Shouts echoed through the building before the sun had a chance to grace the sky that Saturday.
Kallima jolted upright at the noise and fumbled out of bed. In the hall, the other freshmen girls scrambled to their neighbors rooms and the lobby. Kallima followed and, like the girls on her floor, pressed her face to one of the lobby windows.
The courtyard below was chaos. A large wagon with a cage on it slumped in front of the gazebo as a battalion of men in armor shouted to each other and ushered people inside. Kallima recognized one as Mr. Lawrence and shuddered in realization.
They were rounding up the rebels.
This theory was all but confirmed when Crown Prince Reginald, still in his silken blue pajamas, dashed into the yard and rattled the cage, hurling insults and threats at the inhabitants. Lawrence flung himself at the boy, and a nearby knight began hitting him back with a nightstick. Kallima chuckled when the prince fell backwards into a pile of snow.
“It's not funny, Kali!” one pixie girl scolded. “Look at all of them.”
“Mom!” another girl shouted.
Kallima pulled her gaze away from the scene below to stare at the short girl who had just managed to press her way to the window. Kallima bit her lip.
Amelia tended to blend into the crowd. She kept her brown hair up in loose buns. Today, though, she stared at the ruckus below with large, blue eyes until she could bear no more and flung herself away. Kallima, too, edged away from the window.
“No no no no no no no,” the girl said, grabbing her head. “This can't be happening. Please, no...”
“Amy, I'm-” Kallima started.
The lobby door flew open and a knight peered around.
“Amelia Lawrence?” he asked.
The girl screamed and collapsed, repeating “no” over and over as Kallima approached the man in armor. He handed her a black envelope and furrowed his brow.
“You look like Satu,” he said.
Kallima replied, “So I've heard. Thank you.”
The man shrugged and left the teenaged girls to their gossiping. Kallima quickly returned to Amelia's side. Another elven girl rubbed her arm in an awkward hug as she sobbed. When Kallima offered her the letter, she ripped it from her hands and tore it open like a bill, her face contorting in disbelief as she read.
“'Treason!?' They're accusing my parents of treason? Why?” she cried.
“I- I don't know,” Kallima lied.
“It’s okay, Amy,” the elven girl next to her said. “We’ll get it appealed.”
Amelia shook her head and said, “Can’t. Look. They already have execution scheduled.”
“But-! That’s tomorrow!”
“I’m sorry,” Kallima said.
“It’s not your fault,” Amelia said. “I just… I don’t… Leave me alone, Elissa.”
Amelia shuffled back to her room clutching the letter to her chest. Elissa, the elven girl sighed and looked at Kallima.
“Are you sick, Kali?” she asked. “You look pale.”
“Yes, I- I’ll go see Anna.”
Kallima wobbled out of the lobby. She glanced out the window once more to see the mobile prison drag the five conspirators away from the school. Tearing up in guilt, Kallima pushed her way up the stairs to Locke’s office. She knocked, and the man inside bid her to enter the room, a hint of weary age in his voice.
The fire-haired teen stepped inside and waited for the silver dapple equine body to stop fussing about. Not that it did. Locke, his silver hair dangling loosely around his face, shuffled through papers and paced. His four hooves slipped the ground lightly at each step, and his silver tail flicked back and forth in frustration. He glanced sideways at the student only once before resuming his quest, and Kallima fidgeted at the dismissal.
“They- they took them away,” she said, “just now. I f-forgot about Amy.”
“Ah, yes. Amelia and Jane Lawrence. I’m sorry, Kallima, but, if no one claims them, they must go to Orphanage this summer,” the centaur said. “Miss Satudotter, I am very busy. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Give Iggy another chance.”
At this, the headmaster turned his full attention to the redhead in his office.
“They arrested three of our teachers today. Let Iggy take over one of the classes, just to prove he can be professional.”
“If he wants, I will let him teach trigonometry. If he decides to stay on after graduation, I’ll permit it. However, I don’t think he will.”
“Because when I told him that he was unprofessional, it was he who said that it was better if he did not teach. Not I.”
“I- He didn’t-.”
But Headmaster Locke waved the girl off, saying, “Go on, then. Let him know that he needs to speak with me. Now, I need to find new teachers. Good day, Miss Satudotter.”
Kallima returned the good-bye and retreated. On her way to her tutor’s room, though, an arm wrapped around her waist, and another hand covered her mouth. Shocked by the restraints, Kallima stomped on a protruding foot.
“Ouch! Damn it, Kali,” a soft but stormy voice whined as the arms fell away.
Kallima raised a hand to her mouth and said, “Oh, God, Shay. I’m sorry!”
“Sh! I don’t want Case to find me.”
The teen’s sandy brown hair hung in soft ringlets around his face and made a loose curtain over one eye, reminding Kallima a bit of Sable. He looked tired and sad. Kallima felt her sympathy extend to the boy and rested a hand on one shoulder to squeeze it reassuringly.
Kallima lowered her voice to a whisper as well and asked, “Why not?”
“I just…,” he said. “We got into a fight, okay?”
“You got… They haven’t even served breakfast yet, Shay,” Kallima said. “How have you already gotten into a fight?”
Shay sighed, leaned against the wall, and explained, “She usually stays with me on Friday nights. When we wake up, she usually takes care of… well, my morning problem, only today she didn’t. I asked her nicely, even, and she said no. I asked why not, she used to, and she elbowed me right in the face.”
Just like that, Kallima’s sympathy vanished, and she shoved the boy with a snarl.
“So, you’re saying that ‘I don’t want to’ isn’t good enough?” she spat. “A girl needs a reason not to jump your knob?”
“Is that a male thing?” she asked. “Or is it a because you’re a lord’s kid?”
“It’s not like that, Kali.”
“Oh really? What’s it like, then? Because, let me tell you, Shay, you’re not entitled to anything. Just because your da’s rich or you’ve done it before, you think you can do whatever you want, don’t you? Well, that’s what Gabe thought, too, and it cost him an ear.”
“Okay, okay!” Shay said. “I’m sorry! I didn’t think of it that way. I just- Ugh. I’ll go find her and apologize.”
“You’d damn well better,” Kallima said, shooing him off.
The tan boy shuffled away, leaving Kallima to continue on her own search for another in need of a good scolding. First, she checked his room, but, when no one answered and the first lusty boys began opening their doors to stare at her, she retreated to his next favorite place.
In the library, she found Ignatius curled up in an armchair, a book in his lap. Kallima guessed that he had fallen asleep reading, since his eyes were shut, and the book was open. His spiky golden hair sagged in his rest, and dark bruises decorated the shadows of his eyes. The redhead sighed. Then she approached the boy.
“Oi,” she hummed, flicking one of his ears, “get up.”
The young senior jolted, throwing his book from his lap, and rubbed his ear. Kallima grabbed his wrist to examine something on his hand.
“Hey,” he groaned.
“What is that?”
A thin, copper band around his ring finger housed a deep violet gem.
“It’s nothing. Just an old ring,” the boy said, tugging his other ear.
“It’s my mom’s, okay?” Ignatius spat. “It’s all I have of her.”
Kallima nodded but remained skeptical as the boy continued to rub and tug his ear. She released his hand, though, and crossed her arms.
“Locke wants you to teach trig,” she told him. “Apparently, you didn’t put up much of a fight for a second chance. You’re lucky I’m willing to stand up for you.”
Kallima rolled her eyes and said, “I spoke to Locke. Told him to give you one more chance to prove that you can be professional. He said you changed your mind about teaching.”
“O-oh,” Ignatius said, pulling furiously at both ears and flushing. “He, ah… he told you that, huh?”
“Yes. Do you want to teach, Iggy, or not?”
“I want to,” the senior insisted, “but like I said before, I can’t. I’m so young, Kali. No one would take me seriously. And Dad’s in jail. Anderson’s trying to get a court date, but Jemsa keeps-”
“The queen. She’s personally sabotaging his files to delay a court date.”
“Wha- Why would she-?”
“So I’ll spy on you!”
Kallima flinched, and Ignatius swept past her to pick up his book and put it away.
“Look, Kali, I’m not going to. I won’t even talk to the Nobles. I can’t. But they keep following me, trying to get me to change my mind. They sent me another finger. A couple teeth. At this rate, he’ll… He won’t make it to summer, Kali.”
“Why does she hate me?” Kallima asked.
Ignatius shook his head, saying, “Time, Kali. All things in time.”
Kallima scoffed, “I think I have the right to know what makes me dangerous to her, Iggy.”
Sighing, Ignatius explained, “Your power, as it stands, is very close to King Titanus’. And he’s passed his prime, granted, but he’s no weakling. Dream fae are, by nature powerful, but… Kali, none of them hold a candle to what your powers will be once you’re complete.”
“Your tarnkappe,” the boy said, running his fingers through his hair. It shot straight up in jagged spikes as he did. “You’re still only in the trial stages of your abilities. Once you find your hat, though, scary as it is to think about, you’ll be, without a doubt, the strongest fae in this world. I’ve read just about everything written about your kind, and you’re already rewriting the books. Blaze told me about your little visit to the past. You shouldn’t be able to do that yet. Inter-dimensional travel, extreme dream manipulation, time allocation, reality merging? It’s too much! You’re too strong, Kali. What will you be able to do once you have access to all your power? What won’t you be able to do?”
“So… All I need to do is find a hat?”
“Well, it’s not that easy. You don’t just find a tarnkappe. It finds you.”
“How does a ha- a tarnkappe find me, then?” Kallima inquired.
Ignatius stretched and said, “I don’t know. Based on what I’ve read, they seem to have their own souls. Most dream fae describe it like finding a life mate. Like they're complete.”
“Oh. That's odd.”
“It's just... ever since I was little,” Kallima said, “Mum could never get a hat on me. Eventually, she started buying me earmuffs instead. But she never threw anything away, so I have all these hats back home that I never wear and can't bear to part with because Mum got them for me. I've given a few away, but there are still so many.”
“Interesting,” the older boy said, digging in his pockets and retrieving a pen. “Why is that, I wonder…”
“Aren't you hungry?” Kallima asked.
“Oh! Y-yes. Yeah, lead on, Ma- Ma'am.”
As Ignatius walked past, Kallima grabbed his arm. He whimpered at the tightness of her grip around his bony limb.
“Did you-?” she asked. “Were you going to call me 'majesty?'”
“N-no! Why... why would I call you-?”
“Blaze calls me 'Majesty.' Did you hear it from him?”
“I... Yes! Yes, I must have.”
“Did he tell you that I don't like it?”
“I'm sorry! I'm sorry. I'll never say it again!”
“Am I hurting you?”
The fiery girl released Ignatius, who grabbed his upper arm and stumbled back from her. The boy looked ready to cry as he sunk to the floor. Kallima sighed and sat on her knees next to him.
“Let me see,” she whispered.
Ignatius pulled the sleeve of his arm down and shook his head. Kallima smacked him, and he yelped in pain.
The boy removed his jacket and rolled up the fabric of his sleeve to reveal a cluster of blue and green bruises and a few red scrapes. Kallima covered her mouth and turned away.
“They made Jarl rough me up,” he said. “They thought if I didn't let you lean on me, you'd think that I didn't like you anymore. That I was going to betray you. And maybe, if I lost my only friend, I would do their dirty work.”
“Iggy... These are old. I've been leaning on you all week.”
“I've been coping with it. Ignoring it.”
Kallima pulled his hand away and brushed her lips against the ugly marks. Ignatius shuddered at the light touch. Then he stood and pulled the younger girl to her feet, a deep, pink tinge growing on his cheeks.
“We should- Breakfast?” he said, pulling on his ears.
She smiled and replied, “Yes. Yes, we should.”
Using her magic, she rerouted the library door to the dining hall. The familiar hush as she entered made her ears pound. Ignatius scampered past her to get some eggs as she forced her chin up and followed calmly. Once she loaded up her tray, against the tutor’s warnings, and sat down, though, the roar of the other students resumed. Acacia folded her arms at the redhead, and Shay chewed his lip.
“What are they saying about me now?” Kallima asked.
“They’re saying that you’re the snitch,” Shay told her.
“Snitch?” Kallima hissed.
Ignatius sighed and said, “I should have told you to ignore it. I shouldn’t have-.”
“It had to be done, Iggy,” she interrupted. “Is that all, Shay?”
“No. Based on their auras, I’d say that at least five boys and one girl have become infatuated with you, and those three look like they’re fighting over who gets to ask you out. Only two seem to have a genuine interest in you as a person, though.”
“Is one the girl?” Kallima asked, a hint of disgust in her voice. Shay shook his head, and she added, “Good. I’m not interested. Do you see Amelia?”
“No. But that elf feels more pissed off to me than anyone else. Well, except maybe Reginald and- Oh. Wow.”
“What?” Ignatius asked.
Shay dropped his gaze to his plate and lowered his voice as he said, “It’s Marian. She looks mad and offended, but… She’s grateful. She doesn’t show it, and I know she’ll never say it, but she actually feels indebted to you, Kali.”
Kallima chuckled and, famished, began digging into her plate of sausage. She listened to Acacia and Ignatius bicker about the repercussions of the arrests as she ate. It was not until she was almost finished that another ripple of silence coursed through the hall.
The redhead turned to the source of the voice and smiled at the familiar stocky, dark boy who wrung his hands in front of her.
“Hallo, Matt,” she said.
“H-hi. I know you had a rough- rough time with, um, da- dating last term, but… Well, I was- was wondering if, maybe, you might… I don’t know. Goutwimme?” he stammered.
“I’m sorry, go out with you?” she asked.
Mateja shuffled in place and said, “You don’t have to. I just- Well, I thought that, since you told me, that maybe you liked me… a little.”
“Oh, no! Wait, that came out wrong. That’s not what I meant,” Kallima chuckled. “Er, I have an event next Saturday that I need to go to. I’d love it if you could escort me, if you don’t mind paying a visit to the Mortal Realm.”
“Y-yeah! Definitely!” the boy beamed. “I’ll, ah, I’ll see you then. Or, um, I’ll see you Monday, I mean, if they get someone to replace Lawrence.”
The shadow fae waved and smiled before returning triumphantly to his table of friends. As they assaulted him with praise and jealousy, Shay scoffed.
“Well, that was unexpected,” he said. “I thought-.”
Ignatius cut him off, saying, “Be careful, Kali, okay?”
“Of course,” the fiery teen grinned. “It’s only one date. I’m not rushing into anything this time. I just don’t want to be alone at the wedding.”
“What wedding?” Acacia asked, suddenly interested in the conversation. As Kallima explained her foster dad’s upcoming marriage, Acacia nodded and said, “I agree. Going alone to a wedding is awful. Mom dragged me to my aunt’s wedding when I was nine, and all us kids had to sit together while everyone tried to get ready. Sooo boring.”
“Not that my brother’s wedding was much better,” Shay countered. “Everyone kept poking me, telling me I was next just because you were there. I mean, I was grateful for the company, but it should have been Andrew’s big day. Instead, everyone was gushing over us. It was annoying.”
“Oh, stuff it,” Kallima said. “I told you, it’s not like last time. I am going on a date. He’s not my boyfriend. I’m not his girlfriend. I just don’t want to be the only fae there.”
Ignatius concurred, “You don’t know what it’s like, Shay. You have a big family. Kali has no one who understands her. She just doesn’t want to be alone in the Mortal Realm, watching someone she used to feel close to leave her behind.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” Shay said.
“Thank you, Iggy.”
“You’re welcome, Kali,” the golden-haired boy said. “I just wish you’d asked me to go. You know, to watch over you.”“It’s only a few hours. How much trouble do you think I’ll get into, Iggy?”