Rix's Guest Story
(Three Generations after the main Story)
The next few weeks passed quickly. For Hell Night Caffery was the silent slave girl to Ignifer's evil wizard in the "haunted house" the crew ran in one of the corridors. Magic testing came and went, leaving her rejoicing in panida, meentik, tempero and eperu while wondering what the heck hiko, buli, quipia and kwxe were all about. She started seeing Luke for unarmed combat and Professor Fridmar for spear. Because she didn't fit clearly into any particular cy'ree or have a particular affinity for any professor, she was drafted into cy' Pelletier. Ignifer kept talking about making more changes to her wardrobe but always wound up giving her jade jewellery that matched her collar instead.
Things were rocking along merrily. Then one Friday afternoon he didn't come home after class. She waited for a meeting with his Mentor or an unexpected errand to be over, but he still didn't come home. Finally, she changed into something sensible that wouldn't give a cy'Linden ideas and went to look for him.
Well, that was the plan. She went three steps outside the door and was grabbed from behind. "Took you long enough," Russell the Skunk hissed in her ear, his arms wrapped around her to restrain her and his all too pungent personal odour filling her nostrils. "Holler all you like, that Keeper of yours can't come and help you - wouldn't think a fourth year would be that easy to take down." Caffery almost felt a physical snap inside her mind. This nasty, smelly, grabby person had done something to-. "You and me will go take a walk to see those meddlesome sisters of yours. We'll find out if they're so brave when I've got my hands on-"
"Tempero tlacatl Russell cy'Linden!" Caffery snapped that out without thinking and Russell was pulled off her. She twirled and stalked towards the sprawled figure on the floor. "What have you done to him?" It came out as a snarl.
"Well?" She was still snarling and it was giving her a headache. No coherent answer from the waste of meat at her feet so, "Tempero tlacatl Russell cy'Linden!" Invisible hands picked Russell up and hurled him against a wall. "I can keep hitting you until you tell me," she threatened, then realised that he couldn't hear her, she'd knocked him unconscious. Caffery sighed, put him in the recovery position, then began casting about, twitching her head from side to side. She suddenly knew which direction to go in and started running.
Where she was going was the other side of the student accommodation and the corridors were beginning to fill again with people going to get dinner. She side-stepped Lilana and friends, remembered to yell, "Sorry!" at a couple of cy'Fridmar she side-swiped and finally didn't really notice knocking aside Franco cy'Luca. She rounded the last corner and went along the wall by touch and smell, hoping for a door or corridor that would get her closer to where she needed to be, but there was nothing. There was no help for it then. She made a big, double-hand gesture in the direction she needed to go, Professor Pelletier would not be impressed if she saw that, and said, "Abatu eperu!" A Caffery-height tunnel appeared, may be three yards long, and at the end was Ignifer, sitting on a chair.
On closer inspection, from the end of the tunnel nearest him, the situation was clearer. Ignifer was gagged and tied to a chair in someone else's bedroom. Caffery was left leaning against the Sanctity's impromptu threshold unable to get any closer. She could see him but could do nothing to help and pounded her fists on the Sanctity barrier frustration.
A large hand rested itself on her shoulder. "Stop doing that or you'll hurt yourself," Luke advised gruffly in her ear. "What we need now is a lasso or a grappling hook with a rope attached."
Caffery stood by anxiously as Luke muttered a long phrase that began with, "Meentik unutu," and a grappling hook with a long, sturdy rope materialised in his hands. Once he'd gotten the prongs of the hook caught on the legs of the chair, he let the anxious girl help him pull her Keeper through the hole and out of someone's Sanctity. She undid the gag and knelt to untie his legs from the chair while Luke crouched over the hawthorn handcuffs that explained why the boy hadn't freed himself, muttering workings that gave him heavy duty clippers to cut the noxious stuff off and a heavy duty bag to put it in.
Freed, Ignifer reassured Caffery that he was all right and shakily stood. Caffery promptly threw her arms around him, not to sob, which was what Luke had expected, but simply to hold him. After a moment Ignifer gently disengaged her enough that the three of them could walk back out of the tunnel she had created. Luke came last, the bag of hawthorn and hawthorn contaminated clippers securely clipped to his belt.
Back in the hall, Ignifer, pale and a bit shaky from the hawthorn, turned to Luke with a question. "Caffery dug that tunnel on her own, right?"
"Yes," agreed Luke, "After she'd hit a wall with Russell."
Ignifer looked down at the still anxious girl clutching his arm. "Neither of those things involve more than one of her best words. Where'd she get the energy from?"
"Well," explained Luke, "Using an innate power, adrenaline, the strength of the Bond can all give someone access to more power to pour through their Words than would be normal, but," he stepped forward and caught Caffery as she suddenly collapsed, pale and unconscious, "it is burning a candle at both ends." He shifted her weight so she was more comfortable in his arms. "Let's get you both to the clinic."
Caffery woke up in a strange place. It smelt mainly of disinfectant and latex. The light seemed too bright, so she closed her eyes again. She could hear someone breathing and moving restlessly to her right and a conversation, well the sound of two voices but not their words, somewhere to her left. Her ears had just moved and her head hurt. Her hands moved involuntarily to the sides of her head where it ached so much and Ignifer's voice said from the direction of the breathing, "Good, you're awake."
"Are you all right?" It was the last thing she could remember thinking about before the world had suddenly gone black.
"I've still got a bit of hawthorn poisoning," his voice sounded wry, "there were some thorn points broken off in my skin they had to get out before the treatment would start working. It's under control. I'll be fine. In fact, I've been given the job of keeping an eye on you." He paused for a moment. "Dr Caitrin wants to see you when you're awake so I've pressed the buzzer." Another pause then, gently, "Thank you for coming to rescue me." It occurred to Caffery as the conversation outside ceased and footsteps started coming towards them, that he sounded proud of her.
"Ah, you're awake." Caffey recognised Dr Caitrin's voice, which seemed to go with the footsteps. "How are you feeling and is there any particular reason you're keeping your eyes closed?" The footsteps came closer and a firm, capable, female hand took Caffery's hand while she heard a mutter that seemed to begin, "Intinn..."
"My head hurts and it's too bright in here when I open my eyes. Oh, and my ears move." That seemed to sum things up, Caffery thought.
"You're Changing." The doctor said it as if it was the most normal thing in the world. "In your case, that means your skull has gotten longer to accommodate larger eyes and now your eyes are growing into their new space. Hence the aching. You'll find that your night vision is better, I believe, but then you've probably noticed that your hearing and your sense of smell have improved too. You seem to have nictitating membranes coming in too, but I'm not sure whether they're to protect the eyes from dust and debris or perhaps for light modulation. Possibly both of course." The doctor paused. "Your ears have changed shape considerably," she admitted.
"They're very elegant," put in Ignifer from Caffery's left.
"Yes," agreed Caitrin, perhaps gratefully, "they are. The swiveling is tied to their new shape and it should give you directional hearing. I'm going to give you a tablet that will help with the pain while things rearrange themselves and grow. You exhausted yourself this afternoon so I expect you'll go back to sleep once you've got some pain relief. We'll keep both of you here tonight and then see how things have progressed in the morning."
Caffery gladly took the pill Dr Caitrin gave her, sipped water from the cup held to her lips and was asleep again within five minutes, the ache in her head on the far side of the wall she dreamt Ignifer building.
She woke again, long enough to eat her dinner under dulled lights, which gave her enough energy to feel restless, very much like a young puppy because she fell asleep in mid-bounce.
She woke again somewhere in the night to find Ignifer in the bed with her, holding her close in a fond cuddle. "Hi," she told him sleepily.
"Hi, yourself." He kissed the end of her nose.
"Are you supposed to be in my bed?" she asked, thinking of Nurse Jo and vaguely of hospital regulations.
"Probably not," he admitted, "But I thought you were crying in your sleep."
"Oh. Was I? Thank you." Then she added sleepily, "I'd like some dogs and something to ride, you know."
"Would you?" He sounded amused. "I don't think they'd fit in our room, but we'll talk about it tomorrow."
"Okay," and she fell asleep again.
Caffery felt much better in the morning; less headachy, less light sensitive and on a more even keel, energy wise. Breakfast in the still dim lighting was enlivened by a visit from Argus, one of Ignifer's Cohort-mates. He was carrying Ignifer's book bag which he dropped on the end of his bed.
"No hard feelings?" The large boy with the classical profile smiled easily at his year-mate. "It was just business."
"Hawthorn?" Ignifer punctuated his comment with a raised eyebrow.
"I was being paid to keep you confined until my client finished his business with certain other parties." Argus shrugged. "I had to do something to make sure you couldn't escape. Frankly, I expected the whole thing to be over and done with well before midnight. I admit I didn't expect your Kept to show such diligence and ability in finding you. You'd almost think she had a physical connection to you."
"I do, in a manner of speaking," Caffery put in coldly.
Argus looked over at her. "Oh. Um. Congratulations."
"Thank you." Ignifer and Caffery replied together.
"I would take it well if you didn't do such a thing again," Caffery went on, still cold. "What was the price for your involvement?"
Argus looked uncomfortably over his shoulder towards the corridor then answered, "Glory," as Caffery's sisters appeared in the doorway.
"What about me?" asked that twin from where she stood.
"Russell offered you as my Kept in payment for me keeping Ignifer out of the way last night while he spoke to you two about the mess you've been making of his plans." Argus shrugged. "It appears he can't pay up, so he and I have to chat about that some more."
Glory and Mako looked at each other. "We didn't see Russell last night," said Mako, "which was odd, because we went looking to find out what he was up to..."
"Apparently your little sister is tougher than anyone gave her credit for." Argus grinned mirthlessly. "Not my problem he can't pull off his own plan. I just have to wait until the doctor lets him out of here, then he and I can talk about alternate compensation."
"Leaving aside how or whether Russell could catch me," Glory began, "why would you want me?"
"You're female." If a look could be aggressively suggestive, then the one he gave her was. "You seem to be a good mother and you still need a kid to meet your graduation requirements, plus you're a twin. If it runs in the family, I might not have to find anyone else."
Enlightenment dawned. "You don't have any kids?" Glory asked. "So why not do a deal with Tiggra?"
"I am very sorry that she miscarried and is stuck here for another year," Argus said, clearly and precisely, "but I'm not putting my private and sensitive parts anywhere near a member of that crew."
"So you won't want to get close to this either." Glory dropped her Mask to show not only her webbed hands but the lionfish-like spined fins that ran down her limbs and back.
"No-one to want to get close to this." Argus' Mask dropped too and the blonde hair was gone to show his head covered in eyes and empty eye sockets.
Mako was the one who walked over and circled him, her shark teeth showing in an open mouthed grin. "So, Hell Night last year was what you really look like?" Argus nodded mutely. "Can you make your eyeballs all pop out and fly around like that again?" she asked. "I mean, it scared us silly and into Changing then, but it might be cool to see it again."
"Not all at once," Argus admitted, sounding a touch relieved, "that one time was completely involuntary. Emmalise, or her Mentor," he added fairly, "goosed me."
After Argus left, Glory loaned Cafery a mirror to examine her new appearance. She catalogued the changes in silence for a few moments. Her face was longer by the extra depth of her eyes and they seemed to be about double in depth but with little change in width. Her colouring was still the same and the Anubis-like ears on the side of her head had a very short brown fur on them the same colour as her hair. Her teeth hadn't changed but her eyelashes were incredibly long and thick. She thought about the membrane-thing on her eyes Dr Caitrin had talked about and she saw something flick back and forth across her eyes in the mirror although she didn't notice anything herself. She experimentally moved her ears and found that, although it was a bit like patting her head and stroking her stomach at the same time, she could move them independently of each other. "It could be worse," she said slowly. "It could be a great deal worse. Some of this could even be kind of cool..."
Nurse Jo arrived a little after that and chased her sisters away. Then Dr Caitrin came round and released Ignifer from his confinement but decided that she wanted Caffery to stay until at least lunch time.
Fifteen minutes after Ignifer had kissed her goodbye, promising to return with dessert to go with lunch, Mona walked in the door. The petite blonde was wearing black and red in a sort of harlequin motley.
"I shan't stop long," she said with a friendlier smile than Caffery had seen from her since that first dance, "I'm on my way to Lady Maureen's to help with a birthday party. I thought you deserved to know that I'm impressed by what you did for Ignifer yesterday. I admit that I'd begun to think that he'd gotten the wrong girl and you were just good for the baby thing. I'm sorry. You deserve a better opinion of you than that."
"Thank you." Caffery decided just to accept the complement and not analyse it too much. "What do you mean, gotten the wrong girl?"
"Well," pointed out Mona as she sat down on the visitor's chair, "you weren't easy to recognise before you Changed." Caffery felt and looked confused. "He may not have mentioned it as such and possibly not at all, knowing him," Mona went on, "but Ignifer has a touch of the Sight. He's been dreaming about you for the last couple of years. Not daydreaming about the perfect girlfriend or Kept sort of dreams," the blonde clarified, "But fast asleep, memorable, tell-your-friends-about-them-in-the-morning dreams. Specific description, everything." Mona smiled, sphinx-like. "He's been expecting you."
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