May 22, 2013 by Lyn
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
“Come on.” Evie tugged Eluned along as if she wasn’t coming willingly. “Professor Pelletier wants us to make nice with the new kids, and she wants you to come along, because you’re cy’Valerian.”
“The new kids?”
“Oh, jeez, don’t be a moron, Luna. You know. The basement kids.” Evie pursed her lips. “Who else would I be talking about?”
“They’re not really new anymore, are they?”
“Well… no, not really. But they’re newer than we are.”
“Except they’ve been here longer, haven’t they? Especially the Zeroth Cohort.”
“You know what I meant. What has gotten into you today, Luna? You’re being difficult. Argumentative. Bitchy.”
“I don’t know.” She didn’t feel like pitching her tone to be submissive, but she didn’t finish the sentence, at least. Maybe two babies? Maybe carrying your kid along with the one I asked for? “My arm hurts.”
“What?” Evie looked at her hand, and the way she was yanking on Luna. She dropped Luna’s arm as if she’d been burned. “Well, if you’d come along like a reasonable person, instead of dragging your feet, I wouldn’t have to yank.”
“I’m coming.” She tucked her arms behind her back before Evie could change her mind – or forget why she wasn’t holding onto Luna’s arm anymore. “So we’re meeting with some of the basement people?”
“That’s what I said. Professor Pelletier want the cy’ree to make nice with them, I guess. And one of the ones I got today – she’s in my lit class – is all plant-life-y.”
“All plant-y. That is a lovely way to describe me.” A woman stepped into view in front of them.
Shit. Luna did her best to not look panicked. If she looked worried, Evie might panic, and then there’d be a mess all over the place. Half of the basement students were almost deadly just to encounter… and the other half had uncontrollable powers. Not to mention what their Mentor had done with her musical number.
This one… This one, Luna had only seen in passing. She was a gorgeous girl – woman. Woman, definitely – with wine-red lips and hair that matched, eyes so dark that they had to be black, and a stunning nose. Luna swallowed.
The woman noticed. Her lips curled in what Luna had to assume was supposed to be a welcoming smile. It made her feel as if she was being devoured. “You, you I have not met. Hello.” She held out her hand, palm-down, as if she expected Eluned to kiss her ring. Which, Luna noticed, she was wearing: three rings, actually, all of them black.
Luna took the woman’s hand carefully and shook it. “I’m Eluned.” Then, because she felt like Evie was going to flip out if she didn’t add it, she tacked on the apostrophes. “sh’FeatherStop, cy’Valerian, oro’Evie.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Eluned oro’Evie. I am Melantha cy’Kairos, born sh’Efah.” She retrieved her hand and tilted her head at Evie. “And you must, then, be Evie? Cy’Pelletier, if I am not mistaken?”
Luna could see Evie bristling. She didn’t really even blame her. The new-but-not-really-new-woman-lady-girl-thing-person-from-the-basement was being more than a little creepy; it was almost like she was coming on to them. Or something. Maybe the years underground had rotted her manners. She cleared her throat and spoke up before Evie could say something dangerous.
“Melantha, my Keeper, Evie cy’Pelletier. Professor Pelletier wanted us to meet with you, to help you readjust to the school?” Words. Use words.
The woman laughed. Damnit. “Readjust? Is that what they’re calling it?”
“I don’t know, actually. I’m just assuming; I’m sure Evie knows better than I do.” Say something. She glanced over at her Keeper. Anything?
Evie managed something between a throat-clear and a growl. “Yeah. Um. Professor Pelletier wanted us to make sure you remembered where everything was, and talk to you about the way the school is now. Make sure you can, assimilate?”
“Assimilate. Hrrrm. So the good professor wants to be sure that we’re not going to rebel again, is that it?”
“I think it is.” Evie’s eyes had narrowed. “Considering what the basement-dwellers did, I think everyone wants to be sure you don’t ‘rebel’ again. Except maybe your Mentor.”
Oh, shit, this wasn’t going to go well. “The way it was explained to me, you still have to graduate, and they still have to figure out how to explain your absence. Nine years underground can’t be a lot of fun.” Luna hoped Evie wasn’t going to get mad at her for interrupting. “And you’ve still got, what, three more years here?”
“At least.” Melantha sighed. “At the very least. The ‘graduation requirements’ aside, we’ve still all got to…” She flapped her hand. “Assimilate, I suppose.” She smiled sourly at Luna. “Which is why you two are here.”
“I’m here because my Keeper requested my presence.” Are you flirting with me? Please stop flirting with me. See? Kept? She reached for Evie’s hand, but Evie was having none of it.
She snatched her hand away. “Eluned wants to help, too, don’t you, Luna?”
If Evie didn’t stop changing moods so quickly, Luna was going to get whiplash. “Of course, Evie.” She looked down at her feet and waited for further instruction, hoping that Evie wouldn’t take offense at that, too.
She wasn’t sure if Melantha meant to rescue her, or if it was a happy coincidence, but the older girl stepped up either way. She was, Luna noted, wearing black boots with pointy toes. “I’d love all the help I can get. Things are so different. TV shows, slang, clothes…” She laughed, or at least made a sound that probably wasn’t a sob. Her noises were a bit hard to decipher, and she seemed to like being a bit odd. “Not that I paid that much attention to fashion before, but, well…”
“It’s been almost a decade.” Evie took the bait. “We could watch some TV, maybe some movies on DVD? Neither of us are fashion mavens, either, but I’m sure you’ve been to the Store?”
“Some movies would be nice. I do believe Langhorne is supposed to meet us here as well…”
Had the 0th Cohort had all the most beautiful people? Luna caught her breath as the boy stepped around the corner.
Man. Man, this one was definitely a man. He looked a bit older than Melantha, and taller, wider, with the most amazing blue eyes and very long fingers. He held out his hand to Evie. “I’m Langhorne cy’Kairos. Pleased to meet you.”
“Ee…” Evie coughed and took the proffered hand. “Evie cy’Pelletier. This is my Kept and girlfriend, Eluned cy’Valerian oro’Evie.”
“Pleased to meet you both.” He nodded politely at Luna. “Does it not bother you, that the school treats us as if we can simultaneously Belong to three people?”
Evie looked a little startled, but her surprise quickly morphed into a frown. “You Zeroths…!” She shook her head. “This is the way things are here. You rocked the boat, and what did it get you? Locked in a basement for a decade. Do you really think I want to spend ten years underground because the school has bad rules?”
“I’d assume not, or you might have rebelled.” He looked amused, rather than offended at Evie’s little rant. Luna glanced over at Melantha; she was watching with interest. Very sharply, too; had they planned this? “But not wanting to rock the boat does not mean that you like things the way they are, does it?”
“Let’s go to the suite. We were going to watch movies.” Evie’s answer was abrupt and almost rude, but Luna wasn’t going to argue. She grabbed Luna’s hand again and yanked her in that direction.
Luna shot the new guy an apologetic glance, hoping he’d drop it. He raised his eyebrows at her in clear question, but what was she going to say?
Evie yanked on her arm again, sending a surge of frustration and a wave of admonition from the bond through her. Bad Kept. Dawdling, looking at the handsome guy. “Evie…” She didn’t mean it to sound as pleading as it did.
“Come on, Luna.”
“Evie, I’m coming. But the stairs…”
“You’re pregnant, not handicapped, Luna. Why are you acting so stupid?”
“Evie, come on, I’m sure our guests don’t want to see this…” She knew she didn’t want the Zeroth Cohort to see her getting tugged around like a doll.
“I’ve seen people being Kept before.” Melantha’s slick purr was not helpful in the least. “I’ve seen people displease their Keepers before. This is nothing new.”
Displease their Keepers. Luna flinched. “I didn’t…”
“Luna, stop making a fuss over this. The lady said it; she’s seen bad Kept before. They want to talk; I want to get behind our threshold. Would you stop acting like a brat and come on?”
The last yank pulled Luna off-balance as they hit the stairs down to the dorm level. She stumbled, catching her ankle on the stairs. She could see the fall coming but couldn’t do anything to catch herself.
Strong hands grabbed her by the waist and pulled her to her feet. “Easy. Easy, there. I’ve got you.” Langhorne pulled her against his chest. “I’ve got you. Can you stand?”
“Let go of my Kept.” Evie’s cheeks were flushed.
“I meant no harm. But if she were to fall down the stairs in that state, she risked miscarriage.” Langhorne did not actually release Eluned. Luna wasn’t sure if she wanted him to. He was looking over her head, presumably at Evie. “Like Melantha, I’ve seen Keeping before, good and bad.”
No, please no. Now Luna twisted, trying to get away. She could see the storm raging behind Evie’s eyes.
“Bad?” She squeaked it the first time; the second time it was a shriek. “Bad? You don’t have any idea what bad Keeping is, you basement-dwelling so-rebellious runaway who couldn’t even manage to get out of the school. You don’t know what bad can be. You haven’t seen anything at all, hiding out in your hole, cowering and pretending you’re brave, mouthing shit about the Administration. You have no idea at all what ‘bad’ is.”
Before Luna could even think of stopping her, Evie cocked a fist back and aimed a punch at Langhorn’s face.
Luna wasn’t quite sure what happened next. She knew that Langhorne moved her; for a moment she thought he was going to use her as shield against her Keeper. Then she was behind him, and Evie was screaming.
“This lesson in ‘normal Addergoole life’ appears to be going badly.” Melantha’s voice was ridiculously calm. “Eluned, are you unharmed?”
“I’m all right.” She could barely hear Melantha or herself over Evie’s screaming. “This is pretty normal, actually.”
“Aah. It was when we left, too. Langhorne… do stop.”
“I am doing nothing.”
“You are restraining the nice girl. That is not helping matters in the least.”
“She tried to punch me.”
“Well, she’s stopped. So release her.”
Langhorne dropped Evie, and stepped prudently backwards as she took another swing at him. “Is she always like this?”
“I would never speak ill of my Keeper.”
“Bastard… try to touch me… try to take me without… not Kept… Not your bad Kept…” Evie’s words were coming between ragged sobs, barely coherent. Luna wanted nothing more than to hide somewhere, to vanish into the wall.
“If we go back to the suite,” she offered instead, “I can put her to bed with a nice mug of tea, and then we can watch some movies, as we discussed?”
“Do you think that’s wise?” Melantha had stepped a few paces away as well.
“We made a commitment. We’re going to keep it. Besides, I could use a mug of tea and a movie myself.” She slipped around Langhorne and caught her Keeper by the waist. “Come on, Evie-lady. Come on, my lovely lady.” She crooned the words quietly. It wasn’t the first time Evie had broken down. “It’s time for bed, isn’t it?”
“Bed…” Evie sobbed and whimpered, but she let Luna steer her down the stairs. “Just sleep?”
“Just sleep, my Mistress. Just sleep, and some nice tea to chase away the dreams. It’ll be all right. Everything will be all right.” Luna wasn’t sure she believed that anymore, but what else could she say?
She did her best to ignore their guests as she steered her mistress to the crew’s suite. “Invite them in, Mistress,” she whispered at the door, and, in a voice that was mostly incomprehensible whimpering, Evie did so.
“I’ll be right out.” Luna glanced at Melantha and Langhorne. “Make yourselves at home, I guess?”
Please don’t make this worse. It’s already bad enough.
Melantha seemed content with the damage she’d already wrought. “Take your time, if you need it. We have no pressing appointments.”
“Thanks. Come on, Evie. Come on, Mistress, bed is this way.” She coaxed and cajoled and wheedled, and managed to steer her Keeper into her room and onto her bed. Once there, getting her to sleep was the easy part. It always was. Evie seemed to grab onto sleep like a drowning person grabbed a floating log. What she found in it, Luna wasn’t quite sure – and didn’t dare ask.
It took her ten minutes to get her Mistress to sleep, and another ten to disentangle herself. By the time she got back out to the suite’s common room, Reese and Arnbjorg had taken it upon themselves to entertain the Zeroths.
“…but there’s an election coming up, so who knows what will happen?”
“Well, you could always ask a seer.”
“But then what’s the fun in betting?” Reese smiled brightly at Arna; Melantha and Langhorne looked a little lost. “Oh, hi, Luna. I was just explaining current events to the basement dwellers. Did you know they’ve missed two presidential elections?”
Luna sat down, then stood up again before she’d even gotten settled. “Can I get you anything?” Good Kept were good butlers. “We have soda, juice, several types of alcohol…” Seeing them hesitate, she added, “I’m going to get myself a fruit juice. Reese?”
“Beer. Arna will have…”
They said it together. “Root beer with a shot of whisky.”
Luna turned back to their guests. “Anything?”
“Water would be nice.” Langhorne was still being the soul of politeness.
“What Arnbjorg is having sounds nice, if you don’t mind.”
Luna nodded, and headed into the kitchen, glad for the tray she used to haul drinks around. “No Lee?” She called it across the room, because neither Reese nor Arna minded when she did that.
“He’s playing with his friends.” Reese smiled, a sort of weird expression that looked half-sad and half-pleased. “I don’t want to be that Keeper, you know?”
Luna busied herself with the drinks for a moment. Maybe he’d drop it.
“What sort of Keeper?” Melantha was far too fond of making trouble.
“You know.” Reese flailed with both hands. “The sort that doesn’t let you talk to your friends or go to the arcade or go outside or have any fun at all. Didn’t you people have Keepers down in the basement? You missed elections, you missed Keeping… what did you do for fun?”
Melantha and Langhorne shared a look. Eluned noticed that Arna had fallen still, watching them; even Reese paused, took a breath, and noticed that glance.
“…oh.” Reese grinned. “You do each other for fun. Well, we do a lot of that up here, too.”
“You are still underground, you know.” Melantha, Luna thought, looked a little bit taken aback. Then again, Reese could do that to people.
“We are. Yep. And so are you. We’re an underground cabal, or something.” Reese bounced. “And right now, we’re an underground cabal of having a lot of sex and stuff.”
“‘Stuff’ being children?” Langhorne was watching Reese with a particularly sharp glance. It made Luna nervous, so she hurried with the drinks.
“Well, yeah.” Reese squirmed. “We all have to do the kid thing, yeah? You guys too, right, yeah?”
“Yes.” Melantha frowned. “We are still a part of the Addergoole project, even if we attempted to remove ourselves from it in protest.”
“What were you protesting, exactly?” Arna leaned forward, making the horns that curled back from her forehead look even more intimidating. “The kid thing?”
“That was part of it, of course. Imagine – well, I suppose you don’t have to imagine it. Coming to a boarding school and being told that you must-” She flapped her hand in the first truly uncertain gesture Luna had seen out of her. “and then encountering the fact that we are not human. And that there are Laws governing our behaviour that we never consented to.”
“But nobody really consents to the Laws, right? I mean, they’re Laws because someone needed to be en-lawed, and that’s why the Oseraei came up with the whole mess of them, right, yeah?”
“That’s Laws. That’s not what’s going on here in this school.” Langhorne frowned. “Well, some of it is, I suppose. But the rest of it is installed by the staff to make the students pliant.”
Arna started the laugh, a low chuckle that sounded like the beginnings of an avalanche. Reese picked it up with a high-pitched chirp of a chuckle that the squirrel seemed to prefer. Luna, then, felt it was safe enough to let a little chuckle out.
Melantha and Langhorne watched them with interest but apparent confusion for a moment, until Arna got ahold of herself enough to answer.
“I don’t think anyone here counts as ‘pliant.’“
“Obedient?” Langhorne tried. He was met with a few more giggles, and then a thoughtful look at Luna.
“Kept, sure.” Luna let them out of trying to answer that. “And, I mean, mostly we do what the teachers say, but that’s because the teachers are big and scary.”
“But you are still Kept within the confines of your time as a Student.” Poor Melantha looked very, very confused.
“Oh, I’m not going to say that supernatural slavery can’t suck. I’m sure we can all agree on that.” She glanced over at Arna and Reese, who both nodded, albeit a bit reluctantly. “But supernatural slavery isn’t something the staff invented.” She shrugged, and set their drinks down on the coffee table. “There’s stuff to complain about. Nobody’s arguing that.”
“But you are unconcerned with the way this school warps things?”
“I’m more worried about the way being fae warps things.” Luna took a deep drink of her water, wishing it was something stronger, wishing that she wasn’t pregnant and could drink something stronger.
“Being fae?” Langhorne leaned forward. “You dislike being Ellehemaei?”
“Well, it’s like the guy said, ‘PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS! Itty-bitty living space!’“ She gestured with her hands. “And the powers really aren’t all that phenomenal, are they?”
“You can warp flesh and energy and minds and you do not think that you have ‘phenomenal’ powers?” Melantha was leaning forward now as well. “What would impress you?”
“Well, for one, you’re assuming I can ‘warp flesh and energy and minds.’“ Luna shrugged. “Not everyone has warp-y powers. I can Know anything. Wonderful.” She slugged back her water. “Can we talk about something else?”
“I think the powers are cool.” Reese reached off to the left and pulled an apple out of the air. “But I mean… I’m a squirrel. I didn’t expect to be a squirrel when I got sent away to school.”
Arna nodded. “‘Hey, it’s a great school. Wonderful reputation, great education… by the way, you’re going to turn into an… antelope-thing-ram-thing girl. And your father isn’t your father, just as a side note, but he is everyone else’s father.”
“I think you got that backwards.”
“Shut up, Reese.”
“See, that is the school.” Langhorne gestured. “There’s a lot of strange things they did, that warped our childhoods as well as warping our education. And here you are, Eluned, wearing an oro’ at the same time you bear a cy’. How can you focus on your education while you’re focusing on your Keeper’s needs and wants?”
“And who makes the decision that someone as unstable as she is should be allowed to Keep, in any event?” Melantha frowned. “It seems as if there ought to be some restrictions on these things.”
“Evie isn’t.. well.” Luna frowned down at her glass, wishing Reese or Arna would intervene. “She had a bad Keeping, her first year, and she’s still suffering the effects.”
“And who said the former Keeper should be allowed to Keep, then, hrrm? If it is still bothering her now such that she cannot be a stable Keeper, should not someone have stopped it?” Melantha clucked and shook her head. “This school warps everything. And you wonder why we rebelled?”
“No.” Luna’s grip was tight on her glass. “No. I don’t wonder. I didn’t ask. I didn’t yell at you. That was Evie. I don’t have any question about why you rebelled; that’s not what I said.” Her voice was rising louder and louder. “I can see lots of reasons to rebel. This place can be a hell-hole sometimes. Lee could tell you that, if you were a bitch enough to ask him about things that aren’t any of our business.” She looked up, forcing herself to look first at Melantha and then Langhorne. “I’m not surprised at all that you have problems with the administration.”
She cut Langhorne off with a rude gesture. “Look. Just look for a minute, okay? I’m trying to live here. I’m trying to carry two babies, manage my Keeper so that she’s happy and I’m not too unhappy. I’m trying to have a life.”
She finished her water with a gulp. She could feel all of their eyes on her, and it was getting harder and harder to talk, but she kept going anyway. “I don’t need someone trying to get me to rebel. I don’t need someone getting my Keeper stressed and angry. I don’t need someone rocking my boat. It’s a fucking kayak; it’s shaky enough as it is. Okay?”
She caught Langhorne’s blue eyes. A heartbeat passed, and then another, and another.
Friday, May 7, 2004
Olifur had, by what magic Luna didn’t know, convinced Evie to let him “borrow” Eluned for the evening.
“Just don’t fall in love with her.”
It was the way Evie ended every single one of these Fridays – and there had been more than a few over the last six months – and, every time, Olifur laughed, and Luna laughed, and Evie did something that was almost a laugh. But she let the visits go on, at least once a month and sometimes more. “You’re carrying his child,” was all she would say by way of explanation.
Today, Luna really needed the visit. She let Olifur lead her out through the doors, and did not relinquish his hand once they were on the grass of the meadow. When he laid out the picnic blanket, she flopped down as bonelessly as her current gravid state would allow.
“Tough week?” His fingers trailed through her hair and her antennae, brushing against the sensors there with care.
“Yeah.” She rested her head on his leg. “The Basement Folk are… something else. And Professor Pelletier has got it in her head that her cy’ree are the ones who are supposed to be being ‘ambassadors.’ Which…”
“I can imagine. Is Evie having a bad spell?” His hand settled on her shoulder.
“One of the worst in a while. I don’t know what’s up with her, whether it’s the Basement People or me being pregnant or what…” She reached behind her until she could wrap her arm around his waist.
“You being pregnant was her idea; she can’t very well get angry at you about that.”
“She can get angry about anything she wants; she owns me.”
“All right, you have a point. But she shouldn’t get angry at you for that.”
“Maybe not. But she gets angry at me for just about every… I didn’t say that.”
“I heard nothing, beautiful.” He leaned down with amazing flexibility so that he could brush his lips across hers. “Nothing at all.”
“Olifur, you’re wonderful.” She pressed her fingers against his spine. “Absolutely wonderful. I wish you weren’t graduating… I mean… I’m glad you’re getting out of here.”
“I know what you mean.” He ran his fingers up and down her side. “Roll over and I can rub what ails you? Here, I brought a pillow for the babies.” He helped her get settled so that the pillow supported her stomach and her breasts. “You know I might not leave this year, if I can’t find a mom for a second kid.”
Eluned sighed. She’d asked Professor Valerian about that, and continued to get hedging answers and flat-out lies every time. “Olifur… I think you ought to talk to my Mentor about your graduation.”
“Professor Valerian?” His hands stilled. “Why… hunh.” He grabbed her shirt, and she could feel his body trembling. “Wh… that… oh.” He stroked her, smoothing her shirt back out. “Oh. Oh. Luna…”
“She messed with your mind, didn’t she?” She spoke quietly, like she did when Evie was having a bad day.
“Someone did. Oh, Moth.” He lay down next to her, still trembling. “My Moth…”
Saturday, May 8, 2004
Some day, Lee was pretty sure, he was going to wake up. He was going to wake up and still be at home… or in his first week here in Addergoole. Or in a madhouse, maybe.
Either way, he was going to wake up, and the clusterfuck that had been his life for the last nine months was going to turn out to have just been a very bad dream.
Mostly bad, he supposed, with some particularly weird moments.
Moments? He twisted in the bed to look at his new Keeper. His new Keeper, the squirrel.
Yeah. Yeah, this was all some really, really bad dream. And this moment… with this, um, boy-girl-squirrel… this was one of those little calm moments before things starting going to hell again. He was going to wake up and still be back with the Master and the Mistress.
He kissed the back of Reese’s neck. Fuck it. He was going to enjoy this dream while it lasted.
Addergoole: Year Nine updates every Wednesday evening EST. Want more?