That night Azzen couldn’t sleep. It was too hot and his aching body just couldn’t relax. After tossing and turning for an hour, he decided to go outside and get some fresh air. He stepped outside and enjoyed a cool breeze. Thinking of nothing else to do, he wandered into the forest, wondering if Fel would be out, like she was the night before.
He didn’t see any lights, but wandered around anyways. He didn’t find any fires, but continued deeper and deeper into the forest. In the silence of the night, he could hear crickets chirp and the light clacking of sticks knocking against each other.
Wait. What was that?
Azzen moved towards the strange sound.
Clack. Clack. Clackclack. Clack. Clack.
Azzen continued towards the sound until it got louder and louder. As he neared, he could hear more distinct sounds. Two voices. One he picked out as Fel. She was shouting and yelping ferociously. It sounded like she was in distress, so Azzen began to run. The other voice he heard was laughing, and it sounded like the Master.
It was dark tonight, and the forest obscured most of what he could see from view, but Azzen finally saw them. Fel was holding a stick and clashing against the Master. He was easily blocking her blows, as well as any escape she tried to make. In the few seconds Azzen caught, it looked like the Master was simply toying with her, the way that Fel was able to toy with him.
Then the boy noticed something he didn’t think was right, and his view on the situation suddenly changed.
Fel’s blouse was torn open and there was a desperate look in her eyes.
“HEY!” Azzen shouted.
Both Fel and the Master turned their heads for a split second. The Master squinted to see who it was, but Fel’s eye’s gleamed in the night and she recognized instantly that it was Azzen. The catgirl darted off while the Master was distracted, passing by Azzen, back in the direction of the manor. The Master took off behind her, and out of pure reflex, Azzen jumped into his path. The two men collided and rolled onto the ground.
By the time either of them looked up, Fel was gone. It surprised Azzen how fast she could go.
The Master shouted in rage, “Damnit!”
He whirled on Azzen.
“You damn punk,” he spat.
Azzen backed up, but the Master advanced on him. “You trying to run, Boy? That girl was trying to run. But she wasn‘t getting away. Not until you came.”
Azzen didn’t know what to say.
“Oh she’ll be here tomorrow,” the Master said. “She tries to sneak out quietly because she knows that once I’m on her tail, she won’t get away. And I’m always on her tail. Right up on her. Stupid girl just doesn’t get it.”
“Get what?” Azzen asked, still backing up. “That you’re completely insane?”
This was the first time he’s even spoken to the Master since the first day he’d gotten to the “school.”
“Yes. Now you get it,” the Master said with a crazy gleam in his eyes. “She doesn’t run every night,” he said. “And you just blew it for me. She knows the rules. If she gets back to the manor, she gets out of her beating. And beating that little Merca is like a special treat for me.”
“You’re sick,” Azzen said angrily. How often had this man beaten Fel?
“I don’t gotta take lip from a scrawny rat like you. You should know that I’m going to beat you twice as hard for letting that little girl slip away.”
The Master’s words enflamed Azzen’s rage. Azzen put up his fists. “I hope you do,“ he growled. “but remember that some day I’m going to be good enough to pay you back double.“ His face was already swollen from the beating that Fel had given him and his body was already bruised. What was one more whooping?
“I’m going to break every bone in your body,” the Master menaced.
Azzen stopped backing up and held his ground… Until the Master knocking him off of it…
The next morning, Azzen woke up in the forest. He couldn’t even remember what had happened. He knew he fought the Master, but the entire fight was a blur. Azzen didn’t think he’d landed a single punch. He remembered getting hit so fast it felt like he was being struck in three places at once. He remembered flying across the forest and smashing into trees.
He tried to lift his hand but his arm didn’t seem to work. He vaguely recalled the Master stomping on his fingers. But at that point, the boy had been beyond feeling. The world had blurred and his body had gone numb.
Even in his sorry state, the first thing he thought of when he awoke was to worry about Fel. He hoped that she had made it back okay.
The boy tried to sit up and made it about an inch before gasping in pain and dropping his head. He tried to lift his head, but it immediately throbbed and his vision blurred.
No need to rush things, Azzen thought. Might as well just lay here for awhile.
The boy closed his eyes, and even that sleight movement hurt. He left them shut and drifted out of his world of pain, into blissful unconsciousness.
He awoke again around lunch, his stomach was growling. This time, before trying to sit up, he tried to wiggle. His chest stabbed when he tried to bend. His abs screamed when he tried to twist. His back burned. His legs both felt broken. His arms had no feeling below the shoulders. He tried to look to the side to see if they’d been ripped off, but his head throbbed at just the thought. Azzen gave up and closed his eyes to pass out again.
The next time he woke, it was dark outside. He still couldn’t turn his head, but his ears picked something up other than the typical night sounds.
A fire was crackling. After straining his eyes, he could see the light dancing off some tree trunks.
Azzen tried to open his jaw, but it felt stiff and swollen. He finally just budged his lips, which cracked and bled. He moaned through his teeth.
“Don’t talk,” a voice said. It was familiar to Azzen, but it felt like his memory had been bruised. Recalling the face was just too much to think about.
Fel poked her head into Azzen’s vision. She looked at him with disgust and told him he was an idiot. Azzen saw her ear twitch.
“Now I’m stuck out here fixing you,” she said.
“Don’t thank me. I’m only doing it because you belong to me. I can’t let my only slave die,” she muttered.
Azzen hadn’t known he was a slave. For some reason the thought was funny to him and he giggled. Giggling hurt a lot, so he stopped quickly.
“Don’t laugh!” Fel yapped. “I’m serious! The Master gave you to me. And especially after this, you owe me your life. I don’t have to be out here, you know. The Master left you to die.”
Azzen wondered if that was true. Probably.
“Now open your mouth,” Fel said.
Azzen tried and barely managed to crack his jaw about half a centimeter.
“Useless,” Fel muttered.
The girl grabbed Azzen’s jaw unkindly and yanked it wide open with a pop. Azzen would have screamed in agony if he’d had the energy. Instead he just exhaled sharply.
“No whining,” Fel scolded.
She spooned some warm mush into his mouth and told him to swallow. Azzen obeyed with great effort.
“You know, you wouldn’t be in this mess if you had just minded your own business,” Fel jabbered, while she unceremoniously dumped the mush into his mouth. “I don’t know what you were doing out there, but only a complete and utter moron would put himself in the way of the Master.”
Azzen wondered what that made Fel, since she was the one who was out there in the first place.
“Do yourself a favor and stop making decisions on your own. Just keep your head down and blend in like everybody else,” she said, bringing her face into view as she slopped some more goo into the boy’s mouth.
“You’re not special,” she said, and her ear twitched. “And forget everything you seen or thought you saw.”
Azzen’s only response was to close his eyes. Not to ignore the girl, but because the effort of swallowing caused excruciating pain to shoot through his body, and he was beginning to black out.
The next time he opened his eyes, it was light out, and he was alone again. Azzen tried to move, but couldn’t, so he went back to sleep.
He woke several more times throughout the day and tried to move, but couldn’t. Fel was never around.
~That night was the first time I thought I might like Azzen. I didn’t feel it like that when I was feeding him, but the next day, he was all I could think about. And that’s what made me realize I might be having feelings for him.~
Finally night came and he was shaken awake.
“I don’t feel like waiting for you to wake up on your own,” Fel said.
She held the spoon over Azzen’s face and said, “open.“
Azzen was able to do so on his own this time and Fel began shoveling more mush into Azzen’s mouth without another word.
She fed him in silence this time, and after finishing the whole bowl, the girl got up and left, her only condolence was to say, “die if you’re going to. Otherwise hurry up and get better.”
~Lol, I remember saying that. It came out harsher than I meant it to. The whole time I was feeding him, I trying to figure out a way to say “Thank you,” without it sounding like I cared. The next couple days, I thought about it a lot and after a while, I finally figured out what it was I really meant to say. I carefully crafted my words, until I knew they were perfect.~
Another day passed and when night came, Fel returned to feed Azzen in silence, once more. The only words she spoke to him were simple commands. “Open.” “Swallow.” “Sleep.”
On the fourth day, she repeated the procedure. But this time, she made one comment.
“No one else would have stopped the Master,” she said. “Anyone else would have let him catch me.”
And that was all she said. It wasn’t a thank you or an explanation of why she was helping the boy recover. It was just a simple statement, and Azzen took it at face value.
A week went by before Azzen was able to move. He experimentally rolled over and was able to see more than straight up for the first time in days. He saw his arms. They were still attached. Somebody, Azzen could
only assume Fel, had made splints of wood and bandaged them up. His legs were bound the same way and most of his stomach and chest were wrapped up as well. The boy decided it was best not to move and remained motionless while waiting for Fel.
She showed up that night and Azzen lifted his head to see her.
“About time,” she muttered.
The catgirl made a fire and then checked on some of Azzen’s bandages.
“Thanks for doing this,” Azzen mumbled. It still hurt to talk, but he was able to get the words out, and they were long overdue.
“Jah,” Fel muttered back while she re-wrapped a wound.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” the boy said.
“Die,” the girl responded flatly.
Azzen smiled but it came out as more of a grimace.
“Lay down,” Fel commanded and Azzen obeyed.
The girl spooned some more mush into his mouth and Azzen ate it blandly. He could feel some strength returning to him, but it would still take a long time before he was healed.
That night, Fel stayed with him after she was finished feeding him. She sat by the fire and Azzen rolled over to watch her. He said nothing while she poked at the fire with a small stick. He watched her light the stick on fire, then bring it out and cover the small flame with her hand, extinguishing it.
The catgirl did this a few times before tossing the stick into the fire and then she reached out her hand and placed it into the flames. The girl winced once when her hand entered and then she set her brow and held her hand steady.
The flames danced around her palm and in between her fingers. After several moments, she removed her hand and it stayed aflame. She rubbed her other hand over it and put out the fire. Azzen saw that her hand was pink and tender, but the catgirl didn’t hesitate to repeat the procedure with her other hand. She winced again as her hand entered the fire.
“Why do you do that?” he asked.
“I need to,” she replied. “It gives me power.”
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
“No,” she said with a twitch of the ear. “I don’t burn.”
“Why? What do you mean it gives you power?”
“I’m a Pria,” she told him. “We are naturally Red. Holding fire is something that will help me leave here.”
“How?” Azzen asked.
The catgirl looked over at him. “Lie down,” she said. “Rest.”
Azzen obliged her commands.
“It gives me power,” she said quietly. “I hold it inside me, but I haven’t figured out how to control it.”
“I absorb it, but I can‘t use it.”
“How is that possible?” Azzen asked.
“It just is,” said Fel. “No more talking now. Rest.”
Azzen closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them again, but when he did, Fel was gone.
Over the next week, Azzen began to feel better, though he still couldn’t move. Fel continued to nurse him back to health, one night at a time. As the weeks passed, she fed and washed him. Every night she was there. Every night, she would feed him mush and talk to him about whatever was on her mind. It was Azzen’s whole life for several weeks, and every night, he was more thankful that Fel didn’t abandon him than the last. But on the night just before the full moon, she wasn’t there.
Azzen waited up that night, but the catgirl never showed. When he finally went to sleep, he dreamed a strange dream.
A man that looked like himself walked up to where Azzen was laying. The man looked like him, but older and scarred. He was different than Azzen viewed himself, but still the same. He was more rugged. More confident. His stride was purposeful and his swagger was proud. When he spoke, his voice verged on cocky, but with a hint of compassion.
“Can’t stand yourself up, Boy?” he asked.
Even in his dream, Azzen was only able to raise his head and nod.
The man grasped his shoulder with one rough palm and lifted him straight up onto his feet. He set Azzen down gently, and the boy stood, looking up at the man with a familiar face.
“That’s better,” the man said. “Looks like all you need is a little lift.”
The man seemed to think this was funny and laughed heartily.
Azzen struggled to smile, but for some reason, he worried about Fel.
“You should be worried,” the man spoke, knowing Azzen’s thoughts. “She’s in a lot of pain right now.”
Azzen nodded, somehow knowing this was true.
“I’d let you do this on your own, but I can’t stand to see her suffer like this,” the man said. “And you can’t stand at all…”
Azzen silently agreed and thanked him.
“Save her from this place. Can’t you see how much she hates it here?”
Azzen wordlessly told the man that he could.
“Then why is she taking care of you when you should be taking care of her?”
Azzen opened his mouth to make an excuse, but his mind betrayed him before the words came out, complaining that he was too weak.
“Well that’s what your little lift is for,” the man said.
Azzen couldn’t respond.
The man reached into a pocket and pulled out a tiny black gem. To Azzen, it looked ordinary, but it was the way the gem felt that shook him. It was filled with darkness. Filled with hate and rage. It was a gem of disaster. Pure evil. Void and nothingness. The man flicked it at Azzen and it struck the boy in the head.
The gem stuck on the boys skin and then sank into his mind. It was painful. More painful than the savage beating he had received from the Master. It struck his heart, slashed his soul and ripped his world apart. Nothing could be seen or perceived except for blackness and misery.
The man snapped his fingers and the pain was swept away.
“Do not lose her,” the strange man said. “Do not lose her or that is all you will have left.”
“What was that?” Azzen asked. His only spoken words.
“Nothing,” the man replied. “Without her, you will have nothing.”
And then the dream faded away.
Azzen woke up and his eyes shot open.
He tried to understand the symbology of the dream.
He knew that he needed to protect Fel. He knew that she was the only thing that mattered to him in this world. And he knew that without her… something bad… something would happen… but he couldn’t figure it out. The dream was already slipping away.
He knew that he needed to be stronger. Both in mind and body. The boy groaned as he sat up. Then he grunted and gasped and he lifted his arms and removed his bandages. He rolled onto he knees and gave a mighty moan as he slowly staggered to his feet.
It had been four weeks since he’d stood. And in his mind, he wondered why he was able to. If the Master had really broken his bones, it should be months before he was able to stand. The boy decided he must not have been as injured as he thought. With sheer determination, he took a painful step forward.
Agony shot through his body with each movement, but he was determined that now that he was up, he would not fall again. The boy stumbled forward, away from the small campsite Fel had made around him and into the forest.
~Azzen never told me that dream! I only found it out when he came back at told me the story. In retrospect, now that I’m back to myself, it explains so damn much. I can’t believe he never mentioned it to me. What an idiot. Oimah! Fcking Prnsharro.~
When Azzen blundered out of the forest into view of the manor, he saw several Rats practicing outside. When they saw him, they shouted in surprised and rushed up to help him inside. They sat him at a table and served him mush. Azzen was able to feed himself.
When they asked where he had been, he told them he had tried to run away. The Rats all laughed and clapped him on the back.
“First beating huh?”
“How was it?”
“Did he break any bones?”
“Now you’re Really one of us!”
Azzen was able to smile and laugh a little with them. When they asked how he’d survived for four weeks on his own, he told them he wasn’t sure, and wisely didn’t mention anything about Fel.
The Master was stirred from whatever it was that he did all day and brought to see that Azzen had returned.
The gruff man snorted a laugh and simply said, “maybe you’ll be worth something after all,” before leaving. But the dangerous eye he gave the boy said, “I hope you learned your lesson.”
Azzen didn’t see Fel around and wondered where she was, but didn’t ask. One thing he had learned about the girl was that she liked to keep her personal business personal. He’d wait until night to see if she returned to the forest.
Over the course of the day, it seemed like all the pain Azzen had felt was draining out of him. With each step he took, he felt renewed vitality. It seemed like the more he moved around and worked his body, the faster it healed. By night time, he was sparring with the boy named Morty, taking it easy, but still keeping up.
As the sun fell and the Rats went to sleep, Azzen stepped outside and wandered into the forest, towards his old resting spot.
When he got there, it was deserted. All traces of the little campsite had been brushed away and he was barely able to recognize where he had once lain.
“I thought you’d have learned better than to come here at night,” a familiar voice said, floating up from behind him.
Azzen turned around to see Fel.
“I wanted to see you,” he said.
“Go ahead and look,” she muttered blandly.
Azzen didn’t really have anything to say.
“Like what you see?” the girl spat. She seemed irritated for some reason.
“Want me to take my clothes off?” she asked with a sarcastic sneer.
“What?” Azzen asked shocked.
“You aren’t special,” the catgirl said. “You’re just an idiot.”
Azzen had no idea what was making her act this way.
“Fel… I just wanted to thank you-”
“Shut up!” she shouted for no apparent reason. “You can take your thanks and shove it.”
“What’s wrong with-”
“You wasted my time,” she shouted over the boy. “I should’ve been training! I shouldn’t have cared about taking care of you! It was such a waste of time.”
“Sorry!” Azzen shouted back. “You didn’t have to.”
“I know! Just shut up. You’re so worthless.”
Azzen was completely baffled. Was this normal here? For someone to take care of you for weeks and then suddenly hate you for it?
“Look,” Azzen said. “I don’t know what’s going on with you. Maybe it’s your time of month-”
Without warning, Fel punched Azzen in the face so hard that his face burned and he flew back and rolled on the floor. When he looked up, he saw that the catgirl’s fist was alight with flame.
“Yah,” she spat. “It’s my time of the month. That’s what’s the matter with me.”
The girl turned and stalked away, leaving Azzen to wonder why he was apparently such an idiot.
“Oooh, bad move,” I say.
Azzen laughs. “Yah, right?”
“Never bring up the menstrual cycle when a girl’s pissed off. That’s just asking to get hit. You deserved it.”
“I agree,” Azzen agrees. “Totally deserved it. But I was confused and you were yelling for no reason. What else was I supposed to think?”
“You don’t think,” I inform him. “You just say ‘yes Dear’ and keep your mouth shut.”
“Don’t start with me. I’m already pissed off at you from the story.”
“What?! That was like ages ago!” Azzen complains.
“Yeah, but I’m just now remembering it,” I reply. “And you were being a total asshole.”
“Oh come on. You can’t get mad at me for telling you what happened,” he reasons.
“Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” I say.
“Then no more story,” he replies.
“Oh quit being a little bitch,” I tell him.
Azzen just laughs. I smile.
I can tell that nothing really gets to the guy. Even when we argue, it’s always just light and playful. He really seems like he’s just happy to be with me. I like that about him.
“Well I’m only gonna tell you more because I don’t want to send you to bed on that note. It gets a little better after that. Not really. But not as bad.”
“Well get on with it then,” I say.
“I would if you’d quit interrupting me,” he says back.
~The day that the Master found out I had saved Azzen, he was extra cruel… I know Azzen didn’t say anything, but the fact that he was alive said it all. I’ve still never told him.~
After a confusing night, Azzen woke up to business as usual. He ate breakfast and went to group training with the other Rats. Fel didn’t look at him the whole time and ignored his group while she was walking around and giving pointers. Azzen tried not to let it bother him.
“You’re doing a lot better,” Morty compliment. “What, were you out there practicing for four weeks?”
“Huh?” Azzen asked, not really paying attention. “Oh. No, not really.”
“Hmmm,” Morty said. “You seem faster.”
Azzen didn’t think anything of it.
After group training, the Rats broke off to go spar and Azzen kept an eye on Fel. She tried to slip off to the side and into the forest on her own, but Azzen followed her.
“Don’t follow me,” she shouted over her shoulder as the two left the group behind.
“Why?” Azzen called back.
“Because I don’t like you.”
“Then why did you save me? I would’ve died out there!”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
Fel turned around. “Go away. You’re wasting my time. I need to train seriously.”
“Then train seriously with me,” Azzen said.
“All you do is hold me back.”
“Then don’t hold back.
Fel snorted. “You’ll get hurt.”
“I’m a big boy,” Azzen replied.
“You’re an idiot,” Fel said, turning away and walking again.
“Are you crazy?” Azzen asked.
The catgirl froze and got stiff.
“You save my life and immediately afterwards, you want nothing to do with me.”
Fel turned around and marched up to Azzen. “You better take that back!” she said.
“What? Take what back?”
Fel launched her fist at Azzen’s face, but Azzen had half expected it and turned this time, barely avoiding the blow.
Fel stood in shock for a moment at the fact that Azzen had actually dodged one of her attacks, then she swung a hard kick at the boy and sent him rolling.
“That’s more like it,” Azzen growled and sprung up, charging at the catgirl.
He swung at her and she easily dodged it, ducking low and grabbing his legs. She lifted up and tossed him behind her, but Azzen had the sense of mind to grab her hair and carried her down with him.
“YOU IDIOT!” Fel shouted as she scrambled up to kick him in the gut.
Azzen caught her leg and yanked. Fel punched him twice in the ear while she fell. Azzen hopped on top of her and tried to pin her. Fel rolled him over and put him in a headlock. Azzen somersaulted and landed on top of the girl. Fel kicked him off of her and hopped to her feet.
“Quit being stupid!” she scolded.
“Come on,” Azzen said with a grin. “Whip my ass like you used to.”
Fel scowled. “You asked for it,” she said, grabbing a stick off the ground.
The catgirl launched at Azzen, using her full speed and beat him repeatedly from every angle. Azzen tried his best to defend himself, but was easily overwhelmed. Over the course of the next three hours, the boy became covered in scrapes and welts. The two battled back and forth, Azzen never quitting and Fel never relenting. By the end of it, Fel seemed to be in a lighter mood and Azzen felt like he had performed better than usual.
“Come on,” she said, offering Azzen a hand up from his last fall.
Azzen gladly took her hand, happy that she was offering him anything at all.
“Let’s go get dinner,” she said. And the boy followed her back to the manor.
When the two kids entered the manor, several other Rats were already dining. They cast their eyes on the couple coming in and sniggered with whispers. Azzen wondered what was so funny, and decided it must be that he was so beat up.
He took the laughter in silence but Fel was aggravated and still felt like fighting.
“SHUT UP, RATS!” she shouted. “Nay one-a ya wanna say somethin’, I dareya tah say somethin’!”
“I wouldn’t let the Master hear you talking like that,” said a boy wearing white clothes. One of the Wolf Pack.
“Oh she gets to do what she wants,” said another boy in white. “You realize what day it is, right? Don’t you know who that is? She’s the Merca.”
All the boys in white laughed and the Rats chimed in. This was the first time Azzen had ever seen a member of the Wolf Pack talk to a Rat. They had always seemed to hold themselves to snobbish higher esteem. It was also the first time he’d heard someone call Fel a “Merca” to her face. The word was usually reserved for whispers behind her back. Azzen didn’t quite understand it.
“Ayshotcho trap, Doofa!” Fel shouted. “Bruntaros!”
Everybody in the room gasped and suddenly fell silent. Azzen had no idea what Fel said, but he was sure it wasn’t good.
The two boys from the Wolf Pack shot up, knocking their seats down.
“You want some?!” one boy shouted.
“You got it!” the other followed.
They both rushed at Fel and the girl raised her fists. Azzen stood by her side and took a stance as well.
When the first boy got to her, Fel grabbed a nearby chair and whipped it around, smashing it against the boy’s side. The other boy swung at her, but Azzen dove on him, tackling him to the ground. He grappled on the ground with him while Fel began punching at the first boy.
The boy Azzen wrestled with seemed to be in his element on the ground and quickly put Azzen into an arm lock. Azzen struggled against it for a minute before grabbing a leg of the smashed chair and beating the boy over the head with it. He scrambled to his feet to see what Fel was doing.
Somehow the catgirl had gotten onto the table and was aiming kicks at the boy’s head. She struck him once, but the boy came back, swiping at her legs. Fel hopped off the table, jumping right over him. She turned and swung a hard kick into the boy, sending him rolling to the ground near Azzen’s feet.
Azzen wasted no time in letting his knee drop onto the boy’s chest. He began pummeling him in the face, not noticing that his first opponent had gotten up and was coming up behind him. Fel saw the danger and ran over to help. The boy lifted a block of wood to strike Azzen, but Fel darted in and kicked him in the side of the knee, thrusting all her weight into it. There was a loud pop as the boy’s joint dislocated.
He went down and Fel took the block from his hand and beat him bloody in the face with it until he was knocked out. Then she moved to Azzen, who was struggling on top of the other boy. Azzen had the top advantage, but the boy’s guard was very good and Azzen ended up getting hit more often than not.
Fel grabbed Azzen’s shoulder’s and pulled him off. Azzen got up, thinking she was calling an end to the fight, but instead, Fel took his place and dropped a heavy elbow down into the boy’s face. The boy’s skull knocked against the hard ground and he lost consciousness.
Fel stood up with Azzen at her side.
“WHO ELSE?!” she demanded, glaring around the room.
Most of the Rats were eating and trying very hard not to be noticed and the rest of the Wolf Pack was glaring, but didn’t say anything.
A boy in fancy green clothing walked into the room out of a hallway.
“Are you starting fights again, Rat?” he drawled.
“What’s it to you, Dragon?” Fel spat back.
“Nothing in particular,” the Dragon responded with a cutting tongue. “You’re antics are simply amusing. Nothing more.”
“You say so,” Fel replied icily.
The Dragon smirked and walked back out, “Don’t let the Master catch you again,” he chuckled down the hallway.
Fel’s ears flattened against her head.
“He’s scared to pick a fight with me,” she muttered to Azzen. “Knows I’ll make him look bad.”
“Why not do it then?” Azzen asked quietly.
Fel was silent for a moment, then shook her head and said, “he’s an asshole,“ as if that explained anything. The girl went to get dinner and Azzen awkwardly followed.
The boy asked if they would get in trouble for fighting. The other Members of the Wolf Pack were gathering up their comrades and glaring at Fel and Azzen. The rest of the Rats were dead silent, not wanting to cause trouble.
“Usually yes,” Fel replied. “But not this time, no.”
“Why not?” Azzen asked.
Fel ignored him and ate her mush. Azzen decided to drop the topic.
From that day on, Fel and Azzen stuck together. He still did his group training with Morty, but after that, he spent every waking moment by the side of the catgirl.
He ate with her, he walked with her, he sparred with her. He practically followed her into the latrines, sometimes finding himself waiting outside. During moments such as those, he felt silly and wondered if he should make more friends. But then Fel would come back around, and he would forget all about those thoughts. She was all he cared about. All he wanted to be around. His one and only desire. Even if she called him stupid and beat him constantly and never smiled.
Actually, it might have been those things that Azzen liked about her…
Azzen’s favorite times were the nights. He and Fel would sneak off into the forest, just to relax and watch stars. She didn’t talk much. She hardly laughed, unless Azzen particularly earned it; usually by getting hit particularly hard. She didn’t crack a smile at his stupid jokes and puns, the way girls from his home had. She didn’t fake anything.
When she spoke, it was to answer Azzen’s questions, if she deemed it to be a question worth answering, or to make demands of the boy.
He didn’t mind. Fel was pretty. And she was a mystery. Azzen knew she was simply unhappy. And that was something he meant to change. He was sure he would find out what she was really like if they could escape this place.
So his questions, which were asked mostly at night, were usually focused on how they could free themselves from the prison school. While they talked about such things, Fel would light a fire, always letting her skin touch it. Each night she would push the burning further, allowing it her hands and arms, or feet and legs to linger longer.
“What about a jailbreak?” Azzen asked one night.
“What’s that?” Fel asked.
“Well, what if every Rat ran at the same time. There’s no way he could catch all of us, right? Some would get away.”
“Won’t work,” Fel said, frying her hand above the flames of a log.
“Why not? I mean, there’s a chance it will.”
“No. Not for me,” Fel said glumly.
Azzen instantly understood what she meant. Fel was the Master’s prize. He would catch her before anybody else. Even if every other Rat managed to get away, Fel would be caught. And Fel would be kept.
“What if we could distract him? What if we all attacked him at the same time? Maybe you could escape.”
“Good luck getting the others to go for it,” Fel replied, pulling her hand out of the flames. She leaned back and placed her feet on the burning log. The catgirl did this every night, but as far as Azzen could tell, she still couldn’t put it to any use.
“Even if that could work,” she said. “They wouldn’t do it for me.”
Azzen nodded his head in agreement. The other kids were definitely not fond of Fel, with her abrasive attitude and seemingly preferential treatment from the Master. Azzen had finally found out that Fel did indeed have her own room to sleep in, and she was also allowed to roam the manor freely and read books in her leisure time. A privilege none of the other Rats had. But she rarely did. Mostly she just trained with Azzen.
The girl’s feet got too hot and she pulled them off the log, stamping them out on the ground.
“I don’t know why you do that,” Azzen said. “I think you’re crazy.”
“WHAT DID YOU CALL-” the catgirl began to shout and her shoulders erupted in flame. Surprised she stopped in mid-sentence, astounded at how her outburst had flared up around her.
The flames died back down quickly, but the girl smiled and then laughed.
“I get it now!” she exclaimed.
Azzen was already on his feet, several yards away, with his fists raised, wary of an attack.
“You get it?” he asked cautiously.
Fel beamed at him. It was a pleasant sight. Azzen had never seen her smile so wide before.
“Yah!” she said. “Now it makes sense.”
“The fire thing?” Azzen asked.
“Does it work when you’re mad?”
“Kind of,” the girl said mischievously. “More than that though.”
“Well what is it?”
The girl eyed him smugly. “You figure it out. I figured it out. You do it on your own.”
“No way,” Azzen said. “That would involve me putting my hands in the fire. I’ll pass.”
Fel chuckled and stood up.
“I’m tired, Azzo. Let’s go in.”
The boy agreed and the two made their way back to the manor.
I yawn, sleepily. I’ve been drifting in and out and Azzen’s story is slipping into my dreams.
“I’m about to pass out,” I mumble, closing my eyes.
“Okay, Fel,” Azzen replies.
“Will you stay here until I do?” I ask, sleepily.
“Yah,” Azzen responds. “I’ll stay.”
I thank him and thank him again for the story.
“Sure thing, kitty cat,” Azzen says and I drift off into a sweet slumber.