(If you are visiting thought Jessa Russo's Ghostly Blog hop my short story entry can be found here: Recalled to life. )
Jorin and his sister Felicia were only the first of the Magpies Novalee met. Their leader was a man called Mag. Mag took his name from the black bird shaped slave tattoo on his face. The practice of tattooing slaves was common in all the kingdoms of heimr. However Central's the second largest class was made of slaves who had been free. Mag belonged to this class. With his slave tattoo he had a a freedom-ring in his ear. Whether he had bought, stolen,or been given the ring was up for debate, but it was considered bad form to question where a freed-man's ring came from.
It was two days after Novalee took her new name that she met with Mag. He first asked her about the amulet Michael gave her. When he was convinced she didn't have any idea what it was, he moved on to asking her about what she done. “Besides spreading your legs, did they teach you anything?”
Mag was straight forward, he was open and blunt with those under him and he expected the same. He had a hooked crooked nose, sharp blue eyes,and he kept his head shaved. Jorin told Novalee that Mag shaved it when he first noticed he was losing his hair. To make up for the lack of hair on his head, he had a thick goatee which was carefully groomed, peppered with gray.
“I know how to read and write in three different languages.” she said.
Mag nodded, “Could come in handy, anything else?”
“I can play the harp, and the ocarina, and I can sing.”
“A little song bird then, huh?” He thought a moment then nodded. “I think there is a place for you here. I'm going to guess you are fairly dexterous and agile, right?” Novalee didn't answer. “Of course you are, I've heard of the positions they force girls like you in.”
Novalee flushed and couldn't meet his eyes.
“Nothing to be ashamed of, that was who you were, it informs who you are now.” A serving girl brought a plate of food to the table. They were in a tavern that doubled as the head quarters of the Grasping Magpies. “I need to know what you are capable of, if anything.” he continued pushing the plate in front of her, “If you want to stay with us and you can stay as long as you like. It is my prctice that anyone who comes to us like you did is family.”
“Thank you sir.” said Novalee in a small voice.
“Mag, with do.” He watched her stair at the food before her. “Well, looking at it won't get it in your stomach, eat. I'll never understand the obsession with keeping working girls thin so their bones can be counted.”
Novalee was hesitant; the food smelled wonderful but she didn't know what it was. She picked up the meat by the bone it was cooked on and took a tiny bite. The taste was unlike anything she had ever had. Years of hunger over took her and she took huge bites hardly chewing before she swallowed.
“Careful you don't make yourself sick.” said Mag. He chuckled at her enjoyment. “You may also want to take this.” He put a small vial on the table.
Novalee, her face sticking with the glaze from the meat, stopped eating, “What is it?”
“Well, I figure like most girls who work in the pleasure houses, you might like the opportunity to get rid of any lingering side effects of living such a life.”