“This is a place of hope and enlightenment.”
“What do you think you are doing!?” I rush over to my house, but the damage is already done. The wall is caved in, revealing the kitchen. As I watch, the damaged part of the house crumbles and a small cloud of dust is sent outwards.
Klein turns around, a smug expression on his face. “We are getting rid of the disgrace which you call a house!”
My eyes wander to the other workers, who are clearly in on the plan. Wilhelm, who stands next to Klein, has at least the decency to look guilty. Wilhelm gestures at my house. “Please understand. You are the leader of our community! We can’t have you stay in such a shack! Think about how that reflects on us.”
I cross my arms in front of my chest. “How that reflects on you!?”
He nods. “Yes! How will others see our community if we can’t even provide our liege lord with respectable quarters. It wouldn’t shame just you, but also us! Especially since you are a woman without-”
“Without what!?” I interrupt him. “There are some important things in that house!”
Behind me, someone clears his throat, so I turn around. It’s Tristen, Brian, Fae and Kiara. Fae raises her hand. “We already relocated all of your belongings to your new quarters.” She points at the large building which the workers built at the back of the island. It has five levels and blends in perfectly with the oval shape of the island. Klein’s men have been doing extraordinary work in the past two months.
We gathered huge amounts of bertrandite and I began synthesising aquamarine, which allowed me to create additional power cores. I had to do this in a newly created facility beneath the garden. Nobody but me knows that the island is powered by power stones.
The additional calculating capacity allowed me to refine the manufacturing process, which brought a big lead in the island’s capabilities. I ripped additional rocks and earth out of the ground to add to my base of operations.
The island is now five hundred metres long and two hundred and fifty wide. A ring of raw materials is spinning around it, mostly bertrandite from the mine below us. After we chased the insects away, we found out that the little hill next to the facility was composed solely of bertrandite ore.
I immediately started the process of refining the stuff. For that purpose, I used the island’s force magic to hover large amounts of the stuff in the air. Then I used a light spell to focus energy on the ore in order to melt it down. The process wasn’t very effective, so I ended up with large amounts of waste products. The workers didn’t say no to the slag and simply used the stuff as building bricks.
There are also two hollow spheres of glass with a diameter of a hundred metres each. They are attached to the sides of the island, so the people can go swimming if they want to. The silicon used to build them was a waste product from refining the beryllium which I needed. I didn’t want to waste perfectly clear glass. In the future, I intend to turn them into glass houses, but for now they are additional water tanks.
Another change is the stone balustrade which grew around the island. There are short watchtowers added to it, distanced exactly twenty metres from each other. The rest of the island was turned into a park area. All the important facilities like living areas and manufacturing are on underground levels.
“Your new quarters are at the top floor to give you the best view,” Klein bows to me.
I look around. “You. All of you are in on this!? I like the house!”
Kiara nods and scratches her cheek. “We know that. That’s why we had to damage the house for you to give it up. You can gather all of your secret stuff and transfer it to your new quarters.”
I raise my fist, but Tristen stops me. “Just think of it! You are the lord of this place. If you invite someone of equal standing into that house, he won’t respect you. Or worse, they’ll think that you want to insult them.”
“You guys, you are walking a dangerous path.” I lower my fist. Their arguments have at least some merit. “I liked the house.”
Klein clears his throat. “I made sure that your private quarters are equally bland, Mistress.”
“Thanks.” I cover my eyes with a hand and try to collect my thoughts, then I gesture for the others to follow me. I have to retrieve my stuff from the secret stash inside my workshop. “You guys are hereby conscripted to carry my stuff, since you destroyed my house.”
It takes only half an hour to carry everything to my new quarters. They are located above the ‘office’ which Klein planned to conduct official business. Though, the office is large and luxurious enough to equal a throne room. It’ll be no problem to invite scores of people to a meeting.
I study the complicated web of patterns on each tile. “It’s fascinating that you managed all this in just two months. Though, we also used a lot of magic.”
Klein nods. The architect followed us to my office. Wilhelm stayed behind to oversee the destruction of my house. “If we were doing it the normal way, it would’ve taken us much longer. Your spacial magic allows us to circumvent some issues of normal construction work. Rooms can be much larger on the inside, so most of our work revolves around decoration. I decided to finish the public part of the palace first. Many other areas are still raw and unfinished. It’ll take months to take care of that.”
I nod and place my arms behind my back. “Don’t you think that it’s a little extreme to call it a palace? The building covers just the last two hundred metres of the island’s length.”
Klein snorts. “That may be the case, but your spacial magic makes it large enough on the inside to rival any real palace. I am only worried about the outside. Someone of your power needs to show her wealth. Can’t you give those two huge glass-balls a diamond cut? It would awe other nobles if your flying island sparkles from far away.”
I sigh and shake my head. “I am afraid that it’s not possible. I took great care not to give them a form which can focus the light. Otherwise there would be a possibility of igniting dry stuff below us. I don’t want to be responsible for setting a city on fire.” At least not by accident.
Tristen decides to interrupt us. “Ah, there is one other thing. The people think that we shouldn’t call this place just ‘the island’. It needs an official name.”
“I’ll think of something,” I answer.
The large door to my office opens and Elma enters together with Wilhelm. For some reason the both of them look very serious. I turn towards them. “Is something wrong?”
Elma steps forward and bows. “Mistress, something happened and we need your authority to resolve the problem.”
Wilhelm gestures for his wife to stop. “Don’t. I am sure that we don’t have to involve our employer in this ugly business. She has other problems.”
Elma elbows her husband. “I have looked away for far too long! The rumours had been around for weeks. Now that we have proof, I can’t keep my mouth shut! Joyce is a righteous person with a lot of character and ideals. I am sure that she wouldn’t want to employ a person like that, or have us look away when it’s that obvious!”
I raise a hand with my palm out to stop them. “I am grateful that you think so highly of me, but maybe you could explain the problem?”
Elma returns her attention to me and bows. “To my shame, I must say that it’s about one of our workers and one of the children.”
“She isn’t a child, she’s seventeen,” Wilhelm interjects.
His wife kicks him, fury in her expression. “That doesn’t make it any better!” She looks at me. “Pasley, one of our workers, raped Taina. She is the daughter of another worker, so she doesn’t have a direct contract with you. Apparently, it had been going on for quite a while. But this morning he hit her and was caught by one of the women as he tried to pull her into his abode. We called for help and the men separated them.”
I use my index finger massage my temple. “I see.”
Normally, there would be a noble or a city council to issue justice. But I brought these people out here, where they have no city guards who would take care of such things. And my contract with them makes them something akin to better serfs. I am responsible for their actions and their work environment. It’s the way things are handled in this world.
A memory of Nemus resurfaces. He is lying on top of me, a knife in his hand. I feel the burning cut on my cheek. With the other hand he chokes me, getting off on my pain. The sick man always loved to hurt his playthings. In the past, more than one dead slave was silently carried out of his quarters. That was before he started taking an interest in me. Most sex toys didn’t last long, so I expected to be the next pale body they throw onto the pile of trash behind his tower.
But for some reason he always held back with me. He'd bring me just close enough to the door of death that I could be pulled back. He also paid a lot of money to healers, just to keep me in pristine condition, as he prefers to call it.
I often thought about killing myself, but dying doesn’t come without a price for people like me. I am not sure of the exact reason, but a soul seems to strengthen with the length of its lifetimes. The longer a life, the more memories I can carry on to the next one. It would seriously suck to die at a young age.
There are some memories I simply don’t want to lose. Loved ones, friends, knowledge.
“M- M- Mistress, I am sorry if I have offended you with our problems.” Elma looks at the ground.
Fae touches my shoulder. “Are you okay? Your expression just now was… terrifying.”
I smile, but I know that the expression is just a mask. “It’s okay. Elma, I am glad that you informed me of what’s going on. There are some things I won’t tolerate on my island. This place is supposed to be a light of hope and enlightenment, so I can’t tolerate having one of my citizens live in pain. Please guide me to Taina.”
We leave the ‘palace’ and Elma guides us to Taina’s quarters. When she knocks on the door, we are greeted by Taina’s parents. They look a little too awed when they realize that I am paying them a personal visit. Only Elma and I enter, while the others stay outside.
I listen to their version of the story, which is told in a more enraged manner, but it’s basically the same as Elma’s. I get to meet Taina at the kitchen table and remember her as one of the youths who took my test. She has a decent amount of power, but I didn’t take her as a student because she is a little too old to be taught easily.
“Hello, Taina,” I greet her and sit down on the other side of the table. She has a black eye and a cut above it. Someone took care of the bleeding.
“Mistress!” The girl pales when she recognizes me and I have to stop her from standing up.
“I am not good at this, so I’ll try to make it short. Are you willing to talk about what happened?” I ask.
She eyes me with a distressed expression. “Do I have to?”
I shrug. “You don’t have to, but it will be easier for me to make a decision. A judge should hear both parties. We can send the others outside if you don’t want them to hear it.”
Taina looks at the wall.
I point at her eye. “Why hasn’t a healer taken a look at you?”
“They have. It will heal.” Taina dismisses the question with a gesture.
I raise an eyebrow. “Then why are you still injured?”
Everyone in the room looks puzzled. It’s Elma who explains. “Mistress, healers who know strong healing magic are expensive and hard to find. Most people of our standing never get to see one.”
“Ah. I see.” I stand up and walk over to Taina’s side of the table. “I am sorry. It seems like I have forgotten about a hospital for this place. Aside from teachers, we’ll pick up some healers when we visit the next big city. At least one who can cast basic healing spells. Hold still.”
I touch Taina’s temple and cast a healing spell. It takes a minute of my concentration, then the girl is as good as new. She is still touching her face in surprise when I retake my seat. “So, would you be willing to tell me the story under the influence of a basic truth spell? I promise not to talk about any of it.”
It takes a moment, but then she nods. I take her hand and infuse my mana into her body. This is a crude method, but since she is untrained there is almost no chance that she is able to resist me. Then she starts her story.
A month ago, Pasley started to make advances on her. She refused him, but he was persistent. One day they ended up alone and he forced himself on her. From then on, he searched for possibilities to be alone with her, using force, or blackmail. A young woman can lose her honour if she beds a man before marriage. Everything ended today in the morning when he tried to drag her away and she resisted in public.
When it’s clear that she has nothing more to say, I nod. “What do you want to do if you are pregnant?”
Her expression turns horrified. Even her parents look shocked. Apparently the thought of consequences didn’t occur to them. I clear my throat. “If you want me to, I can take care of it.”
I end up giving her the full healing treatment and solving the little issue inside her belly. I am sure that some religions and cultures would crucify me for it, but luckily the people of this world aren’t like that.
It’s stupid to have a child when the parents clearly aren’t ready for it. Or worse, if the child isn’t wanted. There are so many stories of brave women who keep the child because they love it with all their heart. But in reality these stories are total bullshit. The women keep the child because they don’t have the possibility to undo the pregnancy and the kid often ends up as and eternal reminder of the rape.
After enduring a lot of bowing from the family, Elma and I leave their quarters. I didn’t realize it, but we must have spent over two hours with them. Unexpectedly, the others were patiently waiting in front of the family’s quarters. Elma turns to me. “What are you going to do?”
I scratch my arm and try to think. Whatever I do, it’ll be an example of how I want to run this place. I realize that everyone is looking at me. “I would like for everyone to assemble immediately in the park. There is nothing that’s more important. This is an assembly of the whole community.” I gesture at the door behind me. “But leave them out of it. The girl doesn’t need to be present.”
Wilhelm nods and walks down the corridor, calling out to everyone that they have to assemble on top of the island.
I address Elma, “Now we go to see Pasley.”
We encounter three burly men in front of Pasley’s quarters. They are supposed to keep him confined, since we don’t have a prison. Unfortunately we’ll need one if the island’s population continues to grow. One of them tries to stop me when I reach for the door. “Sorry, Ma’am, but the guy is violent. Don’t go in there alone. He was trashing his furniture until an hour ago.”
I smile. “Then come inside with me and protect me.”
They take the lead and I follow them. Pasley was indeed busy. I can’t identify a single chair or table which isn’t trashed. We find him in a corner of his living room with a bottle of alcohol in his hand. He smiles when he sees me. “Oh, the Mistress, what did Taina tell you? Are you going to make me pay?”
I purse my lips and study the large man, maybe twenty five years old. He looks strong and I remember him as one of the workers who were carrying the large logs. So he must have a strength ability at the very least. “I am only here to hear your side of the story.”
He raises an eyebrow. “She seduced me, told me that she loves me. We wanted to marry. The little whore! Then, suddenly, I am not good enough! Too old for her. I lost it. Probably, I shouldn’t have hit her.”
“Okay, are you willing to tell me the whole story under the influence of a truth spell? You just have to give me your hand.” I explain.
He furrows his forehead and studies me. The little gears inside his pea-sized brain are probably working overtime. “Sure.” He puts the bottle down and gets up. He smiles and even offers me his hand.
“Thanks. That will make things so much easier.” I push the large man who was worried about me to the side and approach Pasley. I really have to hire some skilled guards for the island. Pasley is a perfect candidate for a hostage situation and the men allow me to come close to the rapist.
Just as I step into Pasley’s reach, he snatches my hand and yanks me towards him. I pull back my hand, resisting his attempt. Simultaneously, I raise my knee and smash it into his groin.
Pasley goes down with a stupid expression plastered on his face. I peel his hand off my wrist and turn around, pulling him with me. The three workers step aside, shocked. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them. They are workers, not trained guards or soldiers.
But there is someone else who can be blamed. “Brian! Stop that stupid grin of yours! Aren’t you supposed to guard me?” The adventurer had followed me into the room and watched silently as I approached Pasley by myself.
He shrugs and follows me. “I don’t think that a measly peasant is a threat to you. You can beat up werewolves in unarmed combat. Is it one of your trade skills to go for a man’s nuts?”
“It’s the easiest way to incapacitate men! There is no reason not to use it,” I answer and pull Pasley down the corridor.
“She did it again!?” Fae asks with an astounded voice. She wasn’t inside Pasley’s apartment and only saw me pulling him outside.
“Yes. Fae, be so nice and get me basic travel gear,” I instruct as I walk up the ramp and into the garden area.
There is already a huge crowd, so I decide to use the island’s magic to amplify our voices. I created the function when I realized that, at some point, I will have to hold speeches. “Ahem, test, test. I am Joyce, your employer. I am sure that many of you already know why we are here. It’s about the accusation that Pasley raped someone. And just now, he tried to attack me when I gave him the chance to defend his position under the influence of a truth spell.”
Some people gasp, but I ignore them and continue. “We are here to hear his perspective.” I pull the whimpering man to his knees and use force magic to hold him in place. Then I use my fingernail to scratch a basic truth sigil into his forehead. He screams a little, but I don’t care. It takes just a few cuts with my fingernail and the infusion of magic to cast the spell.
“Bitch! That hurts! I’ll tell the authorities about your actions! Damned whore...”
I ignore his very inventive curses and step back when I am done. “Just to explain what I did. This is a truth sigil. It forces the target to answer my questions and hurts really bad when he lies.”
He glares at me, panting. Having learned of his mistakes, he says nothing.
I return my attention to Pasley. “I am just a free citizen, like you or any other adventurer, so I don’t think that I can cut off your dick, or sentence you to death. Though, the contract with my employees makes me responsible for you.” I clap my hands together. “Could you tell me the colour of the sky?”
“Do you have family?”
“A cousin in Sawood. Nobody else.”
“Did you like hurting and raping Taina?”
“No-” The sigil on his forehead flares up and he screams. I smell burned flesh. “I did! The little bitch had it coming! Always swinging her hips in front of everyone! I liked it when she squealed.” The sigil stops glowing and Pasley is left groaning with pain. My force magic is still holding him in place.
“So you were aware that you forced her and that she didn’t like what you did to her?”
He nods. “Yes.”
I use force magic to lift myself three metres above ground, so that everyone can see me. “Let me explain something. I really despise any form of murder, slavery, rape or blackmail. Basically, anything which robs a person of his or her own free will. If I were a noble and in charge of my principality’s law, then I would execute this guy on the spot.”
I spread my hands. “But he is lucky! At the moment, I am just a free citizen! The only thing I can do, is to fire him, which I hereby do. And don’t misunderstand, if anyone comes to me with a similar problem, the offender is off this island faster than you can blink. This place is a work in progress and I should have informed all of you of the basic rules. I’ll catch up on that as soon as possible and assign someone to inform me of problems. Just go to Elma if you think that someone is violating basic rights, or morals. We are all adults, aren’t we?”
I notice Fae returning, she has a heavy backpack in her hands. “Ah, Fae! Just give him the backpack with the travel equipment.” I reach into my pocket and drop two pieces of gold in front of Pasley. “Here, as the contract says, I have to pay you two gold in case of ending the contract by firing you. That’s more than you’ll earn in a year.” I release the force magic which is holding him.
He looks at me with wide eyes. “You're just letting me go? Just like that? I attacked you.” He takes the backpack and scrambles for the two pieces of gold.
I smile and tilt my head, looking down at him. “I am not resentful. Just a law abiding person who doesn’t want scum like you on my property. Have fun on your journey back home. The next town is in that direction.” I point northwards, not that it matters. Sliding my finger through the air, I instruct the island to lift him up and place him on the mine below us.
“No! Wait! You're throwing me out right here!? Why not at the next...” His voice fades out as his body disappears over the edge of the island.
Tristen grumbles, “I didn’t expect that you would let the asshole go just like that! You could’ve at least punished him some more for attacking you. Nobody would have said something against a few good punches.”
Elma also doesn’t look satisfied with my judgement.
I lower myself back to the ground and shrug. “Oh, please. How far do you think will he get? The mine beneath us is infested with those creepy bugs and we are at least a hundred kilometres from the next town. He will never make it. Exiling him right here and now was a death sentence.”
Fae coughs, “Your voice amplification is still active.”