The sun boiling in the sky, leaving the ground dry and parched. The smaller rivers and streams were now dry and the only relief to be found was in the shade of a slowly dessicating gurond tree. Night would come soon, and with it a peace from the heat and perhaps a chance to venture again to find water or food. It had been nearly a week since Azok had been seperated from the rest of his hunting band. When he found them again, or the traveling village he would be a laughing stock for the tribe. The Cut-Ears sept of the Grimlock tribe would mock him for getting lost, but he would keep some respect for surviving despite it. He already had claimed a handsome wyvern’s tooth to fashion into a bridal dagger. The sound of hoof-beats drew the young orc from his noon-day daydream.
Azok, son of Urgalaz Stone-Thrower
Eser is at best an average Ankaran. His skin is dark like bronze and his hair is dark to the point of being black. Most would comment that aside from being very average, his demeanor is a very pleasant one, his voice never becoming harsh or his eyes lingering too long in one place. He is polite in the extreme and quite witty, trading anecdotes of merchant life on the highlands, to casual banter about the price of sejulka melons in the market. He is in generally good health with strong arms, legs suited to siding, and the last few years of his good success have added a few pounds around his midsection.
In public he typically affects the djellaba, the sort often worn by wizards and such in the south. He makes no claim to magic of any sort and in difference to that tradition he wears a plain and undyed djellaba of good make. Should he be in a formal gathering, he wears more expensive robes of local style and cut but dyed in sumptuous colors, black being his favorite. When he rides on a caravan, he favors the robe of a sheperd worn over a bronze breastplate and bronze scale leggings.
Not a man to deck himself with the tools of war, Eser typically arms himself with a walking stick that can double as a cudgel or the ostenable bullwhip. Finally Eser is seldom without some sort of entourage. Commonly he is attended by at least one attractive woman as a servant and generally a youth or two to run and fetch things. In the field he has the protection of several well armed, armored and trained mercenaries.
Azok felt his side gingerly. The humans had been faster than he expected, they had taken him off guard. Rather than fight him like honorable warriors they took him as a captive. He now sat in the back of a slow trundling wagon, trapped in a cage. Back in the sept, those few captives they brought back were forced to do the most menial of tasks; carrying water, washing hides, burying animal waste. Those that were pretty looking might be claimed by the higher ranking warriors as trophies, and the rest that had the misfortune of being female were given to the rest of the tribe. He shuddered to think of what they would do with him. Some of the other orcs said that the humans did terrible things to captured orcs, that they considered parts of them delicacies, while others made them fight in bloody matches to see them die in agony. These humans would be surely dissappointed when he would refuse their games.
Azok, son of Urgalaz Stone-Thrower
A Kingdom Build on Broken Backs
Ankara has had a long and colorful history, a long relationship of give and take with the prodigal Askari tribe who were once sons and daughters of Ankar to the violent Grimlock and the berzerkers of the Reaver tribes. In such a volatile and often violent enviroment, there is an ideal that male Ankarans cannot be expected to perform many menial tasks. There are few men who bend their backs to tend the fields, as the only trades worthy of men are herding, hunting and fighting. All of the other tasks fall to the women, criminal labor, and to the slaves.
In Falhath slavery is all but non-existant. The basic tenets of the Kingdom of Trinistine are close to being mutually exclusive to the condition of slavery. While the kept women and concubines border on this, there are no gangs of slaves, nor is there a large slave economy. Ankara, while considered a major part of the Kingdom of Trinistine has no such compuctions about embracing the Trinity while retaining the slavery aspect to their economy.
The Lassrin Cretoque
In other regions, this would be known as the Slaver’s Guild, in Ankara it is a dichotomy of country club and slaver activities. Eser is a high ranking member of the Lassrin Cretoque, and many consider him to be on a fast track to becoming one of the guildmasters. Like most of the members, Eser started as a numerary of the Cretoque, working basically as a slave handler/wrangler and working hi sway up through the ranks of workers and into the position of Trainer.
Within the LC, the trainers form their own inner circle which is second only to the council of the Lassrin Guildmasters. It is this group of men and women who are tasked with taking willful and often violently angry individuals and breaking them to the condition of slavery. A slave who still dreams of resistance and freedom is a liability to the handler, owner and to the Lassrin as a whole. While many of the other Trainers look to gain political power, or to enter the ranks of the esteemed guildmasters, Eser loves what he does.
It was dark, no light. Azok could feel the grooves he had dug in the side of his cell with his finger, each one what he thought was a day. He felt disoriented, his head felt fuzzy inside. Every time the men had opened the cell they had taken him out into the night and had forced him to work at hard tasks and beat him mercilessly when he had resisted or was too slow. He felt despair, there seemed to be no escape from this Hell.
Then the smiling man came in his simple farmer’s garb, and his walking stick. Unlike his tormentors, this man spoke the language of the Grimlock and told him that he was to become a slave for the humans. Azok told the man what he could do with his offer of slavery, but felt a moment of surprise when rather than a beating, the smiling man, Eser, offered him instead something to eat, but only on the condition that Azok would not try to fight, if only for a little while.
Azok, son of Urgalaz Stone-Thrower
Eser’s home is much like the man himself, immaculate and very respectable on the outside, yet containing many horrors within. Inside of this mudbrick hacienda and it’s white-washed and frescoed walls is Eser’s training ground. Here he takes his pick from the latest offerings of the slave market or those unfortunates he has captured himself. While in some places it would be easy to use a magical charm to induce compliance, Eser and many others do not trust such methods. An enchanted slave is expensive and enchantments on living things are not quite as permanent and reliable as wards and enchanted items.
A master of psychology and manipulation Eser ‘befriends’ the captives and alternates between rewarding good behavior with good food and treatment and turning the captives over to more typical slave-breakers who enforce their wishes with the whip and violence implied or inflicted. Most captives accept Eser’s offers of rewarding thier compliance and docile behavior, those who don’t tend to end up dead or sold in the market over and over until they break, or escape.
Eser has a speciality, the largest part of his menagerie of slaves are children or adolescents. These he trains in compliance and then grooms them for the positions of favored slaves, the Odalisques and Tellaques. It is a simple matter for a slave-breaker to enforce compliance from menial slaves, or those who are forced to fight for the entertainment of the masses. An application of a fist or a whip is enough. In a household it is seen as very unbecoming for a master to phyiscally or even verbally discipline a slave or servant. More shameful for the master is for a slave-servant to bear marks of injury.
Always young boys, Tellaques are trained to be personal servants and gain most of their training in the Hammams, bathhouses in Ankara, where they learn massage, grooming such as cutting hair and shaving as well as performing other more questionable services. These youths are bought and sold at high prices and to preserve their appearances, most are castrated. After they become too old to be considered attractive servants in a Hammam these eunuchs are shifted to clerical work, tending house ledgers and other matters. Most boys raised since their youth as Tellaques do consider themselves property, but expect and recieve a certain level of trust and respect from their owners.
Ankara has a strong hunger for the loins of young women. While there is no shortage of such women who are willing to sell their bodies for coin in the brothels and on the streets, the Odalisques are in an entirely different strata. Taken as young girls, these slaves are educated in the arts such as painting, music, dance, and poetry much like the Geisha of Japan. Unlike the Geisha, the Odalisques are fully intended to be used for their sexual capabilities. After their training is complete, a fully initiated yet unsullied Odalisque can sell for staggering amounts of money on the slave block.
Eser has made the biggest part of his fortune breaking, training, and selling these young women into some of the worst conditions. Unlike the Tellaques who find occupation after their sexual usage is deemed over, few Odalisques enjoy such ‘retirements’. They run the risk of becoming pregnant, siring bastard claimants to hereditary positions, and those who are not sold to brothels and demoted to scullery maids. It is rare but a few remain on as court performers despite the loss of their youth, though these tend to be the most gifted of musicians, singers, or other forms of artisans.
Azok was dead, that part of him died months ago in a small room where he was cut. no longer a proud bull, he was now sterile. He wept for a while, partly from pain, but mostly from shame. Such cutting was not unknown in the sept, but it was reserved for the most unforgivable of offenses. Eser had given him a new name and poured him a cup of wine, Cahil he had called him. He had fought the humans, fought their fists and their clubs, their demands, but when they gave him comfort, he broke, and he wept openly.
Cahil of the Hammam
What few souls of Ankara know is that Eser himself was once a slave and knows all to well the thoughts of those he breaks. Taken as a youth for his fair face, he was put through the same brutalization he now dispences and was a tellaque for a decade before he was retired from the bathhouse and placed as a keeper of ledgers. Unlike most such slaves, Eser wrangled his freedom by a mixture of bribery, flattery, and charisma.
A Slaver and a Gentleman - Whilst in the midst of travel, the PCs encounter Eser with his guards, entourage, and the latest band of captives. Rather than nubile young girls to be valiantly rescued, his cargo is a load of young orcs. Better they be watched plowing the fields and watering the oxen than rampaging across the plains like the rest of their barbarian ilk, right?
Memoirs of an Odalisque - A PC encounters an Odalisque, likely one designed to very much appeal to said character. Attempts to free her end in tragedy as the mentality of being a slave has been deeply ingrained into her and rather than help in her own escape, she will alert guards, or will attempt to return to her master’s home. Of course, the PC might just find the coin to buy her, which would gain a very loyal servant and alleviate him of alot of extra cash.
O’Brother Where Art Thou? - Eser has hired the PCs, paying them a very handsome, almost ridiculous sum for their services. The PCs can expect to ride shotgun on a slaving mission to buy slaves taken from enemy tribes, protect cargos from the tribe who lost the members. Alternately the PCs can be hired to help a raiding tribe gather more captives to sell in the market, of which Eser takes a fair share.
A Question of Morality and Ethics
Is Eser an evil man? By our modern ideals and standards, yes he is an evil man. He makes his living by divesting people of their will to be free and molds them into servants. More disturbingly, most of his victims are taken very yonug and rather than being placed into the commonly perceived roles of slaves, farming and construction, his slaves are used sexually.
But by standards of Ankara, he is considered morally ambivalent but not evil. The social structure and economy of Ankara grew with a very strong slave tradition, much like Rome and most other preindustrialized empires. Eser happens to be a figurehead of this as he displays the two faces of the slaver; the polite and charming wealthy merchant and the cold and brutal monster who breaks people.
Abolition in Ankara
Likely some more high minded PCs will get a notion to bring about the end of slavery in Ankara. While not impossible, this would be a monumental undertaking. Unlike slavery in the Americas, slavery in Ankara is more than working in salt mines and in the fields. Slaves are property, but they do have a certain level of protection and social status. Slaves can be found from the lowest pit in a mine, working side by side with peasants all the way up to working in the personal confidence of the Lord of a demense as his personal advisor.