May 26, 2016 by Lyn
No more succubus powers.
Manira wasn’t in her room Saturday night. She’d tried to avoid the orders Ambrus had given her (while at the same time trying to ignore how much it galled, that a Kept she’d hoped to Own was givingher orders), but they locked her in as tightly as if she herself had been Kept, locked her as tightly as the oaths she’d sworn to the original Manira. She had no choice but to go out and look for boys.
In another situation, that would have amused her. Oh no, whatever shall I do? Don’t throw me into the briar patch, Mr. Fox, with all those boys. But without her powers, ordered to act as dumb and naïve as the real Manira would have been, she was walking into a shooting range blindfolded. Someone was going to catch her up. You’re going to let him Keep you if what he’s saying would have fooled the original Manira.
There was some leeway, just a tiny bit, in the orders; he’d told her to act like the teenaged student she was pretending to be. She’d been playing the role of Manira for quite a few years now; there was a certain rabbit-clever wiliness she could get away with, because no-one knew how the first Manira would have grown up. Sweet, naïve, certainly. But even rabbits knew when a predator was near.
Keeping all that in mind, trying to juggle her orders into something that might still let her have a little fun, she headed for the Arcade. There weren’t that many places that students gathered, after all, and she didn’t want to start off this punishment getting trapped in some wolf’s suite.
Sweet and innocent. Naïve and a bit shy. 4-H and church on Sundays. She repeated it to herself like a mantra as she headed into the bright lights of the Arcade. Until she’d come here, she’d never had any problem holding on to her persona. Of course, until she’d come here, she’d thought she was pretending to be human.
Sweet and innocent. Naïve and shy. The arcade was a bit crowded, people on almost every machine, a crowd around the back pool table. She looked around uncertainly, wondering who would be friendly, wondering if she would be interrupting if she tried talking to anyone.
“I’ve never see you down here before.” And she’d never seen him in class, either, although she had noticed him in the lunchroom and in the halls, a boy maybe half a foot taller than she, his dark hair obscuring his face and his black trench coat obscuring his body. He pushed the hair out of his face and smiled at her; his eyes were solid black, his smile more of a smirk than anything friendly.
She smiled back hesitantly. “Is that all right? I was just getting a bit lonely, alone in my room…”
“It’s fine. This late in the year, you don’t expect to see a new face, is all.”
It was less than two months into the school year, but considering the feeding frenzy she’d seen at the first two dances and “Hell Night,” she had a feeling she knew what he meant.
“After that Saturday, I wasn’t sure it was safe to wander the halls.” There was nothing in her orders against lying; if there had been, she would have been in direct conflict with her oath every moment of the day.
“It can be a little wild, but it’s just good fun. The Arcade is one of the safest places in the school, too.” His smile was no more reassuring with some time to get used to it. “I’m Phelen.”
“Hello, Phelen.” She offered him a hand. “I’m Manira. So it’s safe down here, then? There were some pretty scary things out in the halls… and not just on that Saturday, either…”
“Ah, well, you can’t judge a book by its cover, now can you?” He draped his arm over her shoulders companionably. She couldn’t help but notice the shadows dripping from the sleeve of his trench coat and wrapping around his fingers. “Like that, see?” he continued, as she stared at the strands of darkness. “They look a bit creepy, I’ll grant you, but that’s not to say that I’m not a perfectly nice guy, is it? Now, have you picked a Mentor yet, Manira?”
“Professor VanderLinden,” she stammered. “He seemed so nice…”
“Oh, Mike’s great,” Phelen agreed. “Myself, I’m cy’Fridmar…” He led her towards the middle of the room, talking the whole way.
This was going to be easy, Manira feared.