The Amulet Saga, Volume Three
The Silver Shores
What Came Before:
Auction, Part One
Reith was bustled into the bathing stalls, alongside the others, and afterward was dressed in clean trousers, the snug type that the other slaves wore, and his bare chest was rubbed with scented oils.
The sun only barely lit the courtyard in a hazy gray mist as he was led in a long line out of the compound for the first time since they’d arrived.
The noise of the city, muted by the thick walls, seemed suddenly deafening, even at that early hour. Reith huddled closer to the other slaves in the line, hoping for some sort of safety within the group. Master Tique cracked his whip and Reith’s ankle cuff gave a little buzz. Not more than a spark, a slight vibration, but enough to remind him of the pain that was possible, and he increased his pace.
Master Tique led them through a warren of streets, turning one way and another past buildings that all looked the same—like fortresses, towering over them, watching their every step.
At last they came to a wide open plaza. Booths of wares, much like the market booths in the palace square in Legerdemain, lined the open space, and a series of platforms was erected at the center. Master Tique drove them toward the platforms, then had them line up just to the side of it.
The air held a damp chill, but Reith had learned that the hot sun would soon transform the humidity into an oppressive swelter.
Little by little, the plaza filled with shoppers as well as shopkeepers. Market Day seemed the same no matter what land a person was in.
A man dressed in an ornate blue and gold robe, wearing a matching turban, swept through the crowd and straight toward Master Tique.
They spoke in low tones, but Reith caught most of the conversation.
“Discerning members of the Council… Wait until the end… Farms and factories first… yes, exactly… Pay more…”
The man in the turban turned and marched up the steps to the highest point on the platform. He pulled a small, reddish gemstone from a pocket in his robe and chanted something Reith couldn’t understand. The gem glowed.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he called out in the common tongue. His voice reverberated through the square, amplified somehow through the stone. “It is once again that time of year when we must all prepare for the new season. And that, of course, means replacing assets that have died or worn out over the last year. Of course, help is always available, but as you know, the Spring Auction offers a wider variety and more robust selection than at any other time.”
A murmur of assent swept through the crowd.
The turbaned man held up a hand. “I’m sure you have all seen the fine specimens for sale today. Most of you likely already have your eye on a few. All assets on display today have been inspected by the Oracles and certified to be in good health with accurate Test results. Let us begin with this fine creature, brought to us by the reputable Mistress Oyra.”
Reith shuddered as a boy no older than Eavon stumbled up the stairs onto the platform. Though the boy tried to remain stoic, his eyes darted over the crowd and his hands trembled at his sides.
Reith felt sick. He’d had some idea of what to expect when being sold as a slave. In theory, anyway—Legerdemain didn’t have slavery. But he’d never understood the implications, not really. The degradation of being put on display, half naked, for a crowd of people to gawk at. Of having someone point out all his characteristics. Of not even maintaining the dignity of being referred to as a man, but only as an asset. Of having his future determined by who took a fancy to him and had the right amount of coin to spend.
That part was infinitely worse than the prospect of hard labor.
His hands shook and he clutched them around his stomach.
Perhaps, if he were ill, they would think he was sickly and just kill him. That might be a more merciful death than the slow torture of losing his humanity.
The boy on the podium sold, apparently for a decent price, based on the smile that stretched across Mistress Oyra’s face, and another slave was shoved onto the platform. A girl this time.
Reith gulped back another wave of bile. If he’d thought about it, he would’ve assumed there were female slaves. There would have to be. But there were only men in Master Tique’s compound.
The woman—and the other female slaves he only just then noticed—wore a filmy gown. It was the same shade of soft brown as the men’s breeches, but instead of fitting snugly around the bottom half leaving the chest bare, it flowed softly around the upper body, just down to halfway down the thighs, leaving arms and legs bare.
The girl trembled as violently as the boy before her had, and tear stains streaked her cheeks. She was not overly comely, nor particularly shapely, but she looked healthy enough. She was sold to a man who bought half a dozen other young women, a man Reith overheard someone say owned a factory of some sort.
The morning went on like that, with a trembling slave marching up to the podium and being examined by dozens of critical eyes. Some, especially those with more than one colored gem glowing in their ankle cuffs, were examined more closely, and questions were asked about them. Those were sold for higher prices and to more exclusive patrons. Others, the more attractive, both male and female, were sold to people Reith finally determined to be brothel owners.
At last, it was time for Master Tique’s group.
Much of the crowd in the square had cleared, and those remaining wore richer fabrics, more jewels, and had larger entourages carrying their purchases.
This must have been what Master Tique and the auctioneer had been discussing. A few slaves had gone to these people, but the more selective of them waited around to see what else was available, only purchasing the slaves they felt to be of the highest quality.
Master Tique must have had a reputation for the best merchandise—that, or he paid the largest bribe—in order to have his slaves on the block last.
One by one, Master Tique’s slaves went up onto the platform. It took longer now, as patrons came in for a closer look, inspecting limbs and teeth, muscles and ankle gems.
Eavon strode up the stairs, not looking at all nervous. Reith frowned. Why wouldn’t he be worried about his fate? Hadn’t he been watching the proceedings?
Eavon smiled at someone in the crowd. Not the sweet, almost childish smile he’d worn the few times Reith had seen him amused, but a more sophisticated, almost seductive smile.
Reith followed Eavon’s gaze until it landed on a plump woman in her middle years wearing embroidered blue silk and dripping with gems. The woman gazed lustfully at Eavon and pushed her way to the front of the crowd.
So that was it. Eavon had taken the advice of the slave in Master Tique’s compound. Reith sighed, and sent a heartfelt wish that Eavon would be well cared for and happy.
The instant Eavon stepped from the podium and was given to the woman, the cuff around Reith’s ankle sent a warm tingle through him. He jumped, more surprised than hurt, and quickly realized that was his signal.
It was his turn.