Rat King

Swiftwind\'s Shaman

of your questions. ”

Dem studied her for a moment; instead of standing in one place, she dropped the robe onto the furred rugs and moved toward a small cookfire. Beneath it, she wore scant clothing, barely enough to cover her small breasts and womanhood. Unexpectedly, the paint from her head adorned her entire body. ”The fur patch on my forearm is gone. Ive tried everything to remove it. How was it done? ”

”The tattoos you wear block your beastkin bloodline. ”

”How is that possible?

”Hmm… I will tell you everything, ” the Shaman paused for a moment. ”Letting you ask questions will take too long; you don know what to ask. ”

Dem nodded in agreement, noticing that her eyes were bright blue, unlike the other tribals he had met.

”The tattoos on your chest and arms neutralize your beastkin marking because it is made from the blood of other beastkin; myself, the elders, and your family members. ”

”I don have any family members. ”

”You do now. Ai used her own blood to draw your tattoos. Its old magic, passed down from the days of the Beast Empire. ”

”Wait… Are the tribals beastkin? All of them? ”

The Shaman nodded. ”You are surprised. ”

Dem frowned at her words; surprised wasn the word he would use. Living on the street taught him many things about human nature. One of the crucial lessons was that secrets could never be kept. The more people that know, the quicker it will be discovered. ”Tribals walk freely throughout Haraal. If the hunters thought they were cast-offs, all of you would be killed. ”

”Yet, here we are. ” The Shaman moved toward a small stand near the fire and removed a wickedly curved dagger. ”The blood ceremony you are about to undergo prevents that from happening. It would be akin to you being able to stand calmly inside of a roaring bonfire. Even if tortured, the words would not come out. ”

Dem put a hand out to stop her approach. ”Whats the knife for? ”

”I need a little bit of your blood. ”

Dem frowned at the woman. ”And if I refuse? ”

”Then I take all of it and get a full night of sleep. ”

Without thinking, his black blade appeared in his hand. ”So I have no choice? ”

The Shaman smiled at him. ”There are always choices. ”

*****************

The sound of fighting caused Ai to jump suddenly. She took a step toward the lodge only to have an elder block the way.

”You know better, Ai. ”

”Elder Nelisse, he does not know our ways. ” Ai kept her tone and expression polite; the sound of blade striking blade could be heard clearly. ”I should have taken his dagger. ”

”Relax, Ai. It will be fine. ” The elder sounded confident, but that dimmed as the sounds of fighting intensified.

Finally, after nearly two minutes, the Shamans voice called them in.

The scene they walked into stopped both females in their tracks. The Shaman sat across from Dem, gently letting some of his blood flow into the bowl that she held. Shallow wounds marred the white paint that covered her body in a half dozen places.

”You
e very stubborn, street rat. ” She smiled when she said it and sat the bowl to one side before pulling out a small pouch.

”I know. Its a bad trait. ” Dem watched her take out a curved needle and carefully thread it.

”Youll fit in nicely with the other men in the clan. ” The Shaman carefully stitched up the small cut that she placed at the edge of his palm. ”Can you do stitching? ”

Dem nodded. ”Sewed myself up a few times. ”

”More than a few times, I bet. ” The Shaman glanced at the entrance where the two women seemed frozen in place. ”Have a seat; well get started after we
e done here. ”

As promised, Dem stitched a small cut on the Shamans shoulder. Then, after watching him work, she motioned for him to continue.

”You can be as young as you look, street rat. ”

”Maybe. How old do I look? ”

”Twelve at the most. ”

Dem grinned widely. ”Im not entirely sure. My best guess is sixteen. ”

”Sixteen? ” The Shamans tone cleared doubted the words.

”Sorry for fighting. ”

”No, you aren . ”

Dem pursed his lips when he tied off the last stitch. ”Maybe a little. You
e very nice. ”

”Keep that in mind when I tie you up. ”

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