Cordell is silent

27th October 1103

*Trigger warning* This post deals with topics that may be distressing to some readers including discussions of violence against women. If you would like to skip it the story will be made clear in a number of other posts.

Cordell was utterly terrified. He could not remember a time he had been more afraid, even as a small boy, when he still believed that hairy monsters with glowing, red eyes lurked under the bed. Back then he had always launched himself into bed, leery to dwell too close to that dark space and the reaching hands, just waiting to catch him in a moment of inattention and drag him under.

But Cordell was a man now. And he knew the monsters here were real.

If N’nkasha’s guards didn’t kill him the adrenaline pumping through his veins surely would. Somehow the plan had worked and he found himself standing in the very inner enclave, the harem of N’nkasha, a place forbidden for men. At least those that still retained their manhood.

It had been a crazy plan, cooked up in the cunning depths of Gertel’s twisted brain. It all had to do with burial customs. N’nkasha’s people entrusted their dead to a group of women, slaves too old or broken to divide up amongst the soldiers. The hapless women had their tongues removed, so they could not repeat the secrets whispered to them by the dead, the last sighs as the spirit detached itself from the body. Or so N’nkasha’s people believed.

They shuffled amongst the people, cloaked and painted, silently preparing the dead for the yawning holes that dotted the cemetery hills, graves already dug for slaves that were dropping like flies. And they were frequently needed at the harem.

The timing had been a little too perfect. They had just received word from Lochan, The Albatross waiting in the agreed upon spot. A group of refugees were at this very moment hurrying through the old smugglers tunnels, making their way to the safety of the ship.

And there had been another death in the harem, Gertel had a woman on the inside, a chambermaid who had sent word. It was already late, the painted ones would not collect the body till the morning. It was now or never.

He stood before the first wife, who was awkwardly pulling herself into a sitting position. Cordell was not a woman. And Cordell had a tongue. Cordell was used to using it. This was not going to be easy.

“You have come very quickly,” Akana said in common, her voice thickly accented.

She looked ill, the latest baby taking an obvious toll on her health, her heavy body wrapped in a soft robe. But she was a strikingly beautiful woman, her dark hair, unbound, flowing in a dark waterfall down her back, her puffy eyes the strangest colour of violet.

She scowled at him, “Usual is that you painted one wait to the morning. Night is dark now. We sleep soon.”

“Oh but I am glad you’re taking her away now, poor thing,” a red-haired woman sitting on the couch beside Akana said, “I don’t like to think of her, lying in a mess like that all night. They didn’t even close her eyes.”

She shivered despite the heat glowing from a brazier in the corner. The girl was terribly burnt, the flesh peeled away from one side of her face. It was recent, she must have been in appalling pain.

“I barely even knew her,” she mumbled, wrapping her arms around her body, “she wasn’t with us very long.”

It didn’t matter that Cordell would have liked to give her some words of comfort. The woman Cordell was pretending to be did not have the tongue to do it with. He stood there silently.

Beside the red-haired girl sat the second wife, blind Lubaya. She was silent too.

He glanced around the room. There were a group of women lounging on pillows on the floor, taking turns to smoke from a water pipe, sending a dizzying cloud of smoke into the close air.

One of them, he recognised to be the third wife, Nagale, the Tassril princess. She was dark-haired and slender. He watched her take a long drag from the water pipe, blowing the smoke lazily out through the corner of her scarred mouth.

He wanted to gather them all up, all these damaged women and spirit them away, leaping over the cracks and avoiding the clawing hands of the monster. But if he tried he was as good as dead. They all were.

So he waited, silent and still, waiting to be dismissed from the first wife’s presence. He had no idea how he was even going to find Miriamele, let alone how he could make it out with both of them alive. But it was most definitely too late for him to back out now.

“You may go,” the first wife, suddenly remembering his presence, gestured to the door leading to the courtyard.

He gave a solemn bow and turned to go.

Out of the corner of the eye he saw the third wife gracefully rising to her feet.


One response to “Cordell is silent”

  1. Van says:

    Hmmm. I wonder how this is going to go. Hopefully everyone comes out of this okay…

    Does Nagale suspect something’s up? If so, is there any chance she might help? I doubt N’nkasha is good to any of them except maybe the first (hell, he already proved he’s not good to poor Lubaya!), so maybe she’ll be a useful ally? Hopefully?

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