The hallways had been loud and dark all morning. Circia had hidden in her room with her plants and her Biology homework and tried to ignore it. There’d been one time where someone pounded on her door, but she’d shouted “go away,” ignoring the pounding echoing in her head, and nobody else had bothered her.
Now it was nearly dinner time, and Circia found herself both hungry and craving sunlight. Sun was hard to get around here, but if she could make her way to the grotto… Tigg had enjoyed showing her the broad indoor garden, walking her around it, telling her all about the plants. He was a nice guy, if a little too intent on visiting her every day. She wondered if it had been him knocking on her door. Well, he was just going to have to learn about the word “no.”
She hardly noticed the thistles trailing like vines behind her, or the way they wrapped the outside of her door. Somehow, they seemed natural. And, once she had made it into the grotto, it seemed natural that they, like her, would reach up for the sky and the strange indoor sunlight.
When they found her in there, several hours later, Tigg was still complaining of the swelling in his hands. “Isn’t the saying ‘grasp the nettle?’”
Circia barely heard him. Her feet were deep in the dirt and her prickers had all settled into place. The fake sun was warm enough on her face, and she could feel the whole grotto through her vines.
She opened her eyes slowly, to find Professor Valerian, Professor Fridmar, and Tigg staring at her. “I think I’ll stay here for a while,” she informed them sleepily.
The professors, in turn, studied the prickly vines Circia had woven around the carnivorous trees and strange plants that made up the grotto. “Yes. I think you will,” Professor Valerian agreed. Tigg’s whining aside, she thought no-one here would want to grasp this nettle, let alone firmly.
“Poor Regine,” she murmured to Fridmar, as they left Circia to her sun and her dirt. “And poor your students. They do so hate it when they come with natural weaponry.”
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Collars keep coming across my dash on Pinterest, you see. So I decided to write a story.
Image source (here).
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Leithe first shows up here.
Christmas Morning, Year 10 of the Addergoole School
Leithe opened the door Christmas morning – Shang’s door, though he kept saying it was their door – to a stack of brightly-wrapped packages.
“Shang? Did you order… presents?” She tried not to sound hopeful. She tried not to feel hopeful. He wasn’t very good at this whole thing, and she still wasn’t sure he understood that he was supposed to be trying.
“Order? No, uh.” She heard something shuffling around in the room. “I didn’t order any. Why?”
“There’s a stack of presents out here. My name, your name.” She glanced down the hall. “Everyone has them.” In the other direction, she saw Orlaith picking up a stack from outside Accalon’s door. “Not all the same, I don’t think. But everyone has something.”
“Hunh. Well, it is… nope, no ticking. You can bring them in, if you want.”
“I wonder if they’re from my parents. The ones to me, I mean. My parents don’t really write or anything but maybe they sent presents…” She was doing that thing where she kept talking. She pressed her lips together, picked up the presents, and brought them back into the room.
She had to struggle with them – the presents were heavy, and bulky – and was surprised when she found Shang helping her, taking the bulkiest ones from her. “Here. Here, you didn’t say they were that big. What… Idu Unutu… hunh. No poison, no bombs. Over here.”
Over here surprised her again; there was a tiny fake tree on his desk, that hadn’t been there before, and four small presents underneath.
In the hallway, someone was shouting. “Someone got me the Supername CD I wanted. Santa got me the CD I wanted!”
Leithe looked at the presents in her arms, labelled From Santa. Then the looked at Shang.
“Are you smiling? Are you crying?” He looked nervous. That was new.
“Both?” She was pretty sure she was doing both.
“Is that good?”
“I… yes?” She rubbed at her eyes. “Yes. I think so.”
“Good…. that’s good. Merry Christmas, Leithe.”
Outside, another voice was shouting about a rare strand of black pearls. Leithe shut the door.
“Merry Christmas, Shang.”
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“…He needs someone to protect him.”
“And you think that that should be me?”
“I think it probably shouldn’t be me. And you need someone who isn’t me.”
“You don’t get to decide what I need anymore.”
From Kuro_Neko’s commissioned continuation of the Ceinwen-and-Thorburn-in-Year10 story
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Monday after Hell Night, Year 10 of the Addergoole School.
“You know what you have to do.”
“Damaris, this is ridiculous. And why are you so angry at me?”
“…you know, forget it. I’ll get over being angry soon enough. Look. You know what you’ve got to do.”
“It’s still ridiculous.” They’d gone around that loop enough times that it ought to be the chorus of a song. You know what you have to do/but it’s ridiculous and I don’t want to./You’re acting like a fool/ But wasn’t I yours, your fool?
Damaris huffed. “For once, just listen to me, would you?”
“I’m trying.” He could tell her breath was uneven and her pulse was racing. She was clearly upset and getting more so. Shang tried for a more placating tone. “Damaris, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll go along with it.”
“Even the collar?”
“Even the collar. I think it’s…” He stopped himself. “Because I said something to keep Curry and Basalt off of her?”
“Because you walked into Curry and Basalt’s trap. Or walked her into it, whatever. Yes. It’s how the school works, Shang.”
I liked the part where the school worked me in your arms. Not this part where I have to move a stranger in with me. “All right.” Because it made her happy.
“Don’t touch those, geez, stop it.”
“But I need…” Leithe lifted her hands off the stack of CDs as if they’d burned her.
“Shut up, okay?” Shang glowered. He’d liked Leithe. She was normal, easy to talk to, the sort of girl he would have been interested in, before Addergoole. She was generally just a nice person.
And he was being a heel to her. Because she persisted on trying to cuddle up to him, and to act like she was his girlfriend.
She wasn’t his girlfriend. Damaris was his girlfriend. Even if she’d “released him from his promise.” Even if she’d taken the collar off. Even if she barely spoke to Shang anymore.
“I’m just trying to pick up. You told me I could pick up.”
Had he? He thought he’d said something like that. “Don’t. There’s CDs everywhere.”
“I could organize them.”
“No! God, no, they’re already organized!” He glared at her. “Why do you keep on doing that?”
“I’m just trying to make you happy.”
“Don’t! Don’t try to make me happy, don’t try to please me, don’t guess what you think I want. Just… go jump in a pond or something. Give me some space.”
She fled the room, already sobbing. Shang put his face in his hands. He was being an asshole. He hated being a jerk. But everything had gone wrong the minute he’d said she was his, and he just didn’t know how to make things right.
He tidied the room. He reorganized the stacks of CDs so she could actually get into the dresser where her clothes were stored. He washed the dishes, and sorted his clothes so she had more room. He was just beginning to wonder if he was supposed to go after her when someone pounded on his door.
Not Agra, please, not Damaris. He opened the door.
His Mentor was holding a soaking-wet Leithe, holding her so she couldn’t run away, and she was definitely trying to. “You and I,” Luke’s voice was a snarl, “need to have a talk about orders.”
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The first thing Clarisse Martin did when she came to school was cut her hair short and dye it blue.
The upperclassmen found this a little bit amusing – after all, changing yourself when the school Changes you so much, so quickly, seemed a little overkill – but the teachers said nothing, and none of the other students actually said anything to her about it.
Clarisse found the lack of commentary strange, but, since she hadn’t done it for them, was unworried by it. She found the few giggles from older students completely understandable, and ignored them.
When the Reveal on the first Friday of classes showed Clarisse and the rest of the Tenth Cohort some of what they’d gotten into, Clarrise walked slowly to the doctor’s office, running her fingers through her hair. It explained a lot – but she liked her hair blue.
Her Change knocked her off her feet only literally, fusing her legs together from the ankle down into a sort of tail. “I believe there is more coming,” Dr. Caitrin theorized. “In the meantime, getting around might be a little tricky. We’ll work something out.”
It was the kind of situation that could get you down. It was the kind of situation where being stared at wasn’t so much a matter of why as which of the myriad of reasons are you noticing? Clarisse tried to keep her chin up and a smile on her face. It wasn’t about them, she reminded herself. This was her thing to deal with.
When the man with the terrifying blue eyes managed to convince her to be his – it was Hell Night, her wheelchair had gotten thrown across the hall, and he had a voice like a heavenly melody – she accepted the collar, the oro’ at the end of her name, and the rules without argument. They weren’t, in the end, about her; like a school uniform, they hung on her like accessories.
But when, angry after a bad day at school and frustrated over her wheelchair and her slow-as-molasses change, he began shouting at hr, Clarisse shook her head and met her Keeper’s eyes.
“You’re a no-good, stupid bitch…”
“You don’t get to tell me no.“
“You get to tell me what to do.” She touched the collar around her neck with three fingers. “You don’t get to tell me who I am.”
He stared, stunned into speechlessness.
Clarisse kept talking. “You get to decide where I go. What I say. What I wear, if you’re so inclined. You don’t get to decide who I am.”
He said nothing, but touched her hair – still short, still blue, almost the same color as his eyes – with three fingers. His other hand touched the place where her ankles had fused together.
He didn’t have a hand to touch her self with.
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Third in a series of character-building vignettes following a bunch of characters through their time at Addergoole & beyond.
Late December, Year 10 of the Addergoole School.
“Seriously?” Rohanna flopped back down in her chair, making as much noise as she could with the sitting.
“Seriously. Ro, I want to talk about the way you’ve been acting.” Dyfri looked at her with big, green eyes, somehow managing to make it seem like he was looking up at her, despite the fact that he was standing and she was sitting.
“What about it?” She kicked her feet out, taking up as much space as possible. He might have said sit, but he hadn’t said sit nicely. Yet. Dyfri was weird with orders, really. He’d dance around giving her any orders at all, and then suddenly pop out with a whole bunch of ridiculous orders out of nowhere. “I’ve been acting like me.”
“Really?” He pulled up the second chair and sat down, backwards, like he was trying to be casual. Like he was trying to be her friend. “It looks to me like you’re trying to cause as much trouble for me as you possibly can.”
Rohanna felt a surge of guilt. Bad girl. Troublesome Kept. She pushed it down ruthlessly. “Maybe you should let me go, then. Since, you know, I’m so much trouble.”
“We both know I’m not going to do that. If I let you go, someone else will just grab you. And you’ve been doing pretty well at making yourself all the enemies, Ro. You don’t want one of them to grab you, believe me.”
She didn’t need the order. She knew that. “I know what I’m getting into now. They won’t be able to sneak up on me and grab me like you did. Trick me into it.”
“They won’t need to. The guys – and girls – you’ve pissed off, they’ll just go straight for the Control Mind and you’ll find yourself saying the words anyway.”
“Like being Kept.”
“And then you will be Kept. By someone not as nice as me. So, tell me, what do I need to do to get you to stop acting out so much?”
The order – whether he’d meant it or not – forced the truth out of her, when she hadn’t decided yet what she was going to tell him. “Order me not to.”
“Seriously?” It was his turn to look incredulous.
She yanked on the necklace he’d given her – seashells! – in lieu of a collar. “I’m yours. You won’t let me go. I Belong to you. Act like it.”
“Ro…” He looked like a sad kicked-puppy, and Ro felt even worse. “I don’t want to be that guy.”
“You’re responsible for me.” She fought through the rising guilt to be as firm as she could. “Be responsible.”
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/540611.html. You can comment here or there.
Second in a series of character-building vignettes following a bunch of characters through their time at Addergoole & beyond. Orlaith we’ve seen much later in her life, in the series with her son Hunter-Hale and her later Kept Adder.
The Dreamwidth icon is Orlaith’s daughter Ce’Rilla.
Content warning: Hell Night
Hell Night, Year 10 of the Addergoole School
“Come on, come on, be mine and all the pain will stop.” Someone – she couldn’t see who – had Orlaith bent backwards until she felt like her spine would snap, another hand on her ankles like he was trying to turn her into a wheel. Orlaith made a little noise of pain, and then did the thing she did best.
“Come on,” she echoed back at him, but her tone was coaxing, harmless. “You don’t really want me, do you? You want a prettier girl. Someone stronger, someone more obedient? I’m not really your type of girl, am I?”
She didn’t know what was going on, but she was pretty sure if it involved having your spine nearly snapped to get there, she didn’t want any of it.
“Yeah, I probably don’t want you. Hurry up, get out of here.”
And like that, he let her go. Orlaith wasted no time at all in getting out of there. Sometimes, they listened when she did that. A lot of the time, after she stopped talking, they changed her mind.
“That was impressive.” The voice came out of nowhere – smooth, slick. Ora felt an urge to trust the speaker; she turned around to look at him and the urge was overwhelming. Skinny, short for a guy but still taller than her, with dyed-red hair – but all of that was almost a memory, someone she’d seen in the halls. All she could see, now, looking at him, were his eyes, amber as a cat’s and every bit as creepy.
“Of course. And now, pretty little liar… now you’re going to be mine. Tempero Intinn Orlaith cy’Valerian. Say that you’re mine.“
“I’m yours.” She couldn’t have said no if she’d wanted to, but she didn’t find herself really wanting to, either.
“Good. Now, Orlaith oro’Accalon, you and I are going to have a talk about judicious use of powers.”
His stern tone sent a strange tingling down to her toes. “What? Powers?” She looked as innocent as she could. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, really. Was I?
He tapped her nose with two fingers. “First, do not use your power on me. Secondly, if you do not learn to corral it on your own, I will corral it for you. And, so you know I’m serious… sit down.”
Orlaith found herself sitting on the carpeted hall, feeling miserably like she’d let down this complete stranger. “What…?” Judicious use of your powers.
“I think this is going to be an educational year for you, Orlaith.”
She was suddenly worried that it would be.
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Nilam is an Addergoole: Yr9 characters. Forrester comes to school in Year 10.
She had thought she was done with him when he took the collar off her neck.
She walked away; he walked away. Neither of them were comfortable with the way the last year had gone. Neither of them wanted to be friends. They were over.
She had thought she was done with him when the dreams stopped.
She had a new Kept, a lovely boy who didn’t fight her too hard and made the sweetest noises when she had to punish him. She curled up around him at night and, after a few months, she stopped dreaming of her former Keeper. They were over.
She thought she was done with him when he graduated.
Their daughter looked nothing like him and everything like her. Her dreams had stopped, the whispers of his Words not coming through, anymore, even when she scolded her Kept. She didn’t say, anymore: good Kept do this, bad Kept do that, the way she had learned his Keeper’s Keeper had said. She didn’t punish her Kept for having thoughts. And she didn’t dream about him anymore. They were over.
She thought she was done with him when she graduated.
She was leaving everyplace she’d ever known him, every place she’d ever seen him. She was leaving the last places that echoed with his name – and all the classmates that knew Forrester was Kept by Nilam, and look what that did. She was leaving everything behind that could in any way suggest Nilam. Everything.
She walked out of her new apartment and walked right into her former Keeper.
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