Bound Fairy by Lorain O'Neil by Lorain O'Neil - Read Online

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Bound Fairy - Lorain O'Neil

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Two

Jozef hesitated outside the door, furious the storm had prevented him from being able to make it back in time for Volina’s arrival. But he was the Viceraine of Baro Province, emergencies were emergencies even when they were not, yet despite riding his horse as hard as he could he’d not managed a timely return. Finally he knocked softly on the door, Boyette opened it. She too hesitated, as if making a decision and then rather than admitting him into the bedroom, stepped outside joining him in the hallway closing the door behind herself.

The Femina sleeps, Boyette said, it was a tiring journey for her.

Yes, yes, I understand. But she is... well?

Yes, Viceraine, though she is not quite fully recovered from her previous ordeals and is weak. Weaker than she would have us see I’m inclined to believe. She almost slumped arising the staircase.

Females are naturally weaker, are they not?

That is true, Viceraine.

I don’t wish to wake her, Jozef said disgruntled, sounding like he very much wished to wake her, look at her, talk to her... and more.

That is considerate of you.

But you must have her ready for dinner tonight.

Dinner? Perhaps a quiet supper in her room Sir, until she acclimates.

"No, I’ve invited people to dine with us –some of my associates and some Royals, they’ll bring their Feminas. It will make Volina more comfortable, being around her own. She’ll see how this can work, that she has nothing to fear, two of the Feminas are not even tethered."

Sir, may I disagree with you?

You may and you need not ask permission henceforth.

That is most generous, Sir. I am not sure of the soundness of presenting her to others yet. Volina’s misbehavior could prove unpredictable, she has a wildness to her I do not yet savvy.

I shall be lenient if some compromising fault leads her astray, Jozef stated with impunity, thoroughly sure of himself. He was a Viceraine!

And her clothes, Sir, are... problematic.

Clothes? You’ve seen her closet, I spent a fortune on that wardrobe. There is not one pearl, jewel or gold thread that is false! The cloth is the finest that—

The clothes are superb, Sir. The best any Femina could hope for. That is the problem. They are the clothes of a Femina and from what was in her records, Sir, that was the first battle the Calming House had with her, one that they never did win. Volina refused to don the clothes of a Femina. She withstood going naked, without food, and finally the Disciplinarian. They could not get her to put on that First Pinafore.

The what?

"A dress given to the girls after they arrive, Sir. It is lovely, all embroidered flowers, quite exquisite. But these females were from faraway locales, not inured to such finery; most knew only barkcloth or at best, boiled wool. So the Pinafore was foreign to them but it was explained that these are the things Feminas wear. And many understood, Sir, that by putting on the Pinafore they were giving up their past lives and yielding to the new one before them. Many rebelled, refused. Only Volina maintained her refusal. Eventually she was given old Pinafores to wear which she immediately ripped the embroidery from. An accommodation of sorts, technically she was wearing the Pinafore, in reality no."

"Well she must dress tonight, I can’t present her in rags, people will think I’m mistreating her. And she is a Femina whether she likes it or not. Dress her yourself if you have to. It’s only for a few hours, we’ll take her to the city tomorrow and the dressmakers can make her whatever she wants." He used his Viceraine discussion over voice.

Boyette mentally sighed, he did not understand the battle –no, the war– facing him. Managing both of them, she knew, was going to test the utmost of her skills. She pulled the base tether-stone from her pocket. You do have a secure place for this, Sir? I have set Volina’s collar to give her access to the Dwelling and the outside garden. Is that satisfactory to you?

Jozef took the base stone warily. Explain it to me again. Exactly. How it works. I do not want her injured.

The collar has magnetized ironcrystals, Sir, all split, strung so they are kept apart. Their imbued magnetism tries to make them reunite. But that base stone, she pointed to the unexceptional small rock in Jozef’s hand, "is much more powerful, it is suffused with magnetism that, along with the way the split crystals are strung, is strong enough to keep them shunt apart when the collar is within distance of it. As long as Volina wears the collar and stays within that set distance, her collar may tighten the further she is from it, but not to a painful degree. And I can adjust the collar, Sir, to give her ever more distance that she may travel safely away from the base. Up to a point."

Ingenious. But you can also tighten the collar?

Yes Sir, I can adjust her allowed area at your behest, restricted or liberal.

I’ve heard the collar can be set beyond discomfort, to... He did not finish.

The collar can be lethal, Sir. If you want me to set it to that if Volina goes too far from the base stone, I can do so. Some men prefer this as it is a warning to others that it will do them no good to abscond with the Femina. I very much do not recommend this, Sir, a tragic accident could occur. Right now the collar is set only to cause unconsciousness if Volina goes too far. Inordinate care must be taken with the base stone, Sir. Always. There are two keys to her collar, one for you which you must keep unerringly secure, and one for me. Boyette pulled a thin chain up from underneath her sheath, on it dangled a silver key.

Jozef took the identical key she offered him dubiously, trying to ignore the troublesome feeling it gave him. And she can’t just cut the collar off?

No, Sir. Essentially it is many strands strung with a strong metal. It is designed so that the first strand cut would cause a cascade effect; all the ironcrystals would no longer be held apart, they would overcome the base stone and reunite.

Choking her.

Strangling her, Sir. And she knows this. The Calming House will have trained her well in this limitation.

Jozef and his conscience were battling and both were losing.

Not ingenious, Boyette, filthy. The sooner Volina no longer needs it the better. Jozef had seen the collars before, on the Royals’ females and on the young men of the bordellos, the Fimes, but he’d never seen an actual base stone. Carriers of the base stone always kept them concealed like a dirty secret, just as the onerous collars were always designed to look like comely ornament, not the mark of enslavement. Have her downstairs to greet my guests for dinner in two hours, Boyette. And tell her... tell her... He paused. Tell her I am not her enemy.

Yes Viceraine, Boyette said in standard boyette diffidence knowing full well that for this Femina, Viceraine Jozef of Baro Province would unquestionably be Most Loathsome Enemy Number One.

❃❃❃

"But how did you acquire a female, Viceraine? the Sheriffe pressed. There are no more! And any would have gone to the Royals." The Sheriffe glanced nervously at the three Royals also seated at the dinner table, hoping he had not offended.

I must confess, Royal Grevinne added in his usual pedantic tone, when I received your invitation to welcome your new Femina, I too was of disbelief.

It was a special situation, Jozef answered cryptically, knowing that not one of his guests truly gave any credence to his having a real female upstairs. No, he mused, maybe Magistrum Pritz did, Jozef had after all –as the Magistrum always himself said– been his brightest student back at the Collegium. But his other guests? They undoubtedly now surmised him the biggest dunce in the province.

Jozef renewed his efforts to hide his fuming impatience at Volina’s delayed dinner presentment; the female was taking her goldarn blasted time about it. He wondered if she was upstairs dawdling or the Boyette was having to coerce her into a gown, a gown that had cost him.... He stopped his thinking on that score, he’d known what the expense would be when he’d agreed to buy her. But still –that she didn’t even want to wear