|Author||Unknown, Oral source|
Esraa’s Odyssey follows the events of a young Merew Asha girl called Esraa, bound to a life of hardship and captivity, who seeks her own paradise. Breaking free from her chains, Esraa escapes into the outside world and discovers the golden promise of a better life. This tale is heralded as a foundation for liberty and is a foundation for Asha beliefs--that each individual is deserving of their freedom. While it holds fictional exaggerations, Esraa’s tale is one shared among many young Asha that encourages them to pursue a successful goal, and moreover to proudly cling to their independence. Variants of the story exist purely from its orally-transmitted tellings, but its basis always holds true, for the Asha prize Esraa’s freedom-finding outcome more than anything.
Many years ago, many Asha found themselves locked in captivity. Bound and born as slaves, their freedom stolen from under their noses. Kept in cages so their life might only be suffering.
But one young, brave Asha girl defied the master’s hand. For you see, when an Asha is stripped of their freedom… They will do anything to claim it again.
Many suns ago, in the halls of a wealthy slave master, little Esraa dragged her feet alongside the other slaves. The rattling of their chains chorused long and permanent, much to the delight of the overseers and the master that watched over each of them. Their work was tireless, persistent, demanding, and dangerous. Several of the Asha suffered grievous wounds and illness from their conditions.
Esraa was the youngest of them. Young, but not frail. For a Merew, she was exceptionally skilled in many tasks, but that was why the master kept her in his captivity. Even with her talents, even with her strengths, she knew from her earliest memories that that place was not her home. Though much of her family and the family of her companions were brought up in hardship as slaves, she knew this was not what she was born to do.
The Asha around Esraa watched over her as a collective family, even if they did not share blood. And they saw in her this vision. It was a vision all of them shared, but so many before them had been torn down, beaten, or brought to death for holding it. Never mind attempting to break free. But to see this vision shine so brightly in Esraa, in one as young as she was, they wanted to protect her and support her. They decided that if any of them should be free, it should be young Esraa.
With the aid of the other Asha slaves, Esraa quietly formed a plan to escape. The trust she was given by the Altalar master was to her benefit; even she knew this. She walked his halls, learned every which way, every room, and every corridor. Over the months, Esraa sharpened her mind and crafted her map of the master’s home. It was not perfect, but perfection could not be afforded. Freedom would come at the right time. Like a door that unlocked and opened just long enough for her to slip through it.
And so, she waited for it. It was a long, taxing time, with days, to weeks, and even months of sitting idle on that plan of action. If it were anything else, Esraa might have given up. But this was nothing to lose sight of and for the sake of its success, she bided her time until such an opportunity arose.
One night, the slave master hosted a lavish party for his equally cruel slave-owning companions. They danced and drank and lulled themselves into heavy stupors. The Asha tended to their needs and whims, all the while knowing that if the opportunity came they could set about enacting Esraa’s plan. It was their plan, in fact, to help the youngest of them be free of their life of chains and suffering.
The hour grew late. Just when it looked as if the chance might never arise, a miracle grew, like soil being graced with the first drops of rain. The slave master succumbed to the celebrations of his own party and tucked away to rest his head, leaving the remaining slaves on their lonesome, but briefly. The chances of discovery still remained, for the overseers would patrol the halls and grounds throughout the night.
Nevertheless, the Asha would not let this moment go by.
Together they roamed and enacted the look of busywork, but secretly guided young Esraa down one of the quiet corridors, out to the fields. Their time was limited. They did not have much of a window to set her free. So they showed Esraa the way, parted with her with only the briefest of goodbyes, and with one piece of advice.
Run and do not look back.
The night that Esraa escaped, everything felt like a blur. Images, thoughts, memories of her master’s home fading with each breeze whipping through the desert. The dunes felt eternal. Everywhere she looked, they filled her eyes. Granules of sand and dust matted into her hair and fur and clothes. Small rocks even dug into the binding collar that remained around her neck. A reminder of where she escaped from that still clung to her; the last remnant of that horrible life.
But even with the reminder affixed to her neck, Esraa continued and persevered. Her hunger grew insatiable just as much as her thirst did. She barely stopped for rest. The venture felt long, endless, yet in the back of her mind, something urged Esraa to keep going into that vast unknown.
Resources were scarcely found. The distance could not be marked by stone or tree. All Esraa had was her will to travel its length regardless of the time it took. No matter how many steps she had to take, she would.
By the start of the third day, all hope began to dwindle. Perhaps it was purely a dream she had put her faith in, or maybe there was truly nothing outside of that master’s field. A world of sand seemed impossible, but how could she defy it when she stood among nothing else? Nothing but sand, dust, and a beating sun casting mercilessly from above.
Yet when she gazed up to the bright sky, she spotted a single bird. A bird among desert dunes, flying northbound to something. The second miracle that had been given to her.
With a second wind and perhaps the last of her strength, Esraa followed that silhouette; a winged form high in the sky, casting its shadow to her like the arrow on a map. Her feet dragged through the sand ever more but she hardly felt it. Her hope was in flight with that singular bird, and soon enough its course brought her to a golden peak.
The sun set upon that golden tower. A pinpoint and promise of something Esraa had never witnessed before. Civilization outside of her slaver’s home, and no less thriving. Bountiful in its extravagance and glimmer, our Esraa had discovered the very cities of our people today.
That bird guided her to food, water, and shelter. To a life she had never known before. What was once simply a dream that she could only hope to achieve now adorned her with comfort and peace, and above all those things, her freedom. It was here in the golden, prime cities of the Asha that her slaver’s collar was torn from her neck and she was made free. Free to live as she would have her life unfold. As a strong, capable Merew girl, surely she had the world right in her hands.
Some say Esraa took on a simple life in the cities, married and with children of her own. Some will tell you she became a renowned priestess of our faith or a woman of power and wealth.
Regardless of what really became of Esraa, that young Asha girl teaches us what it means to continue on a path towards freedom and prosperity and to abolish what brought such terrible suffering to our kind many years ago.