The crystal chimes rang out yet again.
“Men. The rules!”
When the crowd quieted, Tanith continued. “Lest any of you think you might win this evening’s bid only to auction Chaya off further, please note that Emperor Zarek has approved this . . . event . . . in exchange for fully half the winning bid. He requested that I inform you that going forward, such shall be the law of the land.”
“You mean, she can be re-sold?” a man shouted from the back of the room.
“Of course, you are free to do with your property as you choose. However, as a mother, I simply could not sanction the outright selling of a child. No, this is not a . . . sale in the traditional sense.”
Laughter rang out, along with a few guffaws.
Chaya was shocked that Tanith even tried to convince the crowd of her good-heartedness.
“Emperor Zarek authorized me to offer my daughter to the man who will wed her for a respectable bride price. Again, his spiritual advisor, Brother Pestifere, will complete the transaction. Should you seek to terminate the union in the future, you will render the tax for such, to the emperor. Once done, should you decide to dispose of your property, you also shall render the one-half tax to him, as previously noted, for the transaction. So, if there are no further questions?”
Chairs scraped against the floor as several of those in attendance moved to get a better look, but no one spoke.
“Without further ado then,” Tanith said, “my daughter, Chaya.”
Behind the curtains, Cenka pinched the young woman’s arm. “Silence!” she ordered before stepping away.
Chaya glanced to the side where Sabra stood, pulling on a rope. Slowly, the curtains opened. She squinted at the sudden light and then gazed out at the audience, blinking rapidly and repeatedly.
Hundreds of guests, most of them men, filled the room. Here and there one rose to his feet for a better look. Some gasped. Others smiled. A few chuckled menacingly.
Her eyes flashed about, seeking a glimpse of Tanith. When she spotted the woman, a surge of hatred rushed through her being. Then, turning back to the audience, she lifted her chin.
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