The H'lizar Yatnan (The Lazer Dragon) Part 4

As he was led down the ship's passageways, and through her bazaars, Jhuruk saw that, indeed Mahmoud was right: the people had been made docile. More than docile. The men and women would avert their eyes as he passed, and lower their voices to whispers. Playing children wouldn't dare step in his path, and quaked as his eyes passed over them. Entering the ship's Central Bazaar, he was surprised to see how quiet it was. Men hawked, yes, and there were great signs of life in the crowds; but they were not alive. His former ship, the Sunlobe, shook with activity at noontime, but here, with a population tripling the Sunlobe's, and the Bazaar's great clock striking twelve, the men did not show determination. The people kept their heads down as soldiers passed, and fell to their knees begging for forgiveness at the slightest grievance to them.

These people had been made docile, yes... through vicious brutality.

"Here you can see where the patrols have been set, and where the sentinels watch for stealing." Quartermaster Hammab said in a sad tone. "The consequences for stealing are dire here. As the people have learned."

"Did not the Captain, Mahmoud instruct these people wisely, and with tact, as the Lady Sultan requires?" Jhuruk asked, respectfully stepping past a blind old woman, hauling a basket of scrap metal.

"He did as best a Captain of the Seventh Sultanate can."

Jhuruk stopped before a hawker who sat on a carpet, quietly preaching the value of his various knick-knacks, which appeared to have been painstakingly assembled by him. One thing about this man caught his eye, and made his heart burn in his chest. "Why is his hand missing, Hammab?"

The old hawker looked to the ground as they spoke of him, and hid his stump in his robes.

"He struck a soldier who was making sexual advances on his wife. For that, Mahmoud decided to take his hand."

"And the soldier?"

"He was not allowed to continue..." Hammab lowered his eyes sorrowfully, "... but he was not punished, either."

"I see." Jhuruk's heart truly burned now. For this man... for these people. After a moment of consideration, he looked to the man again. "Is this soldier here, now?"

The old man gave a weak nod, struggling to meet the Shasma's gaze.

"Can you point him out for me?"

Slowly, he raised his good hand, and pointed a finger into the crowd. There, Jhuruk saw a well-to-do soldier appraising the oppressed civilians as they passed, and smirking as he toyed with his sword-hilt.

"Is it proven that this man did what you say he did?" Jhuruk asked Hammab.

"Yes, Shasma."

"Beyond all shadows of doubt?"

"Yes, Shasma."

"Very well." Jhuruk's face turned cold. "Take him and have him shot."

Hammab's eyes widened, and he stuttered as he raised a question. Jhuruk cut him off. "Now, Quartermaster."

Hammab gave a trembling nod and stepped away to whisper in a passing patrol captain's ear. The patrol captain looked as slack-jawed as he, but nodded at the order, and moved away to carry it out. It was then that Jhuruk turned to the old hawker, who was struggling to conceal a smile. "I have done you this favor because I am deeply saddened by what I have seen here today, and wish to make amends. But, I want you to know that, if you do something like that again, without first consulting my quartermaster. I will take more than a hand."

With a sweep of his robes, Jhuruk was off, with Quartermaster Hammab straggling behind him.

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