"And what am I bid for this fine specimen? A strong, healthy wolf, straight from the streets of Avalon. Look at those teeth, at that chiseled physique… Ladies and gentlemen, bidding starts at five hundred."
Sy was muscled up onto the auction block, hands shackled behind his back and ankles hobbled together with straps of leather. On the whole, it reminded him somewhat of a date he had gone on a couple years back. The young wolf blinked in the sudden light -the warehouse he had been stored in with the rest of the cargo of the Bloody Keel had been decidedly lacking when it came to windows -and looked out over the small crowd that had gathered to the slave auction.
"Five hundred," An old hook-nosed dwarf called out in a deep baritone. Sy wondered why exactly a dwarf wanted a wolfen slave, then decided he really didn't want to know after all.
"Six hundred," A honey-sweet female voice called out. Sy caught sight of an exotic dark-skinned beauty, and decided he wouldn't mind knowing HER intentions all that much. Rowr.
"Seven." The dwarf again.
The bidding war between the two buyers continued up into the thousand-gold range, and Sy was beginning to wonder who in their right mind would bay four digits for his scrawny ass, when a new voice rose above the other two.
"Ten thousand." The voice was a quiet falsetto, smooth and pleasant on the ears, and it belonged to a slender, effeminate man in a royal-blue coat and top-hat. The fellow was the picture of an old-fashioned gentleman, right down to the pocket kerchief in his breast pocket and the buckles on his shoes.
"Aw crap," Sy muttered under his breath. He recognized those shoes.
"SOLD," the auctioneer bellowed. "To the gentleman for ten thousand. Boys, take the man his new aquisition."
Sy found himself grabbed by the arms and dragged down the steps to where the man was waiting for him, leaning on a pearl-topped cane and looking very pleased with himself.
"Syan Windpaw," the man said when Sy was in front of him. "I daresay I never expected to see you again, dear boy."
Sy gave a nervous little half-grin. "Janicek. It's, ah, good to see you. How's your health?"
Janicek smiled and lifted his cane to tap Sy on the shoulder. "Quite well, I'm happy to say. Better, incidentally, now that I've seen you. Look at you, back in Whitehall, healthy as a horse, and now inextricably in my possession… Odd how fate works, isn't it?"
"Look, Janicek, if this is about that thing with your sister, I swear I didn't know you needed her for that virgin sacrifice deal. Honest mistake, swear to the gods."
Janicek smiled warmly. "Oh, not at all, dear boy. In actual fact, this is more about that shipment of gems you relieved me of on your last day working for me. Cost me quite the pretty penny, you know."
"Oh, that. Look, I'm sure we can—"
"As am I, dear boy. Gentlemen, please put mister Windpaw to sleep? He will be so much easier to transport that way."
Syan opened his mouth to say something… Then promptly shut it when a club crashed into the back of his skull. And it turned out Janicek was right. He WAS easier to transport that way.
- * *
When Sy woke up, it took him a moment to realize that he was in a prison cell. The bars on the window and the iron-bound door were his first clues. The fact that he was chained to the wall was his second clue. It took him a moment more to realize that he was not alone in his cell.
"Ah," Janicek stood up from the bench on the far wall and regarded Syan with a bemused smile; "I was wondering when you were going to awaken. Terribly sorry about the bash on the head, but one must keep up appearances, after all."
Sy winced and touched the lump on the back of his head gingerly. "Well, I guess I should bre grateful you didn't just kill me."
"Oh, I still plan to do that." Janicek said easily. "Haven't any choice, really. After you left, I made some rather unpleasant promises in front of my staff as to the punishments I would rain down upon you should I ever see you again."
Sy looked up. "Not the one about cutting open and getting hung by the entrails, I hope?"
"Oh, gracious no," the other man made a face. "Haven't done that since that nasty business with the Dretch."
"Well, to be fair, you had no way of knowing the man had been possessed."
"Oh, granted. But still, it took weeks to get the "abyss" smell out of my carpets. No no, we have a new thing now; we've a wizard on staff who is an absolute whiz at summoning demons, so we simply inscribe a large warding circle and place our poor unfortunates inside. The demon appears, sees a fresh mortal within its grasp, and… Well, it gives the lads a good show, at any rate."
Sy winced. "Sounds unpleasant."
"That's rather the point, dear boy. And that's unfortunately what I've had to schedule for you."
"Not right away, I hope?"
"Dear me, certainly not. You would be amazed at all the preparations that are necessary to summon a demon. Warding circles, redundant security just in case something goes wrong… And then there's the need to find the proper demon, and then make sure that some OTHER wizard hasn't gone and summoned the rotter," Janicek sighed and made a gesture with his hand; "it's enough to wish the guillotine hadn't become so passe."
Sy levered his way off the floor and leaned back against the wall. "Well, life can't be treating you too poorly if you can afford ten thousand for my furry ass. How are things, Janny?"
The other man shrugged and began to pace as he spoke. "Oh, can't complain. The guild just absopred three smaller operations in the last month, so things are a touch hectic what with the new hires and the obligatory killings. The new lads show some promise…" Janicek stopped then and gave the wolf a wistful smile; "Ah, but none were as promising as you. It was a dark day when you left, my boy. You were one of my best."
Sy gave a snort. "You only liked me because I was more interesting in bed than your other partners."
"Well, yes," Janicek admitted. "There was that part as well. You WERE rather enjoyable. Erm, speaking of which…" Mordred trailed off and eyed Sy meaningfully.
"Janny, any other day, I'd be happy to. But right now, the mood just isn't there."
"Ah, quite right. I hope you don't think ill of me for asking…?"
Sy snorted and waved a paw. "Not a bit. If the situations were reversed, I'd probably be asking the same thing."
"Ah, well good. Just a thought. Had to be asked. You know how it is."
"Sure. So, when are you planning on killing me?"
"Twenty four hours, dear boy. It will take that long to get everything ready."
Sy smirked. "You know I'm going to try and escape, right?"
"Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less. Just between you and I," the other man leaned in close and dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "I'm pulling for you. I wouldn't be doing this at all if it hadn't been for those beastly promises I made. Have to put on a show for the lads, you know. can't have them thinking I've gone soft on them, or it would cause no end of trouble for me."
Sy gave a capitulating nod. "True. Wouldn't want the whole guild turning on you, after all. Not on my account."
"Rather. So you understand, I can't do anything to help you. You're on your own here, my boy. And if you're caught trying to escape, you'll be killed on the spot."
"Just like old times."
"Indeed," Janicek clapped Syan on the shoulder. "Well, good luck old boy. I do hope I don't see you on the morrow."
Sy lifted his paw in a farewell wave. "Same, Janicek. Oh, say," He added just as the other man reached for the door. "I promised myself I wouldn't ask this, but how IS your sister these days?"
"Oh, absolutely top-hole, old boy," Janicek beamed in pride as he turned back to the chained wolf. "After you had her way with her -which absolutely ruined her for that sacrifice, incidentally, and cheesed off the high priest something awful- she ran off and joined up with a roving mercenary group. Did pretty well, too. She runs the whole ruddy thing now, and we contract out to them on occasion." Janicek paused, then offered a sly grin to the wolf. "Her son is said to be an absolutely strapping young lad, too."
Sy blinked. "Her son?"
"Indeed. A fine little half-wolf pup. Takes after his father, I should expect."
"Well I'll be damned… Um, is this something I should apologize for?"
"Not a bit of it, dear boy. Best thing that ever happened to her."
Sy grinned at that. "Well, give my best to her when you see her again."
"I shall do that, Syan."
"Good seeing you again, Janny."
"And you, dear boy. Good luck and all that rot. Tah." The other man swung the cell door open and disappeared through the portal, leaving Sy all by his lonesome in the dark prison.
The wolf shook his head, chuckling softly. The world sure was a small place sometimes. Oh well. Time to go about escaping.