librarygeek commissioned this continuation of By the Time Anyone Noticed and They Have to Notice Eventually, a story (in two parts) of a former-Addergoole-student mother from the February Giraffe Call.
The Addergoole setting has a landing page here, although Cleone is a new character.
This is placed somewhere after the apocalypse…
There were things in Cleoneville that people questioned internally but did not ask out loud. There were questions they had all learned not to ask, because asking led to… vanishing, in the worst cases, and things they didn’t want to think about, in better cases. It was Cleone’s town and Cleone’s settlement, and that’s the way it was.
But there were things that they never questioned at all. They knew them to be true, the way they knew the sky was “blue” that was often grey and white, the way they knew that gravity worked.
One of those things was: There are Fae who are monsters, and they will come and make war; if we are not prepared, they will kill us.
They didn’t need Cleone to tell them that. They didn’t need anyone to tell them that, because they lived in the world where it was a fact.
When the people from Addergoole came, they came Masked. They didn’t come in force, firstly because collecting a child was a relatively routine matter, and secondly because there were, after all, more than a couple children to collect for the school. But they did send Luke, and with him Shira Pelletier – their security and weapons expert, and the sweet, understanding Sciences professor who happened to be an expert hunter. Because Shira Pelletier, who was also their seer, had seen something she couldn’t explain.
They were Masked, every bit of fae-ness covered with impenetrable glamours, but it didn’t matter, because Cleone recognized them before they reached her town.
She sounded the alarm, and her people – all of her people, the former students of Addergoole, the wandering fae, the humans who thought this was a nice and safe place to settle – all of them fought.
Luke was ancient and Shira nearly as so; Luke was a soldier and a warrior and above all a fighter and Shira was a hunter and a survivor; but there were two of them and there were dozens upon dozens of their unexpected enemy, and the enemy was armed with deadly rowan and poisonous hawthorn.
Cleone’s fighters couldn’t win, of course – the humans had no chance at all and the Addergoole graduate had only a small hope – but they could certainly get the teachers’ attention.
“The oath will not let you keep your children from the school, Cleone.” Luke fended off three farmers with pitchforks and one angry former student.
Cleone, usually the sort to speak first, threw a fireball. While Luke was ducking, she retorted.
“I didn’t swear the oath.”
“Your great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers did.” Luke was too strong to be taken out by something as mundane as a fireball. He ducked, letting Shira take out the former student with a quick sleep spell.
“It shouldn’t bind me!”
“But it does. And it binds Dagmar.” Luke caught the farmers in a tangle of pitchforks. “Your people are going to get hurt, Cleone.”
“So will you.”
“I’m a lot more durable than they are.”
“Then concede. Walk away, and they’ll stop fighting you. Fly away, even, and we won’t give chase.” She motioned, and a winged boy dove in to attack. “Stay here and insist on taking my child, and they’ll keep attacking you forever.”
The Mara beat off the attacker with almost no effort – no physical effort; everyone there could see the pain on his face.
“He was one of yours, wasn’t he? Your student, a cy’Luca? This boy.” Cleone gestured at the unconscious would-be-attacker. “And now he’s mine. And he’ll keep attacking you until you concede.”
It was Shira Pelletier who spoke now, possibly because Luke did not look capable of speech. His face was turning an interesting shade of red, and his lips were turning white. “You know that it’s not his to decide. You know the promise was made.”
“I know the promise was made. And I know she can release it. Go back to Addergoole. Go back to your precious Director. Tell her to release me and my children from this oath.” She gestured imperiously, and the attacks stopped. Luke flared his wings, unimpressed.
“The oath will make you give in eventually.”
“And then I will order my people to lock me in a tower and defend me, and then there will be no calling them off. And then what will you do? Slaughter humans? Slaughter dozens of your former students? I don’t think you will.”
Now, Luke spoke, growled from between clenched teeth. “You didn’t have a bad time. I made sure of it.”
“Me?” She sounded innocent. “No. No, none of us did. It was a good four years, a good time. I liked the fathers of my children well enough. I liked the time I spent well enough. But you’re only… inhuman. You’re not infallible. And I’ve heard stories.”
“You’re doing this over a story?“
“I’m doing this for my children.” She stood up a little straighter. “Because it comes in waves. And there’s no promising that this year will be better, that this year will be a good year. So we had four good years. What about the bad ones? What about the years the Nedetakaei attacked?”
“You blame me for that, too?” Luke’s wings flared. “When I nearly lost my own children to it?”
“Yes!” Her voice raised to a shout, and all around her, people who were Cleone’s, whether they knew it or not, took a step back, and another. “Because if your own children were there and you did not stop them, then why would you do anything for my children?”
Luke’s wings snapped open and closed tightly. “You will release these people, Cleone. Now.”
“I will do no such thing. They are my hostages against my children’s fates.”
“Cleone.” Shira spoke over the growing silence that was Luke. “The promise that was made, so many years ago, helped to save the world. And it helped to shape the world that survived.”
“It doesn’t look like much of a saving.” Cleone’s arm jerked out, taking in the town she had built. Once, before the collapse, there had been a city here.
“Then you should have seen what it would have looked like without Addergoole’s intervention.” Now even Pelletier was snappish. “The promise was made for a reason.”
“And the war is over. What reason do we have to continue with this farce? Why should I risk my children?”
“Instead, you would risk all these other mothers’ daughters and sons?” Shira gestured around at Cleone’s people, nearly frozen in place.
“They are not my children.” Cleone stood unmoved. “The war happened, Professor Pelletier. Generations ago. The world ended. The project should be over.”
“I was the one who saw the war ending.” Shira raised her chin and stared her former student down. “And I tell you now, the need for the Addergoole project is still strong.”
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