A/N: This is an interconnected prequel to Dollhouse. This was actually written shortly after and somehow got forgotten. Found it this morning in my miscellaneous folder. I think this short will still make sense even if you don’t read Dollhouse, but I hope you do. (It also gives out a spoiler to how this prequel ends, :P.)
Thanks. And I apologize for the imperfect grammar. English is not my first language, so I try the best that I can to get these stories across.
Will be updating the others next week. Its been so busy.
Standard disclaimer applies.
A Curious Incident in the Stable
Charleston, South Carolina-
She was five when she had her first flying dream. She would set off from some high elevation, span her hands and allow the wind to carry her to unknown places she had never even thought existed. That was why, when she was nine, it was much to her delight when she was able to hover over the air, not in her dreams but in reality. She burst into the library to break the news. Her Papa was smoking a cigar, her Mama was reading a printed book.
And the girl told them breathlessly, in every single detail, how it all happened.
She was gathering flowers by the edge of the deep ravine when she slipped. And instead of falling to a rocky death, breaking her spine and shattering her skull, she was flying, flying! Just like in her dreams.
Her parents, though, were not as thrilled as she was.
They looked around, eyes wide and wary, and they closed the door of the library, locking them in. Her papa held her hand, her mama knelt before her. And they told her with a cautious whisper that yes, they were happy. She had a unique ability, and there was more to come.
But they also told her that there was this one special thing about them. It made them different from the others, and it would be passed on to her inevitably:
one day, time will lose its influence, and she will stop aging.
They asked her if she could keep it a secret, and if she can also please, never fly again.
They told her the world was not ready. That it was fearful of anything aberrant, that it only loved its own. And anything not of its own, it was cruel and punishing.
She did not understand.
Never show yourself to the plantation workers, Kagome, not even a glimpse.
We’re different, her papa said. And people do not like different.
It’s just how this world works.
What an odd request, what an odd reasoning. But she kept to her word, because she loved her Mama and Papa.
But she would learn the meaning behind the request, and the weight of the reasoning, one night when the Magnolias bloomed.
And she learned it the hard way.
It was in the dead of the night and she woke up to riotous screaming. It seemed as if the workers were holding a celebration of some sorts on the grounds of the plantation, and she rushed outside, initially concealing herself within the shadows. Torches had been lit, they had gathered under one particular magnolia whose arms lifted the highest to the sky,
And she saw them.
Her dear Mama and Papa, with nooses tied to their necks, hanging lifeless from the high branches of the tree.
She fled for her life. They hunted her down as if she were some kind of animal. They screamed profanities, accusing her of many names.
And the child could only cry in confusion. She was not any of that, those creatures were mere unfounded legends, emerging from old wives tales, used by angry parents to terrorize their stubborn children who stayed up late in the night.
“The little mistress is yet a child,” an old woman reasoned,
“She may look like one, but she is the spawn of those demons!” A worker yelled, the flicker of the torch on his pale face making him look like a demon himself, “When she stops aging she will harvest the blood of our children to maintain her youth… just like those two devils –"
“We would never do such a thing!” the girl vehemently cried out, but it only fell on deaf ears.
“Kill her! That girl is an evil curse!”
“What is she going to do now?! Is she going to summon other demons and blight us?!”
“No,” The girl shook her head, and she screamed out her pleas. She even knelt before them, begging to be heard. Those horrible accusations, their preposterous implications,
She was not any of that.
She was not any of that at all!
Although she was slightly different, she was a child,
much like any other child,
And her Mama and Papa, although they kept to themselves,
they were much like any other mother or father,
But now they will never smile at her again, never love her again. Their corpses were dangling by their necks on the Magnolia tree.
“Hang her! Hang her and cut off her head, or else she resurrects!”
The workers cornered her to the edge of the dark ravine, closing in.
She stepped back, and with nowhere else to go she leaped into the chasm, darkness swallowing her whole.
At that time, Kagome was twelve.
Such a long time ago it was, yet the passage of the years never blunted the memory of that night. She used her flight to save herself from the fall, and she vowed, ever since, to use that ability only when it was direly important.
But one thing was inevitable, that one thing she dreaded the most. She stopped aging when she reached sixteen. Throughout the next centuries, she found herself as a transient in an ever-changing world. New life emerging, yet everything else was dying.
It was maddening at first, to outlive everything else.
And every day became a useless routine of survival and profound loneliness.
She would never stay in one place for more than two decades in fear of persecution.
And she never did develop any real friendships…
Because whenever she did, the temporary happiness it offered would only leave her with a deeper void in her heart when she had to leave.
And now she was back to the place where everything started, standing on the edge of the ravine that disillusioned her from the world.
No one recognized her, of course, what did she expect?
They were all dead.
Even their children were dead.
And their children’s children were old and wrinkled with their eyesight failing them.
And what was left was her, who never really changed.
Someone else had taken over the plantation. But she was not there to reclaim anything, she did not want to have to do with anything of the like. She only came for a short visit, because she was looking for something.
Kagome clutched her large suitcase closer to her person, and she pulled out a crumpled paper from her breast coat. She studied the contents quietly under the full moonlight, the fragrant night breeze hauling in memories of that morbid night.
She brought her gaze to the vast stretch of dark nothingness before her, and she breathed out in tension. From behind her, the Magnolias swayed, bringing in a shower of white blossoms on her solitary form.
Almost three hundred years of existence, and it had been lonely, soul-crushing lonely.
That was why she was willing to deepen the void in her heart yet again,
To find what she was looking for.
It had been so lonely.
Clutching the paper close to her heart she whispered two silent prayers, one to keep her safe in her journey, another in hopes that she would reach her destination in time.
After one last look around, making sure that no one else would witness her flight,
She stepped off the ravine and allowed the air currents to carry her away.
-Four Months Later,
It was a rather lonesome afternoon. Not that all afternoons were routinely lonesome, because it deathly was, but the Master of the Manor thought it was more so than usual.
The gentry man from Arlington Street stopped by to enjoy some tea and a game of chess. And although the Master was not in the mood for a little chat with him, he couldn’t really refuse.
The gentry man was one of their family’s loyal clients – one of their first clients – who had been under their service for a hundred and twenty-six years.
The Master himself was only eighty, and their family business was a good hundred and fifty.
“Sesshomaru, young lad,” his guest suddenly said, “Looks like rain today.”
The golden-eyed Master paused from his internal musings and glanced at the window. There was a sudden drop in temperature and a stifling humidity in the air.
And so, like the routinely lonesome afternoon that it was, his guest put on his coat, tipped his hat and bid goodbye for the day.
Relieved from his social duties, the Master waited in his library until the servants had lit the lamps of the hallways. It was at this time when he would open some letters, or read a fine-print book, wait for the sun to set and be summoned for dinner.
But this time, he would walk to the grand windows of the library. He would take a peek at the unusually ominous dusk sky, and he would decide that it was the perfect time to grab his rifle and hunt.
Just a short trip, before the sun would set. Anything after that was absurd, because although he knew he possessed eternal youth, he did not hold preternatural strength. He did not hold deviant abilities… those were reserved for the old families, the really powerful families, and even that was unfounded rumors.
But even if he was, he knew that he, and all of the others who possessed such a… curse… such as his, would still be easily killed by a bullet, or by suffocation,
Or by a hunting accident, where one’s horse would be spooked by a scurrying animal and throw the rider off its back, break his neck; instantly severing his life.
He knew, because the latter was what happened to his father quite some time ago, leaving him to run the family business by himself.
“Will you need the hunting dogs, My Lord?” One of his servants bowed as the golden-eyed gentleman emerged from his room in haste, already in his hunting breeches.
“Yes, and I will need two companions.” He said as he loaded his rifle by the stairs.
“Very well. I shall inform your favored aides.”
The servant disappeared into the manor. And Sesshomaru strode outside, towards the horse that was already prepared for him by the entrance.
It was good that the inner staff was privy to his habits. It saved a lot of frustration, mostly on his part. He was quite aware that he had the reputation of being a cantankerous Lord.
And a good four employees of his shared the same secret as him, but most did not. Nevertheless, their loyalty had already been proven, rooted deep from previous generations. He was lucky enough to inherit such wealth and security from his late father, God bless his soul.
The Master of the Manor lifted his gaze up to the darkening sky.
Rain was starting to fall.
Hopefully, it won’t be a lonesome hunt, because it had been such an unusually lonesome afternoon.
Flight, she thought, although liberating, was quite taxing. Gravity was the constant enemy,
and the fatigue was worse if the journey started four months ago.
Hiding from the world’s curious view had also proven to be a problem. That was why most of her flights happened in the evenings, or in dark, gloomy afternoons such as these. She would fly at the highest altitude, just in case someone spotted her, her outline should be vague.
She would like to imagine herself seen as a large bird. If she was high enough, any possible witnesses could not scale her size.
For that large ocean, she took the boat. If she were in populous cities she would take the fancy new steam engine. Such a wonderful contraption it was, although when she first saw it, she was terrified. But it had cut her travel time significantly, she couldn’t really complain.
And now she was flying countryside, she knew much by the sparse structures and Stately Houses. But the main reason why the young woman was taking back to flight was that she was running out of money. She only had enough now for a little food until she could reach a city and look for the means to support herself.
She heard there were many townhouses in the metro, and that would mean an abundance of wealth. And wealth would mean clients, and clients would mean commissions.
A single commission was mostly enough to get her through a year if she lived frugally.
Her craft, after all, was special.
She took pride in the thought that there was nothing like it.
Clients, especially the wealthy ones, were willing to pay handsomely for the illusion of forever.
There was a slight tremble in the air and a cool trickle to her skin. A low rumble of thunder rolled throughout the evening sky. As the loose cloth of her cloak flapped against the rush of the wind, and gradually did not, because now, it was soaked, Kagome realized it was probably wiser to cut her journey short.
Rain, unfortunately, did not only dampen her body. It also bogged down her flight.
She scanned the landscape below her to search for a quiet place to take shelter.
And she suddenly heard it,
Her blue eyes widened in fret.
The unmistakable sound of gunfire.
The horse-mounted party was tracking down a family of white tail deer when the sun had already set. Turning back to the direction of the manor, a sudden flight of birds broke the sky. That wasn’t normally a problem, but then the dogs started barking, and the domesticated beasts stopped moving altogether.
They were fixated on the raincloud-riddled heavens.
The rain fell hard, and the only source of light was the gas lantern they had in their hands.
Lighting cut through the sky, in a bright, eerie burst of ethereal blue and white. The hunting party snapped their gazes up as the dogs started raising hell yet again.
“What was that?” One of the master’s companion said, strapping the gas lantern on the vertical pole. He had to steady his horse for it became restless, he had to ready his rifle on his experienced hands.
“Probably just a bird,” the other companion said, the one with red hair. A smirk broke on his lips, as he pulled on the reins of his equally restless horse. “What’s wrong, Miroku? Is our former naval lieutenant spooked by a little birdie?” he teased. But he stopped when he felt the cold muzzle of Miroku’s rifle press against his temple.
“What if I spook you with a hole in your impossibly dense head-“
“Shut up, you two.” The Master snapped, sparing his companions a quick glare. He then brought his gaze up yet again, his golden eyes searching. It was almost impossible to concentrate, because the infernal barking turned into an unearthly howling.
And it was only when lightning burst again was when they saw it.
A large outline, skimming over the air.
“Crikey,” The red-haired hunting companion exclaimed, “Not a little birdie, for sure…What do you think it is, My Lord?” he said in a near whisper.
Sesshomaru never answered. He kept his rifle pointed heaven-bound.
The golden-eyed lord never tore off his gaze from the sky.
“I would suggest you shut your trap just for a few moments, Shippo,” Miroku said. “The master needs to concentrate.”
“Hmph,” Shippo acknowledged, falling silent.
And not a minute had passed when lightning spilled into the dark heavens, and they realized, the strange bird was larger than they had expected, and it had descended in altitude.
The Master of the Manor pulled his trigger.
The blast of the gunshot bounced against the trees.
Initially, there was just one blow.
But then there was another, and then another. It did not take long for the woman to realize that she was the target of a hunt- whether for game or out of fear it did not really matter. There was a burning sensation in her midsection, she had been grazed by one of the bullets.
She needed to descend.
She willed her flight faster, it was getting unsteady. As she coasted down, she found that she could not quite control her movements. The combination of the rain, her fatigue, and the big graze on her stomach was what brought her literal downfall. To her horror, she realized she could not tune her landing.
She crashed into a wooden structure, banging her head on some metal wheel. Something snapped in her, and a blinding pain shot from her leg to her spine.
The sleeping horses roused from the fracas, creating a rippling stir throughout the stable.
She tried to crawl away from the rain, dragging her body-sized suitcase with her. But then the world spun around, and it dimmed.
And then everything went dark.
They lingered quietly, still mounted on their horses, wary eyes still fixed on the sky. Their coats were soaked, the lanterns were weakening.
And silence swallowed them, like the monstrous, rainy night that had descended on the earth.
The Master of the Manor brought his weapon down. “Whatever it was, it’s gone now.”
Miroku chuckled. “That was peculiar.”
They were preparing themselves to return home when the dog’s ears perked up. The beasts suddenly bolted towards the other direction: this time they were whimpering.
Shippo stared at them as they sped off, disappearing into the dark. “Are you sure the dogs are healthy? In the mind, I mean,”
The Master pulled on the reins of his horse and chased after them.
“Sesshomaru!” Miroku called out to his childhood friend.
“They’re headed towards the second stable.” The Master of the Manor answered, and they stared at his receding form.
“Do you think someone’s in there?” Shippo questioned.
It couldn’t be possible, the dogs were familiar with the stablehand, and by this time, the old man had already left for home. The second stable was quite a ways from the manor, away from servant’s quarters, at the other side of the estate itself.
It was where they housed their prized horses that were up for auction or prepared for derbies and equestrian displays.
“We’ll see.” Miroku answered, and they followed after the master.
The dogs had entered first. They were acting awfully strange, as they stepped in with necks low, with tails between their legs, whining like pathetic puppies calling out for their mother. And they continued to do so as they disappeared into the dark structure.
The hunting party entered with their dimmed gas lanterns.
The horses stirred, and the young gentlemen settled their gaze to the direction of the dog’s whining. Nearby was a big hole on the roof of the stable, as if something just dropped from the sky and crashed to the ground.
But right beneath the damage, there was nothing.
Did someone attempt to break into the stable and steal the horses?
The Master of the Manor looked around. He knew each horse, and there was no stallion or mare missing.
The rain was finally receding, what was left was a gentle trickle that drummed on the roof. The horses were settling now.
Yet the whining continued.
“Sesshomaru,” Miroku suddenly said, standing motionless before a stack of hay, quite a distance from the hole on the roof. “You’ve got to see this.”
The red-haired lad was standing beside Miroku, equally rooted to his spot, holding his lantern light to the item in question.
Sesshomaru paused, and he pondered. It seemed as if his companions had fallen into an eerie trance.
It was only when Shippo caught his breath again did the dead silence recover. “My Lord,” the red-head finally said, “She’s beautiful.”
Sesshomaru’s eyes widened ever so subtly.
The Master of the Manor stepped forward, his two companions graciously giving him way. And he settled his gaze to the mysterious item that lay in front of them.
Nestled in the hay was a sleeping woman. Her creamy, pale skin was emitting a preternatural glow, as if she were bathed in moonlight. Her dark hair stuck to her damp skin, framing a small, beautiful face, and her cheeks were flushed as her lips parted in a pained gasp.
Her soaked clothes stuck to her body, scandalously conforming to her curves.
She had a long gash on her stomach from where blood glistened.
Around her, the dogs had settled protectively beside her sleeping form, whining in concern.
The woman stirred, and the dogs dispersed.
Without any other word, the golden-eyed lord brushed past his companions and stopped before the woman, bringing the light closer to her features.
And he stared at her for long moments.
The woman… she looked like a doll.
A life-sized, living, breathing doll.
Her hands moved. Long, thick lashes fluttered open, and he found himself plunging into eyes of electric blue.
“What is your name?” The Master of the Manor said.
“Kagome,” she answered, still so obviously in a daze, bereft of breath and restricted of movement.
“You have trespassed in my private estate.” He said. “Are you aware of the consequences?”
The red-haired young aide stepped forward, “My Lord, she is clearly injured."
“When we were distracted with an unusual anomaly, you sneaked into the stable with ill intentions,” The golden-eyed Lord continued.
“What,” the woman whispered in disbelief, she was still recovering from her fall, still so helplessly disoriented.
“But in the process you injured yourself. And we caught you red-handed.”
“Sesshomaru,” Shippo said, dropping the honorifics, “these preposterous accusations--” The red-haired hunting aide stepped forward, but a rough hand pulled him back. It was Miroku, giving him a warning to not interfere.
The Master of the Manor watched her with an unorthodox intensity. “But I am forgiving, and I will be lenient,” He lifted a haughty chin up, “I shall not report you to the police. Yet I wouldn’t think you could possibly afford the monetary fines.”
“I don’t have money,” the woman-doll clutched her head, her eyes still struggling to focus.
The Master of the Manor chuckled, “I thought so. Then you shall pay me through skilled work. You are to stay in my estate until you have covered your debt. ”
“It was an accident,” her blue eyes widened in confused panic, “I didn’t mean to—”
The young lord reached out, and he wrapped a hand around her fragile arm, “Accident or not, you clearly trespassed into my property. Would you rather have me report you to the police?” His fingers dug in her flesh, “I am the lord of this estate, you are subject to my sovereignty. You will stay here, trespasser, and you will do as I bid.”
She shook her head, “I have somewhere to go,” she said, “I can’t afford… to lose such amount of time,” she whispered, nodding off into unconsciousness. “So cruel,” she started muttering in her somnolence, “Why are people… always so cruel…”
Tears spilled from her incandescent blue eyes, and she fell back into slumber.
“I can’t believe this.” Shippo grit out, and he glared at Miroku who had been restraining him the whole time. The man released him, but he was equally frowning.
Miroku, who had remained tried to remain level-headed, was quite angered, too. “Sesshomaru,” The former war veteran said, reaching out to the woman. “We have to take her to the doctor’s quarters.”
“Don’t touch her.” The young lord snapped. His voice held a dangerous warning, his eyes were brighter gold than the gas lantern. He knelt beside her. “I’ll take the stray there myself.” He slipped a hand underneath her knees, another smoothly under her back, and he lifted her up, ever so gently, careful not to wake her up.
He then stood tall, holding her close to him, covetously close to him,
A very fragile cargo in his arms. “She will be under my watch as she heals.”
His companions remained silent, for there was a veiled emotion that flashed in his eyes;
it was one that they had never seen before.
Curious, for the Master of the Manor- difficult to please and quick to find fault- had also been horribly, perpetually bored,
And those eyes that were once filled with ennui and contempt for the ever-changing world
now held a suppressed flare, a heated gaze like gas lantern’s flame,
slowly burning brighter as it gazed at the sleeping woman.
For those who knew the Master of the Manor,
The way he looked at her was quite curious, indeed.