Chapter 14: The March to Klima

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"It is cool here," be said. "Your death would be swift."

"No," I said.

"You are of the Warriors," said he. "You have their stupidity, their grit, their courage."

"I will march to Klima," I said.

He lifted the scimitar before me, in salute. "March then," said he, "To Klima."

He resheathed the blade, swiftly. He turned his kaiila. He rode down the line, the burnoose swelling behind him.

Hamid, who was lieutenant to Shaker, captain of the Aretai, now in the red sand veil of the men of the Guard of the Dunes, stood near.

"I ride with the chain," he said.

"I shall enjoy your company," I said.

"You will feel my whip, " he' said.

I saw the kneeling kaiila of the guards, the guards now mounted, lifting themselves, to their feet. I surveyed the number of kaiila which bore water.

"Klima is close," I said.

"It is far," he said.

"There is not enough water," I said.

"There is more than enough," said he. "Many will not reach Klima."

"Am I to reach Klima?" I asked.

"Yes," said Hamid, "Should you be strong enough."

"What if difficulties should arise, unanticipated, on the journey," I asked.

"Then," said Hamid, "Unfortunately, I shall be forced to slay you in the chain."

"Is it important that I reach Klima?" I asked.

"Yes," said Hamid.

"Why?" I asked.

"You have given Kurii, and their agents, much trouble," said he. "You have opposed yourself to their will. Tarl Cabot, thus, will serve at Klima."

"Tarl Cabot, thus," I repeated, "will serve at Klima."

"Look," said Hamid. He pointed to a window, narrow, high in the wall.

I looked up.

At the window, veiled in yellow, behind her a slave master, stood a female slave.

Gracefully the girl, doubtless with the permission of the slave master, removed her veil. It was Vella.

"You remember, perhaps," said Hamid, looking up, "The delicious slave, Vella, whom the Kurii found of much use, who testified against you in the court at Nine Wells, who, by her false testimony, attempted to send you to the pits of Klima?"

"I recall the slave," I said. "She is the girl-property of Ibn Saran."

I recalled her well.

"It is she," said Hamid, indicating the girl in the narrow window, the slave master behind her.

"Yes," I said. "I see."

The girl looked down upon me. She smiled, scornfully. She had begged in Lydius to be freed. I had not known until then that she was true slave. But I would have known it now, seeing the insolence, the petty, collared beauty of her. I stood below her in the chain of salt slaves. Female slaves, cringing and obsequious, fearing free men, often display contempt for male slaves. Sometimes they even flaunt their beauty before them, in their walk and movements, to torture them, knowing that the male slave may he slain for so much as touching their silk. I could see that she was much pleased to see me, helpless and in the chain to Klima. I could see in her smile how she looked upon me, as a female slave upon a male slave, but I could see, too, in her smile, the pleasure of her triumph.

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