Jackson didn’t want to be in the marketplace. It was revolting. Too many people walked the narrow paths, brushed against him, trying to find their next purchase. The scent alone was strong enough to make him want to gag. Filth and unwashed bodies and overflowing trash cans… Jackson hated it.
The dirt under his feet was hard packed. The sun beat down on him relentlessly. Not a single awning to relax under. Any shade trees that might have grown in the area before were chopped down to make space for more cages. No. The fat pockets of the market owners meant nothing in terms of how their product was displayed. And the displays could use plenty of work.
Iron bars created cages. The werewolves inside were cuffed and collared. Jackson paused in front of a particularly crowded cage. It was packed full of women werewolves. Revulsion choked him as he read the sign - breeding stock. He squeezed through the crowd as quick as he could to put as much distance between him and that cage as possible.
Sweat rolled down the back of his neck. He could feel the skin of his nose burning. He kept walking until the crowd began to thin. The next cage he paused in front of wasn’t near as packed. There was no sign on the cage that he could see. Only four werewolves were inside, all men as best Jackson could guess. They wore thin pants and long sleeved shirts, unlike any of the rest who had as much skin as was ‘decent’ on display. Not many people stopped at this cage. They glanced in and kept going without a moment of hesitation.
“Hey,” Jackson flagged down one of the workers passing by. “What’s in here?” He gestured at the nearly empty cage behind him.
The worker laughed and clapped a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. Jackson glared at him, but the worker didn’t seem phased in the slightest. “Those will be too expensive for you, boy. Best just continue on.”
“I didn’t ask how much they cost. I asked what they are.”
The worker rolled his eyes. “You can’t afford them,” he repeated slowly, as though Jackson hadn’t heard him the first time. “It doesn’t matter what they are if you can’t afford them.”
Jackson let out a laugh, loud and cruel. “Oh geez, thank you, sir. I suppose when my dad, Steven Carmillan, asks where my new wolf is, I’ll tell him the worker at the market could only say that we can’t afford them. Boy, I sure bet he’ll be happy to hear that. Don’t you…” Jackson squinted at the name tag, “Paul Smith?”
Paul Smith’s face slowly drained of color. “Of course, sir. I’m sorry, sir. These are fighter wolves. These particular four are fairly well known and there has been plenty of talk about them. You’ll notice their arms are not only shackled behind their backs, but their hands have been enclosed as well. The blindfolds are customary for our fighter wolves that come through this market. We keep them covered to hide their scars. We don’t want people to be disgusted by the sight of those scars and leave without purchasing their own wolf, after all.” He let out an uncomfortable chuckle. “Are you looking to get started in the fights?”
“Maybe I am.” He wasn’t. He was just annoyed at the man. “Let me see their profiles.” He felt disgusted as Paul Smith pulled out his tablet and started scrolling. Forcing the wolves to fight for money was a whole new level of low.
Paul handed the tablet over with four profiles pulled up. Jackson took his time reading through them, pretending to be mulling over the best option. The first three were in their early twenties. Two undefeated, one, the oldest one, lost a single fight and was sold because of it.
It was the fourth one that had him pause. “Is this accurate?”
“Of course, sir. We take care to ensure every bit of information is 100% correct.”
Werewolf number four on the list, ID number - C36M657. Coastal region, in the mountains. Undefeated. That wasn’t what had made him pause though. He was 32 years old, started fighting when he was 8. Undefeated after 24 years of fights. Only one previous owner. Specialties were listed as fighting, of course, and then… personal.
Personal could mean anything. Personal attendant was technically what Jackson was supposed to be looking for, but personal was close enough. He smiled at Paul Smith. “What subspecialty is personal supposed to be under?”
Paul shifted his weight. “I’m afraid the previous owners would only say personal.”
Literally anything. Jackson shrugged. “All right, I want him. Wolf C36M657.” He heard chains rattle behind him at his words, but kept his back to them. “I want to be out of here in 10 minutes.” He smiled at Paul. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem, right?”
Paul smiled back nervously. “Of course, sir. I’ll be right back.”
Jackson watched him walk off then turned back to the cage. Wolf C36M657 was tensed against the far side of the cage. He stood, head angled down, arms so tight behind his back that his shoulders couldn’t relax if he wanted to. The blindfold was snug over his eyes. His lips were tugged down into a small frown. His hair was pitch black and a matted mess of curls. Jackson felt disgusted just looking at him, but he did what he had to do. He had a werewolf.