By noon, Kallima had emptied her suitcase, satchel, and all three boxes. The cardboard lay broken down on the floor. The wall over one bunk was splattered with posters of movie stars and rock bands from the Mortal Realm. A thick, royal blue blanket graced the top bunk, claiming it as hers.
Picking up the remnants of the boxes, she made her way back down the stairs, famished. Each step made her amulet beat against her chest like a tambourine under her shirt. Once in the courtyard, though, she stopped at the presence of another impish creature who pulled the boxes from her hands.
“I take. I help,” it croaked. “You need help?”
“The, ah, dining hall is there, right?” Kallima asked.
“Oh, yes. I get Micah? Feed you?”
“Okay. I get. You sit.”
With that, the creature scurried off to get Micah. Kallima edged towards the door that the sharp-faced woman had indicated previously. A ‘wow’ escaped her lips as she stepped inside. The vaulted ceiling overhead made the space look impossibly open as the dark wood wove against the light marble of the room itself. Large, round tables of chestnut dotted the floor, each crowded by a dozen chairs. Kallima danced through them like a spider on a web. She gawked at the ornate carvings of different mythical creatures on the wooden beams. Dizzy and overwhelmed, she pulled a chair at a smaller table and sat in it.
“Wow, Avalyn wasn’t lying. You look just like Satu.”
Kallima jerked her head towards a young man with pale blue hair and the same angular features as the woman who had greeted her. He dressed in khaki pants and a white polo, a white apron draped over them. He grinned crookedly at Kallima, hands on his hips.
“I had quite the crush on her in tenth grade, you know,” he said.
Kallima squirmed in her seat. The man laughed lightly.
“Hey, everyone did at some point or another. Besides, I’m married now.”
Kallima let out a sigh, “You must be Micah.”
“Yep. Micah Vermicelli, at your service,” the young man said with a bow. “Did you finally get hungry?”
Kallima nodded shortly, saying, “I’ve only been here a few hours, and I’m already homesick. I would really love an English classic right now.”
The man placed a hand on his chin.
“English, huh? Fish and chips sound good? It’s all I know that I could make right.”
Kallima shrugged, “It’ll do.”
“I’ll do my best, ma’am. If you like it, I’ll add it to the permanent lunch menu, okay?”
Kallima grinned softly as she watched Micah leave the room again, mumbling to himself. With a sigh, she lowered her chin to the table, folding her arms in front of her.
Her brooding was again interrupted by the slam of the courtyard door flying open. Perking her head up, Kallima’s jaw dropped open, and her eyes widened.
A tall pale man strode into the room. Trotted, really. His silver dapple, equine body gave an air of elegance and superiority as he clopped towards Kallima. His equally silver hair glittered as it fell down his back in a ponytail. His grey suit jacket clashed harshly with his otherwise wild and outlandish demeanor. As two blue eyes lighted on Kallima, he smiled deeply.
“You must be Kallima Satudotter.”
Kallima nodded, slightly fearful of the authoritative boom in his voice. The centaur stopped before her and extended one hand.
“Headmaster Locke. Welcome to Iolanthe School of Fae.”
Kallima hesitantly took his hand. Like his voice, his grip was strong, demanding, and comforting all at once. When she pulled her hand back, he brushed his suit.
“I like to try greeting each freshman personally,” he said. “to make a good impression. Let you know you can trust me. You seem nervous. More so than usual.”
“I’ve never seen a centaur before, besides in movies and books,” Kallima admitted.
“Ah, yes. You’re from the Mortal Realm. I’ve never been myself. Too stressful. Anyhow, make yourself at home. Hallowtide Break is October twenty-sixth. You’ll get to go back to Havard’s for a week.”
Locke turned away and started out of the hall.
“Headmaster Locke? Er, what if I don’t want to come back?” she asked.
Locke stopped, turned back, and frowned in confusion at Kallima. The red-haired girl shifted nervously in her seat.
“Did you never get Fever? No, you belong here. You’ll learn, I guarantee,” the centaur said, a hint of sorrow in his voice. “Enjoy your lunch, Miss Satudotter.”
He trotted from the room, leaving Kallima staring after him in confusion and anticipation. She pondered what other monsters she would see at this school. Her father had told her old stories, of course, about different devilish fairies, stories that her mother had rolled her eyes at, calling them ridiculous. Yet here she was. Satu had grown up in this Faerie Realm that Kallima now found herself trapped in. She had lived in a land of elves, imps, and centaurs. And Satu had called Havard’s words “tall tales.”
The clattering of a plate called her from her thoughts. Kallima jerked up and realized that Micah had returned with the food he had promised. The salty scent of ocean and beer batter floated through the air around her, making her stomach roar in want. Micah sat down at the table to watch as Kallima picked up the silverware and cut a small piece of fish off. Perfectly flaky cod exploded in her mouth as she took the first bite.
“That’s brilliant!” she squealed after she swallowed.
“I was worried I’d gone too heavy on the batter.”
“Sock it! This is amazing,” Kallima said, abandoning her fork to eat with her hands.
Micah chuckled, but said nothing as he stood and left the room. Kallima ferociously devoured her late-breakfast-early-lunch and leaned back in her chair, satisfied. Moving and unpacking must have worked up her appetite, or she was more homesick than she had previously thought. Closing her eyes, she drooped one hand lazily over her gut, imagining that it felt engorged. She stirred a moment later when ruckus from the courtyard reached her. She heaved herself from her seat and shuffled to the door.
Outside, Kallima immediately found herself an outsider as the first families arrived with their children. Locke was on his knees next to the gazebo conversing with some dark-skinned beings lower to the ground than Kallima’s knee. A trio of headless creatures with faces on their stomachs passed her indifferently as they joked about senior year. A cluster of sprites buzzed through the air in spasmodic twitches.
“Ooh, red hair.”
Kallima jolted and yelped. The voice had come from a bald, eyeless creature next to her with a wide, toothy grin. Kallima’s eyes widened as the figure shifted before her, grey eyes manifesting out of nowhere as a bush of red hair sprouted from its head.
“I think I’ll keep it,” it said before skipping away.
Kallima shuddered at the thought of another wearing her face. At least its wide mouth gave it away. Hoping to escape the strangeness around her, Kallima hurried away to her room. Though she did pass a few different people, some of which looked human, she noted two cyclops, several beings under a meter high, and, most notably, a thick, three meter tall monster of a man with a dull expression. Even the freshman lobby was dotted with various races of girls, ranging from a few centimeters to a few meters high, and their families when she returned. Several fell silent and stared after Kallima as she dashed to her room.
“Dammit, Sable,” a harsh voice yelled over the bang of something being slammed on the floor. “Why is this box so fucking heavy?”
“Sorry,” a meek-sounding girl squeaked.
Kallima watched as a dark-haired man stormed from her room, green eyes full of lightning as he pushed his way past her. A marble girl peeked out from behind the door with wide but blank black eyes, stony lip quivering. A few greasy strands of black hair fell in her face.
“Are- are you my roommate?” Kallima asked once the man had vanished.
The girl’s face cracked loudly, causing Kallima to flinch. Then the marble girl looked up at the door number.
“This is my number,” she said with a soft breath. “Did you put up the- the pictures?”
“Yes, those are mine.”
“They’re good. You, like, can’t even see the brush strokes.”
Kallima chuckled and watched as bits of grey flaked off of the girl’s face, revealing soft, alabaster skin. The red-head scratched the back of her neck nervously.
“You, er, got a bit of-”
The girl touched her cheek, whimpering. The hole quickly closed up with the grey material under her fingers.
“Sorry. Did that, like, freak you out?”
“A bit, yes.”
The grey girl tucked her hair behind her ears, nodding silently. Kallima wearily squeezed past her and into the room. A trunk sat at the foot of the bed below hers, boxes piled on top of it.
“So you’re a fae?” she asked as she climbed up into the safety of her claimed bed.
“Mm-hm, my dad was a shadow fae.”
“Was that him? The one who just left?”
“No, that’s my uncle.”
“What, your dad too busy?”
The girl ignored her and opened the first box, allowing Kallima to take in her appearance. She was much shorter than Kallima, 140 centimeters at most, and her hair ended just past her shoulders. Her pale blue dress was faded and frayed at the hem, and the black shoes on her feet seemed equally worn. She lifted a pink orb that resembled a bowling ball from the box and hugged it to her chest, closing her eyes painfully.
“What’s that?” Kallima asked, unable to hold the question back.
“Beacon,” the girl breathed. “My mom would hold it, like, all night when she watched over the coast. It let ships know they were close to shore.”
“Like a lighthouse?”
“Better. More reliable, more helpful.”
“She just let you take it?”
The quaking girl gripped the orb tighter, turning away from Kallima.
“She left it to me,” the girl said.
With a shaky sigh, the grey child sat on the edge of her own bed as Kallima blinked down at her. Again, cracks formed in her skin, then flaked away.
“He called you Sable?” Kallima mumbled.
The girl nodded, “Yeah. Sable d’Parsia.”
The girl, Sable, tipped her head up towards Kallima, her black eyes replaced by normal, ice blue ones. Only her left cheek hid behind the grey substance.
“My mom was a gargoyle,” she said.
“Oh, that explains it,” Kallima replied.
Sable wiped the last of the clay from her face with a weak smile. She planted a gentle kiss on the beacon, set it down on the mattress, and stood up.
“What about you, Kali? Like, what do your parents do?”
Kallima scowled, “Dad works a factory, and my mum drank herself to death.”
“My dad’s human,” Kallima explained. “I think someone said Mum was a sorceress? Not that it matters. Satu’s dead. My mum’s dead. Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about it.”
Kallima sighed and slid down from the bed.
Sable nodded and carried some clothes to the closet she now shared with Kallima.
“I know how that is.” she admitted.
Kallima asked, “Your mum, too?”
“Well, when Dad vanished,” Sable said, voice shaking, “it just, like, destroyed her. Uncle Gavin says she went insane. That’s... that’s why...”
Kallima poked her head into the closet. Sable sat on the floor, leaning against her dresser, head in one hand. She glanced up at Kallima.
“I live with him now. My uncle,” she said sadly.
Kallima nodded, noting the slow building of stone on the girl’s arms. Curious, she attempted to change the subject by asking why her body shifted between stone and flesh.
“Oh, it’s defensive,” Sable dismissed, pulling herself back up. “I have, like, almost no control over it. It just changes when I’m tense. And I go, like, completely solid when I’m scared. That’s embarrassing.”
Both girls turned at the voice towards a third, pale newcomer. She chewed bubble gum and leaned in the door frame, her black clothes draining all the color from her skin. Her backpack sank into one shoulder, giving her a lopsided look. A pink crescent of scar tissue peeked out from under a band on her left arm.
“Oh, thank Majesh,” she said, tossing her bag onto the free bottom mattress and smiling at Kallima. “Another punk like me. I’m Jazz Colson.”
Sable whimpered and turned grey as Jazz ran her fingers through her puffy, honey hair. Jazz poked her head out of the door and called for her luggage as Kallima crossed her arms.
“What about you?” Kallima inquired when Jazz returned. “What kind are you?”
“Oh, long story,” Jazz laughed. “My family, right? Pure-blooded air fae, and proud of it. Then me, black sheep. First off, I find out I’m a nature fae. Second off...”
She pulled up the arm band to give Kallima a better look at her injury.
“Got bit by a werewolf. Just my luck, right?” Jazz said and rolled her eyes.
Kallima flinched, asking, “Is, er, is that safe?”
Jazz laughed again, “What are you, stupid? Course it is. Just don’t bug me, and I won’t freak out or bite anyone. Deal?”
“What about the moon?”
“What about it?”
“Don’t you change during the full moon?”
Sable whispered, “No, she’ll only turn if she loses her temper.”
“Oh, thank the stars, one of you has a brain. Didn’t catch your names, though,” Jazz grinned.
She handed a biscuit to one of the two imply creatures that had brought in her luggage, which covered the bottom bunk. The other pig-faced being tried to grab it, and they ended up wrestling the whole way down the hall while Jazz laughed at their antics.
“Kallima, but Kali will do just fine.”
“You have a weird accent, Kali,” the werewolf said.
Kallima rolled her eyes, “It’s not weird. It’s British.”
Jazz’s face fell, and her eyes widened.
“You’re from the Mortal Realm?”
“Yes. My dad’s human.”
“Wow. Your mom must be crazy. That place is dangerous!” Jazz squeaked.
Kallima saw that as her cue to laugh.
“Earth? Dangerous?” she said. “You’re a bleeding werewolf! She’s a gargoyle-”
“Half-gargoyle,” Sable corrected meekly as she continued unearthing her trunk.
“-And you think that Earth is dangerous?”
“If I shifted there, I would be killed on sight with their exploding wands. They’ve attacked our kind before, Kali, with iron,” Jazz shuddered, “and fire. And they have wind machines and know how to pull land out of water. But the worst, the worst, the worst is how much they destroy!”
“Mankind has improved by leaps and bounds these last few centuries,” Kallima said. “They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t the monsters you make them out to be either. I’ll prove it.”
Jazz crossed her arms and said, “Then prove it.”
Kallima rolled her eyes and stormed into the closet she shared with Sable. She pulled down a Discman and a pair of headphones, unwinding the cord. Switching the device on, she handed the headphones to a very confused Jazz.
“Put this over your ears.” she instructed. “I need to find the right song.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Just do it. This is ‘Abbey Road;’ it’s classic.”
Jazz eased the padding over her ears and waited. With a smirk, Kallima started the song. Jazz immediately shrieked, pulling the headphones off, and Kallima paused the song.
“How did you do that?” Jazz asked, wide-eyed.
“Just listen to it. This is a good song.”
Jazz slid the headphones back on and furrowed her brow as Kallima resumed the song. After about a minute, Jazz’s face softened from indifference to intrigue to amusement.
“That’s adorable,” she chuckled when the song ended.
“Isn’t it? Top notch, right?”
“It’s cute. Don’t push it.”
Kallima peered over her shoulder at Sable and asked if she would like to hear it. Sable, then lying on her stomach on the bed, rolling her beacon back and forth on the mattress, nodded stiffly. Like Jazz, she carefully eased her head into the audio device and waited. As the song played, she kept a blank face, still passing the ball from one hand to another. When silence fell in her ears, she sat up and pulled the headphones off.
“How much do you want for this?” she whispered.
Kallima tipped her head, “Sorry, what?”
“I have, like, two gold saved up,” Sable told her, “but I think I can scrape together another one somehow.”
“Er... I don’t...”
“Never mind. Sorry,” Sable said, handing the headphones back to Kallima.
“You can borrow it,” Kallima said, pushing them back. “Just for tonight, okay?”
Kallima could not hold back a smirk when she saw how the girl lit up. Sable’s first real smile since arriving graced her thin lips, a tiny flash of ivory teeth behind them. Kallima showed her how to work the device while Jazz finished unpacking. Once Sable understood the Discman, Kallima stood up and watched the girl’s face warp at the new entertainment until a knock at the door drew her attention.
Jazz sighed at the new girl standing in the door frame. She possessed her same pale skin and honey-colored hair, though it was much flatter and longer than Jazz’s. She wore tan khakis and a pink shirt, sharply contrasting the all black decorum of Kallima’s roommate.
“It’s time for supper, Jasmine,” she sang with a voice like silk.
“Ugh, I told you to call me Jazz!”
“But that’s the name Mom and Dad gave you.”
“It’s not me, Joyce. It just doesn’t fit me.”
“Dinnertime, you said?” Kallima interjected.
The newcomer nodded, adding, “Jeremiah’s already waiting for us downstairs.”
Kallima nudged Sable’s leg with her foot. The small girl pulled the headphones off of her ears again, pausing the song.
“Turn that off. It’s time for dinner.”
Sable nodded and obeyed, shutting down the device as she stood, then gently placing it on her pillow.
Joyce looked over her shoulder at the two girls as she led the roommates down the hall.“So, who are your new friends?” she asked.