Journey to the South: Nineteen of Thirty

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Fiction
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     We sat there, in the Legatus’ outer offices, in tense silence while Ovrai interviewed the father of the slain child. Cuahuatec was understandably restless, fidgeting every few seconds as we waited upon an uncomfortable bench made from oak, with the Decurio standing stoically across from us as he leaned his back against the wall. Every so often, the voice of the father could be heard, muffled, through the door leading into Legatus Ovrai’s inner office. But aside from that, the silence was unbroken.

    I should have realized what the Gromothim slave might do.

    Every so often his gaze would flick to the doors, but I wrote it off to nerves and him flinching in the slightest sound. However, when the door to the inner office stirred as it was open, his goggled eyes swiveled to look at the sound, and I saw him hold a breath. His very body language belied the fact that he was contemplating something of terrible importance. The door barely open, the sound of the Ovrai’s voice drifting through as he thanked the victim’s father for his cooperation, when Cuahuatec launched himself from the bench and sprinted toward the door out of the building. I had barely registered the movement before the brown-furred slave had slammed a shoulder into the door, smashing it open with his momentum, and by the time the words “Cuahuatec! No!” had left my lips he was gone.

    A moment later, Decurio Atam was bolting out through the door even as the Legatus screamed for his own guard to give chase. “What is the meaning of this?” Ovrai barked at me. “Why was your slave not restained?”

    Dumbfounded by the events of the previous few moments, I answered honestly: “I…I do not know. I do not know why he ran. There is simply no conceivable way that he could be guilty of this crime…”

    “That girl’s father would disagree,” said the Legatus with no small amount of disdain in his voice. “And I cannot say that I blame him. Those creatures are vile, sneaky, and little more civilized than dogs. I cannot fathom how you keep one as a servant, much less defend it before a magistrate.”

    Caught off guard by such sentiments, I was speechless. The Legatus escorted the father of the slain girl out of the building, issuing more orders to find Cuahuatec to his aide. Numb in mind and heart, I stood and slowly walked back out to the carriage, where I found Atam standing, talking with several of his legionaries.

“He cannot get far while inside the walls of the fort, sir,” the Decurio assured me as I approached. “I just hope the men that I sent after Cuahuatec get to him before Ovrai’s men do.”

    “Why?” I asked. “Why would he run?”

    The Decurio shrugged, the shoulders of his lorica twitching. “Fear, most likely. It can make even the most rational and prudent of beings make the least sensible decisions.” He paused. “Or…the father of the girl is correct, and somehow Cuahuatec is guilty. Despite our own experiences with him intimating the opposite. I pray the Kritanoi allow us he chance to find out which is true.”

    I stared at Atam. “Yes,” I said simply. “Lilu, I would like you or one of your brightest men to look into this. Have them follow the father, investigate this. I would like more than just a grieving man’s accusation and the judgment of a bigot deciding Cuahuatec’s fate.”

    “At once, Ambassador,” the Decurio said with a nod and a salute. Then he was off.


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