The Brighton Auctions were one of the most talked about events in the country, and most likely in other countries, coming in a close second only to The Brighton Ceremonies. Village commoners were sold to the highest bidder to serve nobles of other countries and wealthy castle commoners.
The Great King Ohgrain and the Glorious Queen Persephone, along with their children Atticus and Aria and the Royal Assembly, had gathered hoards of village commoners the day before at The Brighton Ceremonies. Some for their own personal use, and a majority to sell at the Auctions, which would provide their castle with a large sum of money, further proving their status as the dominating country.
Just as no commoner had ever heard the true story of what happens to a commoner during The Brighton Ceremonies, no commoner ever told a story about The Brighton Auctions from the commoner’s perspective. A thousand tales were spun about the royal’s journey with The Brighton Auctions. Stories of commoners being sold to wealthy men for ridiculous amounts. Stories of the great nobles who had purchased rights to the control of simple village commoners.
This is the first story ever told of The Brighton Auctions, and surely I would have no head if King Ohgrain or Queen Persephone ever discovered my writings. The Auctions changed the course of my life forever, and never will I be the same again.
As I was pulled through the heavy gates of the castle, the large wagon I was placed in, with commoners surrounding me in their beautiful fashions, was crowded to say the least. There had to be at least fifty of us cramped into these wagons, pulled by strong horses. Crowds of royals and wealthy castle commoners surrounded the wagons, cheering for the catch of the day by our countries greatest men and women. Some of the wagon commoners cheered along, I sat quietly waiting for what would come next.
The horses lead us through the hoard of people into a large reception room, called the Great Hall. The King and Queen, all the nobles and wealthy castle commoners proceeded the celebrations while the village commoners were shuffled down a cramped and dimly lit hallway. We were lead to a large round room, with people in fine robes on each side of us. Atticus and Aria stood at the head of the room, a door to their left and a door to their right. I stood quite close to the front and could easily make out the faces of all the robed figures and of my Prince and Princess.
I was ushered up to the front by a male robed figure, and as the others had, I knelt before the feet of Atticus and Aria. They exchanged whispers and the robed male took me through the door on my left. The robed figure lit a small torch and led us down the winding dark hall. I was taken into another large round room, with shackles hanging around the walls, a large bath in the center of the room and small beds carved out of the large stone walls, stacked one on top of each other. Other commoners followed suit, and within minutes a group of us stood around the large bath, dressed in our finest garb.
Men migrated to the left side of the room, and women stood on the right. Five robed figures stood in the room around us. A large muscular male took to the center of the room and the chatter amongst the commoners slowly died to a still quiet. We all held our breaths in anticipation of our coming fates.
The robed man begun, “I ask kindly of you all, to please remove your clothing from head to foot, including your undergarments, and place on the clothing that is being passed around now. Those of you who do not participate in a timely manner, will be rightly punished.” With that, the robed figures began passing out stiff garments made of burlap sacks, that looked like dresses no matter what your gender. I began removing the long pants and cream shirt I wore, and slipped the rough sack over my body, the fabric scratching my skin.
After we had all been stripped of our beautiful clothing and were successfully clothed by a sack, the muscular man directed us to follow him. A small door at the head of the room led us out into an open garden. Bushes had been carved to look like statues around us, and the grass was bright green and glimmered under the glow of the moon and candlelight. Patrons were walking dogs along the stone pathways, winding around and behind the bush statues. Chatter could be heard louder and louder through the crowd of village commoners, as we all questioned our coming night at the castle.
The five robed figures lined up in front of the crowd of us, the muscular man dead center. A female behind me continued to chatter as the rest of the crowd quieted. The face of the muscular man turned serious and stern. He jerked his head to the left, and one of the female robed figures removed a stick from beneath her robes, approached the girl and gave her a look of disgust. She was then dragged by the hair to the front of the crowd, smacked swiftly three times on her bottom and dragged away back through the door. For the remainder of my time at the castle, the chattering girl was not to be seen.
Silence fell over the crowd immediately, and the muscular man chuckled to himself, as he proclaimed. “Let the races begin!”. He then instructed us all to run the stone pathways of the garden, our shoes having been removed in the round room. One by one, in a single line, all the village commoners began to run the course of the hard cold stone pathways. After what seemed like hours, one by one, the stone had defeated villagers. As it was, the hard-working commoners had sore feet from walking among gravel roads and wearing soft leather shoes all day in the village, and now they had spent hours in hard leather heeled boots, awaiting this very moment as part of The Brighton Ceremonies. Exhaustion consumed most of the commoners and they collapsed on the edges of the pathways unable to carry on. By the end of the race, only ten of us still stood.
The ten of us were ushered by the five robed figures back to the large round room with the bath in the center. I still do not know what happened to all of those who had faltered on the pathways, though I’m sure their fate was much worse than mine, and I was proud to have succeeded in my mission. The robed figures removed our burlap sacks and instructed us all to get into the water. Men outweighed women in the warm soothing bath, and for a moment, we were all relieved.
We were given soaps and lotions to wash our bodies and hair with. We were instructed to clean our bodies well, and wipe off the grime of the village. After we had finished cleaning ourselves, we were placed back in our burlap sacks and instructed to sleep on the stone beds carved into the walls. The muscular man chuckled and told us that tomorrow would be much more fun. It took me many hours to fall asleep, my mind trying to sort out the happenings of the day.
The next day, I awoke to the sound of movement around me. Chains clinked and I could hear someone moaning. A deep voice could be heard, and the scuffling of footsteps seemed to fill the air. I quickly sat up and hit my head off the stone at the top of my bunk. After composing myself, I slipped down from the stone and noticed women shackled to the chains hanging from around the walls. The muscular man was using his stick on a brown haired woman, as she wriggled and squirmed, moaning and yelping for help. She would turn towards him and he would hit her thighs, she would turn away from him and he would hit her bottom. As tears began to roll down her cheek, the muscular robed man chuckled to himself. He seemed to do that a great deal.
A robed figure came over to me all of a sudden and grabbed me by the arm. “Ah, you’ve finally waken. Please, will you come with me?”. I nodded my head, unsure of what to say, unsure of who this was. I was lead back out into the garden, and I was very afraid of having to run the stone paths again. I was sure my feet would not last through another run barefooted on the stone. The robed figure sat upon the grass, and invited me to sit as well. We sat cross-legged in the middle of the garden.
The figure removed the hood of their robe, and an older and skinnier man sat in front of me. This man was maybe fifty years of age, and held wisdom in every crevice of his wrinkled face. He quietly and gently, with a voice smooth as honey, said to me, “You won the race yesterday, along the very stone path that surrounds you. And because of that, you will sell very good at today’s Auctions. The rest of your day will be spent preparing you for your duties. Atticus and Aria want to offer you to one of our castle’s commoners, in hopes that they will see you transform into the great slave we all know you can be.” The look across my face must’ve read as confusion, for the man laughed and told me not to fear my fate, but rather embrace it with the fullest of my being.
“From this point forward, you will call me Master, and I will be in charge of training you for tonight’s Auction. You will follow my every word, as if my words will save your life. And trust me, they will. Since you won the race, the bidding will start higher, and you must assure me that you will be worth every cent given to this castle.” I nodded my head, as if I understood his every word, though inside I felt like a confused ball of rage, waiting to explode. I did not participate in the Brighton Ceremonies every year to be auctioned off to some commoner. I participated to be chosen as a worker for the castle. I had spent my years learning to wield a sword and my father had taught me to craft blades in the finest silver. I had expected to be put on the front lines of the Royal Guard, my sword continually sheathed at my side and my hands always ready for battle. Apparently, this wouldn’t be my fate.
The robed figure, Master, cocked his head to the right and smirked. In a somewhat astonished voice he asked me, “Did you feel no pain running the stone pathways this way and that, in nothing but a burlap sack with your bare feet? Did your feet not ache as you ran across the cold stone?”, I shook my head. I had felt no pain. I focused on my mission and did as I was told. My feet had not ached, had not bled. For years, I have wandered through the village barefooted. The stone was no worse than the gravel had been. He smiled in disbelief.
He pulled a tiny sack out from beneath his robe. He offered the sack to me, and it was filled with bright red berries. I was told to eat them as quickly as I could, as I would need the sustinance through today’s training. “Remember, you must be open and embrace this training. The better you do, the more you will sell for. The higher the bid, the happier the King and Queen will be.” I nodded and smiled, the thought of making my King Ohgrain and Queen Persephone happy, brought joy to my heart.
Master instructed me to raise and stand on the tips of my toes. I did as I was told without question. He told me to walk in a circle, lifting my knees as high as I could to my chest while staying on the tips of my toes. While it was a challenging task, it was not impossible. My thighs burnt as I lifted my knees to my chest, and it took every muscle in my body to keep my balance. After probably twenty steps were completed and a full circle had been done three times, Master allowed me to sit once more. He told me that I should expect humiliation and pain to be a regular part of my day as my owners new slave, on top of the duties that would be assigned to me upon my arrival to their house. He explained that only the ten who had completed the race were prepared for their duties as slaves to the Auction bidders. Those who had squandered at the race, would be put to their new life without warning or explanation. And those who had not completed would not be looked upon fondly by the King and Queen, and would be sold for a much lower price. Almost given away. I smiled, grateful for my stamina and strength, and open to whatever Master could teach me in just a few short hours.
We spent the day in the garden, the warm sun beaming down upon us. The grass tickled my toes and was a soft bright green that comforted my soles. Other commoners appeared from time to time, accompanied by their Master or Mistress. Atticus and Aria were also spotted wandering the stone pathways, though far better dressed than I.
Master spent most of our time together, sharing the wisdom he had accumulated in the lines of his face. He himself, had been auctioned off to a ruler in another country. He was younger than I am, when he was picked from the streets of the village during the Brighton Ceremonies in it’s start.
He began to weave an intricate tale about his journey to the castle and his selling at the Brighton Auctions. “Twas forty years ago, when I participated in the first annual Brighton Ceremonies. After King Arturo Brighton fell ill, the Queen demanded that upon the day of his death the following year, we would honor him by holding the Brighton Ceremonies. The Queen knew that holding this ceremony, would be a wonderful way to gather slaves to auction off to wealthy men around the world, keeping this castle in the position King Arturo had left it in.”
“Just a few months passed, when King Arturo began bleeding profusely from his gums. Anyone will tell you it was because he was a thieving liar, who could never keep his mouth shut long enough. I guess bleeding gums taught him a lesson!”, at that Master rose to his feet, gave a slight chuckle, and then his crinkled face turned quite serious. He looked me dead in the eye and demanded, “You must never lie. You must always be honest. Failure to be honest results in serious punishment. Let this be the great King Arturo’s lesson to you, and you musn’t ever forget it!”. I nodded, knowing that honesty was a moral obligation, and one that I had always and will always follow.
He helped me rise to my feet, and we began walking along the grass. He told me to lift my knees while I walked, “look graceful”, he repeated to me, over and over. “By the summer, months of planning had gone into the Brighton Ceremonies, with the Queen overseeing every step. She had a rather innocent mind, and was sure that this would be a successful event. She spent months inviting rulers and wealthy commoners from other countries, and had the entire castle decorated. This very garden you sit in, was created for guests to wander, the stone pathways being carefully designed by the Queen herself. She oversaw every detail and was sure when the Ceremonies began, she would have a wonderful offering of children to help around the castles and homes of all the wealthiest people of the world. Foolish woman she was…”
He seemed to drift to another time, another place. He stared off into the blue sky, and as I lifted my knee, I saw a small tear stream down his cheek. He shook his head and cleared his throat, “Eyes forward immediately. Just listen, don’t think, don’t look. Just listen!”. I turned my head back and stared out at the same blue sky he had been looking at. I tried my hardest just to listen, though my head was whirling with thoughts.
“Children walked the streets of my village, their parents standing behind them boasting of their magnificent skills. My father ran up to a man on a horse and pleaded with the man to take me. I was a fine stable hand, and had already, at the tender age of ten, raised a handful of horse and three cattle myself. The man was impressed with my age and ability, and quickly swooped me up onto the back of his horse. My mother and father smiled in delight as I was whisked away from them. I never saw them again…”
Again, he drifted from this place. He seemed to be reliving the whole situation out in his head. Remembering the tear falling from his Mother’s eyes, for she knew she would never see her child again. The cheers from his father, the pride seeping from every pore on his body. Again, he shook his head and cleared his throat. This time, I silently walked beside him, lifting my knees as high as I could, becoming tired and weak.
We came to a bush carved into the shape of a beautiful woman, her hands covering her breasts and genitals, her hair waving in her face as she hung her head low. Master took a seat in front of her, and pointed at the ground before him. I sat facing him, the wrinkles in his face harder now than before, his skin looked like leather stretched across bones. He looked tired and frail. His head was lowered as he gathered his thoughts.
“I fell asleep on the long ride to the castle, resting my head on the back of the horseman. I awoke to loud music and blurring light. At this time, there was no gate as you see now, for they did not need it then. We held our position as the greatest castle in all the world back then, without those gates. Torches blared from every corner of this great valley, as wealthy commoners and great nobles flooded the area. Just like yesterday, we were brought in in wagons, and on the backs of horsemen and taken into the Great Hall. The party would continue on through the night for the richest people in the world, and we would be taken to the round room in the back. The process was much different then, than now.”
“The Auctions began immediately, and took place in the Grand Hall. As the music played around us, each one of us children would be introduced to all the Kings and all the nobles. They would bid throughout the night, as one by one, children would fall asleep in every corner of the room. Even the Queen bid at that time, and would win the children that would serve her, just as all the other rulers did. I was bought for a small price by a floundering castle far away from here. I became a serving boy to the young King Sebastian Merlay.”
“That very night, I was whisked away once more, though this time there was no cheering, no pride, no delight. Silence was about me, except for the creaking of the wagon that pulled me and a group of three other children, and the cracking of the whip against the large horses bottom. King Merlay rode in a carriage in front of us, down steep hills and through winding forest trails. By the time we had arrived at his castle, the sun had been shining for hours, and the day was beginning to get hot. Sweltering hot.”
“The four of us children, were taken to a small house off the castle. A maid, this fine young woman of nineteen, with hair as red as an apple, took care of us in that small house. She tucked us into uncomfortable beds, and sang us soft lullabies, until in the middle of the day, we all fell asleep. The journey had been long for us, and many of us couldn’t wait to sleep. When we woke, a hot meal with fruit was laid out on the table for us to consume. I ate heartily. Half way through the meal, the King stormed into the house and demanded that I come with him. I did as I was told.”
“I spent months serving the King. Changing his clothes, serving his food and suffering his wraths. We won’t go into detail here, but I’ll tell you that I’m lucky I survived. If it weren’t for the red haired maid, I would’ve been a dead ten year old child! The glorious Queen Brighton had heard from various sources, that the great nobles that had participated in the Auctions were not using the children as servers of their house. The Queen was furious and ashamed when she learnt of the fates of the children that were chosen in the first ever Brighton Ceremonies, which she herself had organized. She sent out spies to five different castles, to get an idea of what was happening to the children she had earned money off of. When her spies returned to her with vicious details, she quickly planned all the children’s escape.”
“It was much the same as it was for me. A maid took charge of all the bought children in a house off the castle. I think in most situations, the maids loved us, just as we loved them. They cared for us and rubbed our sore and tired feet with oils. If they could’ve saved us themselves, they would’ve. The Queen managed to infiltrate the castle by whispers alone, and the maids were soon aware of the coming events. The Brighton Ceremonies were less than two months away, and the Queen had devised a great and devious plan.”
“This year at the Brighton Ceremonies, not only would the Queen be getting all of the children back, she was also going to slay those who had caused problems for the children!”, at this, he stopped and laughed loudly. I laughed too, for I felt a victory approaching. His eyes brightened, and he raised a fist. The lines on his face softened and he looked young again. After a moment of cheer, he settled back to the serious, crinkled face that had spoken so grimly.
“The Queen went about the day of the Brighton Ceremonies as if it were the first year. She marched with her royal assembly through the villages, this time only accepting those at least nineteen years of age. She wanted stronger men and more useful women. She wanted people who could keep the castle running smoothly without needing much training. That year, not another child saw the Brighton Auctions, and it never happened again after that.”
“As the Kings and Queens and wealthy commoners from other countries, ascended upon the castle for the second Brighton Ceremonies, spies were assisting maids with children, through the countryside in the dark of the night. We walked straight until morning, not stopping for any reason. The Queen had arranged for all the children and maids to live in a village very close to the castle. Small huts had been built for us to live in, and we were given the basic necessities anyone would need to create a thriving village.”
“When the Queen returned to the castle, the village commoners were taken into the Great Hall, as you and I were. Though instead of experiencing what we experienced, they stayed there, as the Queen and her royal assembly viciously murdered the nobles of the houses and castles that had bought children. No auction was held, and the Queen was the only ruler left standing. Nations across the world were left to rebuild their fallen status. The Queen reigned supreme, and the Brighton Ceremonies were forever changed.”
“Many years had passed, and I worked hard as a stable hand in the small village close to the castle. I was nearing my twenty-second year and had raised some of the most beautiful steeds in all the world. I made a fine living selling my horses to the Royal Guard. I had married my beautiful red haired maid and she had given me a beautiful son. The summer was approaching and my son was a year older. Just as the Brighton Ceremonies went through other villages, it came through ours. The years prior, I was unable to show my steeds, for I was married and had no children to carry on my family name. In these situations, men were asked not to participate, as they were of more use to their houses and wives, than to the castle and Queen.”
“This year was different, as I had a son now to carry on my family name. I joined in the Brighton Ceremonies with my fellow commoners, marching my fine steeds up and down the gravel paths. I boasted about the supplies for the Royal Guard that I had sold for a large sum. I had hoped to gain a spot in the stables or as a merchant for my great selling abilities.”
“The Queen herself saw one of my magnificent horses, and proclaimed me ‘chosen’. I was brought into the royal carriage and seated apart from the Queen. She showed great interest in my life, and wanted to know more about my life as one of the children from the first Brighton Ceremonies. She apologized profusely, begging me not to despise her. Not only did I forgive her, but I thanked her, for she had given me my beautiful red haired maid, who I married and whom I loved. And from that, I got the best son a father could ask for.”
“Remember when you came to the Great Hall, and there were two doors to go through, one to the left and one to the right?”, Master asked curiously. I nodded and responded, “Yes Master, I went through the door to the left. Which door did you go through, Master?”. Master smiled and said, “I had been chosen by the Queen herself, and was quickly ushered through the door to the right. The Queen greeted me in a small room down a very dimly lit hall. I was offered a position as leader of the group of Master’s and Mistress’ known as the Elite Advisory Council.”
“The Elite Advisory Council was in it’s first year of creation, and new rules were being set and tested, if you will. Commoners were separated into groups of those to be used in the castle and those to be used in the Brighton Auctions, and the Queen no longer paid for those she trained and cared for. The Queen would weed through crowds of commoners herself, and I would whisk them away, along with the other Master’s and Mistress’, all of us cloaked in black robes.”
“We spent our time training commoners based on their skills and abilities. We had a day to teach those who were to be auctioned off, how best to present themselves to the bidding nobles. Just as I am training you now. I have spent twenty some years training commoners to present themselves and to serve our rulers. Most of my years were as leader of the Elite Advisory Council, though I stepped down ten years ago, when I became too old to wield a whip the way a leader needs to!”
Master rose again, and I followed his movements. We began to walk once more, back to the large bathing room off the garden. Lifting my knees high to my chest, Master carried on, “Today, you have been guided through the left door. You and I are preparing you for the Brighton Auctions, where I imagine you will make some ruler happy with your servitude and sword wielding. But now that my tale has been told, and you know more of the Ceremonies and Auctions, the real training must now begin. Please remove your sack, and be seated in the warm water. We must make haste, as the Auction starts quite soon. I have mumbled on too long.”
I rushed to take off the scratching burlap sack, and was relieved to feel the warm water about me. From what Master had told me, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to be sold at Auction. I closed my eyes and fought off tears filled with rage and fear.