Damian's Oracle (Chapter Four, page 1 of 8)

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Northern Virginia,

The Black God's summer retreat

Two rolled from his place on the concrete floor in the corner and unwrapped the ratty blanket he used to keep himself warm. His skin was cold to the touch; his breath hung in the air as he moved. His master didn't believe a slave deserved heat. He dressed himself mechanically and deliberately, hiding away the scarred body his master hated. Every day he awoke wondering what happened to him, but he remembered nothing beyond waking up the day before. The scars covering him from head to toe were from more than his master's beatings. They were too deep and knotted to be from the daggers or the whip or the hand strikes of his master and his master's men.

Pants, socks, shoes. T-shirt, sweater, gloves. He made a rhyme out of the process, though he'd forgotten it again this morning. He put on his hood last and tucked its edges into his sweater. Above all, his master hated his scarred face. He flew into an abusive rage when he saw it.

He left the basement and entered the heated first floor. It was time for his master's breakfast, so he went to the kitchens to fetch his food. The cook was afraid of him and left everything in one corner. He took his bread and canteen of water-the morning sustenance for a slave-and tucked them into a cargo pocket. He lifted his master's tray. It held breakfast for two, and he racked his mind for who the other was. He couldn't remember-he never did. He climbed the steps to his master's chamber and knocked.

"Come in, Two," his master replied.

He obeyed. The air of the dark bedroom smelled of sex and blood. He opened the windows, which did little to shed light into the stone room with its masculine, black d├ęcor.

"It's so creepy," a woman's voice complained.

When he turned to place their breakfast on the table near the patio, he thought he recognized her. Maybe when she came in. He must have seen her then. His master said a slave didn't need to remember anything but his master, and he didn't try too hard to remember her.

His master emerged from the bed, naked. His hair was silver, his body broad-shouldered and muscular. His visitor wore a T-shirt and had hair the color of last night's sunset.

"I don't know why you bother with it," she said in disdain, looking at Two the way his master did.

"Your breakfast is served," Two said automatically.

"I see that, you fucking idiot," his master said and slapped him.

Two took his place in the corner, where he stood all day, no matter which room his master was in, in case his master needed him.

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