A single candle burned, its light flickering, creating dancing shadows on the walls. The room was bathed in quiet, but for some sniffling sounds. Around a table sat Broden on one side, with the woman he called “Mouse” to his left. The man he’d chosen as his tutor upon arriving in Chiran, Striver, sat at his other side. Broden’s other slave women stood nearby.
The tutor opened his mouth as though to speak, but then closed it again. He sighed.
“There’s nothing I can do,” Broden said, holding his gaze.
“But, master, Ghazala is my sister!” Farida, one of the slave women present, cried.
“What would you have me do?” Broden held his hands out, palms up.
“Save her! I would have that you save her!”
Yasmin, the other slave woman, put her arm around Farida as she, once again, burst into tears. She stared at Broden all the while.
“Oh, I don’t know why you would expect him to do anything to help,” she said. “After all, they’re all alike, you know.”
Broden ground his teeth. “No, Yasmin, that’s not so.”
“Then do something,” she snarled at him.
Mouse grabbed Broden’s arm. “Surely, there’s something . . .”
He sighed. “You’re the only one over whom Zarek has given me full authority, Mouse. If I try to help Ghazala, I may put Yasmin and Farida in danger.”
“But things have improved for you since Brother Pestifere set off on his journey, haven’t they?”
Tapping his fingers on the table, Broden nodded. “I suppose, somewhat,” he conceded.
“Then use that to your advantage—before he returns,” Mouse urged.
Standing, Broden rubbed the back of his neck, a gesture common to him when he was confused or frustrated. Then he glanced up at the ceiling as though seeking inspiration.
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