The man drew back his arm, palm outstretched, prepared to slap Nala. Nala snarled and gripped the length of chain that bound her as her only weapon. Before anyone could find out who had the upper hand – the wronged noble or the indignant slave girl, a third party held down the man’s arm.
Mirroring looks of surprise and confusion played out on their faces. In unison, both combatants turned to see whom had dared interrupt the fight of the righteous.
The first thing Nala saw, were amber eyes. Amber was too plain a word to describe the cross between honey and… Nala lost the comparison. Artists and poets could encapsulate the proper simile of eyes and colers that were filled with purpose. They looked at her with an intensity so earnest, they froze her, her body refusing her will. It was as if it needed permission from those eyes to obey her.
Nala dropped her chains, but could not look away from the fervent orbs. Nala couldn’t decide if the passion behind those eyes were what cut her so deeply, stealing focus from anything else, or the fact that the rest of his face was concealed with cloth.
The newcomer held Nala’s gaze for a moment longer before turning to the noble. “Leave her be.”
The voice was equal to the vehemence in his eyes. His strong baritone carried, but the man had not raised his voice. His plain tunic and covered head betrayed the authority in his voice. The noble bowed slightly and disappeared into the crowd, putting as much distance between him and his dishonor.
Whatever hold his magnificent eyes held over Nala, suspicion wormed its way into her mind. Her spellbound stare shattered by supposition. Is this man in league with the inglorious noble? The thought repelled her so much, she had to spit it out, saliva steaming on the packed ground.
The newcomer smiled at Nala’s display. He strode, back straight, head held high, towards Nala and leaned close to her ear.
“A dead protector protects no one at all,” he whispered.
Nala’s eyes grew wide as she glanced to her sister, unable to meet the stranger’s gaze. He turned to the taskmaster and declared, “I’ll take all of them at your overinflated prices.”
The man strode to the taskmaster, producing a pouch that jangled with each step. The pouch changed hands and a few words were exchanged. The stranger looked back at the girls and disappeared into the crowd, leaving the taskmaster to gape at the pouch and its contents.
Hazina shuffled to her little sister and squeezed her in a deep embrace. The girls looked at one another, then to the taskmaster. Nala wondered what results her actions had gotten them all into.