Coffee Break Read – No Remorse

The food they brought him, some kind of broth, was hot with a strongly spiced flavour. He ate it all and was given more. The two women sat together watching him as he was eating, until Avilon began to wonder if they saw him as an exhibit from some freak show. On the tail of the thought it struck him that they probably felt exactly that way about him. He set aside the crudely-made bowl and smiled at the dark haired woman.
“What is your name?”
She looked uncomfortable and flushed, as though embarrassed that he addressed her directly.
“They call my name Shemille.”
“And what is this world called, Shemille?”
The name was not familiar and did nothing to enlighten him. In all probability it was only the local name and the one that would appear on any Coalition planetary charts of the region.
“Do many people on Temsevar speak Coalition Standard?”
The woman looked at him, puzzled, so he tried again: “Do many people here speak my language?”
Shemille’s face cleared and she shook her head. “No, Kashlihk. Few, very much few. Only in Keran.”
With much prompting he was able to learn that Keran was the capital of Temsevar – a large city which lay on another continent on the other side of the planet. It had some kind of spaceport and enjoyed the occasional visit by free traders.
Shemille explained that she had been born into slavery in Keran. When she had been little more than a child she had been bought by one such trader who had been stranded on Temsevar after landing with a damaged ship and no resources to repair it. When the trader eventually left, he sold Shemille to a merchant who had brought her with him to this continent. But with advancing years she had lost her value, been sold again and then again until she was purchased to serve as a domestic slave by the owner of this caravan.
“And how many Shemilles would it take to buy me?” he asked, cynically. But his tone was wasted on the literal Shemille.
“Tens. Many tens – a hundred,” she told him seriously.
Avilon felt a sudden desire to laugh. The Coalition had valued him at two million credits at the last count, but on Temsevar he was worth a hundred plump, slave girls.
“The Captain said you were to stay with me?”
“Yes, Kashlihk.”
“And how long will it be before we reach Alfor?”
“Long time. Over a moon. A moon and half.”
“And how many days in a moon?”
“Two tens and five days.”
Avilon rewarded her with a smile. “Good. Then you will have the time to teach me to speak your language.”
Shemille nodded uncertainly, her eyes troubled.
“The Captain -”
“The Captain will be very pleased. How can I do what he says if I can’t understand him?”
That seemed to satisfy her and her face brightened slightly, or at least the shadow of anxiety lifted by a fraction.
“You wish it, Kashlihk?”
“Yes, I wish it. And you can begin by telling me why you call me ‘carish-luck’.”
“Kashlihk,” she corrected, then looked at him nervously as if fearful at having spoken out of turn. Avilon repeated the word, copying her precise intonation of sounds.
“The Captain call you ‘Kashlihk’,” Shemille explained. “It is bad word – very bad. It mean one who do bad things. One who do what must not is done.”
Avilon felt his lips curve slightly into a slight, ironic, smile. “And what have I done that the Captain thinks must not be done, Shemille?”
“You fight Zoukai. No slave fight Zoukai.”
Avilon’s smile broadened fractionally.
“It seems I have a lot to learn.”
But his voice, like his thoughts, held no trace of remorse.

From The Fated Sky part one of Fortune’s Fools Transgressor Trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook

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