Saturday, May 24, 2014

Round Robin for May: Settings and Danger

Saturday, May 24, 2014

ROUND ROBIN TOPIC:  Do you have a preference for a certain time and place for a story?
What is the most inspiring, romantic, or dangerous setting you have ever read or written?

I don’t have a preference for a certain time or place.  Once a story takes root in my mind, the characters and setting automatically get created as a follow up. 
I like to pick different setting for my stories so I can have the pleasure of researching something new/learn something with each book I write.

As to the most dangerous setting I’ve read or written:  I’ve read so many but the one I’ve written in a historical I’m revising now is uppermost in my mind.

My historical, ‘Honor Bound’, starts in India and ends in Herat, a tiny kingdom in Afghanistan.  In order to reach Herat to prove her father’s innocence, the heroine is forced to drug the hero and take the place of his servant till they are far away from civilization and she can convince him to let her accompany him. 
Part of their journey involves crossing the dreaded Thar Desert where danger awaits in more ways than one.

 They end up in a camp of a sheikh notorious for trading with slave dealers.  The scene made my flesh crawl while I was writing it and the research turned up facts about dealers in human flesh that made me sick.

If you can bear with me a little longer, here’s an excerpt from the book, ‘Honor Bound’ so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about.

Through the slit he had made in the rear of the tent Jonathan surveyed the scene outside.  He had a clear view of the area in the center  of the compound ringed by tents.   What he saw told him the situation was as bad as it could get.   They were in the camp of Amjad Khan, notorious slave dealer and one of the cruelest men alive.
In the blistering heat, sat a line of semi-clothed slaves.  Heavy chains attached to the iron shackles at their necks and hands linked them to each other.  Young men and young girls, naked from the waist up, stared into space, impervious of what was going on around them.  Their expressions indicated they had passed beyond contemplation of their future.  Jonathan had seen the same look on the faces of men after  battle.  Minds weighed down by problems too great to handle often snapped and went totally blank. 
A Turk appeared in front of the slaves, slopping gruel into wooden cups that he placed in their hands.  The slaves were fed regularly, because no one would buy them unless they were young and healthy. 
As he wondered how long it would take for Amjad Khan to order them brought before him, a noise at the entrance to the camp claimed his attention.  Heads turned in the direction of the group of men that had ridden in.  Dismounting the finest piece of horseflesh Jonathan had seen in a while, a man waddled in the direction of the main tent. 
He was met at the door by an imposing figure dressed in a white robe with a black headdress.
"Who is that greeting the visitor?"  Xandra had maneuvered herself under his arm, and was sharing the slit with him. 
"Amjad Khan," Jonathan’s gaze was fixed on the face of one of the slave girls.  Her expression was one of abject terror.  It didn't need much intelligence to guess what had caused her fear.  Even from this distance Amjad Khan's corpulent face and cruel visage advertised a man of deep and horrific passions.  "The man who will decide our fate."
"He looks like the devil in disguise."  Her voice shook and she pulled back from the slit and looked at him.
Amjad Khan motioned his guest into his tent.  The other man shook his head.  No time for the usual refreshments, Jonathan guessed.  Probably there was a rich buyer waiting impatiently somewhere for the new consignment.  With a wave of his hand, Amjad Khan led the man over to the line of slaves, henchmen hurrying in their wake.
"Let me see."  Xandra fixed one eye to the slit again.  Jonathan sighed, but other than move her aside bodily there was no way he could prevent her observing what was to follow.
The buyer pointed, and the chosen slaves were culled from the rest to stand in a group.  He beckoned, and a few of his men approached the group.  The slaves were driven to mud structures little more than hovels with walls on three sides that were shoulder high, to be examined.  An occasional cry followed by a rough laugh or the sound of a blow reached their ears.  Jonathan was surprised any of the slaves even had the strength left to cry out or resist.
"What are they doing?" hissed Xandra. 
"Examining the slaves."
An unwanted mental picture of their being stripped and prodded like cattle, disturbed Jonathan. 
Only one slave remained seated on the ground.  The young woman whom Jonathan had seen staring at Amjad Khan in terror.  The slave dealer looked at her, and then said something to the visitor who spat in the dirt and laughed .  Amjad Khan again gestured toward his tent.  This time the visitor nodded.  A barked order and the girl was led to the tent by a guard while Amjad Khan and the visitor stood out in the open. 
From their dramatic gestures and loud remarks, Jonathan guessed they were haggling over the final price.  A pouch exchanged hands, and then Amjad Khan clapped the other man on his back and gestured with his hand to his tent.  With a pleased smile, the visitor walked towards it.
"What is he doing?" Xandra demanded.
Jonathan dragged her away from the opening.  "Nothing you need concern yourself with."
"Why did they take that girl to Amjad Khan’s tent?"
Jonathan looked at Xandra and sighed.  This wasn't the time for a discussion on  the sexual aspects of the slave trade.  Besides, the expression in her eyes told him knew what was happening, but her mind balked at the explanation.   He should never have agreed to escort her to Herat.  The drugs she and her retainer had used must have been mind altering.  It was his fault she was in this situation.  He had known what might happen on the journey.  She hadn’t.
Guilt was a deliberate bite in his voice as he said, "I don't have all day to stand here talking to you.  Go and see if Rai has breakfast ready.  We have to eat before Amjad Khan sends for us."
He needed his wits about him to convince the slave dealer he was nothing more than a poor merchant with two servants.
She turned to obey him, then paused at the tent entrance.
“Colonel Forrest?”   Her voice was a mere thread of sound.
"What is it?" Jonathan asked.
"I am scared."  She didn’t turn around.  “Promise me you will kill me if there is the slightest chance we will be taken prisoner.”

Rhobin, thanks as always for letting me be a part of the Round Robin.
Let's get our cyber skates on and whiz over to see what Connie's input on this topic is:
After that you might want to whiz on to the rest of the group that's participating:
* Lynn Crain at
* Anne Stenhouse at
     * Diane Bator at
* Marci Baun
* Beverley Bateman at
* Ginger Simpson at
* Margaret Fieland at 
* Fiona McGier at
Rhobin Courtright at