[513 words – Sunday Scribblings 2]”Nala!”
Nala flinched, the intrusion collapsing her thoughts. Hazina still sniffled and looked to her sister, eyes expectant. Her arms clung to her sides, hands trembling.
Nala felt a painful lurch in her stomach. It amazed her that Hazina could maintain her optimism. Surely that could only conclude in an all-powerful God. Nala’s sister likely saved her life, as she had before, and was rewarded with scorn and derision. I’m a terrible person, Nala thought.
Nala forced another smile and reached for Hazina’s hands. “I am still with you,” she said, projecting a confidence manufactured.
Hazina clenched her jaw, her blotched face tightened. An angry Hazina was a rare sight. “Nala! How can you joke that way? What if he were to sell you to the Magistrate?”
“You do not know of him?” Hazina exclaimed, loud enough for the other slaves in their group to focus their attention on the outburst.
Nala felt a scowl tugging at her counterfeit smile.
“He is the infamous Champion Standing,” another from the crowd exclaimed. Nala stared after the voice trying to figure out the brunette’s name. Baba… She was a new acquisition. Her situation had not yet broken her spirit. She maintained her own brand of optimism. “It is said,” she whispered, “that he has a harem slaves… Each night, he summons one to his bedchamber… and then…”
Nala waited a heartbeat or two before she asked the much anticipated, “….and then?”
“They never return!” Hazina interrupted, eyes wide, tears a distant memory.
Nala looked to her sister, losing the fight to maintain her flippant smile. “What?”
“They are executed.” This time a tall raven-haired girl spoke out.
Fabia, Nala thought, always quiet. Nala appreciated Fabia’s analytical mind.
“For the entertainment of his clan,” Fabia concluded. “He hungers for battle after retiring from the Hanian Island tournaments.” Fabia nodded as if there could be no other explanation. “His head guard has seen it with his own eyes. He warns women to avoid public places alone.”
The silence consumed them, and they reflected on Fabia’s words with dejection.
Nala felt bile rising. Their Champion was macabre, she thought. The people of the Han Dynasty were sadistic. She kicked at the ground, loosing a cloud of dust. Even the land itself was corrupt. Why couldn’t we have been born someplace where we could live with human dignity.
“I do not think there is a more wretched place,” Fabia declared waving her shackled hands at the humanity around them. She stared at the taskmaster, the back of her long neck darkening with a fury barely contained. He raised his mug and downed its contents while the slaves licked their lips.
Fabia worked her jaw and muttered under her breath. “Tiu nia ma chow hai.”
I knew I liked that girl, thought Nala.
Giggles erupted, replaced by loud laughter. The muffled laughter wouldn’t be mistaken for that of nobility, but to Nala it was beautiful sound and a much needed break in their bleak existence. Nala managed a genuine smile, her anger subsiding if only for a moment.