“You don’t – you can’t – you would – what would you-” Mélanie caught herself and focused very carefully on her breathing for several breaths. “Sir. Jasper.” She looked at him with wide eyes and found that his grin had stuttered into something of a worried expression. She patted his shoulder, not wanting him upset, and cleared her throat. “I’m sorry you, you, ah, you caught me by surprise. What did you mean – what-”
“Oh, Mélanie, my sweetness.” Jasper pulled her into a tight hug, rubbing her back until she could breathe again. “I didn’t meant to upset you, I didn’t. Why does this- what upsets you?”
She peered up at him from the confines of the hug. “I don’t want you to risk yourself. I was so upset when the – when those thugs had you, and I, if you got caught, it would be horrid. I don’t want something like that happening to you!”
“Something like what they did to you?” he asked gently.
“Yes! Yes! It was awful! I don’t want anything like that to happen to you- I said that already, didn’t I?” she finished weakly.
“You did, but that’s understandable. I don’t want to end up in a cage either, my sweetness, I assure you. I just want to hurt them a little bit, to take a little from them. Perhaps a lot,” he pondered, “maybe everything they have.” His smile was fierce. “I want to leave them reeling.”
Mélanie eyed im with a little bit of confusion. “But you – I’m not the first slave you’ve bought, sir.”
“No. No, you’re not. And for a while I was content to just take slaves out of their market one at a time with stolen goods.”
“But you had the information before, didn’t you – couldn’t you?”
“I could, yes. But there were – well. There were things in the way. And I find that I want to do something charming and alarming. And hopefully profitable as well, of course. But I’ll have to move carefully. After all, if someone holds a Kept bond over their slaves, I can’t just open up the cage to free them. But – well. There’s another way to break that bond.” His voice had deepened into a dangerous rumble.
Mélanie looked at him with wide eyes.
“You’re – you’re talking about killing them.”
She tried to make it a question but she was having trouble convincing herself there was any doubt at all about it.
“Yes.” He was solemn and his voice was soft. “It’s not – well. I don’t like dealing with people in that manner. I have not killed many people – more than I wanted to, but always in situations where they were trying to kill me and, before you ask, it wasn’t because I had stolen something they needed.”
“I wouldn’t-” She frowned. “I wouldn’t think that of you. Maybe tricking someone or beating them up, but those two the other day, they were pretty unkind to you because they wanted revenge, and you – you were kind to them in return.”
“I wouldn’t call that kind.” He shifted in his seat. “But it was not as unkind as I could have been. I will grant that.” He studied Mélanie until she shifted in her seat, wondering what he was looking for. “There are. Ah. I don’t want to kill, even slavers. I’m hoping I can talk to them and convince them to give me everything that is theirs, instead.”
Mélanie snorted. “Convince them?”
“You know, trick them, lie to them, sneak in when they’re asleep and steal everything that isn’t the building itself.”
“… You mean slaves.” She blinked twice at him, thinking of the place and the tiny cages. “The House, she’s big – but she’s not, uh, that big?”
“Depends on where they are in their sales cycle, but no – no. I didn’t mean bring them all home. That would be a little bit, urm. Possibly a little strange.”
“It might be a little strange,” she allowed, “but it might be friendly, too – so you just mean, you mean literally to free all of them?”
“And take all of their stock of any sort that isn’t slaves. Barter goods, food.”
“That’s, ah. That’s not so bad. Well, that’s interesting. Freeing slaves doesn’t get you anything.”
“Ah,” he grinned widely at her. “That’s what you think. What it does get me is: a disruption that could be used as a distraction for any number of things,” he checked things off on his fingers, “a general sense of well-being and being a good person, which my Kept here appears to approve of, and a bunch of people – again, depending on where they are in that sales cycle – who owe me a favor and will be inclined to think positively about me. And let me tell you, that’s nothing to sneeze at, especially for someone like me who makes a living out of irritating people.”
Mélanie blinked. “You’ve been thinking about this.”
“Well, of course I have.” He cleared his throat. “That is, I mean – well – small things I do like breathing. Little cons, small thefts, that sort of thing. Big cons, big thefts, those take a lot of planning, a lot of scouting out, and a lot of, well, preknowledge. Otherwise, I’d end up on the wrong side of a collar mys…”
He faltered and fell quiet.Want more?