“Yes. Zarek sent handlers out to purchase servants for his palace and women for his troops.”
“Yes,” Nina whispered. “The handler explained to my parents that they would pay enough for a single one of their daughters for them to make it through the winter.”
She closed her eyes. “I cannot imagine the horror they must have felt. Still, they thought they might save five children and a grandchild, by sacrificing one of us.
“When the handler returned a few weeks later, my parents offered Marise. She’d become nothing more than a mouth to feed. But the handlers refused her. So my parents offered Erin. She didn’t know they’d sold her. She thought the handlers were taking her to Fallique to work so that she could send money back home.
“My parents told the rest of us nothing more at the time. I imagine it must have been very painful for them.”
Now that Nina’s story had begun, the telling was becoming easier. Even so, she wept.
“The second year they sold my next eldest sister, Yanny. Then the third year approached. Things had continued to spiral down. I was the only one remaining that could bring my parents a suitable price. It was only later I learned that I was considered something of a beauty, so the handlers were willing to pay more for me than they had for my sisters.
“I still have to believe my parents thought they were selling me into service for the palace as a servant, but in fact,” she said in a voice now devoid of any emotion, “I was sold to the palace as a whore for Zarek’s men.”
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