Okay, I promised yesterday to share a scene in which Joshua details how he became Yaechahre/Canichmeh. This is tentatively scheduled to be put somewhere in the third book. I have a vague idea of where I want to put it in the third book, but as is usual with me when I have a new book in mind, I just start writing scenes. I put them together in the correct order and blend them seamlessly much later in the process. So how exactly Kalyn and Joshua get off on this subject is still very much up in the air, but I’m almost positive that it will end up somewhere. (Also, do not infer by the current situation that Kalyn and Joshua have slept together; things get really hairy in the third book, and I currently envision this scene after they have had to flee in the middle of the night.)
By the way, I finished editing the prologue of my first book last night and I did some work with my artist friend on Anselm’s picture; I think we may have that about worked out. Hopefully I will be able to post it in the next couple of days.
Joshua sat on the edge of the bed, his shoulders slumped in weariness and defeat. He sighed, tired.
Kalyn looked at him, then noticed dozens of faint white marks crisscrossing his back. Curious, she reached up and lightly traced one with her fingertip. Joshua jerked a little, flinching away from her.
She suddenly realized what the marks were: they were whip scars. “What happened to you?” she asked quietly.
“I told you I was once a slave,” he said in a quiet voice.
“Did… did our people beat you when you were a Yaechahre?”
He laughed a little, but it was bitter. “No, they wouldn’t have wasted the effort. Besides, controlling me mentally was a more effective… deterrent.”
“Deterring you from what?”
“Why was that more effective?”
He turned so he could look at her. “Beating someone like me just causes more anger and resentment. I’m the sort of person slave owners always feared—a strong, military-minded, rebellion-prone slave.” He half-smiled. “I become more of a liability rather than less of one when I’m mistreated; I become less subservient.
“But taking control of my mind and forcing me to do what I don’t want to do… that’s something truly horrifying. It’s not a weapon that can be fought against or broken. Pain can so easily be turned into anger—even hatred— and that can keep you going, but being unable to control your own actions… you’re too afraid to be angry.”
“How… how can you not be mad at someone who is controlling you?”
“Because you fear them too much to be angry.” Kalyn looked at him, still confused, so he offered an example. “If someone came in here and told me to kill you, I would refuse. They could beat me to death, but I would still refuse to do it. My willpower is stronger than pain, you see. But if I was still human, and one of ours took over my mind and ordered me to kill you, I would do it because my willpower, as a human, would not be stronger than that of a Canichmeh. And they could make it so I was conscious of what I was doing the entire time; I would see myself doing it, but would be unable to stop myself.”
Kalyn shuddered. “Now you see why that is more terrifying than being beaten?” he asked. “How the threat of that would cow even me?”
“Yes,” she said quietly.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t resent it—you do—but fear is your first reaction. And when you are fearful, you are much more willing to do as you are commanded. Not that it didn’t take several sessions to sufficiently humble me.” He almost smiled. “I was an arrogant, willful little shit when I was younger.”
Kalyn had to laugh at that. “I can’t imagine you like that.”
“There’s something to be said for nearly two thousand years of water under the bridge. There’s also something to be said for being forcibly subdued. It definitely changes your personality.”
“What exactly did they do to you?” she whispered. Joshua turned his head away, looking at the floor. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice barely audible. “It’s not my business.”
He looked up, but not at her; he seemed to be looking into the distance, at something that wasn’t really there. “I think what happened to me in the past is more relevant now than ever before, because we are in such danger of falling back into that time—when people were property.” He looked at her then. “I was raped.”
She held her breath for a moment. “Like… Jonas did to me?”
“No. I was actually never hurt while being bitten—although, at first, I certainly objected to it. I was talking about the real definition of the word.”
Kalyn’s brow furrowed in thought. She wondered how a man could be raped, but she didn’t want to ask. Either he was willing or he wasn’t, right? But Joshua either heard her thoughts or guessed them. “Remember what I told you about being controlled,” he said. “You can be made to do anything.”
Kalyn grimaced. “That’s… why they controlled you?”
“The woman who owned me, yes. She was one of the most arrogant, spoiled people I have ever met in my life. She liked me—liked my looks—and wanted me as her favorite. In more ways than one. That I didn’t want her sexually angered her, so she forced me into it. Even after I was given a wife, she still… demanded my services.
“Her sire liked me, though, and I had a grudging respect for him. He was fair and conscientious… up to a point. There was something about Edith that he loved better than anything else. He was the stereotypical indulgent parent when it came to her, and he was willing to let me suffer if it made her happy—although he never really approved of how she treated me. I even overheard him warn her, once, that she was creating a hatred in me that would never be erased, but she was in denial; for whatever reason she never accepted the fact that I did not want her. When she was away for a few weeks, and I was alone with him, he offered to turn me. I think he did it because he felt sorry for me. My wife had recently died and my children were almost grown, so there was nothing else to occupy my time and attention–no reason why I couldn’t be in her presence around-the-clock.
“So, I let him turn me, just so I could escape from her. Edith was not happy about that when she got back. She threw quite a tantrum, but of course it couldn’t be undone, and Canichmeh could never be held as slaves by anyone. So I was free. But then she made a very grave error: she tried to bully me into still serving her sexually. And that’s when I lost it. I had been her victim for over thirty years, and finally, at last, I did not have to be her victim anymore. That was the first and only time in my very, very long life that I ever hit a woman, and I beat her senseless. Which is no easy task,” he added. “We are not easily knocked unconscious.
“Our sire and two of our brothers had to drag me off of her, because they were afraid I was going to kill her. She healed in a few days, but she stayed inside, hidden from me. I’m not sure if she became afraid of me, or was angry, but I never saw her again. My sire gave me to a friend of his to raise, and I left with him a week later. He was my sire in everything but name. Wonderful man and a good influence on me. He helped me let go of most of my anger and resentment and arrogance. He never managed to cure my hate of Edith, though.”
He looked down at his hands, then showed his fist to Kalyn. “Even talking about her now, nearly two thousand years later, it still makes me mad. A part of me wishes they had let me kill her. Maybe then I could have let it go.” He shrugged. “But maybe not. She’s been dead for over a thousand years and I’m still angry when I think about her; I’d probably still be angry, even if I had been the one to kill her.”
“What happened to her?”
“She and my sire and their entire encampment were attacked by raiders—possibly because they knew or suspected what they really were. Two of my brothers managed to survive, and a few of their Yaechahre, but most of the Yaechahre, Edith, a brother, and my sire were all killed.”
She looked at his back again. “So how did you get the scars?”
“Oh, the Romans did that, after they captured me. I guess I was lucky they didn’t kill me. I don’t know if they knew I was part of the rebellion; they generally killed anyone who was a part of it. Like I said, people like us didn’t make good slaves. We were more of a liability than an asset.”
“Did you fight them?”
“When I was captured?”
“No. I was too outnumbered.”
“Why did they beat you?”
He laughed. “Because they could.” He shrugged. “I’m sure they did it to try and humble me—the rebellious son of a wealthy, high-ranking Jewish family—but, like I said, that sort of thing had the opposite effect on me. It just made me hate them all the more.” He glanced at her. “There were a lot of people that I hated in my youth.”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Yes, there are a lot of people I hate right now. But, you know what?”
“I’m still here and the Romans aren’t. I’m still here and Edith isn’t.”
“Do you think we can win?”
“I’m not invincible, by any means, but I’m nothing if not tenacious.”
“So am I, apparently. No one’s managed to do me in yet.”
He reached for her hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing it. “For which I am extremely grateful,” he said with a gentle smile.