The Icebound Land (Ranger 3) by John Flanagan


The Icebound Land (Ranger 3) by John Flanagan

Author:John Flanagan
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781864719062
Publisher: Random House Australia
Published: 2009-09-14T14:00:00+00:00



21

SO THEY WERE TO BE SEPARATED AFTER ALL, WILL THOUGHT. Evanlyn was led away, stumbling as she turned to look back over her shoulder at him, a stricken expression on her face. He forced a grin of encouragement and waved to her, making the gesture casual and lighthearted, as if they would be seeing each other shortly.

His attempt at raising her spirits was cut short by a solid backhander to his head. He staggered a few feet, his ears ringing.

“Get moving, slave!” snarled Tirak, the Skandian supervisor of the yard. “We’ll see how much you have to smile about.”

The answer to that was precious little, Will soon discovered.

Of all the Skandians’ captives, yard slaves had the hardest, most unpleasant assignment. House slaves—those who worked in the kitchens and dining rooms—at least had the comfort of working, and sleeping, in a warm area. They might fall into their blankets exhausted at the end of a day, but the blankets were warm.

Yard slaves, on the other hand, were required to look after all the arduous, unpleasant outdoor tasks that needed doing—cutting firewood, clearing snow from the paths, emptying the privies and disposing of the result, feeding and watering the animals, cleaning stables. They were all jobs that had to be done in the bitter cold. And when their exertions finally raised a sweat, the slaves were left in damp clothing that froze on them once their tasks were completed, leaching the heat from their bodies.

They slept in a drafty, dilapidated old barn that did little to keep out the cold. Each slave was given one thin blanket—a totally inadequate covering when the night temperatures fell below the freezing point. They supplemented the covering with any old rags or sacks they could lay hands on. They stole them, begged them. And often, they fought over them. In his first three days, Will saw two slaves battered to the point of death in fights over ragged pieces of sacking.

Being a yard slave was more than uncomfortable, he realized. It was downright dangerous.

The system they worked under added to the danger. Tirak was nominally in charge of the yard, but he delegated that authority to a small, corrupt gang known as the Committee. These were half a dozen long-term slaves who hunted as a pack and held the power of life or death over their companions. In return for their authority and some extra comforts such as food and blankets, they maintained the brutal discipline of the yard and organized the work roster, assigning tasks to the other slaves. Those who pandered to them and obeyed them were given the easiest tasks. Those who resisted them found themselves carrying out the wettest, coldest, most dangerous jobs. Tirak ignored their excesses. He simply didn’t care about the slaves in his charge. They were expendable as far as he was concerned and his life was much simpler if he used the Committee to maintain order. If they killed or crippled the occasional rebel, it was a small price to pay.



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