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Fatimah's Pride, a fragment

Rewritten in 2004 from my original manuscript, A Strange Land.

Chapter One

Fatimah schooled herself from tears and pulled herself up to the dignity befitting her station. She stared at the oppressing crowd with a sense of triumph glowing in her eyes. Her fisted hand trembled as though it held a lightning bolt.

In truth Fatimah was conquered and humiliated, but inward pride kept her from resigning her spirit to the auction block. She glanced sideways at the other slaves. Some of their faces were angry, some tear-marked and resigned. It made Fatimah tremble with rage.

She was bought. Marcus Vernaducci, a purchaser who often came to auctions, assessed her briefly, liked her, and bought her for substantial gold from her slaver, who was well-pleased by the patronage of one of the wealthiest plantation owners in the New World.

Some of the other slaves shouted at Fatimah in Arabic as her owner led her down the auction block on a rope.

"You are well-worth the price, beauty," one taunted her.

"Vernaducci will get his money's worth from you."

"If we were back on golden sand, you would be dead for your insults," Fatimah snarled back, unable to help herself from returning their taunts.

But if they were back in Persia, none of them would even know Fatimah's looks. Her face would still be beneath a modest veil, her body in robes.

Her father's betrayer had made a serious mistake, Fatimah reflected. He had sold a slaver a viper, though they both mistook her for a lamb. The man who had murdered her prince father would die by her hand.

She heard other insults once she was pressed into the manor with Vernaducci's new slaves. These insults were in Italian, a language Fatimah scarcely understood, though the underlying growl beneath them was universal communication.

Fatimah looked among the other slaves for an ally. There was strength in numbers. Surely there was another viper among them who would be glad to strike at his oppressor.

The ugly Italian man who held her wrists jerked her, and Fatimah snarled at him. "My legs are not as long as yours, cheese-fattened pig. You have a care with me."

A large old woman at Fatimah's side leaned close to her ear. "He does not know what you say, child. And take care never to speak so in his language. He will beat you or worse." The black woman gave her a censuring look. "You must not look so prideful at your master."

"My master, my father, is in the grave," Fatimah said coolly, though she refrained from spatting further and alienating her tentative ally. "This uncivilized Italian will never master me."

The black woman spoke heavily accented Arabic. Her features were somewhat Egyptian, suggesting she was of mixed blood. Before Fatimah could speak to her further, they were separated.

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