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Beasts of Burden
©2012 by Sylvan Scott
Smashwords Edition

“Kan... Motahatsu Kan...”

Kan started. The voice rumbled like the pronouncement of God. It was slow and ponderous but definitely the young lord’s name. The shadow of the beast fell over him. He’d seen the tahn-chen up close before, but never outside the workman’s courtyard.

Built like a cross between a bear and a wolf, the blunt-muzzled creature stood upright on thick legs but stooped to address the much smaller man. Its dull-witted eyes gazed down at the young lord from their twenty-foot height. Despite the tahn-chen’s placid reputation, Kan felt a pang of fear. A simple stray movement, an accident by one of those monstrous paws, and he’d be injured or worse. He panicked and stammered a sharp rebuke; it was all he could think to do.

“Stand your ground, beast; I order you—”

It moved closer, out from the alley in which it stood. The creature supported itself against the enclosing walls of the nahn-jin’tae—the paper mill—and the stables. Its lumbering, inarticulate movements cast their shadows into the street as it lumbered forth.

“Kan,” it repeated. Its muzzle worked slowly as if wrestling with poorly understood ideas. It paused, childlike, as if taking the time to form its phrases.

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