One of the questions I’m often asked is, where did my concept and use of slavery in my series the Sentries originate?
It’s sort of an interesting story, at least I think so.
The whole thing started one lazy afternoon when I was trolling through a community on Live Journal. In this particular community people post summaries of things they’ve read/watched, or would like to, to see if someone might know the fanfic/movie/book. One such summary caught my attention; it was basically about two people who grew up knowing they would marry and be together. Then I read the very next entry, which was someone looking for stories in general about arranged marriages. To complicate matters the one after that talked about wanting to find stories with slaves who were not abused.
That’s when my brain had an ah-ha moment.
Then my brain had to do some real work to meld those ideas, which are sort of opposites, into one story. I started with working out how all these ideas might work together. From there I stumbled over the idea of one of my MCs being a slave. One character being a slave allowed me to weave my three main concepts together nicely. Obviously, this wasn’t going to be set in our world today, so my next step was to do my world building homework and create a society that would also fit. I prefer scifi and future settings so that part was the fun part for me.
The more I planned, the more involved and intricate the development of both slaves and sentries became. In Sentries, the slaves are not captured people, but children bred specifically to be slaves. These children are highly educated so as to benefit their future owners.
In Collared Souls, Todd and Nick Ruger discover their roots, as sentries, and how the slave industry came into being. The men learn their ties to both sentries and slaves go back to their youngest days, as well as generations preceding them.
Making the character Nick a slave allowed me to do a few things with both the characters. It gave me the chance to have the characters know about one another, have some contact via correspondence, and still be somewhat unsure how their prearranged pairing would go once they were together. While they came from the same society, the culture and atmosphere each man grew up in, and was shaped by, was different. It was a meeting of opposites, taking them and turning them into a strongly bonded couple.
Slaves have certain advantages their owners do not. Nick uses the fact that to some people he’s invisible, a piece of property owned by Todd, nothing more, to allow him to develop covert skills of observation. Todd, of course, has his own unique talents, and the two complement each other incredibly well. Their lives intertwine and affect each other from the time each of them is a young child.
My biggest challenge was making the slaves and institution of slavery in my books different from others out there. Todd is not the typical slave owner. Nick isn’t forced into their relationship, Todd spends a great deal of time in the beginning of the series wooing his newly acquired slave. As the series progresses we see how these two very opposite men come to love and respect one another while doing a very dangerous job.
Their love for one another and their teamwork is highlighted in Collared Souls and is what carries them through the challenges thrown in their path and in the end brings Todd and Nick even closer together.
Freedom is within reach for Todd and Nick Ruger, but their dreams of Elk’s Ridge are dashed by Vice-Chancellor Raleigh’s troops. With his mate imprisoned, Nick searches for help and finds an unlikely and unexpected ally. But Todd’s release leaves them once again in debt to Chancellor Clarke.
Their mission sends them to the small village of Eldrid in search of a historic record of owners and slaves with unique abilities. Eldrid holds even more secrets from the past—including the origins of sentries—as well as conspiracies of the present that are set to launch a new battle that will turn lover helplessly against lover. Though Todd and Nick know the realities of war are hard lessons, it will be a fight to draw on the strengths of their bond, survive, and learn to forgive.
They were taken through the main entrance. The prison wasn’t one single building, but half a dozen set in a horseshoe. Each building was connected by a short wooden breezeway with small windows but no door to the outside. Those were the only places Nick could see that weren’t constructed of stone and iron. From where he was, it looked like no more than two or three people could be in one of the breezeways at the same time.
Their cuffs were left in place, but the ropes lashing them to the horse were removed, as were their packs hanging on the saddle. The mounted soldiers climbed off their horses and began leading them to one of the buildings near the right end of the cluster. It became clear to Nick that these people had been here often. Possibly this was also their barracks.
Larry Witze stood near the doorway of one of the center buildings. Nick’s heart sank a little when he saw the expression on the man’s face. Witze was angry and making no effort to hide that fact from Captain Howard, judging by the glares they exchanged.
Captain Howard wiped her hands on her pants and strode forward, glancing sideways at the soldiers standing on either side of Todd and Nick. “Bring them,” she ordered.
Todd drew in a deep breath and took a long stride forward so he was in front of Nick. Taking his cue, Nick purposely checked his steps for a few feet and moved to the side, dropping behind Todd.
They were led into one of the buildings. Captain Howard going first, she unlocked the door using a key from a ring hooked to her belt, went through, and stopped a few feet inside. She turned and watched as the soldiers, one in front of Todd and one behind Nick, then Larry Witze filed through and into the building.
They walked down a narrow corridor, forced to stay in a line, and were taken into a room, which looked to Nick like some kind of intake area.
“Inform the vice chancellor we’re here,” Captain Howard said to one of the men already inside. It was difficult to tell if they were soldiers, guards, or both since they all wore the same type of uniform.
The man nodded, turned on his heels, and vanished down yet another corridor.
“Take their cuffs off,” Witze demanded.
“Mr. Witze, they’re prisoners. That’s hardly appropriate. Or wise,” Captain Howard said, rubbing the bridge of her nose with thumb and forefinger.
“It’s a prison,” Witze said flatly. “They have nowhere to go and are too smart to try an escape. Isn’t that correct, Mr. Ruger?” He looked pointedly at Todd. Had they not been in cuffs and in it pretty deep, Nick would have laughed at the looks Todd and Witze gave one another.
Todd shrugged and cocked his head to one side. “No reason to be stupid.”
“Ruger.” Witze growled the word, crossing both arms over his chest.
Todd heaved a sigh and turned to meet Nick’s gaze. “No, we will not try to escape. You have my word.”
A nod from Captain Howard, and their cuffs were removed, allowing Nick to rub his sore wrists. Todd dropped his hands to his sides and put on a very neutral expression, making Nick almost feel sorry for these people. When Todd wore that look, usually someone’s ass was going to get kicked—hard.
Vice Chancellor Raleigh picked that moment to arrive. “Well, Todd Ruger, I’ve been looking for you.” Raleigh rubbed his ribs and offered Todd a smug smile. Moving around Todd to Nick, he raised one hand, knuckles almost brushing Nick’s cheek. “And you.”
Nick jerked his head to the side and took a step back.
Todd’s hand came up in a move so fast he was a blur and caught Raleigh by the wrist while he snarled, “Don’t touch him.”
One of the guards took Nick by the arm and pulled him away a few steps. Two others positioned themselves between Nick and Todd.
A quick, almost nonexistent shake of Todd’s head, and Nick stood motionless and tense in the guard’s grip.
Chuckling, Raleigh pulled his hand free and let it drop to his side. He nodded to several of the guards. Standing close, Nick saw how their shoulders and the tense lines of their jaws relaxed only slightly. He stepped away and leaned against a desk with his hands together, wrists resting on his thighs.
“You know this won’t hold up. Chancellor Clarke reverted Nick’s ownership back to Todd Ruger. You don’t have a leg to stand on,” Witze said.
“The papers are in my pack. It’s the black one,” Todd said quietly. He was speaking to Raleigh but kept his gaze focused on Nick.
Raleigh snorted a short laugh. “Those papers were drawn up after Mr. Ruger here left the Chancellor’s Estate with a slave who was government property. Your paperwork doesn’t change that fact, nor the fact that the same slave, while owned by Todd Ruger, may have been responsible for the death of Chancellor Shaffer, as well as another individual, while on the estate falsely impersonating an orphan slave. Legally, your responsibility.”
“You can’t—” Nick jerked his arm away from the guard and took a step forward.
Nick’s words were cut off by Todd snapping a harsh “Nick!”
At once Nick stopped, sucked in a harsh breath, and stood with his fists clenched at his sides.
Raleigh gave him a pained, bored look. “Yes, in fact, I can.”
“So, we’re under arrest?” Todd ground out, glaring at Raleigh.
“No, not at all.” Raleigh smiled at Todd, shaking his head. “I’m arresting you. Nick is being remanded over to the government and taken back to the estate.”
“What? No!” Nick knew he’d already been given an order by Todd to stay put. He was shaking with the effort not to lunge forward at the closest guard. Adam had died in part because of Nick losing control and trying to attack him. He wasn’t giving Raleigh the satisfaction of seeing Nick repeat his mistake.
Raleigh turned a cool gaze on Nick. “Did you really think I’d let you slip through my fingers?”
Witze stepped up, stood beside Nick, and gave a gentle nudge to the back of Nick’s arm. “I’m still in charge of the slave sanctuary. Any slave with ownership reverting to the government, orphan or not, comes under my jurisdiction.”
Nick turned away from Raleigh, looking to Witze. “Can he do this?”
“He’s not technically an orphan slave, though that can be arranged.” Raleigh looked from Nick to Todd and then Witze, evil smirk back on his face. He turned to the guards, motioning with one hand to Todd. “Put him in a holding cell.”