"Alright, class," Jun said, tying up his long, orange hair. "Who can tell me what this one is?"
Kallima stared at the brown dog's two growling heads. His four eyes darted viciously across the students huddled just outside of his cage as his shackles rose, and the faint aroma of steak oozed from his large body. Shay edged closer to Kallima and lifted a tentative hand.
"Is it... Duorcanus Lupine?" he stammered.
"Very good! And the common name would be...?"
"Dicanine?" a skinny gorgon asked, adjusting her dark glasses.
"That's right, Mehera," Jun said. "Dicanine, or Duorcanus Lupine, is a two-headed dog. See how sharp his teeth are? They'll take a chunk out of your leg in one bite."
"Carnivorous?" a pudgy sprite asked.
"Mostly, but they do eat some greens for digestion. Who wants to step inside?"
The dozen people around Kallima shook their heads silently and adamantly. Kallima shrugged.
"I will," she said.
Jun grinned and asked, "Are you sure? They can smell fear."
Kallima tucked her notebook into her bag and shook her head.
"So can I," she whispered. "I'll be fine."
She stepped closer to the cage and waved Jun off, taking a large meatball from him.
"What's his name?" she asked.
"Ha! Leave it to you, Satudotter," Jun chuckled. "This big boy is Shepard, and the left head is Jack."
"Different personalities?" she asked, twisting the hamburger ball in half.
"Can't get anything past you, can I?"
Shepard continued growling as Jack began inhaling the air around Kallima. The teen lowered one handful of meat, slipping it under the bars for the slightly smaller head to devour. Kallima giggled as his tongue lapped at the grease spots on her palm. His twin head suddenly realized that Jack was occupied and barked in want at the left head. Kallima passed her other hand in to give Shepard some meat as well, and Jun unlocked and opened the door. Jack whimpered until Shepard finished his treat.
"Shep! Jack!" Jun called with a whistle. "Play!"
The dual-headed dog perked at the command, then bounded out of the cage and tackled the redheaded student. The brothers licked her face and wagged their tail. Kallima scratched the ears on both as Jun continued his lecture.
"Dicanine are defensive and violent," he said, "but they're also loyal, playful, and kind, as Kallima is now demonstrating for you. They make great sheep, hunting, and rescue dogs. Having two sets of eyes and noses increases the amount of area they can cover in the same time frame as a 'regular' dog, and that’s why they are still breed. Like any other dog..."
As time went on, students began approaching the strange pup and bombarding him with their affections. Kallima did not object, as it allowed her to escape from under the animal to copy Shay's notes while he stroked its back. Jun shooed his pupils back after a while to preach about the importance of grooming and exercise for the canine. Then he dismissed the class. Shay and Kallima waited as the teacher ushered the dog back into his cage.
"Did you need something, Kali?"
"No, but Shay had a question for you," she told Jun.
Jun smiled at Shay, who shifted on his toes.
"Have, uh...," he asked, "have the other eggs hatched yet?"
"Ah! Not yet. They can incubate up to a year and almost never hatch at the same time. I'll let you know when the first one shows up so you can keep an eye out. You're keeping it hot, right?"
"Hot enough, I hope. It's on a bed of coal and ash."
"Steam it once a week, too. Her feathers will be shinier when she hatches," Jun said. "You're lucky, Shay. Phoenixes are great guardians."
"Guardian?" Shay gasped.
"They always imprint on their nest mother when they hatch. As long as you're present for the hatching, it'll imprint on you instead. Don't you two have class?"
"Oh, shit!" Shay said, grabbing Kallima's hand and pulling her out of the animal room, leaving Jun laughing at them.
"Nice dog, right?" Kallima said.
"Yeah, sure. Nice."
"Are you all right, Shay?"
"I just- I know how guardians work and all but- I don't know. It suddenly feels weird. I have to hide him from Dad as it is."
"I understand," Kallima said. "Still, I feel safer with Blaze."
"Blaze… Blaze is the dragon?"
"Oh, er... Yes. You're missing the point. It's a big responsibility, but it's worth it."
Shay shrugged and said, "Your face. You look- You like him."
"You smile when you talk about him."
"'So what?' Kali, he's a dragon. And you're- It's not even possible!"
"I do not," Kallima said and rolled her eyes, "like him! He's my guardian. Maybe even my friend. But that's it. I mean, I've never even seen his human form."
"What human form?" Shay asked.
"He said that he can take a human form, but it's hard to hold, or something. I'll ask him about it next time I see him."
"That's weird. I didn't know that was a thing."
"Have fun in history," Kallima deflected.
Shay replied, "Have fun in Art."
Shay left Kallima standing in the middle of the hall as the bell rang to start the next class. They were late. The fiery-haired girl sighed and rubbed her neck, contemplating. She could go to art class. Then again, she could skip it, considering she had no input on the music of Evendial outside of it needing more diversity. Besides, she was intrigued by a thought that Blaze had stuck in her head, and none of her teachers could help her without discovering what she was. Resolved, she hid herself away in one of the private study rooms of the library.
"So," she told herself, digging out her book on subconscious energy, "Blaze thinks I could make portals to other worlds, does he?"
She opened Subconscious Energy and How to Harness It to the section on dream fae, found a paragraph on inter-dimensional travel, and cracked her knuckles.
"Alright, then. Let's try it out."
Kallima pressed both hands to the wooden door and concentrated on her childhood home. Her heart called out for the bedroom she had lived in since she was born. A fire rose in her blood and neck as she ground her teeth, the effort of making a dimensional rift quickly exhausting her. When she could endure no more her arms fell to her sides, limp, as she collapsed. She pressed her cheek to the door and waited for her breathing to return to normal. Then, staying down on her knees, she cracked the door open ever so slightly and peeked out.
Kallima gasped at the familiar voice and crawled out of the room.
Though the room was hers, she barely recognized it. A cradle stood where her bed should have been, the yellow paint smelled fresh, and a woman rose from the rocking chair in the corner.
A woman that Kallima thought was dead.
"Who are you?" she asked, clutching a bundle to her chest.
"Mum?" Kallima breathed, unable to stop blinking tears from her eyes.
The redheaded woman gaped at Kallima, then at the mass in her arms and back to Kallima. Her own grey eyes flooded as she watched Kallima stand up.
"Oh, my stars... Is it really... Kallima?" Satu asked, reaching out.
"It's me, Mum. I thought you-!"
"Don't! Don't tell me," the young woman said. "I don't want to know what happens to me, Princess."
"What do you-?"
A soft whimper escaped the tiny bundle Satu clutched. The woman bounced the infant gently and shushed it.
"It's okay, Princess. Mommy has you. You're safe here. You're safe..."
She sat in the rocking chair again and pulled the blankets back just a touch to let the intruder see the baby more clearly. Kallima covered her mouth. The fat-faced child wiggled deeper into its covers as though attempting to hide its close, red eyebrows.
"Is that... me?" Kallima asked.
Satu nodded and said, "She- you just came home today. Now here you are. All grown up. It's... how is it?"
Kallima lowered herself to the floor with a sigh, unable to take her eyes off of herself.
"School sucks. I wish you'd told me what I was. I didn't get to prepare for it at all. Da didn't tell me shit-."
"Language," Satu warned, covering the infant's ears. "I was going to tell you when you were sixteen. Not early enough?"
"Not nearly, Mum."
"Fine. You can know when you're fourteen."
"Hush, Princess. You'll wake the baby," Satu said. "How, ah, how much do you know, exactly, Kallima?"
"Well, I'm a dream fae, obviously," Kallima chuckled weakly. "I know that Havard's not my real father, but no one will tell me who it is, Mum. Is he a dream fae, too?"
"Kall... I can't... -ow sor… Your fa… to stay sec... -om you."
The images around Kallima shimmered and glitched like static as the noises cut in and out. She reached out for her mother with a cry.
But her hand met only air, and, in the next second, her face met the floor.
The world around her roared and trembled as she regained her faculties. A thick blanket had been draped over her, making her arm heavy as she raised it to her eyes with a yawn.
"Good morning, Princess."
Kallima bolted up and looked around. The speaker, Havard, drove the car through the darkness along a familiar route.
"Whadappen?" Kallima slurred.
"Not sure, actually. Jack called me at work, wanted to know if you were on break. Said you were on your bedroom floor, out cold," Havard said. "Good thing we leave that door cracked, hm?"
"Ye- yeah. What's the date?"
"'What year?' Kali, it's 1995. Are you alright?"
Kallima leaned drowsily against the car's window and said, "Last night... I tried to make a door from the Fairy Realm to the Mortal Realm. I did it, but it was 1980. You and Mum had just brought me home."
"That was... fifteen years ago. To the day, Kali."
"But I was only there for a moment. Then everything faded, and I blacked out."
Havard parked and shook his head.
"I thought she was using her magic, but it was yours, wasn't it?" he asked. "You were truly there?"
"As opposed to..."
"A vision. Satu said that, sometimes, magic could be used to look into the future and past, but it didn't allow the sort of interaction that she had. I didn't believe her then."
"Da, did... Did I time travel?"
"She decided to send you back to the Fairy Realm when you were fourteen. She wasn't planning to let you go so soon, but you said something that worried her."
"I did, didn't I?"
"You did. But now you have to go back."
Kallima groaned and opened her door. Havard followed her and kissed her forehead. The redheaded fae hugged him back, making the human stiff. He slowly melted into the embrace with a chuckle.
"I love you, Da."
"I... love you, too, Princess," Havard said. "Does, er, does this mean you'll come to the wedding?"
Kallima nodded and said, "I didn't appreciate the time I had with Mum, and now it's gone. I don't want to do that to you. An- and I don't like Evelyn, but you love her. That'll have to do."
"You have no idea what that means to me, Kali. Now, run along, or your friends will wonder where you went."
Squeezing the man one last time, Kallima traipsed off into the thin woods, barely reaching the fairy circle before the sunlight hit it and whisked her away to another world in its brilliant aurora.