Chapter 1A Chapter by MildmayFoxxe
In which we met our protagonists, and they don't quite meet each other. Well, kind of. Also, there is some world exploration and deliberately vague prophecies. Aren't they always?
He never wanted to be a part of a war. He was quite comfortable, sheltered and rather naïve in his existence. He was feed the richest foods, his cloths were made of silks and satins, he slept on fine sheets and he had anything- anything- he wanted.
And in return, all he had to do was let himself be a weapon. A dog. And he was fine with that. He had been taught how to be deadly. He was a honed, dangerous machine, and he loved the knowledge that while there was someone better out there, he’d yet to find them.
All he had to do was kill and not let himself think.
No right. No wrong. It just was. He had to look out for himself, after all.
He knew what he was- all Wolves had been kept as pets, since before he could remember. Pets and slaves and play toys and lesser creatures with no will or freedoms.
Really, when you got right down to it, Shylock was one of the lucky ones. His owners knew how valuable he was- worth more alive and well treated then dead. Easier to keep him happy and pliant then down-trodden and rebellious, because he was not the type to become submissive. And they had made enough money off of him in the Gray Light arena to afford to keep him happy.
So you can imagine, the day it changed was something of a shock. It didn’t all happen at once, of course. No, it was all very gradual. But all change starts somewhere, and this did the day Shylock turned twenty two.
It was in the middle of the arena, as a matter of fact, where he stood in the upper stands, covered in blood and sweat, panting heavily and nursing a dislocated shoulder. Most of his other wounds had already started to heal, but the stiff aching of the joint was lingering irritatingly. He rolled it, then his neck, pushing his long red ponytail to one side in a vain attempt to cool down. It seemed stupid and impractical, to force him to wear his hair long, but the Mistress liked his hair, so there you were. He gathered it in irritation, yanking it into a firm braid before letting it flop heavily along his spine again. Then he rose, languidly, rolled his shoulder a final time, and stretched, preparing himself for the next fight.
He was a striking figure, for certain-sure, and had nearly been made into a house slave. Or a pleasure slave. But he’d been too violent, too volatile, and after being sold and resold he’d wound up at rock bottom price, muzzled as a Wolf and a human. Then some agents from Gray Light had seen him, and known instantly that he was what they wanted.
They learned quickly how not to handle him.
His hair was deep red, the color of rich wine, hanging to the small of his back, and his skin was remarkably dark, the color of cocoa. Such dark skinned people were rare, in the world. It was usually only possessed by a desert race, called the Ita. The light hair and silver eyes were fitting, too, but frankly he didn’t know or care.
His dark skin was marred, with colorful ink, with ragged scars. There were few spots on him not inked somehow; his face and lower arms were bare. But twisting patterns decorated his abdomen, chest, back, legs. Bands wound round his wrists and ankles and neck- marks of his breed, of his slavery. Thick loops were attached, for chains. Marks were on the golden band at his throat- one, there, marking him as a fighting slave. One next to it, showing which fighting pit he belonged to. A third, to which specific owners. And, finally, a fourth, showing his hierarchy among his fellow Wolves and slaves.
He was tall. Very tall. He towered over even most other Wolves, topped six foot easily, and there wasn’t an ounce of spare fat on him. It was the only part that didn’t fit his desert appearance. Powerfully built as a man and powerfully built as a Wolf, it was little wonder he reined supreme here.
Giving a final twist of his spine, he sucked in a low, deep breath in preparation for the Change- and that’s when he felt it.
Someone was watching him.
That in and of itself wasn’t unusual. Of course people watched him. For aesthetic reasons or for the purposes of the fight- he was accustomed to eyes draped lazily across him.
But this was different. He wasn’t just being stared at, he was being weighed. He turned, a low growl rumbling up from his chest. Subsonic, not audible, but the slightest touch to his frame would have allowed one to feel it in his entire body. He scanned the milling, seething crowd, looking desperately for the eyes that wouldn’t leave him. His nose worked, inhaling deeply, scenting. But there were too many people, was too much activity, and he couldn’t pinpoint one single target in a crowd so large.
Someone touched him.
He whirled with a snarl, arm coming up to guard automatically, slapping away the hand of-
-Tousakk. His owner.
Instantly the snarl faded, the growl dying in his throat. The man’s face was locked in surprise- and a touch of concern. Tousakk was a good owner, as they came- besides giving him what he wanted to keep him happy, there were times, moments, when Shylock thought he almost honestly cared about his slaves.
“The next competitor is waiting for you, Shylock.” He said, softly, his eyes searching Shylock’s own. “Are you quite alright, boy?”
“Fine.” He spat, then, forcing his voice more gentle. “I’m fine. I just thought I-nothing. It’s nothing.”
“Well, come on, then.” He was briskly grabbed by the nape- not cruelly, but firmly- and pushed towards the fighting pit. “You just need to burn off some of that energy, is all. Another good few rounds should take your nerviness right off.”
He nodded- not that he actually had a choice. A good owner was still an owner, after all. He hopped down into the fighting area, shifting as he did so. No full moon, so it was painless and quick, and he was Wolf before he landed. His opponent was big- not bigger then he was, but large- and dark, a deep, tawny sort of brown. He pinned his ears and growled low, and the other Wolf- arrogant, idiotic fool- lifted his own head to roar a challenge back.
Which was, of course, when Shylock dove for his throat.
After fight come downs were hard. Harder, in fact, then nearly anyone would imagine; there was no slow drop off of energy and adrenaline. It happened hard and all at once, a violent crash .
There was a drug Shylock knew of, a plant by the name of moonroot (because it only grew at night, and only at certain phases of the moon) that could leave men out of touch with reality for weeks. It was a beautiful flower, all shades of gold and white, depending on when you plucked it, and what you did was crush one petal it between tongue and roof of mouth. Then you sucked away the juices, and spat out the remaining bit. (Some true addicts swallowed that, too, but that was very dangerous. Swallowing the petal could lead to never waking up from the fantasy state the flower’s juices caused, and in some cases death.)
Many described the flower’s effect as euphoric- like they could fly, or run faster then the deadly predators of the desert and ice lands, or leap hundreds of feet, or claim victory in any battle. But the effects only lasted so long, and if given the chance to come down off it, the immediate result was a devastating crash. Listless, angry, prone to lashing out or fits of tears, even, in some cases, killing themselves- this is what become of moonroot addicts.
It wasn’t unlike what Shylock experienced after and during a fight.
Panting, shaking, he lay on his bed in his room. He’d washed and had his wounds- any that hadn’t healed immediately- cleaned and bandaged, but he was still twitching and his blood still raced.
Soon enough, he’d drop into an exhausted sleep. He’d dream, he knew that much, dream of blood and fighting and wake up without feeling like he’d slept at all. And the worst of it was, he wouldn’t wake up horrified, shaking, in tears and in pain.
He’d wake exhilarated. Because he loved the fights. Breath racing, heart and pulse pounding, he’d wake ready to attack. And he hated himself, sometimes, for it.
For now, though, he lay trying to calm himself, to relax. The rest of the fight had passed without anything out of the ordinary occurring- no more mysterious watchers in the crowd, anyway. He’d found himself looking for that gaze, waiting for it, almost expectantly- it was something new in a life of monotony, and he’d almost hoped that someone would step up out of the crowd, would give him something new.
His life was not dull. But damn, was it boring.
He let his fingers drift up, stroking his collar, running his finger along the patterns there. Collars he’d worn his entire life, collars that had marked him, that always would. There were worse positions to be in, but the Wolf in him railed at being so trapped, forced into a cage without doors or walls.
Sleep, said a voice in his head, sleep and dream. Tomorrow, you will forget. Don’t dwell on what you can’t change.
He pushed down the covers, crawling under them and burying into the pillows. His room was decorated in deep earthen tones, and the bed was no different; greens and tans for sheets and blankets, and the pillows were a deep brown. The walls around him merged from pale tan to deep brown, as well, and with the low, dim light from perpetually shuttered windows (locked, of course, and sealed magically so he couldn’t even break out if he’d wanted to) it created a very deep forest atmosphere.
Not that he’d know what a deep forest actually looked or felt like- he’d never been out of the city in his life. But it was oddly comforting, the dark colors and dank feel, and besides. He got wicked headaches on that comedown, and the cool dark of the room helped keep them away.
The Gray Light arena itself wasn’t a very brightly lit place to begin with. Most of the slaves here preferred darker light and darker shades, for any number of reasons. The owner’s quarters were a good deal brighter, depending on personal preference, but even so the rooms only got so light.
Each owner (or set of) had a floor to themselves, if you lived in the Gray Light arena. You had the slave’s room and attached little bath, a dining arena, and then the Master’s quarters and bath. There were also spare rooms for any owners that had more the one Wolf. It was rare for anyone to own more then four, but in the odd case they were made to share rooms. That wasn’t always the best plan- Wolves could be pretty damn territorial, even in this situation.
Shylock was Tousakk’s only fighter. Marianna, his wife, had two little twin girls as cleaning slaves, though. Young, barely cubs, the dark haired, blue eyed pups steered well clear of Shylock and damn near pissed themselves if they encountered him. He didn’t even know their names, or care to. There was another girl, a pretty little body slave, too, but Tousakk didn’t use her for sex. She was there to mend Shylock’s wounds, for massages and cloths-picking and running baths.
Sometimes, Shylock got to use her for sex. She’d come to him, after the day was over, and give him a wild, crooked little smile of invitation. She was tiny, so tiny he sometimes worried he’d break her, and full of fire and strength. Her hair, silken blond curls, fell longer even then his own, and her brown eyes were so dark sometimes he couldn’t find the pupil. She always smelt of flowers.
He liked her. Her name was Aziin, which meant beauty, in the language of the woodland Pack she came from. Tousakk knew she came to him, but he didn’t stop them. He was careful, always, not to get her pregnant, and she was careful, always, not to come to him before a fight.
He hadn’t had or even seen her much in nearly two weeks. He wouldn’t for a few more days, yet. There were at least two more days of fights, and then things would slack off for a bit, a winner declared, until new competitors showed up.
He rolled over, tugging the cool sheets higher on his body, and finally allowed himself to give into sleep, spurred on by thoughts of Aziin. Hopefully, his dreams would be of her tonight, and taking her, and not of blood and victory.
Bylyn of Calyemora had never been the most pleasant of lands. Hard and demanding, it created a hard and demanding people- at least, those of them that actually had to live on it. It was a flat, open land, and the weather was volatile and extreme- winters froze and summers burned, and if you didn’t know how to live on and work the land, you didn’t survive there long.
But if you knew how to find them, there were lush, beautiful forested areas near the outskirts of the land. This area is where Murdoch and his six made their home.
The forest- called Fallspell- itself was a dangerous place, of course- but it offered good hunting and shelter from the elements, and water was far easier to find there then anywhere else in the area leading up to it. If you knew how to respect the predators of the forest, and the forest itself, then you could learn how to survive and even thrive in such a part of the world.
He’d learned years ago. The forest and all it’s dangers were nothing compared to the fighting arena he’d been a slave in, in any case- when you were a slave that refused to break, there was very few things more frightening then your own world. Particularly when your owner was a sadistic b*****d who liked to see blood drawn.
More then one of Murdoch’s scars weren’t from fighting in Black Hollow arena’s actual fighting pit. Scars from other Wolves healed. Scars from chains and flame and whips and sharp, jagged blades- those didn’t always. Cuts from silver knifes never healed without leaving the memory of them behind. He hadn’t been one of the lucky ones, the ones willing to bend their will to an owner’s in return for being well treated or even pampered.
No, he’d fought. His entire life, he’d fought, because Murdoch wasn’t a city Wolf.
Murdoch had been plucked from the wilderness of his home as a young adult, just barely out of cub hood. They’d starved the wildness out of him, beat the fight away from him, until they had locked golden bands around his neck and arms and legs. You will fight for us now, they’d said.
And for a time, he had. For a time, he’d submitted to them, in return for food, for being treated well, for not being beaten. But as time had passed and some of those things had happened, anyway, he had stopped being so willing to give in. You want me to fight and kill? What when my fangs and claws turn against your flesh?
He’d killed and fought his way free of that place. Five years ago, now, he’d run away, and five years ago he had paid a small fortune in gold to have the bands around his neck and wrists and ankles cut free. He still had rough, chaffed scars where they’d been, where they’d bitten into flesh and rubbed raw so often the wounds had never managed to heal.
The most minor of his scars. Murdoch was many things, but handsome he did not consider one of them; not any longer, anyway. But appearance was nothing he had ever been taught to value- he was big and broad and powerful and fast, and those, those were things that could be used.
Five years since freedom. Five years since hiding away in the forest.
Four years since he’d started forming his Pack. Since he’d found little Milo, small and broken and so very young. They’d crushed him, broken his spirit and his mind. He didn’t know everything his owners had done to Milo. He knew the kid had been a house slave, a body slave.
He could fill in the blanks.
Since then, he’d found the others, one by one. Found his Pack, his Army. He knew them the moment he saw them- they would be the ones to change the world. Milo. The twins. Amerok. Tobias.
He knew. He’d always sensed things like that- always just known…things. Dreamed things. Sensed them. He’d been meant to be a Warden, in his pack- a protector. A fore-seer, a dreamer, whatever you wanted to call him. The older he got, the stronger his gift became. He’d even known, before they came for him.
That’s why he’d been alone, in the forest. He hadn’t wanted them to hurt any others of his Pack. And he’d known he was going to be kidnapped, that day. Taken.
And he’d known this, too.
One by one, he’d found his boys, taken them away from their owners and reminded them what it meant to be Wolf.
But he needed one more. They weren’t quite enough, yet. They weren’t strong enough, yet. And he’d looked for another full year before he’d finally- finally- found him.
It didn’t completely surprise him that his seventh should be another fighting slave. It started with a warrior, and it should end with one, he decided, with a small smile curving up his lips. There was fire in him, a deep passion that called to Murdoch, like for like.
He’d known the moment he dreamed about the boy. He’d seen it, in his eyes, in the way he fought. In this boy, there was something different- special. He didn’t even think that the boy himself knew it- in fact, he’d have been very surprised if he did. None of them had been aware of just how unique they were, and sometimes he wondered if even now, they fully grasped it.
Maybe it was better if they didn’t, after all, he considered, as he stood amongst the mingled crowd of the Grey Light arena. He wore a long, dark cloak, the hood hiding his scars and his face, though he doubted anyone in Gray Light would recognize him. His own ex-fighting pit was no less the a week’s ride from here, and while that wasn’t as far as it could be, most fighting arenas tended to stick to themselves. Still, it was best to be cautious, and so he wore the cloak, pulled up high around his body, and watched.
The boy was everything he’d been in the dreams. A ferocious, almost insane fighter- it was clear he enjoyed the battle, if not the killing, and he soaked up the attention like a true showman. He was clearly accustomed to the limelight, to being shown off and to showing off, and here Murdoch thought, was their showboat, their conman, their trickster and their distraction.
Because he wasn’t looking at a killer, for all he enjoyed fighting. No. The boy’s eyes said otherwise. They said he was, in some dark, private part of his mind, haunted by what he did, what he was forced to do.
He was strong, and fast, and efficient and smart-and his senses were sharp as hell. He caught on to Murdoch’s watching him almost the moment he had a chance to catch his breath. His head came up and eyes the color of spun silver scanned the crowd, searching, seeking. He knew something was abnormal. He knew it, and he had just nearly pinpointed Murdoch when his owner slipped up from behind and was pulling him away again.
He snarled in impotent frustration. He had been so close to being seen, to catching the boy’s attention, his notice. All he’d needed was a moment, just one, small moment-
But no. Getting angry wouldn’t fix things. He took a deep breath, two, forced the animal back down into his chest and unclenched his fists, slowly. There would be more chances- another opportunity. He just had to be patient. He’d waited this long, after all.
Returning back to his Pack empty handed would have been harder if they’d known the full extent of his failure. As it was, it was hard enough. The twins were waiting for him when he got back to their camp, just at the outskirts of what they’d marked as territory for the last two months.
Alexander and Nathaniel were inseparable. Identical in every way- even in scent, upon first snatch of it, though if you ‘looked’ again you’d pick up the subtle differences. Tall and slender, both of them sporting shoulder length brown curls and eyes as dark a blue as the bottom of the ocean. Their skin was very dark- not the near black of the desert races but far darker then Murdoch’s own, a gentle golden tan. They came from the East, from the sea. They spoke in soft, purring accents, and while their hearing wasn’t nearly as sharp as his own, their sense of smell was unrivaled.
The brothers had been taken out of captivity by Murdoch himself, almost immediately after Milo. They’d originally been house/serving slaves, until the lady of the house they’d served had decided to try and turn Nathanial into a body slave. Alexander had jumped to his rescue, and the lady had lashed out at him with a small, silver knife.
Silver wounds always scarred.
Alexander- slightly taller and with said vicious scar that ripped along the left side of his neck, base of earlobe to collarbone-was the one to speak first.
“You were close to him. Feet away.”
“He didn’t see me.” Murdoch’s voice came out even rougher sounding then usual, when clashing against Alexander’s liquid-silk one. Even with the scar, the man hadn’t lost his purring, smooth way of speech.
“Did he know you were there, though?” Nathanial’s voice was just the barest bit higher then his twin’s.
“Did he sense you?” Alexander again, and Murdoch felt the growl rise up involuntarily. After a disappointment like the one he’d had, with the headache forming behind his eyes, he wasn’t much in the mood for the twin’s eerie ability to be perfectly in step with each other. If they started finishing sentences properly for each other or speaking in tandem he may hurt one of them.
“Yes. He sensed me. He just didn’t have time to act on it.” He pushed past the twins, to where the cave they’d made camp in was. He could see it, and at the mouth of it was Milo, watching like a shy rabbit.
The boy felt safer as a Wolf, and that’s how he was now- small for his kind, with grayish white fur and a slim, almost racing-dog build. He was a Bylyn Wolf, born and raised on the main content; he had their blonde hair, pale skin, and green eyes, an classic example of a mainlander.
When he was human, that was.
Milo had been broken- he was utterly destroyed, some fragile part of him shattered. But he was aware. Even when he seemed a hundred miles away, he knew what was going on around him. He thought Milo might have had the potential to be like himself, once- to dream and see things that might be. But he’d never been given the chance to adjust to his abilities, and now they were sporadic at best. He often had dreams, but he couldn’t tell what they meant, exactly; and sometimes he would just freeze and stand staring into blankness for minutes before he’d snap himself out of it.
“Did you hear, Milo?” He called, raising his voice just a little even though he knew the boy had. “Our seventh is aware of us.”
Milo’s tail moved in the slowest of wags.
Amerok moved in the darkness beyond him, stepping out to the mouth of the cave. He was their anomaly, their black sheep. He’d never been a slave in his life. He’d been a protector- a guardian, of sorts, to a noble house’s daughter. One of the few Wolves in such a position, his entire family line had held it. He’d taken up his position with honor and pride.
Murdoch didn’t know everything that had happened next. He’d never asked- never dared. Amerok was one of the few of them that kept so much of his past a secret. But he did know the end result- the girl he’d been breed to protect had wound up dead.
And he knew Amerok had been very much in love with her.
Another Bylyn Wolf, Amerok had been breed, like a dog, to look and even behave in a certain manner. As a human, he was tall; topping even Murdoch’s own six feet by a good few inches, and broad as an oak. He had a powerful chest and arms, wide, strong-set shoulders, and a lean but muscular build. Like Milo, he sported pale hair, a soft, sun-bleached chestnut, darker then most mainlanders but not by enough to be unusual. It had been cropped viciously short, once, but now it was around his shoulders in a secure tail, pulled back from his face and the one and only true thing that set him apart in looks from most Bylynders.
His eyes- his startling amber eyes.
“Are you going back, then?” The ex-guardian asked, dropping a hand on Milo’s head companionably as he moved from the darkness of their cave.
“I have to.” Softly. “We need him.” As usual, when he said something like that, he caught the looks they sent each other; they all knew he had more in his mind then what he was telling them. None of them would ask, though; they trusted him. They trusted him implicitly because they trusted each other in the same way.
They wouldn’t question him unless they felt they had a very real need to.
The last of them- for now- finally emerged from behind Amerok. He was the youngest in the group, their pup, and he had utterly escaped most of the pain and fear of captivity. He’d been only recently taken, not even manacled yet when Alexander and Nathaniel had kidnapped him from the market. He hadn’t been there, but Murdoch had only assumed it hadn’t gone over well, one slave being rescued while dozens of others were not. But they were Wolf, after all, and by the time the first alarm was actually raised long gone with their prize. He was a wide-eyed little doe of a creature, barely fifteen, skittish and shy but with a strong heart and a willing spirit.
Tobias was his name, and he claimed to be from the same ocean race as Alexander and Nathanial. Murdoch had no reason to doubt him- he bore their appearance, and his accent was the same. He was smaller then they were, but then he was a boy yet. Still, Murdoch didn’t see him coming up past his own shoulders, fully grown. Small and dark, with teal colored eyes and shaggy raven curls, Murdoch couldn’t help but be grateful that they’d gotten him out when they had. He was pretty in a way very few were, anymore- unmarred, innocent, pure and young.
There were men and women who would have wanted him simply for that reason.
Milo slipped past Alex and Nathan, whining softly, and pressed against Murdoch’s legs heavily. He reached down, burying his fingers in the boy’s scruff.
“It’s alright.” He murmured. “He knows. He knows us. We’ll be ready soon.”
© 2011 MildmayFoxxe
Shelved in 1 LibraryAdded on May 21, 2011
Last Updated on May 21, 2011
The Wolves of Caylemora Book One- Sulfer Skies
AboutHey all! I'm a published author trying to get my second novel finished and looking for all the publicity I can get. Check out the website- www.alittbitoffways.webs.com and sign up or just drop me a no.. more..