Kallima's eyes fluttered open drowsily as gentle fingers ran across her temple and Havard whispered to her.
“Wake up, Princess. Time to go.”
The fire-haired teen stretched and yawned as she pushed herself up in her bed, her ankle brushing softly against warm glass as she did. She sat up rubbing her eyes.
“Are my things in the motor-car?” she asked.
“Jack and I finished loading it last night. You were quite tired,” Havard said. “Get dressed, Kali. Eve is making us pancakes.”
Kallima groaned as she picked up the jar at her feet. The blue flame within rested wearily in one corner. It flickered lowly when the teenager tapped the glass with a scowl.
“All right. I have to get this in the car without her seeing anyhow,” she said. “Poor little fellow. He's so sick.”
Havard narrowed his eyes at the strange light, asking, “Are you sure it's alive? I know you think it is, but-”
“He might not eat or drink or sleep, Da,” Kallima grinned, “but he's got personality, and that's good enough for me.”
Havard stroked Kallima's slowly lengthening hair again, kissed her forehead, and held out his hands. Kallima pulled a case off one pillow and wrapped the jar in it. Then she passed the jar to the greying man.
“Be quick, Princess,” he reminded her. “We need to be there at sunrise.”
The man left the room, and Kallima's grin vanished into a groan of exhaustion as she fell back into her bedding.
Though the fire in the jar; a fetch light, her friends called it; had helped, Kallima felt no better at the end of winter break than she had after Hallowtide break, and she was eager to be back in her own world. Not that anyone would know by looking at her. For one, she appeared both physically and emotionally drained. For another, she looked human enough and had even been raised as one, right up until she found herself enrolled in boarding school.
But she was most certainly not human.
In fact, Kallima was, quite possibly, the farthest thing from a human ever to exist in the Mortal Realm without attracting any attention. Havard called her an alp. The rest of the block had taken to calling her the neighborhood's “Nightmare,” not that they knew it was her. In the Fairy Realm, however, she was known by a small group as a dream fae, a dangerous creature able to redirect doors with a touch, invade the dreams of others, and blur the lines between illusion and reality. The news that Kallima was not only a fae but also one of the rarest and most powerful breeds still rattled her brain. What hurt, though, was the discovery that she possessed no human genes whatsoever, that Havard was not her real father.
So, when Kallima sat at the island counter to eat, Evelyn shook her brown curls at her in disbelief.
“I don't understand 'ow,” she said, “ya can come 'ome from school on break an' leave wiv less energy dan ya came wiv.”
Kallima faked a smile and replied, “Maybe you don't need to understand, Evelyn.”
The caramel woman sighed and waved Kallima to eat. The redhead's chest tightened as the thin cakes became ash in her mouth and rock in her stomach. The world was rejecting her in much the same way a body fights off a parasite. Still, she choked down most of the familiar food in an attempt not to insult Havard's fiancé.
“Kali, Havard wan'ed me ter talk ter ya,” Evelyn began, drumming her fingers. “Ah know we ain't gotten along too well, but-”
“You're not Mum,” Kallima said flatly. The older woman bit her lip as Kallima sighed and continued, “It's not your fault. You and Da are a great match. I'm the one-off.”
“We want to move the wedding up,” Havard's voice called behind the teen.
Kallima turned in shock to her adopted father as he leaned hesitantly in the doorway.
“February fo'th,” Evelyn said.
“What? Why so soon?”
“Because fittings get hard in the second trimester,” Havard told the girl.
Kallima growled and flung herself across the counter, then, remembering seeing her mother once do the same thing, straightened up again.
“So what? You want me come? You want my blessing?” she said.
“We want ya ter be a part ov it,” Evelyn whimpered. “The wedding, da basin. I don' wan' i' ter be scared ov ya, dovey.”
Kallima scoffed and pushed her way out of the room, pulling a coat on roughly as she did. The car outside already rumbled with a false life that made the teen shiver. She breathed on her hands to warm them and clambered into the passenger seat, lifting the pillowcase with her fetch light from the cushion as she did. After a moment, Havard opened and closed his own door, switched on the headlights, and eased the car down the street.
“You're mad,” he said when they reached the edge of the suburb.
Kallima rolled her eyes, saying, “Yes, Da. I'm mad.”
“Because of the baby?”
“Because you sprang this on me! You had me right blinkered, Da.”
“I wanted Eve to tell you, but she kept dodging. I wanted her to tell you New Years.”
“Bloody Hell, Da, why do you keep doing this to me? When I left it was just us! Then I came home, and you had a fiancé? I leave again and come back to a- a family that isn't mine anymore-”
“I'll get back in March and you'll be married. I'll get back in May and you'll be getting ready for a baby! Christ, Da, maybe I should stay in Evendial!”
“That is enough!”
Kallima flinched at the harshness of Havard's tone. She pulled the tiny blue light to her stomach and let it warm her through her coat. Havard sighed.
“Listen, Kali,” he said. “I know that's the Fever talking. We all know that she's not going to replace Satu. She won't even try. But I still raised you. I still care about you. I'm still your father, aren't I?”
Kallima nodded with a whisper, “Yes.”
“I am happy with Eve, and I am going to have a child that is mine in more than just my heart soon. But it is not going to replace you.”
“What about Jack and Evan? Do they know, or are you waiting for them to start class, too?” Kallima asked.
“Jack knows,” Havard admitted. “Evan... Evan's still a baby himself. We want to wait until after the wedding to tell him.”
“When is she due?”
Kallima stared out the window as the woods rolled into view. Her stomach knotted in anticipation at the smell of spruce. A soft “oi” drew her attention back to Havard.
“Will you try to see if you can come home for the wedding?” he asked.
“Yes, Da,” Kallima grinned, more at soft pink of the horizon than the man next to her. “I'll talk to Headmaster Locke.”
“Good. Oh, no,” the aging sighed, stopping the car.
Kallima slid out quickly and laughed at the sharp-faced woman in thick furs standing at the edge of the forest. Havard waved to the pale figure as it stalked towards them, pulling a wooden sled behind her.
“Greetings, Porter. But my name,” the elf corrected, “is Mina.”
“When you use the one I like, I'll use the one you like,” the grey human said. “What are you doing here?”
Mina scoffed in insult, “I am here to take the child to her home world. What are you doing here?”
At that, Havard clenched his jaw, either unsure of what to say or offended. Mina smiled sweetly to Kallima, though, and began cooing over the girl's red hair.
“It's grown a good inch, hasn't it?” Kallima said.
“It's finally starting to look like girl's hair,” Mina agreed. “Ah, I'm supposed to let you know that Jasmine Colson's parents asked that she be... assigned to a different room. You and Miss de'Parsia have it to yourselves now.”
“What? Why?” Kallima asked, hugging her fetch light tightly.
“Mr. Colson believes 'she would be safer spending her time with a different crowd.' Which I understand to mean he thinks you're both dangerous and a bad influence.”
“Yes, of course,” the fiery-haired girl said. “I was asking for it, after all, with the way I dressed.”
Kallima waved a hand, “No, no. It's all right. Jazz wasn't really close to me, not like Sable is. No worries.”
Mina sighed, straightened herself, and cleared her throat.
“Gabriel Tucker no longer attends Iolanthe School of Fae. He has been relocated to another district,” she said.
“Good,” Kallima responded. “The less I need to think about Gabe Fucker, the better.”
The elf stifled a laugh and nodded shortly. Havard, however wagged a finger.
“Watch that mouth of yours, Princess.”
“Yes, Da,” Kallima lied.
He mussed the girl's hair and said softly, “Have fun at school, Kali.”
“I will. See you, er-”
“March twenty-fifth,” Mina told her.
“March twenty-fifth, then!” Kallima repeated.
Havard's face fell as he agreed to the date. Kallima, purposely ignoring the tone, traipsed after the elf. After a short walk, Mina stopped the girl and pointed to a spot where footprints appeared from nowhere. The snow in that patch seemed lower than that around it. Kallima, equally giddy and tired, jumped into the invisible ring. Mina laughed as she joined the teenager, making sure the sled with all of Kallima's boxes was fully inside. A red glow reached the horizon as the first light of the sun fell on the clearing.
“Just in time,” Mina said as an auroral glow shot up around them.
Kallima gripped one of her boxes tightly as the world around them spun wildly. She glanced up at Mina, who had shut her eyes against the onslaught. Kallima mimicked her as well as she could until a lurch in her gut brought her to her knees and she groaned.
“You seem overly effected by this process, Miss Satudotter,” Mina pointed out.
“Maybe 'cause I'm only half-fae?” Kallima said, knowing that it was untrue.
Mina pursed her lips and started towards the castle on the peninsula. Kallima struggled to her feet and chased after her.
“You know,” the teen asked. “You know I'm not, don't you?”
Mina stammered, “I... I promised not to speak.”
“To anyone. She wouldn't say why, but she was terrified of anyone knowing about you. She made me swear to never say a word.”
“That she was pregnant?”
“Did you swear on your life?”
Another nod. Kallima's voice caught in her throat.
“Did- did she say... who m-my father was?” she asked.
Mina shook her head, “That is information she would not share. Only a handful of fae knew about you. Me, Micah, Jun, Matthias, and... She wouldn't tell us.”
The elf whistled loudly, and a small flock of imps arrived quickly. They grabbed the boxes on the sled and took off again before either could speak. Mina put a hand on Kallima's shoulder and leaned into her ear.
“I have my suspicions,” she admitted to the teenager, “and they bode ill for you. If you are who I think you are, then last semester could have been far, far worse than it was. Especially after your little incident with the Nobles.”
Kallima shivered as Mina abandoned her in the courtyard. She wiped away the moisture on her cheeks, silently praying that it was snow, as she took in the school all over again.
Save for the thin layer of snow on the lawn, nothing about the re-purposed castle had changed. The thin, birch gazebo still held its ground against a seemingly impossible amount of snow in addition to the dense brass bell that she and her peers answered to each day. A path had been shoveled through the yard, splitting in half near the gazebo. Kallima sighed and followed the left fork to the dining hall, clutching the newly-energized light to her chest. She sighed relief as a happy, green twinge returned to it. Inside, a familiar, blue-haired man laughed at a much less familiar, fox-like being.
“You're kidding?” the elf, Micah, chuckled. “She really didn't believe you?”
“It's not funny, Micah,” the fox said. “I had to show her the picture to get her to back off.”
“What, the wedding picture?”
“Student,” the fox observed, turning away.
“There are no stud- Oh! Hey, Kallima!” Micah called as he turned. “Were you hungry this time?”
“Famished,” the teen said.
Micah chuckled and rubbed his chin.
“Eggs on toast?”
Kallima nodded, and Micah vanished into the adjacent kitchen. The redhead eased into her favorite corner seat, set her fetch light on the table, and stared across the room at the humanoid still present.
His orange hair fluffed around his head like a short mane, and two orange fox ears poked straight up from it. A matching tail appeared from under his long shirt, the tip a snowy white brushing the floor as though painting it. Kallima was so intrigued by the being that she did not realize that he stared at her until his yellow-green eyes met her grey ones. Then she turned away quickly.
“Satudotter, right?” the creature asked.
Kallima said, “Y-yes. I'm.. I'm from the-”
“Mortal Realm. I know. Those from the Fairy Realm rarely stare at a common thing like me.”
“What are you?”
“A kitzun. Well, not so common in these parts, but still. Not the strangest thing in this area,” the orange being informed her. “Micah used to have a crush-”
“On Mum. Everyone did,” Kallima said.
“Yep. Nearly converted him,” the fox said with a smirk. “So. What are you taking this term?”
“Er, I have gymnasium, alchemy, composition, Basic Shadow Magic, anatomy, trigonometry, and... Art Appreciation.”
“Ugh. Drop anatomy. You should take cryptoscience,” the kitzun said. “Ophelia won't shut up about you. And you could learn more about that egg.”
Kallima knit her brow in confusion and asked, “Learn about the-? Oh, the phoenix egg? Who-”
“Ophelia. The sphinx.”
Kallima chuckled, scolding herself for not realizing that the feline had a name.
“Oh, she would blab on me.”
“You'd do pretty well, I'd bet. She went on and on about how no one ever bothered to ask about her kits before. And no one's ever gotten an egg away from Ruby.”
Kallima shrugged. The kitzun smirked at her.
“Take Basic Cryptoscience. You're sure to pass,” he said.
“Trying to get more students in your class, dear?”
Micah chuckled from the doorway, a plate of hot food in his hand as the orange man crossed his arms.
“Just Satudotter. Ophelia's gushing over her.”
“There you are,” Micah said, setting the plate before Kallima. “Don't let Jun bug you. He can be pretty assertive.”
“I'm not being assertive! I'm just offering some advice,” the kitzun said, throwing out his arms.
“Welcome back to school, Kallima. We'll let you eat now,” Micah laughed and shook his head.
He retreated to Jun's side and pulled the kitzun up by the elbow. Kallima chuckled as the two men left the room.
“I wasn't bothering her!”
“You're bothering me.”
“I'm just saying that animals are a lot more interesting than other fae!”
Kallima smirked in silent agreement as she ate.