“I promise you,” Regine had said, when she had first locked a collar around Ambrus’ neck, “that as long as you are mine I will take care of you.”
It hadn’t been the promise that he’d wanted, but at the time, he hadn’t knows that he could want things, and so he had taken it as a kindness and a courtesy.
“The children you sire here will all go to Addergoole, that I promise you.”
That had been over a year later, long enough that Ambrus could think about wanting things, long enough that he’d begun to count on his fingers the number of times he had taken a woman to her bed.(128)
But Addergoole was an abstraction to him, a project, and the children he might be siring, even the one he had already held and named, they were all even more abstract. His mistress was smiling at him.
And it wasn’t the promise he wanted, still, and he did not think he could ask for things, so he took the promise as a kindness and a courtesy, and thanked his mistress sweetly.
“I promise you that my use for you is far from over.”
The promise came nearly fifteen years later, as Regine was wrapping up what she called “the initial phase of the Addergoole project,” already gearing up for “the educational phase.” Ambrus hadn’t, exactly, asked for that promise, but she had offered him freedom, and he had panicked, thinking, now that the initial phase was done, she was sending him out into the world.
It wasn’t the promise he wanted, but by now, he was used to the way his mistress spoke, and the bond of Keeping was pushing heavily on him. So he nodded, and accepted it for what she’d actually meant, and moved on.
“I promise you.” This time she was swallowing, hard, having trouble with her words. He had noticed, by now, so many years later, that she rarely made promises like this: only for him, and even more rarely her crew, did she speak so casually. “I promise you, Ambrus, that should you ever wish to come back, you will always have a place in my home.”
That wasn’t the promise he wanted. But Ambrus had learned to wait.
“…and in my heart.”
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