Chapter 131: Kailani
Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you
They were all still reeling from the mess at the Capitol the day before. Even Shahin had folded in on herself, Carter and Channing were cautious and embarrassed seeming, only Taro seeming pretty much himself. Kai didn’t know what to make of it, or how to help it, so, as they paused for lunch at the Alamo, she focused on chivvying Nydia into a reasonable meal high in leafy greens.
“You’re burning more calories with all the walking around, anyway,” she coaxed her, even as she tried to keep an eye on everyone else. If Shahin wasn’t paying attention, someone had to.
“I guess so,” the waif replied morosely. “Much more of this and you’ll have me setting off the metal detectors from the iron, though.”
She smiled at the image. “Did you know cereals ‘fortified with iron’ just have iron filings in them? No, you’ll be fine; your body needs to rebuild the iron it’s been losing.”
“So everyone tells me,” Nydia replied dubiously; nonetheless, she ate her meal.
Content that the girl wasn’t going to starve, Kai glanced over at Taro. “Everyone seems jumpy,” she murmured.
“After yesterday, do you blame them? Hell,” he said, shaking his head. “That was a total fiasco.”
“I…” She shook her head. “I’m still trying to understand what went wrong there,” she admitted.
“I could make a list?” he said dryly. “Mostly though, the guards being pervy at Callie, and that compounded by Eris freaking out.”
She nodded. The raven-haired girl had started freaking out the moment the guards touched her. “She’s another one, isn’t she?” she murmured quietly.
“Another what, exactly? If you mean damaged goods, then yeah. She was Shad’s.”
Shad… She thought she’d heard the name before, but she wasn’t certain. “A First Cohort?”
“Yep. Not exactly a nice guy.” She could tell from his tone that that must be quite an understatement. Considering the way Eris had reacted, she wasn’t surprised. “Jaya said Joff mentioned a Meshach…?” Biblically, at least, the names were related.
“That’s his brother,” Taro confirmed. “Somebody must’ve thought it was funny, or cute, or something. Neither of those are words I’d use to describe the actual guys.”
“Sounds like too many people here.” She looked over their group thoughtfully. She’d never known there were that many horrible people in the world.
The evidence was right in front of her, though: Callista, Eris, occasionally even Taro and Carter; were Nydia and Kendra next? The wrecked detritus of humanity - Ellehemaei-ity? – torn to bits by those villains she was just now beginning to see amongst them and washed onto Addergoole’s shores.
“It happens,” Taro shrugged defensively, in no way mitigating her point.
“It shouldn’t,” she argued.
“Yeah, well. What’re you gonna do?”
“Well, it seems like someone ought to do something.” Her hand curled over her stomach, remembering how badly her first attempt had gone.
Renata’s cheerful voice cut through her melancholy. “Let’s go. There’s got to be something interesting here, right? Lunchtime’s over.”
Kai rolled her eyes. She still had yet to discern what it was that the blonde girl found interesting. But maybe… “What do you want to see, Nydia?”
Even this basic question gave her pause; she clearly wasn’t used to thinking for herself anymore. “Me? Um. Well, there’s the chapel still? We could have a look?”
Kai nodded encouragingly. “That sounds like fun. Come on, Taro.”
He glanced between them, perhaps curious at the interaction, but rose to accompany them. “Yeah, sure.”
They approached the chapel; it wasn’t much to look at, from a purely architectural standpoint, but the weight of history was almost palpable here. It prickled against her skin, like... like the feeling of being watched. A flash of motion caught her eye at the far edge of her peripheral vision. There, by the old picket fence, there’d been something, she was sure of it.
“Hey guys, go on ahead, I’ll be right back.”
Taro opened his mouth to say something, but she was already dashing off. He could keep an eye on Nydia and Ren well enough, and there was something there. Someone, trying to stay hidden. Watching them.
The air shifted; someone was directly in front of her. Holding the air, somehow, to that it concealed his or her presence.
“Idu Kaana,” she murmured, stepping cautiously forward. A quick glance over her shoulder revealed that Taro and the others had moved on; she was alone. “Idu Kaana...”
The air whipped about her in a furious assault of wind and sand, overwhelming her senses. She turned away, coughing, her hair swirling around her face, and after a moment the tempest subsided as suddenly as it had appeared. The weather here was fickle, but that was beyond the pale; to her knowledge of the air, it was clearly a magical construct. Moreover, the presence she’d sensed before was gone; but how far? Kailani tried to fix her hair as she mentally took stock of the situation.
She was being watched. She was being watched by an Ellehemaei, and she’d just told it that she was one too.
“Hello?” she called out, feeling silly. She looked around again, hoping to sense the presence, or get a feeling for where her friends had gone. “Hello?” she called, a little louder.
There was nothing, save for the whisper of an errant gust as it whistled through a knothole in the fence. Behind her, a few other tourists glanced in her direction before heading into the chapel. That was probably where the others had gone, she reasoned.
Maybe, beyond all hope, one of their adult escorts could help. With her ears straining for any sense of strangeness in the air – it was like fighting Sima, only worse; she was fairly certain Sima wouldn’t actually do her lasting harm – she headed towards the chapel. Most of the other students had made it here by now; they roamed the interior, pointing and commenting and looking like any other tourists, if she didn’t know better. Doug would be around here somewhere, wouldn’t he? Looking bored, most likely, out near an exit…
There, yes, standing in a side doorway like a bored older brother, watching everyone with apparent disinterest.
“Sir?” she murmured softly, trying to be discreet.
“Yes?,” he replied quietly without turning towards her.
“Sir, I believe I encountered... someone like us.”
“You encountered... Here? Not with our group?” She had his attention now, it seemed.
“Yes, sir. In a disguise.”
“Where?” Doug stood to attention, no longer bothering to conceal his scan of the area.
She gestured towards where she had been. “That way.”
“Lead the way,” he said grimly.
She did so, biting her lip in worry. “I can sense where they were, but they are very good at hiding,” she warned him.
“If they’re still there, I should be able to detect them. If that’s the case, get behind me and stay clear.”
“Yes, sir.” Thoughts of Shahin and Emrys just returned from the dragon’s lair flickered through her mind, and she moved closer to him. It didn’t take long to get back to the fence, and the spot was exactly as she had left it: barren, windy, and to all her senses, vacant. “It was here,” she pointed unhappily.
Doug murmured a few quiet Workings as he slowly surveyed the terrain, but ultimately shook his head. “Nothing.”
“I’m sorry,” she murmured, although she wasn’t sure what she was sorry for. Not being quick enough?
“Not your fault. What exactly did you see?”
“There was a place where the air was bent to conceal someone. When I tried to work an Idu on it, a sudden and unnatural windstorm stopped me.”
Doug pursed his lips, looking thoughtfully out over the landscape. “Yeah, that’s pretty clear, then. No indication of identity or intent?”
“No, sir, but after what happened to Shahin and Emrys..”
“There’s no need to panic or be afraid, Kailani. That was... a very rare and special circumstance. I wouldn’t think this is anything like that.”
“Yes, sir.” Still, she wished strongly for Conrad’s presence.
“Let’s get back inside. There’s nothing to see here.”
There never had been, but she followed close behind him anyway. Maybe he could protect her.
“I think it’s probably best if you don’t spread this around too much,” Doug advised her as they approached the chapel. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, but I’m sure some people would be overly concerned. We don’t want to cause a panic.”
“I think the school already has enough secrets,” she pointed out, before she could think better of it. “Can I at least tell my crew?” Maybe Taro, possibly, might know something.
“Alright, then,” he relented. “But try not to engage in too much speculation before we have any facts.”
She nodded. “I’ll try not to go overboard with speculation,” she allowed, wondering if it was the first time she’d intentionally lied to a teacher. It probably wouldn’t be the last, the way things had been going. The thought didn’t bother her as much as she’d thought it might.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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