Chapter 68: Kailani
Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man we lit up your world like the Fourth of July

It happened so quickly, Kai didn’t have a chance to do anything until Taro had already charged forward. He’d been aiming, she assumed, for the horrible little woman Agatha, but she’d stepped out of the way and he had hit Shahin instead.

The petite woman crumpled to the ground as Kai grabbed for Taro’s ponytail to yank him back. She wasn’t the only one, either; Mabina&Cassidy grabbed his shoulders and pulled. He landed, glaring angrily, on his ass at Conrad’s feet.

He had stopped being the problem the moment his punch landed, though; even she could see that. She looked up at the boy with Shahin – Emrys, that was his name. He was wearing a collar made of braided hair, hair that had to be Shahin’s.

Emrys had taken one quick look at his Keeper with a whispered phrase and then stepped forward, flames literally flying from his eyes.

Agatha and Dysmas, meanwhile, had slipped around to each side of their group, and Kai had the uncomfortable sensation of being flanked as she realized they'd all taken a step beyond the limits of their Sanctity.

“Is she all right?” It seemed foolish to ask that when she was so clearly threatened herself, but it was important. “Taro didn’t mean to hit her.”

“Stop talking for me!” Taro glared up at her.

“Well, you didn’t,” she pointed out reasonably, restraining herself from kicking him. Conrad was stepping forward, however, and she turned quickly towards him. “You stay out of this,” she said, hoping his talent for riling Taro up wouldn’t make the situation worse.

Emrys, however, leaned down and grabbed the front of Taro's shirt, bunching it up in his fist. Kailani noticed with some trepidation that the flames were not merely a visual effect, as she had at first surmised, but were actually igniting small patches of the carpet and doorframe.

“Not her,” Taro grumbled. He grabbed Emrys’s wrist roughly. “I didn’t mean to hit your girl,” he repeated forcefully, sounding not so much like he was apologizing as just yelling.

Emrys was having none of it. Kailani's eyes widened as, without so much as a word, he literally burst into flames, and Taro along with him. Anatoliy stooped over the fallen girl, effectively blocking her off from the others, as well as shielding her from the fire that began spreading across the carpet from Emrys’s feet.

“Stop that now,” Mabina snapped, sounding more forceful than Kai had ever heard her. “Emrys. Put that away and take her to the doctor’s office. She’s bleeding. You can break Taro’s nose later.”

Kailani never got to hear what Taro thought of that offer as he started screaming, and the scent of ozone rapidly filled the hallway. Kailani could barely see them through the wreath of flames, but though Emrys himself appeared to be untouched by the blaze, it looked like Taro's shirt was burning, and his hair, and... she had to force herself to look away.

On the other side, Cassidy stepped forward to intervene, when suddenly the flames leapt up like a living thing, splitting and taking the form of dancing serpents. Kailani could hear Dysmas’s low chanting as the snakes shot forward to encircle Cassidy. “Qorawiyay intinn, qorawiyay intinn...” She found herself unconsciously analyzing the spell, and frowned. Shouldn’t fire be kwxe, a conventional energy source? Although she had no talent for it herself, much to her chagrin, she was sure she’d recognize it. Intinn... Her eyes widened. “Cassidy, it’s an illusion! He’s just messing with your mind!” Even as she said it, she found herself able to see the underlying reality, and gasped. Although the snakes were illusory, the all-too-real fire was spreading, racing up the walls.

Kailani heard Shahin’s groggy voice from behind Anatoliy’s bulk. “It’s warm... Emrys?”

“Yes, Sheen,” the giant said soothingly, his back to the growing conflagration. “You’re going to be fine. Emrys has it under control.” She wondered how true that actually was, and how calm the big man would actually be if he could see what was taking place behind him.

Cassidy had pulled a staff seemingly from nowhere; probably literally from nowhere, as Kailani recalled prior incidents of his object creation. He was spinning it before him in a pattern that reminded her of training with Allyse, though he didn’t appear quite as skilled as the femme fatale. Dysmas, certainly, was unimpressed; he had crossed his arms and was chanting again, a low susurration of “Buli unutu.” Cassidy swung the staff and she watched it pass cleanly through the laughing Dysmas as if he were no more substantial than smoke.

The smoke actually rising in the hall did nothing to lessen that impression. Taro was getting roasted, and here she was watching. Water, what was water? “Meentik yaku,” she began. “Meentik yaku...” A light rain began to fall in the hallway, pattering against the walls with her chanting. It helped control the spread of the flames, curtailing those tendrils of fire that had reached away from the main source. The central problem, however, wasn’t being addressed. The roaring blaze surrounding Emrys and Taro was just too hot, and her water couldn’t even touch it. Nonetheless, she continued her chant to put out the rest of the fire and prevent further damage to the surroundings. While she Worked, she glanced back to see how Cassidy was doing.

“Qorawiyay tlacatl!” Mabina called out, and the crablike pincers which Dysmas had shaped to try to catch Cassidy morphed back into human hands.

“Meentik panida,” Cassidy intoned, and a contingent of scorpions coalesced out of the wall to scurry at Dysmas.

“Qorawiyay hiko,” he spat contemptuously, and a few of the hall lights flickered and died as electricity arced from them to fry the vermin before he counterattacked. “Tempero hugr Mabina ia’Cassidy,” he snarled.

Kai flinched, but Cassidy was on it immediately, chanting “Quipia hugr Mabina ia’Cassidy,” to shut him down.

Instead of counterattacking in turn, however, they were watching something else... something in her direction? What could have distracted them from the fascinating magical duel? She turned to find Agatha stepping up into her face, inasmuch as someone her height could, and gesturing at Taro. He had stopped screaming, which Kailani was pretty sure wasn’t a good sign. “You see what you’ve done?”

“What I’ve done?” No, she hadn’t started this, but could she finish it? Her water wasn’t doing it, and wind wouldn’t help. Unless… she’d have to be careful with it. She chanted a Working, ignoring Agatha as much as she dared, sucking all the oxygen out of the zone of fire. A sharp crack sounded as the flames died, and Emrys jerked back, pulling his arm from the grip of the blackened and smoldering Taro. Both of them seemed to be falling... ah, yes. “Qorawiyay kaana,” she intoned, allowing the oxygen to flow back into the area.

Kailani let out the breath she'd been holding, glanced around to see what the rest of the crew was doing, and yelped. Cassidy and Dysmas appeared to be engaged in some sort of staring contest, but Cass was slackjawed and Dysmas was smiling. Mabina, she noted, stood numbly beside Cassidy, eyes fixed and staring as well. A side effect of their condition, perhaps? There was no time to think about it now though, as Agatha had slid her tiny body between Kai and Conrad and had a firm grip on his arm. "You lose this round, girl," Agatha grinned.


Chapter 68b: Kailani
I the lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry

“And you’ve won, have you?” Acacia stepped around Anatoliy to face Agatha, hung with wooden weapons and smiling. Kai had never been so happy to see the Thorne girl. “What were the terms?”

Agatha turned quickly towards the taller girl, tightening her grip on Conrad’s arm, nails pressing at his skin. “This one manhandled my property. I came to assert my rights and they attacked me. I’m taking him away, and Shahin can settle with Taro later.”

“They attacked you, and yet it’s Taro who looks the most messed up. This smells like dead fish, Aggie.”

“She can’t take Conrad,” Kai put in angrily, taking his other hand in hers. Hating herself for what she said next, she added, “she can’t even take care of her own Kept. She can’t have mine.”

“Sounds like a fair challenge there to me,” Acacia smiled.

“You lost that right when you messed with my Kept,” Agatha snarled. “Don’t turn this into a tug-of-war.” Conrad, who had been stoically ignoring their discussion of him, made a small noise as Agatha’s claw-like nails dug into his arm.

“I don’t think the Law works like that.” Kai shook her head, but didn’t pull on Conrad. “And if you’d been doing right by him, he wouldn’t have been passed out in the hall – like he almost is now.”

“Aggie, you daft bitch,” called Shahin from her position propped against Anatoliy’s legs, “if anyone’s the injured party here, it’s me. One, I just got hit by a bulldozer. And two, someone appears to have broken my Kept’s wrist.”

“Both of which were Taro,” Agatha snapped back. “That’s for you to hold him accountable.”

“Later,” Acacia interjected. “Luke will be here any moment. Wrap this up quick… ladies.”

Kai thought quickly. “Shush,” she told Conrad, and then turned her attention to Agatha. “You can’t have him,” she told her firmly, “But we manhandled your Kept for... ten minutes. You can have me for twice that. That should make us even.” Thinking about the way Bowen had looked, she added hurriedly, “no permanent damage.”

“Agreed,” Agatha smiled toothily, releasing Conrad’s arm. He was staring at Kai like she’d grown another head, and seemed at a loss for what to say. He finally decided on “You can’t do that, while I’m yours, even for such a short time.”

“I don’t have to Belong to her,” Kai answered gently. “I just have to act like I do. I can do that.” If it would get him out of being in Agatha’s hands, she could do worse than that.

Luke came running around the corner, with Doug right behind him. “Everybody stand down!”

On the floor, Shahin giggled softly. “I’ll lie down instead, if you don’t mind.” Kai chuckled in response.

“We’re good,” Acacia told them. “Just working out the negotiations.”

“Acacia, carry Taro and go with Doug to escort Shahin and Emrys to the infirmary.” Luke snapped out orders, looking more fierce than normal. Looking at the crisped wreck of Taro, Kailani didn’t blame him.

Agatha stepped to Kai’s side, setting one slender hand on her shoulder, pulling her attention back to her own problems. “We’ll be going now, then. Dysmas, Tolly?”

Kai squeezed Conrad’s hand quickly, and checked her watch. She hoped he wouldn’t freak out.

“You can’t do this,” he frowned, watching nervously as Acacia lifted Taro in a fireman’s carry and Doug’s group departed.

“There aren’t a lot of palatable choices,” she pointed out reasonably, hoping he wouldn’t force her hand and make her order him.

He didn’t, though, only taking a step back, still frowning. “So you promise, then?” Agatha said. “I gain twenty minutes of your time, to use as I will, during which you will behave as if Kept by me?”

“And then we’re even?” Kailani asked nervously, as Conrad frantically shook his head.

“Even?” Agatha touched her lip with one finger, grinning. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“Then I promise,” Kailani nodded, a lump rising in her throat as the air popped with the faintly pressurized sensation she was beginning to recognize.

“Let’s go then,” Agatha declared, turning with Anatoliy and Dysmas. Luke cast a curious glance between them and Kailani, but said nothing. Bitterly, Kai realized she wasn’t surprised at his silence.

She bit her lip and moved along with Agatha and her crew. At least Anatoliy was a nice guy. And there wasn’t much they could do to her in only twenty minutes, was there? Behind them, Bowen limped along gamely.

“Come on in,” Agatha murmured as they reached the suite. The door closed behind her with a hollow boom that made her think of a prison cell.

She looked around curiously – they’d been in the middle of some sort of game, it seemed, from the mess in the living room. Her mind kept wandering back, though, to Conrad, and Taro, and Cassidy. They’d all gotten messed up somehow because she’d wanted to help someone. Was she really causing problems every time she “dove in headfirst?”

“So, I think she’ll do just fine for you, Tolly,” Agatha said sweetly. Dysmas laughed unpleasantly and headed for his own room, leaving Kai in the living room with the others. Her heart pounded faster. they can’t do that much in twenty minutes? Yeah, right, sneered the nasty voice in her head.

Tolly glared at his friend. “Twenty minutes? Hell, Aggie, that’s barely enough time to say hello.” Oh, no, no…

“You can take care of the niceties afterward,” she smiled. “Turn a little circle for him, girl, show him what you’ve got.”

“Aggie...” Anatoliy complained, but Kai did as she was told, turning around slowly. Tolly’s not that bad, is he? He wouldn’t…

“Fine, fine,” the giant grumbled, offering her a massive hand. “Come on.” She set her hand into his, mortified to realize she was trembling.

Agatha walked up to Anatoliy, laying a hand on his shoulder and speaking sweetly, in a way that sounded strange to Kailani coming from her. “Tolly, honey. Don’t be so reticent. I’m just looking out for you. When has Aggie not known best?”

Anatoliy’s hangdog expression clearly showed his answer. “I know, but...” Oh, please…

“But nothing. I know you’d rather seduce someone, but you don’t have a lot of time left. Now I got you this sweet little girl to fuck. Is she not pretty enough? I can change her, you know, into whatever you want. It won’t hurt... us.” Kailani shuddered slightly at the thought of Agatha shaping her as the girl continued. “I think you’ll like her just the way she is, though. You can always try to be her friend afterwards. I need you to graduate with me. You wouldn’t want me to be out there all by myself, would you? Do this for me, Tolly?” She smiled wickedly. “You can think about me if you want.” She turned her attention back to Kailani for a moment. “Strip down for us, girl. If he doesn’t want you, maybe I’ll have a piece.” She licked her lips, but the calculating look in her eyes was fixed on Anatoliy.

Twenty minutes. She could tolerate anything for twenty minutes. Even this. Was he proportional? She gulped at the thought, even as she slipped out of her clothes. She’d never been naked in front of this many people before. She swallowed hard, again, focusing on Anatoliy, wondering what he was really thinking.

“I think she’ll do just fine, Aggie,” he smiled, leaning down to kiss the little woman on the top of the head even as he enveloped Kai’s hand in his own giant one. “Thank you.”

She shuddered, the affection so alien, so wrong. At least it wasn’t Dysmas. At least it was only twenty minutes.

Agatha set her hand on Kailani’s stomach, murmuring a Working, her whispered words so low that Kailani couldn’t figure out what exactly she was doing. When she looked up, there was a wicked gleam in her eye. “I call you to account, Kailani, starting now.” The air shivered with Agatha’s words. Kai shivered as well, as Anatoliy led her into his room and shut the door.


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