The man placed down his sack as he unlocked the door. "Welcome to Wers stable best transportation service in Devil's Helmet if, I may." He pushed the heavy door open with his shoulder. It scraped over the uneven floor inside. "Ridnik at your service." He grinned smugly as he bowed. His grimy hair falling before his face.
“A pleasure.” Kat said, though it was quite the opposite. There was nothing pleasant about the room beyond the door or the man offering her entrance. But a horse would be a comfort to have in her journey.
Ridnik picked up his sack and limped inside. Kat followed him hesitantly.
"Do you know how to get to Fritter's alley?" She asked him entering cautiously. She was greeted by a musky room nearly empty of any furniture and the little furnishing that was there was tattered and lopsided. Dust clung to nearly every surface save for the chairs. And the room smelled like burnt dust and hair. The room was poorly lit by a single candle that sat on a paper strewn desk.
"You’re so lost ain’t you? bloody hopeless." He snorted putting the sack down by the door. He heaved the door shut.
Kat flinched as the door shut. Her hands went back to her dagger. This movement was not lost on the man. He sniggered.
"Your twitchy. Afraid of me, Crawler?"
Kat forced a smile.
"Is that a yes?"
Ridnik cleared his throat and resumed his professional tone.
"My beasts can take you anywhere you need to go an never get lost. You'll get to Fritter Alley, why I'd stake my reputation on it." He took the lantern that hung by the door. He walked over to the candle on the table and lit the oil in the lantern. Replacing the candle he led the way through the room, down a long hall with a metal door at the end of it.
”So eres how it works. I don't know what your business is, nor do I care! You don't strike me as very interesting. This is a rental service you rent one of my animals I want it back. I don't care how you do it but my property must return to me. Got it?"
"Good. The five star beasts you can't afford to rent nor can you afford the four star ones but you might manage the three stars ones. Those you can rent for one cycle and I don’t go any lower than three stars it’s just insulting…unless I want to make me some soup!" He laughed at his own joke. His laughter was like a thousand yelping dogs.
Kat gave a polite laugh that sounded far more forced than she would’ve liked it to.
Ridnik grumbled something that sounded very nasty under this breath. He pulled out his ring of keys and pushed one into the lock. The look clicked and he kicked open the door. A wave of pungent odor swept from the room. Kat gagged and choked before she could stop herself she’d brought her hand up over her scarf to block her mouth.
Ridnik howled with laughter. He nudged her into the room.
“Come now rat you’re not disgusted with my humble dwelling?” He moved her hand from her mouth. Her scarf fell away as well.
“Hello.” Ridnik breathed gazing at her face. He stared at her for a long time a strange expression frozen on his disfigured face. It was a cross between disgust, disbelief and vague recognition. Kat pulled her scarf back up over her mouth shaking Ridnik’s expression. Ridnik cleared his throat straightening up as much as he could.
“Just breathe it in, the smell of high class Wer’s my dear.” He continued with a chuckle pushing Kat towards one of the large cages in the stable.
Kat tossed him a dirty look, she would’ve retorted with a biting remark but something in the cage behind her caught her attention. She froze the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. She barely dared to breathe as she turned to look into the cage. Her eyes meet with the piercing blue eyes of a large wolf. She opened her mouth to scream but her voice clung to her lungs unwilling to be free of her in such a dangerous place. Instead Kat drew in a sharp intake of breath.
The wolf before her was large...larger than any wolf should be, standing on all fours his face was level with hers. His yellow teeth barred menacingly. His shoulders were hunched, every muscle in his body tense ready for attack. His black fur rolled over his tight muscles bristling with barely suppressed aggression.
“Theodulus behave!” Ridnik barked, advancing forward quickly and slamming the bars of the cage with his hand. The wolf inside reared up on his hind legs towering over Ridnik. The wolf slammed the bars with his large paws as he growled warningly. With his large body stretched out before Kat she could see his belly was laced with cuts. Three fresh stripes marked the left side of his face. The sight made Kat flinch, she almost felt bad for the beast.
“You’ll behave!” Ridnik huffed angrily. “I’m sorry miss. This one’s a real menace.” He said rushing across the room and grabbed a whip that leaned in the corner. He charged back towards the cage of the blue eyed wolf, raising the whip.
The wolf retreated from the bars hissing and growling.
“Oh you won’t get away from me this time!” Ridnik spat.
Kat looked fearfully over at the wolf. Their eyes meet. The intensity in his blue eyes made her shiver. Those eyes were wild, violent but had a strange focus to them. Kat couldn’t look away. The wolf’s stare softened; his shoulders relax as he padded over to her their gaze locked. Kat took an involuntary step back. She felt the wolf’s eyes under her skin. He wasn’t looking at her but through her. Oddly enough Kat didn’t mind it.
Ridnik snapped his whip. The whip hit the wolf across the muzzle. Kat jumped back as the wolf yelped, his body contracting into a defensive position before he sprang against the bars barking angrily. He pounded the bars, the walls shook with the enormity of the force. Kat was sure the bars would give out under this assault.
“You can’t teach this one.” Ridnik growled. “You’re going to the meat truck Theodulus! first thing in the morning you’ve embarrassed me for the last time!”
“Come on let’s have a look at the other Wers.” Ridnik said, forcing a smile which was more discomforting than his natural sneer.
“Um,” Kat began shakily, as Ridnik led her to the cage next to Theodulus’. Inside the cage sitting calmly in the corner on display, was a wolf even larger than Theodulus. His muscular body at ease but his eyes showed a repressed wild rage that made Kat far more uneasy than the blue eyed wolf’s rebellion had.
“I…” Kat began, not even trying to hide her fear. She wasn’t sure what Ridnik wanted her to do with one of his wolves but judging by the size of the wolves and the name of his company she assumed people road these wolves. The thought made her want to scream. She’d never ride one of these monsters. Yet, she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. She cleared her throat, calming her voice. “I not really that sure I can afford one of your wolves.”
“Wers. And I haven’t even told you the price.” Ridnik corrected.
“It’s been a long journey, I’m sure I don’t have the fee. I just need to find my way back to Fritter’s alley so if you could be so kind as to point me in the right direction. I’ll be going.”
“Kind?” He laughed even harder. Kat was sure he was just being rude but now that she thought about itkindwas the last thing that came to her mind to describe the stable owner. Kat looked around the room anxiously waiting for Ridnik to recompose himself. Her eyes were drawn back to those blue eyes of the wolf Theodulus. He blinked pleasantly at her and in that moment Kat understood why those eyes looked so out of place on his face.
“They’re human!” she gasped.
“What did you say?!” Ridnik snapped, grabbing Kat’s arm and spinning her around to face him.
“His eyes, they’re human.” Kat said, twisting her arm free from his grip.
Ridnik looked over at Theodulus. A triumphant smile twisted his grimy features.
“He’s no human, he’s a Wer...and how the hell do you know about humans, Crawler?” Ridnik demanded. He reached out and grabbed her shoulder. Before Kat could move he pushed her hair behind her ears. His unsavory smile grew even wider.
“You’re not an elf.”