I posted this scene 7 months ago. It has been updated to reflect the new beginning. The tension between Leoshine, and Arthur and Robin is suddenly much higher.
Leoshine sprang from the nest of downy luxury the way she wanted to from the infested straw in the Outlyer hole.
How long ago? Where am I? She wondered.
She crouched, hands and spine flat against the wall plaster, wide of eye, lips crushed together.
Her father’s private chamber!
The largest man she had ever seen, with the baldest face, lounged on the other side of a table in one of eight carved wooden chairs. He wore the hard shell on his chest that she had seen on the aliens, was it last night? If he was a man, those tight ‘o’s on his head were hair, golden and red, with darker shades intermingled. Behind him the blood red canopy of a curtained bed seemed to fight with Father’s embossed Mayoral medallions hanging on the ceiling beams.
Leoshine glanced from the door at her left, back to the table where a cylinder illuminated half the giant man’s face. His eyes drilled through her.
Fierce? She wondered. Dangerous? She feared.
Her mother’s hysterical warning resounded in her ears as when it had pierced the fetid air, “Don’t let them do anything!”
How do I stop them? Leoshine wondered.
The giant man moved to rise and approach but eased his limbs back into a half-lounging, half-crouching position as Leoshine cowered flatter against the wall.
They shared the chamber. His bed lay so close. He had watched her sleep!
Sickness rioted. What else had he done while she slept!
Father will kill us, she thought. Being his favourite would not save her.
The giant’s mouth yawned. A sound like water over pebbles came to Leoshine’s ears.
He gained his feet like a hunter trying not to disturb his prey and strode to the door. The aliens she remembered from yesterday did not seem human, but, bareheaded and divided, this one purred and gestured toward her and approached, hesitated, retreated, commanded at the door, and now paced with his shoulders hunched to avoid the beams.
The light on the table expanded and followed him, and when she moved, she became absorbed in its influence. Was the Dome dark for night? she wondered. Or worse, did the sudden invasion destroy their source of light as Mother prophesied?
When his pacing averted his face she dragged her fingers through the burrs and sticks deeply entangled in her hair. She examined her scratched hands, her arms caked with blood and mud, her torn clothes.
When he paced toward her, she stilled and longed for an opportunity to clean up.
Lately Father had insisted upon clean clothes and tidy hair more than usual. He had built tubs of water all over town and had given rewards to the folk who used them. He had built a special tub, walled in for privacy, for the women in his palace. Her sisters and mother had scorned the notion. Only she had enjoyed the habit of ‘the bath’.
She cried in agony,“Father?”
The man paced one stride toward her, canceling all her courage. She fled into the pillows, her eyes following his movements over a blanket she held to her nose.
The man uttered a curt noise and fretted at his brow with the side of his finger.
A knock swiveled both their heads to the door. Another shelled giant strode toward the table. Dishes rattled as he placed a tray full of shiny metal domes in front of the first giant’s chair.
The new arrival did not hesitate as he approached her. He placed his heavy hand on her shoulder. “Go, empty yourself,” He pointed to an unnoticed door beside the canopy bed.
His fingertips under her shoulder blade and his thumb on her collar bone compelled her off the cot. When she shot a pained glance into his eyes she recognised the hazel flecked in black.
She slunk round the table, never taking her eyes off either man until she disappeared into the dark chamber.
She hesitated but the need was overpowering. As she finished she heard voices in the main room and peeped out.
A haggard-looking older man in familiar clothing stood at the foot of her cot, speaking with the strangers.
As she rushed across the floor he reached to his belt.
The giant who brought the tray stepped into her path as if to hold her away. The sitting giant barked a command.
Father’s hand came away from his knife.
Leoshine fell at his feet and wrapped her arms tight around his knees. She buried her face in his leggings and felt the same extravagant softness as her bedding.
“You’re alive!” she breathed. “Mother said they would kill you! Mother? Is she alive? Georg? Wol? Oh Father, I saw them killing!” She buried her face again and wiped tears in the folds.
“Leoshine, Darling. You must be brave,” her father said, his hand rubbing the top of her head. He grasped her elbow and pulled her upward. “Trust me that this is for the best. I have never done anything without thinking of your future and I know you will be happy here.”
As her body unbent, she watched his face. His eyes darted between the strangers, down at her and back at the sitting one. His lips moved rapidly. “The Overlord has shown you special consideration and does our family great honour to take you into his personal household. You won’t disappoint me? Obey and be quick to learn as I have always known you to be.”
Once more hands, Father’s hands, more gentle than the Outlyers, more trusted than the giant servant, guided her shoulders. “Leoshine, daughter, kneel with me and show the Overlord your gentleness.”
Leoshine choked and stared hard at her father. Overlord? Bow?
Father’s eyes crinkled. The corners of his mouth bared his teeth and then covered them, bared and covered, while the crinkle between his eyes pleaded.
The Overlord to whom she was directed smiled back. He extended his hand. His eyelids drooped. Does he know we are here? Leoshine wondered. Yes, she concluded as his lips curled, just a fraction as he glanced at the other giant standing at his side.
Father kneeled and touched his forehead to the tips of the draping fingers. To Leoshine the hand made no token, no sign that the Overlord welcomed a similar action from her.
Her mind rioted with phrases like, ‘special consideration’ and ‘personal household’. Show the Overlord my what? She wondered. He stopped Father from killing me, she realised. Father obeys him.
“Come, Sit. The food will be good.”
Leoshine looked, yes, the Overlord spoke halting, recognisable words.
And Father replied to him with alien noises. Leoshine looked up, watching his mouth.
The serving giant removed the metal covers from the dishes then stood behind the Overlord as Father assumed one of the carved chairs at the table.
Waves of hunger urged her forward. Her head swam in the aroma of the hot food and she almost choked on the water in her mouth.
The Overlord gestured toward her and the plate that lay in front of an empty chair.
The serving one muttered. Father nodded and looked at her.
The Overlord commanded again in Myxolidian, her language.
“Sit. Eat. I say so.”
Her father flapped his hand over the seat and she slithered into the chair.
The food that Mother had supervised in the great household kitchen, that had fed Father’s family and all the servants and their families, and guests at banquets, the only food she knew before this, came in neat mouthfuls wrapped and ready to be conveyed to her mouth without messing her hands. She would have used her fingers but this food was wet and fell apart as the Overlord lifted it to his mouth with metal prongs in both hands.
He shot a glance at her as his lips wiped the food off a scoop. He rested the metal prongs over the plate and the man-stones in his throat pumped up and down as he swallowed.
“Eat. I say so.” He nodded to her plate and then attacked his food again.
She remembered cuddling her hand under Father’s abundant beard and feeling those stones in his throat. She was too young to see Georg’s before his beard developed but she remembered the beginning of Wol’s and the fuss Mother made of him. They were hidden by all men, Giffshine, her oldest sister, told her, as sacks of mysterious treasure that little sisters were too young to know about.
How old was this man if his were exposed? His skin was not smooth or downy like Wol’s at that early age of manhood. Wrinkles around his eyes and the growl of his voice belied the hypnotic vision of them ferrying food down his gullet.
Father gingerly tested a pronged utensil and began speaking. “This is your master, Leoshie. You didn’t have a master before though you were pleased to obey me. Now you must learn to obey him absolutely to the finest detail.”
Leoshine looked up in alarm, remembering.
“I don’t know why you have gained such favour in his eyes. But yes, even though I cannot assure you he will ask no evil, I don’t think you will suffer any harm from him or Robin, the servant.”
The master interrupted, gesturing toward her.
Father placated. The servant grunted.
“Leoshie, he really desires you to eat. Doesn’t that speak of his concern for you? I beg you lift this utensil, called a fork and taste a morsel. Yes, it is not our food and it is not our custom for men and women to eat at the same table but…”
“I can eat new food and customs have no hold on me one way or another,” Leoshine lied, sick with duplicity and betrayal, “It is the killing. I will not eat with one who brings killing.” She shuddered.