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.

“She’s certainly getting people’s attention.”  Emrys looked pointedly at a few of the attendees.  No Sixth Cohort had been invited – in some cases they had been forcibly uninvited – and they had a tolerable turnout from the other years.  Not Dysmas, which might have surprised Emrys but didn’t surprise Shahin, but Aviv and Uberto, Ofir, Rand, Callista – with Ioanna, who was with Yngvi and Aelgifu – and who’d needed to be convinced to leave her Kept, Rory, at home; Ivette and Joff but not Joff’s crew, Magnolia and Shiva with Jaya, but not Phelen.

It was a motley bunch of about half of the upperclassmen, and a large portion of them were staring straight at Kailani.

Kai was either oblivious – which might be the case; she was awful with social situations – or she was getting far better at pretending.

“Attention is what’s needed,” Shahin pointed out.  “If anything she – we – want to do is going to happen, it needs to be more than just a couple people.”

“Attention is also dangerous,” he countered.  “And she’s not just putting herself at risk.  She’s endangering her Kept, and she’s endangering you and Jaya and your Kept, too”

Shahin raised her eyebrows at him.  “Do you think I – we – can’t handle it?”

He smirked.  “No, I think I – ‘we’ – can handle it just fine.”

“Someday” she let heat leak into her voice “-you’re not going to be an ass about something, and I’m going to keel over and die of shock.”

He nuzzled her neck in something nobody else in the room would recognize as an apology – which she supposed was the point – and whispered in his ear.  “Some day I’ll be as sweet as you want, when we’re not on stage.”

“I have a feeling,” she murmured back, every bit as quietly, “that we’re going to be on stage most of our lives.”

“And therein lies the problem.  So.  How do you think today’s agenda is going to go?”

“Poorly.  Possibly explosively.  Potentially very loudly.”   Shahin frowned.  “And possibly quite well, at the same time.  There’s some Fifth and Fourth Cohort who really want things to change.”

“And there’s some who don’t want anything to change,” he countered. His hand was on the small of her back, as if to reassure her that he wasn’t being mean for the fun of it.

“There’s always going to be those.  It’s a question of which is louder, isn’t it?”  She raised her eyebrows at him.  Kai was about to start her meeting.

“And stronger.”  His hand squeezed protectively.

“Stronger can mean a lot of different things, here.  Since we’ve all got magic.”  She let the challenge hang in the air.

For once, she got the last word, at least for the time being.

“Hello!”  Kai had clearly done an Air Working, because her voice carried throughout the dining hall, yet she wasn’t shouting.  “We’re gathered to discuss two matters.  The first is whether or not we are going to have a Student Council.  The second is a first order of business for that Student Council, if we decide to have it.”

“This council, it would be run by you, then?”  Aviv’s voice sounded too lazy.  He was setting a trap.

Shahin smiled, a little thing.  On her table-stage, Kai’s smile was much bigger.  “Of course not.”

They’d set that one up.  They – Emrys and Conrad, Shahin and Kailani – had gone through all of the most obvious traps and practiced until Kai’s answers sounded smooth, easy – and still very Kai.  This had to be Kai’s thing, that was one of the points.  Kai was cy’Regine; that gave her an opening with the staff the rest of them didn’t have.  And she was Kai: innocent, honest, straightforward, Girl Scout.  The Thorne Girls had done her a huge favor, giving her that nickname.

“No?”  Aviv was nearly purring.

“No, that would be foolish.  No.  It’ll be run by a chosen representative of each crew.”

“So people not in crews are out of luck?”  Rand leaned forward, frowning.

“Well, that’s often been the case.  Our best-case scenario for that is that people who are crewless form crews, who can act together for the Student Council and in other matters.”

“So,” Ioanna’s turn now, and she sounded just as skeptical as Aviv, “you’re trying to get people into crews?”

“For any number of reasons, but the foremost one here is – crews provide accountability and balance.  For every hothead, you have someone who is the voice of reason.  For everyone likely to ignore problems, you have someone who cares.  So the more people crew up, the more they think about their actions.”

“You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”  It didn’t sound like Sheba really approved.  “So who picks the representative for each crew?”

“The crew, of course.  It will probably be the leader of the crew – you in your case, for instance – but it might be whoever most cares about such things.  For my crew, it will probably be me,” she admitted, “because with Mabina-and-Cassidy gone, I am the most engaged.”

Someone snorted.  Shahin didn’t look to see who it was.  She didn’t want to realize it was Emrys.

“All right.  So that’s the first order of business.  Forming this group.  And if we do?”  Sheba still looked unimpressed, but she also looked engaged.

“If we do, then we have a format to discuss the potential abuse of Kept.”  Kailani looked around the room, seeming to ignore the muttering, her Working carrying her voice over it without effort.  “Nobody here can tell me that they don’t know of a Kept who was abused last year, or the year before, or the year before that.”

“How are you defining ‘abuse’?”  Aviv leaned forward, frowning.

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