Interlude: VanderLinden, Regine, Reid, and AmbrusDiscuss
Mike had known Regine Avonmorea longer than anyone else had; in all those centuries, he’d never seen her as furious as she was now. He’d rarely seen her angry at all – there had been, a long time ago, a few moments of raw hurt, but that had been different, the lost confusion of a young woman. He’d seen her full of chilly indignation at those who had, over the years, questioned her scientific merit or integrity. He’d seen, twice, when no-one else was around, a moment of anger at visitors to her Village who had thought to be rough with her Ambrus.
Today, she was every single inch her Name, regal and implacable. You could drown in the depths of her fury.
“Linden-Blossom.” She inclined her head to him: he might be her elder by centuries, but this was her game.
“Lady Still-River.” He bowed deeply back to her. Anything he could do to keep things running smoothly, he would. More than one life might be forfeit today if he didn’t.
“Please have a seat.” She gestured to the couch, where his Student Manira sat very still, as if afraid or unable to move at all. Knowing a command when he heard it, Mike sat.
“Now that we’re all here,” Regine continued, with a brief nod to an exhausted-looking Reid and a strangely proud and straight-spined Ambrus, “I think you need to tell us exactly what’s going on, young lady.”
She pinned Manira with a level, cool glare. Mike, who had been the target of Regine’s hectic anger for two days with very little explanation, added his gaze to the mix. He’d love to have some idea what she’d gotten him into.
“I…” The girl faltered, looking near tears. “I can’t. I’m sorry, I can’t.” She looked different today; like Ambrus, she was sitting taller, her spine straighter. But she was also scared; it was clear that she had some idea how much trouble she could be in.
“Manira,” Mike interjected gently, “you need to tell the Director what you know.” He glanced over at Ambrus. The last time the five of them had been in one room, the boy had been a drooling mess; now he was a man. “We can work this out.”
The rage was interfering with Regine’s ability to think properly. Her hands were shaking, and she wanted, more strongly than she had ever wanted anything not researched-based, to destroy the difficult little brat. Rip her to shreds. It was her right, but it would not solve the problem.
She reached out blindly to Ambrus. He was acting very strangely since Reid had restored his memories; she didn’t even know for certain if he’d be where she expected him, behind her, just off to one side, waiting for her needs.
He took her hand, though, and, without asking what she needed, bled off the worst of her anger. She took a deep breath, nodded her thanks at him – as much for Michael’s sake, and Reid’s, as for his – and looked back to the horrible little bitch who had started this trouble.
“Manira cy’Linden, you will tell me what led you to attack my Kept and nearly destroy his mind.”
The girl gulped, and nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” she murmured. She paused for long enough that Regine was beginning to believe she would say nothing else.
“Manira,” Michael prompted her.
“I,” she began slowly, and then shook her head and started again. It was clearly taking her a great deal of thought – Regine hadn’t pegged the girl as slow-witted. Her ancestry had suggested she ought to be rather bright, actually.
“I tried to destroy Ambrus’ mind – I’m sorry, Ambrus – because he’d figured out something that I couldn’t allow anyone to know. And I’m sorry, sa’Still-River, but I can’t tell you. I won’t risk being foresworn.”
Regine studied the girl, the girl using an archaic honorific and sounding much more adult than the teenagers the Director had grown used to, and couldn’t help the feeling that she was missing an answer directly in front of her.
Michael would know. She glanced at him, to find him looking at his Student with an expression that most resembled horrified surprise. “What are you?” he asked softly, and then corrected himself – “Who are you?”
The girl contemplated her answer carefully. “Until the end of my mother’s natural lifespan, I am Manira sh’Renee, apparently a half-breed Ellehemaei.”
Regine puzzled over the phrasing. Her Name would change at Adulthood, not when her mother died…
It was interesting, Reid thought, to watch Regine’s brilliant mind stalled when it was asked to deal with unusual directions of thought. Under other circumstances, he’d love to study it.
“And what happened to the original Manira sh’Renee?” he asked quietly.
The girl nodded, and took a minute to think, considering, he suspected, if her oath allowed her to answer that question. “She was very sick. She had been sick for a while, with a terminal disease, and, while her mother held out hope, she knew it wasn’t going to last.
“There was a Callavanaei who liked the taste of hospitals,” she continued, “and found that it could wander through and glean a little here and there without ever really hurting anyone and, sometimes, just for the delicious taste of hope, send that energy back into somebody else. Heal the sick. Feed the poor. It was kind of fun.” She looked more than a little wistful.
Mike cleared his throat, and she pulled herself back on track. “But this Callavanaei found a little girl, ten years old, so very brave – and far too clever for her own good.” The last was grumbled but, it seemed to Reid, with a grudging affection. “And the Callavanaei and the girl started talking and, after a while – weeks, months – they made a deal. Well, I guess, the girl weaseled a promise out of the Callavanaei.”
“A promise.” Regine’s voice was flat and angry; Reid wondered if the girl would stick to her masquerade and her oath if threatened. He wondered if he’d help Regine kill her, and what Mike would do if they tried.
“An oath.” She swallowed. She couldn’t do much but swallow, as pinned down with Reid’s geasa as she was. “I am Manira sh’Renee, Manira cy’VanderLinden,” she repeated shakily.
“Ah.” Reid nodded, understanding. “Do you have access to the Callavanaei’s Words and gifts?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Not nearly… not nearly to the extent that she did, before she met Manira.” She didn’t look like she’d wanted to admit that. Well, that’s what geasa were for, after all. “I am,” she grated out, “aside from my memories and knowledge, a seventeen-year-old Daeva halfbreed who hasn’t Changed yet.”
“That will be interesting to observe,” Regine commented.
Ambrus had watched in silence as Manira, or the being pretending to be Manira, painfully pulled out her story. Feeling the walls still left in his mind, he had sympathy with the sensation of working around commands; feeling the steel bars of Regine’s orders, he wondered how she could stand to sit there, ordered into stillness, ordered into honesty, ordered to speak her own condemnation.
“So, with half-functioning powers,” Reid interjected over Regine’s cool, scientific commentary (not entirely covering the rage still burning in her, rage which Ambrus could have taken completely, and hadn’t), “you managed to destroy a large part of an adult Ellehemaei’s mind.” He sounded doubtful, despite the commands he’d set that forced her honesty.
“I’m sure you’ve seen a student flail about with a power they didn’t yet understand and cause unbelievable damage,” she answered, with a wry smirk at VanderLinden that Ambrus didn’t quite understand. Linden blushed and muttered something incoherent.
Reid coughed back a laugh. “I have, yes. So you really did just ‘flail about?’ in his mind? That would explain the damage.”
Ambrus forced himself not to put his hands to his head. The headache was gone, but his memories were still spotty; he’d hear, or see, or touch. something and it would trigger a string of flashbacks, often very loosely connected and often with no context at all. Professor Solomon had assured him it would steady in time, and that everything would eventually come back, but still… the girl had taken a sledgehammer to his mind to save her ass.
“You will continue as a student at Addergoole, as if you were in fact Manira sh’Renee cy’VanderLinden,” Regine dictated, snapping Ambrus back to the matter at hand. “You will not attack except in self-defense, and you will make yourself and your knowledge and memories available to the staff.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The relief washed off of her in waves, but Regine wasn’t done yet.
“You will work with Ambrus to determine appropriate reparations to him for the damage and suffering you caused. You will do whatever he asks of you in that vein.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Ambrus could no longer sense her emotions for the shock he was feeling.
“I will have your oaths to these things.”
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