Taking a slight break from Dragon's Eye and The Kingdom Chronicles, my published stuff to work on something different. Thanks to chris and a few others I did a rewrite on this and wanted to see if it captured the images I was trying to portray. The True Born Chapter 1 Pelarus knew he was considered special. He was one of the true born, ancient descendants brought by the gods from Greece and Egypt to Mallyria when they left earth. As the slave master’s knotted rope ripped the flesh from his back in bloody strips, he did not consider himself such. At least none of the others in his raiding party had been captured. Shaking his head, he bit down on his lower lip hard enough to draw a bead of blood as he fought back another scream. He could only blame himself for being captured. The gods must want this. That did little to appease his pain as the lash fell. But if the same thing happened again, he would have been captured twice. He could see the small child wondering aimlessly out onto the cobbled street. Then the herd of stampeding cattle his men had engineered as a distraction were hurtling straight at her. A flash of sunlight on her golden hair had caught his attention. Wheeling his horse around, he had charged through the stampeding herd, reaching her just before she was overtaken in a storm of churning hooves. Dexterity is one of the gifts that comes from being True born and he had snagged the small girl out of death’s jaws by one arm. He remembered how light she had felt as he had yanked her up into the saddle, then his horse had stumbled. He could still feel the hooves crashing into him as he had thrown his body over hers, protecting her. The child was the daughter of the city’s current mayor and the spark of his life. His selfless act had spared him death by stoning for raiding. But now clinging to the whipping pole in the hammering hot sun, he wondered whether he might have been better off dead. “Slaves work, Pelarus. Slaves lift, carry, and set the stone,” hissed the rat-faced Dramel into his ear. “They’re not supposed to help fallen slaves who can’t complete their tasks. How many times do I have to tell you this!” The knotted rope fell and Pelarus felt another layer ripped from his back. “Slaves do as they are told!” “Enough Tarrus!” came a sharp bark, a tone of command filling the air. Tarrus’ head snapped around to stare at the Master of slaves, Mordrun Coule. “He won’t be able to work at all if you keep using the rope on his back that way.” Tarrus dropped his eyes submissively and his raised arm dropped, the dripping, bloody rope staining the sand red. “I hear and obey master.” Mordrun eyed the lowered head of his slave keeper skeptically. Does he really think I don’t know what games he plays with the trueborns who are marked as slaves. Rumors had floated up through the ropes about Tarrus’ treatment. He did, Mordrun was sure, he had seen how he had been delivering the lash, the look of hatred twisting his features before he had stopped the lash. “Tarrus, until this slave’s back is healed, completely, he is not to be lashed. If he is, then you are to be also, twice for his every one.” Tarrus’ lowered head jerked upwards and he almost met Mordrun’s eyes. Quickly recovering he lowered his head again. Knowing that he might have possibly received a death sentence, he said through clenched teeth, “I hear and obey sire.” Now he was to protect this slave, if the other keepers found out about the master’s words they would deliberately lash Pelarus in order to see him lashed as well. Grabbing his horse’s reigns in one hand, Mordrun gestured with the other, sunlight glittered off his gauntleted hand. “Have those two take him off the pole and carry him to the healers tents. Tarrus waved his bloody rope at two slaves pulling carts and they freed Pelarus’ manacles holding him up alongside the pole. His body collapsed under the weight of his chains, and Pelarus found himself face first in the bloodstained sand. Two sets of arms lifted him, and he felt himself dragged away. Somehow he knew, the master’s eyes were still on him.