In Which Reynard Goes Back To School


The hallway was a strange off-green that looked naggingly familiar to Reynard. When they passed the second display case, this one showing off a variety of long-dead cell phones, he began to understand where they were. When they passed a fire door, both doors wedged open with pieces of wood, he was certain.

“You took over an elementary school?” That explained the chalkboard…

“Actually, we buried it. It had survived the collapse almost entirely intact.”

“Buried?” Reynard looked around at the soft, indirect light that infused the place. “But the – the classroom we were in, there was a view.”

“It’s a really neat Working. One of my crew did it in a lot of the windows; it keeps it from feeling tight and claustrophobic down here.”

“You buried an entire school. And then you put in windows.” Reynard shook his head – carefully, because he could still feel the prick of hawthorn, even with all the vines gone. “And you went to school the same time I did?”

“We’re overachievers,” she answered lightly. “Burying the school was the easy part. Doing it so groundwater didn’t seep in everywhere was the hard part. We’re almost there, by the way.”

“Principal’s office? I know I’ve been a bad boy…”

“That’s tomorrow.” She smirked at him, the first playful expression he had seen on her face. It made her look far less severe; he found he liked it.

Of course, he reminded himself, she Owns you. Probably. She’s going to look attractive no matter what she does.

He cleared his throat. He had not been this far off his game in – in ever. “Tomorrow, Mistress?”

She chuckled at him, the laughter after the smirk sounding almost joyful. “Didn’t I say to call me Elle?”

Reynard nearly stumbled. “Shit. Shit, I’m sorry…” He considered dropping to his knees, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get back up. “I – I forgot.”

She tapped his nose lightly. “You’ll have to work on that. Tonight – tonight, let’s just get you cleaned up and into a bed before you fall over, all right?”

“All right. Okay.” He swallowed. His head was spinning. “That, uh, that sounds like a really good idea.”

“Right through here.” She took his arm, holding him up as much as guiding him, and steered Reynard into one of the classrooms.

Which had, he noticed quickly, been transformed. A giant bed, four-poster, covered in quilts, dominated the room. An old, chipped dresser was flanked by mismatched chairs.

One bed. Reynard wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or worried. He’d gone to Addergoole, where everyone assumed you slept with your Kept. After all, that was more than half of what Kept were for. But he’d also been out in the world, where some people had some funny ideas about Kept…

…or about slaves.

“Running water was easy.” Elle continued to move Reynard, so he continued to stumble forward. “Getting the water heater to work properly was a little harder. But hey, some of us just cheat.”

The bathroom was as much a mismatch as her bedroom. It had clearly been part of the school’s lavatory before. Now, a claw-foot tub sat between two old toilet partitions.

“Hot… hot water?” He wasn’t sure he dared dream. “I haven’t had a proper hot bath in…”

She let go of his arm. Slowly, Reynard sank to the floor. Idiotically, the words of the old pledge went through his head.

“I pledge allegiance… to the shower…. and to the mistress for which it stands…”


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