Year 9, after “It’s Going Down.”
“This is ridiculous.” Ahouva, pressed between Jovanna and Aeowyn on the lounge couch, shook her head again, staring at the upperclassmen. They had pushed all the furniture to the walls, clearing a wide space in the center of the room, and now Kendon and Jeremiah were talking, quietly and intently, in the middle of the space. To one side, Jeremiah’s creepy little girlfriend, Lolly, bounced up and down like a kid
“It seems kind of romantic to me,” Jovanna sighed.
“It has that façade, doesn’t it?” Aeowyn shook her head. “You’re right, Who, it’s creepy.”
“Kendon and I are fine,” Ahouva continued, too aggrieved to be sidetracked. “There’s nothing wrong with us, and this creep with his creepy girlfriend has to go and get medieval like I’m some sort of possession..”
“Oh, stop that, Aeowyn,” Jovanna snapped. “It’s just as creepy as the upperclassmen when you get into that.”
“I’m just saying…”
“I know, I know,” Ahouva handwaved unhappily. “But do they have to get all medieval?”
“There was that one time…” Jovanna began hesitantly. “At the dance?”
“Just a misunderstanding,” she insisted firmly, rubbing her shoulders. “He had a bit too much to drink, and I was being a bit loud…”
“Well, maybe he’ll win, then,” Aeowyn interrupted pragmatically. “He seems very strong, and the other guy seems kind of like a beanpole.”
“But he wants her enough to challenge for her.”
“For some reason…” She’d seen the look in his eyes. She shook her head. “It’s not romance, Jo. It’s… I don’t know, but it scares me.”
“After Kendon, I wouldn’t think a skinny nerd would scare you.”
She glared at Jo. “He’s not scary. He’s just enthusiastic.”
“Hush, you two, they’re starting.” Aeowyn leaned forward in her seat as the upperclassmen began formal-sounding proclamations.
“If I lose this challenge, I promise that I will immediately transfer to you my Ownership of the Ninth Cohort Ahouva sh’Ruth,” Kendon said, the words formal but his body posture suggesting he had no fear of losing.
“If I lose,” Jeremiah picked up, just as certain-seeming, “I promise that I will immediately transfer to you my Ownership of the Eight Cohort Liliandra cy’Linden, called Lolly.”
What? Only Kendon’s order kept her in her seat. She glared knives at his back, suddenly wishing his failure. That weird little doll… why would he want her? Why was he risking losing what he already had?
“The terms of the challenge,” Kendon began, to be interrupted by the arrival of another group: Thorburn, with his girlfriend Ceinwen and his cronies, Curry and Basalt.
“We’re just here to witness,” the big man said easily, when Kendon and Jeremiah looked askance at him.
“What are the terms of the challenge?” Basalt asked. As the two explained it – again – Ahouva studied him nervously. She didn’t trust him or his friends; she’d seen them on Hell Night, stomping around like monsters, and she’d seen Ceinwen crying in the girls’ room. They were thugs, straight-out. Why were they interfering.
“Interesting.” Basalt was grinning in a way she definitely didn’t like. “What if I win? Do I get both girls?”
Kendon and Jeremiah started talking at once, shouting, arguing, until little creepy Lolly murmured, “if he challenges you both…”
“Stop helping,” Jeremiah snapped.
The tiny blonde fell silent, as Basalt, pleased, declared, “then I add myself to this challenge, challenging you both for your Kept.”
“And what are you putting up, if you lose?” Kendon snapped, while Ahouva tried to become part of the couch. No, no, not him. Jeremiah would be better…
“Myself,” the big man grinned.
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