Because of Sheila's position as Micah's Second, when he had a meeting with some Southerners from Walled Hold about potentially setting up a domestic day wher pack for Walled, she had to be there. Though she tended to avoid Southerners that would recognize her tattoo like the plague, she knew it would be more suspicious to not be there, and besides, Micah needed her help to make sure he covered all the points, or at least, that's what he told her. She was sure he could do this just fine on his own, but since he seemed to need her so much, and the lack of presence of his Second might seem suspicious, she decided to go, with plans to just don her gloves to keep her tattoo hidden.
“Shards! shards, shards, shards,” Sheila yelled as she ran around their shared apartment, getting Micah's attention quite quickly.
“Wha’s the matta’, darlin’?” Micah asked as he finished lacing up his boots. When he asked her what was wrong, she looked up from her nearly frantic search.
“They'll be here soon and I can't find my gloves,” she almost yelled at him, panic setting in and making her unintentionally irate. Micah handled it well, and tried to help her find them, but alas, the gloves were nowhere to be found before there was the inevitable knock on their door. Sheila swore again, more quietly this time before Micah gently grabbed her and kissed her forehead, “Easy there, darlin’. It’ll be a’righ’. I promise. ‘Sides, they pro’ly won’ e’en notice. Ya can always keep ya ‘and ‘n ya pocket o’ behind ya back if ya need ta.” So it was, that with a deep breath as Micah went to answer the door, Sheila prepared herself for this meeting, hiding any ounce of nerves underneath a cool demeanor, and also making sure to only shake hands with her right, which was easy since most people were right handed anyways. She would just keep her tattoo from being seen.
The meeting began without event, the visitors being seated and served drinks before Micah began to speak with them about the potential of setting up a day wher pack for Walled and what the benefits would be for them if they did. Added protection from the wilds, as day whers made great defenders against the large wild felines while also being highly intelligent and easier to work with than canines at times.
The meeting went on, and it seemed Sheila would get away with the Southern visitors not seeing her tattoo. However, keeping it hidden without the full coverage of gloves was more difficult in practice, especially when she had scars on her forearms that tended to draw the eye. So despite her attempts to keep her left hand from being seen, and the meeting almost drawing to a close for the day, the tattoo was seen. She knew it the moment one of the Southerners, a fairly high ranking dragonrider part of the Legion, reached out, grabbing Sheila's wrist to yank it forward and inspect the tattoo. Sheila couldn't help her response to yank her hand back away, and the two looked at each other with a degree of insult before the Southern rider looked to Micah.
“I didn't realize this was your slave,” she said to Micah, fishing for further information while also trying to seem innocent about it. Sheila was the one to answer though.
“I am no one's slave here,” she snapped, any polite behavior gone now. The Southern rider turned to Micah again with more hardened coolness in her eyes.
“Is this true,” she asked him.
“Aye, it is, ‘n I’d appreciate it if ya didn’ grab m’ wife’s arm like tha’ a’gin.” Micah stated firmly, but not insulting. While it would do well to get day whers in Walled, that was not more important than his wife. He turned to Sheila then and gave her a look that begged her to stay calm. “While New Atricis respects ya culture, we ourselves do no’ follow it. There ‘as never been, nor will e’er be, slaves in New Atricis. Sheila is as much a free woman as I am a free man.”
“Well,” The rider said, rising from her chair. “I don’t see any marks denoting her as a freed slave. All I can assume from that is she is a runaway slave, and therefore belongs to Walled Hold where she will be tried and punished as a runaway, and I have the authority to bring her back with me.”
“No,” Sheila yelled, all chance of calm out the window now, despite Micah wishing otherwise. “I have a life here,” she argued, sparing a glance to Micah, hoping perhaps he could think of a reason for the rider to not take her away. She was too worked up, angry, and panicked to think of anything.
While a rush of anger washed over him, Micah did his best to keep himself calm and collected. “Despite wha’ tha’ mark says, Sheila is a free woman ‘n ya won’ be takin’ her anywhere.” His voice was in control, barely, and far more stern than how he normally spoke. He didn’t care what this woman believed her rights were, she wasn’t going to take Sheila anywhere. Not only was she his wife, but she was a leader in New Atricis. “I suggest we speak ta the Weyrleaders ‘n ta our resident Justicar. If I’m no’ mistaken, they are the Law o’ Walled, are they no’?”
The rider couldn’t help but narrow her eyes at both Sheila and Micah, but she kept her cool demeanor and nodded in agreement, knowing she could do nothing else. “Fine, we shall speak with your leaders, and the Justicar residing here, and see what they say about this.”
So it was arranged to see the Weyrleaders of New Atricis Weyr, as well as the Wher Matriarch, who had been woken and called to the impromptu meeting. The situation was explained, and while all Atrician Leaders present agreed that Sheila belonged in the Weyr, due to her bond to Kivasila, her time spent here, and her position within it, in the end it was decided that the resident Justicar, Adonis, should be consulted as the authority in this case.
With silent well wishes from Weyrwoman Eavan, Micah lead the small group to where the Justicar could be found. Having become a rider himself, Justicar Adonis felt more a part of New Atricis, but his knowledge and expertise as a Justicar of Walled Hold gave him the edge in situations like this, where Atrician and Walled culture tended to blend with no clear answer. Micah was the first to reach the man’s office door and gave an audible knock.
“Come in,” the voice of the Justicar reached to them from the inside. Micah opened the door and allowed the Walled rider and Sheila to precede him into the room. “Well met, Leaders Micah and Sheila.” Adonis put down the paper he was working on and stood to greet them properly. The Walled rider was scrutinized with dark eyes, but no emotion read from his face. “Abbetor, pleasure to see you. To what can I be of assistance for you?” Adonis asked politely.
Micah gave the Abbetor a look, allowing her to explain the situation as he was not familiar with Walled laws or customs.
“I have discovered that one of the day handlers residing in this Weyr is a runaway slave. If you would have a look, the mark upon her left hand is indeed a slave’s mark, denoting her as belonging to someone, as the markings of a freed slave are absent,” the Abbetor explained, a little frustrated at being given the run around, but feeling confident that a Justicar originally hailing from Walled Hold, even if he was a man, would see it the way she did. “Clearly this means she is a runaway, and I was intending on bringing her back to Walled Hold to try her as such, however, it seems, there is belief that she belongs to the Weyr, rather than whoever she was sold to before she ran. We need your expert opinion on the matter to clear this up.”
All the while, Sheila glared at the southern rider multiple times, but tried not to make it so obvious so as not to hurt her case. What she really wanted was to give this woman a sound punch in the teeth, but she knew better than to behave like the woman of the wilds she had been when she’d been brought to Atricis back when it had merely been an expedition camp of Northerners.
Adonis listened with an emotionless look on his face as the Abbetor explained why they were here. He made a small hmph noise as he moved up to Sheila, whom he knew by name if not personally. “May I?” He asked politely as he held a hand out to take hers so he could see the mark for himself. Once she allowed him to see he made the same hmph noise and moved back to his desk. “You are right, she lacks the marking of a free slave.” Adonis held up his hand before Micah could protest. “However, there are other questions that need to be answered. You say you want to take her back for a trial, but for whom would the trial be for? Has her owner declared her to be a runaway? There are regulations for an owner to make a claim that their slave has runaway. Once that has been done and the slave found one of two things can happen. The slave is merely returned to their owner of which punishment is decided upon by them or the owner declares he wishes a trial to be had and the slave punished by law. Should they choose the latter, they are therefore denouncing their ownership of the slave. The Law then finds suitable placement for the disowned slave or, depending upon judgement, will send the slave into exile or to be executed.” He paused for a moment to make sure all of them were following him. “Now, if the owner has not declared a slave a runaway, but they are indeed as such, then the owner is notified and a Justicar will ascertain why they did not inform the Law of a runaway slave. If the reason is solid and reliable, then the steps of what I mentioned before are taken. If the Justicar believes that the owner does not deserve the right of having the slave returned then they may decide the fate of the slave themselves. Most often times in this situation the slave is granted their freedom as it was deemed the owner truly didn’t wish ownership of the slave.”
Micah could stare and listen as Adonis spoke. While it sounded like there was a chance for Sheila to get out of this he merely wasn’t sure.
Adonis turned to Sheila and asked her politely, “What is the name of your owner and how long have you been a runaway?”
Sheila’s jaw clenched at having to talk about this with anyone, telling Micah the first time about anything to do with her slavery had always been a difficult subject, and turns later she still hated talking about it in any sense. She knew she had to though, as refusing wouldn’t benefit anyone.
“A man by the name of Kreios,” she said, keeping her tone as even and neutral as she could manage. “I… am not sure how long ago I escaped,” she used that word on purpose, refusing to recognize herself as a runaway, “a long time ago, maybe ten turns ago if I had to make a guess.” Perhaps it would have helped if she knew her own age now, or how old she had been then, but she knew neither of those things, her current “age” was just a guess that they went by to make things easier to keep track of.
“I don’t know where he is now,” she finished with. She didn’t dare say any more than that, not wishing to incriminate herself or Micah in any crime either of them may have committed back when Kreios and his lackey Belenus had tried to take her back into the caravan. She hoped Micah would pick up on her not mentioning that.
Micah stayed quiet. While there were past events that could likely get both of them in some serious trouble, so it was best to not mention anything about that. It was best to allow Sheila to speak for herself and if his opinion or thought was needed he’d supply it.
Adonis listened to Sheila as she answered him. Since it had been so many turns it was likely that the owner likely gave up on getting her back, but he still had to be thorough as was his job. “That’s quite some time and I can’t say I know of this Kreios off the top of my head.” He paused in deliberation for a moment. “The next step will be to try and find this Kreios or any of his family that the ownership would have passed onto. Once they have been found, or not, then we’ll go from there. Since it has been so many turns this case isn’t so cut and dry. Abbetor, if you would like to accompany me you may. Micah and Sheila, you are welcome to stay here until we return. Excuse me a moment.”
Adonis moved towards the living area of his apartment where the very pregnant Zultaniterider was resting on the couch, reading a book. “I have to make a trip to Walled, shouldn’t take too long. Micah and Sheila might await my return here if you could put on a pot of klah or something.” Adonis leaned down and gave her a tender kiss before leaning down further to kiss her belly. Trinette giggled and waved him off before assuring him she’d make their guests some klah. “Go, silly. I’ll keep them in good hands,” she assured him. “Oh...Unna should be back soon, she went to go see the healers. Pretty sure she’s having false contractions, but wanted to make sure.” Adonis looked worried for a moment. “Go, dear, if it turns out to be the real deal...one of our dragons will let you know.”
“Thanks, love. I’ll try to not be long.” Adonis said and then returned to his guests. “Trinette will take care of you two while we’re going. Abbetor, after you.” He said and gestured for the Walled rider to move in front of him.
Trinette waddled her way into the office and smiled softly at Micah and Sheila. She could easily feel the tension from them and the worry. While she didn’t know what was going on, she had a feeling it wasn’t good. “Hello. I’m going to put on some klah. You two can make yourselves at home in the living area, if you’d like.”
Sheila chose to stay put, which was really no surprise to anyone who knew her. Sheila never went anywhere near Walled or anyone associated with it when she could avoid it, which was most of the time. So it was that Adonis and the Abbetor left to go search for more information from Walled Hold, and Sheila and Micah stayed put, staying in the Justicar’s apartment.
“Thanks,” Sheila said to the pregnant zultaniterider before moving into the living area to sit. There, she wrung her hands and fingers together, leaning forward with her elbows on her thighs as she stared down at her wringing hands.
“They’re going to drag me back, I just know it,” Sheila muttered while Trinette was getting some klah ready in the other room, her pessimism kicking in and trying to prepare her for the worst. “Probably execute me,” she continued a second later, obviously about ready to start panicking. She probably would have already reached that point if she was any less collected of a person in situations like these. At least she handled it fairly well so far. Turns ago this would have been a bigger fiasco due to her temper and bad attitude toward authority figures. She had calmed down in the last several turns though.
Trinette went about putting on the klah over the fire. She could hear the muttering from Sheila, but didn’t pry as it really wasn’t any of her business. She felt bad enough that she could feel the turmoil they were going through now.
Micah reached over to take a hold of his wife’s hand. “They ain’ goin’ ta do anythin’ ta ya. I promise. I ain’ goin’ ta let ‘em.” He spoke just as lowly and with conviction. He’d already done things he never would to take care of his wife, he was more than willing to do it again. “I don’ think Adonis is goin’ ta just ‘and ya o’er like tha’ either. Let’s just wait ‘n see wha’ he has ta say.”
It was a few hours later, perhaps longer than had been planned, that Adonis and the Abbetor returned. Sheila stood up quickly when they came in, but less out of respect and more out of worry and the potential of having to flee. The look on the Abbetor’s face told her nothing, and she looked between them impatiently for answers.
Adonis moved into the living area where Trinette, Micah, and Sheila was waiting. He gave Trinette a small smile, indicating he’d talk to her later and then gestured for them to follow them back to his office. In his hand was a roll of papers that he untied and opened once they were all in the office. “I’m sure you both are curious as to what we found. My apologizes for it taking us so long. We had to do quite a bit of digging considering how many turns ago this case goes back.” Adonis apologized sincerely as he flipped through the pages till he got to the one he was looking for.
“Firstly, we looked for any evidence that a Kreios had reported a missing slave by the name of Sheila. There was no such luck, but what was even odder was the fact that upon looking even further back we couldn’t find evidence that Kreios had legally acquired a slave by such a name.” A look was given to the Abbetor, one that wasn’t all that kind. “However, we wanted to be extra thorough and did more digging.” The papers were quickly rolled up and held in one hand. “I’m not going to bore either of you with the legalities, so let me put it this way…” Dark eyes turned to Sheila, a smile dancing on his lips. “Sheila, you’re a free woman.” He let that settle for a moment before he handed her the roll of papers. “If you can soon, fill out the pages here and I can make it official back in Walled. That way you won’t have to worry about proving yourself in the future. If you wish, you may also have your mark changed to that of a freed slave.”
Micah didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath, but a whoosh of relief expelled quickly from his lungs at the Justicar’s good news. He wanted to pick up Sheila and spin her around in happiness, but he settled for putting an arm around her and leaning down to place a kiss on the top of her. “Thank ya, Justicar. Thank ya, so much.” He spoke to Adonis.
Adonis raised his hand. “Don’t mention it. This is what I’m here for. Within the law lies hope, after all.”
Sheila took the roll of papers handed to her, looking at them for a moment as she worked on wrapping her head around what Adonis told her, trying to convince herself it was the truth. She’d lived her life as a slave, even after she had gotten away, the mark on her hand had been a reminder of that and the fear that she could be taken back into slavery if anyone found out. However, it seemed for all these turns the fear had been unfounded, and even though the Abbetor wasn’t happy about being wrong, they did nod to Sheila when she looked at Adonis and the Abbetor again.
“I offer my apology,” the Abbetor told her with a nod of her head, but she left it at that, to which Sheila merely nodded.
With final words of thanks to Adonis, as well as Trinette for being a gracious hostess, Sheila and Micah returned home. With Micah’s help, Sheila filled out the papers given to her, and she dropped them off with Adonis the next day so he could make it official that she was a liberated illegal slave, with an illegal mark on her hand. A few days later, after a discussion with a tattooer and a trip to the infirmary, Sheila and Micah were visited by the tattoo artist she had spoken with. It didn’t take long for the artist to put in the extra lines and dots onto Sheila’s hand tattoo, and while it hurt, it now labeled her as a liberated slave.
After the work was done and had some time to heal, Sheila sat looking at the changed mark, the black of the freshly added marks darker than the somewhat faded black of the rest of the tattoo. It looked so different now, and though the pain had been nearly the same as when she had been marked the first time, it somehow felt different too. For the first time in her life, she felt truly, honestly, free, however, there was something else making her feel different as well.
When Micah returned home that evening from working with the cubs, Sheila showed him the new marks onto her tattoo. While he was looking over the fresh marks that marked his wife as free to anyone who dared question it again, Sheila spoke.
“That’s not all that’s new,” she told him, getting his attention before she imparted her new piece of news as well. “I’m pregnant again,” she told him with some excitement, knowing how happy it would make him to know he would have another child.
Sheila and Micah’s lives were quickly back to normal, and while Sheila often wore her gloves still, she still felt different than before. Kivasila would Rise for another Run and show signs of holding eggs this time, while Sheila’s pregnancy progressed. Nine months later, at the beginning of spring, Sheila would give birth to a pair of identical dark haired twin girls. All the while, it felt as if a weight had been lifted from Sheila’s shoulders, as if she could truly put her past behind her at last and live her life with Micah and their children.