"I don't buy humans," the ringmaster uttered past his beard before spitting to the side.
"This one isn't human," the slave trader insisted, gesturing to the man towering over him.
The ringmaster shrugged. "Even large humans don't stand a chance. This is an Orvian arena."
The ringmaster himself stood at maybe five feet tall and perhaps three feet wide. He was practically dripping in luxury from his immaculate hair down to his polished boots.
"You don't understand, he's a berserker," the slave trader emphasized the last word, poking said slave in the side.
The ringmaster's up until then bored expression quickly sharpened. His eyes the color of mud snapped to the slave. The slave was tall for a human, true. At nearly seven feet he dwarfed both the slave trader and the ringmaster. He wore nothing on his bronzed torso, and his dark brown hair was braided back and fell nearly to the hem of his knotted loincloth. His eyes, as blue as the sky, stared listlessly into the distance.
"I don't believe you," the ringmaster declared.
Sure, the slave had the metal embedded along his knuckles. He even had a deadly spike sticking out of his elbow and another on the opposing knee. But anyone who knew how could have forged those. The ringmaster snatched out at the elbow spike, expecting it to come off as soon as he yanked on it. It didn't budge, and the slave's arm flexed.
The ringmaster snapped his gaze back to the slave's face. His upper lip had twitched up, and the blue depths of his eyes were tinged with a slight purple hue. The ringmaster quickly stepped back, gesturing a blessing over his head in wonder. He looked at the trader, who lifted his smug chin.
"By the gods, how did you get him?"
"He came to our caravan with a nearly dead child in his arms. He said if we could save her, he would enslave himself to us. Our medic worked his magic, and here we are."
"And the child?"
The trader waved his hand in the air towards the slave. "She disappeared the night after she was declared healed. He might know but hasn't spoken since."
The ringmaster flicked his gaze over to the slave's eyes, which were back to bright blue.
"Have you seen his eyes go entirely red?"
"No. They were a deep purple when he came to us, but they have not wavered much from blue."
"And does he have any conquests?"
"In my camp I pitted him against a human. He killed the man in seconds. I've been loathe to put him against anyone else and further damage my wares."
"I'll take him. Five hundred."
They haggled, and eventually the ringmaster settled the price at a thousand and fifty. For a slave who would most likely die in his first match, the price was high, but he figured the crowd the berserker would attract would be worth it.
He took the chain from the trader and then handed off to one of his attendants. He and the trader continued down the line of slaves, only stopping to haggle over the Orvian men. The ringmaster left with three new Orvs and the Berserker. His attendants put the slaves into the back of a barred wagon, fastening their chains to the bars.
Compared to the orvs, the berserker was small. Each was nine feet or taller, with skin the color of ash or coal. One even seemed to be a seasoned fighter with scars littering his arms and chest and a brand standing out on his cheek. The three Orvs were also much more relaxed when put in the cage. the berserker sat stiffly with his back straight and head high. The Orvs lounged and chatted quietly in their grunting language.
"Hey, human," the scarred one grunted in distorted common. "You our lunch?"
He chuckled to himself, elbowing the man next to him. The berserker did not respond. His body swayed with the rocking of the wagon, but he did not even look around.
"Why you no speak?" One taunted. "Tongue cut out?"
"Or maybe he dumb," the last joined in.
The berserker ignored their jeering. The wagon lurched to a halt, and the orvs continued their jokes in their own language as the ringmaster directed his attendants which cage to put the new acquisitions in. He gestured to the berserker.
"Have him washed and branded and brought to my chambers. Maybe by then he will wish to speak."
The attendants first brought the three Orvs to the large shared pen for the unranked fighters. Then they came back to the wagon and pulled the berserker out. They gossiped among themselves as if he couldn't hear or understand them.
"Why would the master buy a human?"
"It's not a human, it's a berserker. I heard the salesman say so myself!"
"A berserker?" this attendant, a thin weasel of a man, jumped away from the slave and looked him over. "Those are said to be uncatchable."
"Devils in the skin of men," the attendant with the chain in his hand said as he locked it to a large iron fence. He had to climb a ladder to get to the shortest rung, and even that one was a bit too high. the berserker had to stand on his toes to keep from choking.
"Well let's hope this doesn't anger him," another joked, obviously not believing the gossip.
"Alright, if you're not scared of him, you take his loincloth off."
"Fine. At least his hips are a decent distance off the ground."
The attendant walked up to the berserker with a knife and easily cut off the loincloth. His eyes widened and he backed away quickly when he fully removed the knotted fabric.
"Holy hells. They do that to their dick?"
The all male attendants couldn't help but look and wince. Pierced through his flaccid cock were a series of metal studs, each peeking out from behind it and one coming directly out of the head. The weasel attendant discreetly touched himself in awed horror.
"Somebody spray him already!"
"Fine, but someone's buying my ale tonight."
The brave attendant grabbed the hose and cranked it on, wincing as he aimed the freezing water at the man before him. The berserk, who up until then had not moved, jumped. He wrapped his hands around the metal post he was locked to and held himself up with his arms bent. The sudden movement sent the attendants scurrying away and then back. The one spraying him paled but kept at his work.
When his entire front was sprayed, he moved again, switching his grip to give the sprayer his back. How he held himself up without swaying under the water pressure was the discussion of the other three, who were a safe distance away.
"Hey, one of you undo his hair."
At that, the berserker lifted himself fully up onto the bar until he was perched on it. The attendants grumbled until they realized that he was undoing his braid. So he could understand them. He then undid the fastening of his chain and dropped down. He approached the sprayer, who fumbled with the hose and was about to call for the guards when the berserker stopped and held out his hand.
"You want to do it yourself?" the attendant squeaked.
Dark blue eyes met his. The berserker dipped his head just a little in a nod. It was against protocol, but the attendant handed him the sprayer. He then used it to clean his own hair, the closeness of the water pressure not seeming to bother him even as he directed it at his scalp.
He handed the hose back and then started to rebraid his hair, his eyes going distant again. The attendant looked fidgety, and without comment the berserker handed him the chain hanging from the collar on his neck. He led him to where the other three already had a fire going, a brand sticking out of it.
"Guards!" Another called.
The guards knew what to do, both large Orvs putting a hand on the berserk's shoulders and forcing him down to his knees. With Orvs, they usually had to push them down to their bellies, but the berserker was short enough an attendant could reach him from there.
The weasel pulled out the brand, nervously glancing at the Berserk's face.
"Hold his head," he told one of the guards.
The guard grabbed the berserker's hair, and the berserker tensed considerably, his eyes darkening to a shade of purple. The weasel steadied himself as that gaze landed on him and then quickly pressed the brand to the berserk's cheek. His eyes darkened even more, but he didn't flinch even as smoke from his burning skin floated up by his eye. The weasel held it there for ten seconds and then quickly backed away with the still glowing brand. The guards let go of the berserker, and he ran a hand over his hair as he stood.
The weasel took the chain from the sprayer. "Here, I'll take him to the Master. You three deal with the other new acquisitions."
The sprayer handed it over gratefully. The berserker's eyes were still swirling a bluish-purple. The weasel led him away, into the area under the stadium seating where the latticework that held up the seats also formed a small apartment. He knocked at the wood next to the cloth entrance. The inside was larger than it looked it would be, though the ceiling was much higher on one end than the other. A curtain was pulled back, letting light shine through, and beyond it was an unparalleled view of the arena floor. The entire ensemble was lavish, with silk fabric and gold threading on the cushions.
The weasel bowed before the ringmaster, who lounged on a large cushion with a table full of food before him.
"I trust he was no trouble?" the ringmaster asked the weasel attendant.
"None at all, Master."
"Good. You may leave, Gelron."
The attendant bowed and dropped the slave's chain, walking backward out of the doorway. The ringmaster looked over the slave, who stood casually with his hands at his side and eyes fixed in the distance again. Red, inflamed skin stood out on his face, the crossed axe and sword marking him as a fighting slave. His eyes were a light purple, still more blue than red.
"Sit," he ordered, gesturing to a cushion across the table from him.
The slave glanced at him and then sat, crossing his legs and sitting up straight. The ringmaster picked a bunch of grapes from the table and gestured again. "Go ahead, eat if you want."
The slave did not move.
"What is your name?"
The slave blinked but otherwise stayed still.
"You are my slave, are you not? You traded your freedom for the child, and that means you have no freedom to choose not to speak. So answer me."
"Names are meant for those we trust. I do not trust you."
The slave's voice was quiet, but controlled. The ringmaster felt as though if he wanted to, the berserker could quiet a room with one word.
"Well, mine is Vack. I expected you to fight the branding."
The slave shrugged, glancing at the spread of food and then back to the distance.
"I have had worse."
Vack's gaze lingered on the slave's pierced cock. "I can see that. What significance does the girl-child have to you?"
"She is my daughter."
"Your daughter. Did she return to your pack after you were healed?"
The man's eyes darkened for a few seconds but then went back to light purple.
"I am her only pack, and she is mine."
"So she's been following you. Out in the desert, that would be easy for her, but here? Has she even seen this many people before?"
The slave shifted his weight and glanced at the ringmaster before stilling again.
"She is fine."
"How many winters is she?"
"A lone little girl, not yet a woman, who doesn't know her way around the city. She will be preyed upon. You won't be able to protect her in your current situation."
The berserker grit his teeth, his eyes swirling an even darker purple and staying that shade.
"Then next time you see her, send her to me."
The slave's eyes snapped to his, now more red than blue. The ringmaster lifted a hand, stilling any protest.
"I will take care of her. Adopt her as my own child. I swear no harm will come to her."
"Why?" the berserker ground out, his voice a growl.
"Because she is the reason you are obedient. I would rather not some street thug rape and kill her and send you off the edge."
"Letting you hurt her to make me succumb to my berserk would be better?"
"I won't, I swear on my father's grave."
"I still do not trust you."
"I don't expect you to. But at least with her under my care you could keep an eye on her. I doubt you even know where she is right now."
The slave tilted his head and then dipped his finger into a goblet of wine, rubbing the red liquid between his fingers.
"My people do not mingle with others well. We do not share our ways with outsiders. We kill them, so I do not expect you to understand what I mean when I say that I am twenty and eight winters and have yet to succumb to my berserk."
He licked at his finger, revealing a tongue cut in half at the end, his gaze not leaving the ringmaster.
"I don't, you're correct."
"It means that I have better control than most. When I finally do succumb and my eyes turn red, I will be more dangerous than a large pack of my kin. I will gladly succumb if she is hurt."
"Is that a threat, slave?"
"No. It is a warning and a promise. I will bring her to you. If she is taken care of, you have no worries. I will do anything you ask of me."
"If I were to ask you to lose, to yield in a fight you could win, would you?"
The slave's eyes lightened, back to more blue. "Yes."
"And if I wanted to whore you out?"
"What if I wanted you to remove your metal? Would you obey me that far?"
The slave ducked his head. "Yes."
"Cut your hair?"
Vack grinned from ear to ear and took a key from his pocket to throw at the slave. "Then unlock your collar. I will not ask you to remove your metal or cut your hair unless you prove to need discipline."
The slave caught the key and then twisted it in the lock, rubbing his throat as he handed the collar with the key in it to his master. Vack took it and put it to the side.
"Now, go find your daughter."
The slave lifted an eyebrow, more of an expression than he'd revealed all day. "I am allowed to leave?"
"You are allowed to find your daughter and bring her back. Even if you ran, I'm sure your kin would kill you the moment they see that brand."
His lips twitched up in a ghost of a smile as he stood. "My kin has wanted to kill me for ten winters now, but I will come back. My name is Droydox."
Vack blinked, his face going serious. "Droydox. I will use it sparingly. Would you like a new loincloth?"
The smile twitched just a bit further up, his eyes back to bright blue. "Yes. My dick seems to be more intimidating than my eyes."
Vack stood and shivered, going to a corner where there were several rags that did not match the opulence of the rest of the room.
"Any man with one of their own imagines the pain of putting those in when they see them. Now cover it up."
He threw a good bit of cloth at the slave, who quickly twisted and knotted it between and around his legs.
"I will be back by sundown," he assured Vack before striding out of the tent.
He squinted at the sudden light and let the cloth fall behind him. He took a deep breathe through his nose and closed his eyes, rolling his shoulders. He didn't wait much longer before striding off, ignoring the attendants watching him warily, the guards eyeing him, and the fellow slaves scowling at him. No one stopped him, probably because he came straight out of the master's quarters without a collar around his neck.
He walked right out of the gate, ignoring the two guards who held him down earlier. He walked straight to the market, ignoring the glances cast at him and the way the crowd seemed to part around him.
As he passed an alleyway, he heard a sudden, "Papa!"
He stopped and looked to see his little girl running out from behind a pile of trash, a bright smile on her face. She was covered in grime, but he knew her anywhere. He knelt to one knee and opened his arms, and she ran straight into him, not worried about knocking her sturdy father over. He gripped her tightly, pressing his face into her hair, uncaring at the pull on his branded cheek.
"My sun, are you alright?"
She pulled back a bit, her smile as bright as ever. "I'm fine, Papa. I got in a fight, and look!"
She pulled up the shirt the slave traders had given her when they healed her, showing off a bruise on her stomach. He quirked an eyebrow.
"I trust the culprit is dead?"
If possible, her grin widened even more. "Oh yeah. I snapped his neck, and then his buddies all ran off screaming. They called me a demon!"
He chuckled and ran a hand through her tangled hair.
"Are we going home now, papa?"
His smile fell, and he shook his head.
"Why not? And what's this?"
She touched his cheek, her eyes wide. If her papa got hurt so badly, several people must be dead.
"I owe a debt I must pay, my sun. I found a place for you to stay while I pay it off."
Tears brimmed in her clear blue eyes. "I'm sorry Papa. This is all my fault, isn't it?"
He tugged her close again, hugging her tightly before kissing her hair. "No, it is not your fault, my sun. I could not bear to lose you completely. That is my weakness, not yours."
She hugged him as tight as she could, burying her face in his shoulder.
"Shhh, my sun. Everything will be fine. Now, you should get on my back."
"Okay," she sniffled.
She moved around him and then jumped onto his back, holding onto his shoulders and wrapping her legs around his waist. He stood, and she clung to him as he hooked his arms under her knees. Once situated, she moved his thick braid to over his shoulder so it wasn't between her and him and hugged him tight.
He walked back where he came from silently, and after a few minutes she braved past the tears.
"I had to fight off a dog, Papa. He was so big, and he had friends, but I booped him on the nose, and he took off running! I growled at his friends, and they left me alone, just like you said."
He chuckled, tensing up a little in guilt that she had to face them alone. Dogs didn't dare bother him.
"And this city, it's so big! Did you know there were this many packs in the whole wide world? And they all look so different."
"They do not travel in packs like us, my sun."
"But still, there are so many! Oh, what's this?"
He approached the fence around the fighting slave pens. The guards eyed him and then the girl on his back but didn't say a thing as he passed through.
"This is where your papa is going to pay his debt," he said, an attendant casting him a wide-eyed look as he passed.
He went up to the ringmaster's quarters and shifted his weight to let go of one of her legs, knocking on the wood.
"Who is it?"
"The berserker," he answered.
"Come in, come in."
The little girl's eyes widened when she saw the fat, bearded man. She ducked behind her Papa's head, suddenly nervous.
"You're back quickly. I expected you to take advantage of your time until sunset."
"If I had, I would have run off with her." He knelt down. "Off, my sun."
She let go with her legs and dropped to her feet. He took her arm softly in his hand and pulled her in front of him, facing him. She watched his eyes swirl a light purple as he brushed her hair back behind her ear.
"I gave this man my name. He will take care of you, but if he ever hurts you, then you can kick his ass."
She glanced over her shoulder and then looked back at her papa.
"But I want to be with you, Papa."
"I know. You will not be safe with me."
"Yes I will! You can protect me, you always protect me."
His eyes swirled slightly darker purple as he smiled. "Yes I do. This time I am protecting you by giving you to this man to do it for me."
She gently touched his hair. "You gave him your name, Papa?"
She looked in his eyes. Her papa, her whole world. He was in pain, she could tell. His anger was towards himself at that moment. She hugged him tight one last time, giving his unbranded cheek a quick kiss.
"Okay. I love you, Papa."
He placed a lingering kiss on her forehead before whispering. "I love you too, my sun."
He stood, and she turned to the bearded man. Vack met Droydox's gaze.
"You saw where they put the others?"
The berserker nodded and then walked out, leaving his daughter with his owner. For a girl of ten, she was tall, but compared to him she was still a child. Her hands fisted as she crossed her arms and looked him over. He offered a polite smile and sat down to try to be at level with her.
"So you could really beat my ass if you wanted to?"
She nodded, the movement jerky and sending her greasy hair flying about her face.
"Well that's good. You're almost as scary as your Papa."
The compliment seemed to help her relax a little. "My papa's the scariest."
He smiled. "Yes he is. My name is Vack, and don't worry. I know you won't trust me with your name yet. What should I call you in the meantime?"
She pursed her lips and seemed to think about it. "Well, Papa calls me his sun. So you could call me Sunny."
"And you can call me Uncle. How's that?"
She grinned, "Good! I beat up a dog! You want to hear about it?"
He chuckled and pat a cushion next to him. "Why don't you sit here, eat, and tell me all about it?"
She bounced over to the cushion and grabbed a loaf of bread, tearing into it and starting on about the dog and its friends.
I see. This is where it all began. Why not at her birth? Surely fathering a female separates you from the rest of your kin?
Don't pretend as if you can be a threat, little soul. Answer me.
"Even with a daughter, we lived as our kin did. Until this."
Tsk, tsk, stop rising. You're not going anywhere. Show me more.