There’s a reason the Nedetakaei call their Daeva the Devourers. Mike stared woefully at his empty glass, wondering how many times he’d filled it. Too many, of course, for the middle of the day, and a work-day at that, and yet not enough. He could still walk – he wasn’t going to put this one to the test just yet – and he could still remember Reid’s scathing indictment. Do something, Mike. Before your Students start forsaking everything important.
Reid was right, that was the kicker. Not that Mike’s Students were turning into monsters – he didn’t think he had more than his fair share of the truly horrible kids that Addergoole sometimes produced; everyone got some of them, except maybe Luke – but that Mike was too lax with his students. He’d never been able to bring himself to be too firm or dictatorial with his kids, remembering how much he’d hated regimentation as a student.
With some of them, it was justified. They’d never had a chance to find their own limits, and an Inspirer too hung up on taboo and prejudice couldn’t inspire anyone. With others… with others, he should have yanked the leash hard the minute he saw the first signs of sadism, the first inklings of cruelty. Having failed to do so then, he found it incredibly hard to consider doing so now.
And now his students were ensorcelling members of the school staff – or at least the Kept of the school staff. Poor kid. At Regine’s insistence, Mike had stayed away from Ambrus for all these years – now, he couldn’t help but feeling a little vindicated. If Ambrus had been properly trained, he would have been able to resist the girl’s siren-song. As it was, Reid had been forced to do some unapproved remodeling inside the kid’s skull to keep him sane. The departed gods only knew what Regine would do when she found out about that
A knock at his office door pulled Mike out of his quickly-deepening misery. “Professor VanderLinden?”
Mea. He sat up and steeled himself, praying he was still sober enough to put on a good face. Mea was more than he could deal with right now. “Come in.”
Mea hurried in, her customary hip-wiggle so diminished that Mike knew something had to be seriously wrong. She was dressed in a little dress that left just enough to the imagination, and frowning adorably at him… Down boy. Not her, and not now. “Professor VanderLinden? Something’s horribly wrong in the Dining Hall.”
His wakening ardor dropped into immediate unconsciousness. Mike stood up, dropping his glass vaguely on the end table. “What’s going on, Mea?”
“People – girls – they’re just passing out, just falling over like flies.”
He stared at her for a second, trying to force his brandy-addled brain to make sense of her words. There was too much poison, though, and he couldn’t focus. He could barely hold his form. “I… beg your pardon, Mea.” He gulped softly. “I’ll be right with you.”
Even dead, he’d have known the disappointed confusion she was putting off, but she covered well. “All right, Professor,” she said. “I’ll be just outside the door.” It was only as she left that he realized that he was still in his “Hefner” dressing gown.
He muttered a Working over himself, cleaning his system as quickly as he could. It would hurt like a freight train had run over his skull later, but it would let him get through the current crisis.
Crisis. Shit. He shed the gown, threw on a pair of pants, hoping like hell they were his – they weren’t, so he wasted a second shifting his hips and ass to fit properly, trying to remember what Mea had said. Just passing out. It was too big a coincidence. Monday, Reid had scolded him roundly for his Daeva half-blood student acting more like a Devourer than an Inspirer, and today someone was draining the energy from people in the lunch room? He threw the door open. “Come on, Mea.”
The pants were too short – he shortened his body three inches while they ran. And ran they did, Mea’s disappointment replaced by worry and hurry. Something bad was going down, and Mike was going to have to fix it.
Ivette caught them halfway there, her lip-biting concern reaching him before she did. “Mike,” she said, and he could feel Mea heroically refraining from comment. “Jamian’s coming into his powers. Receptive empathy, and he's sort of exploding fireworks all over the place.”
“Jamian? Oh, gods, by all that’s holy…” He dipped ruthlessly into her emotions, but she wasn’t joking around.
“Joff’s helping him keep it under control, but, Mike, Ty’s freaking out and making it all a thousand times worse.”
Ty. His heart lodged itself in his throat and he struggled to breathe. “Take me to them.” Please, not Jamian. Not Jamian. Please. Praying to gods that neither heard nor cared, Linden ran to the Dining Hall.
Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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