June 23, 2016 by Lyn
There’s no light at the end of the tunnel
Can’t you know I’m looking for trouble
Obviously, it’s been looking for me
“Are they supposed to be… all up in my face like that?” Kai frowned uncertainly at the way the bodice squeezed in and up her chest.
“Exactly like that,” Shahin reassured her. “You look great.” The smaller girl patted her shoulder. “Just… stick close to the guys, okay?”
Kai swallowed and nodded. “Taro said there was a bit of trouble yesterday.”
“A bit of trouble,” Shahin grimaced. “Is that all?”
“Taro isn’t exactly the most eloquent sort. Was it bad? Not more Ellehemaei, was it?”
“No; it might’ve been better if it had been, almost.”
“Oh.” She frowned, and adjusted the hang of her skirts – at least they were blue! “Humans can be assh- excuse me! -jerks just as well as fae can.”
“Yeah, but it’s not the same when you fling one of them down the street.”
“Oh, Taro,” she sighed. “He forgets, sometimes, how strong he is. Is everyone okay?”
“We were all perfectly fine, and Eris fixed the other guy, she said.”
“Well, that’s good at least.” She chewed her lip thoughtfully. “I hope today goes well. We keep running into problems.”
“Today’s going to be the best day of the whole thing. We’re finally at the Faire, what we came here for.”
“All the historical sites were nice. It was just… other people,” Kai protested weakly.
“Sadly, the world’s full of other people.”
“Yeah.” Kai frowned. “Well, thanks for getting me ready. We should go… um.. face other people, I guess?”
“The Ren Faire hardly counts for that – the people there will actually be nice. But yes, let’s.”
“I still feel a bit exposed,” she complained quietly, but followed Shahin’s black lace parasol out to meet their classmates.
“Well, you are, but everyone else will be too.”
“Thanks?” But once she saw Taro, she was too busy stifling giggles to worry.
“Looking good, Kai,” he called to her, before noticing her expression. “What?”
She managed to make it into a smile. “You look very bright,” she offered.
“It’s too much, isn’t it? Man…”
“No, no,” she reassured him. “A little merry, maybe, but it’s not bad at all.”
“Okay then. Is everyone ready to go now?”
She looked around at their group, counting feather-capped heads and pale, exposed bosoms (Caity, somewhat unsurprisingly, was dressed as a short, defiant Merry Man). “It looks like everyone is here,” she conceded, “and in garb. Even Doug.”
“Doug’s garb looks like – well, not garb,” Taro noted.
She eyed the leather armor, with a few tiny scars and an air of long use. “You’re right. It looks battle-worthy.”
“I hear he’s supposed to be some kind of big monster hunter, outside of school.”
“Well, yeah. He trains the Thornes, doesn’t he?”
“That’s right, yeah. I don’t think we’ll see any real monsters here though,” Taro chuckled.
Kailani thought of the monsters they had met already, and the stranger at the Alamo, and held close to Shahin’s reassurance. “Maybe people here will actually be nice,” she conceded.
“Most people aren’t so bad, once you get to know them,” Taro said, offering a counterpoint to Shahin’s opinion.
“I’ll take your word for it,” she agreed. “Come on, I want to see the fire juggler.”
Nydia, Callista, and Nikolai accompanied her down the wooded path; Taro hung back to talk to some of the others. He’d been a bit odd, since that night, and she couldn’t really blame him, as much as she might want to.
She’d considered telling him Conrad had kissed her when she and Taro had been… dating, maybe? She still wasn’t sure. But didn’t know if that would make it better or worse, and thinking about it made her feel uncomfortably guilty. She focused on the Faire around them, the bright and sunny day, and her companions.
Callista was lackluster as always, but at least she seemed to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship on display. Nikolai was more interested in pointing out obscure details of medieval life and technology; she hadn’t known he had it in him. Even Nydia seemed pleased with herself today, although the corset she was wearing made her so thin she’d disappear if she inhaled. If she could inhale.
The bodice Shahin had gotten Kai into left some room for breathing, at least. She relaxed into the atmosphere of the place, the street performers, the way the wind was full of strange and interesting scents, and the faint charcoal of the fire-juggler down around a corner.
The show was good, and her companions seemed as entertained as she was, but as it started drawing to a close, she found her attention distracted. Something in the wind nagged at her, more than the unusual scents; something odd, and yet familiar.
She moved closer to Nikolai as she murmured an idu kaana, reaching out with one hand surreptitiously to feel the way the wind was twisting. Would they really use the same Working after they’d been caught?
They would! She inhaled sharply, trying to resist the urge to look around. Was it the same person? It almost had to be, unless someone else was in the same area, at the same time, with the same methods… no, it had to be.
“Nikolai,” she whispered, while reaching for the right angle. There, over to the edge of the stands. She didn’t know how to do this and look casual; she could barely manage sitting still and looking as if nothing had happened.
“What?” he said distractedly, still watching the stage.
That was probably good. She didn’t want him jumping, either. “Don’t look now, but I think we’ve been being followed for a while now.”
“Yeah?” he grinned. “By one of the performers? What do they look like?”
She frowned, wishing for Taro, or, better yet, for Conrad, and turned to Nydia. “Remember the problem at the Alamo?”
“The Alamo? Oh!” Nydia, of course, immediately craned her neck in all directions, trying to see something. “Really?”
Well, this wasn’t working. “Look,” she said quietly, under the cheers of the crowd, “if something happens, go find Doug right away. Tell him what I told you.” She slipped out of her seat before Nydia could stop her, and down between the rows of benches towards the privies.
Nikolai turned to Nydia to ask what was going on, but the mass of the crowd was between them and Kailani before they could get their act together enough to follow. Now, where exactly was it… She paused in the line at the privies to look around. There. The short, unassuming woman with darkly tanned skin, dressed in garb that, like Doug’s, had a feel of not-really-garb to it; she had less cleavage showing, for one.
And she had noticed Kai, or, at least, she turned to meet her gaze with her own storm-gray eyes.
Well, no time like the present. “Hey,” Kailani called, approaching quickly and hoping she looked more confident than she felt.
The woman raised an eyebrow to her, looking like her kindergarten teacher. “Hello,” she answered, her diction careful and precise.
“Who are you?” Kai exhaled in a rush as she came to a stop.
“I could ask the same of you, child.”
“But I asked first.” Because that doesn’t make you sound like a child. Brilliant.
“That you did. Well, I am called Morgan.”
“And I am called Kailani. You’re… you are, aren’t you?” She winced at the imprecision, but it seemed incorrect to just to blurting out words like “Ellehemaei.”
Morgan grimaced. “If you mean what I believe you to, then yes. And, it seems, so are you. From the school in South Dakota?”
“Yes? I mean, yes. I haven’t seen very many of… us, outside.” It was true, technically. One was certainly not very many.
“But a good number of you, then… ‘inside?'”
“Well, yes, we… you don’t know about the school?” Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to. Was it all a big secret? Or maybe Morgan was Nedetakaei, trying to get information about them. What could she dare say, without learning more herself?
“I’ve been there, of course.” She smirked at Kailani’s awkwardness.
“You have?” As what? And did they know about it? “Were you a student?”
The smirk only got wider. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been a student. How long have you been there?”
Kai had been at Addergoole long enough to recognize a non-answer when she heard one, and refused to be slid aside.
“So you weren’t one there, then. Are you involved with the staff?” That question could mean almost anything; she was mildly proud of it.
“I’ve been discussing potential involvement with the staff,” Morgan agreed. “Do you enjoy your studies?”
“I do, yes. I enjoy learning about all kinds of things.” At last, a relatively safe topic, where she didn’t feel like she was taking part in a fencing match blindfolded. It pleased her so much that she barely noticed what a non-answer Morgan had issued to her non-question
“I imagine you must, to be so astute so young.”
And that was it, for polite conversation. Now for something more direct…