September 12, 2015 by Lyn
Stand by your man
And tell the world you love him
When the dragon descended on the Village, the children hadn’t stood a chance, Shahin reflected sadly, gazing down at the carnage.
The adults at least had some magic to protect them, but clearly it had been woefully inadequate. Tiny broken bodies littered the ash-choked streets. Some of the buildings were still burning, suffusing the scene with a ruddy glow. The hiss and crackle of the flames cut sharply across the low moans of the dying.
Through the undertone of smoldering timber, the sickly sweet scent of charred flesh assailed Shahin’s nostrils. She stared blankly, at a loss for what to do.
Melchior’s whine drew her back from her reverie.
“Come on, Sheen, it’s your initiative. We can still catch this thing, let’s move.”
She blinked, returning her focus to the larger room around her. It was D&D night at the suite. Dysmas, as game master, smiled at her over the intensely realistic illusion he’d crafted to set the scene. She smiled back at him and rolled the dice.
This was more fun than she’d expected, when she’d offhandedly suggested Emrys go play his Tuesday night game, and just as offhandedly mentioned that she might come along, too. His friends were fun in their own element, and Agatha was no-where to be seen.
The thought had no sooner crossed her mind than the poisonous little bitch stormed into the room, a dazed and ill-looking Bowen tugged along behind her like a balloon on a string. “How dare that mangy miserable mutt lay a hand on my Kept,” she snarled to the room as a whole.
Anatoliy rose to his feet, startlingly quickly. “Who? What?”
“Conrad.” Behind her, Bowen swayed on his feet. “I’m going to go remind him how things work around here.”
“Conrad?” Emrys stood as well, Cassidy almost echoing his movement. Shahin stayed sitting for a moment, watching.
“Conrad?” Cassidy repeated again, frowning. “Now Aggie, I’m sure Conrad wouldn’t do anything untoward.”
“Well, you can be sure all you want, Cass, but I know what happened, and I’m going to deal with it.”
“We should come with you,” Emrys said, shooting a look at Dysmas and Tolly and then an imploring one at Shahin. Dysmas was already rising to his feet, and Shahin was both curious and feeling generous, so she held out a hand for Emrys to help her up.
“Whatever,” Aggie blustered, though it was clear she wanted their support. “Come on, Bowen.”
Emrys helped Shahin to her feet, and they all trooped out of the suite, although Anwell and Melchior murmured their farewells and beat a hasty retreat. Bowen was stumbling, barely staying upright, but it seemed like a bad time to help him. Cassidy, on the other hand, looked not only displeased, but worried, as if he thought Conrad might actually have done something. Shahin settled for shooting an uncertain glance back at Emrys. He wore his neutral mask, but she knew him well enough by now to recognize a bit of worry there as well. She would have felt more kindly towards him if she thought it was for Bowen and not for his nasty little crewmate.
She shifted to his off-hand side and claimed that hand with her own so-very-neutral smile. Whatever was happening, it seemed she was going to be a part of it.
Cassidy shifted to the front of the group and pushed open a door. “Just a moment.” He closed the door behind him, too quickly for Aggie to say anything more. She settled for pounding on the door with the flat of her fist.
The door opened a moment later, Aggie’s hand bouncing against the air for a second before she jerked it back. Mabina stood in the center of the doorway, her twin Cassidy looming to one side of her, the muscular and sullen Taro to the other side.
“Aggie,” Mabina smiled sweetly. “I believe we have a problem of communication.”
“I think I’m communicating just fine. Conrad laid hands on my Kept. I have a just claim over him.”
Mabina and Cassidy both winced, but it was Taro who answered. “Ha! Except the part where Conrad’s Kept, too.” That just elicited a bigger wince from the elfin twins.
“Well, then,” Aggie smirks, “I have a just claim on his Keeper.”
“For getting your Kept out of the hallway when he was passed out?” The voice came from behind Taro, and sounded indignant and very young. The redheaded girl – Kailani, another Fifth Cohort – edged her way between Mabina and Taro. “You should be thanking us, not flipping out.”
Agatha sneered. “You manhandled my Kept. That’s what matters. So… I think I ought to get to manhandle yours in return.”
Every person in the suite tensed, but it was the redhead who answered. “No.” She sounded a little shrill, but certain of herself. “No, I don’t think so. If you were a decent Keeper, Bowen wouldn’t have been passed out in the hallway in the first place.”
Everyone winced at that one, everyone but Aggie. She backed up several steps, her crew moving with her to stay out of her way, and beckoned to the redhead with one hand. “Why don’t you come out here and say that?”
The girl, god help her, moved towards the door, but Cassidy grabbed her. “Kai, no.”
“I’m not afraid of her,” she flared. Shahin found herself liking her – as long as she kept her hands off Emrys.
“If you’re volunteering yourself in Conrad’s place, I’m sure we can find a use for you. Isn’t that right Tolly?”
The giant turned red and glared down at her. ”Now, Aggie,” he complained. Sheen, however, saw the speculative look he gave Kailani when he thought no-one was looking. He plowed on anyway. ”Look, if all they did was help Bowen to the nurse’s…”
“That’s not the point,” Aggie snapped. ”How do we know they didn’t hurt him in the first place?”
“Because we’re good people,” the redhead shot right back. ”We’re not the sort of people to go around hurting someone just because we can.” It was a clumsy shot, and it flew wide of its mark. Aggie just laughed, that obnoxious little bell-like tinkle.
“No? You should try it sometime. Or, if you want to even the score, just bring Connie over for an hour and I’ll show you how it’s done.”
“I don’t know,” Shahin cut in, “I’ve found the whole idea of treating your Kept as a person rather refreshing, Aggie.”
“Just because Emrys was soft on you doesn’t make the world work like that, sweetie. The rest of us know what it means to Keep someone.” Her eyes trailed over the group still waiting in Cassidy’s doorway. “Don’t we?”
“Some of us aren’t interested in that sort of perversion,” Mabina snapped. Shahin hid a flinch and glanced over at Emrys.
He remained quiet, but his eyes smoldered with an intensity that indicated he was paying close attention to the proceedings. Agatha, meanwhile, had turned her attention to Mabina.
“Mmm, yes, well I’ve always thought your approach to be a little… masturbatory, for my tastes.”
“Well, there’s no accounting for tastes, of course.” The elfin woman smiled sharply.
“Indeed, and in this case what matters is the incredibly poor taste some of you showed in willfully and intentionally interfering with my property. Guilt has been admitted, so what do you intend to do to rectify the situation?” She swept her piercing gaze over Conrad and Kailani again.
Property. Shahin wanted to slap the smug look off the girl’s face. Her “property” was swaying on his feet, struggling to stay on his feet.
“Look, Aggie,” Conrad began, and was cut off just as quickly by the little bitch.
“I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to your owner.”
The redhead, frowning, took a step forward, only to be yanked back behind the threshold by Taro. “Your property is going to fall over any moment now,” she pointed out, still trying to be reasonable in the face of Aggie’s venom. “He shouldn’t be out of bed.”
“Neither should you, by the look on your boy’s face there. Oh, but he’s not your boy, is he? And a sore loser too, it seems. Did you at least give him a pity fuck when you took Conrad over him?”
The girl looked confused for a moment. “My… oh, Taro.” She made a face. “He…”
Taro was having none of it. He shoved her out of the way and glowered at all of them standing in the hall. “Shut up, Kai. I don’t need you to talk for me.”
Emrys shifted tensely, edging slightly to the side of where Shahin stood directly behind Agatha, who tilted her head at Taro with a smirk. “Are you sure? She’d be a good replacement for Megan, wouldn’t she? Keeping you down on your knees where you belong, begging for attention like a good doggie?”
Taro took a swing at Agatha, and for a moment time seemed to stand still. The petite girl in front of Shahin leapt nimbly aside as the heavily muscled boy charged forward. His oncoming fist filled her vision. Shahin heard more than felt the meaty thud of impact as the frozen moment ended, and then everything went black.