Bergren watched with the other slaves as his master was laid in the ground. The man was dead, killed by one of the slaves – no one knew whom. No one knew it was Bergren himself; not yet anyway. He had no doubt that when the authorities finished their investigation, he would be their top suspect.

As the crowd dispersed, Bergren followed them as far as the gatehouse, then ducked into the nearby forest. It would take the overseers a while to figure out that he’d been bold enough to escape. He would be well away before they did. He followed the path of the sun, while it moved overhead. Soon he found the main road.

Following the road, he found a small farmhouse. He left his slave clothes behind and stole a simple shirt and slacks off the line where they were drying. Someday he hoped he could repay the owners. For now, he had to continue moving.

Bergren continued along the road, blending in now with other travelers. As dark closed in, he reached a ramshackle inn. He entered the common room and found it a dank shadowed place. An old man stood behind the bar, rubbing the dingy wood with an equally dingy cloth.

“I… I need a room for the night,” he said softly. “I have no money. Perhaps, do you need a helper?”

“Might be. Get yerself in the kitchen and clean. They’s a room be’ind it you c’n sleep in. Do good work and you c’n stay.”

Bergren bowed and scurried into the back. An old woman stood stirring a stained pot full of soup. He inclined his head at her and began to clean, as he’d been taught since he was a child. By the time the common room closed for the night, the kitchen was beginning to look like a safe place to work and eat food from. Tomorrow, he would make sure it sparkled. He went into the back room the old man had mentioned and fell onto the cot in an exhausted sleep.

The next morning, he stepped out into the kitchen and the old woman was smiling toothlessly at him. “Breakfast and a change of clothes, Sonny,” she said. “Half day’s wages too. B’ain’t much but it’ll do an’ ye’ll get more t’morrow if’n ye work lite ye been. End of week so ye pay yer penny to the Man and yer penny to the Lord,” she added.

“Yes ma’am,” Bergren said. He looked down at the small sack of coins that had been set beside his breakfast. He would still have three pennies left after the required taxes. Tomorrow he would get ten pennies, nine would be take home pay. He was being paid now. He was no longer a slave. He was free. Even with the pittance he was being paid, he was happy.

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