aldersprig: (Shiva Unhappy)
[personal profile] aldersprig
This story comes out of the September Giraffe Call.

The original story was posted here, on a prompt from [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

The first continuation, sponsored by [personal profile] lilfluff, was posted here (LJ).

And this story won the Giraffe Call Continuation Poll after we reached the $30 donation level.



Ashley had tucked Tanya-Marie into a corner of the kitchen, a blanket wrapped around the skinny cat-girl, and let her sleep while she got back to the work of preparing dinner. The kittengirl had spent much of her free time there, in the old place, purring in a corner, generally, when the masters weren't around, reading something. She'd ready to Ashley, too, her thing voice getting firm and animated as she told her stories or explained some bit of science. She'd been educated in everything except how to be a slave, it seemed; it was like having an Americana in the house, except that Patches genuinely wanted to serve.

It was easy enough, not to really forget she was there, but to let her presence fall to the back of Ashley's mind. Dinner tonight would be complicated - the masters were having company, something to do with the Mistress's work - and required most of the cook's attention; what was left, she saved for worrying about her daughter, who was getting to the age where she could, if the masters saw fit, be sold; planning what she'd do for a hangover-friendly breakfast the next day; and pondering what she could do to occupy the young masters during the party.

Thus, when the youngest daughter of the masters, the pretty, precocious, pampered Yvonne, squealed "Oh, kitty!" the first thought Ashley had was that one of the neighborhood stray cats had gotten into the kitchen again. It was only when Tanya-Marie replied with a groggy "meow?" that Ashley realized the mistake - and, by then, the girl was already hugging her kitty around the neck and babbling baby talk at her.

The catgirl had nasty needle-sharp claws, and teeth that were more carnivore than housepet, but Ashley had never before seen her unsheathe them near a child. It was a short-lived thing - Yvonne never even noticed - but for a second the cook's heart stopped. If Patches attacked a young master...

But the cat-girl pulled in her claws, one by one, and patted Yvonne on the back. "Murrowl," she told the girl firmly, an indignant cat-sound that let her get away with mouthing off to her betters in the way language never would.

Yvonne, in turn, giggled, a sob threatening behind the giggle. "I thought you were gone forever! I've missed you so much! I don't have anyone to knit with me, and Tiffany and Sophia won't play with me any more. They say they've gotten too old for that sort of thing, and the other slaves are always busy busy busy and kitty, I'm lonely."

The naked sadness in the young mistress' voice surprised Ashley. She hadn't known that Yvonne's older sisters had been excluding her, although she'd know the slaves avoided the young girl. She had a habit of pointing the blame for escapades solely on the shoulders of whatever slave happened to be near enough, and her parents and nanny were too happy to have someone to punish to look too deeply at those accusations.

Patches murrowled again, softly. "Have you been biting people again?" she asked, breaking her self-imposed non-English-speaking around the masters. The girl's indignant squeak covered Ashley's surprised gasp neatly.

"I have not! Patches, how could you say such a... oh." Her whole body posture drooped. "You mean metaphorically."

"I do," the cat-girl agreed. "Well?"

"Maybe a little? But I've been trying hard not to, and they still won't play with me. But you're back now. you can play with me again! Right...?" Her shoulders lifted, only to drop again. "You're going to get to stay, right? I don't want you to go away again."

"I don't want to go away again either, kitten." Tanya-Marie glanced up at Ashley over the girl’s shoulder, her ears flat to her head. “But we walk the route we’re given.”

“But you came back!” Yvonne wailed. “You came back and now you’re going to stay forever!”

“Kitten.” It was a tone of voice Ashley had never heard before, but from the abrupt cessation of the wailing, the “kitten” had. “Save your tears for the Consort, little one.”

“The Lady has woes of her own. I know.” She nodded reluctantly. “But I want you to stay.”

“She has a way with the child.”

The murmur surprised Ashley, who only by iron nerves and two decades of work in a family kitchen managed not to either scream or drop her spoon. She turned to glare gently at Joan, the family’s nanny.

“She does,” she agreed quietly. The cat-girl was talking Yvonne through her most recent spelling lesson. “How did we miss it before?”

“I think she took pains to hide it from us. She does a very good job of just being the kitty, doesn’t she? I wonder if that was part of her training?”

“Or something she learned here,” Ashley countered, thinking of how the Mistress had always handled Patches – and how the young masters had treated the girl. “Either way… has Yvonne been harder to handle since we moved?”

“Endlessly,” the nanny whispered. “I thought it was just the change in schools, missing her friends, but watching her with Patches…”

“Very interesting.” The voice behind them caused both women to turn and curtsey reflexively; the Master was looking over their shoulder at the cat-girl and the child, who, to all appearances, had not noticed him, although Tanya-Marie’s ears were pointed his direction. “How did she get here? Did one of you pick her up?”

“She walked.” Ashley knew her tone was too accusing; she didn’t care. Let him whip her. He was supposed to take care of those beneath him. “She walked all the way from the old house.”

“Aah.” He raised an expressive eyebrow. “Did she say why?”

“She said ‘this is my home.’ Sir.” He had a level gaze that she always before had squirmed away from; this time, standing between him and the cat-girl, she stood firm. “She belongs with us.”

He shifted his gaze over her shoulder and, unwillingly, Ashley turned to look. “It seems she does,” he agreed. In her nest of blankets, Tanya-Marie had curled around Yvonne, both girls sleeping peacefully through the discussion. The Master took a breath, looking, Ashley thought, uncomfortable. “I’ll talk to my wife.”

Date: 2011-10-11 09:20 pm (UTC)
lilfluff: On of my RP characters, a mouse who happens to be a student librarian. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lilfluff
Hmph, doesn't get them off the hook for leaving her behind, but I'll give him credit for being able to see things after they're shoved in his face.


(Now why do I suddenly picture Kitten being trouble down the line. Although if she joins the Agency I could see her being an advocate for the kitties.)

Date: 2011-10-11 10:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tuftears.livejournal.com
Aw! I wonder what people will say if Yvonne says she wants to grow up to be a catgirl. ^_^

Date: 2011-10-12 04:22 pm (UTC)
lilfluff: On of my RP characters, a mouse who happens to be a student librarian. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lilfluff
Well, at least at the moment Kitty is a better big sister than her actual big sisters. Now maybe they actually have important things keeping them busy, but that doesn't change that Tanya-Marie is there for her right now and they aren't.

Date: 2011-10-11 10:52 pm (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
"masters weren't around, reading something She'd ready to Ashley, too, her thing voice"

This line seems to've been mangled? I think it wants a period after "something", that "ready" should be "read", and that "thing" should be ... "thin", maybe? Was she reading aloud to Ashley, or telling her stories and such from memory, or some of each?

The second sentence of the second paragraph has too many semicolons, both separating parts of the sentence and dividing complex items in a list. I suggest breaking into two sentences. (Says overly-complex-sentence girl.)

Ashley mentions the "young masters", but all the named free children are girls. Is that a generic usage, or are there also some boys? It's used in the generic to refer to Yvonne later.

"neighborhood strays" -> not that it turned out to matter within the story, but did Ashley think that stray children in the neighborhood come in and saw Tanya-Marie, or that a stray cat came in and Tanya-Marie exclaimed over it?

"You mean metaphorically." I wildly revised my notion of how old Yvonne was on hitting this line, from single-digits up to double, possibly mid-double. How old is she?

I got confused about "kitten" for Yvonne vs. Tanya-Marie, especially when it was from Ashley's point of view, but I think I got it sorted out eventually.

"But we walk the route we’re given." Heh. Appropriate.

"Save your tears for the Consort, little one." Err, what? I may just have insufficient context for this world, but is she talking about a god(ess), a ruler, or the lady of the house? Or something else?

"The cat-girl was talking Yvonne through her most recent spelling lesson." That was a fast skip forward? It feels like that should've taken more conversational time between Yvonne and Tanya-Marie than the few lines Ashley and Joan exchange.

"Ashley countered, thinking of how the Mistress had always handled Patches – and how the young masters had treated the girl." Is "the girl" here Tanya-Marie, or Yvonne? And same question as before about who "young masters" means.

"He was supposed to take care of those beneath him." I'm dubious about this assertion given what else I've read set in this world, but ...

"In her nest of blankets, Tanya-Marie had curled around Yvonne, both girls sleeping peacefully through the discussion." And again, it feels like Tanya-Marie and Yvonne's interaction was on fast-forward relative to the conversation between Ashley, Joan, and the Master of the House.

"The Master took a breath, looking, Ashley thought, uncomfortable." Given Ashley's mention of his responsibilities and the earlier discussion of Tanya-Marie's assignment to the family, I wonder how what (if anything?) he knows his responsibilities to be towards her.

Also, you switched between straight and angled quotes.

Date: 2011-10-11 11:51 pm (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
Yes! (I would totally have written the many-semi-colon version m'self. I am trying to learn to stuff slightly fewer clauses into one poor sentence unless the structure really wants them.)

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Date: 2011-10-11 11:55 pm (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
I don't think it needs to be changed, I was just requesting clarification. Here, in English, if I said "young masters" I would mean all boys ... hrm, though come to think of it, if I were saying that I'd be saying "young ladies" or maybe "young misses", and I have no idea what the generic would be. "Young gentles", maybe, which probably isn't something that would've been used historically, and that doesn't convey what you want in this context at all.

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Date: 2011-10-12 12:02 am (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
"Oh... You mean being prickly?" Better? She's pre-pubescent.

I think so, but other opinions would probably be good. I don't actually remember how old I was when I started learning literary/language terms like metaphor, let alone being able to conjure them up in casual conversation. But you've also just made a point of saying Tanya-Marie is well-educated; possibly this is a concept the two of them have discussed, even if Yvonne hasn't learned it in school yet -- doubly so since Tanya-Marie has to be circumspect about how she speaks to Yvonne, and metaphors would be useful for that.

Date: 2011-10-12 12:09 am (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
Goddess and Consort are, inasmuch as this place has a faith defined, the core deities of their faith.

Okay, so one of my guesses was correct, and it isn't necessary for context for the rest of the story. IMO that's fine. "Lady" in the next line then is the goddess?


How about the cat-girl and Yvonne were just moving into a discussion of ... crap, then it gets clumsy.

"Moved on to a discussion of"? It's a stand-alone sentence, it can support a little complexity. ETA: Or "Moved on to discussing" or "Switched (shifted) to talking about"?
Edited Date: 2011-10-12 12:31 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-10-12 12:23 am (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
It's actually a tenant of their faith, I just like writing the bad people.

<snerk> Fair enough. That doesn't tell us whether it's a tenet that's generally upheld, or whether your "bad people" are the complacent majority.

Hrrmm. Yeah, I was having that problem with that bit, too. :-/

It is cute to see them asleep, and demonstrates again how comfortable Yvonne is with Tanya-Marie. Would it make sense for the, err, adults (is Tanya-Marie an adult? I'm thinking of her as a teenager, but I don't think that's based on much) to watch the kids (kittens) for a bit until they finish the spelling lesson and curl up for a nap?
Edited Date: 2011-10-12 12:29 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-10-12 01:10 am (UTC)
lilfluff: On of my RP characters, a mouse who happens to be a student librarian. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lilfluff
>>>Somewhere, I wrote up a slaves' rights pamphlet. I wish I knew where it had gone.

* You have the right to obey.
* You have the right to be disciplined.
* You have the right to be kept on your toes by shifting demands...

Er, not something quite that pessimistic?

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Date: 2011-10-12 12:27 am (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
I talk too much. :)

(Large chunks of this world are not my kink, but the social structure and tech/magic interactions are interesting. And the first paragraph set off my inner proofreader. Okay, and I have a soft spot for cats and cat-people. Possibly a better assertion is that I prefer your non-adult writing.)

Date: 2011-10-12 03:02 pm (UTC)
meridian_rose: pen on letter background  with text  saying 'writer' (Default)
From: [personal profile] meridian_rose
Stuff I was confused over has been tackled in the comments [the Consort in particular]. I definitely got the impression that the wife is the one who left Patches behind and the Master might not have done so.

This was sweeet - I felt very sorry for Yvonne until it turns out some of her situation is of her own making. She's a great, rounded character.

I loved Ashley's whirling thoughts. She's got a lot on her plate and she's clearly a resourceful woman with many skills. I like her a lot :D

Date: 2011-10-16 11:13 pm (UTC)
clare_dragonfly: woman with green feathery wings, text: stories last longer: but only by becoming only stories (Alice in Wonderland: one moment to anoth)
From: [personal profile] clare_dragonfly
Aww, that was sweet. I caught a few typos, but I think they've already been pointed out :-P

I would really really like to see more of the religion. I didn't even realize they had much of a religion and I'm intrigued.

Date: 2011-10-17 12:54 am (UTC)
clare_dragonfly: woman with green feathery wings, text: stories last longer: but only by becoming only stories (Default)
From: [personal profile] clare_dragonfly
Maybe your next Giraffe Call could have a religion theme!

Anyway, isn't the best way to figure something out writing about it? (It often is for me...)

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