A special thanks goes out to some Tumblr friends: Lisa (lyssala), who was literally the inspiration for this fanfiction that is almost a year in the making (direct all your tears at her because she caused this trainwreck), Sofie (myfandomfetish), who has given me an incredible about of ideas for the story, Courtney (imstrongerthanallofyou), who finally got me off my ass and convinced me to start seriously writing this, Amy (aruani), who really gave me the idea to incorporate Annie into the plot in a desperate ploy to shoehorn aruani into literally everything I write, and everyone else in the Eremika Skype chat that listened to my incessant rambling for literal months. I hope you all enjoy this new ongoing fanfiction!

The day had been rather quiet for the Ackermans, if more than a bit dull. They had spent the entire day in the small stone cell that young Mikasa had known as home for her entire life. She didn't see it for what her mother knew it was – a prison – and often found a small amount of security in the catastrophic walls and small cot that she shared with her mother. Mikasa was curled up again Kimi Ackerman's chest, staring at the wall with a drowsy sort of boredom in her dark eyes. Gently she stroked the five-year-old's raven hair, looking at nothing in particular, before hearing a familiar voice ring out in the hallway outside the cage.

"...to do housework?" She only caught the end of a disjointed sentence.

"That's it," a gruff, deep voice replied. "The wife died a few weeks ago-"

"I'm sorry to hear that." The second man continued as if his associate hadn't spoken.

"-and I've been too busy to do the shit around the house that needs done. All I want is someone quiet that can do laundry and cook." Mikasa finally looked up when two figures appeared outside the barred door of their cell. One, Kimi knew.

His name was Nile Dok, a man, if one could even call him that, who dealt in slaves and owned what he considered to be a store of sorts. Kimi didn't know too much about him, just that he was horrible and literally every interaction they'd ever had had ended in violence directed at her. Nile had beaten her more than once over the stupidest things, and even slapped and kicked Mikasa around when he was in an especially foul mood. It was safe to say that she wasn't fond of the man.

The other man, she'd never seen before. He was larger and much more bulky than Nile, with dark blue eyes and light blond hair. As Nile pulled out a set of keys , Kimi gently repositioned a slightly more alert Mikasa into a sitting position on the bed and quietly stood up.

"Name?" Nile demanded from her as she stepped out of the cell and he closed it behind her. Kimi ignored the mild irritation she felt over the fact that her supposed owner didn't even feel obligated to learn her name.

"Kimi." For the next several minutes, she stared ahead blankly, as the blond man asked Nile several questions about her, and she was eventually allowed to re-enter the cell with Mikasa.

"You're going to have to take her daughter," Nile eventually told the man, as he was clearly interested in her. The larger man grimaced.

"Is there any particular reason for that?"

"Yes. She's worthless." Kimi subtly glared in the man's direction, but Mikasa was far too young to understand what they were really saying. Still, she found it to be extremely tasteless. Then again, a person who owned slaves wasn't exactly a class-act. "I deal in slaves for labor, strictly," he continued, his voice firm. "I don't care for the perverse tastes of those in the Capital, so a child that age has no value for me in the slightest." He looked at Mikasa for a moment. "It'll be years before I can even think of selling her, so she's a package deal with her mother." He looked back at the potential buyer. "Hell, I'll throw the brat in for free – I just don't want to pay to feed her for that long." Both of the man began to walk away, still talking. After they were gone, Mikasa looked up at her mother with a frown.

"What's going on?" She gave her daughter a smile.

"It looks like we might be moving soon." That seemed to brighten Mikasa's mood a bit.

"I just hope it's warmer there than it is here," she complained. "I'm cold." A light laugh passed the woman's lips, as she wrapped Mikasa up in the blanket laying at their feet.

"Is that better?" Mikasa didn't respond, as she gently leaned against her mother's body and slipped into unconsciousness.

The girl's slumber was disturbed about an hour later, when Nile and one of his employees appeared outside their cell again.

"I sold you both to that man," Nile told them, his voice and face betraying the complete lack of care he felt with addressing the two slaves. "Your new master is named Alaric Leonhardt, and he'll be here to take you both home shortly." Mikasa had no concept of what was being said to her, and Kimi had no reaction to the news. She knew it could go either way – she had learned from experience how unpredictable and poorly things could go for slaves when they change masters. On one hand, this Leonhardt could be a far more patient and lenient owner than Nile was. On the other hand, he could be horrendously abusive, in more ways then once. It was impossible to guess.

Still, Mikasa had never known any life outside this cell. Anything would be better than living in a cage, being put on display to potential buyers like a horse in a stable. That was no life for a growing child.

"However," he opened the cell, "before you go, the girl needs to be marked." The second those words left his mouth, Kimi felt her heart drop into her stomach. "And I don't want to hear any protests from you this time, you hear me?" He gave the woman a harsh look. "I held off on doing it for this long because you throw a tantrum every time I so much as mention it."

"But she's just a child," Kimi pleaded with him. "I went through it as an adult, and even I-"

"You weren't born into slavery," he cut her off. The previous lack of interest was now gone, replaced what was clearly anger. "That girl," he gestured at Mikasa, "was. Therefore, logic dictates that she'd be marked at a younger age than you were."

"She's only five!" Kimi snapped, her desire to protect her helpless daughter finally overcoming her fear of being physically punished. By this point. Mikasa had sensed that something was amiss and was quietly standing behind her mother, staring up at Nile uneasliy.

"She's a big girl."

"She-" Kimi was cut off, as a hand cut across her face.

"Shut the fuck up," the man snarled. "I didn't ask you for any opinion, bitch. You are both leaving today, and your daughter is going to feel the iron before that, and you're not going to argue about it any longer. Do you understand me?" Kimi glared at him silently. When she didn't answer him, Nile added, "If I hear another word out of you, I'll just separate you two. Try me." Finally, that threat convinced the woman to back off and Nile viciously grabbed Mikasa by the arm, yanking her away from her mother.

"I'm sorry," she whispered to her daughter. "Be strong."

The already-tense five-year-old began to tear up and trembled slights as her mother was shut in the cell again and the man continued to pull her down a hallway. With every step, Mikasa could feel her fear and confusion and grow. She had no idea what was happening, why her mother had been hit, why she was now being taken away from her. Finally, then came to a very warm room with a fire in the middle.

She was handed off to another man she had never seen before. This one was dirty, covered in ashes and soot from working the fires in this room all day long.

"Shaky little thing, ain't ya?" the man grunted to Mikasa, who stood quietly beside the fire, too scared to move from the spot the man had put her in. "This won't hurt a bit," he added, revealing a long iron pole sticking in the end of the flames. Carefully, he pulled the red-hot iron from the pit, grasping Mikasa's arm firmly in his other hand. The raven-haired girl felt her heartbeat accelerate in terror, as she realized that he was going to touch her with the hot end of that pole. In a fit of panic, she tried to lurch away from him, but he held her tightly.

"I'm sorry!" she screamed as tears slid down her face. "I'm sorry! I won't do it again! I-" The young slave's words faded into a cry of pain, as the iron finally came into contact with the bare skin on her wrist.