Chapter 73: Shahin
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing

Shahin was a roil of conflicting emotions as they walked with Anatoliy, down the same path they’d walked earlier today. She wanted to hug the giant, and tell him everything would be okay, but if she was understanding him correctly… well, she wasn’t sure that could be okay. She wanted to smack Emrys. Again. And yet she wanted to take his hand and hold him close to her.

It wasn’t like he was wrong, after all. Helping each other out was, she thought, probably what real friends did. It was what she’d do for Ayla or Vi – or, for that matter, for him. She claimed his hand in hers, squeezing gently.

He squeezed back, just a little, and glanced at her as they walked.

“What’s on your mind?”

“You,” she teased, not entirely dishonestly. “And…” she glanced at Tolly, and changed her phrasing mid-stream, “what we’ll say to Taro’s crew.”

“That’s a good question. What will we say to them?”

“Well, I’m still working on that. I’m torn between ‘sorry my Kept set you on fire, now you owe me,’ and… well, I suppose that was all I had.” She shrugged gently. “What’s the formal way, around here, of declaring peace?”

“Peace?” He wrinkled his nose. “It doesn’t come up very often.”

“Well, why did you think we were going over there? I rather like the parts of that crew that I know.” She was running her mouth a little haphazardly, trying to cover her nerves and the giant’s obvious distress. Had he really…? How had he let Agatha talk him into that?

“Yeah, I know.” She had to pull herself back to the conversation to remember what he was talking about.

“There’s just not exactly a standard for it. You’ll want to talk to their crew leader; that’d be Mabina-and-Cassidy. And, I dunno, explain what you want.”

She noted the way he blurred the names of the two together, like they were one person, but decided to leave that question for later. Well, what did she want? It would be hard to stand there and declare she’d had nothing to do with Aggie’s attack while being flanked by two members of Aggie’s crew. She glanced up at the lumbering, moody giant, wondering what he had in mind.

He seemed absorbed in his own thoughts, however; if she wanted his attention, she’d have to ask for it directly, and she wasn’t sure he’d welcome the intrusion. “I suppose I can wing it,” she shrugged.

“It’s not like they’re going to be pissed over what words you choose to try to make nice. And here we are.”

She wondered if he could ignore the scorched spot in the carpet where he was standing, or the soot streaks on the walls. They certainly marked the spot.

She glanced between the two men, wondering if Anatoliy was going to knock. He seemed hesitant, reasonably so, so she stepped up between them and knocked lightly on the door.

Cassidy opened the door, and frowned angrily at the three of them. “Haven’t you people made enough trouble for one day? Go rain on somebody else’s roof for a while.” He made a little shooing gesture, but didn’t close the door in their face.

Shahin patted Tolly’s hand, encouraging him forward gently.

“I... I’d like to speak to Kailani, please,” he said nervously, looking for all the world like a young boy knowing he’d brought his date home late.

“I doubt she wants to talk to you,” Cassidy frowned, fulfilling the role of angry father to a T.

“I know. But I’ve done a terrible thing, and I’d like to try to make things right.” He craned his neck, peering over the shorter boy in an obvious attempt to see who else was in the room.

“Aye, you have. But it’s not my place to tell her not to talk to you, so I’ll go ask. Stay there.” He left the door open and vanished into the back of the suite.

All things considered, the reception could have been worse. Shahin wrapped her hand around one of Tolly’s fingers and squeezed reassuringly, while they watched Cassidy in a whispered conference with Kailani, a very angry Conrad, and Taro, who looked pretty good for having been nearly dead an hour ago. “It will work out,” she murmured to him, not quite willing to commit to “it will be okay.”

He just nodded, as Emrys watched impassively from her other side. She clutched his hand a little tighter. Being intentionally friendly was as strange to her as he’d said suing for peace was to this school.

Cassidy, glowering unhappily, came back to the door. “She’ll talk to you, though I think it’s daft. You, not your back-up singers,” he snapped. “Come in, if you truly mean no-one here harm.”

Tolly shuffled forward nervously, ducking his head under the doorframe. Cassidy glared balefully at Shahin and Emrys, clearly needing someone to take his anger out on. “Well? Shoo.”

It wasn’t the most reassuring beginning. Shahin cleared her throat, reminding herself that she was supposed to be the calm, collected one. “Actually,” she replied, pleased that her voice sounded calm and relatively friendly despite the provocation, “we’re here to talk to you and Mabina.”

He began to say something, but the conversation in the background caught all of their attentions. Kailani, sitting in Conrad’s arms, looked uncertainly at Anatoliy. “You wanted to talk?” she asked, her voice barely audible in the doorway.

Tolly dropped to one knee before her, bringing him almost to her eye level, and bowed his head. ”Kailani cy’Regine,” he intoned, “I, Anatoliy cy’Luca, of mine own free will, do pledge myself to thee.”

Shahin blinked, startled, and glanced at Emrys, while, behind Tolly, Kailani squeaked. “What? No! Don’t be…” she trailed off with another squeak.

Emrys stared openmouthed as Tolly didn’t move.

Kailani’s squeak resolved into a whimper. “Tolly, no, that doesn’t solve anything.”

Shahin caught Cassidy’s eye for a moment, and he nodded his agreement that their business could wait until this was resolved.

Somewhere behind the giant, the redhead was struggling with words. “I… thank you. I mean, for trying to make this better. But I don’t think me Owning you is going to help. It’s only going to make Aggie hate me more. And…” her voice dropped down lower again, “…I still owe her five minutes.”

“I didn’t realize you were counting them,” he said ruefully, then raised his head to glance around the room, noting everyone else watching them. “Is there somewhere more private...?”

“Yes,” Conrad nodded, apparently equally conscious of all the eyes on them. “Let’s go to my room.”

The girl made a little noise of acquiescence, and the three of them fled the living room, leaving Cassidy and Taro to go back to glaring at Shahin and Emrys – although the strangeness of the scene seemed to have dulled their anger.

“You wanted to talk?” Cassidy asked, his eyes on Emrys.

“We don’t want to fight,” Emrys said, glancing down at Shahin.

“We’re not here for a fight,” she agreed, before Cassidy could say anything. “Quite the opposite.” She took a breath, trying to figure out how to phrase things for this twisted place. “We didn’t come here for a fight before, and I don’t want to be on bad terms with your crew.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before Emrys lit Taro on fire,” Cassidy frowned.

“He punched her out,” Emrys said hotly. “For which he still owes her, mind.”

“Emrys,” she said impatiently, resting her hand on his arm.

He grumbled faintly, glancing at the others.

“As he said,” she picked up easily, “I couldn’t very well do anything when Emrys ... overreacted.”

Cassidy frowned, but nodded. “You have a point,” he admitted. “So what is it you wanted?”

“Peace and amiable relations,” she said easily.

“Peace and amiable relations,” Cassidy nodded slowly. “It’s possible... what the fuck?” He stared in sudden horror over Emrys’ shoulder.

Emrys was staring rather balefully at Cassidy and Taro, so, her hand still on his arm, Shahin turned around...

...and stared into the face of an oncoming monster. It was nearly as tall as the hallway, bigger than Anatoliy, some sort of giant bipedal lizard with big clawed hands. It was laughing, a gleeful hissing sound, and heading straight for her.

An illusion, like the games on Hell Night? “Emrys,” she snapped.

He turned then at least, and quickly. “Holy crap!”

Almost relieved that she wasn’t the only one freaking out, she backpedaled quickly, but there was nowhere to go except the open suite of people still not feeling friendly towards them, and the monster was coming straight at them.

Emrys, it seemed, was taking no chances. For the second time today, the hallway erupted in flame.

The monster coughed out a laugh and began hissing out what had to be Workings as it advanced. Feeling helpless and hating it, Shahin took another step backwards. She’s be running into the doorway soon.

“Cass, what the hell is that thing?” Emrys snarled.

“Damned if I know.” His voice was right behind her. “Shahin…”

She turned away from the monster to look at him, just in time to feel a giant hand wrap around her waist. “Emrys,” she yelped, mortified to find herself crying to him for help.

“Abatu tlacatl!” he roared, striding forward with his hand outstretched. “Abatu tlacatl!”

The creature bellowed in pain, its claws clutching more tightly around Shahin, its flesh sizzling. “Tempero tlacatl,” it hissed angrily. Emrys froze in mid-step, his body totally rigid from that single utterance.

Shahin kicked and slapped at the creature in incoherent rage and terror, but it only laughed at her and began running through the halls.


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