“There are some blonds here.” Lars pointed this out to Manomar as they looked down on the muddy streets from the roof. The roof was flat and set up for sitting out on sunny days, and that day was one Ethan called an Indian summer day.
Ethan could only eavesdrop on the conversation, because Jill and Ali Pasha were engaged in a heated discussion in Ali Pasha’s native tongue. Curiously, Ethan understood some of what they were saying, but not enough to follow along, so out of frustration he listened to what Manomar had to say.
“Slaves, workers, eunuchs come from all places,” Manomar explained. “There are all together some five thousand people in this colony, and five times that many more across the river on the islands and the Long Island, but they are mostly on farms. In many ways, and because of the good portage, New Ark has become the market town. The port is why the people moved here across the river. The slave market is here, and also the Examiners.”
Lars shook his big head. “I do not condone slavery,” he said. “It is one thing if a man contracts for service, for pay, or works to work off debts. We understand obligations to King and Country and Community, but slavery is going too far where I come from.”
“I understand.” Manomar nodded. “But here, the Examiners have spies everywhere to insure the purity of the faith, to be sure that the name of the Holy Prophet is not abused or overthrown in favor of strange ideas. If a man’s heritage is found wanting or his faith is suspect, he is not allowed the freedom to rule and corrupt others. Slavery is only one option, but it is common.”
“Money talks here as everywhere,” Lars blustered. “You can’t fool me.”
“Indeed it does.” Manomar agreed with a slight bow of his head, accepting his correction gracefully. “Thus, there are Christian communities all across the Old World which are allowed some room to live apart.”
“As long as they are not looted,” Lars said, grumpily, before he turned his eyes again to the crowds. “But the blonds.” He pointed again.
Manomar shrugged. “My Master says that the way we are breeding, it will not be long before there are only two people in the world, lighter skinned Lords and the slightly darker skinned slaves, and the blonds will be swallowed up among the slaves.”
“Selective breeding and a poor man’s caste system,” Ethan mumbled, but by then it was time to go down into the house for evening prayers and supper.
The food was wonderful, and so was the conversation except for a couple of innocent comments by Ali Pasha. “I do not mind eating with womens like many. I have also breaked bread with Christians many times.”
“Some of my best friends are Christians.” Ethan quipped. Jill stepped on his toes and squished them into the tile floor.
“No Renaissance, no Enlightenment, no Industrial Revolution, no technological revolution,” she said. “Still a late medieval world. What did you expect?”
Jill removed her foot and kicked him in the shin, but gently.
“Stop it.” Ethan turned to her.
“Stop what?” Jill said, coyly. Ethan did not answer in words. He leaned over and kissed her on the lips, determined to taste the sweet honey of those lips again. They had not kissed since Lars’ log house. Jill did not resist him. In fact, she had been asking for it.