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.
- * -
I woke up the next morning to the sound of bluebirds chirping outside my window. I sighed and rolled over in bed, scratching my balls sleepily as I got out of bed and put on my dressing gown, stretched out in front of the window, looking out at the morning sun rising over the hills. It was, I reflected, a beautiful day to be alive.
“Good morning, master.”
My heart skipped a beat, and I turned to see Jessica walking into the room, carrying a silver tray with a covered plate. “I’ve brought you breakfast,” she said shyly, putting the plate down on my desk. “I didn’t know what you would like, so I decided on pancakes.”
“Oh, um. . . right.” I shrugged sheepishly. “Pancakes are great.” Thanks.”
Jessica pulled out the chair for me, and I sat down, feeling like a little kid being helped into his chair by his mother. She removed the cover from the plates, revealing a half-stack of fluffy, hot buttermilk pancakes, a small pitcher of warm maple syrup, and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. “Jiminy Cricket!” I exclaimed in surprise.
“Is there a problem, master?” Jessica asked nervously.
“No, no, no problem!” I stammered. “This is. . .” I sighed. “Perfect. Thank you, Jessica.”
“The pleasure,” she said, bowing deeply as she tucked the tray cover under her arm, “is all mine, master. Let me know when I’m finished over the intercom, and I’ll come by and clear up the plates. If you’ll excuse me, I have some other things to take care of.”
“Right, right,” I said idly. “Carry on.” Jessica curtseyed and backed out of the room, closing it gently behind her.
The pancakes, as it turned out, were excellent: fluffy and light, with just the right amount of butter, and I poured the entire pitcher of maple syrup over them until they were almost drowning in the sweet, brown nectar. After years of rushed breakfasts of danishes and coffee, a real breakfast was a feast fit for a king. I remember actually moaning in carnal pleasure as I took my first bite, my eyes closed, as I reveled in pure joy.
What can I say: I’m easily pleased.
Unfortunately, such pleasures are fleeting, to say the least, and soon enough, I was sitting at my desk and staring morosely at an empty plate with bits of pancake and some maple syrup residue. I sighed and laid my fork and knife at the 4-o-clock position like my mother had taught me, gave my mouth one last wipe of the napkin, and decided to carry the plates down to the kitchen for washing.
I walked down the stairs, through the halls, past the immaculately clean parlor, paused, and backtracked a few steps. No, I was not hallucinating. The empty wine bottles, cigar stubs, and general mess and mayhem were gone. The furniture had been dusted, and the dark wood had been newly polished. The portraits on the wall had been dusted and aligned with military precision. She’d even laid down doilies over the arms of the chairs and sofas. Doilies, for crying out loud!
I didn’t even know I owned doilies.
Another thing. . . I sniffed the air and was startled to detect the slight scent of lavender and lemon oil. That musty sort of old-socks and cigars smell that had permeated the house was. . . gone. It was kind of intoxicating, really, like. . . like. . . like the scent of a young girl.
I made my way to the kitchen in a kind of half-conscious haze, where I got another shock. The sink was empty. The tower of dishes half-encrusted with bits of food were washed, dried, and put away neatly in the cupboards. I opened one up and ran a finger along the shelf.
She’d somehow managed to dust inside the cupboards as well.
I spun around and saw Jessica standing in the doorway of the kitchen, her grass-colored eyes wide with shock. “Oh, hi there,” I said guiltily. “I was just. . . um. . .”
To my surprise, Jessica backed away, putting a hand to her mouth, shaking her head with dismay. “I. . . I’m sorry, master. I should have remembered to come up and clear your breakfast dishes for you,” she said in a stricken voice.
“Oh, no, it’s no big deal. I can do this on my own.”
Jessica shook her head. “No, no, no, it’s my duty to do that, master,” she said, reaching out and trying to take the plates from me. “If you’d give me a moment to rectify my mistake. . .”
“What mistake?” I retorted, starting to get a little irritated by her actions. “What, do you think I’m so lazy as to have someone else clear my dishes for me?”
“My master should not be burdened with such menial tasks!” Jessica cried.
“Fine, have it your way!” I let go of the plates.
Unfortunately, Jessica hadn’t quite gotten a good grip yet. She bobbled the catch, and the porcelain shattered into pieces on the floor. One fork spun across the floor and disappeared under the refrigerator.
There was a long silence.
“Bugger,” I muttered, a cold wave of anger rising in my heart. “That is not a good thing.”
Jessica wailed and dropped to her knees, sobbing. I stared at her in disbelief as the anger faded away to be replaced by bewilderment and shock, then annoyance. “What the. . . are you actually CRYING?” I exclaimed. “Jeez, it’s not that big a deal, just a broken plate. It’s my fault, too, you know. . . Oh, for crying out loud!!”
I reached out and took her upper arm, lifted her up to her feet. She turned her face away, her eyes scrunched tightly shut. I don’t know what she was expecting me to do. . . slap her? Scream at her? For the briefest of instants, some part of me wanted to do just that, to yell at her to shut up, ask her how she could be so stupid and clumsy. . . but then I noticed the empty sink behind her, the freshly-cleaned windows, and the kitchen table, which had been polished to a mirror shine.
My anger faded away. Instead, I reached out and gently wiped her tears away, sighing. “Are you all right now?” I asked, trying to make my voice as kind as possible.
“. . . aren’t you angry?” Jessica whimpered.
I sighed. “Yeah, a bit,” I admitted. “But what the hell. It’s just a plate. And a man would have to be some kinda monster to yell at a girl over something like that, especially after all the work you’ve put in here.” I paused, noticing the bags under her eyes, the tired drooping of her ears and tail. “How. . . how long have you been up, anyway, Jessica?” I asked.
“Since dawn, sir, so. . . about five hours,” Jessica said quietly.
I looked up at the clock. “You mean to tell me you’ve been doing all this on three hours of sleep?” I asked incredulously.
“There is much that needs to be taken care of,” Jessica said, averting her eyes. “I am your slave, master. I must take care of your needs. My own needs are secondary to yours, master.”
“Hold it,” I said, raising my hand. My mind raced as I tried to think of a way to put this in terms that she would understand. “Look, your body is my property, right?” I asked.
Jessica bit her lower lip and blushed. “As you wish, master,” she whispered, and her hands reached up to her collar, undid her cravat and began to undo her buttons. I didn’t realize what she was doing until she’d opened her dress down to her sternum, the pale pink of her bra just starting to peek out behind the black satin. . .
“Woah, woah, woah, hold on there!” I exclaimed, grabbing at her wrists. “I didn’t mean that! I’m just trying to say that, if your body is my property, don’t you think that you’re kind of mistreating it? I mean. . .” I sighed. “Look, all I’m trying to say is, you can’t really take care of my needs if you don’t take care of yourself first, you understand?”
Jessica nodded mutely, and I let her go, rubbed the back of my neck thoughtfully. “All right, here it is, slave,” I said. “Your master is ordering you to get some sleep now. You’re not to do any more work until you’ve gotten at least another six hours, do you understand? In fact, my first standing order to you is to take care of your own body. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, all that stuff. I don’t want to hear of you wearing yourself out taking care of me again, do you understand?”
Jessica nodded mutely and bit her lower lip, looking sad and tired. “I am sorry, master. I wasn’t thinking.”
I patted her gently on the cheek. “It’s all right. Your intentions were good.”
She looked up at me, smiling. “So, you are pleased with me, master?”
“Um. . . yes! Very pleased, actually. You’ve done some incredible work here. So yeah, some little thing like a broken plate is. . . we’ll just call it more than even, all right?”
She blushed and lowered her eyes. “You’re too kind, master.”
“No I’m not.” I waved her away. “Go. Sleep.”
She curtseyed deeply. “As you wish, master.” She turned and left the kitchen, her tail flirting back and forth happily. I waited until I heard the door to the servant’s quarters closing behind her before I started picking up the broken bits of porcelain from the tile floor.
- * -
After that morning, I felt the need to get out of the house before Jessica woke up again. Besides, I figured, Jessica would probably get more done without me hanging around and getting in her way. I also felt the need for a good, stiff drink: a real drink, prepared by a professional, not the cheap wine I usually drank around the house alone. And for that, I knew exactly where to go.
The Anacraeon Club was the premier gentleman’s club in the city – and by gentleman’s club, I mean a place where men gathered to drink fine brandy, smoke expensive cigars, and complain about women, not a glorified strip club. Mister Reynald, the proprietor, had been a former batman to Count Aldaris, so he knew all about fine wines and cigars. Although the Anacraeon was a young establishment, it had already become the major social center for upper-class men in the city.
“I’m glad to see that your new slave is working out well for you,” Remiel said off-handedly, as I sat down in the armchair across from him, a snifter of Courvosier in one hand and a lit madras in the other.
“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I replied, my cheeks burning crimson with embarrassment.
Remiel gestured to my shirt collar. “Perfectly pressed,” he said mildly. “Not to be rude, but I’ve generally noticed that when you iron your own shirts, you come out looking like some sort of peasant.”
“My ironing is fine,” I replied defensively, taking a sip of my brandy. It burned a bit as it went down, but not much: Courvosier is a very smooth brandy, perfect for sipping. Not like the Vickham I usually bought for my own consumption. Of course, one glass of Courvosier cost as much as the gross national product of some small planets, so there you go.
“If you insist,” Remiel replied, and took a puff of his own cigar. Remiel had always been like that: cultivating a blasé persona that, nonetheless, concealed a sharp mind and a keen sense of observation. “So,” he went on, after a little bit. “Have you heard the latest rumor making its way through the grapevine?”
“No,” I sighed, “but I can guess from your expression that it has something to do with last night’s party.”
“Close. It has more to do with something that happened AFTER last night’s party. Namely, our friend Alistair Brookside and a certain lady, who will remain anonymous, being spotted in flagrante delicto in a back alley at about three or four this morning. It was everything that his mother could do to keep it from appearing in all the papers.”
I blinked in surprise. “You’re kidding me. Kelly Woodsbury? The designer?”
Remiel shrugged. “Apparently, the artist has a wild side.”
“Got that right,” Alistair said, laughing loudly as he barged into the room and threw himself into the chair next to Remiel’s. “She’s an animal, that one! Like I always said: there’s nothing wrong with any woman that a good humping won’t solve, eh?” He grinned lewdly at Remiel, gave him a nudge in the ribs with his elbow.
“You’re disgusting,” Remiel sighed, “and if you don’t stop that right now, I’m going to spill my brandy.”
“Ehhh. . . lighten up, Remiel. Get that stick out of your ass and get yours into some pussy, if you know what I mean.” Alistair yawned and stretched out. “How about you, Jonathan? How’s your new slave in bed? I bet she’s a real screamer, that one! Probably swallows every drop, too, neh?”
“I don’t think that what goes on between Jonathan and his slave is any of your business, Alistair,” Remiel replied, glaring daggers at the boisterous young man.
“What, I can’t congratulate a buddy on getting laid?” Alistair complained, pouting.
“Well, for one thing, Jonathan hasn’t even said if he had intercourse with his slave last night. I think you’re assuming too much.”
They both turned and looked at me. I slid down into my chair, ears burning bright red, trying to hide behind my brandy snifter.
“Told you,” Remiel said. “He didn’t do it.”
“Oh, please, how can you be so sure?” Alistair retorted.
Remiel gestured to me. “He’s not smiling. If he were embarrassed because he did have sex last night, he’d be grinning like an idiot too. The fact that he looks sheepish is an indication that he’s embarrassed we’re bringing the subject up, mainly because he did not, in fact, sleep with his slave. Q.E.D.”
“Jessica,” I muttered into my wine. “Her name is Jessica, and I’ll ask you to call her such, if you please.”
“My apologies,” Remiel replied, raising his glass to me in silent salute.
“Shit. . . that’s a waste, letting a nice piece of ass like that get away,” Alistair said. He leaned forward, grinning conspiratorially. “Hey, I know! If you’re not gonna sleep with her, why don’t you let me do it?”
“Bugger off and die,” I growled in reply.
“Hey, hey, suit yourself.” Alistair raised his hands disarmingly. “It was just a suggestion.”
“Whatever.” I finished off my glass and ground out the stub of my cigar in the ashtray. “I’m going to the library, then home. Cheers.”
“Cheers,” Remiel replied, raising his glass again.
“See ya!” Alistair called out, grinning widely.
I walked out of the club and into the busy city streets, paused, and looked around quietly, suddenly very aware of the large number of chimera slaves walking the streets: some of them walking three steps behind their masters, others out on their own, on some errand or another. Their appearances ran the gamut from huge, hulking creatures of ox lineage, to small, lithe tabby cat girls, even a pair of winged bird-types gliding over the rooftops overhead.
All of them, I noticed, were wearing the black collars with silver tags that marked them as the property of some human or another.
I’d always known they were there, but they’d been part of the background, like the flivvers zipping down the streets and the pigeons picking crumbs off the sidewalk in the park. Humans didn’t pay attention to chimeras, after all. They were the bio-engineered labor cobbled together from human and animal DNA that kept this society together, the working class that labored to sustain our way of life, and they’d been trained, since birth, to accept this as part of their nature.
What had changed?
Perhaps, I thought, the very act of owning a slave myself had changed my attitude towards the chimeras. They weren’t just automatons and robots: they were. . . people, even if they weren’t human. They laughed, they cried, they felt fear and happiness and satisfaction.
I shook my head. Such thinking, I mused, was counterproductive. Chimeras were slaves. Humans owned them. Some of them treated their slaves with dignity and respect, others treated them like animals and chattel. Such was the way of things.
Nothing I could do about it.