Fatu fastened the shackles on my wrists. He was just a little taller than me and about twenty years younger. He wore a stern look on his face which his very long braided mustache and bushy dark eyebrows did not soften. Salib, Fatu’s superior not only in age but in rank, stood by. If I had to guess he was about sixty with salt and pepper hair he pulled back in a ponytail with a leather thong. His face was disfigured by a long scar that ran the length of it on the right side where he must have taken a sword blow that almost killed him. He was tall and wiry like some men get as they age - all skin and bone, no fat.
Salib grabbed the length of chain between my cuffs and shook it to assure himself that his sub-ordinate had them tightly fastened. He ran his hand down my back over the soft fabric of my spacer suit. Satisfied, he shoved me toward the door.
Earlier I was provided with access to a bathing area stocked with soaps, oil and perfume. I was given my suit and boots and told to make myself presentable for my presentation to TiSenge.
My entourage and I proceeded down the stairs and through the maze of hallways to Aldobi-rand’s chambers. Upon arrival I was unceremoniously pushed to my knees at the young ruler-to-be’s feet.
Aldobi-rand took a deep breath and inhaled. He ran his hand over my hair and on down to the fabric on the shoulder of my suit and squeezed. I was getting really tired of being ‘man handled.’
“I thought I was going to be TiSenge’s property,” I said. “Best not damage the goods.”
Rather than pulling his hand away he gripped more firmly and pulled me to my feet.
“You will have to hold your tongue where you are going or you will feel the lash. TiSenge will not be as gentle with you as I have been.”
Gentle? Right… Have me attacked… Blackmail me… Sell me as a slave… A physical beating would have been less painful.
He leaned in closer and whispered in my ear.
“I will be watching. I have eyes even among TiSenge’s followers.”
“Take her to TiSenge. Give him this with my regards.” Aldobi-rand handed Salib a sealed letter. “Tell him I wish only peace between our tribes and as proof I send him a slave capable of protecting his harem as well as providing pleasure.”
“As you wish, my lord,” Salib acknowledged with a bow.
“He will think it is a trick. You must point out her finer details. Convince him that if he does not want her for a bed partner that she could be valuable to him in other ways… she is from off world…she possess a vast amount of knowledge…she is a skilled fighter,” Rand posed for a moment in thought. “But, be sure to point out her lovely pale skin color. I am told he likes white meat and even keeps an albino in his harem.”
Yuk! Great, just great.
Rand caressed my check gently with the back of his hand. “I will be waiting for you and your delivery. See that no matter what Salib says, or TiSenge believes, you do not return empty handed.”
My keepers led me out to the front of the palace where a two wheeled cart drawn by a pair of lithe dresarges with speckled coats was waiting. They looked like huge two headed cheetahs. The cart was equipped with a top and three sides of canvas to shade its passengers from the sun. Fatu handed me up into the cart then climbed up behind me. We both sat on a padded bench attached to the carts floor. He took up the reins.
Salib mounted a large dresarge not unlike Aldobi-rand’s. He took up point and our little band of three started for TiSenge’s palace, a full day’s ride to the east.