Chapter 2

Scrachtface the rat was having a bad day.

In fact, everyday was bad for him since he had been caught spying for corsairs. But instead of killing him, Zorkaan had decided to let him live… As a slave. Scrachtface had been made something worse then death. He swore to himself that one day he would have his revenge on the boar Emperor. And if not, then his newborn son, Whiptail.

Whiptail had been a fighter since birth. Already he had slayed two other slaves by strangling them with his constrictive tail. Scrachtface and his mate kept their distance from the deadly babe. The only one who would go near him was his older sister, Glae. Somehow, she was able to charm the little wretch, being one of few attractive rats.

Scrachtface heaved a wheelbarrow full of wet cement into a ditch facing the western battlements of Sovlergash Fortress. He collapsed under the unmerciful whip of Tekker, the fox slave master. He was supported by a mole named Grewl.

“Cummon oop, maister Scrachyface, fore Tekker be sein yoo an’ oi. Naow, maister Scrachyface, quick loik!”

Rat and mole supported each other’s weak, frail bodies against the empty wheelbarrow to get another load.

Scrachtface and Grewl had helped each other from the beginning. The rat met Grewl while they were being fed the slave’s daily breakfast of cold porridge and sandy water. Scrachtface couldn’t bear the sight of the near-starved, raggedy-breathing mole. He gave Grewl a third of his food and water, binding their partnership for life.

After a hard day’s work, Scrachtail and Grewl sat under one of several slave longhouses. Glae sat at the other end of the building, nursing her small brother with a plain scone cooked on a pile of flat stones with a small fire under it. An ottermaid whispered in Grewl’s ear. Grewl nodded understandingly.

“Cumm on naow, Scrachyface, thurr be a meetin’.”

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