Content warning: Slavery, suggested violence against said slave. Fire is involved.
The fire was getting very hot. Reis struggled futilely against the chains binding him. He could hear in his head, absurdly, the way she’d sounded when she’d first bought him:
”So. Fire, Water, Plants. And Earth. What about you?”
He hadn’t answered. He’d been working at the ropes, and it hadn’t been an order. She didn’t give a lot of orders, he’d noticed. Even after he’d refused to answer her. Even after he’d run away. Even after he’d run away four times.
Five, now, and he’d gotten further this time than he had before. This time, she’d actually looked annoyed when she caught up to him. And this time, she’d made camp right there, right in the middle of a ruined city, rather than dragging him home again.
“There.” She sat down in front of him and showed him her handiwork: a piece of twisted metal on the end of a stick. “Do you read Old Tongue?”
Not answering her had become a test. Now Reis was wondering if that had been a bad idea. Still, it was too late now to close the barn door. He didn’t reply, not even to shake his head.
“This part is my Name. The Long Run. This part means ‘property of’. I figure…” She stroked his bare neck slowly. He’d gotten really good at picking locks on collars. “…this one will be a little harder to take off.”
Reis eyed the piece of metal. It was kind of pretty… if you didn’t put one and one together and get ow. He swallowed and thought about begging.
She grabbed his hair and pressed his forehead to the ground. Oh, gods no, not his neck, not… He started keening. He couldn’t help it.
“If you have any skill with Body, now would be the time to shut off your pain receptors for a couple minutes. And if you don’t… I’d suggest holding as perfectly still as possible.”
Reis thought fast, swallowed, and pushed up against her hand enough that his mouth was out of the dirt. “Could… could you make that an order?”
As the first thing he’d spoken to another person in over a decade, he figured it made a pretty good surrender.
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