It was but for her that he lived. Love, hate, trust, betrayal, all were etched in the lines of his back, and he only carried them for her. He would have been lost to us, and we, lost to the abyss, for he was our only anchor to that mystery that led us through battle and intrigue.From the Journal of Fado Quel
It had started with the annual Canto stamped. His uncle had brought him to her last month for his first stamped. He was now running his second, having failed to garner a mate. The stampedes would run three more times before the end of the season.
He had been galloping with the rest of the Canto. The rolling plains had flown under his hooves, each hoof hitting with a resounding thud, echoed by thousands of others. He looked above the horse form Canto, his form was that of a the half-man/half-beast, for he was a mutt, a half breed. He had never been able to turn full horse. This memory was rather on the side of depressing in such a joyous moment. The annual running of the Cantos was a mating ritual, this year he hoped to find his mate. It was his second run and he knew he would not be able to do this run many more times before he was kept off the lines for being too old or undesirable.
It did not help that the council elders had not permitted him to receive the full Canto blue tribal tattoos. They had purposefully disgraced him by only allows him to receive the chest and shoulder swirls and not be able to receive the face and back markings. Now there was even more doubt on if he could catch the interest of a mate. His uncle had told him not to worry, that there was one out there for him, full tattoos or not. He doubted it. What woman would have a Canto stud without the full rank markings.
The male who could run the longest without faltering would win his pick of the mares. Each man who fell back would gather in rank line to watch the rest of the stampede. The studs’ line would show the mares that had lost the quickest, the ones who were weak would be last to gain a mare if there were any mares left. This seemed to be a relatively large run in comparison to years past.
A rumbling echo grumbled through the valley the Cantos were running in. Some of the horse forms stopped, turning half-human to see the spectacle passing over them. It was a large garrison of cargo transpoplanes. The valley became dark with the shadows cast by the ships. Suddenly small round orbs fell from the bellies of the ships, falling to the grass like fleas jumping from a dog.
The next thing he knew he woke up in a cement cell. Dim flickering light was the only thing that made, what he would consider a living nightmare, the hallway visible.
“Wake up in there! Come on, get up!” screamed a nagging high-pitched male voice over his head. He looked up, his black eyes searching the darkness. A cruel shrewd face stared down at him through the metal gate. The gate opened with a sharp whining squeak and pang. An electric whip whistled through the air, biting into his flesh and fur. He got up on his feet and stood his full six and a half foot height, chest and arm muscles rippling.
“Come on, we ain’t got all day! Get moving!” the shrewd little man cackled once again as the whip sang out, biting and nipping at the Canto’s back.
It was a race through a gauntlet, pressed in from all sides by cement, electric wire, barbed wire, flashing lights, high-pitched screeches, foul smell of equine defecation and blood, and the ever-persistent singing s-clac-sh of the whips and electric prodding sticks.
This place, the Kayo slowly realized, was a slave trade post. He was going to be sold at auction to the highest bidder. The out coming odds were not very favorable. Slowly he noticed that all of the containing sells held Cantos, but none of them were female. They had been taken to another segment of the holding facilities apparently.
Through the gauntlet, that he was forced to run was a chute that threw him into an arena with fifty other Cantos that were being auctioned off. He looked up into the stands where cruel, jeering faces mocked and prodded. Suddenly he was pushed forward into the ring.
“Change to full form,” a voice demanded over the loudspeaker. It took him several seconds to realize he was being spoken to.
“I-I can’t!” he tried yelling over the roar of the crowd.
“I said change to full form!” the voice cried once again. The audience, just like that, went dead silent.
He was trembling now, not knowing if he would get whipped again for his “impertinous nature.” Again he stuttered “I – I said I can’t change.”
“And why not?” the auctioneer screeched.
“I’m half Canto; I can’t change to full horse.”
“Hey boss, it’s gottabe true,” yelled up a prodder,“he doesn’t have all his tattoos!”
“A half blood are ye? Well then, we’ll continue,” the man’s voice lingered, a malicious tone subtly drifting up from the depths of a heartless soul. “Change to human then.”
The shaking had become uncontrollable. By then any movement would scare him into bucking and shying. Iron manacles were clamped onto his wrists, whips lashed out onto his bronze, vulnerable back. The voice continued on, like a broken record as the stinging blows continued, like sidbees. They continued to rain down on him, little reason behind them, just the sting. This continued for what seemed an eternity, finally, exhausted and blood drenched, he fell to his knees, his naked human form glistened with sweat and blood under the florescent lights.
The sand on the arena floor was a comfort to his sweating palms and week knees. His tangle of long, sleek, black hair held a clumpy red tint to it now. He could feel the warm congealing blood on his back slowly ooze down his arms, around his sides, dripping from his heaving stomach. It crawled down his buttocks and thighs, forming small puddles in between his bent thighs and calves, behind the knees. The blood formed pools under him; the once wonderful sand absorbed the inhumanity.
“Stand up you impudent being, we don’t promote laziness!” A buzzer rang, announcing the end of the auction. The auctioneer was there just to watch that fights did not break out. The real auction took place electronically.
He glanced over his shoulder, his mass of black hair falling over it, at the auction board, seeing who he was sold to and for how much. The board read in glowing green letters and numbers a name saying M.MCR. 50,000 credits.
He gazed down at the reddened sand. Small rivers began to form and trickle across the surface and pooled in a little impression of one of his hooves. He watched as a single droplet of blood fell from his black hair and, twinkling in the halogen lights, splash down into the puddle.
He had a dashing moment to think, why was I sold for so much when I had half of my back just ripped from me? I’ll be absolutely useless to anyone. Electric rods zapped his already tender back, prodding him to stand up. He slowly rose and stood up on shaky, weak legs.
“Alright, move on swine, we ain’t got all day, next being!” the cruel voice shouted over the speaker.
He changed back to the half horse, half man he had come into the arena as. He was prodded down another dimly lit hallway into a small room filled with chest deep water. The running water washed the blood from his wounds. The people of the auction house had added salts and antiseptic to the water, adding a stinging bite to the broken flesh.
Suddenly the whip lashed out over the water and drove him from his secluded spot. He charged out of the water, fighting at the dragging weight of the water that tried to hold him back. He found the steps out of the room and found himself on the dirty pathway once again. He raced forward with energy anew, trying to stay a few steps ahead of the whip, trying to ignore the searing pain of each sting that hit home. He felt the dripping saltwater roll along his deep slashes, stinging even worse than the blow of the whip or zap of the electrorods.
A ramp suddenly sprang up in the dimly lit hallway, almost throwing him off balance. He clambered up it and into a dark room. This one was blackened inside except for little red flashing lights that circled around the ceiling. More Cantos pushed in from behind him; that was when it began to dawn on him that he was in the holding belly of a transpoplane.
Other Cantos had already found places to sit or stand, trying to get out of the way of the oncoming crowd. He found somewhere to sit down, exhausted, and fell asleep in less than a few minutes.
The transpoplane landed at a large compound. Men jumped off the ship and ran around to the back, waiting to unload the new shipment of Cantos. They were excited about this and willing to do the work only because they got first choice over the secondary mares that had not sold at auction. These slimes of men were able to keep harems of these mares, all they had to say to dodge out of the imperial galactic marriage and partnership tax laws was that the men used the mares as work horses at the coal mines close by, or as show horses, even as breeding mares, what an irony.
The male Cantos were sold for the heights bidder to the linguistic schools. The Colga galaxy was another place that sold everything all the time until it was to worn out to be called junk, and then was sold again. Most of the Cantos that were unloaded off that ship that day, would either see death by the end of their first year of work or else have been sold more than ten times. A few of the lucky ones would be set free by a nice master down the road, or else escape, but little to absolutely none of them would ever feel love from anyone again. There were exceptions throughout the herd, but not too many. Rarely, they were sent on to become linguistic tutors for the royal court personnel, nobles, and wealthy merchant children.
He was dragged out of the transpoplane by some of these glutinous men and pushed into another auction stable. Everyone he had ever known in the herd was taken from him. He mused to himself morosely, I will never know peace, I will never know love, I will never know my people again. He trudged on into his stall and was left there willing himself to die early in life, for there was no good thing to come of having a stable master pay so many credits for him.
Days later a man-Elivik came looking at the beasts. He wore a long ancient red Chinese styled robe from old Earth that had been beautifully preserved. He wore light weight black slipper shoes made of silk. His blondish hair was combed back from his forehead. He seemed particularly slimy to the Canto, more so then the stable workers.
It was not out of the ordinary to have this man in the stables, every day people came in to bid on the ‘animals’. This man could not have been any different from the others except for the questions that he asked. He went from stall to stall and talked to the man that was leading him about the place. He asked him things like how old is this one, has that one given you a lot of trouble, does this one speak fluently in Sipuka – the Lef Elivik native tongue.
The man came to his stall finally and looked at him. The whiplashes had healed into deep garish scabs. “What is this one like? Have you ever worked him?” The man asked the stable head. “Well sir, I han’t really worked him, he’s sulked like this for days. Appar’ntly ‘e isn’t even full Canto, ‘e had to be beat’n t’get ‘im to turn ‘uman. You don’t want ‘im sir, ‘e would be too much trouble,” the stable head answered and started to move on.
“Hey you!” the man called to the Canto. His hand went out to point at the Canto, the belled sleeve of the robe flowing out and snapping in the sudden shift in movement. The Canto did not respond until he realized that the man was actually talking to him. He turned around in the small and looked at the man.
“What’s your name, lad?” the man asked him. The man actually sounded like he was talking to another human being. That is what caught the Canto’s attention first.
“Solomon, sir,” the Canto answered quietly.
“Mr. McAlister, are you coming, I think I found just the one you’re looking for!” the stable head shouted.
“I think I found who I was looking for. How much is this one?” Mr. McAlister said, standing at the gate to the stall.
“Eh, ‘e sold f’r 50,000 credits, but, ’ll cut you a deal if you can find me a dappled mare with red hair,” the stable head said, “’ll sell ‘im to ya at … 20,000 credits.”
The two men clasped hands and the deal was settled. Solomon was sold for 20,000 credits of electricity and water and a Canto woman with freckles and red hair.
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