Because (for *cough* SOME reason), I was suddenly feeling the urge to write slaves and magical schools.
These are bare intros, of course.
There was a collar, of course.
Desmond hadn’t exactly been expecting it, but somehow, when it was there that morning in the middle of summer, pressed around Des neck and already body-temperature, it wasn’t a surprise.
Every year, on Aleriaon the 1st, 28 citizens between their fourteenth and nineteenth birthdays woke up wearing a collar. It was chosen entirely at random — or so it was claimed, by those in charge of claiming such things — and you never knew if you would be the one to wake up like that.
And absolutely nobody knew what happened after that. The collar meant something, of course. You would, if you traveled in the right circles, run into people who wore collars — adult people, people at least past their twentieth birthday. They worked for other people, the sort of people that were recognized when they walked down the street and the sort that made a point of not being recognized at all. And they never, ever spoke about what the collar meant, or what had happened. Rarely, unless they were serving as Herald or Voice, did they speak at all.
Des had only once even seen someone with a collar. They had been at the Court building for something his father needed to do, and the collared person had been standing behind the judge, saying nothing, doing nothing, as if they were simply a part of the scenery. Something about that had spoken to him: being on display, being rooted to the spot, being voiceless. The image had stuck with Des: like a lucky rock, brought up and caressed and studied until the edges have worn off and it’s shiny with use. He couldn’t remember the warmth of the Courthouse or the noise, the way people had been shoving and unruly, the expression on the judge’s face. But every detail of the collared person’s expression, their stance, their clothing, their collar – every inch of that remained ingrained in memory.
He woke early, the pressure of the collar startling him. Both hands went to his throat. The metal there — when there had been nothing of the sort when he went to sleep; Des didn’t even own a necklace, much less wear one to bed — could only be one thing. It wasn’t all that wide, not like the one on the collared person in the courthouse, maybe the width of Des’s thumb. It was warm, not too thick, a few sheets of paper together, no more, and it had no closure. It had no embossing, either; he had read that the collars often were embossed although you had to be up close and personal to see the pattern.
Presumably, someone got up close and personal with collared people, but Des had never figured out whom.
He hopped out of bed and hurried to a mirror. The collar was pale rose gold, looking redder against his olive skin. it had enough room for him to slip two fingers under it, but no more. It was unmarked, as far as Des could tell, and it didn’t seem to do anything.
::Report to the Central office at 1 First street at 11 a.m. today::
The voice seemed to echo against the inside of Des’ teeth somehow.
Slaves, School 2
“There’s a girl in my room. In our room. In the room. A girl. Kneeling.” Austin skidded into the dorm’s common space. He wasn’t exactly alarmed, but this wasn’t… normal.
Well, it hadn’t been normal back home, at least. Austin wasn’t sure what was normal anywhere, anymore.
Up until a week ago, Perekatta University had been a story, a feature in several of Austin’s childhood storybooks and then the backdrop in a dozen more “chapter books” and more grown-up novels. The books had come from his Aunt Karen, a courtesy-title Aunt who’d been a schoolmate of his parents. Austin had read them all, at first dutifully and then with more interest and enthusiasm as the stories expanded.
There had been no girls kneeling in the boys’ dorms in the books, however.
“A girl,” Austin repeated. He’d gotten the attention of a couple of the upperclasmen.
“Not exactly.” Randy was sitting sideways in the biggest armchair, legs over one arm. He set down his magazine languidly and grinned at Austin.
Austin wasn’t sure what the joke was. “Exactly, yes. A girl, in the boys’ dorm.” Austin was the first pre-frosh here. He wasn’t sure this was going to work out in his favor, even if he had been about to pick exactly the bed he wanted. “She called me sir.”
“That–” Randy swung his legs down onto the floor and leaned over his knees. “It wasn’t in the books, was it?”
Austin took a step backwards. “No.” He didn’t ask how did you know about the books?
Randy answered anyway. “Everyone here either grew up attached to the Uni somehow, or they ended up reading the books. I mean, once every, maybe, ten, fifteen years we end up with a wild talent. You know, someone completely a mystery. But you didn’t have that look.”
“What look?” Austin was beginning to get offended.
“Your hair wasn’t on fire. Nothing was on fire. So. You didn’t know about the girl, well, the creature in your room.”
“Creature?” There was a certain inevitability to this conversation, like Austin was reading an invisible script. Well, if it got him answers, he’d read the script.
“She’s a Fah. An elf, if you will. They signed a treaty with the Incantara Primus, oh, centuries ago. Maybe millennia.” Randy flapped his hand, clearly un-interested in the details. “So they serve us for a period of time. Anyway, there’s three things to keep in mind about the elves.”
Suddenly, Randy looked serious. Austin wondered if he was being pranked. Still, he looked attentive.
“First, you don’t give them your full name and, preferably, you don’t give them your real name at all. Use a nickname.
“Secondly. if they get any of your bodily fluids – yeah, even that–”
Austin stared blankly. “That?” What was “that?”
Randy didn’t seem to notice. “–Be certain you get some of theirs in turn. And thirdly, do not ever shed their blood over live earth, and try not to shed it over any sort of earth at all. Water or fire’s best, and if you use water, dump in a lot of bleach before you send it down the pipes. Understand?”
“Don’t use a real name. Don’t give them bodily fluids without a trade of same. Don’t — do people really have to be told not to bleed them over bare earth? Who’s going to bleed them at all?”
Randy’s expression shadowed. “You’d be surprised. Go on, kiddo. Meet the Fah. Just remember what I told you.”
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