Slavery, 105

The Problem with Being Detached Is that Eventually You Attach Again

Ao3 Link

It was snowing really heavily, that soft, unending kind of heavy snow that cascaded down from the sky and made it impossible to see everything. For two minutes after stepping out of the inn, Daniel had worried about wearing black when everything was white, but that was stupid because the snow was hiding everything and was sticking to him all over.

He was fucking cold, actually, and he only knew where he was going because he and Ozzy had gone there carefully the previous night. He was by himself tonight, though. Ozzy had work too, and so he and Daniel had split up after leaving the inn.

Now Daniel was perched on a wall, looking down. He knew how to get down and to where he wanted to be. He was just counting in his head. The snow probably meant the guards weren’t on their usual patrol routes and probably not at the same time, and it also meant they wouldn’t see him if he walked right in front of them, but Daniel wasn’t about to fuck up over something stupid.

Once he’d counted to a hundred and six, Daniel took the rope he’d lashed to one of the wall’s crenelations and started to slide down the side of the wall, letting out his breath in one long sigh as he slid down all the way. His feet sank into the snow at the bottom, and Daniel let go of the rope. He was careful walking forward because it was slippery under the snow, which was so loose he was sinking up to his waist.

He was so goddamned cold.

Fucking rich people, he thought. Why did their yards have to be so big? Even Theodore’s grounds weren’t this expansive, which probably irked him, Daniel thought. Hm. Something to make fun of him for once they got home.

For now though, he waded his way through way too much snow for this time of year—it had been melting yesterday, why was spring like this—towards the main building.

Halfway there he saw a shadow moving in his peripheral vision, and Daniel crouched in the snow, letting it mostly hide him. He stayed like that for maybe ten minutes, literally frozen in place as he watched to make sure nobody was nearby, nobody had spotted him. Only when it seemed okay did he get up again.

His preference would have been to climb up the wall and go in an upper window, but that was a lot of climbing in this snow. The snowmelt yesterday and the cold temperatures today meant there’d be ice on the walls and he really didn’t need to fall off a fucking building and break his back. But fortunately rich people always had servants’ entrances and those were never as secure as normal doors. And Daniel knew where the servants’ entrance was, so that was where he went.

It wasn’t even fucking locked, like the people who lived here wanted their rich asshole bosses to get assassinated. Daniel went inside, shaking off snow as he stepped into the relative warmth. There wasn’t anyone around, and he shut the door behind him.

This was one of the places he and Ozzy had broken into yesterday, so Daniel knew the way even completely snowblind. It was late at night and even the servants were asleep, so he just kept quiet, but moved quickly. Hopefully the puddles of snow he was leaving behind would be dry by the time anyone thought to look for tracks, but it shouldn’t matter. He lowered his facemask since there was nobody around, but kept his other snow junk on.

Daniel went up two flights of narrow stairs, tripping once in the dark, which he wouldn’t tell Ozzy about. He went down a hall, turned left, then right, counted panels.

He and Ozzy had oiled the hinges on the secret door yesterday. It opened with no sound, and Daniel stepped into his mark’s bedroom. There was a dull white light coming in from the window, and Daniel’s eyes had adjusted enough that it was good to see by. He was in one of those sitting rooms that rich people had outside their bedrooms.

Theodore didn’t have one of those. He had a little sitting area in his bedroom. One thing Daniel had learned from all this time in the capital was that Theodore wasn’t actually that rich. He was like, fake rich. And he probably didn’t even know it.

Which was hilarious, but Daniel would ruin his self-esteem later. The door to the bedroom was ajar, and Daniel slipped inside without disturbing it. Then he crept to the bed, reaching into his coat for the vial of White Soul he was going to drop into the mark’s…

The bed was empty. The mark wasn’t there. Shit, Daniel thought. He took a breath. The privy, or something. People got up to get drinks of water or pee or talk walks through all their gigantic fucking rich people rooms and shit.

Okay. Stuff like this happened. No big deal. Daniel scanned the room just to be on the safe side, then went over to the privy, which was empty. Shit. He went back out into the main sitting room, then looked through all the other adjoining rooms, which were empty. This motherfucker.

Quashing the irrational thought that someone had tipped his mark off, Daniel thought through the most likely possibilities. Just a walk, probably. Which meant the main door, the hallway. The main door would have guards on it, but there were ways around that. Daniel went back into the servants’ passage and used it to come out a little bit down the hallway, and was able to slip out through a different room around the corner. Okay, now how did he figure out which way to go?

Lights. A rich person didn’t walk around in the fucking dark. And some of the lamps were turned on low, because the guards would have been watching. The lamps would be lit to light the path back, which meant they’d lead Daniel to where he needed to go. Hopefully.

Making his way down the partially lit hallway was more harrowing than walking down a hall had any right to be, because guards were occasionally around and Daniel kept having to duck into closets and behind decorative statues and whatever. Thank God rich people had so much useless shit. Even Theodore had this much useless shit, so he was competing toe-to-toe with real rich people on at least one level.

Their useless shit was a measure less tacky, Daniel couldn’t help but notice, but maybe this one person just had taste.

It took him way too long to catch up with his mark, but the lights stopped outside one room, and the door was open. It was bright in there, or as bright as it needed to be at night. There was a guard outside the door, which Daniel should also have thought of. But it was fine. In his pocket he had a vial of Mon Pollen, which was trance-inducing. It would space the guard out for twenty minutes or so.

Daniel pulled the vial out and uncorked it really fucking carefully as he slunk as close as he could to the guard without being seen or heard. Then he held his breath and waved the open vial in the guard’s direction. The pollen had a slight blue tint, but only in proper light. After a second of waving he put the cork back on and pulled his facemask back up, which he should have done first.

Mask in place, he walked right past the staring guard, and into the room, pulling out a knife. The mark was fucking sitting there on a couch like it wasn’t the middle of the night, reading something, and looked up when Daniel came in. “Oh, dear.”

“Sorry,” Daniel said quietly.

“Are you?”

“No.” Daniel threw the knife. Talking last time had been a mistake, it had made him feel bad after. The mark tried to move, but it didn’t matter, the knife had grazed an arm, a wound that might well be overlooked. Or maybe not. It didn’t really matter. The mark fell over, more in shock or fear than because the poison had already started working, and Daniel ignored that and went to go get his knife back. Once he’d recovered it from behind the couch where it had fallen, carefully putting it back. Then he went back around.

The mark was on the floor, writhing and making too much noise. “If you’d been in bed this would have been painless,” Daniel muttered. White Soul was an easy poison to die from, especially in one’s sleep. Tarantula was a meaner one, a painful one that clung to the nerves and overstimulated them, racing up to the brain and turning every part of it on at once.

Some people died in ten seconds, and some lasted a few minutes. Daniel hoped his mark died quickly, as a mercy. But there was nothing he could do now. He turned and left the room, sneaking past the still-tranced guard and back into the servant’s entrance, where he took a breath. Fuck. If he was really lucky, that guard would come out of his trance, not notice that anything was wrong for another ten or fifteen minutes. Maybe longer.

Either way, Daniel had to leave. He was so sure his heart pounding would give him away as he all but ran through the servants’ hallways, but if it did, he outpaced it. Nobody saw him on the way down or outside, and Daniel’s wet clothes started to freeze immediately once he was outside in them again.

He ignored it and disappeared into the snow, going back to find his rope, which was where he’d left it. The falling snow obscured his tracks and every sign that he’d been there. His hands had a hard time releasing their grip on the rope, but he got there once he was a few blocks away. He hurried back to the inn down as many side streets as he could, not stopping. The fact that he was moving was the only thing stopping him from freezing to death.

Even once he was back in the inn, in bed clutching a hot water bottle and with Theodore’s arms around him, Daniel couldn’t stop shivering.

At least his tears weren’t freezing on his face anymore.

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6 thoughts on “Slavery, 105

      1. Very possibly! We’ll have to wait and see, but further available information definitely raises that possibility now. It’s really very murky what actually happened, but Daniel’s mark not being where he expected and the fact that Daniel didn’t stick around to interact with them much certain raises the potential that there could have been a switcheroo or two.

        Thank you so much!


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