The below story is Tír na Cali and includes slavery, previous abuse, and people who believe in the system as it stands.
It came from a comment by Sky:”What if the Californians have things similar to animal shelters for lost and abandoned slaves?,” and was prompted also in part by a ficlet cluudle wrote about the same idea.
Shauna had been running.
She hadn’t been running away, no. She’d been moving past her owner’s fields and into the suburbs, staying out of sight, staying quiet and low and unimportant. She’d managed to disable the tracker on her collar and the identity chip but not the latch itself, and that was all right. Because if the collar had come off, she’d be a runaway. And runaway slaves did not get sold to nice places and they did not have nice prospects.
No, she was just running, just moving away from her master’s property at a quick pace. Too quick: she slipped on a culvert and fell, skidding down the concrete edge and hitting her head on the curb.
She woke in a bed, in a place with no traffic sounds and the smells of the forest wafting in. She opened her eyes slowly, feeling for pain and finding none. Her master owned no place that smelled like this. Had his son found her? Had…
A woman smiled at her. She was dressed in soft colors and soft fabrics; her eyes were blue and her hair was brown, and she was not wearing a collar. She was holding a tablet, and sitting comfortably near Shauna’s bedside. “Welcome.” Even her voice was soft. “You are in the Rescue Shelter.”
“Thank-” she swallowed to wet her throat, and tried again. “Thank you, ma’am.” The room she was in was not large – big enough for the bed and the chair, a small dresser and a big window. But they were the only ones in it. “What-“
“The Rescue Shelter is a recovery facility for abused slaves.” Even though the woman’s voice was still gentle, there was an edge to the words. “When you were brought in, you had quite a bit of damage, and most of it could not be explained away by the culvert in which you were found.”
Shauna winced. There had been “damage,” yes. She had done her best to hide it, for as long as she could. Her owner loved his son.
“We’ve documented all of it. A tenth of it would be enough to have you removed from the home, you know.”
Shauna had not known. She looked away from the earnest, soft woman. “Slaves that get removed, they don’t get sold to nice places, do they? They don’t get to be Chatelaines or Head Cooks or, or Companions.”
The woman smiled again, gently but proudly. “When you are recuperated, I can introduce you to several people who have gone through either this Rescue Shelter or another like it and gone on to hold very esteemed positions indeed. The people who tell you otherwise are those who don’t want you to complain, even when your treatment is illegal and immoral.”
“You’re… you’re not an abolitionist, are you?”
“Oh, no. I’m not one of those sad people who wants to do away with the whole system, no. I just want the system to work the way it’s supposed to. Now…” She looked at her tablet and smiled, before meeting Shauna’s eyes again. “Your collar data chips were damaged, I imagine in the fall. Would you like to tell us your former owner’s name?”
Former. Shauna swallowed. “No, ma’am, please. It wasn’t his fault.”
“Very well. Would you like to tell us your name?”
Shauna shook her head and pressed her lips together. Her name was on record. There were only so many slave-Shaunas in the country.
“All right.” The woman moved things around on her tablet for a moment. “We could call you… ah, that’s a good one. How does Hope sound?”
Unbelievable. But… nice. “I like it,” Shauna – Hope – offered.
“Then that’s what we’ll call you. Nice to meet you, Hope.” The woman half-bowed from her chair. “I’m Cariadad ni Rougan, but you can call me Carrie.”
Tír na Cali has a landing page here.
Setting notes: grey eyes & red hair indicate being a part of the ruling class, thus Cariadad’s blue eyes are comforting because she is probably not high-class.
ni Rougan is interesting because only bastards take “daughter of their father” such (and the ap Gwydion, but they’re another story); a bastard is someone whose mother has no name (i.e., a slave) or would not claim her.
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