Waking up alone and preparing for class on the same day felt foreign to Kallima. The night of her roommate’s breakdown, she had made Sable’s bed, save for one pillow with no cover on it, and placed her beacon gently on top. The next morning, an imp knocked at her door and presented a letter just before she headed to breakfast. As she walked, she read the note explaining that Sable would not be returning to class until after break. Gavin, blaming the school for her attempted suicide, had arrived at sunrise to whisk the child away for “time off.” Then, just before Introduction to Shadow Magic, Mina stopped her from entering the classroom and escorted her, instead, to Intermediate Spirit Magic, apologizing that they could not move things around to put her in an introductory class. The new professor, Mr. Jerome, introduced her briefly to the sophomores and juniors, encouraging them to show her patience and support. He then asked her to stay after for additional instruction, which she quickly gathered to be exercises designed to catch her up to her new classmates.
And with Amelia’s constant insistence that a presence had latched onto Kallima, Acacia and Shay’s strange behavior, Ignatius’ unwavering distance, and Mateja’s incessant complaining, the redhead barely had the energy to focus on her homework.
On the other hand, Jerome was a very caring educator. The Friday before break, he offered her tea, which she eagerly accepted to avoid her art class. So she sat next to his desk as he heated a pot of tea over a bright white flame in a jar. He smiled from behind thick glasses as the pot began a low whistle and ran his fingers through his tousled, dark hair flecked with grey. His voice reminded Kallima of a Scottish neighbor of Havard’s.
“Now, my dear,” he said, pouring water over Kallima’s tea leaves, “I know you understand the basics. Emotional capacity, visualization, projection… Have you made portals?”
“Yes, sir, I have. I’ve even gone back ho- to the Mortal Realm a few times on my own.”
“Mm. Much more comfortable than the fairy circles, I’d wager?”
Kallima gaped and said, “W- why, yes. The fairy circles make me ill, actually.”
“I expected as much! Gets worse every time, doesn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Kallima admitted, “but it’s certainly not getting better.”
“Ah, they said you were a strong one. I had no idea…”
Jerome pushed his glasses up with a smirk and stirred his tea again.
“There are layers, my dear, and the Mortal Realm is on one end of the spectrum. Every fae has access to some of them: the Mortal Realm and the Fairy Realm are the big ones. Also the Demon Realm, the Shadow Realm, the Dream Realm, Veil, and Underveil-.”
“What are those?”
“Veil is- how to explain? Ah. You understand souls, correct?”
“Yes, of course. Even in the Mortal Realm, soul is what gives personality. Without souls, people would be like automatons or golems.”
“Exactly! What do mortals believe happens when they die?” Jerome asked.
“It… varies. But, for the most part, they think they go to heaven or hell. Some think they are restored to life in a new body.”
“Interesting. Anyway, in reality, or at least in our reality, death splits the soul from the body. The body stays behind, but the soul, now free from its solid shell, leaves this realm and moves to the Veil. That is where they stay.”
Jerome paused to sip his tea, then continued, “Sometimes, souls get trapped between the Fairy Realm and the Veil. They remain bound by family, promises, regrets. This ‘in-betweenish’ space is the Underveil.”
“So… ghosts exist in the Underveil, and when they, er, move on? They go to the Veil?”
“Precisely. You’re a fast learner, Kallima.”
Kallima sighed, “But what about fairy circles? Why do they bother me?”
“Ah. It’s not a straight shot, see? You don’t simply go from this one to that one. You pass through all the layers. Most fae don’t even feel it. But you? Dream fae? They are hyper sensitive to the passing of worlds around them. Most fae blink, and it’s over. You probably feel trapped inside for much longer than that.”
“Like a full minute.”
“Oof. I couldn’t imagine.”
“Is that why I get ill when I travel through the fairy circles?”
“Yes. But portaling, redirecting doors, makes an immediate path. You don’t have to flip through the entire multiverse like some sort of picture book to find the page you’re looking for.”
“Beg your pardon?”
Kallima laughed and explained, “Like when you travel too fast and the way is rocky, you get bounced around. It makes you ill.”
“Ah, yes! I’ve always heard that called the galloping greens, but motion sickness… yes, that could apply to the sea greens, too, with the way the boat rocks.”
“Yes, I’ve heard sea-sickness called motion sickness before,” Kallima said, slightly befuddled by the sudden change in topic. “But what you’re saying is that I get the ‘galloping greens’ or motion sickness, or what-have-you, when I use the fairy circles? Is that it?”
“That’s it,” Jerome nodded.
“Well, isn’t that a fine slap in the face? I get to go back through them again tonight.”
“Oh, no, not at all. See, what with everyone knowing, you’re free to take yourself to and from the Mortal Realm at your own pleasure, provided someone knows where you’re going,” the educator told Kallima. “That last bit was Mina’s insistence. Considers you ‘precious cargo,’ so to speak, being her friend’s daughter and all.”
“I get to do it myself? Make a portal and go home that way?”
“Well, of course! Who’s going to stop you? You have a great deal of energy coming off of you, my dear, and I would wager, if you would forgive my gambling, that you stand to become the strongest dream fae in Evendial once you find your cap. Oh,” Jerome stuttered, “you- you probably have no i- idea, do you? About tarnkappen?”
“I’m familiar. Ignatius was really a better tutor than he lets on, and he researched everything he could about dream fae for me.”
“Really? Where does he find the time? He’s a good kid, but something’s…”
“Yes. Exactly. Something is off about him.”
“I can’t find his dreams.”
Jerome blinked rapidly in surprise and set down his empty cup.
“Is that so?”
“Mm. I’ve catalogued everyone I know and a few I don’t. All the freshmen. I added the fae in your class. Ophelia and her children. I can’t see into Sable’s anymore, she’s been gone so long. But I can’t find Iggy anywhere. It’s as if… as if he doesn’t sleep.”
“That is… Are you sure you aren’t mistaking his dreams for another’s? People often wish they could be someone else.”
“No. Someone tried to do that to me once. They turned out… grainy.”
“I’m not familiar-.”
“Like they were surrounded by a mist.”
“Ah. Yes, that would make it difficult to trick you. Hm… Is there-? Is there any chance that he is someone else hiding as Ignatius?”
“No. Blaze said it’s too hard,” Kallima shrugged.
“Who is Blaze?”
“He- er, I met him in Greston. He lives there. I visit him in his dreams.”
“This is an… older? Gentleman?”
“Not by much!”
“Kallima, until you are an adult, no one older than 18 may touch you without Havard’s permission. Even then, you are only fifteen. I’m not familiar with the students here yet, but I take it Blaze has already graduated?”
“He grew up elsewhere… and moved here.”
“Is he an adult?”
“Kallima, if he is 18, or older, and he makes advances on you, he can be imprisoned forever. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir,” Kallima said, trying hard not to laugh.
If someone saw Blaze, Kallima chuckled inside, he would be killed simply for not being dead already. Mr. Jerome, though, narrowed his eyes at the child.
“Good. That said… I have lived in Greston my entire life, and I know of no one named Blaze.”
“He… might live a little ways out of town.”
“Mr. Jerome. It’s not like that. Ignatius taught me the laws. ‘Physical relationships with a minor sixteen or older without the express parental consent is prohibited. Physical relationships with a minor under the age of sixteen are punishable by twenty to fifty years in prison.’ I know,” Kallima said. “But, Mr. Jerome, are there any sorts of fae that don’t sleep?”
Jerome hummed in thought then said, “Some fae trance, rather than sleep, but that would still induce a dream-like state. There are relics and tonics that can hide an entire dreamscape, but I’m not sure how Lindon would have gotten one or why he would hide from you. The Noble twins, though, I would understand hiding.”
“Their orbs have gotten dark all of the sudden…” Jerome tipped his head, and she elaborated, “I keep the dreamscapes I collect in little balls and organize them on shelves. I used to send Mary and Reggie nightmares. I’ve stopped now, and their orbs have turned black. Do you think that’s because they’re using a potion?”
“A talisman is far more likely. It offers greater protection and never wears out. And they can afford them”
Kallima sighed and finished her tea. Jerome pressed a finger to his chin.
“Something else bothers you?” he asked.
“Reginald should be a dream fae,” Kallima recalled.
“Really? Should he? I’m surprised nobody’s told you, my dear,” Jerome chuckled, “but dream fae rarely follow bloodlines like other fae.”
“Mm-hm, it’s true! King Titanus is a dream fae like his mother, but his brother and sister are nature fae, courtesy of their half-dryad father. Queen Jemsa is… I’m not actually certain. Possibly an aqualid half-breed. She has this aura about her. But we’re talking about dream fae. None of Titanus’ children, though, are dream fae. They really do just appear as they wish. The Late Queen Isida was the first dream fae in five generations, actually.”
“My father, then…,” Kallima stammered, “he’s probably… not a dream fae?”
“It’s possible that he is, actually. But it is just as likely that he is a giant, a shadow fae, a gorgon, even. Satu had plenty access to several dream fae, as the king’s personal attendant. She met dignitaries with him, attended council… I once heard a tale that she actually won her job in a game of chess with him. Not that I believe it. No one has ever beaten King Titanus at chess.”
Kallima groaned, head swimming.
“You’re telling me that- that I will never find him. I look identical to Mum save for the features that mark me a dream fae.”
“Unfortunately. It’s quite a dilemma.”
“He could be anyone, and the twins want to kill me regardless. Why?”
“Power, my dear. What will your power be when you have your cap? Multiply what you have now by ten. What will you be able to do?”
Kallima shivered, unable to fathom what more she could possibly do. Luckily for her, Jerome had an extensive list ready.
“Creating doors and modifying dreams is just the beginning. Your tarnkappe will give you the power to glimmer-.”
“It’s an illusion, not as powerful as glamour, for altering your appearance. Great for keeping a low profile in the Mortal Realm and other worlds, and there are so many of them beyond what most fae know, so many dreams, stories, musings, and you could have access to all of them. The ability to lull targets to sleep and read their fears. Manipulation of the dreamscape, pulling one world into another, modifying, fabricating, altering reality itself could come as naturally to you as breathing.”
“What about time?” Kallima asked.
“I’m sorry? Time?”
“Yes, I read that time in dreams can be stretched or condensed. Is the same true in other realms?”
Jerome nodded slowly and said, “There are legends, yes. Some cultures believe that a dream fae actually created the different realms to protect mortals and fae alike. Some scholars say that the histories have mentioned one fae in specifically dating as far back as the 1300s and stretching into the 1950s, suggesting such an ability to be possible, but I don’t see the practicality in it. That sort of fiddling with time, it’s not natural, is it? Even by fae standards. How do you reconcile the cause and effect of it all? It would all just turn to a mushy ball of timey wimey goo.”
“Quite. Even if you could alter time, could you really alter time? Say you were to go back, oh, fifteen, sixteen years and prevent yourself from being born. How do you resolve the paradox?”
“Well, let’s not say something so extreme, then,” Kallima suggested. “Let’s say that one went back and, instead of destroying something, saved something.”
“Oh, my dear, don’t toy with the idea! Satu was an amazing woman, yes, and we all miss her dearly, none so much as you. But you must understand, it’s in the past! Trying to go back will burn your energy out completely, Kallima, I’m sure of it. I understand the pain, honestly, but you will destroy yourself trying to bring her back. Listen, my dear, you are physically and magically powerful. But you are also mentally, emotionally strong and steadfast. You have lost your family, been forced into a world that you could never have imagined, learned a whole new method of thought and law in a few short months, nearly raped by someone you trusted, attacked by tatzelwurms, and saved your roommate’s life. Tell me how someone who’s lived a perfectly happy life would handle so much.”
“I- I don’t- Say would be dead,” Kallima said, wiping her tearing eyes. “She was acting Feverish, but she’s here. She’s not in the Mortal Realm. If- If I’d never seen Mum like that… I might not have thought anything was wrong. Beyond normal sadness or tiredness. But- why was she acting like that?”
“That sound like a question for Anna. Or, perhaps, Sable, when she returns. Did you have any questions about class? Anything I could help you understand?”
“I don- Actually, yes, I do. Emotional capacity is the amount of emotion you put into a spell or power before it no longer works.”
“In the form of a question, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh. Er, that is right, isn’t it?”
Jerome smiled and said, “Yes, that’s correct.”
“What’s emotional resonance, then?”
“Ah, I glossed right over that bit, didn’t I? When you make doors, wh- the first door you made. Do you remember it?”
“What were you feeling?”
“No, no, no,” the teacher laughed, “I mean- Wait. Okay, hungry. Where did the door take you?”
“I was hungry?”
“I wanted food?”
“Yes. Want. You desired something, and, when your emotional and magical energies touched the door, it redirected to the location that would satisfy that desire. Try making a door feeling angry or afraid. Consider it your homework over break. Write a paper for the seventh detailing the experiment. The different emotions, the different results. Do not try to go back in time. I cannot stress enough how dangerous that would be.”
“Oh, sure. You have my word,” Kallima nodded, crossing her fingers under the table.
“Dear me, I’ve kept you late. Enjoy your break, Kallima.”
“Thank you, Mr. Jerome. You as well.”