I spun on the guard, lifting my nose in a haughty manner, and barked out my command. "Take your hands off me." Tessa trembled behind me, trying to hide in my shadow.
The troll was ugly, more brutish than the rest of his kind, and blind in one eye. He was hunched, like most trolls, so was only a little taller than myself. But he was twice my width in the shoulders, with arms nearly four feet long. If I were just a mortal human, I'd have hidden too.
Apparently the heavy brow and thick features came with a serious dose of stupidity, because he lifted his hand, staring and blinking at me.
I sighed, keeping up my disdainful act. "Is there a reason you stopped me?" Shoppers continued to shuffle in behind us, ignoring our little conflict. Cocking my hip, I continued to stare down the guard. "Well?"
"You...um...have human." His good was watering, out of focus.
"Yes. My slave. What's your point?" My nostrils flared, and he began to cower. I felt a brief flare of pity; this troll would probably be punished, all because he was too stupid to stand up to me.
Shaking his head in confusion, the guard stepped back. "Welcome market." I nodded, kept Tessa close, and entered the insanity that was the aisles of the troll market.
It was much louder amidst the press of bodies, everyone trying to out shout someone else. The scents all blended together, forming something almost neutral. Tessa wrapped herself around my arm, and I strengthened my hold on her hand. I'd been in markets before, but nothing quite like this. This was almost too much for me.
The din had an odd effect; the area was loud, near painful, but I didn't have to shout for Tessa to hear me. "Do you know the name of the slaver Georgie uses?"
She shook her head, unfocused eyes looking through me. Tessa was too overwhelmed to be of any use to me now. At least she'd gotten me this far. And it wasn't fair to blame her for her reactions.
A trio of orcs bumped into us, jostling into a pillar. I winced, and realized my shoulder didn't hurt anymore. I frowned, trying to remember when it had last hurt. Right around when I'd first met the dragon, it had stopped. About time I finished healing.
"Well, I guess we'll just have to find where the slave pens are. She can't be far from there." I was talking to myself, not expecting Tessa to be familiar with the ins and outs of the market.
I heard animals, and figured human slaves were probably kept near the livestock. Nodding at the young woman, I ventured forth again.
The crowds lessened as we approached the animal pans. And there were pens galore. Scanning the expanse, I couldn't see the end of this area. There were pets, and beasts of burden, and food creatures. And, most importantly, there were humans.
Tessa began crying as we approached the slaves. Knowing her own brother had put some of these people here must be hurting her. Not that she could have done much to stop him. And she and her family needed to eat.
I wandered around the slave pens, looking for Steven. Dejected eyes looked away from me, a mere handful of the beings showing any life. I couldn't imagine what they were going through. Could anyone conceive of what it would be like to be just wares in a cage? I felt sorry for the person who could.
After just fifteen minutes, it already seemed to be a hopeless search. There were entirely too many humans, too much land to cover. and it finally occurred to me that the slaver would be unlikely to mistake Steven for a mortal.
I paused beside a drink stand, consumed by the futility of it all. Tessa was completely withdrawn, and I waited for her to collapse. This whole situation was crappy, and I hated that I couldn't figure it out.
Someone pressed against my back, laying hands on my shoulders, enveloping me in a spicy scent. I was immediately reminded of dragons, and turned with a frown. A pale-skinned elf stood behind me, face composed of good looking angles, eyes of midnight blue on a level with my own. My breath caught in my throat as I tried to figure out who this was.
~You'll never find him this way,~ Rhaelgyr whispered mentally.