Aura stood eyes forward. The loud rumble of people bartering and walking around seemed to encase her in this moment. She could feel the sadness, and the hate – but most of all the greed. The underground slave market was like another world. One could simply look around and witness Gift being used in every fashion. People rarely showcased it, it was taught to be a sacred thing. That and The Council – mostly filled with Nomae who were born without Gift – deemed it a dangerous practice. Once had to work hard to develop Gift to obtain a license to use it on a regular basis. Here in the underground, Gift was used as a bartering chip. It was because of this Aura kept a dangerous secret – she could feel and emotions and intentions. She wasn’t sure which side of her gave her this Gift – but something about it worried her. So it was kept secret along with all of the others. It was believed by all that Aura was born without Gift as a curse for being a mutt. Slaves who had special Gift abilities could be sold at a higher price. After all in a place where babies, pregnant women and refugees could be bought and sold – where someone like her could be displayed – was the perfect setting for showcasing a person’s most “dangerous” asset. Aura knew it well – in any case this was the third time she was being sold here.
The market was placed in deep tunnels created by the rare Colossal Metsuyan Worm then sealed off with a thick concrete. The worm was held at the far end in a metal cylinder wing behind thick bars. It was all red with black seemingly endless rows of teeth one could see as it opened its gaping mouth. There wasn’t much more one could see of it – it being not only so far away but literally filling its space entirely. No one even knew if it had eyes. All you could see was the rough grimy black skin and the gaping jaws that were neither inviting nor threating. Because the tunnels were literally cylindrical in shape, large wooden beams held up the thick bridges they now walked on. The ceilings were high and arched, and despite the bridges having been built as closely as possible to the bottom there was still quite a dangerous drop if someone managed to fall through, even more so with the beams. One knew a squeak in a board or plank could mean disaster – yet you would never tell by the looks of it. The stalls were bustling, people laughed, cried, and yelled very loudly. Almost everyone wore cowls or wraps over their faces except the well-known and the idiotically brave. There was no way to tell if anyone there was an official of some kind either – no one asked questions, because for the most part no one answered any. At least not unless it was a about a slave.
A large sadness swept over Aura.
“Give us some room! Everyone! There is a rare treat here today – a rare specimen with clipped wings!.” A man called out. At this Aura did turn her eyes. A Thasin! He was clothed only in a smooth-skin loin, and his large white and grey-speckled wings were folder back. One wing seemed to hang almost limply. The man’s head was freshly shaven. You could tell the color of his hair was the same as his wings only by looking at his brows appearing at first to be silver – but there were actually white with speckles of grey. His skin was so dark it could rival coal. As the trader turned him about Aura caught her breath. He was laden with scratches and fresh lashes, all across his skin and even on what Aura could only call a beautiful face. His slanted almond eyes shone out a stunning lavender-grey over high cheek bones and under a soft but heavy brow. His lips though dry and chapped were clearly plump and well-shaped. A sharp chin.
“Jhaya” Aura whispered as people gathered around him. The man’s eyes met hers instantly wide with shock. He smirked and mouthed a word. A gust of wind brushed past Aura, the word itself seemed to travel on it as a soft voice whispered in her ear “Rheya”. Aura looked away, he must have used his Gift. She shouldn’t have heard him – and he shouldn’t have heard her. It was loud and at the time she said it someone was blocking his view of her. It was an average Thasin greeting. One would say “Grace” and the other would say “Glory”. It was something her father had taught her, and yet another thing she kept secret. She was too well spoken as it was. She never thought she would get the chance to use it. All Thasin were presumed to be gone, hunted and killed for their wings and eyes. Maybe he was the last. Aura prayed in her head that his buyer wouldn’t simply take him apart. The bidding had begun. Aura took a deep breath; no matter how she felt, nothing she could do would change anything. Though she hadn’t noticed that the sadness had lessened since she greeted the Thasin man.
“I am here for the girl.” A man walked up to the stall Aura was behind. He wore a green turban and brown raiment’s. Even his mouth was covered. He was embarrassed. His bright gold eyes met Aura’s, she looked down instantly. From his eyes Aura could tell he was Sanbari. Why would one of them want anything to do with her? They were the ones who had killed her family. It was their oracles who created the legend that doomed her and her family. They were known for a rare few developing the Gift of foresight with age – and prophesies they told were regarded as fact. It was one such foretelling over five centuries back that made cross-breeding amongst the Corner Races a crime. Aura tried to hold in her fear – and her anger. The only ones who had ever purchased her before were Nomae. This was the first time a Corner Race would buy her, and it had to be one of them. It was the side of herself she hated the most. She kept her head down as he walked closer. “She smells like piss.”
“Yes, because she is such a creature we had her in storage for some weeks before we received your inquiry. We have done our best in cleansing her – but the smell may take a while to fade.” Aura heard the trader speak. He was seething greed and disgust. More disgust toward the man who wanted to buy her than to Aura. She found it amusing. “If you find you are unsatisfied with your purchase – do bring her back – she is non-refundable of course.” The trader chuckled.
“Have her sent to Bridge Ten exit two. I have another… Purchase to make.”
Before Aura could think to bow to the man – hand came from behind her and held the all too familiar vial under her nose. All she could do was let go. When Aura awoke she was in the back of a cart. Her ankle cuffed to the side. The wind was warm and harsh, the sun beat down its rays from the sky like an incessant drum hammering into her skull. Aura’s mind still not lucid enough to force her eyes open – she focused on opening her other senses. Dust and dirt blew around with the wind, flying up her nose a little. It gave her the sensation of sneezing. The smell of burning coal and chalk was faint, growing stronger as the moved along. The ride was mostly smooth – the cart jumping a little only on rare occasion. New dry and brittle dirt was collecting between the toes of the foot that slightly swung off the cart. There was a heavy and very itchy blanket or cloth over her – it didn’t make her overheat – rather it protected her body from the raining drum of the sun rays. There was a body next to her… A woman – Aura could always tell a man from a woman because of her Gift. The woman made her feel so calm – her emotions were smooth and gentle. Aura became too curious as to what type of person the woman next to her was and finally forced her eyes open.
“Ohnt ashat kei rihai?” The woman asked. She had bright green eyes that drew Aura in instantly. Looking at the woman she was dressed rather nicely for a slave. He ruffled socks were actually white under thick-skin slippers. Her dress was grey with rounded shoulders and skintight sleeves that came down over her palms and a brown apron. Her hair was light golden with streaks of grey and her age shone most around her mouth where she had lines from smiling. She was an Audin and she spoke out thus, in Audi – Aura wasn’t sure if it was safe for anyone to know she understood. She looked behind her but the shelf of the cart hid them from the view of those in front. Aura simply nodded, she had asked simply if Aura was awake.
“Do you speak Nomek?” Aura asked softy. The woman shook her head looking down. “I don’t want them to know how well I am learned.” Aura admitted in a whisper. “Sanboa?” At this the woman nodded smiling.
“I am called O’shat. I was the maid and herbalist of a nobleman back Aurath – the largest Audin city. I was with him for twenty years. He often took me with him on his travels to Saraindari. Over the years I learned and became very well at speaking the Sanbari language.” The woman spoke gently with her eyes closed as if she was reliving a pleasant dream. Aura could feel the warmth of the memory.
“Why are you – I mean how did you come to be here? If you don’t mind me asking?” Aura asked. Entrapped by the mystery of this graceful woman.
“The nobleman I worked for died and left his estate to his youngest relative. That would not have been a bad thing, but his nephew was an idiot, and a gambler. He managed to lose almost everything the man owned. His father took over things in time to keep the estate – but in order to pay off some of the debt the boy had me sold in secret… I do not even have the energy to bitter.” The woman smiled as she finished. “I have lived a mostly pleasant life – and while I do feel fear creep in at times – I can only assume it was fate. A Sanbari man purchasing me – specifically because I am Audin for my Gift with plants – I cannot complain.” O’shat sighed. She looked over Aura and curious look came on her face. “If you don’t mind MY asking – what races are you? I can tell there is a story here – might I hear it?”
“It’s not much of a story.” Aura paused as the cart did jump a little. “My mother was Sanbari – my father was Garrin. I can breathe underwater – and my eyes are red.” Aura sighed looking away. They were surrounded on either side by bright yellow and golden fields as far the eye could see. Aura caught the faint outline of a mountain in the distance. “I don’t remember where we lived… My family. I remember it was always warm and we were surround by greens and bright colored flowers. There was a river we would follow that led to the ocean.”
“The ocean!” O’shat gasped. But only deserts are near to the shores! What a place – I would love to find it someday.” O’shat smiled. At this Aura did giggle.
“My mother loved plants and animals. My father used to make fun of her not being much of Sanbari… My father – he taught me and my brother everything.” Aura exhaled, and took in a deep breath. Good memories were meant to be good.
“I don’t know. One day I woke up in the middle of nowhere – my family’s bodies were around me. There was blood everywhere… Some Sanbari men grabbed me and were about to kill me – an elder stopped them. She said if I lived as a slave I would never harm anyone. I was nine then. This is my third time….”
“Third?” O’shat asked clearly shocked. Aura began to open her mouth to answer, but the sounds and smells of a bustling town had begun to cloud her mind. Aura looked about and realized they had began to pass small stone houses each a little spread out with a plot of land behind them – and clothes lines being tended. As they moved Aura began to cower under the itchy cloth. So many mixes of emotions and intentions began to swirl around her in and out. She hadn’t prepared herself – and her stomach swooned. “Child are you alright?” O’shat asked peaking at Aura underneath the blanket. The cart began to bobble and hop restlessly only further aggravating Aura’s condition. CALM DOWN! Aura screamed at herself inwardly. She tried to focus on the smells – cakes, sewage, dirt, flowers, meats, and animals – no that only made it worse. She should have paid better attention, she could only hope she did not purge her insides like she had after arriving at the slave market so abruptly. This would be so much easier if the cart would stop jumping!
As the emotions faded into a dull hum in the background, noises softened, and smells dulled the cart did come to stop. The blanket was tugged off of Aura and the man stood tall in front her. He was of middle age, neither young nor fully out of his prime. His long black hair was pulled back into a long braid. His brow was stern, but laugh-lines cradled his mouth softly and the beginnings of crows-feet straddled the sides of his bright eyes. His nose was large and sharp and his lips were thin and set close to his week chin. He unlocked the cuff on Aura’s foot. “Get down.” He commanded softly in Nomek.
"Te Una” Aura replied Yes Master in Sanboa. The man looked startled at this at this simply nodded. He regarded Aura’s appearance briefly and then waived for the two to follow him.
“How many years are you?” He asked aloud.
“Forty.” O’shat replied softly.
“Si-sixteen” Aura stammered unable to mask her unease at the question.
“When we get inside I will get the young one better clothes. After you are better dressed we will go over the rules of the house – and explain our family situation.” He grunted. Aura looked up at her new home. Compared to the other small stone houses this one was rather large. It had two floors and something that appeared to be a small attic. The stones were large clay red and brown. Two trees stood at the gate behind them towering over the entrance. A gate going from around the back enveloped a large area behind the house that appeared to be a vegetable garden. There were two large buildings behind. One seemed to be a barn for the horses, the other had steam rising from the clay chimney. All the windows were shuttered with straw blinds that had been painted white. The man walked up the door and opened it. O’shat walked up – almost seeming to glide. Aura felt her nausea returning in full force. For some reason she couldn’t get her nerves to calm down. It was time to shut off everything – all emotions and feelings of her own no longer mattered. She needed to use her Gift this time – to please her new masters. As they walked in Aura felt a wave of emotion slap her.
The man in front of her couldn’t have been more than twenty years. He wore only a dark blue hemp button-up and brown cloth pants. His feet were bare. His long black hair was loose and wild. His eyes were bright red and furious. He had a serious brow very similar to the other man’s, his lips were wide like the other man’s as well - but plump. His chin was slightly cleft but small. His eyes were thin and slanted with long thick lashes. His cheek bones were of average height but were sharp. Aura seemed mesmerized by him in that instant – his feelings flowing out and rampaging with such passion. His sharp red gaze fell her and his disgust grew exponentially. He spoke out in soft Sanboa “something smells."