Slaves make up a large portion of the urban population. Some are born into slavery, and others are tribal folk or villagers from distant lands who were seized by slavers and sold into captivity. Templars and nobles also have the power to condemn debtors and criminals to slavery (although dangerous people are executed if enslaving them is considered too risky).
Wealthy Athasians keep slaves as a show of prosperity as well as a source of cheap labor. Most
slaveholders have few moral qualms about the practice, arguing that it is better to enslave others than to allow them to starve in freedom. A slave’s treatment depends on his usefulness and the affluence of his owner. Reliable and loyal slaves are likely to receive better treatment. Prosperous owners often see their slaves as disposable, whereas poorer owners take better care of their slaves to look after their investment. High-minded folk sometimes crusade to end slavery or at least guarantee standards of decent treatment, but callous brutality toward slaves is commonplace. In many areas of Athas, a slave’s life is regarded as belonging to the owner, who can dispose of it as desired.
Each slave is afforded a place according to his or her talents. Most are farmers, laborers, or servants. Those with fighting skills end up as soldiers or gladiators. (The best soldier slaves are trained as such from birth.) A few slaves have talents that earn them spots as artists or entertainers in a household. Skilled slaves can enjoy comfortable lives, but they are always at risk of falling out of favor. Few slaves earn lasting freedom.