“Don’t you like gifts?” The Master gave Billy a sad smile. Billy’s hand trembled as it hovered above the wide, glittering bow. His thick makeup and billowing hair did not hide his trepidation. Gifts from the Masters were always treacherous. Two edge swords that brought forth a single wish at the cost of a greater dream. All anyone dreamed of these days was freedom. How far would this gift drag him from freedom? Billy clenched his chiseled abs to stifle a sob. The master’s eyes drank in Billy’s misery, gleaming.
“They are lovely, Master Falsaine,” Billy answered brightly. “I look forward to your generosity.”
“You don’t seem to like it,” Master Falsaine grabbed a handful of Billy’s silky hair. “Perhaps you’d rather not receive anything at all?”
“I-I was overwhelmed by your continued kindness,” Billy said. Falsain’s face turned green with anger. Billy panicked, but continued rather smoothly, “To one as useless as I.” In truth, he could not risk losing favor as he had risen too far in the bauble house to be accepted back in the village.
“Yes, very good.” the master murmured, stroking Billy’s head. “I am the only one who loves you. There is nowhere to go.”
“Thank you, Master Falsaine.” Billy bowed his head. His wages at the bauble house went directly to the monastery where his sister, Isayah studied. In time, the girl would move on to the City, find good work, and pull the whole family out of poverty. Everyone but Billy. The stigma of the bauble house did not wash away. The elaborate hair implants and bone modifications ensured he could never hide his past.
“It’s worth it,” Billy took comfort knowing that no one else in his family would ever have to serve fiendish Masters of the bauble house. He steeled himself and gleefully tore open the gift.
Isayah’s severed head rested on a frame of rich walnut.
Billy’s anguished scream drowned beneath Falsaine’s cruel howl of laughter.