Fiachra sat staring off into the darkness beyond the fire, listening to the murmur and rattle of restless slaves. "I said, the sausages must be cooked by now," Kelan repeated patiently.
Fiachra nodded, still staring.
"Aren't you hungry?" Kelan asked.
"Not right now," she said. "You know I like them better cold anyway."
Kelan shrugged and speared one with his knife. He took a large bite, and the rest of the sausage fell off the knife and onto the ground. He swore violently, still chewing the sausage, and bent down to pick it up. He dusted it off slightly and then ate it. "You want me to take yours off the fire, then?" he said after he was done.
She nodded, and he rolled them off the crude metal grill and onto Fiachra's misshapen plate. She could get far better, with her wages, but Kelan had long since stopped asking her about it. They were special to her for some reason. She'd made some cryptic reference to her father. And that was the most he knew about her past. She looked like a Rameshander, but Fiachra wasn't a Rameshander name by any means. Ah, well. If she wanted to tell, she'd tell.
He ate another sausage and saw that the moon was half risen already. "When did they say they'd be here?"
"They're late, then."
Fiachra said nothing. What could she say? They were late, all right. But that's what these northern merchants were like. But Kelan wished that the drug hadn't been running a bit low this trip. They'd be able to get some more after this sale, but this stuff wouldn't last much longer, especially since they'd had to mix in some water to stretch it out.
He especially didn't like the big black one. He'd been a special request--the merchant himself had bought him in Pashar. Too lazy to actually bring him back home, though. Send him with Kelan and Fiachra. They're going that way anyway. Kelan had wanted to give him a double dose, but Fiachra had argued him out of it--they were low enough as it was, she'd said, and besides, he looked like he'd already been drugged. His eyes were dull and he was listless and slow to respond.
He'd had a bad feeling about it, though.
The wind died, and the sound of the waves became louder. It was easy to forget how close they were to the ocean here, with the trees blocking the view. It didn't smell like the ocean, either. Not like it did in Pashar.
There came a sound from the shore. Again. It sounded like pebbles shifting beneath the weight of a creature--a large, slow-moving one. The rattling of the slaves' chains grew louder. One of them started wailing in a loud voice, "Ceru! Ceru! Ceru!" Shit--the drug was wearing off.
"Be quiet back there," he growled.
Then he heard the rustling sound again--a cascade of pebbles this time, like it was coming up a slope. Then a rustling of leaves. Then a low groaning sound. Kelan's heart started beating faster. Fiachra was also distracted. "What is that?" she asked.
Then they heard a sudden snapping sound, a crashing of branches and a piercing shriek from one of the slaves. The shriek went on and on, and started to be picked up by the other slaves. Kelan didn't wait. He jumped and ran. Fiachra was yelling something at him. Screw this, bitch. You want to stay and get killed, go ahead. Then a tree branch came at his head and everything went black.
The other slaver had brained himself on a low branch. Incompetent.
Maleiu turned and loped easily down the path toward the city he could see in the distance.
Based on the words: Hulk Chain Cooked Wisp
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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / firstname.lastname@example.org