Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe
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Wolf Slave 15 – Alex Ankarr
The man leaps off his horse, and goes up closer to the water’s edge, leading his horse by the reins. He’s looking down at the lapping edge, a little frothy, almost like waves, as they lap his boots, as he says, ‘I get a catalogue, of upcoming slave-sales. From all the auction-houses.’
It’s a non-sequitur that Penn simply can’t follow, and doesn’t try to. But he certainly tries to keep the edge out of his voice, as he says, ‘Nice for you.’ Then he holds his breath: he’s kept anything out of the tone, but even the words themselves…
But Hotstaat doesn’t seem to notice anything. He simply says, ‘I’ve always kept an eye out. Slave names, mother-names in slave-bios, owner families – I knew the family you went to after us, the one after that. I knew about the fire. Everyone in that wing was accounted dead. But they didn’t have all the bodies, so I thought it was still worth looking.’
Penn is utterly silent. He doesn’t know what to think. But he knows that it seems a little uppish, for a slave, to remain mounted while his master stands. He dismounts and stands behind his horse, so it’s between him and Hotstaat. It’s easier to stand and watch the other that way. Carefully.
‘Then one came out four months back,’ Hotstaat continues. His boots must be fascinating. ‘I always look for a Penn, or a Pennorth, or someone accounted very fair and probably Swedish stock, or… Males the right age, you know. Someone with a break in their documented history, and the house trying to justify charging full price anyway. Things like that.’
It seems hard to breathe. It seems, also, as if Hotstaat is finished talking. He looks around, and meets Penn’s eyes, and it seems perhaps Penn isn’t quick enough to drop his own. He remembers after a moment, though.
‘There was enough in your bio that I thought it was worth a punt,’ Hotstaat adds, after a silence. ‘They were undercharging for you, anyway. But I didn’t know if it was you or not, until I came home from the pack negotiations, and walked into the library.’ His broad shoulders sag a bit: like there’s a job done, there, like he’s got out what he wanted to say. Abruptly he pulls his shirt off. ‘It’s too warm. I’m going to take a dip. You can do the same, or take the horses and I’ll walk back. Please yourself.’
© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013 All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.