Archive | November 22, 2016

Chessmaster, more crack-Au of Doomsday, Cloverleaf, Cya, Luke, Leo, and an Army

follows immediately after the last one, here: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1200388.html

Cya – his owner – his… she directed Luke upstairs, making cracks about Mike at his back. Luke held his wings as still as he could — the stairwell wasn’t that wide — as she teased him about Mike.

“I’m not…” He pressed his wings a little tighter to his back as he reached the top of the stairwell. “I didn’t…”

“You didn’t sign up to be Kept at all, so of course I don’t think you engineered this to get in my bed. That doesn’t mean you might not end up there.” She chuckled, and once again Luke struggled to keep his wings under control. “To the left, first door on your left. I think you’re going to find being Kept very educational, and I think that it might even be good for you.”

This time, he flapped. “You knew that already. The oaths. The twelve years.” The first door on his left opened into a spartan bedroom: giant bed, three wooden chests, two deep-silled windows with thick curtains. “You’ve already helped me out.”

“The situation helped you out. I’m talking about the actual Keeping.”

Luke turned slowly so he could look at her. She was serious, he thought, although he had a hard time getting a good read on her. “You think… being under the collar… will be good for me?”

“It often is. One, it narrows the scope of concerns. Two, it gives you a different set of feedbacks. Three, of course, it’s educational. And four, you can find yourself trying on different roles.” She gave him a somewhat sad-seeming smile. “I’ve done this a few times. I have some experience making sure I’m not the only one who gets something out of it.”

Luke narrowed his eyes at her. “And what, exactly, do you get out of it?”

He wasn’t expecting her to laugh; he certainly wasn’t expecting the delighted sound she made. “Do you really have to ask? Oh, you do, don’t you?” She giggled quietly. “I get a man in my bed, Hunting Hawk, and someone to help with the chores, help raise my children when I have them in the house, someone to help me run this city… this nation.”

“But… Leo?”

“You might have noticed I stopped taking Kept a few years ago.”

Luke glanced away. “Yes.” And now he didn’t know how to feel at all. Something like guilt was gnawing at him, which was ridiculous. She had maneuvered him into this Keeping. She had maneuvered all of them into this – might have even manipulated Leo into the godhead he was currently enjoying. So why did he feel like he was messing up one of her plans?

He stretched his wings cautiously. There was enough room in here for them; there was enough room in her bed for him to lay with his wings spread and leave room for her.

Somehow, he imagined she’d planned that, even if it hadn’t been his wings she’d been thinking of. She had to have Kept someone with wings before him…. right?

She sat down cross-legged at the head of her bed. “Lay down – take your time, get comfy – and put your head in my lap.”

Luke was moving before he really considered where he was going, and, despite her “take your time” order, was as comfortable as he was going to be in just a couple moments. His head was pillowed on her calf. It felt… intimate.

He shifted, spreading his wings out as much as he could. Part of him wanted to protest that he shouldn’t be in a bed with a student, but the rest of him shut that down as the stupidity it was. “What do you want me to do?”

It was a sign of how badly off-kilter she had him that he was just grateful his voice didn’t squeak.

Rearranging Pieces

“Close your eyes,” she ordered, and Luke closed his eyes. “Now, this is not an order, but try to relax, let your body sink into the bed. We’re safe here. Nobody’s going to attack us. Nobody is in trouble. You can let go for a few minutes.”

His shoulders tensed; he didn’t want to believe her. That was fine. Cya kept going. “Picture a place in your mind, a peaceful place. A clearing in the forest, with the sun filtering down through the pine trees. The air is crisp, but not uncomfortable. Just out of sight, you can hear a stream trickling.” She kept going, her voice mellow, the tone working as much good as the words, until his shoulders relaxed and the pinch in his forehead smoothed.

She didn’t normally need relaxation techniques when she was reading someone’s mind, but she didn’t normally have targets who were quite this tense, either.

When his breathing evened out, she slipped the Working in between phrases, fluffy clouds and meandering paths. She saw the scene in his mind, a place it looked like he’d been before. She saw him sitting on a big boulder, his wings spread, his face up to the sun and his eyes closed.

She had never seen him this peaceful. She murmured a Working to remember this, so that she could bring him back here again.

But she had work to do. First, she wanted to find the places Regine had touched. She didn’t doubt they were there; if she were Regine, and had an alarming habit of seeing people as pieces on a board, it was what she would do: ensure loyalty with oaths, and then enforce it with mind control.

Luke’s thoughts were a mess. He kept looping back to oaths he had made and been freed from: I’ll keep you safe. I’ll follow the school’s rules. He had an unfortunate habit, it seemed, of impetuous oaths… now where had she see that before? He kept poking at things she could not see — the way he’d feel guilty over something she said, or the way the orders made him feel like a puppet. The Bond was making him second-guess his thoughts and his feelings, and the thought kept popping up: should he look at this with a Working? Was that okay?

She left the chaos alone. He was going to have to adjust to being Kept eventually, and it would go better for him in the long run if he did that without her interference.

Not for the first or even the millionth time, Cya wished she could see emotions. But she wasn’t going to loop Leo in to help her with this, and Luke probably wasn’t ready to do the Working on himself for her.

Now she had to go deeper. His conscious mind showed her the way — paths he was avoiding, things he would consider and then forget before he thought too hard about them, things that seemed to hurt him when he thought about them.

His sons. She did not want to interfere if she didn’t have to with his children, so she brushed over that area of his memories gently. There were orders there from Regine, reminders of his oaths — and there was something twisted under lock and key.

She had seen Regine’s work on minds. The woman had a certain arrogance about her work. Cya brushed over that area and moved on to other parts of Luke’s memories for the moment.

The areas of locked-off memories were everywhere — anything having to do with the students, anything having to do with the Collapse, anything having to do with Mike, with Luke’s descendants, with a student he’d once looked at with affection.

Regine had been tying his brain up in knots for decades. Cya indulged in a little mental cursing and then went to work.

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In Which Mieve thinks too much – a continuation of BeeKeeper.

First: A beginning of a story which obnoxiously cuts off just before the description,
Previous: In Which Amrit Makes a Run For It.

Her captive was sitting in the shade of her biggest tree, his splinted leg stretched out in front of him. He was fiddling with the grass and rocks within reach and looking around, shifting his weight around, working his mouth around the gag like a horse champing at the bit.

She knew all this because she couldn’t focus. Mieve had found herself working in circles around him.
He’d promised not to run off… she made another circle. The bees were fine without her. The carrots and potatoes and turnips had been watered.

He hadn’t promised not to attack her… she made another circle. The squash had recently been debugged. (One of the advantages to post-hardware-store gardening she had and others didn’t: Abatu Panida, destroy animal, did wonders with a good book of garden pests for magical fumigation).

He had broken his own leg. There were so many ways that Working could have been twisted to attack her, and he’d done none of them. She made another circle, but there was nothing left that really needed plowing and there was nothing left to weed right now.

She could chop wood, but she’d have to go into the woods to do that. She made another loop. He was braiding bits of grass into sad little pieces of rope, holding down the end with a rope. He looked, she thought, miserable.

She made herself work on the garden for a few minutes. She could keep an eye on him there. She shoved the pitchfork into the rough soil she hadn’t planted this year and turned it over. She’d nearly slammed an ax into his leg. She’d nearly slammed an ax into his leg.

“Why?” Her voice was hoarse, and she wasn’t sure if she was asking him or herself. She felt as if she’d been screaming, when she’d been silently walking in circles.

He looked up, as if he’d been waiting for her to say something, and gestured at the gag with a shrug of both shoulders.

“Yeah, yeah.” She hadn’t really expected an answer, anyway. “That’s another why for another day.” She stared at the ground and thrust the pitchfork in again. There was still time for a few short-season crops, never mind that it gave her something safe to attack. The more food she had put away, the safer they would be when the winter came. And all the signs pointed at a bad winter.

“Do you ever stop working?” one of her early Kept had asked her. Implicit in the question – he’d been unused to any sort of hard work – had been another; did he ever get to stop working?

She’d grinned at him at the time, not because it was funny but because she’d spent the first year after the fall having the same argument with herself. “Winter,” she’d told him. “In winter we rest.”

Amrit gave her an answer, probably just to prove her wrong in not expecting one: he mimed eating and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Am I going to keep feeding you?” She stabbed the pitchfork into the ground again, turned over the soil, and stared at him. He was lean – no, skinny. There was muscle on his frame, but he’d clearly seen hungry days.

Everyone had, really. The world was not a kind place.

“Of course I’m going to feed you. You’ll eat what I eat – which, some days, might be a little thin, but I haven’t starved through a winter yet.”

He considered, then, after a moment, mimed something. He pulled one hand back to his ear and held the other one out, then pointed out the pointer finger near his ear.

It took her two repetitions to see the imaginary bow he was drawing and the imaginary arrow he was loosing. “Generally, I use snares,” she admitted. “Sometimes, if things are getting lean, I’ll use Workings, but it always seems creepy.” She leaned on her pitchfork. “You know, I’m really good at calling animals, so here I am, all Snow White – do you remember Snow White?”

He shrugged. That could mean anything. She explained anyway. “All musical princess, singing to the animals or something, and then, bam, killing them. Creepy.” She wrinkled her nose. “Although I’d be thrilled if I could find some chickens. Nobody wants to sell any.”

He looked up at the sky for a moment, then made an elaborate gesture. He repeated it twice, and, finally, Mieve saw the top hat he was taking off and the rabbit he was pulling out of his hat.

“Sadly, I don’t have the ‘create’ Word. You do, though, don’t you?”

He made a so-so gesture, and then made rabbit ears on top of his head. He followed that with a negation.

“Ah, so much more the pity.” She stabbed the pitchfork into the ground and turned over a few more feet. He couldn’t make animals. She couldn’t make animals. “I suppose I’ll just have to go out looking again, then.”

She surprised a frown on his face, or, at least, what she thought was probably a frown, since the gag obscured anything he was doing with his lips – by looking up at exactly the wrong moment. He shrugged and looked away, as if to say it was up to her.

“I haven’t done much exploring,” she mused. “All the years here and I go maybe four places, and that only when I have to.” She turned over a little more dirt, not looking at him. She wasn’t sure she wanted to see his expression. She was certain she wanted to know why he’d been frowning.

Finally, she gave in. She’d turned over a long patch of dirt, all of it a little more aggressively than it really needed. She wasn’t going to get anything else done while she was puzzling over her captive. Obsessing over him, if she was going to be honest with herself. She put the pitchfork back in the garage and gathered up her basket of walnuts.

“Bored?”

He snorted and nodded.

“All right.” She sat down beside him and handed him a chisel and hammer. “This basket needs shucking. This is how you do it.” She picked up a walnut and showed him how to crack the outer shell and get the green skin away from it. “Got it?”

He studied the chisel for a minute. Mieve’s heart was in her throat. Then he made a noise through the gag. It took her a moment to identify it as a chuckle.

Curiosity took only a few seconds to overcome caution, and she used a finger of telekinetic power to unlock his gag. He snorted in surprise as the gag fell out, caught it, and set it down next to him. It was harder than it ought to be; she should take it easy for a bit.

“Coulda used this instead of the ax,” he snorted at the chisel and hammer, and then chuckled again. Mieve stared at him for a moment before letting herself giggle
.
“Might’ve been easier,” she managed, before the giggle turned into a laugh.

He grinned at her, the grin turning quickly into another laugh, and before long, both of them were laughing and snorting.

It took Mieve a good few minutes to pull herself together and catch her breath. “So…” she offered. “Maybe we can skip the walnuts ‘till tomorrow.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Chiseling some shells might be fun. You trust me with this?”

“With a chisel? Yeah. I trusted you with an ax.”

“I was chained, before. And you hadn’t worn yourself out with Workings.”

She really wished he hadn’t noticed that. She knew she went still for a moment, and she knew he noticed, because his expression softened just a bit.

“It’s not like I can do much, my leg all a mess.” He gestured at it. “But, uh. Here. I promise for, um, the next month, I won’t attack you or, like, your bee hives or other things you need to survive, and I won’t, uh, use magic to try to escape or coerce you into letting me go.”

She stared at him. That was… “That’s kind,” she managed. “Thank you.”

He rolled his shoulders uncomfortably. “Yeah, well. I figure you didn’t, like, buy me to be a drain on your resources, and you didn’t buy me to chain me to your plow and make me do all your work. It’s not like you’re an awful person.”

“…I just broke your leg.” Why was she arguing with him?

I just broke my leg.” He shrugged. “You’re not a jerk. I don’t have to be a jerk. I mean, I still want to leave. I don’t belong to you and I don’t want to be a slave. But I don’t have to be an ass, while I’m here.”

There was something he wasn’t telling her, but Mieve had a feeling she wouldn’t find out what it was by pushing him. She picked up the second chisel and hammer, instead, and started working on the walnuts.

Next: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1203764.html

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