Undermined

Kyan winced as the auctioneer locked the shackle onto Brecht’s ankle. The morning sun glistened through her younger brother’s dark green hair and sparkled off the mechanical bird bouncing in his hand. Kyan tweaked one of its metallic wings then slipped Brecht a slim tube of white powder. They worked hard to perfect the device, more so after their parents’ death.

Brecht fitted the vial inside the bird like a glass gullet. “Thanks.” Brecht shuffled to the stall containing the other boys. With dyed hair and two years added to his thirteen to compensate for height, her brother might pass as a Pixie. Fairy nobles would only see bright hair and pointed ears. Hopefully they wouldn’t notice Brecht and Kyan were Elves from the planet Elgnom.

The auctioneer shook a sheet of paper and held it at arm’s length. “Northern Pixie. Fifteen years. Says here he’s a mech-an-ic. He’s wiry, able to plow or wield a pickaxe.” The man brushed back the greasy strands on his forehead. “He’s kind of pretty. Might make a good footman or valet. Nice hair, skin, and teeth. Recently orphaned. He ain’t a street urchin. Bidding starts at one hundred bluebacks.” The man yanked Brecht’s bird from his hand and dashed it to the ground. “You don’t need possessions. You are property.”

A stout Fairy with thin gray hair that matched his suit raised his paddle.

“Going once, going twice—sold to Mr. Graman.” The name fit his appearance. The auctioneer shoved Brecht to other end of the platform then kicked the battered bird in his direction.

Mr. Graman leaned to her brother’s ear. He loped to the auction block and retrieved his bird like a proud puppy.

Brecht’s owner purchased two other boys, an older teen about Kyan’s age and one who was no more than ten. The man ushered them to the shade tree then Mr. Graman distributed paper sacks and canteens to the boys. Brecht pulled out a sandwich and tore into it as if he hadn’t had three eggs and six sausage links that morning. Kyan’s stomach lurched. She’d be lucky to gag down two bites.

Kyan lifted her fuchsia braid away from her damp neck and fanned herself with her hand. Used to northern weather at school, Kyan wasn’t ready for the assault of heat and humidity. She rubbed at the folded paper. Papa’s final instructions were written in his engineer’s scrawl across yellow graph paper. Every time she disobeyed, Papa reminded her that honoring her parents would bring her long life. She clung to that promise.

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Undermined

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