Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe
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Wolf Slave 22 – Alex Ankarr
He broods as he smokes, and no-one talks to him much. It’s partly his brief acting seniority, and partly the resentment it’s caused. And partly, he suspects, that the faux-intimacy of these past few weeks has put a distance between him and the other slaves. They’re not quite sure of him, as they were before: uncertain of where his loyalties lie, if confidences will go straight back to the alpha and land them in serious trouble. Where slaves in the same household assemble, it’s usually fair game and the natural course of things to cuss and criticise the master: everyone knows it’s how everyone feels, and knows to keep schtum too. But now he’s, in a way, the most senior, and if it’s to begin he must begin it. ‘Fucking wolves,’ he mutters, just loud enough to be audible, and spits his tab-end into the dirt, tamps it down. ‘I haven’t had a chance of a smoke all week. Clean-living bastard: everywhere he’s taken me’s been non-smoking right the way through.’
There’s a sympathetic laugh, and an easing of the atmosphere. Three minutes in, and everyone’s cussing and calling down their owners, calling on the gods for vengeance and more wine in the slaves’ allowance and a dose of the clap for the dirty bastards, always in the wrong beds and sometimes a slave’s bed, at that.
The subject makes Penn uneasy: he wonders if it’s directed at him at all, for anyone to be thinking of masters tupping slaves. And it makes him uneasy in other ways too: has him shifting his hips against the wall of the cabin, aware of heat gathering in his loins, of a soft ache that’s more pleasurable than it should be. He hates Ree for making him feel this way. He tries to hate him.
He’s very glad to have something to take his mind off him, too. One of the slave-girls comes closer, and she has a smile for him, and a light for his cigarette, and a suggestion that they take a walk deeper into the forest because she saw squirrels earlier and they were kind of cute. It’s totally transparent, and no-one has a thing to say about it. Possibly because one or two couples have already peeled off and taken a little of the night air. No doubt they’ll be back in twenty minutes or so, dishevelled and with grass and dried ferns on the back of their tunics. So what, no-one thinks anything of it. Slaves are positively encouraged to copulate freely: it’s marriage that’s discouraged, for it makes for unrest and discontent when a couple are occasionally split up for reasons of business, and sold. Babies, on the other hand, are simply more capital and willing hands for the owners. Slave babies are an excellent thing, are livestock. The tone of Penn’s thoughts is possibly more than dry.