Butterfly Enigma I

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Guarded

“Mum knew,” Kallima said as Sable crashed into her bed.

“You’ve said,” the gargoyle muttered.

“Dad called me an alp,” Kallima said.

“It’s their name for dream fae.”

“That stupid butterfly finally died.”

“Kali,” Sable groaned, “I’m really tired. Can I take a nap?”

“Gavin?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll let you sleep,” Kallima said, slipping out of the room.

Once in the lobby, though, the redhead realized that she had no plans until supper, and it was only two. Gabriel had promised to return by four, but he had yet to turn up. The girls in the room with her snickered behind their hands frequently enough to bother her, too. She covered her face and stormed out, hoping to escape her peers. Unfortunately, the halls were bustling with returns, making such evasion of attention impossible. Kallima bit her lip, thinking of only two places empty enough to provide some isolation. The gymnasium was open for solo training, but that meant that anyone could just walk in. With weapons. Not to mention that Kallima was tired shooting things with her tiny crossbow. That left only one location where she could, potentially, find some peace and quiet.

As long as Ignatius was not there, and he would be, Kallima knew.

Still, his betrayal was strangely more bearable than the whispers it had generated. Resigned, Kallima began creeping towards the library. The room seemed empty except for Miss Flores, who greeted her as Satu yet again. Kallima waved silently at the old woman and started towards the catalogs. After a moment of thought, she decided to risk it and shuffled through the cards for dream fae. She picked through the titles, pulling out a few that seemed promising to her. Then she wandered off to find them.

Dream Magic was easy enough to find, and Natural Talent: A Guide to Fairy Power leaned not far from it. Pleased with her selection, she took the books to Miss Flores. The old woman marked them and returned them to the redhead, wishing her good luck on her studies. Kallima tucked herself away in a corner and opened Natural Talent to the section on dream fae.

She quickly found that Sable had been right. The way that dream fae behaved in the Mortal Realm lined up perfectly with the stories Havard used to tell her about alps: the aversion to lemon, the eating of nightmares, even the closeness of her brows. Then an excerpt on the abuses of power caught her attention.

One of the more deadly powers of dream fae is fabrication, the ability to transfer injuries and images from the dreamscape to reality. Those attacked by dream fae often report being breathless due to fear, crushing, and choking while sleeping. To date, five deaths have been attributed to dream fae who have invaded dreams and attacked the sleeper.

Madeline Chase was one such victim. Her husband woke at night due to unexplained dampness in the bed they shared. Chase’s body was cold, rigid, and wet. She could not be revived. It was later discovered that Chase had been having an affair with a dream fae. Marco van Allen, Chase’s scorned lover, was quickly charged, arrested, and executed for the murder.

“Wow...” Kallima gasped. “That explains the bruises.”

“What bruises?”

Kallima yipped and dropped her book. In front of her, the very golden-haired boy she wished to avoid stood in front of her. More slumped than stood, actually: His bag pulled his body to the right, his head bowed ever so slightly, and his left hand was bound in a splint. Even his hair lacked its usual pep, the locks drooping with the weight of guilt. Kallima tsked at him.

“None of your business, you git,” she said.

“Hmm,” Ignatius whimpered and said, “I- I wanted to... I’m sorry.”

Kallima raised a brow, repeating “You’re sorry?”

“Mm-hmm. It was cruel, what they did. I just... It won’t happen again.”

“Swear it,” Kallima said.

Ignatius shrugged his bag off and onto the floor and dropped to his knees in front of her without the slightest hesitation. He bowed his head to the young woman as she watched him.

“I swear, on my life, I will never speak another word to Reginald Noble or Marian Noble without your permission, Miss Kallima Aislin Satudotter,” he vowed.

“Wow. On your life?”

“On my life.”

“Is there a difference?” Kallima asked. “Between stars and life, I mean?”

“Breaking a star oath blinds you for a year. I’m sure you can guess the punishment for breaking a life oath,” Ignatius said, standing up.

“Oh. Er, thank you, then.”

“Jarl sprained my wrist,” the golden boy said awkwardly, holding out his hand.

“What a naff.”

“They told him to jump me. Because I wouldn’t tell them anything else after-”

“After the stint in the dining hall?”

“Yeah.”

Kallima hummed in thought, “Well, thank you. I still don’t trust you. You found a loophole around the first oath. I’m sure you could find it in this one.”

“But we can be civil now, right?”

“I suppose.”

Ignatius shifted nervously in place. Kallima dismissively opened her book again and resumed reading.

“Did you enjoy your break?”

Kallima sighed and shut her book.

“No, Iggy, I didn’t.”

“Fever?”

“Yes.”

The senior shook his head, saying, “I don’t understand. How did you last fourteen years without setting foot in the Fairy Realm if you can’t survive a week away now?”

Kallima shrugged and stood up, starting out of the library.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe because I wasn’t born here. I was born in the Mortal Realm. I have pictures of Havard holding me as an infant.”

“That... Actually, that makes sense,” Ignatius said. “You were bound by the limitations of that world.”

“That would explain why I never had the power to make portals, then,” said Kallima.

“But now that you’ve been here...”

“...now that I know what I can do...”

“...you’re too unnatural for the Mortal Realm to handle...”

“...so it tried to reject me, to send me back!”

“This is amazing, Kali!” the golden-haired boy beamed. “It- it’s all new territory! You’re probably the first fae to be born in a different dimension!”

“Really? The first one?” Kallima laughed.

“Well, the first I’ve heard of, anyway. We always thought it was too risky, what with the humans everywhere, Fever acting up, weakened physical and emotional state, all that kind of thing. But you! You’re proof that it can happen,” Ignatius said, grabbing Kallima’s shoulders.

“Too risky...” Kallima repeated, her face falling.

“What’s wrong?”

The girl sighed and wondered out loud, “Why did she chance it? If Mum thought it was as dangerous as all that, why did she risk having me there? What was so bloody awful here that it was her only choice?”

The young senior bit his lip, and his eyes squinted in pain. Kallima huffed, then leaned forward and rested her head on his shoulder. She felt the boy stiffen before wrapping his arms further around her, pulling her into an awkward embrace. Though she dared not return the gesture, Kallima’s eyes eased shut. She hummed contentedly at the warmth of the tutor’s skin, far hotter than any human’s, and she found herself wondering if all fire fae gave off such heat. She was comfortable. Even when Ignatius sucked a deep breath and sighed happily into her hair, she gave only a gentle shove at his shoulder.

“Sorry. You’re just... So very special,” he said.

“Well, you’re warm.”

“You’re dead!”

Kallima barely had time to open her eyes before her tutor was ripped away. The senior yelped but lost his breath as he hit the wall. Gabriel, his honey eyes fierce and teeth bared, pinned the short senior up by his collar.

“Don’t you ever touch her again!” the sylph screamed.

“’S not- not like that,” the golden boy choked.

Kallima grabbed her boyfriend’s arm and begged him to let the tutor down. Gabriel pushed her away with one hand.

“I thought you loved me, Kali,” he said. “But you’re just like Eve, aren’t you?”

“Gabriel, you’re hurting him!” Kallima shouted.

“Hurting him?”

Gabriel balled his free hand and slammed it into Ignatius’ face. The small boy’s head whipped to the side from the blow. Kallima shrieked and flung herself in front of Ignatius before Gabriel could strike again.

“Stop it!” she said.

“Move,” Gabriel ordered.

“Kali...”

“No,” Kallima said. “It’s not what you think, Gabriel. I do love you. Just put him down. Put him down, and I’ll explain.”

Gabriel narrowed his eyes at the girl, who crossed her arms.

“Kali,” Ignatius said behind her, “get out of the way.”

“Shut up, Iggy,” she shot back.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“You promise,” Gabriel muttered, “that there’s nothing between you two?”

Kallima forced a laugh, saying, “Are you kidding me? After what he did to me? He’s lucky I’m giving him a second chance! I had a rough week, okay? Nothing more, I promise. He was just trying to be the friend he should have been before.”

“You should have never told him about your mom,” Gabriel said to the golden boy, loosening his grip.

The senior nodded and winced as he touched his cheek, saying, “Oh, that’s gonna swell.”

“Serves you right, tattling on me to those brats,” Kallima said mercilessly.

Ignatius said, “Hey, I thought you were on my side...”

“Eh,” Kallima shrugged, “more or less.”

The boy nodded, covering the side of his face with one hand, and shuffled off. Gabriel pulled Kallima close to him in a tight embrace.

“You’re upset,” he said.

Kallima said, “Of course I’m upset. When I slugged somebody, I got extra studies.”

“Yeah, but he’s no royal. Hell, the opposite.”

“How so?”

“With his dad in jail,” Gabriel said with an evil smirk, “he’s got nowhere to go. Come winter break, he’ll stay at Orphanage.”

Kallima shuddered involuntarily at the word. Orphanage, she had gathered, meant something very different in this world than it did in the Mortal Realm. When it surfaced in conversations, fae shivered as though the word itself was a cold wind ripping through them. Kallima had once asked what it was like, and Sable, the only one of her friends who had ever been there, became wide-eyed and turned to stone. When she finally softened to flesh again, she only wept in response until she fell asleep. As much as she hated living with her uncle, she at least talked about him, and it scared Kallima to think of what would make Sable react that way. Then, when the redhead thought about it, she always recalled Jasmine saying that some fae lived to break people. People like Sable, who referred to herself as ‘damaged goods’ from time to time. People like Ignatius, who was quickly crumbling from the happy yet clever joker to a scared, flighty rat. Gabriel tipped Kallima’s chin up and pecked at her lips. He hummed in annoyance when she did not return the kiss.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked.

“They’ll break him,” she said, “won’t they?

“Yeah, if the Nobles haven’t already done it for them. Don’t worry, though. If anyone deserves it, it’s him.”

“Deserves it?” Kallima repeated.

“Yeah, a year ago, someone pushed him too far, I guess. Kid named Mason. Ig messed him up bad.”

“What happened?”

“Well, we think Mason cornered him outside the library. No one’s really sure. But we guess Ig just snapped. By the time the nurse got to them, Ig was crying and holding his jacket over Mason’s face. His arm was all burned up, and he was unconscious. When people asked what happened, Ig would just shake his head, never said a word. He got really reclusive after that, started hiding away in his room. And you know Mason’s comatose.”

“Bloody hell,” Kallima said.

Gabriel shook his head and said, “It’s only happened once, but still... I don’t want him so close to you, especially alone. You understand, right?”

“Yeah, just... why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I wanted to believe that he’d changed. But after what he did to you, I don’t think has.”

Kallima nodded, stunned that the meek boy could have done such a thing to anyone. She clung to Gabriel as he walked her to dinner, hoping that Ignatius would stay true to his word.

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