A Dilemma

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The optimism with which Mark viewed his circumstances had almost caused David to forget his weariness as they headed back to Ch'uya's home. Despite the diminished light from the setting sun, they were able to see the road well enough to travel safely.

It was Mark's turn to relate what had happened since that first day. David was eager to hear it, even if he did know the final outcome. He listened, mostly in silence, as Mark told his narrative.

"As I mentioned earlier, I finished breakfast that first morning and took a stroll around the clearing while waiting for you to return. It wasn't long before a group of men came down the path toward Lake Mayuasiri.

"I hid behind the blackberry bushes while they took a break from their walk. After a few minutes I decided to initiate a conversation with them in order to start learning the language. Some good it did. They turned out to be slave traders among other things and they decided I was here alone.

"All of them had swords, and I'm a bit rusty, so I gave up pretty quickly. We marched down to the lake, skirted the shores, then took the road here to Puquykilla. There's an auction block that deals in slaves on the far side of town which isn't as busy as the road you said you used.

"They put seven of us in one of their pits to keep us from escaping that night. Sañi is the only one of those people I have seen since then and that was a fluke since Auk'a rarely lets her leave the shop.

"Anyway, the next day we were all sold. Ch'uya said he paid 22 gold coins for me. I think that was discounted because I didn't speak the language.

"Beyond that there really isn't much to tell. I've been working with several of the former slaves that Ch'uya has purchased in the past. They're a little rough but are great people. I'm allowed lots of freedom as long as I get my jobs done, and they've been working to teach me their language."

David considered the story for a few minutes. It sounded docile next to his own. At last he decided to poke a little fun at the events. He asked, "How does your trip to see Sañi tonight play into this?"

"You saw tonight that Auk'a is a drunkard. There is more. It seems that he killed his last shop keeper in a fit of rage. His intent has basically been to make Sañi his concubine." Mark sighed. "I don't know how she has managed to avoid that so far, but she is a smart woman. She is already a widow and is only a couple years older than us. It just doesn't seem right that she should be forced into a marriage with this drunk."

"While I have to agree that it is noble, I don't see how you are in any position to help her." David had decided yet again that it was a bad idea to continue the jest.

"I'm in a better position than you think. Sañi's situation has done more to make me think of business ideas than working for Ch'uya. I do need to pay him back too, especially now that you've managed to find me again."

"You are more worried about Sañi being free than about yourself? Mark, this isn't where we belong."

Mark was undaunted. "Yes, but if I can make enough money to buy her then I can also make enough to pay back Ch'uya."

"Alright, what are your ideas so far?"

"Not anything that will work."

"That could be a problem."

"Yeah."

They walked on in silence for a few minutes before Mark exclaimed, "Hey! Could you go to the store and offer to buy Sañi tomorrow?"

"Mark, I don't have hardly any money. There's maybe enough for a few loaves of bread."

"Say it will take you a week or two to get the money -- that you were impressed with her tonight. You have a sword and aren't in the military. You could pretend to be rich and say you want to buy her as a wife for your cousin."

"Mark, slow down. My accent is horrible. I don't even know the numbers very well and would probably offer twice what she -- no. Have you considered what would happen to Sañi if we can't come up with the money that fast?"

Mark was unabashed. "It could buy her two weeks where she doesn't have to worry about Auk'a. It would also give me a time limit."

"You haven't found anything that works so far! Aren't you expecting a bit much from yourself as a slave?"

"Perhaps, but would you do it? Please?"

David considered it for a moment and then said in a somber voice, "Very well. I will do it if you can teach me the numbers and words I would need to know. And if you are sure you can come up with enough money in two weeks. How much are we even looking at?"

The steep inhale was the first outward sign that Mark was seriously contemplating the consequences. "Probably 35 gold pieces."

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