As soon as the words had left his mouth, Gremlaw yelped in agony as Zha Quin stamped viciously on his shin.
“Not understanding, you say what?” The Lavashian’s huge eyes flashed in a dangerous manner. Gremlaw drew in a shuddering breath, trying to will away the pain and spat his answer through gritted teeth,
“Is it all men from Lavash, or just you, whose mother had relationships with cattle?” Gremlaw was surprised when Zha Quin grunted a small laugh and actually provided an answer,
“My mother just.” He switched to his native language and called out a number of orders. Gremlaw’s apparent understanding of the language led him to realise the Lavashian agents were about to move him. His heart sank as he heard Zha Quin tell one of his men they would be home within the week.
Lavashian travel practices seemed as alien as the landscape through which Gremlaw was being dragged through. Having never set foot outside his home city before this madness had befallen him, Gremlaw was in a state of constant surprise as the small band of men made their way through the Empire of Lavash. Trathlain was a verdant land filled with forests and grasslands, fields of crops and herds of cattle.
Conversely, Lavash was a barren wasteland comprised of stony soil which barely supported the few scrubby bushes managing to eke an existence in this harsh environment. The border between the two countries was as stark as the slash of a sword across a throat, morphing from lush green to barren wasteland in the space of two short steps. The small band passed through the craggy hills separating the two countries after leaving the broken and demoralized border town behind with no challenge or resistance at all.
Zha Quin led the small band which consisted of him and two similarly dressed Lavashians followed by the Lavashian, Min Sa, who Gremlaw had woken up next to and another man attired in the same way. Gremlaw’s hands were tied together at wrists and elbows, behind his back, making it extremely difficult to walk as his balance was off. The young man staggered along, the pain from his battered skull and stamped on leg distracting him from his ruminations. Lavashians seemed to be split into two castes or levels of society; Zha Quin and his pair of lackeys were taller, broader and more muscular with darker skin than the two men who seemed responsible for dragging Gremlaw along the dusty road. Little talk passed between any of the men and Gremlaw was left to think as he walked.
Casting his mind back, Gremlaw recalled Duke DeLarouge telling him about this mission and the few weeks of subsequent training he had been given. Remembering Dron’s wife, Mi-Zhu-Quan, it struck Gremlaw that the confusing and frightening exchange of memories he had shared with the woman might be the reason behind his ability to understand the Lavashian tongue.
Reaching what once would have been a fairly large village, Zha Quin ordered the two lower caste men to make sure Gremlaw was securely tied before scurrying around to find some firewood and set a few animal traps. Apparently the lower caste members were either servant or slave to the higher ranking men who seemed to do nothing but stand idly and chat.
Gremlaw watched Min Sa and his counterpart set up the camp, neither one daring to look at Zha Quin and his companions. The pair sourced wood of a fire, cooked a meagre meal of some native animal they had caught and fed Gremlaw, all in silence, before leaving the abandoned house and settling somewhere else. The young man noted their behaviour, wondering if he might be able to use it in the future.
A weak sun was slowly born into the sky, sending pale fingers of light crawling through the derelict structures and uncovering the shivering form of Gremlaw still bound in a corner. Barely able to think due to the paralyzing chill, the young man could not feel his fingers, pain had blossomed in his shoulders and between his shoulder blades due to the bonds which held him.
Rough hands pulled Gremlaw to his feet but there was no way they would obey his commands and he stumbled, falling to his knees, then face and chest. Barely feeling the pain, Gremlaw was vaguely aware of being dragged along behind the three high caste men towards who knew what fate.