I had this chapter ready, so I thought I'd post it! Now it switches back to Halla's point of view. Hope you like!
Chapter Three: Jadis
I stood in a courtyard near an auction block, waiting to be sold. One by one the slaves were taken up and sold to the highest bidder. My time was up, and one of the guards pulled me roughly up onto the block. I stared straight ahead over the faces below me. The auctioneer rapped his hammer. But before the bidding could begin a chariot drove up to the yard. And riding in it was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. She had long dark hair, flashing eyes, and she was of great height. She was strong, and she basically forced the chariot to a stop by almost pulling the horses off their feet. The stood, panting and blowing, lather flecked on their necks as the woman ascended the chariot. Every one bowed low before her. I was jerked to my knees by the auctioneer. The queen, for she was a great queen, walked through the mass of people laying at her feet until she was near the action block. She looked over all the slaves, then looked at me. She stared at me, and goose bumps raised on my arms. Then she pointed, with a long white finger, at me and said in a proud, cruel voice, "This one." Then she turned and walked back to her chariot. One of the lower slave traders lept forward and undid my chains, placing in their stead a single pair of bracelets with a chain connecting them. He pulled me down off the block and over to the chariot. I stumbled behind him, over the bodies laying prostrate before the queen.
In his haist the slave trader dropped his hammer onto the stones. It clattered in the silence. The queen's eyes stared at him cruelly as he shoved me into the chariot and bowed low. Then he turned to pick up his hammer, but the voice of the queen stopped him cold. "Chain him in her place." and then to the head slave driver, "Now your slave has been paid for by Jadis, Queen of Chaun!" She turned to me. "Take the reigns, slave, and we'll see how we'll you drive." I took them, and before I knew what was happening she cracked the whip over the horse's backs and we were off. I gritted my teeth against the pain and tried to hold the horses back. They were panicked, and this was easier said then done. I wrapped the leather around my hands and hauled back. They slowed a bit, enough so that I could direct them where the queen said to go. She would scream, "Left!" and then "right!" and I would do my best to stay on course. On and on we drove. I ws so tired, I could not have made it much longer, when at last we came to the great golden gates of a great palace. They opened, and we drove inside. I slowed the horses to a walk as attendants ran up to take them. I unwrapped the reigns. My hands were cut and bleeding. As were my wrists. I stumbled off the chariot and I began to follow the queen, who was walking quickly up some stairs to the west. I had to trot to keep up. We went up the stairs, through halls, down passageways, and through great rooms until I was dizzy with the size of the place. We came at last to a golden door. This the queen threw open, and I found myself in a very different sort of place. It was a huge room with a great forge in the center where fire glowed red underneath the bellows. The walls were hung with all sorts of weapons, spears, pikes, bows, shields, swords, daggers. The queen walked to the forge. "Put your hands here, slave." she said to me. I laid them down on the anvil. Then the queen raised the hammer high above her head. I closed my eyes as the blow fell and completely severed the shackle off of my right hand. Another stroke and the left was off. They fell, clanking, onto the floor. "Now," said she, as she walked to the racks upon the walls. "Can you use a sword, slave?"
I replied, humbly, "No, my lady."
"We shall teach you."
I nodded. She lifted down a two-edged sword with a black leather handle and a long, silver blade. She tossed it up into the air. I caught it. She took down a shield and also slung it my way. I caught it and strapped it on. It was round and black with the standerd of the great house of Chaun in red and gold. The queen picked up another sword, but did not bother with a shield. Then she came at me in a flurry of strokes and I was put hard to defend myself. On and on she drove me, around the room, out into the hall, and back in again. We fought that whole evening, till the sun was low in the west and the fires of the forge glowed red, the only source of light in the dark room. The Queen kept on drilling me, screaming out to do a certain thing, and when I messed up she would scream again. She taught me many things that night, and not the least of which was to hate her. Finally, when I thought I could not lift the sword another time, she put up her sword and left without a word. I caught me breath, and tried to lay the swrod on the ground, but blood from my cuts and dried on the handle, and only after some tugging did it come off. My hand burned like fire as I unstrapped the sheild. I laid down on the cold stone with the sword next to me and watched the fires of the forge burn low until I fell asleep.
The next morning I was awakened by a young serving girl who bore food and drink. I sat up painfully, and took the food. I thirstily drank all the water. My parched lips stung as the dry bread touched them. "Please," I asked the girl, "could you tell me where I am?""You are in the court of the Queen," she said. "You will be her Majesty's bodyguard, and ride in her chariot." She did not look at my face once, but kept her eyes downcast. "You are to come with me. Leave the weapons." She rose and walked towards the door. I placed the sword and shield on the rack and followed. An hour later we were back in the room. I had been given a bath, and was dressed in a long, cream dress with red and gold down the center. My long brown hair had been brushed and braided back. It felt wonderful to be clean. How long had it been? She left me in the forge room, but before she went I asked, "What is your name?" she smiled and said, "Anahl."* then, for the first time, she met my eyes. And the next moment Anahl was gone. As soon as she left the door banged open. I turned. There was Jadis, queen of Chaun. She was dressed magnificently in rich robes, with a sword at her side. I knelt and bowed my head before her.
"On your feet, slave." she commanded. I rose as she strode to the rack and flung me a different shield and sword. These had the insignia of Chaun on them. I slung the shield over my back and belted the sword at my side. "Come with me." she said. And so I did.
She led my outside, into the courtyard where we had left the chariot the day before. It was waiting for us, and fresh horses were harnessed. Just as we were about to get on another chariot drove up. In it was a woman very similar to Jadis in many ways, the same eyes and hair and bearing, but she was shorter and plumper. I guessed the two must be sisters. They held their heads high and did not glance at each other. A tall man with dark skin drove her chariot. He reined it in, and the woman got off. I glanced at the man. His stare was penetrating, and I turned my eyes away. The Queen had me take the reigns, and again she cracked the whip over their heads. I wrapped the leather around my hands again, but the horses were fresher, and there was no way I could hold them in for long. My hands screamed for relief, but the leather dug into my hands and I could not have let go if I wanted to. The Queen was angry, and again and again she cracked the whip. They were out of my control now, and I could do nothing but try to steer. We raced on and on, until, finally, we came to the end of the city. Outside on a straight stretch of road I managed to slow them to a reasonable gallop. We passed carts, wagons, and merchants going to the city. But most of the mercantice going up to the city were long lines of slaves. Wretched beings, urged along as fast as their aching feet could carry them. I looked in pity, but the Queen saw me, and I turned away.
It is amazing what small things can change the fate of a world. In my case it was an unruly donkey breaking away from his master. If that donkey had not broken away I doubt that this story would ever be told. My life would have been quite different, and so would the lives of all the people. But as it was the donkey did break away, and history was changed.
I reigned in the horses as quickly as I could, and managed to stop them in time. It's owner ran out and caught hold of it's halter, but when he saw who was in the chariot, he paled, and knelt, quivering on the stones. The Queen's eyes blazed with fire. She turned to me and said: "Kill him, and his miserable beast. They will know better next time not to stand in the way of Jadis, Queen of Chaun!" All traffic stopped when the Queen said these words. Everyone held their breath. The man quivered on the ground. I slowly stepped off the chariot.
I drew my sword and took a deep breath as I walked over to the man lying prostate on the ground. I raised the sword high above my head. Time stopped. I saw before me the faces of my father, mother, and younger sister. I looked at the man and saw them staring up at me. And I knew, right then, that I could not do it. Not to save my life. I brought the blade down, and it stood, quivering, in a little tuft of grass between the cobblestones. I stepped back, dazed. The man gave a little gasp and looked up. "Run, you fool!" I screamed. "Run! Before it is to late." He got up and scurried away as I turned to face the queen.
"How dare you disobey my orders, slave!" she said in an inhuman screech. "You shall pay for this-- with your life! Your blood will be spilled on this ground today!" I turned to run, but some merchants had ringed me in. They drug me by my arms to the spot were the man had knelt a minute earlier. "You will rue the day when you disobeyed me!'' screamed the queen. She picked up my sword, which still stood, upright in the ground. Then she broke it over her knee and let the point fall to the ground. Holding the hilt with half the broken blade, she came and stood before me. "You shall die this day!" she screamed. I closed my eyes as she drove the point into my chest. My eyes popped open. I stared at her with a face frozen in horror. Her yes showed no regret, only hate and cruelty.Then my eyes dimmed and went dark as I went limp and dropped to the ground, the blade still sticking out of my body.