The King of Thieves looked at me through the bars with red eyes. If I hadn’t been baked under the sun for three days and not dying of thirst, I would have had the mind to be frightened. He had to be the strangest man I had ever seen, with bone white hair, a mud painted face, and those ruby eyes. He licked his thin, too-pink lips as he reached into the cage to pull out my wrist.
“You and I,” he said. “We’re both freaks, aren’t we?”
Heartbroken, lost, and weak, I dared to hope that, perhaps, I had found kinship in this stranger. Though I couldn’t say I looked as bizarre as he, so white and red-eyed among the dark people of the desert. My bright gold-red hair and blue eyes didn’t exactly cast me as normal either.
Whatever hope I felt, however, died when, at the end of another hot, grueling day, where the sun burnt my skin and fattened my tongue, he threw me in front of his den of thieves. My head spun too much to count. All I could make out in my fatigue were dozens of dark heads, earth colored skin of all the darkest tones, and glinting white teeth.
“I got you boys a little present. A little entertainment.”
I ducked my head with a silent cry. My eyes burned, but my body hadn’t the water to spare for tears. This couldn’t be happening. After all I had lived through, I was to die at the sexual pleasure of a group of men?
“But, as you can see, she’s not quite up for play yet. Give her a few days, a bath, maybe some..tasteful clothes,” a few guffawed at this. “And she’ll be good as new. Isn’t that right, little kitten?”
I didn’t dare let out a sigh of relief. I couldn’t breathe. The dizziness that had stalked me all today had started to increase. The thief king once more took hold of my wrist and yanked me to my feet, where I stumbled like a newborn kid. The glittering teeth leered back at me from their dark oval faces.
And I stared back, losing bits of my vision by the second.
“Father, she’s fainted.”
“Of course the girly would notice that.”
“Yes, come here, girly, want to play mommy?”
The thief king barked out over the jeers of his thieves. “Pansy or not, he’s still my son, so watch your tongues! Boy, get over here. You can take her.”
Another voice broke out over this. “What, you don’t think the boy will take the best of her before you can?”
The king snorted. “If he did, I’d be proud. Boy needs to be bed.”
The darkness echoed with more cruel laughter. I wanted to fall through it, fall until the dark faces vanished and the earth’s maw swallowed me whole. At least, at the depths of the world, no one would be there to harm me. Perhaps then, whether in death or something beyond it, I’d finally find the man who sired me—the man my mother said was a god.
But the earth didn’t open up beneath me. Instead, slender, but strong, warm arms hooked beneath my arms. It wasn’t till I found myself flushed up against their warm body that I realized how cold I had gotten.
I could smell sage. No, it was the earth after it rained.
They panted a bit as they half carried, half dragged me off, and I could hear the laughter renewing behind him. I fazed in and out of consciousness till I found myself staring at a ceiling of white linen and felt silk beneath me.
A boy leaned over me. He had a very pretty face—which didn’t help his slender stature. I instantly understood why the others had called him ‘girly.’
However, I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t want a man anyways, not when they’d soon be the death of me in their cruel, lustful ways.
And his eyes…so soft.
The boy held a wet rag to my lips and commanded me to drink, which I did with all the strength of a suckling babe. I don’t know how long he sat there, patiently nursing me. When I fell asleep sometime after, I woke up to find he had only moved to the other side of me, and the wet rag had been replaced by a bowl of sweet, smooth porridge.
“This should be easy on your stomach,” he said, averting his eyes as he helped me to sit up.
I got so caught up in my new surroundings, I didn’t bother to be embarrassed when he slipped a few spoonfuls of the gruel into my mouth. The whole room had been created out of smooth cotton. I could make out the skins of the tent just beyond the linen, and the desert floor had been covered with soft, Persian rugs. Silk pillows of every color filled each corner of the room, and in the center a brass brazier crackled with heat. The clatter of metal and murmur of men came from outside.
I didn’t say anything as he fed me. When the bowl was empty, he put it to the side and proceeded to take up each of my feet and cleaned them with a soft rag. The raw sores from the chains stung as he carefully brushed out all the dirt.
His kindness touched me—and unnerved me. The past two weeks had already taught me that no one was kind without a price, especially in a camp of thieves.
“No need to look at me so distrustfully,” he said, and even his voice sounded child-like. Still he didn’t meet my eyes.
“You’re the son of that man. The Thief King.”
It wasn’t a question, but a statement. The boy just nodded and moved to my other foot. I frowned.
“Don’t you have women for this task?”
“Despite what you heard earlier, my father is ashamed of me,” he said lightly, as though it weren’t a big deal at all. “I believe he is hoping, by giving me demeaning tasks such as this, I will put forth more effort into becoming a man.” He snorted. “I highly doubt embarrassment will give me magical control over my growth.”
I itched at a scab on my elbow with a frown. “That’s not too fair of him. You can’t be any older than twelve.”
This time he did look me in the eye, and he shot me such a look of venom, any thoughts of a kind soul vanished. I found myself staring into the mirror of the Thief King, malicious and angry.
At least this boy didn’t have his father’s red eyes.
“I’m seventeen,” he said.
I looked back down at my feet, face hot. So he was even older than me…? “I’m sorry.”
He gave a noncommittal grunt and moved up my legs, carefully scrubbing off the mud bit by bit. As he reached my mid-calf without showing any sign of stopping, I jerked back, but he only held on harder to my tender foot. I winced.
“It’s either me or some other of my father’s men.”
“I can clean myself!”
“Which I will allow you to do, once you can stand without fainting.”
I didn’t try to argue against that. The tipsy sensation of the world tottering beneath me had yet to leave. Despite implying that he could, and would, have his way with me, the boy moved to my other leg and only wiped the mud half way up before rinsing out the rag in the basin besides him.
Then, with the same curious kindness, he took each of my arms and wiped them clean as well. With his eyes bowed, he knelt between my legs to reach my face, which he also washed, careful of my eyes and lips.
“I can see why father picked you,” he said in his original, soft tone. “He’s always been attracted to anything out of the ordinary like himself. Those eyes of yours, bright blue—I think I’ve only ever seen blue eyes once in my life, and never as light as yours. And your hair is like fire.”
I breathed out a huff. I had heard this too many times before, and I had passed tired with it. If I had only been normal, perhaps my aunt and uncle wouldn’t have been so quick to sell me at the first convenience. If only I had looked just like them, black haired, caramel skinned, and brown-eyed.
His rag lowered to my neck, my collarbone, and then hesitated. Then, almost wistfully, he pulled his hand back.
“That should do for now. Try to get more sleep. You’re going to need it. My name is Denyar, by the way.”
Just another story idea of mine that will one day come to fruition. ^.^