Archive | July 17, 2011

Road Trip

This is a short story in response to rix_scaedu‘s commission in my Giraffe Sale: “What happens in Rozen’s territory after he’s packed off to Kailani?”

Addergoole/Fae Apoc. After Devil Deals (LJ Link) and Into the Woods (from Sugar Cat) and the subsequent events in Retirement and Retirement 2

He’d thought he’d have trouble moving among humans. He’d never had a particularly normal upbringing, after all, and then he’d spent decades in a sealed enclave of Ellehemaei society.

But humans, now, it seemed, were more interested in basic survival and less interested in shunning someone for odd behavior and, besides, for all he’d been cloistered away, he’d learned people. He could move from settlement to settlement, talking with his – Regine’s, really – contacts there, following the trail – without anyone suspecting he was anything more than a Mysterious (Human) Stranger, one of the Outriders who connected the sparse settlements. After all, that’s what he was.

He followed the trail for four months, the urgency growing with every stop, every step along the way. They’d known it would take some time to find his quarry, but they had thought a month, maybe two. Not four. While he’d traveled away from the enclave plenty of times since the Devastation, but never for more than two months. The distance, the separation, was beginning to wear on him as the months passed, and it made him a touchy, cranky Outrider, short with his contacts and cold with strangers. Someone who had known the young Ambrus, if they’d still survived, would not have recognized him in this cold and angry man.

His contact – her contact, but willing to talk to him – in the cold Northern township of Regina Beach was a young woman, at least in appearance, a blonde blue-eyed waif with a smile that reminded him of someone from a long time past. He worked through the required rituals with his best manners, transported for a moment to a time even longer past, when he was a child in his master’s home. And then, the spell broken with the bitter herbal tea, he cut to the chase before she could distract him into something Regine might regret.

“I’m looking for someone.”

“I know.” She gestured at the blue bowl on the table, the covered mirror. “I saw you’d come this way.”

“Then you can point me to his path?”

“I can do better than that. But there’s a price.”

There was always a price. “It’s not my mission, and there are only so many things I can promise on her behalf,” he warned her.

“This, you can give me.” He’d last seen that smile on the most poisonous child he’d ever sired. Was this sweet-looking girl her offspring? He suddenly wanted to see her Change, to see her ears.

“What is it you would have of me?” he asked instead. Wondering if she was his granddaughter, his great-granddaughter. Wondering if his orders would allow him to deny her, if she asked what he was afraid she would.

The look on her face, the sly twist of her emotions, told him she knew what he was thinking. “Not that. I imagine someone ought to ask you for something else, especially someone who has already had that blessing in her family line once or twice.”

So she was his descendant. Not surprising, all things considered; he allowed his relief to show in his face.

“Then what?”

“It’s not your only skill, I’ve been told. When you’re done with this mission, in the next six months, come back to us. There’s someone here who could use… your other skills, and your knowledge.”

He nodded slowly. “I will do that,” he agreed. No use in pretending to promise. “I can do that.”

“He’s North,” she told him. “One village up, about a day’s travel. Avoid the old warehouse; you don’t want to know what lives there. “

“Thank you.” Anxiety dropped from his shoulders. “Thank you.”

“I’ll see you within the next half a year?”

“You will,” he nodded, and left, not stopping to sleep, not stopping to eat. The pressure of the mission had gone too far for that.

He found his quarry where she’d said he would be, in a cottage in a small town, with a young wife and a young child. He had no room left for even the smallest niceties at this point; “Regine needs you,” is all he managed.

“Regine can bite off and die,” Abednego answered just as bluntly.

Ambrus leaned weakly against his horse. It had been a long night, and the creatures in the old warehouse were nocturnal. “Of course,” he said, summoning up some fragment of his legendary charm. “But her enclave serves a useful purpose.”

“Others do, too, without being evil bitches for spice.” The lanky man paused, reading something in Ambrus’ face. “I know you love her, but…”

Ambrus shrugged uncomfortably. “I’m aware what people feel.”

“You would be, wouldn’t you? I wouldn’t be in your shoes for anything.”

Ambrus looked down at his dusty boots; right now, he didn’t want to be in them, either.

Abednego misread the gesture; his voice softened. “Why don’t you come in, stay the night? I’ll hear you out on her ‘needs,’ at the very least.”

Ambrus pushed the need into a little corner, and nodded tiredly. “Thank you.” Given all night, he could do what his mistress needed him to. And then he could go home.

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Slave School: First Day, for lilfluff

[profile] lilifluff‘s response to my giraffe sale: more of the slave school!

The first two entries of the slave school are:
Frying Pan, Fire (LJ Link), from [personal profile] lilfluff‘s prompt regarding a slave school.
Final Exams (LJ Link), from wyld_dandelyon‘s prompt of the same name.

“Room 1, right there. Choose the seat with your name on it and sit down.” The proctor reminded Debbie of the guards at their first prison, except that, instead of a uniform, he wore a shirt and tie. She had no doubt he could be just as rough, though, so she found the seat with her name on it – just Debbie, like everything else here, like she’d left her last name at home with her freedom. She wondered what they’d have done if they had more than one Debbie.

She didn’t ask, though. She sat, instead, tugged her uniform skirt down, and looked at the notebook on her desk. It had her name on it, too, as did the pen sitting at a precise line parallel to the top, just above it.

So they were back in school. She ought to be upset, she supposed, but it was the first thing since she’d gotten kidnapped that made sense. Classroom, notebook, uniform, pen. Nun?

The woman that stepped in to the classroom was almost certainly not a nun, at least not of any faith Debbie had ever encountered (“The Faith” was on her schedule as her third hour class, however, so she imagined she’d be encountering at least one new religion pretty soon). She looked more like something out of a Sexy Teacher video: tight skirt, tight blouse, steel collar.

The proctor hadn’t seemed to be wearing a collar, although his shirt and tie could have covered it; the matron who’d greeted them yesterday certainly wasn’t. All of her fellow students were – identical bands of metal gleaming under their uniform shirts. Was it a good sign or a bad one that the teacher was, too? She’d be more patient with them, right? More forgiving? She turned to find Jill, sitting catty-corner behind and to her left. “Maybe this won’t be all bad,” she murmured.

The ruler came down hard on her hand before she even noticed the teacher had moved. “There is no speaking in class unless you are spoken to. Do you understand?”

Debbie gaped, staring at the woman, and the ruler cracked down again. “Do. You. Understand?”

Tossing out any hopes of another slave going easy on them, Debbie nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Miss,” she corrected. “But you’ll learn terms of address in the next hour.”

By the end of that hour, Debbie felt as if ‘terms of address’ were leaking out of her ears. She had filled three pages with complicated diagrams of who was above whom and who the should acknowledge first – with the oft-repeated, “but remember, with whoever you are dealing with, you are beneath them. You are beneath everyone.”

That had made Steve complain. More than complain; he’d shouted. “Fuck that shit, lady. I’m as good as the next guy.”

Debbie had bitten her tongue on anything except a warning “Steve…” but it had been enough to get her another smack across the hand. He, on the other hand…

The teacher had grabbed the proctor from the hall. Steve wasn’t a small guy, wiry and athletic – all six of them were the sporty sort, actually – but the proctor was slabs of muscle, and had a food of height on Steve. He’d bent him, struggling the whole time, over his desk, and pulled down his pants so the teacher could lay the rule down, hard enough leave welts, eight times across his ass.

“If anyone in this class makes such an outburst again, you will not only be caned, you will be gagged. This is your only warning.”

Shaking, Debbie had kept her eyes forward and her attention firmly on the teacher for the rest of class. Steve, miracle of miracles, had been quiet, but when they escaped the classroom at the hour bell, he was muttering curses under his breath.

“it’s not right, not fucking right,” he told her. “We’re not beneath anyone.”

“No,” she agreed quietly. “But they’re bigger and stronger. It might behoove us to play along for a while.”

“You play along,” he grumbled. “I’m not going to let them indoctrinate me.”

She was pretty sure that indocrination was more or less the point of the school, but Steve would either learn or he wouldn’t. Right now, there wasn’t much she could do to help him.

She went through her classes, soaking up their lessons, writing down everything, trying not to catch the teachers’ attention, not to be bad. It was hard, sitting quietly through every class when her friends were right there, but it took only two more welts before she got the knack of it. Instead, she wrote down in the margins everything she wanted to say, notes for later discussion.

That night, in her dorm with Jill and Indira, a pretty girl who barely talked, she stared at her first marginalia.

Acculturation. They’re training us to be them.

It wasn’t a comforting thought.

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