World of Zekira Stock in Trade is a novel set in the World of Zekira. Copyright 2004 Lethe and Droppin the Fork Productions. All rights reserved, no copying for any reason.

Labor's Love Lost 2

Thirty five years later, Sedil committed his father's body to the sky, as was the stubborn man's wishes. Likas had visited rarely, and even then spoken less. But Sedil was determined that if he should lose the physical form, he would still honor the intent of his father. His mother's body had never been recovered. A long series of arguments and litigation which nearly sent Likas into Bayaran, he had intended to get those bodies dug up and ‘properly' send them on their way. Sedil wasn't sure where Likas had gotten the weird spiritual thing from, maybe it was the group of Land Holders that he hung out with in his later years, perhaps it was something found in the archives about their ancestors ways. But either way, those weren't Sedil's ways. It was just a respect thing for him.

While figuring out what to do with the meager Inheritance that Likas had left, and meeting up with the scattered remnants of their family on his side, Sedil chose to travel a bit more before settling back down and getting to work again. He was proving useful in crime cases, like his ancestors had been, but only worked the courts rarely. When things required a reading, he wasn't the first name on their extensive list of registered psionics. It was however good enough pay that he could afford to pay his rent up front, and not starve while he pursued other ventures.

One that he found, on his way around Tana, was to help out at a house-raising in a Steed farm. Good hard work like that, he found, was a lot more satisfying than waiting for the judges to call on him and watching day-time video dramas. Sedil pulled his roots up from his rural apartments and moved to Difar.

At that time, in the middle of the 1600's, hardly a portion of the plains was populated. It was true that the bulk of the plains were perfect Steed lands. However it was also populated already by native wildlife the likes of which Sedil could hardly have imagined.

At the barn raising, while the two Steeds of this family pranced around nervously in a makeshift pen, Sedil saw the eyes of large predators as well as the tall proud necks of tree-high herbivores, herds of hoofstock in the sunny distance… It was so completely different from his upbringing in the woodlands of Zerin. Visits to Rèimal and Altem aside, Sedil's life had been a largely urban one. He was used to the moist climate of the wetlands, and here in Difar the plains rippled with heat. His eyes burned when the dust crawled across them, but his keen vision served him well as he looked out across the land.

The animals he could see, varied as any he could have imagined, kept their distance from the inhabited areas. That, he knew, was in large part due to the influence of the local Animal Masters. They lived at the edges of this community, small as it was, and kept the peace with the big animals. The little ones were allowed free range through lands Held by Zekirans, everyone knew that you could hardly teach a foraging animal where a boundary was – especially when there was food in a pantry or left out at a table!

He was content to work this hard, hot land. Sedil's powers rarely spiked up but when they did it was at a dinner party or a gathering – places where he could actually show off and not be labeled a freak. Considering how many Bred folks lived here, he felt at home among them with his tail and his brilliantly marked skin. People liked him. Life was simple.

His hands had grown strong with hammering nails and pushing rocks into place, around homesteads. For years, he labored and savored his time on the plains. The Free Workers community here in this unnamed, unzoned town was large and cooperative. Their own homes had been made by Slaves belonging to a retired politician, Suzerinne Adamaen, and she rented them out at good rates, so long as the work they did was up to her standards.

A kindly woman, now only able to get around with the assistance of her favored Slave Vihemus, Adamaen had her eye on yet another piece of land to place a Homestead upon. She had three children and quite a few grandchildren to Inherit, so she claimed, so she might as well leave them something nice.

That they had rarely visited her out here on the wild plains wasn't lost on Sedil. He said nothing, no one did, as they brought in more supplies and set down for the new house to go up.

Day after day, the home took shape. A sprawling thing with turrets and enclosed courtyards, it was no masterpiece of architecture but it was a good use of the view. When finished, the west facing wall would have a truly amazing view of the setting sun and a gigantic landscape beyond, filled with the animals as they grazed.

During a brief lunch break, one day before finishing up, though, as Suzerinne Adamaen was being escorted carefully around the half-finshed floors and examining the walls, Sedil thought he saw something in the corner of his eye. Usually at this time of day, during summer, the animals would begin their slow tread toward the water hole. However they weren't moving that direction, they were headed north – while the watering hole was almost due south. Today, a thunderstorm echoed over the lands, and a stiff hot breeze brought the sound close. Bits of lightning flashed, and the plume of dust behind the animals stampeeding rose into the sky.

The big dark shapes of grazers on the move caught more than just Sedil's eye. He stood up, and stepped away from the house's platform. Piles of wood and stone were laying covered by tarps nearby. The area had mostly been cleared for the work, but certain trees and bushes were still encroaching, and needed to be pulled up.

It was too late for them – moments later, the flash of fire pushed by the hot winds from the south caught up to the property! Without warning, even though Sedil tried to yell, the first pile of wood caught and the tarp began to flutter off, burning as well.

“Fire!” He said, it seemed his voice had left him, as though in a nightmare. He bolted back into the house, tripped on an unfinished stair. Three other Workers had by now picked up the smell of burning grass and trees, and were picking themselves up. As the big tree on the south face of the property caught fire, almost everyone just stood there watching. It crackled and spit flames many spans into the air.

Then it toppled down, onto the unfinished homestead. Two of the Workers ran out, fumbling toward the transportation to get help. Sedil however, seeing the Membayar foreman with his shirt aflame rushing back into the burning house, followed back inside himself. The Suzerinne and her Slave were there, somewhere… Where had he last seen them? In the foyer? No, that was the farthest away from the crushed area. He didn't hear anything, no yelling, no moans or frightened voices. The foreman's voice bellowing clear over the wind and flames brought his attention back.

“They're in the courtyard! Where did Dex and Harro go?” He yelled, and Sedil barely had time to say back over his shoulder that he watched them go to get help.

There would be no help for the elderly woman and her loyal Slave. Sedil reached the courtyard area, it was surrounded completely by flaming walls – they'd completed this portion just a few days ago. They hadn't been able to put flame retardant on the wood yet, none of it had been soaked or treated at all. He saw the pair collapsed over each other, the Suzerinne curled below her old friend.

“There's no time to waste,” Sedil said, lifting the woman's frail body over one shoulder, and pulling the Slave along as well as he could with his other arm. Both of them lingered in agony, smoke clogging their lungs. Sedil himself felt a bit of a painful tinge up his spine – his tail was on fire, perhaps.

His vision swam again, with the smoke and heat. He deposited the pair onto the transport as the other Workers came back bearing a water truck – but it was far too late. They only bothered to wash down the area by the road, the whole homestead would be a loss.

“Is she going to be all right?” Sedil said, his parched lips barely forming words.

“Sedil, she's dead, so is Vihemus,” said Dex, “but you're going to be all right. We're going to take you to the nearest –”

“I'm fine,” he said, waving his hand as though to blow this off. His vision wasn't getting any better, though the smoke had cleared behind them as the fire burned itself out. Now he could come to his senses.

Now Sedil knew he had been badly burnt rescuing the bodies.

Though he knew he should be in pain, real pain, he almost didn't feel anything. He was so numbed, so far in shock, that they reached the nearest hoverport and had him on a plane before he even felt his fingers and tail flare up. His eyes, face, they would be all right but were singed and dehydrated. His fingers were no longer blue on indigo-violet, they were blackened and wrinkled with ash.

Sedil, unsurprisingly, spent the rest of the flight screaming until his throat was raw and he passed out.


She was smiling, Sedil could see a beautiful white patch in a pleasing arc, surrounded by a spring green oval, and the color of a brilliant midday sky swept around that. Two piercing suns rose in the patch of green.

Ganno chuckled, “so, are your eyes feeling a bit better today?”

Sedil managed to nod, it was difficult since he was still bandaged up in a secure manner. While he slept he would thrash about, since his conscious mind kept him stable and serene his unconscious used that time to lash out in anger, fear and worry. But the least of his worries was what would happen to him now. Ganno was here, and she was wonderful to him.

His uncle, Farek, had visited once or twice to keep appearances up, but Sedil knew that once Likas had lost his one true love even they were distant to one another. Once close, Sedil knew. But Farek was unsure of what to do, what to say. He was working on finding himself a nice place to settle and retire, and what little else his brother gave him, he did have enough to do that. Perhaps Sedil would be able to visit later – for now, he was bedridden.

Paid in full of course by the late Suzerinne's estate. The other Worker who had perished with the Slave and Suzerinne had no family, but still received a kind of posthumus award for bravery. The foreman was resting up in his own home town's hospital, burnt on his back and arms, and both he and Sedil had hefty pay bonuses for trying their best to save what was most important.

Certainly of importance right now, though, was Ganno and a cup with a straw in it. “Come on, it's just water and you need to keep hydrated. The Healer says that you're going to be okay, but it will take time.”

Again he managed a nod. Sucking on a straw actually hurt his lips. Blinking hurt. Now that he could feel the singed ends of his nerves, they sang at all times a chorus of agony. He estimated that most of his upper body and back had been burnt, he knew his tail had been too. He didn't know that they'd had to actually amputate it, he could still feel it as a phantom limb and Ganno hadn't had the confidence to tell him yet.

She was merely a hired worker, a soothing presence in an otherwise hellish environment. She delivered meals, took time to brush patient's hair or help them bathe, nothing that would require the presence of a skilled Breeder or Healer. She made sure that people were tucked in at night, wheeled around the grounds if they were in the mood to have a bit of sun, she was there as moral support.

She did a great job, Sedil thought. She was clearly the nicest person under the sun. Ganno had mostly one-sided conversations with Sedil, since he was still unable to form too many words. Moving his lips was a painful experience, so she told him at the outset that all he needed to do was nod or grunt, shake his head or to other simple movements that didn't hurt him. Sedil thought she must be empathic herself, to have such skill in caring for people who couldn't move or speak.

Ganno was not Bred, had nothing of the sort in her background, but that only came out much, much later. For now, she aided him in learning how to blink without pain, how to turn his head and eyes.

Eventually when he could focus his eyes again, and their clarity was regained – almost two full years later – Sedil had undergone quite a few reconstructive surgeries. Zekirans skin grew quickly, but these burn scars would be with him forever, and everyone knew it. Gone was the handsome appearing, blue on blue face. In its place was a mixture of indigo and sky swirled with angry red and pink, white scar tissue, all as though stirred in a mixing bowl. His hands were similarly scarred, up his arms. His precious tail, gone. That discovery took a week to recover from – he would always be able to feel it there, resting gently against his leg or swaying freely.

Though, after that time, his voice and speech returned and his sense of humor along with it. “Well I suppose I'll have to get new pants, since all of mine have a tail hole cut in them…” was his first real unprodded sentence. Ganno laughed and wiped at the tears in her eyes, she was both proud of him and angry for his situation, would he be able to work again? Who knew. He wouldn't have to, but he would constantly be fiddling when his hands and arms felt all right. He needed to be doing something .

“What I would like to do,” he told Ganno as they walked around the recovery center's grounds one more time, “is get out of here. This place makes me feel miserable. I want … to be around happy people.” He touched his finger to his temple, the warped print on his fingertip making strange contact with the equally disrupted skin on his face. “I can feel their misery you know. It's not fun. I'm tired of it.”

“Then perhaps we can find a place for you to work out some of your fidgeting and have a nice place to stay,” Ganno said, “I can ask about it when the Master Healer comes back.”

She did, and shortly after an exam that proved to the Healer he was in good enough condition to leave the hospital for extended periods, the strongly built Master Healer gave the situation his own appraisal.

“I have some land in Bohata,” He said, “near it I know of a project some friends of mine are working on. It's far away from grasslands,” he offered as a security, “and closer to where you grew up. I can introduce you to the High Mistress and the Master, we'll get something arranged for you. You still need not worry for being destitute, Sedil, the Suzerinne's estate has you well covered.”

“I'm not worried about that,” Sedil said. “But thank you. I could just use a job to keep me occupied, away from …. well,” he admitted, “away from all this pain.”

It was agreed that Ganno would go with him, since she'd spent more time with him than practically any other patient. She didn't need to worry about travel expenses, though this was part of her duty to her employer, she was very glad for the opportunity to travel. And, to stay with Sedil the whole way.


The project that Master Healer Rumar mentioned happened to be in a small community on the hillsides of Bohata, near the northern edges of the Area. The foothills would turn to mountains quickly, forests were thin here but would blossom out into thick, dense and dark havens within just a few hundred miles. The homesteads here were well worn, stone and tile. Not like the easily burnable wooden structures Sedil was used to creating. He wondered often whether he would ever really trust being in a wooden structure again.

The healer's friends, Master Voher and High Mistress Tat, had a sprawling Hold that covered almost what one could see from the road's end. A simple dirt road, nothing paved, led north east around a set of wavy hills, and then doubled back to head south to the larger city of Tenet . Rar, the location that Sedil and Ganno had been sent to, barely consisted of the High Mistress' estates and a scant dozen more Holds. But they were quite large, and Held by high ranking men and women. One Owner had what appeared to be about three hundred Slaves working his land, but perhaps they were gathered from far and wide – the harvest time was upon this land, and everyone was expected to work in the fields.

Sedil still had little control over his left hand, and had to walk with a cane. He would not be out picking fruits and grains with the rest of the inhabitants. Ganno and he were led to the High Mistress' main house, where they were given accomodations in the mean time.

“The HighMistress will be with you in the evening,” said the Slave who had been assigned to them, “I think she will be talking about what you can or can't do. Will you be all right alone?”

“It's fine,” Sedil said, looking away. The feeling that he got from the middle aged woman bowing out of the room was one of profound disgust. At him. He'd never been used to getting anything like that emotionally off others, he was always the one that was the focus of a group, the head of a conversation. The one who was looked at and admired.

His stomach tightened, when he thought that this was how he would spend the rest of his life. Abhorred, reviled, pitied.

Ganno put her fingers gently onto his elbow, and cleared her throat. “We can go to the den, she said. Come on, I want to see if the High Mistress has any nice magazines.”

Sedil allowed Ganno's endless hope and enthusiasm carry him into the next room. The estate was large, fit for a family and then some. The Slave quarters were attached, but decorated a bit sparsely, functional but not extravagant. The fixtures in the bathing chambers were all of a stunning high quality, and it was there that Ganno caught up with her charge.

“There you are,” she said, in that huffy way when he'd escape the recovery center's boundaries to get a breath of fresh mental air. “This place is so huge, it's a wonder I could find you at all!”

Her voice echoed a bit in the large bathing room. There were mirrors set in the walls, surrounded by wave upon wave of colorful tiles. The floor was done in a mosaic of blues which matched what used to be Sedil's hands and face, swirling in a way that looked like waves and clouds. The toilet stall was hidden behind a massive marble and glass stand, while the bath itself was a constantly-flowing pool. Shallow, no Zekiran in their right mind would have a very deep pool unless they were adept at swimming. The pool had miniature tiles like the walls, lining it and forming a rim. The entire room was moist, warm, inviting.

Sedil sat at the edge of the pool, putting his foot into it because his hand would surely misjudge the temperature. “Cold, I wonder if it warms up,” he said. He paused, and without looking at Ganno, added, “would you like to try it out? The High Mistress won't be here for another hour or more.”

It was clear to Ganno that he meant – to get into the pool with him, not like she'd helped him bathe before, but…

She hesitated, “we've not really been given per-”

“We'll be staying here for quite some time,” he said, pulling his fractured lips into a smile. “We might as well feel at home here.”

It took only a moment for Ganno to remove her own clothing, a little longer for Sedil's to come off. He was rarely happy looking down at his chest and arms, but he slipped into the water wordlessly and turned to see Ganno in the nude for the first time.

She was as lovely as the spring day she resembled. The simplicity of her coloration and the way her face smiled kept Sedil's attention easily. She was normally not embarrassed to be around him in the buff, but as a medical assistant. This was new. She gave Sedil a new smile to go with that feeling – one which showed a shy side, a personal side that Sedil had not yet experienced.

Of course, the moment she put herself into the pool she almost rocketed right back out – it was all but icy cold, Sedil's skin just wasn't to be trusted for temperature!


The meeting with the High Mistress went well. She was interested in Sedil's experience with plants, landscapes and functionality of space. Ganno was welcomed eagerly as well, because most of the ailments that the Slaves and Bayaran nearby could easily be taken care of by her instead of a Healer – and with Master Healer Rumar's written consent, she could simply remain as an onsite nurse. The High Mistress was all shades of the sun, golden-green hair, tan-orange eyes, and a strong yellow skin tone that was darker on her cheeks and nose – she'd been out all day and like a Free Worker she had a bit of sunburn. It told Ganno that Sedil would not be working outside until he had proper shade and clothing.

“You'll be staying in the main house here, with us,” High Mistress Tat said. Her manner was relaxing, she alone did not give Sedil a nasty feeling of dread. “When we start planting the vines, I'd just like you to add your input. The carts might take too long to move up and down the hills. We were wondering if there would be a better way to get around.”

“Vines?” Asked Sedil.

“Grape and Spheer, yes,” she replied with a small grin.

“You're planting a vinyard,” Sedil said, and he felt a wave of pride eminate from the woman. “What a splendid retirement this will be!”

They laughed, and discussed more about the place as the night wore on. At last, Ganno and Sedil were shown their respective chambers.

It would only be less than a year, before they simply retired to one or another, and not both individually, for the night.