March 13, 2014 by Lyn
Ceinwen had meant, inasmuch as she’d meant to have this conversation at all, to stay calm. She’d meant to be collected about the whole thing, not to shout. Shouting both didn’t do anything and tended to upset the owlbear.
But then… Well, then she’d found her voice rising anyway. She swallowed and tried again, lower, quieter. “Why?”
Colden sighed. “Failure, at the age of twenty-five – twenty-five in my case; your mother was twenty-two – to really think about the logistics. Failure to realize that they meant school and not college or at least something that would wait until you were eighteen.”
“Failure, lots of failure, to read the fine print.” Ceinwen’s mother’s voice was even softer than her father’s. “She dangled riches in front of us – not just money; they offered us things we would not have been able to get otherwise.”
“And they offered power and education for our children that most of us had never seen.” Colden folded his hands on the table. “‘We can be ninety-five percent certain that children in the Addergoole will Change; we will teach all of them their Words and they will be taught each of those Words by an expert in it.’ Those things just weren’t available otherwise.”
“And the… her reasons.” Gina covered her face with her hands. “It’s very easy to think about the better social good when you’re not thinking about an actual child.”
Ceinwen swallowed. “I… the greater good?”
“Think about what you’ve learned already.” Colden’s voice had a bit of fire to it. “Think about one year of learning at Addergoole. What could you do with that, that you couldn’t do before?”
“I can…” These were her parents. Could she…
Yes. “I can begin to heal the marks of emotional abuse.”
Ceinwen watched as that sank in, as her parents tried to process what she was saying. She watched as parts of it began to sink in.
“Well,” Gina spoke slowly, “that is in line with what Aelgifu can do – and that makes sense with the family line as a whole.”
“Gina, that means…”
“I know what it means, Colden.” Ceinwen’s mother was not in the habit of snapping at people – except in moments like this. “It means our baby girl, in that place, encountered enough emotional abuse to know what it looks like.”
Ceinwen looked between them. “Guys…” She wanted to scream and to be gentle at the same time. “I knew what emotional abuse was before I went to Addergoole. It’s not like some of my friends don’t have shitty parents, or shitty relationships. It’s just – now I can help heal it.”
She rubbed her hands over her arms. “The nice thing about it in Addergoole, is… I think I can heal people enough that they don’t start cycles again. I can get them on the right path, at least.” She bit her lip. “I don’t think I could have helped Thorburn as much as I did, if he didn’t want the help.”
“Cinnabon, it’s not your job to fix people. The school, the adults at the school, they’re there to take care of people.”
Ceinwen’s fists clenched. “I’m not exactly a child anymore, Dad. I have a daughter. I survived a year at Addergoole.”
“Survived? Ceinwen, what…?” Her mother leaned forward. “Honey, what happened?”
When they asked, flat-out, it was harder to think about. Ceinwen closed her eyes. “You have to promise not to shout and not to… well, I guess you can cry, but you have to make it through this, okay? If you ask me to tell, you have to be able to listen to all of it.”
“Cinnabon…” She could hear the catch in her mother’s voice. “Of course, Ceinwen. Of course.”
“I promise, Ceinwen. I’ll listen.” Her father squeezed her hand.
She drank her orange juice, because her throat was feeling clogged and she had more throat than any two girls ought to, and then she started telling them.
“They have this thing called Hell Night, the second week of the year. It’s supposed to scare people into Changing, but they use it to trap people into Keepings, too. ‘Come with me and you’ll be safe.’”
She kept going, detailing Thorburn’s heavy-handed method of Keeping, the way he’d taken all her clothes away, the nightmares.
“I don’t know what, exactly, happened to him under Indigo’s collar. But I know that Basalt – my friend Ahouva’s Keeper – thought that he and Thorburn had gone through similar Keepings, and Basalt turned out pretty okay, and Thorburn… didn’t.” She shrugged. It was a simplistic comment on a complicated subject, but there was only so much she wanted to get into.
She did get into the way she’d gone into Thorburn’s dreams and untangled the worst of the nightmares, how she’d slowly relaxed his sleep, and how that had slowly relaxed his grip. “It was self-serving.”
“Self-serving? Cinna… Ceinwen, I don’t understand?” Her mother was crying, although she was clearly trying not to show it.
“Thorburn… he was such a mess. He was a mess everywhere. He was, well, a bear with his hind paw caught in a trap. He was hurting.” She took a breath, surprised to find how ragged it sounded, and then another one, because one wasn’t enough. “He was in a lot of pain, pain he didn’t really understand and couldn’t stop, and so he lashed out at everything that got near. And I was closest to him, and the easiest to hit. Curry really didn’t get anything – it turns out Curry’s a tree, which sort of explains him acting like a child – and Basalt is sort of rocky all the way through. But I’m his Kept – I was his Kept – and I was right there, and he could do whatever he wanted to me.”
“Not whatever.“ Her father’s voice rose up angrily. “There’s limits; there’s always limits. That’s why we’re the Shenera Endraae. We respect the Law.”
“Colden.” Her mother coughed again. “Colden, you know that’s true of your friends and mine. But you know…”
“There’s deviants, yes. There’s always deviants. Riley and John and I used to track them down and give them a piece of our minds – or our fists. Which I’d like to do to this Thorburn guy.”
“Dad, no.” Ceinwen frowned. “I mean, maybe a little… but no. Like I said. He was hurt. Unless you want to hurt Indigo for making a mess of him – and my guess is, she was just clueless. He did stupid things. But he got better.”
“You’re more understanding about this than I would be, Cinnamon.” He settled down with a pop of his jaw. “But I want to talk to the teachers if they’re selling the idea that you can do anything.”
“I don’t think they are. I don’t think they all are, at least. I mean, they teach their own points of view on that sort of things.” Ceinwen shook her head. “I don’t know. But what I know is that he was hurt, and I helped him hurt less. And I can do that for other people, too. I have done it for other people, although the closer – physically, I think; I’m not sure about emotionally or Kept or that sort of thing – but the closer I am to them, the easier it is to soothe their dreams.”
She looked between her parents. “You didn’t really know. About the collars, about the pain.”
“We should have, though. We should have thought about what happens when you let children play with adult things. We should have thought about putting that many teenagers in an enclosed space. We saw the dorms.” Gina shook her head. “We saw the whole facility, when it was being built. And we didn’t say anything.”
“Well, there’s nothing saying we can’t, now.” Ceinwen’s father had a look to his face she’d never seen.
“They’ll still have Ceinwen for three more years.” The weird thing was, even sounding like she was saying no, Ceinwen’s mom looked like she meant yes.
Ceinwen looked back and forth between her parents. Finally, she coughed.
“What would you say?” They were looking at her, so she thought, quickly, trying to figure out the rest of what she meant. “I mean ‘yes, you have our children and our grandchildren on to the end of time-”
“Dad, that might as well be until the end of time.”
“It might very well be.” Gina was killing a napkin slowly, twisting it into ropes. Ceinwen tilted her head at her mother; in response, her mother just shook her head. “Nothing to worry you with, Cinnabon.”
“You said… you said something about Regine’s reasons.” And then they’d gotten to talking about Ceinwen’s power, and about abuse and survival. All good topics, but… “And then you changed the subject.”
It was a guess, based on the things she could almost see, after-images and flickers out of the corner of her eye. Her mother frowned.
It was Ceinwen’s father that answered, however. “There are seers – you’ve encountered seers?”
“Well, I’m cy’Pelletier.” She smirked at her father, even though she knew the situation was serious.
“Ah, Shira, the Fur-Taker. Yes.” He nodded, coughed, and seemed to drag himself back onto the topic. “There are seers who believe that there is an apocalypse coming soon. I haven’t heard anyone who’s very firm on the details, but there are definitely whispers and rumors of a cataclysm. The sort of event maybe half the world survives.” He coughed. “The sort of situation where every skill a fae child can learn is an advantage, and the faster, the better.”
Ceinwen curled her knees up to her chest. She felt a little sick. She felt a lot enlightened. “So that’s why…”
“Yeah.” Her father’s voice was thick, too. “So that’s why.”
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