The main hospital ward at the Solmurry Demesne had many windows facing the site of most of the Eoaster Day festivities, but Teine was in no position to enjoy the view. Instead, the Human boy listened to the Fabal game playing on the radio and the noise and the catcalls of the other boys from his cohort while he lay in his hospital bed, eyes tightly closed. Trying hard to postpone the time that he’d be officially “awake” as long as he could, Teine could feel the bag of ice melting on his groin and the slight nausea from what Clinician Nocdoramis had called “general anesthesia.” Whatever it was, it had kept him blissfully unaware during the Cut. Although Teine wasn't in any real pain, he was acutely aware that the moment he opened his eyes his life would change forever.
Not that he wasn't ready, he told himself. After all, he wasn't a baby.
It sounded to Teine like most of the other boys were awake and alert; having met their Cut in alphabetical order meant most of them had been finished for hours. “T” for Teine had always left him toward the end, but he didn't mind- especially today. He hadn't been in any hurry to have his privates carved on, anesthesia or not.
Teine could hear the voices of the other boys in his cohort and in his mind’s eye he could picture them clearly. Seymour would be plastered to the window, eagerly watching everything he could see. The others- sixteen in all- either slept, lounged in their beds, or were grouped around the solitary radio listening to the Fabal match with breathless enthusiasm. The reception popped, hissed, and then cleared up in time for a batch of commercials.
“I can’t believe we’re having a storm during the last game of the season!” one of the boys grumbled. “Just our luck.”
From the window, Seymour interrupted him. “Hey, everyone, look at this!” There were several groans as boys got up out of bed or off their seats. They sounded like they were all moving slowly towards the bank of windows to get a better view, and Teine could hear the amused chuckles and catcalls as the others saw what Seymour had pointed out. Teine debated getting up to see for himself, but successfully thwarted his own curiosity and lay still to listen to what the others had to say.
“Look! Even the Master is going to get some. Look at him close in on that pretty Aoife woman,” Seymour pointed out. “I’m telling you boys, we could be scoring big out there if we hadn't just gotten cut!”
“Why couldn't they have done it a month ago?”
The general murmurs of assent continued, until the announcements were over and the Game was back on.
To quiet the fluttering in his stomach, Teine continued to feign unconsciousness, and turned his attention back to Seymour’s whining about the inequities of their situation. “If we’d been out, this weather would have been our best friend,” Seymour was ranting. “Almost every one of those prissy Masters' wives has a hot Human handmaiden or two. We could have been giving them all a big welcome to Solmurry!”
Raucous laughter permeated the room, and even with his eyes shut tight, Teine couldn't help but join in. Seymour had always been the Cohort clown; Teine could practically see the gesture that must have come along with the “big welcome.” Having grown up on one of the most famous Human stud farms, Teine thought he would have gotten over the jokes at their reputation, but he hadn't. They were always funny.
“Hey- Teine’s up! I just saw him laughing!” one of the boys yelled.
His cover blown, Teine steeled himself and opened his eyes. Before he greeted any of the boys, or even moved to a more comfortable position, he looked at the back of his left hand. It was clean, unblemished. No tattoo.
“Congratulations, Teine!” howled Seymour from his vantage point by the window. He pointed jovially to the green diamond on the back of his left hand. “You’re going to be a stud!” There were more hoots and cheers and ribald commentary from the rest of the boys as Seymour danced around, shaking his pelvis.
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The Gilded Shackle is the first book in The Evermancer Saga, a series of online serial novels. To go right to the most recent chapter, go to www.evermancer.com.