Chapter 49: Shahin
So you think you got it all figured out
Youre an expert in the field, without a doubt

“Look nice tonight,” he’d said, rather perfunctorily. He’d backed off much of the cold, arrogant high-and-mighty treatment since her little bout of illness Thursday morning, so she’d been taken aback by the shortness of the comment, even though he softened it with a smile. More than that – didn’t she always look nice? She was beginning to wonder if he hated her chosen look.

She’d cautiously suggested that, it being nearly a week living out of one small bag, she might look better if he let her go back to her room for a change of outfit. Much to her relief (and to more than a little of her surprise), he’d agreed.

Now, feeling properly attired for the first time in a week and much better for it, she was walking with him, her hand in his, towards some sort of party.

He’d said that this was a “hall party”, essentially the product of several people with nearby rooms jointly throwing a party with all the doors open. Indeed, it was certainly raucous as they approached, the slowly curving walls opening up into one of the ubiquitous, identical common areas that joined the rooms. There were nearly a dozen people standing about, drinking and talking over the thumping techno music that blared from two of the rooms simultaneously.

She might be a little overdressed for something as low-key as this, but that was a common state of being for her. She smoothed her skirt with her free hand, and surveyed the crowd, hoping that Emrys’ good mood would hold. This could get very embarrassing very quickly, if he chose to push matters in a situation like this. She doubted her stomach would be as helpful twice in a row.

She recognized maybe half of the people here from her classes; Melchior and Nikolai from Lit and Trig, Alexander from PE, Anwell from History, Nikita from Japanese. Anwell was talking to a purple-haired girl she’d seen him with before. Was that Yngvi? Damn, that was his room right there, so yes. Well, Emrys had been better the past day; maybe it would be alright.

It took an effort to neither squeeze Emrys’s hand for reassurance nor to cling to his arm, but she made the effort, and smiled around cheerfully, as if this was just an ordinary party, as if Emrys was just her boyfriend.

Alexander made his way over to them first; the tall, tall man, who she would have called “giant” had she not been spending too much time around Anatoliy, was smiling in an affable, friendly manner. He still looked human, she noted, or, rather, he looked human again; she’d seen his inhuman appearance once, the day before the first dance.

“Hey, Emrys, glad you made it. Beer? Or, wait… rum and coke? And for the lady?”

“Please,” he smiled. “And whatever she’d like.” He half-turned to her, clearly awaiting a response, after he’d spent most of the week making every minor decision for her.

Who are you, and what have you done with my master? she didn’t ask. Instead, she licked her lips and said, with as little appearance of hesitation as she could manage, “vodka cranberry, please.”

Emrys simply nodded and continued to lead her through the crowd as Alexander headed into one of the rooms, presumably to get them drinks. They caught sight of Yngvi as they reached the middle of the gathering.

It hurt Shahin to realize that she was tensing with nerves as one of her only friends noticed them, that she was now, without meaning to, clinging tightly to Emrys’ hand. She relaxed her fingers and found a pleasant smile for Yngvi as he came over.

“Shahin!” He greeted her warmly, with a brief but sincere-seeming half-hug. ”I didn’t expect to see you here, or I would have pried Ayla out of her room. Emrys,” he added, with a cool, perfunctory nod. ”Good evening.”

“Well, I wouldn’t miss one of Melchior’s parties, and I wasn’t going to show up without my girlfriend,” he smiled at Yngvi, only slightly toothily.

Girlfriend was a lot nicer than pet. Shahin kept her pleasant smile on, hoping Yngvi wouldn’t blow things up. Again.

“Girlfriend, is it now? Not that she had a choice in that, of course.”

Forget cheerful smiles. She glared at Yngvi, frustrated. ”Say I did,” she demanded, “would it make any difference to you?”

She finally got to see him just a little bit flustered. “Well, that is... I just don’t like the way he treats you.”

His answer took the wind out of her sails. She glanced at Emrys briefly, then turned back to Vi, her voice gentler now. ”I don’t always like it, either. But I’m a big girl, Vi, and I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out of it. Besides,” she added, with a tiny, conspiratorial smile, “wait ‘till next week.”

Emrys chuckled, shaking his head slightly and putting an arm around her shoulders. “She’s not yours to worry about, Yngvi.”

She turned her glare on him, but found she couldn’t stay angry at him for long. Besides, Yngvi had started it. She looked back and forth between the two of them, frowning. ”Could we please just enjoy the party?” she pleaded. ”I’m beginning to feel like a ping-pong ball, and it’s really rather nauseating.”

“Of course, hon,” Emrys said in a reasonable tone that was nonetheless full of victorious satisfaction. “Look, our drinks are here.” He deliberately turned his back on Yngvi to take two glasses from the approaching Alexander.

Shahin sighed, wishing they’d get over this silliness, but found her smile again for Alexander.

“Rum and coke, and a vodka cranberry. Eat, drink, and be merry!”

Shahin sipped at her drink - he’d mixed it light, but there was still a nice pleasant bite to it. ”Thank you, Alexander.” Drink in hand, she glanced around the common area at the gathering party, taking it all in.

It was a more casual scene than the few parties she’d attended, seeming more like a bachelor party then Addergoole’s dating-heavy mentality had led her to expect. The few women that were there seemed thrown in for colour - or, in the case of the heavily-pregnant elf, because her twin was also there. If “single” had been a mile or less from where she was, she would have considered the party a beautiful place to meet a like-minded individual. As it was, she was a little confused as to her place or purpose here.

“Friends of yours?” she asked casually, indicated the room as a whole.

“Some, yeah. Alexander’s crew are friendly with pretty much everybody. That’s why you end up with such a cross-section of crews here.” He took a big swig of his own drink.

“But not the rest of your crew.” Not that she minded - if she never saw Agatha again after this week was over, she could die happily.

“They like to keep things friendly,” he smiled. “So, I’m here, but not Agatha or Dysmas. Cass and ‘Bina are here, but not Taro. Shiva and Niki are here, so Ty isn’t. Magnolia’s here with Anwell, so Ivette isn’t.”

She stared up at him, a little in awe. “Do you keep a chart to keep track of all that? It sounds like a soap opera.” She ran through his list again in her mind, trying to memorize it. ”And Magnolia, ‘Bina, Shiva... who are all those people?”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “It’s a small world, down here. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, for the most part.” He pointed at the purple-haired woman. “That’s Magnolia, talking to Anwell. She’s Second Cohort, he’s Fourth. Last year she wanted to Own him, but Ivette, a Third, got to him first. They kind of both date him now, so they’re catty with each other, even though they both hang out with Shiva’s crew. Although I hear rumors that Ivette got herself Owned by a Fifth Cohort this year.” He seemed to find that intensely amusing.

She raised an eyebrow, equally amused. ”Is it considered in poor taste to ‘get yourself Owned’ by an underclassman?”

“Well, it’s pretty unusual. And for someone as predatory as ‘Vette... well, she must’ve been caught off-guard pretty hard.”

“Ah,” she smirked. ”Perhaps she just found it the quickest means to the end she wanted?”

Emrys looked skeptical. “Typically she only wants men... or women, for that matter... for one thing.”

“Aah.” Whatever point she’d been trying to make vanished. ”I thought that was generally a male trait,” she said, less cleverly than she wanted.

“It’s also generally a Daeva trait, even for half-bloods.”

"Daeva?" she asked, feeling particularly ignorant. She sipped her drink and tried again. "I assume you don't mean female opera performers. I don't think those come in a half-blood variety."

“Ha, no. There’s basically three kinds of, well, us. Daeva are commonly called succubi.”

“Three kinds of us?” She looked around the room at the wild variety of mutations - Magnolia’s leopard spots and purple hair, Nikita’s grape-vine-like dreadlocks, Nikolai’s tusks and horns, the curling elf ears on both the pregnant woman and her twin. ”Only three?”

“Well, pretty much everyone here is mixed. The only purebloods I know of are Dr. Regine, Luke, and Vanderlinden.”

She took a long sip from her glass, and stared at him. ”Okay,” she said slowly, as the oddity of Addergoole really began to sink in. “This place is full of half-blooded... us. Usses.” She frowned, distracted by the horrible way that sounded, and dragged herself back on topic. ”Of which Ivette, who I believe I share a Lit class with - pneumatic redhead? Yes, Lit - is a half-breed succubus. Am I on track so far?”

“That’s about right,” he nodded, casually sipping his own drink as if this were the most normal thing in the world.

“And this seems totally normal to you.”

“Well, you get used to it. I mean, you have visions and you’re learning magic, how is this stranger?”

She frowned at him. ”I’ve been having visions since I was thirteen, Emrys. I didn’t need an underground school for that.”

“Right, and I didn’t understand why I set fire to things. Almost everyone here manifests some sort of talent, even if it wasn’t evident before they showed up.”

She sighed, leaning against him as she downed the last of her drink. “There goes being strange and unique.” She laid a heavily over-dramatic tone on it, but underneath, she felt a tiny lump of misery threatening to grow.


Chapter 49b: Shahin
We're running with the shadows of the night,
So baby take my hand, you'll be all right

“Hardly,” he chuckled. “There’s maybe a hundred of us here, out of six billion people. You don’t think you were chosen randomly?”

She sighed, and looked mournfully at her empty glass. ”I hate it when you do that,” she told him sadly, “when you withhold information and then act smug because I don’t know it. I..” she trailed off, thinking about what he’d said. About the giant and the vampire and the guy with tusks. ”I guess I never really thought about it.” She frowned, trying to swallow the panicky falling feeling blocking her throat.

“There’s not much I’m withholding on purpose. It just becomes second nature so quickly, it’s hard to remember how little we knew when we started. Just relax, Sheen. It’ll come. You’re ahead of the curve as it is.”

She relaxed, not having much choice in the matter. ”I wondered, for a while,” she said, more calmly than felt natural, “why nothing about me seemed freakish to anyone here. I’d gotten so used to being the strange one. The...” she chuckled dryly, amusing herself with the pun, “the fey one.”

“Yeah, the vampire doesn’t find the goth girl that weird,” he smiled. “It’s a lot to get used to, and you’ll pick it up over the course of the year. It’s just hard to try to lay everything out at once.”

It felt as if she should be a lot more upset than she was; she wondered if it would all come to hit her when she wasn’t under his sway any more. ”I kind of liked being special,” she whispered.

“Oh, hey, Sheen.” He turned to face her, looking down into her eyes with a smile. “You’re still special.” He raised a hand to her cheek gently. “You’re definitely special. Now let’s have some fun, huh?”

“Fun,” she smiled, looking around the party. ”I suppose that means another drink.” He thought she was special. Maybe that was more important than all this freak stuff. Maybe.

“Could be,” he chuckles. “You just don’t want to go too fast with that before you know everyone. C’mon, let’s meet some people.”

She set down her empty cup and followed his lead, her poise returned.

He guided them to a grey tabby cat-girl, pretty in an earthy plain way, who seemed to be attached to, or, more to the point, be the center of attachment for, Nikita, with his pouty pretty-boy lips and his Bacchus hairdo. A boy in a trenchcoat completed their trio, his hair flopping to obscure his face and his shoulders hunched to obscure the rest.

Shahin met the girl’s eyes for a moment; they both nodded, briefly and minutely, an acknowledgment that neither of them wanted to bother with a power struggle tonight. She ignored the pretty-boy out of courtesy and let her eyes linger on the shadowy one, who met her curious gaze with eyes as black and bottomless as the void.

Oh, I can play this game, she crowed to herself. She curled her lips in the tiniest smile and met his gaze steadily.

Emrys introduced them with a wave of his hand. “Shiva, Niki, Phelen. This is my girlfriend Shahin.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Shahin said politely, accepting the hand Phelen offered and letting him lift it near his lips. His skin was cold and nearly insubstantial.

“New to Addergoole this year?” Shiva asked politely. ”How do you like it so far?”

“It has its perks,” she smirked, reclaiming her hand from Phelen to squeeze Emrys’ fingers. ”But you’ve been here longer, I take it? How do you like it?”

“Oh,” Shiva echoed, with an affectionate tousle of Nikita’s vines, “it has its perks.” They shared a very girly laugh, and for a moment, if felt very good to just be talking with someone who wouldn’t immediately peg her as a freak. It felt almost like kinship.

“Shiva’s crew are good people, for the most part,” Emrys smirked.

“For the most part,” Shiva laughed. ”I shouldn’t ask which of my loved ones you’re casting aspersions on, should I?”

“Oh, individually I like you all,” he chuckled. “Some combinations are better avoided.”

“I wish I could say the same about your crew,” she smiled. ”You should move in with us, Emrys, and avoid all the foolishness.”

That suggestion seemed to displease Niki horribly; Shahin didn’t blame him one bit. Where it didn’t show, she was every bit as displeased.

Emrys just laughed, shaking his head. “Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, you don’t have a spare room anyway.”

“I’m sure we could make room,” she purred, but it seemed to be a game to her, more than any actual attempt. Shahin stayed quiet, pleased that Emrys had turned her down but not sure she trusted herself to speak politely.

“Well, if you were willing to let me Keep you...” he said with a jovial smile, clearly playing as much as she was.

“Now honey, you know that wouldn’t work,” she grinned, before Shahin’s teeth could grind too loudly. ”I’m too fond of my Kept to let him go.” She hugged Niki, squishing him against her chest, and kissed the top of his head.

“Likewise,” he grinned back, pulling Shahin a bit closer as well

His arm was comfortable and warm, but she still shared a wry grin with Niki, a mutual feeling of this is nice, but I’m still being used as a prop. Looking away from him, she surprised an assessing, curious look on Shiva’s face.

She had a hundred ways to deal with strange looks, but all of them were predicated both on the idea that she was weirder than the person looking, and on the desire to further freak out the viewer. The first was very much in question now, especially when looking at someone with cat ears, and the second... she found she wasn’t so sure she wanted to alienate her.

She discarded her stock responses, and mustered up a casual, friendly smile which, she realized with a little dismay, probably looked a great deal like the one Emrys was wearing. ”Forget the crews,” she joked; “we can all move in with me. It will be one big, happy, relatively crowded family.”

Emrys laughed boisterously at that, an unusually honest outburst of emotion, devoid of calculation. “I don’t think that’d work out so well, dear.”

She chuckled in response, glad to have made him laugh. ”You’re probably right,” she said modestly. She smiled at the grinning Shiva, sharing another, much more friendly, moment of girl-understanding.

“I think Mags is trying to flag me down,” Shiva lied. She lied well, but the twitch of her ear gave her away. ”C’mon, Niki. Good to see you, Emrys. Nice to meet you, Shahin.”

“A pleasure,” Shahin responded, smiling warmly.

That left them with Phelen, who smiled at them, showing a mouth full of darkness. "You like to pretend you're dark, don't you?" he sneered. "I can show you what real darkness is all about." He held up both hands towards her, and shadows seemed to drip from his sleeves and from his fingers, pooling on the floor near her.

She tilted her head, smiling sharply at him, but there seemed to be no flesh to touch on his hands, just the oozing, gooey shadows. She took a step backwards into the shelter of Emrys' arm, still smiling, still looking unfazed, but unwilling to touch that darkness.

"Right," Emrys laughed. "What's the matter emo-boy, all down on yourself because you can't even scare the Fifths?"

"I think she's scared," he smirked, his shadows inching closer to Shahin's feet. "She can't stand the thought of the true night."

"It'll take more than your shadow games to scare her," Emrys replied with a touch of pride in his voice. Nonetheless, he kept his arm around her.

She was grateful for the arm; the shadows were coming close to creeping her out. They were just wrong, creeping along the floor, closer and closer to the toes of her shoes.

Phelen laughed unkindly. "If she doesn't want to play with the dark, she shouldn't dress like she's waiting for the Reaper."

"She'll dress how I want her to dress. Is that a problem?" Emrys tilted his head slightly, his own smile hinting at wickedness behind his smoldering eyes.

Phelen laughed shortly. "Oh, I didn't realize the living dead girl look was your fetish. Carry on then." He hid it well, but there was the tiniest bit of fear in his eyes, which made Shahin's smile grow. She smiled at Emrys, suddenly very fond of the flickering flames in his eyes

"Come on, dear, let's leave the poser to his brooding." He steered her away, towards the tables laid out with food. As they left, she couldn't help a last glance over her shoulder at Phelen, who, it appeared, was displeased with the results of their little chat. His shadows writhed around his feet like an angry cloud, and his glare was dark and baleful.

Shahin kissed Emrys's cheek lightly. "Thank you," she whispered.

He smiled warmly down at her. "That's how it works, remember?"


Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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