* * * *
My dearest Tessarie,
I know times are trying right now, but please know that I did my best to ensure you wound up somewhere safe. Human lands are welcoming to our kind and while they are not to be trusted, I have no doubt you will be treated well and welcomed with open arms. From what we know of them, they shun magic, so please be careful if you choose to exercise your powers. . .
The accident could have been forgiven if it was not so wide spread, but in talking to the elders, there is hope. I know you suffer from the same thing they did, but the decision has been handed down. You may be allowed to return when have learned to master your skills, but for now the only advice I can offer is to keep your wits about you and your chin up. You are destined for greatness. Do not give up.
You are forever in my heart.
* * * *
A beautiful melancholy hymn clung to the air like the sickly-sweet flavor of fermenting peppermint. The human singing in front of the band tugged at her collar subconsciously as she went through the movements of her dance by rote; devoid of the passion and spirit that she could have inspired in anyone with her powerful, sultry body.
Tessarie could see the hopelessness in her eyes as the greasy dregs of society threw coppers on to the catwalk around the dancer. Her heart ached for the woman and she tugged at her own collar, knowing full well the futility of the act. Makrin would keep the coppers, of course. He'd apply a portion of it to the human's debt with him, but never enough to get ahead.
This was how things went at the Crimson Devotion. Day in and day out, the women danced amidst the stinging haze of tobacco smoke and cheap alcohol while patrons came and went at all hours. Some women had it better than others, some could dance or sing keep guests entertained in other ways. Those who couldn't wound up in the back rooms. Tessarie shuddered.
She had gotten good at ignoring the looks and the rough nature of humans-- especially the men-- but she'd never truly understood the exact reason behind their primitive ways. She had some insights from the cheap pulp novels she'd managed to sneak away with. Usually left by patrons too drunk to remember their names. Her mother had tried to explain them to her when she was younger, but she didn't pay attention when she should have-- life had been more interesting then. Vibrant. . . alive with possibility.
“Oi, knife ears! Need a drink here!”
But that was then. This was now.
Tessarie scooped up one of the ales lined up on the bar and placed it on her serving tray before she bounded away with a flourish, neatly pirouetting between isles of drunken men laughing and talking amongst them selves. She felt herself slide away into the corners of her mind as she moved, to that place of real freedom that no one could touch. Her long blonde hair swirled around her body with pent up magic looking for a place to release.
She danced through the isles towards the man with the tray held high, ale sloshing against the rim of the glass. Tessarie didn't flinch when someone slapped her tight butt and instead tossed the platter up, spun in place, feeling the power build in her body with every movement. When she caught the tray she directed her built up energies into it-- the amber liquid flickered pink and went back to its natural shade. She couldn't let herself smile as she raised the tray and bowed low, presenting his drink as though it were a sacred artifact. This garnered more than a few looks from some of the patrons who eyed her olive skin covetously.
The man grabbed the handle and took a slug as he watched the dancer on stage. In a second he realized something was wrong but didn't seem to understand what. He slumped back in his chair looking exhausted all of a second. His eyes closed and he started snoring loudly. Tessarie straightened up with a faint smile. Humans minds were always so susceptible to her magic.
“Oi, Tess!” Makrin said from across the room, motioning her over.
He'd seen her, he had to have. Somehow he knew what she'd done and now he was going to punish her. Dammit, why was she so easily provoked? She swallowed and scuttled over with the tray held over her bare midriff protectively, her head lowered in supplication. “Y- Yes?” She barely squeaked out.
“You got a customer. Booth four.”
Tessarie dared a look up at the human through her dark brown bangs. “B- I thought--”
“She's paying. More you make, the quicker you get out of here, yeah? Now get your scrawny little ass over there and take care 'f my customers.”
There was a second, just one, where she thought about opening her mouth. About reminding him that her debt wasn't that bad. It'd been two nights at an inn, for Mesyolin's sake! She wasn't supposed to be taken into private, much less into the booths. But then the second passed and her shoulder's slumped in resignation. She knew what would happen if she resisted. Constricting collars were good teachers. She ventured tentatively for her voice. “W- Why me specifically?”
Makrin got that look in his beady eyes that told her she was treading dangerous ground. “She asked for you.”
“Of course not! Now, please yer royal fucking elfiness, would you get a move on?” At those words the collar tightened around her throat to emphasize his demand.
“Going, going--” Tessarie scampered through the main lobby, dumped her tray on the bar as she passed and didn't slow down until she was through the curtain to the hall of private booths. The green linen outfit she wore trailed behind her like a peacock's tail, though it barely covered any of her chest. It covered up other things, though. The bands of linen hung from her hips in layers over her pelvis, almost no one could see the unmistakable outline of what the accident had done to her. Unless she was aroused, of course. Then there would be no hiding it.
A woman was a rare client, but it wasn't completely unheard of in this city. It seemed that more and more humans were expressing their deeper desires just as her people had learned to over centuries. In some way, that comforted her. Sure, Tessarie had heard things from some of the other girls in the back room about how rough orcan bloods were-- men and women alike-- but the booths were meant for no-touch dancing.
Tessarie swallowed. At least she hoped so. Who knew what this woman had been promised to get her to part with her coin.
She stopped outside the door. The frosted windows offered no insights to her client and with the lights set low, she couldn't make anything out of the shadows despite her keen vision. She could do this. Nothing bad would happen, it was just a dance. Nothing more. She took a deep breath.
Her skin prickled despite the warm air and as she grabbed the door knob her hand slipped from sweat. Would she want to do things with Tessarie? Was she looking for a cheap thrill? Humans were so unpredictable when it came to their desires and she didn't know the first thing about actually satisfying them without resorting to the more carnal forms of satisfaction.
Just go. . . Get this over with and life can go on.
Tessarie hugged her arms under her breasts and rubbed her arms suddenly feeling horribly exposed. She wanted to go home, she wanted to be with her friends again. Not surrounded by these strange and overbearing creatures. She had no money, though! And a magic collar that kept her there. Oh, where had it all gone so wrong. . .
She closed her eyes and took a deep steadying breath. She'd do this and be done with it, life would go on and she would be out of here soon. An inn room couldn't have cost that much for two days and people paid good money for these booth visits, right? Yes, of course!
The client had probably just paid more than half of her debt in one swoop, so there was the possibility that a good portion of her debt was already cleared. She could be free. She could be home soon. With that thought her confidence brimmed and the tears that wanted to well up in her died off. This wasn't going to be nearly as bad as she thought it was.
She was lying to herself, of course.
No one ever left the Crimson Desire.
Tessarie clenched her teeth and opened the door, slipping in as quietly as she could, as though by doing so she would be ignored. She ran her tongue over her lips and tried to rally her voice, glancing about the room. It was sizable and deep with a semi-circular couch built into the wall opposite the door, in front of which say a small table with a bottle of wine and an ash tray.
On the couch say a human woman with red hair and glasses. She was curvy by human standards, maybe a little overweight but the cut of her blouse, silk vest and pants-- honest to gods pants, what kind of woman wore pants-- sculpted her curves to make her look alluring. She took a deep breath, causing her breasts to strain against her vest as she took in Tessarie's figure. A warm, reassuring smile parted her lips as she leaned back in the cushions and laid her arms against the back of the couch. “My goodness.” her voice was like liquid silk, even to Tessarie's sensitive ears. “I must admit, I didn't expect your beauty to light up the entire room--”
“But I'm glad it does.” The woman crossed her legs at the knee and bobbed her foot with a thoughtful twinkle lighting her gaze. There was something about the slant of those covetous eyes and the way they were set, just a little too far apart to be entirely human. “Tell me, my good woman. . .” Tessarie's customer dipped into her vest, removing a cigar and a slab of brass. “Would it bother you if I smoked?”
“I--. . .” Tessarie's shoulders slumped a little. “If it pleases you, miss.”
“Many things please me, dear. Not the least of which is being able to sit prostrate before such beautiful eyes.” She smiled warmly at Tessarie's confused expression. “But I believe respect should be given to those much more wizened than myself, hm? So tell me, dear lady, does smoke bother you?”
Tessarie eyed the curious woman for a moment and nodded slowly. “It does, yes. I am sorry.”
“Think nothing of it!” The woman's smile remained firmly in place as she pocketed the items once more and threw her arms back against the couch as though she owned the place.
“I--. . .”
“Forgive me, I have never performed for someone.” She licked her lips. She couldn't do this. “S- Solo, I mean.”
“Ah? I love being a woman's first.” The red haired woman reached into another pocket and produced a silver slab. Pushing a button on it, a small key popped out and she twisted the key as she stood. “I'll tell you what. . . I've had a long day, so perhaps we will perform for one another, hm?” Another warm smile. “Here, sit down.”
“I-- I could not!”
“Posh!” She offered her hand, waiting for Tessarie to take them. When she didn't, the woman looked at her with a patient, almost motherly expression that said she would wait as long as it took to get her way. Definitely an unusual trait for a human. She bit her lip, wondering if she should.
Tessarie reached out slowly and took the hand. Daring to hope.
The woman guided her to the couch, settling her down against the cool fabric with a soft purr of a whisper. “Might I know the name of the woman who I may be worshiping before day break?”
“I-” she blinked as the woman leaned in closer and kissed the tip of her ear. She closed her eyes. This wasn't right. Humans didn't do this kind of thing-- it wasn't natural. “T- t- Tessarie.” she breathed.
“The pleasure is all yours, my good woman.” The woman slid away, tapped her silver device and set it down. In seconds wit was producing a soft melody with a slightly twangy, metallic sound. The melody carried across through the room like an elven ballad played by someone who'd memorized the notes but not the soul of it.
And yet. . .
The woman in the silk vest rolled her body with feline grace, her curves flowed from left to right as she kept perfect pace with the song being played. At that moment Tessarie noticed that her hips were slightly wider than her chest from behind-- moments before the woman rolled those shapely hips back towards her, teasing. . . Offering. . .
Her coppery locks swept back in an arc as she stood, looking at the elf over her shoulder with her butt cocked out slightly. That's when Tessarie saw the woman's slightly pointed ear. In a moment she was turning her whole body, reaching for the sky as she continued rolling her body like a sidewinder traveling across the sands. With each roll of her hips she inched a little closer, twisting this way and that in a hypnotic motion.
Tessarie lost herself in the woman's movements, feeling the stir of a familiar damp hardness between her legs. The woman glided forward gracefully, taking both her hands up in offering to the gods and then again with the other foot. Closer and closer until she was standing in front of her.
The young elf looked up, trembling. The throbbing ache between her legs threatened to burst free from its linen bonds and part of her wanted it to. The pressure was so great that she had to shift her weight until she was almost tilting. The red haired woman had a catty smile and her hands on her hips as though she knew exactly how much power she now held over Tessarie.
Tessarie exhaled deeply, trying to center herself. She couldn't loose control. Not here. Not like this. But then the woman's finger grazed her cheek and she murmured so softly that the words almost seemed to come from another plane. “You're free to do what you like, my dear.”
The woman was looking down at her when the young elf finally got the courage to look up again. Silhouetted by the flickering candles, she could have been an overseer, and yet in her gentle caress, she felt like an angel come to take her away. The woman seemed to understand her doubts and she reached up to run her hand through Tessarie's hair, over the tip of her ear and her shoulder.
As she did so, she slid on to the couch and straddled the elf's lap, pinning her down between her thigh thighs with a kind of pressure that was alien and strangely comforting. “Perhaps you'd like me to do what I want instead?” The insistent woman kissed the words across her ear.
“I- I- I-” Tessarie stammered. “We can't-- I-- I'm not. . .”
The red head pulled back slightly and ground her pelvis into Tessarie's lap. “You're something, dear.” She whispered and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, leaning into her all the more. “Either you've hidden a candlestick in those robes or you're not all you seem, hm?”
Tessarie blanched and went cold.
“Don't worry, sweetheart, you'll find I'm very. . . Open to new things.” Her lips wrapped around the tip of the elf's ears and the girl instinctively let out a soft moan. “I always get what I want. Do you?”
Tessarie balled her shaking hands into fists. This wasn't right but she couldn't stop the human. She owed this debt and-- No. “Stop.” It wasn't worth her dignity.
“We can't do this.”
The woman pulled back, settling her weight down on the elf's thighs which pushed her fully engorged member into the cushion painfully. It was all she could do not to wince as she looked up at the woman straddling her. Her hands hadn't left Tessarie's shoulders but it wasn't a sign of control so much as reassurance. That made her wonder. Was it so bad? She was offering a warmth that most humans hadn't ever offered her. Unorthodox, yes, but hardly dangerous.
Her customer leaned back slightly as though sensing her discomfort and slowly massaged Tessarie's shoulders, leaning in to touch their foreheads together. When she spoke again, it was in pitch perfect elven. “You looked unhappy, when I first saw you. I only want to bring a smile to lips too beautiful to frown.”
Tessarie took a deep breath and carefully placed her hands on the woman's arms. “Your mastery of our tongue is remarkable, miss.”
“Sweet dear, my tongue can do many things. . .” She smiled slyly, kissed her nose. “What will it do for you, though?”
“I do not know. . .”
“I have an idea.” That same catty smile graced her lips and this time Tessarie found herself smiling too. She just didn't give up, did she? She did say she always got what she wanted.
“What is it you wish, you who always gets what you want?”
A flicker of something, uncertainty or perhaps a deep ache within, lit those bright eyes for just a second before she leaned in and whispered. “I want a friend.” With those words she wrapped her arms around Tessarie and held her close.
Tessarie closed her eyes and brought her own arms around the woman. She knew it was what she wanted too but she couldn't articulate it. They remained like that for several minutes before the woman took Tessarie's ear in her mouth and teased it with her tongue. “That-- gah-- that's. . .”
“Mmhm. . .”
“Who are you?”
The redhead kissed the tip of her ear, and again. “My name is Sarah.”
“Sarah. . .” Tessarie sighed against the mix-blooded woman's ear. “What are you going to do?”
“Shouldn't that be a surprise?” Sarah's hand slipped from the elf's back and traced a line down her chest. She didn't stop when Tessarie backed up against the cushions, either trying to get away or make access easier, neither one of them was sure any more. “I promise we'll both enjoy it.” She kissed her neck. “Don't you deserve to be treated for a change?”
“Gods above.” Tessarie whimpered when Sarah's hand wrapped around the base of her member. The unnatural extra throbbed hard at her touch in time with the pounding of the little elf's heart. Unlike her diminutive size would suggest, however, Tessarie's cock was thick. Very thick. The size of a well hung human, she had been told by some of the girls.
Sarah's breath caught and she inhaled. “Oh, my, dear. . .” The woman's murmur turned into a husky purr as she tried to wrap her hand around it, not quite able to touch her thumb and forefinger together around it. “Have I done this to you?” She kissed the elf's neck.
Tessarie swallowed. Her heart slammed against her ribs with each breath she managed to ram into her lungs. “I can't help it--”
“You don't have to. . .” Sarah placed her hand on the elf's chest and pushed her back against the cushions. When Tessarie closed her eyes and looked away in shame, the half-blood chuckled softly. In a moment she was at the smaller woman's throat, kissing and just holding her for a while. “You are positively beautiful, sweetheart. No matter what may come between us, never forget that.”
Tessarie opened her eyes and looked at Sarah. There was no trace of cynical humor or anger in those eyes. Just acceptance-- and lust if she was being honest. The diminutive elf straightened up and looked up at the woman, unsure of what to do.
Sarah took the cue, brushing her hair behind her own pointed ears before she kissed Tessarie's throat. Between her breasts. She looked up with a faintly predatory smile and kissed her stomach as she slid down to sit on her knees in front of the elf, blowing her warm breath across Tessarie's thighs which had been dotted with goosebumps.
Lacking testicles really wasn't an issue, for some reason her body always seemed to produce pre-cum with even the slightest amount of provocation. Sarah didn't seem to mind, though, she used the wet spot created by the juice to find the tip of the cock and in seconds she had it free of the linen bindings. Tessarie shuddered as the woman took the tip in her mouth and wrapped her lips around it.
“Gods.” the little elf sighed, slumping back in the couch while Sarah's lips pressed down firm enough to slide the foreskin back so her tongue could lap at the head. She went down on it even as she sucked from the thick shaft like an over sized straw. Tessarie groaned and draped her head back over the couch while the woman continued her ministrations. Pleading, coaxing, massaging. Every inch within her mouth sang to the woman's tongue. . . And far too soon it was over.
Tessarie had never had someone do this and didn't know what to expect but when her orgasm broke, she jerked forward and felt her cock pulse. Time and again. Wave after wave of exquisite pleasure rippled through her body as the couch creaked and groaned where her nails dug into the upholstery. She came so hard she couldn't even breathe as her cock throbbed and pumped thick, gooey ropes into the object of her pleasure. She was too far gone to think of the name or even how she had come but she could feel something sucking at the tip. Milking her to greater heights of pleasure even as she came again.
This time she managed a weak mewl while her cock erupted again. Another thick splash of cum poured from her and she pumped forward unconsciously against the object bringing her to climax. This time, she was surprised to feel the thing around her cock tighten-- before she knew it, she felt hair draped down either side of her tights and a tongue lapping at the base of her shaft. She managed to look down to see a woman's head buried her between her legs. Red hair glistening in the dim light, she had her lips pressed to Tessarie's pelvis as she swallowed load after gushing load.
This time, she didn't pause as Tessarie came. She wasn't even swallowing any more. It just went straight into her stomach as the woman cooed. The little elf placed her hands on the woman's back, unsure even of who this woman was or how she came to be there. Just reveling in the pleasure that was unlike any she had experienced before.
She slumped forward after a final spurt, resting her weight against the woman and shaking violently from adrenaline and orgasm. Slowly she came back to her senses and the moments before her first penile orgasm came flooding back. Sarah was the woman's name. A half-blood human and elf. . . Who bragged about her tongue.
Maybe it wasn't so much a brag as a statement of the truth.
Sarah swallowed, causing her throat to tighten around Tessarie's cock. The little elf whimpered. “Nomoreplease. . . Gods.”
The woman chuckled and kissed her pelvis, patting her butt. After she realized that the woman couldn't move, Tessarie leaned back-- more appropriately, she slumped back-- against the couch, utterly spent.
Sarah closed her eyes as she withdrew the full length of the woman's cock from her throat, leaving a trail of saliva and semen across the first three inches and a rope of mixed fluid from the tip to her mouth. She looked up at Tessarie and ran her tongue over her lips the way one did after a good meal.
Tessarie looked at her bleary eyed. Gods, she was beautiful in that moment. Humans and elves had made this woman and somehow she managed to be more beautiful than many of the paragons of either race. . . Maybe it was the lust talking, but Tessarie found herself enamored.
“Well,” Sarah licked her lips once more and crossed her arms over Tessarie's knees, looking up at her with a grin. Her teeth had a opalescent glean to them now. The elf smirked dreamily.
“Well. . .” Tessarie exhaled, still trembling.
“That was quite something.”
“Y- Yes, that's one way to put it. . . I can't stop shaking.”
“Why did you try to put me to sleep?”
“I-” Tessarie frowned, her hazy thoughts still muddled. “I didn't?”
“Dear girl,” Sarah tutted. “I know magic when I feel it.”
“Oh, no. No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!” In her fluster, she lost all sense of dignity and resorted to compounds.
Tessarie bit her lip. “Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to, really-- I-- truly Sarah, I'm sorry.”
“I'm not.” She smiled playfully and laid her hand on Tessarie's. “Tell me, dear. . . When do you get off work?”
“I. . . I don't.”
A frown creased her lips as she intertwined her fingers. Tessarie found herself doing the same as her mind fog cleared. “I'm not allowed to leave until my debt is fulfilled.”
“That right?” Sarah eyed her for a long moment. “I think we might be able to come to an agreement, then, my dear.”
Tessarie nibbled her lower lip, wondering just what she had in mind, and strangely excited to find out.
She awoke to the sound of Makrin's drawl and the crash of the booth door against the wall. Her head was resting on Sarah's thigh and for a long moment she wasn't sure what the fat man would say. She started to get up but Sarah laid a hand on her shoulder and kept her there as she sipped from her wine.
On the table, next to the bottle was a hand written contract and a mechanical ink pen. “Perfect timing.” Sarah said brightly, ignoring Makrin's dangerous scowl. “I was just going to send for you.”
“I have a business proposal for the owner,” Sarah cut him off. “You are the proprietor of this fine establishment, are you not?”
That seemed to make the man reconsider whatever was about to leave his mouth. Still, Tessarie, sunk away from his gaze, wrapping her left arm around Sarah's waist in an effort to get behind her as much as possible. When the man eyed them both, he furrowed his brow. Finally, he said. “I am.”
“Tell me, do you rent out your. . . entertainers? I have a rather special need for someone of her talents and beauty.” She smiled.
“You've been in here for hours. I think it's time you left--”
“Ah, but I'm not finished, my good man.” Sarah tutted. “I've paid for her company-- and may I say, you have excellent tastes. I've a desire to hire her for a short and rapacious engagement outside of your establishment. Perhaps something that can more fulfill my lascivious proclivities in ways fit for both man and beast.”
The man sighed. Likely at all the big words the woman was throwing out like candy. Some part of Tessarie wanted to smile, but every other part of her was wondering just what Sarah was driving at. Makrin scoffed derisively and rubbed at his sweaty neck. “What's your game, elf?”
“Hm?” She made a show of looking at Tessarie and then with theatrical flair, held her hand up to shield her lips from the man's view, stage whisperingl. “I think he believes me to be someone of your remarkable beauty! Gods, I'm going to blush!”
She couldn't help herself. Tessarie giggled.
That only seemed to make Makrin more upset. He started towards Sarah, looked like he was about to grab her and stopped abruptly.
Tessarie looked at the woman and realized why. She was holding a pistol trained on him. “Please, have a seat.” She took a sip from her wine and made room for the man's bulk.
“You're not gonna do anything.”
“Dear boy, the last thing I want to do is upset your business. Quite the contrary! I want to help you!”
Makrin frowned, looking caught off guard. He grunted.
“Grand.” Sarah smiled like nothing had happened. She tucked her pistol into her belt and motioned to the contract. “I have here a contract from the redundantly Unionized organization of Fae and Fae-blooded creatures of which miss Tessarie Variel is a card carrying member. Now, I'm not one to tell someone how to run their business, but because miss Variel isn't represented by her union here, I have to wonder just what kind of conditions she's working under!”
The man blinked and looked at the contract. “What're you, some kind of guard? We got a deal--”
“I'm sure you do! But this deal does not extend to our Union! We act under direct order from the King himself to protect the rights of working Fae and Fae-blooded creatures working for human employers.” She sipped her wine.
Tessarie backed away slowly. She had seen Makrin's temper a few times and knew better than to be anywhere near it. Sarah might have been crazy, and armed, but she wasn't a match for the fat man's size.
Makrin looked at her oddly for a moment, seeming to consider Sarah and not quite sure what to make of her. “This why you asked for an elf?” She smiled at that. “So. . . What is it this Union wants?”
“Nothing much, dear. We just need to make sure that the conditions under which miss Variel are to standard. Food appropriate to her blood line--”
“We've got good food. Don't we Tess?”
She swallowed. Paused. She couldn't go with this deception. Sarah was on her own. “Oh, yes. The beef is delicious. . .” The thought made her stomach churn.
“Beef you say?” Sarah tutted. “You are aware, my good sir, that elves and most other Fae-blooded folk are allergic to meat, yes?”
“She's been eat'n it for months, she's fine--”
“The symptoms are slow to develop, you see.” Sarah leaned in just a little, casting a glance back towards Tessarie as though she might overhear. “See, they develop rashes and soon everyone's coming down with them-- highly contagious, very unpleasant.” She winked at the elf.
Makrin looked over Sarah. “I--”
“If you didn't know about that, I have to wonder what kind of beds you have on the premises! Please tell me you've a swing bed for the poor girl at least?”
“I. . .” He was getting swept up in the woman's web of lies, he fumbled for the words. “I'm sure we can. . .”
“I'm sure! But has she been allowed to exercise her powers? You know, elves won't stay healthy if they're not allowed to exercise their innate magical talents at least once a day.”
He shot back defensively. “She gets plenty of exercise on the stage--” He grabbed his mouth. “Er. . .”
“On the stage. I see. So she dances for you as well, does she? Grand! So we've one less thing to worry about!”
Makrin's shoulders relaxed.
“Well, perhaps I spoke too soon. You're aware that the city law precludes magic from being cast within the limits unless certain permits are filed, yes? The owner of the building or business is held responsible--”
“Nasty business, really. A solid year in prison for each infraction! Gods, I'd hate for the judge to hear about how many performances this poor woman's been giving unbenounced to the taxation department.” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively. Her tone edged towards playful as she set her glass down. “That brings up the matter of taxes, too. . . Have you been paying your taxes?”
“Well. . . I. . . Yes, of course I have! Every week!”
“Good to hear! So, for a very law abiding citizen, I'm willing to overlook these other discrepancies in your business practices.”
Makrin exhaled his relief and leaned forward. “What's it going to cost?”
“Cost? Oh dear, I'd not considered that! I'll tell you what. For this girl, I'm going to have to fine you five gold and--”
“Five gold?! Are you daft!?”
Sarah shot him a look and he backed down. “Certainly not! With so many violations of her basic rights, I can't imagine the Union overlooking this treatment! At the very least you should be in jail for letting her perform her magic openly.” She seemed to give it some thought for a moment, tapped her chin and then smiled. “But. . .”
“But?” The fat man looked hopeful.
“But. . .” she drew the word out. “You're a good man. You pay your taxes on time and from what I can tell, the women seem happy, so I'm going to help you out. I'll take this jail sentence waiting to happen off your hands in exchange for your keeping things quiet.” She smiled when his color started to return. “Does she have any property here?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Go get it, then, dear. I'll meet you by the back door.”
Tessarie slipped out of the booth and made for her room, her mind fluttering with a million different thoughts. Could this really be happening? What was the strange half-elf going to demand of her instead? Could she dare hope that she was finally out of this nightmare? She made her way to her room with these thoughts swirling around her like a heavy mist.
Whatever game the woman was playing, she seemed to know it well enough that she fully believe the things she was saying. Maybe she was telling the truth, maybe she was actually part of some kind of union-- gods, maybe her brother had heard about what happened and sent help!
That had to be it!
Tessarie grabbed her yellow travel cloak and walking staff along with the tiny pouch of charms and keepsakes she had been forced to hide from Makrin. By the time she got to the hall that lead to the back door, Sarah and Makrin were exchanging polite handshakes and he was giving her a small charm that she recognized as one he had taken from her during her first day there.
Maybe it was a peace offering, in the event she told this 'Union' how bad her experience really had been. Tessarie swallowed. She had no doubt that the intent was exactly that. But when she got closer, he was all kind gestures and false modesty. He gently broke the magic and undid her collar before giving her a placid smile, wishing her all the best.
When he was gone, Sarah stepped up beside her with the charm and a folded piece of paper. She smiled slyly, kissed her cheek and turned towards the back door. She stood there for a moment looking into the early morning gloom as Tessarie unfolded the paper.
It was a document freeing her of all debts and allowances. It was signed. She was free. “I- Is this real?”
“By the gods. . .”
“Just wits, my dear. Come! We have your freedom to celebrate.” Sarah lead them into the alley with acute caution.
Tessarie followed behind, reading the document carefully. None of the debt was transferred to Sarah, none of the clauses said anything about her owning Tessarie. She was really and truly without a 'master'. “I'm free!”
“That you are!”
A man spoke up from behind them. Gruff and wary. Human. “But she's not.”
Tessarie whirled to see a hulking man with scars across his jaw and chin. He towered over her. “Oh--”
Some scrabbling rocks ahead caught her attention and she saw four men stepping from the shadows as Sarah moved to reach for her pistol. But then she stopped, knowing she was outnumbered. She raised her hands in surrender. “Bollocks. . .”
And this was how Tessarie's new life started.