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Valentine’s Bonus

15

February 14, 2013 by Lyn

Illian

It was as if, every time Lee thought his life couldnt get any weirder Addergoole went out of its way to prove him wrong.

First thered been the blue thing, and then the Tess-and-Lucian thing, whatever that was.  Then there was the snake lady and the horned girl in the basement with the yeti.  That had been pretty weird.

Weirder was how they wanted to talk to him.  Theyd gotten pretty insistent on that one, actually.  Lee and nobody else.  The horned girl was only allowed down there to take notes, though they didnt seem to mind that she prompted Lee when he forgot what he was supposed to say.

Even weirder was the Coach talking to Tess and Lucian.  Lee was pretty sure he wasnt supposed to overhear that conversation, but he had, anyway.

You two are allowed to keep on the way you do, providing that you do not cross the line, and you do not interfere with anyone elses schooling.  Youre coming close to both with Illian.  Whats more, we need him.

Challenge us. That had to be the single most stupid thing hed ever heard the master say.  Lee had had a really, really hard time not saying anything when he heard that.

Luke had laughed.  It hadnt sounded like he thought any of it was at all funny, though.  If you push me, I will.  For now… here are the things Addergoole requires of your Kept.  You will make sure hes capable of all of those.  Regardless of how much it gets in the way of your fun.”

Besides. Hed called the last over his shoulder, while Lee was trying to figure out how much this was going to hurt. I would have to challenge your Mentor.  I wouldnt tempt me, if I were you.

Okay, so that had been pretty weird.  Luke talking about challenging Professor VanderLinden.  Luke talking about what Tess and Lucian could or couldnt do with Lee.

Could he evendo that?  Lee had no idea who hed ask a question like that.  Obviously not his Mistress and Master.  Just as obviously not the Coach.  Bel, maybe, except that she didnt appear to know much more than he did. She didnt even know she was Owned!

And this whole thing with the snake-hair girl.  He still didnt know quite what she wanted.  Repairs, or treaties, or something.  She asked questions that didnt make any sense and then got mad at his answers, or the yeti would get mad, or like the walls would start shouting.  It was all pretty surreal.  The Master and Mistress wandering around randomly rescinding orders – Lee hadnt even known they could do that – made everything even odder.

And now there was a squirrel standing there, hands behind its back, stinking of magic and looking like it was going for innocent and mostly succeeding in looking worried.

I cant give you anything.  Well, I can, but then it would be theirs.  Which would sort of ruin the whole point of the matter of giving you a thing, I think.  Which would be that I want to give you things, and not them.  Id rather take things from them. Uh.  You, that is, take you, but youre not a thing.

Lee had to interrupt.  This guy – girl – squirrel talked more than he did.

Its okay, I get that Im a thing right now.  And uh, you dont have to give me things.

Or take things from the Master and Mistress, what was that about?

But I want to.

Well, you could, you know, give me a slice of pizza? That would be cool.

The squirrel hopped a little bit.  Oh, good.  Angry squirrel.  Youre teasing me.  Thats not fair.

No, look, Im not. Its just.  He tugged on his collar.  Usually, that made people stop.

The squirrel squinted at Lee.  I could make you tell me.

No!  Look, please, dont do that.  Do you know what that feels like?  Like his brain was coming out of his ears, mostly.

The squirrel furrowed its brow.  … hunh.  Yeah.  I do.

Damn. Sorry.  That sucks.

Eenh.  Efro didnt mean to.  Look…  The squirrel flapped both hands at Lee.  Is it because of the squirrel thing or the herm thing?

Uh.

Its both, isnt it?

Lee stared.  Whats what?

Why you dont want me?

Why I dont…  Something shut off in Lees brain.  He couldnt tell if that was just confusion – Oh.  The squirrel is… hitting on me? or if he was running into orders he couldnt remember anymore.  He sat down, holding his head, and hoped it would stay on.

What, what, what are you doing?  The squirrel sat down next to him and chittered off what had to be some sort of spell.  Lee couldnt hear him properly.  His head was pounding.  What the hell had the squirrel done to him?  …ooh.   Oooh.  Here, here.  The squirrel chittered something else.  And close your eyes.

That sounded like a really good idea.  Lee closed his eyes… and slept.

Somewhere over him, Reese frowned.  Reese was not, by nature, a white knight sort.  It liked being a trickster.  It liked playing around.  It wasnt sure that the responsibility of a Kept was a good idea.

Reese chewed on a fingernail.  There had to be someone around here that could give some advice on suddenly turning into a Prince/ess in shining armor.

Basalt

Im saying its different.  Guys do those things – flowers, jewelry, out to dinner – because they need to hold on to the girl. Its not actually about showing you love her.  And neither of you need any help holding onto the girl. You already put a collar on them.

Curry was helping.

Basalt wasnt sure if his friend was deliberately trying to screw things up for them, or if this was just a good demonstration of why Basalt and Thorburn had girlfriends – Kept – and Curry didnt.

Of course, theyd both gotten their Kept through brute force, which sort of turned that theory on its head.

He looked at his piney buddy. Look.  You deal with your Valentines Day in your way, and Im going to deal with it in mine.  And Thorburn will deal with it in his.  Right, T?

Thorburn was staring off into space.  Thinking about roses and girlfriends?  Hunh?  Oh, yeah.  Curry, you’re a moron.  We dont have to be cave men.

Dude, Thorburn, you practically dragged Ceinwen back to your cave by her hair.  And Im the caveman?

Thorburn muttered something incoherent and punched Curry in the arm.  Basalt, shaking his head, decided he had to talk to someone else about the whole thing.  Preferably someone less Neanderthal.

He wanted this to be good.  He wanted Ahouva to smile, for real, the expression she did when she forgot to pay attention to what he wanted for a few minutes.  He wanted her to feel special, and wanted, and loved.  Because she was special, and wanted, and loved.

If only he didnt have friends even more rock-headed than he was.

He paced through the halls.  Theyd left their girlfriends – Kept, whatever – hanging out with Fafnirs Kept, Æowyn.  It wasnt the best crew, but they liked Æo, and he wasnt about to start picking Ahouvas friends for her.

He had about an hour until hed told her hed come get her. There had to be someone he could talk to about this.  Someone, somewhere, who could tell him how to do the right thing for Valentines day.

Reese

They did not collide.  Neither of them was quite that clumsy.  But they were wandering, lost in frustrated thought, down the same hall, and then did turn the corner at the same time.

Reese pulled itself to a stop inches from the big rocky guys chest. Shining armor.  The mutter was under-breath, a way of fixing the memory for a moment.  Shining hooves?

Youre going to need a farrier for that.  Basalt grinned down at Reese, but the smile was short-lived.  “Flowers.  Not flowers.  Why is this so hard?

Youd think challenging would be the hard part.  Or catching them.  But no.”  Reese plotted under-breath, until the rock-guy’s words made it into the one-sided conversation.  “ Flowers?  What about like, theater tickets?

We live in a bunker.  The big man was on to frowns.  His frowns were intimidating.  Reese was too distracted to be too intimidated.

Well, maybe the Village ought to have theater.  It would be good for it.  Theater!  Or, I know, dinner…

Dinner.  I cant cook.  Not well, at least.  Still glowering.  Reese couldn’t cook either, though.  He wasn’t even sure Lee ate.

Thats what the Village is for.  The Village can cook.  Didnt your Keeper ever take you out to dinner?

Uh.  No.  That hadnt really been her thing.  Yours did?

When I was good.  Reese grinned. Not very often.  But dinner.  Very nice.  Wouldnt work for Lee, of course.   That whole Belonging to someone else.  And that whole might-not-eat thing.  Hrrm, you said flowers?

Seems very first-date.

Well, I want a first date.  Reese felt the smile stretching wider. Flowers.  I can totally do that. Thanks!”

 
Art by Inventrix


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15 comments »

  1. Rix says:

    They seemed to have helped each other with out actually having a conversation! Neat.

    Maybe Reese can trick Lee out of Tess & Lucian’s hands? If Luke challenges Mike over Lee, can Mike just concede?

    Also, wheree Thorburn punches Curry, Baslt is spellt with two esses.

  2. Kuro_Neko says:

    I just finished reading all of Addergoole year 5, all it’s bonus stories, and all of year 9 to date in the span of four days. It was incredibly captivating, I couldn’t put it down. I did nothing but read this and sleep those four days, and not alot of the latter. It was also quite disturbing, but I’m sure that was part of your intent.

    Of particular literary note is the ‘mind control in the walls’, which is the linchpin that makes the story at all believable. Without it there would be massive characterization issues, not the least of which that the suicide, probably homicide and possibly infanticide rates should be so high as to make the program unsustainable.

    That takes care of the students. There are unfortunately still some characterization issues with the staff and that’s really my only complaint about the series. They’re portrayed as well-adjusted adults and yet they not only condone but actively support the rape and emotional, psychological and in many cases physical abuse of children on a large long-term scale. No one who has a shred of empathy, who isn’t a complete sociopath, would see that as anything other then monstrous. No ends could justify such means. Fortunately, since the story is mostly about the students, I can just put aside my issues with the staff to focus on them. It does however mean that the odd chapter that attempts to focus on the staff and show them in a positive light falls completely flat.

    Other then that one wrinkle this is a great series and I am eagerly awaiting more. Cheers.

    • Lyn says:

      Thanks for your very kind comment!

    • Gudy says:

      A couple of things to keep in mind here when you judge the Addergoole staff:
      a) Regine actually is a sociopath, or the closest thing to it on this side of not being one,
      b) Mike has never really grown up.
      c) real Belonging – as opposed to the Addergoole Simulated Version – has no time limit and no Mentors to step in when it actually starts to become life-threatening.
      d) the coming Faerie Apocalypse is Really Really Bad, and few outside of Regine’s staff seem to take it at all seriously, if they even suspect it’s coming. Addergoole is in many ways a desperate, last-ditch effort to get a trained group of Fairies together that is sufficiently large, diverse and resilient to survive that thing.

      Not that any of this excuses some of the atrocities that have happened – and continue to happen – in that place.

      As for the chapter at hand – Reese is confusing. Basalt and Reese are only marginally less confusing than Reese alone. And he really did end up bringing Lee some flowers, didn’t he. *facepalms*

      • Lyn says:

        Reese is confusing! Imagine him and Lee together! 😀

        • Gudy says:

          I tried. Believe me, I tried. And then I took a step back and stopped myself before I could do lasting damage to my brain. 😉

          • Lyn says:

            Heee

            It didn’t help that I messed up and had a rose in the first part. I’ve since fixed that.

          • LilFluff says:

            Which just makes the thought of shipping Reese and Lee that much more entertaining. Just the thought of getting to sit back and watch everyone else go, WTF!

            And I like Reese’s semi-horrified, “Ack! But I don’t wanna be a White Knight!” reaction. Give in Reese, give in, the White Knight’s have access to cookies 🙂

    • Wysteria says:

      My version of the how-do-you-rationalize-the-staff issue: I’m pretty sure they /are/ all sociopaths, or so far into the soldier/war mentality that it comes to a very close comparison.

      My justification: they’re elves, of the ‘steal your boyfriend and babies and hide them under magic hills until you play harp music’ variety. By any human standard they’re creeps, but by that standard they’re pretty good.

      My reason for liking it as written: if you’ve seen the Reporter Reports The End Of The World bonus stories, it’s explicitly stated that it’s the ‘good guys’ doing most of the damage.

      • Kuro_Neko says:

        Thank you for the prompt and comprehensive replies.

        @Gudy:
        I understand the staff have reasons they believe justify the atrocities (they don’t) but what’s worse is it’s not working. They’re breeding victims and abusers, in an environment where no one trusts anyone outside of their small crews and where there’s so much hatred and fear that they will never make a cohesive fighting force. They’ll be too busy watching their backs against each other. If no one else, Luke and Doug should see this. So not only are they hurting these children horribly, but they’re doing it to cross purposes with their desired goal.

        I understand the purpose behind the Simulated Belonging, but there aren’t enough safeguards. Sure it’s teaching the kids to watch what they say, but it’s also breeding the above mentioned abusers and victims as well as distrust bordering on paranoia. I could buy that they didn’t mean for what’s happening to happen when they started, that they greatly over estimated the selflessness and kindness in your average teenager. I could maybe forgive them for that. But they should have realized it wasn’t working by year three at the latest and put better safeguards on it. And yet here it is year nine and the atrocities still continue.

        @Wysteria:
        I could certainly buy Regine as a sociopath, but most of the others show sufficient empathy on occasion to put lie to that. It’s just they’re so damn selective about it. How is what Caspian did to Shahin much different then what Ib did to Callista? They planned to charge out to save Shahin within hours and yet Callista suffered for years.

        As to the soldier/war mentality, if that’s the explanation then they’re all complete morons. As mentioned above, this is no way to train an army, and again Luke and Doug, being soldiers would know this.

        As to the justification: I can certainly buy that there are psychological differences here from humans, and that they could be very cruel to outsiders. But no race survives long if they don’t look after their young and that’s the exact opposite to what they’re doing here. Virtually every one of Addergoole’s graduates will bear psychological and emotional scars for the rest of their lives, many of such crippling their future growth.

        If all of the staff were variations on Regine then I wouldn’t have any problems. Though that would remove any ambiguity about which side of the line of us vs. them they’re on. But they’re not. They show kindness and concern and caring, but only for the little things and only for those that catch their eyes. Teachers are supposed to nurture as well as impart knowledge and they’re not doing that. What good is a doctor you can’t trust to not roofie you? What good is a psychologist who just patches up your psyche enough to be functional then sends you back to your abuser? What good is a mentor that volunteers no useful information and lies to your face on a good chunk of direct questions?

        You know, in writing this response I think I might have resolved my own characterization issues. The staff are simply horrible, cruel, capricious people who shouldn’t be trusted with a goldfish, let alone a building full of fragile children. They should all have to spend four years as students at Addergoole locked down as tight as Manira was in the end. I’d bet their definitions of necessary evils would change right quick.

        *Deep Breath* I’m going to stop there before I start ranting, if I haven’t already passed that point. It’s just you write your characters and world so well that I can’t help but feel deeply for these characters and empathize with the pain and suffering they’re going through. And conversely, lash out at those that have the power to protect them but don’t.

        • Wysteria says:

          @Kuro_Neko

          One can show empathy for one group of people (say, other adults), and empathy of a different sort to another group (students). Otherwise one couldn’t have very sexist people getting married and loving their wives despite their wives being (insert sexist thought here). My point being that showing limited empathy for prisoners despite you being a prison guard, if they’re the right sort of prisoner – cute, quiet, not too much trouble – well, yay.

          Personally, I think the staff believes that they are good, empathic people, and thus they act the parts of good, empathic people – except when it’s inconvinient to them. They think it’s not their fault, it’s the situation, it can’t be helped, and anyway /they/ can’t help it, it’s all the Administration’s fault, and they’re doing the best they can within the constraints they have….

          In other words, they’re collaborators. They are not the brave rebel resistance. But they think they are changing the system from the inside, and maybe they’re right. Maybe it would be worse, if Regine didn’t have Caitrin and Mendosa and Luke running around after her helping.

          I’d like to see the hiring process for some of the more nobly-written teachers, just to see how that worked, exactly.

        • Wysteria says:

          On Shahin – maybe it was a possession thing? ‘She’s ours, no one else can have her.’ Or alternatively, they just wanted to kill the dragon? They are pretty single minded about dragon slaying.

          • Kuro_Neko says:

            @Wysteria:
            Yes! That’s it exactly! Everyone is the hero of their own story. No one sees themselves or their actions as evil in their own minds, despite how it would look to an objective third-party. And just because a person is objectively evil doesn’t mean they can’t feel positive emotions like love and kindness. That is in fact the best kind of villain.

            Maybe the place is better for their presence, but that hardly means its good or that it couldn’t be much better if they’d actually work at it. On the flip-side, If they weren’t doing the little they are, the system may have gone off the rails long before, with more short-term damage but alot less then keeping it running for the next x years. The place is alittle better in year 9 then it was in year 5, though I attribute that much more to Shahin and especially Kailani’s unseen three years then anything the teachers might have done. In fact, now that I mention it, I kind of expected Shahin and Kailani to reform the place alot more in their unseen three years then is apparently the case. Or did the reform only last as long as they were there to oversee it?

            Regarding Shahin, that actually reminds me of the thought I had when I read the rescue planning scene: that the only reason they were going to rescue her from her horrible rape and torture is because any babies produced wouldn’t be theirs, rather then for any other reason. Maybe because they hate dragons as well. Not for any actual concern for Shanhin’s well-being. An unkind thought perhaps, but not an unreasonable one given everything else that’s going on.

  3. guesty says:

    This discussion is interesting, and I’m gonna write my opinion, even though it’s a little old.

    I’m very much with Wysteria. In fact, what I thought when reading Kuro_Neko’s text was: Meh, the teachers and pupils are very much like what I remember from my schoolyears. I mean, we obviously didn’t have magical slavery and we didn’t have any rape or serious ‘visit-to-the-hospital’-level physical abuse that I know of, but we had a good deal of verbal abuse and sadist people who went out of their way to make their victims’ lives miserable. I figure, if it had been a boarding school with no way to get out of each other’s hair most of the day, it would have been a lot worse. The teachers knew, of course, who the victims were, even if they didn’t get every detail of what was happening. They would mostly stop abuse that was happening right und their nose, although some rather chose to ignore it or pretend it wasn’t as bad. I imagine that’s partly not wanting to make it worse, partly convenience, and ignoring abuse like that is actually a very human thing. People who really try to make a difference are kind of rare, although most of us tend to think we would.

    I know it’s strange to compare these two situations, but i think Lyn is painting a rather realistic picture here.
    There’s a lot of excuses to rationalize the school setup, like “We need those babies” or “better they learn early not to run into a trap, when they only have to deal with the repercussions for a few years, at worst” or what have you.

    (And I can actually see that they have to learn about not being trapped, because out there, there’ll always be a predator waiting and likely no one to rescue them. What really bothers me about this is mostly the kids don’t get a fair chance. If they knew about Belonging before and got kept in a really bad way, you could say they had to learn the hard way, because they hadn’t really been listening beforehand. If they knew what they were getting into, and even in a situation were they couldn’t entirely avoid getting kept, the could at least negotiate about it, as Kyle did.)

    Anyway, to be fair, the teachers seem to have been learning a bit, if hesitantly. It seems to me the problem cases get monitored a lot more than in year 5.

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