Llewellyn Sword nearly fainted at his first sight of the faun.
The late-summer morning sun was warming up toward a hot, sticky afternoon. Thirteen-year-old Llewellyn wore a white cotton shirt that already clung damply to his skin. Flies buzzed lazily over fields where fauns picked cotton on a corner of the Sword family plantation, the Golden Horn, in the Charles II Towne protectorate of the southern Carolina region. Llewellyn carried a fishing pole over one shoulder as he walked past the cotton fields. He was supposed to be practicing his riding, but who gave a damn about horsemanship when fish needed to be caught? Eight-year-old Wetherby trailed Llewellyn with an occasional hop of excitement. Wetherby was the only sibling of Llewellyn's that he could stand. Sometimes the younger boy used his fishing pole to slash the air like a sword, quite aware of the dashing essence of his family name. The boys were headed for a trickling tributary off the Santee River on the end of the plantation farthest from the Sword family mansion.
The slaves bent over the cotton, having been hard at work picking the crop since before sunrise.
Llewellyn paid no mind to the fauns, thinking of them as nothing more than the background of plantation life, his father's property working the fields, their well-being of no more concern to him than that of the plows the fauns used to till the crops. Very simply, as patriarch Archibald Sword often pointed out, the fauns weren't even human. For a few more moments of his life that morning, Llewellyn would have found he was hard-put to argue that fact, what with the fauns having half-human and half-goat bodies. Not to mention that everyone knew fauns were stupid and immoral. Abolitionists who knew nothing of the realities of plantation life, living as they did in distant places like Boston Town and Port Cedryssene, agitated to free the slaves of Northern Amer. Talk of war filled the air at times, a war between the northern cities' great kings and the monarchs of Atlanta and Charles II Towne that would either free the slaves or make permanent their current plight.
Had Llewellyn not looked to his left to shoo away a pesky fly, he might never have seen the faun; at least not as he did that morning, with the young slave bathed in morning light as if made of golden wool.
Llewellyn saw the faun and stopped. His fishing pole slipped from his shoulder.
Wetherby kept on walking a few more steps before he realized he was alone. He scowled back at his older brother. "Lewin? Aren'tcha comin'?"
Lewin. Llewellyn hated that nickname.
"In a minute, Turd-bee," Llewellyn said, mangling his brother's name to teach the little snot a lesson.
Wetherby was too short to see whatever it was his brother was staring at over the cotton plants, and he whined, "What're you looking at, Lewin?"
Llewellyn ignored him. He dropped his fishing pole and pushed his way across the rows of cotton plants toward the sun and the golden apparition he had seen. The fauns he passed showed relief that this young scion of the plantation had not targeted them for attention. Llewellyn was slender and not very tall, with long blond hair that pulled at the cotton bolls and a reputation for being nice if somewhat inattentive to the fauns. But Llewellyn's older brother Harmon once held the same reputation before manhood set upon him and brought with it a love for the snap of his riding crop on a faun's bare back.
Llewellyn walked up to the young faun and stopped. The faun stood up straight, looked Llewellyn in the eyes, and caught his breath. Then the faun remembered his place and let his eyes drop.
"You," Llewellyn said to the faun. "What's your name?"
"Ko'ynn'ak, sir. Master Sword." He stood a few inches shorter than Llewellyn, though he was also thirteen. Brown and amber colored horns rose from the top of his smooth forehead and curled back over his long and bushy reddish-brown hair. His eyes were a bright and uncanny emerald green. The upper part of his body bore pale skin reddened by the sun. Llewellyn tried not to stare at the faun's legs, covered from below the waist in dense, dark brown fur. The faun's stocky legs ended in a pair of large, cloven black hooves. A strap of the canvas bag that held the cotton Ko'ynn'ak picked crossed his chest but otherwise, like all fauns, he wore no clothes.
Llewellyn caught himself staring, and blushed. "Why haven't I seen you before ... Ko'ynn'ak? I'm certain you're new. Father doesn't let our fauns name their own young. It angers him that you all have such jawbreakers of names."
"Beg your pardon, sir," Ko'ynn'ak said. "Yes, my family and I are new arrivals to the Golden Horn here. Last week, sir. From the Atlanta protectorate."
A beefy, pot-bellied man waddled his way down the row toward the boys. A wide-brimmed hat covered his head like the lid of a china teapot. He carried a short, black leather whip, an essential tool of his job as overseer.
"Is the faun bothering you, Master Sword?" said the overseer, Marden Felt.
"No," Llewellyn said. "I just wondered who he was."
Ko'ynn'ak hid his shaking hands behind his back and tried to think, with rising fear, what he might have done wrong that drew the handsome young master's eye to him.
Wetherby hollered from the edge of the field. "Lewin, let's go! Gitcher butt hoppin'!"
Llewellyn didn't even hear his brother. He couldn't understand why he had wanted to meet the faun so much, a desire so strong he knew he couldn't have just walked on and gone fishing without fulfilling it. The only other time he had ever felt this way was ... well, last Winter Solstice, when Llewellyn hadn't been able to sleep the night before his favorite cousin Galloway was set to arrive for the holiday. As he had then, Llewellyn felt excited and tense and surprisingly happy.
But Llewellyn, nearly as frightened as the faun, hid his emotions. "You'll come to the house tonight," he said to Ko'ynn'ak, and his tone gave his words the unfortunate resemblance to an order. "Half-hour after sunset. Enter by the back, the servants' door, and tell the maid K'lyn that I sent for you. My room is on the second floor."
Ko'ynn'ak was unaware that he smiled slightly. "K'lyn has her own name, sir?"
"Yes, yes; her own name," Llewellyn said. "She's new, too. I expect you to be on time ... Ko ... Ko'ynn'ak."
The faun's smile vanished. "Yes, sir." He wanted to throw up, knowing terrible stories of the cruel fate that sometimes awaited fauns in trouble with their human owners.
Llewellyn turned and walked away while Ko'ynn'ak bent over to pick more cotton. Marden Felt raised his whip and snapped it down once, very hard, on the faun's bare back, across the right shoulder blade. The young slave cried out in pain and surprise.
"Mr. Felt!" Llewellyn, his fishing pole once more over his shoulder, glared at the overseer.
Despite himself, the overseer flinched. Behind the pretty blond child, he knew, lay the potential wrath of the mountainous Archibald Sword.
"Yes, Master Llewellyn?" the overseer said.
"Never again lay hands or leather on that faun. Understand?"
"Very much, young sir, but I must instead follow your father's orders about keeping these animals in line."
"Yes, well," Llewellyn said, "I shall take it up with him, then." This was a lie, as Llewellyn would sooner fight a horde of rabid foxes than cross his father over such a matter. "But do not hurt that one. Ko ... Ko'ynn'ak."
"Yes, sir," Marden said. He gave the faun a sharp look and turned to walk away, grumbling.
Ko'ynn'ak watched Llewellyn walk toward the edge of the woods, accompanied by the unseen owner of the impatient voice whose fishing pole tip bobbled above the line of cotton plants. The faun ran to his mother two rows over and hugged her, willing himself not to cry. He liked the boy who had spoken to him, but he was also terrified of him.
Wetherby said to his brother as they entered the woods, "Jeez, Lewin, when did you start caring how anyone treats them lazy goat-butts anyway?"
Llewellyn said nothing because what he felt was beyond words. Like Winter Solstice, he thought, only better.
* * *
That afternoon, Llewellyn and Wetherby were walking back up the dirt road toward the house when they heard a horse galloping far behind them, headed their way. The older boy shaded his eyes and looked down the road.
Fishing had come hard for Llewellyn that day. All he could think about was the faun, and how much he'd rather have the faun fishing with him at the tributary instead of Wetherby. The younger boy suddenly seemed whiny and a burden, whereas before Llewellyn had enjoyed the younger boy's company. Fishing with Wetherby today was more of a chore, and Llewellyn thought spitefully that watching over the little ones was maids' work. Then he remembered the faun house-slaves, and he felt shame redden his face.
Wetherby sensed the change in his older brother and responded with irritation, which wasn't helped when Llewellyn forced him to carry home the four fish they had caught, though Wetherby proudly laid claim to three of them. He watched the older boy stare back down the road and said, "Who izzit, Lewin? Pa?"
"Pa's up at the house, Turd-bee," Llewellyn said. "I can't see who ... too much dust ... " He nearly jumped when he saw who came toward them. "It's Galloway!"
Galloway Sword rode in hard on his dapple grey mount, and he reined back the horse as his cousins ran happily onto the road to greet him. He was tall, with long, dark blond hair and a nut-brown goatee. He carried a sword and wore the uniform of a soldier in the Port Cedryssene Army. Archibald Sword hated his nephew Galloway but wouldn't say why, which puzzled Llewellyn. Perhaps, the boy figured, it was because Galloway was gallant and exciting in a way that Llewellyn couldn't imagine his father ever was. Blood was blood, though, and Archibald would never turn away a relative from the Golden Horn.
Galloway may have been twenty-six years old but in many ways he had never left boyhood. He tied the boys' fish to his saddlebag, hoisted Wetherby by one arm to sit in the saddle in front of him, and gave Llewellyn a hand so the boy could climb up and sit behind the saddle. Llewellyn wrapped his arms around his cousin and held on tight while the horse canted lively and quickly toward the mansion.
Llewellyn laid his head against his cousin's back. "Missed you."
Galloway laughed. "You've written me six times since I saw you at last Solstice. I missed you too, Llewellyn."
Llewellyn hugged his cousin; the man knew what name to call him. He wondered if he could trust Galloway enough to tell the soldier about the faun.
All the way to the house, Llewellyn never let go.
* * *
An evening breeze fluttered the drapes beside Llewellyn's open bedroom window and drifted over the boy's nightshirt-clad body. Llewellyn shivered; the cool air felt so good after a hot, sweaty day. Outside the window, faint light still shone high in the sky above the trees around the mansion, although crickets had already started chirping and frogs had begun their nightly choruses. Llewellyn sat up in bed reading The Three Musketeers, a present Galloway had produced from his saddlebag that day and given to Llewellyn on the sly since he had brought presents for no one else. The book had been wrapped in stiff brown paper and tied with a crimson ribbon. Its pages smelled of tobacco, which made Llewellyn treasure the book all the more since it must have been Galloway's own copy he'd given to his cousin. So far, Llewellyn couldn't fathom why Galloway would ever part with such a fine and enjoyable book.
Llewellyn read by kerosene lamp. In cities like Port Cedryssene and Charles II Towne, homes were being lined for the newfangled alchemical lights. But for Archibald Sword, their bluish bulbs of captured lightning contained too much of the wizardry he believed came from his mythical devils and not from real wizards' alchemical formulas ("spells," the gruff man called them) required for the lights to function.
Llewellyn stopped reading but kept his eyes on the page. What else was his father afraid of? And how come his mother had never spoken a kind or sad word about the plight of the fauns working under the hot sun in the plantation's fields? And how come, Llewellyn asked himself, I never cared about the fauns before today?
Llewellyn looked up when he heard a knock against the door frame. Ko'ynn'ak stood timidly in the open doorway, trying to keep his eyes from making contact with Llewellyn's eyes.
"Hello, Master Sword," the faun said.
Llewellyn set down his book, forgetting to mark his page. He gestured for Ko'ynn'ak to enter and said, "Close the door."
The faun obeyed.
"Turn around," Llewellyn said, "and let me see the mark the overseer left on your back." The faun turned his back to Llewellyn, who tried not to gasp at the red and purple welt, and said, "Does it hurt much?"
"No, sir," Ko'ynn'ak said. "I've been beaten worse. I'm sure I deserved to be struck, sir. We're not allowed to stop our work for any reason."
"I spoke to you. Isn't that reason enough?"
Ko'ynn'ak faced Llewellyn again and said, "Beg pardon, sir. Not always."
"But I ... the overseer can't ... if I want to talk to you ... "
"You can do anything you want," the faun said. "You own me."
Llewellyn's face turned cold and he felt dizzy. "I, uh ... I didn't ... I don't think of you that way."
"I can never not think about it. Sir."
Llewellyn shook his head and felt like he was about to cry. "Come sit here, next to me."
"Please stop calling me that."
Ko'ynn'ak sat on the bed across from Llewellyn. He curled one fur-covered knee in front of him.
"Sir," the faun said, "and I am truly sorry. But if I should obey you now and then forget to call you 'sir' in front of anyone else ... I'll get whipped."
Llewellyn's shoulders shook from holding back grief and anger. "They won't beat you. I won't let them."
"What if they won't obey you ... sir?"
"I'll ... I'll persuade them! Convince them that it's wrong to hurt you and force you to work."
"Sir, if mere words worked, we would be free by now."
"But ... it isn't ... I can't ... "
"Why do you even care what happens to me ... sir?"
Without thinking, Llewellyn said, "Because you're beautiful." He shivered again, but not from the breeze. He wondered fearfully what he had just done.
Ko'ynn'ak looked away while his face flushed deep red. He lowered his head so his bushy hair hid his blush. "Thank you ... sir."
"Please ... don't say ... "
The faun raised his face and looked right at Llewellyn. "If I may be allowed ... to say ... "
"Yes. Go ahead."
"So are you. Sir."
Llewellyn laughed softly. "Really?"
"Yes ... si -- "
Llewellyn placed his right forefinger over Ko'ynn'ak's lips. "Stop that." He lowered his hand. "I'm Llewellyn. You are ... Ko'ynn'ak. Did I say it correctly?"
"Yes, si -- ... Llewellyn."
"Then it's true."
"What is true ... Llewellyn?"
"Since I was little ... I felt about my cousin Galloway like I feel about you. Only this is ... much more. I always wondered if I were the only one who felt that way."
The faun gave Llewellyn a timid smile. "You're not."
"You're so much like us. Fauns, I mean. Like humans."
"Sir, I ... sorry. Llewellyn. We are like you. We hurt and think and feel, just like you. We just look a little different."
"I can ... I think I can do something."
"Do ... what?"
"Father gives us children a stipend," Llewellyn said. "I can see how much he wants. Then I can buy you from him and set you free!"
The faun said nothing, but every trace of joy vanished from his face.
Llewellyn leaned forward; his eyes were wide and frightened. "Ko'ynn'ak?"
"No, sir. I'm your property."
"Not for very much long -- "
"I shouldn't be your property."
"But don't you see? You won't be anyone's property when I -- "
"I won't let you buy me!"
"What ... why not?"
"Not even for a minute!"
"It's not what you think."
"It doesn't matter! I don't want you to own me like that, not for even a minute! And I won't leave my family, anyway!'
Llewellyn sat back and began to cry. "It's ... but it's ... this isn't fair!"
"To which one of us, sir?"
"Both of us! You." Llewellyn sniffled. "Me. Everything."
"I would enjoy watching you tell your father the reason why you want to set me free."
"It's okay ... sir," Ko'ynn'ak said. "I always wished life were different for us. Tonight I wish I were free for a totally new reason."
Llewellyn wiped his eyes and looked up at the faun. "What reason?"
Ko'ynn'ak didn't answer and instead, he reached out for Llewellyn. Both boys pulled each other close and held on tight while they cried quietly on each other's shoulders.
* * *
After Ko'ynn'ak returned to his family in the slave quarters, Llewellyn couldn't sleep. He knew his cousin kept late hours, so he tiptoed down the hallway to the guest room. Light crept from under the closed door. Llewellyn stood in front of the door, sighed, and knocked.
"Enter," Galloway said, and Llewellyn opened the door. Galloway was seated near the window at a writing desk, working on a letter. He still wore his uniform but had removed the coat. On the desk beside the letter sat a kerosene lamp and an ashtray with an unlit pipe in it.
Galloway smiled at his cousin. "Can't sleep?"
Llewellyn nodded. "Who're you writing?"
Galloway set down his pen. "A friend." He used a blotter to dry the letter's wet ink. "At home in Port Cedryssene, you can deliver a letter across town by a mechanical robot; little contraption about the size of a Labrador. Steam powered. It takes the letter and rolls to the trolley lines, and then hops on the tracks and, zip! There goes your letter."
"I heard they have dragons in Port Cedryssene."
"That we do, cuz. In all the big cities. The greedy little gold-hoarders run our financial markets."
"In the Gryphon Lairs, north of the city." Galloway laid another sheet of paper over his letter, hiding it. "A thousand years ago ... damn. There used to be knights that rode on the backs of gryphons, through the air. The Gryphonwind, they were called." He sighed and smiled at Llewellyn. "Would've been a pretty spectacle to have been one of those fellas. Too bad we humans made the gryphons mad with all of our foolish wars. They won't have anything to do with us these days."
"Wow." Llewellyn pointed to the hidden letter. "Secret?"
"Ha-ha, don't I wish. No, something else besides a girl. Before long you'll be going to parties. Balls and cotillions. Meeting girls. Falling in love."
Llewellyn shrugged. "I suppose."
"Heh-heh. Don't like girls yet?"
Llewellyn lowered his face as it turned red.
Galloway reached for his pipe. "Come in. Close the door."
Llewellyn did. "Galloway?"
"Why does father not like you?"
Galloway leaned back in his chair and poured tobacco into his pipe from a leather pouch. "He'd be quite unhappy if I were to tell you."
"He won't find out."
"He might. Arch has ways of discovering people's secrets. I'm sure he's wondering about yours."
"Yes. The faun. Why did you send for him to come visit you tonight?"
"I, um ... er ... I didn't send for him. Saw him in the cotton fields today. I asked him to come see me."
"That might explain why the foreman came to see your father before supper. He was mighty upset about something."
"Mr. Stackpoole came to see Father?"
"Yes. Field slaves aren't ever allowed to enter the house, m'lad. You put that young faun at great risk having him come here. Surprised Arch even let him in."
"I had Ko'ynn'ak come in back, through the servants' entryway."
"Ko'ynn'ak, is it? You pronounce his name well." Galloway pointed to the bed. "Come, sit down."
Llewellyn came around to sit on the edge of the bed near Galloway, wondering how his cousin knew proper pronunciation in faun-speak. The boy's nightshirt ruffled in the breeze from the open window. "You saw the faun?"
Galloway tamped down tobacco in the bowl of his pipe. "Saw him leave. He'd been crying. You've been crying. With him."
"H-how do ... you ... "
Galloway leaned forward and took hold of Llewellyn's nightshirt collar. "Dirt. It was wet, but now it's dry. The field slaves do tend to be a bit dusty after a hard day's work." He let go of the collar and sat back. He lit a squib of paper in the lamp and touched the flame to his pipe bowl. He shook out the squib and dropped it in the ashtray. "Nice of you to comfort him while he cried. His shoulder was wet when he left. What were you boys upset about?"
Llewellyn's face turned fiery red, but the color faded when he realized his cousin wasn't teasing him.
"Galloway ... why do we ... how did we ever start ... do you think it's right that we own fauns the way we do?"
"Why, my little cousin is a heretic." Galloway drew deeply on his pipe and kept a sharp eye on Llewellyn. "The faun is your friend?"
"We just met today."
"Ah. I see." Galloway let his eyes follow pipe smoke to the ceiling. "And by evening you're crying in each other's arms."
Llewellyn held his breath, worried he had revealed too much and fearful of his cousin's reaction. "It's ... not what you think."
"Don't lie to me, cuz."
"Please don't tell father."
Galloway looked at the boy. "You think I would do that? Betray my favorite relative?"
"I ... uh ... "
Galloway laughed softly. "I see it in your eyes, cuz. You've got it bad."
"Got what bad?"
"You're in love."
Llewellyn turned red again.
"You keep blushing like that," Galloway said, "and I can save lamp oil and write my letter by the light of your face instead. Tell you what." He picked up his half-finished letter and handed it to Llewellyn. "We'll trade secrets. Read that. Breathe a word of what's in it to anyone, dear cousin, and I will tan your hide until next year."
Llewellyn took the letter. "I won't say a word."
"People could die for what's written there. Including me. Go ahead; read it. It won't bite. But in there is the reason why your daddy and I never discuss the slave trade or abolition over the table."
Llewellyn read the letter. "Who's Abai?"
"Friend of mine. Partner in what I do here on my trips down south."
Galloway shook his head. "Abai's parents are from Ethiopia."
"Oh." Llewellyn read more of the letter. "What's a Pyar ... Payer ... "
"P'jarin'te. Bird people from Southern Amer. Also partners of mine. Lots of them in Port Cedryssene. They live in trees. Big believers in our cause."
"Read, little cuz."
Llewellyn read further, and then looked up suddenly at his cousin. "You ... can't be."
"You're one of them? Father hates men like you."
"I'm blood, cuz. He can't turn his back on me. Might shoot me someday, I suppose."
Llewellyn looked at the letter with awestruck eyes. "The Freedom Track."
"You free slaves?"
"Under cover of night. We hit a plantation and take a few fauns, usually women and children. Get them north on ships or stowed away aboard zeppelins. Help them settle in the protectorates where slavery isn't allowed, like New York City and Port Cedryssene. Hey, don't cry on that!" Galloway snatched the letter from his cousin.
"Sorry." Llewellyn wiped his eyes. "I was just ... thinking. Wondering."
Galloway blotted two tears from his letter and leaned back to smoke again. "Yes, cuz?"
"Can you help my faun?"
"No! Not like ... like I own him ... that way."
"You mean the other way."
"Should have known you'd ask that." Galloway watched smoke curl up from his pipe. "Let me consider it, cuz. The Golden Horn is good cover for me. Gives me an excuse to travel south a lot. I make off with your daddy's fauns, he'll not only never allow me back here but he'd like as not get the King's Regiment in Charles II Towne to hunt me down."
"Still ... " The soldier smiled at the boy. "Never let it be said that Galloway Sword ever failed to do his all in the cause of true love."
Llewellyn leaped off the bed and practically tackled his cousin with a hug.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Galloway moved his pipe out of the way. "You're gonna get burning ash on the both of us, cuz!"
"Don't care. Thank you."
* * *
Under a hazy summer sun the next morning, Llewellyn carried two fishing poles out to the cotton fields. When he got there he stopped, pointed at Ko'ynn'ak, and said, "You!"
The faun looked up. "Yes, sir?"
"Leave your bag and come with me. I have a job for you."
Ko'ynn'ak handed his cotton bag to his mother working beside him, and crossed the rows to join Llewellyn.
Llewellyn felt giddy watching the faun move through the golden morning light, his hooves kicking up dust and a breeze ruffling his bushy hair around his horns.
"C'mon!" Llewellyn laughed and started to run.
The faun ran after him. "Where we going?"
"I don't know how!"
"Gonna teach you!" Llewellyn smiled over his shoulder at Ko'ynn'ak. "Friend."
Marden Felt watched the boys disappear into the woods, clenched his jaw, and went to go find the foreman.
* * *
Everything about Archibald Sword was big: big feet, big gut, big shoulders, and a very, very big head. But the biggest thing of all about the fifty-three-year-old master of the Golden Horn Plantation was his voice. When his son Llewellyn came home late that afternoon, grinning and dirty and with only a measly pair of fish to show for his efforts, Archibald's voice boomed across the plantation. As Galloway returned from riding, he knew before he reached the house what sort of trouble Llewellyn was in, having heard Archibald hollering at the boy all the way up the drive. Word of the fishing trip, Galloway discovered, had reached Archibald from the foreman.
Galloway entered the house and saw Llewellyn standing hunched over in the entrance hall. The forgotten fish dangled from the boy's left hand and the tip of his fishing pole scraped the marble floor. He had let Ko'ynn'ak keep the other fishing pole.
Archibald stopped hollering and looked at his nephew standing handsome and trim in dark brown slacks, a blue tunic, and riding boots.
"Don't you get involved in this, Galloway," Archibald said.
"They're just kids, Arch," Galloway said. "Let them have some fun."
"Fauns do not have fun when there is work to do." Archibald loomed over his son and said to him, "Do you understand what I said? I forbid this friendship. And you are to stay away from the field-fauns entirely, is that clear?"
Llewellyn sniffled. The day with Ko'ynn'ak had been so wonderful, with fishing and talking and climbing trees, and a sweet, tentative, joyous first kiss. And now this. "But Father, Ko'ynn'ak and I are -- "
"No, Lewin. It is not possible for you to be friends with an animal like that."
Galloway stepped toward his uncle. "Don't you think that's awfully harsh?"
Archibald turned to Galloway. "Listen, you meddlesome piece of horse manure. That uniform of yours protects you from my turning your thieving ass -- yes, I said thieving, you goddamned ruffian -- from turning you in to the court at Charles II Towne. But I'll be damned if I'll have your miserable ideas of fraternity and equality with those shiftless beasts working my fields to continue to influence and destroy Lewin's young mind here. You, sir, may clear out at any time. And do not feel you need to return. Ever."
Galloway grinned. "I knew this day would come, Arch."
"You're damned right it has."
Llewellyn mumbled out, "You can't make me."
Archibald looked to his son. "What did you say, young man?"
Llewellyn raised his head. His eyes were red and his usually gentle expression was contorted by anger. "You can't keep me from him, Father!"
"Your cousin? Well, I shall be damned to have my own son order me -- "
"Not Galloway," Llewellyn cried. "Ko'ynn'ak! You can't keep me away from him!"
"We'll just see about that, whelp! A young faun like him should fetch quite the price at the next auction."
"You won't sell him!"
Archibald slapped Llewellyn's face. Galloway reached for the man's arm, and Archibald shoved his hand away.
Llewellyn stood his ground, his tears flowing freely now. "You can't sell him! You won't because ... I love him!" He dropped his fish and fishing pole and ran off for the stairs.
Archibald said nothing. He let the hand he had used to hit his son fall slowly to his side.
Galloway placed a hand on his uncle's shoulder. "Arch, perhaps we'd better have a talk about -- "
"You." Archibald pushed away his nephew's hand. "Clear out by sundown."
* * *
Galloway stopped by Llewellyn's room before leaving. He set down his bags and held his cousin close while the boy cried.
"Not gonna let Father sell Ko'ynn'ak," Llewellyn said between sobs. "We'll run away tonight, Ko'ynn'ak and me."
"Listen to me," Galloway said. "I need a day to get things together. Tomorrow night. Get word to the fauns to be ready. It'll be up to you to create a diversion up here at the house."
Llewellyn nodded. Galloway picked up his bags and headed for the stairs. Halfway down, he heard Archibald across the entrance hall in his study. The big man was talking to Skipton Stackpoole, the foreman of the slaves. Galloway stopped and listened.
"You get them together, Skip," Archibald said. "That filthy little faun my son has ... taken a liking to. The faun and his family, tomorrow at noon. I want them whipped to within an inch of their lives."
"Be my pleasure, Arch," Skip said.
"Lewin," Archibald said, "will watch ... the entire ... proceeding. Understood?"
Galloway hurried back upstairs to Llewellyn's room.
"Change of plans," he told the boy. "We've run out of time."
* * *
The soldier left the plantation. Through the maid K'lyn, Llewellyn sent word to the field-fauns to get ready. Behind the house was an enormous old oak tree. At ten o'clock that night, Llewellyn was to sneak outside and set fire to the tree, providing cover for Galloway's raid on the slave quarters. The wind was blowing in the right direction to keep sparks from getting to the house. In the confusion, Llewellyn planned to slip away and meet Galloway and the freed slaves in the woods near the tributary where he liked to go fishing.
Near the appointed time, Llewellyn tiptoed down the stairs of the darkened house. The confrontation with his father that afternoon had left its emotional mark on the entire Sword family, and they had all retired early. Llewellyn carried a leather saddlebag filled with his belongings, including the book Galloway had given him, and a kerosene lamp with its flame turned down low, which he planned to use to set the tree on fire. At the bottom of the stairs he saw K'lyn peeking into the corridor from the door to the house-fauns' quarters. He nodded to her, and her horned head vanished behind the door, which she quietly closed. Llewellyn knew she was running to tell the field-fauns that it was time.
Llewellyn walked toward the rear of the house and entered the salon. The furniture and chandeliers appeared dead in the gloom. A wall of French doors led out to the back yard, where leaves in the huge oak shivered in the breeze. Llewellyn walked softly toward the doors, planning to exit through one of them. A voice rumbled out of the darkness and startled him. He almost dropped the lamp.
"Going somewhere?" Archibald said. "Turn up the light, boy."
Llewellyn adjusted the flame higher. His father's corpulent bulk came into view.
"Dressed for the road, I see," the man said. "With a bag. Going to see him?"
Llewellyn realized he was cringing, and he straightened out his shoulders. "Yes."
"Perhaps hit the road too, hmm? Head for Charles II Towne or maybe Atlanta?"
"I was ... just going down to ... talk to him."
"You'll do nothing of the sort," Archibald said. "I expect you to return to your room at once."
"Father, you don't under -- "
"Yes, I do understand, Lewin. Your life here has been too soft. I've been too involved with my work and with the plantation to insure that my boys receive a proper, manly upbringing. Your ease of life is turning you into ... an invert." Archibald made a face, as if the word smelled bad. "Tomorrow you will pack your belongings. I'm sending you to a military school where I hope some better quality of character can be forged from your ... current state of depravity. Before you leave, however, I have a bit of a surprise for you."
"I know about the surprise."
"Oh? Word travels quickly. Yes, Lewin, after the demonstration I have planned for you, your dear little ... friend ... won't seem quite so ... so ... "
Archibald took three steps toward Llewellyn and raised his right hand. The boy did not flinch. Archibald looked at the kerosene lamp held by his son, and lowered his hand.
"There will be no more such talk of perversion in this house," Archibald said, his voice made all the more terrifying by its unusually low volume. "You will be turned into a man at military school or, so help me God ... yes, so help me God; I suppose you've turned your back on him and thrown in your lot with the Darwinists and monkey-lovers, too. Either you become a man or ... I hope, should the abolitionists prod the northern protectorates into war against us ... that in such a war you valiantly give your life for our cause." He turned and left the room.
Llewellyn refused to let any tears fall; he was sick of crying. "Not perversion," he muttered to his absent father. "It's not." He set his eyes on the doorway through which his father had left. "Damn you, Father." Llewellyn looked out the latticed glass panes in the French doors, their silk drapes drawn open. He saw the shadow of the big oak against the fading dark blue of the summer night sky.
He would give Galloway a distraction, all right.
Llewellyn hurled the kerosene lamp into the corner of the room by the French doors. The kerosene exploded with a dull thump and a yellow-orange flash of fire. The flames caught and chewed their way hungrily up the drapes and wallpaper.
* * *
Llewellyn alerted the house-fauns and then ran upstairs to rouse his siblings. He said nothing to his father, knowing the man would hear the commotion and wake Llewellyn's mother. By the time everyone was safely out of the mansion, the structure was half-consumed by the roaring flames.
All eyes were on the house while fire clawed into the night sky, spitting sparks toward the heavens. Llewellyn slipped unseen out of the house on the side away from where everyone had gathered. The foreman and overseer ran up from the slave quarters, and griped that none of the field-fauns followed them to offer assistance. Llewellyn darted furtively into the woods with his saddlebag. Behind him, he heard his mother scream and call out his name.
He might have felt sorrow for her had she ever once expressed sadness for the plight of the fauns.
Llewellyn ran down to the tributary. All of the plantation's fauns were there, along with Galloway and several of his Freedom Track friends. Llewellyn saw two P'jarin'te at the edge of the crowd, their wings looking ghostly in the moonlight. When he found Ko'ynn'ak, both of them clutched each other tight without shame, for the fauns who watched them held no condemnation for the boys' love.
When Llewellyn let go of Ko'ynn'ak, Galloway grabbed his cousin's left arm and cried, "What in the hell did you do up there, boy?"
"What needed to be done," Llewellyn said. "Let go of me."
"Everyone get out of the house?"
Galloway released the boy's arm and gestured to a man standing next to him. "This is Abai, my main partner," he said to Llewellyn, and then said to Abai, "It was my letter to you that I let him read."
"Could have been dangerous," Abai said.
"Not with him. I knew his heart was in the right place."
Abai nodded, and shook hands with both Llewellyn and Ko'ynn'ak. "Both of you are gonna need a lot of guts to get through life in this mess of a world." He raised his hand and said to the fauns, "C'mon, everyone. We've got boats down on the Santee. Let's get moving."
Llewellyn's mother cried out again, this time in deep despair. Galloway said to Llewellyn, "She thinks you're still in the house?"
Galloway looked at his cousin for several moments while the fauns passed them, following Abai. The soldier nodded at the boy. "I'll never be able to come back here, cuz. The King in Charles II Towne will put a price on my head. But when you become a man ... if this work of ours is still necessary ... there's no better freer of slaves than a dead man. Let's go down to the boats, you two."
* * *
The fauns were transferred to a ship off the Carolina coast and taken to Port Cedryssene. There, in Northern Amer's most glittering and modern metropolis, Llewellyn lives with his cousin in an apartment overlooking the majestic city. Ko'ynn'ak and his family live nearby, but not in the best part of town. Fauns are not allowed to attend human schools, so every evening Llewellyn tutors Ko'ynn'ak from his own school lessons. Galloway sits on his balcony smoking his pipe and watches zeppelins fly toward the iron and glass terminal of Cedryssene Central Station. Against the purple sunset sky, Galloway sees orange bursts of dragonflame from young dragons playing and exercising. In the street four stories below, a family of P'jarin'te gathers around the tree where they live and whistle songs in their musical language.
The soldier hears Llewellyn and Ko'ynn'ak laugh together, and he sighs and draws deep on his pipe. "The winds are changing, my friends," he whispers to himself. "Yes ... they truly are."
Article © Cody Stanford. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-09-27