aldersprig: an ancient-looking world map (map)
Desmond’s World

Stone is is ample supply all around Desmond’s nation, and that is amply evident in their building, which is wood-supplemented stone for the most part. The oldest buildings are often dry stacked stone, some of them just literally stacked, others carved cleverly and carefully to join perfectly while losing as little stone as possible.

In the Capital City, further from the mountains than many of the, stone and wood are used more equally: buildings are often wattle-and-daub over timber frames (think “Tudor” houses) wit tall stone foundations, often mortared together.

You can often tell the mage-wars-time buildings, because their stones are improbably large, their joins improbably tight, and their polishing improbably bright even after hundreds of years.
The Potentate’s Palace and the City Hall Building are from that time.

(Another feature of buildings from that time is an Escher-esque opinion about dimensions and architecture, even in houses now owned by the lower-middle or lower class. You might still wander into a poor person’s home and find that it improbably fits an extended family of twenty comfortably in a narrow building in a tiny lot that does not tower over its neighbors. Sometimes these buildings have views of other places, as well, out windows that should not show anything but the neighbors’ underwear: the mountains, the sea, even another nation. These houses are tightly-guarded secrets which nobody speaks of, often owned by the same family for centuries, by some deed from a long-dead Potentate.)
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Force-Fields


They shared a look among them. Cataleb stepped forward to speak when nobody else did. “Kayay got angry and stormed off. I’m sure she’ll be back when nobody goes after her.”

“Of course. Well, welcome to Force and Force-fields, a class you will be taking every year of your education here, or until you can hold off a tsunami with nothing but your mind and your collar. And you may very well need to, so I’d suggest you pay attention. Now. I am Professor Smiff. I prefer neutral or feminine pronouns when socializing, and neutral pronouns when working. The collar has no gender; the magic has no gender; we have no gender, just as that tsunami has no gender. Now. We’re going to start with very basic exercises and move on. Please join with a partner and face each other, just far enough apart that your arms stretched in front of you do not touch.”

Desmond looked around and quickly moved towards Jefshan, but Wesley had beaten him to it, which left him facing Talia.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Classes


“Maybe they have a career-path explanation eventually,” Jefshan offered helpfully — or at least sympathetically. “What’s our next class?”

“Forcefields,” Desmond consulted his schedule. “Oh, good. I liked doing those.”

He looked up to find the rest of his - friends wasn’t the right word? Classmates? Dorm-mates? House. The rest of his house/year-mates staring at him. “What?”

“What do you mean, you liked…” Kayay headshook angrily. “No wonder you were the last one up the stairs. Are you a ringer?”

“Am I a what?” A wringer? That was a new one.

“A wringer, a plant. Are you really a fourth-year student or something? Are you here to spy on us and make sure we don’t find out something we’re not supposed to?”
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aldersprig: an ancient-looking world map (map)
2. Geography
Desmond’s World
Oops, I already covered a bunch of this in the first post.

The City Desmond lives in (100 words to anyone who names it something that fits with the names that I like and another 100 to someone to name the nation) straddles the river leading to the ocean.

It’s definitely got high ground (High Street), mostly to the north of the river, and lower ground, which sometimes floods, to the south of the river. The river directly to the south is all parkland, designated so 100 years ago when a leader ordered the slums torn down so that the houses on the north side did not have to look at them.

This, of course, just moved the slums a bit more inland, but there’s a nice wall of trees now, and the houses bordering that parkland are high-rent for the area.

The City office and school are on the north side of the river. Desmond grew up on the south side.

Portal Bound
There is already a map for Portal Bound, here.

The main city of needing-a-name is settled into an oxbow in the river of also-needs-a-name. Inspired by the Mississippi, the river has moved several notable times over the centuries since the first buildings were hewn from the forest all around.

(The capital we’re discussing is just on and around about where the left end of the upper wild-rice roads are on the above-linked map.)

The river runs through a flattish forest area, making its way towards the sea. Much of the land in the area is still forested, with small townships growing up among the trees.
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1. Introduction
Desmond’s World
The world Desmond lives in is on the cusp of industrialization, a word in which most people don’t believe magic exists. Poverty, class struggle, hunger, and crowding are, however, all too real.

The nation Desmond lives in is isolated on all four sides: on three sides by nearly-impassible mountains, and on the fourth by an ocean which is inhospitable and almost entirely non-traversable. It’s a small nation, seven days’ travel by horse long from pass to pass and three days’ travel by horse wide at the widest.

While magic is not believed to exist, it underlies everything, just as the tight isolation, the high price of any trade goods, and the stratified class society do.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Collar Food


It turned out Hellina and Meshron had a secondary purpose in shadowing the new students through breakfast - it was their job to guide all of the first-year blues to their first class.

That turned out to be a lecture room big enough for all twenty-seven students (with three seats left over, Des noted), fronted by a tall person with a very long white beard dressed much more like the students than most of the adults they’d seen.

The person wore long pleated pants that touched the floor in brilliant blue, a jacket in a lighter blue, and a shirt underneath in crisp white. The collar was gold and seemed to sparkle and shimmer.

“I am Professor Hapdegh, and I am here to teach you the basic theory of collar magic and its history. You may call me Professor Hap if it is easier, and I generally answer to he and him pronouns, although I’m not all that concerned one way or the other. Now, I don’t think I’ll remember all your names, but I’m going to try. Let’s start in one corner and work our way around, shall we?”
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aldersprig: an ancient-looking world map (map)


Now up on Patreon: my first hand-drawn map to actually make it up there! This one is of Desmond's corner of the world, in mostly black-and-white and a bit of marker.

Available to all $10-and-up Patrons!
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Cataleb


“No, but really.” Talia followed Des into the lunchroom while Doria flanked him on the other side. “That’s a good question, Des. Where do the collars get their energy from? Is it from us? Oh…” Talia winced and her eyes went a little crossed for a moment. “My collar’s talking to me again…”

::We can take energy from the person who is wearing us, but it is considered a bit uncouth and, also, it causes problems for both us and the person in the long run,:: Desmond’s collar informed him. ::Talia’s collar may be going on about the uncouthness. Some care more about that than others. In the Old Times, when collars were only a punishment…:

“Oooh.” Des swallowed. “But - oh, there’s so many questions.”

::Save most of them for later, when the one who would abuse their collar isn’t around.::

“But where do you get food from?”

::You’ll see. I assure you, I will not let you starve me. Nor will that one’s collar let them do the same. We’re programmed with some control::
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Working on in-text character descriptions. Here's Desmond, from Desmond's Climb, from Talia's POV.

Talia watched Desmond slide into pajamas . She’d already gotten into her own, and this last-one-up-the-stairs student intrigued her.

Desmond was a couple fingers taller than Talia, stocky in the shoulders and hips, with the sort of legs that told her they did a lot of walking and the sort of shoulders that told her they did not a whole lot of lifting. Not a manual laborer, then. Their hair was sandy blonde, a little longer than current style dictated for people leaning male but a little too short for the current ideal for people leaning female. So growing it out or hadn’t been able to afford a haircut.

Their eyes were not the same blue as the cravat or the house-blue pajamas, that would have been too much, but they were a nice blue-gray that made Talia wary. Like the sea.

She ducked back in her bunk before Desmond noticed her watching and wondered exactly how much of that her collar had overheard.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Space and Time


They didn’t get to meet the ninth member of their dorm until the next morning.

That first night, they spent a little time talking, getting to know Doria, Poiy, and Lufet and sharing more stories of the stairs, but they were all exhausted and they had an unknown but presumably early bell to answer to coming probably far too soon.

Des’ last thoughts as he drifted off for the night were that the bed was surprisingly comfortable, the pajamas ridiculous, and the ceiling far too close.

The bell came early, but not as awfully early as he’d expected - there was already a splash of light through the window. In the winter, that would make the bell unpleasantly early, but right not Des could see enough to climb out of bed without kicking either Talia or Doria.

He dressed quietly, listening to the grumbles and rumbles of his dorm-mates without really hearing anything. The buttons on his shirt seemed to give him trouble, but he managed on the third try without anyone else seeming to notice his issues.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Questions


By the time dinner wrapped up, Desmond was feeling exhausted, and everyone else around the table looked as tired as he felt.

At the front of the dining hall, a tall person in heavy blue robes stood up. “Your attention please.” Their robe, like the others Des had seen, left their necks and shoulders bare to show off the collar to the full extent. “Tomorrow begins your classes, so I would heartily encourage all of you to aim for sleep when you get back to your dormitories, and not merely for laying down. The morning bells will ring to tell you when you must be awake, when you must be in the dining hall, and when your first class will begin.

“That said, welcome to the Academy. I hope that all of you who have made it this far will continue to thrive, and that you will, in due time, do the Academy very proud in your future placements. Study hard, all of you. You will need every bit of your knowledge as you progress forward in life.”

“That doesn’t sound ominous at all,” muttered Talia. Kayay hissed in admonition, but nobody - least of all Talia - paid it any heed.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Theories


The food was good. Desmond tried to focus on that. It was filling, it was tasty. Somewhere, they had a good source of fresh vegetables and even meat. Of course, of course, Des remembered, there was magic. For all he knew, there was a magical potato farm next to the magical stairway.

The food was good, but everyone was very quiet. After a few minutes, Jefshan repeated, “there’s no going back. It’s like Wesley said. All those people — and none of them ever came back, did they?”

“No.” Talia’s head shake was slow and sad. “So what do you think happened to the twenty-eighth candidate? I mean, people don’t go back, right? As far as we can tell. And they’re not here, and…”
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Introductions


Everyone had their own story about the stairs. Wesley had run up as fast as possible, until their collar had shouted: “so loud it nearly blew out my ears,” Wesley complained. “And then there weren’t any more stairs.”

Talia had gotten in an argument with a puzzle door that had ended with a chute downwards to the reception area. “My collar’s still annoyed with me. Won’t talk to me.”

“Not even for collar’s-choice?” Jefshan leaned forward over the table, looking intrigued. “Mine won’t shut up. “

“Collar’s-choice?” Talia blinked owlishly.

“You know. That bit near the end where the collar picked out which way to go. Collar’s- choice.”

“Oh, that! Yeah, my collar said ‘left’ and that was it.”
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Outfitted



Desmond tugged on his vest. It fit him as if it had been tailored to him. His pants were long enough. His shirt buttoned snugly but not tightly around his throat.

"Eventually," Grenor put in, "you'll learn to direct the magic yourself. The collar will always be involved, of course - the collar is the control for the magic. That was the Agreement," he added, in a much quieter voice. "But after a time, you'll be able to look at a piece of clothing and fit it to yourself by will alone. I'd be glad, if I were you. You'll notice quickly that not everyone is as good at that as you are."

"It wasn't me," Des protested.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Three Routes


Another door. Desmond stepped through it cautiously, half-expecting to find darkness, or a pit, or someone flinging fire-balls at him.

He found a stairway. He sighed quietly and started climbing.

::Urgh. I hate that feeling. Hate it. It's like being put in a box. Hate it.::

"Welcome back to you, too." The stairway seemed interminable. It seemed like exactly the sort of thing he should expect today, so he just kept climbing.

::Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it.... All right. I'm done complaining. What did you decide?.::

"You really weren't listening?"
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Decisions


Halthinia had not, it turned out, brought a picnic, but still seemed fine waiting patiently while Desmond considered matters.

After a while, Des snorted. “I’m overthinking,” he told Halthinia. “Considering the options, considering what they could mean, considering what I know about collared people…”

“I can’t imagine that’s all that much.”

“Oh, no. I mean, I’ve seen a couple. But nobody I know knew one, and nobody had someone from their family who was one—”

“That they spoke of.”

“That they spoke of,” he agreed. “So I have, well, nothing at all to base my decision on.”
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Supplicant


One more time, Des opened a small black door under a wide sweeping staircase. He hesitated, hand on the doorknob. Was this a test? Was he supposed to try the wide stairs?

His collar was quiet. He held the door politely for Halthinia, who smirked at him and stepped through.

This time, the hallway was not dark. Smooth, off-grey tiles went forward about the width of the stairs above, and then split in three directions. Halthinia waited at the split for him.

The collar was quiet. Des raised his eyebrows.

“This isn’t the sort of challenge your compatriot can help you with, I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, listening to it in this case could cause you a great deal of sorrow in the future.”

“We’re supposed to work together,” he complained. “And you want me to ignore it?”
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Climbing


::They're supposed to leave the decision up to us::, the collar was complaining. ::You heard them. "Until your compatriot tells you that you have reached the appropriate level." That's me, your compatriot. Your co-resident. Your co-::

"-llar," Desmond interrupted. "You're my collar." He pushed the white door open, surprised at how smoothly it swung.

The collar, it seemed, was sulking, and said nothing. Des moved carefully, not trusting the floor, especially not when the stairs behind him were vanishing.

He stepped onto a smooth black marble floor, in a room much like the reception center he'd begun this adventure in. Broad sweeping stairways led up in both directions; two perfect people sat at the reception desk, looking as much a part of the decorations as the gold trim on the stairs or the broad silk carpets on the floors. They were collared, this time, in gold.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Testing


The stairs kept going. Desmond had already climbed more stairs than existed in any other building he'd ever been in, and he was pretty sure the Central Office wasn't all that much taller. Then again, he was pretty sure magic wasn't real, either, and he'd been using it - and having conversations with a collar - all day.

Maybe all the collar meant was that you'd gone mad, and he was ensconced in some nice sanatorium, happily climbing up the same five stairs, like a toddler. If so, there was no consequence to falling, but, if so, there was no consequence to anything. He supposed he might as well live as if this were real, right up until some nice nurse came to lock him in a cell.

He skidded to the top of a flight of stairs which had been slick and greasy and found the stairs splitting in front of him. One stairway went left, the other right.

Neither direction ought to be possible, the way the tower was built - or, at least, the way the tower had appeared to be built from the outside. The window he was looking at — frosted glass, but a wider window again — showed no shadow of the stairway, either.
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Getting to School


This time, it seemed normal to have the voice in his collar steer him down the hall, although Des was glad when the stairway appeared lit. The white-marble stairs curled upwards in a narrow spiral that would have been challenging to navigate in the dark; even in the light, the narrow treads were tricky.

Sun poured in through narrow windows, all of them either frosted, bubbly, or blue enough that they allowed no sight of the outside world. Desmond was a bit turned around, but he was fairly certain he was in the back of the Central Office; it was possible the windows would have looked at the Potentate's Palace, which was forbidden, of course, or they could have simply overlooked an alley or a sewer, which would have been unpleasant.

(that is, assuming sewers were allowed near the Potentate's Palace. They might not be. Des had heard Stories of that place -- everyone had heard them. They were up there with Beyond the Edge of the Ocean fairy-tales and I Crossed the Mountains myths -- and, of course, rumors about the Potentate. But presumably even the Potentate shat.)
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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Desmond Goes to School


IV


Des had been to the Central Office a few times with his parents or with Annelle. The grand entryway never stopped catching his breath, though: the marble entryway, the broad sweeping stairways leading up in both directions, the perfect people at the reception desk, looking as much a part of the decorations as the gold trim on the stairs or the broad silk carpets on the floors.

It was different, being there today. For one, there was a voice in his head telling him to bypass the reception desk and the broad stairs and go to a narrow black door nearly hidden under the left stairway. For another, there was the way that people's eyes seems to skid off him the moment they noticed the collar. For a third, there was the terror in the pit of his stomach.
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Poll #17761 More, Please?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 7


What should I write more of next?

View Answers

Slaves/School 1 (Desmond)
5 (83.3%)

Slaves/School 2 (Austin/the Fah)
1 (16.7%)

Beekeeper
3 (50.0%)

4th Husband
1 (16.7%)

Finish It Bingo
2 (33.3%)

Fanfiction
1 (16.7%)

Arisse/Cress (Rock/Hard Place)
2 (33.3%)

I wish to leave kudos on this story

View Answers

Yes
5 (71.4%)

No
0 (0.0%)

Waterfalls?
2 (28.6%)

aldersprig: (lock and key)
After Slaves, School

II


::Report to the Central office at 1 First street at 11 a.m. today::

Desmond touched the collar around his neck; the voice repeated itself.

"Okay..." He didn't know if he was supposed to talk back to the collar. How did that work, anyway? "Will do?"

He touched the collar again and got silence. Well, maybe that had worked.

"Mo-om!" He tossed his robe on over his pyjamas and hurried out into the main center of the house. "Mum. I--" He fell silent, because his mother was talking with someone in the foyer.

She'd already turned around to look, though, and stopped mid-sentence. "Oh, Desmond. Darling. Oh..." Her hands went to her face and she turned back to the person in the foyer before turning back to Desmond.
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Poll #17756 More, Please?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 9


What should I write more of next?

View Answers

Slaves/School 1 (Desmond)
6 (66.7%)

Slaves/School 2 (Austin/the Fah)
2 (22.2%)

Beekeeper
6 (66.7%)

4th Husband
3 (33.3%)

Finish It Bingo
3 (33.3%)

Hurt/Comfort Bingo
0 (0.0%)

Supernaturally Blonde (fanfic)
1 (11.1%)

aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)
Because (for *cough* SOME reason), I was suddenly feeling the urge to write slaves and magical schools.
These are bare intros, of course.


Slaves, School


There was a collar, of course.

Desmond hadn't exactly been expecting it, but somehow, when it was there that morning in the middle of summer, pressed around Des neck and already body-temperature, it wasn't a surprise.

Every year, on Aleriaon the 1st, 28 citizens between their fourteenth and nineteenth birthdays woke up wearing a collar. It was chosen entirely at random -- or so it was claimed, by those in charge of claiming such things -- and you never knew if you would be the one to wake up like that.
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Poll #17750 More, please?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 9


What should I write more of next?

View Answers

Slaves/School 1 (Desmond)
5 (55.6%)

Slaves/School 2 (Austin)
4 (44.4%)

BeeKeeper
3 (33.3%)

4th Husband
3 (33.3%)

Finish It Bingo
4 (44.4%)

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