Chapter 1: New Beginnings
“Get on yer feet, you worthless scum. Feedin’ time for y’all, better’n you deserve.”
Scrambling up from the floor, half awake, I manage to avoid Gortan’s boot out of pure reflex. Kick me awake enough times and that’ll happen. Don’t look at him. Eyes down, feet moving. Don’t give him an excuse. Fall in line with the other slaves, there’s safety in assimilation. I ignore the pain from all my half healed cuts and bruises. The line moves quickly, and when it’s my turn, I take my bowl of tasteless brown slop and my hard biscuits, and I scurry away. I find a spot to drink my slop and break my teeth in peace. This is my life now. Or it has been for the last two weeks.
My name is Rayne, and I’m a slave. I wasn’t always a slave. I just woke up two weeks ago with the worst hangover I’ve ever had, listening to someone drone on about my good traits. I used to work in a call center. I lived in a studio apartment. I had a family, friends, and a dog. I can remember that much. Now, I can’t remember what any of them looked like, or anything we did together. But I remember having them. I remember their existence. It’s like waking from a nice dream. You remember the dream, and know you enjoyed it, but you try to think about the specifics, and nothing is there. The more you struggle to remember, the more it slips away, until all that’s left is a sense of loss, and the memory of a memory.
Which, in this instance, is made all the worse by the fact that my reality is utter horseshit.
The reality of it is this: I am a twelve year old slave. I was older before, but here, in this body, I’m twelve. Or at least that’s what the slaver who sold me claimed. I can remember that much. ‘Unnamed, Twelve years old, good health, all teeth present, light brown eyes, dark hair’. The sum total of my selling features. I feel like he could have jazzed it up a bit. There are no other memories, not from this body at least. All I can remember is being sold, and then a short trip up to the pen, where I now reside. New me didn’t even have a name. Blank slate.
I’m slowly forgetting most of my first life too. It would bother me more if I knew what I was forgetting. I can still read and write English, but I can’t read Common Script, (the dominant language around here, which I speak, thanks to the new memories). The script just look like moon runes to me. There’s another language I can speak as well, but I don’t have a name for it. I just think of what I want to say, and the language I want to say it in, and the words come out. If I don’t think about it, I default to English. I can do math, but that’s less than helpful. When I tried to tell the guards, I was ignored. Then I was beaten when I kept trying. Assholes.
I don’t have any cheat, or at least I haven’t found out what it is yet. I’ve tried everything. I have no skills, no magic, no Jedi mind tricks. No animal companion, no Almighty Appraisal. No spirit to guide me, no gods answering my prayers. I don’t even have a status screen. To add insult to injury, I KNOW magic exists. The guards use it when they beat me. A couple grunts and a tap from their baton can leave my skin burning in agony for hours. They have another trick that freezes me in place, immobile and paralyzed, but still able to feel everything. The guards like to compete in who can make the slave with the dumbest pose. They sometimes “forget” to unfreeze you before going to sleep, leaving you locked in your body, as your muscles struggle to bear your weight, eyes burning, wishing you could blink.
Worst. Reincarnation. Ever.
So here I am. Just a slave. A human slave at that. I mean, why couldn’t I have been something cool. Like a half dragon, or a tiger beastman, or a not-a-fucking-slave-man. At least I’m not a Pig-man, like Gortan and the guards.
Gortan. The boss pig. Standing by the gate, baton in hand, watching us with his dark, beady little pig eyes. He looks mostly human, albeit an ugly one, with a large bulbous nose, huge ears and a pock-marked face. He also has two pig ears, on the top of his head, and a mohawk. All the guards have the pig ears and mohawks. Maybe it’s a tribal thing? They have their own language too, which I can’t understand, so I don’t even have a language cheat. Add that to the list. They’re all looming about, looking for an excuse to lay a beat down on someone. It’s their favorite pastime. My first day here was rough. Waking up in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar body, and a massive migraine was bad enough. Find out I was a slave didn’t help. Gortan and the guards made it worse. Much worse.
I finish my breakfast, and run to the water barrel. Ya, a water barrel. A communal water barrel. Low tech bull shit. Can’t even reincarnate somewhere with useful magic. I need to be quick, or else the water gets pretty gross, or even worse, the barrel is emptied. I dip my bowl in and drink it down quickly, before reaching in for a second bowl. I catch the back of a hand with my face.
“Water is for workers, brat.” A burly, horned slave kicks me away so he can get water. No one helps me. No one even reaches for water until Horned Meatball is done drinking. Straight from the barrel, at that. I get up, ignoring the stinging in my palms. Even slaves have a hierarchy, and I’m close to the bottom. No one wants to be at the bottom. If I’m not the youngest slave here, I’m definitely the scrawniest. I got my ass kicked by some rat-eared, bucktoothed kid. Fucking half animals are strong. I definitely can’t fight the Horned Meatball. Won’t win and I’ll just get a beating. Then I’d probably get a beating from the guards. A two-fer. All I can do is roll with the punches. So far, I’d have to say, I’m not great at it.
I wander over to the gate and sit down. Work will start soon. Work at the mines. I’m a minor miner. I’d laugh, but it isn’t funny. Fill the basket with rocks. Empty the basket into the cart. Repeat. Do that all day. Then dinner, which is more slop and bread, and sleep. Wake at dawn and it all starts again. Sprinkle in a few beatings for various reasons, and that’s how my last two weeks have been.
I lay my head down on the dirt floor of the shack. Another exhausting day gone by. Another beating, this time for not getting out of the guard’s way quick enough. I don’t think I have all my teeth anymore. I don’t think I can go on like this. I need to escape. I need to be free. Run away. Or maybe I can just kill myself. Reincarnate. Re-roll. That’s how this works right? I did it once. Maybe this time, I’ll meet God and I can start off with a cheat. Or at least a better job than slave. Maybe a prince, or a nobleman’s son. An adventurer, traveling around as a warrior or a wizard. Shit, I’ll settle for being a villager.
I wipe my face, tears stinging the cuts on my hands. Crying won’t help. Neither will giving up. I’ll get through this. I will. I have to. I can do this. I’ll escape while everyone is working in the mines. Or I can wake up early and run for it. They don’t chain us up and the fence is made of wood. How hard can it be to pry a few boards loose? I can do this. I can come up with a plan. Everyone thinks I’m twelve. I have the benefit of experience. I can escape. I’m a Reincarnator. Then I’ll kill all the guards and level up. Get my Unique Skill. Make them regret being born.
I repeat everything I know about myself. I used to live in an apartment. I had a family. I had friends. I had a dog. I don’t belong here. I repeat it to myself, like a mantra, trying to hold onto who I was.
My name is Rayne. And I will not be a slave forever.