Chapter 7 – Knowing One’s Place

“Slave! Come here now!”

Royce’s ears pricked up at the call. He was curled up in a ball in a corner of his Master’s coach. He’d been sleeping.

The tiger slave quickly uncurled himself and scrambled out of the coach to attend to his Master. They were currently stopped in a clearing in a forest somewhere and had been here a few days. Master had said that he liked the privacy and peacefulness of this place, and that they were ahead of schedule in their journey, so could afford to stay awhile.

Royce himself had no idea where they were going. Or where they had been, for that matter. Now and again, Royce tried to remember where they had come from, but his head started to hurt if he tried to remember past a week ago. The earliest thing he was able to remember with any clarity was personally putting his iron collar around his neck and Master locking it closed. It had not left his neck since. He had the impression that he was replacing an old slave, as he could vaguely remember helping Master dispose of a dead naked bulldog.

It didn’t really bother him that he could only really remember flashes and blurred images of things before that without getting headaches. All that really mattered was that he was a slave, and he lived only to serve Master. Anything beyond that was just unimportant.

Royce scampered across the camp to Master’s tent. He stepped inside and fell to his knees, his head bowed.

His Master was sitting on his bunk, apparently having just awoken from his afternoon nap. To the eyes of the kneeling tiger, he looked incredible, a huge and handsome grey-furred wolf, with an amazing muscular body. He was indeed a lucky slave to be owned by such a Master.

“Did you get some rest, Slave?” Asked Nomack, his Master.

“Yes, my Master.” Royce replied with a nod.

When Master had laid down to rest, he’d given Royce permission to go get some rest. He’d decided to sleep in the coach because the night before he had slept on the ground outside Master’s tent. As a result, his fur had been unkempt and a little messy when he had been called in the morning. Master had quite rightly punished him for presenting himself in such a state.

“Fetch me some lunch, slave.” Nomack demanded.

“At once, Master.” Royce nodded. A second later, he was dashing out of the tent.

The bulky tiger darted across the encampment toward the small supply coach. He knew just what to get for his Master, dried cuts of a rare very expensive meat Royce could never remember the name of, and some red wine. He knew his Master would enjoy it. As soon as he arrived at the coach, he began digging through the many tightly wrapped bundles strapped to the back, searching for what he needed.

“Hello, Royce.”

The tiger looked up to see Mr. Thorne, his Master’s assistant, stepping out of the coach. The tall scrawny puma stared at him, admiring the feline’s nude body.

“Greetings, Mr. Thorne.” Said Royce, stopping what he was doing for a moment in order to bow politely.

“What are you doing?” Thorne asked.

“I am fetching Master some lunch.” Royce replied, returning to work. He was certain what he wanted was here somewhere…

The puma leaned against the side of the coach, chuckling. “It’s amazing, just how much you’ve changed.”

Royce frowned at this comment. He hadn’t changed. Or at least, he didn’t remember having changed. He considered asking Mr. Thorne what he had meant, but thought better of it. It was not a slave’s place to ask such questions.

Thorne watched the tiger work as he unearthed a case of wine from among the packed supplies.

“I’m curious, Royce.” The puma eventually asked. “Do you really enjoy being a slave?”

“Of course, sir.” Said the tiger, putting the case gently on the ground and returning to his search.

“And you have no thoughts, memories or desires beyond that?” Thorne wondered.

This made the tiger pause thoughtfully. Did he? Of course, he knew as a slave he shouldn’t, he should be focused entirely on serving Master. But he couldn’t help think that maybe he…

A sudden stabbing pain struck Royce’s skull and he was forced to clutch at his head for a moment, gritting his teeth, until the pain subsided. He then answered the question.

“No, sir.” He said. “No other thoughts, desires or memories.”

“If you say so.” The puma shrugged. “But think on it from time to time, okay?”

The tiger nodded obediently and got back to work as Thorne wandered away.

He wasn’t sure why Mr. Thorne wanted him to go on thinking about it. He had no desires beyond servitude. Well, except for…

The tiger stopped, his skull wracked by another headache. He could remember there was something else he desired, but not what it was. He tried again, thinking hard about it, but he was simply rewarded with another agonising headache. Royce gave up on it. It probably was nothing as important as serving his Master.

He quickly found the meat he was looking for and retrieved the case from where he’d left it on the ground, scampering back to his Master’s tent. Along the way, the thought of him having some other unknown desire bothered him.

Royce stepped back into the tent to find that his Master had stripped naked while he was gone. The tiger dropped to his knees before the nude wolf, presenting the items he’d fetched.

Nomack nodded approvingly. “I’ll eat shortly.” He said, eyeing the naked tiger slave lecherously. “But right now, I’m hungry for something else…” The huge wolf leapt at Royce, knocking him down and pinning him to the ground as he set about raping him.

Unresisting, Royce submitted to Nomack’s endless lust as he had done on many occasions. It was simply his duty as the wolf’s slave…

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“Say what you will about Nomack, but he must have an impressive network of contacts to have tracked down a genuine apothecary.”

Armin nodded his agreement as he followed Tobias up the path toward the small cottage before them.

They had reached Sand Haven a few days before and had quickly discovered that Nomack had departed long before they had even got there. The town’s largest hotel had records showing he only stayed in town for a few days. So they had been trying to track down clues as to what he had done in the town, hoping it would point them in the direction of where he had went.

They had bribed a hotel worker into revealing a conversation he had overheard between Nomack and his assistant. They had been talking about a meeting with an apothecary.

It had taken them time to find the apothecary. Because of the high demand for their services, the tended to keep themselves hidden rather then be overwhelmed with job offers.

True apothecaries were very rare and much sought after for their impressive abilities to create potions and drugs. Armin had heard of them, that the trade was a family one, with apothecaries only ever passing their secrets on to their descendents. Of course, now and again, one would die without any descendents, and over the centuries this had led to their numbers gradually dwindling and the apothecaries close to vanishing forever. But still, they would never consider passing their knowledge onto to just anyone, only a blood relative, that was their unbreakable tradition.

Nomack’s trail had led Armin and Tobias to a small cottage on the outskirts of Sand Haven, which they were assuming was the home of the apothecary. Tobias stepped up to the heavy set oak door and knocked. He and Armin waited patiently.

After a few minutes, the door creaked open, and an elderly vixen squinted out at them. “Ah, it’s you two.” She said. “Come in, come in. Been expecting you.”

The old wolf shot her a suspicious glance. “You have?”

“Yeah, I’m a bit psychic, you see?” The vixen said. “I knew I’d be receiving visitors on important business. Visitors I should help. Come on in.” She threw open the door and headed off along the hallway beyond.

“Not what I was expecting.” Tobias muttered, following her inside.

“Captain,” Armin said, stepping through the door, “we should be careful. She was expecting us, this could be a trap.”

Tobias stopped and look back at the leopard. “She was only expecting some visitors on important business.”

Armin scoffed. “You don’t seriously believe she’s psychic, do you sir?”

The wolf shrugged. “I’ve seen stranger things. Close the door, would you?”

The young leopard closed the door and then he and Tobias followed the vixen, who led them into a large room that must have taken up a large part of the cottage. Shelves crammed with jars and containers lined the walls. At one end sat a workbench covered in open books and bubbling mixtures. The vixen motioned for them to take seats at a table and chairs at the opposite end of the room.

“Can I get you anything?” Said the apothecary, pleasantly. “Something to eat, Something to drink?”

“We’re fine, thank you.” Tobias smiled. “We’d like to get straight to business.”

“Yes, yes, of course.” The vixen muttered, sitting down. “So, what can I help you with?”

“We’re looking for information on a wolf merchant named Nomack.” Tobias explained, getting straight to the point. “We believe he paid you for some services.”

“Nomack?” Said the female fox. “Oh, I remember him. I could hardly forget, could I? Horrible male he was, always hitting that slave of his.”

“Why did he come to see you?” Tobias asked.

“He wanted all sorts of mixtures and services.” The vixen replied. “Mind-altering drugs, sexual enhancers, obedience potion…”

“Obedience potion?” Armin interrupted.

“Yes.” The apothecary nodded. “Extremely hard to make, needs rare ingredients, it’s very expensive. He had to let me know several months in advance that he wanted one, it takes so long to brew. And even then, I could only gather enough ingredients for a small amount, a dose that would last only a few days.”

“And this potion actually worked?” Said Armin.

“Of course it did!” The vixen bristled, taking offence at this. “Whoever drank it would obey any commands given to them until it wears off, when they would then have trouble remembering anything of their time under the potion’s influence.”

“And why would Nomack want such a potion?” Tobias wanted to know.

The apothecary shrugged. “Said he wanted it for his new slave so he could have some fun with him. Though I’m not sure why he’d need a potion to make a slave obedient. From what I see, slaves tend to be obedient by nature…”

But Tobias and Armin exchanged glances. They knew who the potion would have been intended for. Royce.

“Do you have any idea where Nomack might be now?” Said Tobias.

The vixen offered them an apologetic look. “Sorry, he’d didn’t share his plans. He was all business when he was here. But… but now you mention it, last time he visited me, he had his assistant with him, to handle my payment. As they were leaving, I heard them talking about having to leave to make an important business meeting in a few days, something to do with weapons.”

“Hmm.” Said Tobias, thoughtfully. “Thank you for your time.”

The wolf and the leopard said a few brief goodbyes and left the cottage. As they were walking away, Tobias glanced back at the apothecary’s home.

“I thought we should leave.” He said, suspiciously. “This is all starting to seem too easy.”

“How so, captain?” Armin didn’t understand.

“First we just happen to find a hotel employee who overheard Nomack talking about an apothecary.” Tobias explained. “Then we locate said apothecary rather easily. Then the apothecary is perfectly willing to provide us with all the information we want without question, including where Nomack was heading…”

“But she didn’t know.” The leopard pointed out.

“Think about it, Armin.” Said Tobias, disapprovingly. “There aren’t too many places within a few days travel. That narrows it down considerably. And one of them is Corrans Forge, just a few days away by coach, a city known mainly for the manufacture of weapons, since many weapons companies are based there.”

“I see.” Armin was inwardly scolding himself for not seeing what Tobias thought was obvious.

“This is all too easy.” Tobias was grumbling. “It’s like we’re following a trail that has been set up for us.”

“But, sir, no one knows we’re in pursuit of Nomack.” Said Armin.

“Except whoever left us that mysterious note in Pyre.” Tobias replied. “My instincts tell me this ‘trail’ is a set up.”

“So what do you think we should do?” Armin asked.

“We’re still looking for Royce.” Tobias said. “And whatever it’s source, this trail is leading us to him. So we’ll carry on following it. But we should be cautious. Whoever’s leading us along could easily lead us into a trap.”

As they continued on their way, Armin considered everything the old wolf had said. As much as he trusted his mentor’s judgment, he was starting to believe that maybe they should abandon this chase. And this news that they were being led along didn’t help…

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

Royce lay at his Master’s feet, dozing lightly.

Nomack was sitting on one of the coach’s seats, reading through the various contracts and forms, his thoughts solely focused on business matters right then.

The tiger slave kept slipping in and out of sleep. He was coming to dislike sleep. He kept having strange dreams where he was a free-willed pit-fighter, and whenever he awoke from such dreams, his life would feel somehow wrong for a few moments.

He had considered telling Master about these dreams, but something held him back. He had a nagging feeling that he wasn’t supposed to be having such dreams, and by telling his Master, he’d be disappointing him. And that was something he did not want to do. It felt strange though, keeping this from his Master. It wasn’t bothering him nearly as much as he would have thought it would.

As much as he was disliking sleep, his waking hours weren’t without their problems. He had been completely unsuccessful in shaking off the thought that there was something he desired beyond servitude. The thought seemed to be festering at the back of his mind, a constant thorn in his consciousness. And he just couldn’t imagine what this ‘something’ might be.

He knew he had to get some sleep. He couldn’t avoid it forever. Besides, he needed to be rested for when his Master needed him. So he closed his eyes…

…and looked up at a large white tiger looking down at him.

“Such a disappointment.” The tiger muttered. “I expected better of you.”

A surge of shame washed over him, although he wasn’t sure why this tiger’s opinion mattered that much to him. “I… I don’t know what you mean.”

“That’s just it, you do know.” The tiger said. “I mean, look at you, crawling about on your knees.”

“Who are you?” Royce asked. He felt like he knew this white tiger.

The white tiger grinned and crouched in front of him. “You know. Everything you know is still in there.” He tapped Royce’s forehead. “And it’ll come out eventually. The drugs can’t keep you buried forever.”

“What drugs?” Royce had no idea what was going on. “What do you mean?”

“As I said, it’ll come out eventually.” Said the white tiger. “I really wish I could be there to help you right now, Royce, but this is the best I can manage. Hopefully, this will force some thoughts and memories to resurface.”

Suddenly, the white tiger looked up, as if hearing something. “Well, time’s up. I think you need to awaken now.”

Royce frowned at him…

…and woke up.

The coach had stopped while he was asleep. His Master was just stepping out as he looked up.

“Wake up, Slave.” Nomack was saying, glancing back at the tiger as he left the coach. “Don’t you dare keep me waiting!”

Royce got moving, scampering out of the coach and kneeling beside his Master on the grass.

They had stopped high up on a steep hill, on a cliff-like outcropping beside the road. The road itself wound its way down the hill to a large city spread out below them. It was a magnificent vista of streets and avenues, with beautiful tall buildings of iron and stone. 

“Quite the view of New Abstan, isn’t it?” Said Nomack, smiling. “I thought this would make a good place to stop for a quick something to eat. We should still get there by night fall.”

“Yes, Master.” Royce didn’t need to be told, he jogged to the second coach and started unpacking what his Master would be needing.

As he worked, his thoughts drifted to the dream. He was certain he’d met that white tiger somewhere, but couldn’t remember. It was yet another thought to bother him, another thought he couldn’t shake, no matter how much he tried to remain focused on his work.

He was beginning to believe there was something very wrong with him…

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“Nomack? I think I remember him. His assistant was in here buying supplies. Mentioned something about a trip to New Abstan.”

Tobias nodded politely. “Thank you for your help.”

The old wolf turned and left the supply store, stepping out onto the narrow, crowded streets of the city of Corrans Forge. As he wandered, gradually making his way back to the small cheap hotel he and Armin were staying at, his thoughts were troubled.

The further he and his young companion followed the trail of Nomack and Royce, the more he became convinced that someone had deliberately left them a trail to follow. This was now the third convenient ‘clue’ they’d found pointing toward New Abstan in the few days they’d been in this city.

Sure, they had to do a little searching, a little legwork, in order to find the clues that had been left for them, but to him it seemed like someone making sure it wouldn’t be too easy for them, so that they wouldn’t get suspicious.

But it had failed. Whoever was behind this hadn’t reckoned with having Tobias Clandrell following the trail. He had been taught him to be suspicious many times throughout his long life and now it was paying off.

Of course, that just left the question of who was leaving the trail for them. Technically, no one should know they were after Royce Herrick. The Brotherhood always went to great lengths to keep itself as secret as possible. Tobias had trouble imagining anyone managing to uncover its existence, let alone something as detailed as the mission two of it’s agents were undertaking.

The only real possibility he could come up with was Nomack, considering the expert way he’d framed Royce and faked his death, he apparently had a lot in the way of money and resources these days, in spite of whatever business troubles he may have had in the past. It was certainly conceivable he’d somehow discovered the Brotherhood.

But then, why would he be leaving a trail that would take them straight to him? Come to that, why would anyone be leaving them a trail? Either someone wanted to help them, or lead them into a trap. Right then, Tobias believed a trap to be the more likely of the options.

Whatever was going on, Tobias had a very bad feeling about what lay ahead of them.

He arrived at the hotel and made his way to the room he and his leopard companion were staying in. Armin was already there.

“Well?” Tobias asked, as he stepped into the room and closed the door.

“A minor clerk at a local weapons manufacturer confirmed his boss had a meeting with Nomack recently.” Armin reported. “And an attendant at the most expensive hotel in the city told me how Nomack and his tiger slave had stayed there and that he departed for New Abstan.”

“I also found another clue pointing to New Abstan.” Tobias explained.

“Captain.” Said Armin. “If we are being led into a trap as you suspect, surely we should contact Central and see what they have to say?”

“And what if they should tell us to break off our pursuit?” Said the old wolf, taking a seat on one of the two beds in the room. “Would you be willing to give up the chase?”

“If it’s want Central wants…” Armin began, meekly.

“Really?” Said Tobias, shocked. “You’d really be willing to abandon Royce to the clutches of that sadistic psychopath?”

“I didn’t say I’d like it, sir.” Armin said, in his defence. “But I just don’t feel comfortable running around deciding what to do without reporting in, no matter how much you assure me that it’ll be okay. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Don’t be, my friend.” Tobias smiled. “You are who you are, and I’m well aware that you’ve only come this far on trust. All I can ask is that you have faith that I know what I’m doing.”

“I always do, captain.” Said Armin. “You know that.”

“In that case, I believe it’s obvious what we do next.” Said Tobias. “We set out for New Abstan.”

“And what if it’s a trap?” Armin felt he should ask.

“Then we’ll be cautious and prepared for it.” Tobias answered. “The simple fact is that we’ve come too far to give up the chase now…”

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“Sir? Mr. Livingston to see you?”

Nomack looked up from the chair where he was sitting, reading through assorted papers. “Of course, Thorne. Show him in.”

As the puma left the room, Nomack put aside the papers and turned his attention to Royce, kneeling beside his chair. “Now, I want you to be on your best behaviour, Slave. Livingston is an important client and if you show me up in front of him, your life won’t be worth living.”

“I understand, Master.” Royce nodded.

They’d been in the city of New Abstan for several days, and Nomack had gone to the expensive of renting an luxurious, extravagant apartment for their stay. Royce had the impression the wolf wanted to impress the vital clients he’d be dealing with.

At that moment, they were in the impressively furnished lounge, with Nomack sat in one of two large leather chairs in front of a huge stone fireplace in which a roaring fire was warming the room.

“In fact,” said the large wolf, thoughtfully, “I think it might be best if you weren’t here. I suppose you could do with some rest after being fucked half to death this morning.”

“Yes, Master.” Said Royce.

A moment later, Thorne returned, escorting a well-dressed yet slightly overweight raccoon. Nomack stood and smiled, shaking hands with him.

“Mr. Livingston.” He said. “How delightful to see you again.”

“I suppose it is.” The raccoon grinned coldly.

“Please,” he motioned to the other chair, “sit and we can get straight to business. Thorne, take Royce away, give him some water and then have him rest. I’ll be needing him later.”

“Yes, sir.” The puma nodded. Royce got to his feet and followed Thorne out of the room. As he left, he overhead Nomack and Livingston talking…

“Well, that is a very impressive specimen of a slave you have there.” The raccoon commented.

“He is, isn’t he?” Nomack replied. “I found him in a sale out in Pyre. If you really like him, perhaps I could let you use him later…”

Thorne closed the door. “Follow me.” He told Royce.

Royce obeyed and was led by the puma through the apartment to the kitchen. He fell to his knees and waited as Thorne busied himself about the kitchen. He made himself a small meal and sat at the dining table eating, watching the tiger slave intently as he did so.

As he finished, washing down his food with a glass of red wine, a smile spread across his face. “Well, it’s time to see to you.” He stood up from the table and wandered over to a cupboard. He reached in and withdrew a small glass bottle. He handed it to Royce.

“Drink.” He ordered.

Royce did as he was told, pulling out the cork and gulping down the water within. It had an odd, bitter sort of taste to it, but it was soon gone. Thorne returned the empty bottle to the cupboard when he was done.

“Come with me.” He said, and led the naked muscular tiger out of the kitchen and toward Nomack’s bedroom.

“Now, as Mr. Nomack said, you are to rest.” Said Thorne as they entered. Royce nodded and lay down in what he knew to be his place, on the floor at the foot of his Master’s bed.

The puma was about to leave when he stopped and looked back at him. “I’m curious, Royce, do you still enjoy the life of a slave?”

“Yes, sir, I do.” Royce answered automatically.

Thorne shrugged. “Of course you would. After all, when you can take the easy route of having someone else make all of life’s decisions for you, why be free?” And with that he closed the door and was gone.

Royce lay down to try and sleep, but the puma’s parting words stuck with him, reverberating around his skull.

Why be free? Why was that question bothering him so much?

Try as he might, sleep simply eluded him. His mind was spinning around the thought of the desire that he had that he couldn’t remember. His head was feeling sort of numb and fuzzy. He vaguely wondered what Acheron would do in a situation like this…

His train of thought came crashing to a stop. How did he suddenly know the name of the white tiger from his dream? He concentrated. He could remember him now, how much he had looked up to him. And there was the question…

Why be free?

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“Why be free?”

Acheron looked up at the question. “Why be free you say?”

The white tiger was sat at his desk. He had been reading a thick leather-bound book, which he had put down in order to give Royce his full attention.

“Yes, sir.” Said Royce. “I have been here for several months, during which you have made it clear you want me to be free. I wanted to ask why.”

“Well, that’s a difficult question.” Said Acheron, leaning back in his chair. “And a full and complete answer would likely require a discussion of philosophy I doubt you’d understand. But let’s see if we can break it down into something simple. Exactly why did you ask me?”

Royce thought about this. “Because I wanted to know.”

Acheron grinned. “But surely, if you were just a slave, you wouldn’t care why?”

“I…” Royce began, but faltered. He wasn’t sure how to respond to that.

“Don’t worry about it.” Said Acheron. “I see it as a good sign, that you’re starting to accept your freedom. Sit down.”

The tiger sat down in the chair in front of the desk, waiting for Acheron to answer his question.

The white tiger took some time to think about it. “Perhaps the best reason to be free is because you were born free.”

“I was born a slave…” Royce corrected.

“No, you were born free.” Said Acheron. “Just the same as everyone else in the world. You were just trained through your youth to be a slave. Slavery is not a creation of nature. Everyone is naturally born to be free.”

“I think I understand, sir.” Royce nodded. “But still, why is freedom better than slavery?”

“Beyond it being natural, you mean?” Said Acheron. “Well, I suppose the best argument I could give would be that it is the only way to realise your potential.”

Royce frowned, not knowing what he meant.

Acheron tried to explain. “It is my firm belief that everyone has a great deal of potential in them. When someone is a slave, they exist only to serve whoever their owner might be, their natural potential is suppressed in favour of them spending their life in servitude to another. But when you are free, you can follow whatever path you wish, and hopefully become something special.”

Royce simply sat silently, thoughtfully taking all this in.

“Put simply,” the white tiger added, “we all need freedom in order to become what we are meant to be…”

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That was it. That was his desire beyond servitude. He wasn’t a slave.

He could remember now. He remembered being Nomack’s captive, being drugged until he lost his grip on reality.

It was all flooding back to him now. His old life as a pit-fighter, Tobias, Armin. He remembered all his time spent with Acheron. All the memories Nomack had buried were back.

For several minutes, it was a little overwhelming, and he just lay there, letting his returning memories wash over him. Eventually, he was starting to feel like himself again, his head was still a bit groggy as an after-effect of the drugs, but otherwise, he was free again, and one thought remained in his head.


The wolf had wrecked his life, framed him, enslaved him, made him believe he was nothing but a simple slave!

Immense anger welled up within Royce. He pulled himself to his feet, gripping the side of the bed to steady himself, he was still a little woozy. He thought once more about Nomack, his former Master, a great swell of hatred arose in him.

A familiar feeling crept over him, something he had not experienced for many years. A terrible violent bloodlust.

When he had first started out as a pit-fighter, he’d used it to let out all the anger he’d come to feel about the years of his life lost to slavery. His anger had manifested itself in an unstoppable destructive rage and bloodlust that he unleashed in his fights. It was his extreme use of violence in those early years that had made him so famous. And even though he had calmed considerably since then, it was the reason he had been stuck with his nickname. Raging Royce Herrick.

Now that feeling was back, surging up inside of him. A yearning to do some damage with his fists started to take over.

It was time to show Nomack exactly why he had earned his nickname…

To Be Continued…

Read Chapter 8...

Raging Tiger/Kuman the Barbarian/Mitchell and Michael/Going Under/Beware the Transformer/That Day/Working Bears/Heart of a Hero

The Art Gallery/The Library/The Comic Store

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