The two she-panthers unrolled the carpet, and Mathur, blinking in the light of the jugánu worms, got shakily to his feet, feeling a bit bruised from all the jostling. His servant Tushai, who had been at his back, got up more slowly, his eyes narrowing as he took in the dingy warehouse and the small clusters of rough-looking jánah who watched them without interest.
Dasahar closed his hand around a sack of dalán and turned to face the pair. “There’s been a change of plans,” he said shortly. “You’ll be going with them.” A jerk of his head indicated the tall Rottweiler behind him, seated at a makeshift desk of crates. He was writing figures in a book, and now he closed it with a snap and looked up.
“Ashok! Tamal! Put them with the others.” Ashok, a brawny viper, pushed the young lion towards a dark corner of the warehouse. “What’s going on?” Mathur cried indignantly. “What do you mean plans have changed?” Tushai, under the watchful gaze of Tamal, a snowy owl, answered him quietly. “I told you not to trust him. These are slavers.”
“Slavers?” Mathur looked around wildly. A cold shiver went down his spine as he finally took in his surroundings — the unkempt jánah, every one of them armed; the soft sounds of weeping from the darkest corner of the room; and the smell of rot and excrement. “Traitor!” he screamed, and leapt at Dasahar. A heavy blow to the side of his head knocked him to his knees, where he vomited. Cursing, Ashok dragged him to his feet and shoved him towards the sounds of sobbing. His servant reached out to him, but a vicious kick brought him up short. Dasahar kept walking, never glancing back. One of the she-panthers muttered something to the other, and both laughed as they glanced briefly at Mathur before following the opossum out of the warehouse.
“Last two,” Ashok hissed at the guards lounging near two lines of shackled slaves seated against the wall. A young doe began to cry even harder. “Time to go.”