Abduction. Bondage. Slavery. When I can’t write, when I can’t think of anything with literary merit to come up with, when I’m depressed, sullen, and moody, this is what I write.
The question is: can it be marketable? Is there any potential market for – Cali is a good example, but only the most developed setting I’ve created for this – such stories? And if so, which flavour of abduction stories works best?
There’s a decided plot to such things, at least the way it runs in my head. It climaxes *ahem* with this moment of Stockholm syndrome, where the captive has a choice to go free or stay with the captor and protect/help/support said captor, and he chooses to stay.
There’s also a specific sort of guy in this story, when I write it myself. The Rugged Soldier, usually… tho’ the people I’ve roleplayed abduction stories with have changed the way the story can go.
Oh – and has anyone else noticed that the abduction is almost always state-sanctioned in my kidnapping settings?
This is 1700 words or so, chapter one of something I don’t ever intend to try to get published.
The tent where the wounded prisoners were kept stank. The entire battlefield stank; the entire city of Ouyknan stank; the entire country of Bitran (soon to be merely the province of Bitran) stank, but of all those stenches, this one canvas tent well behind the Callanthe lines stank the worst.
It had something to do with expectations. The Bitrani were brutal to their prisoners when they took them, and more often than not simply killed them on the spot. It was a waste of resources to heal your enemy, especially when you were just going to torture and kill them. The prisoners the Callanthe took had no comprehension of why they were being tended to, and so they feared the worst, and fear led to a rank stench.
Rin had learned to tolerate the smell. It was no worse than gangrenous, infected wounds she had treated from time to time, and it was mostly an emotional stink, not a physical one. There were those, mostly of the Red and the Blue, who couldn’t go near the place. A few had even fled Bitran entirely.
Even with weeks, months of acclimation, she could tell from fifty feet away that it was worse today, ranker, like old corpses. The news had gotten around then: after a bloody and suicidal and nearly effective attack on Callanthe’s northern border, after months of all-out warfare, the Bitrani king had be captured; their army had surrendered. The war was over.
The guard at the front flap of the tent gave her the barest nod in acknowledgement as she entered; she responded with a marginally more respectful obeisance.
Once inside the tent, the smell was nearly overwhelming. Prisoners murmured softly among themselves, and, although hope showed on a few faces, for the most part they looked grim and strained.
They quieted as the tent flap opened, and then relaxed as they saw it was her. “Hey, girlie,” one called, “When’s the prisoner exchange?”
She smiled, accepting it for the grim joke it was, and looked slowly around the room. They were all quiet, waiting to see what she’d say. “Some of you will be freed. Some will be taken,” she replied simply. That none would be killed out of hand, she kept unspoken. “You,” she pointed at the one she’d come for, “will come with me.” She closed the distance between them as she spoke with four long steps.
Amid soft teasing, the soldier – a high-ranking officer too young for the rank – bleated out an angry complaint. “You can’t! I should be set free! I-”
She backhanded him hard against the mouth before he could finish, and glared at him. “Silence,” she said coldly, “or I’ll have your tongue ripped out.”
He raised his hand to his face, where a trickle of blood ran down his chin, and glared up at her. When she had found him – an accident; she’d been on the field at night, looking for the living among the corpses, and he’d been doing the same – he’d laughed and said he’d take her as a doxy, carry her back to Ouyknan on the back of his horse. Now, she smirked cruelly at him, hoping he’d have the common sense to stay quiet now.
“I think I’ll put you over my horse for the ride back to Lannamer,” she crooned softly, stroking the back of her hand across his cheek, the tone of voice and the gesture borrowed from Bitrani men’s way with their whores and camp followers.
The men around chuckled nervously. For months, she’d tended their wounds, set their bones, and seen to their needs with a brisk efficiency, and they knew her to be gentle and thorough. “Lass…” one of them began, a graybeard farmer who had lost his right arm above the elbow.
“Don’t worry, Ancher,” she reassured him over her shoulder. “I’ve talked to the Commander, and you’re to be set free. Go back to your grandchildren.” She bent down to scoop up the chains binding her prisoner – shackles locked to a heavy ring set deep in the ground – and unlocked them.
He glared rebelliously at her, but said nothing, instead presenting his wrists to have the shackles around them removed. She grabbed him by the short chain of those shackles and hauled him to his feet.
“Lady Healer,” one of the Bitrani officers tried, in a decent approximation of the Callanthe language. “I did not think the Callanthe kept slaves.”
A pretty way of asking “what’s going to happen to us,” she thought, but she paused long enough, her hand twisted tightly in her prisoner’s shackles, to answer.
“It’s a lot more complicated than that,” she answered in the simpler Bitrani tongue. “I’ll make sure it’s explained to you before everything is sorted out – but, in short, while the Callanthe do not use slave labour; Callanthe nobility sometimes keeps slaves.”
He nodded his thanks and, before that question could open up a whole host of other questions, Rin dragged her prisoner out of the tent.
“This isn’t right,” he complained, blinking into the sun, when they were away from the stink of the tent. “I…”
With her free hand, she gestured, closing the air passage through his throat with a twist of her Art. “Shut up,” she warned, and held him breathless and choking while she pulled him across the camp. When she gauged he was about ready to pass out, she released her hold on his breath and let him pause to gasp for air.
“Not a word,” she warned him, and resumed their passage across the camp. This time, he listened and, sullenly, let her drag him to her tent.
It was no bigger and no more grand than any junior officer’s tent, but it was private, the one place in the camp she could be assured of privacy. She shoved him down to the floor in the middle of the tent – she had already installed a ring in the ground like those in the prisoners’ tent, which she shackled him to quickly, before he regained his equilibrium. Before he remembered he was a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than she was.
He tugged surreptitiously on the chains, testing their strength, and rubbed at his throat, glaring at Rin. He drew breath to complain again, and she talked over him in a casual conversational tone.
“You have the common sense of a rabbit,” she told him lightly. “Don’t you want to live?”
“I know who you are, your highness.” She smirked as he gaped at her. “I’ve known since you offered to take me back to Ouyknan with you. But if you want to live, I’d suggest you make sure no-one else in the camp knows it.” She looked him over with the eye of a horse-breeder. “Girey is a common enough name for Bitrani boys your age – when the Royal Lady finally had a son, every woman who swelled within a year of her named their son after the new prince. I’ve even met a couple Bitrani women named Girelle. You’re clearly noble – your teeth are too good, your skin too good, to be anything but a rich man’s son. So an officer. Surviving son of the former Duke of Tuguia. No-one in Callanthe will be able to tell the difference, and I don’t think anyone wants to count the scorched body pieces left after the Sixth Company hit Tuguia Major.”
“What… what are you talking about, girl?” he demanded, his old arrogance returning.
She slapped him again, this time making sure the sharp points of her signet ring cut the side of his mouth.
“Saving your life, you moron,” she snarled. “And,” she added, as she saw his eyes settle on the heavy green stone and the triple-trefoil of the House of Callanthe, “if you can’t manage a proper title, ‘Lady’ or ‘Mistress’ will do.”
She felt an uncharacteristic and unkind sense of vengeful glee as he stared at her, making fish-faces again. “You weren’t wearing that before,” he accused.
“It’s there when I need it,” she answered placidly. “Now look,” she added, before he could go off again. “The Bitrani king perpetuated a horrific and unprovoked war on the Callanthe borders, committing atrocities on Callanthe citizens and personally overseeing the violent murders of our priests, and the rape and mutilation of our priestesses. The best he can hope for is a swift execution. The absolute best his heir can hope for – because all rumours suggest that his heir was a reasonable man, not like his father – is a gentile prison in which to live out the rest of his days. More likely is execution next to his father.”
He jingled his chains wryly. “And what are you doing, padding the prison a little more?”
She shook her head. “I’m taking a junior officer of the Bitrani army as my companion-slave. It’s clear your blood is good – you have the nose and the eyes – and those who have tried it say that noble Bitrani blood breeds good children. Besides,” she smirked, “I confess I will enjoy watching you humbled.”
“But I mean, why are you…” he fell silent as she raised her hand again.
“If you can’t learn to stay quiet, I will remove your tongue for your own good,” she warned. “Stop persisting in this stupidity, son of Tuguia. Do you understand?”
Fuming, he nodded.
She ignored him for a while, packing and tidying what weeks in a single camp had left spread over her tent. He watched her silently, sulking.
After a while, he offered, in a more cautious tone than before, “I’ll escape, you know.”
She sighed. He was so very, very young. “And what will you do then?”
He was silent for a moment, thinking up and discarding answers. Rin wished idly for a Blue priest to crack open his thoughts as he sat frowning into space. “Be Girey of Tugia,” he finally grated out.
“Good. There’s hope for you yet.”