Captivity didn’t wear so well with young Canis. He couldn’t talk, and a slave needed to be prompt with ‘yes master’ and ‘no master’ and with bowing. In Canis’s case, saying his name was a struggle and bowing was impossible - it deprived him of the full view of a potential attacker.
When Canis attacked a guard in an effort to protect another slave from what he saw as an unjustified beating, he found himself in for his own beating. Then in an effort to teach Canis to bow to free men, he was to get three stripes with a slave whip for every transgression. Canis stoically took his punishment, making no effort to cooperate. It rapidly got to the point where no one would speak to him at all; there is only so much punishment one could deal out to one small child without feeling like a sadist.
One day, Canis tried to escape. He succeeded in getting away from his guard while out collecting wood, and he succeeded in finding a place to hide, but he didn’t stay hidden long enough; Porter searched longer than he anticipated and he was captured again. After that, Canis refused to eat and walked along with the other slaves only because he had learned not to fight the chains. Anyone who came within reach stood a healthy chance of being bitten. But he couldn’t keep this up forever.
He finally relented to Mia, an old slave who had out lived any sale value though she was still useful to Porter. She was the camp cook and occasionally the camp healer and it wasn’t uncommon for Porter to take her advice about the slaves when she offered it. It was she who advised Porter to release the boy from his slave future.
When Porter took in young Canis, he figured he was probably five years old, if that; now, only a year and a half later, he prowled through camp with an unnatural grace - a grace that would see him champion of the arena and a very young age. That, coupled with those remarkable eyes, would, in time, make him the most valuable slave on the market.
With that in mind, Porter took Canis to the Chicago School of the Sword. Canis found that he liked these new lessons. His fellow students didn’t know what to think of him. He was, by far, the youngest student in the class but it didn’t take them long to discover that Canis was very capable of taking care of himself and being the youngest was only numbers.
Three months after his arrival, Canis’s two friends took him to the carnival when it came to town. Among the many other attractions was a tent full of oddities. There was a two-headed calf and a two-headed snake; these were stuffed. There was also a man who had an extra arm growing out of his shoulder and a third eye on the side of his head; he wasn’t stuffed. There was other oddities displayed here, but Canis lost interest in them when he saw the wolf-man. What held his attention was the fact that he had eyes just like his. There was nothing else that could be called similarities, nothing visible anyway, but Canis couldn’t seem to take his eyes of him, and when his friends moved away, the man spoke. “You have your mother’s hair.” He did, but how would this man - this wolf-man - know that?
That night, Canis lay awake. There was something else about that man - something odd and he had missed it. He went to go figure it out. He slipped past the guards like a shadow of a ghost and found the wolf-man’s cage. The man spoke hastily; he told Canis that he was his father - that he’d been looking for his mother for more than eight years - that he’d found her but his efforts to protect her from the mob had cost him his companion - the companion whose pelt was now his only clothing.
When he spoke of being alone, it hit something deep inside, far deeper than simply standing alone in a room or growing up without parents. His father told him that he couldn’t be alone much longer - he needed to come to the mountains and he wanted him to come away with him now. But Canis had an obligation; Master Porter had paid gold for his lessons and he was obliged to learn what had been paid for. So instead, he freed the man from his cage and got him out of the city.
To fill his afternoons, Canis had taken to watching the upper class lessons and when he stopped doing that every day, his teachers discovered him trying to practice what he had seen in an empty classroom. Rather than allow him to learn bad habits, Canis was allowed to test for the next level.
The first test was to climb a knotted rope, touch the ceiling and then fight a peer. But then, Canis was far beyond any in his age group in strength and agility. It took him only a few moments to have his opponent disarmed and pinned against the wall with the tip of his cane.
The first test was really just a test to see if the student was bold enough to ask for advancement. The first, and many times, second attempts failed for one reason or another. In Canis’s case, he passed it easily, so his teacher agreed that he could take the second test the next day, if he still wanted to; he certainly wasn’t going to give both tests in the same day.
Normally a student doesn’t pass to the intermediate classes until he has been in the beginner classes for two or three years. Somewhere near the end of that time, he is issued a real sword, though it is one that is not sharpened. Canis had been at the school only a few months, but he still insisted on taking the second test so his teacher sent him to pick out his sword.
The second test, though the same in format, was harder. The rope was thick enough to give Canis trouble gripping it and it had no knots. Though his climb was substantially slower, Canis made it to the ceiling, but he slipped on the way down. He landed hard but on all fours like a cat, and then leapt to the fight. His opponent this time was his teacher and he was only supposed to be able to hold his own for a time, but though they fought several turns around the room, Canis was able to win the fight. Only when the fight was over did anyone guess that Canis had been injured in his fall.
Canis’s intermediate instructor was a strict taskmaster, but he had been informed that Canis would be allowed to take the third test too. Stanton told Canis that the third test would bare no resemblance to the other tests. At a time of his choosing, the head master would send him a message containing instructions for the test. Stanton also informed him that the test was designed for a man and a student with far more than a few months' instruction, and he promised him that he would not allow the standards to laps for a child.
The test came well after Canis’s hurts were healed. ‘The head master had been kidnapped and was being held captive in the school. Rescue him and take him to the carriage waiting out front.’ Canis was very good at hunting; it only took him an hour to trace his latest scent to the fourth floor. The smell of blood and fear changed everything from ‘test’ to ‘dangerous reality’. Standing guard outside a door was two of the best students in the school. Being quick and crafty, Canis left them senseless on the floor. He brought down the man inside just as unconventionally; he couldn’t afford to stand toe to toe with three very skilled swordsmen, especially not when they all had sharp swords and his was little better than a dull blank, and he knew that the man, his newest instructor, was very good with his sword.
This wasn’t what the test was supposed to have been, but Canis was passed nonetheless. Because of his age and his lack of instruction, he was still required to participate in his intermediate classes, but since he attended his advanced classes too, it served to keep him out of trouble all day long.
When Porter reached Chicago once again in his constant circling of the country, he was delighted with Canis’s progress and readily handed over the gold for another year. Canis didn’t want him to invest more money in him, but he couldn’t say so, so he took to roaming the city at night looking for some means of earning money in an effort to pay Porter back and continue the lessons with his own coin.
Being unable to talk, he couldn’t ask for work, and it didn’t take him long to realize that his size would have been his biggest obstacle even if he could talk. Pacing the nighttime streets, unable to solve his problem, only raised his hackles, so he took to hunting in the ruins, and in wasn’t uncommon for him to build a small fire to roast a fat rabbit.
With the coming of fall, Canis got a fever. Having been ill only once before, he figured it would pass and he didn’t let it slow him down. When it got worse, he sought the cool night streets for relief. The fever continued to get worse until finally Canis collapsed during class. His friends took turns sitting with him, but he was intent on getting to the roof, especially at night, where he howled his agony to the stars. His call was answered late one night, but not by another howl, rather by the appearance of an oversized black wolf who took it upon herself to pin Canis to his bed until his fever broke.
The addition of a very large wolf to the environment of the school had its pluses and its minuses. One of the pluses was the fact that Canis could now talk, though no one could really comprehend why, despite Canis’s attempts at an explanation. A minus was that if the wolf was forced to leave, Canis would go with her and that could not be allowed to happen.
Now that Canis could speak, he had a better chance of inquiring after work, but his first effort went quite wrong. He did, however, learn some very interesting things. He learned that only slaves fought in the arena, and he learned that the price Porter paid for his lessons also paid for his guards. His friends weren’t quite the friends he had thought. He also learned about The Mother and he received her blessing - a strange white stone set solidly between his eyebrows.
Now that he knew that Porter hadn’t really intended he be free, Canis was forced to escape the school with his debts unpaid and his goal of learning more abandoned. He headed west, led by the giant black wolf, Rrusharr, the other half of his being. Winter was full upon them by the time they reached to foothills of the mountains and the struggle on into their heights went day by day. When he finally came across a group of hunters and wolves, Canis had nearly forgotten why he had come here, wishing instead he was strong enough to take what they hunted from them somehow. It was Rrusharr who broke the ice; thus began his stay with his father’s clan.
Canis stayed with the Yellowstone Clan until he reached the age of sixteen and during his stay, he discovered that The Mother’s blessing wasn’t only a stone. Trusting to the curiosity of the Clan, some would want to touch the oddity and with that touch, The Mother could pass on her healing ability. With that ability, there would be fewer deaths from hunting accidents and hard childbirths.
At sixteen, the time had come for Canis to leave; he hadn’t come here to stay. He had a debt to repay to Slave Master Porter and he intended to see it paid. He also felt obliged to spread The Mother’s healing gift as far as he could, so he learned the locations of other clans and traveled south stopping at each one long enough for the gift to be passed before moving on. By the time he reached the root of all of the clans, the Salt Lake Clan, winter was on him again and he could go no further until spring.
Come spring, Canis headed east, but he acquired a tail he wasn’t aware of until it was too late. Thinking he had taken on an experienced boy, it wasn’t until much later that he discovered that his traveling companion was a young woman, but he couldn’t do anything about it now; he had to get over the glacier that marked the divide before winter caught up with them again.
With his goal of earning enough money to pay back Porter, Canis found work as a caravan guard for a portion of his journey east and when he finally reached Chicago again, he began to fight in the fight club to earn the rest of the gold he needed. Being this close to where everything had begun had its dangers, and fighting in the fight club only advertised his presence. One day, the wrong person learned of him and he was once again thrust into a collar and into the companionless chasm that was the death of Rrusharr. But that wasn’t the end; he did find his way back out of the darkness.