Year Five of the Addergoole School
Her master, her Uncle Caspian, had been gone for over a week. It wasn't uncommon for him to go away, on his monstrous Queen's business, on trips with his sister Regan, on other missions which he never explained and she never questioned. But he never left her alone for more than a few days. It wasn't as if travel was a problem for him, after all, and he had to keep her safe and well.
But she'd counted the days twice on a calendar, to be sure she wasn't losing or gaining time out of impatience, and he'd been gone for eight days already. Ylva wasn't sure what to do with herself. The little house was spotless, her cage gleaming, all the linens cleaned. She'd read all of her new books again, made up a new variant of solitaire, and, finally, at the end of the day, when it was clear he wouldn't be back yet, she steeled herself to go grocery shopping.
She didn't like going when he was gone. She only went out at night, to avoid being spotted, and the streets were scary without him, the grocery store bright and menacing, the night clerks mean. But she didn't know how long her master would be gone, and she was almost out of puppy chow.
So, she walked down the street, clutching a coat close around her, when suddenly something hit her in the back, a heavy impact, and she went flying through the air. She opened her mouth to scream, and then realized she wasn't falling again; she was actually flying! No, not her; there was a weight around her waist, on her back. Something had scooped her up, just like that, and was flying with her.
Was it her master? He'd done that, once, when she'd been very good. She twisted to look at what was holding her, her heart thumping eagerly. "Uncle…"
"Uncle?" a deep voice replied, startled. "I doubt it. Ylva?"
No, this was definitely not her master. He was a big, muscular man, wearing a black tank top and jeans only marginally darker than his skin. Huge, leathery wings protruded from his back, spread wide as they rode an updraft. He was nearly invisible against the night sky, save for his gleaming gold eyes and white teeth.
She squirmed in his grip. "Let me go! You're not my…" She wasn't to say 'master' in public. Did this count as public? "…my uncle!" Part of her mind suggested dryly that trying to escape when he had her several stories above the ground was not a wise idea, but the panic was taking over, and it knew no reason. "Let me go!"
"That's what I'm doing, calm down. I'm here to rescue you, not hurt you." He seemed not at all concerned by her attempts to escape; indeed, she was making little enough headway against his powerful grip.
"Rescue?" The thought was absurd enough that she stopped struggling for a moment and twisted to look at him. "From what?"
"From the dragon, of course. I thought he'd never leave, and once he did, I thought you'd never come out!"
"Dragon?" She blinked at him. "You're trying to rescue me from Unc… from Caspian?" She peered at him. Big wings, check. Misplaced sense of morality, check and check. "Are you insane?" …or just a Mara?
"Not last time I checked... though I'm beginning to have my doubts about you. You do know what that thing is?"
"A Dragon," she snapped at him. Call her crazy, would he? Call her master a thing… She wondered if she clawed him hard enough, if he'd let her go. "The giant wings make it kind of obvious. But he keeps me safe."
"Safe?" her captor goggled. "How long has he had you?"
They were descending, now, finally; that was good. To her dismay, however, she saw how far they must have come; they'd been flying fast. She didn't recognize this part of town at all.
"What year is it?" she hedged, although she already knew. It was 1999; it had been 1995 when the Hunters had taken her from her home and dragged her in front of their monster Queen. What was she going to do if he left her here? She might have enough money for a taxi, but only if she didn't buy groceries.
What was she going to do if he didn't leave her?
The winged man landed on a flat rooftop, bracing himself against the impact, but he didn't let her go, and her feet didn't quite touch the ground. "What year? Ninety-nine... oh, departed gods. I didn't realize it'd been so... What am I going to do with you?"
"Take me back to my house?" she offered dryly, wiggling in earnest now. "It's a long way to walk from here."
"No, no, I can get you the help you need." He spread his wings again with a whoosh of air, nearly drowning out the muttered "I hope."
"You hope," she muttered back at him, rolling her eyes. "You can't help me. You're eight years too late to help me."
"Come on," he said, as if she had any choice about it. "I think I know someone." The ground dropped away again, and soon the countryside was whizzing by.
She didn't struggle much this time. She didn't have any orders that told her she had to fight abductors; she didn't have many orders at all anymore, and most of those involved keeping herself alive. Struggling hundreds of feet above the ground didn't seem like a good way to stay alive. "You're deluded, you know," she couldn't help but point out. "You can't help me."
"Maybe I can't," he said, as they begin to descend again, towards a darkened house in the country. Another, lit, lay across the street, but the next closest neighbors were almost out of sight. "But she can."
"Oh, goodie." She shook her head, half-remembering a rant of her father's. Bloody Mara and their bloody stupid good-intentioned arrogance. She barked out a laugh. Funny, after all these years, to find something to agree with the bastard on.
The Mara in question knocked sharply on the door, but she could tell just by looking that no one had lived here in years. At least, if they had, they weren't anyone she wanted to meet. After a few moments' waiting, they circled the house, and the whole of it showed the same signs of disuse. As they crossed the street and a Mask concealed his wings, she couldn't help but ask.
"An expert on Stockholm Syndrome." He knocked on the door across the street, letting her feet touch the ground and altering his grip to look less, well, hostage-like. She tested it, but it was still firm. After several long moments, a surprised-looking elderly man answered the door.
"C'n I help you?"
"Pardon the hour, sir, but does Dr. Avonmorea still live across the street?"
"Doctor..." A puzzled frown creased his features for a moment, but then recognition dawned. "Oh, Regine! Heck, sonny, I haven't seen her in, must be thirty years..."
Ylva swallowed a laugh, and twisted to look at her captor. "Can we go home now, please?" she asked, laying on the tired-kid sound, the sad-puppy angst. "I'm hungry."
"Yes, of course. Good night, sir." He turned away, heading back to the street, at least until the door had been closed behind them for a minute; then they were airborne again.
"Maybe her daughter," he muttered.
"I am hungry," she pointed out acerbically. "I was on my way to the grocery store when someone kidnapped me."
"Oh! Um. I've got some travel rations..."
Flying was cold, too! She shivered in his arms. She didn't like the cold; it reminded her sharply of ho- of the place she'd been before her master's.
"Or you could just take me home. Before Uncle Caspian comes home and notices I'm gone. Before I freeze to death."
"No, Ylva. We're going to take care of you. You're going to be okay."
"I'm hungry, I'm freezing, and I'm god knows how many hundred miles from home. None of that sounds like okay to me. Do you blasted purebloods ever listen?"
"Well, I did say 'going to be', not now." He was cracking a smile! Did he think this was funny?
She shook her head at him. "Jackass," she muttered. "Kidnapped me, dragged me away, what do you think you're going to achieve? You're going to have to let me go eventually." Wasn't he?
"Once you're able to function on your own," he agreed. They were descending again; what now?
She eyeballed him for a moment before studying their goal, a pseudo-Tudor McMansion on a broad stretch of yard, between other, older, nicer, but possibly less expensive houses. "I was doing just fine before you showed up. I don't think flying kidnappers should be counted against my self-care skills."
"You'll like Ramona," was his only reply as he stepped up the walk and knocked once again.
"Do you even listen to me?" she complained. "And is that a prediction or a command, anyway?"
"I don't give you commands," he answered quickly, just before the door opened.
The woman who answered the door was tall, gorgeous, and more than a bit intimidating; Ylva felt like she should hide, or at least Mask herself better, prettier, but her captor wasn't going to let her go. Her golden-brown skin gleamed in the filtered yellow light of her foyer, light that seemed to have been picked to show her off; her nose was the perfect patrician concoction for looking down on lesser beings, and her voice was smoky and exotic. "What have we here?"
"Ramona," the man greeted her warmly. "My name is Tyrell. I'm acquainted with your mother," he explained, in a way that Ylva read as trying to make a passing familiarity sound like friendship.
"Many people are," the woman answered, unimpressed. "And who is your friend?"
"Ylva oro'Caspian. That's Caspian the Dragon. We're looking for assistance."
Ylva twisted to look at him. "You know? And you still dragged me over here? Kidnapped me?" She kept her voice quiet; she didn't want to attract police. "Are you insane?" Ramona listed to this exchange, seemingly amused.
"Well, I didn't know that part until I started talking to you," he said, then turned back to Ramona. "I was hoping to find your mother, but the last address I had for her was no longer valid. You understand the problem already though, I can see."
"Come in, if you mean me no harm," the lovely woman said, rather than answering.
Tyrell crossed the threshold, still dragging Ylva with him.
"Serve you right if I bounced," she muttered, but she really meant this new woman no harm at all. Tyrell, on the other hand…
"It seems to me," Ramona smirked, "like you abducted a Dragon's pet. Why do you think my mother would be able to help you with this?"
"I was hoping for help de-programming her. I didn't realize she was Kept when I picked her up."
"Ah, well, are you going to kill her Keeper or take her back?"
"Hey!" Ylva struggled in earnest. "Take me back! I don't need de-programming!"
"Not take her back, which I suppose doesn't leave a lot of options, that's true."
"Well, as she is, she's going to fight you every inch of the way. Is she some sort of kin to you?"
"None that I know of, but that's hardly the point."
"So why did you… 'rescue'… her?"
Ylva stopped struggling and listened, curious where this conversation was going to go.
"Well... I mean, she was a Dragon's prisoner!" he sputtered.
"Pet," Ylva corrected quietly. No-one listened to her.
"Well, yes, but what do you plan to do about it now? What did you plan to do about it before?"
"Before, I planned to take her away and, if necessary, get her to someone with the proficiency to fix the damage to her psyche."
"Ahh, of course," Ramona nodded. "Well, it could still be repaired, but it that the kindest thing?"
"Which damage?" Ylva asked.
"I think so? Probably?"
Ylva rolled her eyes. "The damage you think Un… Caspian did, or the damage I came with?" Not that they'd listen.
"Damage you... wait, what?"
"Now you listen," she grumbled. "What were you planning on doing once you thought I was 'all better,' anyway? Send me back to my father?" She twitched a bit at that. Die first. Forswear herself first.
"Well, we'd have to talk about that. We'd find a safe place for you."
"So it would just be a different cage." She rolled her eyes. "Caspian's cage is nicer, and it has better food, than the one the Hunters stole me from."
"You don't need a cage at all! You can be free. Able to take care of yourself."
"Okay." She turned to walk out the door.
"No, not now," Tyrell said, catching her arm. "You will be, but you aren't yet."
"Just another cage," she shrugged, and let him drag her back.
Tyrell sighed, turning back to Ramona. "So. Can and will you help me with her?"
"I can. But we're back to the question of 'should.'"
"I think so. If you don't agree, I can stop wasting your time."
"She's Owned, Tyrell. You can't change that basic fact."
"Not easily, no. But, there's Owned and there's Owned."
"So you want to remove the brainwashing."
"For now, yeah."
"And then what?"
Ylva wondered that, too. What was he planning on doing with her?
"And then... I'm working on that."
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