January 16, 2013 by Lyn
Monday, January 12, 2004
It wasn’t the first time Lee had felt left out.
It wasn’t even the first time in Addergoole that he’d felt left out: until Master and Mistre… Lucian and Thessaly had cornered him and dragged him home with them, Lee had been hanging out with Shang and Kyle, wondering what the hell was happening to all their friends. Collars everywhere, people suddenly getting all hangdog and miserable, nobody could say anything about it, and nobody could come hang out anymore. It was like the weirdest friend’s-got-a-girlfriend syndrome ever.
Lee knew what was going on with the collars, now. By now even Kyle had a collar, and that left Shang wandering around lost and confused, Shang, Jovanna, and, somehow, Xanthia, of their entire year. But somehow, even having gotten dragged into slavery, tied up in a closet, beaten and he-wasn’t-allowed-to-even-think-the-R-word… somehow, Addergoole still managed to find a way to leave Lee out of something.
He’d seen Boom – he wasn’t allowed to talk to Boom, after an incident where he asked Leo something and almost got bit by Zita – dragging something that looked like a horse out the entrances he couldn’t see. The doors hurt his head; they were there, they had to be, but the harder he tried to see them, the less hall he could see at all.
He had seen Nilam get carried to the infirmary beaten all to Hell, and Nilam’s Keeper didn’t quite look like the sort (then again, Tess didn’t look like the sort, unless you actually knew her). He’d seen the weird graffiti all over the place, and then there’d been that trip to the Arcade where the hall was missing when they tried to leave. He knew, technically, Ninth Cohort students weren’t allowed to be out in the halls alone… but since he wasn’t allowed to leave the room anyway, it didn’t really matter for him.
The thing was, Lee knew there was something nefarious going on. He’d known this school had dark and creepy secrets even before he’d known everyone here was a magical fairy. He’d known things were all spooky and mysterious back when Noam and Quintus were still trying to tell him there was nothing wrong, nothing to see here. Creepy goblins in the halls! Mysterious ghosts leaving graffiti! Addergoole was haunted!
Haunted would even explain the screaming and yelling he’d heard from the back of the doctor’s office when he was in there Saturday. Tess and Lucian were very good about leaving no visible marks, but that didn’t stop Dr. Caitrin from insisting on weekly checkups. This time, she’d left him in the exam room for an hour while something in the back room screamed incoherently. Lee hadn’t minded. She always left a Gameboy there. It was the quietest time he had most weeks.
So the school was haunted, or maybe it was full of goblins, or maybe it was haunted with dead goblins. Something. Everyone seemed to know what was going on – except Shang, probably – and nobody would tell Lee anything.
Then again, he got the feeling nobody was telling his Owners anything, either.
“Hey, Nilam…” He had History with Nilam. Neither of their owners, or no one in either of their owner’s crews (though Lee’s owners didn’t believe in crew – they had each other, and that was enough, apparently), or anyone else they cared about was in that class. Usually, they could kick back and talk a little bit, shoot the shit, pretend they were still normal human beings and not crazy slave fairies.
“I can’t…” Nilam turned to Ahouva, sitting behind him. “I can’t talk to Lee.”
“Shit, really? Why not?”
This was his life, he guessed, that the telephone game didn’t even seem all that weird. Nilam glanced at him, frowned, and then glanced back at Ahouva. “Margherita is unhappy with Thessaly and Lucian. I guess they have some history. Tess and Lucian…”
“Yeah.” Ahouva nodded. She got this little frown when she was thinking, with the squinched-up look between her eyebrows that made her look way too cute for someone who was currently dating a slab of rock. “They tried that on Kendon. And then on Basalt.”
“Tried what?” His Owners tried a lot of shit, but he couldn’t figure out what they’d have tried that would make Ahouva make that face. “What are they…” Could he say that? The orders got kind of vague and squirrely when Thessaly had been drinking, or, worse, when Lucian had the bong out.
“Borrowing me.” Ahouva twitched a bit. “I guess they try it a lot.”
“Borro… oh. Hunh.” Lee chewed on his lip. “I wonder why? I mean…” He tried not to think about it too much. He was pretty sure he had an order in there, too, not to worry about it when Tess and Lucian sent him away for the night. Not to think about it too much. “Hunh.” It was hard not to worry. He didn’t like it when he didn’t make them happy. Things got way too interesting when he didn’t make his Owners happy. “Hey,” he said instead, because it looked like Ahouva could talk to him. “Do you know what’s going on with the ghosts and the goblins?”
“Ghosts and goblins? Lee, Hallowe’en was a long time ago.”
“Not those ghosts! Did anyone really dress up as a goblin for Hallowe’en? I mean, seriously, and ghost is the laziest costume there is, as long as you don’t mind holes in your sheets. I mean here, sure, you can just jas-thing the sheets fixed when you’re done, but…”
“Lee.” Ahouva waved her hand in front of his face. “Lee, what ghosts?”
“Oh, the ones screaming in the doctor’s office.”
“Is he sure that wasn’t a student?”
“Are you sure… oh, you heard him.”
“Well, no, except that most students don’t really scream ‘let me out…’ well, okay, maybe it was a student.” Lee sighed. “This place is a real trap.”
“Yeah.” Ahouva’s hand fluttered in mid-air, and finally settled on her neck, next to her collar. “Even when it’s not bad, it’s still a trap. It’s still… “ Her other hand went down to her belly, and some order or another of Lee’s made his brain seize up for a moment.
“Belly ache?” He smiled, ha-ha, let’s play along, okay? “I’ve got some Tums.”
“No, it’s… yeah. I don’t need the Tums though, thanks. I’ll make it to lunch and then go see the doctor.”
“Look, when you’re in the doctor’s, look for the screaming ghosts, okay?” Screaming ghosts seemed like the better option right now. “Or hidden cameras.”
“They’re not all that hidden.” Nilam’s face turned funny colors, and he scooted further away from Lee. People could be real assholes with their orders. “The cameras, Ahouva. I mean, you’ve seen them, haven’t you?”
There were really cameras? Lee had been – not really joking, but saying the first thing that came to his mind.
Ahouva looked surprised, too. “I haven’t seen them. Basalt said something about them, when he…” she flapped her hand. “You know, with the challenge.”
Even Lee had heard about the challenge. “When he stole you?” he offered. That’s what Thessaly and Lucian called it. That, and other things. “I heard it was really messy.”
Smooth, Lee. Ahouva was turning funny colors, and he didn’t think it was part of her Change, unlike his. “It was bad. We can hurt each other a lot, fae – Ellehemaei.” She winced as she corrected herself, shoulders pulling forward.
“Yeah.” Lee’s shoulders pulled up in sympathy. “I’ve noticed.” He could say that. If he didn’t think about what he’d noticed. And he didn’t really like thinking about it. “So screaming ghosts? Wait, no, hidden cameras?”
“Cameras!” From the other side of Ahouva, Reese leaned in. The squirrel sort of freaked Lee out. He couldn’t figure him… her… it out, and he…she… they seemed all over the place. “Cameras in the walls. Didn’t someone tell you? They watch everything, except in your rooms, because of the thresholds.”
“Dude.” Lee laughed. “You sound like a conspiracy theory nut. What?” Everyone around them – even Phillipa, who almost never said anything, enough that Lee forgot she was around most of the time – had started laughing. “What?”
“Dude.” The big Viking guy – okay, the school had a lot of this – the big redheaded Viking guy, Rory maybe? – leaned over from the other side. “Have you ever heard yourself? You and Reese are like soulmates.”
“Nuh-unh!” Lee shook his head. “I don’t believe in soulmates, and besides…”
The squirrel was looking at him sort of strangely. “Besides,” he finished Lee’s sentence, “he Belongs to Thessaly and Lucian.”
“Like that stopped Eff last year?” Rory shook his head. “Come on, Reese, you’ve never met anyone quite as crazy as you – except Lee. Match made in heaven.”
“I wanted a girl.” The squirrel muttered it. “I don’t want to….” He shut up as Ahouva slapped her hand over his mouth. Lee was glad. The conversation was weird enough as it is.
“I tell you what, if you…” The Viking stopped himself short. “Look, we’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“Mmrrf mrrf… Nothing to talk about.” But Reese was looking at Lee sideways.
“Dude.” Lee pulled himself back into his chair. “I am not a nut.”
He pretended he didn’t know why everyone started laughing at that.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Crazy nuts aside, the idea of hidden cameras made a lot of sense. It still didn’t explain the ghosts – hidden speakers, too? – but it explained some of the way his Mistress and Master acted in the hallways. And the place they’d chosen to jump him, although really preferred not to think about that too much, if he could help it.
After all, Lee wouldn’t have shoved a bunch of juvenile alien monsters together in a locked place without some way of checking up on them, unless he wanted bloodshed.
Then again, aside from Caitrin, he wasn’t sure the staff didn’t want bloodshed.
Thessaly and Lucian hadn’t remembered to tell him to come home after magic class today. Sometimes they forgot. They usually punished him for forgetting, but they would find some reason to punish him anyway, and Lee really wanted to know about the hidden cameras.
And the secret plot. The secret plots were really starting to get to him. All the whispers and the mutters and the blood-streaks, and everyone looking so solemn.
He’d gotten stupid and asked Master and Mistress about Reese last night. He’d tried to be all casual about it, but it had just gotten him shut up and stuck in a corner anyway.
He liked it better when they hit him. It was horrible, and he knew it was fucked up, but when they stuck him in a corner, it was like he could be there forever and they’d never even notice. Like he stopped existing to them at all.
But, aside from the order not to talk about Reese at all – which was fine with him, he didn’t really want to think about the squirrel, either – he’d found out that they’d owned Reese, for a bit, last year. And then, he guessed, Efrosin had happened.
He supposed if anyone was going to steal a squirrel out from under someone, having it be the cat made sense.
He’d gotten the same funny look from Reese in History class again. Like the squirrel was trying to figure out a way to stick him in a tree somewhere for winter.
Lee had an order, he thought, somewhere in the mess that was like “don’t worry about when you’re free. It’ll happen when we’re bored with you, and not before.” So he wasn’t, really, worried. The squirrel couldn’t put him in a tree unless he was free. Even if the squirrel did smell like plots and plans and, most especially, trouble.
Being sandwiched between a crazy squirrel and a giant Viking who both thought he was very interesting was getting a little bit stressful.
But right now he wasn’t sandwiched between anyone! He was out in the hall, and nobody had noticed him (he couldn’t quite go transparent, but he was learning to be nearly not-there, which was usually a really useful trick, except when it wasn’t).
And now that he had a couple moments of quiet, Lee got to work. Idu and Hiko weren’t his best words, but they were in the top four, and, what was better, he really liked Idu Hiko, and when he combined it with his power thingie, he could sniff out electric stuff and especially magic-touched electric stuff like nobody’s business. He just had to go where his eyes were watering and he was sneezing like mad. Easy.
He found the first camera down at the end of the classroom hallway, where nobody was bothering to hang out right now. He could see, if he squinted and sneezed, the way it connected back to the gym. Probably to Luke’s office. Wired system, old school. Not surprising, this place was the definition of old-school. Ha. New school, old-school.
The camera was almost completely hidden. If he peered, he could see the place the decorations on the ceiling-wall corner were a little strange, where the lens must be, but they were covered in something, a Working probably, or just some good mundane camouflage. Whoever had installed them knew what they were doing.
But they couldn’t cover everything, could they? He backed up down the hallway, squinting at the camera, looking for the next one. No, if he stood right here – oh, the nooks. They’d set up the cameras so the nooks were almost entirely private – except that one. The one that was the furthest from everything else, so people liked to go hide in it. That was evil. Lee felt a blush coming to his cheeks. He and Lucian had… that was beside the point. It wasn’t like he’d had much of a choice in the matter.
And then a camera there, and one there. So almost every bit of the halls up here ought to be covered. And then into the lunchroom, which had more cameras than a prison. Which, of course, this was. And then down to the auditorium… and straight into someone’s chest.
“Woah, tall, blue, and lanky.” Shit, it was the red Viking. Holding up both hands and grinning. “Shouldn’t you be back home or something? Halls aren’t safe for a Ninthie right now.”
“It’s not like any place in this school is safe.” He’d almost figured out the whole web of cameras on this floor. He didn’t want to get sent to his room like a naughty kid. “And besides, you’re not going to let the ghosts get me.”
“Still on the ghosts, hunh?”
“Well, it’s not like anyone tells me anything.”
“That’s your Keeper’s job.”
“So if they want me to stay in the dark, I’m staying in the dark? That sucks.”
“Welcome to Addergoole, kid. The parts that don’t suck are pretty awesome, but the parts that suck…”
“Really suck hardcore. Thanks, I figured that out.”
“I bet you have. Hunh. There might be ghosts. It would explain a few things I’ve heard, and a few things people have said. But there’s things that can hurt you, too.”
Lee shrugged that off angrily. It wasn’t like his Owners didn’t do that whenever they felt like it. “Yeah. Bottom of the totem pole, I get it.”
“Only for a little while. Look, if you need…”
“Nope. Don’t need anything. Don’t want anything. Not asking for anything.” Couldn’t if he wanted to, and he was pretty sure he didn’t want to get rescued by a Viking. Nothing saying he’d be any better, and then he’d have Tess and Lucian as enemies. They were hard enough to have liking him.
He could smell the frustration coming off of Rory. “Look, I’m not coming on to you.”
Lee laughed shortly. That was the least of his worries right now. “What, you’re trying to help?”
“I… look, why don’t you go back to your room before the teachers find you.”
“What are they going to do?” Lee really just wanted to be left alone, but if this guy was going to make a scene, he was damn well going to make a scene right back. “Look, just leave me alone, okay? I don’t need any of whatever you’re selling today.”
“Kid, if you don’t go back to your room, I’m going to have to drag you back there, and then there’s going to be a scene, and we both know Tess and Lucian don’t like scenes.”
Lee winced. “No. Look, can you just pretend you didn’t see me?” Maybe pissing off the big Viking wasn’t the best plan, hunh?
“I can pretend I didn’t see you if the last place I don’t see you is heading down stairs towards your room. “
Shit. Well, he wasn’t going to get any further on the cameras today. He’d have to find another time to sneak out. “Sure. Thanks.” He hesitated. “Hey, does everyone but me know about the cameras?”
“Hunh? Oh. Well, my Keeper didn’t tell me about them my first year, either. I don’t know if she knew. Could be her Keeper didn’t tell her.”
“‘By the way, watch out, Big Brother’s really watching you?’ Seems like the sort of thing people should know.”
“Yeah, can’t say I disagree. But again. If your Keepers didn’t want you to know the sky was blue…”
“Yeah.” Lee shrugged. “Well. You didn’t see me, so obviously you didn’t tell me anything.” It wasn’t like they ever asked him anything, anyway.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
The Master and Mistress were drunk again.
This was, normally, not a good thing. Lee did his best, normally, when they got shit-faced, to be invisible, or at least as far out of the way as possible. It usually didn’t work. They didn’t, normally, get drunk enough to forget that they had a Kept to play with.
They hadn’t forgotten today, either. They’d given him a little to drink, at least; Lee didn’t, normally, like to get drunk, but sometimes, as the Mistress said, a little brain lubrication helped things along.
He’d needed more than they’d given him, today, but he wasn’t going to think about that.
The things he wasn’t thinking about were starting to crowd his brain. Pretty soon, he wouldn’t have room for anything he actually wanted to think about.
Maybe his brain would shut off then. That might be nice.
They had him in bed with them, of course, but they’d gotten drunk so fast this time (He couldn’t Work against them, but nobody’d ever told him not to do anything to the booze) they hadn’t had time to do anything horrible.
Lee lounged. His Owners were quite nice when they were sleeping. Thessaly was really quite pretty, and Lucian was… well. Lucian was handsome, if Lee wanted to think about him that way. Which he… might. He needed more to drink.
He reached for the bottle, and swigged the last of it down. There wasn’t much left, maybe half a shot. The Master and Mistress had really been hitting it lately. It Lee had been allowed to care, he might wonder if something was wrong.
“Mmm… junior.” Thessaly stirred and opened her eyes. “More booze.”
He held up the empty bottle. “All out.” The order still forced the “Mistress” out at the end, pulling the words out of his mouth.
“Well, kiddo, go to the store and get us some more then, kiddo. “
“Okay, Mistress.” He examined his slightly foggy memories. “Uh. I can get out of bed?”
“Of course, silly boy.”
Of course… she wasn’t the one that had to deal with the headache from orders that didn’t go together, or the misery of being physically unable to do what they’d ordered. “Can I put some pants on?”
“Of course you can get dressed. Go on, go, I want some more booze. It was very nice today. Get the same stuff.”
“Okay, Mistress.” Pants. He could get some pants on, she’d said get dressed. He dug his pants out of a pile of clothes and a clean shirt out of another pile.
“What’s taking you so long?”
“Just getting dressed.”
“Your cock’s covered, isn’t it? Go.”
Lee left before she changed her mind, rolling over the orders in his head. Go to the store. Get us some more booze. He wondered how long she’d be conscious before the doctored vodka knocked her on her ass again. He wondered if they’d figure out what he’d … when they figured out what he’d done, how angry they would be.
He might as well enjoy what time he had, then. He hurried to the Store. Get us some more booze
Lee wasn’t sure if he was just really, really drunk, or if there really hadn’t been someone there and then there was. She was pretty, which seemed to be the universal indicator for trap around here, with skin that looked a bit like a statue and hair that looked like snakes.
“Me?” Pretty girls saying you was turning out to generally be a bad idea.
“You have been looking at things.”
“A little, yeah. Did you know there’s cameras in the ceiling? Right there.” He pointed to the one he’d found earlier today. “And then three over there. And one… thingy.”
“You will come and talk to us.”
“I’d love to, but I have to get booze for the…” He tugged on his collar. Everyone knew what that meant, right?
Looked like she did. She nodded. “Go buy booze, and then you will talk to us. We have chosen you.”
Shit, it was going to be one of those conversations. Did the Store have a back way out?
“Okay, look, I’ll go buy booze, and then I can talk a bit, but I’ve got to get ho- back to them.” Another tug on the collar. “I can’t leave for too long.”
“Go. And then come back and talk to us.”
He could find the alcohol section in this place with his eyes closed – and a couple other sections, but, again, they were too drunk for that today. And the guy behind the counter was a buddy of his.
“Booze for the bosses again?” Noam had three D&D books open and a giant roll of hex paper. Lee eyed it curiously.
“Booze for the bosses. Running D&D for yours?”
“Yeah. She likes being the princess.” Noam had been smiling like that a lot lately. He liked his Owner. He was still a slave, of course, same as Lee, but at least he got to be happy about it.
That came too close to some of his weirder orders. Lee shook his head and changed the subject. “Hey, does this place have a back door?”
“Something out there bothering you?”
“Some Medusa chick wants to talk to me. Doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
“Medusa…” Noam flailed around under the counter a little bit. “Just outside the Store?”
“I guess? I mean, I came right here.” He waved the bottle. “‘Go get more vodka, Lee.’”
“Man. I am so glad Brenna doesn’t drink.”
“So,” Lee changed the subject, quickly, “no back doors?”
“No, but Luke should be down any minute now. With the… you don’t know, do you?”
“Mysterious dark secrets nobody will tell me about?” He tried to ignore the rest of the sentence. He could stay cheerful if he didn’t have to deal with the coach.
“Mys… Yes, Lee, the school is full of dark secrets nobody is telling you about.”
“I knew it!” He pumped his fist. “Nobody tells me anything. Anything at all.”
Noam shook his head. “All right, man. Look, Luke should be here any moment now.”
“Coach?” Lee’s mood crashed. “Why?”
“Because when strange women you don’t recognize want to talk to you in the halls… Lee, have you been paying attention to anything that goes on around here?”
“No?” Lee shrugged. “I don’t get out much.” He wasn’t really allowed to pay attention; his Owners had figured out really fast that when he paid attention he got angry, and ordering him not to be angry just sent him into the corner with a week-long headache. That, that had sucked.
“Okay. So, there really is shit going on nobody’s telling you about. I thought you were just being… I don’t know, you. I guess you are.”
“Hey. I resemble that remark.”
“Yeah, look, just wait for Luke, okay? If you can?”
Lee squirmed. He didn’t want to wait for the Coach. He didn’t want to act like he was all tied up in orders, either (even if he was). He hated the way other people acted about it. Like they weren’t slaves every bit as much as he was.
“I gotta get back.” He held up the vodka. “They need their booze.”
“Ever think of poisoning it?”
“So, like, chaumurky?” Lee stalled. Was knocking your Owners out the same as poisoning them? “Instead of like chaumas? They’d notice in their food, I think. I’m not a very good cook, though.” He waved the vodka around a little more. “Someone said killing people got you expelled, didn’t they?” He’d definitely had too much to drink; he’d said that out loud. He shook his head. “Don’t think I could do it. I gotta go.”
Noam had stalled him too long. Coach – the gym teacher, Luke – was waiting outside, frowning. “Lee.”
“Coach. Sir.” Lee squirmed. “There’s someone who was waiting for me or something? I dunno, snake-hair girl?” He held up his vodka. “Gotta get this back home.”
“What did she say to you, exactly?”
“Um… something like ‘come talk to us?’ I guess?” Lee was not very clear on the details. “I dunno, your typical creepy Addergoole stuff.”
“He will be the one we speak with. You have said you want to speak to someone.”
Lee bounced, nearly hitting the ceiling. “Stop that!” He turned around, but that put Luke behind him, so he turned around again, and then one more time, finally ending up with his back to the store, glaring at both Luke and the girl. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people.”
She bowed, like something in a kung-fu film. “I did not mean to give offense. You are the person we will speak to, and nobody else.”
“Him?” Luke shook his head. “I have nearly a hundred students here. Someone else, anyone else.”
“What he said.” Lee waved the vodka defensively. “I need to get back to my… people.”
“We will talk to him, or we will begin destroying people until negotiations are reached.”
“Shit. I can talk. Don’t destroy anyone, that’s really not cool. What do you want to talk about? I’m really good at talking about stuff.”
“Come on,” Luke sighed. “Look, anyone else?”
“Him. He pays attention.”
“I do what now? Look, I’ll talk, but I gotta go, too.”
“Do you have orders?”
Lee hated it when Luke did that. “Uh. I have lots of orders. Lots of them. All the orders. That’s why everyone else gets off so easy, I got them all.”
“I bet you did. But do you have orders about going back to your room right now?”
“Uh. Not ex-aaaaactly…”
“Then give me that.” Luke took the vodka from Lee. “Will you accept a scribe?”
She nodded. “We will accept a student as scribe.”
“You. Wait here.” Luke poked Lee in the chest. “I’ll take this to Thessaly and Lucian. I will bring you a scribe, miss.” He shook his head. “Lee, you’re now officially our ambassador to the People Below.”
Addergoole: Year Nine updates every Wednesday evening EST. Want more?