An uneasy quiet fell over the castle as Iolanthe School of Fae emptied for the summer. In one of the freshman dorm rooms, a tall redhead hugged a tiny grey girl tightly.
“You’ll write us, won’t you?” the tall fae asked again in a prominent British accent, wiping a tear from one silver eye.
The small girl nodded sadly, saying, “I don’t know if they’ll, like, give them to you, but I’ll write. Don’t do anything to stand out, okay, Kali?”
Kallima smirked and said, “What choice do I have? A tall girl with close brows and a citrus allergy? Someone’s bound to notice me, right?”
“I mean your temper.”
“I know, Sable. I’ll be careful. Promise.”
A pounding on the door drove the two apart. Even without the popping of Sable’s skin as it turned to marble, Kallima could taste her fear and knew who knocked.
“If it gets too hard-.”
“I’ll go to Shay’s,” the tiny raven nodded. “I promise. Now hide!”
Kallima nodded and shut herself in the closet. She pressed her ear to the door to listen as Sable let her uncle inside.
“No roommates this time? Or did they all ditch you?” the man snarled.
Kallima shuddered. She could just imagine his green eyes narrowing condescendingly at her friend as she shook her head.
“No, Sir. But she could come back, like, any minute.”
“Hmp. You ready this time?”
“Yes, Sir. I have it all-.”
A smack sounded from the room, and Sable yelped. Kallima sank powerlessly to the floor and clenched her fists. Sable’s fear seeped into her bones, more sour than before. The redhead swallowed hard as she continued to eavesdrop on the duo.
“Do you know who I met in the courtyard?” the uncle growled. “Orion. He says you’re fucking his boy.”
“Un- Uncle Gavin, Sir, I- I didn’t-!”
“At least own up to it, you fuckin whore. Is he good to you?”
“Is he good to you, Sable? Or are you just another slut?”
“I’m… a slut… Sir.”
Kallima set her jaw, determined to resist peeking out at her friend. The girl’s fear turned even more sour as she whimpered and her uncle growled something unintelligible in her ear.
“Good. Get your shit, whore.”
Kallima sighed in defeat as both people left the dorm room, Gavin’s stride confident and strong over the light, little stumbling steps of his niece as she struggled to carry a trunk as heavy as she was. The tall fae ran her fingers through her lengthening red locks. It touched her shoulders lightly on the sides, and her bangs hung close to her eyes. Her sharp ears still jutted out from underneath, though, a trait she owed to her mother. In fact, all but her height and close brows could be attributed to the dead woman.
When Kallima rose again, standing at her full 178 centimeters, she towered over most other fae. Her red eyebrows nearly touched over the bridge of her nose, which had never bothered her before it was pointed out eight months prior. Nor would she have ever guessed she had an allergy to citrus fruits until an almond lemon biscotti nearly killed her around the same time. Even among the dryads, gargoyles, and sprites, Kallima was considered a rarity.
She was a dream fae, and a powerful one to say the least.
Every time she opened a door, the question of what lay beyond it was always the first thing on everyone’s mind. Most of the time, it led to the expected destination, but Kallima could easily will it to another. She had even made portals to locations which she had never been before, relying solely on her friends’ memories of them. She could sense fear, read it, and feed off of it. She could also move through the various realms and had visited the Mortal Realm and Demon Realm on her own.
Twice, she had traveled across time. And, if her draconic companion was to be believed, her power would only continue to grow. She left the closet and sat on one of the beds.
“I’ll never see this room again,” she told herself.
A pang of nervous fear reached her, which she inhaled with a twinge of guilt. The succulent aroma disguised the emotional source, but she knew better. She had learned the hard way that the better the smell, the more intense the fear behind it. This fear, she knew, emanated from the only other girl left in the freshman dorms: Amelia Lawrence.
Kallima retrieved a small suitcase from her closet and left the barren room to sit in the lobby. Amelia already curled up in one of the poofy chairs, pouting sadly. The dream fae sat across from her.
“You know, Madelyn is terrified,” the brunette whispered, hugging her sides. “She doesn’t want Sae to go with that guy.”
“It’s him… or Orphanage.”
Both teens shuddered at the thought. Then Kallima spoke again.
“When do they get here?”
“I don’t know. I’m already so hungry…”
“That’s because you skipped lunch.”
“Iggy said to-.”
“To eat as much as you could right before we left.”
Kallima could not resist a chuckle at the smaller girl’s curse. It vanished when Amelia opened her mouth again, though.
“Did you tell Ig what you did?”
“I did not, no.”
“Kali…” Amelia said, sighing, “he’s going to be so mad…”
“Nah. As long as I stay calm, so will he.”
Amelia raised a brow, but said nothing. Kallima grinned at her.
“Still, how shocked will he be when he sees me?” she asked the brunette.
“Oh, boy… I’d wager fire comes out his ears.”
“Ha! I doubt it. He’s very even-tempered, for a fire fae.”
“Meek and reserved, too. I think,” Amelia said, “that if his skin didn’t feel like touching coals, I wouldn’t believe him to be a fire fae.”
Kallima chuckled at that. It was more plausible than the truth, after all. Who would even consider for a moment that the small, quiet blonde was really half dragon? The two girls continued to small talk, several times running out of things to say as they waited. Just as the redhead’s stomach began to rumble, the door to the room opened with a bang.
“Amelia Lane Lawrence,” called the thin, wrinkly old man in the entryway.
The brunette jolted to her feet, snatched her trunk, and hurried to the man. Kallima followed suit, pulling a small slip of paper from her pocket, and passing it to the sharp-faced man. He sneered at her.
“What is this?”
“Official abandonment papers,” Kallima said quickly. “My father’s decided I’m too much for him.”
“Well, well, well… Old red got herself some sausage after all. Go get in the wagon.”
He handed the paper back to her with a chuckle that sent shivers up her spine.
“This was a bad idea, wasn’t it?” she asked the smaller girl quietly.
“Too late now.”
Sighing, Kallima followed her shorter companion down the stairs.
“It’s not that bad, is it?” Amelia said, trying to smile. “I’m gonna be with Jane again. And you get to spend the summer with Ig!”
The redhead chuckled, “Yeah, I’ll give you that one. It sure won’t be a boring summer.”
The sight of the courtyard, though, made Kallima’s heart sink again.
A long, black cart with high sides but no top sat ready behind a team of four brown dapple horses and a solid black leader with fiery eyes. Amelia stopped dead and stared at the horse in horror.
“She’s lovely,” Kallima said.
“When did they get a nightmare?” Amelia asked, shivering as a light rain started.
“Nightmare, huh?” Kallima asked, recalling a lesson from her cryptoscience class. “Aren’t they supposed to make you feel uneasy?”
“Well, not you! You’re a dream fae, remember?”
“I’m immune to nightmare magic?”
“Kali, you are nightmare magic,” Amelia reminded her. “Of course you’re immune. You probably scare her.”
“Huh. Good to know.”
The pair climbed up into the wagon, joining a good dozen others who clung to their luggage like lifelines. The duo quickly found and flanked a golden-haired boy with brilliant emerald eyes who gasped when he saw them.
“Kali, what are you doing here?” he hissed.
Kallima flashed her paper at him, and he squinted at it.
“Dad relinquished me,” she told him, folding it back up. “Said I’d be better off here anyway, you know?”
“How long did it take to convince him?”
The boy dropped his head to his hands and whined.
“It’s not that bad, Ig,” Amelia said. “She can eat nightmares, remember?”
“That’s not the issue.”
“I promised Sable to keep my temper in check.”
Ignatius glanced towards her with an angry pout.
“I made such a big deal about never seeing you again at lunch,” he growled, “and you were planning this the whole time?”
Kallima nodded calmly and smiled at the boy. He sighed again as the redhead’s unusual calm infected his own emotion.
“Do you have any inkling how completely and perfectly flawed your logic is?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Either they will snap you like a twig, or you’ll start a rebellion and they’ll kill me.”
Ignatius nodded and said, “I bet you a gold. You’ll get thrown in the dungeons in the first week.”
“Iggy, our last bet ended with you in a dress.”
“And I was damn pretty in it, too.”
Kallima held out her hand, saying, “All right then. You’re on!”
“Another five silver says they toss you in the first night,” Ignatius said, taking her hand.
“You really are a gambler, huh?” Amelia asked the golden boy.
“No, I just know how to play the odds, so I rarely lose.”
With a shout and a snap, the wagon lurched to life. Kallima wiped rain off her face and peered around at the other orphans. A boy with pale skin and dark green hair she knew to be a freshman clung to an almost identical girl she did not recognize. Two troll boys and a giant girl squeezed together along one side. Opposite them, a trio of elves with iridescent hair did their best to nap during the trip. A sprite busied himself weaving a nest into one’s purple hair. A satyr with grey fur on his legs stared out the open back of the wagon and sneezed. Ignatius sighed.
“Should we let him sit with us?” Amelia asked. “The steam might help him feel better.”
“No. I don’t want you getting attached.”
“What do you mean, ‘attached?’” said Kallima.
“I mean there’s a reason Orphanage has it’s own cemetery.”
Amelia snuggled closer to Ignatius, sending a pang of jealousy through Kallima. The boy sighed and pulled both girls close to him, letting his heat sooth them just a touch.
“I won’t let that happen to you guys, though.”
Especially not me, Kallima told herself. If anything happened to her, Ignatius would feel it, too. Still, her body felt heavy as she realized the full impact of what she had done. Convincing Havard to let her stay at Orphanage had been difficult, but she was adamant about protecting her friends and certain of her ability to protect herself. With her powers and her stubborn nature, she had not expected to feel so weak at any point. Yet the uneasy weight in her stomach made her feel just as useless as she had hiding in the closet when Sable’s uncle had arrived.
“Well,” Amelia said after a long silence, “I’ll say this much. If a sprite nests in my hair, it’s dead. I’ll kill it in a second.”
Kallima giggled softly at the declaration, and Ignatius grinned.
“Kali’s lucky. Her hair’s too short to live in,” the boy said, leaning on her shoulder.
Smiling, the redhead rested her cheek on his bed of feathery golden hair. Perhaps the summer would not be that bad after all.