Aura is dreaming. Tonight, she is a fresh captive for sale in the Concubine Corner of the Imperial Slave Market in faraway Tasara.
Being an untrained conk, Aura is fettered by the Market Master. It’s always the new conks who try to escape. Unlike the beauty to Aura’s right. That woman is unfettered, and her cuffs are gold. At her young age, she is already a veteran of pleasure. She earned each piece of jewelry for acquiring proficiency in a new sequence of 1,000 Nights of Bliss, Dalir d’Zilifara’s epic to the arts and joys of the bed. The seasoned concubine displays her wares for the shopper she hopes is her new master.
Aura has no such hope. Her cuffs are steel. Many men, and not a few women, have stopped to admire her body. Her red hair and green eyes make her exotic in this land. Those assets are negligible compared to knowledge in bed. She doesn’t even know the simple Frolicking Antelope or Grazing Gazelle positions, much less the more lascivious Voracious Anteater or the highly vigorous Hidden Ostrich. The Market Master set Aura’s price at one hundred silver hawks. Who would pay that for an untrained conk? The price of the woman to her right is five hundred gold eagles, a bargain. That woman will be bought within the hour and send her new master soaring on a journey of ecstasy through the stars by midnight.
Throughout the day, the conversations about Aura are the same.
“She is unclad?” a shopper asks the Market Master. “Not even a beginning conk’s simple gold chain around her neck.”
“She knows the Sleeping Slug, sir,” he answers.
“Lays on her back and lets me do all the work. My wife’s kitchen maid is better. I’ll offer twenty falcons.”
“Keep your bronze, sir. I’ll sell this redhair for seventy hawks.”
“She isn’t worth a single silver, you thief. I’ll not haggle over this one. Show me the next conk.”
Aura sighs. She knows her fate. If she is not bought by sunset, she will be bundled with the rest of the leavings and shipped to the lead mines. There, she will die a horrible death from noxious fumes. That is, unless she is very lucky, and becomes the harlot for the miners while they yet live.