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Chapter 23: Xanthia

8

February 6, 2013 by Lyn

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Xanthia found she was enjoying Idu class almost as much as she’d enjoyed Panida.  It was a lot of fun, just relaxing and Knowing everything around her.  And Dr. Regine was a very good teacher.

The rest of her class was a little… odd, but, then again, the whole school was odd.  Gar was way too angry to be your typical zombie.  Shang didn’t appear to believe in magic, and had somehow avoided a collar.  And Cody was far too cheerful for her comfort.   She tried her best to ignore them and just focus on Idu.

Of course, when it came to Idu Intinn, there was only so much she could ignore her fellow students.  She Idu’d Shang first, on the theory that he couldn’t have that much going on.

And they call me crazy.  They’re the ones going around waving their hands like it’s going to do something and incanting stuff like something out of Noam’s D&D games.  Idu Intinn Xanthia no-oro cy’Mendosa. I wonder what she’s thinking? She’d be sort of cute, if it weren’t for the funny bits and shit, she’s reading my mind isn’t she cool blue water cool blue water.

Funny bits. Xanthia glared at Shang. You’d be cute if it wasn’t for the rude.  Well, you are cute, you’re just kind of weird, too.

You’re doing magic and I’m weird?

How do you think you’re reading my mind? Speaking of which, stop it.  Using a trick Professor Fridmar had taught her, she pictured a series of bright strobing lights.

Hey!

“From the expressions on your faces, students, I believe two of you have just discovered the short-form method of telepathy.  And, from Shang’s face, the downfalls of reading someone who does not wish to be read.  Well done, Xanthia.  Shang, what have you learned?”

“Don’t think about girls in Idu class.”  He shrugged uncomfortably.

“And if you are caught thinking about things you don’t wish shared?”  Regine, Xanthia thought, might be having far too good a time with this.

“Think about strobe lights.”

“Very good.  Perhaps we shall move on to a slightly less invasive Idu.  What other Domains do the four of you have?”

They spent the rest of the class using Idu on inanimate objects and one borrowed goldfish.  Shang, she thought, was looking at her oddly.  Just what she needed: the sole remaining citizen she knew turning into a ghoul on her.

“Can I ask you about something, Professor?”  She was getting very good at finding reasons to stay late.  It was the only thing she had, right now, other than her actual classes, that wasn’t sitting in her room learning Spanish and Italian, practicing origami and flute, or learning ancient knitting techniques.

“Of course, Xanthia. Garfunkel, did you have something to ask as well?”

“Yeah, uh.”  He wasn’t frowning, which was unusual; of all the zombies she knew, Gar seemed the least brain-dead.  “I was wondering about Idu and Eperu; couldn’t you use that when you were in a cave to read the seams of minerals?”

“Very good, Garfunkel.  I didn’t know you were interested in going into mining.”

“I’m not.  It just looks like, you know.  With Eperu and a couple good verbs, you’d never need to work again.”

“Ah, but you’d need to be circumspect.”

“Why?  I mean, didn’t … aren’t we taught that our ancestors were Gods?  Why would we hide?”

Xanthia had never seen that much of a frown on Regine.  It was like Gar had transferred his frown right over to the Professor, and then some.  “Garfunkel.  Xanthia, I hope you’re listening as well.”

“Of course, Director.”

“Very well then.  There are several reasons why we must be circumspect.  The first is self-preservation.  Children, your ancestors may have been worshipped as gods, but they were both much older and much more powerful than you are.  And the world was a much more constrained place back then, and much more ignorant.  If you were to try to be a god today, you would quickly be a dead god.”

“Yeah, but who said anything about being a god? I just want to use some magic.”

“Well, then.  What do you think would happen to someone who used magic in public?”

“Well, I think they’d get a TV show and the news would be all over them.”

“And if you are very public, then it is very easy for the Nedetakaei to find you, and, child, the Nedetakaei do not follow all of the rules we do in the way that we do.  Again: if you use your magic publicly, you will soon be a very dead child of gods.”

“Right, right.  Don’t show stuff off or you’re going to be dead.”

“Dead, kidnapped by the Nedetakaei, or you’ll have gotten the attention of the Council, which is a lesson for another day.  The concise lesson is: Be mindful of attracting attention which is more powerful than you are.  And remember that, even if you have magic, one or several humans could overwhelm you.  You are still young.”

“But I could go mining, still, right?”  Gar’s frown was back.  “Or is that showing off too much?”

“Indeed.  You could go mining.”  She turned to Xanthia.  “And what did you want to ask?”

“You mentioned telepathy.  Are there other ways?  Not everyone has Idu and Intinn…”

It was a throwaway question.  Then again, she wasn’t sure that Gar’s hadn’t been the same.  Why did he suddenly care about mining, of all things?

“Well, if one has Tempero, one can simply give thoughts to another while reading their thoughts.  One can use Tempero or Buli on air to pass sounds directly to someone’s ear, or on Tlacatl to vibrate the ear drum, although both must be used with caution.  It is generally the case that anything that can be done with one pairing can be done with another paring or collection of Words, although generally a bit more slowly.”

“That’s good to know.  Thank you, Director.”

“Is there someone whose mind you are getting closer to investigating?”

Had the Director just asked her if she wanted to Vulcan Mind Meld with someone? “Not Shang!”  She shook her head. “Not anybody, no.”

“Ah, Yes, not Shang.”  The Director, she thought, was actually showing an emotion. Again.  Twice in one day; she must be really tired.  “But nobody at all?  The school is full of interesting young men, Xanthia.”

The Director was showing an interest in her dating life?  This was getting weirder and weirder.  “I know.  But the thing is, like Shang, Director: someone can be just a bit too interesting.”

“And you have found all of your fellow students too interesting?”

“Or too brain-dead, or, in some cases, both.  Yes.”  Something in the Director’s nearly-an-expression made her add on an apology. “Sorry, ma’am.  I mean, I like dating as much as the next girl.  But nobody here really wants to date.”

“It may be that they have a different definition of ‘dating’ than you do, Xanthia.  I encourage you to give them a try.”

I bet you do.  Xanthia sighed.  She didn’t really want to get on the Director’s bad side.  “I’ll think about it, ma’am.”

“You do that, Xanthia.  You should head back to your dormitory now; the teachers will be done escorting students there soon.”

If she was lucky, they were already done.  “Yes, ma’am.”

~

Find someone she was interested in.  Pah.

There was another collar waiting for her, hanging off her doorknob the way all the rest had been.  This one was made of chain, with thick flat links and an almost decorative padlock.

“If you’d have left a single key,” she told the air, “I might have been willing to consider it.”

“If I’d have left a key, you would have thought this was a game.”  The voice came from right behind her.

She didn’t give the speaker the pleasure of jumping, or of turning around.  She’d thought he might be there, seeing what she did.  Being invisible wasn’t even that hard of a Working, all things considered.  Seeing through it wasn’t that hard, either.

“A game?  With everyone around here playing Zombies and Vampires?”  She shook her head.  “No.  I wouldn’t have thought it was a game.”

“A key suggests a way out, however.”  He had a very nice voice.  Deep.  Not too amused, which was good.  It meant he didn’t think this was a game, either.

Xanthia put her hand on her door.  She’d have to be quick about this.  He wasn’t slow, or he wouldn’t have lasted this long, sounding that arrogant.  Probably.  And he was clearly after blood.  “So you thought I was blind, and you wanted to make sure your intention was very clear.” She’d kind of hoped that someone stalking her would have noticed something about her, by now.

“I thought you were young.  A common ‘failing’ here, and one that time usually solves, although not always.”

“So the collars?”

“Why aren’t you turning around?”

“Because I’m not interested.”

“But you’re still talking.”

“I’m curious about your stalking techniques.  Warning, invitation, or is this the Addergoole ghoul version of sending me flowers?  In which case, I prefer something that goes with my complexion.” She was getting a little bit slap-happy.  Nerves.  She couldn’t let the nerves get to her, or she was lost.

“So it’s not that I’m ‘stalking’ you that you object to.”  He dropped the quotes around the word ‘stalking’ with a sardonic twist of voice Xanthia almost envied.  “It’s the style.”

“Or lack thereof.   It’s not like you’re my only stalker, unless you are, which is a Change I have not yet heard of, here or anywhere.”

“That would be assuming you know who I am.”

“No, that would be assuming you’re not both the lovely lady stalking me and at least two different men at different times.  As I said, if you are, I will be more impressed.”

“Alas, that is not a Change I happen to have manifested.  I would have liked to impress you.”

“It doesn’t seem like the sort of proposition that needs impressing.  If it comes with no key, and no way out, what’s the point in making an impression?”  Now, she was really being suicidal.  But she was curious.

And the bastard didn’t even answer.  He stroked, instead, over her shoulder, where the patterns her Change had given her were hidden under her shirt. “What about your Change?  Do you find a loss of sensation? It can’t be an actual exoskeleton.”

“I am now impressed.” She tried hard to stay calm.  “You’ve been doing a better job stalking me than I expected.”

“I was very interested in getting to know you.”  He was close enough that she could feel his breath on her neck.

“Was?”  She lifted up the collar with her forefinger, the one most obviously Changed.  “Have I changed your mind that quickly? Turned you off?”

“Not at all.  But there is a time for putting forth overtures, and there is a time for making the next step.”

Damnit.  She’d stood here talking for too long; she’d let her guard down. Xanthia dove forward as she yanked her door open.  If she could only get inside her room…

Something pressed against her throat, pulling her backwards, cutting off her air.  “I brought two collars today.  That one was the invitation.  This one…”  He pulled back further, lifting her off of her feet.  “This one is more of a promise.  But I must say…” He set her back down.  There was something high and hard and leather around her throat, and it felt as if he was holding her by the back of this new collar.  “I have to say, you’re more fun than I thought you’d be.”

“You’re less fun than I was hoping.”  Her voice rasped out.  She coughed, and tried again.  “Not that I thought someone trying to turn me into a zombie was going to be fun or anything.” When she was applying it to herself, it looked like her metaphor might need work.  Biting her?  Well, later.

“Turning you into a zombie?” Or now.

“Making me a brain-dead monster wandering around wanting everyone else to be like me while sucking their life force?”

“I think that would be a vampire.”

“No, vampires make other vampires.  Well, I suppose zombies bite other zombies, too.  The point being, I didn’t think this was going to be fun.”  She put her hand to the collar.  It was so wide that it was pushing her chin up, and it still made breathing a bit tricky.  “On the other hand, I wasn’t expecting this. I don’t feel like a zombie.”

“And you are not, yet, a ‘zombie.’” He was skilled with those air quotes.  “You need to consent to that.”

“I don’t think most of the people around here consented.”

“They did.  However, they didn’t know what they were consenting to at the time, I believe.  Most of them, at least.”  He pulled backwards on the collar.  “And I would like you to know what you are consenting to.”

“Why?”  She was not as flexible as some people – in part, a result of her Change.  In part, she thought it was just her mindset and her body working together.  “You seem to be rather forceful in your opinions.”

“You don’t get very far here if you’re not forceful.  Look at Shandar.”

“I’d rather not.  So you’re not him, then?”  Better to play along with the invisibility for now.

“Do I sound like him?”  He tugged on the collar again.

“No.  No, you do not.  But that could be a Mask, too, or a Working.  For all I know, Shandar himself could be entirely a Mask.  Mild-Mannered Clark Kent,” she pointed out.  “Nobody would believe he was really Superman.”

His laugh was more Lex Luthor than Superman.  “Aah, and now you’re flattering me.”

“No.  I’m simply pointing things out.  So, not Shandar.”

“That is correct.”

“And not Adelheid.”

“Also correct, although I may tell her you said that.”

“Well, it’s not as if she doesn’t know she was stalking me.”  Xanthia twisted , but the collar was holding her pretty firmly.  And when she wiggled, she quickly learned, he pulled back harder, making breathing an interesting proposition.  “And you don’t want me to know who you are yet.”

“No, I do not.  What I want is for you to go into your room and think about the promise and the proposition I’ve given you.”

Well, that was better than she’d hoped. “Just think about it?”

“Knowing that more propositions and more promises are coming, of course.  Nothing is without a cost.”

“Of course.  But, to be clear, what is it you want me to think about, and what am I getting in return?”

“In this position, you ask that?” He sounded amused.  That was starting to really irritate Xanthia.

“What better position to ask it in?”

“A position of strength, perhaps?”

“You know, you’re assuming things.  Things like that my Change still means I need my throat for breathing and not just for talking.  Things like that I don’t know how to fight back, instead of that I might be choosing not to.  Things like why I didn’t go into my room when you first answered.”

“I would have stopped you.”

“You might have.  Or you might have missed.  I had a very short distance to go, and you were several feet behind me, weren’t you?”

“But you couldn’t know that.”

“And, again, assuming things.  I am not saying I won’t consider your offer.  I’m saying: make it an offer worth considering.”

The pressure on her throat subsided.  In its place, she felt a hand on her back, pressing her towards her door.  “Interesting.  You intrigue me, Xanthia.”

“I have to admit, I can’t decide whether to be intrigued or disgusted by you.”

“Disgusted?” He was finally not sounding amused anymore.  Xanthia grabbed her doorknob before he switched over to angry.

“Well, you are stalking me.  You haven’t really impressed me yet.  And then you did the grab-and-choke, which doesn’t really count as cool or anything.”

“But, again, being firm in Addergoole is the only way you gain any respect.”

“That’s good information, but I believe there is more than one way to be firm, and your current method is not gaining my respect.”

“Although it may be gaining your fear?”

“Well, yeah.  If that’s what you want, play on.”  Although she hoped he didn’t.  “Listen.  You’re trying to get me to agree to be a zombie. Whichever game you’re playing, it wouldn’t hurt to bring your A-game, would it?  At the very least, it would make me feel as if you’re trying.”

“If you want me to make you feel something, darling…”

“No, I want you to bring your A-game.  That’s all.  After all,” she opened her door by way of punctuation, “it’s not as if you’re my only stalker.  Even if Shandar is one of the competitors…”

“You want me to compete for your affection?”

“You’re already competing to see who’s the most effective ghoul.  Why not compete for my respect instead of just seeing who can spook me the most?”

“You’re asking a lot for a little baby monster.”

“I’m asking everything I can afford to ask, because I can’t afford not to.”  She turned around as she stepped over her threshold.  He was still holding up his invisibility Working, and she could still see his outline.  “I don’t want to end up like the others.  You’re proposing… and promising….” She touched her hand to the thick collar he’d left there, buckled around her throat. “…that that’s exactly what will happen.  Little Zombie Xanthia.  If you’re not going to give me a good reason why I should take that hook, I’m going to go back to not coming out of my room.”

“I sense a challenge.”  His smile was not reassuring.  At least he didn’t have sharp teeth like some of the people here – although he never dropped his Mask.  Hemlock.  She wondered if he was a tree underneath the Mask, like Curry.  Or if he was just poisonous.

“Well.  I hope to be an interesting challenge.” She smirked at him.  “And I hope you’re going to get more interesting in your stalking.”

“Well, with Shandar as a competitor…”

“Don’t forget Calvin.  And possibly Adelheid.”

“I’d say you were awfully brave when you’re behind your threshold, but you were fairly brave out here as well.”

“No point in being terrified . Being terrified makes you think less accurately.”

“I think I would have noticed if you were cy’Fridmar.”

“You would have.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t listen to him.”  Brave?  She was having a hard time not panicking; the collar was still around her neck and she hadn’t looked for a closure yet.  Was she going to have to cut it off?  It was awfully tight against her throat for slipping a blade in there.

“So you want me to impress you?”

“I want you to try.”

“Will you tell me what would get your attention, at least?”

“You know what my Change looks like under my clothes.  I think you can figure something out.”  She reached for her door.  “But I’ll give you a clue.  Jumping me from behind?  Definitely not the way to go.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”  He bowed, low, until his hair brushed the ground.  “Until then.”

“Until then.”  She shut her door slowly, and armed all of her traps.  Only then, only when she was certain she was safe in her nest, did she reach for the thing around her neck.

It took a force of will not to claw at it.  It was big – she walked over to the three-way mirror in the bathroom to get a better look.  It was a thick piece of leather, shaped to fit under her chin and down over the hollow of her throat, wide enough that it needed the shaping, covering her entire neck.  It had a massive O-ring dangling from the front, and, in the back, an equally massive D-ring – probably what he’d been tugging on – and a relatively tiny padlock.

Padlock, she could deal with.  She had bolt cutters she’d gotten from Professor Akatil for exactly this purpose. (That had been a fun conversation.  She liked the tiny Unutu and technology professor, and liked him more when he muttered a Working over the bolt cutters to make them more effective against magically-hardened metal.)

This padlock was not magically hardened.  It snapped off with one snip, and the collar fell off with it.  Only then, free of it, did it really sink in.

He’d put a collar around her neck.  She’d dropped her guard enough that he’d gotten that far.  He’d been choking her, pressing against her throat.  He’d had her in a pretty tight position, and he’d let her go.

Because he wanted to impress her.  Because he was going to try to impress her enough to submit to being a zombie.

She looked at the thick collar.  A promise of things to come.  At the padlock – easy enough to break, because he’d allowed her to.   She swallowed, feeling the air against her throat instead of the leather.

He was going to try to impress her.  He was, she realized, in his own twisted Addergoole ghoul way, trying to court her.

As if the year wasn’t already weird enough.

Xanthia sat one her floor and indulged herself in a quiet bout of tears.  This wasn’t going to be easy.  And she was very, very scared that a Hemlock trying to impress her was one that wasn’t going to take no for an answer in the long run.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Math had never been Xanthia’s favorite subject, but either Geometry, Professor Solomon, or the combination thereof made it a lot more entertaining, and a lot more engrossing.  She found herself leaning forward in her seat, paying attention to everything he was saying.

It helped that Geometry was a low-enough level class that it was mostly zombies and those few citizens who seemed to be neither zombie nor ghoul, and very few ghouls (although, as Shandar exhibited, sometimes the ghouls masqueraded as citizens quite well, just up until they started biting you).  So she didn’t have to worry about her words quite as much – not that she ever really let down her guard, but she could get as guard-down as she came, smiling at people without worrying how they would take it (except Ilian.  She wasn’t sure what had happened to him, but even a smile went over badly there.  So, mostly, she pretended he didn’t exist).

And she could compete.  Xanthia liked competing.  She liked trying to be the person who got the answer; she liked getting better grades than everyone else.  Usually it wasn’t math for her – science, yes, history, yes.  Not so much math.  But in science, she had ghouls, and in history she had the terrifying Professor Valerian.  So she settled for being competitive here.

She hadn’t seen Hemlock yet today.  Not even in passing in the halls.

There’d been a lot of people missing from classes lately – maybe just for one class, or called out at the beginning, sometimes missing for a whole day and looking pale and not-quite-whole the next day.   But she didn’t think that the Whatever Was Going On in the Basement was what had happened to Hemlock.  No, he was just winding up for his next move.

She put the thought aside.  He wasn’t going to attack her in class: not in Math class, not in any class.  That, she’d noticed, Was Not Done.  Even with everything else that was done around here.

She leaned forward in her seat again, smiled at Professor Solomon, and raised her hand.  This three-dimensional geometry was a lot of fun.  She wondered if she could make a model of it in mid-air with the right Words.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004, later

Xanthia had thought she was very good at paying attention before.  She watched her routes home and to class; she watched the people in the Dining Hall and found safe places to sit.  She watched the patterns people took when they moved, how ghouls moved, how zombies moved.  How people camouflaged one status or the other.

But now, knowing that Hemlock was planning something, she found herself going above and beyond that.    She watched everyone, listened to everyone.  She murmured every Idu she knew and watched the way the patterns interacted.  She watched the bare spots in her vision where her Idu told her somebody was moving.  And when those spots neared her, she pulled out an Idu Intinn to tell her what Hemlock was up to.

She’s watching everything.  It can’t be fun, being like that every minute of every day.  Twitching.  Paranoid.  I can’t imagine going through life that uncomfortable, not trusting anyone.  Not even other Ninthies; she doesn’t even talk to anyone else.  But ‘zombies.’ ‘Ghouls.’ She’s going to fight the collar every minute, and who’s that going to be fun for?  Still, Calvin isn’t going to stand back and watch forever.

She could see from his eyes, watching the back of her head, watching her back, stiff and ungiving. Watching from that table where his friends sat… behind her, of course.  Not the invisible spot in her vision, in front and to the right.  Who was that, then, skulking through the Dining Hall unnoticed?

“Idu Intinn,” she muttered, “Epsilon [that guy].”  There.  That would either blow something out in her brain or tell her who was there.

Negotiations.  Arguments.  Talking, talking, talking, with the pretty people with their pretty collars who think they know what’s going on.  Little fishies, all of them, talking while the shark circles.  Little pretty people with their tea and crumpets talking while the beasts are feeding.  They don’t listen.  They don’t listen. They don’t pay attention.  The stairs.  Everyone thinks they know what’s going on.  The stairs go all the way down.

That… that did not sound like a ghoul, or a zombie, or a teacher.  That sounded like a madman with a grudge, and he was coming straight towards her.

Xanthia stood up, picked up her tray, and began walking backwards.  Table – there.  Chairs – there.  People – there, there, and there.  And antlers, watch out for the antlers.

There wasn’t much of a staff presence in the Dining Hall at meal times.  It was as if they didn’t want to know what their students were getting up to.  But over there in the corner, professor Fridmar was watching.  Pretty.  The way she moves.  And the way she holds off all of the students.  “Impress me,” she said, mmm?  I can impress her.  Let these pups find their own girls, less strong girls.

“Professor Fridmar?”  She was, she realized, turning colors.  She dropped her tray on the table.  She had to get out of here.

What’s going on with her? Something’s wrong – something’s really wrong, she’s actually looking upset.  She never looks upset, not even when I had her off her feet.

That one, that one has no friends.  Has no collar.  Maybe that one will listen.  All this talk.  All this negotiation.  And it all misses the pointIt is all useless.  The stairs, damnit.  The stairs go all the way down.

The way she looks, like she can read what I am thinking.  Perhaps she can.  Well, little crab, the world is a big place.  Who can show you more of it than me?  Who can protect you better than me?

She’s scared.  I should do something.  Somewhere behind her, Hemlock stood up.

She is a little mouse, like all them, terrified.  She will scream.  She will make them listen.  The blind spot to her left drew closer.

So brave.  So beautiful. It has been a long time since I’ve seen one with such fire.  Professor Fridmar stood up, reaching for Xanthia’s tray.

She fled.  To her right – mind the antlers, mind those horns as the big man turned towards her – out the side door – the invisible presence startled into pausing – down the hall.  The Director.  Professor Solomon.  The stupid PE teacher.  Someone.

She ran headlong into a solid mass of muscle and two strong arms.  “Woah.”

Much to her mortification, pinned by arms and stuck, all of her Words escaping her, Xanthia burst into tears.

Belfreya

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Bel had thought the negotiations were going well.  Well enough, at least.  The people from the basement – they called themselves the Splinter School, and Luke called them the Rebels – had been very reluctant to talk at first.  They would only talk to Ilian, who, although a nice boy, had no idea what was going on and was clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation.  For the first week, they had hissed and yelled whenever Bel had opened her mouth.  Scribe she was supposed to be, and scribe didn’t mean talking.

Ilian had turned out to be smarter than she’d given him credit for – underneath the flakey ADD personality and what looked like about an encyclopedia’s worth of orders was a bright guy who had paid attention to things Bel had never noticed.  And he knew where his strengths were, and, more importantly, where his weaknesses lay.  He’d managed to convince the Splinter School representatives that Bel’s job as Scribe worked better when she understood what was going on, and to do that, she needed to ask questions.  That was the opening she’d needed.

It was hard to tell with fae – Bel’s mother looked a year or two younger than she did, most of the time, and, as far as she knew, Professor VanderLinden was at least three centuries old – but she got the impression that the teenagers talking to them were, indeed, actually teenagers.  Maybe, in the case of the one, even younger.  They had that impatient, bouncy, black-and-white view of the world that Bel associated with her peers.

“We need to know that our demands will be met.”  The medusa, Sibyl, was the most rational of the group.  “Before we are willing to bring down the barriers and to rein in those that are attacking, we need to know our demands will be met.”

“I’m sorry.”  Bel leaned forward.  “I’m not entirely clear on what those demands are.  We know that you want autonomy.  That you want to keep the fourth floor of the school for your Splinter School.  But I’m not certain what else I’m missing…?”

It was a gamble.  The angry one, the one that refused to give any information at all, hadn’t shown up to the negotiations today.  In his absence, they’d actually gotten the medusa and the yeti to share a few important pieces of information with them.

This would be easier, Bel sighed to herself, if either side was willing to tell her anything at all.  Splinter school. Rebels. Fourth Floor.   Fae living in the basement.

And now the medusa was frowning.  “We need to know our terms will be met.”  She sounded as if…  Bel frowned as well.

“Are you constrained in what you can say?”

The medusa pursed her lips and nodded.

“And these terms… this is part of the problem?”

Another nod.  Bel sighed. This was going to be a long day.

At least the yeti was napping.

Quintus

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

There was a girl crying in his Keeper’s arms.

Quint wasn’t sure what he thought about this.  From the look on Zeke’s face, he wasn’t sure, either.

She had run into Zeke, rather literally, and then started sobbing.  Xanthia.  Quintus knew her, because her knew all of his classmates, but he didn’t really know her.  She’d been aloof and standoffish from day one, and only gotten more so as Ninth Cohort after Ninthie came into class in a collar.  When Quint had tried talking to her after he’d come to his arrangement with Zeke, she’d just turned pale and muttered “zombie” at him.

Not that she was the last, or only one to get mad at him for being happy with his Keeper, but she’d been the first, and it still stung.

“Zeke…?”

“We need to get her to Doctor Mendosa.  Can you get the door?”

He could get the door.  He nodded.  Crying girl who thought everyone was a zombie? The school shrink seemed like a really good idea.

“There’s monsters in the Dining Hall.” Her words were finally getting clear in between the sobs.  “Someone has to warn someone.”

Quint sighed.  “Ghouls and zombies, right?”

She choked out something that could have been a laugh, or could have been another sob. “Them too.  But I mean real monsters, invisible monsters.  Like the ones that attacked people.”

“Lots of … oh, like attacked Kheper and Kay?”  Quint nodded.  “I’ll go tell Luke, all right?”

She made a choking noise.  “I hope we can trust him.”

Quint thought about the mess in the halls, the trouble everywhere else.  “Me too.”


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8 comments »

  1. Rix says:

    Ooooh! I wonder if Frdmar will pick up on the intruder?

    • Gudy says:

      Unlikely. It seems he was way to busy picking up on Xanthia.

      I’m glad she ran into Zeke and Quintus instead of, say, one of her many stalkers. Let’s hope some good will come of that.

      In other news, Bel and Lee really do have their job cut out for them, don’t they…

      Typos:
      “endoskeleton” Uhm, typo or in-character idiocy? The correct word, I believe, would be “exoskeleton”, in any case.
      “I want you to bring you’re A-game” you’re -> your
      “not coming OUT of my room”
      “like all OF them”
      “He’d manage to convince” manage -> managed
      “The medusa, [], was the most rational of the group” -> That’s a interesting name, but even harder to pronounce than usual. 😛

      • Lyn says:

        *grooan*

        Endo was Lyn brainfart. You’re/your Rion and I even talked about and I forgot to fix.
        Of all of those, “like all them” was purposeful.

        And yes. Bel and Lee are in a bit over their heads.

  2. LilFluff says:

    Well of course Cody’s cheerful. She’s figured out by then that she came out pretty good in the Keeper Lottery, she’s got a cookie baking roommate, and access to a whole huge library of unread(by her, yet) books.

    Well that and no more stalkers. (Ack! Stalkers! Again, ack!)

  3. guesty says:

    Tsk. Fridmar. Is this the way to go? You’re not a teenager any more, so you have no excuse. Creepy!
    He’s right about Xanthia, on the other hand.

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