The Underground To Binos
Tecna likes to be up early with the first sun that rises to shine upon Alfea, do her morning ritual of exercises and stretches, shower, dress and have breakfast. Today, she hardly has the first mouthful of breakfast swallowed when there is a gentle knocking at her door. Curious about whom it could possibly be calling at this early hour, Tecna makes her way quickly to the door and slowly opens it. The first thing she notices about her visitor is that she has dark chocolate brown eyes, her raven hair done up in a high ponytail and she has a Mediterranean olive complexion. She is dressed in mostly black and white and looks very familiar … and she is not alone.
“We seem to keep doing this to each other, Tecna,” says Ishandra in a pleasant mezzo voice. “I never know which of your many faces you’re going to present to me on any given day but, I must say, that your Enchantix form is adorable and a big change for the better from your geek outfit. Oh! Yes! And good morning to you.”
Baffled, Tecna is frozen in the doorway like a computer caught in an endless loop trying to evaluate too many shades of the colour grey until Ishandra says, “Are you going to invite us in?”
“Yes, good morning,” says Tecna still uncertain why it is her visitor looks so familiar, “do come in.”
The woman enters and the tinier, younger woman with a small duffle bag in tow follows behind her. Tecna regards the younger woman with her blue-black hair and stylized lightning bolts painted on her cheeks and the gently pulsating Whisperian crystal embedded into her skin just below her collarbone, and things begin to add up in her mind. This is Stormy, now called Leffi, a Witch who has received the here before unheard of interspecies neural net liken unto the one she herself possesses that gives her and her people the cybernetic ability to interface with many devices. The other woman is Icy who now calls herself Ishandra. It felt strange for even Tecna to have these two former enemies in her apartment and to be chatting with them like long-standing neighbours.
“How did you manage to get in here?” asks Tecna, puzzled. “I thought the barrier around Alfea College would have kept you out.”
“We came in by the main entrance, took the staircase on the right, went up three flights of stairs to your floor and here we are,” replies Ishandra with an amused expression on her face. “As for the barrier, we past right through it. It is programmed to block Icy and Stormy but not Ishandra and Leffi. When it could not match our new profiles to any among the ‘do not admit’ profiles it had in storage, it let us by.”
“Logical,” says Tecna and then all three stand there saying nothing for almost a minute until Tecna finally asks, “Why is it you have come here?”
“I need to make a request of you,” says Ishandra, “but, first of all, is Musa here?”
“No,” replies Tecna. “Musa is at Bloom’s apartment at a sleepover with the others.”
“You’re not there with them?” asks Ishandra, surprised.
“No,” says Tecna honestly. “I always feel like the odd Faerie out at these sleepovers. I enjoy some of it, but, I dread being caught up in a game of Truth or Dare. I always choose truth and I am compelled to always tell the truth. There are some private matters I want to keep private. In addition, I am often times asked questions especially by Stella to which they do not want to hear the naked truth. I end up bruising egos, hurting feelings, and upsetting people, and then, I am shunned by all for a week after. So it comes down to sleepovers being a social activity I rather not join in and that seems to suit the others just fine. But, anyway,” says Tecna, “what does Musa being here have to do with anything?”
“It’s just that the fewer who know about what I’m about to ask you, the better,” replies Ishandra. “To the point, I need you to take Leffi to Binos where she’ll be safe and perhaps while there she could be trained on how to use her new cybernetic powers.”
Tecna suddenly realizes that she has been impolite ignoring Leffi while in conversation with Ishandra and by not offering either of them so much as a cup of tea. She regards Leffi, the woman-child, and her mind is still struggling to accept that a Witch could possess a neural net which she always believed to be proper only to Faeriekind and her people in particular. But then again, who in all Alfea would have believed, not that long ago, that a Witch could also achieve Charmix and Enchantix status? Yet, these were strange times in which she had witnessed all these things. But what still burned in her ears was Aïsha’s fiery rebuke when she accused them all of talking-the-Faerie-talk but not walking-the-Faerie-walk and that they should start by showing the former members of the much hated Trix a good measure of magnanimity by accepting Ishandra and Leffi as new, pristine creatures and to stop regarding them as the evil Icy and Stormy of days now gone by. It is then Tecna decides to help Leffi out if she can.
“Hello, Leffi,” says Tecna. “It is nice to see you again.”
“It is also nice seeing you again, Mistress Tecna,” replies Leffi in High Alfean, using all the appropriate, polite forms of the pronouns and polite, medium honorifics and Tecna smiles, having been addressed by Leffi in her native tongue.
“I am brewing some black currant tea,” Tecna tells the two of them, “would you like some? I can leave out the honey, if you prefer. And for you, Leffi, I think I can also find you an unsweetened horehound lollypop. Why don’t we all sit around the table and discuss things?”
“That would be great,” replies Ishandra, “and you don’t have to leave out the honey. We Witches cannot taste what you Faeries call ‘sweet’ but we still consume quite a bit of honey for its restorative properties. We think honey is best eaten right from the comb along with the beeswax and even the crunchy bee larvae.”
“Eeew!” replies Tecna, shivering and making a face and Leffi giggles.
“What’s the matter with them?” asks Ishandra, amused by Tecna’s reaction. “Insects are plentiful, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and tastes, and they are almost entirely high quality protein without the harmful cholesterol found in animal meat. Look at Miss Griffin. She has survived two hundred years as an insectivore and I dare you to find an ounce of fat that doesn’t belong on her or to have guessed her true age before I told you.”
“Miss Faragonda must be about the same age,” replies Tecna, “but I know for a fact she does not eat insects. The very idea of eating something that could wiggle, jiggle or tickle in my stomachs is just too … ,” and again she shivers.
“Well, there are some things that we both like,” says Ishandra. “We both like the meaty parts of walnuts, acorns, hazelnuts and suchlike but only you Faeries have the double sets of teeth and double chambered stomachs to grind and digest the shells along with them. And to eat bamboo stocks and raw cassava the way you Faeries do would be committing suicide for a Witch. So, you see, one reason why we do coexist on Alfea is because we occupy different niches in the ecosystem.”
A small bell chimes just then and Tecna gets up to fetch the pot of tea and to pour each a cup. “To get back to the real subject at hand,” says Tecna, “why is it that Leffi needs protection?”
“You are aware, I’m sure,” says Ishandra, “that Darcy, Leffi and I are finished as a Trix. I need to go my own way but Leffi cannot come with me and to leave her with her sister, Darcy, would leave her open to Darcy’s anger and abuse once she realizes that I have gone for good. Darcy could end up killing her.”
“Surely not,” says Tecna, surprised. “You three are sisters, are you not?”
“Leffi and Darcy are true blood sisters,” explains Ishandra, “but, although related, I am really more like a distant cousin of the two. A long story and we are straying off topic again. Darcy is not herself these days. She is suffering from raging hormones a condition you like to call ‘being in love’.”
“But why should that be a problem?” asks Tecna, perplexed. “For us, it is a cause for celebration when two people fall in love. Why should it be different for Darcy?”
“Because … ,” says Ishandra, “the object of Darcy’s affections is Riven. In her own words she wants to ‘marry him, take care of his house, be his good little Witch wife and bear his children’.”
“Children?!” gasps Tecna shocked. “Is she daft? Witches and Faën cannot have children they are biologically incompatible. There isn’t even a small hope of it. Surely, you explained that to her. And, yes, I can see why you would not want Musa hearing about this although I am sure that she suspects that something is still going on between the two of them. And what shocks me even more is that Riven has not said a word to Darcy about it.”
“Darcy has probably so bewitched Riven’s mind that he does not know what he is doing half the time,” says Ishandra with a sigh, “and she has probably messed up her own mind in the process. There’s just no reasoning with her anymore. And you know well how immoveable a Witch is when she has made up her mind about something. Darcy’s a powder keg about to explode onto a Witch’s rampage. Leffi will not be safe near her and Binos would be the last place Darcy would go looking for her. It would also give you an opportunity to train her on how to use her new cybernetic powers.”
“All very logical,” says Tecna with finality. “I’ll do this for you. In fact, if we start almost immediately, I can have Leffi on Binos within the hour.”
“You go with Mistress Tecna, now,” says Ishandra to Leffi, “and promise me that you will behave and study hard.”
“You will come see me on Binos?” asks Leffi with tears coming to her eyes.
“I promise I will come visit,” says Ishandra taking Leffi into her arms for a good-bye hug. “I would never abandon my precious Little One.”
“Thank you, Tecna, I owe you one for this,” says Ishandra with tears coming to her own eyes.
“Nonsense,” says Tecna. “This is what Faerie sisters do for each other all the time.”