Chapter 124: Shahin
The trees around them seemed to sway maliciously in the dark, reaching down towards them. A deep red light glowed as if from far away, coming closer, closer. Strange hoots and howls surrounded them, echoing through the trees. Shahin braced herself, set the cowl of her robe properly around her shoulders, and smiled at her demon lover. She set a gloved hand on his bare red chest, mindful of the flames of his tattoos, and leaned in for a kiss. “Let’s dance.”
“Let’s,” he agreed in a rich, deep baritone, a wisp of smoke curling up from the corner of his mouth as he spoke. His hand slid from her shoulder, over the silken sleeves emblazoned with thaumaturgical sigils, to her other black glove.
Feeling as if they were stepping into battle, she smiled nevertheless and stepped forward with him. It had all started with a dance, after all.
Tonight, it began slowly, but she was certain that it would not remain so. The DJ was too fond of his frenetic beats to let this tempo continue, particularly on this night of all nights. Technically, Halloween was tomorrow, but Addergoole wasn’t going to let a little thing like a calendar stop it from throwing a party.
“I approve of the theme,” Emrys remarked as they danced. “A bit obvious, of course, but it’s not the usual school-hall schtick.”
“When is anything about Addergoole usual?” she smiled at him, as they moved around the floor. It was a pity Xaviera hadn’t been able to get a date; she was going to have to have some words with Coy. Where was she, anyway? The girl had said she was still going to come, albeit alone. Shahin wondered what she’d be dressed as. “Have you seen our Kept?”
“Our... no.” Emrys smiled sheepishly, a decidedly odd expression on the demonic red face. “It’s odd, thinking of her like that. But no. She’s around here somewhere, I’m sure.”
She kissed him, liking him more for the sheepishness. “It is odd,” she admitted. “For her, too, I’m sure.” She looked around curiously at the wild costumes, stranger still with the Changes beneath them. “Is that her, over there?”
“Oh, yes, I believe so. The Amazon? Those are some interesting, um, clothes, she’s wearing. Or not.”
“It’s not a bad look on… for her. It looks good with her collar,” she mused.
“And what about the spear?” he chuckled. “I assume that’s not rowan.”
“Gods, I hope not!” Shahin pursed her lips. “You know, I never did order her not to hurt us.”
“I don’t think it’s occurred to her to try. I’m sure her last Keeper put strict holds on her.”
“I get that feeling, yes,” she nodded. “Shopping with her was interesting.”
“Interesting, you say?” That familiar smile quirked the corner of his lip. “How’s that?”
“Balancing what she thought I wanted her to want with what she actually wanted. It was tempting to just play Barbie Doll with her,” she admitted.
“It is, isn’t it?” He glanced aside for another moment, watching the girl in question approach a group. “It’s quite a power to hold over someone.”
“We had it over each other,” she murmured, not arguing, as the Amazon’s shoulders slumped and she turned away.
“That was different, in some ways. We had more limits, self-imposed as they may have been.”
“We liked each other, even from the beginning.” Their Kept was wandering sadly towards… towards Phelen and Manira. “I haven’t made the best choices since coming here,” she muttered.
“Like liking me?” Emrys teased.
She laughed, kissing him in retaliation. “That’s one of the few good choices I’ve made.”
He grinned, shaking his head. “But yeah; it’s different, when it’s not someone you love or even like.”
“That, too. I was thinking about Phelen.”
“About having helped him, you mean?”
She nodded, tilting her head towards that couple. Manira looked happy enough on Phelen’s arm, true, but that had never seemed to be that much of an indicator.
“He’s not such a bad sort. I never got the impression that he mistreated Wren, last year.”
“She looks happy,” she agreed. “Smug, even. And Wren… Kai says she’s trying to get herself Owned again.”
“She’s what now?” Emrys paused for a moment, blinking in surprise; it was an eerie effect, with the fires dancing in his eyes. “Did she say why?”
Shahin couldn’t help a small smirk; she liked the way he looked when she managed to catch him off-guard. “Kai heard it from Elfred, but I get the feeling she just likes it?”
“She must, if she’s actively seeking it out and doesn’t... she doesn’t have anyone specific in mind? Just wants to be Owned?”
“Oh, no, no, she’s pestering Elfred to Own her.”
“Ohh, well, a Fifth, yes. That makes much more sense.”
She gave him an arch look. “It seems to be the trend.”
He shrugged, half-apologetically. “It’s different, than someone with more experience, who’s seen things here for a year or more already. Take your friend Kai. Conrad very carefully spent the last year not getting Owned by anyone. He wouldn’t have bowed to an upperclassman, no matter how pretty she was.”
“Sort of like you?”
“Maybe in extenuating circumstances,” he smirked.
She chuckled, and touched the hollow of his throat with one gloved finger. “Indeed.”
“I’ll miss you these coming weeks,” Emrys said, his tone shifting as he moved to a more serious subject.
She looked at him solemnly for a moment before stepping in closer, until the bare skin above her robe was pressed against his bare chest. “I...” She was totally without words.
“Hadn’t really thought about that, I know. I mean, I’m sure you realized, but it’s not quite the same.”
She bit his collarbone lightly. “I’m not really sure how I’ll survive,” she murmured. “I’ve never really been sure how I’ll survive.”
“You’ll be alright,” he said softly, leaning forward over her shoulder. “I’ll be right here for you when you come back.”
“And while I’m gone?” she whispered.
“I’ll still be here. I’ll miss you, but I’ll survive. We’ll be able to feel each other, still, I think.”
“Gods, I hope so.” She could hear his heartbeat, like this. She could feel him, like he was right next to her, when they were at opposite ends of the school. But Texas… “They needed this,” she whispered.
“They did,” he acknowledged. “And you gave it to them. Enjoy it, for them, and for yourself too.”
“I’ll try.” I’m scared.
“You’ll be fine,” he reiterated as he wrapped his arms around her.
Will you? She leaned into his touch, not sure how she’d ever managed without him. “Should I bring you back a souvenir?” she joked weakly.
“A souvenir?” He held her tightly, barely speaking aloud as he murmured in her ear, even these pedantic words stirring her emotions. “If you see something that’s me, sure.”
She smiled wryly into his shoulder. “Unlikely, but I’ll look.” She looked up, aware that they were in the middle of a public space. “Could we go talk to Ayla and Vi?” A little defensively, she added, “I’ll miss them, too.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “Ayla’s with Ioanna, I presume; any idea what they’re going to look like, tonight? And is Yngvi here, and with anyone if so?”
“Ayla said something about ‘bunnies,’ but I think she was joking. And – can you really see Vi dating, here? I know he’ll eventually have to do something, but this really isn’t his crowd.”
“That was rather the impression I’d gathered; hence, my question of if he’ll even be in attendance.”
“He feels the need to keep an eye on Ayla and me,” she smiled. “He’ll probably be near the two of them, glowering protectively.”
“So we’re looking for... bunnies?” Emrys grinned.
“Bunnies,” she agreed, smiling back at him. She stepped away just far enough to be able to walk next to him, holding his hand and pretending she wasn’t clinging. “What have you done to me, Emrys cy’Drake?” she murmured, mostly to herself, looking at their joined hands.
“That’s a long list,” he murmured in reply, his tone amused but his face showing that he understood the complexity of the question.
“I feel so naked to you,” she muttered, even as they crossed the crowded dance floor in search of her friends.
“Is that such a bad thing?” was the thought he left her with, as, sighting the pair, they both put their smiles back on.
Indeed. Her smile went from practiced to real as she saw the adorable pink bow tie Ayla was wearing, and the matching pale blue one the as-yet-un-Changed Yngvi had adopted (complete with plastic bunny ears).
“Plastic?” Emrys asked playfully, flicking a finger against one of the ears. “I’m sure you could’ve gotten someone to do up real ones for you...”
“That,” Vi answered, with a hint of a smile, “would have required letting someone touch me. That’s a nice look you two have going. Demon, is it?”
“And dark sorceress,” he agreed, gesturing at Shahin’s outfit. “Y’know, I could get used to this.”
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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