Cipran's log of his first days as a free man

Still shaking from the battle, Cipran was about to faint. Only the thought that this could be his only chance to escape slavery kept him conscious. The ground was littered with dead bodies, and only a few men were left standing. The other slaves, however, didn’t seem to want to keep fighting and were talking to the slaver, Babür.

Babür spoke to them in the strange, screeching language of the Qarim. Cipran didn’t understand a word of it. Babür's guards then beckoned the group to follow; like the other slaves, Cipran followed uneasily. Why did they not run? The guards led them to a pile of weapons and armor. A slave--the one called Astir--stepped forward and took a sword from the pile. Cipran expected the guards to strike him down, but instead they beckoned him to step forward next. He took a sword from the pile. When the guards didn’t react, he took a decent armor as well. Only when the guards threw some food their way it began to dawn on Cipran: he was no longer a slave.

Later that night, the other regelui--Erdan--explained what had happened. Cipran realized he needed to learn the Qarim language fast if he was to have any chance of survival. Meanwhile, he was glad Erdan was there to translate for him. As the evening began to fall, there was a disturbance in the camp. Rajat, one of the other freed slaves had stolen a dagger from a merchant and was now missing. Did he not understand these people could force them back into slavery on a whim? Cipran slept with his weapon close to him, terrified.

The next morning, he left the camp together with the other freed slaves. Though he did not know them, he felt bound to them by their shared fate. Soon after they left the camp Rajat re-joined them.

The journey went smoothly, and Cipran started to relax a bit. He enjoyed the company he traveled in. While he spent most of his time talking to Erdan, who also dreamed of going home, he also tried bond with the other members of the party.

On the fourth day they ran into a qarim merchant and his guard. Astir, the hulking coarnu, spoke with the merchant in the qarim language. This was a qarim trader! Had he brought more guards he would most certainly force them into slavery again. Yet here they were, chatting as if they were not on the run. When Rajat pulled out the dagger he had stolen to show it to the trader, Cipran face paled. Did he not understand the risk he placed himself in? Did he not realise that the trader would tell this to the other traders as soon as he reached the caravanserai? Surely they would take this as an excuse to chase them down and enslave them again. There was only one way to save his life and that of his newfound friends: he would have to kill the trader and his guard. Their camels would shorten their journey considerably; they could be on a boat before the slavers captured them again. He quickly discussed the plan with Erdan and did what he had to do.