Archive | December 14, 2016


First: Slaves, School
Previous: Testing

The stairs kept going. Desmond had already climbed more stairs than existed in any other building he’d ever been in, and he was pretty sure the Central Office wasn’t all that much taller. Then again, he was pretty sure magic wasn’t real, either, and he’d been using it – and having conversations with a collar – all day.

Maybe all the collar meant was that you’d gone mad, and he was ensconced in some nice sanatorium, happily climbing up the same five stairs, like a toddler. If so, there was no consequence to falling, but, if so, there was no consequence to anything. He supposed he might as well live as if this were real, right up until some nice nurse came to lock him in a cell.

He skidded to the top of a flight of stairs which had been slick and greasy and found the stairs splitting in front of him. One stairway went left, the other right.

Neither direction ought to be possible, the way the tower was built – or, at least, the way the tower had appeared to be built from the outside. The window he was looking at — frosted glass, but a wider window again — showed no shadow of the stairway, either.

“Well?” Eventually he might get used to talking out loud to his collar, but he definitely wasn’t there yet.

::Well. This isn’t a communication-with-your-collar test, so I do not have this part of the map in my memory. Perhaps it is testing your special sense?::

“Or maybe it’s just trying to figure out how willing I am to take an imaginary staircase that can’t exist. Okay.” Desmond looked at the window, at the sun coming in with no shadow. He looked at the other staircase, which was wider, flatter, and safer-looking.

There were a lot of things they could be testing here, but, so far, they — the amorphous [they] — looked like they rewarded risk-taking. “Okay, let’s do that force thing again but, uh, I want it to ride around my chest so it can pull me up.”

::You know what to do::

As he drew a corset with his hands, it occurred to Desmond that he was doing magic. Really, truly, doing magic. The sanitarium theory was beginning to seem more and more sound. He twisted the lines of force around his waist, over and over again.

::What do you think is going to happen?::

“I think there’s a chance that the stairway is fake, and I really don’t want to fall to my doom. I have some idea of how far I’ve climbed —” Sort of. He wasn’t really sure he’d climbed it all, since it was impossible “ — and it’s further than I ever, ever want to fall.”

::You think the stairway is fake and you’re going to climb it anyway?::

“I think the nice, easy stairway is the trap here.”

::Interesting. You may have a point. Let’s hope the other one isn’t a cleverly-concealed pit.::

“We’re already higher up than the towers of the Central Office are. We’re already moving in dimensions that don’t exist from the outside. For all I know, the pit – if there is one – could drop me in a lake.”

::I would not mind a lake.::

“Me, neither, except that it would mean we’d failed. I don’t like failing. Ready?”

::As ready as I’ll ever be.::

“Then let’s go.” He moved more carefully up this flight of stairs, checking each stair carefully before he shifted his weight. They were uneven, tilted, cracked, and pitted, but he was nearly to the landing without any problems.

And then he stepped up onto a stair and it vanished under his foot. He stumbled, fell forward and downwards at the same time, and the corset of force caught him just as he was about to crack his skull on the landing.

He crawled up to the landing, carefully. “So. Maybe we’re just about done?”

::You were clever. You knew there would be a threat and you didn’t get hurt.::

“But we said. We said — well, I said — if I fell, that’s where I would stop.”

::But we could always go further. We could always do better.:: In as much as a voice in his head could be said to have a tone of voice, the collar seemed to sound a bit urgent.

“Have you done this before? This climb?”

::Not.. No. Not exactly.:: The collar hesitated, or, at least, there was silence in Desmond’s mind for a bit. ::Memories are not the same for, for a collar, as they are for you. But I do not think I have done this before.::

“So you want me to go higher…” He crawled the last few steps to the landing.

::Because I want you to succeed. Because I want us to succeed.::

Desmond pulled himself up to his feet. “Fourth floor, you said. If we got to the fourth floor, If I got to the fourth floor, then I got in. That was, oh, I don’t know, ten floors ago.”

::Twenty. You have been climbing quite some time.::

“So, twenty-four floors. I don’t want to plummet to my death, okay? I don’t want…” He trailed off, because the landing held only a doorway. He was arguing with a piece of jewelry. “I want to be good. But I’m just a kid from Lesser Hunstsworth and Red Aisle. I think there’s such a thing as climbing above your station.”

He looked at the door. It was big, it was white, and it looked like someone’s front door on their house. Someone rich’s front door on their house. “Looks like the stairs agree.”

::Oh. Well, then:: The collar gave the impression of being put out.

Desmond turned to look down the stairs. Most of them were gone, and several others were fading away. There was no return. And there was only the door in front of him.

He took a breath and opened the door.


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Growth Spurt

Two-plus generations after the end of the world. Probably Canon.

“Very good. Now, let’s find Leia, daughter of Pavarti.”

“You’re stunting his growth, you know.” Cya strode into the conference room as if she belonged there. The three people around the conference table looked up at her with variations on surprise and annoyance.

“How do you keep getting past the wards?” Regine fussed. The Director looked as if she was half-curious, half-irritated.

Cya didn’t blame her, but she wasn’t going to explain, either. Not that I Found a teleporter who can sneak past your wards without a whisper would have been that helpful an explanation, either, since Cya had not intent of letting Regine anywhere near her teleporter.

“I Found a way,” she said, instead. “Luke.” She nodded respectfully at the smirking-and-trying-not-to Mara. “And you must be their pet Finder.”

The boy — man, he had a beard and everything — shifted uncomfortably. “I’m not anyone’s pet. And what was that crack about my height?”

He actually was stunted, Cya noted, or, at least, he’d barely made it past five foot. He was handsome, too, in a sort Cya tended to prefer. “You must have kept him behind some pretty intense wards when I came to visit, his graduation year,” she commented to Regine.

“You were busy with John-Wayne that year.” Luke’s answer did nothing to cover the small but telling reaction Regine’d had. “That boy actually needed you.”

“I know he did. But I might have made an exception to several rules for that one, and I’m fairly certain she,” she nodded at Regine, “knew it.”

“Hello,” the Finder complained. “Right here. Who the hell are you, anyway?”

“Find my closest relative on that list, why don’t you?”

“How do you know there will be one?” Regine asked, too calmly. There was one, then.

“Because my father sent at least 2 other children to this school and my mother sent at least one other. THe odds say that even if I don’t have a grandchild coming next year –” she didn’t, unless one of her sons had lied to her, and she was fairly certain neither son would send any child to Addergoole that they didn’t have to “—I probably have a grand-niece or grand-nephew. Or, knowing both of my parents, maybe a brother or sister.”

The Finder had a pinched look on his face. He was working hard at her challenge, but it was a new concept to him. “Who are you?”

Cya flopped down in a chair and grinned at him. “I’m Cya. The Finder. I knew they had to have one, you see; they’ve gotten much more targeted and they can’t rely on computerized records the way they could back in my day. But they really are stunting your growth.”

His finger landed triumphantly on a name. Cya glanced at it, considered it.

“Ah, that’s Orlaith’s son Hunter-Hale’s child. Good luck,” she shot to Luke. “Going to their Manor can’t be fun.”

“Like going to the Ranch?”

“We like you at the Ranch, remember?” She grinned at Luke, then just as quickly wiped the expression off her face to aim a solemn look at Regine. “He’s how old? If he’s John-Wayne’s age, you’ve had him here for a while. Doing this? ‘Find the kid on a map?’ That’s kindergarten stuff.”

“It’s a necessary task.”

“Thing is, kid — sorry — the man doesn’t look like an idiot. He doesn’t look like he needs remedial Finding or even needs your help finding a job. So… “ Cya steepled her fingers and looked over them at the Finder, who, by this point, was glowering at her. “Creche kid? She offered you a job, and it made sense, since you didn’t have a family to back you up. Not a bad choice, and if I hadn’t had Boom, I might’ve done the same. Problem is… you’re stagnating. It’s factory work, but with your power.”

“I Find people.” He’d moved on to puzzled now. Good. Puzzled meant he might listen.

“Good. You can Find an abstract — you found my grand-nephew there. So how about find the nearest Addergoole-descended person who could really use Addergoole’s help ASAP?”

Hie forehead pinched again. He stared at the map and, after a moment, his finger settled on a place about a hundred miles out.

Cya had already come to that conclusion, but she still nodded at him. “Good. See? You can stretch your power. Luke, I brought a teleporter who can site off of Finds. Give me three minutes and I’ll take you there.”

She turned to Regine. “Hoard the Finders if you want. The ‘Porters are harder to pin down, for you or for me. But if I find out you’re keeping them in kindergarten, I’m going to start offering them all better jobs at higher pay. You’re a school Director. Challenge them.” She stood up.

“Wait. Better job. Higher pay? Pay?”

“You swore an oath,” Regine hissed.

“Yeah, well, so did you. And the oath has an escape clause, remember?” The kid looked almost ready to leave with her.

“Come on, Luke.” Cya was grinning and not bothering to hide it. “Let’s help out that Addergoolian-in-distress.” If Regine still had a Finder by the end of the year, she’d eat her hat. “Kid… you know how to Find me.”

John-Wayne can be found at his own tag; he’s Pellinore’s son.

Orlaith (Cya’s half-sister) can be found here; her son Hunter-Hale can be found here.

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Shifting, a continuation (finish-ation) of Addergoole yr17

After Shades, for my Third Finish It Bingo Card. Addergoole Year 17.

“Why don’t you ever get angry?”

It had been three days since Abrelle’s hair had started tinging blue, three days where both she and Kevin had tried to pretend that nothing had changed, three days where she desperately wished that his Change involved changing colors, or that she had any skill with Hugr, emotions. She knew what she was feeling. He knew what she was feeling; he could read it in her hair. But he hadn’t given her any clue what he was feeling, and that was driving her a little bonkers (which, it appeared, was a weird shade of chartreuse, in small stripes).

He’d picked another fight, and she was in the process of buckling him up in a series of straps, mummifying him with leather. She’d done it so many times already (and it was only November!) that she hardly had to think about it: grab collar, hook the apparatus into position, grab arms, start buckling. She hadn’t even been focusing on him; she was still halfway in the book she’d been reading for VanderLinden’s Lit class.

She blinked at him, finished the next strap, and considered the the question. “Thinking,” she told him, so he didn’t think she was ignoring him. She moved down him, smoothing his fingers against his sides with a gentle petting motion before buckling the strap around his upper thighs.

He usually took until she got to his knees to settle down, but this time he was calm already. “Take your time.”

“My Keeper,” she said slowly, as she buckled the strap above his knees… “Sit down, here, that’s good, thank you. My Keeper, he liked to bait me. And then he would tell me things like ‘no, a good ladylike Kept doesn’t lose her temper.'”

“Didn’t know you very well, did he?” He pressed his ankles together while she got the last strap buckled.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She swung his legs up onto the bed and straightened him out, making sure everything was laying smoothly.

“I mean…” He wriggled against the straps, now that they were all in place. “You’re not exactly ladylike. That sounds like someone who drinks tea with their pinkie up and doesn’t want to break a nail. I’ve seen you in combat training. If you really wanted to, you wouldn’t need orders to hold me still. Or straps.” He wriggled a little more. “But, I mean, he’s gone. And you still don’t get mad, no matter what I do.”

“That’s… not exactly right.”

“Your hair doesn’t ever change, well, it does now, but still, you don’t ever really express anything, you just take it all and then you tie me up and… I calm down and you don’t do anything.” He paused. “Wait. Wait, are you saying you are mad at me? Shit, shit-shit, shit!” He started pulling more intently against the restraints, actually trying to get out.

He couldn’t. But Abrelle sat down and pulled him until his head was on her lap anyway. She stroked his hair and petted him until he stopped swearing.

He looked up at her, frowning, lip-bitten. “I don’t know what to think. If you’re mad and you don’t show it, how am I supposed to know anything you’re thinking. How’m I supposed to know if I do something wrong?”

Rather than answering the difficult question, Abrelle raised her eyebrows at him and smirked. “I think I’ve been pretty clear when you do something wrong.”

“Well, yeah, but if you showed anything, then I’d know before I hit the “go sit in the corner and be quiet” spot. Or, you know, know if you were angry instead of just wondering if you thought something was a bad habit you ought to nip in the bud.”

“Is there a – no, you’re right, of course there’s a difference.” She’d been Kept, after all.

“Yeah. See? So… why don’t you get angry? I mean, why don’t you show anything? Your hair doesn’t even flicker.”

“I…” Abrelle stroked his hair for a little while. “You cannot tell anyone. You cannot even hint at it, you can’t whisper about it, I’d rather you didn’t think about it much while you were out in classes but I won’t make that an order unless you want me to.” Thought orders had messed her up more than anything her Keeper had done to her; she tried very hard not to do those to Kevin. “Okay?”

He stilled and looked up at her, forehead furrowed. “It’s serious. And you don’t want – what, no, not other students. The staff to know.” He chewed on his lip. “Is it okay? Is it hurting you? If you’re in pain somehow or damaging yourself, you can’t tell me not to tell the staff, that’s horrid.”

She pet his hair soothingly. He had the softest hair. He’d changed shampoos a week into being Kept, when it’d started to be clear how much time she’d spend running her hands through his hair. She definitely liked the feel of the new stuff better, and was very pleased that he’d made the change, presumably for her.

She took a minute to find her words. “It’s not something that’s damaging me. It’s not hurting me. But it might cause problems with some of the staff, and I don’t want… I’m not ready to deal with that.”

He looked thoughtful. “How about… you tell me, and if I think it’s something to worry about, then you come up with a time when you’re ready to deal with it and the staff-problems?” He wriggled cutely in her lap and gave her a wide-eyed and innocent expression. “I want to know, I really do. But I don’t want to be stuck not being able to help you.”

“I’m surprised you care.”

“I Belong to you,” he pointed out. “That comes with a bit of caring.”

“Oh.” She thought she might be disappointed. She wasn’t sure what that said.

“Hey. Hey.” He wriggled in her lap until she looked at him. “Hey, your hair’s doing a thing. Come on, I was teasing, or, you know, not being entirely honest. I, uh. We butt heads, but I like you, okay? I mean… really like you.”

“Like you said, you Belong to me.”

“No, no. I mean, yes. Yours. But come on.” He squirmed demonstratively. “You get me. And, uh. I like it when we just sit around and talk and stuff. And there’s stuff. I like that, too.”

She wanted to say you’re not making any sense but he was. And he was smiling. Oh, her hair must be doing something.

“I’m pretty sure that’s a good color. So… you like me and I like you and if that involves a lot of bondage, well, I’m actually not complaining about that… .but you’re going to tell me your secret now?” He gave her the hopeful wide-eyed look again.

She sighed. “Okay. I need one of my arms back, though.” She slid her left arm out from under him and fished out the necklace living down in her cleavage. “So. My Keeper. He didn’t like displays of emotion, didn’t really like emotion, especially not negative emotions. And I was… very emotional. I was very unhappy in the collar and I really didn’t like him. I still don’t like him.”

“Urgh.” He wrinkled his nose. “Sounds like an asshole.”

Abrelle snorted. “YOu’ll get no argument from me on that point. Except maybe that you’re not using a strong enough word. ANyway… he didn’t like emotions, and, well. You might have noticed the Keeping makes emotions, and… being ‘human’ makes emotions, and being pregnant….” she sighed and waited for him to stop the whole-body nose-wrinkle sort of disgust expression he always made when kids came up. “THat makes emotions, too. And being in trouble for having emotions…”

“Just makes things worse. Is he still here?”

“No. No, he graduated last year. Besides,” she tapped his nose gently, “he’s not your revenge, dear. He’s mine. So… I had, have, a friend who is very good with magical items, and I had her made something — because I wasn’t allowed to do WOrkings, and, even if I was, I’m awful at the Emotions word — something to shift my emotions. Not destroy them, just take the emotions and offe them as a shift to vision, a color, like my hair. THen I could decide if I wanted to feel them or not.”

“Hunh.” He considered. “So… the blue?”

“Well, at first it was supposed to be just negative emotions. But what we did was slide the thing in my bra for a week and have it read everything I was feeling, and then extrapolate from there what it should block and what colors it should show. Love… I wasn’t feeling any love at the time, let’s say that. ” She stroked his hair, waiting for the horror or disgust or confusion.

You are feeling worried, suggested the greenish-blue haze over her vision. Suppress? Allow?

Allow she decided. The trinket would probably not last much longer anyway. She was going to have to get used to her emotions before they all came flooding back.

“Your hair’s a funny… a couple funny colors.” He twitched in his bonds. “So… your friend made you a magical item that, uh, it shuts off your emotions? You get to decide what you’re going to feel and what you’re not?”

“I did.”

“Do you, um. Do you want me to be like that?”

She didn’t need his hair to turn colors to tell her he was worried, too. “Do I look like a giant asshole?” she asked, possibly more sharply than she’d intended. Having the emotions back did strange things to her speaking.

His Adam’s apple bobbed. “No. No, ma’am. It’s just… uh. You haven’t been Kept in ages, years, right?”

“Since my first year,” she agreed.

“And you’re still wearing it. I mean, it looks like you’re starting to let stuff through? But if you’re still wearing it, when you obviously don’t have to care what your Keeper thinks anymore…” He looked away and struggled at the straps a little bit. “I just thought,” he muttered to her knee, “maybe you preferred things that way? Quiet? Calm.”

She stroked his hair and considered his words. “I like you the way you are. I like… well.” She ducked her head and found herself smiling, “the excuse to tie you up.”

“But you’re…” He was flushed but a smile was creeping in at his lips, “you’re still wearing it? So you like me, uh, excitable?”

“I like you the way you are,” she repeated. “And I really do like this.” She tugged on the strap around his arms.

His flush darkened and he looked away. “I like it too,” he muttered, “but I’d like it better if, uh. If you responded.”

“If I respond,” Abrelle picked her way through the words carefully, “it’s going to get loud. And I might say things I don’t mean.”

“I say things I don’t mean all the time! And sometimes I say things I do mean but wouldn’t say if I wasn’t shouting.”

“I know.” She stroked his hair. She could tell from the way he was struggling that tying him up wasn’t going to do it this time, or, at least, it wasn’t going to be enough on its own. “I’m just warning you. It’s going to get pretty shouty in here.”

“Well, then, so I won’t be alone shouting.” He hesitated. “And, uh. So I’ll know I got a reaction, maybe I won’t have to shout quite so much, too.”

“Hrrm.” She smiled crookedly at him and caught his hand, squeezing his fingers. “But I’m still going to tie you up, you know.”

“Well, yeah. I mean. That part’s fun, although…”


“I mean,” He shrugged jerkily against the straps. “You’ve got me all tied up, but, I mean, I…” He shook his head.

“Tell me,” Abrell ordered. Her vision suggested guilt, and she tolt it she didn’t want to bother with that right now. She could indulge in guilt later, when she’d figured out if something was going wrong with her Kept.

“Urgh,” he complained, and then, quickly, ‘I just wondered why you kept my clothes on all the time? I mean,” he spoke a little more slowly, the pressure of the order clearly off, “you get me all tied up, you could do anything you wanted to me. I Belong to you, you can do anything you want to me. And it’s not like you’re afraid I’m not gonna say if I don’t like something.”

Abrelle shut her mouth. That had been almost exactly what she’d been going to say.

He could tell, too. “Look, you’re not… your Keeper, and I trust you.” He twitched at the straps. “When I ask you — like, okay, the once I asked you to untie me, you, well, you untied me. I trust you,” he repeated. “I wish, you know, I could tell when you were angry, ‘cause then the bond gets all loud in my head making up options, but, uh, really, I wish if you were gonna tie me up so much, maybe you would do something with me once you’d gotten me tied up?” He wriggled in what Abrelle thought was supposed to be an enticing manner but mostly looked adorable.

Abrelle let the affectionate amusement wash through her and chuckled at him. “All right. But I’m going to warn you…”

“It’s going to be wild?” He smirked playfully. “You warned me about that already. Shouting, oh no. However will I survive?”

She rolled him onto his side so that he was off of her lap, catching him before he could roll too far away, and leaned down, very deliberately, and bit his earlobe. “My temper isn’t the only thing that’s gotten repressed over the last couple years,” she murmured into his ear, “and it’s not just going to be shouting that’s going to get wild.”

His cheeks turned pink — and his thin pants did nothing to hide the other signs of his sudden interest. “Oh no,” he repeated, but his voice was shaky and almost eager. “Wild, oh, no. However will I survive?”

Abrelle caught sight of her hair, which was turning deep blue and purple in vivid stripes. She slid the emotion-catcher out of her bra and left it on the nightstand timer. “Let’s find out, hrrm?”

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