Regine’s eyebrows went up. “You have an Addergoole student here?”
Cynara, curse her, smirked. “We have several. However, Deimos was conceived and born outside of Addergoole.”
Regine twisted her lips. Definitely a student of Feu Drake, this one. “He is on our rolls to attend Addergoole next year.”
“His mother didn’t contact you?” Cynara raised her eyebrows. “Perhaps she was waiting until her first two children graduated.”
Regine held Cynara’s gaze. “Why do you think she would do something like that?”
The woman’s smile was sickenly sweet and innocent. “To avoid retribution against her children, of course.”
“And I suppose you told her that I would do such.” She would wipe this insolent speck off the face of the planet, but Luke would be irritated with her.
“If I had, who could blame me? You have threatened my own grandchildren.”
“I did no such thing!” Even as Regine protested, some small, honest part of herself reminded her that she had certainly considered it.
“Director, I was a student of Drake in my youth. I can certainly read into the words spoken. However, I said nothing like that to Eulalia; when we have third-children here, we normally suggest the mother inform Addergoole as soon as possible.”
“So this is common?” Regine gestured around the shabby little dorm room. “You often steal away Addergoole students for your school? No,” she interrupted Drake, “don’t explain for her. I want to know what she thinks she’s doing.”
“I steal no-one.” Cynara’s voice was calm and smug. “I invite parents to send their children here. Some of them, as I do, have children we have borne outside of the confines of Addergoole.” She gestured to her toddler, who was opening and closing the door to the “cottage” with glee.
“If they don’t want to want to send them to Addergoole, they’re under absolutely no obligation to do so. And if they have children who will be going to Addergoole, well, there’s absolutely nothing that says they cannot come here until then. We have several of those in attendance.”
“How dare you?” Regine stepped closer to Cynara. ”The sheer unmitigated gall of you, you insufferable mistake of a child!”
Cynara kept smiling, despite the insults. “If I am a ‘mistake,’ it wasn’t me that made it.” She pulled up a chair and sat down. “Professor Drake, maybe Kovi can show you our garden?”
“I would like that,” Drake agreed solemnly. He murmured Words that Regine was certain he did not mean to be secret, a Working that would allow him to monitor the conversation. She found it irritating – but she had far bigger fish to fry right now.
They waited, in seething silence, while Drake coaxed the toddler out of the room. Regine had several Workings ready; if it came to battle, she did not intend to lose. But she would wait, patiently, rather than have it be said that she put a child at risk.
“So.” Cynara steepled her fingers and looked over them at Regine. “I think we have some misconceptions here. You seem to have come here to judge me or my school. And while that may be your intent, you are in no position to do so.”
Regine opened her mouth. The git did not give her a chance to speak before continuing.
“You are the Director of a school I once attended, and a revered member of a dead society.” She at least did not look pleased at that. “More than that – we are not friends, and we are not allies. If we are careful, we can end today not being enemies, and for all of those others involved, that would be a good thing. However.”
Regine had been accused of not recognizing emotions when they bit her in the face – Mike’s words. However, even she could see the hatred in the face in front of her.
The voice remained entirely calm and stable. As angry as she was, Regine could not help but notice that.
“It is likely,” she began, and it was clear she was beginning something, “that I will forgive you for Dysmas, for the fact that he believed treating me like a thing was the way it was supposed to go. After all, it might not have directly been your fault; Agatha and Delaney taught him that.”
She took a breath. Regine heard something in that breath, and stopped her response.
“It is possible,” Cynara continued, “that I will forgive you for the time my son brought his rapist home for dinner. Or the time my grandsons brought a boy to me so broken, I cannot believe that the administration missed it. Trenton,” she added, before Regine could either ask or place the possibilities. Cynara had two grandsons – that she knew of, she added to herself – two years apart.
She remembered this boy. She nodded slowly, and did not interrupt.
“I may someday forgive you for the disservice you did to Boom as a whole, for years of dismissing us as unstable, as volatile.“ The words were nails the way she said them, hammered home with accuracy and strength. “For cursing us with your derision for being insane, when it was actions you condoned that sent us there.”
She had shifted as she spoke, small movements, animated ones. Now she froze, her gaze pinning Regine.
“I will never forgive you for what was done to Leofric. For watching his insanity for decades. For the fact that you let that bitch shatter him, and left us – broken ourselves, and children – to pick up the pieces.”
She leaned back in her chair. Regine was watching for it this time, waiting for the attack. Instead, she saw the moment that Cynara chose to put the anger away, carefully, as if in a box.
She had a momentary, incongruous memory: the chests Cynara had brought to school, large, clunky, and her only luggage. The sleeker, better-made ones Yoshi and Vidrou had brought, and then the carved boxes their children had pulled behind them like wagons, their wheels forged of steel.
The great-grandchildren had come to school with boxes, too, she realized, so elaborately carved that they looked like works of art.
That was worth considering at another moment. She waited, to see if Cynara was done.
“I spend fifty years–” Her voice was rough, as if she, too, was not sure if she was done or not– “carefully instructing twelve- and thirteen-year olds how to survive emotional abuse and rape without shattering. Teaching them how to lose just enough self to survive, without–”
Regine was certain that if she had not been there, Cynara’s voice would have broken. The woman lifted her chin, paused, and continued. “—without breaking, as their forebears did. I should hope you’ll forgive me, sa’Lady of the Lake, if I built a place with the hope of avoiding that in the future.”
“Your descendants still come to Addergoole.”
They were unwise words, stupid words, but they were the first thing that came to her lips. Why build the school, when all those great-grandchildren would not benefit from it?
“Well,” Cynara’s smile was tired, “if you recall, I did ask to be part of the Addergoole system initially. Since you turned that down – something about volatility, if I recall correctly? – I suppose I’ll just have to make sure as many children get the chance as possible. And besides, they get their first few years here. It’s an 8 to 18 program; that’s a good number of years to establish habits before they go to Addergoole, even if you call them at fourteen.”
Regine didn’t like it, but there was very little she could say to that. Except, she supposed – “And the oaths you swore?”
“Those ridiculous promises you make us all agree to, so that we can leave your place? They’re stupid, you know.” Cynara shook her head. “In this day and age, no child fails to know that fae exist. If you were seeking a level playing field – and what fun would that be, mm? – there are better ways to do it.” She stood up and tilted her head towards the door. “Professor Drake has been tormented by my little demon long enough. Why don’t we go rescue him?”
Regine nodded, rather than argue something where she had no polite way to do so. As they made her way down the stairs, however, Cynara continued, casually. “We don’t break our vows here, stupid though they may be. But you might consider, in due time, why some people’s children seem to know so much more, coming to Addergoole, than others’.”
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