Chapter 2- Master Phillip's Rein
Next morning, I was allowed to sleep in. No one disturbed me until about an hour before Master wanted to leave. I had just enough time to eat, bathe and pack my mat and brush in a sack Cook gave me. Mistress called me again, but before I went, Cook locked me in a tight hug.
"Good luck, dear." she whispered. I was so shocked, that I actually said, "Thank you." in my native tongue instead of the normal English they seemed to fond of. I quickly corrected myself, and rushed to Mistress' chamber before she became impatient.
She was sitting in one of the finer chairs, looking out the window. She motioned me to her. When I was near enough, she clasped my long nimble hands in both of hers.
"Bunny, I know you've been here for five years," She looked out the window. So that's how long I've been here. I calculated that into the shorter years of Karanthia. There, I'd have been gone a whole seven years. Goddess, they probably did think I was dead. "But I hope you will look back on this time fondly." Then she hugged me, just as Cook had. When she released me, she handed me her bell, that called me to her.
"It'll go to your new Mistress. You are no longer mine." Tears pricked at her eyes again. Since I was technically no longer hers, I cleared my throat.
"My name," I said in very accented English, "Is Therese." Mistress blinked at me, and was about to speak, but Master was ringing his bell, and I had to hasten to his side.
I was trying to remember when exactly it was that these beings had found that the sound of certain bells would control us? I had to answer the call of the bell. Its jingling tune a rope dragging my feet forward.
I followed Master to the glider. I couldn't remember exactly when it happened. Most of that day was a blur. A blur of vines and limbs and arrows. All punctured by the bullets propelled by their alien weapons.
I watched the world I was now a part of. I had accepted that now. They had half destroyed their own world. Like puzzle pieces, scatterings of green gardens patched their way here and there throughout the metallic houses and sheds. Factories, now skeletons of their former, environment-killing selves dotted the landscape like ancient haunted castles. Industrial gardens could be seen, growing food and keeping the air breathable. Soon we were touching down on yet another metal rooftop. The tiles were in a swirling bronze and brick pattern. It looked quite nice from the air. I only dreaded how hard one would have to work to keep it clean and polished.
A servant was waiting at the outcropping door, holding it open once we had landed. She was a young servant, and pretty, by their standards. Dark chocolate skin and hair pulled back in dozens of braids like mine. Her clothing was the normal plain gray uniform servants usually wore. Formfitting suits stretched over their figures beneath plain white dresses or pants. I wore the formfitting suit as well, but my dress was only a slightly lighter shade of gray than the suit. Only Masters and Mistresses were permitted to wear bright lovely colors.
Master was wearing deep red robes over his suit today. His steps slapped sharply against the floor in his black shiny shoes. Shoes I had polished not more than three days ago.
My feet were clad in plain gray cloth slippers, and so I padded along almost completely silent.
Indeed, no one spoke until the Servant girl lead us into Master Phillips' entertaining room. Master Phillips, now that I got a better look at him, could be considered a handsome man. Straight shoulders and shoulder-length dark hair, now streaked here and there with silver. He was also wearing richly colored robes like Master, save his were a vibrant green. I admired the color, as it reminded me of Karanthia.
One day, I WILL return to you, Karanthia! I will walk your sweet shores again. This, I swear!
Master Philips looked at me in curiosity.
"Why does she mouth these strange words? I could not understand her." He asked Master.
"She always does that. It's in her own tongue. No one can understand it."
Master Phillips looked at me. "Let me hear what you said."
I looked up. "In English, or in Karanthian, sir?" I asked, keeping my voice respectfully quiet.
Master Phillips looked surprised. "She understands English?" He asked in amazement. Master looked amazed as well.
"I suppose so." He said with a short bark of a laugh. Master Phillips turned back to me.
"Karanthian." he said, pronouncing the name as if he were humoring a child.
I repeated myself, but louder. Both seemed in awe of our language. I had to pull the stoney expression closer to my mind to keep myself from smiling.
Then they sat down to discuss. Master was reluctant to let me go, saying how well I tended their garden and how well I seemed to fit into the household. I kept my expression solemn throughout all of this. Acting as if I wasn't completely aware that they were discussing me like a beast of burden.
After an hour or so of discussion, they reached an agreement of forty thousand dollars. I wasn't sure how much this translated into kreshls, Karanthian currency, but it seemed like quite a large sum. Master held out his hand to me, and I handed him Mistress' bell. After Master Phillips called for his case, and paid out the sum, Master handed him the bells. He rang the black handled one, the one that had been Master's. My feet moved almost separately from me. I walked to his side. He grinned like a child with a new toy. I was weary of this grin. Surely nothing good could come of it. Master stood, and I had to resist the urge to follow him back out of the house. I kept my eyes down cast, but my long slender ears heard his retreating footsteps all the way through the door leading to the roof. I was alone, with my new Master.
His hand came up to stroke the back of my leg. I skittered away, eying him warily. He didn't look angry, just annoyed. He rang the bell again, but I stayed where I was. Was the pull of the bell weaker in his hands? Or was he simply unused to handling them? Either way, I'd take what freedom I could. He frowned at me, as if wondering what to do next. I was nervous, and didn't know what to expect. But his bold touch had angered me. I still did not want him touching me.
"How did you serve the Glenlies?" He asked, watching me carefully.
"I worked in the house, served their meals and tended their garden." I said quietly. Keeping my voice at a calm and respectful volume. He nodded, and then looked at me with a touch of the lechery that he had shown at Mistress Glenlie's.
"You will work with the maids in the up keeping and tending of the household. We have a small garden, but it needs tending all the same. My ears pricked up in slight joy. I may be able to practice my powers after all.
"Is there any special conditions you would like?" He asked. This made my head spin. Food, water, clothes, freedom, shade; all these things whirled around in my head. I asked for the easiest to grant and that would cause the least ruckus.
"I'd like to work at night, if possible, Master." I said, quietly watching his face. "When I'm working with the gardens, the sun hurts my skin."
He nodded, and thought about this.
"That works well. I usually have my maids work in the evenings to avoid interrupting my meetings and guests."
I nodded and waited to be dismissed. Mistress usually did this with a turn of her head, or Master with a look in his eye. Master Phillips made an almost inconceivable wave of his hand. I hurried from the room only to run straight into the dark skinned maid that had met us on the rooftop.
"Marjory," Master Phillips called from within the chamber, "Take the slave to the kitchen and have her settle in. She'll work with the night maids, so make sure she sleeps somewhere out of the way."
Marjory, as I had guessed her name was, stepped quickly into the room to bow and say that it would be done immediately. Then she was dragging me down the hall at a surprising speed. I soon found my footing and was able to keep up easily.
The Slave! Do you hear me, Brothers? This is what I have been reduced to in this wasteland. Goddess help me, that I might see our lush land once more.
"You mumble like Rabbit does." Marjory said, somewhat surprised. My ears tilted in confusion. Rabbit? Was this a servant?
"He works with the fields behind the house. Good worker. Fast as anything. Looks kinda like you, in fact."
I decided that I liked this girl. "Looks like me?" I asked, my heart sped in joy as it hadn't in the longest time.
Marjory nodded, we had entered a room that was very obviously the kitchen. It was bigger and roomier than Mistress Glenlie's was. Marjory showed me a rather roomy cupboard that has never been put to use.
"We think it used to hold canned goods, but those have been outdated for centuries." Indeed, there were shelves. I removed all save the three that cleared my head. I could reach the very top one if I stretched.
"Wow, are you tall." Marjory said in a bit of awe and envy. "But Rabbit's even taller than you. I think you'll like him."
I was excited to meet this "Rabbit" though I was sure that this was no more his true name than "Bunny" was mine. I pulled out my sleeping mat and blanket and put the brush upon one of the shelves. The top one that no one else could reach.
"What--?" Marjory questioned when she saw the brush. I shrugged. "Mistress Glenlie wanted me to have it. Said I should wear my hair down every now and then."
This was the most I'd ever spoken to a human. I wasn't asked my opinion, so I never gave it.
"What did they call you in your old household?" Marjory asked.
"Bunny" I said tersely. I didn't like the name terribly much. But I couldn't insist on being called my true name. They wouldn't want to try to pronounce it anyway.
Marjory nodded as if this made sense and ignored my terseness. I was glad. If I had shown such impudence in Mistress Glenlie's house, I would have been beaten.
"You all settled in?" She asked. I nodded. What else was I supposed to unpack? I wish I had some of my old clothes. But those had been destroyed before my eyes when I had first been enslaved. My beautiful War Gown. Vibrant greens and rich browns. Woven with gold. A dozen tassels decorating the midriff, showing my twelve years of mastery over my arts. The stench of the smoke that flooded off of my gown as it burned had sunk into my skin and hair for days. If I thought about it hard enough, I could still smell it. The sick scent of smoke and molten metal. Marjory was showing me around, where the restrooms were, and the different chambers that I would have to clean. Finally she showed me the garden.
It was true that it wasn't as big as the Glenlie's, and I could tell it hadn't been tended in a while. However, this garden, unlike the Glenlie's, seemed more alive. More wild. As I walked with Marjory, I felt the life spinning from the flowers and plants and looping around my own energy. It was such a shockingly familiar feeling that I had stopped in my tracks and just breathed in the feeling of being surrounded by growing energy. I could feel the earth's energy. It was a start. If I could master it, maybe I could unlock my other powers as well.
Then I can return to you, my Karanthia, my home!
Marjory was looking at me strangely. As I realized this, I moved to follow her once more. We walked towards the fields, as she had called them.
I gasped in awe as we approached them.
Great expanses of plants, neatly ordered in rows, stretched for miles. There were different plants, dividing the whole field into many smaller fields.
"Master is an agriculturist." Marjory explained. I translated this in my mind to a harvester. A great responsibility that reaped even greater rewards here, it seemed. Marjory didn't let me wander the fields as I would have liked to. Saying that I'll be meeting all the field workers later in the evening when everyone met for the evening meal.
For the Night Maids, like me, this would be our first meal of the day. We were to cook for ourselves in the middle of the night and make as little noise as possible.
This wouldn't be a problem for me. The Karanthian forests had nothing on their quiet floorboards. We walked back into the house where Marjory left me to my cupboard. She said she'd come wake me when it was about time for the evening meal. I laid down on my sleeping mat and attempted to catch some sleep.
All I managed was a light rest, but it would get me through the night. Marjory came by and knocked on my door. She was going to open it up if I hadn't answered, but I opened the door immediately and stepped out into the half light of the kitchen. The Master and Mistress were gone to bed already, so the lights were kept on low to remind us to keep our voices down.
Marjory said we really needn't bother. The Master and Mistress were both sound sleepers, and the kitchen was well sound proofed. I didn't know what it meant, but no one seemed to bothered by the clanging of plates and silverware. I scanned the crowd. A good forty of us were there. Servants and field workers, mostly. Human varieties blurred when my eyes landed on the one that Marjory must have called "Rabbit". But I knew him by another name.
My heart swelled with joy that I could not stop myself from shouting "Xriss!" in my native tongue.
He looked up. The Amber eyes I remembered so well, first looking at me through a thicket of Poison Brambles. His hair was longer now, darker, now the color of what the humans call chestnut. I didn't know I had moved until I was beside him. Hadn't known I was crying until his thumb, rough from field work, wiped some from my cheek.
His own beautiful amber eyes shown with emotion, his voice, deeper than I remembered, was thick when he finally spoke.
"I thought they killed you." My arms ached to embrace him. But I became aware that we had the attention of the entire room. I smiled. And for the first time in seven Karanthian years, I felt the smile in my heart.
"We will talk later." I said, bowed respectfully, and walked back to Marjory. I could feel his eyes on me through the whole evening. Marjory looked at me curiously, but I made the slightest shake of my head, and she accepted it. Perhaps she thought it was a cultural thing. As surely this was the first time they had ever seen two Karanthians interact.
I hoped that is how it would be portrayed. I was still wary of these beings. I felt, like I had once felt at all times on Karanthia, his energy and mine intertwining. I know that is part of why we were captured. We were separated in the battle. Without our energies intertwining and protecting each other, our powers are much weaker. Is that why the plants here reacted stronger to my pull?
It was worth pondering. I now had a reason to work extra quickly tonight. As I looked up and met his eyes, I knew he would also be working faster than normal. I had to work to put the stone expression back into place to hide my smile. I ate in silence, listening and observing the groups around me. Marjory had pulled me into the Night Maid group, then left to join her own friends. Her job was now officially done. I looked over at Xriss again, and noticed that he was also wearing the plain gray uniform of a slave. It hurt my heart to see him captured so. I wondered if he felt the same when he looked at me. I truly took stock of myself. For the first time in five years I cared that I merely wasn't injured and could work. I was thinner now. I could feel my ribs close beneath my skin. But I also knew I was still strong, almost as strong as I had been when I first came here five years ago.
For the first time since then, I wondered if we had ever regained our Princess.
That was the reason I had been sent here, along with Xriss and ten other warriors. I watched the humans interacting with Xriss. Slapping him on the shoulder and laughing with him.
I wonder if they knew how many of their kind he had slain before that took away his sword.
Did they burn his Warrior's Robe in front of his eyes as well? I wanted to ask him, but now wasn't the time.
The groups seemed at once complex and ridiculously simple. The Night Maids sat and joked together with little connection to the Day Maids. The field Workers perused the crowds equally and the kitchen staff kept a watchful eye, they didn't want us leaving behind too big of a mess for them to clean. I didn't care to delve into most of the gossip. If a person wanted me to know with whom she had been in the tool shed with, I made a note not to have that as one of Xriss' and mine meeting places, she could tell me herself.
Though, I mused, it would be the sort of thing that she'd prefer no one to know. Ah well, for whomever this Jennifer person was, the cat was out of the bag now. I didn't pay too much attention until it was time to start the night chores. Hillary, the head of the Night Maids, told me that all I had to do, was dust and sweep a certain few chambers. Those would be my duty along with the garden. I couldn't wait to be in the garden and test my powers in this environment. But if I did a poor job cleaning, I knew I would be punished. I didn't know how harsh Master Phillips punished his slaves, and I wasn't keen on finding out. I worked as swiftly as I could, while being thorough. Such was my speed that I went over each room twice, just to make sure I didn't miss anything. I motioned Hillary over to see if there was something she could see that I had missed.
I almost smiled at the astonished look on Hillary's face when she saw the rooms. There were only three assigned to me. She peered around each one, checking for dust and such. She found none.
"Well, Bunny." I blinked at the use of my old Household name, but figured she had heard from Marjory. "I don't know how you did this all so quickly, but I can't fault the quality. Aren't you also in charge of the garden?"
I nodded, hiding my eagerness to start working on it.
"Well, you'd better get to it. We're wasting moonlight." I nodded again, and headed outside to the garden. Again I felt the plant's energy mingling with my own. I waved my hand over a bush. To my delight it swayed, following my hand like a hungry dog follows a treat. I smiled then, My second real smile in five years. Again I wondered how things were on Karanthia now. Did we succeed in getting the Princess back? If we didn't, then Xriss' and mine five years in this cruel hell was all for nothing.
I started weeding the garden. I could feel the energy streamline and flow as I removed the unnecessary plants. It didn't take me long in the small garden, though the weeds were spread widely. Soon I was watering them and spreading the grain-like fertilizer that Hillary had told me to use. For once I could sense the nutrition in the fertilizer instead of merely just the texture of it. My world was becoming rich with power again! My heart filled with a joy I had not felt in such a long time, I could not place the emotion immediately.
I peered at the sad looking flower bed. I wonder....
"Grow." I whispered, moving my hand like I was asking them to rise. For that, in a way, was exactly what I was asking.
I felt the energy flow between me and the flowers. Their stems straightened from their wilting depression. Standing straight, but sleeping. I smiled, and let them relax a little. Not too much though, I didn't want slouching flowers. I moved to the shadowy Apple tree. The gnarled limbs seemed to stretch out towards me, like a frightened cat showing its claws. I went to the tool shed to grab a pair of clippers. These were better for the user to hold and handle, but I wondered how they affected the tree?
It didn't do as well as some of the tools that we had designed on Karanthia, but they did a decent job. I trimmed back some of the branches so that they wouldn't interfere with the house, and encourage it to grow upward. I wanted to see if my powers could affect the tree, but I was feeling slightly drained from the days work. The light of the half moon was being blocked by a branch of the tree.
I stared at the branch for a while, wishing it would move. I was muttering nonsense to myself, but I may have stumbled across the name of the wind here, for the wind that had been moving softly in the opposite direction suddenly shifted and pushed the branch ever so slightly. The light of the moon shone down upon me. I smiled. I was beginning, at last, to find some sort of power here.
My gardening done, I went for a walk, hoping to find Xriss finished with his chores as well.
I walked around the fields, and didn't see him there.
Hoping he had already finished, I headed back to the kitchen. I should probably go to sleep soon, but I had to see if he was there.
I did find Xriss when I got to the kitchen. He was sound asleep under the table. I looked around to be sure that no one was around or likely to come near, and sat down beside him. I didn't want to wake him, but I wanted to be near him. So beautiful. So familiar. I nearly wanted to cry every time I looked at him. So many memories. I felt guilty for the feelings of hurt and betrayal when I think he wasn't coming for me. It made me wonder, who else got captured? How many others survived? Did any of them get back to Karanthia? I looked up at the moon through the kitchen window, at the seemingly empty space about a thumb's length to the left of it, and imagined that I could actually see Karanthia. I knew I really couldn't. Only our star could be faintly seen from here. But it was close enough to let me feel homesick.
More homesick might be the appropriate phrase, but I would never admit to anyone here that I was feeling that. That I was feeling anything. Except perhaps Xriss. He would know. The aching pain of being separated from everything you know.
Was this how the slaves dozens of centuries ago, on this planet, felt? The books I sometimes read here told me of such things. No one knows that I can read English. It's not information that I volunteer.
I can feel the night's work weighing on my eyelids, trying to force them to close. It's time to turn in.
I crawl over to my cupboard, and take out the only blanket I have, and tuck it around Xriss' sleeping form. It would be a shame if he caught cold.
I finally crawl back to my mat, and collapse onto it, to sleep as if dead until the day is well through.
I wake surprisingly warm. My blanket, though nothing can really be counted as "mine", is wrapped around me. I blink away sleep's blurriness from my eyes and stretch the stiffness out of my muscles. The kitchen is bustling, and I wonder why the clang of pots and pans didn't wake me before now. They are preparing lunch, and I get up to wander around. No one has told me any boundaries, so I watch my step, just in case. The fields seem to call to me, and my feet seem to know the path better than they should. Is this my power's growing strength? Perhaps I should test this out sometime. I tour around the fields, careful not to get in anyone's way. Crops are picked in one area, seeds planted in another, and land being cultivated and weeded in yet another. A full cycle at work at all times. I take a moment to marvel at the genius of this design, when a firm hand clasps around my arm.
An inner servant, one closer to the Master and Mistress than mere workers is dragging me back to the house.
"Master wants to see you." she said. What? If Master wanted to see me, why didn't he ring the bell? I follow, not stumbling over even the smallest pebble or hidden root. Even though my summoner tripped at least twice. I wonder what on earth Master could want to see me about.
Thoughts pop into my head. Dreaded, evil thoughts that I push away, praying that it won't be so. Yet some part of my heart suspects and braces for it.
I'm taken to Master's Chamber, across from his Bedchamber. It's an elegant room from what I could tell. Intricately designed rugs cover the floor and every wall had a bookcase filled to bursting with volumes. I stared at the rug under my feet, tracing it's swirling golden design with my eyes. I could tell at the edge of my vision that Master was sitting in the Grand chair, with a book on his lap. He seemed engrossed in it, for he took quite a few minutes to notice me.
"Ah, Bunny!" He exclaimed when he looked up. "Good, I wanted to see you."
Keeping my eyes downcast, I asked, "About what, Sir?" He was silent, and I raised my head slightly so that I could see what he was doing. He was looking at me thoughtfully, a hand stroking the small beard he had on his chin. It was trim and clean, I wondered if that was a job of one of the maids. The thought amused and appalled me. In a corner of my mind, I thought of the solitary expeditions that Karanthians had frequently. It was always best to be alone in Nature when decisions had to be made, and one had time to make them. Snap decisions, like those made in combat dealt with a different mind-set entirely. Survival. Perhaps the most basic and complex instinct a creature can posses. There is rarely a conflict of emotions. It's only emotion is panic, it's only knowledge being that of the line between life and death and keeping on this side of it.
Master spoke at last, pulling me from my side revelries. "Bunny, you know why I called you here, don't you?"
I looked up further, to see his face better. Something in his expression worried me.
"No, sir." I said My accent more apparent in my nervousness. He beckoned me toward him. I took a few steps closer then paused as he said, "You're very beautiful."
The evil thoughts I had been concerned about raised another clamor in my head.
He reached for me, and the rest is a black hole of despair in my mind. I have blocked it and shut it out.
The next thing I remember is couching beneath the Apple tree, shivering with disgust. Both at Master and at myself. I couldn't focus on what had happened. My dress what slightly torn, and my skin burned from his touch. Not from pleasure. From pain. So much pain.
I wept. I couldn't deny myself the purging of tears.
Why? Why do I endure this? I cried into my mind. A childish thought that had been with me since I had started this pitiful existence sprang up.
I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home.
The thought became a mantra. I was still weeping, wanting desperately for something familiar.
Suddenly, strong familiar arms came around me. Xriss, slightly winded and sweat-ridden from working in the field, cradled me as I wept. The mortification of a strong powerful warrior weeping like a child brought fresh tears, and I turned my face into his chest. Blocking out further memories of that day. I don't know if anyone else saw me like that, cradled in Xriss' arms, but I didn't particularly care. After my tears had subsided, Xriss wiped the rements of them from my cheeks, and kissed my forehead.
My heart filled with gratitude and love. A love that had dwindled slightly in my time when I thought I had been abandoned. Now it returned to full strength. I hugged him tightly and held on, wishing we were back on Karanthia, under the sacred falls.
When I rose, he looked like he was about to ask questions. I shook my head. I had just locked the horrible event away in it's own little corner of my brain. I didn't want to bring it back out. Not now, maybe never.
I wandered back through the house like a spirit, not registering the floor under my feet or the servants and maids that parted around me like water around an outcropping rock. Marjory was in the kitchen when I reached it. I must have looked like a real mess, but I said nothing by way of explanation, crawled into my closet and shut the door behind me.
There, I curled up and tried to make peace with what happened. Here, I could slowly bring out pieces of The Event, and evaluate them.
The first that popped up, Master pushing me onto the table. I dreaded that it might have come to this. Ever since my old Mistress had let him witness me disrobe.
How could they? How could they?! What am I to them?
A slave. That is what I am to them. Not a powerful warrior. Not a wise-woman. Not a healer. Not worth any respect. A slave. A toy.
But I am not those things. I will not be those things ever again.
How to fix this?
Find my Power.
Find the Princess.
Finish the battle, how it should have ended.
My mind made up, I slept for a few more hours. Resting up until Dinner.
Xriss and I sat next to each other, a splice of the two groups. Everyone's eyes were one us, but my emotions were shut down where they were concerned. Where humans were concerned. Xriss was my island in an ocean of careful apathy. I smiled at them when they spoke, gave them short answers and a calm face. They didn't notice a change. After Dinner, Xriss and I went for a walk around the empty fields. We didn't talk in English, as we had to around the others. We didn't want them getting paranoid and spreading rumors.
"Xriss, how long have you been here?" I asked, looking up at his noble face, which always emanated strength.
"Since about a month after the Battle." He replied, a bitter smile around his mouth. "It's easier for men around here. Master has a liking for his pretty maids."
"I noticed." I said, blocking out the memories fiercely.
"Therese, What did he do to you?"
I took a deep breath. This was going to be a tricky story to tell. Quickly, without loosing my nerve, I went through The Event. Saying it, and trying not to relive it. I failed, and every pain came back. Every tormented moment of it. Xriss' arms came around me again, and I hadn't even noticed tears were streaming down my face until I felt the wetness against his shirt. His arms were gentle, but the tension in his back told me how infuriated he was, even before he spoke.
"He will die for this." He growled, showing the ferocity of a Karanthian warrior. I couldn't be enraged. My blood didn't run hot with temper, but ice cold with deadly determination.
"He will die for this." I said, already mulling over a possible plan for such a dangerous achievement. It bore much consideration and planning. For if we were found out as the culprits, than the entire population of humans would be upon us, and no ear would hear our plea. "But not now, or our necks will be swifter on the executioner's block."
He nodded, and stepped back while I wiped away the tears I hadn't meant to let fall. We turned back to the house, and he went to the field worker's cabin while I went in to start my chores. The maids that had been impressed with my speed yesterday were shocked at it today. I poured my hidden emotions into my work, and cleaned like a demon. The only place I lingered was the garden. Working with my powers stronger.
For the next few days, that's how my life went. Repeats of the horror of the Chamber. Being with Xriss after Dinner, then working like a demon and strengthening my powers.
By the end of the third week in this barely bearable hell, I had Earth back under my control. Now, for water. That was another thing that I had to tweak. I got my time with it by gardening.
Water was trickier, but the energy was still flowing. When no one was watching, I had got my handle on water. It was a new part of joy to watch the water dance across the air under my direction.
The horror continued, Master becoming a monster of lust each afternoon.
Some sweet, sweet days Master had a meeting to attend in the afternoon, and so would not call me to the Chamber.
Ice was another aspect of water I was mastering again.
I was almost caught the other day. A maid had passed a window while I was practicing. Thankfully, I had been practicing only small things that day, and so when she looked again, all she saw was me holding the watering can. This was an antique can. Much different than the xenth alloy things they made now. Xenth alloy was a new thing. Discovered on Mars or some such neighboring planet. It was like metal, but lighter and stronger with a slight smell like cooked eggs. Unpainted, it had a faint pinkish color.
I remember when they had discovered our planet, all those years ago. It was at the end of the apocalyptic war. The war to end the world. They all suspected that the world would end in the year 2012. Little did they knew that it was merely the start of a war so great and so terrible that it would almost literally destroy the world.
Bombs had gone off, creating monstrous craters the size of asteroids. Much of the Earth's population perished. Only the extremely rich and powerful were saved, escaping into space with some of the doctors and intelligence of the world.
Funny how things turned out. They were near starvation when the Karanthian ship found them. Floating like jettison among the dust. Humans would not have been in existence if it weren't for us. We had taken them in, shown them the metal they now found on Mars, and how to use it. For centuries they lived among us, until the Earth had healed more from that devastating war. Now, centuries still after that, they have forgotten our kindness. Forgotten their debt. From the false, self-righteous ramblings of one man.
I had been weeding the garden rather viciously at this point, and had to stop myself and my spinning thoughts before I did harm to the plants. A maid was watching me from the window again. Was it the same one? She vanished before I could get a better look. I didn't see her face, and there was nothing distinguishing about her way of dress. It rarely varies among the servants and slaves. Did the nobles plan it that way? So that a faceless slave is just that? Faceless?
Faceless things don't feel. Don't own anything else. They are owned. In retrospect, it probably is how things got to where they are. I don't think someone could do what has been done to us, to something that had a face.
Then again, they did do worse to their own species. I'd heard stories and myths about the Spanish Inquisition. I gave a small thanks that they had abandoned many of the implements they had used then. But the Rack and the whips. Those were the same, I am told. There are more slaves, that aren't Karanthian. I met a few while I was undergoing The Breaking.
I shuddered and turned my mind away. I wouldn't think of that. I would not.
Finished with the garden, I began to practice my skills. I scooped up a handful of water, and flung it into the air. Muttering under my breath, I waved my other hand over it. The water stopped in mid-fling. Slowly, it froze over, turning into small daggers crystalline ice. I sensed someone watching and broke my concentration, letting the water fall, melting as it went, to soak into the ground.
The best thing about practicing with water and ice is that no one can recover the evidence. Though it was easier to account the miraculous state of the flowers to my amazing gardening skills.
I decided to leave before others could pass by. I went towards the fields to see if Xriss was still awake. I dared not go near the cabin. She did not want more gossip to spread. She knew it had started, the whispers and blades. I guarded myself against the future attack. Humans were predictable, to a point, but it was enough to guard and imagine. There were somethings they did that were simply unimaginable.
My mind flashed back to the Rack. Long limbs stretched to the breaking point. The crack of the whip against my back. And the chanting.
My blood began to boil. The chanting! All day and all night, never ceasing for breath, the unbearable chanting!
I refused to recall what the words were. The memories were stirring up old violent ways. It wasn't time for that yet. I knew I must stand firm like the willow. Bending to the wind just long enough for it to pass, then standing straight again. I looked up at the moon, at the star that was just a thumbs length away. At the surrounding space of that star. Somewhere in that microscopic circumference was Karanthia. My home. How many years had it taken for us to get here. And how many more for my feet to touch the blossom tinged soil?
Would it even be possible?
The despair that hid behind that doubt made me shake my head. I will return to my home. I will!
I turned back to the house, to sleep in my cupboard. The maids in the kitchen shushed their chatter and giggles when I walked in. I paid no heed. I didn't want their friendship anyway.
I closed the door to my cupboard behind me and curled up on my sleeping mat. Nerves had worn me out, and sleep pulled me under like a weight in deep water.
A pounding on the door jerked me awake. So violent was my awakening that I smashed my head into the shelf above me. I opened the door, cursing in my native tongue.
"Son of a grep! What the Soil Snorting Snail is wrong?"
A maid was standing in front of me. "Master wishes to see you."
I nearly wept again. Not again!
Dear Goddess! Save me this torture! How can I let him do this? I will not be his! I refuse!
But Master calls, and I must go.
Again, he's waiting in the Chamber. Another day of memories to burn into my mind. Before he reaches for me, he speaks. "I want to talk to you, Bunny." He said. There was something in his voice. Excitement? I remain silent, waiting for him to continue. "There have been rumors. Since the Battle, about your people being able to control the elements. Up until now they have been dismissed as complete nonsense. Do you have anything to add to this?"
I stayed silent. I did not want them to find out that my people had this power. Or that I, specifically, had this power. Would they kill me? Or worse, make me use my powers against my own people? My mind shied away from that thought, but I stayed still to listen to what Master had to say.
"You know, Bunny, that some of the Old World's technologies stayed with us. Such marvelous little inventions. So useful."
I had no clue what he's rambling on. What Old World technologies?
He turned and pressed a hidden button behind a book. A panel of the wall shifted to one side, revealing a wall of windows.
But these windows did not give a view of the outside world. Instead, each showed a different part of the estate. The fields, the kitchen, different chambers, the halls. And the Garden.
My mouth went dry, I clasped my hands behind my back, wishing for a glass of water.
He pressed another button, this one on a keypad on the desk. Why didn't I notice that before? Was it new? Or maybe it was always there and I just didn't notice it. The screen showing the garden changed. Things were moving backwards. I didn't completely understand what was going on, but I couldn't look away from the screen. I appeared on the screen. But, I was right here. What was this? I'd have to ask Xriss about this later. If I'm not locked up. Or killed.
That might put a slight hitch in my plan for vengeance.
There I am, working with the water, turning it to ice, letting it fall as I turn to look at a maid behind me.
This was last night. How is this possible?
The screen stops, and flickers. The garden is empty now, and the sun is shining along the flowers, which turn their faces toward the light. This is the garden now. I swallow tensely, trying to relieve the dryness in my throat. It feels like I've been trying to eat sand. I turn to look at Master. He is watching me like a child would look at a new toy.
One that has just been discovered to have a whole new feature.
I have a very bad feeling about this...
"Well, Bunny," Master says, a half smile playing around his mouth, "What do you think of my surveillance system? Interesting, no?"
I nod, "Yes, sir. Very interesting. How does it work?"
Master grinned. "There are cameras placed all over my estate. I like to keep track of everything that goes on. The Who's who of my people. Speaking of, you and Xriss seem to know each other very well."
He presses another button. A blinks, and Xriss is cradling me in his arms as I weep. A new mortification mixes with the memory. My cheeks flush with heat, and I know my eyes are starting to turn green. I look back at Master, turning away from the screen.
"What do you want?" I ask. I want to shout at him. Scream. This is a new low for this planet. A whole new low.
Master smiles at me. Condescending. It makes me want to punch him.
"I just want to see what happens. I want you to continue your small training sessions. In fact, I'll have the staff avoid the garden at night so that you can have your privacy."
He laughed as I glanced back at the screens. "Relative privacy." Then he moves toward me. I mentally brace myself. "Now, for the other reason I called you here."
I stumble out of the chamber. He didn't go easy on me tonight. My bound chest stings where he bit, and my legs ache.
I make my way wearily back to my cupboard. Hoping to get some more sleep before it's time for dinner.
Dinner is an interesting event. Everyone's staring at me. Master has doubtless told everyone to avoid the gardens by now. Everyone wonders why. No one will know. Do they know about the cameras? I'd heard of things. But from what I knew, the old cameras could only capture pictures in black and white, and took quite a long time to reset. Perhaps that was too far back, maybe these were better cameras than that. It was definitely possible. Especially with the Xenth being used so widely. These cameras were probably ten times better than anything they had created in the Old World. I cleaned at my usual quick pace, then headed to the garden. The screen had showed my face when I had been turned away from the house, fearing eyes there. But now there would be no eyes watching from the house. Only the eye of the camera to worry about. I looked around the bushes that faced the house. There was a curious little gap that I sometimes noticed, but never bothered to do anything about. As I went about my trimming and weeding I looked out of the corner of my eye. There was a small lense, like a gleaming black eye in the bushes. When I finished, I faced the bushes as normal, glanced at the lense, wondering if I could move a branch to obscure it. But I couldn't do it immediately, else Master would know and punish me. I chose a branch a little to one side of the lense and motioned my hand at it. It wasn't in the Eye's line of site, so I was confident that this would be seen as just a random hand movement if being watched. The branch moved to the left. If the branch were a little closer, it would cover the lense. Later. Let him think he can continue watching me. I turned to the house, and waved the water from the canister at my feet into the air. Guiding it like one would instruct a concert. I sliced my hand through the air sharply, and the water froze, a clear sheet of ice. Carving my hand through the air, I shaved off some of the ice into different shapes. Animals, flowers, faces. Knives.
My eyes flashed green, as I imagined plunging a icy blade into the master's heart. It would be perfect, except for the hidden eyes that were everywhere. Never sleeping and always watching. I couldn't expect to get away easily after such an action. I shoved the thought aside.
I worked with the ice for a little longer, then let it melt and guided it back to the canister and walked toward the fields. Somehow knowing that I was being watched. Me especially. Master wasn't only curious about the goings on of his estate, he wanted to watch her.
For what purpose and reasoning, I didn't know, but I was soon going to find out.
I let this continue for a few more days. Doing the same motion at the same branch every time. Never obscuring the ever watchful camera eye. About a week went by, almost every night, Master would call me into the Chamber, ask about my "special training" to which I would only nod or shake my head. Then he would reach for me. I never remember how long he has me in there, but it seems like an eternity. And each time I leave, purposefully forgetting everything that transpired.
So many memories beating at the door of my mind. Locked out but fighting to be let back in.
Not now. Maybe never. It was too much for the moment. The hurt, the anger, the breaking.
I'm broken. I know this. Realize it every time I wake up in a cupboard, every time I walk towards the Chamber because Master is ringing the bell. I haven't seen a Mistress. Was Master even married? If he wasn't, then why didn't he go court some of the ladies at the Operas and Parties. If he was so desperate for a physical companion, why didn't he go to a brothel? He had the money, and was relatively under the radar as far as I knew, to have it not tarnish his reputation. So why did he stay at home, watching me on his screens and...
I couldn't say it. Couldn't think it. I had blocked it out, and it would stay blocked. I went looking for Xriss. I couldn't tell him about the Chamber, though. I couldn't risk him attacking Master, or looking at me with disgust because Master had....had...touched me.
I walked toward the fields, the grass under my bare feet almost reminding me of home. I look at the ground, until the edge of the field is beneath my feet. Then I look up, looking for Xriss. I school my face. Forget. Forget. Forget.
Calm, casual, I find Xriss by the stalks of corn. Hidden from the house by the tall plants, I walk over to him, my face as relaxed as I can make it. I can't help but think of home now. The safety. The sanctity, a small voice whispers in my mind. I mentally shake myself and break away from the flood of thoughts waiting to be unleashed with that one sentence.
Xriss looks up, puzzled and pleased to see me. He hugs me, a thing I'll never get used to doing here. In this place. I press my face into his shoulder, and start forgetting again. I can almost forget that I'm not home. A small tear leaks out, and I pray that he doesn't notice. He pulls away, to look at my face.
"Is everything alright?" He asks. I quell a moment of panic, and smile.
"Yes." I say, stroking my hand down his arm. As much to distract myself as him. "Everything's fine."
He doesn't believe me. I should have figured.
"Did he do it again?" He asked, speaking in our native tongue. I look away, unable to speak.
When I look back at him, his jaw is clenched. "You know the maids talk. He calls you to him. Nightly."
I cannot speak. He knows how broken I am now. My spirit wants to break. To give. To lay down and let all this wash over me.
"What I don't understand," Xriss says, gripping my chin to make my eyes stay on his. "Is why you keep letting him do this."
My plan flickers to the front of my mind. A plan that I keep at the back of my mind to stay off the radar as much as I can. I wave my hand to the corn around us, causing them to bend and gnarl, forming claws and fangs with their leaves.
"Who said I was going to let him do this forever?" I ask. Relaxing my mental hold on the corn, and letting them straighten into their natural stance. Xriss looked impressed.
"How long have you been able to do this? Use the Power?"
I smiled, one of the few true smiles I ever had these days, "A few weeks. Maybe a little over a month."
Xriss smiled, the bloody warrior I knew he could be shining through for a moment. My heart swelled with pride and hope. Maybe Home might not remain a dream. Maybe.
I crept up to tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek before turning back to go to the house. I was tired, and wanted to eat before going to sleep.
Still in bare feet, I wandered through the kitchen letting the maids walk around me, not getting in their way, but not avoiding them either. Gossips. I always marveled over their fascination with what was really none of their business. Their minds must be twisted. I fixed myself a sandwich and sat down at the table. Biting into my sandwich, I watched the different people come and go from the kitchen. Maids went by twos, chattering and gossiping while the occasional field worker came by, mainly to drop off supplies for the cabinets and to grab a quick bite to eat. I watched them, their eyes darting to mine, then quickly away. I put away my dishes in the sink to be washed by the kitchen slaves. Crawling into my cabinet, I slept until Dinner.
Dinner was always an interesting affair. All the servants and slaves that weren't asleep gathered around the massive kitchen table, talking and eating. Well, the servants did. We...The slaves didn't talk as much, keeping to our collective silence. I looked down the table to Xriss.
It hurts to sit here. At this table, sitting silently while surrounded by so much chatter. Happy chatter.
Like around the Feast table on Karanthia. The elders sitting at the head, talking quietly amongst themselves about that day's qualms and squabbles. The children ate hastily to get back to their games, interspersed with the squabbles that children have. The adults, in the middle of the noise, talk to everyone. Converse with the elders, reprimand the young ones, and joke with the others. I closed my eyes and pictured it.
Children laughed and shouted as the smells of familiar food waft everywhere. One child cries, her tail having been yanked by an older boy. Mama Elder scolds the boy, saying that it is the older one's job to look after the younger ones. Especially the girls.
Another girl, about the same age as the boy speaks up.
"We girls can look after ourselves."
Mama Elder smiles, calling the wind to cool a bowl of soup as she raises it to her lips to take a drink.
"Indeed, child. But sometimes it's nice to have the men take care of things. Lets them feel important once in a while." She winks at the girl, and sends all three of them on their way. The other adults look over to the door as a messenger runs in, still in his Wilk riding clothes.
"The Princess has not returned!" He cries, as all heads, save the children's, turn to him. "Warriors to the Crown!"
All the adults stand, I'm at the front of the pack, Xriss somewhere behind me. We have been waiting for this call. I have my armor all ready. A seven pronged flower called the Brikula blazons the armor, swirling with pearl, blue, green and bright red. Outlined in Black, it shows my mastery in the element. The Flower of an Elemental Warrior.
I walk out of my Tree grown house. It having been carved out of the tree itself.
The Other Warriors have assembled. I have my mother's enhancing necklace on. My hand goes to it, to twirl the precious stone as I evaluate by fellow Warriors. As priestess, I stand at the front, looking them over. The armor shows our strength in diversity. Flowers and Blades, Bows and Hands. All showing our different talents. Blacks mainly make our company, with a few royal purple and dark blues. I worry over them, but my voice is clear.
"We have been generous." I call over my company. "We have waited and waited for our Princess to return. The Young prince is reaching Maturity. The Ageless Stone must be passes soon. Now, we go to retrieve our Princess, whatever the cost. Be brave in your hearts and let the humans know our strength. For the Princess!"
My last cry is echoed by my company. My blood is bubbling now, ready for a battle. My tail twitches, it's length is covered in a fine, sturdy material to protect it and keep me from being paralyzed. The tip of it is a thin blade, to slice at those who would stab me in the back. We board the Ship, ready to face....
A hand touches my shoulder, and I jerk out of revery. I look at my plate, at the small puddle of tears that has gathered there. I touch my face and find my cheeks drenched with them. Xriss kneels by my side, a wondering look across his face, but it is stern, letting me know not to speak. I look around and see Master at the door, and understand. Bless Xriss for knowing this probably isn't something for Master to know.
I wipe my face with a napkin, and look over to Master.
"Are you alright, Bunny?" he asks, the concern in his voice sounding genuine.
Oh, he's such a caring Master, a snide part of me sneers. All concern about what is best for us. Until he gets – I cut off the voice. That kind of crudeness has no place in my mind at the moment.
"I'm fine." I say in my accented English.
"What was wrong?" He asks. I want to go away, to my cupboard, to think about this memory.
Thinking fast, I calmly say "Just got a little over tired."
Master stares at me for another moment or so, then turns to address the room.
"It's that time of year again, the Masked Ball is this Saturday. Slaves, Servants, and Masters alike may attend. The VanHorsens will be hosting this year's Masked Ball. Masks will be provided ahead of time, it you want to decorate it, or leave it plain, it doesn't matter. But the Mask is the only way you will be let into the Ball, so don't lose it." With that, Master turned to go.
I stare at Xriss in amazement.
"A ball?" I ask, the pain of the memory temporarily forgotten. "That we can attend?" I had always loved to dance. The excitement of this dance drives the paleness from my face. Xriss watches me carefully.
"We have yet to talk in length. Meet me tomorrow behind the Tool Shed."
I nodded, and turned to the servants to my other side. They were young girls, and just as excited about the upcoming Ball as I was. I joined their conversation of decorations and shoes and dresses. Imagining grand things for this Ball. Xriss walked back to his seat with the field workers. Secretly my eyes followed him, and a corner of my brain pondered this new memory.
Did I not remember as much as I thought I did?
(Author's Note: Hey everyone! Thanks for reading this story thus far. Just so you know, I am a scatter-brain. So if you ever get impatient for another chapter; feel free to leave a review to that effect. Or a PM. I'll admit, sometimes I need a kick in the rear to get things moving. The next chapter will be up....whenever I finish it. _ Enjoy!)