Lady Pianna observed the nervous little thing in front of her through a haze of thick cigar smoke. She had considered offering one to the boy to calm his nerves, but his eyes started to water even before she had lit her own and she decided she didn't need to find out whether it was because of the tobacco or just her mere presence that had driven him to silent tears.
She scolded herself for looking at the child like a child in stead of the investment he really was. She had been skeptical about the stories she had heard about him, a single boy's talent somehow packing the pits every single show, but she had witnessed one of his rat kings in person that night and had to admit that what she had seen had impressed her. The fearsome gibbering mass of fur and teeth had put on quite a spectacular performance, tearing through three tomcats big enough to make her wonder whether or not they had been bred with some cougar somewhere in their family tree. The crowd had been rabid throughout the night, expertly whipped into a frenzy by bookmakers and handicappers until money flowed like water. They had given the crowd good odds against the rat king, and that single fight had doubled the revenue generated by all preliminary fights combined.
Yes, buying Borr had been a good investment, even if she had probably paid double the going price for a boy his age. Now she observed her latest investment patiently, hoping to learn the best way to control him. Of course the pit bosses recommended daily beatings and the occasional extended period of starvation, but in her experience these methods generally encouraged suicide and escape in stead of the obedience she needed. No, Borr's life would be very different from now on. She would treat him as well as a boy of lucrative talents deserved to be treated, but no better than that.
It took her a moment to realize that while she was thinking to herself and observing the boy, Borr had started a slow, almost unnoticeable retreat for the door. He had seen the shift in her attention however, and as he froze in place the lady wondered if he wasn't having a heart attack right then and there. She motioned for one of her attendants to give the boy a seat, and Borr was roughly planted on top of a rickety stool in front of the lady's desk. To her relief he finally blinked.
"I'm sorry boy, do I make you nervous?"
Borr nodded just barely, still staring at the floor. The lady nodded again, and the same attendant that had planted him on the stool a moment ago grabbed him by his hair and jerked his head up to meet her gaze. His eyes went wide with terror, and the lady considered herself lucky that he didn't wet himself right then and there.
"Don't worry boy, you're allowed to look me in the eyes. In fact, I prefer it. Also, you should speak when spoken to. Do you understand?"
Borr swallowed, nodded, then swallowed again, trying to gather up the courage needed for a response. "Yes... milady..."
To his relief Pianna smiled, the first time Borr had seen anything resembling kindness in the eyes of a superior. "Good, for a moment I was worried they had removed your tongue over some trivial offense. Do you know why I had you brought here?"
It was a question Borr had been asking himself from the moment he was summoned. Now that it was asked directly, he was stammering for an answer. "Because... because of my rats?" He paused, then involuntarily flinched as he added "milady".
Pianna smiled and nodded again. "That's right boy, you posses a very unique talent. You're actually the reason I came to inspect these pits. Your creation was quite... impressive this night. Do they always perform this well?"
"I... well... milady..." Pianna sighed, deciding to let the poor boy have the time to choose his words. It took him a few more moments of stammering before he could produce a coherent sentence. "I don't like to watch, milady... but they usually don't beat me after a show, which I guess means that my rat king did well... milady."
Pianna nodded. "I'm glad to hear it, because I've bought you. You might not realize it, but your creations are far too powerful to go to waste in a backwater rat pit like this. I've found a handful of investors that are willing to help me set up a new pit in the countryside. Something a little more... exclusive. There are people out there who would pay good money to see the rarest creatures in the world tear each other apart, and I believe that there's a place in such a venue for your rat kings. Don't you agree?"
"Yes milady..." It was all Borr could manage, simply dumbfounded by the lady's announcement that she really was going to take him away. Of course he didn't know what to expect from her overseers, but anything had to be better than what he was going through now.
Lady Pianna hid a smile when she saw Borr's face brighten. "Don't get too far ahead of yourself, boy. I don't know what they told you about me, but I still expect you to work, and work hard. I do however consider myself a fair mistress. Complete your tasks quickly and neatly and show some basic manners in the presence of your superiors, and you will find it quite easy to make it to the end of the day without any beatings at all. Of course, I'll leave the details of your training to my attendants. We leave for my manor in the morning, and I expect you to have packed up whatever equipment and personal belongings you need to bring with me. Is that clear?"
"Yes milady..." Despite his best efforts, Borr was smiling now, and to his relief the whippings that were generally dealt out in response to any sign of happiness didn't come. In stead Lady Pianna simply dismissed him, and one of her attendants, a wrinkly old man whose name Borr couldn't quite wrap his tongue around, followed him to his workshop. There they loaded Borr's equipment, the wheel, the cages, the leather straps and the gloves, into a crate that the lady had apparently brought in ahead of time.
As the same process repeated itself in Borr's bedroom (to the extent that the word "bedroom" could be applied to a dank alcove with a pile of burlap sacks to sleep on and a loose rock to hide Borr's meager worldly possessions behind), the boy couldn't help but feel like it was all a dream even though he had already pinched both his arms until they were covered in bruises. The had to stifle a squeal of delight when the old attendant told him that he could leave his burlap sacks behind, that he would have a proper bedroll and maybe even a bed to sleep in.
That night Borr's excitement had risen to the point that he could barely sleep at all. This restlessness meant that he could clearly see the crude wooden club a split second before it impacted with his head, knocking him unconscious with a single expert blow.