Trevali’s Contract

Trevali watched the last of the caravan disperse. She had already paid off the few freemyn who had served under her this trip and packed her bag. The thrales, of course, did not get paid. Domine Herest would have paid their owners for their services before the caravan set out. Officially, the merchants and carts were the city’s responsibility now, but she liked to watch, just to be sure.

Not that she could do much if there was trouble, with her weapons peace-bonded within city walls. Still.

When the final cart was out of sight in the city bustle, the freemyn turned herself towards Domine Herest’s house, to giver her report and receive her payment.

And argue, one last time, with Herest herself.


“No!” Trevali saw the thrale kneeling next to Herest wince and caught herself. “No, Herest. The crystals were right and we were wrong. This is what I was meant to be. Taking a permanent contract with you won’t change that.”

Herest snarled, “I am domine. You will show me respect!”

“And I am freemyn, domine. I bow to no one unless I so choose.”

“For five years, you’ve bowed to me happily. And before that, you knelt!”
Trevali sighed, abandoning any hope of salvaging this once-friendship.

“For three years, I bowed happily. For two years, only out of remembrance of our friendship. I knelt as a child, not knowing my place in the world or who I was.

“My contract with you is ended, domine. As you will not give over trying to make me the thrale I am not, I will not renew it. Gods guide your steps.”

She turned and walked out, Herest’s scream of rage echoing behind her. At the last moment, she turned and looked back, unsurprised to see Herest about to strike her thrale. “Do it and I’ll report you to the priests. That thrale is in your care, but belongs to the gods.

“You, of all people, should know better.”

She watched, waiting, until Herest lowered her arm.


Herest had shorted her pay. She sat in her favorite tavern and glared at the small wallet of copper that should have been a mix of copper and silver.

She had a room in an apartment house, given her by the city as a freemyn. She had enough coins to replace and repair her worn equipment and buy food for a week.

The freemyn didn’t even consider putting off the repairs. She had risen from newling guard to commander in three years no so much by her skill with a sword as by her attention to detail and constant planning. She wasn’t going to slack now.

But that left her only a week to find another contract, or to give up and take work with the city. Guarding the walls or commanding the thrales who inspected the incoming caravans. For 5 years or more — the city didn’t take short term contracts.

She’d go mad trapped in the city for that long.

With nothing else to do, she finished eating and paid her small tab — before it could grow to a large one — and headed out to get started on repairs.


A week later, Trevali returned from market with a round of bread and half a sausage. Enough food for a day, maybe two, if she stretched it. Her clothes were clean and mended, her leather repaired, and her purse empty.

She was reviewing her options, again, when she saw caught sight of someone lurking in the shadows outside of her apartment building. It was a decent area of the city, little trouble. Just in case, she took a minute to release the peace tie from her sword. But as she got closer, the lurker stepped out openly, hands spread, and bowed.

“Freemyn Trevali? My domine would like to speak with you.”

Trevali hesitated, then retied her sword. “What does your domine wish?”

The thrale bowed again, and spoke to Trevali’s feet. “I was not told, freemyn. If you would accompany me?”

Trevali looked the thrale over. He was dressed better than some domine Trevali had seen, far better than Herest had clothed her thrales. Whoever sent him was rich, and probably powerful.

And had waited to contact her until she was likely to be desperate. A glance around showed that the street had emptied, except for two more thrales — big, well armed thrales — lounging on the corner.

Trevali sighed. “Of course. After you.” Somehow, she wasn’t surprised to here a pair of footsteps behind her as she followed the thrale toward the wealthier sections of the city.


Trevali stared at to the domine seated on the dias. He was sleak and well groomed, just chubby enough to make a good handful, but with a look in his eye that suggested anyone who tried cuddling him would regret the experience. Trevali hadn’t been given his name. “Domine.”

“Freemyn Trevali,” the domine said. “Thank you for meeting with me. I understand you are seeking a new contract.”

“Yes, domine,” she replied. How would this domine even have heard of her? And why this elaborate game.

“My daughter has just been tested as domine and chosen her first thrale. I am giving her control of a vineyard in the Spher Valley. It will give her a strong start to her domain and should be an easy first responsibility. I want to contract with you to go with her and help her get set up and settled.”

Trevali spat on the ground. If that was all the domine wanted, he could have sent a simple messenger. “I’m honored, domine, but I know nothing of vineyards.” The back of Trevali’s neck itched. She resisted the urge to turn around and check for guards behind her.

The domine waved his hand. “My daughter will learn. Or not. You have a skill I am much more interested in: managing head-strong and overly confident young people who think they know all there is to know in the world.”

“Domine?” Trevali narrowed her eyes. This one thought he knew far too much about her. And Trevali was afraid he was right.

“You don’t recognize me, do you?” The domine laughed. “I shouldn’t expect you too. Before my recent advances, I lived on the street of Hares and was friends with your parents and Herest’s mother. I’ve kept an eye on you both — as a favor to my old friends.” He smiled, but there was something repellent in it.

And Trevali’s parents had never been friends with any domine. They had, in fact, tried to insist Trevali cut all contact with Herest after their testing. Domine had their place, they said, and it was as far from freemyn as you could get them.

“You were right to warn Herest of her behavior last week.” Trevali froze. “She’s already being closely observed by the temples for her lack of judgement. If she still has any thrales this time next year I’ll be surprised.”

“Spying, domine?”

“My dear young freemyn. No one reaches a house on Palace Way who doesn’t watch everything around them.” He held out a scroll. “I want you with my daughter. It’s a two year contract, standard terms. I need her kept out of trouble. That’s all.”

Trevali could read the signs well enough. This domine wasn’t going to accept no for an answer — and if he had the pull to get Herest in trouble with the priests, he could do much worse for a freemyn with no coin and few friends.

She took the scroll. She was no scribe, but she recognized the sign for two years and the mark of the magistrate who had handled her contracts with Herest. Growling, she grabbed the pen the domine offered, and marked her sign on it.

“Two years, domine.” She ground out. She would play along for that long, but no longer.

“That’s all, freemyn. My daughter has been given a house on the street of Corn. You may meet her there tomorrow.”

“Of course, domine.” Trevali bowed, minimally. A freemyn normally owed their contract a full bow, but she would never give such to this man. Not when she hadn’t chosen the contract. She turned and walked to the door.

“Freemyn?” the domine called just as she reached it.

“Yes, domine,” she replied without turning.

“You will be working with my daughter. But you are working for me.”

Trevali turned and nodded. “Of course, domine.” She got the hell out of there.