Tag Archive | Vinroth

Chapter 11 – Taslin – Choose

“Choose.”

The barracks for the new and un-Patronized Gladiators were, by nature, not at all private. Thus, while Vinroth held up tunics for Taslin, most of the rest of the women were watching with interest.

“I like the violet one. I think it brings out your eyes.” Marrhi leaned over her bunk and fingered the soft fabric.

“But it’s going to make her skin look yellow.” Sellen wandered over. “The blue is nice, though. Where did you get these lovelies?”

Vinroth helpfully held up the three options – violet, blue, and a soft green color – for the other Gladiators to examine, and left answering that question to Taslin.

“The not-a-Patron. The first one, still.” Taslin took the green tunic from the valet and held it up to herself. “His gifts are getting more generous and less practical.”

“Why haven’t you picked him yet?” Lansesh plopped down on the bed next to Taslin. “Because, you know, there are others of us who are interested, too, and if you’re not going to take him, I’m sure he’ll start sending presents to the rest of us.”

“If Taslin is his type, Lan, do you really think you’ll be?” Corby shook her head. “Or me, for that matter. He’s clearly looking for a Tower sort and you, my dear, are a gate.”

“Hey! Take that back!”

“Nothing wrong with being a gate. You’re really good at what you do. The green’s good, Tas. I like the shape on it, if it works with the shape on you.”

The green one did have a nice shape. Taslin pressed it against her body, studying it. “This has to have cost him a fortune.”

“As I understand it, he enjoys spending his mother’s fortune quite a bit. And she indulges him, because he’s her only living child. His brother died climbing the Ladder a few years ago.” Vinroth had practice pitching his voice very low; Lansesh could probably hear him, but the rest of the barracks definitely couldn’t, not without magic. And while using the vepó in the barracks was not exactly forbidden, it was discouraged very strongly.

“So he has the money to spend. And he’s spending it on me.” The tunic was made out of thin silk, cut to skim along Taslin’s figure and end somewhere almost at her knees. It came with an under layer in a much darker green, and soft indoor boots the color of the walls. “I think I won’t really argue, although where am I going to wear something like this?”

“Well, today, to meet him. And you’re going to sit down and let me do something with your hair, too. Did you hack it with a knife?”

“Urm. Yes?” Her hand went to her hair. “All right. I’m meeting with him today, I take it?”

“Meeting? In that?” Lanesh reached over and touched the tunic. “You know this is embroidered in monk’s-tears, right? Nothing else makes that color.”

“How do you get thread out of monk’s-tears?” The multi-hued metal was generally found near Wellsprings of vepó; Taslin had never seen any before and now she was holding something embroidered in it.

“I think you liquify it?” Lanesh shrugged. “I’ve never seen it done, but my mother had a pair of slippers that were embroidered all over in that and silver.”

Taslin gulped a little at the excess that represented. “That’s… something.”

“They were very tough shoes, at least.” Lansesh stood up. “I like the green. Go with it.”

“She can go with whatever she likes, Lan. This is her engagement.” Corby swiped the air near Lansesh, not quite reaching her.

“Well, fine. If you’re not going to use the blue, I’ll buy it from you.” Lansesh grabbed the blue tunic and stood up.

“How do you have money if you don’t have a Patron either?” Sellen jumped off her bunk to look at the blue tunic.

“Well, my parents send me a little bit now and then. They’re not really happy about the whole Gladiator thing.”

“If your mom has slippers full of monk’s-tears, I can imagine they’re not. Wow.” Sellen shook her head. “You can afford this?”

“Maybe ten, twenty omeh? They can go as high as thirty, which would be pushing it. I can go up to seventeen with what I can get my hands on now.”

Taslin glanced at Vinroth. He nodded, a tiny movement. “Fifteen omeh, then.” She’d never had her hands on a tunic this nice before, so she didn’t know if it was a fair amount. But her mother could feed the family for at least two weeks on that, maybe as many as five if she stretched it. Or it would pay for a month of advanced classes for her brother and sister. Hel and Thet had promise, if they could just get a leg up.

“Fifteen it is! Hold on.” She fiddled around in her bodice and came up with a small packet of the spell-laced bills. “Seven, eight, nine… that’s a five, fourteen, and fifteen. Here. Oh, I know just where I’m going to wear this…”

“Should you be selling gifts your Patron gave you?” Sellen’s frown was purse-lipped and old-lady-ish.

“He’s not my Patron. Yet. And he said to me that I didn’t have to use them, that I could let my cat sleep in them. That I could give them to destitute Tenth Circle children.”

“People say things like that.” Sellen’s frown hadn’t unbent yet.

“Well, if he’s lying, then I’ll know he’s lying. If he’s telling the truth, then he won’t be in any place to mind. And if he minds anyway, then he can change what he says the next time he gives me tunics.” She stripped down to her britches and wrapping, then, giving it a moment’s thought, stripped all the way down to her skin. “Was there…”

“Of course there was.” Vinroth, his eyes on her face, passed Taslin the tiny silk breeches and the top-like thing that must be in place of her normal wrappings. “Here, let me show you how this one goes on.”

“You get a lot of practice with women’s underwear, Vin?” Corby’s tone was crude and the laugh she appended was even cruder. Vinroth, of course, ignored the tone.

“I am a valet to a stable of Gladiators. I have had more than enough opportunity to put such things onto to women, injured, indisposed, or simply wishing someone to do up the back fastenings. Here, Taslin, like this.” The vest wrapped around, holding each breast separately and buttoning in the back. It was nice, she mused, although a very different feeling from wrapped bindings. Probably not the best idea for the pit…

…but tonight was an entirely different sort of combat. She slipped the fifteen omeh into the vest and let Vinroth dress her.

Laces were laced, buttons were buttoned. The tunic was deceptive in its simplicity; if it weren’t embroidered in monk’s-tears, she could wear it under armor in the ring. But, like the vest, it fastened in the back, as if Jervennon wanted her to need help getting dressed.

“There.” Vinroth smoothed the tunic down and smoothed the boots up. “You look… very handsome. Here.” He steered her towards the barracks’ single mirror. “Don’t you think so?”

Taslin might have protested handsome; she had enough vanity and the thinnest urges of femininity. But looking in the mirror… “I do. I look sharp.” Something about the cut of the tunic made her look slender and minimized her already-small chest. “I don’t look sexy…”

“I think you’re hot.”

“You like boys, Sellen.”

“So? Maybe he does too.” Sellen threw a sock at Taslin.

Taslin dodged the sock and ignored Sellen. “What if he hates it on me?”

“Well, then you’ll wear something else the next time. There you go, you’re fine.” Vinroth did something to her hair with a bit of oil, and then something to her face with a bit of his pot of cosmetics. “You don’t look like a woman going on a date, but you look like a Gladiator on an engagement. And since that is what you are… it seems to be a good look. There.” He did something else to one lock of her hair, making it frame her face and somehow softening the sharp edges there. “Now, off to the meeting room with you, and good luck with your beau.”

“He is most definitely not my beau.”

“Oh, but he’d like to be. Remember what we talked about.”

“Are you her valet or her father?” Corby pinched Vinroth’s tush for punctuation. He barely twitched. “Neither. At the moment I’m the valet to the barracks. But not, I might point out, the barracks whore.”

“Soorrrr-eeee.” Corby held up both her hands and backed away slowly.

Vinroth smoothed Taslin’s hair. “You’re going to have a lovely conversation with him, and, with any luck, he’ll be as understanding as I think he is. Remember, he’s in a difficult position, and he’s going to have trouble thinking about anything else.”

“Difficult position.” Sellen’s scoff was soft enough that they could ignore it, so they did.

“And remember that you need to explain your position to him as carefully as you can. He doesn’t want to put you in a bad spot, or he’d be doing this far differently.”

“Can’t you explain it?”

“You know I can’t. Out with you.”

She fled, trying to make it look like a strategic exit and not an escape. Her boots sounded strange on the tile-and-rock floors: they were too soft to slap like sandals or thump like normal boots, but they weren’t bare-footed, so they made a shush-shush noise as she walked. She distracted herself by trying to make the movement silent. Shush, shush… nothing. She walked that way to the visitation room.

Oh. Oh, yes. She couldn’t ignore what she was here to do any longer. She took a measured breath, and then several more. The sword thrust is level. The opponent is clear. We step in, and we move the sword just so.

He was not the sort of opponent you could stab. Or, rather, she probably could, but her life would then be measured in hours and not years. Breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, and center.

She had knelt for the collar. She could kneel again for Jervennon of Cecby.

His door opened. “Taslin Gladiator. Please, enter. You look wonderful in that tunic; is it the one I picked out for you?”

“Yes, s- Yes, Jervennon.”

“You remembered!” He clapped his hands together. “Lovely. I knew you were a good choice. I knew were brilliant.”

“I don’t know about brilliant, but I have a good sense of self-preservation.” Except when her mouth opened and words came out without running through her brain first; what had that been? Some suicidal bratty class-war remnant of her childhood?

Jervennon laughed. “I’ll take it. Come on in, please. Your valet sent word?”

Taslin dropped to one knee. “Jervennon. I am being pressured to choose.”

 

 


Sorry for the delay! (Nano <.<)

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Chapter 9 – Taslin – Hold

“Hold!”

Her opponent fell down on his knees. “I yield. Shit, what have you been doing?”

“Practicing?” Taslin sheathed her sword and offered the man a hand up. “You’re doing well, Sethen. But you’ve got to watch that guard.”

“You’ve been here two days longer than I have.” He took her hand and stumbled to his feet. “And you’ve already got a patron.”

“He’s not my patron, not yet.” She smoothed her hands over her tunic uncomfortably. “He’s just giving me gifts.”

“You’re not that naive, are you?” He tugged on the hem of his own top – standard-issue, where Taslin’s now fit her perfectly.

“Of course not. He’s giving me gifts to buy his way into being my Patron, but he’s very insistent on the gifts being no-obligation. Besides, they’re nice gifts. You ought to consider it.”

“If you’re his type, I doubt that I am.” Sethen and Taslin, between them, exemplified two of the three sorts of Gladiator, as common wisdom had it: he was tall, broad, and built like a Ring wall; she was lean, tall, and built like a Tower.

“I haven’t figured that out yet. He didn’t even try for services for payment rendered.” She unbuckled her sword-belt and hung it on the gear rack. “I have an hour before my stage class; do you want to take a walk together?”

Sethen, in the middle of taking of his own practice-gear and armour, froze. “Taslin…”

She hissed. “A walk, Sethen, a walk. That is all.” He would have to let go of his devotion to his True Love in the Ninth Circle eventually. But Taslin would not be the one he did so for.

“Why?” He had unfrozen, at least; he was going to have to work on his surprise reactions, or he was going to get beaten to a pulp in the pit really quickly.

“Because we’re of a time coming in, we’re getting along decently, and in a place like this, we could both use every ally we can get.”

“Are you always thinking about strategy?”

And this was why she was a stronger fighter in the pit than he was, despite his unassailable front.

“Usually. Sometimes I sleep. So, walk?”

“We’re allowed to?”

“We’re allowed to do quite a bit, as long as it doesn’t interfere with our matches, our instruction, our our Patrons, which neither of us have.”

“I never imagined wearing a collar would be so free.” He grabbed two towels off of the rack and tossed one to Taslin. “Shower first?”

“Sounds lovely. Maybe I can get through it without a valet offering to wash my back.”

“I’m not the only one? I feel left out.” Too late, she remembered that Sethen had trouble with sarcasm. “Joking. I’ve been turning Vinroth down for two weeks.”

“Much to Vinroth’s dismay.” The valet walked into the sandbox, smirking. “Here, I brought you both a clean tunic for after the showers you won’t let me in for.”

“You’re so good to us, however mean we are to you.”

“I work so hard for you, and all I ask is to serve you a little more.”

“It’s entirely selfless, sure.” She glanced at Sethen, wondering if he was understanding the joking; from the look on his face, no, no he wasn’t. She toned it down a bit. “Thank you, however, for the clean tunics.”

Sethen’s expression cleared; he understood that. “We worked up quite a sweat.”

Oh, Sethen. Taslin sighed. “We did. Thank you, Vinroth.”

“It was my pleasure. Go, you two. If I can’t join you, at least enjoy yourselves.”

There was no point even given that one a response. Taslin headed off to the showers, leaving Sethen to find his own way.

She should not have been surprised – but for once, was – when Vinroth followed her. “I need to speak to you.”

“I know Sethen’s a naif. I’m not going to break his heart, jump his bones, or both.” She draped her clean tunic over the shower stall and quickly added her dirty one.

“That’s good, but that’s not what we need to talk about.” He leaned against the cedar of the stall wall, not looking at her. Pointedly not looking at her.

“I’m listening. Pass me a back brush?” This time of the day, the water would be cold. Bracing. She lathered herself up from the hand-tap first.

The back brush came over the stall wall. “If you’d just let me in…”

“What do we need to speak of, Vinroth?”

“Your would-be Patrons. Taslin, please…”

Something in his voice was not normal – and the plural on Patrons was interesting. “All right. Come in, Vinroth.” She opened the door for him, and was not as surprised as she might have been to find him already stripped down. “Now, what is it?”

He slipped behind her. “Brush.”

“If this is just an excuse…”

“Just give me the brush, Taslin Gladiator.”

“Yes, sir.” She responded to the tone in his voice and handed over the brush.

He started scrubbing her back before he spoke. When he does, it was quieter than he could have gotten away with in anything but this intimate situation. “I have been looking into your Jervennon of Cecby, and when I was looking around, I encountered two more who are interested in you. They are, mmm, less patient than he might be.”

“Who are they?”

“One of them is a Third Ring businessman who’s climbing. He’s older than you, of course-”

“Of course.”

“-but he’s handsome, clean, and relatively well-spoken. He’s got the class-conscious thing you often get with Ladder-climbers – he started out Sixth Ring – and he has already dropped Patronage of two other Gladiators.”

“Sounds charming.”

“There are worse. Like your third candidate.” He really was quite good at washing backs. “This one is a Second Ring sort who was born into it. He’s not much older than your Jervennon of Cecby – just enough to have clawed his way back up – but he has a reputation for being ruthless. Turning him down or accepting his offer is likely to be disastrous.”

“It sounds like I’m between two rocks and a soft place.”

“That’s the thing, yes. Your first one, your Jervennon, has sent you five more gifts, and he keeps insisting you take your time. Your second one will wait, but not for long at all. He wouldn’t be a horrible choice – but he wouldn’t last long, in all likelihood.”

“And that would wash out Creep Number three but also Nice Boy Number One. Of course Nice Boy is only going to last a year.”

“But Nice Boy is showering you in very nice gifts. Which may or may not last once he’s gotten the title of Patron for you; I don’t have any history to look into for him, since he’s so shiny new.”

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“Would you believe it’s because it’s my job?”

“No. Because I have not seen you do this for anyone else in the weeks I’ve been here. Also, you’re being sneaky and whispering.”

“Of course, if I was sneaking and whispered with everyone else, you wouldn’t have seen me do it, would you have?”

“Touché. But you still haven’t answered my question.”

“I’m fond of you. And I have ambition, as well.”

“Ambition?” She twisted around to look at the valet. “Do tell.”

He reached over head. “Close your eyes.” Before she could do anything except exactly that, he had pulled the cord, loosing a flood of cold water onto them both.

His hands worked quickly enough that Taslin had only reached for a washrag before Vinroth had already sponged her off, getting the soap off her body and scrubbing carefully at a few raw places where she’d gotten sand embedded in cuts.

“There.” His lips were very close to her ear. She hadn’t realized he was that close. “I have ambition, Taslin Gladiator, and when you get your own room and your own valet, I don’t wish to be serving as a jack-to-any-hands for the rest of my life.”

“Aaaah.” She turned, until her nose was nearly touching his. “So you want me to find a good Patron…”

“One that will let you chose your own Valet and not assign one designed to be a glorified chaperon, yes. I want you to find a Patron that will make you happy, because I like you-” He was washing her shoulders, his face almost against her neck.

“-and because you want me to like you enough to bring you with me. You’re quite a Ladder-climber.”

“Not normally something you find in valets serving Gladiators, or Valets as a whole, I know. But it’s how this particular valet feels.”

“And not just because you want to give me more showers?” She leaned back enough that she could smile at him, because she didn’t really think he was trying to worm his way into her bed. Gladiators did not usually end up free to choose their own partners all that often, for one. And the sort of person that became a valet was generally not all that interested in the carnal.

“Well…” He smiled back at her, showing his teeth. She’d never noticed how white or how sharp they were before this. “That’s a nice side effect, if it should come about.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, too. So, how do I deal with my suitors, plural, without ending up with patrons, zero?”

“Make no mistake, if it’s not Jervennon of Cecby or another of this batch, you will get a Patron. You’re good, you’re lean, and you have drive.”

“I… yes, I have drive.” She took the washrag from him and began washing his back. It only seemed proper, and she needed something to do with her hands. “Is it that obvious?”

“Mmm… oh. Oh, you don’t have to…!” He blinked at her rapidly.

“I want to. Is it that obvious?”

“Obvious? Oh, that you have drive.” His expression settled on a slow smile, although he was very squirmy still. “If you’re looking, yes. I suppose if you were blind, oblivious, or uncaring, it might not be. But I look for Gladiators with drive.” His smile had resolved itself into something normal-for-him. “They make this job worth it.”


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Chapter 7 – Taslin – Come

“Come, Taslin Gladiator.” Vinroth touched Taslin gently on the elbow. “You have fought well, and now you must deal with another sort of battle.”

She blinked at him. The guards had taken away her opponent, and a medic had bound her wounds and fed her something that was supposed to make the pain go away. It had mostly made her muzzy-headed and a little bit silly.

“No more battles today. I’m not that good, yet.”

“No, not quite, although you were quite impressive out there on the field today.”

“You watched?” It must be the medicine that made her feel warm and silly.

“I always watch. But now you must stop fishing for praise and come with me.”

“I wasn’t…” She caught the look on Vinroth’s face. “I’m coming. What’s wrong?”

“There is nothing… wrong, not exactly. But you should hurry.”

“Hurry. Right.” She grabbed a tunic off of a hook and accepted the hip-wrap the valet handed her. “Where am I hurrying?”

“With me. This way.” He passed her a thin gold cord to wrap over the hip-wrap. “You still smell a little, but in this case I think that will work for you, not against you.”

“Well, I didn’t have time to get in an argument about showering with you right now, I was busy being drugged to the gills.”

“After the fight you’ve had, you’re allowed it, I’d say. Through here.”

The route finally worked its way through her drugged mind. “Vinroth, this is…”

“Yes. Now.” He brushed his hands through her hair and smoothed her tunic, her wrap, the cord, and everything else about her. “Be polite.”

“Vinroth, I’m always polite.”

“Be more polite than always.”

“I’m… all right.” They were upstairs. There was no reason to go upstairs unless an oligarch needed them for something – or an oligarch’s servant. This couldn’t be good. But she had been primped and smoothed, she was drugged and confused, and it would have to do.

“And remember to kneel.”

“Yes, of course.” She waited until Vinroth opened the door, taking the moment to take a few breaths. That ought to have steadied her; instead, it made her more nervous.

She took three, four, five measured steps into the audience chamber, dropped to one knee, and dropped her face to look at the floor. The single glance gave her a rough impression of the man standing there: he had black hair, copper skin, and nipples that were almost black through his white top.

“I live to serve.”

“You serve the Pit. I would like you to consider serving me.” She could hear his sandals slapping on the tile floor, moving closer to her. “I have been watching you.”

“Sir.” She kept her head down. The world was swimming, a bit. She hoped it was just the medicine.

“You fight very smoothly, despite being new.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I am very impressed. You’re still young, of course, still new and growing. But you could be famous with ease.”

“Sir.”

“You can call me by my name, you know.”

“Sir?” Oh, dear. Was he one of the famous ones? She risked peeking up at him.

In addition to the black hair, which was curly, the copper skin, which glistened, and the black nipples – which were actually black, she thought – he had astonishingly green eyes, lips the same black as the nipples – paint or nature? – and a body which was nearly as toned as a Gladiator’s, although in a much more sleek style. He was wearing the thinnest white shirt she had ever seen, and pants, also white, that were barely any heavier, as well as four earrings in his left ear and three in his right. His ears swept upwards into high points, the tips of which were also black.

“I’m sorry, sir.” She bowed her head. “I do not know your name.”

He laughed. This could be bad. “Ah. I see.” This could be very bad. “Of course you don’t. I am so used to the people who serve in the Inner Circle; I forget people outside of the Towers don’t know the families of the Oligarchs.”

The families of the Oligarchs. She snuck another look at him. He had to be at least as old as she was.

He chuckled again. “Oh, yes. In a year or two, no matter how hard she tries to fight it, my mother is going to have to send me down to the Tenth Circle, and I’ll have to live like the rest of the world. But until then, I might as well enjoy myself, no?”

“Sir.” She nodded her head lower. It seemed the safest option.

“You’re a cautious one, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been in the pit for less than a month, sir.”

“And you’ve been warned about patrons, haven’t you, or you’ve heard stories, either about the worst of the patrons or the children of Oligarchs.” His sandals slapped on the floor as he crossed the room. She held still, despite fighter’s training telling her to stand up, to get in a defensible position, to find a weapon.

He tapped her left shoulder, then her right, and then rested both hands on her head. “I understand. I’ve heard all the stories, too. You’re right to be cautious.”

“Sir.” Again.

“However.” His voice took on a little bit of laughter again. “If you call me sir again, I’m going to order all your hair shaved off.”

“Si… I’m sorry?”

“It would get your attention, it would remind you what not to do, and it would be visible to everyone without actually impairing your fighting ability.”

“You’ve thought this out, s…” Taslin coughed. “What should I call you, then? I have to be able to call you something.”

“My name is Jervennon of Cecby.” His hands moved back to her shoulders. “It’s lovely hair, please remember the name.”

“As you wish, Jervennon.” Taslin nodded her head. “What can I do for you?”

“For now? Accept my gifts. I don’t want you to accept my patronage yet, but you can take gifts from anyone you wish until you do accept a patron, I think.”

“You think?” She found her voice squeaking.

“I’ve never been a Patron before.”

“I’ve never been a Gladiator before.” Taslin glanced up at her possibly-would-be-Patron and risked a smile. “If you want to give me gifts, si – Jervennon – and the rules say I can, I will not turn them down.” There, that sounded sufficiently formal without sounding as if she was accepting a Patronage. She hoped.

“Who would know?”

“Vinroth will know. The valet who led me up here.”

“Within any reason, and if I know valets – I’ve known a few, let me tell you – this Vinroth will be waiting just outside the door.” His hands were gone from her shoulders, and his boots thudded on the floor. The door swung open. “Ah. Are you Valet Vinroth?”

“That is I, sir.” She could hear the swish of fabric as Vinroth, presumably, bowed.

“Tell me, as I have never been a Patron before and Gladiator Taslin never a Gladiator before, what protocol is in place for giving gifts outside of a patronage?”

“You wish to give gifts to someone… without a Patronage?” It sounded as if his eyebrows raised. Vinroth had very expressive eyebrows.

“I wish to court her into considering a Patronage.”

“Your lordship is very clever. Well, if that is what you wish, there is no reason you cannot give gifts to anyone you please, and there is no reason that an unassigned, unattached Gladiator cannot take gifts from whoever she pleases.”

“Very good. Then there are some gifts I would like you to take to her room for her, if you would.”

“You don’t wish to hand them to her?”

“No.” The change in tone was sudden. “No. The gifts do not need to pass from my hands into Gladiator Taslin’s. That can wait until the Patronage is accepted, if it is.”

“As you wish, sir. The packages?”

“Here.”

There was the sound of shifting material – something clanked – and then the softest of oof-sounds. “I will take this as required, sir.” Vinroth’s voice bore the slightest sound of strain.

“Very good. See that everything is proper. And you.” The boots again. Taslin’s shoulders twitched with the need to move, to watch. She did not. She held still, as if her life depended on it. “You.” His hands landed hard on her shoulders. “Look at me, Taslin Gladiator.”

She looked up at him. There wasn’t a lot of choice, when it was put that way. “Jerevnnon.” She tried to make it sound like sir.

“Understand. These are gifts. These are not payment for services. They are a token of my appreciation for your skill, and a sign of what could come, should you accept my Patronage. They’re gifts.” He squeezed her shoulders. “With no obligation, save that you look at them, and understand that I gave them to you because of the way you move in the pit.”

This was getting stranger and stranger. She nodded, carefully. “I understand.”

“That means, should they not suit you, you don’t have to use them. You don’t have to use them. They’re gifts. If you want to give them to destitute Tenth Circle children, I won’t argue. If you let you cat sleep in them, I won’t argue. If you wear them proudly, I will not argue.”

“S… Jervennon…”

“No, I’m serious. I need you to understand that, or these aren’t gifts, they’re very fancy shackles.”

She understood, finally, that he wasn’t really talking to her. She nodded, because that was what it seemed like he needed. “I understand. I appreciate that you like my performances enough to give me gifts. If they suit, I will wear them proudly.” She risked meeting his eyes again. “I really do appreciate that you liked it that much. I didn’t think today went all that well.”

“Today was a travesty. But that was not your doing.” His hands lifted off of her shoulders. “Go. And I hope you enjoy the gifts.”

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If we reach $20/month in Patreon or $25 in donations in Paypal – or a combination therof – I will post a second chapter this week, on Sunday.

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