August 19, 2016 by Lyn
Rix’s Guest Story
Early September, Year 25 (One year after George’s Change)
The summer holidays were over and the students were returning to Addergoole. Sextus and George had spent the holidays with their grandfather, Leal, travelling around in Aelfgar’s wake and fighting monsters. With the lack of fuel these days the sol’jers had gone back to horses. The twins had ridden before but not often and they were much better at it now than they had been at the beginning of the summer. They’d picked up a few scars as well, their ‘summer placement’ having been a real learning experience. George in particular sported some new and interesting indentifying marks.
The hallways were beginning to fill but they weren’t as full as they would be in a few days’ time. Most of the students they saw gave Sextus and George a wide berth – it wasn’t so much the weapons as the lack of recent all over soap and water. Willow-haired Salicia however bounded right up to them, wearing rather more than she had on any given day in the previous year.
“Thank you for doing what you did at the end of last year,” she grinned at them, not an innuendo in sight, “I could kiss you both all over.”
“You really don’t want to do that right now,” Sextus held up a warning hand.
“Besides, the pleasure was all ours,” said George, “We got to carry struggling, attractive girls around with our girlfriends’ permission and we got to screw up Rigg’s plans at the same time. It was a good day.”
“And we did promise,” added Sextus, “Dulcinea pretty much hit the nail on the head about what he’d try.”
“Good thing she worked it out in advance of him doing it,” agreed Salicia, “And you two know you stink, don’t you?”
“On our way to the showers,” agreed Sextus.
“Long, hot, soapy showers,” his brother said, “Followed by food not cooked on a camp fire and actual beds in our own Sanctity.”
Two days later the new students began turning up and the brothers made sure they were on hand when their younger brother and sister arrived, laden with a suitcase and backpack each as well as a wooden box of plum jam jars. “Are any of those for us?” George used the tone he’d always used for teasing Ursula.
“All for Professor Fridmar, like I need to tell you.” The brown haired, fair skinned girl was smiling up at her older brother, her vaguely hazelish eyes sparkling with amusement. She and her twin were built on a slighter scale than the two older boys had been at their age. “So,” she regarded their Masked forms impatiently, “When do we get to see your Changes?”
“Not here,” Sextus said quietly with a warning note. “Geas. May be later in our suite. Let’s get you to your rooms first.”
“And then we can give you your mail from Mum,” added in Talon.
“And presents for the grandbabies,” added Ursula, “You do realise she wants pictures don’t you?” Another new 25th Cohort student passing by on her own with her suitcase gave Ursula a startled look.
With settling the younger twins in, escorting them to deliver jam and introducing them to the other members of their own crew, the boys were able to save their younger sibs from being cut out of the herd by other senior class members before the commencement announcements. Sextus and George had exchanged speaking glances when they discovered that Ursula and Talon were not in the same pod but there was very little they could do about that now. They’d all sat together during the announcements then afterwards Rigg’s three former Kept had come over to them, a crew themselves, united in their determination that this year would not be like their time spent in his collar. The three girls were acting a little as if Talon were some sort of tasty morsel they were thinking of eating right up. This being Addergoole that was probably true for certain values of ‘eat’. George was playing backstop in the banter when something across the room caught his eye. Ursula was over there smiling up at a blonde boy whose body language suggested looming with intent. He asked Sextus, “Do we care that Auryn is trying to chat up our sister?”
“Yes,” Sextus’ eyes narrowed. “Let’s extract her before the rest of that crew joins them. Tal, wait here. Don’t let them eat you alive and don’t promise anything. Let’s go, George.”
With his brothers moving off on a rescue mission he wasn’t sure their sister wanted, Talon found himself alone with three pretty girls. Masked, Salicia was tallish with long, straight, dark blonde hair. Dulcinea was almost as tall and much like a young, ripe Sophia Loren. Bailey’s black hair looked like it was dyed to match her black lipstick – a generation ago the shortest of the three would have been labelled a goth.
Talon was taller that all of them, his brown and gray muddled eyes level with the top of Salicia’s head. It was because of that and because he was facing in the right direction that he was the only one of them to notice the girl with the ruddy chestnut hair and her black haired male friend working their way through the auditorium in their direction.
“So, how are you liking Addergoole so far?” Bailey’s question distracted him.
“I’ve hardly seen anything yet,” he wasn’t sure if that was a point to be made or an admission, “And I’m not used to quite so many people. I think that’s why I keep feeling as if I’m on the brink of getting all stirred up over, well, anything.”
“Salicia, Dulcinea, Bailey?” It was the chestnut haired girl, her friend standing arms crossed and glowering behind her.
“Yes?” That was Dulcinea, calm and poised, “And who are you?”
“I’m Rigg’s sister,” Talon didn’t like the expression on her face, “Bronwyn. You all belong to me now. Come along.”
“No we don’t.” That was Salicia.
“Absolutely not,” was Dulcinea’s reaction.
“No freakin’ way.” Bailey was the last but her answer was almost a spit.
Bronwyn’s eyes narrowed. “So much for his arrangements,” she turned to her companion, “We’ll have to do this the hard way.”
Talon stepped around Salicia and stood between the girls and the stockier, solider boy.
“They’ve said they don’t Belong to your friend,” Talon said calmly. “There’s no point in trying to strong arm them into it. If nothing else, it lacks class.”
“Jeffrey, we’ll take him too.” Bronwyn was sounding more and more like bad news. “That’ll teach people not to stick their noses into my business.”
Talon parried Jeffrey’s first blow and assumed that there was more to him than that if this Bronwyn was using him as muscle.
“Who do you think you are?”
If that was supposed to be sledging, Talon didn’t think much of Jeffrey’s technique. “Talon sh’Penstemon,” and calmly blocked the blow to the face the exchange was supposed to distract him from. Training sessions back at home with the Ronin and Stoneface had been harder than this. Perhaps Jeffrey was relying on landing a blow? Truth be told, what he’d parried and blocked hadn’t felt that hard.
“You know,” Jeffrey swung again, low and with the other fist this time but still not fast or hard enough to get through Talon’s guard, “Talon, you should have stayed out of this,” another probing hit, blocked again but Talon thought he was finding out more about Jeffrey than Jeffrey was finding out about him, “And just let Bronwyn collect her property.” Another punch aimed at his torso and Talon blocked once more, sure now that he could see the gap in Jeffrey’s technique. “They’re just whoring sluts anyway.”
Talon’s fist flashed through Jeffrey’s guard straight at his larynx.
And Talon’s knuckles hit a wall of force inches from Jeffrey. The Change seemed to flow from the point of impact back up his arm. Bones lengthened, muscles thickened, and when the Change reached his elbow dark blue feathers began to sprout in a line up his biceps.
“Stand down both of you, right now.” The authoritative male voice spoke again and Luke became visible as students moved out of his way.
Talon’s dark brown hair was falling out as pin feathers pushed their way out of his scalp, the skin of his neck, his face along the top of his cheek bones. The Change flowed down his other arm and down his torso. He was lengthening.
“Talon,” Dulcinea’s voice was low and urgent. “You have to get your shirt off now.”
Without taking his eyes off Jeffrey, Talon skimmed his fingers down the buttons but the shirt wouldn’t just shrug off, it was catching on something.
“Let me help with that,” Dulcinea gently bent his left arm around to get it out through the sleeve of a shirt that now seemed too tight despite being open. She flicked the shirt over to his right side and it slid down his arm to the floor.
Pin feathers unfurling in midnight and navy blue covered his deltoids. His back was moving and Salicia made an involuntary step backwards as two shapes attached at his shoulder blades began to erupt and separate from his back.
Jeffrey looked at him, unbelieving. “What are you?”
“Myself,” Talon blinked yellow eyes at him, “Who and what are you when she’s not giving you orders?”
“That’s enough,” Luke ordered. “This is over.” To Bronwyn and Jeffrey, “Go about your business you two. You seem to have no idea how much grief he’s probably just saved you.” Then to Talon, “Let’s get you to the clinic, son.” He cast an experienced eye over the boy’s back and fledging wings. “That has got to hurt.”
“It does,” Talon sounded almost detached, “But it’s not what’s important right now, sir. Are the girls safe?”
“Yes, we are. Thank you, Talon.” That was Bailey. “Now let’s do what Luke says and take you to the clinic.”
Later, Luke came to see him. Talon was reclining on a raised hospital bed, the back elevated so his wings could hang down over its support and his lower half covered by a sheet. His knee on the side away from the door was propped up and a hand rested on it, solid blue nails evident from the doorway. The boy was aware of him almost immediately and smiled in greeting – a slow, lazy, predator’s smile but, Luke judged, genuinely glad to see him.
“Hi,” Luke didn’t think that his voice had been quite that deep on arrival, “Apparently I never have to worry about haircuts ever again. Going bald could be a bit of a bugger, though.” A pause then, “Sorry. Dr Caitrin gave me a blue pill and it feels like I’m not in complete control of my mouth.”
“They can take people that way,” Luke agreed easily. “How’s the Change coming?”
“Dr Caitrin thinks it’s all done and dusted, except for the feathers maturing. Lots of small protein meals and rest for a day, then I should be good. The girls want to take me clothes shopping. Aside from the wings,” he flexed some of his new muscles and said wings moved slightly, “Apparently if it looked good with brown hair it’s not going to go with dark blue feathers.”
“How do you feel?” Luke looked at him closely. The boy certainly wasn’t in denial. His musculature was more clearly defined than was possible for a human his age but he was a wiry one, except for the massive muscles that powered his new wings.
Clear yellow eyes looked back at him. “Fuzzy from the blue pill. Not sure whether to take the girls up on their offer. Worried.”
“Why are you worried?”
“I tried to kill Jeffrey because he was stupid and rude. What sort of reason is that? I didn’t think about it, I just did it. I’m glad you stopped me, thanks.” He paused, looked away then back at Luke and went on, “It worries me that I might not be safe to be around, which makes me think that taking the girls up on their offer might not be a good idea.”
“Clothes shopping shouldn’t be a problem, surely?” Luke wasn’t sure whether to be amused, just as he wasn’t quite sure what he thought of Talon. At least the boy had some insight into his own behaviour and the wit to be concerned by it.
“Oh, it’s not the clothes shopping I’m not sure about.” Talon flashed a wry smile at Luke, “Olivia, Ytha, Dr Caitrin, the nurse, my sister and the girls all tell me I need new clothes. I’m doomed. Clothes shopping will happen and I might even get a say. The girls have asked me to move into their suite with them. That’s what I’m not sure about.” Talon sobered up and for a moment was a frightened boy. “They say they want a watch dog to open the door for visitors. I think I can negotiate that without a Collar, but will they be safe from me? That’s why I’m not sure what to do.”
“Son,” Luke pulled up the visitor’s chair and sat down, “To be honest, the girls could have handled Bronwyn and Jeffrey without you. Dulcinea’s fourth year, Salicia’s third year and Bailey’s second. Jeffrey might be tough but unless Bronwyn’s got some massive innate power already active, the two of them were completely out matched. The three girls appreciated what you did, don’t think they didn’t but-. What advice did your mother give you about girls?”
“Not much,” Talon admitted, “She says she didn’t date when she was here. She said the best advice she could give me was to never try to chat up a girl with morning sickness while she’s taking two sick toddlers to the doctor.”
“Good, if limited, advice,” Luke agreed. If that was the calibre of approach she got, no wonder Penstemon didn’t date. I hope it wasn’t one of my lot who prompted that piece of advice. “Any advice from her crew?”
“Always be polite to and about their parents. Try to stay out of family arguments. Some stuff I wouldn’t tell my mother and I’m not sure I want to admit to you I’ve been told.” A normal seventeen year old male grin.
“Okay,” Luke said slowly, “So, do you want advice or just someone to listen?”