Mirella wasn’t sure how to struggle. If she’d been alone, she’d have run. In the hills surrounding the Shivelite camp, she’d kept pace with the deer. But she wasn’t home, her skirts were sodden, and behind her was the true heir to the High Throne. Before she could even protest, the man snaked out an arm, his fingers snaking around her upper arm.
“Let me go,” she hissed, more angry than afraid. If she was slight, so was he, and she could tell by his breath that he’d been drinking.
In fact, even as his hand encircled her upper arm, she wasn’t sure who was holding up whom.
“I don’t need your help,” she told him, and tried to pry his fingers off. “Go away.”
His grip was surprising strong.
“Now, now, don’t get skittish. Help you,” he said, “Exactly what I’m going to do. Help you.”
She tried to kick through her sodden skirt and only succeeded in bringing them both to the ground where they began to roll, once they were both back in the puddle.
Curses were coming from his mouth and she was panting. She was using every bit of her strength, trying to work him away from the basket, but he was using experience. Slight though he was, Faw Shandy had fought before and suddenly Mirella felt a knife pressing against her throat.
She stilled. The moon came out and she saw him clearly now.
His lean cheeks were marked with scars and two teardrops had been tattooed at the edge of his right air; they were lost, however, in the fold of wrinkles as he smiled. It was then she’d noticed he’d replaced a tooth with a gold one. The gold looked shiny and new.
“We’re going to walk to the wagon nice and easy. No tricks. You’re mine because I found you. Like a wet kitten, you’re mine.”
She turned her head toward the basket and the knife’s edge cut her. She knew he’d cut her because there was warmth running down her neck and the rain should be cold. She cursed herself. The child would be left to die in the street. She would be left dead dead by the the road. She had no doubt what shape her corpse would be in after he’d finished with her. She’d seen plenty of corpses in her short life. Men and woman both, left to rot and burst in the hot sun.
He was talking again.
“See that wagon there?” It was said with a tone of pride. “It’s mine. And the fine horses, too. I’m rich as a King,” At this, he threw back his head and laughed up at the moon. He didn’t, for one instant, lighten the pressure of the knife. “And I’ll be richer still, once I make this last delivery.”
He’d been heavily drinking but when he cackled out, “ last delivery“, fear had flashed in his eyes as if he’d remembered something, and without another word, he prodded her to the back of the wagon.
“Don’t,” he said, the word seemed to slither through his teeth, “try to run. I’m on a schedule and I won’t be made late over a piece of fluff.”
Even so, she couldn’t suppress her cry when the wagon doors opened to a blaze of light. Light, captured in bottles of all colors and sizes, filled the wagon. They’d been carefully tied against the wall, but when the doors opened, they craned their bottle necks to reveal faces. Bottle faces looking at her.
What sort of magic was this?
Mirella screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Aw, hell,” said Faw Shandy, and in one quick motion took a cudgel from his boot.
Mirella knew no more. She felt nothing as she was thrown into the caravan like a sack of flour.
Faw was closing the doors when he remembered basket. The girl, out cold and breathing shallowly, had fiercely protected it. He walked over and grabbed the handle. Not a lot of weight for valuables but he tossed it in anyway, where it rolled before coming to rest next to the hip of the girl.
It was a nice hip, rounded and slightly curved. He let out a sigh and fashioned the back doors, chaining them cleverly. He could sell her on the block once he was in the Nevers. As for the basket, he hoped it contained a plump roast or ham. Must have been food she was carrying. Ah, he could remember days of hunger.
All that was behind him now, he thought, as he settled again on the wagon seat. He’d been given gold, and he’d be getting more if he did the job right, and of course he’d do the job right. Suga had told him he carried the most precious cargo in the world, and then he promised gold.