The sun was blinding and high in the sky as I left the tent. Wez remained. He sat, cross-legged, tinkering with his wrist-crossbow. It was midday, but there was no raid or chase going on for the warriors to engage in; a day of rest it was for the Dogs of War—something rare in the world of marauding.
I walked on, sloshing the sand between my boots at a quick pace. My eyes focused on the Toadie's tent—I was to borrow a razor from his collection and give Wez a clean shave on this "day off". Yeah, it was one of my many chores, but I enjoyed it. I treasured days like these, when we could just relax quietly in our tent, away from all others. For that reason, I B-lined to the Toadie, not glancing away for a second.
I could feel their stares—warriors, women—their eyes bore down on me. I hated that. Wherever I went, their eyes always followed and the more uncomfortable I felt. For several months now I'd been an official Dog of War, yet still I was unable to blend in with the rest…
Shaking off my anxious thoughts, I ducked into the Toadie's tent. He sat in the center of the canvas shelter, carving into a block of wood with a small knife.
"Ah, the Golden Youth enters!" He stood and bowed before me, in a kind yet mocking way. It didn't bother me though. The goofy man always acted that way. "What d'ya need today, Blondie? I have many furs and candles from our last raid. Or do ya desire more ammo—?"
"Razor." I said quietly. No more words were necessary.
"Ah, fixin' to groom your master, eh?" he asked, fishing through a box. "Just sharpened all of 'em, so you're in luck. Here ya go, Blondie." He handed me the small, reflective object. Nice and sharp. "On the house, since it's for the Mighty Wez." He laughed.
I exited the tent, razor in hand, picking up my speed through the settlement. I ignored the stares now and looked at the ground. I could've looked at our tent to see if Wez was watching me through the opened gap, but that was agiven. Wez was always watching me—that I could count on. Unlike the others, his gaze never bothered me and I quite liked it.
I was halfway back when I noticed a shadow in the sand. It was coming towards me. Right as I looked up, a hand connected with my face and I stumbled back a step. More than anything I was startled, but the blow was rather weak—nothing more than a slap. My master's hits were much more forceful, so a slap really didn't hurt.
Standing up straight, I looked at my assailant. It was a woman, which surprised me. More than likely it would be a warrior to approach me, wanting to have his way with me. But that only happened when Wez first brought me in. He put a stop to that quick. Occasionally, someone would try and talk to me or ask me if I was mute, but I never answered. Wez forbade me to speak to anyone except him unless it be getting something from the Toadie.
This woman was very beautiful and voluptuous. Her large breasts were almost completely exposed, as was every other part of her body. No doubt she could have any man she wanted if she just swayed them with her vices. I'd seen her in camp before—she truly worked her vices to their full potential, eventually becoming bitch to a Smegma Crazie—the third-in-command. But why was she confronting me?
"What makes you so fuckin' special, ya little whore?" she spat, pointing a long-nailed finger at me. Her eyes burned of hate.
I didn't understand. Special? I wasn't special at all. Why was she so angry with me when I'd never spoken, or even interacted with her before? I just looked at her with wide eyes, utterly confused and still very surprised.
She stepped towards me again, placing a hand on her hip and jabbing her pointed finger into my chest.
"I've fucked every man in this camp to get to where I am—and it's taken me three years! Three fuckin' years! But you! You fall from the fuckin' sky and land Wez and you're higher than me! You little shit! Who the fuck d'ya think you are?" Now she was screaming at me. She stood on her toes, I guess to make herself appear bigger, but I still stood a good two inches taller.
I glanced around for a brief moment. People were out of their tents, all stopped what they had been doing. They stared and whispered, many with their mouths hanging open. All activity in the camp had stopped and all attention was on me and the woman.
A knot was filling my stomach. This woman was accusing me of stealing Wez from her! How could she think that? Wez found me in the desert—he saved my life. It was his decision to keep me.
She stabbed her sharp finger into my skin and her glare never faltered. But when she opened her mouth to shout, she screamed in pain instead. From behind, Wez had grabbed her long hair and with great force, pulled her towards him. The motion made her stumble over into the sand, but he still gripped her locks, pulling her up.
I looked at Wez. Not in a long time had I seen him so enraged. His grey eyes were narrow, fixed on the shrieking woman in his grasp, and his giant muscles seemed to pulsate with raw fury.
Terrified. The woman screamed now, flailing her arms and legs, trying to free her hair and escape. Almost too fast for my eyes to see, he struck her square in the face with his mighty fist. A loud crunch resulted and she continued to scream, now sobbing as well. Her face quickly swelled and began to turn purple, while blood poured from her nostrils. Instantly, a broken nose.
Wez raised his fist again. No mercy. I could see it in his eyes. He hit her again. And again. And again. And again. He pummeled every part of her face. Her chin, her eyes, her cheeks, her forehead…
After so many hits, she stopped screaming. Only long moans and sobs escaped her throat. She no longer thrashed, but hung still, whimpering. Wez tossed her aside with an effortless flick of his wrist and she landed face first in the sand.
Then, without hesitation, he turned and trudged to where I stood, still scowling in anger. He grabbed the chain attached to my collar and gave a hard tug as he turned again, walking towards our tent. I had to walk quickly to keep up with his huge strides.
As we passed the battered woman, scrambling around disoriented in the sand, I could hear her moan repeatedly "Oh…oh…" The Smegma Crazie that owned her rushed up and grabbed her wrist, dragging her away.
"Oh…oh-h…" She continued moaning.
"Shut up Sheila!" the third-in-command shouted in a whisper. "What the fuck is wrong with you? That was the Golden Youth! "
My eyes widened. What did he mean?
Wez reached the tent and opened the flap, quickly ushering me inside first. He closed the flap completely once he was also in. He then sat down and tugged on the chain, pulling me to a sit too.
We both sat, facing eachother for a long moment, completely in silence. He wasn't glaring at me, but his expression was so hard—I looked down at my hands. I didn't want to look into his eyes—I didn't know what he was thinking. Was he angry with me? Would he hit me in frustration?
My eyes widened again as a terrible thought struck me. What if Wez did desire that woman? She was beautiful—the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. And she was an adult in her prime—not like me. If I'd counted the seasons right, I was fifteen—barely the makings of a man. Compared to other men, I knew I had a lot of developing to do.
But then, why would he have beaten her up so if he wanted her? Maybe he thought if she wasn't pretty anymore, he wouldn't desire her, so he beat her. Was he just settling for me? Did he even really want me? Would he grow tired of me and replace me with another more beautiful man or woman?
That thought made the knot in my stomach sear with pain. If Wez ever left me, I would… I—I—
"Golden Youth." He said, almost in a warning.
His voice broke my chain of thought. My head still hung low and I noticed my hands were trembling, holding the Toadie's razor.
He grunted, lightly tracing a finger over my cheek—the one that received the slap.
"Didn't hurt…" I whispered quietly.
With his big, rough hand, he cupped my chin and tilted my head upwards. Now I had no choice but to look at his eyes. He gazed deeply into mine for a long moment, I guess studying me.
"What you thinkin'?" He asked curiously, but as an order.
I might've liked to ask him the same question. But in all honesty, I was afraid what his answer would be.
I tried to read him. His hazel eyes baffled me. I couldn't tell if he was angry or disappointed with me—or maybe just embarrassed.
Now that he looked at me, my own embarrassment started to settle in. A woman had slapped me, not my master or even another warrior. Aside from the few warrior-women, women were seen as weak and delicate to the Dogs of War. They seemed to know their place as the ones who cooked the meats, tended to the men, and bore children. They knew not to bother the men—let alone strike them, or they'd be beaten—maybe even killed. So for this woman to slap and shout at me freely, meant she didn't see me as a true Dog of War. More than likely, she wasn't the only one to think that—I was no more than a whelp among these marauders, confirming my fear.
And then how the others stared… Never did I want attention on me. Why couldn't I blend in? Did I truly not belong here? Did I not belong with Wez?
I felt my heart drop. I couldn't take it anymore. I ripped my eyes from his and looked down again.
"No!" He growled. "Look at me." He clutched my chin tighter, forcing my head up again.
I met his eyes again and couldn't keep my lip from quivering. Weak. How could Wez want a weak boy like me?
Before I had time to react, he pulled me tight to his chest, pinning me with his muscular arms. The embrace was very tight and scared me at first, until it dawned on me what was happening.
It was a hug. He was hugging me. I sighed quietly, relieved, yet still I felt upset. I couldn't help but to bury my face in his armor and try to escape.
He placed a hand on the back of my head and began stroking my hair. It was gentle.
From the beginning I knew Wez's language was action. True, he spoke, but almost always in grunts and yells, whether ordering men around, arguing with the Humungus, torturing a prisoner, or telling me something. But he spoke his mind fluently in physical action. I could always tell his mood from what he was doing and how he was doing it. Hits, violent thrashes, rough or tender touches… he said so much more with actions than words. And this, the way he held me now…
He was comforting me—trying to soothe me even. This kind of affection, without lust or any sensuality… it was so rare, coming from him. This was his way of being empathetic.
Nothing was said for awhile. I just let him hold me.
"…'What she say hurt you?" He said, hesitantly.
He probably wanted to look at me then. He always wanted to look into the eyes of whoever he spoke to.
"…No. Just…made me think…"
"Think of what?" he grunted.
I was quiet for a long time, thinking about his question. I thought about so many things. Could I really tell him? Would he think me weak or stupid? And yet, I knew I had to tell him the truth. He deserved it and I knew he wanted an answer from me.
Taking a deep breath, I found my courage. I pushed away from him and his arms fell, hands stopping on my forearms. I looked at him. I looked at his hazel eyes. They were full of confusion, curiosity, and frustration.
"…Why me, Wez?" I blurted out, heat flushing all over my body. "—Why do you want me—not a woman—someone stronger or brave? Why me out of everyone here?—Why did you take me when you found me in the sand? I don't belong here Wez! I'm not like you!—I'm not like the warriors or anyone here! I'm weak—I'm—different…!"
After choking out that last word, I couldn't stop the tears. Water flooded my eyes and stung. I didn't mean to say so much and to tell him everything—but it all just came out in a rush. I couldn't help it.
So I sat there, sobbing before him, feeling so pathetic and helpless like a child.
Again he drew me to his chest in a tight hold, but this time, he forced his lips down on mine. I didn't fight this time. I let him kiss me. I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted him to make this hurt go away.
He broke the kiss, and trailed down my cheek and neck. Lover's play.
"I know you' different. You're special. Is why I have you. Why you're my Golden Youth." He spoke without faltering in his low grungy voice. He seemed so sure. "Not like anyone else. Quiet. Strong." He placed a finger on my chest, where my heart lay. "Smart. Loyal. Beautiful…" He continued to softly graze my neck and clavicle. I shivered at the touch. It was… sweet.
When he finished nuzzling my skin, he sat up straight and pressed his lips to my forehead.
"Took ya 'caus I wanted you to be my mate. Lifemate. Not for a while—" He lifted my chin and looked into my eyes then. "Forever. Will always be togetha', Golden Youth. Forever."
The look he was giving me made me feel so warm. God, how I loved him. He was everything to me; he was the only person I wanted to spend my life with.
I could feel my eyes welling up again as he continued to gaze down at me.
He didn't have to say anymore; his eyes told me everything.
He loved me.