Chapter – Seven Languishing in the Halls of Servitude
After having her hair cut, Citlally had been taken to another wide, open room. There were more women there than she remembered being on the shuttle, all of then with recently-shorn hair, and all of them sitting around here and there as though they had nothing at all to do but wait. The room didn’t have any kind of seating, so they either sat on the floor or walked around together.
There were time-worn rugs scattered about, some no bigger than a welcome mat, some wide and round, some threadbare, and all of them dusty and lacking the vibrant colors they’d once displayed. They seemed like prime territory, for all of them were occupied by some female or other, all of them reluctant to give up their place.
Jalingan told her to sit down by a centuries-old column of plain, reddish-brown stone, then left without saying anything else. She sat there and stared off into the distance. It was a big room, she kept thinking, and Endan wasn’t in it. That was the worst part. What was she going to do without him? Everything that she’d ever wanted or planned was based on having him with her.
With a heavy, hopeless sigh, Citlally pulled her knees up to her chest, hid her face in her arms, and let her tears flow. I was not long before some of the women near her told her to hush, or warned her to keep her wits about her. She didn’t listen to any of them; what was the point?
“Keep that up,” a familiar voice said after a while; Citlally sensed someone kneel down beside her, but she didn’t lift her head to see who it was, “and you’ll end up not being able to remember what you started crying for in the first place.”
“I would never forget him,” Citlally sobbed insistently.
“Say what you will, but with enough k’zshyrk injections, your mind will start to fail you.”
“I only had one,” Citlally whined.
“Keep crying like this, and you are at risk of this whole room falling into hysterics. They will give you another injection sooner than let that happen, if that’s what it takes to calm you down.”
Raising her head, Citlally cast her eyes upon the elvan woman beside her and let out a deep sigh. “They cut your hair, too,” she said in a grieving tone, as though her loss made their situation all the more hopeless.
Allanah shrugged and sat down beside her. “It will grow back. What’s more important is that I came away with my life. The Wilang have a reputation for killing anyone who doesn’t seem like a worthy slave.”
“What happens to the ones who are virgins?” Citlally wanted to know, even though she was afraid of the answer.
“They are usually sold off for a high price. Every now and then one is given to a Wilang male… but few alien species can breed with them, and they don’t mate except for the specific purpose of breeding.”
“They –” Citlally felt her stomach churning, so disgusted was she by the idea of an over-sized weasel of a man dominating and impregnating her.
“Relax,” Allanah told, her tone revealing that she was somewhat annoyed by how little she understood. “They will not mate with someone who isn’t a virgin. Even then, Wilang DNA is very specific, and most races—including both humans and elves – have absolutely no genetic compatibility with them. Most of them keep to their own kind.”
Citlally gave a sigh of relief. “I was worried that I would…”
“That they would force themselves upon you?” Allanah finished for her. “At the very least, we are safe from that. The Wilang mate for life, and it isn’t really even based on love love; they simply choose a mate to breed with and stay together to raise as many children as they can. From what I’ve studied, the male will take the female’s virginity, cut her hair, and then support her while she takes care of his babies.”
“But… if they don’t want us for pleasure… what do they plan to do with us? What about the stories about the long-haired virgins of Sardonia?”
Allanah scoffed. “Think of what you know about those stories. Most of them are akin to advertising that Sardonia is – or was, as the case may be these days – the place to ask around for virgins. Some of it might also have been sheer machismo. It’s sickening.”
She paused before going on. “As for us, we’ll have to do whatever kind of work that they don’t like to do themselves. Some of the girls here have told me that the Wilang women are too busy with their babies to clean the house or even cook, so as soon as the other aliens started to sell them slaves, they jumped at the opportunity.”
Citlally scoffed. “Slavery so she can look after a baby. How hard could it be? On Earth, only the wealthiest people had anyone besides the occasional family member helping them, and even then they paid them.”
“The Wilang almost always have twins,” the red-haired elf explained. “Sometimes even triplets.”
“T-twins? They can expect to have two babies at once – with every pregnancy?”
Allanah nodded. “Most of the Wilang that we’ve met have a twin somewhere out there.” But she didn’t seem at all impressed by that fact. “We have bigger things to worry about. They can be very abusive to those whom they regard us scum; namely, us. Even though you are bonded with someone, they hate you. I am not ceremonially bound to anyone, yet I have lain with a man or two. Maybe it’s because we keep our hair long, maybe it’s because we make love for pleasure, and not for the purpose of breeding alone. Their reasons have never made sense.”
Allanah realized that Citlally wasn’t really listening to her, but was staring at a young lady who was walking by, her mouth agape.
“Isn’t she…” Citlally began. Then she looked at the elf with wide eyes. “That was the girl who was crying about –”
Allanah’s hand was over her mouth in an instant, clamping down hard to keep her quiet. She glanced around fearfully and then hissed into her ear, “Do not say a word about it. You know nothing!”
Citlally gave her a baffled look, then stared out at the girl whom she very clearly remembered had been wailing in fear about her virginity and what might happen to her for it.
“They cut her hair…” she breathed, her voice tense. “So that means that when they examined her…”
“She is no better than the rest of us,” Allanah finished for her.
Citlally turned her eyes to the red-haired elf. “So when she went into that room with –”
She stopped when she saw the cold look she was getting.
“The k’zshyrk must have addled your brain, girl,” Allanah told her, and no matter how insistent her voice was, Citlally was sure that she must have been putting on a façade. Then she whispered in a tone so soft that she could scarcely hear, “If you dare to say anything about him, I will slap you right here!”
“But…can’t you tell me something about what is going on?”
“We’re waiting for the next slave auction is what is going on,” Allanah replied in an irritated, more audible tone. “Then we will be selected for work and taken to our placement. If you are lucky, nobody will beat you. If your experience goes the way that everyone else’s does…” She shook her head and sighed. “Well, at least bruises heal.”
“That isn’t what I meant. He… The Wilang told the mercenary to transfer here to keep me in line.”
“Are you serious?!” was Allanah’s wide-eyed reaction.
“Well…” Citlally hesitated for a moment, not sure whether the elf was upset or amazed. “Yes. The Wilang said I was too wild. Is that a bad thing?”
Allanah shook her head. “There are times when your survival depends upon that very thing. Just… do not expect much. Mercenaries have to put their work first, or else they get black-listed… or worse.”
“What could be worse than being denied work?”
“Being accused of going against your employer,” the elf stated, her tone deadly serious. “It’s like treason, and you never can get far enough away from your accuser.”
Finally, things seemed to be making sense. Citlally was getting the feeling that whatever was going on with Jalingan, it was the best kept secret from Regulus to Sardonia and beyond. How Allanah knew about it she would have to figure out later. For now, she was satisfied that something was afoot, that somebody was not sitting idly by and doing nothing about the injustice that had happened to her and everyone else who had been unfortunate enough to have been on Space Station Regulus II when the K’zzyrch came to stage their show of power.