This is a new story! Woo hoo!! I do so hope you enjoy it, as well as the follow up chapters that will come throughout November. *Warning* There is some graphic violence.
My father's enemies had wreaked their vengeance. They killed my father, captured me, and claimed my family as slaves. My mother would not allow such disgrace. Using her woman's knife, she opened the veins of both of my little sisters and then her own. They were found in the courtyard under the sacred family tree, clothed in their best robes with their hands touching, the blood from their slit wrists turning the soil red.
Furious at their lost worth, my uncle beat me until I was barely conscious. I screamed when his slippered foot drew back and slammed between my legs. I woke in a dark cell some time later.
To shame me, my hair was shaved and I was dressed in slave rags. A thick metal collar, scrolled with symbols on the top and bottom, was fastened around my neck. It chafed for a long time until the skin around my neck thickened and scarred.
Days blended together while the seasons passed. I shivered in the winter in my cell, a blanket a luxury I never earned. Summers I sweated, thirst mounting until I could barely stop myself from begging for a single sip of water.
I'd been barely old enough to leave my mother's side when my uncle finally claimed the entirety of the family businesses. I finished my growing years as his slave, starved and beaten. I was small, never growing as tall as I should have, but I was far from weak. I was worked hard from sunrise to beyond sunset each day. The only touch I ever felt was to cause pain.
I was scrubbing the outside walking stones, my fingers wrinkled and sore from the harsh soap in the water, when a window opened on the second floor. Voices floated on the wind down to my ears.
My uncle scoffed. "He's broken. Even if he were not, he is uneducated and marked as a slave. No one will follow him."
"I wish him gone. If you will not kill him, sell him. I have a contact that says the wemic is looking for a servant to take back with him into the mountains."
The brush snapped in my hands. The brush clattered against the stones. I flinched, futilely trying to fit it back to the handle.
My shoulders hunched.
I slowly put the broken pieces of the brush next to the bucket, rising to my feet. Walking soundlessly, my hands loose at my sides, I went up the stairs to my uncle's office on the second floor.
The door slid open before I finished climbing the stairs. Two steps inside I sank to my knees, dropping my forehead to the floor. It was better to be looking down, so that I would never be tempted to meet his cold blue eyes. I'd learned that early on.
"What was that noise?"
"I broke a brush sir." My voice was barely audible, hoarse from disuse.
"You dare break my property?" His voice was deadly calm. A whistle through the air made me tense, though I tried not to.
I bit my lip bloody, holding in my screams as a thick rod struck my back. The iron tang filled my mouth until it was finally over. A fine tremble shook me.
Still in that deadly calm voice, he spoke again, "Why did you break the brush?"
"I am a clumsy fool." That response, too, had been drilled into me.
"Oh, I think it was more than that. Were you listening to our conversation?"
Denial was my only hope. "Of course not."
The rod struck again and again. "You lie."
"No, no, I swear." Tears streamed down my face but I didn't cry out from my beating.
The other voice was full of scorn. "I am sure he did hear, Father. I'll not have him here to threaten my takeover of the family. Sell him."
My fear was stronger than the agonizing fire in my back. "No, please, the wemic will kill me."
I fell onto my side when a slippered foot slammed into my ribs. Curling up, I struggled to breathe.
My cousin kicked me again. "I told you he was listening. Even now he's a dangerous, lying sneak. Sell him!"
My heart should've stopped, my fear was so great, but the traitorous organ kept beating. My uncle ordered me locked in my cell. The next morning I was dragged out by my hair, my body so sore I could barely move. A sharp pain dug into my side with every breath.
In the front courtyard I was dropped into the dirt. I eyed the open gate.
"We will not risk you running from the wemic."
I couldn't hold back my screams as hot metal touched the heels of my feet.
"Cover them." My feet were wrapped in rags.
Moments later, a misshapen shadow fell over me.
"I received your message. Is this him?"
"Yes. Fifty akels and he's all yours."
Tawny paws appeared as the wemic circled me. I shook in terror.
"He doesn't look worth the price of a dinner. What can you do, boy?"
I knew the answer to that question. "Whatever you need, sir."
"Look at me."
I slowly lifted my eyes. Honey gold fur covered his body and four legs, but the tip of his tail was dark. His bare chest was covered in a leather vest, twin swords hilts above his shoulders. Worst of all were his fearsome yellow eyes and sharp teeth I could see when he snarled.
The painful burns didn't stop me. Faster than anyone expected, I jumped to my feet and ran out the open gate.
I huddled in an alley, unable to run anymore. Bile burned my throat as I gasped for air. I rearranged the dirty rags, trying to cushion the bleeding blisters. Sweat dripped into my eyes and I wiped it away along with my tears.
I could not afford to be weak.
I would not be dinner.
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