A girl on the edge. Running. Running for her life. Running for her freedom. Can she escape the shackles of society to truly be wild?


6. Traded

Later that evening, after the dreaded trading but before the raucous shows begin to set the stage alight with songs and laughter, I push back the heavy flap that covers the small entrance of the workers' caravan. I am not expecting many workers to be sat here, on the hot, dusty floor.

Everything around here is hot, dry and dusty. The landscape, the caravans, the people. Especially the people. Sweat pours off all the travellers, most visible on those who are unaccustomed to the arid heat here, in the heart of the plains. They complain about it, hoping for sympathy from the caravan owners.

You would think they would know better by now. Our camp is notorious for driving a hard bargain, haggling until the unlucky soul can take no more, and caves in under the pressure of their demands. It is why, although we are in the worst possible location for a camp, we are one of the wealthiest.

That is how I ended up here, in this scorching desert, surrounded by the cruelest masters I have ever known. My last camp was very poor, and survived only by trading their best workers to other, better off places.

I was their very best worker. The last resort, should they end up in dire need of some live-saving supply. And so it was that me and a traveller arrived at this dead, yet spirited camp, scouring the stalls and caravans that littered the ground for some compassionate soul.

There was a strategy that many travellers used when trying to trade good workers for the highest prices they could get. We would wander around the whole camp, scouting for those whose eyes followed me, whose greedy hands were already reaching for their full coin pouches. When we found that trader that appeared to long for me more than the rest, then we would circle back and head for a stall nearby, attempting to lure into the trap of a poor trade.

The woman whose stall we had stopped at that day was the very same woman who had just taken in those two workers, even as bedraggled as they were, without a second glance. The traveller leading me approached her and stood at her caravan, arguing over the price of strips of cured beef. The argument had quickly escalated, both parties screaming themselves hoarse, as only banshees can.

The man on the stall we had scouted glanced at us, a wry smile playing across his face. He strolled over, a worried expression replacing the smile, and asked politely if we would like to have a look at some of his wares. The traveller appeared to hesitate, not wishing to seem too eager. However, he agreed, as I knew he would.

And soon, I was the one being dragged along the dirt path, sharp stones opening large rents along my bare skin, causing agony to flare throughout my body. Behind me, my crimson blood left a glistening trail that reflected the glow of the encroaching moon, visible to all those around me.

At my last camp, they were not cruel. If we were injured, they would heal us. If we were ill, they would care for us. But here, it was different.

Here, no one looked back. No one stopped to offer help.

No one tried to prevent the horrors they knew were coming.

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