4.1 Reasons to Leave

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Kessa leaned on the marble balustrade overlooking the nussian combat pit. The audience cheered whenever Alex threw his massive opponent, or pumped their fists savagely if the nussian wrestler managed to score a victory.

It was such a rowdy crowd, Kessa longed for the staid, well-dressed audiences of the theatre district. And she wished for a chair. Nussians were comfortable squatting on their haunches--they even slept in a squat--so chairs were scarce in their district. This audience had to stand.

Kessa chuckled at her own laziness. As a slave, hadn't she been forced to stand for far longer than this? 

Maybe she was turning into an Alashani ummin. Councilor Deschuba had given her a private suite in his palace, with chambermaids to serve her needs. Everything he owned was sized for ummins, and even with all his children and grandchildren and cousins, he had rooms to spare ... although Kessa needed to stop offending his family, accidental though it was. She feared that Deschuba's life-mate, Yenna, would never speak to her again. 

"Let's hide that scar around your neck," Yenna had chirped, holding up a chain of golden trinkets. 

The necklace had looked heavier than a slave collar, and Kessa had shuddered in revulsion before she could even consider how impolite her reaction looked. "I don't want anything around my neck," she had snapped.

Yenna had backed away, apologizing profusely. She had avoided Kessa since then.

"It's amazing, how much energy he has." Margo bent so Kessa could hear, although she still had to shout over the noise. "Oof!" She winced in sympathy as Alex got slammed against the floor.

They had a clear view of the wrestling match, over the heads of lower class spectators. Alex scrambled to his feet. Sweat dripped off his face, but he seemed indestructible. His opponent, however, was a behemoth. It seemed that some nussians, when raised in freedom, could grow to truly monstrous proportions, and this champion wrestler was even taller and broader than Alex. 

"I think he needs this," Margo said, leaning down again to talk.

Kessa resisted an urge to roll her eyes. Alex didn't need a broken skull, and that was what he was risking. Why did he have to fight warriors or wrestlers? Why not attend musical theatre instead? Like Weptolyso. That nussian had surprisingly sensible taste in entertainment.

But Alex did have a happy glint in his eyes as he body-slammed the hulking nussian. He was scraped up, but his opponent had a few broken thorns. They seemed evenly matched.

Kessa adjusted the beads of her skull-net. Perhaps wrestling was a welcome change for Alex. He constantly had to reign in his powers during his sparring sessions with Jinishta and other Yeresunsa warriors, trying not to hurt anyone. But here, Alex only needed to focus on his physical prowess. Yeresunsa powers were off-limits.

A fat albino man next to Kessa kept cheering and sweating. She began to consider excuses to leave.

"He says this helps him work out his anger," Margo said, as Alex dodged and then threw the giant nussian. "So he doesn't have so much pent-up frustration, whenever Jinishta asks him to spar against Yavin. Or Eilorya."

Those two warriors were outspoken about wanting to kill "the rekveh". They were not alone. Half the city, and nearly half the warriors, whispered secret plans to murder Thomas. They said that Migyatel was predicting doom for the Alashani, and she would not stop until the rekveh was safely dead.

"I guess you have seen Thomas's artwork?" Kessa asked.

"I have," Margo replied, grim. 

Thomas's charcoal sketches were on display in the pendulum plaza of Shevrael. High society Alashani drifted past each sketch, tittering uneasily, curious despite their misgivings. They sipped mushroom mead and wondered how a prisoner could draw so skillfully in an unlit cave. They whispered that his ability must be demonic. And his mind must be depraved beyond any hope of redemption, to produce such horrors.

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