First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Mélanie looked at the brute. She looked at Jasper, still shaking on his feet. She looked at the house.
The storm had died down as suddenly as it had come up.
“She was going to torture my – she was going to torture him. And Keep him, if she could.” She sounded shaky, she knew. She felt shaky. She was still invisible – she thought she was, at least – but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. What was one more ghost in this place, right?
“Yeah, well,” the brute didn’t seem to have a problem talking to an invisible woman, either, “it’s not like he was nice to us.”
“May I point out…” Jasper sounded a lot better than he’d looked just a few minutes ago,”that you two thought that you had ripped me off. You were absolutely certain that you’d scammed me, right up to the point until you, I assume, got home and realized that your boxes were empty and mine were simply less full of cheap goods than you’d offered. So if I cheated you, if I ‘wasn’t very nice to you’ it was only in not being a victim as you’d hoped.”
“That doesn’t matter! You still cheated us! And none of that is important, anyway. Look at her! She’s dying, Anan, she’s dying.”
“What will you give us if we make sure she doesn’t die?”
Mélanie looked between the brute and her Master, biting her lip. Her master sounded very calm, very sure of himself. She wondered if the brute would ever notice the way Jasper was swaying.
“Anything! Anything you want, please, just – just make her better? I can’t do the healing stuff, and she’s, she’s bleeding all over me.”
“You know,” Mélenie couldn’t help but interject, “she’s not very nice to you. You can’t really offer anything, just to heal someone who treats you worse than she treats stolen horses.”
“Horses are expensive! Come on, ghost, stop yelling at me. Just help her or kill me too. Tell me what you want, okay? And take it.”
“Your word. I want your word that when she isn’t bleeding anymore, you will promise whatever we ask you to promise.”
Mélanie stared at Jasper. That was – nobody would promise that. Nobody would agree to something that broad. That was a good way to get sold into slavery. To get bound into doing favors for someone forever. To get stuck not being able to speak for a decade. It was the sort of nightmare fairy tale her Mentor had told her, back when she’d still had a Mentor, still been free.
“Yes. Yes, I promise.”
Mélanie closed her mouth with a snap.
“All right. Let’s start with remembering that if you attack me, your friend here isn’t going to get healed. Me – my dear, that is – could you give me a hand up, please? I seem to be a little woozy.”
“Who are you talking to? I’m not your dear.”
“There are ghosts around here. Haven’t you heard? And they can be very helpful indeed. Something, I might note, that the horses already know.”
Mélanie made sure he knew where she was and gave her master the required hand up into the wagon. She climbed up next to him, her hand on his hip, her other hand waiting in case he stumbled.
“The horses?” The woman looked back at the horses and then almost seemed to notice where they were. “Hunh. Anan was right.” She looked back at the woman cradled in her lap and made a small noise that sounded pained. “Anan?”
“All right.” Leaning into Mélanie’s hand, Jasper lowered himself to his knees. “Now. Let’s see what we’ve got here…”
The long string of Working was done in a sing-song that Mélanie found entrancing. The actually Words seemed to get lost in a combination of Greek and “hum-dilly-um” that made it sound something like a Gregorian chant.
Apropos of nothing, she wondered what had happened to the Gregorian monks – to all of the ascetic orders out there. Had they survived without trouble? Had they hunkered down and just kept praying?
She might never know. She looked back at Anan, who was beginning to groan. The blood was gone from her forehead and the wound was nearly healed.
“She won’t die,” Jasper decided. “So. You. Take this woman, go far from here. Before you leave, promise that you will never again lay hand on me or mine, that you will stay away from me if you see me in public, and that you will tell people nothing of me. Then swear to me -” He glanced at Mélanie, although she was fairly certain he still couldn’t see her. She squeezed his hip anyway. “Swear to me that you will pack up what you need, pick a direction without telling Anan, and leave her. Leave her and keep walking – stopping for rests and to eat, of course – until you find someplace where you can be, if not happy, at least content.”
“Leave- Leave Anan?”
“You’ve saved her life. Now save your own.”
“But… all right.” She huffed quietly and repeated his required oaths word for word. “I’ll leave her,” she added at the end, “but can I tell her why?”
“No. No, because then she will never learn. No.” He shook his head; Mélanie squeezed his leg again. “You need to leave her with no explanation – except, if you want, that she treats you horribly. Go on. Get her out of here. Go now, while the house is still going to let you leave.”Want more?