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Find Chapter 1 here
Chapter 2 is here
Chapter 3 is here
Chapter 4 is here
Chapter 5 is here
Chapter 6 is here
Chapter 7 is here.
Chapter 8: here
Chapter 9: here
Chapter 10: here
Chapter 11 (R-Rated) here
Chapter 12: here

You can skip Chapter 11 without losing the plot.


Hothyan was pacing. Sefton would have told him to sit down, except he was pacing as well. Jaco was not; Jaco had three of the youngest children in a corner and was reading two of them a book while he fed the other one a bottle. Jaco had his weapons near at hand, but none on him. That didn't matter: Sefton and Hothyan were near the door. If anyone came through, they would delay the attacker long enough for Jaco to swap out bottle for sword.

One of the younger children meandered into Sefton's walking path and then started pacing him. "Tell me a story?"

It was in his mind to tell her no, can't you see, we're busy? but they weren't, actually, very busy; they were nervous, that was all. And their nerves were making the children nervous as well.

"All right. I'll tell you a story. But the moment you hear anything loud, you grab everyone you can and you go under your beds, right? You've drilled in that, I know you have."

"Under bed." She nodded solemnly. She was a daughter; he ought to be wrapping her up in batting and not letting her anywhere near the door. But she wanted a story, and he was not going to tell her no if it would help to calm her.

Except that suddenly he couldn't remember a single tale. He cleared his throat - twice - and tried to remember something, anything.

"Have you ever heard the story of the house in the sea?" he finally offered. That had been one of his father's stories,

"On the sea?" she asked. "Like this house?"

"Not on the sea, like this house, like the landed houses so often are." The words came back to him, and he settled into the big chair, pulled a blanket into his lap, and pulled her up there to sit next to him. "But in the sea. You see, it floats there, away from anything, protected from the storms by the strangest break-wall, and it has sat there from the time of our grandmothers' grandmothers' grandmothers."

"Why is it in the sea? Why is it floating? What do they farm, there?"

"That, and many other questions, have been asked time and again, time and again." He'd asked the same questions, or his sister had, and his father had smiled benevolently. Sefton tried his father's soothing, pleased smile. "And the answers that we have are only more riddles, or are rumors, or are lies."

"But why would they be lies?" she whispered.

That was a new one. Sefton kept the smile on. He noticed he had two other children sitting near him now, too. Well, the better to keep them calm.

He thought back to other stories, to classes in school, to things he'd heard behind the schoolhouse, and then he sorted through for the things he could tell a small child - a small girl child.

"There are three reasons for the histories to be lies," he told her, still smiling. You had to smile when you said things like this. "First. Because the truth is unknown, and people make up the truth that seems to suit the situation." He waited a moment for that to sink in, and saw her nod. "Second, because the truth is dangerous. If you know where the sharpest knife is, you do not tell your littlest brother. You wait until he is big enough to handle it before you tell him, right? Some truths are like that. We have to be bigger before we can handle them. And third, some things are lies because the truth would hurt someone, someone who can tell us lies." He held her eyes. She was little, but she might already understand that there were power differentials. His sisters had, by that age.


She nodded, so solemn, taking it all in. Sefton hoped he wasn’t teaching her bad lessons. These were stories for boys, stories for the ones who would need to know how to lie while smiling, lie while bowing, lie and never, ever get caught.

“So,” she said, shaking her head as if to clear thoughts. “The house in the sea. Nobody knows where it came from? Or why it’s there? But the rumors?”

“Nobody knows why it was built, or if it was built at all, or merely formed. Some rumors say it was here when we came here to this land, and some say that the first people, the people Before, constructed it to show the furthest it was safe to sail. It is not a big house — one woman and one or two husbands, three or four egglings, maybe, might live there, but beyond that they would be sitting upon each other like bricks in a wall. And so far out, who would they talk to? Who would they trade with?” He was getting back into his pace now. “But the house is there. And, once in every generation, someone will get into a big enough boat that they can sail out, out to the edge of the safe seas where the monsters and the Rejects live, and——”

A pounding on the door cut him off. Sefton lifted the girl off his lap and set her carefully on the floor. “You know where to go. Go on, go on, hurry.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jaco doing the same. His chains were gone — when had that happened? Situations like this were exactly what those chains were for.

Then again, the bandits didn't play by the rules, either. "Come on," he coaxed the children, and they slipped under their bunks, pulling the projectile-proof curtains down over them. The older children cuddled the younger ones, and the littlest ones were kept at the back of the room with the oldest ones, in the most muffled shelters.

Sefton remembered curling up there with his older brother, when he was very little, and then, when he was older, holding his younger sister, shielding her with his own body in case something awful happened. It was the same arrangement. The same way of putting the girls and the babies as far away from the bandits as possible.

And the one time the bandits had gotten in, they'd gone straight for those back bunks, the thicker ones.

After this, maybe he ought to talk to Onter about changing the arrangement. All of the bunks were projectile-proof, or, at least, they were all supposed to be. Maybe if you put the girls and the egglings in the middle, they'd be in less danger should the awful happen.

The door banged one more time, and then silence. Sefton held still, weapon at the ready. Jaco was holding still.

The vault-like lock began to click. No, no, that was not supposed to happen. They weren't supposed to get that far; Tasiya and the senior husbands were supposed to have stopped them long before that point. Sefton swallowed around a lump in his throat. It was never good, when the bandits got all the way to husbands' territory. None of those stories ended in anything better than a Heroic Last Stand for the husbands, and many of those didn't end that well at all.

He glanced over at Jaco. He was pale, too, frowning, his shoulders rolled back and his feet braced. He was holding tightly to his weapon, his knuckles white.

"You know what to do." He made it a statement, but Sefton could hear the question in it.

"Of course. We train on this at home." He grinned, although the expression felt forced and fake. "Come on, you don't think they'd sell Lady Taisiya an inferior husband, do you?"

"Oh, I don't know," Jaco joked. "Someone sold me to her."

Next: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1218681.html

Support the Thorne-Author

Date: 2016-12-16 08:24 pm (UTC)
thnidu: A whale and a pot of petunias fall through space toward the Earth. By mitsje at deviantart.com (oh no not again)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Uh-oh.

• Tasiya and the senior husbands
-> Taisiya

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