Archive | November 2016

Learning to Fly, two Throwback Stories

So, we were talking about my Patreon prompts on Twitter, and something Inventrix said twigged some small memory, so I present to you two separate Learning to Fly stories from long-ago, in honor of the Animal People month on my Patreon:

First Wind and First Nesting, a story of a people I have never again explored, sadly, from 2012.

and

Some Say Life, an Addergoole fic of Luke and Arundel, from 2011.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1206070.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

“Complications” up on Patreon for anyone to read

“And I hope I never see you again!”

The door slammed shut with a clang of finality. Karl leaned against the wall and put his hands over his face. It wasn’t dark yet; he had maybe fifteen minute till the moon came up. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t go after her.

read on…

My Patreon free story is up for all to read! This short story is in my “Animal People” theme, and features a bit of a relationship… complication.

Want to read all my Patreon stories? Pledge just $1/month. Or pledge $5/month and prompt fiction every month!

Bonus: your first prompt will be written to, even over the month’s cap, so you can sneak in an extra story for the month (or more, if you get your friends to pledge, too).

Double bonus: first $5 pledge puts us back into the serial-post-a-month milestone!

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1205866.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Lady Taisiya’s 4th Husband, Chapter 11 – a fantasy/romance fdomme story

Find Chapter 1 here
Chapter 2 is here
Chapter 3 is here
Chapter 4 is here
Chapter 5 is here
Chapter 6 is here
Chapter 7 is here.
Chapter 8: here
Chapter 9: here
Chapter 10: here

He was already erect. He wanted her to notice; he was terrified of her noticing.

Without breaking the kiss, she wrapped her hand around his shaft. Sefton moaned softly. Her hand felt perfect. How much nicer would… He faltered, blushed, but couldn’t look away.

“Boys play with other boys,” she whispered in his ear. “Now, lover, you get to find out what being taken by a real woman feels like. Do you want me?”

“Shells and stones, yes,” he gasped.

“Are you sure? It won’t be like it was with your good friends…”

“Please?” he keened it, his hips bucking up into her hand again. “Please, Taisiya?”

“Oh, you sweet man, I’m going to enjoy this. Beg for me a little, more, that’s it.” Her hands left him. Sefton’s eyes followed her, and his hand twitched under his head.

Begging, he could do. He licked his lips. “Please?” he moaned. “Please show me, my Lady, my… please, Taisiya, Show me what it can be like with you.”

“You really do want it, don’t you?” She slicked a little oil over him, her fingers sending shivers through his whole body, and over and in herself. Just watching her made Sefton moan again.

“Yes, oh, please.” His hips bucked as her fingers trailed over him again. “I’m… It’s been so long,” he added, almost a whisper, and then wished he’d kept it unsaid.

“Mmm, since your friends? And you a young man, all full of seed and eager. Do you want to put your seed in me, Feltian?”

He groaned, biting back responses that were crude, or rude, or worse. He closed his eyes instead, as her oil-slicked fingers played around the head of his cock and down to the base, leaving cool lines that soon heated up.

“Fair enough,” she chuckled, as if he’d answered her. “No more difficult questions, not for now. Kiss me, Feltian, darling.”

He could do that, and he did, pressing up to her lips while he tried to keep his hips from doing the same. He closed his eyes, stopped fighting his chains, and gave in to the way she touched him.

Her hands were like nothing he’d ever felt on him, and when she straddled him, still kissing him, Sefton felt a momentary frisson run through him. This wasn’t one of his friends at school. This was a woman and… and…

He kissed her again and tried not to panic. She was maneuvering, sliding him inside her and “Shells!” he gasped into the kiss.

“That’s it,” she whispered. She pressed one hand down on his chest, just below his throat, holding him in place, as if he needed the extra reminder. “Nice and slow, that’s good. You can move, if you want to.”

He hadn’t realized how still, how stiff he’d been holding himself until she reminded him. Slowly – more slowly than he thought possible – he rose up to meet her, finding her rhythm.

She gasped and groaned like a man might, little noises, stifled, and then loud ones when he found the right spot. Her spots were all different than any man, of course, but she still made lovely noises.

Sefton was a quick learner; he always had been. She kept him pinned down to the bed, but he could keep moving his hips and his legs, shifting his position, finding all the places that made her groan and gasp. “Beautiful noises,” he whispered, the way he would to one of his special friends, and he was too intent on what he was doing to even worry that he might offend her. “Oh, shells… soon,” he added in a quiet grunt.

“Yes,” she agreed. She grabbed his hips with both hands and pulled, urging him on. “Come on, yes, that’s it, now. Now!”

There was no arguing with that tone, and Sefton’s body had no interest in the argument anyway. He thrust up into her, again and again, and shuddered, falling back down to the bed, eyes closed, panting. “Shells,” he panted quietly, not capable of thought more complicated than that.

Chapter 12: Aftermath – http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1209356.html

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1205527.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Looking for Themed Edally Filler/Guest Stories: The Winter Festival

Hello all,

I’m thinking of having a Winter Festival on Edally – that is, a week (or two) of guest fic covering Tienaabaa’s festival, the festival that takes place in midwinter.

Tienaabaa is the deity of the blue – mind, water, sky, cold. They are the deity of invention, of thinking, of philosophy. Their festival is at the coldest time of the year, and often involves showing off new creations or inventions, ice sculptures, snow castles (depending on your climate~) and feasting on stored foods, especially those that will only store through half the winter and not all of it (They’re practical people, the Calenyena). Gifts are hand-made in some way, never bought.

Is anyone interesting in writing a/several guest fics? Wordcount should be between 100 and 5,000 words, it should be set in Reiassan in the Edally era, and it should involve the Festival of Tienaabaa (Tienebrah).

We’ll probably make this concurrent with our festival of winter, feasting, and cold, so the last week of December.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1205294.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Phase 2 (and a bonus intro to something later) (more Chess/Black Knight AU)

Directly after Movement
Landing Page: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1202628.html

Cya touched his cheek. Luke found himself leaning in to her hand. He tensed, but the touch remained gentle.

“Try to mind your breathing for a minute. In… out.” Her voice had lost all the false sweetness; she sounded like an entirely different person. “In… out.”

Luke paced his breathing to her words and found it an easy pace for long, deep breaths. Slowly, he felt the tension in his wings and shoulders release.

“How’re you feeling?”

They were still barely past halfway through. “I’m okay.”

She tapped his nose very lightly. “Didn’t I tell you not to lie to me?”

He pulled back. “No?” Hunh, he should’ve lied to her. “I mean…”

“How’re you feeling?”

“Like I’ve been put through the wringer,” he admitted. “But I can take more.”

“You’re doing well.” She patted his shoulder. “After this, we’re going to have a conversation about safe words.”

His cheeks heated up. Luke fought against his wings’ urge to flare out and mostly succeeded. “I know about those. I am in a crew with Mike Linden-Blossom.”

“Good. Then I won’t have to give you the primer.”

“But I don’t…” He quelled at a look from her. “Am I going to need them?” That wasn’t the impression he’d been given of their relationship.

“You may. And, if you don’t, well, no harm in making sure we have them established anyway.”

“Planning ahead.” He smiled, surprised her could muster up some of the feeling behind it.

“Planning ahead,” she agreed, and graced him with a very warm smile. “Exactly.”

“But not for this?”

“No.” She looked rueful. “The point of this is, uh, pretty much plowing over any ability you might have to consent. On the plus side, I’m not going to do anything sexual or even excessively intimate — because I’m intentionally brutalizing your ability to consent.”

Luke stared at her. He had never heard… He’d heard something like that once, from Mendosa. Maybe more than once. His wings twitched a bit. “Should, uh. Should I be worried?” He tried to make it a joke.

She smiled at him, but it didn’t look amused. “Little late for that. All right, round two.”

Luke braced. He could take it.

“That’s quite a look, you know. Handsome and stoic.” She touched his cheek. “You do very well in the I-can-take-it sort of poses. And kneeling… stretch your wings out for me a little? I want to look at them. Like that, yes, very good, thank you.”

What was she doing? Luke posed his wings, feeling a little ridiculous and yet… so good. So warm. He smiled cautiously for her.

“Mmm. Nice. I’m happy I have you as a Kept, you know.”

“You are?” He stared at her in surprise, almost missing the warm and fluffy feelings overtaking him.

“I am. You’re smart, you’re competent, you’re powerful. To be selfish, you’re attractive, too. Quite handsome.” Her grin was nearly a leer. “And you’re fun to be around. If Keeping you was how I get to have you around for a while, well, it’s a pretty good way to get it.” She took ahold of his collar. “There are side advantages, too. And if I want, I can look at you naked all day long.”

Luke wanted to be offended. His wings twitched and he glowered at her. But the feelings were starting to go to his head; he felt giddy, and the frown would not stay on his face.

You really think I’m handsome? He managed not to say it like some starstruck teenager, but it was a close thing, and she was still layering praise on – his skills, his looks, his wings. Even the way he’d noticed that Leo was reaching for godhead. Luke closed his eyes and leaned back and let it wash over him, trying to ignore the feelings like bliss and the tightening in his pants.

It seemed to take no time at all. Then she was touching his cheek again. “Easy, soldier. Come back to me. Come back.”

Luke blinked at her. “I’m right here.” He splayed his wings, only to realize they were already out. “What…?”
“Here, come sit on the ottoman and get comfy. There you go. You were pretty far gone.”

“Were you… were you reading my mind again?” He was disoriented, uncertain. He felt warm and a little confused.

“No, no, just getting you bond-drunk. How do you feel?”

“Drunk,” he agreed. “And, uh. Unclear. Like…”

“Tell me,” she urged. No, ordered.

“Like sprawling in a sunbeam,” he admitted. “Or, ummm….” She was just going to make him tell her again. “Like cuddling with you, putting my head on your lap.”

“Both entirely normal responses. Why don’t we do both? There’s a sunbeam over there, and you can put your head in my lap.”

“But..” Luke couldn’t even come up with exactly what he was saying “but” to, just that there was a but to be said.

“Lesson time is over, but Kept need time in skin contact with their Keeper. You lay down, I run my fingers through your hair, and you’ll recharge your batteries.” She moved over to the sunbeam on her living room carpet as she spoke. Luke was fairly sure none of that had been orders, but he followed her anyway.

Batteries. Something she’d said earlier popped up helpfully. “Are you really disappointed in me for not coming here, uh, ‘home’ sooner?”

She patted her lap; Luke huffed and lay down, getting his wings comfortable and delaying a bit while he did so. Finally, he put his head midway down on her thigh.

“I’m not disappointed. I’m not even really surprised.” Her fingers felt far nicer in his hair than fingers ought to, than anyone’s fingers had since… He swallowed that comparison and the surge of guilt. “Hey, now, what was that? I’m not mad at you.”

“No, just… Do you really have to know?”

“I really have to know. Tell me.” No matter how gentle she made her voice, it was still an order. Luke sighed.

“I was thinking about my wife. Former wife. Nobody’s really touched me like that since… well, since her. And it’s nice. But, you and me, uh, it’s not her and me.”

“Of course not.” Her fingers kept combing through his hair. “And it’s not meant to be. The Bond makes the touch feel nice, just like it makes praise feel wonderful and criticism feel like the end of the world. But you’re not my husband, and I’m not your wife. That’s not the deal we made.”

Luke tried to ignore the small surge of distress that sent through him. It was probably the Bond, he reminded himself. It had to be the Keeping messing with his head. “Good,” he muttered. “I think Wil would have something to say about that, even after all this time.”

He didn’t miss the thoughtful look that passed over Cya’s face, but he had no idea what it meant.

(an undefined time later, days, weeks maybe)

She had a look on her face that Luke had seen, once or twice, generally on Mike Linden-Blossom’s face or on one of a certain kind of cy’Linden. She was determined, she was, uh, hungry, and she was going to get what she wanted.

He turned around to grab the teleporter and send the boy to get Leo. This was not what he’d signed on for and not what he wanted to do. He no more wanted to step on Leo’s toes than he wanted to piss off his Keeper.

“Come here.”

He mouthed the shit but didn’t voice it and did as he was told.

She was holding a leash. Luke almost bolted.

“Stay.”

…he stayed.

She clipped the leash to his collar. “Safe words. Red, stop, yellow, slow down, try something else. Got it?”

He shifted uncomfortably. When had his collar gotten a leash-loop? “Look. You’re a great Keeper, but I don’t want to–“

“No sex involved. There are so many reasons that’s a bad idea. But. If I don’t blow off some steam it’s going to be bad. Really bad. So I’m going to tie you up a bit and pretend it’s enough.”

He swallowed a surge of guilt: he wasn’t enough. He wasn’t what she wanted. “I could go get Leo…”

“Do you think I really want to interrupt a god for a booty call?” There was bitterness in her voice.

Luke coughed. What did he do with that? “He’s not really…”

“And would you want to tell that to his worshippers? I mean, his army? His loyal subjects?”

Luke considered the army. “No. No, ma’am.”

“Then come upstairs with me, Luca Hunting-Hawk oro’Cya, and let’s tie you up a little bit.”

“Yes, uh, yes ma’am.” She had him on a leash. It wasn’t like he was going anywhere other than where she pulled, not without a physical fight, and he dd not want to get into a physical fight with her. He had a feeling that would end spectacularly badly for him.

She led him upstairs, keeping tension on that leash the whole time. Speaking of tension, she was vibrating with it. He really ought to go get Leo. He had absolutely no good way to do that. He…

“Kneel.”

…He knelt.

“Green, yellow, red. Remember that. I’m going to ask you to let me try something before you tap out, but if you get freaked, Luca, tell me.

“Yes, ma’am.” When had she stated calling him Luca?

“Unfold your wings for me, let me see them.”

Luke forced himself to stoicism, He didn’t know where this was going and he wasn’t sure it was going to be good. “Yes, ma’am.” He spread his wings wide and tried not to shiver as she ran her fingers over the patagia and stroked the fingers of bone.

Her touch felt good, but every time she touched him, it felt more and more like the way a woman touched her partner, and damnit, he was not going to do that to Leo, not going to help her do that to Leo, if he had any say in the matter. He set his jaw and tried to think about military figures and the way he should probably find a new tactic for Leo’s mounted fighters.

She started moving his wings — carefully, delicately, but definitely moving, pulling them behind his back, folding them until the claws at the top touched — and all of his self-distraction flew out the window. “This would be lovely if I pierced you, here, here, here,” she murmured, her fingers unerringly finding places where he had no blood vessels. “then I could just clip, clip, and bind your wings together. Maybe another time. Take your shirt off.”

That required a Working, but Luke didn’t have any orders against Working. He removed his shirt as quickly and smoothly as he could, trying not to think about what she’d said. Piercings. He could still fly, with holes that small in his wings, but not if she pinned them together, clip, clip, clip.

She had leather and rope out, and he almost said dead gods be thanked until he saw that she also had a small pile of jewelry. Luke swallowed. This was going to be interesting. It was going to be… humiliating? He wasn’t sure, and that bothered him more than the hungry expression on her face.

“Fuck, you’re gorgeous,” she muttered. “Never got to play with a pair of wings like this. Hrm. Let’s see.” She sorted through a handful of jewelry and pulled out a set of what looked like ear cuffs until she started muttering Workings at them. “There.”

Luke hadn’t worn jewelry on his wings since he lost a bet with Mike over a hundred and fifty years ago, and nothing he’d worn had been quite this… jingly. She hooked the cuffs onto the bone that, on a bat, would be the forearm, and then linked the chain to another on the second finger, with a little loop hung over the claw-tip, then repeated on the other side. “That looks… very hot. And shouldn’t impede your flying, should it?”

He tested his wings. “No,” he admitted reluctantly. That meant she meant for him to go out like this.

“The rest… well, that’ll impede your flying a bit, but you don’t need to fly anywhere right now. Fold your wings back up, there we go.” She muttered Workings as she went, as the leather-and-metal strap went around his chest and his wings, pressing his wings to his back, and hooked to his collar with a pectoral piece. She added another strap, and another, until Luke could barely twitch the tops and bottoms of his wings.

It felt strange. His arms were free, his legs were free, but he felt trapped, restrained, held. His heart was pounding in his chest, and his mouth was dry.

He could tell her to stop at any time. He could find out if she would stop at any time. He could say a Working and snap the metal holding this all together.

“Almost done, almost done.” She pulled out some thin rope — blue rope, just a shade darker than his wings. Luke closed his eyes and didn’t say a word, didn’t whisper a Word. “Just a moment…”

He could feel her fingers on his top claws, removing the little claw-caps, wrapping the twine around his claws until they were snugged together, replacing the caps. He could feel her gathering the finger-tips of his wings together and doing the same, although on the more tender skin, the rope felt softer, squishier. “There.” She patted his shoulder. “Wiggle your wings for me?”

Luke tried. There was barely a quarter-inch of give in any direction. His breath was coming in short bursts now, and his chest felt tight. “Can’t,” he managed. He forced out a chuckle, and the chuckle pushed past the panic. “I’m in your hands now.” He had never felt so absolutely helpless.

She put her fingers on his lips. “Not a word, then, darling. Wiggle as much as you want, but I don’t want to hear a word.”

And with that, she took away his Workings, his arguing, his voice. Wiggle, she’d offered. Luke gave in to the urge and struggled against the bindings, his shoulders twitching as he tried to move his wings, his thighs tensing. Even standing would be difficult with his balance like this. Fighting would be almost impossible. “What…” he tried to say, but his mouth moved without sound and a surge of guilt struck him.

“It’s all right.” Her hand was cool on his cheek. “Just give in to it a little, if you can. It’s okay if you struggle. It’s okay if you wriggle. I just want to watch you…. I’m just going to watch you. And then I’ll let you go, and everything will be fine.”

Luke swallowed air in gulps, thought of seventeen different angry retorts and swallowed even the start of any of them, an sat back on his heels. He closed his eyes. He couldn’t speak. He rolled his shoulders. He couldn’t move his wings. He clenched his fists. His Keeper wanted him bound, and he was bound.

His Keeper wanted him bound, and he was bound. Luke’s next breath was peaceful. The feeling of the straps against his wings was no longer oppressive. Cya wanted him like this. He pushed his wings into the straps, feeling their restraint like a caress. and so he was like this.

“That’s my boy.” He barely heard her words, but the praise sent warm waves through him anyway.

Luke’s wings, by Cal: http://artventrix.tumblr.com/post/38236069011/whyyy-did-i-decide-to-draw-him-with-his-arms

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1204999.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Spotlight Story: Faerie Apocalypse

A story written to showcase the Faerie Apocalypse setting. If you find terms that I missed that are not accessible to the non-Addergoole reader, please let me know.

There wasn’t a safe time to go into the old city — other humans liked the day time; natural animals liked the dusk and dawn, and the strange things slunk along in the dark — but Kelvin and her team had discovered that the stretch from about two hours after noon to about two hours before sunset were the least likely to be dangerous. There was still enough light to maneuver through the ruined buildings, but the teams of raiders that still lived within the city limits had done their raiding and retreated to their lairs, wherever those might be. As long as they didn’t stumble right into the lair of either a raider or a creature, they’d be relatively safe.

They’d done that, once, walked right into the lair of something Sully had called a wyvern. It’d gotten Sully and taken off Yonner’s leg at the knee, but they’d managed to take it down. Turned out wyvern made pretty good eating – tasted like chicken, but greasier.

Yonner was taking lead, now, on a prosthetic leg made out of scavenged parts. Yonner insisted — said “if they’re gonna bite my leg, they’re going to get a mouthful of steel and some hawthorn for good measure.” Kelvin wasn’t going to argue with anyone who wanted to go out in front, not when point could be so deadly. She followed along at his slow, rolling pace, taking tail while Boffin and Gee took the middle.

Four was about the perfect number. More than that, and they woke up people — or things. Less than that, and if they came across something, they had a very high chance of losing someone. Kelvin didn’t like how she’d learned all this, anymore than she liked knowing that there were creatures in the city who would pick off individual humans if they strayed too far from the pack. But she had to know it all, so she could lose as few people as possible on any given raid.

Yonner gestured, his movements sparse and just big enough that those behind him could read them clearly (Some of the worse things in the city were drawn to noise). They hadn’t been in this section of the city since the fall, but he was suggesting they go over the crumbled rock pile and into the four-story building behind it. It looked like it had been a school. Kelvin was dubious, but Yonner’s instincts were usually right on these things. She tapped the go-ahead onto Boffin’s shoulder, and Boffin passed it on to Yonner.

The metal leg was stiff in the knee, but it got Yonner up onto the rubble pile just fin. Gee clambered up, staying low, rifle out and sharp eyes scanning the horizon. Some of the raiders that lived here posted sentries. Sometimes, there were flying monsters on the roofs.

They got over the rocks with no attacks. There was a bad moment where Gee’s foot got stuck between two rocks, but it was an easy fix, and they were at the door to the building.

The door was closed and still locked. That was either a good sign or a very bad one; either way, Kelvin was up.

She had practiced with lock-picks around their compound until she could handle everything there, and then she’d started bringing home locks when they went on raids. That was a year ago; by now, she could open anything they’d encountered that didn’t require electricity, and with a little gadget she’d pulled together, she could manage half of those, too. She got to work while Gee stood back-to back with her and Yonner and Boffin watched the sides.

The former school had some impressive security; this had been an expensive lock when it’d been installed, and that probably hadn’t been more than five years before the End. It took Kelvin nearly five minutes of careful work before she managed to get the door open.

She went in first, her gun pointed into the darkness, the flashlight taped over it sending out a thin red beam thanks to a jury-rigged filter. You didn’t want to be the bright light in a monster’s eyes, and you didn’t want to ruin your darkness vision if you didn’t have to. The place looked, at first glance, like it hadn’t been touched since the end. They’d come in through a back entrance, into the administrative wing, and the place looked as if it had been locked up and left just yesterday — if you ignored the heavy layer of dust everywhere.

She raised her eyebrows at Yonner. They didn’t really need old school records, and, while paper was good, it was heavy. But he was already ducking into one of the offices, his bag open.

All right, records it was, or whatever else his instincts was sending him for. She followed him in to find him opening drawers. On the third drawer, he pulled out two pens and a stash of snack food, almost all of it the preservative-laced stuff that lasted forever. It was in a plastic box in the drawer; the whole thing went in his bag.

“Women in offices,” Yonner muttered quietly. “They do this. They stash food. Did, I guess. Will again? When we have office jobs again. Crackers and candy and coffee. Everyone in my old office did that. Tums, too.” He dropped a bottle of said antacids and a pile of other painkillers into his bag. “And, look, needle, thread, hem glue. Need something? Ask the woman who’s been there the longest.” Yonner smiled sidelong at Kelvin. “You’d probably know that, though.”

“Wasn’t in an office, not exactly.” She wasn’t going to tell him what’d been in her glove-box and console box, though. “Anything else?”

“Stale peppermints, I suppose they’re good for the little ones.” Yonner froze. In the next office back — presumably the one that the secretarial-looking desk’s food-stasher had been admin to, since it didn’t have its own door to the hall and, for some reason, not having your own door was a sign of status in these places — something had just fallen down.

“Mouse?” Boffin mouthed. Kelvin shrugged: could be. It also could be someone else hiding out here. She gestured them into positions and they headed for the doorway: Kelvin low and Yonner high, the others behind them, ready to take over.

The door swung open into a sunny office, the late-afternoon rays illuminating a wide mahogany desk and a knocked-over file cabinet. There was nobody obviously visible, and the place looked much like the rest of the office, like someone had run out years ago in the middle of their day and never come back.

They stepped into the room, Kelvin taking left, Yonner taking right, Boffin and Gee covering them from the doorway. Kelvin was almost all the way around the room when the commotion erupted from behind the desk.

“Don’t shoot!” Yonner’s voice was tight but he held up his gun and, very slowly, holstered it. “Nobody shoot. She’s not going to hurt anyone. Are you?”

She? Had Yonner found a feral dog? A cat? He stepped back slowly, like he was trying not to spook whatever was under the desk. “Come on out.”

As Yonner moved, his nobody shoot became more and more clear. The horns were visible first, two blue, curved protrusions like nothing seen in nature. One of the creatures that had destroyed the city had sported horns like that.

Next were the wings, little bug-like blue-and-green iridescent wing shapes that were covered in dust and cut open in at least two places.

Then they saw her head, a skinny face, dull brown-and-blue hair, a couple bruises marring her left eye and her cheek. She didn’t look much older than mid-teens – although the fae had been known to look far younger than they were, and Kelvin knew one or two who could make themselves look injured when they weren’t/.

Gee hissed and took a step back. The girl froze.

“No, it’s fine.” Yonner kept coaxing gently. “Come on, darling. Nobody here is going to hurt you. You might be fae but I can’t imagine you’re the assholes who burnt down the city, are you?”

She shook her head. “N-no. I was, I went to school here.”

Just a kid, then. Or a good liar. Kelvin took a step forward. “You’ve been here since?”

“Hiding. Not here, over in the cafeteria. I go out, looking for food, for… things, but.” Her wings flapped sadly. “It’s not safe.”

“It’s not safe for anyone, kid.” Boffin’s voice was rough but not particularly unkind. “Thought your kind could hide that stuff, pretend to be human.”

Kelvin didn’t think anyone noticed her tensing up. She slipped forward a little closer and holstered her weapon. “The kids can’t.” She was the expert on everything. Let them take what they would of that. “They have to be taught it. When did you Change, kiddo? When did the wings grow?”

“The horns came first.” She touched her horns gingerly. “When the things attacked? I was in class, and then, uh, something came through the wall. Over on the other side,” she pointed. “It’s technically another building. Something came through the wall and, uh,” she gulped loudly. “It smashed Tommy Bryant, I, uh.” She ducked her head and covered her face with both hands. Seven fingered-hands, Kelvin noted. “And then,” she was muffled by her hands, “my head started hurting and Tonya Hauser started screaming that I was one of them, that I was a monster.”

“You are.” Gee took another step forward. “You’ve seen what the monsters did to this place. To us. To your friend Tommy.”

“That wasn’t me!” The girl flapped her wings loudly and glared up at Gee, at all of them. “I was in school, I wasn’t doing anything. I was just an ordinary kid. And then there I was, and people were throwing rocks at me, and they were saying that I killed Tommy, that I killed Mr. Yangler, and I didn’t do any of that!” Her voice got louder and louder and her wings flapped, seeming to amplify the sound. “And if you’re going to kill me, then just do it. Don’t yell at me anymore.”

Kelvin’s heart twisted in her chest. Boffin had moved forward too, wooden knife out. “Hold still, then, and we’ll do it.”

She had stayed hidden so long. She had kept her head down through so many worse things than this. She’d survived. She’d… She looked up at Yonner, who was frowning.

“Now, come on, then,” he scolded. “I told her we weren’t going to attack her, and now you want to make a liar out of me? No, thank you. We’re not going to hurt the kid.”

“If we don’t,” Gee pointed out, “someone else is going to, and they’re not gonna be quick about it.”

“And it we done,” Boffin sneered, “what’s to say she’s really a kid, hunh? What’s to say she’s not some sneaky old creature hiding under there?”

Boffin had scars that Kelvin had never asked about, but she knew Boffin and Yonner had been in the group rescued from one of the local monsters, a creature who looked like a nightmare version of a 12-year-old. This was going to be worse than a hard sell; it might be impossible.

Yonner glanced at her again and cleared his throat. “Come on, Boffin. You remember the rules, right? She promises she’s told us the truth, promises she really was a high school kid when she, uh, Changed, promises she’s not going to attack us. She can’t break that, they can’t break their word.”

“And then what?” Gee frowned repressively. “We can’t just leave her here, and we can’t bring her home with us. Someone else will kill her right off.”

“You can leave me here.” The girl flapped her wings cautiously. “I won’t attack you, I promise it. And I’ve been here for ages. I’ve gotten away every time someone found me – ’till now, I mean.”

“And what about the next one?” Gee glared. “What about the one that finds a way to use you? To aim you at us? We know how dangerous creatures like you can be.”

“I’m not a creature!” Her wings fluttered, showing how torn they really were, and she glared at all of them, despite the weapons pointed in her direction. “I’m an American citizen, same as all of you.”

“Ain’t any America left, kid,” Boffin muttered. “No citizens, neither. We’re just us.”

“And I’m just me, then. I was here. I was in school. This creature, it killed my friends, probably my family, too. I’m not its friend. The creeps that live around here, I’m not their friend, either.” She wrapped her arms around her knees. “Look.” She was trying to sound brave, but it was clear she was losing the battle with her fear. “Just do it, okay? I’m trying hard not to panic, and I don’t want to hurt anyone, but if you don’t kill me soon, I’m going to freak out.”

“You heard her.” Boffin took a step forward, lifted up the long machete usually used for clearing brush… and paused, swearing. “Shit. It’s a kid. Come on, kid, do something monstrous or something. I can’t just….”

Kelvin let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. “She needs a teacher. And I… I can teach her. We won’t attack the camp. We won’t endanger anyone but ourselves.”

Everyone was staring at her. “What’s this ‘we’ shit, boss?” Yonner’s eyebrows were up, but Kelvin had a feeling he already knew. He didn’t look surprised enough, not really.

“It’s me. And her, the pixie girl. I can, uh. I can train her well enough that she can hide, at least.”

“…Boss.” Gee was looking at her cautiously. “Fae teach fae. It’s all, like, stuck in their brains. Integral.”

Kelvin straightened up. “Yeah. I can teach her. And I won’t let her endanger the camp — nor will I let myself endanger the camp.”

They were all looking at her. Gee actually swung the big gun up to aim at her. Yonner took a step to the side, not aiming at anyone at all.

“Put the gun down, Gee.” Boffin sighed. “Damnit, boss. How’re we supposed to cover this? How quick can you get her learning that cover-up thing? ‘Cause ‘Boss is just toodling around the city alone’ isn’t gonna pass, and if it’s longer than a day, nobody’s going to believe you ‘just found’ the girl.”

Kelvin knew her eyebrows went up. She opened her mouth but no sound came out. Probably best, some cynical portion of her brain suggested, then they know you’re not doing magic.

The rest of her mind was still trying to figure out exactly what was going on.

Thankfully, Gee asked for her. “Boff? The fuck?”

“Look. It’s Kelvin. She’s been working by our side for years. She’s fought alongside us, starved alongside us. If she were… were the sort of maniac that would torture us, she would’ve done it already. Seriously.” Boffin’s headshake was more tired than angry. “All this time, and we never knew. And you blew it for a kid?”

Kelvin let her breath out slowly. “I almost blew it this winter, when we ‘found’ that food we really needed. And uh, in June, too.”

“The creature.” Boffin nodded slowly. “You could probably be more help if you were out… But someone would probably put a bullet in your brain. So. How quick can you teach the waif here to hide her flittery bits?”

Kelvin studied the girl. The girl studied her. “Half an hour.” She let a smile cross her lips. “Plenty of time for the rest of you to ransack the building.”

The old city wasn’t safe for fae or for humans, but if she could train this kid, maybe she could make living a little safer for everyone.

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Getting to School

First: Slaves, School
Previous: Desmond Goes to School

IV

Des had been to the Central Office a few times with his parents or with Annelle. The grand entryway never stopped catching his breath, though: the marble entryway, the broad sweeping stairways leading up in both directions, the perfect people at the reception desk, looking as much a part of the decorations as the gold trim on the stairs or the broad silk carpets on the floors.

It was different, being there today. For one, there was a voice in his head telling him to bypass the reception desk and the broad stairs and go to a narrow black door nearly hidden under the left stairway. For another, there was the way that people’s eyes seems to skid off him the moment they noticed the collar. For a third, there was the terror in the pit of his stomach.

He noticed things about the marble floor and the silk carpets he never had before, like the fact that the patterning on the marble was regular, symmetrical, and almost looked like words, or the figures hidden in the broader geometrical and floral patterns on the rugs, so that each one was a frieze telling a story, a story most people probably never noticed.

Des walked slowly, ignoring the collar chivying him along. He had several minutes until it was eleven, and he might use every one of them crossing the entryway.

He certainly spent several heartbeats waiting at the tiny black door, his hand hovering over the nearly-flat door-lever. The collar said nothing, but he could feel its warmth against his throat.

It was almost like a hug. He opened the door and stepped inside.

Inside, it turned out, was pitch black. ::Forward twenty steps,:: the collar offered. ::Trust me, and I will get you through this test.::

Desmond rubbed suddenly-sweaty palms on his pants and shifted his stance a couple times before stepping forward, counting under his breath. “….eighteen, nineteen, twenty.”

::Very good. Now. Left, forward three steps, left, forward eight steps, right, forward fifty steps.::

The floor was smooth, almost slick, under Desmond’s feet. Twice he lost count and the collar reminded him gently. Once, he slipped, and it took the collar painful seconds to recalculate where he was when he stood.

::There is a doorknob in front of your right hand. Turn it, and shade your eyes with the other hand.::

The voice had gotten him this far. Desmond shaded his eyes and opened the door.

V

The light was somewhere between bright and blinding, even through the hand Des was using to shade his eyes. He moved his hand slowly, even as the door behind him swung shut with a very quiet thump.

He was standing in front of a table; behind the table were three people, all of them wearing collars, although all of the collars were far more elaborate than the one around Des’ neck.

The wall behind them was white; the table was white; they were wearing light-colored clothing, all of it cut to expose neck and shoulders. The person on the far left had dark brown skin and was tall and lean; the person in the middle had fair skin with a smattering of freckles and was round and pudgy; and the person on the far right had middle-brown skin and looked far too skinny, but all of them were wearing the same jacket, the same shirt, and almost the same collar, just in slightly different colors.

Des bowed. He made his most formal and polite bow, the one he’d practiced when he was still singing recitals. Then he straightened and waited, hands at his sides, eyes on the table. He was not going to embarrass himself, even if he had no idea what was going on.

The person on the left spoke. “You navigated the first challenge successfully. Well done.” Their voice was low and melodic, and Des thought they sounded pleased with him. “The second challenge will be a more direct–“

::Left hand up palm out:: The collar snapped the directions into Des’ mind, but he found he was obeying them before he’d heard them. A ball of green light came hurtling at him, and a ball of red light seemed to shoot from Des’ palm, intercepting the green light and surrounding it.

Des shook his hand. It felt strange – not unpleasant, but warm. The air smelled faintly of strawberries.

“Very well done. Now, you’ll find–“

::Right hand!::

Des jerked his right hand up and splayed his fingers. A globe of red grew there, just as the person on the right sent out stringy blue tentacles of light towards him. The globe seemed to collect all the tentacles, turning faintly purple in the middle, and then it vanished.

“Impressed.” The person in the middle bowed to him. Their voice was high-pitched, almost childlike. Their smile was not the least bit youthful nor innocent. “You are already working well with your counterpart.”

Desmond looked down at his hands. “What…. What in the three eyes of the Almighty and the eight arms of the Darkness was that?”

::Symbiosis:: The collar sounded absolutely smug. ::That’s what happens when you and I work together.::

Des couldn’t tear his gaze away from his hands. He waited, to see if the people in front of him had an answer, or if they had another test for him, or if they were going to send him home as uncouth and profane.

He highly doubted the last, because nobody had ever said “Oh, my son came back from his visit with his collar,” but, then again, maybe it was too shameful to mention, or maybe he would just fall down an oubliette.

“As I gather your compatriot has probably told you.” The person on the left, with the melodic voice, sounded a little amused, “what is happening is symbiosis. You and the artifact around your neck will, if you are good, work together to create things that neither could create on their own.”

“Magic.” Des’ voice was dry. “That’s a thing out of the Long Night.”

“Magic,” agreed the squeaky-voiced one. “And it has never left us; it has simply been… contained.”

Des touched the collar around his neck. “Contained.”

::I am a container::, the collar agreed. Definitely amused. The more it talked, the more tone of voice it seemed to have.

“Contained,” agreed the melodic one. “You have passed the initial tests; you and your compatriot can work together. Now you will enter training. Out the door behind you and to the left is a stairway upwards.”

Upwards! Des had always wondered about the sweeping towers of the Central Office. Now he might find out!

The melodic person was continuing. “Take the stairs upwards until your compatriot tells you that you have reached the appropriate level. There, you will begin your training.”

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Movement (more Chess/Black Knight AU)

After (no Title)
Landing Page: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1202628.html

“I do hope eventually that isn’t a negative for you.” She patted his shoulder. “But I don’t think ‘eventually’ is going to be ‘today’. Okay, the next…” she glanced at a clock over her shoulder, where it was in plain sight for Luke. “…half hour is going to be experimental. It does not reflect on you as a Kept in general, nor does it set any precedents. Understand?”

“It’s a sparring session?” Luke guessed. “Wait…” he winced. “It’s the sort of sparring session where you show the new kid he’d not as hot of shit as he thought he was, isn’t it?”

“That is a pretty close analogy. All right.” She glanced at the clock, nodded, as if to herself, and started. “I’m really disappointed in you for not coming home sooner. I know this isn’t what you wanted, but the least you could do is remember that you have a Keeper, and that your Keeper might want to see you once in a while.”

The guilt hit Luke like a punch in the gut. It’s explanatory, he reminded himself, but the part of him steering didn’t want anything to do with that. “You told me to help Leo,” he protested.

“Did I ask for excuses?” She asked it so sweetly, it was hard to reconcile the panic Luke was feeling with the tone of her voice.

He shifted, pushing himself to his feet. “I have to…”

“You have to do what you’re told. And what you were told was to kneel there and take it, darling. So…?”

Luke knelt. He brought to mind Ambrus when he’d first come to Addergoole, and he lowered his head and folded his hands in front of him. He wasn’t submissive. He wasn’t a pet. He was a warrior, a soldier. He was a teacher, a fae older than the nation that he’d watched fall to ruins.

He was Kept. He knelt and did as he was told.

Her voice was by turns sweet and scathing. She cut into Luke – his behavior, his word choices, his hair, even the way he smelled. She found fault with just about every part of him. And when she was done with that, she started reiterating points.

It was awful. It was torture, without out even the luxury of shouting. Only iron discipline kept Luke from sobbing, from trying to explain himself, from yelling at her — and he slipped in that last one, once, and bellowed at her.

She just shook her head and told him she was disappointed in him.

It lasted forever. It went on, and on, and on, while Luke clenched his jaw and clenched his wings. There was nothing left but her voice, and there was no getting away from it.

When she took a breath, Luke looked at the clock. It had been fifteen minutes. He was only halfway done.

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In Which Amrit Makes Sense – a continuation of BeeKeeper.

First: A beginning of a story which obnoxiously cuts off just before the description,
Previous: In Which Mieve thinks too much.

She was looking at him strangely.

She’d been looking at him strangely since he volunteered to break his own leg, and it had just been getting worse all day, until bedtime, when she’d told him she wasn’t going to tie him down for the night.

She’d looked like she wanted to say something else. Amrit hadn’t given her a chance — though he had managed to thank you. Sleeping with a healing leg was going to be hard enough without restraints.

It had been. In the end, he’d muttered a Working to knock himself out. He’d slept like a log, but woke groggy and still trying to shake off the sleep.

Now he was chopping wood, his splinted leg braced so he didn’t have to put too much weight on it, and she was doing like she’d been doing yesterday, looking up at him strangely, looking back at her work, circling the yard and then coming back to looking at him.

Finally, Amrit put down the ax. “I already promised not to run away and not to attack you,” he pointed out patiently. “What’s the problem?”

She jumped when he started speaking, and looked guilty as she looked away. “Just trying to figure you out.”

“Well, while you’re doing that, you’ve got seeds you need to plant, right? All that plowing and forking and turning over and…” He shrugs. “Spring won’t last forever.”

She smirked at him. “Yes, sir,” she teased. “Looks like you’ve got the firewood sorted.”

“Until I have to go get more out of the hedge, at least.”

She raised her eyebrows at him and said nothing. Amrit shifted his weight and leaned backwards a little, trying to look non-threatening. He didn’t have that much experience with it.

“Look,” he said, picking his words carefully, “I’m here for a while. You’ve clearly thought about this process. I’m not getting away quickly, and I might not get away at all.”

“This is true,” she allowed cautiously, like he’d said something momentous instead of something pretty banal.

“And, look, I’m from not that far from here.” Now why had he said that? “I know how hard winter can be, and, uh. You’re feeding me. I want to carry my own weight.”

“That is why I–” she stopped herself. “–brought you here,” she tried, as if they didn’t both know she’d been about to say bought you.. “Yeah. So you want to, what, help get ready for winter?”

“Of course. I mean, I’m not a shirker. I’m just,” he shrugged. “I’m bad at being told what to do. So, uh. Yeah. It’s your house, your land. But I can help get the wood ready and make sure the house is all warm and snug and, well, everything. I’ve done this before,” he added, because she was looking at him strangely. “I survived the last few winters, didn’t I? One of ’em I even survived on my own, but that sucked.”

She was not looking at him any less strangely. Amrit sat down on the pile of wood and looked back at her. “You’ve been doing this for years, right?”

“Yeah. Since the collapse, really.” She perched on the chopping block.

“And, I mean, most of them were Kept, so, uh, they wanted to make you happy, right?”

She blinked slowly. “Yes. The Bond does that,” she said, carefully. Again, like he’d said something strange and outlandish.

“And what about the human slave?”

“Mostly he just wanted to be free. He settled in after a while and did what I told him, especially once the snow started falling.”

If she was going with one-year cycles, that could have been as much as six months in. “Must have been exhausting.”

She raised her eyebrows at him. “Yeah. It was.” There was definitely a challenge there.

Amrit plowed on, ignoring the strange feeling in his gut at her challenge. “So uh. Nobody ever just wanted to help you out because, you know, you were giving them a safe place to stay?”

She stared at him. Amrit shifted uncomfortably. “What?”

“No,” she said slowly. “Nobody has ever offered to help in return for the safe place to stay and the meals. If they had…” she spoke like she was working her way through a minefield. Amrit wasn’t sure he blamed her, even if he wasn’t sure he liked being treated like a dangerous weapon.

Well, she wasn’t the first. He sat there looking as harmless as he could manage.

“If they had,” she tried again, “I wouldn’t have needed to buy people from the slave market.”

“Hunh.” Amrit hadn’t considered that. “Well, uh. I mean, you could put the gag and chain back on me and tell me to not help except what you order, but, um, that seems counterproductive. Besides, I’m gonna get bored just doing basic chop-and-dig sort of work.”

“Can’t have you getting bored.” She smiled at him, a cautious sort of expression, like she wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to laugh at her.

“Oh, dead gods, you don’t want to see me when I’m bored. That’s how I got in trouble, my last place. Got too bored.” He grinned at her, cocky and comfortable again. “It’s no fun.”

He could tell she’d relaxed a little by the way her shoulders shifted and her eyes crinkled a little. She shook her head. “You know, never thought I’d be worried about keeping my Kept – my sl –“

“Your prisoner,” he offered, because she was getting uncomfortable again.

“That works? Yeah. Keeping my prisoner entertained. But now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t lay in some board games and cards for when the winter comes.”

“Probably carrots and venison first,” Amrit suggested. He could think of plenty to do that would keep them both entertained and warm, but if she wasn’t going to suggest it, neither was he. “You know, once this heals up, I’m a pretty decent hunter.”

“You said. Well, you mimed.” She repeated his gesture back at him, drawing a bow. “But that would mean letting you out of my sight.”

Amrit slumped a little. “Yeah. It would.” Damnit, he really wanted some fresh meat. “I could promise, I guess.”

“You’ve been making a lot of promises, lately.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of work, lately. Costs you energy to fight me.” Amrit rolled his shoulders. “Look. I don’t want to be yours. I don’t really want to be a slave, or a captive, or a Kept. But I can help you out and stuff, and not leave until the winter’s over. I’m good at at that much.”

She wasn’t going to go for it. He knew she wouldn’t; why was he even making the offer? Why were his shoulders all hunched again? He shrugged them up, trying to loosen the tension.

“I’ll consider it.” She tilted her head. “I’ve got a couple days to think about it, anyway. You shouldn’t go hunting with your leg all splinted, at the very least.”

He thought she looked guilty. Amrit didn’t know why. He relaxed his shoulders and gave her a half of a smile. “Oh, woe is me. Three or four more days where all I can do is split wood and eat your food.”

“Careful,” she teased, “or I’m going to have you washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen instead of splitting wood.”

She was smiling, and she was teasing him. Amrit’s half-smile grew into a full grin. “Oh no, not that. Not the place with all the food.

“Whatever will you do?”

🐝
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Weekend Blog and Thanks Giving

Oh my, let me tell you… five day weekend. Five. Days.

The last time I had that much time off in a row, we were driving to/from Raleigh for my cousin’s wedding. It’s, uh… It’s been a while.

And I took full advantage of it in as hermitty a way as I could manage & barely left the house.

🙂

Oh, we went out a few times. we both needed a haircut. We took a last-minute Black Friday trip to BJ’s for a new tablet (mine still works, but with a cracked screen (Dropped it on the pavement at a bus stop, sigggh), I don’t know how long it’ll last, so go go Black Friday sales.

(As a note… I really like the Black Friday complex. It helps that mostly we buy online, and that we live in a very small town that doesn’t get nearly the news-worthy crowds — I mean, we don’t get crowds at all — but man, for $100+ off small electronics, totally worth it.)

And we went to the nearby (hour away) outlet mall with my Mom for Christmas shopping on Saturday, because family tradition, because deals, and because Mom. It appears I want all the sweater-dresses… 1989 me wants her wardrobe back <.<

Other than that? We hauled firewood and made turkey and dressing and gravy, we made pumpkin pudding and apple crisp and ate far more food than we needed, we watched Victorian Bakers and made bread.

In the spirit of the season: I am grateful for the times like this, when I can catch my breath. I’m thankful for all of you, for all my friends and all my readers (and all your enthusiasm and all your questions). I am thankful I live in a modern era, in a modern world, with stand mixers, oil furnaces, and, of course, the internet.

And kale. Strangely enough, I’m thankful for kale.

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