The house stood in the middle of the row, a luxurious combination of both wood and stone, all held together by mud and strong weed. Its thatched roof had slipped off like the cap of a man in a drunken stupor, leaving wind to whistle around the naked beams. Stone that had collapsed from the tops of the walls had been replaced with planks of wood, and a veranda formed a bridge over the embankment where other houses had only stepping stones. The inhabitant was a compliant one, and their good behaviour had been rewarded with the extension of a portico above the front door and a small tower on the side, making the home look more like a rotting castle.
“There?” Anala asked, instantly uncomfortable. Seeing the state of the place the boy was living hurt like a wound ripped open. The Outlawed East was a hated place to most, but in the circles she was forced to join, they tried to convince her that it was just punishment for what they had done. As she looked around at the valley slopes encircling her like a pit, she realised that she was breathing the same air as murderers and rapists, that they might be watching her from their windows and thinking the worst kind of things about her. The thought made her sick. Contemplating that the boy had lived here for four long years only made it worse.
“Try not to worry, Anala,” said her uncle, reading her in the effortless way she always did to him. “The prospects may seem grim, but now we are here for him,”
“But if he knew the power he –,”
“He doesn’t,” he said, eyeing her sternly. “Until I deem it right, he will not. The situation will be delicate. We might know who he was and who he is meant to be, but right now he is a chainborn. The life they have had to endure has made them everything necessary to survive here – hard, untrusting, but vulnerable. I will do all the talking, understand?”
Pouting and furrowing her brow, Anala nodded. She strode ahead of him towards the house, and after a few paces, she heard her uncle snort with laughter. She whirled around and looked at him with thin, suspicious eyes. “What?”
He came forward, patting her on the shoulder whilst grinning mischievously. He leaned in and whispered in her ear “it would seem you forgot your tail.”