Chapter 80: Kailani
Bring to me wisdom of age
All that's locked within the book of secrets
I longed for the knowledge of a sage
It seemed a little surreal to just go to classes on Wednesday like nothing had happened, but there was comfort to the routine, as well, that Kailani embraced.
She dissected Russian grammar through her first class, for a little while able to ignore her problems. Yngvi and Elfred were both nice enough guys, and she didn’t feel like she had to be on guard around them.
But thinking about language made her think about the strange word – or Word – Jamian had used, and that found her approaching the terrifying Professor Fridmar after class.
“Kailani, what goes?” He smiled in a way she could only assume was intended to be good-natured, though it was still fearsome.
“Professor, I heard a Word yesterday-” it was hard to put the peculiar emphasis on it to make it not just an ordinary part of speech “-that I’m not familiar with. I wondered if you could help me?”
“Da, of course. What did sound like? Or, what did do?”
“Frod…” she tried. It didn’t like her, the way eperu sounded wrong on her tongue, but if she took it in syllables, she could say it. “Frod-leik-r. And I’m not entirely certain what it did, as it was paired with jasfe-” another word that tied her tongue up uncomfortably “–but the end result didn’t appear to be repairing anything.”
“End result was what, then?” He rubbed his goatee between two fingers.
“All the oxygen in the room turned to CO2.”
“From repair? Interesting. Very interesting.”
“So what might it have meant?”
“No idea. Approach from other side, maybe. What could have changed air?”
“A chemical reaction. Respiration, combustion. A Working, perhaps, Transmute.”
“Transmute Air, da. You work Air, Kailani. Can Transmute?”
“Nyet, no, sir.”
“Is not easy, so much at once, and you would recognize Kaana. So, chemical reaction maybe. Many Words cause those.”
“Are you suggesting that I mis-heard the Word, sir?”
“Nyet, but is difficult to place meaning, with many possibilities.”
She nodded. “I understand. I’ll see if Jamian found anything out.”
“Da. Duplicate experiment. Scientific method.”
She didn’t feel like contradicting such an intimidating professor, so she just nodded. “Thank you, Professor.” She took her leave, hoping Jamian would have some useful information.
Jamian wasn’t in her American History class, however, his empty chair something of a frustration. Kai really wanted to know what was going on. She could ask Professor Valerian… but the flighty history teacher had never seemed all that together to her. She tried to focus on the class and put the strange Word out of her mind until she could find someone who might be able to help her.
Over English Lit, she recalled that Professor VanderLinden was one of the older professors – and, if she remembered correctly, one of the only pure-bloods in the school. If anyone would know anything, maybe it would be him. She approached him after class.
“What can I help you with, Kailani?” There was something strange about the way he looked at her; maybe Conrad would be able to explain it later. For now, she could try her question again.
“I heard someone use a Word yesterday that I didn’t know; I thought, since you were one of the …” oldest “most experienced members of the teaching staff, you might be able to tell me what it was?”
He chuckled. ”Experienced. Yeah, I’m that, I suppose. What Word was it, Kailani?”
“Frodleikr,” she said, carefully.
He shook his head. “You must have heard it wrong, or heard some sort of modifier onto the Working. That’s not a Word, Kai.”
She was too good a student to contradict a teacher, even when they were blatantly ignoring information in front of them, so, growing increasingly frustrated, she thanked the professor and headed on to her next class.
Were the teachers useless or intentionally obstructionist? Considering the opinions she had heard of Dr. Regine – and that social ineptitude appeared to be a family trait – she could accept that her failure of advice was simply a lack of understanding of the problem. But for two teachers in a row to be so deliberately unhelpful seemed to be in line with the pattern of “we can’t tell you anything; we’ve been geased to keep you ignorant” that permeated the school.
There had to be something going on and, if there was, there had to be a way to find out what it was. Chewing on that problem, she sat down for Chemistry in her typical seat to Conrad’s right.
She could ask Conrad – but he’d been there and didn’t seem to know any more than she did, and she really didn’t like forcing information out around his geasa. She looked around speculatively – Mea was settling in to Conrad’s left, but she wouldn’t be any help. Bowen was sitting down carefully in the back of the class – the poor kid couldn’t even help himself, and she didn’t dare talk to him, anyway. Likewise Dysmas, who was sitting next to Bowen like a jailkeeper. Most of the rest of her class was Fifth Cohorts, like herself, who probably didn’t know any more than she did. Except…
“Morning.” Rozen settled in to the chair to her right.
“Good morning.” She looked over the big demon speculatively. Even the Thorne Girls didn’t trust him, but he’d always been forthright and honest…
“Rozen, have you ever heard of Words beyond the twenty-two we’re being taught?”
His brow furrowed. “You mean, for Workings?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Yesterday, I heard a funny word, and I’m sure it was a Word, but I didn’t recognize it.”
“What’d it sound like?”
“Frodleikr.” Her tongue twisted on the strange syllables again.
“Frog-licker?” Rozen laughed. “No; but there are rumors that there’s more magic out there. Some of us have always suspected as much.”
She smiled widely. Now she was getting somewhere. But… the smile vanished. “The Words seem pretty comprehensive. What else would the magic cover? Aliens?”
“Well, there are a few things missing. I’m no scholar, though. Check out the Library when you have time.” He glanced at the teacher for a moment, then back to her, almost surreptitiously. “It’s a big place. I’d bet even the staff doesn’t know all of what’s in there.”
“There’s…” She took a couple deep breaths and calmed herself, dropping her voice to just above a whisper. “There’s a Library here?” She turned to Conrad, feeling very betrayed. “There’s a Library here?”
“Well, yeah,” he shrugged. “Everywhere’s got a library, right?”
“There’s a library here and you never told me?” From Taro, it was understandable. She wasn’t entirely certain Taro knew how to read. But from Conrad… she glowered at him.
Mea joined in the conversation, leaning over Conrad from the other side. Way over Conrad. She was wearing a low scoop-necked shirt, and her cleavage was pretty much in his face. “Well, you can’t blame him for having other interests. I’d have thought you’d have found the Library on your own by now, student that you are.”
“Please get off of my boyfriend.” For as annoyed as she was feeling, she thought she managed to be pretty polite. She looked at Conrad, waiting for an explanation.
Conrad shrugged as Mea retreated slightly. “We’ve been busy,” he said defensively.
She sighed. That was true. “We have,” she admitted. “Can we go there after class, then?”
“Yeah, of course.”
On the other side of her, Rozen chuckled. “You’re getting it backwards. He’s supposed to ask you for permission, not the other way around.”
She bristled, but had to admit he had a point. At least, even Finnegan seemed to think that was how it was supposed to go. “I guess…”
“If you want to come hang out in my room some time, I can show you how a Keeper is supposed to treat their Kept.”
“You should take him up on that,” Mea purred. “Conrad will thank you later, once he gets over it.”
She managed to avoid looking at Bowen behind her by focusing on Conrad. “Thank you for the offer,” she told Rozen politely. Conrad glared but remained silent; Rozen only smirked. She realized she hadn’t actually said no to Rozen’s offer, and Conrad was getting upset.
She took his hand; class was about to start and she didn’t want to annoy Professor Pelletier, and she could worry about the library problem later. “I like things the way they are,” she whispered.
Conrad just nodded, squeezing her hand gently, and turned his attention to the class.
Chapter 80b: Kailani
Will you figure out
How you can change it
And rearrange it
And turn it all around?
You will learn by trial and error
She pulled him away from other people as soon as she could after class, her concern about the strange Word momentarily forgotten. Once she had him, though, in one of the little niches that pocked the classroom floor, she didn’t know what to say; she just looked at him helplessly.
“Hey, it’s okay, Kaia.” He ran a hand gently through her hair.
She sighed at him, torn between being embarrassed at Rozen and Mea’s suggestion and angry at him about the library. “It’s not really okay, is it?” She had a flash of insight, remembering Mabina telling her Put a collar on the boy before he gets too full of himself; she and Rozen had been talking about the same thing.
“Well, I don’t want you to be mad at me,” he sighed.
“I don’t like being mad at you, either. But it’s so hard to get anyone to tell me anything, and then all the upper-classmen are laughing at me…” she sighed unhappily. “…again, and you can’t tell me there’s a geas about the Library!”
“Well, no, there’s not. It just never came up.” He shifted uncomfortably.
She sighed. She couldn’t expect everyone to be as interested in books as she was. “It’s okay, I guess,” she ceded. “But it does seem like this school is stacked against knowledge. I talked to professors all morning, and then Rozen gives me more information than all of them combined.” Mentioning Rozen made her think about his offer. She didn’t want to take him up on it, of course not, but… “Should I be treating you differently? Am I doing it wrong?”
“There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. Everyone treats their Kept differently.”
She frowned at him. “The way Agatha does it is pretty wrong.”
“I’d tend to agree, yeah. But others might not.”
She sighed. Social mores ought to be consistent through a group, at least. “I guess I can ask the Thorne Girls. I paid for their advice, after all; I might as well use it.”
“That’s true. They might have a little more knowledge than the average student about practical applications of magic.”
She wondered if he was intentionally changing the subject, but he did have a point. “They probably would. Let’s go to the Dining Hall, then, and I can ask them there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he nodded.
Once in the Dining Hall, however, Kai couldn’t find the Thorne Girls; Finnegan was sitting with Melchior and his friends, looking wan and poking at his food, but he looked so sad that she didn’t want to bother him.
“They don’t seem to be here,” Conrad noted with a frown.
Kai shook her head. “No… but look, there’s Shiva’s crew. We can ask them if they know anything.” She grabbed his hand and hurried across the room.
They filled up the entire table, Shiva in the middle of one side and Jamian in the middle of the other. It made it awkward to find a way to talk to them; she settled for standing at the end of the table where Ty and Nikita sat across from each other.
“Hey, hon.” Shiva smiled up at them, seeming no worse for the wear and, like many of the people at the table, freshly showered. “How are you feeling?”
Kai blinked – did the cat-woman mean from the near-suffocation, from Anatoliy, or was she just being polite? She guessed on polite and just answered “Fine, thanks. Did you find out what happened?”
“Oh, that’s right, you weren’t there. Pull up a chair – a couple chairs – have a seat and we’ll talk.”
Conrad pulled over a chair for Kai and another for himself, at the end of the table with Ty and Niki.
“So.” Shiva leaned forward, her elbows on the table. “We went to Regine’s apartment early, because the air was turning bad again.” Kai tried to get a question in edgewise, but Shiva, it seemed, had just gotten started.
“And Regine was in with Luke, and Doug, and the Thornes, and that big guy that’s been wandering around for the last week. And…” she dropped her voice down to a whisper, “they were looking for two students.” There was something in her voice that even Kai could recognize as horror. “There was a Nedetakaei Dragon in the school, and he kidnapped Emrys and his girlfriend.”
“Kidnapped?” Kai gasped. “Really kidnapped, not like… Rozen?”
“Really kidnapped.” She nodded solemnly. “So they were in the middle of making war plans, when they realized that Ambrus had run off.”
“Ambrus? The Director’s assistant?” She frowned, bringing his face to mind. “Ah.” The nose, the cheekbones, the hair. Not close enough to be twins, but parent and child, that she could see.
Shiva nodded. “Yep, him. So everything went a little crazy for a little bit, and they figured out that he’d taken Regine’s car and gone – and wasn’t answering the phone.”
“Makes sense,” Nikita offered. “If he doesn’t talk to Regine, she can’t tell him to come back.”
“It would work, yeah,” Conrad said slowly.
Kai looked at him thoughtfully, then back to Shiva, who seemed amused by this suggestion. She laughed, at least.
“Yeah, probably,” she grins. “If you can’t hear them tell you to come back, you’re safe, right, Ty?”
“Mmm.” Ty smiled back at them.
“So, where was I? Okay, so Ambrus had taken off, which lit a fire under everyone else, and they finally got outta there, which left us with Dr. Regine.”
“And the problem with the environment in your room?” She wanted to ask more about the kidnapping, but she wasn’t sure how to, or what specifically she should ask.
Shiva shrugged. “They sent in Akatil to fix it.”
“But what was wrong? And what about the strange Word Jamian used? Frodleikr?”
“Frodleikr,” Jamian offered helpfully. The word rolled off his tongue in a manner Kai envied. “It was Jasfe Frodleikr.” The air rippled and settled again with no visible effect.
“Yes!” Kai nodded eagerly, leaning forward across the table. “No-one seems to know anything about it; I’ve been talking to people all day, and the best I could get is that there’s a Library. Dr. VanderLinden said it didn’t exist!” She thumped the table, her aggravation overflowing.
“Linden said the Library doesn’t exist?” Magnolia drawled. “Ah think he’s been there a time or two.”
“No, no,” she shook her head. Why didn’t anyone else care? “I mean he didn’t believe the Word existed!”
“Hey, hey, calm down, Kaia.”
A fzzzt sound zipped across the table, followed by a smell like burning hair and ozone.
“Ow!” Conrad yelped. “What the hell was that?”
“Well,” Jamian offered, “your hair is standing on end.” It was, too, frizzed out of his ponytail. The smell of burnt flesh was definitely coming from him, too; Kai touched his neck just under the collar.
“Yeah, something electrocuted me.”
“I see.” She moved the collar upward and ran her fingers over the sunburn-like line around his throat.
“Ow,” he reiterated, looking at her. “Did you do that?”
She shook her head. “No. You told me to calm down, and then it zapped you. I don’t have any skill with hiko,” she added helpfully. The burn went all the way around his neck and, from the feel of it, wasn’t too severe.
“Well what was it then?”
“The collar clearly electrocuted you.”
“No shit,” he snapped at her. She recoiled back, startled, as another fzzzt sparked through the air.
“Ow! Cut that out!”
Once again, the air sparked and stank of ozone and flesh. Nikita barked out a laugh. “Man, you’re slow!”
Conrad sighed. “Funny, Kai.”
She glared at him; he really thought she was doing this? “Conrad, I’m not doing this. I don’t have the Words to do it, and I wouldn’t even if I could.”
“Who else would mess with my collar?” He glanced around the table.
“It wasn’t my crew.” Shiva shook her head. “You’ve been listening; none of us did anything.”
Kai looked between them, the pieces falling into place. “Jamian…” she asked slowly, “do you have idu?”
He shook his head ruefully. “No. It seems like it would be useful, but I can’t even say it.”
“Mmm,” she pondered, “how about aposyntheto?” She couldn’t manage that one well, either, “I mean, ‘dismantle?’”
“That I can do!” She wasn’t certain, but she thought he looked relieved.
“Would you be…” She remembered what Caitrin had said when asking her to find Jamian; flinching, she turned to Ty. “Could Jamian come over to our suite later? I want to do some additional research, but I think I have an idea what’s going on.”
Ty nodded lazily, tousling Jamian’s hair as the younger boy scowled. “Jame’ can do what he wants. I’m not Aggie.”
“I’ll come over. You think you know what’s going on? Do you think that…” Jamian gestured at Conrad “…is related to this weird Word?”
“I think it might be. Thank you.” She smiled cautiously at Conrad. “Let’s go get some lunch.”
Chapter 80c: Kailani
Does anybody out there want a second-hand heart?
One that's already broken in?
Conrad looked uncomfortable, his tail drooping, as he took his seat back with the crew. Cassidy, facing him, picked up on it immediately.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” His question seemed directed as much at Kailani as at Conrad.
Kai was already feeling guilty; she should have asked Jamian to try dismantling the magic on the collar right away. She jumped as Cassidy questioned her and glanced nervously at Mabina.
“Something happened to Conrad’s collar,” she answered slowly.
“Something?” Mabina asked, smoothly picking up Cassidy’s conversation as he ate. “What happened?”
“We were talking with Shiva’s crew about the strange Word Jamian manifested last night. Conrad was telling me to calm down,” she looked down at the table. “I was probably getting a little worked up. And his collar shocked him.”
On the other side of her, Taro coughed softly.
“And you didn’t set it up to do that?” Cassidy asked. “Where did you get the collar?”
“I wouldn’t do something like that! I don’t even know how to!” She lowered her voice at a sharp look from Mabina. “I bought it at the Store, like you told me to.”
“The Store turns off anything like that when they buy back used collars,” Taro offered, sounded rather subdued, for him. “I saw Akatil do it, once.”
“Used collars?” She reached out to touch Conrad’s neck, not sure how she felt about him wearing something someone else had worn first. That was the second time Akatil had come up, too…
“Secondhand,” Conrad nodded. “Collars last longer than Belongings, around here.”
“But it’s never done that before,” she mused, glad he was talking again. “And it’s not like it’s the first time you’ve told me what to do.” Taro coughed again; she tried to ignore him.
“Well, maybe one of them did it over there.”
She was fairly certain, by now, that Jamian had done it by accident, but she didn’t want to bring that up until she knew for certain. “They don’t seem to be the sort of people who would do that.”
She could take the collar off, but he’d complained the last time she’d done that in public. She just had to solve this as quickly as possible. “Mabina,” she said hesitantly, “I invited Jamian oro’Ty over to the suite tonight.”
“That’s all right, honey, it’s your suite, too, you know. But what are you going to do about Conrad’s collar? As amusing as it is, I don’t think it’s kind to leave him that way, do you?”
“No,” Kai shook her head. “Taro, you said Professor Akatil was your Mentor, right?”
“Could you take us there after class and introduce me? I have some questions.”
“Sure. I’ll meet you at the suite, then?”
“Yes, thank you.” She hugged Conrad tightly. “I’ll take care of this,” she whispered. She couldn’t stand seeing him unhappy.
“Okay,” he nodded uncertainly. “You’ll figure this out, right, Kaia?”
“I will,” she nodded firmly. “I’ll take care of you, Conrad.”
Taro and Conrad were already back in the suite when she got there after magic class; Taro was looking constipated, or perhaps thoughtful. “Akatil’s office is all the way downstairs,” he told her.
“Okay.” She wondered why, when most of the professors had offices on the first floor, but she could figure that out later. She held out a hand to Conrad. “Are you doing okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It hasn’t done anything, without you around.”
She nodded, unsurprised. “Let’s go talk to Akatil, then.”
Taro led them down to a heretofore-unexplored corner of the third floor, uncharacteristically quiet. Mea had said she’d saved his life, that he’d been frozen in a block of ice. She had so many questions, but she didn’t want to bother him. But… “Mea says she saved your life?”
“Yeah,” he grunted, not looking at her.
“You should take her out to dinner. You know. To thank her.”
Taro grunted again, but it sounded positive. “Here’s Akatil’s office.” He knocked on the small, unmarked door.
A very short man opened the door. He was maybe four feet tall, with a long black beard and a tangled thatch of black hair; his office, which seemed to go back at least thirty feet, was lined with shelves full of mechanical parts; in lieu of a desk, he had a workbench full of tools.
“Taro! What can I do for you? And hello, I see you’ve brought friends.”
“Hello, Professor.” Kai was surprised at the respect she heard in his voice. “This is Kailani and Conrad; they’re in my crew.”
“Hello, Kailani, Conrad. Come in, sit, how can I help you?” He gestured at chairs near the entrance.
“I’ll see you later,” Taro murmured, and headed off. Kai hoped he was going to talk to Mea.
She sat, a little belatedly, to find the diminutive professor looking thoughtfully at Conrad’s collar. “Interesting; I remember seeing that collar once before.”
Kailani nodded. “That’s the question, Professor, well, one of the questions. It seems to have a Working active on it that it didn’t, before; and Taro thought that you might have removed a previous enchantment if it was a second-hand collar?”
He squinted at the collar and muttered a multi-Word working under his breath. “Yes, yes, I remember removing that one previously. A very nasty enchantment, sort of a behavior-correction sort of thing. Acacia put it on Carter; you might ask them about it. I could re-remove the enchantment now, if you’d like?”
That would be the easy answer, but she was still wondering about Jamian’s ability. “I have something else I want to try, Professor, but if it doesn’t work, could we come back later for that?”
Akatil nodded. “Of course. I’m usually here until midnight or later.”
“Thank you.” She took Conrad’s hand. “I guess we should go talk to Carter. Do you know where he lives?”
“I think so, yeah. I know the pod at least.”
“Okay.” She squeezed his hand and headed back for the dorm floor, not sure what to say, letting him take the lead.
He remained quiet as they walked the halls, before finally knocking on a door. She watched him worriedly. Should she have taken Professor Akatil up on his offer? A Conrad without opinions was strange and uncomfortable.
The door opened, halting her musings. A lean, ginger-haired boy answered the door, taller than Conrad, taller than Kai.
“Conrad,” he nodded. “And this must be Kailani.”
“Yes,” she said cautiously. ”Professor Akatil suggested we talk to you about... about this collar?”
He glanced at it, disinterestedly at first, but then frowned, pursing his lips. “What about it?”
She hesitated, knowing she wasn’t going to be able to be politic about it. ”It seems to have had prior enchantments reactivated.” She settled for clinical distance in lieu of tact.
“That’s not my business anymore. I’ve had nothing to do with it.”
She frowned. ”I’m sorry. I...” She glanced over at Conrad, and then back to Carter. ”I’m just looking for answers.”
His expression softened just slightly. “I don’t have them for you. You’ll have to ask the collar’s owner.”
“She’s off rescuing other students.” She frowned softly. ”Thank you for your time, Carter.”
“Yeah... if I were you, I’d just get rid of that thing.”
She nodded. “That’s probably a good idea. Thank you.” She wandered quietly back to the suite, still holding Conrad’s hand, not letting go until they were in his room with the door shut.
“So what are you going to do?” he asked quietly.
She pulled the key out of her purse. “I’m going to take that thing off of you.” She hadn’t realized how angry she was until she started talking, how ashamed or herself. “Sit down?” He did, not yet speaking. It made her sick. It made her wonder how she’d ever thought Acacia was a decent person. It made her hands shake so badly that she dropped the key on the bed.
She snarled in frustration and fumbled for the key, her eyes blurry with tears. “I’m sorry…”
“It’s not your fault, Kaia.”
She found the key and managed to turn it in the lock this time. “I… I could have had Akatil handle it. I could have taken it off you the first time it zapped you.”
“Hey, relax, Kaia. It’s fixed now, right? I’m okay.”
She leaned against him, catching her breath. “I want to see if Jamian can do a dismantle… frodleikr on the collar. But even if he can turn it off again…” she touched the faded burn on the side of his neck. “You’re never going to want to put that collar on again, are you?”
“I’d really rather not. And ‘dismantle’ isn’t ‘destroy’, remember; whatever it is, separating it into component parts may not help.”
“Do you want me to release you?”
Her heart skipped a beat as he considered his answer for a moment. “No,” he said hesitantly.
“If you ever do,” she said, not sure what she’d do if he did, “tell me right away. Okay?”
“Okay,” he nodded.
She hugged him tightly from behind. She’d never felt this close to anyone. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she whispered. I don’t want to lose you.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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