Slavery, 105

It was snowing really heavily, that soft, unending kind of heavy snow that cascaded down from the sky and made it impossible to see everything. For two minutes after stepping out of the inn, Daniel had worried about wearing black when everything was white, but that was stupid because the snow was hiding everything and was sticking to him all over.

He was fucking cold, actually, and he only knew where he was going because he and Ozzy had gone there carefully the previous night. He was by himself tonight, though. Ozzy had work too, and so he and Daniel had split up after leaving the inn.

Now Daniel was perched on a wall, looking down. He knew how to get down and to where he wanted to be. He was just counting in his head. The snow probably meant the guards weren’t on their usual patrol routes and probably not at the same time, and it also meant they wouldn’t see him if he walked right in front of them, but Daniel wasn’t about to fuck up over something stupid.

Others, 42

Elias Aerchon’s life had begun in a prison cell. Perhaps he hadn’t been born in one, though perhaps he had, but either way he’d spent enough time in them as a boy that it made no difference. Vandalism, theft, breaking and entering, threats, assault, sexual misconduct, drugs and alcohol, always drugs and alcohol, often together. Until one day the city guard in White Cape had grown tired of him and had thrown him in a cell with some of the rougher criminals in the city for a few days.

Elias had learned very quickly that he was nowhere near as tough as he’d thought he was, and that people far more intimidating, strong and mean than him were very happy to teach him the lessons he needed in respect, politeness and decency.

Many people Elias had known as a child would have taken that lesson to mean they had to be stronger and meaner to avoid being hurt like that in the future. Elias had taken it to mean he had to live a different life. The boy he’d been had died in that prison cell, beaten and raped to unconsciousness for mouthing off to someone for no reason, and a new person had been born from his corpse.

Team, 99

Cal hadn’t even set foot in the dry part of Narwhal Junction yet, and the Imperial presence was already ruining his life.

They’d arrived just after sunrise in Hörin Harbour, which was packed with ships. A little skiff had sailed out and waved a bunch of coloured flags at them, and the captain had waved some flags back and told Cal they had to wait until it was their turn to dock, and that it would probably be three or four hours thanks to all the Imperial warships in the harbour jumping the line.

“Yeah,” said Hail Pine, when Cal complained about this after he’d learned it. He had his leg in the air and was licking his balls. “Everyone knowsh the Eaglesh are the worsht.”

“Yeah, they suck,” Star Bear agreed, taking Mick’s dick out of his mouth to say it. “I mean I never met them, but I’ve heard they’re the worst.”

Others, 38

Robby took a deep breath as he stepped through the portal into Techen’s Stand. He’d been spending so much time away from it lately, in the capital and in Stag Keep with Edwin. It was nice to be back. He wished he wasn’t back.

It was so quiet everywhere, in the keep, in the town, in Robby’s head. It had been quiet in Robby’s head ever since that moment at the orgy when he’d been with Edwin and suddenly it had all just stopped. All the thoughts, all the noise that he’d lived with since Drew had come to his house and told him he was a priest and ruined his life, ruined his family’s lives. They were all gone from his head.

Lyren was gone from his head. And it was because of Edwin. Robby should have found it funny what had cleared him of the invader who’d taken control of his mind had been that Edwin fucking him for all he was worth, but it wasn’t funny. It had just happened, and Lyren was still out there. Andif Robby wasn’t careful, he’d get Robby again, and all the people Robby loved.

Robby was being very careful.

Villain, 81

Sam was standing on what felt like a pile of jagged rocks that could have been bones in a room that had residual scarring from a fight. He could feel traces of his power and of Scott’s, both still lingering in the air. He was in the centipede pit, where he’d disappeared. He wondered if he could open his hold wherever he wanted, or if it would always open in the last place he’d used it.

It didn’t matter with Hadrina in there. Sam wouldn’t be returning there anytime soon. He had no reason to, not now that he was home, and with new toys to try out. Carefully, he picked himself over the rocks, climbing for a minute until he found himself on solid ground.

The castle felt the same to Sam, and the pit didn’t smell like blood or even like Scott. He must have been gone a while, which meant he’d be having a word with someone over the fact that this mess hadn’t been cleaned up.

Villain, 80

You should be happy, Henry.

Everyone but Henry walked down the hallway in silence. Their footfalls were softened by the carpet, replaced yesterday. Nobody spoke, not him, not Derek or the dragons, not Archer or Hutch.

They were all quiet, but Henry didn’t walk in silence. A year of screams walked with him, swirling around him, raking every part of his body at every opportunity. They pounded at his chest, tore at his hair, ripped into his eyes as he walked, doing his level best to look strong, to look regal.

To look like a king.