Chapter 11, Part 3 (End Chapter 11)

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The house matron called out the names of those who would attend the evening's event for the emperor and his men, a dinner to celebrate Zarek's latest success in battle and to honor his warriors. She'd already chosen several women. Nina dreaded the prospect of hearing her own name called.

The matron was an elderly buxom woman with a sadistic streak. In charge of the house in which the slave women lived, she saw to their basic needs. In exchange, she expected no grumbling, and no trouble. The slaves knew the price for misbehaving: death. Their fear kept them docile.

"Tamara!" she called.

A young woman of exquisite beauty stepped forward. Her smoldering black eyes maintained their blank expression. Dressed in the standard robe that was all any of the women had to wear when not working an event or called for by one of Zarek's men, she was regal, notwithstanding her surroundings.

"Nina!"

She made her way to the fore. The matron told the women it was a great honor when someone specifically requested them, but Nina found no glory in being a whore to the emperor and his vile henchmen. She hid her disdain.

"Mandy!" the matron shouted.

A young woman stepped forward.

"That will be all."

As those not chosen filed out of the room, the matron turned to the dozen women before her. She looked them over, walking from one end of the line to the other.

Satisfied, she gave her instructions. Her assistants would take them to be bathed, and for hair and makeup, then would provide them gowns for the evening. "Any questions?" she asked as she ran her finger over her light mustache.

No one moved.

"In that case, you are dismissed."

As the afternoon wore on, assistants processed the women. The matron had selected a gown of exquisite bright blue silk for Nina who thought the dress must be beautiful, but she could no longer see it as such. To her, it was nothing more than a visual representation of the chains, the bonds, that held her to a life of slavery.

When it was her turn, she approached the makeup station to which the matron directed her. Before her, on a dark wooden table, sat a tray of eye shadows, rouge, and lipstick, and on the wall, a mirror.

She gazed at her reflection. Looking back was the empty shell of a person. Her looks had changed. Once her countenance had held signs of life and interest, but no longer.

The face of the young woman who was to assist her came into the mirror.

Nina froze. "Erin!" she gasped.

The assistant looked at her with pure disdain. "And you would be?"

"Erin, it's me, Nina."

"I know no one by that name."

Nina was shocked. She turned back to the mirror. Her own sister wouldn't even acknowledge her. Tears welled in her eyes, but she dared not cry. The matron wanted the women to be beautiful. Red and puffy eyes would never do.

"It's not what you think."

Erin refused to look her sister in the eye, either directly or in the mirror. She selected the product she intended to use.

"Erin," Nina tried again, "I'm so glad to see you. I've thought of you so many times and have worried for you."

"I said I don't know you."

Though hurt and angry, Nina held her tongue.

When Erin completed her task, she turned away. "You're free to go."

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