The old woman was quick to return. She brought with her a younger woman who, although long past the first flush of youth, was attractive, plump and dark haired. She wore heavy bangles on her wrists and ankles which clattered with the slightest movement. The man stood up as they entered, dropping the blanket back and said something to the younger of the two women who bobbed meekly and then turned to Avilon.
“The Captain say I speak for him to you,” she told him in a thickly accented and ungrammatical version of Coalition Standard Speech. Avilon smiled at her with real warmth.
“That’s so good to hear. Will you please ask the Captain if he can give me news of the other people who were in – “
The man spoke roughly across him and the dark haired woman muttered something back, then said to Avilon: “The Captain say you to get strong and do as told. No fighting or he beat you.”
Anger flowed in Avilon and he banished it before it could find any visible expression.
“Tell the Captain that I will get strong a lot quicker if the old woman stops feeding me drugs and if I am not kept chained.”
As the woman translated quickly the man frowned at her, snapping out a curt reply. “The Captain say the Kashlihk will stay with chains until he does as says.”
Avilon was about to reply, when the man said something more and the dark haired woman looked suddenly more nervous.
“The Captain say tomorrow you walk and he see how strong are you. He say I to stay with you and speak for you.”
“How long does he intend to keep me like this?”
She asked his question hesitantly and the man looked at Avilon with an almost contemptuous coldness as he replied.
“The Captain say we keep you until the caravan reach Alfor. You be to sell in Alfor.”
He had his answer and it chilled his blood. Now he understood why they were taking such care over his treatment – it was not from any compassion, it was from simple greed. To these people he was not a person: he was livestock – nothing more than an object to be sold.
Even to his enemies in the Coalition he was more than that. At least they regarded him as an individual and a human being worthy of hate and fear, if nothing else.
From The Fated Sky part one of Fortune’s Fools Transgressor Trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook
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