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    Yeoldebard
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Raising Evzen - 2. Novák House

He had his orders as Bohdan’s slave. But Aleksander knew he was never meant to be Bohdan’s slave; he was Evžen’s.

A fact he kept close to his heart as the Lidikrys led him down a flight of exterior cement stairs to the slave quarters of his new home. Stepping into a dimly lit corridor, Evžen opened a door, shoving the Faro through the entrance and Aleksander found himself in a small bathroom. A chipped metal tub sat in the corner of the room, faucets dripping into the basin.

“Clean yourself up,” the Lidikrys snarled, before slamming the door shut behind the fox.

This wasn’t going to be easy. And Aleksander knew it. His master hated him. It was a bad start, and he would have to work extra to gain Evžen’s trust. Pulling off the cotton robe, the Faro reached over the basin, turning the archaic faucet handles that had no right being in a modern Lidikrys home. Even the slaves of noblerats had better accommodations than this.

The slaves of rich noblerats. At best, the Nováks were middle class who clung to illusions of wealth.

It didn’t really matter to Aleksander; this was his lot in life. If he had to put up with bath water that had a little extra rust, so be it. The Faro would accomplish nothing by complaining. In fact, he got the distinct impression that if he ever complained about anything, he would end up in a lot of pain.

Which gave Aleksander a goal. His master’s father wished his son to be an accomplished noblerat in the Imperial Navy. At barely 16 draks old, the young master was nowhere near ready for that life. Aleksander would devote his life toward preparing Evžen, and more than that, paving the way for his master to have an easy life.

Water spluttered out of the faucet, and the Faro spent a brief moment adjusting the temperature. He had 200 breaths to fully clean himself, and Aleksander would not waste any time. A prompt slave was a safe slave. Or a safer slave, in this instance. He doubted he would ever be truly safe again. Unless he could do something about the young master’s temper.

Washing the soap from his soft black and white fur, the Faro shut off the tub and towelled himself dry. Forty breaths later, he was back in his robe, making his way back up the staircase and into the laundry room. Raising his nose, the Faro followed the scent of his new master, one that filled the house abundantly.

Small lights held eternal night at bay, though patches of darkness waited through the mansion around lights that had been shut off or burned out. The opulence of the foyer gave way to an elegant minimalism as the Faro moved through the house. The layout was familiar in a strange sense; he had once served tea for a group of Lidikrys in a location not dissimilar, though that house had been much more secure in its finances.

Evžen’s scent seemed to keep to the better lit areas, a trait the fox was quick to pick up on. He allowed himself a soft snort of amusement. A Lidikrys afraid of the dark… that was a very unfortunate trait for someone who lived on a tidally locked world.

“Hey Faro!”

The sudden call startled Aleksander. His head swivelled, finding the ruby Daknar standing at the entrance to the kitchen. Radek held out a small stack of rich blue silks with red trousers, each fitted to the short fox.

“Pan requires us to be in uniform at all times.”

Aleksander frowned at the clothes.

“Pan Evžen was supposed to make sure I was dressed-”

“It does not matter who gives you your clothes. Just get dressed.”

“It does matter,” the Faro protested. “Pan Evžen is supposed to learn responsibility. How can he hope to enter the Navy if he will not care for those under him?”

The quiet sounds of music interrupted the two. Aleksander’s ears pricked at the soft plinks of a piano playing.

“Is Paní Tanya home?” Aleksander asked, already knowing the answer to his question.

Tanya had not been on Země in nearly seven draks. She was busy studying the Daknar of Narax, and would not return for some time. Yet the Faro needed to see what the other slaves thought of his new master. If he was to protect Evžen’s reputation as well as his body, that needed to include the gossip received.

“Pan Evžen prefers to learn more… gentle pursuits,” Radek scoffed.

Even then, the Daknar was careful not to insult his master’s son. It was a start, Aleksander supposed.

“Why does he not pick a more appropriate instrument?”

“Paní Tanya encourages him to follow his heart,” Radek replied, eyes rolling in disgust. “She coddles him, and if you ask me, her absence is welcome. Yet Pan Evžen refuses to give up his passion, no matter how Pan berates him.”

“Perhaps he just needs a capable teacher,” Aleksander suggested.

“Perhaps, but where would the master find the funds for a teacher?” The Daknar scoffed. “No, the way the young master is going, all he’ll be good for is marrying into wealth.”

“I think he will have a wonderful career in the Navy,” Aleksander insisted.

“Go ahead and pretend. You don’t know the young master. He will change your mind soon enough. Now change. You will be punished if Pan sees you in those robes. And see if you can get Pan Evžen to change your collar.”

“Are you in charge of the slaves here?”

“What slaves?” Radek snorted. “It’s just the two of us until Paní Adéla returns from her mother’s mansion or Pan Tomas comes to visit from the Neohrožený. And even then, Pan Tomas’ tharow won’t do much.”

“Pan Tomas was gifted a Scylid?” Aleksander asked curiously.

“A rather poor choice, if you ask me. But he requested one specifically. Pan Evžen does not have that luxury it seems.”

For good reason, Aleksander noted. If Pan continued the way his siblings pushed him, the Lidikrys would never have any sort of power. He was a spoiled brat, and Aleksander had a lot of work ahead of him to change the young rat into a respectable master. He had his orders, and he was going to obey them.

 

Dressed in the silken blue and red uniform of Clan Novák, the Faro stood at the entrance of the kitchen, listening to the playful scales coming from the piano in the keeping room. His master was surprisingly good. 16 draks old and already Pan sounded like he could have played at an intermediate level. It was a shame he was not a girl; the piano would have been an excellent choice then.

Aleksander took a fortifying breath, and stepped into the room. Instantly the music intensified, the acoustics of the hall making each note ring cheerfully. He could see the entrance to the grand hall to his right, hanging open to offer some airflow between the rooms. Ahead of the Faro, the Lidikrys sat straight backed, fingers running up and down the ivory keys of a large piano. The music changed from scales to a somewhat choppy tune, and Evžen hunched slightly on his bench, slowing down as he tested out different notes. The tune dropped suddenly, and he turned his head to scowl at the Faro.

“I was doing good until you got here,” he snarled.

“You were,” Aleksander admitted quietly. “I could hardly tell you were 12 draks old listening to you.”

The scowl deepened.

“I’m 16,” Evžen said, dangerously close to another tantrum.

“Oh. My apologies Pane. Your father wished you to collar me,” Aleksander continued, not giving his master a chance to start that particular fight.

Evžen’s shoulders slumped, and the Lidikrys closed the piano lid tiredly.

“Have Radek do it.”

“The collar needs your thumbprint, Pane.”

The Lidikrys cast a withering stare at the Faro.

“Fine. What are you called?”

“Aleksander, Pane.”

“Sasha,” Evžen corrected. “Father says slaves don’t deserve their full name.”

“As you wish Pane,” Sasha said quietly. “When my collar is fixed, would you like me to get you some supper?”

“Jahodové knedlíky,” the Lidikrys said instantly. “I want strawberry dumplings.”

“Then I will make dumplings for dinner, Pane.”

“After I speak with Father,” Evžen decided. “Come.”

He led the Faro from the room, keeping to the lit areas of the house as he tracked down his father.

Pan Bohdan was resting in the library, a half gnawed wooden dowel clenched between his teeth as a large book sat in his lap. A silken evening suit covered his body, a pair of spectacles held in his eyes giving him an appearance of intelligence. He looked up as the pair entered the room, a soft sigh escaping him.

“What is it now, Evžen?”

“Where are the collars?”

“They’re in the slave quarters, where you found the uniform,” the elder rat scowled. “If you can’t find them, have Radek show you.”

“He’s busy with supper.”

“Then have your pet take over for him!” Bohdan snapped. “Stars above, I will be eternally grateful when your brother gets home to deal with you.”

Evžen glared at his father, the soft pop and squeak of grinding teeth emanating from his jaws. Spinning on his heel, the Lidikrys shoved Sasha aside and sped from the room.

The Faro caught himself quickly, following his master toward a flight of stairs leading into the slave quarters below the mansion. There seemed to be a surprising number of these stairways, and Sasha wondered if that implied other slaves had once lived here. The Nováks had never been that wealthy; surely they had never had many slaves, even before Pan Novák’s time.

Following his master through a narrow hall in the underground, Sasha listened to the laboured breathing of the Lidikrys. The lights were out along most of the hall, and Evžen always paused briefly under each lit lantern, as though steeling himself for a race to the next light.

He had a near debilitating fear of the dark. And Sasha would have to handle that too.

The Faro made note of each room they passed; some for bedding, some for cooking, others for bathing. The structure seemed like it could hold a lot of slaves, and Sasha wondered which clan had lived here before the Nováks. Not that it mattered. He quickly tempered his curiosity; such things would only bring pain.

He had to wonder why Evžen hadn’t asked Radek to follow him instead. The Daknar had lived here for probably going on thirty draks. He would certainly know his way around. Besides, Sasha needed time to prepare dinner for his masters. Or his master. He didn’t doubt Pan Novák would be eating a separate meal.

A door opened to a large closet, and Evžen pulled on a long metal chain that hung from the ceiling. Harsh light burned into Sasha’s eyes, the Faro blinking rapidly to clear the spots in his vision.

Sets of uniforms sat on dusty shelves, Novák blue mixed with Imperial red. It was a presumptuous mix, declaring the clan as close to the Emperor, and perhaps it had once been true. But Clan Novák had no place wearing Imperial red, not any longer.

“I don’t know how to work this stupid machine,” Evžen snapped, his foot stamping on the dusty ground.

Sasha stepped into the closet, staring at the dusty old machine in the corner of the room. His hands ran over the machine, pressing a set of buttons on the side.

The machine came to life, roaring loudly in the confines. Sasha’s ears folded at the sound, his eyes following a leather strip sliding from the mouth of the device. A moment later, the machine shut off, and Evžen yanked the collar out. He wrapped it around the Faro’s neck, his thumb pressing into the side of the leather. A soft click locked the leather into place, and Sasha felt a slight hiccough in his heart.

Evžen turned silently, hurrying from the room. The rat raced through the hall, and Sasha shut off the light before following his master.

Stepping into the ground floor of the house, Sasha dusted himself off, making sure he wasn’t about to track dirt through the building. He made his way to the kitchen, finding Radek stooped over the Lidikrys sized appliances within.

“Pan Evžen wishes for strawberry dumplings,” the Faro said.

“Pan already forbade that,” the Daknar countered. “We’re to have a nutritious meal.”

“Then I will make dessert,” Sasha said, taking a moment to familiarize himself with the kitchen.

“Here’s a better thought. Why don’t you fetch a bottle of wine from the cellar, and let me make a dinner that won’t result in both our heads rolling?” Radek scowled.

“I’m not stopping you from making dinner,” Sasha shrugged, pulling out a mound of cheese dough. “I’m merely adding to it. Neither of us are disobeying orders.”

“Tell that to Pan and see if he spares your neck.”

“I will,” the Faro challenged. “It doesn’t matter if he punishes me. What matters is earning the young master’s trust.”

He turned back to his work, gloved hands kneading at the dough until it was flat. Disks were cut from the dough, and the Faro began working on the sweet syrup filling, creating a fresh marinade of sugary strawberries. It would take a while to make his master’s dessert, but Sasha needed to give Evžen a reason to trust him. It would be worth the time, and besides, he had nothing else he’d been ordered to do.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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I truly think these folks are at the end of a flawed evolutionary chain! Sasha has his work cut out!

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