Stoneseer: The Bordokian
Magda moved among the people in the great hall. She could hear snippets of conversation about the visits. The topics centered around jewels and warriors. King Darmen of Suntorna did not hold an alliance with Bordok, and it was no secret that one was preferred. Rulers sought alliance with Bordok because of the famed skills of the warriors of that country. Bordokians were often hired as protectors, mercenaries, some even said assassins. Bordok’s value was twofold, because along with acclaimed warriors, the country also possessed rare and precious jewels. The jewels lay in the mines of the mountains that surrounded Bordok; the same ones that Magda saw from her window.
In preparation for the visit, Essen directed Magda to spend time in the great library. There she gleaned the information that the miners were a sect that commanded privilege and power. The skills and knowledge of a miner passed down through generations from the Captain of the Watchers, Semayaza. He who taught them about the secrets of the bowels of the mountains. The miners guarded the secret locations of veins of precious metals and caches of rare gems with their lives. The lives of miners were often fraught with dangers from within the mines, and within the political arena of their country. By tradition, twelve miners held positions on the king’s council. Bordok’s matronymical society traced inheritance through the mother’s line, instead of through the father’s.
As she read, Magda smirked because she knew that a woman’s bloodline assured that the line of inheritance could be validated. A husband could be tricked into unknowingly raising a bastard, but one duty of the Bordokian midwife was to physically witness the child’s birth and substantiate the child’s lineage in report to the king. Although the bloodline was traced through the mother, only a man could represent a mining family on the council. In Bordokian society, the miners held position just below the king.
The matronymical society was a contradiction, because all women wanted the Irini bloodline for their offspring. Magda could imagine the women scheming for access to Bordokians with particular bloodlines. The lines of the Irini were coveted, and many women scrabbled for the opportunity to bear a child of the Watcher’s bloodline, but only a few of the mining bloodlines boasted true undiluted veins of Irini blood. The manuscripts did not entail the various characteristics that the Irini blood imparted, but Magda knew from the castle gossip that the Irini blood was special. One entry discussed attributes in that the Irini were larger, faster, more powerful, and lived longer than those without the blood. Magda considered the Bordokian she saw enter the castle. He was larger than Suntornans. She wondered what other traits the Irini blood carried.
She shrugged and kept reading. The manuscript said each of the twelve large mining families maintained a position on the king’s council. The mining families held great influence over the decisions the king made for Bordok. The families were political cartels that commanded respect and power. They often quietly fought with one another for the king’s ear, assassinated their rivals, and even though they warred with one another, they always combined to war against another country. Magda knew that King Darmen recognized that Bordok was a fierce and merciless enemy, which was the fuel behind his search for a covenant with Bordok. An alliance with Bordok was preferred to the possibility of a future transgression…it was, in essence, the lesser of two evils.
Magda continued toward the great hall, but her mind was occupied with the Bordokian history. The rider was of the miners and she wondered which of the twelve family branches claimed his allegiance. She also wondered if they truly carried the Selfana. The mountains of Bordok were the only source of several rare gemstones. The rarest of all, the Selfana, had been successfully mined only a few times in history and many stories were told about its beauty. The pale sky-blue stone produced much admiration…and greed. The legend was that Semayaza brought the stone with him to seed mortal soil…but of course that was legend.
Rumors abounded that the Bordokians carried a Selfana with them for King Darmen to view. Magda wondered why King Darmen would view the Selfana, as he was unable to acquire it. As a stone with holy connections, the people of Bordok would not allow it to be taken away from them. The manuscripts indicated that the Selfana was a holy relic within Bordok. The history listed all those that protected and lost their lives to keep the stone within Bodokian borders. She shrugged her shoulders, because it was silly to think such a valuable relic could be here within the castle walls.
Magda arrived at the entrance to the great hall and slipped unobtrusively behind a group of people as they entered the hall. She did not like to garner attention, and her mind was still on the Selfana. She knew that the rumor of the jewel had the town seething with anticipation, which also meant thieves were sliding along the underbelly of the kingdom. Her father would expect information from this gathering and she hastened her step. The informal convergence of visitors and inhabitants of the castle, namely the courtiers, occurred before the supper meal. Although Magda detested the gossip produced by the courtiers, she attended because the gathering produced much of the information Magda assembled for her father.
Magda’s stomach lurched as she realized that it was almost time for the customary Frealyn. It was an ancient custom that played upon the inferiority of the female within Suntorna, and one that Magda abhorred. When the supper horn sounded, each man would extend his arm to a woman of his choice, and the couples would proceed into the great dining hall. The evening meal was a “free” time, in that it was not expected that husbands would choose their wives for partnership for the meal.
Each man’s position within Suntornan society was reflected at the dining tables. The highest esteemed people ate closest to the king. Magda knew that political waters were discerned by watching the pairing of the procession in preparation of entering the great dining hall. She hated the custom because men could delegate the women to whatever status they wished. All balanced on the pleasure of the male, and bribes passed hands so lessons were taught to errant wives. As she observed the jostling of position, Magda did not realize she was the focus of several male eyes.
A delicate dance of strategy occurred during the time of pairing. The choice of a man of high social standing could temporarily lift a woman’s standing, or a husband could publicly punish a wife by allowing her to be chosen by someone of lower standing. Those left without escorts were relegated to the lowest seating arrangements in the hall, and thus the lowest level on the societal ladder…Magda was always on the low end and she knew this occasion would be no different. Magda kept her eyes averted, so no man would have the occasion or excuse to approach her, but she felt all attention turn toward the great hall doors. Kanna, the king’s last unallianced daughter, entered the great hall.
The occasion for the Bordokians’ visit coincided with the prospective alliance of Kanna, princess of Suntorna. King Darmen commissioned jewels from Bordok for the alliance piece, which became the earnest of the covenant drafted between the two countries. Kanna, the youngest daughter of the royal couple, was the last of the king’s five daughters to be allianced. The other four all had allianced well, enabling good connections to the surrounding countries of Suntorna. Magda felt the anticipation within the room rise, as Kanna lingered in the great stone doorway…she knew how to make an entrance!
Magda thought how the focus of the negotiations for Kanna’s alliance was to secure Suntorna’s position as a center country with alliance covenants on all sides. Since King Darmen had not sired a son, the inheritance of his position was a complicated matter that required extensive research. Darmen also did not have a grandson, because thus far there had only been granddaughters born. Since Suntorna did not consider women as first class citizens, they also could not inherit. It was rumored that the Jeralai, the hermit historians, were being consulted on the legality of succession. The one thing that Darmen would avoid was the appearance of the availability of the throne for the taking.
The line of succession could fall from Darmen’s family. The line could not fall to a woman, so an alliance to a king or prince, who could possibly father a son, meant that someone other than Suntornan could possibly sit on the throne. Other countries obviously had figured this possible advantage and the attendance of possible suitors to Kanna was great. To Dorgan, this was an interesting turn of events and he was eager to send word back to Bordok.
Magda knew that Kanna always had several men who extended their arms for the dinner procession, and the princess sometimes disdained all offers in violation of the traditions moving to the head of the dining hall on her own. Lately, with the negotiations occurring, the scramble for her arm had become particularly fierce…there had even been some pushing and shoving at the last dinner Magda attended. Tonight Kanna did not disappoint those viewing her in the public arena. Her jeweled and golden hair was attractively piled into an artistic disarray, her voluptuous figure clothed in a suntessan gold cloth that swished as she moved about the room displaying more of her attributes than covering, and her eyes boldly roved the figures of the Bordokians. Magda smirked in her estimation of the “winner” of the negotiation of alliance with Kanna.
Magda chuckled at the thought that Bordok might choose to become involved in the negotiations to alliance a member of royalty with Kanna. Her indiscretions were legend in Suntorna and everyone had strict instructions not to speak of them. Magda knew that the winner of the alliance was in for a surprise. Kanna’s conspicuous attractiveness hid her extremely high value in the currency of trouble, but it seemed that Bordok was also on her mind as the princess walked brashly toward the miners without waiting for the traditional introduction. Magda saw the one with dark curly hair and blue eyes return Kanna’s smile. Sorry, thought Magda, Kanna does not like easy conquests. Just as she expected, Kanna veered away from the open smile and began to focus her flirtations on the brown haired miner, Dorgan, leaning forward and brushing against him.
Dorgan did not respond with more than a cursory nod of courtesy in Kanna’s direction and she soon tired of the hunt. She turned and directed her attention to a different group of possible suitors, leaving with a disdainful toss of her head. Magda knew that Kanna had not given up. Kanna was intelligent in the art of getting what she wanted.
Magda wondered about the price that the alliance piece would command for one such as Kanna. Kanna, although beautiful and a member of royalty, should normally command a high price in negotiations, but unknown to the Bordokians, Kanna was born without a sense of remorse or trepidation for consequences. If Kanna liked someone, Kanna pursued; if Kanna did not like someone, she publicly disdained. She did not worry about political repercussions and King Darmen often fumed at her inability to understand politics. It was not that she did not understand, rather it was that she did not care. Kanna’s empty smile hid an intelligence better spent in spying out a forbidden pleasure, and then manipulating everyone so she could attain it.
Magda was grateful that she had managed to remain below Kanna’s notice. She avoided Kanna’s gaze and hoped she did not fall under Kanna’s focus. Kanna’s deviousness knew no boundaries. She would often devote herself to charm a person, win their heart, and then cruelly leave them in the wake of her destructive power. Sometimes Kanna would focus on a woman of the kingdom, and her cruelty knew no bounds. There were even some who disappeared after angering the princess. The potential for a “Kanna-tastrophe,” as the kingdom called her many indiscretions, caused King Darmen to prefer to negotiate an alliance by correspondence. The idea was to keep Kanna from seeing the suitor, or suitor seeing her, until the alliance day.
It was horrifying that the long enemies of Bordok, could possibly have a chance as a suitor. The “peace” between the two countries was new and precarious. The prince of Bordok was a thirteen year old heir to the throne, and also of the Irini line. Magda was sure that Kanna thought she could control the young man, while she sought after others. Kanna would probably pursue the object least favored by her father…Bordok.
Magda’s gaze swept over the great hall and she breathed deep with a sense of pride at the richness of the room. Suntorna was rich in many things, and Magda thought history was the most valuable. Although Bordok was a coveted jewel for alliance, Suntorna held high value as well. Alliance agreements were ancient, steeped in traditions and sometimes blood. Magda knew that the true focus of the agreements would not be Kanna, or any wife. The focus was the benefit garnered by the two bargaining parties. It was a practice never questioned…unless you were the alliance piece, thought Magda with a frown. Fathers could offer daughters as incentive in negotiations to a person of nobility, to a farmer, a guilds member, or just a neighbor. The incentive was to enter into an alliance, or covenant, that would place the two families together in cooperation with one another. If the family was fortunate enough to have an attractive daughter, then the bargaining had more energy. If the family was unfortunate enough to have an intelligent daughter, then the negotiations often were hindered. Daughters were taught to behave as if they were unintelligent to enhance negotiations. Although the process was not called slavery, especially by men, it was in effect the same thing. It was a position that Magda did not intend to occupy.
Magda knew that if the family were wealthy, an alliance jewelry piece was commissioned to solidify the agreement. The alliance piece traveled with the prospective bride, and became the property of the husband, as did the wife. Magda had lately heard that Bordok did not hold the same custom about alliance. It was said, although disbelievingly, that Bordokian women were valued as contributing members of society and they actually had a say in who was chosen for their alliance! It was an idea that was almost laughable to Suntornans, but in her heart Magda hoped that somewhere it was true. The thought gave her hope that she might be able to escape the custom.
Secretly, Magda thought the poor of Suntorna were more fortunate in the marriage custom than the privileged. The alliance “privilege” was not for everyone, because families that suffered lower economic status did not have the wealth to contract alliances. Their children chose mates for passion or love. Of course, the nobility looked down their noses at the act of marrying for love, comparing it to an animal driven by estrus. Noble women, ignorant women thought Magda, often would brag about their alliance cost. The same ignorant women felt that their sense of worth came from the value of their alliance. Thus, marrying for passion or love was an action of the peasants, and openly ridiculed. The practice of taking mistresses and lovers was common, because love was not a part of the marriage process. Magda unknowingly crinkled her brow as she considered whether Bordokian women were allowed to choose for economic status or…attraction?
Magda stood quiet against the wall, as she waited for the announcement of the Fraelyn. As the courtiers milled around, Magda kept her face passive, because she knew if she looked sad, the courtiers gossiped; if she looked happy, the courtiers gossiped nastily; and if she showed no emotion, the courtiers made up the gossip. Today, they would have to expend their energies to construct the gossip as Magda kept her face expressionless, while she surreptitiously observed the various men standing with the jewel holder of Bordok.
They did not look like miners, Magda thought. They looked more like warriors, and well-seasoned warriors at that. Magda observed, without appearing to do so. She moved around the room, but kept her senses trained on the Bordokians. The great court hall was long and had two rows of gigantically proportioned wood columns down the length, which were polished and darkened with age. The columns held carved and fantastic figures of dragons that wound round each pillar from the bottom to the top, where they connected to the massive carved beams that supported the ceiling. The ceiling of the court arched in a graceful curve, and a great carved dragon was suspended on a huge, age darkened chain. The scales of the dragon seemed to ripple and move when light played across its surface, and the outspread wings spanned the entire width of the cavernous room. With wings fully outstretched, the dragon seemed to be hovering protectively over the royal dais.
The throne was singular, as the queen did not sit in ceremony with the king. King Darmen, a man of unquestionable authority, stood near the dais, not quite ready to sit in the ceremony of welcome. His tall straight figure was unbent from age, his blue-black hair only slightly peppered with silver, and his dark eyes did not miss a detail. Darmen’s success in governing Suntorna was due to an intelligent mind, and in the fact that he surrounded himself with intelligent, if unethical advisors. Suntorna had never been challenged in war during his reign. Darmen had only known peace, and thus was unseasoned in war strategy. He stood straight, thinking he emitted fierceness; but the Bordokians could see that his muscles sagged with disuse, and his chin lacked strength. They turned their observations to the room.
The dimensions of the room usually elicited awe in the observer because its height was extraordinary. It was said that giants must have lived in the castle, or at least had a hand in its construction. The Bordokians thought that the enormously huge fireplaces at each corner attested to the fact. The deep charcoal colored stones of the fireplaces were rounded and smooth, and benches were positioned in a semicircle in front of the fires. The benches were decorated in carvings of dragons, wings, and vines and the motif of dragon echoed in the luxuriously thick tapestries along the walls. The images on the beautiful fabrics gave the room an opulent feel, but the room’s lavishness was so familiar to the courtiers that they no longer saw it. Magda loved the room’s ancient feel, but soon she returned her attention to locating her father. She needed to find out why he sent her an urgent summons earlier in the day.
She finally noted his presence in front of one fireplace, surrounded by courtiers…the malicious ones, which of course were female. Magda’s father, Essen was tall and muscular. His dark hair and blue eyes added to his attractiveness, until one actually looked into his eyes. His blue eyes were lifeless and merely conveyed the cold and calculating personality behind them. Any warmth or concern was long gone from his heart. Essen’s eyes could become chiseled ice, but they could also turn dark with pretended interest. Magda’s father utilized his looks with great advantage to gather information for the king, as this kept him in a favorable position at court. When Magda saw her father, standing in the middle of a circle of wealthily dressed women, she delayed her meeting by dawdling and observing others in the room. She evaluated those surrounding him and decided that Ladguss would be his focus this evening. She knew this not by how Essen leaned forward to look down Ladguss’ gown, but by how interested Essen’s eyes falsely sparkled at the gossip the woman’s painted mouth spewed. Although considered to be unreadable to others, Essen’s eyes always gave away his intent to Magda.
Magda knew she did not resemble either of her parents. They were both tall and Magda was small and delicately made. Although she did not consider her eyes a special color, she had to admit she had never seen anyone with the same. Magda’s mother, Nayana, had eyes of clear sky blue, long silvery blond hair that pooled on the floor when she sat in front of her mirror, and a pale creamy complexion with a soft generous mouth. Her mother’s tall and willowy body was easy to dress in attractive clothing, because even the plainest dress looked better when Magda’s mother wore it. Magda was not like her mother, or her father.
Essen was not Suntornan, but rather Immaen. The Immaens were currently enemies of Suntorna, but Essen had sought allegiance to king Darmen long before the enmity. Essen’s continued feeding of usable information to Darmen, kept him in favor with the king. Magda’s mother was of Sarensalen heritage. A country of which Magda had only heard of by name. Essen refused to speak of it.
Magda was intelligent with a quick mind, and her eyebrow raised as she returned her gaze to the “jewel holders”. Their resemblance to warriors was apparent to one used to studying people. Magda surreptitiously edged toward the wall for a clear view of the formal acknowledgment of their arrival. She saw the largest man step forward and bow in courtesy, as he introduced himself as Dorgan of Bordok, jewel holder. When he said “jewel holder” Magda smirked. Dorgan towered above the contingent of miners and everyone else in the room. His deep voice conveyed strength and his eyes took everything in with a hint of amusement. He smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling pleasingly, as he presented himself for introduction.
King Darmen graciously welcomed him to Castle Lueyesianna, and bid him a long stay. Even though Darmen stood on the raised platform, his eyes were not quite level with Dorgan’s. Magda inwardly chuckled, because she knew this rankled Darmen. He liked to be above everyone in political position. Magda’s eyes turned from the royal welcome, to the miner. Her eyes took in the alert stance of the miner, the long dagger at his belt, the slight bulges in his clothing that denoted hidden weaponry, and the sword that looked too practical to be decorative. The other two miners were also similarly attired, only slightly less in stature. They looked to be as experienced in battle with weaponry similar to Dorgan’s. Magda’s eyes narrowed as she wondered why they were truly in Suntorna.
After the initial introductions, the Bordokians were surrounded by the flutter of the women of court. “New meat” thought Magda, as she waited on the fringes of the crowd so she could better observe their behavior. She noted that the men were well practiced in grace and courtly repartee; the flutter and giggles of the women as evidence. Magda tried hard to control the disgust she felt at the superficiality of the picture. The announcement of the beginning of the meal startled Magda. She was so intently studying the Bordokians that she missed her opportunity to edge unnoticed from the room. Magda preferred the food in the kitchen.
The food in the kitchen, under the motherly eye of Ome, the cook, was so much better than that served in the great hall, or so Magda thought. The food in the kitchen was hot, because it did not have to be arranged and carried on platters to be served by servants…all of which took time. Magda’s stomach growled as she thought about the hot bread, butter, and fire roasted pig that was waiting. Just as she attained a position that would allow her to exit unobserved, she was blocked by a large expanse of muscular chest.
When she looked up, she was surprised to see Dorgan, the jewel holder extending his arm. She calmly looked into his dark brown eyes and waited for his next move. “May I escort you to supper,” he asked in a courteous voice.
Magda’s mouth stretched into a smile that did not quite reach her eyes and she said, “I am not entering the supper hall, but thank you Dorgan of Bordok,” Magda’s eyes left Dorgan’s face and continued to scan the room. Magda waited for Dorgan to move so she could leave, as she watched him from her peripheral vision. Her eyes returned to him when he did not move, and her eyebrow rose in annoyance. Dorgan’s brown eyes steadily returned her gaze.
“Although I am not familiar with Suntornan culture, I am sure you will need to eat supper, and it is considered discourteous to refuse a visitor…is it not…or is my societal standing not high enough?” he asked with a cool smile, thinking that this woman was almost as small as a child! Magda’s jaw clenched as she evaluated this adversary, for that is what Magda decided he was. She chose the quickest way to rid herself of his presence. She decided to be blunt.
Magda leaned forward and waited. Dorgan leaned down in response, their faces close. Magda leaned forward a little more so that her mouth was close to his ear. She quietly said, “I know you are here for some purpose of which I am not aware, and perhaps in your ignorance you think I am someone of importance. I am not. I am at the lowest level of societal standing and you do your standing harm by extending your arm to me. I am not a valuable alliance prospect, I am not of an age to alliance, my father is not wealthy, nor influential, and I am not stupid, therefore I am not a potential conquest. You are wasting your time on me, as I have no value. You should pursue her, as she is more valuable for the procession or alliance than I.” Magda’s eyes pointedly traveled to a plump and bejeweled young woman. Magda continued with a sarcastic note in her voice, “As you can see she has not a thought in her brain which might conflict with your own, she is of influential and wealthy family, and she is actually eager to be haggled over as if she were a cow on the auction block. After you two are allianced, she will actually boast of the cost of her alliance, as if her very worth depended on it….as it does. She will not hesitate to relieve you of your burdensome “duties”, as she will take a lover as soon as she can produce an heir. So as you can see, you need to utilize your time and efforts in more profitable directions,” and she moved back a step. Magda looked one more time into his brown eyes and said, “Excuse me, I have business to attend. Welcome to Suntorna, Bordokian.” Magda nodded with a mocking smile to her lips, noting the amused crinkles around his brown eyes.
Magda waited for him to move. Her sarcastic wit usually identified her as undesirable alliance material, and men would then leave her alone. The bulky chest did not move from her vision and the deep laughter he elicited caused her some consternation. She took a calming breath, her nostrils flaring in anger, and returned her eyes to his. Magda was surprised at the true amusement in them.
“Finished?” he said with a breathtaking smile. He extended his arm again and waited. Magda ground her teeth and considered refusing, but she noticed her father pointedly looking her way. If she made a scene, the gossip that followed would ensure her punishment. She gritted her teeth, pasted a smile on her face, and took the Bordokian’s muscled arm. She almost spat when she heard the Bordokian quietly chuckle under his breath as he possessively patted her hand!
“Enjoy your advantage for now Bordokian, the game continues,” Magda thought, but aloud she began the expected pleasantries, “So, Bordokian, what brings you to visit Suntorna? Are you enjoying your stay?”
“Yes, it is a beautiful country,” his deep voice answered, “I am surprised at the dragon motif…is there some significance to your country’s history?” Dorgan asked, and to Magda’s surprise actually sounded interested.
“The dragon is part of our country’s beginning. Ancient myths say that Suntorna, a name that translates “dragon’s eye” in the old tongue, was created in cooperation between dragon and man. A society that was codependent, in that each species’ continuance was dependent upon the other. The culture was structured around dragons and humans living as one society. They say that the massiveness of Lueyesianna, a name that means “people of the beast”, was constructed under the direction of dragons, which is a testament to their intelligence. The massiveness of dragons determined the size of the structure. Dragons actually are said to have lived in our castle.” Magda sighed as she considered the amazing history of her country. She loved dragons and the passion for the subject communicated itself to the Bordokian as she quietly finished, “It must have been a magical time…I would love to have seen the dragons.”
Dorgan felt drawn to the young woman’s voice as she told the story of her country, and inwardly he smiled as he realized she attached the massive size of the castle to the size of the dragons. He knew that dragons were huge, but he also knew that the original king of Suntorna was a giant of the blood of a Watcher and mortal woman. He enjoyed looking at Magda’s face as her delicate features and smallness of size created a sense of protectiveness within him, but he was not here on pleasure. He was here on business…two business matters actually. If he could conquer the little spitfire in the same visit, well…that would just be a bonus. He considered her size a testament to the possibility of her possible lineage, because she did not resemble either of her parents.
“What brings you to our historically rich country?” Magda asked looking up with a smile that was genuine. The Bordokian was treating her as an equal in his discussion and questions, and Magda responded more quickly to the consideration than she would have to flattery. Magda did not have any defense against genuineness from a man, because it did not occur in Suntorna.
“I am here with a selection of our country’s finest jewels for an alliance piece commissioned by your king. I believe his daughter will be allianced soon, and he wanted to look at the various jewels we could provide. It is to be quite an unusual and valuable piece.” It had better be, thought Magda, as she almost snorted, thinking of the trouble the unsuspecting groom would be encountering in Kanna. Magda understood why the alliance piece would need so many jewels…bribery!
Dorgan continued, “Tell me Magdanalati, the jewels of an alliance piece are said to have special significance to the bride. They represent certain qualities of the young woman. It is said that each artist interprets the qualities of the young woman in the crafting of the jewelry that surrounds the stones, but the stones represent the heart. My country’s culture is interlaced with gems and jewels, their meaning and significance. Each stone has stories and myths behind it. If you were choosing jewels for an alliance piece…perhaps your alliance piece…what colors would you choose for the stones and what characteristics would you want them to represent?”
Dorgan asked the question in sincerity, because in Bordok the woman was considered of worth. The qualities of the woman was interpreted in the alliance piece, as it was not merely a jewel piece of barter, but rather an artistic piece of appreciation.
Magda’s anger simmered and almost boiled over. Her face reddened with the effort of restraining her hand from smacking the Bordokian’s smug face. Magda stopped, removed her hand from Dorgan’s arm, and turned to look him directly in the eyes. Magda waited, allowing the silence to extend into awkwardness, as she continued to hold Dorgan‘s gaze. Dorgan did not understand Magda’s anger. He saw that she clenched her jaw and replied slowly, “I am not sure, Dorgan of Bordok, as this subject might be one an empty headed giggling idiot would usually find fascinating, but…as an intelligent woman I find it insulting. Asking a slave what her worth would be on the open market, is not a question at all. Perchance with all your experience in…mining did you say it was?” she said slowly as she looked pointedly at his sword, “What stone color would represent…freedom?” she then turned and walked away with her back straight. She did not glance back at the large miner, as she had already discarded him from her thoughts, or so she tried to tell herself. She did not see the appreciation evident on Dorgan’s face, nor the anger on Essen’s.