June 26, 2016 by Lyn
This is our iron council
The last antagonist
Standing strong against the new world
“Why exactly have you been following us?” Kailani glared at the unassuming-looking woman, who smiled back, seeming unperturbed.
“That is, of course, assuming that I have been. Why would anyone follow you?”
“Well, I really don’t know, but I would very much like to find out. And yes, I assume that you have been, since this is the second place in a week you’ve turned up, and some distance apart.”
“And I, too, would like to find out what is so intriguing about your little group,” Morgan agreed easily.
“But… if you don’t even know if we’re that interesting, why go to the trouble of tracking us?” Although it probably hadn’t been much trouble at all, had it? They weren’t exactly being stealthy, gallivanting across the countryside as they had.
“It’s in my nature to observe,” she shrugged in response. “And, in general, the more something is hidden, the more there is to learn about it.”
“And if you do learn about us, what would you do with that knowledge?”
“Archive it, of course.”
“Archive… for who?” Kai wondered aloud.
“Yes, do tell us,” a gruff voice said behind her, and she nearly panicked before she recognized Doug. “Morgan, wasn’t it?”
“Aah, nice to see you again. Yes. Morgan.” She smiled at Doug, her diction getting ever more precise. “And as for ‘who,’ why, for the Council, of course.”
“Of course,” Doug replied. “And do you officially represent them in this matter?”
Council? Kailani thought it best if she stayed out of this, at least for now.
Morgan’s smile was sharp now, and her consonants could cut glass. “But of course.”
“Then you’ve come to state their official business in this regard. Excellent.”
“Ah. The Council’s official business is as it always is, of course. To know what its constituents are doing, and to preserve the Law.”
“I can assure you that the Law is being not only preserved, but propagated.”
This Council, then, it must be some sort of ruling body, Kai mused. There was a higher authority. There was oversight. The world of the Ellehemaei as she knew it was turned on its head. Does Conrad know? What could she ask him about it without hurting him?
“And these half-breed children?”
“Are being trained in the Law and the use and protection thereof.” Although he was clearly better at it than she was, likely from experience, Doug didn’t seem any more comfortable with this kind of exchange than Kailani had been.
“Hrmff. So if I asked this child here about the Laws of Sanctity…”
“She could tell you at least a little, but she hasn’t been with us long, so don’t expect her to know everything.”
Was she about to be quizzed, right here, by this stranger?
“So I should ask one of your graduates, then?” Her smile seemed strained and distrustful.
Doug, on the other hand, was becoming visibly exasperated. “To what effect? What is the point of this harassment?”
Now, the smile vanished. “You have an underground bunker warded against everything short of a nuclear explosion in the middle of a South Dakota wheatfield. You have denied the Council access to this bunker. You seem to be collecting mutt children there under the watchful eye of yet more halfbreeds. And you have the demonstrated presence of both a Nedetakaei Dragon and Dragon Slayer. Why, pray tell, should the Council not be interested?”
Mutt children? Kai couldn’t help but be a tiny bit offended by the appellation.
“Perhaps if the Council had identified themselves, they would not have been denied access. Security is a key consideration, particularly in the wake of the attack by the aforementioned Dragon,” Doug answered hotly.
“Well, then, I can always return with you from this little field trip and visit, now that I’ve identified myself, can’t I?” she smiled.
“You can come to the front door, but it’s not my decision whether or not you get past it.”
Kailani recognized the old standby of deferring to a higher authority when in doubt. What would Regine say, she wondered? Did the school have anything to hide from this Council? The Law seemed not to care about rape, or torture; would they care about the graduation requirements? The mind control and geasa?
“I’ll do that, then,” Morgan was smiling again. “In the meantime, I can get to know your lovely students.”
Despite her instinct to run and hide, Kai found herself stepping forward again and opening her mouth. “Excuse me, ma’am,” she began, commanding the immediate attention of both Morgan and Doug, “but visitors from outside the school, such as that Aelfgar you mentioned previously, tend to be very disruptive to the learning environment. It might be better for everyone if you talked to the staff outside the building.”
There was a pause, a pause she recognized from her earlier school days, and a shared look between the two adult Ellehemaei. “An interesting point,” Morgan murmured. “And did you find the Dragon’s presence disruptive as well?”
“More after the fact; I wasn’t very aware of him before he, um, left.” Oh, now she was going to have to talk about that, why had she opened her mouth?
“‘Um, left?'” the woman quoted back at her, one eyebrow raised.
“Well.” She glanced at Doug uncertainly, but he wasn’t giving her any clear signals, so she plunged ahead. “He kind of kidnapped two students. They had to hunt him down.”
“Kidnapped.” Kai was pretty sure that twitch indicated some sort of surprise. “And the students in question…?”
“Were rescued, yes. I don’t think everyone knows they were gone; it’d disrupt things even more.”
“Personally, I know I found being abducted, raped, and tortured to be a bit disruptive to my class schedule,” Shahin said dryly, approaching from the cover of a copse of trees. How long had she been there? Kai hadn’t even noticed her, she was so absorbed by the interaction in front of her.
“Survived?” Morgan began asking Kai, and then turned to Shahin. “Aah. Yes. I recall seeing the pair of you returning with your aeosthena. You seem to have recuperated very well.”
Aeosthena? Kai memorized the word for later study while Shahin raised her eyebrow. “We survived,” she answered coolly.
“I’m sure you understand why there’s little trust for outsiders,” Doug interjected smoothly.
“Ah, but that was a Dragon, which I am not.”
“Prove it,” Shahin retorted.
And that was the rub, wasn’t it? Kai watched Morgan carefully, wondering how she’d react.
Her lips curled in a little thing that wasn’t a smile. “Not here,” she murmured. “There are those here who would notice, especially here in a place like this. The Faded do love their spectacles.”
“I have a reasonable suspicion that she is who she says,” Doug assured Shahin. “Of course, that’s not the same as a certainty.”
“I have a reasonable suspicion there was a soul-sucking monster walking around the school for a week before anyone noticed,” she countered. “You’ll forgive me if I’m a bit uncomfortable.”
The whole situation was going to get really uncomfortable really quickly. Kailani, cautiously, set a hand on Shahin’s elbow. “Sheen…”
“She’s not getting in without the Director’s say-so,” Doug said. “And she won’t follow us anymore until we return. Isn’t that right, Morgan?” he added coldly.
“If my presence is distracting your Students, then of course I will leave you alone.” She bowed shallowly to him, and then slightly more deeply to Kailani and Shahin. “You two are very intriguing. I would be interested in meeting with you once you graduate.”
“Thank you,” Kailani said graciously in response, thinking that she should curtsy but at a loss for exactly how to do it in this getup without breaking something.
Shahin, who might have been able to lead by example, showed no inclination to do so. “It might be interesting,” she allowed.
“We’ll see. And I’ll be seeing you later.” She turned and walked away, pointedly not pulling up the air around herself. Only when she was out of sight did Shahin lean, ever so slightly, against Kai’s hand.
Kai allowed herself a momentary tremble. “Oh, my. Interesting. Yes.”
“Yeah,” Doug grunted, his hand lingering near the hilt of his sword. “Interesting.”
“Doug, Mr. Doug, Doug!” Caity came skidding towards them, her soft moccasins affording no traction on the dusty ground. “Come quick!”
“What now?” he asked sharply, turning towards her.
“It’s Nydia, sir. She…” She gulped and lowered her voice down to a quiet murmur, her cheeks flushed. “Sorry. Um. I think she’s Changing.”
Doug was already heading that direction, and Shahin behind him, as Kailani stood still for a moment. Nydia, little emaciated waiflike Nydia, Changing. And she herself still hadn’t. Would she ever?
Face it. You’re just not that cool.