By Geraldle

Copyright © 2001


He was a pretty child and Kith was his only name. That was not unusual; most people from the lower classes only had one name. Orphans, who in Varryn society were the lowest of the low, sometimes didn't even have that. As a slave, his status was not quite as low as an orphan, but it was not much higher. He was wearing a slave collar, so of course he was naked.

It was a high-class inn, so normally being alone; they would have turned Kith away, except he wore a bracelet on his wrist, which indicated that he was a Bonded Messenger.

Kith asked for Turc Senson, and with a scowl, a serving maid directed the nude boy to a middle-aged bearded man, richly dressed, who was nursing a bottle of wine at one of the tables. The boy stopped about a yard away from the man, so that he could be easily be seen. The man ignored his presence. So Kith just stood there in the way he had been taught by his former owner, feet a little apart, hands at his sides, so that nothing was concealed and just waited. If the man thought he could outwait Kith, he was in for a surprise. The boy could stand there for hours without moving.

After an hour, Kith was getting a little bored, but as long as he was a slave, while in Varryn, he couldn't speak until acknowledged, despite the fact that he was a Bonded Messenger. Finally, the man looked at him, and with curiosity asked, “How long would you stand there, if I didn't acknowledge you?”

Kith explained. with a solemn look on his small face, “My owner purchased me and several other slaveboys at the age of four. While most of what he wanted us for was sexual, this was the first part of our training. He would place us in position and we were required to remain in that position until told we could move. Any movement and we would receive a severe whipping. By the time we were five we had to be able to remain unmoving for at least four hours, by the time we were eight, a minimum of eight hours was required.”

“So you don't think I can outwait you?” the man asked with curiosity.

Kith said matter-of-factly, “It's highly unlikely, but not impossible, since you're a soldier, you might have received special scout training. That would have included training in how to go into a trance, allowing you to stay unmoving for long periods. Our owner never taught us how to use trances; he wanted us unmoving and helpless, yet completely aware and always conscious of our helplessness.”

“How do you know I'm a soldier?” asked the man.

Kith raised his small right hand and pointed, saying, “Both of your hands are callused, in ways that could not occur in any other way. You have the same type of calluses, on both hands, so unlike many soldiers you can use both arms equally well. You also you have the added calluses on your left arm that indicate that you carry a small shield on that arm. You could be an Armsmaster, but most could not afford to stay at a costly inn like this on a regular basis. However, you show no sign of discomfort at being here, so obviously these are the type of quarters you are accustomed to when not in the field.”

“Why would the Temple of Flarston, send... a what, a ten year old, to me?” asked Turc Senson.

Kith explained to him that, “I was either born a slave, or sold into slavery when I was too young to remember. Many slaves never know exactly when they were born, and that is the case with me. I could be eight if I'm big for my age or eleven if I'm small for my age. The feeling is that I am about ten, plus or minus six months. I have a message from the temple for you.”

Placing his left hand on the bracelet, Kith began to speak, and while it was still his voice, it resonated with the voice of the Priest in charge of Bonded Messengers at the local temple. “Kith is the only fully trained Bonded Messenger we have available at the present moment. It will be at least a week before any others are available. He has never been more than one hundred miles from Corson. If you have a long journey in mind, it would be advisable to wait.”

Kith released the bracelet, the jewel ceased glowing, and he brushed the lock of blond hair that had fallen down over his large gray eyes, back into place. The man stood up and dropping a silver coin on the table, saying, “Come with me, what I have to say needs a little more privacy.”

Turc headed for the stairs Kith following obediently behind. Turc entered the second room and closed the door after Kith entered. He said, “Sit, and we can discuss this.”

Kith sank to the floor, into a cross-legged position. Not expecting that, Turc was a little disconcerted. He said, “I meant for you to sit on the chair or on the bed.”

Kith shook his head, and told him with a solemn look on his face, “Most people would consider that it I did either I was taking liberties and rising above my station. As long as I'm a slave, it would be very unwise of me to get into bad habits. While I have divine protection when I am carrying a message, that doesn't extend to forgetting my station in life. I can be whipped, just as severely as any other slave, if I offend. The God would only protect me from punishment which was severe enough to affect my ability to deliver the message, or unjust punishment.”

Turc with a shrug of resignation sat down facing Kith, despite his years, doing it as easily as the boy had done.

With curiosity Turc asked, “Why are you still a slave? I thought that if a slave was called to be a Bonded Messenger, the owner had to give him to the temple.”

Kith had no objection in answering the question; he wasn't ashamed of what he was. He said, “That is the custom that has been followed; however it is just a custom, not a law. My owner refused to give me to the temple, who would have freed me. He demanded that they pay him the sum that he now considered me worth after the years of training that I had gone through. He put that price at three thousand golds. The Temple does not pay for slaves, at least not in one lump sum. As long as I remain a slave they give my owner fifty percent of the sum that is paid for me, to deliver a message.”

Kith gave a shrug of acceptance with his small shoulders before continuing, “Since I have never been more than one hundred miles from Corson, as the message from the temple Priest told you, I haven't earned much money toward my price, and it will probably be years before I have a chance to earn any large sums. Once I earn my freedom price, then I will get twenty percent of the fees charged.”

Turc shook his head, with regret, a look of discomfort on his face and in his voice as he said, “I'm sorry, I hate to do this to a kid, but I have an urgent message that must be delivered. If I have got it right, the ritual request is, 'Messenger, I request that you deliver a message for me.'“

Kith smiled, telling him, “That is the phrase most commonly used, but actually no ritual is required. Just asking me is sufficient. As long as our God, Flarston accepts the message, then we deliver it.” He held up his wrist and Turc could see the jewel in the middle of the bracelet was glowing. Kith asked, “Where is the message going?”

“The County of Wymark, Regent of Wymark, Kalli Senson.” Turc said.

Kith looked at him a completely flabbergasted look of disbelief on his small face. He said, his voice a shrill pipe of astonishment, “You realize how much that will cost, it's one gold a mile inside Varryn, and two golds a mile outside, and that's there and back. It'll cost almost four thousand golds for the entire trip, and since most of it will be outside Varryn, I'll need expenses as well.”

Turc took several pieces of paper out of his pouch, which Kith recognized as the special script the Bank of Varryn issued, and counted out six of them and handed them to the still astonished boy, who placed them on the glowing jewel of the bracelet and they disappeared.

“Can you do that with any paper, I thought the messages you carried were mainly verbal?” Turc asked with interest.

Kith nodded, beginning to get over his astonishment, “We're limited to about a dozen sheets in total, it's mainly for script, maps and things like that.” he said, “as you say the messages are generally verbal, but they don't have to be, as long as you remain under the total limit of pages that I can carry.”

Turc took a wad of thickly folded paper out of his pouch and unfolded it to reveal three pages showing the faces of three men. Kith took them, looking at each and then placed them in the jewel without comment before asking, “Your message, do you want it to be private, or does it matter? If not start anytime.”

Turc said with a shake of his head, “More and more surprising all the time. No, it doesn't matter. But mention it only to those who need to know." and Kith nodded.

Turc began to dictate the message to Kith.

"Dear Kalli:

This is your Uncle Turc. I'm in a country called Varryn, which is about twelve hundred miles south of where you live. I have been fortunate, at least I hope it's fortunate, to discover that before the Count of Wymark died, he was able to get a message off to Varryn, where he banked much of the money that he got out of Camron. His representative here was authorized to hire assassins to kill you and your children.

I am sending this message by a Bonded Messenger; they represent a sect that worships Flarston. Bonded Messengers will take messages anywhere as long as they are paid the appropriate sum and Flarston approves. When they are carrying a message, Flarston personally protects them, the only God I have been able to find who actively intervenes in Lythean life. The other Gods do not object because mostly the Bonded Messengers confine themselves to Varryn and only rarely travel outside of it.

The Messenger has sketches of the three assassins hired to do the job. If you can manage to survive, you should be safe, because I have been informed that the money spent on the assassins has drained the account Count Wymark set up here.

Your Loving Uncle


Kith told him, with a serious expression on his face, “Message memorized. Do you want me to repeat it or any portion of it?”

Just out of curiosity, Turc asked, “Repeat the ten words starting from the forty-first word from the end, before Your Loving Uncle.”

Kith gave a grin as he repeated the ten words requested.

Turc returned his grin and nodding in approval as he said, “All right, I didn't really think you forgot. I was simply curious. The reason it's so urgent is that the assassins found out that I might know about them. If I head north, then they'll be sure.”

Kith started to say something, and Turc headed him off saying, “I know if they're watching the inn and saw you, and realize that you're a Bonded Messenger, then that will make them sure as well. However I'm not alone here, I have a dozen of my best men with me and half are watching the inn, the other half watching the assassins.”

Turc told him, “There's a ship leaving for Tenve in Scart on the outgoing tide, I want to make sure that you're on it and I intend to make sure the assassins aren't.” Kith just nodded, curious about how he planned to stop the assassins. Because of his station in life, he often didn't have a chance to satisfy his curiosity. It was part of being a slave and while Kith didn't like it, he accepted it.

While Turc appeared to be a man of liberal views Kith wouldn't take any chances. If the man chose to be offended, Kith could end up with a dozen or more painful weals, on his bottom.


It was about nine PM and the ship was sailing on the tide, and Kith was a passenger. The captain was royally pissed by that fact. Being a Varryn ship Kith was traveling for free and as usual, the sailors ignoring him. Being a slave, even the ship's boys thought themselves above him even though they were all as naked as he was, despite his divine connection. Besides telling him to get out of the way, Kith didn't expect to hear any talk addressed to him, during the entire trip.

Kith curled up, out of the way on the hard deck, and went to sleep. In the morning, he got his portion, of the not particularly appetizing food and went out on deck to eat it. The deck was too hot to sit on, but with the leather hard soles of his feet, he didn't find it too bad being on his feet, as long as he didn't stay in one place for long. During the morning, Kith kept moving, again getting a share of food at noon, then spending the afternoon in the same manner as he had spent the morning.

About an hour before supper, the lookout called down from the crow's nest that he could see another sail on the horizon. Kith could see everyone was apprehensive wondering if it might be a pirate vessel. As it came closer, they could see that's exactly what it was. The ship’s boys looked at it with excitement. They knew they would not be hurt. They would just be trading one ship for another, or at worst, they would end up as slaves.

A few of the crew might also end up as crew members on the pirate ship, but most of them would end up dead, so they raised as much sail as they could. When they could see they were not drawing away, they brought weapons up from below and the men prepared to sell their lives dearly.

Kith wasn't particularly worried. He was on Flarston's business and he had divine protection until the mission was over. He had a bit of sorrow for the ship's crew especially for the ship's boys knowing that Flarston's couldn't extend his protection to them.


Kith, along with the ships boys, and four crewmembers whose lives were spared, watched the burning ship they had been on, go to the bottom. He turned to look at the captain of the pirate ship. Unlike most of his men, he was clean-shaven and well groomed, but his face showed that he was a vicious as any of his crew, and much more dangerous.

Kith walked up to the captain looking up at the man, telling him in a firm voice, “We will be going to Tenve, in Scart! Have your men set sail in that direction!”

The captain snarled, “Who do you think you are, you little whelp?!!” and he swung his fist at the nude boy, intending to teach him a lesson he would not forget. His eyes widened when his hand just stopped, three inches from the boy's head. If he'd been holding a weapon, the stop would have been a jolt.

Kith pointed the arm, which had hjs Bonded Messenger's bracelet at the sails, and a beam of light arced out from it to touch the sail. Where it hit, the canvas burst into flame. As quickly as it had started the beam and the fire stopped. Kith said with a determined look on his small face, “We are going to Tenve. If you don't give the order, I'll set fire to your sails, and you'll be drifting, ready for any passing ship to snap you up, or in the end perhaps run ashore.”

After questioning those survivors from the Varryn ship, and finding out that Kith was a servant of the one God who actively interfered in normal life, the captain headed to Tenve. It was a little further than he would normally go just to get rid of a cargo, but he had been there before and didn't expect any trouble, and he was right.

Despite the fact that the rulership had changed hands since he had last been there, and that there was now a Princess instead of a Prince, he was able to sell his cargo much as was accustomed to doing. He found the tax a little higher than it had been, but it wasn't a great deal more, and since he had gotten the cargo for nothing it didn't cut into any profit margins.

They watched the survivors of the Varryn crew while in port, but they didn't have any problems with working for a new captain, and the whole crew was glad to see the last of Kith as he walked up the gangplank, not even looking back.

Kith wandered the wharves for a while, hoping that there would be a ship heading for a Camron port. The only ship that he found that was heading for Camron, had just pulled in and had a cargo to unload and then had to find another cargo. It also had some minor repairs to make, so they would be at least four or five days, and might be a week or longer before they left. The urgent nature of the message that he was carrying meant that Kith would have to start spending some of the expense money provided to him.

It took a little searching before Kith found someone willing to answer questions posed by such a lowly being, as a slaveboy, but he finally found a sailor who didn't object to his status, inquiring the way to the temple of the Mother Goddess

Kith did not go into the public portion of the temple but headed for the private quarters. He rang the gong that announced guests, and a doorkeeper, a young novice, opened the door. Seeing that it was just a naked slaveboy, she was about to close the door in his face when Kith used the bracelet again, to burn a hole in the floor, a couple of inches deep.

The novice stared down at the perfect circle burned into the floor at her feet and took a second look at Kith. He said softly his large gray eyes hard, “It's not a good idea to judge a person, just from the way they look. Please fetch a Priestess or a Priest. Please tell them there is a Bonded Messenger of Flarston at the door.”

She looked down at the hole, knowing she would be disciplined. She had made a presumption, and that was against the tenants of the Mother-Goddess. Without a word, leaving the door open she went to fetch someone in authority. Kith ended up in the presence the Chief Priestess of the Temple.

While not from Varryn, she had read all the books available on the countries immediately surrounding Scart, and knew what a Bonded Messenger was, without finding it necessary, to consult any written records.

Respecting Kith as she would any servant of the Gods, she asked, “What may I do for you, little one? It is unusual to find one of your kind outside of Varryn though since we are so close here, it is not unknown. The doorkeeper should have known about you. She will be disciplined for discourtesy, but we will have to find out whether she neglected her studies, or if someone didn't provide her with the proper information, before we decide whether any other punishment is warranted.”

Kith placed a hand on his bracelet and handed her one of the Varryn scripts, Turc Senson had provided for expenses. Since the sender hadn't asked for privacy, Kith was able to mention a little about his message. “I have a message to deliver, to a County in Camron. It is an urgent message, about an assassination attempt, and there are no ships leaving for there, for at least several days, possibly a week. The message can't wait for that long. I need to get a fast carriage, to go the rest of the way. I would have your temple hire it for me, and perhaps if you have any Priests or Priestesses who must go to Camron, they will provide company,” and smiling, “and a banner proclaiming, that the passengers are all of a religious order. That will solve any problem about crossing the borders.”

“I know that your services are expensive, why not use a Far-speaker?” she inquired.

Kith giggled, saying with amusement, “I'm afraid you're guilty of presumption, Priestess. Mind-Speech is just as common as in the rest of Lythea, but there are no Far-Speakers in Varryn. I don't know if Flarston changes the talent to another, or if the other Gods do so,. Also while the Astral Spirit can be invoked in Varryn, it is limited to a maximum of about twenty miles even for Great Mages.”

She looked surprised and a little embarrassed, “That was not written in any of the books that I have read. I'll send that knowledge to the rest of the religious orders as well. As for companions, we do have a couple of Priestesses and one Priest traveling to Camron. While we cannot pay based on the amount that a fast carriage will cost, we can pay a portion based on what it would cost to take a wagon or a ship.”


Kith's companions had reached their destination, a hundred miles back in Pinchon, Camron's southernmost port city. Kith was alone as he passed through the gate in the carriage. If the servant who opened the carriage door was surprised to find a nude slaveboy, he made no indication of that fact. He conveyed the boy into the Great Hall with great aplomb.

Being very practical, Kalli and her two sons and their tutor were sitting at the high table; the woman working on the Counties books, the two boys having lessons. Kalli looked up and despite seeing the slave collar, she got up and tapping her eldest son on the shoulder, he also rose and they came around the table to greet their guest.

Before she could say anything, her son, burst out, “Why are you naked? You're much older than me, an…” Kalli snapped, “Forsen!!” cutting him off in mid-word. He tilted his head back and looked at his mother.

Unhappily, he said, “I'm in trouble, aren't I, Mama?”

“Yes,” said Kalli, “Do you know what you did wrong?”

Forsen thought for a minute, “I was discourteous, Mama, we hadn't even greeted him, when I started asking questions.”

Kalli said solemnly, “The questions were impolite as well, what you asked is none of your business. If you have a chance to get to know him, then the questions you asked might be all right, but you don't even know his name. Do you wish your punishment to be later, in private or here, now?”

Forsen bit his lip, thinking, looking at Kith; he saw sympathy on the older boy's face and he decided, “Now, I want to get it over with and he should see me being punished, since I was discourteous and impolite to him.”

Kalli gave him a little push, “All right, go over to Phyl, for your punishment.” When he was standing in front of his tutor, and his cousin, Phyl Senson, he unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his waistband and fly letting his short trousers fall to his feet, stepped out of them. Phyl bent Forsen over his knees and taking a short strap from the table, he gave the boy half a dozen strokes on his bare bottom.

Knowing from experience just what a belt or a strap sounded like on bare flesh, Kith could tell that the strokes weren't very hard, but when Forsen stood up, he still had a sore bum, which he was rubbing ruefully.

Kalli said with a grin on her face, “Now that you've been punished, and you are aware of what you did wrong, you may leave your short trousers off for the rest of the day, unless we receive other guests.”

Forsen's face only had a few tears, and it lit up as he rubbed the tears off of his face.

Kalli explained, to Kith with amusement, “He only turned seven last month, and started wearing clothing. He still prefers to be naked. The reason I'm so strict with Forsen and for that matter Kanen, though he's much younger, is that I was Count Wymark's mistress, not his wife, therefore both boys were illegitimate. Unless they have impeccable manners, it could cause problems for them later, so they must learn now.”

Kith nodded his understanding, before saying, “I am a Bonded Messenger, and I have a message for you from your uncle.” He placed his hand on the jeweled bracelet, and in his treble voice, which had an echo of Turc Senson he began to speak, "Dear Kalli, this is your Uncle Turc. I'm in a country called Varryn, which is about twelve hundred miles south of where you live. I have been fortunate, at least I hope it's fortunate, to discover that before the Count of Wymark died, he was able to get a message off to Varryn, where he banked much of the money that he got out of Camron. His representative here was authorized to hire assassins to kill you and your children.

I am sending this message by a Bonded Messenger; they represent a sect that worships Flarston. Bonded Messengers will take messages anywhere as long as they are paid the appropriate sum and Flarston approves. When they are carrying a message, Flarston personally protects them, the only God I have been able to find who actively intervenes in Lythean life. The other Gods do not object because mostly the Bonded Messengers confine themselves to Varryn and only rarely travel outside of it. The Messenger has sketches of the three assassins hired to do the job. If you can manage to survive, you should be safe, because I have been informed that the money spent on the assassins has drained the account Count Wymark set up here.

Your Loving Uncle


Touching the jewel of his bracelet, to retrieve the sketches, Kith handed them to her.

“My uncle isn't an alarmist, how serious does he think the threat is?” she asked Kith with uneasy curiosity.

Kith said, with an earnest expression on his small face, “My Lady, we are very expensive messengers. The cost to deliver the message and for the return journey will be almost four thousand golds, and he provided me with an additional two thousand golds for expenses. I would say he regarded it very seriously!”


Kith decided to stay at the castle for a while, but he arranged with Kalli to pay off the carriage. If he stayed close to the children, he could at least give them some protection, since until he returned with the payment to the temple the message wasn't considered delivered and Flarston would warn him if there was any danger.

For the first time in his life, Kith had time to play. He was interested in the model of the castle that made by the carpenter, which duplicated the castle in miniature. He was also very amused by the trouble Kalli had in keeping Forsen inside of his short trousers instead of out.

Kith discovered Forsen was whipped quite often, though they were fairly light beatings; most noble children were beaten much harder. Kith did witness several others. Forsen with an insatiable curiously, seemed incapable of staying out of trouble. Kanen, allowed a bit more leeway since he was a couple of years younger, seemed more able to stay within the bounds than Forsen could.

Kith satisfied Forsen's curiosity about why he was naked. That while slavery didn't exist in Camron, there was a treaty between Camron and Varryn that a citizen of Varryn could bring up to three personal slaves into the country if they were willing to pay twenty percent of their value each year in tax to the Camron crown.

Kith was a servant of Flarston and when he had gone into the service of the God, his owner had not agreed to give him to the Temple, as was the custom, but demanded to be paid three thousand golds as Kith's price. The Temple certainly wouldn't pay that amount so Kith was still a slave though no longer owned by anyone and by law, like many other countries on the continent, collared slave boys and girls under puberty had to be naked.

Since he had no owner with him, Kith was in fact not a slave in Camron, and if he chose to stay, he could have removed his slave collar and put on short trousers, anytime he wished. As a servant of Flarston however, he had to return to Varryn and the collar and his nudity served to remind him that he was still a slave. Both in Varryn and several other Varryn allies, and that he shouldn't start doing things in other countries that could earn him severe punishment in Varryn.

The assassins showed up about a week later, and if Kalli hadn't known they were coming, they could have been very dangerous. Several of the men sent by Kalli to make them quietly disappear, ended up dying themselves. In the end, though the assassins didn't disappear quite as quietly as Kalli had wanted, they did indeed disappear, and the Royal bureaucracy asked no questions. Prince Tamen and the rest of the Royal Family considered assassins fair game.

If Count Wymark had still been alive, he would have made his way somehow to Varryn and strangled his agent personally. He had specified Camron assassins be hired, and the agent, both lazy and greedy, had ignored that part of the instructions.

About a week after the assassins disappeared, Turc Senson and his men showed up. They had been trying to follow the assassins, but were delayed through no fault of their own. Turc was relieved that Kith had delivered the message in plenty of time, and he was aware of why the boy had stayed.


Turc said to the boy, “You can keep the rest of the script that I gave you.”

Kith looked up at him seriously, “I can't do that. You made a deal through me, with a Priest of the temple of Flarston, and once made. I can't alter it. Even if you had made the deal directly with a priest, not even he could alter it. I can't even return the remaining script that you gave me. I must return all money received to the Priest in charge of Bonded Messengers. They will arrange for you to get the money back. But I want to thank you, this trip will pay off almost two thousand golds of my purchase price, and since I completed it successfully, I will be trusted as much as any other Bonded Messenger, so that I should be able to pay the remainder off fairly quickly.”

He shook Forsen's hand and was surprised when the boy gave him a quick hug. Forsen said, “How many times do you think I'll get whipped before you get home?”

Kith considered it, “At least half a dozen times.”

Kalli said dryly, “You can't be going very far then.”

She, Turc and Phyl laughed and Kith giggled, while Forsen looked puzzled. He said goodbye to Kanen last, and being a very demonstrative five year old, he put his arms around Kith's neck and gave him kiss on the cheek. Kith waved at them from the seat of the wagon, which Kalli had hired to take him to the nearest port, where he could get in touch with one of the religious orders to turn some of the remaining script into enough money to pay for his passage home by ship.


Kith put his hand on the glowing jewel of the bracelet and handed the remaining script to the Priest responsible for Bonded Messengers. As soon as the Priest took the script in his hand, the jewel stopped glowing and his assignment was over. While still a Servant of Flarston with his mission completed Kith was no longer under divine protection.

Kith was glad it had ended well for the Wymark’s. For the first time in his life, he had not been treated like a slave and he was pretty sure he had gained a friend in Forsen. Even many of the Priests of the temple tended to look down on him because of what he was.

Kith headed to his small room in the Temple complex to write a letter to Forsen. Since he had no money to pay for its delivery he would go to the Temple of the Mother-Goddess to ask for them to deliver the letter. Eventually it would reach Forsen. If Forsen answered, Kith would know he had gained a friend.




5,666 words