me some tongue during that kiss, I realized she probably thought I was a woman. Brooke… please show a little restraint.