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Chatoyant College, Book 12: Reemergence

 

 

Chatoyant College: Book 12

Reemergence

 

 

Clare K. R. Miller

 

Smaragdine Books

 

Spring has begun in earnest, and Leila—Edie’s girlfriend, the dryad—is finally returning from her long disappearance. But she doesn’t return to the same Chatoyant College that she remembers. There’s a new barrier around campus, and the magic is working… differently.

 

The changes in the magic don’t just affect Leila. Everywhere, students—humans, faeries, and the others as well—are finding that things don’t work quite the same way they’re used to, and some of them come to Corrie, Edie, and Dawn for help. But what can the girls do when there’s no turning the change back?

 

Reemergence (Chatoyant College, Book 12)

by Clare K. R. Miller

 

Smaragdine Books

 

Text Copyright © 2017 Clare K. R. Miller

 

Shareable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

Cover image by kaela617

 

Shakespir Edition

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, and locations are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

This file is licensed for private individual entertainment only. The book contained herein constitutes a copyrighted work and may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into an information retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electrical, mechanical, photographic, audio recording, or otherwise) for any reason (excepting the uses permitted to the licensee by copyright law under terms of fair use) without the specific written permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

Prologue: Awake

She awoke.

It had been a long, unpleasant dream, both figuratively and literally; it was gone now. No, sometimes it had been pleasant. Often it had not.

It was an escape.

She was awake now, and she left the tree, stepping outside it to taste the world for the first time in many months.

She had misjudged her timing; the trees were in full bloom, nearly full leaf. She could have left weeks ago and she would have been well. But now it was not only well, it was easy, comfortable. She could stretch and open her arms all the way.

She had not judged the timing so poorly after all.

A return to life was ahead of her. Perhaps this time it would be better. It would be easier, more pleasant, more invigorating.

The last time had not been so bad, not at all, but she could never stand to do just one thing for very long. She could never stand to be just one person. And it was just her luck that those she was drawn to, and who were drawn to her, would never be happy were she more people, or with more people.

Perhaps, this time, she would find something better.

Smiling into the morning sun, she turned toward the land and walked through the trees, brushing them with her fingertips as she went—polite, gentle greetings. Hello. How are you. Has the spring returned? Has anything returned with it?

Nothing to be too wary of.

The trees did not warn her.

Between two trees, she stepped into a glass wall, an invisible wall, a nothingness in the air that struck the breath from her lungs and sent her staggering backward. For a moment she cursed this shape, these human lungs, but then she saw what was before her and shook her head in bafflement.

The thing that had stopped her could not be seen, except in a certain way. In a way, it glowed. But when she made to walk toward it again, her hand outstretched—nothing, except that her hand stopped in midair.

She waved her hand over the invisible barrier, to the left and the right, up and down. It went as high as she could reach. She swung herself up into the nearest tree and sought it again: yes, the barrier went up this high, and likely higher. Did it dome the entire campus?

She went on, moving to the south, testing it. It continued, smooth as glass, because it was nothing made by humans but by magic.

Who would have done such a thing? Had the students created it? Mardalan, perhaps? No, her sister preferred the old ways. She would not make such drastic changes. Even now that she was the sole ruler of her little domain—or so she claimed—she would not make seeking her prey more difficult.

She would not ask Mardalan. Not unless there was no other choice. So she followed the invisible wall, continuing on, until she could find a place that would give her answers.

Chapter 1: The Morning

Saturday, April 15

Edie had awakened early that morning, while her roommate Corrie was still out on her daily run, and resisted the temptation to go outside looking for her girlfriend, Leila, right away. She’d glanced out the window, promising herself she wouldn’t search too hard, but it was still fairly dark out. If there had been movement, she would have seen it. But there wasn’t.

She took advantage of the early morning to shower before the dorm bathroom got crowded, then started on her homework while she waited for her friends to be up for breakfast. It was hard to focus. She knew Leila was returning soon.

Her girlfriend was a faerie, one of many who lived on the outskirts of Chatoyant College, where Edie learned French, English, theater, and, of course, magic. Months ago, in December, Leila had disappeared. Now it was April, and the trees were in leaf and in bloom; Edie’s friend Roe had told them about a vision she’d had in which Leila returned right around now.

Edie had experience with Roe’s visions. They always came true, though not always in predictable ways—and sometimes, knowledge of the vision changed people’s actions, which changed what actually happened when the vision came to pass. So she knew that Leila would come back. But she also had to control herself, because the vision might not come out right if she changed her actions, and she didn’t want any chance of missing Leila when she did return.

She kept lifting her head to look out the window. Leila wasn’t there.

Finally, Corrie returned from her own shower. “It’s a beautiful day out there,” she commented. “Spring is really here. Wear boots.”

Edie laughed. “It’s muddy?” she asked, turning around in her desk chair.

“Yeah, I almost fell. I had to carry my shoes up the steps so I wouldn’t smear everything with mud.” Corrie went into her closet to start getting dressed, and Edie turned around, looking for her boots.

“You ready for breakfast?” she asked as she dug through her trunk.

“Of course,” Corrie said. “I hope they have pancakes today.”

Edie found her boots and pulled them on. “I’ll go see if Dawn is up.”

She left the room and knocked on the door of the dorm room next to theirs, the last one between them and the bathroom. Dawn, their other closest friend, opened the door quickly. “Ready for breakfast?”

“Just about. Corrie says it’s muddy out.”

“That’s okay, I’m wearing old shoes.”

They knocked on the doors of their other friends who lived on the hall, Roe and Annie, but no one answered. When Corrie joined them, they headed down the stairs. Edie paused on the third-floor landing, considering asking her friend Derwen to join them, but Dawn and Corrie kept going, so she hurried to keep up with them instead.

Anyway, Derwen was fun, but Edie wasn’t sure if she was in the mood to hang around her right now. She was loud and dramatic and thought almost everything was funny—probably a product of being a faerie like Leila, but not having spent as much time with humans. Edie thought Derwen might be younger, as well. Still, she’d saved Annie’s life—back before the semester had even started—by joining the faerie court in her place, so Edie would always be her friend.

Maybe she’d want to hang out with Derwen more if they didn’t have a class together and study for it three times a week. Especially now that their midterm exam was approaching, Derwen was freaking out about all the studying, and Edie found her drama overwhelming.

When the three of them reached the dining hall, they found that pancakes were, indeed, being served. All three of them piled their plates high. Edie got a separate, small plate for maple syrup so she could dip her forkfuls in it as she went along. Corrie told her she was crazy as she poured maple syrup liberally all over her own pancakes.

“Any plans for the weekend?” Edie asked her two friends.

Corrie shrugged. “Not this weekend. I mean, I guess I have to work on homework. I’m a little behind in the reading for Professor Moran.”

“Don’t let that slip or you’ll just get further behind,” Edie warned her. Professor Moran kept their Introduction to Literature class interesting, but fast-paced.

Corrie nodded. “I’ll catch up.”

Maybe she’d deliberately avoided making plans with Charlie—their RA, who was a werewolf, and whom Corrie was casually dating—so she would have time. Edie made a mental note to check with Corrie again to make sure she was keeping up with her homework.

“Rico and I are actually going out,” Dawn said with a smile. “He wants to go on an actual date that involves leaving campus, so I wasn’t going to argue. You two are on your own for dinner.”

Edie grinned. “That sounds really nice. Have fun.” She was genuinely happy for Dawn and her boyfriend Rico, who was a really sweet, gentlemanly guy—though it gave her a twinge when she remembered that she and Leila had never had a real date off campus.

They probably never would. She didn’t know how far Leila could get from her tree, since she was a dryad, but she had never had any interest in going away from campus that Edie could recall.

The three of them chatted about classes as they finished their pancakes, then headed back to their dorm building, Gilkey. Edie thought she saw a flash of red hair when they were leaving the dining hall, but when she looked again, it wasn’t Leila.

When they reached the building, she looked toward the woods again. But no one was there.

Chapter 2: Vision

Edie didn’t want to do her homework, but she knew she should. She had plenty to study for, and if she wanted to relax this weekend, she had to get her homework done; she knew herself well enough to realize that if she tried to relax without getting enough done, she’d be anxious about it later.

Besides, Corrie was at her own desk, sighing loudly as she got out some homework, and Edie could hardly be lazy when her best friend and roommate was being studious.

She checked her notebook, where she had the weekend’s homework written down. The reading for Intro to Magic would have to wait; she and Derwen studied together on Sunday evenings for the Monday class, and if she’d already done the reading, she’d get frustrated with Derwen. But she had reading for her two literature classes, a short writing assignment for French, and memorization for theater.

She would work on the memorization later, when Corrie wasn’t so busy. It was hard to do that silently. But the French would be quick and easy; she would get that done first.

For several minutes, the room was silent except for the scratching of their writing instruments—Edie’s pen and Corrie’s pencil. When Edie glanced over at her roommate, she saw that Corrie was actually drawing, not writing. For a moment she wondered if she was just procrastinating, then realized that she was drawing careful cubes with shading on the sides; it must be for her design class.

She shook her head at herself, glanced out the window, and got back to her French homework.

Then she dropped her pen.

It had probably been a flower or someone’s dropped hat—right? Something bright orange out the window, something moving toward the edge of campus. She shouldn’t hopes up.

But she climbed onto her bed to get a better look out the window, pushing her face right up against it.

Someone was definitely walking toward the edge of campus. Someone with long, bright red hair—worn loose today—and dark clothing, with a quick, smooth stride.

Someone who looked just like Leila from up here.

Where was she going? What was she doing out there on the edge of campus? Was she leaving, when she must have only just arrived today? Edie had to find out.

Edie swallowed. “I’ll be right back,” she told Corrie, even though she hoped it wasn’t true. If it was really Leila out there, she probably wouldn’t be back for a while.

Anyway, she wasn’t sure if Corrie had heard her; she was still focused on her cubes. Edie grabbed her jacket, which still had her ID card and her keys in the pocket, and dashed out of the room.

She ran all the way down the five flights of stairs, then checked herself as she headed for the door. Not only was she out of breath, she didn’t want to alarm anyone with her rushing. Especially if the person outside turned out not to be Leila. She wouldn’t want to freak them out.

She paused behind the door, pulled her jacket on, took a few deep breaths, and headed outside.

She had to go all the way around the building to get to the part of campus that her window showed. She didn’t see Leila—or whoever it was—and for a moment her heart leapt into her throat. Had she vanished again?

But then Leila was walking back out of the woods, and now Edie could see that it was definitely Leila. She had the same expression she always had when she was thinking about something, her lips pinched together, her eyebrows straight. Edie’s heart returned to its usual spot and started to beat hard.

She walked toward her. Leila didn’t seem to have seen her yet. What was she looking at? What was she thinking about? Where was she going?

She still wasn’t looking at Edie, and they were only a few yards apart from each other. Should she call out? What had she done in Roe’s vision? All memory of the specifics seemed to be gone from her mind.

That made her hesitate for a moment, but then Leila reached the sidewalk that ran between Gilkey and the environmental co-op, and she stopped—almost as if she had reached another invisible barrier. But that wasn’t possible, was it?

Edie ran up to her. “Leila,” she called when she was ten feet away.

Leila looked down at the sidewalk, making no response. It was as though she hadn’t heard. Had her time in Faerie done something to her hearing? What could have happened to her? Edie’s heart squirmed into her throat again.

She stopped just a couple of feet away, keeping her distance even though she wanted to run up and grab her girlfriend, touch her after so many months apart. But something told her that she should be careful.

“Leila,” she said again, and this time Leila looked up.

Her eyebrows lifted and wrinkled the skin between them, but her frown did not fade. “Edith?”

Chapter 3: Never Before

Edie took a deep breath. Leila didn’t appear happy or excited to see her, but that might not be anything bad. She was just confused. She’d been away for months, and there had been a lot of changes on campus. She’d returned to a world that was different from what she remembered.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s me. I’ve been waiting for you to come back.”

Leila shook her head slowly, lifting her hand with her fingers pointed toward Edie’s face, but letting it drop before she had any chance of touching her. “How can that be?”

“I don’t understand.” Edie was trying to be calm and patient, but inside she was shaking. “Do you want to come in to the dorm? We can sit in the common room and talk.” That wasn’t something she could ever remember doing with Leila before, but it was all she could think of. She wanted to explain why they couldn’t go into the woods to talk, couldn’t go sit by her tree like they normally would, but she didn’t want to overwhelm Leila with too much information, since she seemed to be confused just by Edie coming to talk to her.

“I don’t understand why you’re here,” Leila said. She didn’t respond to Edie’s question. That was probably for the best—they should focus on one thing at a time.

Like the fact that they were both completely confused by each other. “What do you mean? Did you think something had happened to me?”

Maybe that was why Leila had left. Maybe she thought Mardalan had done something to Edie, and it wasn’t worth staying on campus anymore. Could it be that easy?

But Leila shook her head. “No. Something happened to me. I left. You should not remember. Does this—does it have something to do with that wall?”

Edie’s heart sank. Leila had thought that, when she left campus, people forgot who she was. It seemed to happen with faeries who came to campus and then left—no one had questioned Derwen’s disappearance when she had swapped herself for Annie. Her roommate didn’t remember having had a roommate for the few days they had all lived on campus. Her memory had been changed when Derwen left to make her think that there had been a mix-up and she’d never been assigned a roommate.

Almost the same thing had happened when Annie was kidnapped. Her roommate, Salome, had remembered her briefly, but Dawn and Lorelei had been the only ones to really remember who she was, what she looked like, and when she had disappeared.

Dawn had remembered Annie because she had the Sight, and though the ability had seemed to come upon her gradually, the power to see past faeries’ glamours also kept her mind from being affected by the campus magic that smoothed over their presence. Lorelei had remembered Annie because, as an RA, she had been trained to deal with the faeries. Now, Annie, Edie, and many of their friends who were aware of the faeries’ existence remembered every faerie encounter, everyone who had been on campus and disappeared whether because of the faeries or because they were a faerie.

Sometimes other memories went missing. But that wasn’t important right now.

“The wall is new,” Edie said. “I remember you because I know about you—about faeries. Your other friends, Chris and the others, they forgot about you like they were supposed to. But it doesn’t work the same way on me, because—well, I don’t know how it works.” She shrugged. She was shivering a little. “But it seems like if people really know about the faeries and how they work, they don’t forget.”

Leila took a sudden step forward, onto the sidewalk, her hands coming up. She grabbed either side of Edie’s face, holding it very still, and looked into her eyes. “No,” she said.

Edie’s heart was pounding as she tried to step back, to get her face out of Leila’s grip. She’d wanted Leila to touch her—but not like this. This felt forceful and cruel, and she’d never known Leila to act that way to her.

Or she’d forgotten.

Leila’s grip tightened, not letting Edie get away, pulling her head forward when she moved her body back. “Leila, stop!” Edie cried, her voice muffled by the way her cheeks were pressed against her lips. “Let go! You’re hurting me!”

Leila let her face go as though it had burned her, and Edie took a few hasty steps back, her heart pounding and her stomach churning. She’d lied—it hadn’t hurt. It had only frightened her. But she’d lied to Leila for the first time that she could remember, the first time she knew about, and she didn’t like it.

She had to swallow before she could speak again, but Leila, lowering her hands slowly, didn’t look likely to speak. “Let’s sit somewhere and talk,” she said, gesturing to Gilkey. “Please.”

Leila looked at her. Her expression didn’t change. “The trees,” she said flatly, pointing to the little orchard that the environmental co-op kept, and Edie reluctantly followed her there.

Chapter 4: Stories Untold

As soon as they reached the orchard, Leila sat down, her back to a tree trunk. She looked tired—were those dark circles under her eyes? Edie had never seen her looking anything less than perfect.

Leila gestured at another tree, the one she was facing. Edie hesitated. She had good memories of this orchard—but bad ones, too. And the bad ones had been hidden from her for a long time. She didn’t know how to feel about this place, and she knew even less how to feel about it with Leila there with her.

In the whole time Leila had been away, in Faerie, Edie hadn’t gone to the orchard once. If anyone had asked her about it, she would have said that she had no reason to go there, but she wasn’t sure if that was her only motivation. She never wanted to go there without Leila, because the two of them had spent so much time and energy there. But the energy spending hadn’t always been her choice, and the end result hadn’t been good for either of them.

“Edith, you are the one who wanted to sit,” Leila said, an edge in her voice.

Edie crouched down, then sat cross-legged, not touching a tree. Her memories were not clear, but she knew that Leila had used her to feed the trees’ energy by touching them, and she didn’t want to risk that.

She was pretty sure it couldn’t happen by accident; she probably couldn’t accomplish it if she tried. But she still wanted to be careful.

“What do you remember?” Leila asked.

“Everything,” Edie said, staring at the dirt. Then she forced herself to look up and meet Leila’s eyes. “I really mean everything. When you left, all the memories you hid from me came back. It was a little scary, to be honest.”

Leila’s green eyes blinked at her, showing no other emotion. “It is because you are part faerie. And your friend Dawn, she has the Sight.”

Edie shrugged, spreading her palms. “Corrie remembers you, too. And Lorelei. Our friends Annie and Roe, as well. How are you going to explain them? Roe is psychic—she has visions of the future. Corrie is half-werewolf. But as far as I know, Lorelei and Annie are just ordinary humans.”

She wondered if that was really true. Was anyone at Chatoyant College really just a human? They had to be; there couldn’t be that many part-humans in the world. But something had attracted the court faeries to Annie in the first place.

“But Chris, Donna, Zoila, Genesis, they have forgotten?”

“Yes. That’s the way the magic works. If you don’t know the whole truth, you don’t get to keep it.” Edie frowned, wondering again whether what she said was true. Just a few weeks ago, they had discovered that one faerie was holding the magic together. He was the reason the treaty wasn’t enforced by the magic and the thing tying the faeries on campus together. And the same day they’d found that out, he’d broken it.

She didn’t know what repercussions that would have. Maybe Leila’s friends’ memories had returned. But if that was the case, why hadn’t they sought her out before now? They remembered being friends with Edie, but not why—and if they suddenly remembered that their friend and Edie’s girlfriend had disappeared, she would expect them to have questions for her.

She hoped that wasn’t the case. She hoped she was giving Leila the right explanations.

“Why did you never tell me that the magic did not work the same way for you?”

“I didn’t think of it. I never thought you would leave.” Edie felt a lump rising to her throat; her vision wavered.

Leila lifted one knee and looped her arms around it. “I am not one to stay in one place.”

“Then you knew you were going to leave? Why didn’t you tell me?” But as soon as Edie had spoken the question, she understood the answer. “Because you thought I would forget.”

“Exactly,” Leila said, nodding. “I thought it would make no difference to you.”

Edie shook her head, swallowing hard. Her tears hadn’t fallen yet, but her heart was aching. Hadn’t Leila cared about her? “Even if I’d forgotten, how could you think it would make no difference to me? The months we were together were the best of my life. I would always miss you, even if I didn’t know what I was missing. Did you think you could come back and everything would be exactly like it was before we met?”

She realized, for the first time, that Leila had been gone for longer than they had been together. It felt like such a long stretch of time, the fall semester, her and Leila… but it hadn’t even been the whole semester, and now it was April, more than four months since the fall semester had ended.

“Edith,” Leila said. She had lifted one hand and was gesturing toward Leila, her long, white fingers curling. “Come here. Come sit with me.”

Chapter 5: A Real Conversation

Edie didn’t want to get up and go over to Leila, to bridge the small space between them. She was upset—she was mad at Leila, and she wasn’t getting answers that satisfied her, so she didn’t want to do what Leila said.

But she also missed her girlfriend badly, and she couldn’t bear to let Leila sit there reaching for her when they were finally together again. So she got up, walked over, and sat down next to Leila, resting her shoulder against Leila’s arm and not letting her skin touch the tree.

Leila lifted her arm, forcing Edie to shift over, then put that arm around Edie’s shoulders and gently guided her down onto her lap. Edie sighed, settling in, her head resting on Leila’s knee. She felt Leila’s hand stroke hairs back from her face and closed her eyes. This was comfort.

“Tell me about that barrier,” Leila said softly.

Edie swallowed, opening her eyes again. “Well, it started when Mardalan… it’s a long story, actually. I don’t know if you want all the details. But they put it up so that Mardalan and her faeries can’t get onto campus to mess with the students, and students can’t accidentally go off campus to get trapped by them.”

Leila chuckled. “Of course it is Mardalan’s fault. But it will not allow you to go out there, either, will it?”

“No. I can’t get past it. If I want to leave campus, I have to go out through the front gate, when it’s open.”

“Yes, I found that. The barrier surprised me.”

“Wait, when did you find it?” Edie wanted to turn and look at Leila’s face, but she was so comfortable where she was, with Leila lightly finger-combing her hair, that she couldn’t be bothered. “Did you… did it let you through?”

“When I came from my tree, I found it. I walked into it, in fact.” Leila laughed again.

Edie smiled. Leila was so elegant and poised that it was hard to imagine her running into something, even an invisible barrier, but if Leila was laughing at herself, she would, too. “So you came through the front gate.”

“Yes. It… it let me in.”

Edie frowned. “What does that mean? Why wouldn’t you be able to go in?”

“There is no barrier there?”

“No, the barrier goes around campus, but not past the gate. There has to be a way for people to get in and out, after all—like our parents, and professors coming for job interview, I guess. And students have to be able to leave when they need to.”

“Professors coming for job interviews? What do you mean?”

“Oh.” Edie sighed. “Professor Strega is leaving. She doesn’t like working here anymore, I guess. So they’re going to have to find someone new to teach her classes next semester. I don’t know if they’ve actually started looking.”

The hand stroking her hair had paused. “She is leaving? Has no one stopped her?”

“The professors tried. But, uh.” Edie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “There’s a lot to explain. We should go in order. The barrier stopped you when you came from your tree? Then what were you doing in the woods just now?”

“Before you found me?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“I was seeking the barrier again from the inside. I could not find it.”

Edie nodded. “This isn’t something widely known, but Professor Strega told us. For students, and I guess professors and workers, too, it stops you from going from the inside to the outside, but if you’re already outside, you can go through. For faeries and people from outside of campus, it works the other way around.” She swallowed. “So I guess the magic is treating you as someone from off campus.”

“That should not be the way it works.”

“I guess it makes sense. You weren’t on campus when the barrier went up. You’d separated yourself, or whatever it is that you did to make people forget you.”

“Yes, but I intended to come back. This time, I mean. Normally, when I leave my tree and decide to return to campus, it allows me back on.”

“Oh. That might be because of Elrath, then.”

“Elrath? What has he done?” Frustration crept into Leila’s voice. “Edith, please just tell me everything.”

“I’m trying, but there’s too much to tell! And you won’t answer all of my questions, either!” This time, Edie did try to turn, to roll over so she could see Leila’s face, but Leila held her down, one hand on her arm.

“What question did you have? I’m sorry, please repeat it.” Leila’s voice was soothing.

Edie took another deep breath, trying to recall her comfort. “What did you think was going to happen when you came back to campus, if I’d forgotten you?”

“I thought I would be making a new start. You and your friends should not have remembered me. I though for certain by now someone as lovely as you would have a new girlfriend. You would have forgotten that you ever met me in the first place.”

Edie couldn’t help smiling at the compliment, but she wasn’t happy with the answer. If the magic had worked on her mind the same way it worked on everyone else’s, would she have forgotten Leila’s friends? Would she have forgotten Marlin? That might have been easier.

But she was glad it worked the way it did. She would rather keep her memories.

Chapter 6: The Long Story

“Now, Edith,” Leila said, “will you answer my question? What has happened while I have been gone? It seems to be a great deal.”

Edie took a deep breath. She wished she could look at Leila’s face while she explained what had happened, but maybe this was more intimate. Clearly, it was more comfortable for Leila.

“Okay. Before I start, how much do you know about the treaty between Thengul and Alienor Chatoyant before the school was founded? You weren’t around then, were you?”

“No, no. I am not quite that old.” Leila laughed.

That had been Tom’s answer, too, Edie remembered. But Leila was nicer about it. Were any faeries around who had been there when Thengul signed the treaty? No, they’d gone over that. Elrath and his siblings were the only ones, but both of his siblings were dead. All the other faeries from that time had either died or left.

Where would they go?

“I didn’t think so.”

“But I know about the treaty,” Leila said. “Thengul sold the land to Lady Chatoyant on the condition that it not be used for anything that was harmful to faeries. At least, that is the story I heard. I do not know whether I can really trust those who told it to me. I do understand that the treaty specifies that humans are not to harm faeries, and faeries are not to harm students.”

“I didn’t know about the first part,” Edie said. She wondered whether it was true. She hadn’t found anything that said humans should not harm faeries in the pieces of treaty she’d been able to translate, but it obviously wasn’t the whole thing. “Anyway, that’s not important anymore. I just wanted to make sure you knew what I was talking about. There was an exhibit at school about it, but they just had a small piece, and someone was searching the library’s records, messing things up.”

“Is this what my sister was involved in?” Leila asked.

“Yes.” Edie decided to skip the parts where she’d gotten involved. She hadn’t really had anything to do with the treaty, anyway—she’d just been looking for a way to get Leila back. And it turned out to not have been necessary.

“Mardalan had other faeries looking for the treaty for her,” Edie explained. “I don’t really know what she wanted, but she was really mad that she couldn’t find the whole treaty and couldn’t read what she did have. It’s in an old form of French.”

“Ah, oui, I knew that would be the case,” Leila said.

Edie grinned. “I didn’t know you spoke French!”

“It has been a long time,” Leila admitted. “I would not try to have a conversation in French now. So, what is it that Mardalan did?”

“She was looking for a way to break the treaty,” Edie said. “But she couldn’t find it. That’s why the magic professors put up that barrier. I guess they figured that even if she couldn’t break the treaty, she was too dangerous. And, um, they wanted us to stop going into the woods and messing with the court, I guess.”

Leila laughed again. Edie smiled. Her laugh was so lovely. “I suppose they did not want you to keep making Mardalan angry.”

“Pretty much.” Edie wondered whether they’d also wanted to keep Professor Strega on campus—after all, she was the one who’d taken them into the forest to confront Mardalan.

“Okay, so that happened, and after that I guess Professor Strega didn’t want to teach here anymore, so she came to me and Dawn and asked us to help her find a way to leave campus. The other magic professors told her she couldn’t leave.”

“Yes, that’s what I expected. She would not be able to leave campus.”

Edie nodded. “Do you know about Alaineth?”

“Yes, he is the one who enforces the treaty, correct?”

She wondered how long Leila had been off campus before the last year. Could she have been in Faerie, or in her tree, or wherever she hid, since before Alaineth died?

“He used to be. But I guess you know more than me. He died over a hundred years ago, they said.”

There was a long pause, then Leila snorted—a delicate sound, more like she was trying to get something out of her nose than like she was annoyed. “I see that it is useful to have someone who remembers what time has passed while I am away. No one sees fit to give me the news. I suppose Mardalan knew it and never thought to mention it. Very well, then, he had an heir, I suppose?”

“Apparently. It was Elrath, but Elrath thought it was their sister, Mourith. She’s also dead.”

“I remember them. Alaineth had no children?”

“Apparently not, since the power passed to Elrath.”

Leila sucked in a breath. “That surprises me. But if you saw that the power passed to Elrath, it is incontrovertible. So he is our king now?”

“No,” Edie said. “He ended the treaty and renounced the kingship. There is no king.”

Chapter 7: Complications

Leila was silent for a long time, her hands no longer stroking Edie’s hair. Edie sat up—this time Leila didn’t try to stop her—and moved into a cross-legged position, next to Leila but at an angle so she could face her.

Leila was staring into space, or maybe up at the trees. She was very, very still—she didn’t even seem to be blinking.

Edie didn’t want to say anything; she was sure Leila must be thinking hard and didn’t want to interrupt her. So she sat quietly, just waiting.

Finally, Leila said softly, “So that is over.”

She turned to Edie and smiled as though their conversation had not just been interrupted. “So the treaty is broken, then?”

“Yes. I don’t really know what’s going to change, if anything. I mean, Elrath hasn’t been enforcing it for the last hundred years, or however long it’s been since Alaineth died.” Edie bit her lip, wondering if Leila would have an answer to that question.

Leila shook her head. “Things will not go back to the way they were before the treaty was ever signed. They cannot.”

“It was all faerie land, right?” Edie asked. “It’s been a week, and no one’s tried to kick us—the school—out. So it can’t be that.”

“Exactly,” Leila said. She gestured gracefully, taking in the whole campus. “The magic is here that claims this land for the humans. It could not be wiped away, not in a short time. And the world has changed around us as well. It would not be safe for the faeries to force the humans out; the government would get involved.”

Edie nodded. “So you don’t know what will change, either.”

“I think some things will change.” Leila frowned, letting her hands drop to her lap and looking down at them. “I know some things will change. I would believe that the reason you remember me is the breaking of the treaty, but you tell me that it has been longer than that.”

“That’s right,” Edie said. “Ever since we went into the forest to rescue Annie, and Derwen traded herself, we’ve all been able to remember everything that happens with faeries, even when no one else does.” Unless, of course, someone magically took those memories away. But she didn’t want to point that out right now, not when they were finally talking.

“But I do think some of that magic has changed. I do not think I will be able to rely on the magic to return me to campus, to act as though I have always been here. Last semester, I only attended two classes and spent the night off campus; no one realized that I did not live the same way they did. Now I will have to enroll myself as a student, play the part, if I wish to stay on campus and not be questioned.”

Edie’s heart leapt at the thought that Leila would be enrolling in school, but then immediately dropped again. Leila might not want to stay on campus. It might not be worth it to her. It might not even be possible right now—the middle of the semester was nearly here, and no one who enrolled in classes this week would have any chance of passing. The professors and administrators probably wouldn’t allow people to enroll.

At least Derwen was properly enrolled in classes now; Edie didn’t know whether she had been last semester, before she had traded herself for Annie, but it probably wouldn’t have worked out well if the magic changed while she wasn’t an official student. Were there any faeries on campus who weren’t properly set up as professors or teachers? She wondered how they were dealing with it.

She understood something a little better now. “Mardalan took advantage of the magic smoothing things over,” she said. “Last semester, when she had Siffyd on campus. She wasn’t enrolled in classes, just working in the library.”

“That’s right,” Leila said. “She would not need to enroll. Now, it will be harder to do such things.”

“That’s good,” Edie said. “And even before, because Elrath wasn’t doing anything, it was up to the professors to make sure faeries didn’t hurt humans. So that hasn’t changed. This is for the better.”

“For the most part,” Leila said. She reached out and touched Edie’s shoulder, resting her whole hand on it for a moment. “I must think.”

“To decide what you’ll do?” Edie asked, and Leila nodded, pulling her hand away.

Edie reached out and took Leila’s hand before it could make it back to her lap, holding it in both hands. She wanted to beg Leila to enroll, to stay with her, but there was a lump in her throat and she couldn’t speak.

“It will be well, Edith,” Leila said, turning to look at her again. She didn’t smile.

“How can you possibly know that?” Edie wanted to laugh, but it wasn’t funny.

“I don’t. I can only hope. You must hope, too.”

Edie nodded, thinking that Leila was right. She had to hope. She just didn’t know whether she could hope without fear.

Chapter 8: Okay

Corrie sat back and stretched, rubbing her eyes. She’d filled half the page with carefully sketched cubes. That had to be enough for now. The assignment was to fill the whole page, at least two rows of cubes one inch on a side and two rows of cubes a half inch on a side, but she had time. She didn’t have Design Fundamentals again until Tuesday afternoon.

Anyway, right now she felt like if she drew another perfectly straight line she was going to break her pencil in half and throw the pieces out the window. Since it was a mechanical pencil, that would be really difficult. So, relaxation time it was.

She looked around the room, frowning. The other bed and desk were empty. She remembered Edie saying something about being right back; she’d assumed her roommate was going to the bathroom or something. But that had been a long time ago, hadn’t it?

Corrie checked the time on her phone’s clock, but it told her nothing. She didn’t know what time she’d started drawing, so she had no idea how much time had passed. She definitely didn’t know when Edie had left the room. Most likely, she’d just been so focused on her work that it felt like she’d been in it for a long time.

She took a break on her computer, answering an email from Charlie (one of the building’s RAs, whom she was casually dating) and catching up on her webcomics. Then she looked around again, confused. Edie definitely had been gone for a long time. Maybe she was having a shower.

Moments later—before Corrie could get too worried—she heard a key in the lock and the door was pushed open. Edie was frowning as she came in, the skin of her forehead wrinkled. Her lower lip was even pushed out a little.

Corrie jumped out of her chair, worried by her friend’s appearance. “Are you okay? What’s going on?”

“I’m okay,” Edie said, looking up at Corrie and slowly closing the door behind her. “Leila’s back.”

Corrie took in a quick breath. She wished she’d had a little warning for this—though admittedly, they’d been told a few times that Leila would probably return, and their friend Roe’s vision had told them she would return around this time. But Corrie hadn’t been expecting it, and it startled her.

She didn’t like Edie’s girlfriend. She had a lot of reasons for that, but the main one was that Leila had removed some of Edie’s memories, memories that had only returned when Leila had vanished without warning or trace.

And now she was back. Edie didn’t look excited, so it couldn’t be as straightforward as she might have hoped. Corrie would have to keep an eye on Edie and make sure she wasn’t having her memories stolen again. If she suspected that was happening—or anything like it—she would tell Edie straight out.

“You look worried,” she finally said.

Edie nodded and sat down on her bed. “She says that the way the magic has changed, she won’t be able to just add herself to campus like she has before. If she decides to stay, she’ll have to go through the normal process to enroll.”

“Oh.” Corrie bit her lip. Edie had said ‘if,’ so Leila wasn’t certain that she wanted to stay on campus. No wonder she looked worried.

Corrie sat down next to Edie on the bed but didn’t touch her. “Well, at least she’s back. You’ll get to see her, right?”

“Right. I am happy to see her again.” Edie lifted her head and smiled faintly. “Not as happy as I would have thought, though.”

Corrie nodded. “I guess you can’t be as happy now as you would have been before she left, because you know about the memories she hid from you.”

“I guess so. I still thought I’d be happier.” Edie shrugged.

“Is she staying anywhere?”

“She’s going back to her tree to think. She can go through the barrier from inside—she got in by using the gate.”

“So it doesn’t treat her as a student. I guess that makes sense—if she still wanted to be treated as a student when she left, people wouldn’t have forgotten about her, and her friends who didn’t know about faeries would have freaked out that she disappeared.”

Edie nodded. “Yeah, it sucks, but it makes sense. At least there’s a way to get in and out.”

Corrie didn’t know what else to say. She would have preferred if Leila had never returned, but she would be supportive of her friend. “Well, if she needs a couch to sleep on or something, um, I’ll ask Charlie if she can use the common room.”

Edie gave her a real smile this time. “Thanks, but I don’t think she needs it. She doesn’t like being indoors all that much.”

“I guess not. That makes sense.” Corrie stood up. “I think I’ll get back to my cubes. You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. At least right now.”

Corrie shrugged. “I guess that’s all I can ask for.”

Chapter 9: Free Food

Corrie tried to be open to conversation, but Edie didn’t say anything about Leila for the rest of the day, though she did keep looking out the window. Corrie didn’t want to bring the subject back up herself. She did wonder where Leila had gone after she talked to Edie, but she was confident that the faerie could take care of herself.

They passed a pretty quiet day, working on their homework and snacking throughout the day because neither of them felt like going out to the dining hall for lunch. Corrie didn’t want to leave Edie alone—and it was also nice to just hang out in the room all day with her roommate and best friend.

As the day wore on toward evening, though, Corrie started to get sick of homework. She’d caught up with her math and art homework and done the introductory and closing paragraphs of her essay for her English class; she knew she should practice trance, but now that she was getting bored, she didn’t think she would do very well.

Just in time, there was a knock on the door. She got up to answer it. Roe, their neighbor down the hall who had visions of the future, was standing there. She grinned. “Oh, good, you two are in! I’m bored, do you want to get Chinese food or something? I’ll pay.”

“That’s nice of you,” Corrie said, raising her eyebrows and stepping back to let Roe inside. “I won’t say no to free food. How about you, Edie?”

Edie put down her pen and turned. “Free food is good. What’s the occasion, Roe?”

Roe sighed and leaned on the doorframe. “Nothing. I just usually have something to do on Saturday nights, and today I don’t.”

“Not hanging out with Link?” Edie asked.

Roe shook her head. “He has stuff to do tonight. Important Djanaea stuff that I don’t want to get involved with. Do you guys want Chinese? Pizza?”

“You’re the one paying, so we should get whatever you want,” Corrie said. “Pizza is probably cheapest.”

“I don’t care. Link always pays for our dates, so I have a lot of extra money.”

“You said Chinese first,” Edie said. “So you probably want that most. Let’s get that.”

They found the menu online and picked out what they wanted, then Roe went back to her room to place the order. Corrie started picking up her half of the room. If people were going to be in here eating, she should have it be less of a mess.

When Roe returned, a few minutes later, she had Annie in tow. “I’m feeding her, too,” she declared, shaking Annie lightly by the shoulders. “You two don’t mind, right?”

Annie smiled, obviously knowing that Corrie and Edie were happier having her around than otherwise. “You know, we don’t always have to hang out here,” she said. “Salome’s out tonight, so my room is empty. We could shake it up a little.”

“I’d rather stay here,” Edie said, glancing toward the window. Corrie was sure she was hoping to see Leila again. Annie’s room was across the hall, so her window would show the campus, not the woods.

It was true that they always seemed to hang out in Corrie and Edie’s room, but she liked it that way. “It’s simple statistics. Half of us live in this room, so we should stay in this room. Besides, this way you three get to admire my beautiful artwork!”

She held up the complete legal-size paper full of shaded cubes. Annie and Roe gave teasing oohs and ahhs. Corrie laughed and put the paper carefully in her portfolio. “I think the professor will be happy with it, anyway.”

“It is nicely done,” Edie said. “I’m sure you’ll do well in that class.”

Annie sat down on the trunk at the foot of Edie’s bed. “It looks boring, though.”

“It’s a prerequisite for taking most of the art classes, and I’d like to take a few,” Corrie explained, sitting down on her bed. “It’s kind of boring, but I do like learning about the rules for art. You know, before breaking them.”

“Where’s Dawn tonight?” Roe asked, looking around. “I knocked on her door, too, but no answer.”

“She and Rico are out on a fancy date,” Corrie said. “They’ll be sorry they missed the free Chinese food.”

“I don’t know, going on a date sounds a lot nicer,” Annie said.

“You should go on some dates,” Edie told her. “I bet there’s a lot of girls in the Rainbow Alliance who would go out with you.”

“I’m too shy to ask anyone out,” Annie said, looking away. Corrie knew that she had a crush on Edie, but none of them was going to say anything while Edie was still with Leila.

“I better head out front,” Roe said. “The delivery guy will probably be here soon, and they’re about to shut the gates.”

“Let’s all go together,” Corrie said, standing up. “It’s safer that way.” Not that she’d had any problems lately picking up food from the front gate, but she preferred to be careful, especially now that the rules had changed.

“Good idea,” Annie said. Edie said nothing, just stood up to join them. They all grabbed their jackets from their rooms and headed down the stairs.

Chapter 10: The Guard

Corrie was glad that her friends had joined her; it was a pretty nice night, and the sun was still out, but the bright colors of the sunset slowly creeping across the sky still gave her a nervous feeling. Maybe it was that Leila had returned, and now she didn’t know what would happen next. Or maybe it was just that the faerie influence she had learned to mostly understand over the last few months had suddenly gone away.

The gate was still open and there was no sign of a delivery vehicle, so they stood next to one side of the gate, waiting for their delivery. Remembering what Edie had said about Leila getting in through the gate, Corrie felt in her pockets for a four-leaf clover, but she must have left them in her other coat. It didn’t matter, anyway; she wasn’t going to sit down and go into trance right now, and that was the only way she could see the barrier.

The sky darkened, bathing them all in light shading from purple to orange in the sunset. Roe looked up at it, smiling. “That’s a beautiful sunset.”

“Pollution,” Annie said, glancing up at it.

Roe shook her head. “Don’t mess with my enjoyment.”

“Hi there, girls,” came a voice. Corrie tensed as she turned, putting one hand on the bracelet she was wearing, one of the ones they’d made of iron wire last semester to protect themselves against faeries. As soon as she touched it, she felt a cold breeze ruffle the short hair on the back of her neck.

But the woman speaking, and walking up to them, was only one of the school guards; Corrie had seen her around the campus a few times. She was a light-skinned black woman with her hair pulled into a tight bun over her uniform collar. “Are you waiting for a ride?” she asked. “I have to close the gate in a few minutes.”

Corrie relaxed and took her hand off her bracelet. The breeze dissipated. It was probably bringing a cold spell; she would expect a chill in the morning.

“We’re waiting for a food delivery,” Roe said. “We can wait inside by the small door if you want.”

The guard shook her head. “No need. I’ll just keep an eye on you from inside my little cubicle, and if you’re still here when I’m ready to close the gate, I’ll let you know, all right?”

“Sure,” Roe said. “Sounds good.”

“How do you know when to close the gate?” Edie asked.

“Sunset,” the guard said, not sounding as though she was surprised by Edie’s question, even though they’d all been told that the gate closed at sunset.

“But do you wait for the sun to go all the way down, or does it have to be as soon as the sun touches the horizon, or what?” Edie persisted.

The guard raised her eyebrows. “The rules never got that specific. I like to do it a little bit before the sun disappears entirely, so I still have light. They’ve never put any kind of electricity in it, you know, so I still have to come out and haul both sides closed, then lock it.” She patted her belt, where a large ring of keys hung.

Corrie couldn’t begin to guess what each of the more than a dozen keys belonged to—probably one for each building on campus, at least—but she was pretty sure she knew which key locked the front gates. Only that large (as long as the guard’s hand) iron key could lock these huge iron gates.

“When does it open?” Edie asked.

“Sunrise, same way. I hate to be stuck on morning shift in winter. I usually wait for the sun to be pretty high before I unlock it then.” The guard smiled.

“Oh, I bet that’s our food,” Roe said, as a car pulled up to the gates and stopped. She walked toward it.

“Thanks,” Edie said. She smiled at the guard. “I was just curious.”

Corrie said nothing, keeping an eye on Roe, though she was certain that Edie wasn’t just curious. She wanted to know when the gate would be open so Leila could come in. Did she think Leila had left campus? It seemed likely enough.

Roe had finished talking to the driver and was walking back with a large paper bag, so she must have been right. “Food’s here,” she said, coming close enough for the delectable fried smells to reach Corrie’s nose and make her stomach rumble. “Let’s get in and eat.”

“Good plan,” Corrie agreed.

“I might as well lock up now, as soon as you four get back inside,” the guard said. “Stay safe.”

“Thank you,” Annie said. “We will.”

Corrie glanced back over her shoulder a few times as they headed back to Gilkey. It was getting darker, but she could see the silhouette of the guard, pulling first the “CHATOYANT” side and then the “COLLEGE” side of the gate closed. She stood there for a moment, then walked back to the little guard house by the gate, and Corrie knew the gate must be locked.

Chapter 11: Distraction

Roe insisted on carrying the bag of food as they all walked back to the building, and since splitting it up would have meant the food would cool off faster, Corrie didn’t argue. Anyway, arguing would have taken more time, and now that the sun was down, the evening was cooling quickly. Corrie wanted to get back inside.

She even sped up as they approached Gilkey so she would be the first to reach the door, where she swiped her ID and held the door open for the other three. That meant she missed the beginning of a conversation, but she heard Roe’s response to what seemed to be a question Annie had asked.

“He has some important business to do tonight,” she was saying. “I don’t know why it had to be now, but I wasn’t going to argue too much. I have him almost every Saturday night, so it would be selfish of me to complain.”

“Who, Link?” Corrie asked, stepping in as the door shut behind them. “What is he up to? You said important Djanaea stuff.”

“If it’s something we’re not supposed to know about, don’t tell us,” Edie said quickly.

“Oh. Right.” Corrie grinned guiltily. “If he wants you to keep it a secret, you do that. But if not, I want to know. What could possibly be so important as to take him away from you?”

Roe shook her head, laughing a little as they started to climb the stairs. “I’m not that clingy. And I don’t think it’s a secret. He didn’t say not to tell people.”

“If you want to ask him first, I can wait,” Corrie said. “If it’s Djanaea business, he probably doesn’t want you spilling it all over the place.”

Roe shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. I can tell you. We should just wait until we’re in private, because I don’t want other people overhearing us.”

Corrie raised her eyebrows. That just made her more curious. Why did she think it was okay to tell them, even to talk about Djanaea openly in the stairwell—there was no one else in it, and all the fire doors seemed to be closed as usual—but not let others overhear?

***

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Chatoyant College, Book 12: Reemergence

Spring has begun in earnest, and Leila--Edie's girlfriend, the dryad--is finally returning from her long disappearance. But she doesn't return to the same Chatoyant College that she remembers. There's a new barrier around campus, and the magic is working... differently. The changes in the magic don't just affect Leila. Everywhere, students--humans, faeries, and the others as well--are finding that things don't work quite the same way they're used to, and some of them come to Corrie, Edie, and Dawn for help. But what can the girls do when there’s no turning the change back?

  • Author: Clare K. R. Miller
  • Published: 2017-05-07 03:05:11
  • Words: 49618
Chatoyant College, Book 12: Reemergence Chatoyant College, Book 12: Reemergence