August 18, 2016 by Lyn
Rix’s Guest Story
Hell Night, Year Twenty-Four of the Addergoole School
“No harm, no foul,” said George after Dr Caitrin had left the room. He stood with his feet apart and his arms crossed. “We three go to lunch in the dining hall, swing past the store together and pick up supplies to keep us going till breakfast Monday. Then we drop you, Olivia, at your room and we go on to our own.”
“Everyone’s safe till at least until we leave Olivia,” added Sextus, apparently serious despite the dopey grin.
“Why should I provide you with an escort?” Olivia was sitting upright now, but Caitrin’s advice to take things easy was sounding very good.
“Because you’re not up to strength at the moment,” said George reasonably. “We can provide at least a modicum of back up and if you find out you’re weaker than you feel now, well it’ll do our reputations no harm to be seen carrying you through the halls again.”
She sighed, “I suppose people must have seen you bringing me here.” Both boys nodded. “Ah well, lunch it is then.”
“I could carry you anyway,” offered Sextus, “You could put an arm around my neck and gesture imperiously, giving instructions about direction.”
“Why?” Olivia narrowed her eyes suspiciously, “What benefit do you derive from that?”
“I get to cuddle you again.” The dopey grin faded for a moment, “I didn’t get to enjoy it last time, I was worried I’d killed you.”
“And,” pointed out George quickly, “You would get to look like you were in charge.”
“So, you’re offering me the chance to save face?” She nodded silently, ignoring Sextus’ remark. “Alright, if I find I’m too tired to walk, Sextus may carry me. Now, lunch.”
Sextus wasn’t just examination room wall coloured, out in the darkened hallways he changed to match the ambient colour scheme and became almost invisible.
“Cool,” Sextus, who was wiggling his fingers in front of his own face and almost failing to see them.
“Neat,” George sounded and looked impressed.
“Useful,” acknowledged Olivia, “Even more useful if you can learn to control it.”
The walk to the dining hall was relatively uneventful. Apparently the trying-to-get-to-breakfast rush was over and there wasn’t so much action in the lead up to lunch. Or maybe the predators had gotten hungry for food and were having lunch themselves. The dining hall itself was unusually empty for lunch time. There were a few groups of older students, several with newly collared members of the 24th Cohort sitting with them. One table had three collared students sitting glumly together, perhaps commiserating and telling each other it could be worse.
“George,” Sextus was now dining hall coloured, “That couple over there, isn’t that the girl you like and Olivia’s friend Raz?”
His brother glanced briefly in the indicated direction, “Yes.” The disappointment on his face was a fleeting thing. They went down the bain-marie and salad bar in silence.
A full tray in his hands, growing wings and changing colour apparently took lots of energy, Sextus said, “Okay, let’s go sit with them.”
“What!” George’s objection was a fierce, hushed one.
“Look at them,” explained Sextus, “He looks like you or me rousing on one of the younger ones at home when they’ve done something we told them not to. It looks to me like they’ve got the same nose, too. Besides, he’s Olivia’s friend and she’d probably like to sit with him at lunch.”
Olivia suppressed a small chuckle (memo to self: laughing hurts in both places) and led the way over to the table in question, pulling out a chair next to Raz and sitting down. Without his Mask, the other boy was unnaturally good looking, still with almost red hair and dark eyes, but the eyebrows weren’t quite hair and the hairs on his arms were of similar stuff. The girl sitting opposite him did indeed have the same nose, albeit smaller, looked fifteen or sixteen and had bottle-sourced black hair. “Raz, Ytha,” she greeted them, “Do you mind if we sit here?”
“Where have you been?!” A fierce whisper from Raz, “I couldn’t find you, then while I was looking for you, Ytha decided to leave her room against all advice and almost got herself Kept by that pimping slime bag, Rigg. Ked’s still looking for you.”
“I jumped the boys here,” she made a thumb jerking gesture at the twins, after she’d put her tray down, “Got my nose and skull broken, and then we all went to the clinic.”
“Where Olivia got fixed and I Changed,” added Sextus happily as he sat down, “I’ve got wings!” He beamed seraphically at the room in general and the others at the table in particular.
“So,” asked George from where he’d sat opposite his brother, “You had a run in with the Sleaze?”
“Is that what he’s called?” asked Ytha, “He certainly seemed sleazy to me, had his hands all over me while his friends-“
“Kept,” interjected Raz.
“Held me down.” She shuddered, “He had just said he’d stop if I said I belonged to him when my brother turned up.” She looked gratefully at Raz and George suddenly seemed indefinably happier.
“Well, Sextus and I call him the Sleaze, cause frankly, that’s what he is.” George settled in to his meal with the dedication of a seventeen year old boy who’d reached lunch without going via breakfast.
“And he really does pimp out his Kept,” added Olivia.
“We were told about Keeping before we got here,” put in Sextus, “We know three adult Ellehemaei back home, including Mum. She wasn’t sure if she was able to tell us everything she thought we needed to know, so she got one of the others to talk to us about it.”
“Stoneface’s comments were very illuminating,” put in George.
“Stoneface?” Both the girls were diverted.
“Is that his adult Name?” asked Raz.
“Don’t know,” George shrugged, “But it’s what everyone calls him. Back when one of those wanna-be godlets was trying to take control of Sydney, he pretended to be a stone gargoyle for three days so he could kill it. Most people think he’s some sort of Special Forces soldier, and he could be that too, but he’s a tough Mara-breed with a whacking great big rowan sword. Don’t know where he got it, rowan’s not native to our part of the world and it not a common import.”
“He comes through every so often,” added Sextus, “I think he and the Ronin both use our place as a sort of safe house. Mum lets them, says she trusts them to be discreet.”
“The Ronin would be?” Olivia asked.
“The other Ellehemaei we know,” said George, “Japanese tourist who got stuck when the flights to Japan stopped. Apparently did something to some Nedetakaei drop kick who was bothering the group and although they were grateful, they don’t want a bar of him. They’ve gone somewhere north of us and he sort of wanders around between keeping an eye on them and looking for Neds to beat up.”
“Does he give unarmed combat lessons when he visits?” asked Olivia wryly.
“Yes,” Sextus added happily, “And other things. So does Stoneface.”
“You two have been to see Luke or Doug, haven’t you?” asked Raz seriously.
“Yes,” George was being very precise. “Luke says we’re adequate for our age.”
Ytha put down her fork and said, “Sorry, but I don’t feel so well.”
Faced with three different options from three different people Ytha considered and offered, “Sort of generally seedy and achy in places?”
“Come on,” said Raz standing, “We’ll get you to Dr Caitrin now.”
“Don’t worry,” said Sextus cheerfully, “Blue pills are fun!”
Later, in the store holding a basket of bread, tins, plates and utensils George looked disconsolately at a small black and white sign. “It would have been perfect for dinner, but of course.”
“Pity,” consoled his brother, “We haven’t had pizza in years but if they tried tonight, who would actually get the pizza?”
The small sign read: “Pizza delivery suspended until 6:00pm Monday.”
“You two ready?” It was Olivia with her own supplies for making a girl who was feeling sore and a little sorry for herself feel better. Chocolate and what might have been a catnip-laced cat toy were included.
“Yeap,” George sighed, “No fresh hot pizza for dinner tonight or tomorrow night though.”
“Well, you can have it if you can get here and back to your room again,” she pointed out reasonably.
“Oh, yeah,” sarcasm overflowed in his tone. “Let me guess, all the night predators come out later?”
“Maybe,” she smiled, showing her teeth, “But I won’t be one of them tonight.”
Later again, Olivia was being visited by her Crew. They occupied the chairs in her room while she sat cross legged on the bed.
“He really broke your nose?” Ked was disbelieving, but held out the pizza box to offer another slice.
“Yes, but the skull was an accident,” she conceded. “First years aren’t s’posed to be that good this early in the year, are they? It seemed such a good idea to put a collar on that smartarse and teach him what’s what, but…”
“May be not a so much of a smartarse, may be just competent enough to get himself out of some trouble and with similar backup?” summed up Raz, “And then,” added the Grigori-breed, “He seems to really like you, without Bond or Working to make him.” He took another piece of pizza himself.
“I don’t want to be mean,” added Ked, “But that would put him in the minority.” Raz was chewing meditatively on his pizza. “We’re not the most popular Crew.”
“Let alone I give my own kid nightmares if I’m not careful,” Olivia agreed sourly.
“Stop trying to Keep him,” said Raz. The other two looked at him. “Cultivate them as allies. Ked and I are out of here at the end of this year, but you’re here for another year after that, Olivia. We want to position you to be in their Crew next year. You need another kid for graduation, why not Sextus? He’s smart, good Changes, don’t know about his Words yet, of course, and he’s attracted to you. It’s obvious George likes my little sister, and being in a Crew with them would help keep her safe from the likes of Rigg.” He looked at the other two, “I suspect the twins and Ytha might have other friends who’d work well in a Crew with them, perhaps that Aswin kid who’s in the twins’ pod. Anyone you want to include, Ked?”
“Nope, I’m good,” feral grin, “I’m the little brother, remember?”
“We can pull this off,” he reached for the pizza box again, “And the two people I care about who’ll be here after this year will be safe.”