The Claiming

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Chapter 5

I was feeling a little bit better the next morning, after another long sleep. Still, I was a bit wary of the upcoming memory session that I would be having that afternoon. I knew, though, that it needed to be done, that it was for the best. I bravely swallowed the pills and let Monet lead me to the chair, where the next session began and the memories soon rose like ghosts over the ground of my mind:

After leaving my aunt’s home after that summer with David, I attended the Academy, which was a pre-university boarding school. It was late autumn, and the gray sky stretched for miles outside the windows and the air was chilly. I was a good student, but I didn’t really have many friends. I had a deep inner life and spent a lot of time dreaming. I felt comfortable enough at the Academy, if not just a little bit lonely. I enjoyed my studies, and excelled at them, particularly in Professor Val-Sharian’s classes.

He was a wonderful teacher, so engaging. There was something about him that drew me in and made me watch, a quiet thing. He was on the slight side, but strongly, leanly muscled. He was older, perhaps a few years older than David. His longish brown hair was threaded with tinges of gray at the temples and there were small crow’s feet in the corners of his sad green eyes. I thought that he was very handsome in a silent, deep, thoughtful way. I would sometimes catch him staring at me too, and our eyes would meet, and then he would look away. He taught history and literature, and he would often read aloud in his classes. He had a rich, deep voice, like smoke and secrets and dreams. I drifted away on it often, staring into space while I absorbed it all. These were those moments when our eyes would meet, and I suppose we began to understand something about each other. One late afternoon, when class had let out, everyone else hurriedly got up to depart. It was the last class of the week and everyone was anxious to get out and relax. Not me, really. I remained sitting for awhile, staring out the window, and he let me.

A moment passed and then he said, ″What are you thinking about?″ He was studying me with his head tilted to the side.

I turned to him. ″Nothing in particular,″ I replied. ″I get lost in your reading. Your voice carries me.″

Professor Val-Sharian regarded me silently, one of his eyebrows raised a little. ″You enjoyed the lesson, then?″ His voice was laced with faint surprise.

I nodded. ″Of course. Why would you think that I did not?″

He laughed now. ″I had assumed at first that I bored you, you always seemed to be daydreaming. But then, sometimes, you could be so attentive.″ The Professor shook his head. ″I will confess, you are a bit of a mystery to me.″

Now it was my turn to raise an eyebrow. ″I am? How so?″

He hesitated for a fraction of a second, and then said, as he came around from behind his desk, ″You seem...otherworldly, somehow,″ he told me, as his green eyes darkened to the colour of moss in the evening. I felt my skin start to flush under the weight of that look.

He sighed. ″You had best be getting on. Enjoy your weekend.″ I nodded, collecting my things and starting for the door. I did look behind me though, and briefly met his eyes one more time. The next day passed without event, until the evening.

As night fell, I could hear the first chime of the Greater Hours begin. The Academy was not far from the border of Neo-Byzantium, and so we could hear them very clearly. I tried to isolate myself during these times. I knew that for whatever reason the Hours seemed to affect me more strongly than some of the others. I lay in my room and tried to read. I grew restless easily, so I tried to busy myself, to channel the energy into something constructive. I wrote a letter to my aunt and then one to my dear friend Julietta, whom I missed, especially now. I hadn’t yet managed to find another friend like her, though I was very hopeful.

There was a girl named Ruvi in my mathematics course, she was beautiful, with a petite body, almond eyes, and shoulder-length thick black hair. I found myself daydreaming about her sometimes, kissing and touching her the way I had longed to with Julietta. I now craved the feel of another girl often, but I also burned for a man, and while I sat at my desk attempting to work on a composition for Professor Val-Sharian’s class the daydream changed and Ruvi’s pretty face slipped away as I found myself thinking about my teacher. I recognized the slow, crawling burn, the heat flooding my lower belly.

I was attracted to him. I wasn’t sure why, whether it was the voice, the shadowy, somber look in his eyes, or the fact that he was an older man, a teacher like David. It seemed that I craved knowledge, instruction. Sighing, I closed the book and got into bed, where I fell into a fitful, fevered sleep. When the week began again and classes resumed, the Hours were still waxing. They would continue their Cycle for the next twelve days.

I carefully watched my fellow students for signs that they were being affected, that they were like me. I most definitely noticed that they seemed perhaps more flirtatious than usual, but none seemed to be burning inside, charged beneath the skin the way that I was. My body gave off a kind of heat during these times, and I found it harder to concentrate than ever. I had my uniform shirt buttoned down slightly, in an attempt to keep cool. My breasts, which always swelled during the Hours, strained at the fabric. I was going to have to get a larger shirt to wear during these times, I mused as I entered Professor Val-Sharian’s classroom and took my seat in my usual spot by the window.

When he began to speak. I noticed something deeper and thicker in his voice, a dark amber cast over each word. He seemed vaguely restless as well and this day when our eyes met, I knew. I could see the burning there, the same heat that I felt, and I knew he was like me. I felt a tingling throb begin between my legs as my juices began to flow. Something changed in his eyes, an intensity flamed in his features and his nostrils flared as if he had caught a scent. My scent. I drew in a sharp, dizzy breath as my heart began to pound. It was difficult for me to sit still after that, I became like a tightly coiled spring, and, so it appeared, had my Professor. The implications of this set fire to my very core.

I barely realized that the lecture had ended until I heard the last departing footsteps and then the closing of a door. I looked up to see that Professor Val-Sharian and I were alone. Outside the window, a wind hissed and whipped at the tree branches, signalling the approach of a storm.

″Nivenna,″ he said, my name a ragged breath on his lips. His gaze slid from my face to my breasts and then back up to meet my eyes. ″In all my years,″ he began, then chuckled lightly. He brought his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

He looked conflicted, as though he was fighting against himself. ″I knew that there was something about you,″ he continued finally, ″something that I couldn’t name. And now, I see. Now I understand.″

″Understand what?″ I asked.

″Nivenna, your body experiences the Cycle of the Hours, as does mine. It is stronger in us, because of our bloodlines. You must have hybrid blood, as I do.″ He looked down for a moment and then back up at me again. ″It can be very isolating in these times, being one of the few.″

I furrowed my brow. ″But I know that there are many others. In Neo-Byzantium--″

He nodded. ″Yes, in Neo-Byzantium, and in the Lunar Temple, and several of the Outer Principalities and the Lesser Islands, it is common and well-understood. However,″ his lips set down in a line. ″Though we hear the chimes and exist only a stone’s throw from the gates of Neo-Byzantium, this is still a different place, a school, where such things are to be kept suppressed. In all my years of teaching at this Academy, I have never had a student who so strongly and visibly responded to the Hours. I have never had to face this kind of temptation before.″

″Temptation,″ I repeated, and a twinge in my womb reminded me of my powerful attraction to Professor Val-Sharian. It was stronger yet now after what he had revealed to me.

″Professor,″ I said. ″I feel a kind of temptation for you as well.″ He looked mildly surprised by this.

″Do you truly?″ he asked. He seemed to be considering something. I nodded. As if of it’s own accord, my hand came up and unbuttoned another button on my shirt, exposing even more of my breasts. His breathing grew a little more ragged and his eyes darkened.

″Nivenna, you don’t know what you’re asking.″ There was a warning in his voice, but it wavered and I could tell that he was going to give in.

″I do,″ I told him, needing him terribly. ″You don’t need to worry. As you said yourself, I’m the only hybrid you’ve ever taught. I may be the only hybrid in the entire Academy. We belong together during the Hours. We can help each other.″

″I’ve never wanted a student like this before,″ he said breathlessly, moving closer and resting his hand against my face. I could feel the heat from his skin and I was sure he could feel it on mine. Nature, it seemed, was taking over, pushing us together.

″All right,″ he said finally. ″But not here.″ He looked out into the hallway, which was empty. ″You leave first while I gather my things. We cannot arouse suspicion by being seen leaving together. Luckily, my quarters are secluded, in the old gate house. I am the only tenant at the moment. Go there, discreetly. The path winds around the north edge of the campus, it is well-hidden by trees. The others will be occupied with their evening plans. I will meet you there in a few minutes.''

I did as the Professor instructed, taking the north path until I had reached the gatehouse. There wasn’t another soul in sight. I should have been chilly, as the temperature was dropping, but the heat pouring relentlessly from my body was only growing stronger in anticipation. Just when I thought I might begin to climb out of my skin, up ahead on the path I could see Professor Val-Sharian approaching, and my heart leapt.

When he got close enough, I could see fire in his eyes, once again we were in a similar state, almost possessed. His hands shook, fumbled with the keys, he nearly dropped them in an effort to get the door open. I giggled. The Professor pushed the door open and escorted me inside. He set to quickly lighting the lamps and getting a fire going in the sitting room as well as the bedroom. While he did this, I took a look around at his little home. The walls were stone, the floors polished wood. Many, many bookshelves lined the walls where maps and beautiful ornate tapestries hung. I liked it, I decided. It suited him, my dear Professor. I wondered what in me so craved older men, why I could never really be satisfied by anyone my own age. I mused that I must have wanted to be a student in more ways than one, I wanted a man, wise, who would guard me and teach me, hold me in capable hands, make me safe. I heard him reenter the room, then.

I turned at the sound of his footsteps. The golden lamplight cast part of his face into shadow and played in his hair, bringing out russet tones.

″Nivenna,″ he said, putting his hand against my cheek again. I sighed deeply at the contact. He stirred at the sound, shivered, and then his hand moved away until it came down to clasp mine and he was leading me into the bedroom. I barely noticed the décor, my eyes were focused right on the Professor, whose own gaze had darkened even further, all the green nearly eclipsed by black. I started it, unable to wait and longer, not giving him the chance to hesitate.

I stepped forward and pressed my lips to his. He returned the kiss hungrily, delving his tongue into my mouth. His hands ran along my shoulders and then came around to the front of my shirt, where he slowly and reverently began to undo the buttons.

The white garment slipped off my shoulders and fell to the floor. My swollen breasts spilled out of the top of my bra and Professor Val-Sharian let out a little grunting sound at the sight. I helped, needing to feel his hands on my naked flesh, quickly undoing the straps on my bra and pulling it off. Soon I had discarded the rest of my attire and was standing bare before my teacher. He looked stunned as he gazed at me.

″You’re not a little girl, are you?″ he said in a dark, choked voice.

I shook my head. His hand closed over one of my breasts and squeezed. A powerful jolt went straight to my pussy and I almost cried out at the feeling of that pressure against my swollen flesh.

″So absolutely beautiful,″ he murmured as he continued to fondle them, now with both hands. ″Temptation incarnate. Gods, look at this body.″

I moaned and squeezed my thighs together. Now his eyes were even darker than before, any shred of hesitation gone as the effect of the Hours took over, as we both succumbed to it completely.

″Do you feel it deep inside of you, Nivenna?″ he asked, and his voice ran like lava. My blood kindled further. ″Is that secret spot aching? Does it need to be filled?″

″Yes,″ I moaned. He smiled, then took his hands from my breasts and placed them on my face. Gazing softly into my eyes, he gently stroked my cheek with his thumb. And then, with a pained look, my Professor pulled away from me.

″I can’t,″ he said. ″I just can’t.″

″But—″ I protested.

″No,″ he shook his head. ″No, Nivenna. You must go. Now. Do not speak to anyone of this, of what I have almost done. It was a mistake on my part, very wrong of me.″

He collected my clothes from the floor and handed them to me. I felt very cold inside despite my still-burning core. Numbly, I dressed and then left without another word to him, pulling my cloak tight to shield me from the storm. I went back to my room feeling as though shards of ice were lodged in my belly. There, I walked over to a chest of drawers and opened one. Inside there was a small box, containing a folded piece of paper. It was a letter, from David:

Nivenna, my darling,

How to begin. So much has happened these past few months, so much we have shared. Sometimes I am haunted by the doubt, and I do start to almost believe that what we did was wrong, that I in particular am at fault, but I know that you will deny this. It is best that we part, but you will forever be in my thoughts, and I hope that I am in yours. I do not think that we will meet again in this life, but perhaps in another. Be well, sweet Nive. Embrace your beautiful nature.″

I had forced my mind to close him out, my heart as well. But I had kept the letter, out of some sentimental impulse, I supposed. Enraged then, I tore it into pieces and flung myself down onto the bed crying, wondering what it was about me that made everyone leave.

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