It was a strange feeling, even after the little trick she’d done in the wagon, walking up to someone while completely invisible and inaudible.
Mélanie did it anyway, because Jasper had agreed to let her come along, and this had been the thing she could do better than him (or than Kearney, but since, as far as they knew, Kearney had no magic, that wasn’t as much of an accomplishment.
Kearney was, in the meantime, sliding through the back in a gap in the fence that was too small for an adult or even most children — Kearney was very good at moving in tight spots and didn’t have much fear of getting caught on the wires. A lifetime ago, Mélanie might have asked but shouldn’t we worry about DNA?, but here, now, there was nobody with the resources to pull that blood off the wires and run it through the right machines, even if Kearney left any blood.
Jasper was around the other side, working on slowly eliminating a few walls and parts of fence. It had to be very slow, because he didn’t want to get caught, and it had to look like things had been either snipped or just stolen, because he didn’t want to start a parade of fae-hating, as sometimes still happened.
Mélanie was watching the guards. She was both lookout and, if needed, distraction, and since she was invisible, she was standing directly in front of them, listening to them talk
Their conversation was boring, mundane. One of them was worried that the job wouldn’t pay enough to buy food. The other one was saving up for a slave of their own — Employee discount and all, but it was still hard to get the trade goods enough to add up to the purchase price of a decent slave.
“I don’t know who they’re for,” that second one was muttering. “Not like there’s a lot of rich people around these days. I mean, there’s Themselves up on the Hill and that weird family down in the valley;” this was punctuated with gestures in both directions, “so who’s gonna pay those prices? Why not make ’em what people can pay?”
“‘Cause they gotta house and feed ’em and you know, find them or pay the snatchers and all that. It’s not like they just, pop outta thin air,” the first one noted.
“Still. It’s not like they have to pay a lot for how they house ’em or anything. Straw and a stall, just like a smaller version of a horse.”
Mélanie had not anticipated the problem with this mission being trying not to punch someone in the nose.
Still, she fought hard to not punch the guard in the nose. That, while it would distract them, would probably not be the helpful sort of distraction.
“Just because they’re stuck in a collar doesn’t mean they’re not people, Neil.” The first guard looked mildly disgusted. Mélanie could empathize. “They cost money because you can’t just shove them in a box while you’re waiting to sell them. And they cost a lot of money to pay for guards like us to keep them from being stolen or from running away, and o people don’t just treat them like throw-away things once they’re bought.”
“Wait.” Neil looked as surprised as Mélanie felt. “You’re saying the prices are inflated so people value their slaves more?”
“Yeah, duh. It’s not like there’s a manufacturing cost.”
“Well, uh- hsst. What’s that?”
Damnit; Mélanie had been hoping Neil was incompetent as well as a jerk. Neil pointed over towards the slave-holding pen. She was going to have to distract them.
She scooped up a pebble while they weren’t looking and tossed it ahead, off to the edges of the road where the weeds and the culverts could be hiding someone. Then she moved backwards, finding another pebble, and throwing it a little ways back.
“Deer,” Neil’s partner muttered uncertainly. “Nobody’s going to do a frontal attack on this place. Right?”
“You go check out the slaves.”
“You go check out the slaves! That new one they’ve got nearly broke my nose when I tried to feed him!”
“I checked them out last time! The feral one bit me!”
Mélanie suddenly wondered if Jasper was going to be in more trouble from the slaves he was stealing – rescuing? – than the guards. She threw another pebble.
“Look. I’m gonna go check out the ditch,” Neil’s partner told him. “You go wake up the boss. He can quiet down the fae ones easy enough.”
That was both good and bad. Mélanie threw another pebble and shifted her attention, getting ready to follow Neil. She didn’t have all the Words she needed for this, but if she did the sort of emotion Working she’d done with the thugs who’d kidnapped Jasper, that ought to be enough.Want more?