Chapter 30: Arnbjörg

Saturday, December 2, 2000

Arnbjörg stumbled out of Jaya’s room sleepily Saturday morning to find the whole crew-plus sitting around the TV.  She checked herself compulsively: yes, she was wearing pajamas, yes, they covered everything, yes her hair was tolerable.

“Late night?” Sheba asked.  “Jaya said you were out at the dance forever.”

Arnbjörg looked away.  “Jaya wasn’t having fun.”  She noticed Jaya wasn’t saying anything.  “But I was having a good time with the cy’Luca boys.”

That was… novel.  It was really, really novel, if the truth was to be told, stranger than having horns, stranger than magic. Having friends, and having friends that were guys – not just any guys, either.  Niki was pretty girly, but Phelen was a certain kind of I Am a Guy, and most of the cy’Luca were immensely Macho Honorable Men.  Arnbjörg was pretty sure that it trickled down directly from the Mentor-Student bond with Luke, who was pretty awesome, even if he got tense and flappy about the idea of teaching girls.

His son, Doug – now that was something to wrap her brain around.  His son, Doug, who, like Luke, looked about mid-to-late twenties – Doug more than made up for his father by only teaching woman fighters, and fierce onces at that.  Their cy’ree was very small, which meant they did train with the cy’Lucas quite a bit, but that was somehow different – how, exactly, Arnbjörg didn’t know.

Anyway – “the White Knight boys are fun when they get a few drinks in them, and they can really party.  We sat around talking Who Would Win for hours.  The whole Godzilla vs. a Dragon thing took the longest.”

“Instead of going home with your girlfriend?”  Sheba wasn’t so much trying to make a point as she was driving it home with her razor-sharp claws.

The thing was, Arnbjörg had really, really thick skin.  And if she had been bothered by people trying to poke at her with points, she never would have made it as far as she did in normal high school.

She put aside for a moment the part where she’d been suspended for punching people more than a couple times, back in her old school.  She was pretty sure Jaya wouldn’t approve of her punching Sheba.

No matter how much Sheba deserved it.

“Yeah,” Arnbjörg answered, as if she wasn’t feeling any pressure from the stupid Keeping-bond thing at all.  “Because my girlfriend wasn’t having fun, and I was, and after all, it’s not like I asked for any of this, including the crazy school with the collars and the horns.”

Even if the horns were pretty cool.

“I told her she could, Sheba,” Jaya interjected.  Arnbjörg wasn’t sure if she was grateful for that or annoyed.  “She gets along with the cy’Luca boys, and, come on, she doesn’t get along with anyone else.”

“We’re her crew,” Sheba complained.  “She should be getting along with us.”

“Oh, come on.” Phelen smirked. “She’s crew as much as Manira was, or as Niki was before you decided to adopt him, or, hrrm, that short period where Mags Kept Anwell.”

“I ain’t your crew,” Howard agreed easily.  Thank you, Howard.  Arnbjörg spared him part of a smile.

“She’s in our crew.  She lives here.  She should at least put forth an effort.”

“This is me putting forth an effort.”  For instance, at the moment, Arnbjörg was putting forth great deal of effort into not punching anyone.  “I don’t really like people, I told you that on like Day One.  I don’t like being lied to, I don’t like being talked down to, and I don’t like having information withheld from me, which means right now, the only people I like other than Jaya are the ones who don’t try to talk to me!”

“Stop shouting at me.”  Sheba’s ears were raked back and her tail was lashing.  “You have no right to talk to me like that.”

“You don’t have any right to talk to me the way you do, either.”

“I run this crew!  And you’re a Kept.  I can talk to you whatever was I feel like-”

“No!”

Arnbjörg took a step forward.  “No, no you cannot.  You cannot speak to me like anything but a stranger you happen to go to school with, because that is all we are.  Understand?”  Sheba went to open her mouth, and Arnbjörg cut her off again.  “No.  Just no.  I don’t want to hear it.  I’m dating Jaya.  I’m Kept by Jaya.  One of those things was by choice.  And if you were my girlfriend’s friend and nothing else, I’d say the same thing.  You don’t get to tell me what to do.  Ever.”

It was only then that she realized the entire room was staring at her.  She took a step back and took a breath.  Jaya’s eyes were open wide.  Shit.  Shit, she was going to have an upset girlfriend.  Again.  She ducked her head.  “Jaya, I, I just…”

“Idu Frodelikr,” Jaya murmured.

“What?”  Idu was Know, it was a diagnostic Working.  But what was that other word?  It hadn’t been in that long list of testing Words.  Arnbjörg tried it, but it fell leaden on her tongue and would not be voiced.

“Arna, I, uh, think you’ve come into your innate power.  This is going to be an interesting one.”

She looked over at Jaya.  “What?  What’s going on?”  She didn’t want to panic, but the word interesting had sounded so ominous.

“You might want to look at Sheba,” Phelen suggested carefully.

Because of the tone of his voice, more than because she had any desire to look at the woman, Arnbjörg turned slowly to look at Sheba.

Who was looking rather like someone had punched her in the gut.

Which, Arnbjörg had to admit, had been her desire, but not what she’d done.

“What…?”  She took a step forward.

Sheba showed claws and took a step backwards. “I-” she managed.  “What-?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s her innate,” Jaya repeated.  “And I think it happened when she said no.”

“Well,” Phelen offered, “that’s a pretty amusing power for Addergoole.  What did she say no to, though?”

Arnbjörg knew that one.  “I said she didn’t get to tell me what to do.”

“Well,” Jaya said slowly, “I guess we’d better figure out if that power has an off-switch.”  Arnbjörg might have imagined it, but she thought Jaya sounded amused.  “In the meantime, Sheba, you can tell me what you want my Kept to do.”

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