"A true friend stabs you in the front"
Deep in the lower halls of Emperor Shao Kahn's fortress, a mere one or two levels above the dungeons, the stench of death and decay filled the air. The tight, cavernous halls were cramped with people constantly moving. Some were soldiers making sure things were moving along. Some were servants, there to support the soldiers. The rest were prisoners, being herded about like cattle to the slaughter. Their collective sweat and blood adding to the already vile stench which filled the passageways.
Besides the stench, the halls were deafening. The sounds of soldiers shouting and the fearful moaning of the prisoners moving about filled the already cramped halls. And underneath all the shouting and yelling, the horrific screams of the prisoners being tortured in the dungeons below could be heard echoing everywhere.
Amidst all this chaos and constant movement, a lone girl sat quietly in an empty corner. She sat, chained to the nearby wall; her clothes were ragged and filthy, her raven-black hair a mess. Her dark tanned skin squalid with dirt and dried blood. She was no more than a few decades old, but for her kind, that was still childhood. Were she from Earth, a human, it would be the same as eleven years old. As she sat cowering in the corner of the cramped hall, she for the first time in her young life knew true fear. Her name was Jade.
She was thinking about her father. Trying to find comfort in her memories. She was thinking of his smile. The way he made her feel safe. She was thinking about how her father would describe her mother. About the time he told her why she was named Jade. He said her eyes shined like sparkling jade. She was thinking about her home. Her peaceful village and the friends she had. Her wonderful soft bed. She wanted to go back. She kept hoping this was just a dream. That everything that had been happening since that morning was just some terrible nightmare she'd wake up from any moment.
That morning Jade was sleeping peacefully in her bed, when she was suddenly awakened by her father, who urgently dragged her from her slumber. Outside their home, she could hear shouts of fear and panic. The smell of fire filled the air. Her father led her outside where she saw her village being attacked by the armies of Emperor Shao Kahn. Young Jade tried as best she could to keep her hand locked to her father's, but in the confusion they were separated. As she was swept away in the panicked crowd, she heard her father scream out her name in desperation. It would be the last time she'd ever see her father.
The child was helplessly washed away in the panicked crowd as if she was trapped in an ocean current. The next thing Jade knew, she was surrounded by Shao Kahn's soldiers. She was rounded up with the other prisoners taken by the army and brought to Shao Kahn's fortress. One by one, Jade watched as her fellow villagers, some she even knew personally, were taken away to be tortured or worse. For what reason, she did not know.
Jade sat trembling in the crowded hall contemplating her own fate. Would she killed? Would she be tortured? And what of her father? Did he escape? Was he captured, too? Or was he dead? As Jade wondered each question, her own fear grew and grew. Her terror reached a pitch when she saw an old looking man speaking with a soldier who was pointing and staring at her. The man and the soldier walked over to Jade and just stared at her.
"What about this one?" the soldier asked.
"You sure you won't be needing her?" the man answered.
"No. She's too young to know anything important."
"What's your name, girl?" the man asked.
"J-jade." she answered.
"How old are you kid?"
"I'm...I'm going to be thirty-three next month."
"Thirty-three?" the man repeated, sounding a little surprised.
"I told you, we found her in a village of...you know...them." the soldier said calmly. "That's why I think you should take her. Good investment you know? You can get a lot of service out of these people."
"That's true." the man answered, placing his hand under Jade's chin and staring at her, as if he was inspecting her.
"She's kind of cute, too. She'll probably grow up nice...if you know what I mean." the soldier added, with a smirk.
The man smiled slightly, then after a moment said "All right. I'll take her and the other two I saw earlier."
Tanya sat by herself in her room staring at her reflection in the mirror. She'd been awake for over an hour, but hadn't yet gone downstairs. She had instead been sitting in her room, sulking in a very foul mood. Today was her twenty-ninth birthday, but unlike most, Tanya's birthday was not a cause to celebrate. Instead it was a depressing reminder of what was wrong with her life.
Before Tanya was born, her parents were nobles in the realm of Edenia. They apparently held a position of some importance. Until the realm was conquered by the Emperor Shao Kahn and all that they knew was thrown into upheaval. Tanya was born after Edenia was conquered, so she knew nothing of her parents' life of comfort except for what her father would tell her. Not long after her birth, Tanya's mother was killed. Apparently her death had something to do with Shao Kahn's invasion, but the details were never given to Tanya, mainly because her father didn't like talking about it.
Tanya's father, Lysander, had all he'd known and loved taken from him. He and several other surviving Edenians began a small resistance, which in almost over thirty years has accomplished nothing. But Lysander, along with his comrades, was so consumed with tearing down Shao Kahn's rule that he devoted all his time and energy into it. So much so, that young Tanya was often, almost constantly, ignored.
Too young to remember her mother and not knowing what life in Edenia was, Tanya did not share her father's passion for Shao Kahn's destruction. But while still a child by Edenian standards, Tanya has slowly started to get used to being disregarded by her father. Nevertheless, her birthdays were always the worst. You'd think he'd remember she existed just one day out of the year, she thought to herself. You'd think just one day he'd forget about Shao Kahn and give her some attention. But no. When she goes downstairs, he'll not pay her any mind at all.
Tanya sighed and finally decided to go downstairs, still vaguely hoping that just this once her father will remember. However, as soon as she opened the door she could hear her father yelling with some other men. She could hear them yelling in outrage and then heard the name "Shao Kahn" and immediately knew no attention would be given yet again.
"How could he have known they were hiding there!" Lysander shouted aloud.
"I have no idea. They said the attack just suddenly came out of nowhere at daybreak." one of his companions, named Jeice answered.
"How many were able to get out?"
"Not many. At all. They were taking everyone...men...women...even children..."
Lysander growled in anger and snarled "Damn those monsters!"
"Jacob...Jacob said he lost his daughter." Jeice said.
"He said they were trying to escape and he lost her in the crowd."
"How is he?"
"Pretty broken up. His daughter was all he had left..."
As Tanya listened she suddenly thought to herself this would be a good opportunity to remind her father that he still had her. She stepped forward and softly said "Is everything all right, papa? You look upset..."
"Not...not now Tanya." Lysander answered. "Jeice and I have things we need to ."
Tanya grimaced slightly then said "Are you sure, papa? Are you sure I can't help in some way?"
"Don't worry Tanya." he answered as he stood up and walked with his comrades to the door. "Why don't you make yourself some breakfast. I'll be back later this afternoon."
Tanya was dumbfounded. Just before her father stepped out the door she quickly said, very bluntly "What day is it, papa?"
"What? Not right now Tanya. I'll talk with you when I get back, okay?" he said as he shut the door behind him.
Tanya stood alone staring at the door in disgust, before muttering to herself "Unbelievable."
After being taken by the older man and chained with two other people, Jade was led out of the lower halls to the upper levels where they were brought before one of Shao Kahn's officers. He was a large, fat man wearing flowing black and purple robes. He paced back forth in front of the three prisoners, glaring at each of them with his dark beady eyes for several moments before announcing "You three are now the property of Emperor Shao Kahn. Your only purpose in life now is to serve. You do as you're told and you will live. Disobedience will be rewarded with pain, torture, and death. Understood?" he paused for only a second before finishing "Good. Now..."
He stepped in front of the first prisoner, a tall, very attractive young woman with long auburn colored hair. He stared at her for a few moments before barking "Dancer." A guard then suddenly led her away. The officer then stood in front of the second prisoner, a built, healthy looking young man and after a moment barked "Gladiator." and another guard led him away. Finally, the officer came to Jade who was visibly terrified, not knowing what to expect. After a moment he simply barked "Cook."
Then suddenly, without another word, a guard swooped over Jade and quickly began leading her to another level of the fortress. Jade tried as best she could to take in everything that was happening, but too much was going on too fast. She couldn't make sense of why she was being led around from place to place like some kind of animal. So many questions plagued her. Where was she going? Why were they doing this to her? Would she be serving Shao Kahn? Would she go home?
Jade was led an upper level of the fortress which was filled with smell of food and spices. As she was led to her destination, the smell got stronger and she started to pick up the sound of people yelling and shouting at one another. She finally reached a large chamber doorway which had steam pouring out of it. She glanced inside and saw dozens of people running around a huge chamber, chopping food, stirring enormous pots and stew and soups and shouting orders of food and ingredients to each other.
"Ada!" the guard yelled. "Ada! Get over here!"
"Right, right! I'm coming!" an older looking woman answered approaching the guard. Ada, was a short, middle-aged looking woman with short brown hair that was going gray. Her hair was tied in a bun and kept in place with a hair net. She was wearing beat-up and stained clothes with a dark brown apron over them. As she approached she said "What is it? What do you want?"
"You got another one." the guard answered, nudging Jade towards Ada.
Ada looked at Jade and mumbled "Fantastic." She then sighed and said "All right, I'll find a use for her." After the guard left, she looked at Jade and said "Hey kid...name?"
"My name is Jade..." she answered nervously.
"Right kid, let's get you some new clothes and I'll tell you what you need to know."
Tanya sat on the front deck of her home, still stewing over her father. The village she and her father lived in was called Zansatsu. It was a fairly small village, relatively quaint by Outworld standards, made up mostly of Edenians and few Outworlders. The village was located in a fairly peaceful area of Outworld, so the villagers did not fear attacks from Tarkatans or other Outworld native creatures. Most would cinsider themselves fortunate to live in such a place, but it was hard for Tanya to appreciate her home since she would often hear about how much better Edenia was. All that did was make her feel she deserved better.
"Hey Tanya! What are you mad about today?" a snide, young boy's voice yelled, which was coupled by a dozen children laughing. The boy was Dex, who was quite popular amongst the other children. Tanya's bad attitude and snobbiness did not endear her very much to the other children of the village and she was often the target of their ridicule. Dex especially, who always seemed to take the most pleasure in tearing Tanya down.
"Leave me alone." Tanya grumbled, in no mood for Dex or his taunts.
"Aw, c'mon Tanya. Don't be like that." he answered. He brought another child forward and said "This is Liao. He just moved here yesterday and we decided to introduce him to the village bitch."
"Grow up, you little prick." Tanya sneered.
She stood up to walk away when Dex said to Liao "See Tanya's all snobby and bitchy 'cause her daddy don't pay attention to her."
Tanya turned sharply and snapped "You shut your damn mouth!"
"C'mon Tanya, everybody knows it."
"I said shut up!"
Dex continued to Liao, "See that just tells you how big a bitch she is. Her own dad doesn't even like her. See that's why he always leaves or sticks her outside..."
"SHUT UP!" Tanya shrieked as she lunged at Dex. He laughed and easily dodged her, sending Tanya crumbling into the dirt. As all the children started laughing at her Tanya screamed out "SHUT UP! I HATE ALL OF YOU!" As tears started to well up in her eyes, Tanya quickly stood up and ran away from the other children as they laughed at her.
Liao watched her run away and asked "Why do you guys pick on her like that?"
Dex sighed and said "Don't even worry about it. She deserves it. Trust me, ask anyone here, she acts like such a total snob to everyone."
Meanwhile Tanya held back her tears as she ran to Jeice's house, hoping that was where her father was. She started pounding on the door and screamed out "Papa! Papa, where are you!"
After a few moments, Lysander came to the door and said "Tanya, what is it?"
"Dex...and all those other little bastards...they were picking on me and...and they pushed me down and..." she started to yell, frantic with anger.
"Tanya, calm down." he said calmly. "Look, I told you if the other kids pick on you just ignore them."
"But papa! I tried to and...and they wouldn't leave me alone..."
"Tanya, baby, I'm really sorry but I don't have time for this right now. If the other kids won't leave you alone then you need to stand up for yourself. Understand? Push back if you have to." Tanya just stared at her father dumbfounded. After a few moments he said "Okay, Tanya? Think you can handle this on your own for now?"
The tears stopped coming from Tanya's eyes as a strange coldness swept through her blood. After a moment she quietly answered, very calmly "Okay papa. I'll deal with it."
Ada took Jade to a nearby closet of some sort and pulled out old and ratty looking clothes that actually looked a lot like the clothes Ada was wearing, including an apron, gloves, and an old gray bandanna. As she handed the clothes to Jade she began "Put these on. Take care of you clothes, because that's all you got. The apron will come in handy when your handling food. Wear the bandanna because if any hair found in the masters' food is punishable by death..."
"Wait.." Jade interrupted. "What...what's happening? I don't...I don't understand what's going on..."
Ada stared at Jade for a moment then said with complete disdain "Kid, wake up. You're one of us now. A slave." Jade was visibly horrified by this and about to speak when Ada interrupted "Kid, I don't care about your sob story. I don't care who you are, where you came from, or why you're here. Fact of the matter is you, just like all of us, are now the Emperor's property. You either deal with it, or die. Your choice." Jade didn't respond and Ada continued "Now, you're going to be one of the cook servants. Your job is pretty much relaying food orders, ingredients and stuff like that from one person to the other, be it the masters to the cook or simply the cooks to other cooks. How's your memory?"
"Work on it. Because you're not going to have anything to write on. So you're going to have to remember who asked for what and where you're bring it to on your own. You don't speak unless your spoken to. And when you do speak, you speak as politely as humanly possible. Never ever talk back. You don't touch the masters. Don't look the masters in the eye. Don't interrupt them. They ask for something or tell you to do something, get it and do it...no questions. This is life and death kid, and we're expendable. Got it?"
The reality of the situation slowly started to sink in and Jade quietly answered "Yes, ma'am."
"Now am I forgetting anything?" Ada wondered to herself a moment before saying "Oh yeah. You might see a girl...looks about your age...with long black hair around. That's the Emperor's daughter Kitana. DO NOT talk to her. Ever. She talks to you...excuse yourself and get out of there as quickly as you can."
"Why? What's wrong with her?"
"Emperor's orders. No one talks to his daughter." Ada shrugged and said "I don't ask, they don't tell." Ada glanced around before quietly mumbling "Better off anyway. I hear the kid's a real brat." She then cleared her throat and asked more clearly "You got all that?"
Jade sighed and answered, very somberly "Yes, ma'am."
Ada was quiet for a moment, then said in a somewhat soothing voice "Look kid, I know this isn't the best situation...but you have to go with what life gives you. Trust me, considering your other options now, you're better off." Jade gave a slight nod, then Ada said "Now get dressed and we'll get started."
As evening fell, many of the children of Zansatsu returned to their homes for supper. All but Tanya who sat hidden behind Dex's house, waiting for him to come back outside after his dinner, which he often did. After dinner the children of the village would often return outside and play, and usually Dex was the first one back out. Tanya knew this, which worked to her advantage.
She sat behind Dex's house contemplating what she was going to do, wondering if this was the best decision. There was a small part of her that felt scared, fearing she would get in trouble. But the rest of her simply didn't care. She'd long put up with her father ignoring her and Dex's abuse. One way or another she would never be subjected to the embarrassment she experienced that morning ever again.
As the sun set, Dex left his house and started towards the open field not far outside the village where the children would play. Tanya quietly followed, making sure he didn't know. They approached the large open field which was filled with high grass which blew gently in the breeze. As Tanya followed Dex, she would remember watching him and the other children of the village play their games. In her weaker moments, she sometimes wished she was with them.
Now by themselves in the field, Tanya decided to make her presence known. "Hello Dex." she said very politely.
"Tanya? What are you doing here?" he answered. He let out a slight laugh and said "Still steamed about this morning?"
Tanya smiled warmly and said "Oh no. On the contrary, I've never felt better."
Dex turned and started to say "Y'know Tanya it really wouldn't kill you to try being nice to us for a cha..."
Dex was cut off when his head was violently struck with the large stone Tanya had been carrying with her. His head began to bleed instantly as he collapsed to the ground. Tanya took a moment to marvel at just how fast he fell down. As she approached, she could hear him start to cry...and a devilish grin emerged on her face.
She sat down on top of Dex, pinning him down with her weight then covered his mouth so he would hear her. She leaned close and quietly said "Now let's make things nice and sparkling clear. Neither you, nor any of you your little bastard friends ever talk to me again. You don't look at me. You don't think about me. And you never touch me. And if you ever...EVER...do anything to me again, I'm going to rip out your God damn eyes. Mm'kay?"
Tanya let go of Dex's mouth and he sheepishly said "You can't...you can't do this Tanya...I'll tell..." .
Tanya chuckled and said "Go ahead. Tell everyone how big bad Dex got his head smashed in by little ol' Tanya. Go ahead. Tell my dad what I did. You think he'll do anything? You said yourself...he doesn't care about me." Tanya smiled warmly again and said "And just so you know, I'm being very generous here...because I would love nothing more than to rip out your damn throat...you hear me you little prick." Dex stared up at Tanya and slowly nodded. She then said very cheerfully "Good. I'm glad we understand each other." She was about to stand when she stopped herself then ordered "Now wish me a happy birthday."
Jade spent the day running orders of certain foods and spices all over the kitchen. She was not given a moment to rest at any time, and only given a few scraps of food to eat all day. But through it all, she desperately tried not to break down and cry. However, as night fell and Jade was taken to her quarters, a tiny cramped room she would have to share with three other slaves, she allowed herself to finally vent.
Jade lay curled in a ball in the filthy corner of the tiny room, clinging to her knees to keep warm and struggling to cry quietly so her roommates wouldn't wake up and yell at her. Too much happened so fast. Only that morning she was free and happy with her father. Only that morning she was a human being, full of hope. And in just one day all that was taken from her. Stolen from her home and turned into another's property. Now forced to work for her owners under fear of death. She wanted to go home. She wanted to see her father again.
Elsewhere, Tanya lay anxiously in her bed. Waiting. For what, she wasn't exactly sure. She wasn't sure if Dex would tell on her. And if he did, what would happen. She stared at the door, expecting it to open any moment. Her anticipation reaching it's pitch when she heard her father walking in the hall outside.
Her heart almost jumped when the door opened and her father stepped inside saying "Tanya, I think we should talk."
She sat up and politely said "What is it father?"
Lysander sat down on her bed and after a few moments said "That boy Dex...his mother was here earlier. She said he told her you hit him today."
"Yeah...I did." Tanya answered innocently. "He kept picking on me and I...I pushed back."
"I told her that this Dex boy would often pick on you, but she said kept saying you really hurt him."
Tanya feigned outrage and said "I did not. He's probably trying to make it sound worse to get me in trouble."
Lysander nodded and said very somberly, "I'm not mad at you Tanya. I know this is really my fault." Tanya just stared at him in shock, not expecting that at all. He then continued "I know today was your birthday. You see this morning I found out that another village which..." he paused and said "No. There's no excuse. Today was your birthday and I messed it up. So I can understand if you were mad today. I'm sorry, baby." He smiled lightly and said "Tell you what...how about tomorrow I make up for it? I'll make you whatever you want for breakfast, then I'll take you down to the market and you can get whatever you want?"
Tanya smiled and said "I would like that, papa."
Lysander smiled as he stood up and said "All right. You get a good sleep now, okay."
As Tanya laid down in her bed, a tremendous feeling of joy overcame her. She got away with it. She suddenly thought her father ignoring her wasn't a bad thing at all. She could use it to get what she wanted. She could do what she wanted and her father wouldn't notice or care.
Deep down in Jade's young heart, she started to accept her harsh new reality. She was a slave. No one would come to her rescue. No one would save her. She was alone. In Tanya's heart, the realization of her position filled her with excitement. Her father wouldn't notice. No one else liked her anyway. What was stopping her from taking what she deserved? No one. She was alone.
End of Chapter I