Bezeal glanced down at the balding man who sat beside him, exhaling in frustration. “Look at them, Styx. Not a single one would clean up nice. Bet most of them are worn out whores or gamblers whose luck finally caught up to them.”
His first mate watched the forming lineup of slaves, his gaze distant and thoughtful. “Aye, Captain, but it doesn’t hurt to look.”
Bezeal sighed, settling his large frame into a chair as well. “I suppose it doesn’t. After hearing that tip off in Madari, I-”
His words stuck in his throat. The entire room fell silent, staring at the new slave entering the line on the wooden platform.
How the hell did low budget slavers like these get their hands on a Khamet?
Her bronzed skin seemed to swirl and glisten, like live embers threatening to come to life. Her hair fell in yellows and reds, the delicate strands brushing against her hips. Bezeal couldn’t see her eyes from this far back in the room, but knew they would be orange and pupiless.
“Here now, what’s this?” one of the other men from the crowd demanded. “Are you trying to kill us all? This whole place is made of wood. She’ll burn us alive!”
A man hurried onto the stage, his beefy hands held out in an attempt to placate the rumblings of the crowd. “Everyone is safe,” he bellowed. “She was exiled from her planet. She has no ability to start fires.”
The crowd fell silent. Even Bezeal was at a loss for words. A Kahmet without pyromancy? That was a tragedy akin to a pirate without his star-ship. It all went hand in hand; without it one couldn’t expect to do more than scrape by.
“Well then,” another man called, “what good is she to us? Market’s only interested in a Kahmet that can set fire. Pretty weapons with broken triggers are useless.”
“I’ll buy her.” Bezeal’s words rang loudly across the room.
The jeers from the other pirates peppered him almost instantly.
“She’s worthless as anything but a pretty whore.”
“Pity buys don’t gain profit, Bezeal.”
He shrugged the words off, rising to pay the seller. Styx followed close behind him, showing his support for his captain without a word. The people in his way scooted their chairs in or stepped to the side to create a path; none honestly tried to stop him. They knew better then to lay a hand on the captain of the Tartarus.
The seller held out a hand, greeting Bezeal with a firm shake. “She’s all yours for twenty-five gold.”
It was a steep price. Everyone fell silent, waiting to hear the counter offer.
Bezeal fished his money bag from his deep pockets and counted out the gold, handing it over without comment. The room erupted into shouts as the seller pocketed the money.
“What are you thinking? You’ll never get that back in profit.”
“First mate, do something about your captain! He’s gone daft.”
“I see a captain that’s going to get jettisoned in deep space soon.”
He ignored them all, his eyes riveted instead on the Kahmet. His Kahmet. He stood before her, watching as her lithe body trembled, likely in exhaustion and fear. “Be still, Lady. I am yours as you are mine.”
He deliberately used a phrase from her culture, pleasure flooding through him as she let a tentative smile form on her face. With those words, he had just taken her safety into his hands. He was now her guardian, her protector, and possibly her mate.