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Helping a Friend Out, Part Two

Part One
Addergoole-verse, Early 2012 (in the middle of the Apocalypse)
Written to [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commission.
I do not have an Agmund icon. But here’s Luke looking uncomfortable about the whole thing.

The boy was not happy about Agmund’s presence, but he was more than willing to lay out the details of the attack. The Nedetakaei nest had at least ten human hostages, was in the middle of what had been a very populous area before the gods came to town, and had been lain with booby-traps, Worked wards, and at least three explosive trip-lines.

“They don’t want anyone coming in to them, but they’re not going out much, either. They come out just after dark, about every fourth day — no set pattern, but it’s been three days with nothing, so hopefully today’s the day — but they always bring at least two of their hostages, and they go out in two-person teams. If we want to wipe out all three, we have to get the two when they’re out —”

“And then beard the third in the lair or hope they come out. Da. Roof attack?”

“Booby-trapped.” Dominic smiled grimly. “It’s almost as if they expected combat-ready opponents with wings.”

“Always said, Mara’s greatest failing was predictability. But you.” Agmund tapped the boy’s shoulder. “You are not a Mara, no?”

The boy folded up a bit. “Don’t need to rub it in,” he muttered.

“Who is rubbing in? I am not a Mara, either.” Agmund dropped his Mask for a moment, letting the bearishness of his features show through. “So we are not so predictable. What about up from underneath?”

“Under… never thought of that.” The boy’s wings twitched in a habit he’d probably picked up from Luke. The fliers that didn’t study under him didn’t get that habit of nervous telegraphing in quite the same way.

“Then we should look, no, and hope they did not think of it either. Think of it this way,” Agmund offered, with a large grin, “it is much cleaner now than it would have been a year ago.”

Dominic made a face. “Sewers. I hate sewers, even clean ones. But it’s not a bad idea.”

“If back-up had come, what would your plan have been then?”

“Like I said, wait for the two to come out, then storm the place. I don’t want any hostages to die… but the Nedetakaei have to be taken out. They’re too dangerous otherwise.”

“Willing to try it my way, this time?”

Dominic studied him. “Well, you’re the grown-up, and you came to back me up.”

“You are a grown-up too,” Agmund reminded him. “I was there when you received your name, Shifting Shield.”

“But you’re the one with the experience,” Dominic countered. “So your plan wins this time. We go from below?”

“We go from below,” Agmund agreed. “And we go quietly, when the first ones leave.” He growled an Idu out, sending his senses through the street below, and was pleased to hear Dominic do the same.

The boy didn’t appear to have the words for Earth or Worked things, but with a mutter to himself (“Everything has air and water;” he sounded as if he was quoting someone), he did a Working to Know the air and water beneath their feet. The two patterns together would tell them where they were going.

“There,” they pointed at the same time. The manhole cover was just a few yards from their feet. And, as if on cue, the back door to the warehouse opened and two Nedetakaei exited.
Agmund nodded to the boy, and they got to work. It might be messy, but the Bear could go back to Addergoole and tell Luke that one more of his Students had survived. That, in Agmund’s opinion, was worth far more than wading through a sewer.

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Desired Situation…

This story is Clare K.R. Miller‘s commissioned continuation of Want Ad and follows immediately after that.  To commission stories or continuations, look here.

There was a lovely woman standing on Richie’s front porch.

His first thought, before he managed to take in everything she’d just said, was I haven’t cleaned the place properly in weeks.

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Open for Commissions

Guys, I have 1200 words of commissions on my to-write plan for this month, and no commissions to write!

(and we all know I like to stick to the plan, don’t we…)

Every have something you really wanted to see me write?

Or something left you saying “More, Please!”

Now’s the time!

My commission rate is 2¢/word, with a minimum commission of $4/200 words.

There’s normally a discount over $20 to $5/300 words or 5/3¢ ($0.01667) a word, which means that a $20 commission will get you the 1200 words mentioned in my target goal.

If you commission all 1200 words in my to-write, I’ll cut you a small discount and give you 1200 words for $18. That’s $0.015/word!

Got an idea? Leave a comment here or e-mail me at thornealder/gmail.
Got some money? Here’s the Paypal link 🙂

200-word Commission Slots Open:
1. chanter_greenie
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On the Lifeboat, a continuation of Fae Apoc for the Giraffe Call/Kuro_Neko

Written to Kuro-Neko’s commissioned continuation of Survival, of Fae Apoc, sometime in late 2011/early 2012.

Three, two… “Are you saying…” Ross Wetherschilde spoke slowly, as if not quite wanting to get to the end of his sentence. “…that there is a ‘fae’ onboard this life raft?”

“Of course that’s what she’s freaking saying, you freaking nincompoop!” Tanya Jones spoke fast enough for three Ross Wetherschildes. “The question is, how does she know! And who?”

“I think it’s obvious, don’t you?” Yonrit thought she knew every voice on the raft, but this one made her open her eyes: small, sardonic, and very quiet. Aah, the slender woman who had barely spoken since the crash, of course. “There’s one way to know for certain that someone is fae.”

She met Yonrit’s eyes; Yonrit didn’t look away. Around them, the conversation seemed to roil and bubble.

“…stab ‘em with rowan, that’s how!”

“Iron, you hang a horseshoe on your doorway.”

“We don’t have any horseshoes and we don’t have any doorways. Or rowan.”

“You spill rice, don’t you?”

“No, that’s vampires. Hey, do you think vampires are real, too?”

“Taylor, you’ve asked that at least seventeen times since we ended up here. Nobody knows.”

“Except maybe the fae on the boat.”

It kept going, people talking over each other, people shouting and swearing and repeating themselves. Yonrit kept her eyes on the other woman. After this many days on a lifeboat, she looked as unwashed as the rest of them; like Yonrit, her clothes were already beginning to hang loose on her body.

“So, who is it?” In the end, it was Tanya Jones who asked Yonrit. “If there’s a fae here, and you know who – who is it?”

“You still haven’t answered my question.” Yonrit swallowed around her nerves and repeated herself. “Would you rather die or be helped by a fae?”

“That wasn’t the question,” the slender woman pointed out. “The question was, would we rather die or be on a boat with a fae?”

“They’re both important questions.” Yonrit could feel every eye in the boat on her. She tried not to shrink in on herself.

“So,” Tanya Jones tried, “we have to answer the question, and then you’ll tell us?”

Yonrit nodded mutely. What was she going to do if they said die? What was she going to do if some of them said die?

“Well, I’ll go first.” Tanya Jones leaned forward in her seat. “Look, if it was Poseidon or the dick who called himself Hades or that cadre of bitches that ruined his town in Illinois or someone like that, yeah, I’d die trying to kill them. But what was the news saying just before we went overboard? Hundreds of thousands of fae have been living here on earth forever? I mean, that’s what some of the awful ones have said, too. ‘We were born on Earth.’“ Her voice dropped down to a deep super-hero imitation. “‘We want to defend Earth.’ While they’re ripping up buildings. I guess what I mean is, if it’s a fae saving my life, well, my life is still saved, isn’t it?”

She nodded to the man next to her. “What about you?”

“I’d die. I don’t want any of those filthy creatures touching me.”

And so it went.

Yonrit struggled to keep her face calm, to not show fear or anger or even hope. She struggled to not look like she agreed with anyone. For the most part, it was wasted effort — the whole lifeboat was watching whoever was talking at the moment. Everyone but the thin girl, who had not yet stopped staring at Yonrit.

Finally, they were back to her. Tanya looked down at her fingers. “That’s fourteen people saying ‘please save my life’ and seven saying ‘screw everything fae, even if I die.’ And you.”

Yonrit took a deep breath. “Okay. Okay, Tonya, Miss Jones, since you took the vote, I’m saying you’re in charge. Anyone argue?”

One large, obnoxious guy looked like he wanted to argue, but in the face of a boat full of nodding, he only got out half a sound.

“All right. Okay, remember what you all said.”

“Are you going to tell us who the fae is now?” The woman was still staring at Yonrit. Her eyes were drilling through her, and her voice held an unpleasant urgency.

“I don’t think that’s really the necessary part.” They might kill her. They were going to die either way, she was likely to die either way. It was that or start eating each other. “All right.” She closed her eyes and cupped her hands in front of her. “Meentik Huamu delta αβοκάντο.”

She heard the gasps. She heard the swearing. She heard nothing at all from the thin woman. More importantly, she felt the thud of four avocados in her hands.

“Now.” Yonrit’s voice was very quiet, but it didn’t need to be any louder. “It’s up to every one of you if you eat what I provide or not. It has its limits — if I do too much, I’ll pass out — but I believe I can make enough food to keep us alive until we’re rescued.” She set the avocados down in front of her. “These first, because they’re easy to eat and more calorie-dense than, say, an orange. And then some beans, I think. That is…” Yonrit swallowed hard and looked around the lifeboat. “That is, if you’re not going to kill me.”

Everyone squirmed. Everyone but the thin woman, who was looking at Yonrit now with mostly confusion. Finally, one woman spoke up. She had been the most vocal about hating fae; one of the returned gods had killed her husband.

“They say that the fae can’t lie. That if they promise to tell the truth, they have to. Is that true?”

Yonrit nodded slowly. “That’s true.”

“Can you… can you swear that you’re not one of those fae who’s been causing all those problems? Because so far, you’ve only acted like a normal person. No pointy ears, no blowing ships up. And I haven’t seen any of these ‘gods’ raining down avocados.”

That was relatively easy. Yonrit nodded, a little less slowly this time. “I can promise you that I have never, through action or inaction, caused a human death. That’s, that’s why I spoke up.” She hugged herself. “Because it would kill you all if I didn’t say anything.”

She shared a look with the slender woman, who looked away, frowning. The widow was speaking again, just as slowly.

“Then I can’t see any reason to punish you for risking yourself to save us. Can you make enough without straining yourself?”

“It won’t be haute cuisine. And it won’t be enough to gorge ourselves. But yeah, yeah, I think I can.” Yonrit might still be stuck in a lifeboat, but for the first time in weeks, for the first time since the gods had returned, she felt like she was on solid ground again.

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Making Things Work

This is a continuation of There Are Always Choices for [personal profile] rix_scaedu as a fiction exchange. It runs to *cough* 2250 words.

It wasn’t often that Alkyone decided to put her foot down about something. It was even rarer that she interfered in Via or Jaelie’s lives. Living in such close quarters, the three of them held certain privacies very dear.

Today, Aly had grabbed Via by one arm, the Kept Rohanna by the other, and physically dragged them out back, to the small bench-and-fountain set-up Jaelie maintained between the trees. “Not work,” she insisted. “Not rules, nothing of the sort. Just… remember what it was like to be collared, Via.”

“I hated it.” She already knew Rohanna hated it; they’d collared her at knifepoint.

“Not that part. We all hated it. What about the rest?”

“The rest…?” But Aly had stalked off, leaving Via staring in confusion at Rohanna.

Who was, to be fair, staring in confusion right back at Viatrix. “So, um…” She swallowed. “What…?”

Via chewed on her lip. The rest. The orders? No. The sex? Aly was unlikely to suggest Via rape her Kept. Even if the touch…

Touch. And if she was talking about the parts that felt good, Aly had probably meant the whole set of good-Kept feelings. Via took a breath. She’d never been good at that part. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Rohanna scooted back a couple inches on the bench. “Okay… what?

“Okay.” Viatrix took both of the girl’s hands, and tried to hold them gently. “Okay, this is me not being a monster.”

Rohanna squirmed but, notably, didn’t pull her hands out of Via’s loose grip. “Are you going to brand me again?”

Via ran her thumb over the healed mark on the girl’s wrist. “No. Have you – have you been collared before?”

“I lit the last guy on fire who tried.” She’d gone still at the touch on her wrist. Viatrix tried to remember if she’d touched Rohanna since the branding, and couldn’t. No wonder Aly was interfering.

“And yet you took my collar.”

Rohanna’s right hand twitched. Via released it, and the girl touched the thin leather collar around her neck. “I’m pretty sure I can’t survive a hawthorn beheading.”

“Practicality is a good thing. I-” Gentleness was not Viatrix’s stock in trade. She had gotten her reputation for being ruthless. She took a couple breaths while she considered her words. “If you work with me, we can make this not suck.”

“What, if I do what you say, it won’t hurt? I’ve been there, and no, thanks.”

“No, no…” Via couldn’t help smirking. “Not that. I’ve been there, too. It really does suck. No.” She chose her words carefully. “If you will tell me what you want, I can help.”

“But why would you?” Rohanna was staring at their hands. Viatrix had not moved the hand the girl had dropped; now, as if afraid that it would bite her, Rohanna set her hand back on top of Via’s. “I mean, you already have me.”

“Because there’s no reason for this to suck. And…” Her first-year Keeper hadn’t really been a monster. He’d just been an awful Keeper. “And there’s no reason for me to be a lousy Keeper when I can be a good one.”

Rohanna was quiet. Viatrix wondered if the girl was going to laugh at her; she wondered if she was going to flail out, or run away. None of those things were prohibited by her orders, after all. After a while, she shrugged. She was still looking at their hands. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as a good Keeper.”

“Hunh.” Viatrix thought about that one for a while. “Well, you’ve seen Jaelie and Wish, haven’t you?”

“Wish looks lost most of the time.” The edges of Rohanna’s mouth curled upwards.

“Well, that’s because he’s a Returned One. He really is lost.” Bad example, then, but she didn’t have that many good examples to go on. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Rohanna peeked again. “You keep saying that.”

“I’m bad at this, okay?” Via snickered the moment she realized what she’d said, and, by some miracle, Rohanna let herself chuckle, too. “Right. So, you’re miserable.”

“Not miserable. Not miserable all the time. Except that I’m here, and I didn’t want to be here.”

“So, what would make you less miserable?” Viatrix counted to three silently, then mouthed along with Rohanna.

“Not being here. But you knew I was going to say that.”

“Yeah.” Via smirked. “What could make you less miserable being here?”

“I don’t know, maybe if this parasite in my head wasn’t telling me I was horrible all the time.” The answer wasn’t so much snapped out as sidled, like Rohanna had been thinking about it for some time and was testing the waters.

Viatrix closed her eyes. “Right. The bond. Okay, this is going to be weird… but Ro, I think you and I need to be friends.”

~

The boy flinched at everything, and every time he flinched, he reminded Baram of other boys, younger boys (because even he, in this lifetime, was younger than the skinny boy he was Keeping now), who had flinched and winced away.

He couldn’t order the boy not to flinch. He could, but Baram and his girls with him were learning how to not be monsters, and Jaelie had been very firm on that one. Monsters tell you not to look unhappy. Good people help you learn how to be happy.

It was mostly theory, for all of them, reaching in the dark and only knowing that there were sharp edges.

Viatrix could talk to her angry Kept. Jaelie petted her would-be returned god and praised him until he calmed. Baram scared people by his very presence, and he did not talk well.

You do not have weaknesses unless you allow yourself to be weak. Professor Fridmar had said that, more than once, during his lessons. Your weakness can be strengths.

Baram looked at the boy. At Kavan. Kavan winced. Slowly, feeling as if he was swimming through snow, Baram worked through the problem.

The kid was old, nearly fifty, he’d said. He was old, and he’d known pain and ownership and renaming. It made Baram feel awkward, and young, and stupid.

But Baram was both old and young. “Do you-” the boy flinched. He kept going anyway. “Do you know the Words for Mind?”

The boy’s chin came up and his eyes opened wide. “I.. yes. Yes, mas- Baram? I can use Intinn.”

“And know?“ Baram pushed on, despite the way Kavan’s shoulders were trembling.

“…and Idu, yessir.” Kavan had gone pale, even his lips bloodless. “Sir?”

Baram realized his hand was clenching into a fist. It wasn’t Kavan’s fault. It wasn’t even really about Kavan. “R-” Please. Jaelie had pointed that one out, too.

Baram had grumbled; it didn’t make it less of an order.

“It makes it feel more like there’s a choice. And sometimes that’s what matters.”

Baram cleared his throat. “Please read my mind.”

Kavan’s eyes opened wide. “Sir… sir, are you sure?

“Words… words are hard.” He felt a frustrated rumble in the back of his throat and stifled it. Not quickly enough: the boy flinched again. “It’s hard to talk, easy to see it in my mind.”

“Sir.” Kavan ducked his head. “I… I can.”

“Please.” The word was a hard one. But Baram forced it out yet again. “It’s important.”

Kavan nodded. He did not look, Baram thought, any more comfortable; he kept peeking at Baram rather than looking directly, and his skin was still pale. But his voice didn’t tremble as he did the Working.

Baram focused on the boy. He tried not to think of other terrified Kept he’d known, but he knew they would show up. He tried to remember – tried, and almost succeeded – the cold and wet field he’d woken up in, the moment he’d found himself in this life.

The boy had his eyes closed. Baram could feel his presence in his mind, a gentle touch, simply enough to let Baram know where he was.

“You worry.” Baram kept his voice quiet. “You don’t know me. And I don’t…”

“Show anything,” Kavan offered. There was a bit of wonder in his voice. “You… sorry, sir.”

“S’okay.” Baram closed his eyes. “You can look.”

Kavan’s touch was different than other times Baram’s mind had been read – gentler, more tentative. But even so, Baram could feel old memories coming up, whispering to him in the way that they did.

The boy murmured while he worked. “And then you… And then… oh. Oh dear.” Baram did not blush, was not the sort to do such things, but the oh dear was so prim, and the memory so vulgar, that he dropped his head and looked away, even with his eyes closed.

And then there was a brushing against places that Baram never touched. “This…” He could hear the way the boy swallowed. “May I?”

It was an effort of will to say yes. That spot, those places, they didn’t want to be remembered, even more so than most of Baram’s scrambled history. But the boy had actively asked for something, so… “Yes.”

These memories didn’t really flood. They poked up their heads cautiously, diffidently, much like Kavan. Look at this, do you want to remember it?

No, no, of course he didn’t. But he would.

The field. He was in a field, sprawled out on the dirt, his lungs hurting like he’d fallen. That was where the memories stopped. That was where…

He was falling, tumbling. His chute hadn’t deployed and he was tumbling down, down, every downwards. He was going to land. This was going to hurt. This was going to…

He was in the field, he was laying there staring at the sky. He was panting, whining like an animal, and Kavan was holding him tightly.

“Easy, easy. Easy, si- Boss. I’ve got you.” The boy stroked Baram’s back, and the world righted itself. “I’ve got you, boss.”
~

Jaelie was having a bit of trouble with their “guests.”

Ardell and Delaney had figured out quickly that they couldn’t get out of the trap-basement unless Jaelie – or someone else – let them out. They’d figured out soon after that they couldn’t easily Work out of it, either, and they’d figured out soon after that that Baram wasn’t going to talk to them.

Jaelie didn’t tell them why. She wasn’t entirely certain why herself.

She had told them the conditions of their release. It wasn’t the first time someone had ended up in their “guest house,” and the terms were almost always the same. Ardell had been willing to swear the oaths. The problem was Delaney.

“Fuck you! We’re talking to Baram or nobody, and if you don’t let us out of here soon, you’re going to regret it. I’m going to peel the pretty skin right off of you, you miserable little…”

Jaelie let the door slam shut again. “They can wait another couple hours for the food,” she told Aloysius.

He hesitated. “Do you want me to watch them?”

Jaelie started to shake her head, and then paused herself. “Do you have some reason to think you ought to?”

He was getting more and more hesitant, she noticed. He didn’t deal all that well with the collar. “Something feels wrong, Mistress. They are planning something.”

“I trust your judgement on this one.” Jaelie watched the way his shoulders twitched, and leaned over to kiss both his cheeks. “Good job. Please, do watch the guest house, then.”

He bowed to her. He liked to do that, sometimes. Jaelie found she liked it. “I will do so.” He settled into a tree, the thorns making way for him, seeming content to watch all day if he needed to.

Jaelie reminded herself to check on him before bed time, and went back to those things that could not be neglected forever.

She didn’t have to wait until bedtime. It was just as the sun set that she heard the rumble, the rumble followed by a scream, the scream followed by a startled set of grunts.

They dove into action like they had too many times before. Aly grabbed the kids. Via grabbed her sword. Jaelie was already calling on the trees, who were telling her fire, fire.

And standing in a hole in their yard that had not been there before, the bitch of a visitor was throwing fireballs. At Aloysious. At Jaelie’s Kept, and at her trees.

She was shouting off Workings as she ran, spitting off insults in between the Workings, and, as she doused the entire yard in sudden rainfall, doing her best to get between the “guests” and her Kept. She could stop them. She could stop them, if her trees could just reach them, if – they were backing towards the gate, still throwing off projectiles and force, things rain could stop. There were broken tree limbs everywhere, and they were still throwing off force bolts.

“Let them go.” The boss’s voice came from the doorway. “They’re not worth it.” He followed with a series of Workings, throwing up a shield around Jaelie, and, she noticed gratefully, her trees and her Kept as well. “They’re just strangers we will know not to let in again.”

For the boss, that was a speech. Jaelie leaned against Aloysious and panted as their former guests got away. “Are you okay?”

He wrapped an arm around her ribcage, for once too exhausted to be tentative. “You protected me.”

“Well, yeah.” She craned her neck back to look at him. “And the Boss protected us. That’s… that’s just how it works.”

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Blood on the Stone

* The next time an icon day comes around, someone remind me I need a good icon of some sort for Fairy Town?
* Written to flofx‘s commissioned prompt: A continuation of Old Stories and old Fates.
* Fairy Town has a landing page here..

There were things those people in their tainted church would never say. There were things that no-one in this tainted town would even whisper, not even Bishop MacNamilla. There were things that you didn’t even think.

And one of those things was this: there were fairies and fairies. There were the things that looked like people, that you called “fairies,” or didn’t really even call that so much as shape the label around the space they filled. They went to work with you, if you were a lay person. They owned houses and shopped and, to a casual tourist, looked human. But they were a little strange, a little eccentric, a little tainted.

And then there were the demons that were actually fairies, the spirits and sprites, goblins and boggarts, monsters and mice, and they hid in the wild spaces, lurked around the gateways, lingered anywhere there were too many of the first sort, anywhere there was belief, anywhere the god had touched.

This altar, the place where it was said the god had Lain His Hand, was so thick with fairies it was a wonder the Bishop could move at all.

And every single one of them had heard of him. Is this the one that killed us? Is this the one that shed the blood?

Fairies, true fairies, had ways of knowing who you were that didn’t rely on faces or fingerprints or skin that was once smooth and now was sagging. Fairies, the real ones, it was said, knew your souls.

Bishop MacNamilla figured that was probably true. Most demons would, wouldn’t they?

He stood, his feet spread and his arms loose at his sides. So he had stood, once, explaining to the elders what needed to happen. So he had stood, over the graves of the demons, over the graves of the fairies, his hands soaked with their blood. So he had stood, when he had been weak.

He had let the children go, the spawn. He had let some of the females go, too. And the final nail in their coffin, the living victim – he had not been able to do that, either. He had been weak.

And now he was far, far weaker in body – and far, far stronger in will. He straightened his spine and looked at them, the demons deep in this holy place.

Is he the one? Is this the spirit-killer? Is this the Unholy Thing? Their voices buzzed around him. Their hands brushed over him, leaving places that were too hot or too cold. Their noses sniffed at him, rubbing their scent over him in turn. They couldn’t let it stand. They couldn’t let him live, not after what he’d done.

He was ready for it. Bishop MacNamilla raised his chin and looked them in as much of eyes as any of them had. They would kill him, of course. And his blood would spill over the god-stone. And then the world would shudder and the old magic, the old divinity, would awaken, and all this taint would be cleansed from the world.

His vision was blurring. The Bishop realized with some alarm that he was having trouble breathing. He was seeing spots. He was…

He slumped to the ground in front of the god-stone, his blood unspilled.

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The Bishop Speaks, a story of FairyTown

Written to flofx‘s commissioned prompt: “Bishop Macnamilla says ‘The elders did not listen to me. They were squeamish’ in Faries in the Church. Just what happened between Macnamilla and the elders? How much did he tell them of what he wanted to do?”

Fairy Town has a landing page here.. This story is set a few decades or more before the “current” storyline.

Bishop Tanner studied the young priest standing in front of him. “Father Macnamilla. I see you are visiting us yet again.”

The others on the diocese’s council of elders shifted uncomfortably. Bishop Tanner didn’t fault them for that – Father Macnamilla brought an aura of discomfort with him. But they needed to remain firm and in control, or the hot-headed priest would be causing them more than just discomfort.

“I will continue to visit you until you listen to reason. I will continue to visit you until this diocese does what needs to be done.”

Bishop Tanner cleared his throat. “I’m sure that it appears to you…”

“No, no, Bishop Tanner. This is not a matter of what ‘appears to me.’ This is a matter of the holy writs and the scriptures of the Blessed Oren. This is a matter of what must be.

The Father Above save him from zealots with books. “Ah, but the Gospel of the Blessed Leah-“

“Leah was a heretic and no fit prophet!” The young priest’s shout made the rafters shake and the elders flinch. “Don’t you see – can’t you see? Are you truly so blinded by the taint of this place-“

Bishop Tanner cleared his throat again, far more loudly this time. If Father Macnamilla kept going on about taint, Elder Judith was going to say something, and if she said something –

Well, if she said what he feared, then they would all be in a world of hurt. “Please tell me, Father Macnamilla, your plan, then.”

The priest was only too glad to comply. “The consecrated land of all our churches in this Diocese had been filled with the -” he hesitated, eyed the Bishop, and chose another word “-the unique air of this city, but that air belongs… belongs in places that are not the church. Fairies…” he spoke as if navigating his way through a mindfield, suddenly far quieter “…they do not belong in churches.”

Elder Judith might disagree, but Elder Judith had always understood her place on the Elder Council was on sufferance.

“Fairies do not believe in churches.” Bishop Tanner nodded. “If one ignores the Gospel of the Blessed Leah, this is truth as the Church acknowledges it, yes.”

“And, if the Church is going to remain ascendant and pure, we must purge the fairies from our churches.”

Bishop Tanner hid a wince. This was not the conversation to have in such a forum. “There are doctrines for this, yes.”

“Then why is the Church doing nothing?” Father Macnamilla slammed his fist into his open palm. “I’ll tell you why. Because the congregations have grown soft. Because the priests and the bishops and the cardinals have grown soft. Because fairy magic is tempting and we have all been led into temptation!”

“Father Macnamilla, this is not your pulpit.” Bishop Tanner found the strength to silence the tirade, but he feared it was too late. The words were out.

“No.” The young priest looked not at all calmed. “But I tell you, Bishop Tanner, it is not the pulpit where you will have to worry about me. Unlike many members of the city… my parishioners have not gone soft.”

“If you act outside the doctrines, you will be defrocked.”

“Oh, have no fear, Bishop Tanner.” The man was mad, truly mad. “I will act entirely within the doctrines and gospels.”

He stalked out, leaving Bishop Tanner to calm an agitated elders’ council. Between the elders and the thousand other small crises that attack a diocese in a city fairy-strong, it was weeks before Bishop Tanner truly had time to think about the father’s words again.

And by the time he opened the old doctrines to find what Father Macnamilla was talking about, the blood had already starting spilling.

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The Ramifications of Hair, a continuation

Written as [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon‘s commissioned continuation of Tricked out for her pleasure.

Joe was bound to the bed, naked, as far as he could tell, except for too-many-piercings, and there was an elf woman on top of him. As far as slavery went, this was not what had been in the brochure.

Not that there’d been a brochure, unless you counted I Was A Slave In California documentaries, and Joe had watched more than a few of those, usually while very drunk or very hung-over.

Very hung-over was not dissimilar to the way he was feeling right now. It was like his face had been wrapped in blankets and now he was beginning to see the light – except that right now, the light was either a pillow or a lot of hair.

Hair. She’d said something about braiding. Joe forced himself to pay attention to the situation at hand. “I… I can hold still.” He shook his left wrist, making the chain jangle. “There’s not much option anyway, is there?” He turned his head to look at the elf-woman, but succeeded only in getting a mouthful of hair.

She chuckled throatily at him. “There is always an option. You’re lovely, did I mention?”

Joe coughed. “That’s not what I’m used to people saying.”

“Oh, well, Americans.” She gathered handfuls of his hair in her hands and began finger-combing it. The sensation was strangely pleasant. “They like big, bulging sorts, don’t they? Football players?”

“Mmm. Manly men.” He sounded bitter, and felt a little guilty about it. His country was better than this, than slavery, wasn’t it? Except nobody had told him slavery was about naked women braiding his hair.

“Manly men.” The woman chuckled. “My name is Carienne, by the way. Baroness Carienne ni Scholta O Rhinne, but when we’re alone like this, you can call me Cari.”

Joe tried it out. “Cari.” It sounded like a teenager, not like – “So. I think I remember you buying me?” Wow, that was awkward.

She began finger-combing his hair, pushing a bunch of it to one side of him, a bunch to the other. “I bought you,” she agrees. “You were very well drugged. I was curious to see what you’d be like when you surfaced.”

“Other than tied to the bed?” He jangled one cuff for emphasis. Her hands felt good on his scalp. Nobody had said anything about slavery felt good.

Well, that wasn’t right. But it wasn’t supposed to feel good.

“Other than tied to the bed, yes.” She chuckled. “So, do you think the drugs are gone yet?”

“Well…” Joe thought about it for a moment. “I’m starting to freak out. Because you took me somewhere – and then I had hair. Like, lots of hair. That wasn’t a dream, was it?”

A tug on his head answered the question. He turned as much as he could, and saw the mass of black-and-brown in Cari’s hands. “No. Not a dream.”

“But it’s impossible. I mean, I don’t think that was just a weave…”

She gave another tug, a firmer one this time. Joe swallowed a gasp. “No. not a weave.”

“So…” One things the documentaries had hinted at but never said outright. Joe put his face down on the pillow and let it muffle his answer. “So magic is real?”

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Agreed, a continuation of Arrangements

Written to SkySailor’s commissioned continuation of
Live-In
and
Arrangements
.

It too Adrian two weeks to decide. Sara tried, during those two weeks, to let him have all the breathing room he needed to decide. She made the most of crock-pot and one-dish recipes, shortcuts and take-out, to make sure he didn’t have to feel like meals were waiting on him; she did cursory cleaning every day, and she tried to get enough work done that it didn’t feel like she was waiting on his decision.

That last Friday, he didn’t make it home until past ten in the evening. His eyes were bloodshot, his hands were shaking, and his skin was ashen. He let Sara chivy him into a bathrobe and slippers without even a pretense of an argument, and sipped the doctored hot cocoa, thick with rum, until his cheeks began to get some color.

“Would… would you tell me what to do? If I agreed to be your housewife?”

Sara hesitated. He was so twitchy right now, it seemed like everything might send him over the edge. “I don’t want to boss you around…”

“But I liked it! When you told me to do things, before, I liked that. My job.. they never tell me, they just yell at me when it’s not done!”

Ah. “Ah. I can do that. I can give you direction.” She found herself smiling. “I can even reward you when you get it all done. right.”

“When? Not if?”

“Hey, I’ve seen what you can do. I might have to up the ante, start giving you bonus round tasks.”

“And you’re really okay with – with supporting me?”

“If you’re really okay with being my housewife. Yeah.”

“I…” He was quiet for a few minutes. Then Adrian nodded. “I’ll quit tomorrow.”

Sara gave Adrian a nice manly apron the day he left his job, and a ruffled one with pink polka-dots the next day. They sat down the next night to the best-tasting meal either of them had had in weeks, months, really; it took them less than a week to fall back into a comfortable routine.

And it was great. He’d ask her what he should do, and she’d tell him. He’d go above and beyond, and she’d do something special for him. Sara went back to getting work done, and Adrian was happy again.

Except…

“So, are you happy, being her bitch?” It was game night, and Ellery had been drinking, but that didn’t excuse it.

“When is he going to stop mooching off of you? I can’t believe he quit his job and you’re okay with him staying here!” Rachael wasn’t the best of Sara’s friends, not by far, but she was a shopping-and-coffee-on-Tuesdays sort of friend. Not that it made her opinion okay, but it definitely made it heard.

“Dude, are you just going to let her tell you what to do? What are you, her housewife?” Sara hadn’t even been telling Adrian what to do – they were watching movies with friends, and he’d asked her what wine she thought was good – when Craig came out with that one.

But it gave Adrian something to answer that he could actually answer. When he came back in from the kitchen, he was wearing his apron. The one with the pink polka dots, even. And somewhere he’d gotten a string of costume pearls.

Sara watched him pull himself up straight and hand Craig a glass of wine. “Yes.”

Their so-called friend had already forgotten. “Yes, what?”

Adrian was smiling. Grinning, really. Sara found that she was, too.

“Yes,” she filled in. “He is my housewife. And a damned good one at that.”

“Well, then.” Ellery was clearly trying to make up for his Game Night slip. “Where are you two registered?”

“Cook’s World,” Adrian answered promptly. And thus the idea for their nonwedding was born.

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Arrangements, a continuation of Live-In

Written to [personal profile] perfectworry‘s commissioned continuation of Live-In

Adrian was home late for the fourth time in a week. Sara ordered pizza, washed the dishes from last night’s dinner, gathered all of her dirty clothes and his into a pile, and tried not to swear at the mess.

This was his third week of his job, and they’d held him late almost every day. He was new, he wanted the money, and he “didn’t have anyone at home.” Not, at least, the way his bosses understood having someone at home. Roommates didn’t count.

Sara got the wash in and sat down with her budget book. Adrian had insisted on paying rent the minute he’d gotten a paycheck, but the thing was, somehow it wasn’t making her balance any bigger.

She opened a document – and swore as the pizza arrived. How had she gotten any work done before Adrian moved in? How had she had any time at all to think?

She put the pizza in a warm oven, snatching just one piece, and managed to get a couple hundred words scribbled before the laundry was done. That finished, she was just about to sit down to work again when Adrian stumbled in the door.

He looked like shit. Pretty eyes sunken, complexion sallow, hands wrinkled. His work clothes were just as wrinkled, and his tie was twisted at the bottom, as if he’d been fiddling with it.

“Clothes off,” she demanded, like she had the right. “Into the tub, right now.

“But dinner…”

“I ordered pizza, and you can eat in the tub. Come on, boy. Clothes.”

Like a good obedient boy, he stripped off his clothes.

“In the tub, come on with you.” She started the tub, coaxing him every step of the way, putting in some of her favorite bath oil and setting up the silly little caddy that she never used. “Here, in.”

She took a moment to look at his bare butt, purely out of aesthetics, and then she was setting a plate of pizza on the caddy and fussing at him until he was up to his shoulders in hot water.

Since they’d come this far, it seemed reasonable to sit down on the toilet, lid closed, and eat her own pizza while Adrian, slowly, so slowly, relaxed. “What happened?”

“June called off. I think she quit, actually, but nobody tells me anything. And then everything she screwed up was suddenly my fault, and I had to stay late to fix all of her mistakes, and then later to do my own work.” He thumped his head against the back of the tub.

“Stop that.” She slid a folded towel behind his head. “I gotta ask… is it worth it?”

He opened his eyes, two dark pools studying her. “I don’t want to mooch off you.”

She took a breath. “Adrian… you weren’t. You were doing all the housework and more than half the errands. You were… you were pretty much being my housewife.”

He didn’t say anything for a minute. He bit his pizza, so she bit her pizza. He took another bite. She took another bite.

He swallowed, sipped the soda she’d brought him, swallowed again. She’d never watched his throat so intently. “Can I have a floral apron?”

Sara’s laugh was half because of the joke, but it was half sheer relief. “You can have as many aprons as you want. The minute you quit this job.”

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Next: Agreed.

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