Slave Talk

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David pulled the door open and was greeted by the pungent smell that was, scarily, becoming familiar. The sun had not been up long but Sañi had the store open for business. She greeted him as he contemplated how tempted he would be to sleep as late as Auk'a if he had been in her shoes.

"Good morning," he replied. "I thought I would come and see how my future purchase is doing."

"She is doing well. ¿How are the preparations?"

"They make us tired. It is great to have a little free time."

Sañi lowered her voice a little. "¿Is Mark in town?"

David nodded, glad that she did know they were working together after all. He whispered back, "Mark won't come visit today. ¿How long do you think it will be before Auk'a is awake?"

"I don't know. It will probably start raining first," she said apprehensively looking out the windows set in the raised ceiling.

"Then he can't complain that I am keeping you from your work by talking. He should have been up."

"¿And what would we talk about?"

"¿Why don't we hear about the life of a slave? If I am to buy her..."

Sañi's reaction immediately caused David to rethink his question. His first thought was that he might be coming off as flirty, which was not his intent. She was pretty, but if anything he hoped something would happen between her and Mark. His thoughts briefly fell back to the guards who had first escorted him from Huksonjo's village and his cheeks flushed. That was definitely not how he wanted to come across.

David was relieved that Sañi did not seem to notice. Instead, she was trying to begin her story without crying. Suddenly David remembered that Mark and Auk'a had both said that she was a widow. The poor girl. The color in his face drained but she had begun to tell her story.

"He already knows most of this." Without her explanation, David knew who "he" was. "I suppose that I grew up like most girls. My parents were poor farmers but it was a good life. We lived in the hills of the northern province and Hatucha was good to us.

It took a couple minutes for David to remember where he had heard "Hatucha" before. It meant the land that they farmed, so Sañi's family wasn't starving. He had missed a few words while trying to remember its meaning.

"... a stranger was traveling across our farm. He needed a place to stay for the night so Amkha let him sleep on our floor." Sañi's voice took on a blissful sound. "¡Juy! How we plied him with questions that night." She let a short laugh escape. "He kept his mouth shut about where his home was but he had us captivated with his stories. The next day he managed to convince the baker to hire him. That stranger soon became a favorite of all the children. He was several years older than me, but my love grew beyond friendship.

"Amkha told me it was not wise, but I did not want to hear him. I thought that I was able to hide my thoughts, but it was all so silly. Hakan, for that was the stranger's name, saw through it and told me as much. He told me I was being senseless and that his life was dangerous. That made me want to live the adventures with him even more. Things that are far away attract the imagination.

"Somehow I convinced him that I really did want to be part of his life and that it wasn't just the whim of a silly girl. Ay, the argument I had with Amkha over that. ¡At last he consented to let us marry and I was so happy! But within a week of the marriage, several soldiers arrived and began to ask about Hakan."

Sañi's eyebrow furrowed a little but she continued. "He had made me promise never to tell anyone else why they were after him. That promise was so hard to keep as the men, including Amhka, talked about alerting the soldiers to where he was. The only reason they even hesitated was because he had just married me.

"We fled, Hakan and I, to another small village where nobody knew us. The villagers were not eager for new people to join their lives, but they accepted us anyway. It was a happy year until soldiers turned up once again. We didn't have time to flee that time and they caught Hakan and cut off his head in the town square for treachery against Mallqu.

"When they learned that I had been his wife, they brought me here to Puquykilla as a slave. It may have been better for them to kill me." Sañi paused and looked at David for a moment with a tear still running down her cheek. "No, things may work out yet. The Morning Star isn't done with me."

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