That was why Kam had been brought north. The only way to invigorate the clans was to breed more witch blood into the lines. The hope was if Kam were to have a child with one of the descendants of Lor, maybe a child with powers could be born. But Kam wasn’t a witch, and he hadn’t exactly been asked before he was kidnapped and taken to the ice wastes.
“We live and we are strong,” Lor continued. “The Tribe of the White Dragon does not fade away!”
The barbarians cheered loudly around Kam, but Kam didn’t join them. As the assemblage broke up, Kam returned to his small tent. Once the barbarians had been sure he wouldn’t run away—as if there were some way to survive in the endless ice wastes for a city-bred boy—they had given Kam his own space. The tent was small, with barely enough room for bedding and a small wooden chest filled with the meager belongings he had accumulated in the last few weeks, but it was heavy with furs and thick woolen blankets that kept the cold and the wind out. Kam curled up in his bed, glad when his blankets began to warm with his body heat, and closed his eyes.
The barbarians were nice enough despite the fact that he couldn’t give them what they wanted. And it was better than being back in the city. Kam went to sleep with that thought firmly in mind. As much as he had disliked being kidnapped and taken to the barren north, it was still better than what he endured in the city. His thoughts focused on those times as he drifted to sleep.
“Kam, Kam, the witchery man,” the kids sang as Kam walked past them. He ducked his head, but otherwise kept himself from acknowledging their taunts. His mother hadn’t exactly been discreet with her passions, and lying with the resident witch had supposedly produced Kam. Since the man in question was a charlatan and his mother had never actually said he was Kam’s father before they both died…well, all that didn’t matter to everyone else. To them, Kam had witch blood, and in his part of the city, he was someone to be ridiculed.
Kam pushed his way into the small shop where he worked. The bell jingled overhead.
“Kameron, you’re late!” the harpy who was his boss screeched from behind the front counter. As usual, the place was dirty and the goods covered the shelves with haphazard organization. The sour smell that had appeared early last week had only grown worse overnight.
“Sorry, ma’am,” Kam murmured, ducking his head further as he wended his way through the mishmash stacks of random goods and into the back room. The pawnshop bought and sold everything. Sailors on leave after making the journey down the Great River came to the shop to sell what they could so they would have the funds to drink and carouse in the bars and whorehouses that also populated that part of the docks.
It was Kam’s job to clean and fix those often grimy and broken items so the owner could in turn sell them for profit to a higher quality pawnshop in the northern part of the city. It paid well for the woman, but Kam only saw a few coins a week for his work. As the witchery man he was lucky to have a job, so as much as Kam wished, there was no way he could find better prospects.
Kam worked hard for his pay, and at the end of the day his hands ached, but his quota was met. He left the shop at dusk and hurried home. He couldn’t tarry, because the docks became very dangerous after dark, and since his rent was due, he couldn’t afford to stop for dinner anyway.
He walked up the three flights of rickety stairs to his tiny apartment. It was one room, barely large enough to hold his threadbare bedding and one change of clothes, but it was a place to sleep. He had left one window cracked while he was away so the three cats that had crept in during the previous night could leave if they wished. The family of mice that lived under his floorboards were running about, so Kam was careful where he placed his feet as he walked over to collapse on his blanket.
One of the mice climbed up onto his pillow and gently nuzzled him on the nose. The mouse was hungry, too, and was probably looking for crumbs, but Kam appreciated the meager comfort his small friend could provide. Kam smiled, despite his rumbling stomach, as he slowly fell asleep.