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Peace for the Wicked

Title: Peace for the Wicked
Fandom: Children of the Red King
Rating: K+
Disclaimer: Children of the Red King belongs to Jenny Nimmo, not me.
Characters/Pairings: Zelda Dobinsky, Manfred Bloor
Word Count: 847
Summary: For all her life, Zelda has been one thing. And finally she has a chance to be another, and she can't wait to take that chance.
Author's Notes: I find Zelda fascinating, and feel that there is more to her than is said in the books. Wanted to do something about Zelda at University for ages, so I finally got something finished. I think it's a fitting tribute.

Peace for the Wicked

For all her life, Zelda has been one thing. And finally she has a chance to be another, and she can't wait to take that chance.

It wasn't until she got out of Bloors and that god awful town that she realised quite how damn oppressive it was.

She barely sticks around for exam results; her three As are all she needs to see her into Cambridge, and she runs. She can't even remember saying goodbye, or anyone saying it to her, for that matter. It is a month until term starts, and the last thing she needs is to be stuck there. She spends the last vestiges of her summer in London, feeling the hustle and bustle of the city where everyone is anonymous but the famous: where no one knows who she is but her.

It is October and the leaves have changed by the time she takes the train out of platform five and into platform one of Cambridge's station. The train is packed. She supposes these are her fellow students for the next year, or two, or three, depending on how far she lasts (or four, or five, or six, or seven; she will spend eternity here if it means she doesn't have to go back there). She only has a simple case, black, standard ordinary.

She wants to blend in.

She walks down station road, mind tugging the case behind her. A hand rests on it, just to appear normal. She toys with wrenching the head of the statue that is in the middle of the road off, but knows that desecrating war memorials is not the way to start. That was the old Zelda. This is the new. She will be normal. She will fit in.

Her college is Christ's; the city centre looms and beckons next to her. A simple room in the halls, bed, desk, window, closet. She was instantly reminded of Manfred's room back at Bloors, and shook her head. A bit of rearranging would sort that out. She would make the place her own, not his.

She will not be his toy anymore.

Zelda is here. There is no more outside influence on her life, no one hanging over her life making she is perfect every turn. She has not been herself in so long, and now she finally has that chance. She will not ruin the chance that life has given her.

Manfred's first letter arrives a week into term; she chucks it into the bin without even opening it. Even the vague scent attached to the envelope conjours up far too many bad memories, and she can't face the contents, what she knows will be his plees for her to come back and help him, complaints about the school and everything else. It is not her world anymore.

She can't help making friends here. No one knows she is endowed, and she keeps that little talent to herself, and the people in her corridor say hello to her when she passes them or she sees them in the kitchen, and she quickly learns who the people in her classes are and where they live and what the student hang outs are, and how to sneak herself into the bar of St. Johns for one of those absolutely gorgeous toasties.

For the first time in her life, she has friends who genuinely like her for who she is.

The stream of letters that follow Zelda don't go unnoticed by everyone else; even at the end of the term, he still hasn't gotten the message that she wasn't going to write anymore. They are polite enough never to comment on it.

The end of term comes, and Zelda sits with one of her new friends sipping tea in her dorm room, celebrating an end to exams and everything. Zelda is not going home, she has gotten herself invited to someone else's, and that reassures her so much. They will start house hunting soon, with their own place, and that will be lovely. Another friend comes in the door. "Zelda, another of those letters for you," she says, handing the envelope over.

Zelda takes it, and places it immediately in the bin. Her eyes glance over to another envelope lying on her desk. "Not going to open it?" the other friend asks, glancing over her teacup to where the letter rests in the bin.

"No." The statement is definite, and solitary. It's not happening. She stands up, grabbing the envelope that is on her desk. "Want to come out with me, I need to post this," she says, and the friend nods as they leave. It is a letter to Manfred saying not to write anymore.

As she drops the letter into the postbox, there is no pang of remorse or loss for the days of her past that she is severing her last link to. She smiles, looking softly up at the cold winter sun, which will quickly melt into a pleasant spring given another month or so. She has broken free, become a new person. No holds are on her anymore, and her life is her own. And for the first time in her life, she is content.