Lydia paced up and down the hill, looking out for Dembe who was supposed to meet her at their usual hideout.
She kept looking into the city and the road that leads to the hill to avoid people seeing her.
If not that her father sold her off to settle his huge debt, she would have been a free born of Kish and she will not have to hide to see Dembe, the only man she has come to love.
Is been two years she ran into Dembe in the market place after losing the money she was sent to the market with that very day.
Her mistress has sent her out to go and look for the money or extra years of slavery will be added to her.
Lydia was walking around the whole market, crying and searching for it when a young fine man with a slave belt stopped to ask her what the problem was.
He offered her five rupee which was equivalent to all the money that Lydia was sent to the market with.
Dembe was beaten again that day after he got home and told the priestess that he lose five rupee out of the ten that he was given to purchase a baby she goat from the market.
After then, Lydia kept looking out for him and that was how they became friends.
Lydia came from a Godly home in the town of kish, but her father who was a poor man borrowed a huge amount from a rich merchant to treat his wife from an illness which later killed her.
Lydia’s father couldn’t pay back his debt after his wife died and was buried, he has two children Lydia and her younger brother. When his creditor came for his money and it wasn’t available, the only option was to sell off one of his child into slavery to avoid the merchant taking his two children or erasing his name from earth which his creditor can do.
Lydia has agreed to save her father’s name and the entire family. She was ready for whatever the rich merchant decides to do with her. She has watched her father cried bitterly and she also cried too but she has to do anything possible to help her father and only younger brother.
Her father has prayed for her all night and begged God’s protection over her.
Lydia was exchanged for the huge debt and the merchant sold her off to a family. The family brought her to a faraway town in Kebra. Is been five years ever since she heard or saw her father and brother. She is bound to be a servant until after twelve years, then she can regain her full freedom as the daughter of the soil.
She can’t marry or do anything on her own until after twelve years of slavery. After then she can return back to her home town or marry anybody she wish to marry.
Lydia was only thirteen when she was exchanged and sold into slavery. She has seven more years to go before she can be free.
Lydia prays and wish that Dembe will still be available when she will gain her freedom so that they can get married and he will become automatically free too instead of been bound to the priestess and her daughters for the rest of his life.
Sometimes she has doubt of her own faith, she has listened to her father teach her and her brother about love, forgiveness, faith, and trusting God no matter how it hurt but she has also watch him suffer greatly in silent.
Her faith is the only thing she holds dearly and also the God her father believed so much in.
She has her days of doubt but her father’s strong teaching never leaves her mind.
When she became friends with Dembe, she tried to always talk to him about the real God in heaven not the type that the priestess serve and worship.
Dembe has believed her and also told her about the missionary that came to his small
village in Gwali before the kish warriors over thrown them and took their town into siege.
The more they sat and talk about God, their bond grew even more.
Dembe has come to love Lydia and her boldness as she speaks about her God and also looks forward to when she will be free.
Lydia silent prayer every day is to wake up and is already twelve years, and she will be able to marry Dembe and live with him forever.
A rattling noise startled her from her thoughts.
The noise of dry leaves, somebody was approaching.
She quickly hide to avoid been seen.
Lydia heard somebody whispering out her name and was filled with joy as she ran out of her hiding place to meet Dembe.
“I was worried that you won’t be coming today…
Lydia said excited to see Dembe who smiled back at her in return. She looked over at his face and saw small bruises.
“What was your offense this time that made the witch to hit you?
Lydia fumed angrily as she examine Dembe’s face.
“It was all my fault Lydia. The last time we spoke, you asked me to try and avoid bowing down or worshipping in her temple because God detest an idol worshiper. Well, I try doing that but it backfires, I don’t know how she finds out because she was actually backing me and did not see when I stepped into the temple. But I’m not surprise that she noticed…she is a seer and a witch doctor remember? Lady Aprin stepped in again to save me from her mother…
The way Dembe said the name Aprin makes Lydia to frown.
“I know you silently admire Aprin, she is beautiful, she is the next priestess after her
mother and with the way she usually helps you when you are in trouble shows that she likes you a lot. You wish she will show more interest and probably get married to you so that you can gain your freedom right away and become the priest of Kebra. Dembe I know you wish for more than what …
Dembe hushed Lydia.
“Stop it, my only desire is to be with you Lydia…no one else. I don’t want to live all my life serving in the priestess temple and working in an abattoir. I want to serve the God of heaven and earth and worship him like he deserve. I may not be able to avoid bowing down or doing her wishes because I’m only a servant. It will mean my death if I dares disobey the priestess. I hope God forgives this act of mine and see that I could have done better in service to him if I was free….
They talked about few other things as they sat on a rock, looking into the city.
As darkness draws near, they both knew it was time to go and just as usual Lydia said few word prayer before they ran down the hill into the market.
Dembe ran to where he will purchase the piglet, while Lydia went to buy dry dates for her mistress.
They met again after four days and Dembe told Lydia about going to a royal dance with lady Aprin who has asked him to come along with her servant girl. She wished to have him around her.
It did not sit well with Lydia but she does not have a choice. She wish she has the power to save Dembe from that household, she wish she can elope to a faraway country with him where no one will see them again but the yoke of slavery will still be on them.
The only option was to hope and pray to the God of her father to help them through every stage of their lives.
She hates the fact that Aprin was getting attached to Dembe and she may change her mind about getting married to Lord Bash and decided to settle with Dembe.
As Lydia thought of Aprin and Dembe she began to reject it in her mind and silently pray that what she fears most will not happen.
She hates the ways and lifestyle of both the people of Kish and Kebra the biggest city. They serve and worship whatever gives them joy. The slaves takes their master as God while the masters takes whatever they like as their God. They also worship the emperor.
The priestess was popular for her witch craft and strange power, the people respect her and see her as a goddess. The men wish to marry her daughters so that they can be made a priest and become powerful too.
Lydia knew her fetish power draws the people to her and makes her seem powerful.
Sometimes she wonders why her father was so dedicated to serving an unseen God when everyone else chose a god that they can see.
There were very few handful believers in Kebra, who do not go around announcing their faith to the public because of the fear of the town people, they will be tagged betrayal to the emperor.
The believers worshiped in silent or in a home of a tent maker who lives down the lonely road with his wife. They have no child.
Few believers gather there every five days to worship together, they sing and pray as brothers and sister.
Lydia usually visit whenever she was sent on an errand, she will spent little time before running out.
It was through this means that her dying faith was rekindled again because she used to doubted the kind of God who will allow a man like her father who was very loving and a strong believer to lose his wife after going into debt and as if that was not enough he also lose his daughter in exchange for debt so that his name will not be erased form the earth. And is believed that any child in slavery is as good as dead because his or her master can chose to do whatever they pleases with her.
Dembe got ready as Lady Aprin instructed. Her mother, the priestess agreed to her request of Dembe coming as her escort.
Sheila was also coming to the party.
Lord Bash came in time to pick his wife to be and also Sheila her sister.
Aprin looked over to Dembe where he stood with a slave girl, Phatsy.
Dembe quickly bent his head so that he won’t be seen as a disrespectful servant.
The big carriage took off, Dembe and the servant girl were meant to ride on a smaller one behind them. Aprin make sure of that even after Sheila has insisted that the servants should come by foot.
Aprin kept on looking back to Dembe to make sure that they were following behind.
“She finds your presence appealing more than she does for her husband to be”
Phatsy, lady Aprin’s personal slave girl who was with Dembe said to him.
Dembe looks over at the girl but said nothing. He doesn’t want to get involve in fancy gossip.
With Dembe’s silent, Phatsy continued
“….i see no reason why she will ask you to come along with her to a royal dance. It makes no sense to me but her wish must be respected. I hope Lord Bash will not begin to see you as a threat. It will be dangerous if he finds out that his wife to be has eyes for a common servant boy. I also know about your seek and hide love game with a slave girl who lives close to the market square…
Dembe looked over at the girl and asked.
“Apart from you, who else knew about it?
“I don’t know about others. But I have seen two of you more than three times in the market square when Lady Aprin sent me to buy something for her. Relax your mind Dembe, I did not tell anyone. Is of no use, two bonded servant in love….it leads to nowhere because you can’t even marry each other. If the girl suddenly falls pregnant either the pregnancy is aborted or her baby will be taking away from her because she and her child belongs to her master’s household. So all this leads to nowhere. Whatever you do with the slave girl is none of my business, what I’m more concerned is about Lady Aprin. You needs to be careful Dembe, because Lord Bash will smoke you alive, even the priestess will not spare you if they finds out that you are getting into Lady Aprin’s head. Trade carefully…is a kind advice from me to you…
Dembe looked straight ahead and ignored the girl’s batter.
After seeing that Dembe was not paying any attention to her she decided to keep quiet.
They continued the rest of their trip in silent.
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