For Jessica Elwood (jessicaelwood.deviantart.com)
By the Muse of Caprice and Whimsy (mocaw.deviantart.com)
Disclaimer: The “Jessica Elwood” fursona and its distinctive likeness is the property of Jessica Elwood and is used with permission from the creator. Everything else, including the Starlight setting, all other characters, and their distinctive likenesses are the property of the MoCaW and may not be used without prior consent. This story may be distributed freely as long as it is distributed in its entirety without editing, and with this disclaimer block intact. In other words: please give credit where it is due, it’s the decent thing to do. Thanks.
1 a capitalized : a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail b : an imaginary monster compounded of incongruous parts
2 : an illusion or fabrication of the mind; especially : an unrealizable dream <a fancy, a chimera in my brain, troubles me in my prayer -- John Donne>
3 : an individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution
From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (www.m-w.com)
- * -
“I am for you, if you will have me.”
My pulse pounded in my ears as the girl waited for my response. She was naked of course, as the ritual demanded: the master, after all, must be able to inspect his slave carefully before making the final decision, and that meant that every blemish, every flaw, every imperfection must be clearly visible. It was a moot point. If there were any, I couldn’t find them, and besides, it would have been rude to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.
With trembling hands, I took the black leather slave collar from its silver tray, nodded nervously to the girl, who turned her back to me and bowed her head slightly, lifting her long, blonde hair out of the way. I nearly dropped the collar twice as I reached around her slender throat to place the black leather strap with its silver fastenings around her neck. At one point, her butt accidentally brushed against my thigh, causing me to flinch in surprise. “Don’t worry about putting it on too tight,” the valet had said to me before the ceremony. “Each collar is custom-fitted to the slave, so it is impossible to put it on too tight, even if you cinch it down all the way.” It had seemed a strange thing to say then, but now I understood it perfectly. Given my current state of mind, the slightest surprise could have had me jumping out of my skin, which is a very bad thing to do when fastening a leather strap around someone’s throat.
Somehow, I managed to slide the silver prong into its slot, draw the loose end through the buckle, and slip it through the loops that kept it tucked cleanly away. Now it was the girl’s turn. She turned to the valet and took the ring from its black velvet box. It was a simple signet ring embossed with the same intricate bird-and-tree pattern as the small oval tag that hung from her slave collar. Her cool, slender fingers wrapped around my hand as she gently slid slipped the ring onto the fourth finger of my right hand – always the right, never the left, I’d been told.
Only one thing remained. On unsteady legs, I walked the required twelve steps past her, turned on my heel. In a voice made shrill with nervousness, I issued my first command to my new slave. “Jessica!” I barked. “Come HERE!”
With all a dancer’s lissome grace, the slave girl walked to me, dropped to one knee, and kissed the ring. “What is your bidding, master?” she asked.
The audience erupted in applause.
- * -
“Congratulations, Jonathan!” Alistair Brookside said, shaking my hand warmly. “And you as well, Doctor Ellison. You’ve really outdone yourself this time.”
“You flatter me, milord,” the geneticist replied, his voice simply dripping with false modesty. “She may be one of my better creations, I will admit, but in the end, I’m just a dab hand with a TEM and some reverse transcriptase. Kelly does all the hard work.”
“Oh, come off it, Gregory,” Kelly Woodsbury snapped. “Stop trying to be humble, it doesn’t suit you at all. You and I know perfectly well that if it weren’t for your skills, none of my designs would come anything close to what they are today. El-Wood Enterprises is a partnership, remember? We share everything, and that includes the credit.” She gave Alistair a meaningful glance.
“But of course,” Alistair replied, kissing the back of the tall artist’s hand. “Please forgive a young fool his oversights.”
“Your apology is accepted,” Woodsbury replied in a cool, elegant voice.
“Your generosity,” Alistair went on, “is as boundless as the stars themselves, milady. Perhaps you would allow me to make amends by serving as your escort you this evening, milady?”
A rare smile cracked Ms. Woodbury’s stony façade. “Why not,” she said, in a surprisingly flirtatious voice. Alistair offered her his elbow, and the two of them walked out onto the ballroom floor arm-in arm.
Doctor Ellison gave a low whistle of surprise. “Lad,” he murmured, “I’ve known Kelly Woodbury for nigh on five years now, and I’ve seen her angry, furious, in a rage, and just plain mean, but this is the first time I have ever seen that old biddy blushing like a schoolgirl.”
“Not surprising,” Remiel said, snagging a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. “Alistair can get into any woman’s panties in seven lines or less. It’s a talent.” He extended his hand to me, paused, and handed me the drink instead. “Here. You look like you need it more than I do.”
I downed the champagne in one gulp, coughing slightly as the bubbles fizzed on the way down. “Thanks,” I rasped. “God, do I really look that bad?”
“I almost thought you were going to pass out during the collaring,” Remiel said idly. “I wonder, what is the proper protocol when that happens?”
“It depends on how far the collaring ceremony has progressed,” Doctor Ellison explained, between bites of hors d’ouvres. “If the principal has already affixed the collar, then ownership has been transferred, and the ritual is considered complete. Otherwise, we have to restart from the beginning. Things are a little more complicated if the principal has already touched the collar, but hasn’t touched it to the slave yet: if it touches the ground first, it can be considered a refusal.” He shrugged at our curious glances. “I’ve seen about fifty of these collaring ceremonies, lads. You pick up certain things after a while.”
Refusal. Why didn’t I think of that before? There was no reason for me to have a house slave, I reflected glumly. I didn’t have a big family that needed taking care of. My house was pretty large, true, but I got by on my own with some help from a cleaning lady that came by twice weekly. I wasn’t even an industrialist or a plantation owner who needed a labor force: I worked in an office, for crying out loud.
Still, there are some people whom you just don’t refuse a gift from, not in front of hundreds of guests and the society page correspondents of three major newspapers.
About then, three soft bell-tones rang out – the signal that nobility was entering the room – and the entire room fell into a respectful silence. A tall, effeminate-looking man with pale lavender hair dressed entirely in white walked into the room, escorted by a petite, feral-looking redhead wearing a simple black coat emblazoned with a wing-and-blade insignia across its back. He raised his hand in a gesture of polite dismissal, and everyone returned to their conversations, albeit in slightly softer tones. After all, it wasn’t every day that you had a chance to see Ellsworthy De’Laile, consort to Count Marcus De’Laile (and director of the Starlight Foundation) in the flesh. Unless, of course, you work for him. Like me.
“Do you approve of our gift, Jonathan?” Ellsworthy asked softly, extending his gloved hand to me.
I took his hand in mine, bowed over it respectfully. “It is. . . most generous, your Grace,” I replied.
“I’m glad.” The Director smiled at me warmly, turned to Doctor Ellison. “You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Gregory,” he said. “Seriously, this must be your finest work ever.”
“It was nothing at all, your Grace,” Ellison replied, a bit sheepishly. “A little cat DNA here, a little squirrel DNA there, a dash of mink and mouse. . . Kelly does all the hard work. I just assemble the pieces and let it grow.”
“Nonetheless, you are to be commended. By the way, where is Lady Woodsbury now?” the Director asked curiously.
“Dancing with young Mister Brookside,” Ellison said.
The Director swept the crowd with a glance, raised a delicate eyebrow as he noticed the pair dancing cheek to cheek. Alistair, I noted, was murmuring something into the older lady’s ear: I couldn’t read his lips from this distance, but whatever it was, it had Kelly Woodsbury biting her lower lip and blushing like. . . well.
“Hmm,” the Director murmured, smiling enigmatically. “Well, then, I don’t suppose I shall bother her, as she is currently occupied, or will be soon.”
“Telepathy, your Grace?” Gregory asked.
“Human observation,” Ellsworthy corrected him with a smile. “Anyway, please pass on my complements, Gregory. I hate to leave so soon, but I’m afraid I really must be off. If I stay too long, people will start trying to talk to me, and I do despise politics. Besides, my chaperone here seems to be getting a bit antsy. Perhaps she thinks I shall turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.” He smirked at the girl standing next to him. The bodyguard rolled her eyes in reply, with all the appearance of a long-suffering martyr. “Well, then,” Ellsworthy said, straightening out his collar. “I’ll be off now. Good night, and congratulations, Jonathan.”
“Good night, your Grace,” I replied, bowing deeply.
Ellsworthy raised his hand in a gesture of benediction, turned on his heel, and walked out of the ballroom, followed closely by his red-haired bodyguard. I took a deep breath and returned to the onerous task of accepting the congratulations of my peers.
- * -
I won’t bore you with the details of the party, except to say that if you’ve attended one upper-class formal ball, you’ve attended them all. They’re all the same, really: rich people and nobles standing around complementing each other and dancing and talking out of both sides of their mouths and trying to look clever in front of their peers. The only difference was that for this party, I couldn’t duck out after the first couple of hours or so with an apology to the guest of honor, given that the guest of honor was, well, me.
It was well past midnight when I finally bid farewell to the last of the guests and headed home from the hall the Director had rented for the occasion. Given that this was a rather posh occasion, slaves and servants were, of course, required to remain in the servants’ hall for the duration of the festivities, lest they ruin the formalities with their animal appearance, vulgar manners and ill-breeding, with an exception being made for those few who were involved in serving guests. Which meant that the car trip home was the first chance I had to get a good look at my new acquisition, aside from my half-panicked glances during the ceremony itself.
“Jessica Elwood” was an amalgam of different animal features in a humanoid form: this was a legal requirement, I’d been told, to make sure that artificially created chimeras (who could legally be bought and sold and owned as slaves) could be differentiated from baseline humans (who could not.) I remembered Doctor Ellison’s words, something like, “a bit of cat, a bit of squirrel, a little bit of mink and mouse here and there.” Now that I had the chance to look at her sitting demurely in the seat across from me, I could see the evidence of her animal heritages in her perky, triangular ears, her long, bushy tail, her slightly luminous grass-green eyes, the softness of the snow-white, velvet-soft fur that covered her entire body.
Under all her animalistic features, her body was that of a beautiful, teenaged girl: round, perky breasts (not too big, not too small), a slim waist that accentuated her perfect hourglass figure, slender limbs, rounded shoulders and hips, and long, blonde hair that reached well past her waist. Her hands, I saw, were slender, with long, delicate fingers painted with a tastefully understated pink nail polish, and her feet were small and delicate enough to drive a Yamato noblewoman to fits of violent envy.
There were women who frittered away everything they owned at bodysculpt clinics chasing an ideal of perfection that was embodied in the slave girl sitting across from me, I mused.
She was dressed in a maid’s livery: a short black satin dress with red trim and a stiffly starched white collar, french cuffs, a pair of elegant silver cufflinks inset with jet. A red silk cravat was tied around her throat, the pendant of her slave collar resting against the crimson cloth. A short apron was tied around her waist, tied in the back with a large white bow. A frilly white hairband kept her long, blonde hair out of her eyes. She wore a pair of thigh-length black silk stockings with red garters that emphasized her slender thighs and shapely calves. A pair of low-top, high-heeled patent leather boots on her small, delicate feet finished off the ensemble.
“Is there something wrong with what I am wearing, master?” she asked, in her young, clear voice.
I flinched in surprise. I hadn’t even realized she’d noticed me watching, as she’d kept her eyes lowered the whole time. “No, nothing’s wrong,” I replied, in a slightly shaky voice. “I was just. . . wondering where you got that dress, is all.”
“Doctor Ellison provided it for me as part of my starter package,” the slave girl replied, “along with some basic supplies and sundries that will help me starting out in my new life as your servant. It was included my cost when Director Ellsworthy purchased me. It is traditional to include such when giving a slave as a gift, I am given to understand.”
“Oh. Sort of like a dowry, I guess?” I replied uncertainly.
“That’s correct. Although in this case, the starter package belongs to the master along with the slave, instead of a dowry which, according to Uniform Commercial Code law, is the property of the wife even after divorce.”
“Oh, right. Because slaves can’t own private property.”
“That’s correct, master.” The girl hesitated. “Is there something wrong with my current uniform? If it does not please you, I do have others.” She kept her eyes averted from me, I noticed, as if afraid to look at me – which, I guessed, was probably not that far from the truth.
“Oh. Um, do you have something a little more modest, perhaps?” I asked sheepishly. “If you’re going to be around, it would be better for me not to be distracted, and that skirt is awfully short,” I muttered.
The slave girl’s expression turned puzzled. “Actually, master, this was the most modest uniform I was given in my starting package. I chose this one based on your obvious discomfort with my nudity during the collaring ceremony.”
“Figures,” I muttered, turning to stare out the window. “Even my slave noticed.”
“Forgive me, master,” the slave girl replied meekly. “I was out of line. I will accept any punishment you desire.”
I sighed. “Just drop it. It’s nothing.”
“Yes, master.” The girl fell silent.
I stared out the window as the flivver left the city and headed out into the suburbs. The lights zipped by like little fireflies, the girl’s face reflected in the diamond glass, her eyes fixed her own lap. She stayed like that the entire rest of the trip out to the manor, hardly moving a single muscle.
- * -
I approved the debit from my account, and the flivver’s reader returned my credit chit with a cheerful beep-whoop. Its engine revving up, the little car zipped off into the night in search of another fare, leaving me, my new slave, and the suitcase containing her “starter package” on my front porch.
The manor was dark and empty, of course: I’d lived alone for the past ten years, except for occasional visitors. I opened the front door and sighed as it creaked open loudly. “I’ll have to get that fixed one of these days,” I murmured quietly, then held the door open. “After you.”
“Forgive me, master, but I believe that the proper protocol in this case is for me to hold open the door for you,” the girl replied, curtseying deeply.
“Um. . . right. Well, we’ll let it slide this time, okay?”
“Begging your pardon, master, but no. It would be frightfully improper for a master to hold a door open for a slave.” She took the door handle from me (I felt a strange thrill run up my body at the touch of her cool fingertips against my hand), and curtseyed deeply.
“Welcome home, master.”
“Um, right. Very good.” I walked into the house, feeling a bit silly. Jessica followed two steps behind, carrying her suitcase with her. “Well, um. . . right, your responsibilities. Well, it’s mainly going to involve looking after the house,” I said, as I led her into the front hall. “Cleaning, cooking, that sort of thing. I will admit that the place is a bit large, especially since I’m the only one who lives here. I usually have a lady come by twice a month to clean up. . . I suppose I’ll have to let her know her services are no longer needed.” I looked over at her curiously. “You do know how to clean, don’t you?” I asked. “Windows, floors, dusting, that sort of thing?”
Jessica nodded quietly. “Of course, master,” she replied demurely. “I’ve received extensive training on all sorts of things.”
“Oh, um. . . really, that’s nice,” I murmured nervously. “Cooking, cleaning, tailoring, that sort of thing?”
“Among other things, my master,” she said quietly, with, perhaps, just the slightest bit of flirtatiousness in her voice. “I was, after all, intended to serve you in every way possible.”
I gulped nervously and tried not to think about what THAT could mean. “Ah, yes. . . um. . . of course.” I paused outside a small doorway with a tarnished brass doorknob. “Well, we’re here. I’m afraid the servant quarters have not been used for quite a while, so I’m not sure what condition they’re in.” I fumbled with my key ring for a moment until I’d found the one I was looking for, slid it into the lock and gave it a slight jiggle.
The door opened with a slight puff of dust, which made me sneeze. “Oh crap,” I muttered. To say that the room was a little dusty would have been like saying that Alistair was a bit of a flirt. This was more like the sort of thing that got caught in a clothes dryer’s lint screen, covering every single surface in the tiny room. “Shit,” I muttered. “This isn’t going to do at all.”
“It is all right, my master,” Jessica replied. “This will be quite sufficient.”
“No, no it won’t,” I sighed. “You’ll choke to death on dust before morning or something like that. Look, why don’t you just sleep on the couch in the parlor tonight? We can clean this up tomorrow morning instead.”
“Forgive me for my boldness, master, but it would only be a matter of a couple of hours for me to clean up this room to an acceptable level. There is no need for you to trouble yourself by asking me to behave in such a crude manner,” Jessica replied quietly.
“A couple of. . . Jessica, it’s two in the morning.”
“It would not hurt me too much to go a night or two without sleep, master,” she replied.
I stared at her in silence for a moment. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time.”
“My apologies, master. I spoke out of turn.” She bowed her head deeply, and her tail drooped into a pose of submission.
I sighed and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “You know what, forget it. If you really don’t want to sleep on the couch, you can use the guest room. Alistair was just by about a month or so ago, so it shouldn’t be THAT bad. Anything has to be better than this.”
“Forgive me, master, but it would not be appropriate for one such as I to sleep in a room reserved for your distinguished guests,” Jessica replied quietly.
I resisted the urge to bang my head against the wall. “So, you won’t sleep in the guest room either. You won’t sleep on the couch. There’s no way in hell I’m letting you sleep in here, and I somehow don’t think that you’re going to sleep in the bathtub. Any other ideas?”
Jessica lowered her eyes and folded her hands in front of her demurely, a pale pink blush rising prettily to her cheeks.
My hands began to shake again.
- * -
“Do you wish me to come to bed with my nightgown on or off, master?”
“. . .”
“What. What is it?”
“Are you displeased with me, master?”
“No. No, of course not. I’m. . . um. . . tired. It’s been a long day.”
“If you wish, I could give you a relaxing massage. I am trained in that field as well.”
“No. I don’t want a massage. I don’t want to have sex. I just want to go to sleep.”
“As you wish, master.”
“Good night, Jessica.”
“Good night, master.”