‘Scravo viewed the scene before him with no small amusement. These trips were usually very straightforward, not much for him to do really. His lieutenants could handle most proceedings. But since this rolo santo had shown up on the cat-girl’s sandboat, it had been quite entertaining. First the man had made a nuisance of himself, trying to give water and save the souls of the gado. ‘Scravo’s guards had taken care of that, pushing the man out of the hospedaria walls and away from the merchandise. He had not liked that and started shouting out archaic warnings which may have frightened ‘Scravo’s grandmother, god rest her soul, but she had been a superstitious old fool. ‘Scravo was a man of business. No one here paid the fool any mind so let him rail.
He had not been content to rail, however. He had come back with money, where he had gotten such money was beyond ‘Scravo’s imagination, to say nothing of his interest. He saw the heft of the purse and his mind did the calculations and quickly concluded it was probably enough to buy his whole slave chain. He could conclude this trip early and head back for home and reasonable weather. Something a lieutenant would have done. ‘Scravo had seen bigger opportunities; he could smell a simplório a mile away.
“Ch’Voga, what have you done?” the sandboat captain was wearing a veil yet ‘Scravo swore he could hear her teeth grinding together all the same.
“I saved her,” the simplório said, clutching his scrawny purchase in a defensive manner.
“You bought a slave?”
“It was the only way. A fair transaction.”
“How much?” Grind, grind, grind. ‘Scravo was laughing beneath his sunglasses, here it comes, he thought. Was the sandboat captain the kind to hold it all in till she popped or would she kill the fool right here in a fit of rage in front of everyone. ‘Scravo wished he had someone to bet.
“I had to do what..”
“How much is a life worth?”
“All of it.” She remained silent. One second. Two seconds. Three. She was a time bomb. ‘Scravo would have won the bet. He always did. “I know you’re mad Prudy…”
“Don’t! Don’t talk to me. Don’t talk. Just…don’t.”
“I had to…”
“What??!! You had to what?! Spend all the money we had for this trip on one measly, half-starved rat?! Do you know what you’ve done?”
“I’ve saved her life!” Oh this was too good, ‘Scravo thought. Better than the soap operas back home. Better than watching his wives fight. The idiota was actually going to take a noble stand!
“And killed us all! That was all the money we had! We cannot buy the water to go home much less continue on! How long will she live when we’re dead?” Oops, ‘Scravo chuckled, hadn’t thought of that, eh holy man?
“We can live here, there is water here..”
“Do you think it is free? There is no charity in the Sea! Nothing is free!”
The holy man completely deflated. He seemed to shrink to half his size till the scrawny girl in his arms appeared large in comparison. “Prudence, I didn’t… I had to do something. I had to save one.”
“Ch’Voga, you poor, stupid, fool,” her voice lowered and took on a false sweetness, like a snake charming a desert rat, she pronounced each word carefully, pushing them into his heart with the coldness of the serpent. Ruthlessly cutting down the man like only a woman can, “that much money could have saved them all.” Ah, that was the money shot. The deflated holy man nearly collapsed as the full weight of his failure came crushing onto him. Priceless. ‘Scravo thought he could lose his shirt on the rest of this load and feel like the trip was totally worthwhile.
But things started to change then. The rebanho heard what she said and realized they too had been short changed. They started to grumble and shift about. The young males with some strength and pride left, always a risk, began to eye the few guards. Then the sandboat girl, the one called Prudence, turned on ‘Scravo.
“Take her back.” ‘Scravo told her where she could put that idea. “Give me my money back. It wasn’t his to play with. You cheated him and you know it.”
“Caveat emptor, ‘rita. He was happy with his purchase. I am not here to please everyone.”
“Give her back, Ch’Voga.”
“GIVE’R BACK!” At that there was a wail from the rabanho. The child’s mother, seeing her missed opportunity to save not only her youngest daughter but her two other brats as well and now hearing none of them may be freed screeched and started crying out in her babble language. The young turks edged closer to the guards who lowered their sharksticks and ordered them to get back. The situation was getting out of control.
“Enough!” ‘Scravo bellowed. “Colocá-los para baixo!” he ordered the guards who charged together and indiscriminately started stunning the slaves. The herd tried to flee but they were chained to the fallen, stunned by the sticks, and so they all fell in a weeping and cursing heap of pitiful flesh. One problem down, he turned on the sandboat cadela. “You! Sai fora! Take your idiota and get out! You are no longer welcome here!”
At that, one of the other sandboat captains, the tall half-cat called Jacques, stepped in, “Pity, Messieurs, there is a storm coming! We all can see it. If you send them out, you send them to their death.”
“Not my problem. She should have thought of that before she rioted my property and called me a cheat.” The slow burn captain-girl’s eyes blazed fury, “What a woman she must be!” thought ‘Scravo. If he had the time to seize her and make her his tenth wife… but no. Such a one would only look for the opportunity to slide a knife in his junco while he slept. Still, danger was the spice… no. She turned and stormed off and it was wiser to let her go.