Chaya didn’t know where she was. Tanith had refused to tell her, and during their journey to the place, had kept the carriage windows covered. Only one thing was certain—the place exuded enormous wealth. Gold gilded chandeliers hung from the ceiling, every candle within them lit, and all burned down to the same level. Red carpets ran down the center of the dark oak stained floors. A chair-height wainscoting divided the walls, which sported intricately carved wood below, and silk wallpaper above.
A minute later, Sabra opened a door and entered, dragging Chaya in behind.
Although she couldn’t see anyone, the sounds of a crowd filled the air. A curtain hanging from floor to ceiling, made of a thick, heavy red fabric, separated her from the noise.
Sabra stood Chaya on a spot in the dead center of the room. “Don’t move,” she ordered. Then she turned to Cenka, and nodded.
Cenka retreated through the side door of what Chaya now identified as a stage. A moment later she returned with Tanith.
The woman approached and looked her daughter over carefully. “Good. We’re ready.” She turned away, her maids at her sides.
“Tanith, please! Please, don’t do this.”
The woman turned back for one last look, but didn’t respond. “You’ll know when it’s time,” she then said to Sabra.
Cenka remained at Chaya’s side. “There’ll be no trouble from you,” she whispered, her voice filled with venom.
The sounds from the crowd on the other side of the curtain increased in volume. Dinnerware clinked and silverware rattled, as coughs and snickers and conversation abounded.
Suddenly, from out of the din, the still small sounds of something touching upon the edges of a crystal glass rang out.
Ting ting ting! Ting ting ting!
The noise level turned down.
Ting ting ting! The sounds of the crystal rang out again.
“Attention,” came Tanith’s voice above the crowd.
Aside from the occasional shuffle of a chair, a cough, or a grunt that followed, the crowd silenced.
“To all of you, welcome. On behalf of Emperor Zarek, I extend his good wishes to you. Unfortunately, as you may know, he couldn’t attend this evening’s events, as his duties called him away.” She paused. “However, he has authorized me to offer you a rare entertainment.”
A low murmur broke out.
Ting ting ting! The crystal called out for silence.
“As I said, this evening we offer to you a rare entertainment and . . . an opportunity.” Tanith paused for effect. “Tonight we offer you . . . an auction.”
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