Chapter Three

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Kira wasn't sure which oddity truly awakened her to her non-human counterparts first. It could have been the ten-foot troll selling hotdogs, or what she hoped were hotdogs—the toppings looked questionable and nothing like relish. Or maybe it was the manticore pushing a baby carriage full of kittens.

Kira stood frozen. Alpo had to physically lift her and drag her into the city. Maybe she had hit her head harder than she thought. Maybe she was just delusional.

But the farther they walked, the more complex her dream became. There was a small dragon wearing a cap and selling newspapers. A half-man, half-bear was leaning against a dented taxi, waiting for a patron. Did his fares ever ask to go to the surface? There were werewolves, trolls, ogres, and even a few that looked human, like Vic and Alpo. But Kira had to wonder if that was just a ruse. This city didn't cater to the human kind. The multifaceted monster city thriving under Portland filled her with so many unanswered questions that Kira completely forgot about escape.

She lost her chance when Vic and Alpo took her to Grater, a five-foot rat with long yellowed teeth that jutted over his bottom lip, who immediately started pawing her body in examination.

Her first response was to freeze at the hand reaching for her, but then she shook off her creepy memories and fought. Kira threw her head back and head butted Alpo, who held her from behind.

"Oi, that 'urt," he grunted and his fingers dug into her arms.

Kira twisted her body and used Alpo to kick the giant rat. He backed off, but not before she spat at him. She had to assume he was the one who was going to buy her, and she wanted to deter him by being as disgusting as she could.

She examined him at the same time. One large round ear was torn, and his tail had seen better days—no tip. The rat wore clothes that looked to have come out of a garbage bin. Kira could respect that because she shopped dumpsters herself.

Grater walked around Kira, his long nose brushing against her shoulder and sniffing her hair. "This one smells of the surface. What slave farm did you say you got it from?"

Vic rolled his shoulders and smiled. "My Uncle's in San Fran. I had to travel a ways to bring it, and our home tunnel was blocked so we had to take a detour through the surface. But you can tell by looking at it, it's from down here." He sounded like a used car salesman.

"He's lying." Kira glared at Vic and Alpo.

Vic's eyes went wide in pretend shock. "How can you say such a thing? We've taken such good care of you." He turned his back and addressed Grater. "That's what we get for getting too attached to them. You start giving them privileges, feed them, and sooner or later, they turn on you." He paused and looked at Kira sadly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what she presumed was forged paperwork, with her fake identity on it.

"I've never seen you before in my life. You kidnapped me from outside the Pearl District. I don't know you." Kira wasn't sure what good trying to prove her humanity would do, but she obviously didn't belong down here.

Alpo came up behind her and smacked her on the head. "Quiet, slave, or we'll take you back to the farm."

Grater watched the exchange through narrowed eyes. He scanned the paperwork and asked to see her brand. She grinned; she knew she didn't have any kind of mark on her body that would give truth to their lie.

Vic smiled. "Gladly! Alpo, hold it down."

Hands gripped Kira's hair and pulled her head down across the vendor table. They smashed her face against rotted fruit and what she assumed was some kind of dead squirrel. The stench filled her nostrils and she had to close her eyes, breathe through her mouth to keep from vomiting. Clawed fingers moved against her neck, and she tried to buck backwards in defense. The rat traced a mark behind her ear, and she winced in pain. Something was wrong.

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⏰ Last updated: Dec 08, 2016 ⏰

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