“So, my Master wants to know, if you are concerned about the number of Kept he’s taken in, what you would bid to take one of them off of his hands.” By the third upperclassman Roanna talked to, she had the words down pat.
She was also getting used to the look of disbelief, although every person had a different reason for the disbelief.
“Concerned? No, I’m just impressed. I never managed more than three, and I had to set someone on fire for that one.” The draconic-Change Yisachar smirked down at Roanna. “You can tell your Master, if I want one of his Kept, he’ll know when his pants are on fire.”
Roanna gulped. “I’ll tell him, sir…”
“Just Zak is fine.”
“Zak. Sorry to bother you.”
“Oh, I’m not bothered. You are pretty, you know.”
“No, that’s Zuleyma.”
He just smiled. “Good luck with your auction.”
He was the only one to outright threaten. Cillian, short and Irish-looking and ratty, just leered at her. “I’ll take you for whatever he wants to sell you for. I’m real good at making happy pills.”
Something about his breath made Roanna’s skin crawl. “Not Zuleyma? She’s the pretty one.”
“I don’t want a princess, I want a good woman.” He made as if to squeeze her bum, but stopped short of actually touching her. “A good girl, a clever girl.”
“Flattered. I’ll let him know.”
If these were her options, she’d take sharing a spare bunk with Tamberlain or Zuleyma for the rest of the year.
Adder just looked amused by the whole thing. “I’m not a Keeper sort, really. I mean, I tried it, but it’s not my thing. I was just wondering what it had to be like, sharing a Keeper with three other Kept.”
“Oh.” Roanna gave that one some thought. “It’s weird. I don’t really like Segenam, you know? But I’m still competing for his attention.”
“That’s a lot of being Kept for you. Even when you’re the only one. Good luck with your auction.”
“Thanks.” She really had to find someone who either wanted her more than Cillian did, or wanted someone else more than Cillian did.
“Which of you are good at housework?”
Oh, a girl. This could be interesting. Roanna turned around to behold the elfiest Elf Change she had ever seen. “Well, ma’am, that would be me or Merton.”
“Merton. Hrrm. Is he the short black-haired one? With the teddy-bear Change?”
“He got a little taller with the Change, but that’s him, yes.”
“Tell your Keeper I’ll offer three mid-level favors, standard conditions, for your Merton. And I think I know who you can get to buy the princess.” Her smile was somewhat sympathetic. “You’re a cute one, but I’m not into girls, sorry. And you’re too…”
“I know.” Roanna sighed. “Unless someone wants a housewife, they’re going to want Zuleyma first.”
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you know. Even if it does mean you get stuck with Segenam. I know him. He’s going to be too lazy to be too much of a bad Keeper, and you can probably find a way around him enough to get your own way.”
“But I’m still Kept.”
“That’s generally how it goes. Look, I’m Kianna. Talk to Thahn and Vianna about taking the Princess off your hands.”
Roanna thanked Kianna, and went searching for Thahn and Vianna. Thahn and Vianna turned out to be a semi-terrifying pair of twins, who seemed plenty interested in trading for Zuleyma and offered a series of complicated terms.
She took her notes back to Segenam, who, on looking at her ten pages of notes, insisted on the short version.
“You have potential buyers for all four of us. I think most of them are okay, but I think Cilian is really creepy and I’m not sure Adder is a good idea. How many of us to you want to get rid of?”
The words filled her with an unhappy lump in her throat. Get rid of. Why would that bother her? Why should she care that he didn’t want her?
Much to her chagrin, she found she was crying. And, of course, the only one who wanted her was the creep, Cillian.
“Hey.” Segenam frowned at her, which just made Roanna’s stomach do more unpleasant things. “Hey. What… oh.” He sighed, much-put-upon sounding, and patted her shoulder. “Cillian’s the one that offered for you?”
Roanna sniffled and nodded.
“I’d rather piss in his mouth than give him anything, even if he paid me. Someone better offer for the others?”
She sniffled and nodded again. “Though I mean… Adder?”
Segenam scoffed. “Adder can’t even Keep himself. Okay. So who’s that leave me, if we don’t deal with Adder and Silly Cillian?”
“Tamerlain and I.” She pulled a hanky out of her pocket and wiped her nose.
“Perfect. Good job.”
The surge of pleasure at the praise couldn’t quite cover over a dull lump of bitterness. “So you can fuck Tamerlain and I can cook and clean.”
Segenam made a funny face. Roanna had no idea what that one meant. “Or the other way around. I’m sure you can teach him how to cook and clean.”
Ro had no idea at all what to say to that.
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