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Some part of us jerked back from the onslaught, and we shuddered out of unity, although Kaivelt clutched and clawed as fiercely as any Hunter, to remain here with me.

~ Do not allow this, my own!~

I knew of no way to end it, that would not make matters worse, as Mother grunted, raising her arm again, teeth flashing in a twisting grin as the cord whipped down again – and again – and again – tearing into raising welts, drawing up bubbles of blood that burned with my pain.

~No!~

His instincts demanded I pull away, end this attack– but, as Mother prepared for the yer another lblow, waiting for me to cry out, I knew there was truly nowhere to flee. My hands shook with his effort to force me to withdraw them, and he seethed with silent fury, now.

I didn’t understand his anger. I knew the song of the cord; knew how it would rend, as well as I knew Tacivaar’s ear-ringing cuffs.

It was nothing new. It was only life.

Again, the slap of leather, the tearing pain, tremoring up to my elbows, a sob or a scream building inside Kaivelt, consuming him, washing through me.Mother’s stare fixed on my trembling lips, and a sneer of victory came into her face.

The twisted cord was lifted even higher; Mother stepping back a little to add power to the blow –

I would not cry. I would not flinch. I rooted myself to the floor, with Kaivelt’s own strength, and waited. Kaivelt rose within me, through my eyes, and stared at Mother, with more power than even Tacivaar

Mother gasped, and fear skittered sweatily through her scent, blending with raw anger and broken pleasure. She brought the lash down so hard, she stepped forward, unbalanced.

Kaivelt’s rage burst out of me in a raw, howl. He screamed into Mother’s face with all the savagery he had in him, and she jumped backward, tripping on a shard of the cookpot, sitting down in the muck with a surprised yell of her own.

We stepped forward, and took the lash from her. “If you threaten to commit such an act again, we will not stop at removing your weapon.”

Kaitiiraan sat in the mess, her mouth hung agape, and we turned and Ran once more.

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