Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 6 - Purple Lotus
Chapter VI - Purple Lotus
Approximate read time ~ 11 minutes
Ava stood at the top of the darkened stairwell, anticipating the clank of glasses and the hushed murmur of the tavern below. The musky odor of the inn blended with the salty sea air to form a crude scent, one she learned to love…and hate…the scent of home. Yet as she stood, anger and hatred rampaged through her thoughts. They left me! Images of Cooper and Taryn jumped through her mind, then faded, replaced by those of repulsive, abominable excuses for men. The tavern door opened and a sour breeze swept through the corridor while she weighed her master's words, goosebumps covering her fair-skinned, naked body.
She fought to control her emotions, defiant against any tears that might creep to the surface. Ava clenched her fists and furrowed her brow, burying her shame, as well as the last remnants of pride and happiness. She swooped down the stairs on her way toward the kitchen, the numbness returning to her long, lean figure.
To her dismay, not a soul within the establishment could keep their eyes off her. The lift of her chin, the strength of her shoulders, the swing of her hips, the way she walked stood as a living testament to a woman beyond her years. Waitresses stopped to admire, mothers gawked in a moment of pure jealousy, and every man stared helplessly as their mugs fell away from their mouths. She had their attention, and she knew it. With each step down the stairs, her resentment grew, of the worthless men taking advantage of the ‘show’ and of the other worthless men that made it happen.
Ava scowled at the men sitting at the bar as she bounced down the last stair and rounded the corner into kitchen. She swung her hips in spite as the porcelain-skinned teen slipped behind the doors on her simple quest for eggs…and toast. For several anxious moments, the patrons silently peered toward the empty doorway, certain something wonderful had just happened.
When the doors closed behind her, the sixteen-year-old girl sighed and fell limply to the floor, collapsed under the weight of her emotions. Her secrets had been shared, at no choice of her own. Her knees tapped the floor and she knelt in silence, a heartfelt sob the only remnant of her ordeal. Ava took a long moment as she wondered, will this torture ever end?
As the petite frame hit the floor, a host of empathetic workers eagerly stopped their duties and rushed to her aid. Many women worked the kitchen that morning, along with a tall, bald, dark-skinned man with a whiskered chin. When their young friend collapsed before them, they rushed to offer her towels, sympathy, and compassion. They had all experienced Varin’s emotional torture, taken from their lives and placed under his tyrannical roof, and they were eager to assist any way they could.
The first to reach Ava was an elderly woman named El’Ora. She rushed to wrap Ava’s wrists with a towel, quickly concealing the woven, insidious brand. While El’Ora’s gesture would go unnoticed to a casual observer, everyone in the kitchen knew the deeper sentiment. Her wrinkled hands covered Ava’s mark of enslavement as she drew the young girl close.
Ava struggled to explain the events that brought her downstairs. The other women soaked in every word with an understanding that Ava could truly appreciate. Her emotions still unchecked, she sank into the comfort of her friends’ arms, the only remaining safe place in her world.
“You won ‘dis battle, my dear,” said El’Ora, her words resonating through the tears. Ava stopped to ponder the thought. She was a crumpled, emotional mess and she knew it. She was crying, naked, and everything offered for full display of the bar outside…certainly not a victor.
How? Why? She thought for a moment. I heard it in his voice. In this improbable moment, she had risen above the past eight years…in a way, El’Ora was right.
“I…stood up to him,” she whispered, translating the motherly advice. El’Ora smiled, her dark-skinned cheeks parting as Ava believed the words. The elder slave nodded approvingly while Ava’s heart warmed at the idea…at least in some small way, she had won.
Ava gave a squeeze to El’Ora’s embrace, acknowledging her lifelong friend. She held her friends, then motioned to get to her feet. As she stood, her emotional weight lifted; however, she once again felt the gaze of those around her. The towels offered Ava did little to conceal her feminine features and she found herself embarrassed, gently turning away from the older black man.
“Oh…oh dear,” Di’Jor stammered. The elderly man, overcome with grief, covered his face with his hands. He turned away from the beautiful girl, away from the shame. He knocked over several glasses and spilled a bowl of rice porridge distancing himself from the awkwardness. Di’Jor fumbled to wash the guilt from his mind, “I wis jus…I just. I’m so…so...”
Ava felt her old friend’s embarrassment and quickly rushed to offer reassurance. “It’s okay, Di’Jor,” she said. Her words confirmed and her tone soothed. “You don’t look at me the way they do,” she continued. “Your eyes are warm…comfortable. The eyes of a friend.” She then smiled…a warm, genuine smile…the kind that lights up a room and makes the world feel a little less lonely.
Calmed washed over Di’Jor as he embraced Ava's words. He nodded in her direction and turned his back to the young blonde girl. He granted her privacy and resumed his duties as he rushed back toward the pantry.
“I have to do this, El’Ora,” Ava said as she lifted her shoulders and turned to her old friend. Her words lacked assurance, but she knew what would fulfill her part in Varin’s evil play.
“Stay here, my child.” El’Ora spoke in her thick, muddied accent while she pulled Ava close. “You already prove to heem.” With a gentle motion, she urged Di’Jor to gather some breakfast for the men in Varin’s room. He rushed about, gathering a handful of rolls, scraps of turkey, and a glass of milk, his eyes diverted from Ava’s athletic frame. He ducked out the kitchen to the anticipating eyes of the bar. He felt the gaze of every man in the room, and some women, then heard the moans of disappointment.
The tall man galloped up the stairs, two and three steps which each leap. He loved Ava as any man would love his daughter and he was determined to relieve her from further responsibility. Unaware of Di’Jor’s departure, Ava walked to the pantry and cut two slices from the loaf of Cambrian Rye.
“Do we have any eggs prepared, El’Ora?” Ava questioned. “Mister V was very specific. Said he’d kill me if I messed up his order. Can you believe that?!” She chuckled at the ridiculous demand while she awaited El’Ora’s answer, but one would not come. Puzzled, she collected her bread and exited the pantry. “El’Ora?” Ava questioned as she re-entered the main galley.
The older woman stood in the middle of the kitchen. Her body faced the pantry, but her tearful eyes were set on the door leading to the bar. “Eggs……you say,” she said in a quivering breath.
“Yes, Mr. Aerent said he wanted eggs and toa…” Ava’s words fell short as she noticed Di’Jor’s absence. Her blue eyes fell back to El’Ora, who met Ava’s gaze in a moment of horrifying recognition.
Varin Wray leaned against the large oak table, trying to look dignified for his guest. “While we wait for the damned girl, shall we proceed with the reason that brought you to our humble city, my friend?” he said with a sinister look. “I’m told you have some of the rarest merchandise in all the kingdoms. I do want to see”, he continued, his lust palpable.
“Umm, yes my Lord”, said the bald businessman while he peeked toward the double doors. It was not clear, however, if he hoped the beautiful blonde girl would return or if he longed to take her place. He delayed the act of standing, but eventually came to attention before Varin. “Before we begin, my Lord…I believe there’s something…”
“Before we begin?!” Varin snapped, his eyes matching the newly formed bulge in his forehead.
“Eh…yes. Well, you see,” Mr. Aerent pleaded.
Varin drew himself upright, pressing his engorged belly against that of his business partner. “Now you listen here, you fat shit.” He leaned forward, pressing further against Mr. Aerent, forcing the man from Crossroads to retreat. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this moment. I will not waste time listening to the pathetic whimperings of an overdressed street rat!”
Varin drew forth a single, pudgy finger and shook it to the tempo of his words. “Are we clear, Thibold?”
Mr. Aerent’s shoulders slumped as his eyes once again drifted toward the doors. “But…” he began. His eyes came back to center, back to the face of the Inn’s owner. The pulsing eyelids said all that was required. “Very well then…If you’ll just excuse me, I shall get my bag and we can begin.” Thibold stepped to the corner and retrieved his crude leather satchel. As he hoisted the sack to his chest, he caught Varin’s look of disappointment.
“Well then,” Varin gristled as he eyed the worn satchel. “I’ve waited this long,” he continued. “I can only hope the contents bear no resemblance to the, eh…vessel…they arrived in.” Varin wrinkled his nose as he attempted to glean insight into its contents.
Mr. Aerent fumbled with the straps. “Ye…yes, of course, Mr. Wray,” he said. His words lacked confidence…tasty morsels to the Wray’s of the world. Varin leaned forward and snatched the satchel out of his hands. “Now see here…” Mr. Aerent protested, but relented once again at the sight of Varin’s expression. “Well…the, there you are then.” With a wave of his hands and a giant step backward, he urged Varin to explore the bag’s mysterious wares.
Varin required no invitation as he ripped the leather bag open. He dove in, grabbing anything in reach. He scoffed at a rusted, onyx necklace, then flung it to the corner. He reached back in and retrieved a handful of intricate, polished gems in a rainbow of colors…enough for any family to live on for years. A rhythmic clank rang throughout the chamber as he callously flung them to the corner, joining the old necklace. His eyes met Mr. Aerent, now sweating profusely.
“M, Mr. Wray…please, you must listen,” Thibold began, raising a hand to the leather satchel. His eyes implored while they darted back to the doors. “It’s about the girl. I must tell y…”
“Enough!” Varin exploded. “You will not interrupt me again, Thibold. Do I make myself clear?” he continued, staring through the businessman. Without a word, Mr. Aerent shrank back once more, his eyes returning to the ornate double doors and the vacant hallway beyond.
Once more, Varin scoured the inside of the old leather bag. His eyes softened while he paused, then pulled out a brilliant, golden necklace. Its gems were red and pure. The intricately woven facets pulsed with the light of the sun. The slave owner drooled, like nothing he had ever seen. He stared, refusing to take his eyes away from the lustrous jewelry. With a perverse intent, he looked to Mr. Aerent and said, “You found...”
“Yes, yes,” Thibold interrupted. “Now please, listen to me.” He reached into the satchel and withdrew a long, slender weapon. Its tip was impossibly sharp, leading to a sleek blade that was cold to the touch. A hint of frost enveloped the blue metal as it contoured toward the hilt…an intricately crafted flower: a purple lotus.
Mr. Aerent carefully balanced the weapon with both hands, palms up, and presented it to Varin as an offering. He extended his arms as his eyes once again darted toward the doors. “There’s something I must tell you…now!”
Ava’s eyes widened and her heart fell, “No!” She clutched the slices of toast and bolted toward the door, completely ignoring her nudity, or at least, no longer concerned. A chorus of cheers erupted as Ava sprang into the hall. She looked at them in disgust while she leapt up the stairs, desperate to beat Di’Jor to Varin’s room.
She did not.
As Ava entered the chamber, she found Di’Jor standing on the large rug in the center of the room. Mr. Aerent had resumed his place in the over-sized chair and stared at him. A child-like grin stretched across his face…at least until a naked blonde girl burst through the door.
“Eggs…” Varin’s wretched voice echoed, “and toast.” Ava gasped as she searched for the source, but came up empty. She took a few more steps into the room, knowing the fat man in the chair was enjoying the show, but she was past that now. “Eggs and Toast!” he bellowed again. As his words rang out, the origin of Ava’s fears emerged from behind her friend. Varin’s devilish eyes sank into his beautiful slave with a look of contempt.
“You stupid bitch. How could you mess up such a simp…” he started to question.
“I got your toast, Mr. Aerent!” Ava interrupted. She knew she could not win. Her master was already livid, even if the indiscretion seemed insignificant; but she also knew not to speak out of turn…ever. She endured the consequences before, but she had to save Di’Jor, who only moments ago made a gesture to save her.
The slave master’s gaze grew violent at Ava’s outburst. If his eyes were weapons, they would have done irreparable damage; instead, his visage changed from anger to spite. He stared right through the blonde as his loathing deepened.
Suddenly, the tall slave’s eyes widened in horror. He gasped for breath but was cut short. Ava peered at her friend, then saw the tip of a frosted, metal blade protrude from Di’jor’s mouth. Blood pooled in the corner of his lips, spilling over as the weapon pressed forward. “Nooo!” Ava’s cry rang out.
Mr. Aerent, appalled at the barbarism, scoffed at the spectacle, then diverted his attentions back to the more pleasing sight in the room. The tall slave’s eyes rolled backwards as his body slumped forward. With a crash, he hit face first, blood pouring from his mouth. Ava could not believe her eyes. She stared at her friend, speechless, then snapped back toward Varin. He stood there, a stiletto dagger in his hand and contentment across his deviled grin.
Ava’s mind went blank. Eight years of mind control, torture, and humiliation, had led her to this singular moment. She let her emotions loose, solely directed at the one person she hated most in this world. “You son of a bitch! I hate you!” The words fell from her mouth before she had time to think. “I will see you dead if it’s the last thing I do!”
The room fell deathly silent as Thibold and Varin glared at Ava, enraged by her outburst. Mr. Aerent's grin fell from his face while he sensed the hate well within Varin. He cleared his throat and slowly rose to his feet, his eyes fixed on Ava’s body. The slave master squeezed the dagger as a trickle of blood spilled across the elegant, purple lotus. With his other hand, he reached for his cane, a grotesque, gnarled piece of wood carved into the shape of a gargoyle.
“I’ve just had an…interesting…conversation,” Varin said, his tone dark, his expression solemn. His gaze darted to Thibold, then back to the twisted piece of wood in his hands. “It would seem a…test…is in order,” he continued, words soaked in malice.
He studied the cane for a moment as his thoughts traveled into darkness, then handed it to his business partner. Thibold gripped the instrument, eyeing it with confusion. As Varin grabbed the massive candlestick off the table and walked toward the defenseless girl, Mr. Aerent discovered the cane’s intent. With nervous excitement, he grimaced and followed, the cane secured in both hands. Ava slowly backed up as both men approached, weapons ready.
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Mists of Kel Doran