Somewhere in the dimmest corners of Juba�s memory, he could still see the raiders. All black robes and flashing scimitars, they thundered through his tribe�s encampment on powerful steeds, cutting down all who resisted. But what he couldn�t see, he could still smell and hear: the tang of blood soaking into the dry earth, the cries of confusion and pain that arose from all over the camp, the polluted stench of burning flesh, and underlying all of it, his own wailing.
The raiders made captives of those who survived, gathered up all the gems and firedust the tribe had harvested from the sands, and forced them to carry the treasure on a long trek across the desert to a distant city. Many did not survive the journey. Men and women alike, and even children perished, despite the care taken by the adults. Their bodies were left to dry in the sun.
When they reached the city, worn and wasted, they were sold cheaply into slavery. On the auction block, under the appraising eyes of a hundred callous merchants, the remainder of the tribe was pieced away, one by one, to their new owners. Juba�s parents had died in the raid, and now the last of his family, his brothers and sisters, were simply being led away. It was nearly dusk when someone finally purchased the scrawny boy for a trifle, and led him away as well.
On a cattle ranch several days ride from Kirighast, Juba grew easily into his life of slavery. For a boy, there was simply no questioning his master�s commands. But as he grew older, he came to appreciate the simple value of what a man can do with his hands. Knowing there was no better life awaiting him, he threw himself into his work, excelling at all of it and quickly gaining the respect of both his fellow slaves and his masters. In addition, he always made sure to look out for the younger and weaker slaves. Where their strength wasn�t enough, he lent his massive shoulder. Where their knowledge came up short, he filled in the gaps. And when they were hurt, Juba was the first one at their side, binding their wounds and carrying them to the healer.
If he wasn�t exactly happy with his lot in life, Juba was at least content with it. His owner, whose prosperity increased with the young slave�s diligence, never mistreated his property, and in the small community of slaves on the ranch, Juba was respected and admired. Had the circumstances been different, he could have remained that way for the rest of his life.
When an urgent matter took both Juba�s master and his master�s son away for several months, control of the ranch was left to the younger son. Little more than a spoiled child, the younger son knew little his father�s business, but sought to prove otherwise. He pushed the slaves ever harder in his father�s absence, trying to show him that he could not only run the ranch, but improve it without his father or his brother watching over him. Juba took all this in stride, knowing that it couldn�t last forever. But when the son started beating slaves who were too exhausted to continue working, Juba�s anger began to grow. And when a boy of less than ten summers accidentally angered the young master and received a blow that flattened his nose, that anger broke.
Juba strode over to the upstart, fuming, and told him to leave the boy alone. Though he had to look up to make eye contact with Juba, the young man told him he would do as he pleased, and kicked the boy to make his point. With a blow that would have stunned a bull, Juba sent him sprawling into the mud, but as he did so, his anger dissipated. He�d never truly hurt someone before and was shocked to see what he could do. The master�s son, however, was too angry to back down. He and several of the free workers, friends of the son who were astounded by Juba�s display of violence, leapt upon him, first knocking him over, then stomping, kicking, and beating Juba with clubs.
As the hail of blows intensified, Juba sensed his own death approaching. But he knew he had done the right thing and wasn�t sorry that his life would end this way. A sort of tranquility overcame him and he waited calmly for the blows to stop. After a moment, he couldn�t even feel them anymore. He knew they were there, but he felt nothing at all. Entranced as he was, when the blows finally stopped, he believed he had died. He expected to open his eyes and find himself in the land of the dead.
Instead, when he looked up, he saw the master�s son, the workers, and all the other slaves staring at him in awe. With abject terror writ on his features, Juba�s attackers backed slowly away from him, then turned and fled. Juba looked down to see his own body intact, unmarred by bruises or cuts. Somehow, the blows had landed without harming him, without leaving so much as a mark.
The sight of the young boy, gazing reverently at him despite his smashed and bleeding nose, snapped him out of his reveries. Without another thought for himself, he rushed over to help the boy, carefully mending his nose to minimize later scarring. When he was done, the healer nodded her approval at his handiwork, and advised him to leave before the master�s son returned with soldiers. He took her advice to heart, gathered up his few belongings, and left his old life behind.
Now tasting true freedom for the first time since he was a child, Juba is at something of a loss. There�s a whole new world out there for him to see and that calls to him. And everywhere he goes, he finds people who need help. So now he wanders, taking in everything he can, and where ever he finds someone in need, he immediately lends his hands to the task. Whether he�s tilling the soil for a farmer too ill to work, setting a soldier�s broken bone, or rebuilding a home leveled by some catastrophe, he�s always happiest when he�s helping someone out. He�ll even fight for them, should it come to that, though he�ll always try to solve problems with his mind before his fists.
But still Juba�s past nags at him as well. Presumably, his brothers and sisters are all still out there somewhere, perhaps toiling for unkind masters. And somewhere, there is a black-cloaked raider with a white mask, a raider who casually leveled her firewand at Juba�s father and reduced him to a charred corpse, who has not atoned for her sins. But someday, Juba knows, all will be set aright. The Sun itself tells him so.