It was the abrupt splash of water rather than the coldness of it that woke Shey. She spluttered and gasped for breath, jerking upright. Her shackles clinked together as she moved, and when she looked around, she wasn’t surprised to find the bustling city of Palen around her.
“Let’s go,” Rashid snarled from above, reaching down to grab Shey’s upper arm. She struggled against him, her movements sluggish and weak. He drew his fist back and slammed it into her jaw. Shey cried out, wincing in pain.
Rashid jerked her to her feet. After unlocking her shackles from the edges of the cart, he led her to the edge and roughly guided her to the ground below. “Stay there,” he snarled as he turned to the other prisoners.
Shey glanced around, ignoring the people that were giving her strange looks. She spotted a pair of city guards on the other side of the road. She looked behind and around her, noticing they were at the docks.
Just as the thought to race to the guards passed through her mind, Rashid said, “I wouldn’t if I were you. Remember what happened in Miren Diréthe?”
Shey snarled, her gums aching as her inner beast threatened to break free. “So,” she said, her words clipped. “You can cut off someone’s senses. You didn’t have that ability before.”
Rashid chuckled. While he lined the other three prisoners in a line with Shey, he said, “I went to a rajhe in my homeland shortly after you ruined my operations. He granted me with this power, so that I may conduct my work more freely.”
After the prisoners were all on the ground, Rashid led them to a shadowed alleyway. When they reached the alley, Rashid knelt to connect Shey’s shackles around her ankles to the prisoner beside her, and then he continued down the line. As he crouched beside her, Shey had the murderous desire to let her beast consume her, to tear her teeth into his throat.
Hurry, Lyssa, Shey murmured to her Wolf. We’re in Palen. Rashid’s about to take us to the docks.
In the distant reaches of Lyssa’s mind, she heard the Wolf yelp in surprise and race forward, putting on a burst of speed. She slipped into her Wolf’s mind, seeing everything from Lyssa’s eyes for a moment. Lyssa glanced behind her, revealing Ronin, Gavin, and Fallon on horseback. They stared after Lyssa in shock for a moment, then they put their heels to their horses' flanks. They had been traveling at an easy canter, but at Lyssa’s urgency, they broke into a gallop. When Lyssa looked forward again, Shey could see the city of Palen stretched before her.
Stall as long as you can, Lyssa said. We’re just reaching the city.
Shey withdrew from her mind. She blinked a few times, and when her vision cleared, she was staring into Rashid’s sneering face.
“Calling out for your Wolf?” he snarled. He laughed. “No one can save you. I told you, you’re going to the pits.”
Shey’s lips pulled back from her teeth and she snarled at him. He drew back in surprise, his eyes widening in fear. She smiled, glad for once that she had an inner beast. “How long do you think that you, or the pits, can hold me?”
He narrowed his eyes and ignored her. He reached back into the cart, and Shey glanced back when she heard chains rattling. Her throat closed in fear when she saw heavy metal collars attached with chains held in front of her. Rashid smirked and opened one of the end collar. He closed it around her neck, and the sound of the lock being activated made Shey wince. He laughed darkly, then moved on to the other three prisoners, attaching a collar to each of them. Then, he stood beside Shey and jerked his head to a path leading from the alley to the docks. “Walk,” he said.
Shey continued to stand where she was. She straightened her spine, pulling her shoulders back. “No,” she said.
Rashid frowned. He held his hand up, palm towards her. A harsh ringing sounded in her ears, and Shey cried out in pain. He closed his hand into a fist, and the ringing ceased. “I said walk.”
She snarled at him again, then turned and slowly made her way down the path. Hurry, she urged Lyssa.
We just entered the city. Where are you?
Shey sent her a mental picture of where the cart was parked, and the alley that Rashid took them down. Lyssa sent her thoughts of affirmation, then Shey had to focus on stalling.
She trudged her way along the path, then the docks when they reached them. The wood underneath their feet was rotted in places, groaning under their weight as they stepped forward. She glanced around, trying to avoid looking at the Yiddan galley ship. She peered around the corner of a stone building, its base built deep into the water. From their position, unless someone was looking, no one would notice the Yiddan slaver ship and its new batch of slaves.
Shey glanced up, a wide grin breaking her face when she saw three cloaked figures racing towards them on the dock. Lyssa barreled ahead of them, her fur bristling as she charged.
Two of the cloaked figures, Rangers based on their black cloaks and uniform, stopped in the middle of the dock. They drew back on huge, heavyweight bows and released twin black-shafted arrows. Rashid cursed and threw himself to the deck, narrowly avoiding the swift projectiles.
“Ronin! Gavin!” Shey screamed. She turned to the prisoners behind her and said, “Come on, let’s go!”
She turned and quickly shuffled forward, the dragging gaits of the other three behind her slowing her down. Lyssa barreled past her, her teeth bared as she raced towards Rashid. Ronin and Gavin began running to her, their bows still in their hands.
Shey had almost reached them when the ringing in her ears caused her to drop to her knees. She screamed as pain ripped through her skull. Behind her, she could hear Lyssa howling in agony as well. She distantly heard Rashid yelling and cursing in Yiddan, then other men responding. She glanced up, looking towards the galley. Several other slavers were racing down the ramp to the dock, drawing their weapons. She watched as Gavin and Ronin slung their bows across their shoulders, drawing their twin ekret blades.
Behind them, Shey saw Fallon throw her cloak to the side. She summoned twin flames to her palms, then she began firing blasts of fire at the slavers. After a moment, she dropped and clutched her head, screaming in pain.
“No!” Shey screamed, pushing through the pain to glance behind her at Rashid. He held one hand towards Shey, using the bond between her and Lyssa to keep both of them down, and he held the other out to Fallon.
A snarl ripped through Fallon’s throat. She raised her head, baring long, sharp fangs. Her copper-colored eyes glowed, her pupils narrowed into slits. She rose to her feet, her own inner beast allowing her to push through the pain. She snarled and lurched forward, racing along the dock towards Rashid.
The pain disappeared as Fallon barreled into Rashid’s body. They tumbled to the dock, Rashid holding her off as she snapped her teeth at him. Shey pushed herself to her feet, holding her arms out to either side of her. She reached out to the water on either side, and it obeyed her commands. She lifted her arms higher, bringing up twin waves. She lowered her body into a stance, stretching her feet as wide as the shackles would allow her. She shifted her body to the side, bringing the water with her as she aimed it towards the galley and the slavers fighting her friends.
They cried out as the wave hit them. Gavin and Ronin, having experienced her prowess with her skill, dug their feet into the dock and shifted along with the water, allowing it to pass over their bodies. They turned to Shey, a wide smile on their faces.
Shey smiled in return, then collapsed as the hilt of a dagger was driven through the back of her skull. She blinked, her vision blurry as she gazed around her. She looked to Fallon, who had fallen unconscious beside Lyssa. Shey’s Wolf stared at her through bleary, unfocused eyes. She looked up, her blood running cold when she saw Rashid standing over her. He grabbed her arm and jerked her to her feet, keeping her standing. The prisoners cowered in fear, their shoulders hunched against the onslaught of her previous water attack.
Shey watched as two of the slavers who had fallen into the water grabbed Gavin’s and Ronin’s ankles, pulling them back into the water with them. They cried out, then proceeded to fight with the slavers in the water. Shey and the prisoners were ushered up the ramp and onto the ship, while Rashid yelled in Yiddan to his companions. Rashid held his hands out towards the two Rangers, causing them to cease in their fight. They screamed in pain, their hands clutching their heads.
“No…” Shey murmured, reaching out to her friends. The slavers all climbed aboard the ship, then proceeded to set sail. Rashid turned away from Shey’s friends, moving about the deck of the ship as he gave commands. Shey glanced over the side, staring at the docks as it was swiftly left behind them.
By the time they had set sail and left the docks behind, Shey’s friends and Wolf were all standing at the edge. Ronin, Gavin, and Fallon all stood at the edge, gasping for breath. The Rangers attempted to fire arrows at the slavers on board, but they were out of range by now.
Lyssa tipped her nose to the air, howling a mournful song as the ship sailed away. Even long after her friends had fallen out of sight, Lyssa’s haunting voice still echoed across the water. Shey shut her eyes, fighting back the tears that threatened to burst forth. She would not cry. Not in front of these men which sought to enslave her, to sell her off.
Shey glanced over her shoulder. Rashid stood behind her, arms crossed across his chest. He had a gloating expression on his face, his lips stretched into a brilliantly white smile.
“It appears,” Rashid said as he leaned against the mast beside him, “that your friends have failed to rescue you.”
Shey pushed herself to her feet, her body quivering with rage. Her inner beast pushed against her skin, begging to be released, to tear into him. Through clenched teeth, Shey promised him, “I will escape. One day, whether it’s a month, one year, or even ten years from now, I will be free. And I will kill you.”
He smiled. “You do that,” he said. “In the meantime, enjoy your time below decks.” He nodded out to the sea behind her and said, “Take one last, long look before you, Shey de Luna. This will be the last you see of open water again.”
She looked behind her, staring at the open expanse of the Gray Sea. She glanced behind the ship, her heart dropping when she realized the distant shore was no more than a faint outline on the horizon. Despite their distance from the docks, Shey could still hear Lyssa’s mournful song dancing across the water.