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Fish Gotta Swim explains what Aviv is up to.
One year, six months after Devil Deals
Aviv left Rozen to the terrified girl, a lovely sorrel brunette, careful not to let his disgust show on his face. “I’ll take the other one back to her home, and see you next year.”
“Pleasure doing business with you.” Of course it was. Rozen delighted in making people uncomfortable. Aviv picked up the unconscious blonde, last year’s victim, and, carefully working an invisibility, carried her home. He left her on her father’s doorstep – her father who had sold her to a monster for a year of peace – tucked in a blanket, and went home, almost holping Rozen would break their deal.
One year later
Three refugees that had come through his camp had mentioned Rozen’s name; one, a tiny girl with lightning in her eyes, had been escorted the whole way there by the giant man. The beast having kept his end of the bargain, Aviv travelled back to his protectorate to keep his end.
The villagers tended to come up with an excuse to send the girls into the woods when it came time to pay the tithe; since the rest of the year it was safe, kept so by Rozen himself, the girls didn’t seem to suspect anything. This year, one had brought her friend, however.
They could handle two girls. Aviv Worked his invisibility and ghosted out into the path, the trees moving eerily around them, the path seeming to close in from behind. He’d used this trick before, when humans were hunting down Ellehemaei in his territory. But these were innocent girls.
They screamed, all the rumors of beasts in the woods, monsters who eat little girls, coming back to them all at once. One of them tried to run, and smacked straight into Aviv. He wrapped a tentacle around her and held her fast.
The other one was holding her head with fingers that seemed to be elongating and splitting, looking more like tendrils or vines than fingers, while pools of ink spilled out of her pants legs. Behind her, Rozen laughed and picked her up.
“Looks like we trade,” he joked. “This one’s got to be yours.”
Aviv held the girl in his non-arms tighter as he watched Rozen, wondering if the beast was going to go for a deal. But the big man was shaking his head, even as he hauled the weakly-struggling girl across the clearing. His voice was solemn. “The girl I dropped off with you? She all right?”
“Ashni?” He nodded. “We got her settled in. Seems she’s pregnant.” He kept any question out of his voice. He didn’t want to know.
“Good. Here, you take your cousin-niece-granddaughter-whatever here home. I’ll keep an eye on her family. You have my word on that.”
Aviv exchanged girls, murmuring a quick Working to put them both to sleep. “Thank you.” Balancing the sleeping maybe-a-relative on his shoulder, he wrapped invisibility around them and headed for home.
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