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Chapter 29: Ceinwen

37

March 27, 2013 by Lyn

Monday, February 23, 2004

Luke had finally gotten around to doling out punishments to the people involved in the ceiling-crashing fight: Thorburn and his crew, Zita and her crew, and, although they weren’t sure why, Ahouva, Ceinwen, and Kheper.

“You’re grounded,” he’d grunted.  He’d apparently made the time to punish them by multitasking with getting a gut wound healed.  Ceinwen focused on his face, and tried not to close her eyes.

“We’re confined to our rooms anyway.”  Ahouva seemed to have no problem arguing now.  Good for her.  Except the part where she might be pissing off a wounded, cranky gym teacher.

“You’re confined to your rooms when not in classes until at least April.  Except when you are helping the clean-up crew clean-up.  Which you will do. To the best of your abilities.  All of you.”

“Together?”  Cynara looked amused.  Actually, all of Boom looked a little bit amused.  Ceinwen wished they’d let her in on the joke.

“In teams as chosen by me, Doug, Hayley, Valentina, or Sakamoto.  And if… damnit, Cait.”

“If you’d hold still, it wouldn’t hurt.”

“If I catch any of you doing anything like this again, you will be grounded for three years after you graduate.”

“Why are we being punished, too?”  Kheper voiced the question all three Kept were probably thinking.  Ceinwen knew she’d been wondering that for the last five minutes.

“You didn’t stop them.”

“Hey!”  Ceinwen slipped between Thorburn and Basalt to glare at Luke.  If everyone else was going to argue, so was she. “Seriously? You expect us to stop our Keepers? The ones who can tell us what to do? Who can shut u-”

Thorburn pushed a hand over her mouth, proving her point and silencing her at the same time.

“Yes.”  She wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or bad that Luke managed a smile.  “I expect you to talk sense into your Keepers. And no, I don’t care if it’s unfair.  Go see Valentina for your first assignments.  Except Zita. You’re on permanent assignment here with Dr. Caitrin.”

“Try not to yell at Luke.”  Thorburn’s whisper tickled Ceinwen’s ear.  “He’s having a bad everything.” She nodded, and he removed his hand. “Yes, sir.  Come on, guys.”

They filed out, following on Boom’s heels; nobody except the Kept seemed the least bit dejected.  As a matter of fact, Basalt was humming.

And then Howard was whistling.

And then Curry was singing, do-do-do.

And then Cya was singing along to the same tune Ceinwen didn’t recognize.

And then Leo started whistling too.

And then Thorburn grabbed her hand, and they were through the door and outside and the music stopped. “Right.”  Thorburn coughed.

“He wasn’t that mad.”  Cynara seemed pleased.

“I thought he was going to fry my eyebrows off.”  Curry held a hand over his face.

“Exactly.  Not that mad.”  Cynara smirked at all of them.

“He knows he’s got no room to complain.” Howard did not sound pleased.

“I don’t know what I—”

“Leo. Shut up.”

To Ceinwen’s surprise, Leo shut up.  She stole a glance at Thorburn, wonder what he was thinking, and found him looking back at her.

“Sorry you got dragged into this.”

“Come on, you would’ve had her help even if it hadn’t been Luke’s idea, wouldn’t you? I mean, she’s your Kept.”  Curry’s rather-common rant sounded less forceful today. “Right?”

“Curry?”  Basalt was cuddling Ahouva close, and hadn’t said much up to that point.

“Yeah?”

“Shut up.”

“But…”

“Just shut up.”

“Damn.”  Curry shut up.  Ceinwen peeked up at Thorburn again.

“What, Goldilocks?”

“You’re happy.” She ignored the nickname.  He’d never used it outside of the bed before.  She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

“Well, it’s a lot better than it could have been.  And, I mean, everyone’s on lockdown.  At least we get to do something.”

“At last my evil plan comes to fruition.”

“It wasn’t your plan at all, Cya.”  Kheper was far less happy about this.

“Nope, and I don’t do evil.  But the thorn-bear has a point.”

“Don’t call me that.” Thorburn grumbled it without any real rancor.

“It’s a cute name.  And you do have a point.”

Ceinwen risked butting in. “That we get to get out and do something?”

“Yeah.  It’s not fighting monsters, I know.”  She patted her crew-mates’ backs.  “But it’s better than staring at the wall.”

“You may not think that after a few hours.”  The woman in front of them was green, with green freckles and red hair.  It looked surprisingly good on her.  “For those of you that don’t know me — I’m assuming you’re Ceinwen, Kheper, and Ahouva, hello — I’m Valentina. I’m the groundskeeper and plant-tender around here.  And right now I’m helping with the clean-up of this catastrophe.”

She was holding mops in one hand and bucket handles in the other.  She looked around the group, pursed her lips, and nodded.  “Okay.  Leofric and Currumbyn.  Cynara, Thorburn, and Ceinwen.  Howard, Basalt, and Ahouva.  Leo, Curry, Kheper, you’re with Professor Akatil.  Howard, Basalt, Ahouva, you’re with me.  Cya, Thorburn, Ceinwen, you’re with Doug.  Try not to irritate him.”

“I irritate him by existing.” Thorburn didn’t sound exactly proud of that, but he didn’t seem to think it was a bad thing.

“You’re mistaking him for his father.  Go on, you can meet Doug on the third floor, near the stairs.  I hope you kids have had breakfast.”

As they headed back to the school, Thorburn started humming again.  This time, Ceinwen caught the tune.  “We’re off to see the wizard?”

“Alice in Wonderland doesn’t have any catchy tunes,” Cynara explained.  “Although Akatil’s really the wizard.”

“You guys are weird.”  If she said it to Cynara, maybe Thorburn wouldn’t take offense.

No such luck.  “Careful what you say.”

“It’s fine.  Really.  She’s calling me weird.” Cynara smiled broadly. “That’s not that much of a stretch.  You should relax a little, Thorn-bear.”

“This is me relaxed.”

“I can’t believe that.”  She pursed her lip and tapped Thorburn on top of his head.  “I can’t believe this is you calm and laid-back.”

“It’s the most laid-back I’ve ever seen him.”  Ceinwen was really pushing her limits now, but somehow, having Cynara there made her feel braver.  Not that Thorburn wouldn’t correct her in front of people, but still…  “He’s even smiling.”

“That suggests he needs to be more relaxed normally, not that he’s actually calm and relaxed now, though.  Thorburn, come on, loosen up.”  Cynara made as if to punch Thorburn in the arm.

Without thinking, Ceinwen caught the mink-girl’s hand. “Don’t do that.”

Cynara stared at her. Thorburn stared at her.  She stared at her hands, wrapped around the upperclassman’s fist.  Around the fist of a member of Boom. “Eep?” She swallowed, and carefully released Cynara’s hand.

“Ceinwen…” Thorburn tugged her behind him, his eyes shifting to Cynara and staying there.

The mink, in turn, held up both of her hands, palms flat.  “I’m not the volatile member of Boom.  It’s okay.”  She was, Ceinwen noted, smiling rather broadly.  “Is that an order, there, Thorburn?”

“What?”  It took him a second.  “You mean, what she did? No! What kind of asshole would I have to be to do that?”

Cynara coughed, and let that question hang out there for a while.  After a few uncomfortable moments, Thorburn thumped his fist against the wall. “What?”

Still nothing.  Ceinwen was beginning to get uncomfortable. Cynara was still watching.

Thorburn punched the wall again. “Damnit.  That was different.  I’m bigger than she is.”

“And she was still your Keeper.”

“Do we have to talk about this?”

“Of course not.”  Cynara’s smile vanished.  “I just wanted to know if you were following in your Keeper’s footsteps.”

“Why do you care?”

Ceinwen watched the two of them like a particularly unpleasant ping-pong match.

“I cared when it was you under the collar, didn’t I?”

“I don’t know, did you?”  Thorburn had his fists clenched at his sides.  He wasn’t looking at Ceinwen at all.  She was afraid to break in, but, damn it, what was this woman doing?

“I did.  And I talked to her.”  Cynara held up both hands again.  “I’m sorry.  I’m intruding.”

Now you figure this out?”

“Now I apologize.  If you two are doing fine, I’ll stay out of it.  Ceinwen?”

“What?”  She found her voice was a little bit sharp.  She took a breath.  She didn’t want Thorburn to yell at her for being loud.  “Sorry.  What?”

“She wants to know if we’re doing fine.”  Thorburn uncurled one hand and set it on Ceinwen’s back.  “You may answer her fully and honestly.”

That was new.  She blinked up at him, and then looked at Cynara.  “We’re getting better.  I don’t like being Kept.”  She felt his hand on her back, not tightening, but holding very still.  She took a long breath. “I do like Thorburn.  And we’re working out the problems.”

Cynara’s lips twitched in something like a smile.  “I guess I’ll worry about someone else, then.”

“What about your own Kept?”

“What about him?”

“Is he happy?”

“Pop psych can wait.”  Doug  grunted irritably at them as he approached.  “Kheper’s happy.  Ceinwen’s happy.  I’m not.”

“Sorry, sir.”  It was strange to see Cynara get polite and deferential.  Stranger was Thorburn echoing not only her words but her manner.

“Where do you need us?”

“This way.”  He led them to the hallway near the Store.  The third floor had, when Ceinwen started school, looked more institutional than any other part of the building — that boring speckled tile, walls painted off-blue, acoustical ceiling tile — as if they hadn’t really bothered the way they had with the classroom and dorm levels.  Now, it looked like a nightmare.  The hall a few feet away from the (closed) Store doorway melted into stone.  Half of the remains of a dead… something… lay in the narrowed hallway.

Thorburn cleared his throat. “I can do okay with transmuting the stone but not getting rid of it, and I’m really good at repair.”

Ceinwen learned something new every day.

“I can get rid of it, if it’s covering up the old floor.” Cynara smiled crookedly. “I’m really good at Abatu.”

Doug nodded, almost a grunt.  He handed Cynara several photos of the hallway, and gave Thorburn a couple blueprints.  Then his gaze settled on Ceinwen.

“Me?” She was mortified to find her voice squeaking. “Um, I can control and make, shape and know.  I’m okay in Unutu, worked stuff, right, and water, but I can’t do stone at all.”  She looked down at the animal corpse. “I’m okay with beasties but I am pretty bad with destroy.”

“Good enough.”  He nodded.  “Cynara’s in charge.  Remember to protect pregnant women.”

Thorburn looked startled, and, Ceinwen thought, maybe a little offended. “Of course.”

“Good.  I’ll be over here.”  He pointed down the hall, and then moved in the direction of his point.

“All right.”  Cynara looked around.  “I’m going to start by clearing stone, and then you two can work on shaping the walls under it.  Hey, Ceinwen, do you have any huamu?”

“Not very well.  I can sort of croak it out, at least.”

“We might do some improvements while we’re down here.”

“Why?”  Thorburn was getting stubborn again. “What sort?”

“Well, we hang out here, don’t we? Why not make it nicer?  Also, I thought you didn’t want to get stuck back in your room.”

“…okay.”  He squeezed Ceinwen, out of the blue and with no explanation given, and then stared at the wall. “Let’s go.”

They fell into a sort of routine.  Cynara would destroy the stone coating the hallway, and then Thorburn would repair the walls and Ceinwen would shape them back into something attractive; Cynara would come back and work with Ceinwen to shape paneling over the smooth walls and carpet over the floor, and they’d move on to the next section.

It was exhausting.  Ceinwen had done small Workings in class, but she’d never done this sort of sustained Working.  She kept going, even when she felt tired, because Thorburn and Cynara were still going.  She smiled and tried to soldier on, not wanting to look like a weakling.

“Sit down.”  Cynara stopped what she was doing and stared at Ceinwen.  “Thorburn, go get her a drink.  Something with calories.”

“The Store’s closed.”

“Be clever.”

“Clever.”  He patted Ceinwen’s shoulder and headed down the hall towards the Store.

Ceinwen sat down.  “What did I do?”

“You’re young, you’re inexperienced, and you’re pregnant.”

“Well…”  She folded her hands over the stomach. “Yeah?  Most of my friends are.”  It sounded silly to her ears. “Thorburn said we had to.”

“We do.  And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be pregnant; he’s right, it’s a requirement around here, damn it.  But it takes energy to be pregnant.  Trust me, I’ve done it before.”

“Twice?”  That was what Thorburn had said: everyone had to have two.  He’d fathered one already, and that was all he’d say on that subject.

Cynara frowned, as if the thought had just occurred to her.  “No.  One.  Yoshi, by my first Kept, Cabal.”

“Cabal.”  She knew him; he had one class with her, and she’d seen him around the halls. “You must have a very lovely child.”

Cynara sat down next to Ceinwen. “I do.  He’s a beautiful boy and I love him dearly.  Do you know what you’re having, yet?”

Ceinwen giggled. “An owl, or so I’m told.”

“An owl.  That’s interesting.  Usually we ask the doctor and not the psychics; we get better answers for buying baby clothes that way.”

“Well, I asked both.  But it’s kind of fun not knowing yet, and it drives Thorburn nuts.”

She wasn’t sure she should say that, but she smiled up at the other girl cautiously, and was rewarded with a big smile in return.  “If he lets you get away with that, good for you.”

“He has this idea that the baby parts are my business and… well, that they Belong to me.  Which seems a little odd, but I’m not going to argue with it, either.”

“I wouldn’t.”  Cynara looked thoughtful.  “He reminds me a bit of my first-year Keeper.”

“You were Kept?” Somehow it was easier for Ceinwen to imagine Thorburn Kept than Cynara.  Then again, she’d been inside Thorburn’s dreams.  She’d never been in Cynara’s.

She wasn’t sure going into Boom’s dreams was a good idea.

“I was.  Leo was… we all were, all of Boom.  Our first year, or at least part of it.  Mine was a vampire.”  She made a fangs gesture with her forefingers.

Ceinwen giggled.  “A vampire.  With fangs.”  She imitated the gesture.

“Yep.  And yours is a thorn-bear.”

“A Thor’s Bear.”  Thorburn returned, carrying a liter bottle of fruit juice and a couple sticks of pepperoni.  “The Store hasn’t been stocked in a while…”

“You are going to be so lost when she has her baby.”

“She’s going to have her baby over summer break.”

Cynara went as if to punch Thorburn again, and stopped.  “Okay, don’t be a moron. She’s having your kid…”

He held up both hands.  He was smiling, so Ceinwen wasn’t too worried, but he was giving in.  She’d never seen him do that with anyone.  Like, anyone.  “I know, I know.  Look, I’ll figure it out, okay?”

“You’d better.  Don’t make me Find you.”

“You’ll have graduated.”

“Some things I feel strongly about.”

“What if I don’t want him there?”  Ceinwen was feeling very brave, for some reason.

“Ceinwen!”

“Sorry, sorry.” The brave feeling went away very quickly.

“Hey now.”

“She is my Kept.”

“I could challenge you, and then she’d be my Kept.”

“Please don’t.”  Ceinwen’s voice was very small.  “I like him, and he needs me.”

“Those are different things, Ceinwen.”

“I know they are.  But they’re both true.”

“Is that true, Thorburn?”

“Aren’t we supposed to be fixing the walls?”

“Not until we eat something.  Drink something, Ceinwen.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  She sipped the juice carefully.  Thorburn hadn’t brought a cup, so she drank from the bottle.

“Good girl. So, Thorburn…”

“Are you always this nosy?”

“Yep.  It stands me in good stead.  Also, people tend to be afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“Good.  Answer me.”

“…Yeah.”  He looked down at his toes.  “Yeah.  I mean, I don’t know about the liking me part.  That’s new, I think.  She hated me before.  But I need her.  And I like her.”  He added the last part like it was more important.

Ceinwen peeked up at him.  “That’s new.”

“You liking me is new, too.”

“So.”  Cynara folded her hands in front of her chin.  “You like each other.  Ceinwen takes care of you, Thorburn… I don’t need to know how.  That’s a good start.  But you might not want him there when you’re giving birth?”

“Well…” She fumbled, nervous now, not wanting to make Thorburn more upset.

“It’s okay.  He’s not going to yell at you about this, because if he does, I’ll yell at him, and I’m the louder of the two of us by quite a bit.”

“Boom.”  Ceinwen giggled it nervously.

“There’s a reason they call us that.  So?”

“I… I’ve gotta have this kid.  And they’re mine.”  She folded her hands over her stomach and tried to picture the little peanut of a baby inside her.

“Nobody’s trying to take your baby away from you, Ceinwen.” Thorburn sounded unhappy.  She peeked up at him, only to have Cynara squeeze her hands.

“Hey, look at me.  Let him grumble.  This isn’t about him… well, it is, but it isn’t his conversation.”

Ceinwen looked at Cynara. “You don’t have to go home to him.”

“No.  But I will challenge him for you if he gets too unpleasant about this, and he knows it.  So… why don’t you want him there?”

This woman was not going to drop it.  “He’s so bossy!

“I do own you.”

“I don’t want you telling me what to do while I’m in labor!  I want you to be there and quiet, or supportive, or somewhere else, but not standing there being bossy!”

Thorburn coughed, and then laughed a little bit.  “You don’t want me there because you don’t want me telling you what to do?”

“Well…”  Him laughing at her made her question it for a moment.  “Yes!”  Yes, she really did feel that way.  “Yes… I mean. Okay.  You own me.  But there’s some situations where it’s just not okay.”

“When I caught her, she wouldn’t have said there was a single situation where it was okay.”  He was clearly talking about her to Cynara.  Ceinwen decided it wasn’t worth complaining about.

“Mine have been the same way.  The question is, how did you convince her it was all right?”

Ceinwen peeked up at her Keeper.  She wondered what he’d say to that.  What he’d do.  He hadn’t felt any need to punish her in quite a while.  But she’d brought this topic up…

He took a deep breath.  “Practical demonstration.”

“Hrrm.  That shows her that you can do it.  That she can’t fight back.”

“It’s okay, okay?” Ceinwen was getting really sick of this.  “Look.  He’s not hurting me. He’s not like Kendon was, or Agravain is, or any of the other assholes.  My dreams don’t look like scared-spider nightmares.  I know.  I can see them. Okay?  he’s my Keeper, and I mean, I’d like him to be my boyfriend instead of this collar thing, but that’s the way things are here, and it’s him, and not some asshole.”

To her surprise, Cynara was smiling. “All right, then.  Thorburn, you hear that?”

“I hear it.”  His voice sounded choked.  He dropped an arm on Ceinwen’s shoulders.  “Eat up, okay?”

“Eating, sir.”  She drank more fruit juice and chewed on the pepperoni stick.  “You’re not mad?”

“Mad? I’m proud as hell.”  He kissed the top of her head.  “I’m glad you’re mine, pretty bird.”

“I’m…” She didn’t want to lie to him. “If I have to be wearing a collar, I’m glad enough that it’s yours.”

Cynara chuckled.  “Well said.  Maybe you should have been cy’Drake.”

“Break over.” Doug grunted at them.

“Where’d you come from?”  Thorburn was suddenly between Ceinwen and the grumpy assistant gym teacher.

“Down the hall, working.”

“Ceinwen’s pregnant.  She needs a break.”

“Good.  You two aren’t.”

“Slave-master.” Cynara muttered it with good humor.  The look Doug gave her had far less amusement in it.

“Building-wrecker.”

“It was only a little part of the building.  Besides. You guys are pretty picky about what you notice.”

Doug harrumphed.  “Yes.  Working on that.  Not psychic yet.”

“Okay, that makes sense.”  Cynara shrugs.  “Come on, thorn-bear, back to work.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“But it’s fun.”

Doug looked down at Ceinwen. “Doing okay?”

“Hmm?” Oh, yeah. I’m okay.  I just got a little faint.”

He nodded.  “Baby needs energy too.  Sit and rest a bit more.”

“I’m on detention the same as my Keeper.”

“Different.”

“Do you ever really talk?”

He smiled.  It was strange; she’d never seen him smile before, not for real.  “Nope.”

~

That Evening

Doug kept them cleaning up the hallway until late into the evening, although Valentina did bring them pizza twice along the way.

They went home exhausted and sweaty, but they’d cleaned up a good section of the hallway.  It felt good, using her magic, using it to make something look better.

She wasn’t so sure about going home, alone, with Thorburn, after Cynara’s… call it benign meddling.  She stepped inside, took off her clothes, and watched him, wondering if the other shoe was going to fall.

“Shower.”  He grunted it; he was clearly as tired as she was.

“Yessir.”  She kept her voice quiet and assumed he meant he wanted to take a shower; she unbuttoned his shirt and then his pants.  When he caught her wrists, she tensed.  Here it comes.

He pulled both of her hands up to his mouth.  His eyes weren’t quite on her when she risked a peek; he was looking somewhere, she thought, in another world. But he kissed the knuckles of both of her hands.  “Both of us, together.”

“Yessir.”  She was already naked — except the collar — so she just finished peeling his clothes off. “About earlier…” Damnit.  She was no good at keeping her mouth shut.

“Yeah.”  He looked down at her.  “Cynara does that.  She did that to me last year, when I was… well, last year.  Not as much.  I guess she doesn’t think I’m as much of an asshole.”

“As…”  She gestured uncertainly.

“Yeah.”  He took in a long breath. “You’ve heard the name by now.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Indigo.  You know her.”

“I’ve seen her around.”

“I’m sure you have.  She doesn’t try to talk to you, does she?”

“Only once.  I told her… I told her I didn’t think you’d like that.”

Thorburn narrowed his eyes and looked down at Ceinwen — although there wasn’t so much down, since her Change.  “Did she try to talk to you?”

She squirmed.  Almost nobody hit on her, since Thorburn had sealed his collar around her neck.  Almost nobody.  “She started with talking.”

“I bet she did.  And she probably told you that I wouldn’t mind sharing, didn’t she?”

“She’s not the only one.”  She whispered it.  “But I told them you wouldn’t like it.  Was I wrong?”

“Were you…”  Suddenly, his arms were around her.  She tried not to flinch, but it was hard not to be worried.  “No, beautiful.  I’m sorry she did that to you.  I’m sorry I didn’t make it clear enough. Who else?”

“Curry?” It was nearly a squeak.  She didn’t want him to yell didn’t want him to yell please don’t yell…”

“Hrmph.  Figures.  I’ll give him hell for it later.”

She peeked up at him. “You’re not mad?”

“I’m not mad at you.”

“And you’re not mad about Cynara?  Or the baby thing?”

“I’m not mad at you for anything right now.”

“That’s novel.”  She pressed her lips shut.  Where had that come from?

Thorburn laughed.  “It is.  I think I’d take it, if I were you.”

Good mood.  She could handle a good mood.  She peeked up at him and smiled.  “That sounds like very good advice.  Shower?”

“Shower.”  He picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder.  “You still don’t weigh anything.”

“You told me I was fat when you Kept me.”

“I was being an asshole when I collared you.”

“That, I knew.”  She twisted, trying to look at him, but all she could see was the back of his neck and his braids. “What changed?”

“I woke up one day and I felt like a different person.”  He put her down, but held onto her shoulders, so that she was facing him.  His eyes looked very serious.  “And then, when we were in the infirmary…”

“I’m supposed to care about you, I’m your Kept.”  She couldn’t quite look at his face.  Months and months of untangling the chains around his dreams had made him her project, even if only when asleep.  She’d never thought about what she’d do when his dream-self was all untied.

“I was going to say, when you told me what you’ve been doing.  How long have you been… using your power?”

“Since the first week?”  Now she had to look at him.  His voice sounded so serious.

“I was angry.  I don’t like having my mind tinkered with.  But I thought — you knew that, and whatever you did, you did anyway.  So I went to talk to Professor Pelletier about that.”

“The other day, when you said you were going out with the guys?”

“Yeah.”  He turned on the shower.  “So… you’ve been healing my brain, all year.  You didn’t have to do that.”

“Well… no.  But when I did, you started being more reasonable.  So I kept doing it.” Ceinwen looked away again.  She didn’t want to go into how much she’d argued with herself about that.

“But you didn’t know that when you started.”  Thorburn, it seemed, did.  Why?

“No.  But… even if you were being a jerk when you were awake, you were hurting when you were asleep.”

“Was I that much of a jerk?”  His hands tightened on her arms.  “So much that you don’t want me there when our child is born?”

“I don’t like being Kept.”  She spoke carefully.  This was not the time to get him upset.  This was really, really not the time to get him upset.  “I don’t like — well.  We talked about the clothes, when Basalt Kept Ahouva.”

“And the nightgowns.”  Thorburn ran his thumb over her collarbone.  “I thought you were happy with that.  You got your nightgown when you got pregnant.  And you’ve gotten all of your clothes back.”

“Even the ones you hate.”  Not that wearing clothes he didn’t like was that much fun, when it led to bad-Kept guilt feelings the whole day.

“Indigo never did that.”

“I gathered.  She said you were ‘back to dressing like a thug.’“

“Yeah.  She hated most of my clothes.”  He frowned.  “I really do think the capri things look silly. I’m sorry.”

She swallowed.  He was trying.  She wasn’t sure what he was trying, but he was certainly trying something.  “Okay.”  She touched his cheek, and tried to think about what he wanted.  It was hard; when he wasn’t giving orders he wasn’t all that clear on things.  “So.  Maybe we could go shopping, when the Store is open again, and find, like, five or ten outfits we both like?  Things that look good on me?  I’m going to need maternity clothes soon anyway.”  She touched the collar.  Things would have to work with the big, chunky, amber-ness of it.  That made everything trickier.

He put his hand over hers on the collar.  “If you want… there are a few students who do custom tailoring, too.  I’ll get you a couple things that you really like?”

She still wasn’t sure what he was doing, or how long the nice thing would last, but she would take it while she had it.  “I’d like that, yes.”  She took a deep breath.  “Thank you.”

Lee

Friday, February 27, 2004

He woke up from the weirdest dreams to find that he was still in a nightmare.

“It’s all right.  Ilian, this is Doctor Caitrin.  Can you hear me?”

Dr. Caitrin?  There’d been the away team… and then the snake-lady, and then… then dreams.  Dreams involving a lot of running, and a lot of stone.

“I can hear you.”  Lee cleared his throat, and opened his eyes.  Tried to open his eyes.  “I can’t see anything!  I can’t open my eyes!”  He tried to move a hand, but nothing moved.  “I can’t feel my arms.  Shit, it’s like that Metallica video.  I’m going to be stuck here forever. Shit, shit.  Shit!”

“Ilian, calm down.  You’re not going to be stuck like this forever.  We’re taking our time healing you, but everything that has been done to you is healable.”

“I can’t move.”  It was like being trapped in a box, but worse.  “I can’t feel anything!”

“Lee, please calm down.  Most of your body is still stone. We woke you up so that we can work on your optic nerves.  It helps to have you conscious for the process.”

There was a giant weight on his chest.  “Are you sure my lungs aren’t stone?  I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.”

“Lee, please calm down.”

“You said that already.  Oh, god, I’m going insane.”

“Ilian, are you claustrophobic?”

“What?”  He laughed, although it came out sounding like an insane clown.  Maybe he really was going nuts. “Don’t be silly.  I’m not. Unless you have me locked in a box shit you have me locked in a box…”

“Sleep.”  He could feel a hand on his forehead, and then everything was quiet.

Pania

Friday, February 27, 2004

“I’m bored.”

“We could play Doctor again.”

“Doctor wasn’t that much fun.”  Her Keeper had strange ideas of “fun,” usually, but Pania was learning to live with most of them.  “Princess was a little better.”

“That’s because you get to kick and complain and stuff.  What about chambermaid?”

“You only make me do chambermaid when you’re mad at me.”

“Or when the suite needs cleaning.  Which it does.”

“Why don’t you be the chambermaid and I’ll be the picky employer?”

“Hrrmph.  When you’re Keeper…”

“Which will never be, at least not your Keeper.”

“There’s always after school.”

“Yeah, like you’d agree to that.”

“Hey, you never…”

A knock at the door interrupted this somewhat interesting line of bullshit. Pania rolled her eyes, stood up, and answered the door.

She almost shut it again when she saw who it was, but the squirrel who’d borne Efro’s first child looked lost and worried.  “Efro?”

“Reese.  Come on in, if you mean me or mine no harm.”

The squirrel skittered in, glancing nervously between Pania and Efrosin.  “Eff, I need advice.”

“So ask.”  Efrosin leaned back in his chair, looking far too comfortable with this role.  Damnit.  Pania took her own seat, wishing Reese wouldn’t encourage this.

But Reese seemed to like it.  The squirrel sat down on the floor in front of Efrosin, looking between him and Pania.  “Can she…?”

“No.  She can stay.  It’s her room, too, Reese.”

“You never let me stay.”

“You gossiped like a parrot.  Still do.  Pania does not.”

“Fine.” Reese sulked, while Pania did the best to not show her pleasure.  “Boom wants to make a deal with me.”



Art by Reymonkey


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37 comments »

  1. Wysteria says:

    Wheeeeee.

  2. Rix says:

    Is this going to be something like Reese helps Boom, they get him Lee?

    • Gudy says:

      I am clearly not devious enough for that environment – I’d never have come up with that idea. But now that you mention it, that does have possibilities… 🙂

      Also, yay for Ceinwen and Thorburn!

      Typos:

      “Hmm?” Oh, yeah. I’m okay. I just got a little faint.” -> extra quotes after “Hmm”.

      “Which will never be, at least not your Keeper.” -> missing “I” after “Which”.

  3. Kim says:

    Prof Pelletier for the win.
    Some professors are /good/ at their job.
    Others, like Doug, just wander around kicking themselves.

  4. LilFluff says:

    Ook. You know, I don’t think I’d object if Reese managed to get Lee. Reese been kind of an ass, but far far better than Lee has now.

    And Reese seems more amenable to self-improvement.

  5. Kuro_Neko says:

    I’m kinda surprised the whole fourth/fifth floor situation seems to have been resolved off-screen at this point but I guess there are reasons.

    It is nice that things are improving between Ceinwen and Thorburn but they still aren’t remotely perfect. Has no one told Ceinwen that tradition states that she should be free by the time the baby comes? Or is Thorburn planning to defy that tradition?

    She may like him now, but alot of that is likely to be heavily influenced by the bond, now that he’s not being as much of an ass. How she feels after the collar comes off is likely to be much more extreme and not in a positive way. But I admit that may just be my own bias.

    Reese getting Lee wouldn’t be a great situation, but everything is relative and it would certainly be a big step up from his current situation. Reese reminds me of a flightier Ty, and is likely to be about the same with his/her Kept.

    Pania Keeping Efro after school would be interesting. It also might be the only way he could expect to have anything like a close relationship with her long term. Even if he hasn’t been so bad with her, what has happened will lay between them like a wall unless he takes drastic measures. This suggestion would certainly count.

    Speaking of which, have there been any Keepings (where the Kept didn’t willingly agree to be Kept knowing what it entailed) where the two involved actually had a romantic relationship after the collar game off?

    • Lyn says:

      Speaking of which, have there been any Keepings (where the Kept didn’t willingly agree to be Kept knowing what it entailed) where the two involved actually had a romantic relationship after the collar game off?

      I am… not sure. Oh! Yes, Alisha and Vladimir.

      • Wysteria says:

        Given that removing the collar is a metaphor for breaking up with someone, it’s a little like asking if people are dating their exes, isn’t it?

        • Kuro_Neko says:

          That really depends on the situation. And that’s more true of the past then the present. It’s been stated somewhere here in the the 9th year stories, that other students get very annoyed if you Keep longer then the traditional year, probably because most of the people who have done so in the past have been monsters. It isn’t really unreasonable that the Keepers who have grown particularly fond of their Kept might want to try a real relationship without the magic is it? Sure they’re deluding themselves, any relationship that has it’s foundations on lies and trickery, not to mention forceful enslavement, is not going anywhere (as demonstrated by Lyn’s response that out of roughly two hundred Keepings, only one ever went on to have a relationship afterwards) but they’re teens, they’re all going to think they’re special, that it’ll work for them.

      • Kuro_Neko says:

        Thank you for the prompt reply. Only one huh. I can’t say I’m surprised. Though I’m alittle saddened that Donegal and Aella didn’t make it. I know she was forced into it and hated the school and what it stood for. But none of that was Donegal’s fault (he being probably one of the few, possibly only Keeper that could honestly say that) and he seemed really serious about treating her right and making it work long term.

        • Lyn says:

          I forgot Donegal and Aella!

          There are a lot of storylines I haven’t figured out all the way to the end, so we can’t say “this is just one pair out of 200 students,” not accurately. This was the pairing that came to mind.

          Abaddon & Channing, but they were a different situation.

          Also: How many couples do you know that stayed together after a high school romance?

          • Kuro_Neko says:

            So Donegal and Aella worked out? That’s good. It’s nice to see something good coming out of this place. I really identified with the two of them and their struggles with the darkness of Addergoole so I’m glad they got a happy ending.

            I’ll freely admit that high school romances are usually short, so that 1/200 stat, even if it was accurate, isn’t really a grim as it might appear. But I did know quite a few relationships from my school days that lasted more then a year, even if they didn’t work out in the long term. And statistically some high school romances do work out long term. We’ve seen a few out of Addergoole, but all the one’s we’ve seen have started with either willing Keepings, or didn’t involve Keeping at all.

            The point I was trying to make was that a relationship that starts off with lies and trickery is like a castle built on sand, it’s going to collapse eventually, if it even gets off the ground.

            A kinder person might allow that that lesson is intentional on Regine’s part. I’m not that person though.

            It’s kind of sad actually. Many of the Keepers aren’t really bad people. They’ve just been corrupted by the darkness of Addergoole. By the time they realize they really like their Kept and would maybe like to explore something more lasting, it’s far too late for anything like that to happen except in very rare cases.

    • Lyn says:

      In re. the 4th/5th floors: There is a commissioned story that I plan on posting this weekend that covers this a little bit more, but the nature of the story means that time must continue to flow.

      I can always be commissioned to write more on anything that perks your interest.

      • Kuro_Neko says:

        I just meant that you spent lot of time setting up the situations and dangers, and it seemed like it was going to be the major story line of year nine, and now suddenly it’s all resolved without us seeing how and with little to no fanfare. That seems alittle, I don’t know, lopsided. Sorry, I’m not sure if I’m expressing myself clearly.

        • Lyn says:

          Well, it is the major story line. I mean, it’s not over just because they know there’s a fifth floor?

          • Kuro_Neko says:

            I’d gotten the impression that all the fourth floor students have been captured and most if not all of creatures from the fifth floor have been killed, is that not the case? If I’m not misunderstanding the situation, that means there’s really nothing left but the clean up. The plot-line seemed to be building to an epic climax, but that climax seems to have happened off-screen.

  6. Wysteria says:

    I’d say adults swooping in and dealing with stuff so kids are left feeling a little ‘was that my entire part in this?’ is a staple of certain sorts of young adult mysteries – ‘and then the police arrive and take the villain away.’

    Not that that’s what I think this is, exactly, just a genre comment.

    • Wysteria says:

      Additionally:

      “The point I was trying to make was that a relationship that starts off with lies and trickery is like a castle built on sand, it’s going to collapse eventually, if it even gets off the ground.

      A kinder person might allow that that lesson is intentional on Regine’s part. I’m not that person though.”

      If the kids form lasting relationships with each other, it could endanger Regine’s experiment. People pair bonding and not having kids with multiple partners, or teaming up to try to get around the geas. Why would she want them to form lasting relationships, when it wouldn’t assist her projects or her powerbase?

      • Kuro_Neko says:

        I agree completely. Which is why I said I wasn’t that person. Regine likes to put a altruistic spin on things, when she bothers to pay attention to that sort of thing to begin with. But nothing that happens at Addergoole is happening with the intent to help these children. It may sometimes work out that way, but to Regine that’s completely beside the point. It’s all about her experiment, and she cares if it destroys lives only when that destruction puts her results in jeopardy. She is in fact the worst type of person to be put in charge of a school full of children, and it says alot of things, most of them bad, about Ellehemaei society that the people in charge of it are perfectly fine with her continuing to run it after they find out about it.

        I’m frankly amazed that the school and it’s staff lasts as long as it does (from what we see from future time side-stories, it lasts at least into the next generation). I would have thought that some former student or combination of former students would have acted against them. Though yes, the distrust the school sows while the students are there would hamper that. But even if Ellehemaei are hard to kill, a high-powered hunting rifle round though the head will at least put them down long enough to close the distance and finish them off with rowan or hawthorn. I know alot of the staff don’t seem to leave the school much, but at the very least someone has to go pick up the returning and new students every year and that would be the perfect time for some sniper action. Magic is all well and good, but it’s hard to defend against a supersonic bullet fired from cover 600 yards away, especially when you have no idea it’s coming. Hell, with the right combination of Words, getting a hold of some serious military hardware wouldn’t be that difficult. As tough as Ellehemaei are, and as deadly as they are in close combat, at the kind of ranges your average military hardware operates at, there’s no contest. An RPG into the side of Luke or Doug’s truck as they’re driving to the airport would take care of them quite handily. Guerrilla warfare has been around for a long time because it works. Ellehemaei have only survived as long as they have because of their mind tricks. Put another Ellehemaei at the other end of the rifle scope and alot of that is negated.

        As you can probably tell, I’ve put way more time then is really healthy into thinking of ways to kill the staff and/or destroy the school, or at least shut it down. It’s a stationary target that doesn’t have remotely the manpower for an active defense. They depend on their wards almost exclusively. Cut off their way to transport people and supplies in and out and you effectively shut it down, even if you can’t get inside. Mine the approach, figure out the supply lines and poison the food, sniper perches overlooking the connecting roads. A single person could do a lot of damage. A single crew could do a severe amount of damage. Two or three crews working together could shut that place down cold. Where are the Wolverines when you need them.

        • Wysteria says:

          “Ellehemaei have only survived as long as they have because of their mind tricks.”

          I would, I think, disagree. Yes, a lot of what they use on the students is mind tricks and mind control, but that doesn’t mean that that’s the only trick in their arsenal. They have seers, stuff-blowers-up, flyers, fighters, people who sent elves to the moon in bonus stories. I think they just use mind control on the kids because it’s one of the least forceful methods to achieve their goals. Kid gloves, so to speak. I usually call these guys elves, but they’re also self-described demigods. They can call lightning down from the heavens and lava up from the earth. Saying that they could be taken out by a human-style military team or kids will less than a decade or two of experience is, I think, drastically underestimating them. They also have allies – the other fae parents involved in the project but not teaching, like Aelfgar and Smoky (only appeared once) and a variety of others that they could call in as necessary. These guys fight the dragons, who are shown to be bloody terrifying, and don’t die. I think you would need a broader organization than a few guerilla teams.

          And your own precog, at the very least, to counter their precog getting in your way at every turn.

          • Kuro_Neko says:

            Hmm… you definitely have a point there. The precog aspect would be especially difficult to get around. Though I had gotten the impression that their precog powers aren’t exactly controllable.

            Their powers are very impressive, but so are most first world militaries. The problem is not even they can defend everywhere and everyone all the time. That’s what makes guerrilla tactics so effective.

            Magic is draining. It’s difficult to keep major magical effects up for long periods of time. Which is why at least in the short term, sniper and ied tactics could do some damage. That does hinge on how precise and controllable the precog powers are of course. But if they were precise and controllable enough to pin down snipers then wars would boil down to a battle in the minds of precogs and be decided without casting a spell.

            It’s probably not as easy as I initially laid out in the first post regarding this, but they could still do some damage.

  7. Wysteria says:

    Magic is draining, yes, but area effect spells bound to objects are obviously something the adults have mastered – look at the school mind control. It’s built into the walls. Magic is draining for the kids because they haven’t grown more powerful with age and/or learned to bind their intent to objects to make it last longer. We haven’t really seen 4th year student cutting loose, either, in canon, so I don’t know how far an Addergoole education will take you. It is a high school, though, so at a guess only so far as not blowing yourself up and the bare basics you need to get by in a non-magical career or magic used domestically, unless you specialize. They don’t even give you combat lessons by routine.

    I think human wars would boil down to precog battles if the fae get involved in human politics on multiple sides and were in positions to control the behavior of armies using their precog knowledge, which hasn’t been shown to be the case.

    I’m not saying snipers or road bombs full of hawthorn splinters couldn’t take an effect, but it wouldn’t really disrupt the power structure unless you could get inside and take out Regine. She’s the one everyone’s taken oath to, as far as I can tell. Killing Luke or Doug would just leave you with a pissed off rest of the school, and they’re the ones who run the errands.

    • Lyn says:

      If you succeeded in killing Doug, you’d get to see Luke in a vengeful rage.

      If you succeeded in killing Doug _and_ Luke, then we’d see what Mike looks like angry. Really, really, really. angry.

      • Wysteria says:

        Now I’m afraid of Mike. Odd. o_o I have never really been worried by him before, despite his fullblood/old status.

      • Wysteria says:

        Huh. You know, that spec thing we were talking about with Zita and Cya collecting people for that project might run aground on just that mistake.

    • Kuro_Neko says:

      I guess I just don’t have a really good grasp of the magic in this world. Addergoole as a story is more “Boarding School of Horrors” and less “Wizarding School” then it appears at first glance. And as is fitting with it’s “Boarding School of Horrors” base, it’s much more about the emotional turmoil of the characters, and less about what they’re actually learning. The long infodumps explaining the magic system you would expect from a “Wizarding School” base are wholly absent here. In fact the lack of solid information, by both the characters and the readers, is a big part of its draw. So I’m pretty much in the same boat a vengeful student would be in, if not worse, with attempting to plan any kind of retaliatory strike. Still, I’m surprised that someone hasn’t at least tried it. I know most students’ attitude is to just get far away from Addergoole and not think about it at all until they have to, but at lest one student has to have been vengeful enough over their treatment to try revenge, no matter how poorly thought-out it might be or how bad an end it would come to. *shrug*

      • Wysteria says:

        There’s at least one murder/expulsion that hasn’t made it into the stories proper, too, that only gets a glancing mention in Year 5 – ‘murder gets you expelled.’ I wonder, now, if expulsion is actually the basement. I wonder if we’ll meet that murderer now.

        Doing some math: if we say 4/20 or 1/5 of students have terrible times, by roughly twenty students by five graduating classes, that’s twenty kids who have both motivation and freedom to start planning a strike right now. Of twenty kids, how many are likely to try to take on the Addergoole staff after four years of learned helplessness and brainwashing? I’d say the stats there would be more 1/100 than 1/20.

        I agree it’ll happen (at least the attempt). I just wouldn’t put money on it having happened yet.

        • Kuro_Neko says:

          Ok, yeah. Very good points. I can agree with that.

          As to expulsion equals basement, one of the shorts on the LJ stated that the perpetrator of at least one murder was apparently mind-wiped of any knowledge of the supernatural, locked down with gesa and escorted off the grounds in secret, according to the ghost of the murder victim.

  8. Lyn says:

    @Wysteria – Here: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/148412.html

    Stuff in the DW is sometimes subject to change, but I do think this one is canon.

  9. Kuro_Neko says:

    Ok, I take back anything remotely nice I might have said about Thorburn. I was just on the DW and apparently I missed some stories when I was there the first time. I just read the one where the bastard rapes her and mind-rapes her into wanting it at the same time. When that bond comes off and all those orders no longer apply there is absolutely no way she’s going to want anything more to do with him, let alone want him at the birth.

    • Wysteria says:

      DW stories are only half-canon, so we don’t know if that happened in this version. Thus me reserving judgement.

      • Kuro_Neko says:

        I seem to have missed that info. Ok. If they’re of variable canon then I should probably stop reading them before they mess up my head-canon worse. Thanks for the heads up.

        Though that said, she’s already pregnant, and she’s only just recently stopped hating him. So it’s not a reach that some sort of non-consensual sex happened at some point, if not the mind-rape.

        • Wysteria says:

          Yeah, that’s my basic take. I can’t see any reason she would have consented, outside of the ‘arguing with him doesn’t work anyway’ sort of consent that isn’t.

          • Kuro_Neko says:

            So that leaves only the mind-rape in question. She’s pretty stubborn, do you think the bond would convince her to like him if he did force her into sex without some additional mind tinkering? Or did the bond’s natural effects just finally wear her down?

  10. […] Saturday, February 21, 2004 – after Chapter 29 […]

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