A bit later than:
Cya gets ready for a date and Almost Out the Door for a Date and Trying Again and Blind Dateand Catching Up and Getting to (re-)Know him
and Also Needs a Title
and More Cya Date and So, Tell me About your Day
See also: Red Thorns.
For their fourth date, Manus brought her a town.
It was more of a settlement, really, a very small grouping of people who all looked at her with big, worried eyes and seemed to be very worried about their lot in life.
She’d known something was up when her normally-peaceful boyfriend was armed and suggested she do the same. “Should I bring a bodyguard?” she’d asked, mostly joking.
“no, that will spook them too much.,” his answer was a lot more serious. “You’ll be safe. you outpower all of them.”
“Them” was this settlement, twenty-three people in a burned-out town that probably hadn’t seen real inhabitance in decades. They looked up at her, and looked at Manus, and looked back at her.
“They want to fly the Cloverleaf flag,” he told her. “We caught them raiding, and stopped them pretty thoroughly, but they looked more hungry than fierce – sorry, guys – and, well..”
She walked up to one who had dropped his Mask and looked like a ragged, sad, coyote. She pulled aside his shirt and saw two red thorn marks. “Raiders?”
“Former Raiders,” Manus clarified. “They agreed to stop raiding, but one of their terms was that I try to get you to talk to them. Since I know you, well, I agreed to that.”
“So.” She looked them over. “You want to fly my flag.”
The coyote one cleared his throat. “It gives us a little bit of protection, ma’am, and considering where we’re from, we could use that protection.”
She looked at the next one over. No thorn-marks on his skin, but he had the old scars of a collar. He looked worried, and too thin, but they all looked too thin.
“And where exactly are you from?” She aimed the question at the one in front of her. She thought he might be human.
He shied away but forced himself to meet her eyes. “We belonged to the Shenera Oseraei. We didn’t want to belong to them anymore.”
“Halfbreeds,” muttered the woman on the other side of him, “and slaves. We ran away.”
“I hope you ran far, because I’m not in the mood for a war.”
The one on the end waved their hand weakly. “Teleporter, and Eo’sedek there can mask anything. So we should be safe. We came here, this far, because of Cloverleaf.”
“What do you think?” she asked Manus, although she could already guess, since he’d brought her here.
“I think they could do with some structure, and with some protection, and probably with some running water and a little help with food.”
“All right.” She studied them. “You fly my flag, you follow my laws. You want my support, you do what I tell you.”
One of the ones that were probably human stepped forward. “We want to be free, not just under another master.”
“And you will be. I won’t force obedience, but I will force lawfulness and I will give you homework.” She looked around the group. “In return, I’ll give you aid, help you rebuild this place into something comfortable, and you can fly my flag, with all the protections involved.”
“Homework?” asked the coyote suspiciously.
“Ah. Sometimes I forget I’m a teacher. Assignments to do or think about when I’m not here, as a – a human teacher might give a student.”
They shifted, looked at each other. “Like what?” asked the human one who wanted to be free.
“Well. First assignment, and I’ll be back in two days with food, water, and some other things: come up with one to four rules for your community that you can all agree on. Things to bind all of you. No bullying people into them; they have to be comfortable for everyone.”
“And we can fly the Cloverleaf?” The coyote’s ears were back. Poor thing was worried.
Poor thing had attacked her city at least twice.
“And you can fly the Cloverleaf. And those of you with thorns, I grant you the obvious exemption that you can enter your own town within the three years of your oath. Do we have a deal?”
They looked at each other. After a moment, the coyote nodded.
“We have a deal, sa’Doomsday.”
“Excellent. I’ll see you in two days.”
They wandered off slowly, Manus and Cya, to where Isra was waiting to teleport them home. “You looked like you were having fun?” he asked.
“That was a wonderful gift,” she assured him. “Thank you.”
“Do I get homework, too?” He grins insouciantly at her, and she found herself grinning back.
“Only if you want it, my dear, only if you want it.”
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