Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Diana Wynne Jones, et al. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Written for shewhoguards for Yuletide 2010. This story was disturbingly easy to write; I hope that doesn't say unfortunate things about me. Anyway, this is my best guess at answering shewhoguards's questions about Reigner One and Mordion's family backstory. It kind of had to be ugly.

Summary: Orm Pender bred Martellian's descendants into Servants for a thousand years. He was quite practiced by the end.

Served Cold

It was always convenient when more than one child survived the training. That way one could be the Servant while the others could be kept in reserve against mischance or a break in the Servant's conditioning. In the meantime, they served as a ready source of amusement and, of course, breeding stock. Orm Pender kept genetic samples in storage and there were always a few families that could stand to lose a daughter to artificial insemination - a handy reminder of who held their leashes - but it was so much more satisfying to force living, breathing adults to copulate, then tear their children away.

The Servants and their breeding partners were all Martellian's descendants, Orm's political enemies, or both, after all.

Orm was enjoying his extended revenge to the hilt. He intended to continue enjoying it for as long as anti-age treatments could be made to hold out, which Reigner Five's computers and pet scientists assured him should be at least another thousand years.

It was hard to tell which children had been most interesting to break over the centuries. Each child was special in his or her own particular way: the ones who always fought and hated him even in the last recesses of independent thought; the ones who always loved him and accepted pain as signs of affection; the ones who broke, knew they were broken, and writhed in misdirected guilt; the ones who broke and rewrote their own minds to correct the errors of their pasts; the ones who simply twisted to redirect their pain onto everyone else they dealt with; the ones... but enough of details. Suffice it to say they were delicious in their infinite variety.

The variety continued when they were grown. Orm planned his breeding programs accordingly. If a Servant (or a spare) loved him, Orm forced them to breed with a stranger, then made them aware that he had not approved of the match. If a Servant hated him, Orm would often watch the fumbling, drug-induced attempts at sex, or, if the Servant in question was female, take on the task himself.

There was something poetic about using his own body and blood as a weapon against Martellian, however little Martellian would ever know of Orm's actions now that he was safely tucked away in a stass tomb on Earth, his remaining powers locked down by the passive influence of the Bannus. Orm liked the symmetry of using one enemy to destroy another.

Perhaps it would be safer to kill Martellian outright, but then there would be no point in continued revenge and Orm had yet to tire of revenge. So Martellian would live another thousand years and his children would suffer unto infinite generations.

The last generation had produced three usable candidates: two female, one male. Orm named one of the women as the Reigners' Servant. Her first order was to kill her predecessor, as per usual. Patricide was always fascinating to watch, whether either party knew about the relationship or not. In the first case, there was the prospect of informing the survivor of her new guilt. In the second, there was the thrill of knowing his power over Martellian's descendants was absolute enough to override the family bonds his infuriating cousin had cared so much about.

The new Servant was unaware of the connection, and crumpled inwardly when Orm explained the relationship and something of her family history. She could read between the lines (and read his attitude toward her) well enough to guess that he was also part of that family, and that thought plainly horrified her.

Orm decided to breed her himself in a decade or so, when that despair and revulsion had matured and become her constant companion. But for now, she was more valuable as his emissary to the far-flung outposts of his organization, so he left her untouched save for carefully tinted words and an occasional heavy hand on the nape of her neck. She couldn't yet control her shiver at the touch. That never failed to make him smile.

The Servant's potential replacements remained in the room where they had been raised and trained. To pass the time, Orm began to guide them into a sexual relationship with each other. They were cousins rather than siblings - the previous generation had also produced two candidates, whom Orm had bred at the same time in the same room, to the fairest and foulest daughters of the other Homeworld merchant Houses he could produce on short notice - but they had been raised as brother and sister, and Orm was curious to see if his conditioning could overcome the learned sexual indifference siblings generally displayed toward each other.

The answer was yes, given enough time and the correct means of persuasion. This was fortunate, as less than ten days after he confirmed that his experiment had been successful, the Servant broke her conditioning enough to arrange a long distance portal malfunction by way of suicide. She was nearly good enough to disguise it as an accident, but Orm knew the signs of attempted escape and Five's instruments confirmed tampering in the portal's control panel.

Orm named the male replacement as the Servant and had the standard drug regime administered to the female spare. They were allowed one last night together before the new Servant began his work. They spent it predictably.

Orm promised that when the Servant was on Homeworld and not occupied with tasks for the other four Reigners, he could spend his free hours with his replacement. The two realized quickly that the woman was pregnant. It took them longer to realize there might be complications, but a litter the size the fertility drug regime generally produced couldn't be concealed forever.

They debated asking Orm for help. The Servant was one of the ones who were born submissive; he argued in favor. The woman was one of the ones who hated and fought; she refused. Her will was stronger than his - one reason Orm had passed over her twice when choosing the next Servant - and she won the argument.

Orm avoided their room for nearly two months, simply listening from spy devices placed out of sight outside the door and down the hall where the woman couldn't find and destroy them and the Servant wouldn't think to look. He was amused to realize that the woman was plotting escape. There was no way she could leave the House of Balance at the best of times, which she had known in prior years, but pregnancy had made her either desperate or foolish - perhaps both - and she was close to talking the Servant into bending his conditioning enough to try smuggling her to freedom.

Orm let their delusion continue for another week before he knocked on their door. He smiled, stroked his beard, asked after the woman's health, and expressed his hope for the safe delivery of her children. Then he beckoned the Servant away.

As they left, robots removed the woman from the room. She kicked and screamed and attempted to bite out her tongue and drown in her own blood, but the robots had permission to drug her into a coma. The Servant never dared to turn and watch.

The robots took the woman to Orm's private hospital and cut the children out of her. Orm arrived halfway through the operation and watched each tiny, bloodstained body laid in an incubator to continue its last few weeks of development. He considered repairing the woman and returning her to the Servant - it had been interesting in the past to watch the reactions of the few breeders who survived, once they realized their progeny would be subjected to the same training they had suffered through - but by the time he ordered the robots to stitch her up and attempt a blood transfusion, she had expired.

No matter. It was just as interesting to observe the effects of her loss on the Servant. The man's reaction to the children's pending fate was satisfactorily violent, before the conditioning clamped down. Unfortunately, he retreated into blankness and rote responses after that, never quite letting Orm reach the rage he could see burning far back behind the Servant's deep-set eyes.

This crop of children numbered six at the beginning: two sets of identical twins and two singletons, for a total of three boys and three girls. Five had the good looks of their paternal grandmother, while the remaining boy carried the mismatched features of his maternal grandmother, who had been a stunningly ugly woman.

Orm let the Servant see the children once. Attempting to provoke a response from the inert man, he even ordered the Servant to name them. The man simply shrugged. "You'll kill them all. We're only animals to you. Who names a beast raised for slaughter?"

Then he rattled off six names in rapid succession, pointing at each child in turn: "Corto, Cation, Bellie, Sassal, Mordion, Kessalta."

They were the names of the first six people he'd terminated at Orm's direction.

Orm tucked that information away for later use - whether the Servant was reproaching himself out of guilt or accusing Orm out of self-righteousness, his conditioning should not have allowed that spark of implicit criticism. That crack might allow Orm a way in to touch the rage he could sense in a hidden corner of the man's mind.

In the meantime, he ordered the Servant back to his bare, cell-like room and watched robots care for his new children. They would be uninteresting for another year or two, but soon enough Orm would have new minds and hearts to shape to his yoke.

He wondered how they would break.


AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.