From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Chroday, Sixteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Twenty-Sixth Day in the Trees
Today, we found a body.
I needed to relieve myself, and so had taken myself off the path for a moment. While I was doing so, I saw something trailing from behind a nearby tree. It was an arm.
I finished what I was doing and called to Torne. We rounded the tree, and we saw the arm's owner had died.
He had not been dead for too long, perhaps less than a day. The scavengers hadn't yet touched the body. He had been taller than Torne, but shorter than me, and covered with thick, brown, ropy hair. The face was like that of a horse. And he had been a slave.
The chains were still attached to his wrists and ankles1. His clothing was more ragged than my own. He was dirty, filthy, and probably had been starving. He had nothing but a rusted knife.
There were no wounds on his body. Torne is fairly sure he died from starvation or exposure. He was very thin. Yet on the tree he was leaning against, he had taken the time to carve a single word.
"Get those chains off his wrists, for pity's sake," Torne said. I looked at his face, and he looked more serious than I had seen him before. There was no joke on his lips, nor laughter in his eyes. His voice was strained, as though he had trouble getting the words out.
I did as he asked, using the tools my first-father gave me. Torne threw the chains as far away as he could, as though they were cursed. Then we buried the poor soul at the base of the tree, letting it serve as his headstone.
We do not keep slaves, the Baro. Nor do any of our neighbors. But we know about slavery. The caravans come through, and sometimes they bring slaves from one part of the world to another. Sometimes we will buy one or two, and let them free to return home. But they are so many, and it seems impossible that they should all be free one day. But we hope.
I am sad for the one we buried. But he was free, for a time. Let that be his epitaph. Free.
Whoever you were, stranger, water on your journey, and stars to guide your steps.