By Chaos Blackwing
On the Sales Floor
Two weeks later, a clearly frustrated feline returned the servant they had purchased, tersely citing a ‘conflict of personalities’.
Three weeks later a stallion returned the servant they had purchased, stating that he’d had enough talking back to him in college, and had no interest in a ‘defective’ servant who did so.
One week later, a fuming wolf brought a bruised human in, gnashing his teeth over the ‘insolent hairless ape’. Upon being informed that their actions were considered a criminal offense, and that not only would they not be getting a refund, they would be charged and tried for their crimes, the anger they’d had before quickly boiled over, to the point that it required two of the store guards to restrain them until the police arrived.
Staring down at me as I looked back up was yet another lion, though younger than the usual ones I saw. Not being terribly good at telling ages, I guessed he was probably in his late 20’s, or perhaps early 30’s. Not bothering with words, I silently watched him as he gave my form a once over, before reaching down and in a surprisingly gentle manner pulling me up with a soft “Stand please”, beckoning me to turn about with a twirl of his finger.
Curious as to the new visitor to the sales floor, and not having any real reason to refuse, I slowly turned about, spreading my arms as I did so to allow the feline to see as much as possible. Facing him once more I returned my gaze to his, a habit that annoyed if not angered some potential masters, but far from being put out he seemed to be amused at my willingness to meet his eyes.
“Go ahead and sit down again while I look over your records, no need to keep you standing while I do so.”
Quirking my eyes at the unexpected generosity, I nonetheless took him up on his offer, relaxing against the couch as he went over to the medical/personal history files every ‘servant’ had. Having a good idea what he would find, I had a wry smile as he flipped through the pages. While I was healthy enough, every would-be master so far had been... less than appreciative of my bluntness and attitude, annoyed if not outright angry over my refusal to ‘show them the respect befitting their station’.
Without even glancing away from the papers he held the lion spoke, though I was unsure if he was doing so for my benefit, or merely reading aloud. “No notable health issues, recent injury thanks to abusive master, though latest check-up shows almost complete recovery.” Flipping through the pages, he read some more. “Capable of most household tasks, trained in massage and grooming, instructor notes that while capable, seems to lack the proper motivation when asked to apply learned skills, leading to unsatisfactory performance.”
More pages were flipped through, though this time the feline flipped back and forth between them, appearing to re-read certain parts. “‘Poor service, servant shows a distinct lack of respect’, ‘Servant shows no initiative, doing only what was ordered and nothing more, claims to not want to make any mistakes by doing more than requested.’ Finally he reached what I considered the best part, the most recent ‘review’, which had been written and sent in before the standard check-up upon return resulted in the arrest of the one that sent it in. “‘Arrogant hairless monkey shows nothing but contempt for his betters. Clumsy beyond belief, incapable of performing the most basic of tasks without detailed instructions, and prone to mistakes even then. Despite repeated attempt at correcting behavior and attitude, refuses to say more than one word in response, and refuses to elaborate on response when demanded.”
Despite myself I couldn’t help but snicker. Well did I remember the anger and frustration the wolf, my previous ‘master’ had shown towards me, and the thought of him trying to put his feelings into words, pretending a calmness he didn’t feel brought a smile to my face. The difficulty he must have had restraining himself from using some of the more... colorful language he’d been so free with during my short term with him must have been significant.
Drawn from the papers by the noise, the lion looked over at me, quirking his eyes in a silent question. Not quite sure how best to explain, I decided to go with a deadpan, “Good times at that house.”
Shaking his head slightly at my reply, the lion spoke. “Out of curiosity, what was the word that you used to respond to his... chastisements, to explain your actions and attitude?”
“The same word that I tell all my would-be-masters, that I had told him when he first purchased me from this very shop. Mirror.”
Cocking his head to the side, the lion had a puzzled expression on his face. “Mirror? I’m afraid I don’t understand. What significance does that word hold for you?”
Sighing softly from having to answer the familiar question once again, even as I knew it was my own fault that I had to do so, I gave my by now ‘standard’ response. “It would spoil things were I to explain fully, all I can say is that it is a hint.”
Usually at this point the prospective or recent buyer would demand a more full explanation, more often than not angry or irritated that their servant was ‘mocking’ them or being insubordinate by refusing to answer one of their questions. Yet again however the lion surprised me, merely taking on a thoughtful expression as he mulled over my response.
At last he seemed to come to a decision, as he placed my records back where they had been resting, before looking at me with a uniquely feline expression of predatory playfulness. “Well then, after thinking about it, I do believe that you might be just what I’m looking for. What would you say to a change of scenery?”
Quirking my eyebrow at his rhetorical question(as if I had any choice in the matter), I decided to humor him. “Well, I dunno, I do so love the meals they offer here between bouts of sitting down doing nothing, would hate to pass up on those...”
Laughing at my small joke, he reached over and patted my shoulder, an action that surprised me with how casual he was about it. “Indeed. Well I’m sure I could offer up something at least passably edible, so why don’t you wait here and I’ll see about making the arrangements to let you see for yourself.”
Unable to think of something to say to that, I remained where I was, wondering about the new lion that seemed determined to be my next owner.
It was only a few minute later that he returned, followed by one of the employees of the ‘store’, the keys to the shackle on my ankle dangling on a ring attached to his belt, his hands taken up with the forms of ownership and an item I particularly didn’t care for, a leash to attach to the collar around my neck.
What can I say, after one owner almost snapped my neck with a particularly hard pull, I never much cared for the things.
Handing the papers and leash to the lion, the hyena assistant kneeled down to reach the lock at my ankle, all the while talking. “As noted in the contract, the sale and transfer of ownership comes with a one month ‘grace period’, during which you can return the servant for eighty percent of the purchase price.” Apparently remembering what condition I’d been returned in last time, he amended his statement. “That is, eighty percent, minus any medical costs that may be required due to any accidents suffered during that time.”
Pausing in his actions, he looked over his shoulder at the lion standing behind him with a stern look. “If however the harm is determined to have been deliberate, and beyond what could be expected from standard punishments, which are listed in the contract, the entire amount will be forfeited, and you will face criminal charges for mistreatment of a servant.”
The warning delivered, the hyena went back to his task, and it was only a few seconds more before the lock clicked open, the anklet it was attached to quickly removed and placed back under the couch. Having gone through this every time it was time to go back to the dorms, I waited while the assistant carefully examined my ankle to make sure the bindings hadn’t caused any damage before apparently deciding it was fine and standing up. A quick nod in my direction and he turned back to the lion.
“Now then, that should be everything, and you’re free to take your new servant home. If you have any concerns or questions on proper care, the booklet you received upon purchase should have everything you need, and if not, please feel free to call the number listed within. If you have nothing else, I will bid you a good day.”
Waiting a moment for any last minute questions and receiving none, the hyena turned away and walked back towards the front of the store, leaving myself and the lion silently watching his retreating back. Glancing over at the feline, he seemed lost in thought for a moment, unconsciously running his fingers across the leash coiled in his hand before snapping out of it and turning towards me.
Looking down at the leash in his hand for a moment, he held it out slightly before meeting my eyes with his own in a steady gaze. Expecting that he would either instruct me to attach it myself, if he didn’t do it on his own, I was once again surprised.
“What do you think, will I need this? Will you be bolting for it once we step outside?”
Thrown by his question, it took me a moment to respond, to decide how to respond.
“Because you asked, no, to both,” I said, slightly stressing the first word.
Nodding to himself it seemed my answer had confirmed some thought of his, as his face lost some of it’s serious cast, shifting back to a more congenial look.
“In that case if you would, please follow me out to my car and we’ll head out.” Not waiting for a response he turned and started towards the front of the shop, and after a moment I followed along, trailing a few feet behind and to the right.
As we walked through the store we garnered more than a few looks, from customer and ‘product’ alike, both groups surprised by the sight of a new master walking apparently without worry regarding his recent purchase, followed by an unleashed servant who walked with the same self-confidence as the one he followed.
Hearing some of the whispers from those we passed, I tried to refrain from smirking. Some of them had been here almost as long as I had, with some of the employees having been here even longer, and by now most in the store, from those doing the selling to those being sold, were quite aware of the reputation for ‘insolence’ that I’d garnered. To see me walking of my own free will, following my new would-be master with no need for a leash to force me to do so had them buzzing, wondering what magic the lion had managed. Smiling to myself I stayed silent, giving no clues, letting them try to come up with their own reasons for my actions, sure that whatever they came up with would be far more exotic than the truth.
The trip to the car was a quick one, and soon the two of us were settled in, both in the front to my slight surprise. Past would-be-masters had all made it a point to have me sit in the back, to ‘remind’ me of my station and how it was beneath theirs, but this lion seemed quite willing to treat me if not as an equal, then at least as a person, rather than a thing.
Indifferently tossing both the leash and ownership booklet onto the back seat, the lion looked over at me, his expression the mix of serious and jovial that I was starting to suspect was his ‘default’.
“Before we head to your new home, I wanted to ask if there was anything that you would like or need. Any particular foods, form of entertainment, supplies? If you’re to be serving me, it only makes sense that you have what you need and want, within reason of course.”
I stared at the lion for a few seconds, a look of surprise on my face. It had been so long since someone had asked if I wanted or needed something, to have this lion do so right off the bat had me wondering just how to respond. As he calmly waited for my response, I took a moment to really think about it.
Food-wise I was fine with just about anything, having been forced to eat the most basic and cheap meals for ages. Supplies... well, assuming he already had cleaning stuff at his house, probably the only thing needed would be oils and some other specialty stuff for massages, should he wish to put that particular bit of my training to use. Entertainment though... never having been a fan of tv or movies, something that had served me well so far given my previous ‘masters’, that was out, but oh, how long had it been since I’d been able to sit down and relax with a good book? The temptation was just too much to pass up.
“I’ll have to see what food you already have available before I can present you with a list of what I’ll need for meals, should you wish to either share cooking duties with me or have me handle it myself. For supplies, I’ll need massage oils, as well as several other items, though I’m afraid I do not know where they might be purchased.” Watching him nod thoughtfully at my words so far, I continued. “As for entertainment, some books to read would be plenty.”
Staring at nothing as he gazed past my shoulder, he appeared to be thinking on my requests, before nodding his head once more and looking back into my eyes. “That all seems perfectly reasonable. I’ll let you look through the pantry when we get back, and depending on your skills I may have you handle the lighter meals while I’m working, alternating dinner cooking duties. I’ve no idea where massage supplies can be purchased either unfortunately, though a quick check online should solve that. As for the books you’re in luck, I’m actually a rather avid reader myself, and while you serve me you’ll have free access to my personal library for so long as you can demonstrate proper care for the books.”
Flashing a quick grin my way, he turned back to the wheel in front of him, quickly starting the car up and pulling out of the lot. “Well then, with that out of the way what say we head to your new home, hmm?”
A thoughtful expression on my face, I nodded ever so slightly as we drove down the road. A promising start so far, even more so considering the last few times I’d gone through the process. This could be interesting.
(Initial story seed inspired by Hundaro’s ‘The Prince’s New Pet’ on SoFurry, though the general ideas branched quite a bit from that original point as anyone who has read both will notice.)