Chapter 3: The Royal Treatment

Ralk didn’t budge as he watched the human leave. Flashes of memories he longed to forget flooded his mind again, and he kept his ears forward to listen for footsteps as he held his head in his hands. He hated that feeling. It was a sickness, but not from the stomach.

There was intense hatred, but it wasn’t his—it was directed at him. Hatred as he walked the path out of Krol for the last time. They were silent as he walked the path of humiliation and regret.

Why was he remembering this? Ralk leaned against the wall, his speckled snout pointing to the ceiling. His thoughts calmed as he reached under his leg. It became a habit of sorts to rub the shallow depression from the old wound he’d gotten that night.

You are hurt.

How the human spoke, the inflection in his voice—it was deeper, but familiar. The odds of running into him again six years later, thousands of parces from home, seemed unlikely. Regardless of the odds, he couldn’t shake the similarities between the boy that saved his life and the man that wrapped his paws.  

Most humans looked the same to him. He had run into many dark-skins while a slave in Carthia, each male looking similar to the boy. The memory of that night was as clear as broken glass, but the human’s face was shrouded in the cracks. What was his name again?

This dark-skin was different from the rest. He was a healer, and a skilled one at that. Ralk’s heart raced as his mouth went dry. What if he recognized him? G’yel changed a lot physically once they hit adulthood; even their fur color gets darker. But he knew something. Perhaps he felt it too, even if it was only a moment. That widened expression in his eyes said what his words didn’t make clear.

You have an interesting face.

It was as though, for a moment, the human saw him. The sick feeling returned, but this time it was his stomach. He should have killed the man when the memories came back. There was only one person that knew he could understand and speak the common human tongue, and if that got out…

No. The human would have said something if he remembered. It wasn’t as though the moment lasted. It was fleeting, likely faded from his memory by now.

Would he have been able to kill him? He wasn’t able to do it the first time they met. He remembered the bloodlust from that night taking over, making him forget the pain in his leg. He raised his sword, and he had every intention of swinging. One quick motion and he would have sliced through the human’s neck. It would have been clean, painless… relatively.

Ralk recounted for a few years after, trying to understand what stilled his hand. It made no sense. Each time he’d try to swing, his arms wouldn’t move. He wanted to believe that it was the blood loss affecting his mind and not what he feared it was—what others mocked him for.

Loud armored boots against concrete drew closer. There were about five sets of footsteps and light chatter before stopping at the closed door to the pit. The entrance swung open and five guards filed inside, four of them wearing mail armor and helmets. The fifth one wore no helmet, his messy, jet-colored curls cut short. He wore polished plate that glimmered in the dim torchlight of the prison.

He was rather large for a human, but all of them were much smaller than the G’yel. The top of his head would barely come up to Ralk’s chin. A sigh left the man as he drew his steel long sword. 

“He looks well enough,” the man said, nodding at one of the soldiers to unlock the cell. “Adorin does good work.”

“Adorin. That was the name. It was him.” Ralk thought, squeezing his fists tight.

The plate-wearer’s sword effortlessly swung a half a hand from the G’yel’s neck as one of his subordinates knelt and slid thick, iron shackles around his wrists. This man was strong, and the way he held that sword was masterful. 

“Up, beast,” one of the men barked, the toe of his metal boot firmly tapping against Ralk’s ribs, enough to hurt but not enough to injure him. Ralk stood, snarling from the pain, but keeping his eyes averted.

“That wasn’t necessary, Rosch,” the man grunted, shaking his head.

“Apologies Captain Sa’an.”

“Vic,” the man corrected. “Save the captain talk for when we’re headed to battle.” The man hissed through his teeth. “If we ever see one, that is.”

The man named Vic sheathed his sword and led the way to the hall, with the other four men in formation, two behind and one at either side of Ralk.

“I wonder what they’ll call him,” another man said, gently prodding the Ralk’s back with a sharpened, lightsteel pole.

“Nothing, unless he survives the first fight,” Vic responded, turning to look at the G’yel for a moment before facing forward again. “I’ve seen a few of these creatures before. Their eyes are stunning. If you’re unfortunate enough, those are the last things you see before they gut you. It’s kind of poetic if you think about it.”

Ralk caught himself in a slight grin before his face relaxed back to blank.

You’re going to die in the coliseum…

Adorin’s words were true. He’d be fighting instead of toiling in the fields and quarries. That was work for lowly human peons, not a mighty G’yel. Soon, he’d get to kill as many humans as he wanted—if humans were what he’d be up against. He might die, but it was much better to die here than in a cage, malnourished, oozing with infection.

Ralk liked the man in front of him. These were the humans they should have been fighting that night of the raid, not defenseless peasants. 

“Why don’t you give the beast a kiss then while staring into those pretty eyes,” Rosch said with a hearty laugh.

“I don’t think there’s enough ale in all of Nau to get me drunk enough,” Vic snorted, his face twisting to serious before looking back at the man. “Did you just tell your captain to kiss a G’yel?”

Ralk couldn’t help but glance over at the now floundering human, his skin quickly losing all color.

“I—sir, I apologize,” Rosch said, his eyes growing wider as Vic stopped and crossed his arms. Everyone froze in place and Ralk tingled in anticipation. Was this man about to execute one of his squad for insubordination? If it were a G’yel officer, he’d have been dead upon uttering a word without permission.

“The pit latrines are getting rather full.” Vic walked up to the man who bowed his head. “But I’ll give you a choice. You can either spend a day hauling shit, or—” He grinned wickedly. “You can kiss the G’yel.”


Disappointment poured over Ralk’s eyes. He thought he’d get to witness a beheading, not… whatever this was. Fury built as he bared his teeth, preparing them for the face he’d soon be chewing off.

“Sir… I…”

“I jest,” Vic let out a booming laugh that echoed through the empty hall, and both Ralk and Rosch stood looking at the man, stunned. The other men followed up with nervous chuckles, Rosch soon joining them with his own.

“I do not like this man anymore,” Ralk thought to himself, a low growl instinctively rumbling from his throat.

“I don’t think the G’yel found that funny, sir,” one man to his left said. “Wouldn’t that be amusing if he actually understood us?”

“Yes, wouldn’t it,” Ralk thought again before taking in a calming breath.

That was the third time he’d almost given himself away. The frustration ate at him, and he thought he’d burst if he couldn’t relieve it. As a slave, he worked, and his anger melted away with the rest of his thoughts. But he’d been cooped up in a cage on an airship for over a week and kept in a cell for a couple days.

“Too much thinking.” Ralk closed his eyes for a moment and let the frustration slip away as best he could.

“That would be kind of interesting,” Vic responded before opening the last doorway. “I’d definitely have a few beers with one to hear what he’d have to say.”

This man was different from others, strange. Ralk couldn’t decide if that was admirable or infuriating. 

A flood of sunlight followed the door’s shadow as it opened, and Ralk squinted, giving his sensitive eyes a moment to adjust. G’yel were better suited for the night, their eyesight more precise in lower light. They weren’t completely nocturnal, but they did most of their daily tasks by moon or torchlight, or nothing at all.

G’yel society may have been rigid, but there were moments of fun with the others. There were feasts when he was younger, and erotic dancing of both males and females during the fertile seasons. The most fun were the stories, the hunting, and the nightly yowls of laughter with his ne’ak.

Females were rare and were moved to the highest status in society after birth. However, male G’yels were assigned a ne’ak on their seventh year of life—a group of twenty to thirty other males around the same age. They would leave their mothers and become a type of family with the other youth.

The ne’ak wasn’t just a family; they were everything. They practiced sparring, hunting, dancing, and yes, they even mated with one another occasionally once they came of age. Only males deemed physically superior by the elder matrons got a chance at being picked by a female. Once the male was chosen, he wouldn’t have to fight. He’d get to mate for the rest of his life with as many females as would have him.

Many did not make the cut, and the ne’ak provided an outlet for easily irritated males during fertile seasons so they wouldn’t turn violent. It was the way of things, and Ralk missed the comradery, especially the sparring. It was the way he dealt with the frustrations that came along with being on the cusp of eleven—the time of change.

He had never mated with anyone, having not yet gotten to that part of his adolescence. The matron elders had already determined he was unfit for breeding, but that meant very little. Mating and siring children were of no interest, anyway. He loved to fight. Fighting alongside his new family was his real passion.

If only it could have lasted.

The group came upon a set of tall, golden doors, one of which was open enough to hear horrible music and loud banter coming from the other side. The entryway was palace-like, marbled granite floors polished to an almost impossible luster. They felt smooth against his rough pads, almost slippery if he weren’t careful. Several pearl white columns lined the room, each equal distance apart, and a rich violet and hunter green ivy spiraled from the bottom to the top.

Vic opened the heavy door all the way, and it banged to a stop against the wall behind it, causing a hush to fall over the crowd inside. The man peeked inside, his smile half-cocked.

“Well, that was quite embarrassing,” he said, garnering flirty laughter from the women inside. “My lord, I brought what you requested.”

“Right,” the unseen man inside bellowed in a cheerful, familiar tone. “Is it clean?”

The human glanced back at Ralk and sniffed, his nose crinkling slightly. The only time he got to bathe was after leaving the airship. He’d been sitting in a humid cell since then.

Vic turned back to the room. “Uh, that depends on what you define as clean, my lord. Should I have the healers bathe him?”

“That won’t be necessary,” the voice said impatiently. “Bring it in.”

The guards shoved Ralk over the threshold and into a grand, sun-lit ballroom. Similar columns and glossy marble decorated this area as well, but there was water flowing in from the aqueducts outside. It ran down the flat stone wall and into an artificial stream that split the room in two. A lavish golden bridge arched over it, allowing guests to freely walk to either side.

Everyone in the room gasped and fell silent, keeping their distance as the men led the G’yel past them. One of the women threw up a hand to touch her face, nearly fainting at the sight of him. Ralk nearly chuckled at the hilariously dramatic display.

He glanced at the lord perched on a purple velvet cushioned seat at a long dining table full of rich, delicious-smelling food and other nobility. The lord was tall and portly, not quite obese, but fat enough that his neck disappeared under his chin. He had silver, neatly trimmed but thinning hair parted to the sides. A long, crooked nose jutted from his unusually smooth face. His eyes were a faded blue, similar to others of his race of pale-skinned humans.  

“Ah, isn’t it ugly and beautiful at the same time?” The man stood from his seat before grabbing a cane at his side. Though he was older, he didn’t appear frail, but he walked with a limp as he carefully rounded the table. The guards stopped and bowed, but Ralk remained upright, his brows low and scowl indifferent.

“It stinks, and you spent a small fortune on such a ridiculous creature,” a sharp-tongued woman scoffed, sitting up from her chair that was next to the lord’s. 

She was younger, but close to middle-age. Eyes a similar hue, but her frame much more petite. Her blonde, curled trusses hung past her shoulders and her doll-like face was painted white. The woman’s lips were thin, but partially shaded the color of a pink rose in the center to give them a fuller, puckered appearance. “I’m not sure how much longer father is going to put up with your recklessness.”

“Now dear,” the man responded, walking over to meet her halfway. Their fancy shoes glided over the polished floor as they approached Ralk together. “This will make us a fortune.” He looked around the room. “Hardly a soul in Nau has ever seen one of these creatures, and they don’t exist in captivity. I have the only one, and everyone in the city will want to see it fight.”

“And if it dies after the first round?” She crossed her arms and looked away from the G’yel.

“Then I’ll have made a little more back than what I spent on the beast.” The lord’s arm slithered around the woman’s dainty waist, but she slapped the unwanted advance away. “I have a good feeling about this one.”

“And how much have you lost on good feelings so far?” Her scowl returned, but she glanced around the room as though she had forgotten the crowd watching them. “We’ll discuss this later, dear.”

The woman exhaled through her nose with a slight hiss, her icy expression melting into a forced smile. She raised her right arm and flicked her wrist forward.

“Music,” she said in a softer manner, nodding to the string and glass-horn quintet. Ralk had heard these instruments before and they were torture to his sensitive ears. Each high-pitched screech of a bow against string and honk of the bell-shaped, translucent horns were like claws against crystal. How could humans find this noise pleasing?  

Though his wife scolded him in front of the rest of the elite, the lord appeared unfazed. His grin widened as he examined the G’yel more. His gaze shifted to Vic.

“Have the healers and servants tend to the beast’s needs, and you are to make sure it doesn’t go on a killing spree. I want it fed and healthy by Tulta afternoon.”

Vic bowed before the lord, the playful, flirty look never leaving him as he turned toward a group of blushing young women close by.

Tulta. It would be four days before he could fight, but he would be fed and tended to in the meantime. His captivity in Nau seemed to give him something he thought he’d lost as a slave. The lord’s financial success hinged on Ralk’s ability to fight and win, and being so valuable meant better treatment.

“I will give word to Master Tauh,” Vic said, lifting his head before turning back to the guards. He stepped forward and nodded once to Ralk, smiling warmly before leading them out of the ballroom.

That man filled Ralk with a myriad of different emotions. There was something about the way he spoke and held himself that made the G’yel both respect and despise him. The only way he knew how to deal with those emotions was through combat, but he likely wouldn’t get the chance to fight this Vic.

The walk back to the pit took several minutes, and aside from inane banter about whores from the guards, there wasn’t anything of substance. As they neared the coliseum’s dungeon, Ralk turned toward the door. They entered the room and one man grabbed the keys from the wall before another prodded the G’yel back into his cell.

It was mid-morning and Ralk got little sleep on the concrete slab in his cell, the stifling humidity making him pant most of the night. He found himself half-asleep, stumbling along with the guards leading him someplace he hadn’t been yet. It had to be better than the pit cell.

They walked past the gate separating the hall from the other side through a large marbled lobby. This side of the building was just as nice as the lord’s ballroom.

“We’re taking him to Tauh, right?” one guard asked from behind.

“Sure are.” Vic let out an almost defiant laugh.

“He’s gonna hate that.”

“Then he can take it up with Yanth,” Vic replied, raising a dismissing hand. “Maybe this will push him over the edge and he’ll finally retire.”

“Doubt it, sir. I heard he was the only one that took this job. If he leaves, the fighters will have no healer.”

Vic sighed but didn’t look back. “The lord made him take an apprentice for that reason, so I’m sure things would continue as normal—if you could call whatever this is normal.”

Rosch quickened his pace before walking to Vic’s side. “You might like the fights if you actually watched one,” Rosch muttered, looking up at this captain. “I’m definitely watching this beast fight for sure.”

The large man didn’t react, but there was an air of irritation Ralk picked up on as the man next to him spoke.

“I have my reasons for not watching,” Vic said sternly, looking down at the smaller soldier to his right. “Fall back in formation. We’re on duty, not at the inn.”

“Aye sir,” Rosch said, turning back, his face a light shade of pink.

Something changed, and the mood of the humans grew heavy. Ralk rather enjoyed watching the lesser men at his side cast uneasy glances at one another.

After walking through a few larger rooms, they finally came upon a humble doorway at the end of the corridor. Vic raised his hand to knock, but froze when he heard the commotion inside. He held his hand up at the guards and leaned in to listen, pressing an ear to the door.

“This sap is valuable,” Tauh shouted from the other side. “Wasting it on an animal just got you deeper into the hole with me, boy.”

Ralk’s ears shifted to the front.

“I apologize, master. He was bleeding, and the lord wanted him healthy.”

“The lord doesn’t buy my supplies,” the man spat. Something hard slammed against the wall. “Spring nettle doesn’t grow in this region; you know this. Cleaning the beast’s wounds and bandaging them would have sufficed. It would live regardless.”

“But he would be in pain,” Adorin said.

There was a brief pause.

“It is not a person, Rin.”

Ralk bit his tongue, trying not to react to the conversation, despite the rage building inside of him.

“Then what counts as a person to you? It is not the fighters, the G’yel, or your own apprentice—”

“Watch your tongue,” the man shouted again. Vic shook his head and swung the door open. His eyes brightened and face wore a mischievous grin.

“Master Tauh,” the captain’s voice boomed with fake excitement. “I’ve wonderful news from Lord Yanth.”

“Low-brow,” Tauh grunted before balling his fists. “I have told you many times to knock before entering my lab.”

“Must have slipped my empty mind,” Vic retorted without missing a beat. “I brought you a gift.” He turned and pointed to Ralk who struggled to remain cool-headed by staring past the humans to a far wall.

“What is that doing here?” The old man wrinkled his nose. “Take it to stink up the pits where it belongs.”

“No can do,” Vic said, crossing his arms. “Orders are to get the G’yel in top condition to fight. He’s to be fed and have any remaining wounds treated.” He shot Adorin a knowing stare. “The lord wanted to commend your apprentice on a wonderful job. You’ve taught him well.”

That was a lie, and Ralk’s confused gaze narrowed on Vic. Humans did such strange things, including lying to help others. What was the point in doing so? What would the officer gain?

Tauh’s eyes softened as he looked away. “Yes, well,” he said nervously, pausing before looking over at Adorin. “The mud-skin learns; I’ll give him that.”

The young man’s jaw shifted, and his eyes pointed downward. Ralk had heard that insult before in Carthia, but it was rare for anyone who uttered it to walk away without being beaten to near death. Adorin likely wanted to do the same to the old man.

“If the creature is to be fed and cleaned, take it to the menagerie with the other beasts so the servants can tend to him.” He glared at his apprentice once more, and a smile slithered up his face. “Actually, I have a better idea.”

“Master…” Adorin’s eyes went wide as fear crossed them.

“You did such a good job with the G’yel that I think you should continue working with it.” Tauh pushed Adorin forward. “I have no need of him presently, and instead of burdening the servants, Rin can look after the beast.”

As much as Ralk hated humans, he felt slight sympathy for the younger man. Earlier he would have enjoyed watching Adorin shake with fear at the sight of him, but now it seemed rather hollow.

Having that human around meant he could prod for more paw massages, but there was also a risk of being recognized. If he was going to get the best treatment, he couldn’t kill the man, but he couldn’t allow Adorin to let loose his secret either.   

He’d need to be careful.

“Sorry,” Vic muttered, leading the group to the menagerie. He rested his armored hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Your master is a piece of work.”

“He’s a racist old bastard,” Adorin said, the words seething from his mouth. “I wish he’d hurry up and die.”

Ralk watched the two next to each other and noticed an interesting dynamic. Adorin’s scent changed drastically when the man touched him. His broad ears shifted to the front as he honed in on the young man’s rapid heartbeat. That was a surprise, and such information might be useful later on.

“That’s a rather surprising thing to hear from someone so hell bent on saving everyone.”

Adorin sighed and looked down.

“I—I don’t know why I said that,” he muttered. “That was ugly of me.”

“No, it was human.” Vic let his hand drop to his side. “I’d probably say the same thing if I had to be around Tauh every day.”

“The man is awful. It should say much that I am more relieved to be spending time with the G’yel than with him.” Adorin held his arms against his chest.

“I think the beast is rather fond of you.” The man glanced back at Ralk. “I mean, he didn’t maul you to death.”

“We’ll see,” Adorin said, keeping his head to the front as they walked through the exit. Ralk’s eyes slowly adjusted to the light of outside as he got a sense of familiarity. The smell of beasts and the sound of falling water meant they had arrived in the menagerie. “I saved one once.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.” Vic laughed, patting Adorin on the back. “But it kind of does at the same time.”

“What do you mean you saved one?” Rosch asked from the back.

“It was a long time ago. The G’yel had…” Adorin paused and shook his head as if letting a memory drop his mind. “Well, I saw a G’yel with an arrow sticking out of his ass, so I pulled it out and put medicine on it.” The men behind Ralk burst into laughter.

Ralk’s face went hot, not at all amused by the fabrication. That arrow was nowhere near his ass. He regretted momentarily feeling pity for the human.

“He seems pretty tame,” Vic said, letting go of the shackles for a moment, which was all Ralk needed to pull away. The G’yel dashed toward the pond and jumped in, the water feeling cool against the heat of his fur-covered skin. He stood in the deepest part, kneeling to his neck as he did before, not moving as he stared up at the humans with their swords drawn in surprise. They sheathed their weapons and burst into more laughter.

“My men had a hell of an ordeal getting him out of there last time,” Vic said, letting his own sword click against the shiny steel covering. “It was like a game to him, and he’d keep slipping away. Everyone was sopping wet by the time they were able to wrangle him.”

“While he’s in there,” a voice called out from a window above. “It should have a proper bath.” That was Tauh’s voice. He had forgotten that the infirmary was on the second floor above the courtyard. The old man must have waddled his way from the lab to spy on him. “You wouldn’t want the creature to get an infection.” The man dropped a half-used bar of soap and a broad brush before grinning.

He was trying to get Adorin killed. There was no way the G’yel would allow him to do that, if he didn’t die of humiliation first.

“Sir, the water should be enough to get him clean.”

“Have you learned nothing?” he asked, resting his arms against the edge of the window as he leaned out. “The wounds should be cleaned with soap.” He disappeared back into the room. “Now get to it.”

“Can you stay with me?” Adorin asked as he stumbled over to pick up what Tauh dropped.

“Of course,” Vic responded. “The lord told me to protect the servants, so…”

“Don’t call me that, please.”

“I apologize,” the captain said before turning to his men. “Back to the wall.”

“Yes sir,” they shouted, giving a rigid chest salute before filing through the outer gate.

Vic looked back at Adorin and shrugged. “If he tries anything, I’ve got my sword ready.”

Ralk had never been bathed by someone before, but the idea excited him. After the joke Adorin made at his expense earlier, he’d capitalize on the human’s servitude. As the young man neared, Ralk stood before leaning forward against the edge of the pond. He grinned from ear to ear and tapped a claw of his finger on the concrete before pointing to his back.

“Damn everything to the pits of Resh,” Adorin muttered.

“What’s wrong?” Vic turned toward him. “He looks like he wants you to bathe him.”

“The G’yel knows.” The young man sighed before stepping into the water. “He did this the other day, too.” Ralk could feel the human glaring at him. “You’re not above me. You stupid beast.”

Ralk kept his eyes forward, content he garnered such an angry reaction. As the firm bristles of the brush scratched against his fur, penetrating to his skin, the G’yel let out a shaky moan, leaning to each side as the man scrubbed. This was amazing. Those places that were too hard for him to reach on his own, the human got with ease.

“Now this is funny,” Vic said as he rounded the pond before splashing his face with the water falling from the aqueduct.

“I hate Nau.” Adorin scrubbed harder as he got more irritated. Ralk enjoyed it more when the human was angry. He got an idea that would make this even better. 

With his shackled hands, he pushed against the ledge, lifting himself from the pond. Vic drew his sword and rushed over, but Ralk didn’t show any aggression. Instead, he slipped his fingers under the leather of his tight loin cloth, letting it fall down his legs.

Both of the humans stood there, horror in their expressions, but Ralk grinned again as he lay back on the concrete, pointing to his abdomen. He’d seen human males naked before, and it always amused him to see what they hid under their clothing. They weren’t just inadequate fighters, and he enjoyed making them squirm looking at his hulking, naked figure. 

“Just kill him,” Adorin muttered, letting the soap slip from his hands. “We could say it was in self-defense.” Ralk’s eyes shifted nervously to the guard. Perhaps he had gone too far.

Vic laughed, his boots clanking against the ground as they stopped in front of Ralk’s face.

“Now you know I can’t do that,” he looked up at the second-floor window. “Not with Tauh watching, at least.”

“I take back what I said earlier. I hope he dies horribly.” Adorin picked up the soap and brush and worked the bristles into the G’yel’s chest and stomach fur. It felt so good that Ralk couldn’t help but close his eyes and smirk, letting out whiny grunts with each circular motion.

“Make sure you keep above his waist,” Vic said. “Don’t want to start what you can’t finish.”

“You disgust me.” Adorin’s voice was low and annoyed, but there was a hint of amusement. “I am regretting asking you to stay.”

“Don’t be such a lime,” Vic said jokingly at first, but his voice got more serious as he continued. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“If this is about yesterday—”

“Yes, it is,” Vic interrupted. Ralk cracked an eye open to see the human hold his hand up. “At first I didn’t understand what was wrong, but I realized I may have inadvertently insulted you.”

“You didn’t insult me,” Adorin said, the brush digging deeper into Ralk’s skin. “You just… sounded like everyone else in this horrible place.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Lives do not mean anything to you if you deem them worthless. Tauh thinks the same way.” He was brushing harder now, and Ralk was starting to get nervous the lower the rapid brush strokes went. “Do you know why I’m in so much debt with him?”

Vic shook his head.

“Because I stole medicine to save the people he and Lord Yanth thought weren’t worth saving. The ones who lost, or were too injured after victory to keep fighting.”

“You could have been executed for that,” Vic shouted. “You put yourself at risk to help dead men?”

The brush was hurting now, and Ralk went to grab the man’s arm. However, as if reactionary, Adorin threw the brush down, the edge of it slamming into Ralk’s groin before bouncing into the pond. The G’yel let out an ear-piercing whine as he cupped the area between his legs.

“Oh no. I’m sorry,” Adorin shouted, trying to calm Ralk down, but every time he got near, the creature snarled and yowled, raking his claws to shoo the human away. That was the worst pain he’d ever felt as ripples of sensitive nerves pulsed from his testicles to his stomach.

He lay on his side in the fetal position, clutching his groin tight while grimacing until the sharp throbbing dulled.

“He might actually kill you now,” Vic said, half-joking, but mostly concerned as he kept his sword at the ready. “Hell, I’d probably kill you after that.”

“I did not mean for that to happen.” Adorin’s voice shook. “I feel terrible.”

“I’m going to make him pay dearly for that,” Ralk thought as he lay there whining, still unable to move.

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