The Amulet Saga, Volume Three
The Silver Shores
What Came Before:
Auction, Part Two
Reith set his jaw, determined not to make it easy for anyone to purchase him. There wasn’t much he could do—the cuff ensured that—but he didn’t have to smile or flirt or endear himself to anyone. He would not pretend slavery was natural or willingly accept his fate.
He stepped up to the platform as slowly as he dared, then stood still, his shoulders squared, his jaw tense. Several patrons glanced at the cuff, devoid of gems, and shook their heads, backing away to make room for other, more interested parties.
A few examined his muscled arms, and made comments about his strength, and a couple of women much like the one who had purchased Eavon came to take a closer look, but no one made an offer.
The auctioneer smiled, his eyes shifting nervously.
A woman stepped forward and examined him. Not the bored, lustful appraisal of so many others, but a thoughtful, calculated gaze. After a moment, she went around to the back and walked up the stairs. She was not beautiful, not in the way that Reith normally would have noticed a beautiful woman, but she was striking. Her eyes were slightly slanted, so dark they were almost black, and her skin was a deep, smooth brown. Black hair, held back from her face with jeweled combs, tumbled in thick waves down her back. He could not guess her age. No wrinkles marred her face, but she seemed mature, and her eyes held a depth he couldn’t read. She wore a dark red gown that was loose enough to be modest, yet clung in all the right places to hint at an exotic figure underneath.
She circled him slowly, that calculating gaze boring into him. She touched his arm, his back, his head—neither affectionate nor cruel, just appraising.
After what seemed like an eternity she walked toward the edge of the platform and spoke directly to Master Tique in the local dialect. “What is wrong with him?”
Master Tique coughed, apparently taken aback. All other customers had directed any questions to the auctioneer. But he recovered quickly and smiled. “Nothing, my lady. He has shown great promise in all matters of strength and physical ability. Moreover, he is educated. Not according to our ways, but my slaves tell me he is likely to be able to learn.”
“Where are his aptitude colors, then?”
Master Tique coughed. “He did not… er, that is, the Testing showed no significant aptitudes toward any specific gifting.”
“None? Really?” Her tone suggested she didn’t expect an answer. “I’m surprised a man of your reputation would hold on to such an asset.”
“Given his physical prowess, I believe he would make a good… companion. Or perhaps a bodyguard.”
The woman shook her head. “With no aptitude for loyalty or intuition? I wouldn’t trust him in such a position.”
“But he certainly is attractive, do you not think, my lady? He would make a beautiful performer at banquets.”
“I am not so vulgar as to purchase based solely on how he might look at parties. No aptitudes whatsoever?”
Master Tique coughed. “I am told there was a brief moment when the amethyst glowed, but then it was gone and the Oracle could not get the same results a second time.”
“The amethyst? Really?”
Master Tique nodded.
“Fascinating,” the woman said.
Reith steadied his breathing. Why was it fascinating? What was it about the amethyst that intrigued the woman so? It only reminded him of home—nothing special about that. And what was it about him that drew her, despite his having no apparent skills or giftings?
He continued to stare straight ahead, pretending not to understand the conversation that went on between the woman and Master Tique.
She circled him one more time, slowly, deliberately, before turning to the auctioneer. “Very well. I’ll take him if no one else wants him.”
Reith didn’t understand the currency denominations of this land, but based on what he’d heard, her offer was more than twice what any other slave had sold for that day.
The look on the auctioneer’s face confirmed that Reith was not mistaken in his assessment.
The woman glanced out over the handful of wealthy patrons who still stood in the square. “Unless someone else wants him?”
No one stepped forward, and more than a few stared at the woman like she’d gone mad.
She turned to the auctioneer and handed him her bidding token. He handed her a gem in a silver setting attached to a chain. When she took it, his ankle cuff vibrated.
Interesting. He hadn’t realized the cuff was controlled by an external device. That information would be useful.
The woman walked down the steps without looking back.
He knew he was supposed to follow her, but he just stood there, pretending not to understand.
His cuff tingled, the sensation growing stronger the further away the woman walked. In another few steps it would begin to burn and then he wouldn’t be able to follow even if he wanted to. Somehow, he knew she wouldn’t come back for him. She’d leave him lying on the platform, writhing in pain, until the auctioneer or Master Tique had him delivered to her.
He trotted down the steps and followed her, hating himself for obeying like a beaten puppy, but intrigued to discover what plans the woman had for him.