Chapter 6: Salt Dragon

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When future generations hear of our city, our world, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. For fair Elysion has fallen.

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Four Years Ago

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The man shuddered as the whip ripped into his skin. He gritted his teeth, but didn't cry out. The man slumped to the ground as the overseer released him. Raddas gritted his teeth. He hated watching, but those who looked away were scourged too.

"This!" the warden shouted, over the salt pits, "is what happens when you defy me!" The slaves, sweat and salt encrusting their near-black bare skin. "This is what happens when you go against my will!"

The Ajandi man had skin, paler than most of the workers below him, a darker shade of tan rather than the near-ebony of half the workers. Though, half the time, you couldn't see it. Most of the workers were caked with white salt, from what they mined and chipped away.

There were a few other, non-human slaves here. Most were Kai'Draen, large, brawny, and dumber than rocks. But there were a few Changed, here or there. Raddas remembered when he saw three come in at once. One had the arm of a wolf. The other looked like he had rhino skin on his chest. The third was a dragon. He had to have been.

He looked at the man's face. The man was pale; he must have lost a lot of blood. He had been caught stealing an extra skin of water. Therefore, he was whipped. To oblivion and back.

"Release him," the warden commanded. The two overseers let go and the man slumped forward, his back covered in crimson. Raddas winced. The overseers punished anyone who tended to the wounded. They claimed it was supporting their rebellion. Without help, he wouldn't live through the night.

If there was a Hell, it was a salt pit.

Two of the workers grabbed the fallen man. "Go to the barracks!" the warden ordered. The light in the sky was fading, and they pulled the dying man to the barracks. They had a room for the dying.

"Hey!" he heard a voice shout. He turned, and saw the figure. He looked something out of a nightmare, with horns that jutted from the back of his skull with thin, saberlike curves. He had a flattish snout, but his eyes were a mix of feline shape, reptilian coldness, and human intelligence. He didn't bear as many scars as the other, though Raddas didn't know how he could scar with his scaly body. "Hold up!" The dragon Changed began to jog.

Raddas stopped. "What," he said angrily, "do you want?"

"I can help him," the Changed said.

"You know the punishment for that, boy," Raddas said. The age of the thing was indeterminable, but the way he carried himself made him think he was young. "Boy" seemed to fit him, though the fellow slave towered over Raddas and was covered in muscle.

"I don't care," the Changed said. "It won't need bandages, or stitches. He'll be in pain, and screaming, so get something for him to bite down on." He spoke Ajandi, of course, as was the rules. Any other language was considered an act of sedition. He had learned it unusually quickly too. Raddas remembered that the boy had only been here for three months before he learned to speak Ajandi.

Raddas nodded. "If we get caught, we'll die."

"Let's not get caught, then." The Changed walked away.

Raddas had a dowel of wood by his bed that would serve them nicely.This had to be done quick. If the guards caught wind, they'd all pay.

They approached the barracks, a large, gray building that was all angles, all weathered lines. Raddas dashed in there, salt encrusted on his body and the rags around his waist. He grabbed the thin pallet that was his bed, and lifted slightly. Raddas's hand searched underneath the pallet, and found the dowel.

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