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.”
He sounded like a movie. Regine raised her eyebrows at him in the gesture that had quelled so many Addergoole students. This child, however, had no common sense, and was unconcerned. He winked at her playfully and turned back to the sidewalk, moving forward with a hop and a skip.
“First up is the dining hall and otherwise gathering-around place.” Kurt gestured negligently at the building.
“A church?” Regine was honestly shocked, enough that it showed in her voice. The building was tall, pale, and had a steeple — every bit like an old country church.
Kurt had the temerity to laugh at her. “Nooo.” He drew the word out. “I mean, there are churches and temples and such all over Cloverleaf. But not in the school. It’s more protective coloration. See, no crosses?” He pushed open a door so that Regine and Feu Drake could enter. “We eat in here most of the time, and then we do movie night and other sleepovers and things here.”
Inside, the dining hall spoke to Regine more of summer camps than churches: twelve trestle tables were spaced along half the large, vaulted room, with big chimneys at either side. “Movie night?” She can’t have heard correctly.
“Oh, yeah, and sometimes we do talent shows and the theatre club puts on plays, and the fighters will put on demonstrations and there was a fashion show last year.” Kurt flapped his hand negligently. “And at Christmastime, there’s a really big tree and we all get together for presents.”
“So you celebrate Christmas?”
“Well, or Yule or Chanukah or… whatever. But mostly Christmas. We give each other presents and stuff.” Kurt shrugged, un-concerned with the nuances of post-apocalypse religion. “But I mean, mostly, we eat in here. They serve three meals a day, but I generally eat dinner with my crew, my cy’ree, or sometimes both.”
“Ah,” Drake interjected. “You have a crew?”
“Yeah.” Kurt’s smile stretched into a wide, fond grin. “They’re pretty awesome, and pretty fierce. I dunno what we’ll do when Tamora and Brocce graduate — they’re a year ahead of me and Halston, but they might stick around the town, or come back.” He shrugged. “Next are the classroom buildings. This way.” He headed through the center of the dining hall, jumped up on one of the long benches and hopped from it to the next one until they reached a second exit.
“Ah, there you are.” Cynara walked up to them, carrying a young boy on her hip. “I’m sorry to wander off, but this one’s father has a class to teach, and I thought Professor Drake would enjoy meeting him.”
Regine had an eye for the Aelfgar look, which seemed to linger for generations. This toddler looked much like that, and much like Cynara, with a wicked smile that reminded Regine of and entirely non-Aelfgar child, Dirk. She raised her eyebrows.
Feu Drake stepped forward. “Ah, is this Kouveig? Yes, I would love to meet him.” Very solemnly, he held out a hand to the child.
In return, the toddler — Kouveig, Kouveig, she didn’t recognize the name nor the style — held out a hand to Drake. “Sa’Feu Drake… sa’Lady of the Lake, this is my son, Kouveig sh’Cya. Kovi, this is my former Mentor, Feu Drake, and Director Regine Lady of the Lake.”
The child took that all in with wide eyes, as if he understood it all. “Hi,” he said cheerfully, as he grabbed a couple of Drake’s fingers.
“His father is a professor here, then?” It was not the most delicate question, but Regine was always interested in genealogies.
“Of course.” Cynara’s smile was sharp-edged. “He’s crew, after all.”
Cynara’s crew had included two blonde descendants of Aelfgar. Regine cursed inwardly and smiled outwardly. “Of course.”
“Well, let’s not delay the tour, shall we? I’m missing teaching for this, after all.” Cya’s smile was no more friendly.
“You teach?” Feu Drake managed to make it sound inquisitive and curious. Regine was fairly certain it would have come off as incredulous from her right now.
Cynara laughed; clearly she had taken no offense. “Of course I teach. It’s my school, after all.” She smirked sideways at Regine.
Feu Drake stepped in yet again. “What classes do you teach?”
“Survival.” The smile dropped off of her face. “It’s what I’m best at, and in this world, it’s a required subject. Here, why don’t we show you the dormitories? Kurt, if you want to try to make some of your class, I’m sure your Mentor would be pleased with you.”
“Yes, ma’am!” He saluted sharply and bounced off. Regine managed another smile while she seethed. She hadn’t come here just to be insulted!
“It’s very kind of you to show us around personally when we’ve dropped in without an invitation,” Drake mentioned casually. “It’s quite an imposition, I know.”
Imposition? Regine raised her eyebrows. They were this woman’s teachers.
“Oh, I’ve been expecting you for a while. The staff of Addergoole did always want to see what I was up to.” Cynara shrugged languidly, as if she couldn’t understand why that would be. “I’m sure you visit hard cases like Ardell and Agatha too, or the nasty petty people like Dysmas and Eriko. Tell me, how is my former Keeper doing? Mags we keep an eye on, and Shiva… well, I’m sure we all know what happened to Shiva. We raised her children, after all. But we weren’t so keen on being friends with the other two…”
“They haven’t had quite such an interesting life as you.” Regine looked around the schoolyard by punctuation, then back at the small boy on Cynara’s hip. “Should you be talking about such things…?”
“Kovi isn’t bound to Addergoole. Very few of the children here are.” Cynara met Regine’s eyes, nothing but ice and anger in her expression or her voice. “And no more of my children will ever step foot inside that school if I can help it.”
The moment was gone as quickly as it had come, leaving Regine shivering. Cynara was smiling again, gesturing down the lane. “These are all classroom buildings here, these three. We don’t have a very large school, nowhere near as big of class years as Addergoole, but we start and end earlier, too. We’re starting to work on a University soon, if only so this tiny genius will have a place to go to make trouble when he’s done making trouble at Doomsday.” She bounced the child on her hip affectionately. “So here is the youngest-children’s dorm, what we call the cy’Ascha or cy’younglings.” She gestured at the cheerful-looking large house. “They stay here for their first three or four years, until they Change or pick a Mentor.”
She made no move to go inside; Regine, distracted by a detail, didn’t push the mater. “Ascha? Aceline sh’Magnolia?”
“You know, I’m told that Luke said exactly the same thing, and the student giving him the tour said ‘we call her Miss Ascha or sa’Water under the Bridge.’“ Cynara smirked. “Aceline is a very good teacher, and far more patient with ten-year-olds than I will ever be.”
“I imagine she would be.” Regine could not shake the feeling that she had been scolded. Again. This child was taking her to task for–
“It’s easy to forget,” Drake murmured thoughtfully, “that children we saw conceived are adults now. Still, we did see them through their Naming ceremonies — see you through, I should say.” He nodded his head at Cynara. “Aceline is a very calm, thoughtful woman. She reminds me of her father; it’s sad she never got to meet him.”
“That happens far too often, I think.” Cynara set down her squirming child. “Even fathers interested in their children’s lives lose touch. Ah, here’s the cy’Red dorm, come on in.”
The house had red trim, darker red over that, with bright white clapboarding. It looked a bit like a candy cane and quite a bit like a Victorian confection.
Regine noticed first that it had a very nice foyer, comfortable enough for three people, jutting slightly onto its broad front porch. A small lap loom had been left out on the porch, as well as three bowls for cat food. “You practice handicrafts here?”
“Of course.” Cynara smiled brightly. “Cy’Red believes in being prepared for anything. And the fiber arts club — which isn’t part of cy’Red — often meets out here on the porch.” She held the door for them. “This is where my cy’ree lives, at least for their first couple years after they chose a mentor.”
Inside, the building looked much like a house – an open living room which fed into a dining room and, from there, into a kitchen, all of it bright and relatively tidy, a stairwell leading upstairs, which Cynara headed up, scooping up her son again as he struggled with the climb. “Most of the bedrooms are up here…” She knocked on a door and then opened it. “This one is pretty similar to the rest. Kelvin, Deimos, and Paul live in here right now.”
Inside, three loft beds sat over what appeared to be small cottages, complete with their own doors and windows. The rooms were looked lived-in, but far tidier than any child’s room Regine had ever seen.
She wasn’t paying attention to the room, however. She was repeating that name over and over again in her mind. It was not that uncommon a name — but on the bed in the middle sat a pillow, embroidered in a style Regine recognized. “Deimos sh’Eulalia?” she asked slowly.
“Deimos cy’Doomsday,” Cynara answered. Feu Drake coughed, and, for the first time, Cynara looked a tiny bit embarrassed. “Deimos’ mother is Eulalia, who was cy’Valerian and who is Named Slow Talker. I think that’s what you meant?”
Regine’s eyebrows went up. “You have an Addergoole student here?”
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