Jill and Ethan got separated as soon as they arrived. Ethan found himself tossed into a wooden cage, much smaller than the jail cell in Hill Town and without so much as a cushion to sit on. He tried the wooden bars as soon as he was alone, but he found them as sturdy as the iron bars of the jail. “Jill!” He called, but there was no answer. “Lars?” He tried again and there was nothing, until he heard a low moan.
“My head.” Ethan could hear Lars, but he could not see him since the solid side of the cage blocked his view.
“Are you in one piece?”
“Aye, but I hit my head bending down to get into this little thing. And I think the guards helped.” Lars sounded like he was trying to find a comfortable spot, which might not have been possible for the big Swede.
“You are a big man in this world. You probably scared them.” Ethan suggested.
Lars laughed. “If I had thought of that, I would have made faces at them and given them a real scare.”
“I liked your jail better.” Ethan told the man.
There was a pause before Lars answered. “I can see that traveling can be a dangerous occupation.”
“Aye.” Ethan echoed Lars’ word.
After a moment more, Lars had a question. “What do you think they are going to do with us?”
“I don’t know. I would say just save your strength and get what rest you can for now. I am sure we will find out soon enough.”
He looked around in the brief moments the guards gave him, but saw no sign of Lars. To be sure, he imagined the big Swede could take care of himself and his real concern was for Jill. He felt afraid that she might have been raped, or worse, and he already started thinking of ways he might get his revenge.
As it turned out, he should not have worried about her. Up until then, Jill had been pampered: bathed, perfumed, and she generally enjoyed herself with sweets and a little female companionship, even if the local women were all airheads. It was a deliberate act by the slavers who hoped to raise as much value in the woman as possible; and everyone knew that Jill was of remarkable value.
Instead, Ethan should have been worried about Lars after all, because Lars had already gone up to the auction block and presently he was in a holding cell with three debtors, waiting for his new Master to come and collect his prize. Those men gave the big blond plenty of room, but Lars still felt very cramped, and after being sold, which he figured out even if he did not understand a word that was spoken, his mood turned terribly sour. He growled occasionally and the men with him pressed themselves a little further into the back bars of the cage.
Ethan stretched again and looked at the men who came to fetch him. They gave him plenty of room as if they might be a little afraid of him. But no, Ethan changed his mind. They were afraid of something else.
“Move.” One of them finally became blunt and pointed with his pike, a sharp looking instrument with which Ethan was not about to argue. “Come.” The man spoke and Ethan walked. He understood the man’s words, though he knew the man spoke a mix of Moroccan and Arabic. He would ask Jill how this was possible when he saw her, and this time he would not let her distract him. And he had better see her, he said grimly to himself.
Ethan fully expected to be put up on the auction block and natural curiosity drove him to wonder what price he might fetch. He never found out. The men with the pikes told him he was being turned over to the Examiner, and they made it clear that by the time the Examiners were finished with him, he would beg for slavery.
Jill, likewise, was ripped from her luxury and dressed quickly in a robe that covered her head to toe and whose veil could not be pulled down since it was sewn into the fabric of the robe. She was roughly handled, like the piece of meat she was in that culture, and despite her protests, she got dragged across the street. She considered kicking the guards, but refrained when she found herself again at Ethan’s side.
“Are you all right?” Ethan whispered.
Jill nodded. “Fancy meeting you here.” She whispered back, and her hand pushed against the robe. Ethan saw and caught it, and he would have held on for dear life, but a guard grunted and slapped the butt end of his pike against their hands to separate them again. It stung like hell.
They came to a gate in a stone wall and saw two guards standing at attention. Inside the gate, they found a yard full of chopping blocks and stakes driven deep into the ground. Ethan did not want to think about it too hard. They went into the main building. It looked to Ethan like an old-fashioned office, with shelves of books, which happened to be scrolls, and a big desk and chair where a man sat studying an open scroll. They stopped before the desk and patiently waited for the man to acknowledge their presence. Ethan looked close. The man had a sickly looking green, ever so slightly glowing collar around his neck. Somehow, Ethan was not surprised.
“These are the ones?” The man in the collar asked, though he clearly knew they were. “Bring them to the Chamber. There are several questions.”
The guards nudged them, and grinned, even if they were afraid of the place, themselves. Jill and Ethan did not resist. Resistance at that point would have been futile, and maybe deadly.