March 12, 2013 by Lyn
Written by Wysteria, with input by me.
Some time after this but before the current chaos.
“Meeting time.” Damaris had been, perhaps inexplicably, playing “girly time” with Kay and Miryam. There had been hair braiding involved; Damaris had, surprisingly, turned out to be rather skilled with handling Kay and Miraym’s natural hair. “Good luck this evening.”
Kay couldn’t really answer that in any way that wouldn’t get her in loads of trouble. “Meeting?” she asked instead.
“Oh, yeah. The crews all send a representative – two, in our case, because the Council wants to talk to Kendon. It’s this thing that I think Boom started.” She shrugged, and tossed her own braid over her shoulder. “Or maybe someone in the Fifth. It’s like a Student Council. Only Addergoole.”
So, it involved monsters, rape, and babies?
Miryam leaned forward, the new beads in her hair clacking. “It sounds like a lot of fun.”
“It can be a lot of fun. I mean, if someone is pissing the whole school off, this is where we deal with it. There was this time when Thessaly was really going overboard…”
“Just one time?” Kay couldn’t help herself.
Thankfully, Damaris laughed, and Miryam managed a small smile. Miryam was weird about her smiling; she only ever really smiled at upperclassmen, usually the really icky ones. And Damaris – Kay was never sure when the older girl was going to remember to start treating Kay like a slave again. It was a really strange balancing act.
“There was this one time when Thessaly went further overboard than normal, so we called a meeting and called her out.”
“And this time they’re inviting Kendon?” Miryam’s antennae were twitching.
So was Damaris’ tail. “Yeah. This time they’ve invited Kendon.” She patted Kay’s arm. “If you can, it would be good to distract Agra tonight.”
Kay swallowed. So that’s why they’d been playing buddy-buddy. “All right.” She nodded, feeling her braids bounce against her neck. “Okay. I can do that.”
Zita, wearing a typical cornflower blue skirt and girl-next-door sweater set that matched her tan leather collar, grabbed an apple from the kitchen counter as she headed out the door. Her collar seemed to change every day, but since she always had Leofric for a keeper, Kheper had stopped paying attention.
“Where’s Zita going? And why does she get to go out? She’s Kept, too.”
Kheper wasn’t really whining so much as he was making conversation; complaining seemed to work with Cya.
“Student Council Meeting.” Cya closed her book. “And she might be wearing a collar, but she’s a Sixth Cohort, and you’re a Ninth. Also,” she made it sound like an afterthought, “Leo’s a pushover and I’m not.”
“Okay, you win.” He smiled, so she knew he wasn’t really complaining. They’d spent some time around Fafnir and his Kept recently. Kheper didn’t want to be Fafnir. “I don’t get to go because you’re mean and Leo isn’t. So what’s the Student Council? It sounds fun.”
He wasn’t sure, when he got out of here, what he could put on his college applications, but if he knew his parents, he was going to have to come up with something. Student Council at least sounded innocuous.
“It can be. Sometimes it’s long and boring and silly, but, for the most part, Zita handles our crew’s representation. So we can worry about other things.”
“So what is it?”
“It’s a meeting of crew leaders, generally to discuss matters that staff can’t or won’t deal with. Zita and Kailani came up with it – Kai’s a Year Five that graduated after Year Seven, so now it’s all Zita’s baby.”
“…the Kept is your crew leader?”
“Well. It wasn’t going to be Leo, it shouldn’t be Howard, and I wasn’t going to step on Zita’s toes. Who else should it be?”
Cya smiled at him. “Maybe next year, kiddo.”
Zita met Tigg at the main door of Sharp Edges’ suite, and nodded at him, Mask firmly in place. He seemed to bristle, and she imagined quills jumping on his back. She admired Nessie for her daring, Keeping him.
“Tell your mistress or someone to let me in,” she ordered familiarly.
She wasn’t sure how to categorize the look he shot her, but decided to go with ‘you are freaky even for Addergoole’ and take it as read. He squinted, keeping one eye on her even as he backed into the room to speak in low tones with Gregori, who got up from the couch to invite her in.
Gregori, on the other hand, smiled at her. Zita grinned back.
“If you mean me and mine no harm, come in, Zita oro’Leofric.”
Zita smiled, and waited.
“I agree that this is a meeting of the Student Council, and promise to abide by the terms set down in the bylaws regarding my obligations as host, until such time as the Council adjourns or three hours have passed, in which case I will abide by clause seventeen.”
The short goblin girl nodded, and stepped across his threshold. Hammering out the student council bylaws had taken years off her life and constant consultation with Cya (her resident cy’Drake). They prevented ambushes, kidnappings, impregnations accidental or otherwise, and other everyday hazards from interfering with council business. At least while everyone was actually at the meetings, anyway.
“You weren’t this careful when Fran was hosting,” Gregori observed.
Zita glanced around the suite living room, and chose a perch on top of the TV. Being slight had its advantages.
“Fran doesn’t have your reputation.”
He might have had a response to that, but another knock on the door interrupted their sparring. Zita allowed herself a small sigh of relief. Being Kept her entire school career allowed her to avoid worrying about her own words, but it didn’t help her navigate other people’s promises any better than anyone else.
Reminded, she suppressed a pang of guilt and loneliness. It always felt a little bit wrong, being out and about without Leo. It ached. Leo, Leo, Leo – she dug her claws into the palms of her hand, letting the pinpricks focus her. With a smile on her face, she waved a greeting at Hera, just arriving. Hera would be useful today.
The Crew leaders filtered in, congregating in like-minded clusters. The eighteenth and last to arrive was Sylvia, presumably because it was inefficient to arrive anywhere early and not as an aspersion on the importance of the Student Council. Zita rather liked Sylvia, even if the last time they’d had to work on a science project together Sylvia had taken the beakers away from her and told her to sit out of the way and take notes. It had been soothing.
Kendon was trying to look cool and smooth, Zita observed, but then so was everyone else. In this group of predators, it didn’t do you any good to look anything but collected. He was pestering Damaris, who was looking particularly well-dressed – one might even say overdressed – while trying not to be heard. With a quiet murmur, Zita pulled an invisible cloak of Tuapeka Tlacatl around herself and breezed through the crowd to eavesdrop.
“Just don’t pick any fights, that’s all I’m asking,” Damaris was whispering to her friend. The bonds of being Kept together were both strong and odd.
Kendon snorted. “I’m not worried.”
“It’s the student council, not some Ninethies, Ken.”
“Please. You want me to be frightened of Ellen and Xi?” Skinny, melodramatic types without flashy powers or a tendency towards rapine and plunder.
“Gregori. Thessaly. Arnbjorg,” Damaris countered.
“Gregori and Thessaly wouldn’t screw with me. They know how things work.”
“How things work is that the whole Council promised to abide by their rulings.”
“Why the fuck would you promise that?”
“Because otherwise we wouldn’t get a vote. This is where the power is.”
Becoming visible, Zita clapped her hands, then snapped her fingers. Disappointingly, only Thorburn twirled a hammer in response.
“Catch me later, huh?” She grinned at him. “I want to try to make you eat that hammer, one of these days. But-“ she said, interrupting his response, “Sadly, to business.”
Zita hopped back up on her TV perch. The assembled teenagers did not quiet down attentively. She hadn’t really expected them to. Gregori and Arnbjorg were involved in some complex arm-wrestling thing that seemed to involve all of Gregori’s tentacles and both of Arna’s horns. Sylvia and Penny were discussing… something boring, it sounded like. Kendon was hitting on Fran.
“Anyone here think Kendon isn’t an asshole?”
And they were off, arguing. The sides came down to ‘yes, but so are we,’ ‘yes, set him on fire and then light the fire on fire,’ and ‘yes, but I like staying out of conflict more than diamonds.’ Kendon had, in his second year of school, managed to impress the entire female population with his complete inability to get his head out of his ass. Even Thorburn, not the gentlemanly of gentleman, didn’t bother to defend him. Probably Basalt’s influence, there, and Penny behind him.
“I have a proposal,” Zita shouted, after she’d gotten bored being patient and letting others speak. “Next interruption gets me pointing Leo at them as my own personal ballistic missile.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be his ballistic missile?” Jeremiah joked.
“Yes. No. Shut up. I say, we get Kendon to promise not to Keep anyone. Some of you will like it because it means he can’t be creepy. Some of you will like the lack of competition. You all see the upsides.”
And the clamor continued.
“What did I do that everyone else doesn’t do?” Kendon asked, frustrated.
“Lately?” Zita answered. “You don’t keep your attentions confined to the underclassmen, Kendon. Half the girls here have told me about getting hit on by you with varying degrees of your… charm. Addergoole doesn’t reward stupid predators.”
Zita would really rather just call him a rapist and let that stand as reason enough, but she could do that at home. Do that at home and break some dishes.
The vote was called. Damaris voted against the motion. It passed heavily. Kendon tried to run, but collapsed to his knees under the force of four different spells. The promise, coerced, left a bad taste in Zita’s mouth. She pulled her invisibility around herself, and ducked out quietly. Some, she saw, were staying, while Speed served beer. As the door closed, it looked like Gregori and Arna were picking up that arm-wrestling again.