AZADE WAS NOT BEAUTIFUL.
Unlike the beauties that sat in front of her in the palace garden, she was incomparable. Her skin like worn leather; grey almost. After working her long hours in the sun, the softness of her skin was replaced by dry patches.. Eyes no longer a bright brown, but tired and emotionless.
Before they had taken her she had tried to clean herself up. In her haste she knew she still had dirt on the crevices of her skin, her linens ripped at the ends from a long journey from the desert camp. But she knew to them, even if she had looked as pristine as a one of the ladies in front of her, she would still look dirty.
After she had been taken to the palace, they forced her to sit close to the beautiful wives of the advisors to the king. Listening to their gossip and feeling their kohl-lined eyes on her skin.
"She's a slave. Is this truly the extent of his majesty's search?" A woman in blue robes whispered to another. Their gossips about her freely in their Arabic tongue, unbeknownst that the Persian-born slave could speak Arabic. The language nobody had intended to teach her.
"I suppose it is." Azade said, unable to chain her tongue anymore. The four woman gasped in shock, their glittering faces gaping at the damaged girl.
"Apologies, I assumed you didn't understand." The blue-robed woman told her. Azade would have scoffed if she was intimidated.
"As did I, are you awaiting your maid?" Another one asked her, a fake smile spreading across her face.
Azade nodded, the guard that had bought her from her masters had told her to wait for the maid. "But what is the point of getting you all dressed up then? Won't you die by the morrow?" Another woman asked, her viper eyes staring at Azade in pity and hate.
They all laughed.
"Oh my, surely the king wants to see a pretty face when he's cutting her throat!" The blue robed one cackled gently, as if the statement could ever sound as poised as her actions.
Azade's face turned beet read, an overwhelming fear overtaking her bones. She knew the tale, the king was in search for a queen that could interest him for at least a night. Which was why, he had sent for nearly all the girls in the kingdom as candidates, resulting in half the girls being dead by morning.
The Kingdom of Kroos was running out of girls.
"Mistress?" A timid voice asked behind her, a thin maid coming into view. She hunched her shoulders at the sight of the other ladies, a common practice it seemed.