Stories of Adelwreth

Nailed to a Door

Mazrik awoke to the rooster sounding the dawn. He stretched and rolled out of bed.

The room contained everything he needed: a bed, a chair, a desk, a wash trough and a wardrobe. Things could have been a lot different. The last seven years had been an interesting time. He put on his work shirt and his shoes. …so much like that fateful day that resulted in all of this. Back then, the day started similarly—not with a rooster crowing, but with excitement and nerves…


They had been setting a trap for a carriage. Three men hid on the hill that overlooked the dirt highway leading to Delewreth. Mazrik and his brother set up positions just off the side of the road. They had learned of the shipment coming to Adelwreth through an informant at the bank. Four thousand Adels in a carriage. It was the haul of a lifetime. The robbery did not go entirely as planned. They didn’t expect the carriage to be so well protected. Three riflemen and a colonial escort. The fighting was fierce. Mazrik’s brother took a bullet to the chest; the men on the hill took care of the colonials and guards. Mazrik left the only survivor for dead at the site—to the protest of the rest of the gang. Mazrik was a thief, but he was no killer. That had been his brother’s occupation.


Mazrik opened the door and gazed over the dark fields as the golden light licked the horizon. There was still much to do, but first things first. He jogged over to the worker’s barracks and started waking everyone up. He ensured they were all well before heading over to the kitchens to inform the ladies that they could start preparing breakfast. He then left and headed to the animal stalls to inspect their supplies. The pigs’ trough needed refilling, the horses’ stables needed cleaning, and the chicken coop’s roof had started to collapse. There was still a lot of work to be done on this day. Quite the contrast…


After the heist, he and those that were left of the gang went their separate ways. They split the money and indulged in whatever their hearts desired. Their decadence was not meant to last, however. About a year later, their past would catch up with them.


Mazrik waited for the workers to finish breakfast before calling them all together. They all lazily entered the courtyard, hands in pockets and some still dreaming of sleep. Mazrik hopped on a crate and started calling names and assigning morning tasks. He instructed someone to tend to the pigs, another to clean the stables, a team to fix the chicken coop, and another lot to fetch tools to start in the fields.

He then left them, certain that his instructions would be followed to the letter. It was how things were—not what he had ever expected would be. Seven years earlier he would have been beaten with a whip if he had slacked or talked back. Unlike him, these workers were paid. Mazrik himself hadn’t seen an Adel since he had started here.

He made his way to the estate. The three-story building stood stately facing the through road to the north. The butler smiled as he saw Mazrik, bidding him a good morning and opening the door for him.

“Wonderful day is it not, Mazrik?” said the butler as Mazrik speedily walked through the door.

“Exciting Mr Butler, sir!” he called back.

He passed the reception hall and leapt up the stairs, passing maids and greeting them. They had all come to trust him. He was not sure why, though. He sped down the corridor to Mr Whinnox, the estate owner. He had despised this man at a time, but now Mazrik loved and respected him. He knocked on the heavy wooden doors of the man’s bedroom and pushed them open. Animal skins were draped on the walls and scattered on the floor. Flames crackled in the fireplace and Mr Whinnox coughed strainedly.

“Master?” Mazrik ventured.

Mr Whinnox turned his head with great effort to see who was calling him. He smiled when he saw Mazrik. “Your desire for us to do today?” Mazrik asked, kneeling.

Mazrik felt sadness. This man had been strong and intelligent but lay here now with barely his mind intact. A sickness had struck him almost a year earlier after his wife left never to be seen again. Their son had not even been ten years of age.

Mazrik could barely hear what Mr Whinnox was saying but knew that they had to till the lands and send a shipment of wares to Whatley Estate. They also needed to send a sum of Adels to the Bank of Adelwreth. At midnight, Mazrik had to return to receive his new life.

He hadn’t been in the city for as long as he was here…


The colonial guard had arrested Mazrik and he was placed on trial. It seemed to be going well up until the point where the man he had left alive pointed him out as one of the leaders of the gang. The man, however, did state that Mazrik had not killed anyone except a horse. The sentence was simple. Either Mazrik had to pay back the money he had stolen, the value of the horse and another twenty per cent of the value of those combined, or he had to become a slave. The other members of the gang were hanged. Mazrik had already spent his entire portion of the loot and was placed at auction to be sold off as a slave. He later learned why only one man had arrived to buy him. That man had been the intended receiver of that shipment—Mr Whinnox.


Mazrik went about his day, supervising the workers, and ensuring everything went according to plan. He inspected the shipment intended for the Whatleys, as well as the shipment intended for the bank. He swelled with pride as everything went smoothly. Certainly, things would not be the same here without him.

His excitement suddenly turned to sadness. How would things be here without him? he wondered. One of the workers came up to him and reported that the hammer with which they were fixing the chicken coop had broken. He took the broken pieces and fixed them. Another reported that an animal had fallen into a ditch. Mazrik led a team to rescue it. At midday, he notified the workers that it was time to rest and inspected the work that had been done. The chicken coop was almost fixed; the stables were clean. The shipments were sent and the land was being tilled. When he arrived back at the estate to report back, a cart pulled up. It was a man from one of the nearby farms looking for certain tools. Mazrik thought about it, then pointed the man to the barn and called another worker to help the man out. He gave the man a price and went inside to write a loan agreement for the tools. 

Use of tools requested at a price of ten Adels per day for seven days.

He left a space for the man’s signature and signed the date. The man signed it and went about his business. Mazrik went inside again, on his way to file the agreement, when the butler offered him a cup of tea. Mazrik stopped and accepted it without too much of a fuss. He knew that the butler would nag at him till the end of the day until he accepted it.

“Mazrik, I fear that Mr Whinnox is on his last legs,” said the butler.

“I know,” replied Mazrik, sipping his tea. “Has the good doctor been here yet?”

“Not yet,” said the butler, gazing off down the corridor. “He said if not today, then most definitely tomorrow, as per the letter.”

“There was no reply on the last letter?” Mazrik frowned. “I explicitly told him that his services are required at the earliest time possible. That this was of utmost priority.”

Mazrik handed the butler the empty cup and speedily walked down the corridor.  “Get Lortin to take Dartenting and fetch the doctor, wherever he is,” called Mazrik as he entered the study. He searched for the file marked Agreements of Loans. It was orderly nestled between Estate Accounts and Agreements of Trade. That reminded him—he had to leave a note that the estate accounts had to be updated before the end of the month. He filed the agreement and started with his note. As he finished, he realised that they had to follow up with the correspondence pertaining to the mill they had requested from overseas. As he finished that note, he realised there was more and more to write down.

“Mr Butler, sir?” he called as he wrote note after note. In the distance, he could hear the butler approaching. He finished another note regarding instructions for maintenance on the estate.

“Lortin has been despatched, Mazrik,” said the Butler, almost out of breath.

“Thank you, Mr Butler, sir,” said Mazrik, scribbling yet another note. “Tell me, I’m not the only one that knows the order of business around here, right?”

The butler looked at him, slightly confused.

“Well Mazrik, of course, Mr Whinnox knows, but beyond that, I am afraid the only person who knows how to run this estate is you.”

“That was what I was afraid of,” said Mazrik.

“Oh and why is that?” asked the Butler crossing his arms.

“Because,” sighed Mazrik. “Today I go free.” The butler nodded.

Mazrik reported to Mr Whinnox and shared the day’s events. He bumped into Catley, Mr Whinnox’s son in the hall and played with him for a bit before continuing the work of the day. At supper, Mazrik served the boy and, as usual, gave him instruction about the estate and how to handle matters, and reported the work of the day. The boy didn’t understand all of the complexities yet and that worried Mazrik. It would be another couple of years before Catley would be able to run this place.


Lortin arrived with the doctor well after nightfall. The man had a balding head and glasses and seemed timid. He didn’t have much respect for Mazrik, but spoke to the butler and Lortin with much enthusiasm. 

The doctor took his leather suitcase up to Mr Whinnox’s room and started his examination. He took his stethoscope from his suitcase and listened to the lungs and heartbeat. Felt his pulse and took his blood pressure. He spoke with a soothing, mumbling voice, asking questions to the old man as he went on. Mazrik stood leaning against the door with the Butler at his side and Catley before them.

A maid came up and whispered to Mazrik that a fire had started in the fields. He instructed her to get Lortin and the rest of the workers to start putting it out and told her that he would be there in due time. He placed a hand on the worrying Catley’s shoulder and asked the butler to convey the information to him when the doctor had finished.

“It doesn’t look good,” said the doctor loudly from the bedside. Mazrik hadn’t even finished speaking to the butler and stood in silence. Catley began to tremble.

The doctor made his way over to the three of them and spoke, avoiding eye contact with Mazrik.

“Had I been here sooner, perhaps there might have been something I could have done,” he said. “But I fear he will not live out the night.” Mazrik was filled with anger and sadness. Anger at the doctor who had ignored his letters, and sadness that his master and friend was to be gone so soon.

The butler thanked the doctor and took Catley to one side. He intended to prepare the boy for the coming tidings. Mazrik eyed the doctor with disdain.

“I am sorry,” said the doctor finally, and left the room. Mazrik looked at Mr Whinnox and headed for the fields. There was a fire that had to be put out, and the workers needed leadership.


He arrived at the fields with the fire spreading. He instructed teams to start a fire break. One group was instructed to form a continuous supply of water. Others he instructed on how to combat the fire: douse it by pouring water right at its heart. It was a trying night but, eventually, they succeeded without losing too much of the field. At sunrise he instructed half of the workers to rest. As for the others that still seemed fit, he ordered them to repair the damage. They would be rotated before too long and would have many breaks in between. 

Mazrik reported back to Mr Whinnox and was about to leave when the old man, trembling with pain and struggling with all his might, removed an envelope from his bedside table. Mr Whinnox handed it over to Mazrik. There was the seal of Whinnox. The date: seven years earlier—the day of the auction. It contained a single piece of paper. Mazrik opened it. There was still much to do on the estate.

“In payment of your debt, I now hold it fulfilled. Be it that whosoever judges this man knows that he is free and without fault since this day.”

It was signed and had that day’s date on it. Mazrik stood there, perplexed. He could start his life anew. He could start working somewhere with a salary, buy a home, become a citizen. Yet here he was, wishing he didn’t have to leave this place.

“There is one other way, Mazrik,” said the butler from the doorway. He was holding a tray with a nail and a hammer. “According to the laws of Adelwreth, should a slave desire to continue to serve his master beyond the last day of his seventh year, he could ask his master to hit a nail through his ear into a doorpost.”

Mazrik looked up at the butler contemplatingly; then he looked back at Mr Whinnox. The old man was breathing heavily, holding on for dear life.

“Unfortunately,” the butler sighed. “That slave shall then be in the service of that master, and that master’s children, until his own death.”

Mazrik thought about this. He wondered how life out there would be.

Lortin knocked on the door.

“A bunch of cattle got out through the fence that burnt down. Mazrik, what do you want us to do?”

He knew then what he was to do. Mazrik put his arm under Mr Whinnox’s shoulder and lifted him up. The man had very little strength left and could not support his weight. The butler sat down the tray on the bed and hurried over to help. They moved him around the bed towards the heavy door. Mazrik held the nail to his ear and against the door, suddenly realising that he hadn’t asked Mr Whinnox yet.

“Sire? Are you willing?” he asked to the side.

Mr Whinnox replied softly, but his reply was understood. 

The butler held up Mr Whinnox, gripped his hand over his master’s, and swung the hammer. The thud and the scream could be heard well outside of the mansion.

There were a few more, and Mazrik was a slave for the rest of his life. A slave that held the respect of all those who had worked and lived there. A slave who governed the business of the estate and taught the young Catley all he knew about his father and his own life.

Share this story:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *