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When he was a boy, Kalyan loved the annual masquerades of the city. Two weeks of Carnival, with rules suspended, morés broken, and the pretences of civilization put away. People roamed as Nature had made them: proud, free beasts, ripe with passion and fuelled by hunger. The one time of year his clan left the shadows, the abandoned factories and the slums to walk openly in the whiskey-drenched sunlight. His first time, just fourteen, his powers almost fully emerged, and older boys of the mother clan had treated him like a mascot, a puppy or new-found toy. They encouraged him to jump off things, brand himself with hot irons, slice his skin with knives and razors, just to watch him heal. He’d done it all, endured each agony like a badge for their amusement, their acceptance. His clan master—the man who, in a less austere tribe, he might have called ‘Father’—put a stop to it after the older boys hit Kalyan with bricks and sticks, then pushed him out into the middle of the Carnival parade, streaming with blood and screaming, to heal before the horrified crowd. He remembered the flash of sequins, blinding torchlight and contorted faces all around him, the tremulous gasps and squeals of women and the revulsion of men.

Healing hurt, every single time.

The incident caused something of a scene. “It is not”, his clan master said between each stroke of the beating he administered, “Something to ever be repeated. Not on any account.”

Kalyan’s flesh couldn’t scar, but each blow of the master’s staff had seared itself into the tissue of his memory. He found it hard to remember that Lazarus never had such a harsh induction to their way of life. He was Changed, yes, but he’d come to his tribe late, coddled with all the gentleness of the human world; all those assumptions, those pompous, ignorant declarations of rights, the demands and expectations of security and comfort. Pipe dreams and arrogance, all of it. A stupid idealism founded on an unworkable vision of a distant, improbable Utopia…and yet they still believed in it. Lazarus still believed.

Kalyan struggled with that, aware his unease didn’t change facts. That night, back in Deadriver, he foolishly hoped he could change things. He realized now how wrong he’d been. The Agisci Order had come to town under a cloak of suspicion, loaded with riches and supercilious smiles, and not at all what the inhabitants were used to seeing. Deadriver was a town where the Changed were almost as good as normal; traveling monks, even those with sumptuous robes and cedar wood chests, would be unlikely to be met with open arms. Yet the Agisci waltzed straight in like they owned the place, spewing forth their poison. Kalyan recognized it for that almost at once. Words, bitter as gall, honeyed with hope and promise. Parables of trust, of innocence and unity, yet all the while tainted with circumspection. The brothers claimed to be preparing for Last Moon—some sacred rite for the benediction of the gods during the harsh winter ahead—and said they planned to wait out the hardest months among the townsfolk. Not a fortnight after they arrived, attitudes to the Changed began to alter. Tolerance made way for distrust, and blind eyes turned to snooping.

Almost Human


eBook Cover Price: 2.99

Length: 86 pdf Pages / 15900 words

Gay, Fantasy, Sensual Romance,

Heat rating: 3