"Nice. Very nice." A man circled the chattel on display, a young woman standing on a small dais. Another man stood just out of the way, stroking his grizzly black beard.
"She’s fresh, pure, and very compliant. She will make an excellent wife, Sire." He caught the woman’s grey eyes and they flickered downward, finding something about the stone tiling to observe.
"She certainly is of fine form and figure, charming face." He continued to inspect, circling her like a vulture. "Was her mother a good breeder?"
"Yes, my second wife bore twelve children for me. This one here was her favorite, the youngest daughter."
"Does she have a name?"
"No, Sire. We only named our first son. The rest we numbered according to birth order. She is number Eleven, but you may call her whatever you wish."
"Of course," the man murmured, taking hold of the girl’s wrist and pulling her down from the dais and spinning her around once, causing her skirt to flare out. Her legs shook beneath the thin fabric, her eyes remaining downcast and unreachable. He held onto her wrist, rubbing her palm with his thumb. "How is the girl’s mother, Master Scherrs?"
"She died, just this last month. Poor thing took it very hard, so I thought it best to get her away from the memories so she can start again with a clean slate, you understand."
The potential buyer grimaced, as though disturbed. “How much do you expect for her?”
"Well, Sire," the man began, "She is my youngest and last daughter and she is very dear to me-"
He silenced him with a hand. “How much.”
"Yes, Sire." The man dared not argue, bowing low with a gracious sweep of the arm. When he rose the two shook hands and the buyer paid for the woman. As quickly as he could then, he pulled her from the building. She nearly tripped over her own naked feet, stumbling. She had just been sold to the Kingdom’s Second Prince to be his wife.
He chose to walk her to the palace, thoughtlessly putting her on display for the entire city. She walked just one step behind him despite the customary three, but she could not help that he still grasped her wrist and would not release it. Her white frock defined her as chattel, fresh from the sale by the starkness. It was an old tradition that slaves and other servants wear only white. It made it harder for them to steal things for lack of a place to hide them. The cleanness of the cloth was also a telltale of the slave’s purpose. A field laborer would wear his clothes to brown and black, while a house servant would remain quite clean. While a mark of bondage, the whiteness was also a symbol of status throughout the chattel community.
Beyond the tradition, it was a a beautifully contrasting color on the young woman. Her caramel color skin shone against the lack of color, and her own snow white hair seemed to blend into the cloth. To her own gratitude, her long wavy hair also fell over her face, shielding her from the gazes of citizens, and keeping them away from the vacant expression on her face. Certainly, they would have thought her dumb.
In truth, she wanted to cry, but stony determination kept her eyes dry.
He lead her along tenderly, as though she were a toddler in his care. His hand was strong but soft, as though he had never worked a day in his life. She dared to wonder if her own calloused hands would become so soft, but then dismissed the thought as quickly as it had come. She was to be the prince’s third wife, not his first. She was headed to no life of luxury, let alone lack of work. Her matron would see to that.
"You are very quiet for an Ancilla." His tone barely betrayed his interest.
She did not respond.
"You may speak freely. I will not judge or harm you."
"With all due respect, Sire," she began in a whisper. "Not here. Others listen." She kept her words brisk, short, purposefully curt.
"Your father did not lie about your wit," he commented vaguely, almost in approval.
She could not hide her smile but she said no more. After all, her father did sell her to the highest bidder.