Chapter 87: Jamian
You got your friends, just like I got mine
We might think a little differently
But we got a lot in common you will see
We're just like you, only prettier
When Ty had told him – when, tired but full of ideas, he’d left Kailani’s bedroom to slip into Ty’s bed late Friday night – that cy’Linden was having a cy’ree meeting Saturday, Jamian had been a little dubious. Reassurances about their Second Cohort aside, it didn’t seem like the most studious group.
The morning’s preparations didn’t make him any surer about this, although running to the Store with Magnolia gave him a chance to ask her Kai’s question. And the walk back, hauling cases of soda and chips – apparently he was male enough for Magnolia to dump all the carrying onto – gave him time to ponder the answer, and how it related to him.
Apparently, he was transparent even to non-succubi, because she rested a hand on his shoulder when they were a few feet away from the suite. “Ty isn’t an asshole, honey,” she said quietly, the profanity sounding strange in her sweet drawl. “He ain’t ever gonna be like Agatha or some of the bad’uns, and he’s not gonna keep you on a short leash just because he can. Trust me,” she added dryly, “I’ve had plenty of time to watch him with his Kept.”
Short leash. “I’m still getting used to the idea of a leash at all,” he admitted. “I mean, I know it’s been weeks, and I know he can just say what he wants and I do it, but still, the fact that I belong to him like…”
“Baseball cards?” she echoed his earlier comparison.
“Yeah. Property. ‘Don’t fuck with my collectable figurines, they’re one-of-a-kind.’”
She patted his back again. “You’re priceless, dear, but Ty won’t treat you like a thing. Talk to Nikita about it sometime… ah, probably next week. He and Shiva appear to be having a thing this week.”
“I noticed.” He shifted – the cans were heavy – and she seemed to remember he was carrying everything.
“Let’s get inside and get that set down. We can talk more later, if you want, honey.”
Anwell had shown up while they were out, and Mea was draped over the couch, too, playing with the end of Anwell’s braid. She wasn’t wearing enough for anything but a beach party, and the way she was leaning forward meant she was half-out of that. Jamian searched for something else to look at, just as Anwell stuck his long, forked tongue out at Mea. What would that tongue feel like…?
He looked hurriedly in another direction. Someone was knocking on the door. Ivette and Joff, escorted by Mark. Ivette was wearing nominally more than Mea, but it was sheer in all the wrong places. And Joff seemed to have mislaid his shirt. Oh, god, it was going to be a long day. He wondered if Ty would just let him hide in their room and actually study or something.
Another knock on the door. Don’t let it be a half-naked Ardell. Don’t let it be a half-naked Ardell. Magnolia blocked his view and he didn’t know whether to kiss or curse her for that. Neither. Unless he thought Ty wanted her kissed or cursed (or both).
“Oh, hello, honey, didn’t expect to see you here. Come on in, if you want. Jamian! Your little friend is here…”
His little… oh. Yes, oh god, there was Kailani, looking like the age of innocence and blushing furiously as she looked around at the gathering (and necking) cy’Linden.
“I’ve-got-plans-Ty-I’ll-be-back-later-study-without-me-okay-thanks,” he called all in a rush, and grabbed Kailani’s hand to drag her from the suite before anyone could stop them.
“What…?” she asked, staring behind them at the closed door.
“Cy’Linden meeting.” He could taste her incomprehension, and wondered how innocent she really was, and how she’d managed to stay that way this long at Addergoole. “Um, Professor VanderLinden’s cy’ree… he gets most of the Daeva-halfbreed-succubus sorts…”
“Oh. Oh!” She was blushing fiercely now, and so was he, but at least she got it. “Oh… did you want to stay?”
“God, no!” He slammed his mouth shut as she stepped back in alarm. “Sorry, I didn’t mean like that. It’s just… they’re a bit much, you know.”
“Oh.” She looked thoughtful. “Yes, I could see how they would be.”
“So!” He scrambled for a subject change, as they ambled towards her room. “I talked to Magnolia.”
“Oh?” She was a little bit nervous, and he couldn’t say he blamed her. “Come in.”
Probably better to have this conversation behind closed doors. He followed her into her room to have a door to close. “So, yeah. It’s against the Law to interfere with someone else’s Kept.”
She sighed, slumping a little, such of mess of chagrin and relief that he was hesitant to continue. But he couldn’t not tell her. “But it’s not like… I mean, you can be in a room alone with me, and that’s fine, right? So it has limits.”
“Oh?” She clearly was trying to get a handle on her emotions. He didn’t know how to help, and the last time he’d tried, he’d suffocated all of them. “So did she tell you what the rules were?”
“More or less,” he nodded. “Let me try to remember everything, okay?”
“Okay.” She pulled out a notebook and waited expectantly, pen poised. Nothing like pressure.
“Right. So, ‘interfering...’ it’s sort of more like guidelines. Like, there’s the top end, but a lot of Keepers won’t care about everything on the list, right?”
“But how do you know who will care about which?”
“I think it’s sort of knowing people-” He grimaced at her chagrin. Oh. Poor girl. “- or talking to the Keeper, or erring on the side of caution until you know. But um. So, injuring the Kept. Having…” Not thinking about her half-naked in the locker room. “Having sex with them. Bringing them somewhere where their Keeper can’t find them. Um. I don’t think Ty will be looking for me anytime soon.” He didn’t want to think too hard about that one. “Trying to make a deal with them directly. That one sort of sucks. Or doing magic on them.”
She whimpered softly, even as she wrote it all down. “So why didn’t anyone say anything? I mean, why did they let me make that deal with her, if she wasn’t within her rights?”
“Well… the way Mags told it, some people really do get bent out of shape at touching their Kept at all. Sort of like, I dunno, some hard-core religious types? It counts in with ‘sexual’ touch, I guess. And I guess you could say you moved him where she had to look for him…” He sighs. “She was bending the Law to her advantage. And your Crew, they’re really not bad sorts at all. They don’t Keep a lot of people, right, and they don’t treat their Kept like collectible figurines.” He was starting to like that metaphor. “So maybe they didn’t know?”
“Maybe.” She clearly didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so he changed the subject. “So, were we going to go talk to the rest of the Fifth Cohort?”
“Yes,” she nodded eagerly. “Yes, that’s a good idea.” She held up her notebook. “I’m ready. I made a list of all of the Fifth, and all the room assignments. So we can start at the top? That will be neat, we can begin and end with one of Aelfgar’s children, that will make it tidy.”
He blinked at her. “O..kay. So we’re starting with Aelgifu?”
“And ending with Yngvi.” She smiled cheerfully. “Let’s go? She’s in Pod Two, Room Three.”
A little bemused, he followed her out of her room and pod and down the hallway to another pod. He was beginning to understand the lost expression Conrad sometimes got when dealing with Kailani; her brain seemed to jump tracks with no warning.
And then they got to the door, and all her confidence dissipated. She looked nervously at him, clearly hesitant about knocking.
“What’s she going to do, eat us?” he joked. “Go ahead.”
She knocked hesitantly; there was a long pause before the door cracked open and the pretty blonde girl poked her head out through the opening. “Hi? Oh, hi.”
“Hi,” Jamian said, noting that Kai was still a bit uncertain. “Can we talk for a minute?”
“Um?” She glanced back in the room, and then back at them. “Sure, come on in.” She stepped back, hastily buttoning her shirt as she let them in. On the bed, a lovely orange-haired girl was tugging her own shirt straight.
“Oh, oh god, I’m sorry,” Kai stammered, clearly mortified. “We can come back later.”
“No, I had to get going soon anyway,” the orange-haired girl – Ioanna, wasn’t it? – reassured them. “I have a cy’ree meeting in twenty minutes.” She brushed her lips across Aelgifu’s blushing cheek. “I’ll see you tonight, sweetie.”
“Well, ah…” Ayla and Kai were looking at each other in clashing embarrassments.
“So, um,” Jamian cut across the tension. “We’re trying to talk to all the Fifth Cohorts.”
“Yeah?” The blond girl settled into her chair, still a little uncertain. ”I didn’t think this school had class presidents or anything...?”
“Not that I know of,” Jamian laughed. Man, what an idea that would be. The most rigged elections ever... He turned his thoughts away from the distraction. “But we’ve all seen a lot of strange things since we got here. And by now I think we all know the upperclassmen can’t really tell us much, sometimes. But we’ve found that we can tell each other what we’ve learned.”
She seemed hesitant to admit she knew what they were talking about, but after a moment, she acknowledged, “like the stupid game Shahin and Emrys were playing, with the collars?”
“Yeah,” Jamian nodded. “It’s not a game, not at all.” Is that what some of them still thought? They weren’t a moment too soon.
“That’s what Ioanna said, but she wouldn’t explain it any more than that. And then there was that thing with Ardell and Vi, and Sheen’s doorway. But it’s all way too weird.”
“Shahin’s doorway? What happened there?”
“Ardell had grabbed Agatha in the hall, and he was threatening her. He wanted Vi, I guess.” She shuddered. “He kept offering to trade. And then sort of rushed the doorway, holding her, and Sheen said something I didn’t hear. Agatha fell into the room, and Ardell… he bounced.” She shook her head. “It was pretty strange.”
“She invited in Agatha, but not Ardell,” Jamian nodded, glancing back at Kai. “That’s a neat trick.”
Kai was quietly taking notes. “But why wouldn’t he know that he didn’t have an invitation?” She bit her lip. “And people really bounce off thresholds? That must be the Sanctity Laws.”
“He must’ve thought she didn’t have a threshold? He has to know about Sanctity.”
“Emrys was talking about Shahin like she was his property,” Aelgifu offered. “Even though she wasn’t wearing that horrible collar anymore.”
“Do Kept not have Sanctity?” It made sense, in a horrible kind of way.
Ayla blinked, clearly not understanding the question. Kailani looked thoughtful. “It would be easy enough to find out.”
“It would, I guess. We’ll stop at my room. Hey, thanks, Ayla. We’ll fill you in as soon as we’ve put everything together, okay?”
“Okay?” She seemed a little overwhelmed. “This, the way you guys are talking… it’s all real, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it really is. Look...” He considered for a moment. “Ioanna seems like a nice girl. But don’t say you’re hers, or she can keep you, or anything like that, unless you really really mean it, okay?”
She was listening, that much was certain. “Oh… okay,” she said hesitantly. “Thanks, and… good luck.”
“You too,” he said, turning to Kailani. “Who’s next?”
“Aneislis,” she said, “Pod Four, Room One.”
“Lead the way.” They’d learned something, on the very first try. Maybe there was something to this after all.
Chapter 87b: Jamian
You've got to walk that road alone
If you walk it at all
Don't follow me now
I gave you all fair warning
Their early success may, Jamian was forced to admit several doors later, have been a fluke. Not that the other stops hadn’t been informative, but they painted such contrasting pictures it was hard to find any truth in them.
Aneislis, a snotty guy with an obnoxious attitude, knew almost nothing about Laws, thresholds, or Keeping – like Aelgifu, he barely seemed to believe in any of it – but he’d been one of the little blonde girl Renata’s friends, and his viewpoint on Mark’s crew, and on Keeping, was bitter.
“Yeah, Ofir’s an ass sometimes, but it’s not like he was the only guy around. But she went off with those assholes, and the only time we see her now is in class – and she’s pregnant with twins! She says everything’s all right, but with that jerk’s collar around her neck, who knows?”
Jamian made a mental note to ask Joff about that – and maybe suggest to Mark, if he dared, that he should talk to Rafe, make sure that the Kept in that suite put their clothes on once in a while and go visit their friends; he made a second note to make sure he kept going to poker nights.
As much as the boy grated on him, he made sure they gave him the same warning they’d given Aelgifu before they moved on to Aponi.
She, then, painted a totally different picture. She Belonged to Rowan, whom she referred to as her girlfriend, and seemed very happy with that arrangement. Further, she had been in Emotion class with Mark and Professor VanderLinden, and thought he was just swell, and his Kept were lucky to have him. It made Jamian’s head hurt.
Kai asked a few questions, but there seemed to be little information the girl could give them except one passing tidbit: “it’s kind of neat, actually. I can’t get stuck into any promises or anything. And, not that I would, but if I screw up, Rowan has to take care of it.”
They noted it down and moved on. Azumi was friendly but singularly unhelpful; no one in her suite was either Kept or Keeper. It seemed Finn and his crew frowned on the practice.
Bowen, they skipped, although it seemed to distress Kailani’s sense of order. Which brought them to Caity; she was dating Richard, whose crew frowned on Keeping as much as Finn’s and seemed a little uncertain about Jamian’s presence.
She couldn’t offer any more information on Keeping or Kept, but she could fill in some information on the Laws that Kailani had apparently been missing. As with Azumi, it didn’t seem necessary to warn her of much, but, as with everyone, they told her they’d provide her with all of their information when they were done.
Channing didn’t want to talk to them; she was short and rude with them but, under it, Jamian could taste uncertainty and fear. “Look, I just want to get through my time here and go back to the real world, okay?”
Kai looked like she was going to say something, so Jamian made their goodbyes quickly and dragged her off.
“That seems dangerously narrow-minded,” she complained, once they were out in the hallway.
“Maybe, but we can’t force her to think like we do... Well, maybe we could, but we won’t.”
“Right,” she agreed, although for an uncomfortable moment he’d had the feeling she’d been considering just that. “So next on our list is Elfred. Just down the hall here.”
She was getting braver, or perhaps just angry; she knocked on this door herself.
The blond boy answered his own door, and for a moment Jamian thought it was Ayla, struck by a resemblance he hadn’t noticed before. Boy, he chided himself. He was getting too accustomed to ignoring gender.
Definitely boy, the way he was grinning at Kailani, although Jamian noticed his eyes travelled over both of their necks before making it to their eyes.
“Yeah?” he asked. He sounded friendly enough, but Kai got her deer-in-the-headlights look again.
“We were hoping you’d spare us a few moments of your time?”
“You’re not going to try to save my soul, are you?”
“Soul?” He glanced over at Kailani. ”I don’t think that’s at risk...”
She glanced at her notes briefly. ”No-one’s ever even mentioned souls…”
The boy laughed. ”Kidding, kidding. You guys remind me of door-to-door missionaries or something. Come on in, what’s up?”
They stepped inside, closing the door before Jamian continued, as had become their practice. ”Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed some of the strange things that happen around here.”
He was still laughing as he flopped into a chair. “You’d have to be blind and deaf not to. If nothing else, I’m talking to a guy with a tail.”
“Yeah, okay,” he grinned. ”Well, then you’ve probably also noticed that a lot of the upperclassmen seem very limited in what they can or will tell us. So, we’re collecting what everyone knows, so everyone can know it all.”
“Hunh, seriously? A Welcome to Addergoole, it’s all f… fouled up manual? That’s a good idea. So what can I do to help?”
Kailani smiled at his enthusiasm, and Jamian had to agree. Maybe they would get some more help.
“What do you know about the Laws?” Kailani asked. ”Belonging, Sanctity?”
“Laws, hunh?” He looked thoughtful. ”I think I’ve heard Wren mention that a few times. Sanctity’s the thing with the doors, right?”
“That’s right; the reason you need an invitation. And Belonging... has Wren mentioned that at all? Maybe even asked if you’d be hers, or something like that?”
“Oh, that thing.” He nodded. ”Yeah, we’ve talked about it a lot.” He shook his head. ”Definitely not for me yet, but if she keeps asking, maybe I’ll give in. It seems to mean a lot to her.”
“Do you understand how it works? She’s actually told you?” That was kind of refreshing, if it was true.
“Yeah, well.” He hesitated for a second, then plowed forward. ”The first couple weeks, Mark was doing these self-defense classes, right? And he asked for a volunteer. I figured what the hell. I let him Own me. He handed me a knife and told me to stab myself in the leg… and I did.”
“It was a trick knife,” he added quickly as Jamian felt his mouth drop open. ”I wasn’t hurt. But it sent a message, and then he released me.”
Oh, god. He had known, kind of, in the back of his head, that something like that was possible, but to see it demonstrated, feel it... what kind of shock must that have given him? Kailani was just nodding grimly; had it been like that for her, with whatever Agatha had done to her?
He didn’t want to think about that one too hard. The best thing he could do for her would be to help her protect everyone else.
“Wow. Um. So yeah, you get it. Do you have any more specialized information on it you can share?”
“Maybe?” he shrugged. ”Wren was Kept last year, and she talks a lot about it. The giving up of responsibility, that sort of thing?”
“That part’s not so bad, yeah. Who Kept her? They must have been at least halfway decent.”
He looked surprised. ”Phelen. Isn’t he in your crew?”
“Oh, yeah.” Jamian grinned. “Halfway decent.” Although this did actually up his estimation of Phelen a bit, if his Kept turned out like this, compared to some of what he’d heard about.
Elfred grinned back at that one. ”Yeah. That’s my feeling on it, too. She seems to think he was pretty good, but her examples of ‘bad’ are, well, pretty bad.”
“She gave examples? Would you mind sharing?”
He shook his head. “Bad stuff, man. Like this one guy was pimping his girlfriend out to other upperclassmen, and another one kept not letting his Kept eat.”
Jamian shuddered a bit, and Kai looked queasy. He’d thought he’d seen bad things... but then again, who knew how much worse things were behind closed doors, even now?
“Yeah, compared to that, Phelen was a saint. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t say stuff about him sometimes that makes me want to hit him, of course.”
“Yeah?,” Jamian frowned. “What kind of stuff?”
“Like, she has fond memories of sitting curled up at his feet at parties like some sort of pet. And she seems to think it’s perfectly fine that he controlled everything in her life. I mean, everything. I couldn’t do it.”
“At least the memories are still fond,” Jamian said, biting his lip a little and glancing back at Kai. Was that how it was, even with the people who seemed to be doing okay? He wondered what he and Ty looked like, from the outside.
Kai looked like she was wondering the same thing.
“Yeah,” Elfred sighed. ”It’s why I might give it a go. She wants it, after all, and she’s willing to put a time limit on it.”
“A time limit? Can you do that?”
“I think so? Wren seemed to think you could. I mean, I guess she could have been trapping me, but it would seem sort of silly. Who’d want a Keeper who didn’t want them?”
Jamian and Kai exchanged a significant glance. “I think part of the point is that sometimes you don’t know what you’re in for,” Jamian said slowly. “The Kept’s feelings... aren’t always taken into account.”
He grinned. ”Yeah, I know. But I mean, she could trap me from her end, too, couldn’t she? Get Kept and then not let me release her?”
“Oh!” Kai nodded in understanding. ”Yes, yes she could!”
“Wait, you mean she wants you... oh. Well, that’s a little different then. It doesn’t usually go that way.” He looked at Kai as he said the last, though. How was that working out for her?
“Find out if the time limit thing works,” she said firmly, “and make sure you know what you’re getting into.”
Elfred looked a little taken aback. ”Well, yeah, but... oh! You’re the other Fifth who Owns an upperclassmen, aren’t you?”
“One of them,” she agreed.
“Oh, yeah, we can ask Mark about that too. Actually, if he’s been telling other people about things, we might want to talk to him next.”
“Mark, you, Shahin...” Elfred grinned. ”Sounds like a Fifthie rebellion to me.”
“Rebellion? No, no, that’s not what we’re trying to do here.” Was it?
“No?” He shook his head. ”Then what are you trying for?”
“To help people know what’s actually going on. Give them a little bit of protection from some of the worst of it.”
“Hunh. Well, some of the upperclassmen would probably think that was rebellion.”
“And what do you think of it?”
“I think it’s a pretty cool idea. What can I do?”
That was a good question. They still weren’t entirely sure what they were doing themselves; at least, Jamian wasn’t. He turned to Kailani for an answer.
She looked thoughtful, but only for a second. ”We need to know everyone who’s in a bad situation, and we need to figure out everything we can about the bad Keepers.” It was a tall order, and Jamian turned his attention back to Elfred to see what the boy made of it.
He looked a little taken aback, and then nodded. ”Right. Recon. Wren’s friends might know something; I can probably get them talking.”
“That’d be great, if you can. We’d really appreciate some help. And we’ll let you know everything we find out.”
They were about to leave when Kai turned back to Elfred with a faint smile. ”Oh,” she offered; “if you do end up Owning an upperclassmen, you can order them around the geasa that keep them from telling you things.”
“You can?,” Jamian blinked at her. “Wait, why are we even doing this then?”
She looked a little taken aback. ”It’s... not exactly easy. It’s painful for the Kept,” she added defensively. ”And,” now she sounded angry, “he keeps changing the subject!”
“Painful? Okay then, yeah. And I can see why he wants a change, if you’re hurting him.”
“Oh... oh yeah,” she answered, in a tiny voice.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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