“…we will see you to the gate and bar your entrance.”
Regine raised her eyebrows. “You think you can?”
Cynara smiled back at her. “I think it would be a very interesting exercise for all of us. I also remember, very clearly, something that Luke taught us a long time ago: individually, a single fae may be stronger than another. In a group… it is rare that you will find a single fae stronger than fifty fae.” She folded her hands and smiled. “You can sign the paper. Or you can leave.”
Regine a second look at the paper. It was a short contract, agreeing to much the same items that Drake had sworn — that she would came in with no desire to seek military knowledge or advantage, that she would do no harm to the staff or to the children, that she would leave if asked to leave. “Do you seriously believe that I am a danger to students?”
“Do you forget I went to Addergoole when Eris was still attending?” Cynara’s voice was sharp, short. “That I was there when the basement opened up? That I was Kept by a vampire? The question is not whether you are a danger to students, sa’Lady of the Lake. The question is whether or not you will be able to restrain yourself from hurting mine.”
Regine drew herself up in her seat. “I was not the one–”
Cynara cut her off. “You were in charge of those children. And you allowed them to be hurt. Tortured. Raped. Killed. Yes. I will hold you responsible. I will assume you will hurt children if it will serve your purposes. I will assume you will allow the basest urges of incomplete adults with magic powers to run rampant. And you will sign the paper or you will leave my city.” She slammed both hands down on her desk and looked at Regine. No, glared. There was fury in her eyes that highlighted both her own Name and the name of her crew.
Feu Drake cleared his throat. “sa’Lady of the Lake–”
Regine gestured shortly, cutting him off. She might need to back down on this particular matter, but she would do so on her terms. She looked Cynara in her eyes. “Jae’Doomsday, I never had any intention of hurting any child. But what I have done, I have done with the highest of purposes. Your own existence — the existence of this city — proves my goals were correct. Fae and humans continue to live and thrive after the return of the gods, in part because of my work.”
“How many did Luca lose in the war?” Cynara’s voice was soft, no longer angry. “No, don’t count. I know why we didn’t lose Leo, and it’s because we used everything in our power to remind him of his other responsibilities.”
Regine looked back down at the paper. Of all the sacrifices that had been made over the years, the defeated look in Luke’s eyes had hurt her the most. “Did Luke sign such a paper, when he visited you?”
“I didn’t ask him to.” Cynara’s voice was level, easy. “I trust Luke to never do anything to harm a child. And if he wanted military knowledge, there’s nothing I could do to stop him gaining it.”
Regine was startled into a snort. She reached for the pen — a dip pen, with ink, how had the children thought to do that? — and signed the paper. “I so swear, as written here,” she murmured, and waited until the oath settled around them. She cleared her throat and shifted in her seat. “May I see your school, jae’Red Doomsday?”
“Right this way.” Cynara pushed her seat back and stood up, smiling as if she had not been furious a moment ago. Volatile, Regine had called them. It was certainly the reputation Boom had. She began to wonder if it was a strong enough word.
Cynara led them out of her office, where Kurt cy’Inazuma was still waiting for them. “Ready to go, Pricipal Dee?”
“Quite so, Kurt. If you could start the tour, I’ll join you in a moment.”
Kurt bowed. “Right this way, please.” He started heading down the stairs they’d come up. Regine raised her eyebrows at Drake, who raised his right back at her, and followed the boy.
When they reached the second floor and kept going, she cleared her throat. “Where are we going?”
“To Doomsday Academy.” He turned and hopped backwards down the next three steps, grinning insouciantly at them. “What, you didn’t think that the school was in the giant ‘attack here’ sign, did you? That would be pretty dumb.”
Regine coughed. “Are you this rude to all your elders?”
“Pretty much.” He hopped back around, his back to them now. “Why? Are you the sort that will challenge my Mentor over my mouth?”
Before Regine could answer that — it sounded like he wanted her to challenge this Inazuma — Drake cleared his throat.
“Is that common, for you?”
“What, people challenging my Mentor over my mouth? Nah. I mean, it happened once, but that was three of us, and, to be fair, we were heckling him.” Kurt chuckled unkindly. “It was kind of fun. And he really thought he was all that and a barrel of pickles, so it was even more fun when he challenged Professor Inazuma.” His voice lost all humor for a moment. “I mean. We don’t normally taunt people into challenges. It’s dangerous, for one.” He turned around and shot an oddly humorless grin at the two of them. “You never know what the idiot you’re talking to might have up his sleeve.”
Regine was fairly certain the child was not threatening her — even with his Mentor’s supposed might. “That is wisdom indeed,” she answered calmly. “It is always safer to overestimate your opponent than underestimate them.”
Feu Drake appeared to have a brief coughing fit; he paused, leaning on the railing, looking down the few feet to the central atrium of the tower. “Well spoken,” he managed after a moment. “Pardon me; just a bit of unfamiliar dust in my lungs.”
Regine had a feeling he was putting her on, but, since she couldn’t imagine why, she kept on as if he was being entirely sincere. “Do be careful. We’d hate for you to fall ill on this visit. Lead on, young Kurt?”
“Yes, ma’am!” He saluted smartly, then jumped down the last five steps in an outrageous leap. From the bottom of the stairs, he grinned at them. “You can take those stairs one at a time, if you want.”
“Nonsense.” She murmured a brief Kaana Working and floated down the stairs; Feu Drake did similarly, but without any audible Workings. “Now, where is this school?”
“This way.” The doorway he led them out of looked very similar to the one they had come in; Regine noted a Greek Alpha set in gold above the exit and again above the gate.
“Alpha?” she asked.
Kurt laughed. “Alpha, A, and азъ. The three circles of the Cloverleaf.”
“Very clever. Who did the naming scheme, do you know?”
“Principal Doomsday, of course.”
“Of course.” She shook her head. “Sometimes it is a blessing that the women don’t name the children.”
“If I recall, Cynara’s first two children were named Yoshi and Viðrou. I’m not certain they’d agree with you on that. Or, hrrm, there was Viðrou’s partner, Ce’Rilla?”
Regine frowned. “Well, I suppose some of the men are just as bad at naming – pardon me, did you say first two?“
“This way, please,” Kurt interrupted cheerfully. “We’re heading through neighborhoods for a couple blocks, people’s houses and markets and things. We could cut through, but sometimes people get a little antsy about strangers showing up in the middle of the block.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Drake murmured quietly. Kurt shot them a brief grin before taking off at a pace Regine found herself hard-tasked to keep up with – at least with any modicum of grace.
They were on a narrow road now, or perhaps a very wide sidewalk. To either side of them were houses, brightly colored, cheerful, with grassy lawns and kitchen gardens full of herbs. A couple times, they passed people outside, handing laundry, chatting with their neighbors, working in their gardens. They would wave, cheerful and friendly, and Kurt would wave back. His uniform, Regine supposed, was like a flag, declaring that he belonged.
“It reminds one a bit of a Norman Rockwell painting, doesn’t it?” Feu Drake’s murmur was quiet, thoughtful, but Regine could not help but wonder if he had some deeper meaning in mind.
“Rockwell lived in a later era than she’s imitating,” she replied, a bit sharply. “This is frankly medieval.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Indoor plumbing, glazed windows, that hardly seems quite that out-of-date. And, of course, for the era we live in now, that’s positively luxurious.”
Regine pursed her lips. It was easy to overlook, living as they did. She struggled with her pride for a moment: She rarely left the confines of the school and the Village, and when she did, it was usually in the company of a teleporter. “How bad is it, out there?”
“Young Kurt?” Drake raised his voice. The student in question turned gracefully, if a bit exaggeratedly, and half-bowed to them.
“How may I serve?”
“Where you grew up, was running water common?”
“Oh, yeah.” He grinned. “We weren’t one of those throwback places. Every house has a pump out front. And there’s a bathhouse in the center of town where the water comes out of spigots, like it does in the bath-rooms here.”
“What, like the lights? The town hall — that’s connected to the bathhouse — had that, run by a windmill out back. I never really got the point. Gaslights are nice, you know?” He turned on his heel and gestured in front of them. “And here we are.”
Drake raised an eyebrow at Regine, as if to say see? “And here we are, indeed.”
The gate to Doomsday arched over the path. It was wide enough for two people to stand abreast, made of ornate ironwork painted white. The words “Doomsday Academy” were picked out in a clear, grammar-school font among the curlicues. The actual gates were open, swinging inwards.
As far as Regine could tell, the gate was the only delineator. On the other side of the arch, the houses continued, brightly-colored and cheerful.
Kurt bowed low, with an overdone flourish. “Welcome to Doomsday, lady and gentleman.” Never had those words been spoken so cheerfully. “I do hope you enjoy your stay.”
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/952869.html. You can comment here or there.