Just A Pretty Face
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)
This story was written as part of a round-robin several years ago. The concept was that there was a har named Alessi circulating a blank book around Fallsend so different hara could write out their life stories and/or spill their darkest secrets into it. The project lost steam but my two segments form a complete story, so I thought I’d might as well share it. I forgot to post it to my own fanfic site.
Summary: A har at rock bottom, given up on life after abuse by Varrs, is selling his body in Fallsend when a chance encounter changes everything.
Characters: Original Characters
Ratings & Warnings: R, for adult harrish content; angst; mention of physical, sexual abuse.
Spoilers: Fulfilments… but before Cal reached Immanion and Fallsend presumedly became a nicer place.
Note: I don’t know if the kind of procedure mentioned in this story is anatomically possible, but that was what I was thinking at the time. Just suspend your disbelief 🙂
Author email: email@example.com
Web site: http://www.metrogirl.com/procreation/
I have a pretty face but a pretty face can’t get you everything you want, especially if that’s all you have. Don’t think I’m saying I’m stupid, some empty-headed bauble. I’m not. I’m saying I have a pretty face. And that’s all. Everything else has been taken from me.
Originally I come from the Froia tribe, though that life is far behind me, locked in a room far away in a place I will never find again. I exist now and dreams alone are all that can really bring me back. I could never make it there now and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. I couldn’t face it. Not anymore.
Because I am Froia and people know that, they do not question my long robes with their long sleeves and hem down to my feet. They don’t question the gloves I wear on my hands or my high collar. To them I am only a strange shy creature, beaten down like many of here in Fallsend.
Other hara do not ask me questions, just as I ask none of them. Although it is painful for me that they do not know the truth, I know in my heart that the truth would be even worse.
I don’t want to face the truth, but in this book, writing for Allessi, I will do it. I am not speaking to any particular har, but to all hara, and it makes me think that for one moment I can drop away my robes and show myself for what I am – a pretty face and something more, or nothing more, depending.
If I lifted up the hem of my robe you would see it on my legs. If I pulled up my sleeves you would see it. If I untied my belt you would see it on my chest, my back, every part of me, except my face, such a pretty face.
Scars. Terrible, tangled scars like transparent vines, scars like carvings in the side of a tree, ropy scars, scars in the shape of circles or stars, long straight scars, purple blue scars and pink scars. A doctor would have a hard time working it out. They’d have to create a new medical dictionary for me. I’ve got every kind of scar, outside and inside.
I did not leave the Froia by choice. No, I certainly did not. I was with a branch of the tribe separated from the main branch and I was happy in my small part of the world, living in the magic swamps. I had a wonderful job, the best job you can have perhaps. I was a theruna for the court. Yes, that’s right, me, a theruna. A holy dancer. I was all that was desirable, capable of conjuring the highest kind of aruna magic. The music would possess me and I would possess and be possessed.
How things changed. One day the Varrs passed through our territory. They passed through often, but they left us alone. Not this time. No, this time they were seeking payment, seeking a plaything. I was taken. I fought but it did not help, I was not strong enough. Their force was greater than my magic.
I will not describe where and how I received my scars except to say they came in every way and they did not come by accident. I could not escape. I could not even dream of escape. I was kept like a dog, the kind of dog that’s left chained in the yard in all kinds of weather, starved and beaten. I never saw the outside, only the inside of tents and houses, wherever the army was encamped. They kept me and used me and they enjoyed it. My pain was like a tonic to them. They drank me up until there was nothing left, nothing but my pretty face.
I don’t know why they even left my face. I don’t know anything except one day, when they were through with me, they left me behind. It was only then that I realized all that they had taken. Before I had been in so much pain I’d retreated away from my body, its pain and blood and scars. Even during aruna – well, pelki really — I was there but not there. But now I realized. I was no longer har. They had castrated me.
I don’t know how I came to Fallsend. I stumbled. I did favors to others or more truly, I left others do with me as they wished. I am forever soume, forever and ever, and others take me. I don’t care about it anymore. I am in Fallsend and I let them have me. I make my money at a musenda, only I don’t work their full-time, only when there are special requests. Some hara do not mind me as I have my uses and I can accept what others will not. I don’t care, I just let it happen because I have no magic left and half of me is gone . I suppose I am in need of healing, but I can’t face it. I won’t. I will close my robes now, cover my arms, my legs, my body and my hideous glaring wound, long healed but so clear. I will duck back into the shadow and dream my dreams.
It’s been two weeks and I’m back. I didn’t think I would be. But I had to come back to this. Allessi was surprised, I think, since he read what I wrote and must have known how I felt afterward.
How I felt afterward actually had a big effect on why I’m back writing in this journal or whatever this is — this storybook, this confessional.
I was practically weeping when I finished it. I didn’t like even thinking about what I’d written about, and then to have not only done that but written it out — I wanted to vomit. I fled my little hole of a room and went into a lowlife bar, got drunk. What else is new? Nobody batted an eye at my tears, it’s just normal for Fallsend.
After a couple of hours I wasn’t so drunk. I’d cried out or drunk past most of my troubles. I was going to go get some dinner but then I realized I was pratically out of money, down to some coins. There wasn’t much in my room either. As if I hadn’t had a worse enough day, now it was time to cap it off by earning cash the only way I seemed to know how.
I didn’t bother cleaning myself up particularly, just slouched on over to one of my usual haunts, a musenda near the edge of town. Varga’s is not anything close to being high class and attracts a particularly debased clientelle. They’d have to be to deal with the likes of me.
Anyway, to skip to the heart of this story (I seem to be rambling!) I went up to the door and knocked. Ettak, the house’s sole servant, glared at me through the peakhole. “Nothing for you tonight,” he growled. I growled right back at him, asking to see Varga and hear it from him.
The door swung inward and naturally when I stepped inside, Ettak had gone. I flopped down in one of the skanky chairs and prepared to wait a while. In only a couple of minutes, however, Varga came down the stairs. “We’re working on a low season, Soren — what are you thinking coming by?” I looking at his pleadingly. He knew I only came in when I had to, for money. “Even when we’re doing well, we barely have anything for you,” he continued, exasperated. “There’s nobody tonight who–”
Just then Ettak pulled open the door, which we’d heard knocked but ignored, and Vargas stopped what he was saying. “Yes, Tiahaar, how may we help you?” I saw a fancy cloak and immediately looked away, not even bothering to listen to the low whispers. Nobody but the lowest clients ever seems to want me.
It was because of this that I was surprised when Varga stepped over to my chair. “Soren, go upstsairs to the usual room. This har will be up momentarily.”
I nodded and headed upstairs without even glancing back.
Two minutes later I was waiting in the room, facing the dresser pulling back my hood and lamely fixing my hair. When I heard the door open, all I said was, “Come in, get comfortable or whatever you want.” I still didn’t even look. Considering what hara usually did to me and how it felt, it wasn’t my practice to pay them a lot of attention.
There was a pause, as if the har were deciding what to do, and then he said, “Dance for me.”
This night was going to be even more humiliating than usual! No matter my previous profession or especially because of it, I didn’t dance.
“No, I don’t dance,” I said, inside praying the har wasn’t going to force me but knowing if he did, I’d have to do it. That was the way of things, after all.
A hand came down on my shoulder and squeezed firmly. “You do.” By now I was scared, my whole body tense.
I didn’t say anything, just shook my head in protest. The hand slid up and stroked the side of my head, fingers through my hair. My stomach clenched, expected something awful. I wouldn’t defend myself.
Nothing happened — nothing violent anyway. Instead, the hand just patted my shoulder. “Soren, look at me,” the har said.
I pulled away. No one knows my name here. I either don’t mention it or I make it up. Who had come for me here? I turned and stared at the har beside me. For the first time, I looked at his face.
“Yes, Soren, it’s me, Girrana.”
I recognized him at once, and yet I denied my own senses, stepping back and telling myself it couldn’t possibly be who I thought it was. It was a trick.
Girrana clenched his hands together in front, a pleading gesture. “I was in a bar tonight and I saw a Froia har come in with wet, crying eyes, seemingly hopeless. I recognized him.”
This was the har who had been my protector within my tribe. He and another har, Terrana, had battled against the Varrs when they tore me out of our settlement. How could I forget his face when he was the last friend I ever saw?
Despite all this, I wasn’t about to fly into his arms for a happy reunion. “You followed me here.”
He didn’t deny it. “I had to. Soren, you need help.”
Some vestige of pride kicked in at that moment and I straightened out of my slouch. “What makes you think that? I’ve been on my own for some time now.”
Girrana shook his head. “I asked after you, the hara there. They told me you’ve been–”
“And so what?” I asked bitterly. “So the whole bar knows my business? I’m sure they’ve told you the whole sordid story. Why are you here?” It was so unusual for anyone to care about me, I rejected him out of hand.
Girrana’s hands dropped to his sides. “I didn’t hear much, Soren. They only told me you were a prisoner of war, that you’re… scarred.” He gulped and pity overcame him. “Soren, of any of us, why did they have to take you? You were so beautiful. What did they do to you?”
Losing my patience, I marched over to the bed and flopped down. “Just shut up. Read this.” From inside my robe I took out Allessi’s journal, which I’d taken with me, afraid it would get stolen from my pitiful room. Flipping to my page, I laid it open and pointed.
He stepped over to the other side of the bed and cautiously sitting down on the edge, pulled the book towards him. Wordlessly, he read over the account I had put out in a shaky hand. His hand went to his mouth after only a few sentences.
Finally the book was closed and Girrana still didn’t speak, probably because it was unspeakable. It seemed incredible to me suddenly, that not only had I consented to write out my account, but that now I had shared it with someone I had known. Was there some force working to make me face everything all at once?
“I don’t know what to say,” Girrana said at last. “I do, however, know what to do.”
A bitter laugh escaped my lips. “Oh, and what’s that?”
“Well, for one thing, I’d like to heal you.” His eyes were deep blue as he looked on me with utmost sincerity. “I’ve had a lot of training, Soren, and I think I could help you. You haven’t been to any healing, have you?”
I was confused, so utterly unused to anyone caring I didn’t know how to cope. I undid the clasp at my neck and threw off my upper robe. “Do it look like it?” I hissed. In the wan light of the pathetic musenda room, my skin looked even more ropy and discolored than usual.
Girrana looked at me without comment. He didn’t even cringe at the scars. Strange. “Aren’t you going to say something?” I asked.
He shook his head vaguely. “I don’t know what I can say. I knew you body before. I… can’t believe what they did to it.”
Maybe it was the liquor I’d had or that I was tired or that, to be honest, I’m pretty used to debasing myself, but at that point I simply flopped myself back on the bed and wriggled out of the rest of my clothes. “Here, have a look my precious ‘body.'”
“I will,” Girrana said, “but I want you to know I’m sincere. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m sure you can’t believe that from anyhar anymore, but it’s true.”
I closed my eyes. Girrana is a good har. I didn’t want to remember, but unbidden, I recalled a night when he and I had been joined in holy ceremony. He was a warrior and I had come to him in the dance. Before a crowd, I had been naked but utterly beautiful. Now a crowd of one was enough to shame me.
For some minutes Girrana examined me, lightly touching me to feel the scars, raising up my arms and legs. Presumedly he was assessing what could be healed. Suddenly he said, “Soren, there is one last thing I want to look at.” I sighed and spread my legs. This was what I had been making my money doing most of my life, happily or not, so I complied. “I’m going to have to touch you, to see,” Girrana whispered. “I’m sorry, I just…” His words trailed off. I turned off my brain and refused to think about what was happening.
Girrana was poking me more than I had expected him to. I didn’t know what he could be looking for. As far as I was concerned there wasn’t much left down there. Then he poked and it was painful, hurting something inside me. Then he did it again. And again. “Girrana!” I shouted, opening my eyes and sitting up. “Stop it!”
He stared at me, hand still outstretched. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you but… I… Soren, there’s something you should know.”
“What? You think there’s something I don’t know? Things aren’t right down there? I’ve been made into a woman?” I was full of scorn. “Yes, I know that. You should have known that, too. No use squeezing me like that, poking me.”
“I’m sorry,” Girrana said again, “but there’s really something you should know. Really, Soren, this is very important.” I waited, still propped up on my arms. Girrana looked away from my eyes and down between my legs. “You haven’t been castrated,” he said, his voice quite but firm.
The instant I opened my mouth to protest he cut me off. “I know you will disagree, but I looked at it closely and in the scars, I noticed something. It didn’t seem there had been any main cut, the sort of cuts you’d expect. There were scars, there had been something done there, but it didn’t look right. That’s why I poked you. Soren, everything is there, they just sewed it up inside you.”
“What!” I shouted and jerked myself off the bed. “What! What!”
“At some point you became soume and they must have fixed you that way permanently, sewing you up, some sort of surgery. Lots of scarring obscured this. I felt around and it’s obvious there is something in the cavity. You didn’t feel any pain?”
I was flabbergasted. “Didn’t feel any pain? Of course I did. I feel pain all the time, especially down there. It’s very uncomfortable. But I wasn’t expecting it to be comfortable. I woke up from being drugged and tortured for months and I’d been castrated. Aruna hasn’t been the same since! It’s been tortuous. I always feel–” I stopped myself, for suddenly I realized Girrana could be right. “I often feel this pain like my flesh is going to burst open. It must be…”
I looked to Girrana, who nodded. “It’s there, the ouana-lim is trying to raise itself. Now we just have to get it out.”
He couldn’t do it himself, of course not, he explained, but a surgeon could do it. He knew someone in the city who would do it and he had the money. Would I accept his help? Ha! I agreed.
After that we talked for a long time. We slept together, quite chastely, and in the morning he paid Varga. We went to the surgeon for a consultation.
We had to wait a few hours, but fortunately the surgeon considered my case urgent. Girrana came into the room with me and helped the surgeon by putting me into a trance, giving me a way of not feeling the knife. I woke up later in a bed, my groin swaddled in bandages. Girrana was in the chair beside me. “How are you?” he asked.
I smiled at him, knowing at once from his face that the surgery had been successful. “I feel like I’ve just gone through the althaia… or I’m still going through it.”
“The doctor says you’ll heal quickly and with the medicines he’s given you, the scars shouldn’t be a problem. Then after that… well, it could be like after your althaia.”
That was two weeks ago. Last night Girrana and I tested out the doctor’s prognosis. It seems I’m no longer half a har. I’m still scarred all over, but walking around with Girrana, I don’t hide it. If anyone stares, that is there problem, not mine.
In a few days, Girrana is taking me back to our tribe. He left some time ago to see the world but he would like to return. He says they will find a place for me. We have good healers. I coudn’t have made it back on my own, but with Girrana’s help I will.
I might even dance again. At least for him. He did ask me that at Varga’s, after all. I owe him a lot.