Chapter 6

Zorkaan was in foul temper. Once again he had to deal with Whiptail, who had refused to work. He paced forward and backward on the parade ground. Zorkaan eyed the rat suspiciously. He knew Whiptail cared nothing for his rule. But if the rat resented all of Sovlergash, why didn’t Whiptail try to just kill the boar Taggerung and escape?

When Zorkaan put this question to the young vermin, the answer he received made him dance with rage and frustration.

“He who slays the Taggerung becomes the Taggerung. But I have no wish to be weak!”

Zorkaan brooded in his bedchamber, filing away at a piece of bark. It was at such an inopportune time Tekker the slavemaster entered. Zorkaan tossed a beaker at the unfortunate fox.

“Snnnnrrek! Leave me be, beer-brain. Out!”

Tekker crawled away on all fours. “F’give me, Sire, I’m goin’, I’m goin’, see?”

Zorkaan glanced towards the window. “Wait.”

Tekker did. The boar sighed regretfully. “It is not you that angers me, Tekker. It is the slave whelp, Whiptail. I try, again and again, to get rid of him… but it all ends in failure. That rat is tougher than any of my hordebeasts. But if I set my entire command against him it may be seen as a sign of weakness. An entire fort to take down one upstart rodent, you see. But if I were to deal with him personally…” Zorkaan glanced at his miserable stump of a tail, “I may lose more than that.”

“Do not think me weak. He would die, most assuredly. But Whiptail could very well be my equal if he reached maturity.”

The Taggerung of all the Northlands stared deep into the anxious eyes of the fox. “What are your thoughts on this?”

Tekker gulped visibly. “Lord, I’s only a lowly slaver, don’t knows goot thoughts. But-grmff!”

The boar seized Tekker by the scruff of his raggedy cloth. “But…What?!

Sensing the disguised eagerness in the Taggerung’s voice, Tekker regained himself. “I’s watchin’ yon rat , he fine cruel. Cares on’y fer ‘isself. But when’s me whip his sister, he pounce on this pore beast.”

Zorkaan carelessly released the fox and stroked his tusks. “Ssssnnnnraput! This is good. I can use this. I was wise to include a fox in my ranks. You may go now.”

Tekker scuttled away on all fours, graciously kissing the floor beneath Zorkaan’s feet, glad to be away from the Taggerung.

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