“Oh, no...,” Sable whimpered.
She and Kallima sat at one of the smaller, corner tables. The redhead followed her gaze to a small crowd surrounding two tall blondes in nice, violet clothes. The boy’s green eyes danced condescendingly over the others while the girl laughed sharply at something she heard or saw. Despite the crowd they drew, most other students visibly struggled to avoid their gaze.
“Who are they?” Kallima asked.
“The Noble twins,” Sable said, lowering her eyes. “Princess Marian and Crown Prince Reginald. Don’t they have a private chef?”
Sable said, “King Titanus does, like, everything Madam Butterfly tells him to.”
“Like, no one knows who she is. But whatever she says, he just does, no questions asked. I guess she, like, told him to send them here.”
“Oh,” Kallima said.
Sable resumed eating her sandwich, unaware of a muscled, tan boy emerging from the shadows behind her. The boy pressed a finger to his lips, hushing Kallima before she could warn Sable. Then he pressed one hand over Sable’s eyes and the other over her mouth, leaning close to her ear as she turned to stone. His wavy mane of copper hair brushed her rocky ear. When she softened back to clay, he grinned and moved the hand on her mouth to her eyes as well.
“Guess who,” the boy said playfully.
“You know that scares me, Shay,” Sable whined, pulling his hands down.
“Yeah, but it’s funny.”
“Is, like, Acacia getting your food for you?” Sable asked.
The boy, Shay, shrugged and said, “Yeah.”
Sable pouted, “Oh. You two are still dating, then?”
“Yeah, why? Did you hear something I didn’t?”
Sable shook her head, and Shay sighed in relief.
“Good,” he said, smirking. “I know we’re young and all, but I like her. And Dad approves of her. You know how hard that can be.”
“He just wants what’s, like, best for you.”
“Yeah, but he can be a real dick about it,” Shay groaned, leaning on his hand with a huff.
“Language, Shay,” another girl said. “It’s unbecoming of you to speak like that.”
The young girl had short, moss-green hair and dark brown skin. As she took a seat next to Shay, she set a large tray of food in front of the boy. She smiled softly as Shay examined the plate’s contents before plucking out a bite of chicken.
“You spoil me,” he said.
The girl smiled, rose, and returned to the food line. Kallima, who had been distracted by the vibrancy of her hair, shook her head.
“Who was that?” she asked Sable.
“Mm. That’s Acacia. She’s, like, Shay’s girlfriend.”
“All right, rephrase. What was that?”
Shay chuckled at the tall girl and said, “You’re not from this area, are you? Probably just moved from somewhere with a lot of sorcerers and elemental fae. Humanoids, am I right?”
“No,” Kallima said, “not humanoids. Humans.”
Shay’s jaw dropped a bit and he gaped.
“Kali just, like, transferred from the Mortal Realm. Crazy, right, Shay?”
“Way crazy! How long did you live there?”
Kallima shrugged and said, “Well, my whole life. I was born in England, so-.”
“What’s England?” Sable asked.
“It’s a kingdom in the Mortal Realm. It’s connected to this area of the Faerie Realm,” Shay explained. “That’s why she talks funny.”
“Sock it! You’re the ones who talk strangely.”
“So you’ve never seen an ogre?” Shay asked.
Kallima shook her head.
“Brownies? Changelings? Dwarfs-?”
“Oh, there are dwarfs. Er,” Kallima said, “probably not the same sort you mean, though.”
“Short, stout, and hairy. Tend to live in large family groups.”
“No, we just use it to mean short humans.”
“We don’t say that anymore.”
“Huh,” Shay said as Acacia sat down next to him again. “Well. Acacia is a dryad. An elm dryad, actually, so her hair is always green.”
“Most dryads have hair that changes color to match their trees,” Acacia said. “As leaves fall from their trees, their hair turns black.”
“But your’s stays green?” Kallima asked.
“Uh-huh. My tree is picea abies, Northern Spruce.”
“What do you mean, ‘your tree?’”
Acacia smiled and explained, “A dryad is bonded to its mother until age ten. Then the youth chooses from a cluster of unclaimed saplings. The child spends the next three years caring for the sapling: watering it, nurturing it, befriending it. I chose this adorable little Northern Spruce. At the end of the three years, I was fully bonded to it. My hair stopped changing like Mama’s, and I got darker and thicker. Mama’s tree is walnut, so her hair turns yellow then black in the winter.”
Kallima furrowed her brow and asked, “Bonded? What does that mean?”
“I can pull energy from my tree when I’m tired, and, when I’m scared or nervous, she calms me and reminds me to keep standing tall, like her. In return, I protect her from people who would cut her down.”
“Oh, that’s neat. Are there other dryads here, then?” Kallima asked.
“Tons!” Shay said. “That table over there? They’re all dryads, mostly birch. Those two over there are oak. So’s that girl over-.”
“What’s that?” Kallima asked, pointing out a creature that was tall like her.
His mud brown hair cascaded down his back, parting over his pointed, foxy ears before stopping at the small of his back. His pale skin almost glittered in the hall light. What caught Kallima’s eye, though, were the massive, glistening wings that reminded her of a dragonfly’s flittering out of his back as he laughed at his friends.
“That’s a sylph,” Shay said. “You can tell from the wings. Every fae has an element that they’re associated with. For sylph, it’s air, but there’s also earth, water, fire, nature, light, shadow, and spirit.”
“Oh, that’s what Jazz meant? She said her family is air, but she’s nature?” said Kallima.
“That happens sometimes, yeah. Then there are sorcerers. They don’t have an associated element. They just sort of dabble,” Shay said, smiling at the new girl.
“Hm. I always thought sorcery was a task. Like, sorcerer was a job.”
“Nope,” Acacia said, “they just don’t have a specialty. It gives them a range of power, but no special attributes.”
Kallima sighed and said, “I think… someone called my mum a sorcerer.”
“I’m sorry,” Acacia said, “what did you say your name was, again?”
“Oh. I’m Kallima. Kallima Aislin Satudotter.”
“You have a weird aura, Kallima,” Shay said. “It’s kinda like a spirit fae, but also not.”
“Shay’s a spirit fae,” Sable whispered.
“I’m a rare sort that can read auras. It’s pretty cool,” Shay bragged. “I can even tell when people are lying. The air around them quivers. It makes poker really easy!”
“I see. So aura is a sort of spiritual energy?”
“So… You’re a spirit fae. She’s a nature fae-.”
“No. I’m a dryad. I’m affiliated with nature magic,” Acacia corrected. “Not a nature fae.”
“There’s a difference, Kali,” Sable said. “Like, nature fae like Jazz can manipulate plant life. Dryads have the bond with their trees that makes them, like, more powerful, but also more restricted.”
“Then… A nature fae is like the sorcerer of dryads?” Kallima asked.
The two girls stared at her in confusion, but Shay considered this.
“If you mean that a nature fae is a more specialized sorcerer, and a dryad is a more specialized nature fae, then you’re right. Kind of. Close enough, at least,” he said. “I could make a graph for you, if it helps.”
Kallima paused, then said, “I would like that. But may I ask, you said my aura’s like a spirit fae? So… What sort of fae am I?”
“You don’t even know what you are?” Shay gaped.
“Uh-uh. I’ve never had a magical power that I know of.”
Sable suggested, “You could be a sorcerer. Like your mom.”
“You might be a spirit fae with a rare focus, like me,” Shay said. “The others are… Kokubi, shapers and dr-.”
The spirit fae paled suddenly.
“Did you say Satudotter? As in Satu?”
“And, ah, this,” he asked, pointing to his chest, “wouldn’t be an Amulet of Binding, would it?”
Kallima reached defensively for her throat, croaking, “Ha- How did you-?”
“Don’t take it off!”
The nervous boy glanced around, but, fortunately, raised no suspicion among the thinning crowd of students.
“Don’t. Ever. Take it off,” he said. “Especially not at night.”
“I don’t wear jewelry to bed.”
“Please keep it on. I know where I’ve seen that aura, and if you’ve never even used your magic before… It’d be a disaster.”
Kallima rolled her eyes as Sable examined her roommate.
“Why? What is she?” the gargoyle asked.
“Rare. Like, legendary rare,” Shay said.
Acacia giggled and said, “Oh, come on, Shay. You don’t think she’s-. Hm… How tall are you, Kallima?”
“Kali is fine, really. I’m 172 centimeters high.”
“I’m sorry, ‘cendy-meders?’”
“Centi- oh, for Pete’s sake,” Kallima sighed.
To illustrate, she stood up. The dryad’s jaw dropped as she and the two others at their table stared at Kallima. Her face and neck got hot, and she sat down again.
“I know. I’m tall. Even Mum said I was too tall.”
“I’ll say. You must be, like, five-and-a-half feet tall!” Acacia said.
“And I’d bet three gold she’ll hit six in the next two years,” Shay added. “Thoughts?”
“I dunno. Where did you ever see-? Oh, right,” Acacia breathed. “Even from a distance, you would have gotten a good read on his aura. Does it match?”
“Almost perfectly. She’s a dream fae.”
“I’m sorry, a what?” Kallima asked, laughing as Sable dropped her spoon.
“They are exceedingly rare,” Acacia said lowly.
Shay nodded, adding “There are probably about ten dream fae, total, in the world. They’re powerful, unpredictable, and, to be perfectly blunt, dangerous.”
“How dangerous can dreams be?” Kallima said with a roll of her eyes.
The three people sitting with Kallima stared at her in amazement that the words had even left her mouth. Then Shay started laughing.
“‘How dangerous can dreams be?’ Did you really just say that?”
“You really don’t have a clue, do you?”
“Don’t mock me.”
“I mean, I get that you grew up in the Mortal Realm, but didn’t Satu tell you anything?”
“Shay, I’m warning you!”
“Did she not trust you or something? Had she been drinking when sh-?”
Kallima rose and punched Shay out of his seat. As he crumpled to the floor, everyone still in the dining hall turned to them, including several that peaked over the railing of a miniaturized hall that overlooked the main room. The redhead sat on Shay’s chest and raised her fist again. The boy yelped and covered his face.
“I’m s-sorry! I’m sorry, I didn’t- didn’t m-mean to suggest that- that-.”
“That my mum was a drunk?”
“No, no, no! I wasn’t s-s-saying that at all! I j-just…”
Kallima felt a hand on her shoulder as Sable pulled her off the stuttering teen.
“Don’t hurt him,” her little voice peeped. “Come on, like, I’m done eating anyway.”
Kallima allowed Sable to drag her out of the hall, whispers following the tall redhead like a ghost.
“Was that Orion?”
“She slugged him! Just like that!”
“Is that a freshman? If she’s in gym with the Nobles…”
“She’s gonna get expelled.”
“Expelled? She won’t survive the semester!”
Kallima caught the amused eye of the sylph she had been observing earlier. He winked at her, and she blushed vividly before escaping with Sable.
“Why did you do that?” Sable asked.
“He called Mum an squiffy twit,” Kallima hissed. “I heard that enough at my last school. I don’t want to hear it from the people here, too.”
“He called her what?”
“A drunk, Sable! You heard him, didn’t you?”
“I heard him ask if she were drinking, but I don’t think…”
“He insulted her,” Kallima said. “He can’t talk about her like that.”
“If you say so.”
They walked back to their room in silence. Jasmine was already back in the room when they entered. The skinny werewolf was struggling to pull something from her suitcase. Her head jerked up to Kallima at the sound of the door.
“Gimme a hand here, Red.”
“Sorry. My whole table was calling you ‘Red.’ Kind of stuck with me.”
Kallima groaned and looked over Jasmine’s shoulder. She paled at the object that Jasmine was trying to remove.
“Wow, that’s, like, really wedged in, huh?” Sable said, leaning over the suitcase.
“Yeah, I can’t get it out.”
“Why do you have an ax?” Kallima screeched.
“For gym class.”
“How do you expect us to, like, get through Labyrinth without weapons?” Sable asked.
Kallima stared woozily at the two girls as they attempted to remove the heavy item from the case. In seeing that shining metal, everything seemed to sink in.
She was going to school with giants and ogres. With brownies and pixies. With a werewolf armed with a good-sized ax.