It was the second day of my incarceration at Mazala. TiSenge slapped me in chains and was having his inquisitors question me. They were using sleep deprivation and repetition. I guess they thought real violent torture was inappropriate for a female. So far everything they asked was something I was at liberty to tell.
Yes, I knew Aldobi-rand.
I escaped from his men.
I came to TiSenge to offer my services against the foul leader, Rand.
No, I did not know what Aldobi-rand’s plans were concerning aggression toward Mazala.
No, I was not paid to come and spy on TiSenge.
My mind was worn to a frazzle. I was physically exhausted to the core. I would have given anything to have never seen Alta III much less set foot on it.
Toward evening of the third day the princess, Keela, came to see me. She was a lovely little thing with dainty chestnut colored features, dark flowing hair and dark eyes that would melt any man’s heart. She dismissed the guards to stand outside my room. She had a plate of food brought in. Not an action I am sure her father sanctioned.
As soon as the servant left she got right to the point.
“Why have you come?” she asked.
I gave my pat answer. “To help your father fight against the tyrant Aldobi-rand.”
“The real reason you came.”
Okay, so what is it going to hurt? I’m not going to get out of here anyway. I took a swig of the wine while it was still at my disposal. I was sure this was just a trick to get me to spill my guts. Well, I give up. Why not tell the truth.
“I was tricked, blackmailed, into coming here,” I answered.
“To get me.” It was a statement not a question. It seems I was not telling her anything she didn’t already know.
“Yes,” I answered around a mouth full of roasted chicken and bread. I was so tired I could hardly chew. “I was supposed to charm my way into your father’s harem and whisk you away. Guess that didn’t work out so well.”
“I would not have gone with you,” Keela said.
“Really?” I asked. I chuckled around another wad of bread I shoved in my mouth.
“Why do you find that amusing?” She asked.
“Because the guy is so damn sure you are head-over-heels in love with him.” I chuckled again thinking of the look on Rand’s face when he found out Keela was not totally smitten with him. Ego be damned.
“You say you were tricked. What has he done to you?” she inquired.
“He stole my blaster and framed me for murder,” I admitted. “I made what I thought was an innocent delivery of merchandise and ended up here.” I waved a chicken bone to indicate how far I fell due to Rand’s deceit.
“Like you, at first I was tricked by Aldobi’s charms. Now I know he only courts me for control of my father’s tribe. He wants what he cannot have,” she stated forcefully. “I will keep up the charade of being interested in him only so long as it benefits my father’s rule and keeps Aldobi-rand’s aggression against Mazala at bay.”
Smart girl as well as pretty.
“Your father is lucky to have such a loyal and intelligent daughter,” I complimented her. “I am not supposed to advise you, but you are wise not to succumb to his advances.”
We both fell silent for a moment. I was thinking how nice it would be to curl up and go to sleep now that I had something on my stomach other than the few sips of water I was given over the last three days.
“What would you do if you were to be set free?” Keela asked.
Was that an offer I heard in Keela’s voice?
“I would make my way back to Kadear. Get my blaster from Aldobi-rand and leave.” Ah, as Tim O’Malley would say, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’ I was never getting out of this place.
“And if you were to talk to Aldobi-rand what would you tell him was my reason for not flying to my beloved’s side with you?” She prompted. Was that a glimmer I saw in her eyes or just my hope of escape reflected in them?
“I would tell him I left you crying. I’d assure him I was lucky to escape with my life much less get you out even though you begged me to take you.” I drained my cup and smiled as I stuffed the last bite of bread in my mouth. Was I going to get a chance to leave? Was this tiny, capable, young lady going to help this stupid, foolish spacer?
“You would assure him that I wanted desperately to join you in your flight.”
“I would, that is, if I saw him. I’m not sure I will get the chance.” There was always the chance Fatu already procured my blaster from Rand or destroyed it, in which case I could just hop in my pod and bid the place a fond farewell.
“Tomorrow at mid-day. Be ready. I will come for you during the dark time.”