This is set in the same universe as Lady Taisiya’s Fourth Husband , a world where women are far more rare than men and most women have at least three husbands. Men co-raise their wife’s children (“egglings”), but there is a strict hierarchy within the household.
“You are, without a doubt, the most difficult child I have ever had the misfortune to know.”
Pontlin was not Kivo’s shell-father — that was Yurnan, Lady Ruhinna’s most junior husband — but he was the senior husband and thus the senior father in the nursery, and he had taken a dislike to Kivo early. This wasn’t even the first time Kivo had heard this particular tirade this cycle, although Pontlin, who had wanted to be a performer, always added a certain twist to his lectures, a bit of dramatic flair.
“It is as if you look, specifically, for the most vexing thing you could do, and then try in some manner to make it more vexing…”
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It was a week into the Keeping that things went south.
If it had been on the first or second or third order, the second day or third, Vercingetorix might have freed her and tried to get a promise not to mess with him in retaliation. But no, it was a week in and even if he’d wanted to, she’d learned too much.
“Go do the dishes, and then work on your homework.” It’d been a long day, and they were both tired; her magic class was exhausting, which he might have remembered if he’d been thinking straight.
“No.” Glaucia looked at him as if challenging him to say something. “I need something to eat, I’m falling over, and I don’t have any homework. Why don’t you do the dishes?”
And, much to his surprise, Vercingetorix had found himself washing the dishes.
To his further surprise, he found his Kept sitting in the armchair, knees to her chest and hands over her face, delicate fins sticking up behind her thumbs.
He took her to Caitrin’s, of course, because he remembered Changing without the pain meds and would wish that on nobody. And in the cuddling and reassuring and watching her little fins and webs and scales come in, Vercingetorix pretty much forgot about the thing with the dishes and so did Glaucia.
The next time was a couple days later, when she started arguing with him about sleeping arrangements. “If you don’t like it,” he bellowed, “sleep on the floor!”
“No! I don’t see why I should. You sleep on the floor!”
And not only did Vercingetorix find himself curled up in the corner of the room with a spare pillow, not entirely sure what had happened, but he felt miserable, like he’d just yelled at his Keeper.
In Vercingetorix’s defense, this sort of thing rarely happened, and he’d never heard stories of it before, not even rumors or whispers. The Kept bond was a Law; you couldn’t break it. Thus, it took him a little while to figure out what was going on.
It took Glaucia a little less time, because she had far less preconceptions to work from. Her Keeper had been able to make her feel miserable and tell her what to do; now she could share that. One made as much sense as the other.
Once she’d figured it out, it was easy to figure out that she should subtle with it – not all his orders were annoying, not everything he did was unpleasant, so she pushed back only when she found what he was doing onerous or annoying (or when she was having a bad day).
If she’d stayed with being sneaky, it might have taken Vercingetorix even longer to figure out what was going on. But since she was a curious-minded individual, she started experimenting with the bonds of her new trick. And when she started pushing things, Vercingetorix finally went from “something is weird here” to understanding what was going on.
Of course, by then, it would prove almost impossible for him to release her.
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Prolly nigh on 50 years after Addergoole: Year 5
She wasn’t really sure why her last owners released her.
She’d done (almost) everything right, and had been (relatively) docile and obedient. She’d been trying to learn, and Owners Number Three had taught her quite a bit. But ‘why they released her’ wasn’t part of it.
They’d given her a nice big pack of stuff, too. The girl who had once been Delaney looked at it for the third time. There was enough in here to survive for a month, if she decided to wander. There was enough to trade for… well, a whole bunch of booze, if she felt like that, instead.
She wasn’t really sure what she felt like. She’d been under the collar for what she thought was probably a decade, and before that… before that, she’d been insane, cracked, and, if the stories and her vague memories were true, psychotic and sadistic.
That person had a string of homes and wealth scattered across the country. The person she was now wasn’t sure where any of it was – or if any of it was still where she’d left it. She’d shared everything with a partner, after all. And that partner was gone.
She stared down the road. It curved through wasteland and farmland, through places she didn’t remember being and places she might never have been. And it was all hers. She could do whatever she wanted.
The horse-drawn wagon clomped up beside her. “Going west, Miss?”
“I am.” At least, that was the direction she was pointed in. “I could give you..” she touched her pocket. “Twenty dollars Sondaran for a ride.”
“Ten will do. Hop on in.”
The man in the driver’s seat reminded her of Amish, long ago – beard and straw hat, plain shirt and plain pants. She wondered if the Amish had survived. “Thanks.” She passed over the money, first.
“My pleasure. My name’s Amos, by the by.”
She’d prepared for this. She had more than enough reasons to leave that old name behind her. But she’d needed a new one. “Ellery.” She smiled brightly. “You can call me El.”
She had a fresh start, and she was going to take it.
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This is in the Fae Apoc Setting, which has a landing page here.
One thing Dylan was glad for, when they’d moved into the internment camp they were supposed to be guarding and started guarding it against intruders instead of escapes, when they’d become, more or less, farmers and homesteaders, a small community against the outside world, when they’d finally armed the fae because, really, nothing but manners was stopping them from taking the weapons anyway – one thing he was glad for, when it was all said and done, was that his babies would not be old enough to date for many years, enough years that the war would, god-in-heaven willing, be done by then.
Not that he had anything against the Ellehemaei, but, when you came down to it, did you really want your daughter bringing home a boy that looked like a snake? Or, god-in-heaven forbid, what happened when your son came home, like Jose’s son Miguel had, saying, “Dad, I got her pregnant…” and you find out that “her” might be a pretty girl, but she had a peacock’s tail and wings, and Jose’s grandkids were eggs. Eggs! No, better to keep Marilyn and Jack close to home, playing with other human kids.
Miguel and his pretty bird were only the first, of course. All crammed together like that, and the internees had a lot of teens, and the guards, well, they had kids, and they had sex drives, the guards and the kids and the teens, all of them. They held weddings, mixed shindigs no less convoluted than some Dylan had seem at straight human marriages, and they had affairs, and even Dylan got propositioned by the pretty girl with the goaty bits.
He turned her down – they were at a wedding, for one, and he was faithful to his lovely Kaylee, for another – but it made him look twice, the next time he saw Miguel and his bird, or Curt’s kid Tasha with the boy with tentacles. He had a few words with Kaylee, and they started putting together baby gifts from what they could. A budding family was a budding family, after all, even if they were hatched. Or, for that matter, budded.
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The pay was good.
That’s what Dylan told himself when he took the job. It was good pay, better than anything else a washout jock had right to expect. It let him support Kaylee and their baby girl and, a year later, their baby boy, and it was out in the middle of nowhere – just about the safest place to be, if it weren’t for the monsters they were guarding.
Not that they looked like monsters, or acted like monsters, or quacked like ducks in any way. Sure, they looked a little funny, and had a little bit of magic here and there, but that was like calling housecats dangerous because they bore a faint resemblance to tigers.
But the pay was really good. Dylan reminded himself of that when his fellow guards made rude cracks, the sort of stuff that, if it had been any ethnicity and not faeries, El-hee-may as they called themselves, would have gotten them fired, sued, and blacklisted. He reminded himself of new shoes on his baby girl’s feet and the little cottage Kaylee loved so much when a squirmy kid with scales like a snake’s bit him and his hand swelled up for a day and a half.
The day that the teenaged girl with the goaty bits came crying to him (because he was the nice guard) because three of the other assholes had gotten her in a corner and threatened to do worse if she told, he went home and held his family tight for hours, and wondered if any amount of money could really be worth it.
The paychecks stopped coming a week later.
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