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Slavery in the Known World

by James Mishler

By nation, current as of 1000 AC. Note that the national entries have changed somewhat to reflect political and social realities as they developed over the course of the development of the Gazetteer series. Also, in some cases, I have extrapolated on existing material, so, as with any of my materials, these are my own scribblings, and not Canon material. Next (maybe tomorrow, maybe next week), Attitudes on Slavery by Immortals...

Alfheim - Alfheimers abhor the concept of slavery, however, due to their insular and xenophobic nature they tend to do little about it. Non-elven slaves that escape to Alfheim are on their own, as long as they don't get in anyone's way. Some individual elves might help them, but most will believe it is up to the escapee to look out for himself. Slave owners may not generally cross the border to recapture escapees. Slave owners may not bring slaves into Alfheim; they will be turned back at the border. In any case, all rules are moot when elven slaves are concerned; Alfheimers will kill or die to help free elven slaves, and eliminate the slave owners without pity or remorse.

Alphatia - Alphatia is one of the largest slave-holding societies on Mystara. Slavery is not so much a "position" as it is a "caste." If you have magical power, you rule. If you don't have magical power, and someone that does, does not favour you, you are a slave, or a servant (or, rarely, a freeman if you have some wealth). That is the way of life. Slaves in Alphatia have no rights. Slavery in Alphatia grew out of the need for manual labour, as the powerful magics of the Alphatians failed most of the time on their new world. Thus, the peoples they conquered came to serve. Slaves are often sold, both within and without Alphatia proper. Slavery is common on the mainland, on Bellissaria, Qeodhar, and in Esterhold, rarer in the Alatian Islands and on the Isle of Dawn (save Thothia, where it is ubiquitous), and all but non-existent in Norwold (save in Landfall).

Atruaghin Tribes - The Atruaghin, for the most part, find the concept of slavery distasteful, at least, the concept of enslaving another fellow tribesman (the Tiger Tribe and the Turtle Tribe are the exceptions). This is an outgrowth of their enslavement by the Red Orcs centuries ago. However, they have no feelings one way or the other about slavery in other lands, as long as the enslaved is not a member of the tribes. Then they will do what they can to free them. The Atruaghin do not generally keep slaves of other races, not because they necessarily feel it is wrong, but because their lifestyle does not require the need for slaves. War captives are either slain outright (considered more merciful than slavery) or, if valiant and amenable, are kept for a short time and then adopted into the tribe. In the case of the Tiger Tribe, captives are held for a brief time, abused, and then sacrificed. In the case of the Turtle Tribe, captives are kept as slaves only if they have offended the tribesmen; otherwise they are slain.
These noshaki, as they are called, are treated fairly well, as slaves go, but they can never be released from their slavery, save by death. Slaves are generally not sold, as the clan as a whole owns them.

Broken Lands - Slavery is common among the beastmen of the Broken Lands, as, effectively, the weaker beastmen are the slaves of any stronger beastmen. However, slavery in its "purer" form also exists, as captives taken in war and raid are used and abused until they die or end up in the stew pot. Slaves in the Broken Lands have no rights, and no prospects for freedom. However, if one somehow becomes a "favoured slave," such as a concubine, a certain level of protection is afforded based upon the strength of one's master (or mistress). Slave taking raids are common out of the Broken Lands, and slaves are often bought, sold, and traded amongst the hordes and to foreigners.

Darokin - Slavery is illegal in Darokin, though it is legal to transport a slave through Darokin to another nation (after all, one must recognise the right to property, if the Daro want others to trade with them). Slave taking is illegal in Darokin, though a poor man or woman can sell him or herself into slavery, as long as he or she is then taken to another land. It is also legal to enter into a bond contract, also known as indentured servitude, for a period of no more than seven years (though such contracts can be renewed).
Bondsmen, however, have a number of rights, most especially the right not to be beaten (often broken), the right to possess money and goods, and the right to buy their freedom on a pro-rated basis. Of course, one must pay a fee for a license to have the right to "own" a bondsman. Bond contracts may also be entered into by a parent for their child, provided the child is at least nine years old; these are Apprenticeship contracts, and are quite common among the copper and silver classes. There are a number of unscrupulous merchants, "bond slavers," that troll lower class areas, promising to take on a child as an apprentice and train him, but then taking him (and numerous other victims) to Athenos and other border towns and there selling them to slavers. There is a very active "underground" in Darokin, which seeks to free slaves brought through the land, and seeks to better the lives of the bondservants.

Ethengar - The entire nation of Ethengar is effectively a slave nation, as the Golden Khan owns them and their property. However, the Golden Khan cannot sell his people. Slaves of the more standard sort are not unusual; usually these are female concubines taken in raids (in old days, from other clans; today, from neighbouring lands). Some male slaves are kept for short-term grunt labour, or to be sold to other slave-keeping nations; when the Ethengar are done with their project, they will sell the slaves if possible, or kill them if not. Most Ethengar do not own slaves, as they would slow them down, however, a khan will generally keep a few around to help his retinue. Eventually, such slaves may be considered almost members of the clan; some might be freed after years of good service, though this is rare. Most such that are freed remain with the clan as free men and women, as they have become Ethengar.

Five Shires - Slavery is illegal in the Five Shires. Any slave that crosses into the Hin lands is considered to be a free man, and most Hin would fight to defend that right. Some unscrupulous Hin pirates, however, are not above taking captive humans as slaves and selling them overseas.

Glantri - Glantri is, for the most part, like Darokin in regards to slaves, and has effectively the same traditions regarding bondsmen, though they are not treated as well here at all. Of course, the great wizards are above the law; some keep slaves, mostly concubines and "laboratory rats (notably dwarves and halflings). Serfs, i.e., slaves that are tied to a specific land and cannot be sold, are common in Boldavia, more unusual in other regions.
Serfs have more rights than true slaves, but their lives are in practice little different. Some unscrupulous wizards sell their serfs to slavers when they need quick cash.

Heldannic Territories - Strictly speaking slavery is not found in the Heldannic Territories, however, the natives have been reduced to serfdom, a status very near that of slavery. As in Glantri, unscrupulous nobles will sell serfs to slavers for quick cash, though it is rarer, as the serfs are needed to work the nobles' lands.

Ierendi - Slavery is illegal in Ierendi. Slaves become free when they set foot on Ierendian soil (whether escapee or otherwise), though slaves kept in ship holds in port remain slaves. Ierendi has an active anti-slaver patrol, to protect its people from slaver ships. They often work surreptitiously with the Freedom Ships of Open Isle, from the Minrothad Guilds.

Karameikos - Slavery is illegal in Karameikos, though a few practice it secretly (most notably the Black Eagle Baron). Thyatian slaves that pass through the land with their masters remain slaves; Stefan must recognise the rights of Thyatian slave owners as part of his deal with Thincol. Thyatian slaves may not be sold or traded in Karameikos, and, if they remain in the duchy for a year and a day (whether escaped or otherwise) they become free men. Other nations slave owners, however, have no such protections, and, if they bring slaves into Karameikos, they lose them, immediately! As with most nations, the law of the sea applies in Karameikan ports; any slaves on ships are still slaves, and considered cargo. If, however, they become beached, or if a (non-Thyatian) slave jumps ship and gets to shore, they become freemen.
Convicts are nearly slaves, but their rights resemble that of the bondsmen of Darokin, except they cannot (generally) buy their freedom.

Minrothad Guilds - Slavery is, strictly speaking, illegal in Minrothad. However, the slave trade is alive and well in most ports. Slaves owned by non-Minrothians may be brought in, sold or traded in Minrothian markets, and transported out of Minrothian territory; thus, the illicit and unrecognised "Slaver's Guild" is made up mostly of foreigners! Iron Ring slavers work openly in Minrothian ports. The exception to this is Open Isle, where slavery is illegal, and any slave that reaches the isle becomes free; natives will fight against slavers ferociously to protect a new freeman's rights. The halflings of Open Isle are also the proponents of anti-slave trade laws, and, in fact, sponsor what they call "Freedom Ships" that attack slave ships when they leave Minrothian territorial waters. Freedom Ships are recognisable from the flag they bear, a white field with black shattered chains. Battles are frequent in the waters between Open Isle and Crossbones, a major Thyatian slave port.

Ostland - Slavery is uncommon in Ostland; much more common is the keeping of Thralls, a similar, though subtly different practice. Thralls are supposed to be "petitioner citizens," in other words, captives that will be granted their freedom once they have served and learned Norse ways from their owners. In practice, most Thralls are kept as standard slaves, though like serfs elsewhere, they are rarely sold. Most Norse reavers, however, are not beyond taking captives in a raid and selling them as slaves elsewhere, where true slavery is legal. King Hords' wife, Yrsa, is actively behind the effort to eliminate the practice of Thralldom, though she and her confederates are working against thousands of years of tradition.

Rockhome - Rockhome dwarves do not keep slaves, and do not allow slave holders to bring their slaves into their lands. Rockhome dwarves do not allow others to keep dwarves as slaves, and will attack those that do keep them. Most Rockhome dwarves do not care what humans do to each other, and will rarely become involved in human slave practices outside of Rockhome.

Sind - Slavery is rare in Sind, due to the caste system; many outsiders would consider the kuliya caste to be little more than slavery, but it is very different in practice. The wealthy rarely import female (and, I rare cases, male) slaves as concubines. Slave owners may bring their slaves into the kingdom, sell or trade them within the borders, and take them out again. To most Sindhi, the slaves are just part of a different caste. The fatalistic belief in karma leads most Sindhis that even notice the slave trade to believe that the slaves are such because they deserved it from their actions in a previous life. Slave raiding is unusual in the interior of Sind, and limited to the kuliya or rarely the prajaya classes. Officials often turn a blind eye to anything that happens to kuliyas, and are usually bribed not to worry about the fate of the prajayas; again, it wouldn't have happened to them if they didn't deserve it, right?

Soderfjord Jarldoms - Slavery is an internal affair in Soderfjord; each jarl establishes his own laws in this regard. Some outlaw it (like the Jarl of Soderfjord), others encourage it; most are in the middle ground, and keep to the ancient practices, as in Ostland. Slave raids are not uncommon upon the weaker jarldoms, while stronger, more forward jarls often sponsor covert raids to free the thralls and slaves in neighbouring lands.

Thyatis - Thyatis is second only to Alphatia in the keeping of slaves, and outdoes them in the selling of slaves many fold. Slaves have some rights in Thyatis. Their owners cannot kill them or permanently maim them; they must receive a minimal amount of food and shelter to sustain life; they may own property, as much as they may carry, though only things that are given as gifts; and they may buy their freedom. Note that magical healing and cures are never required of slave owners, however, under the strictest requirements of the law a local lay healer ill should at least be called to tend to an ill slave. Children born to slaves are slaves, and may be sold by their owner (though most rarely do until the child is at least 14). Slaves may be sold outside of the empire, however, they no longer will have the empire's protection and thus only evil and desperate slave owners will sell slaves to foreign traders. In many cases, wealthy families have held slave families for generations, with the slave children being raised along with the noble children. In other cases, slaves have been worked to death, notably in mines and on overseas plantations. Slave rebellions are always put down harshly. Slavery is highly variable in the empire, but it is considered natural by most. There are several movements, notably those sponsored by certain temples, to alleviate the bonds of slavery or eliminate them altogether; these movements have had little success.

Vestland - Slavery and thraldom are illegal in Vestland. Foreigners may bring their slaves to the country, but are closely watched; slaves may not be bought, sold, or traded in Vestland. If a slave escapes in Vestland, or is brought to Vestland by a foreigner, and lives in the country for a year and a day, he is considered a freeman. Some of the more traditional families secretly keep thralls; they are usually wealthy enough to avoid trouble, as long as they are quiet about it. As usual, the law of the sea is practiced in ports.

Wendar - The elves of Wendar abhor slavery. Slaves (or serfs, especially in the case of Heldanns) brought into the country, or that escape to Wendar, is automatically free. Locals will fight to defend escapees' freedom; there have been several pitched battles on the Heldannic frontier over the freedom of a single serf.

Ylaruam - Ylaruam is divided over the issue of slavery. The Preceptor faction (now in power) believes that al-Kalim spoke against slavery, and thus has outlawed it; the Kin faction believes that al-Kalim approved of the enslavement of non-Believers. Thus, the current law stands that slavery is illegal, however, it is often practiced in Kin held regions, most notably in Abbashan. As the local authorities are generally followers of the Kin way they ignore it as long as it is small, subtle, and does not enslave Believers (even the Kin won't enslave those that follow the Preceptor way, though true conversion will be tested with magic). Bond contracts, however, are legal (see Darokin); they are most often used to by poor families to bond a beautiful daughter to a wealthy man as a concubine. The term limit in Ylaruam is seven years, after which the woman may leave or renew the contract on her own. Male concubinage to women is illegal, however, men may be bonded as standard servants, again for up to seven years. Foreigners may bring slaves into the country, buy or sell them, and take them out again, as long as they remain within certain districts of various ports and border towns. Escapees are neither free nor slave; it is the responsibility of the owner to recapture them, as the local authorities will generally not assist, though some might be bribed to do so.