Chapter 25: Leofric

Monday, November 20, 2000

Leofric sat off to the side, paying just enough attention to know if Eriko was saying something to him and otherwise ignoring the three upperclassmen. He’d finished all of his homework for the night but he kept his notebook open anyway; if he looked like he was busy with school stuff, Eriko was less likely to give him something to do – something he would, inevitably, screw up.

Cynara was cleaning up after dinner, as she usually did, and Dysmas was mostly ignoring her, as he usually did. Sometimes Leo wondered why Dysmas was even Keeping her in the first place; he certainly didn’t have any problem bringing home other girls. And that was something Leo didn’t have any orders against being annoyed about – especially since the last time that’d happened, Cynara had spent the whole time sitting out in the suite, trying not to look sad.  Not even collapsing in the halls had been enough to make Dysmas to care about her.

Continue reading Chapter 25: Leofric

Interlude: Shahin 2

“How are you defining ‘abuse’?”

Of course he’d ask that.  But he didn’t have his own Kept, and as far as Shahin knew, he never had.  She lifted an eyebrow at Emrys; he shook his head the tiniest amount.

“That’s a very good question.  And it should probably be the first question the Council answers.  Where do we draw the line between abuse and simply a heavy-handed Keeping?”

“Not just where.”  Sheba leaned forward. “How.  How do we stop someone?”

Kai smirked – actually smirked.  All the rehearsals really had paid off. “If we get all of the crews – even all of the crews except the one the perpetrator is in – to agree, is there any single Addergoole student that you think could go against us?”

Sheba considered that.  “Nobody who’s still here,” she admitted.  “And I’m not a hundred percent sure about the ones who left.”

“But how do you expect to get everyone to agree with you?”  If Aviv hadn’t asked the question, Emrys would have had to.  That was an important one.

Kai took a breath, like she was considering it.  “Well, I could point out that my Kept can be incredibly persuasive-” she paused for the giggle that everyone knew was coming, “-but let’s be honest.  We all know there are problems.  We knew there were problems last year.  Did anyone really look at the situation Bowen was in and say that looks like a healthy, safe, sane relationship?  There are borderline cases – and those we’ll probably argue about – but there are cases where nobody can honestly say ‘no, that’s not abuse.’  And those are the ones we should be focusing on first.”

“So,” Aviv said slowly, “just to be clear, you’re talking about most of the school ganging up on a Keeper and taking their Kept away.”

“Ty said something.  I wasn’t supposed to know about it, but I found out.  Last year, when Jamian freed Kendra.  Ty said ‘if this was the real world, I’d have challenged Ofir and taken her away.”  Kai nodded at Ofir, who tugged on his collar and grimaced.

Xaviera was probably going to let him go some day…  Shahin was particular proud of Xav for that one.

“So that’s the intent.  If this was the real world, we wouldn’t expect the authority figures to help us.  So we shouldn’t here, either.  We should do it ourselves.”

“All right.”  Rand stood up.  “So what you’re saying is rule by the strongest.”

“No.”  She quirked her eyebrows at him and actually looked amused.  Shahin wanted to cheer.  “If I was going to say anything like that, it would be rule by the smartest.  No,” she continued, as Rand sat down.  “Representative democracy.  Each crew has a vote.  The votes as a whole decide.  If you don’t like the way your crew is voting – change crews or replace your leader.  Make sense to everyone?”

There was murmuring and grumbling and then, slowly, agreement.

“All right.  So, the first order of business should be to pick your representatives, but I want to  mention this before that.  Who do you think needs rescuing?  Who’s in the worst positions?”’

“Conrad,” joked someone.  Shahin didn’t see who it was, but Conrad laughed.

“Nah, I’m good.  Come on, guys, pick someone who needs the help.”

“How do we know?” wondered Aviv.  “What’s your standard?”

Kailani walked over to him, leaned over, and murmured for a minute. He turned paler and nodded.

That, they hadn’t rehearsed.  They hadn’t thought they needed to.  Apparently, Kai had come up with an answer anyway.

She went back to her platform.  “All right.   Who needs it?”  She looked around the group.

They shifted uncomfortably.  Aviv almost said something, Shahin could feel it.  It was Shera who said, “well, I don’t really think we should be interfering.  I mean, people need to do what they do, right?  People had their turn on the bottom, now they get their turn on top.  But if I was going to say anyone – what about Abednego?”

There was some shouting at that, shouting Shahin didn’t quite understand, until Rowan’s voice cut across the noise. “He’s just another Meshach.  Besides, he’s not doing badly.  He’s usually smiling, he takes part in classes, he’s not starving.”

Shahin couldn’t help herself.  She raised her eyebrows and stood up, because she was too short otherwise.  “Does it strike anyone as a problem, that that is our standard for ‘okay?’  He’s not starving?”

“You weren’t here when his brothers were!  Starving was the least of what they did!” Rowan glared at Shahin.  She met the tree-girl’s gaze and didn’t falter.

“And we should not go back there.  But we can table Abednego for the moment.  Next?”

“What about-” Ofir started, and then shook his head.  Shahin glanced at Emrys to see if he’d noticed that.  They might need to intervene after all.

“Zita.”

Finnegan’s voice was so quiet, they would have missed it if it hadn’t been for Kai’s Working.  And he himself had literally faded into the background, so that nobody had noticed him until he spoke.  “She looks okay,” he said, just as quietly, “until you actually look.”

Interlude: Shahin 1

“It looks like she’s succeeding.”  Shahin looked around the room.  They’d gathered in the Dining Hall, because nobody’s suite was large enough for this, and, because, as Kailani said, “we have nothing to hide, and we should not pretend that we do.  We’re not sneaking around, and nobody would trust the cy’Regine if we were.”

Conrad was good for Kailani, Shahin thought.  He was certainly encouraging her to be more socially aware.

Continue reading Interlude: Shahin 1

Interlude: Juniper

“There you go.”  Professor Valerian wrapped up the last of what she called Juniper’s hothouse Workings. “You sure I can’t convince you to come out to the real sun?  It’s better for you, you know.”

Juniper stretched up to the warmth.  She should not have been surprised by an arboreal Change, not with her name, but for the life she’d chosen, something like a mole Change might have suited her better. “I’m not going out there,” she murmured.

Continue reading Interlude: Juniper

Interlude: Abaddon

All things considered, I think things are going pretty well.  Please send the CDs I listed on the back of this note with the next batch of cookies.  Also, Gennie’s suitemate Dawfyyd says he’d like some more of those chocolate crinkle cookies, and says they’re delicious.

If you were going to send me to an underground bunker, this one at least doesn’t suck. Continue reading Interlude: Abaddon

Chapter 24: Cynara

Thursday, November 9, 2000

“I don’t know, I think that if we were going to be superheros, we’d need a better plan then ‘let’s attack everything that’s bad.’  I mean, for one, you have to define bad.  Evil?  Didn’t pay their parking tickets?  Bad fashion sense?”

“Oh, well, if all of those are our qualifiers we might as well attack everyone.”  Zita smiled that sharp, strange smile she had.  “Which could be fun…”

“Now, ah’m sure not everyone is bad,” Howard offered.  “Ah mean, lots of people, of course.  But even down here, there’s some good ‘uns.” Continue reading Chapter 24: Cynara

Chapter 23: Abednego

Thursday, November 9, 2000

If Abednego could figure out what he’d done to get Rafe pleased with him, he would have taken notes, because he definitely preferred this to what had become his new norm.

He was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, reading his literature homework and taking notes – lots of notes, because Professor VanderLinden paid an uncomfortable amount of attention to him in class, something he assumed he could probably thank his brothers for, like everything else in this damned place.  He was to the left of Rafe, leaning against his Keeper’s leg, finding the presence actually comforting. Continue reading Chapter 23: Abednego

Chapter 22: Arnbjörg

Friday, November 3, 2000

“What I don’t get is how that’s supposed to help anything!”

Arnbjörg and Jaya – Jamian, whatever – had been arguing on and off for days.  It had started with Jamian’s spare genitalia, but it everything that bothered Arnbjörg about this place had just been coming out, in whispers and hisses and shouts, every time she saw her Keeper.

Today, she’d run into an argument with Sheba without even meaning to.  She’d been in the kitchen, working on dessert, when Sheba had commented on her jacket.  It had escalated from there.  Sheba’s ears had gone back and she’d hissed at Arnbjörg – which had just barely missed leading to violence.  Continue reading Chapter 22: Arnbjörg

Chapter 21: Leofric

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Leofric studiously took notes as Professor Pelletier wrote another equation on the board. Physics was a good class for not thinking about what was going on. And even if some of it had been pretty cool — he was growing antlers, Dr. Caitrin said, and now he had some kind of awesome electricity powers — most of it was… Well, he was trying not to think about it.

He’d gotten the worrying thing sorted, at least, after spending a few days convincing himself that a desire to help was not worry — and if he had to abatu his hugr every now and then, well, nobody had told him not to do Workings on himself. And using magic to destroy the feeling was the only reliable way to stop worrying that he’d figured out.

Continue reading Chapter 21: Leofric

Chapter 20: Cynara

Wednesday, October 25, 2000

“Ugh.”  The lights flickered out with a crackle.  “Leofric!”

Eriko’s expression needed no light.  Cynara could see the tired twist of her face already, the exasperated way she looked when she dealt with her boyfriend.  She could see Leo’s cringing apology too, the way his shoulders would shrug forward and he’d try to make himself smaller.  It made Cynara want to hug him; it made her want to punch Eriko.

“It wasn’t me,” Leo protested weakly. Continue reading Chapter 20: Cynara