| 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
Chapter 11 (R-Rated) here
Chapter 12: here
Chapter 13: here
Chapter 14: here
Chapter 15: here
Chapter S16: here
You can skip Chapter 11 without losing the plot.
Sefton found he was grinning and managed to dial it back just before Jaco came over, rubbing his wrists and jangling with close-linked chains again. “What about you?” Hothyan asked, gesturing at Sefton’s wrists.
“The Lady Wife sent him back that way,” Jaco pointed out. “She can’t fault him for staying the way she left him.”
“Remember that,” Sefton suggested to Pherishhe.
“Remember to chain my husbands up?” She looked up at him crookedly.
“No… well, yes. I’m sure your senior fathers have told you why there’s chains, right?”
“They said, ‘there’s the very short story for egglings, the longer story for talking-children, the longer-still story for school children, and when I am ready for my own house and husbands they’ll tell me the longest story.”
“Are you on the school children story already?” He hadn’t gauged her old enough for the public school.
She shook her head. “Not for another year. But when my sister Kesharia went, I listened to all the stories. I’m precocious,” she informed him proudly.
“I bet you are.” Sefton patted Pherishhe’s head affectionately. “So. Remember that you make the rules, and that your husbands follow them. That means if you tell them to do something, the fault is on you for telling them.”
“Well, within limits,” Jaco put in. “There’s this thing that some people do – oh, you know it, Pherishhe, your brother Gamon does it. Where you follow the letter of the law, knowing full well what the spirit was meant to be.”
“Oh, that thing.” She wrinkled her nose. “That’s just being silly. But that’s not what Father Feltian meant anyway, so now you’re doing it. He meant, if I take someone’s chains off, I can’t yell at them for being unchained. If I tell them to make me toast, then I shouldn’t be surprised when I get toast – and if I know he makes bad toast, I shouldn’t be surprised that my toast is burned.”
“Maybe don’t use that one around your shell-father,” Jaco joked. “Calum makes awful toast,” he added in a stage-whisper to Sefton.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Sefton spared a smirk for Jaco before looking back to Pherishhe. “Exactly. It’s not bad to encourage your husbands to be better people, but don’t berate them for not having a skill you already know they don’t have, for instance.”
She grinned mischievously at him. “You know a lot about being a husband for one who was married just today.”
It really had been just today. Sefton was suddenly hit with exhaustion. He opened his mouth to give Pherishhe an answer, any sort of answer, but nothing came.
Calum saved him. “Men are sons before they are husbands, shell-daughter. They learn from their fathers, just as you learn from your fathers – and they, and you, learn from their mothers.” When had he gotten back in the nursery? Had Sefton said anything he shouldn’t say in that time since Jaco got his chains on? Had Jaco gotten his chains on in time? Sefton forced his breathing even. He was far too sleepy for this. He was far too exhausted for anything.
Calum’s hand landed on Sefton’s shoulder heavily. “How went the battle?”
“They let themselves into the nursery.” Sefton found he was indignant about that. “Just as easy as you please. What’s the point of the vault door if they can just walk in?”
“Well, it slows them down.” Calum was frowning. “And it stops casual invaders. But you’re right. They shouldn’t be able to get through it.” He thumped Sefton’s shoulder again. “You and Jaco held them off, though. Stopped them. Nobody got to the egglings. And you two are fine?”
“Just a couple scratches.” He shrugged. “Mostly tired.”
“Think you can last another twenty minutes? Onter and I have to finish clean-up, and then I can take over nursery duty.”
“I can guard, Calum-father.” Hothyan stepped up. “I’m fresh, I didn’t fight. I can do it.”
“I’m sure you can. Maybe you can sit up with Feltian and then with me? We could use the back-up today.”
“I can-” Hothyan seemed to recognize a lost battle. “Yes, please. I’ll sit up with you, father Feltian. You can tell me stories.” Hothyan’s smirk was a little bitter, maybe, but there was a time in being a boy where you didn’t want to be a child anymore.
“Or teach you card tricks,” Sefton offered. “My shell-father taught me some interesting ones, if you have a deck here…?”
“Right over here.” He looked a little more interested in that, as Sefton had thought he would. Plus, card games were a great way to teach any number of skills stealthily – which is what he could tell Calum and Onter if they questioned him.
Somehow, he didn’t think Jaco would have a problem with it.
“I’m going to clean the weapons,” Jaco said, as if realizing Sefton was thinking of him. “Hold onto yourselves until I’ve got everything else done, you two. I don’t want to miss out on the fun.”
“Good.” Calum nodded. “You two can guard. I’ll be back soon enough. Well done, all of you.”
“Thank you.” It seemed thin. It always seemed thin, being praised for staying in the nursery, even if they had gotten into the fray a little bit this time. “And you.”
Calum half-bowed and headed out, leaving Sefton bracketed by Pherishhe and Hothyan. “All right. Cards?” He aimed the question at Hothyan, but Pherishhe was the one that darted off for them.
Hothyan shrugged. “She does that. She could be like Kesharia,” his voice dropped to a whisper, then picked back up again, “or some of the girls we hear about or see at school, but she’s very serious, and not at all full of herself. I like it. She doesn’t make me feel like I should be waiting on her.”
“As long as she doesn’t feel like she should be waiting on you.” Sefton wrinkled his nose. “There are — well, I know it seems unfair sometimes, but there are good reasons.”
“I know, I know.” Hothyan sighed loudly. “I know. But there’s nothing wrong with her getting the cards, is there?”
“Of course there isn’t.” Pherishhe sat back down next to them with a thump. “They’re cards. I got them. Here, Father Feltian, what are we playing?”
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