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Silver and Cold

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A Whateley Academy Generation 1 Adventure

Silver and Cold

(another chapter in the Saga of Elle Ruud)

by ElrodW

 

Monday, September 24, 2007
Quad, near Crystal Hall. Whateley Academy

It had been a good – if somewhat boisterous – lunch for Elle, Martina, and their friends, as they’d eaten after a free period practicing their team flying in Arena 99l. It almost – almost – made up for the time and tedium of leading the development of the Aerial Games Club, which they’d unfortunately been coerced into. Not that it was Elle’s or Martina’s or Jori’s fault. They couldn’t even blame the two guys with their group. The task that had befallen them, entirely due to a one-sided ‘rivalry’ with Christina Volante, was to develop the nascent club that they called AGC - in spite of the constant admonitions from the lab crews that AGC was a well-known, prior-use acronym in electronics for Automatic Gain Control, and they simply HAD to change it to something that wouldn’t confuse people. All because the Volante girl had a cob up her ass because Martina’s mother and Christina’s father were on opposite sides of the law and had had a couple of run-ins. Everyone who knew the whole story knew that Christina was being foolish and Martina tried her best to ignore the Italian girl.

As for the lab crews, their suggestion of replacing Aerial Games Club – AGC – with ASHRug, standing for Aerial Soccer-Hockey-Rugby, was instantly, unanimously, and vehemently ruled out as, in the words of Todd, that name was “flat ass stupid.” And since that discussion had occurred within earshot of Phase, it drew a somewhat pedantic comment from Phase that if the labcoats had intended to include all elements of the game in their odd name and acronym, as inferred from their suggested name, since the game included elements of basketball and lacrosse, their suggestion was insufficiently descriptive.

“Hey,mate! Wait up a sec, Ice!” The girls’ voice had an unmistakable accent to it, a drawl that sounded vaguely British, albeit clearly from one of the commonwealth nations. Thinking that it was directed at someone else, the gang ignored the girl, and barely slowed.

“You bloody ignoring me again, Ice?” the girl called gain, this time a bit closer, and this time Elle and her friends did stop to look around. A girl was trotting toward them, which wouldn’t have been highly unusual on the Whateley campus, except for two things. First, the girl had very decidedly pointy ears characteristic of Sidhe. Second, and more strikingly, her hair was white with ice-blue highlights – just like Elle.

“Fine. If you’re dead set on buggering off, I can bloody well play along with that game, Aesglowen!” the new girl said with an angry scowl.

Elle felt a shiver run up and down her spine several times. Apart from Dr. Holgersen, the hero group Thor’s Guild, and Mage Astre in Bordeaux who’d given Elle some rudimentary magic training, no-one here knew of Aesglowen, the Sidhe spirit that inhabited her avatar hallow. Or should have known. They all knew the threat she’d faced back home due to the spirit, and all had promised to keep that secret safe. For her own protection, her avatar rating and any mention of her spirit’s possible identity had been carefully omitted from her admission paperwork and record. But there was the redhead girl from Poe – Nikki? – who seemed to recognize her. But that was impossible. Wasn’t it?

Then again, Aesglowen had mentioned a possible sister in one of Elle’s “dreams” with her spirit. In one of her encounters with Nikki, the redhead had mentioned a few curious items – queen of the ice realm, seventh of the nine queens, and even the name Aesgloweth; surely, if Nikki WAS the supposed sister that Elle’s spirit had spoken of, Nikki would have said something. (And technically, Elle hadn’t been lying when Nikki asked if she recognized the name Aesgloweth, since her spirit called herself Aesglowen!!) Elle was convinced that Nikki wasn’t the supposed sister that Aesglowen had warned her about.

But this girl? Speaking like she knew Aesglowen? Calling her ‘Ice’ – which could have been a child’s nickname derived from the name Aesglowen, especially since she had snow and ice powers.

“I’m sorry*, but do I know you?” Elle asked, feigning puzzlement as she quickly decided to play this encounter very coolly.

The new girl rolled her eyes, wearing an expression of disbelief. “I always told Mum and Dad that you were too much of a bloody wanker to be queen! Turns out I was correct, even if I was a few millennia too early on that one!”

“You sound like you’re an Aussie,” Darby interrupted, giving Elle a moment to try to gather her wits; this girl’s presence and comments were very, very disturbing.

“Too right, mate,” the girl replied to Darby with a smug smile. “At least, part of me is. Roberta Holt, but you can call me Robbie. I’m from Brisbane,” she introduced herself. “You a Brit?” When Darby nodded, she smirked. “Figures. Hope you don’t have any hard feelings about losing the Ashes again,” she chuckled. The others might not have understood what Robbie meant by “Ashes”, but obviously Darby knew, since he bristled at Robbie's comment.

“Part of you?” Martina had noticed that Elle seemed uneasy about this girl, so she decided to help run interference with this new girl.

“Yeah,” Robbie answered with a chuckle. “Like your friend Ice here, when I manifested, I got an avatar trait, and an ancient Sidhe spirit moved into my head!” She grinned. “At least I never get lonely anymore, mate! Downside is, she decided I needed a bit of sprucing up. That's how I got the ears, the white hair, lost my great tan, and I got the aurora eyes."

Elle continued to scrutinize the girl, still frowning. “I don’t understand how you think you know me, because I’ve never seen you before, and I don’t recognize you at all.”

Robbie rolled her eyes. “You joking, mate? You and I are siblings. Well, at least in the pointy-ear department. Our spirits are sisters, unless there was some sort of mix up at hospital.”

Elle couldn’t help but goggle at that last comment. This girl was the ‘sister’ Aesglowen had mentioned. And meeting her here, at Whateley?

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At Jori’s and Kiera’s insistence, once the Aussie girl had left, the group moved to an out-of-the-way table on the edge of the quad for a bit of privacy. “Okay, Elle, a girl you’ve never met comes up, looking like your twin sister, claims to be your little sister, or at least that of a spirit that lives in your head,” Jori said with a determined expression after they had all sat at the picnic table.

“My hallow,” Elle corrected her friend.

“Head, hallow, what’s the difference?” Dosi asked in exasperation.

Elle sighed. “Jori knows what it’s like to be an avatar.” She didn’t have to look to know her friend was nodding her agreement. “Well, I’m a bit of a different case. My spirit isn’t just a ‘feeling’ of something, or some power.”

“I don’t understand,” Todd frowned. “An avatar is an avatar.”

Elle shook her head. “An avatar is the person, a vessel. A container that a spirit moves into." She glanced at Jori, who nodded her agreement with Elle's explanation. "You know how Nikki – Fey – keeps looking at me? You’ve heard about a sophomore girl who has a Lakota spirit?” When the others nodded, some almost imperceptibly, Elle continued. “Some spirits aren’t just ‘feelings’. It’s like … they’re alive. It’s the essence of the being – memories, thoughts, feelings – I guess you would say the ‘soul’, or at least enough of it to seem to be alive. I haven’t told anyone, because it’s … dangerous … for me, I mean, if certain people knew who my spirit is.”

“Some elf queen, it sounds like,” Todd volunteered.

Elle sighed, shaking her head. “My spirit – Aesglowen,”

“Ice is what she called you,” Dosi interjected.

Elle shrugged again. “Maybe a nickname,” she postulated. “Anyway, she thinks I’m one of the queens of the nine-fold courts of Sidhe, or something like that.”

“A … queen?” Todd gogled at his friend.

“Of the Ice Realm.That’s what she says,” Elle replied simply. “If she was, it would make sense, considering my powers. And my irises look like Auroras, so yeah, it kind of fits.” She shrugged, trying to act non-chalant, but her friends could see that the encounter had rattled her. “Anyway, that’s what Fey – Nikki – asked me about earlier.”t

"It sounds like you're not sure," Todd ventured.

Elle sighed, looking away to a distant stand of birch trees that were starting to show signs of fall colors. "To me, my spirit is alive. To others – it's not that clear. IS she a living part of a spirit? Or do I just dream that she's an ancient spirit?" She shook her head. "It's confusing. The powers folks tell me that she IS a … sentient spirit. That she has thoughts and memories. Except she doesn't. Have memories, I mean. I guess, or the powers wonks guess, that she has some kind of spirit-amnesia. That most of the spirit is there, but memories aren't. So I have no idea what Robbie was talking about.”

"That explains why you reacted to the Aussie girl the way you did," Jori said, touching her hand lightly and reassuringly on Elle's arm.

“And the whole queen thing?" Dosi asked with a raised eyebrow. "Does that have anything to do with why you've been so carefully avoiding the redhead elf Nikki all this time?"

"Aes … Aesglowen – that's her name – was sure Nikki reminder her of someone. Someone who terrifies Aes. The thing is, Aes doesn't remember anything about queens or realms. But Nikki – she remembers bits and pieces, so we've steered clear of her."

Martina put her hand on Elle's shoulder to offer a gesture of support and caring friendship. “I’ve seen how you react to Nikki,” she said in a soothing voice, “but if Nikki's spirit is a memory, then maybe you need to talk to her? Maybe she has some answers you don’t have.”

Elle nodded fractionally, and the corners of her mouth turned up a tiny bit, a hint that she understood her friends’ concern, appreciated it, and would consider the recommendation.

As soon as Todd saw the silent exchange, he somehow knew the discussion was over. He turned to his roommate. “Okay, since that’s all settled, what was all that crap about ashes?”

Darby closed his eyes for a moment, then sighed as he looked around the table. “Kind of a traveling trophy for an Australia-England cricket match. Happens every couple of years.”

“Cricket?” Dosi gawked. “Cricket? A bunch of fuss about a trophy for cricket?”

“It’s more a national pride thing,” Darby defended himself. “Bragging rights, you know.”

“Where the hell do the ashes come in?”

“It’s … it started as a joke. After England won two of three matches, some muckety-muck shackle-dragger gave an urn to the English team, claiming that it contained ‘the ashes of Australia’s cricket amibitions.’ The name and tradition kind of stuck.”

“Cricket?” Dosi asked again, sounding and looking even more astonished. “I could understand if it was football,” she paused, turning toward Martina and Todd, “that’d be soccer to you two.” She shook her head. “But cricket?”

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Elle’s Dreamspace

Unlike most times she entered her dreamspace, Elle didn’t see Aesglowen anywhere near her. She was on a broad, rocky, snow-and-ice-covered ledge, with some of the rocks easily big enough to hide a person. To one side, a cliff towered as high as could be seen through a mild snowstorm. Elle shuddered; if one side of the ledge went up, the other side probably went down – just as sharply.

“Aes?” Elle called out, hoping her spirit would respond. If she was honest with herself, she was a little frightened being alone in her dreamspace; her Sidhe doppleganger was never more than a few yards away in that strange, ever-changing realm. After wandering around – carefully – for a bit, Elle noticed her spirit Aesglowen sitting on the icy ground, her feet danging over a precipitous drop, staring into the emptiness of the snow-filled sky. Elle cautiously sat down beside the white-haired spirit-girl.

Aes leaned onto Elle’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she muttered.

“Was she speaking the truth? Is she your sister?” Elle got right to the point.

“I … I think so. Maybe,” Aes said softly. “I … I don’t remember.”

“The one you called Ninometh?”

Aes shook her head uncertainly. “Maybe. I’m not sure. Or maybe Ninometh is the one that scares me?” She sighed. “I … I only remember a little. My sister … my younger sister … I think she was … mean and angry all the time.”

“Younger sibling who’s a brat?” Elle scoffed. “Like that’s something new.” She thought a moment. “Maybe she wished that she was the one crowned queen?” Elle speculated. “An envious, bratty little sister?” Aes turned her head and looked up at Elle, perhaps startled by a memory that Elle’s words had sparked.

“One of my friends said that maybe we should talk to the one you said was queen, the redhead,” Elle started to suggest.

“No!” Aes’ reaction was swift and firm. “Not her!” She sighed again. “Maybe she could give us some answers, but she frightens me.”

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Thursday, September 28, 2007 - afternoon
Kirby Hall. Whateley Academy

Nikki Reilly had just finished a grueling magic class – not that the subject matter was particularly difficult, but she was a teaching aide, and it seemed like this year’s magic class had more than its fair share of misguided or badly-misinformed students, along with a couple of self-centered snobs who thought they already knew everything and simply refused to be instructed. And that didn’t include the one ‘special’ student who was truly in the category of ‘moron studying to be promoted to idiot’. Unfortunately, they had to accommodate him, as his Wiz rating was rather high, and the staff had to at least try to help him learn to control his power, so he didn’t end up as a human popsicle, or worse yet, another mutant ‘disappeared’ by the MCO.

“Excuse me, mate,” a girl called from the entrance steps. From where she was positioned, it was obvious that she’d been waiting.

With a somewhat exaggerated and exasperated sigh, Nikki turned slightly toward the girl. “Elle?” she instantly gawked. The girl looked only too familiar – the very-light-skinned Sidhe girl with the icy-hued hair that seemed familiar to Nikki, and who Nikki had tried to talk to some time ago.

The girl frowned deeply, but before she could say anything, Nikki recognized her mistake. Though the girl looked very similar to Elle Ruud, the Sidhe girl she’d been thinking of, there were some minor differences, despite striking similarities. “Sorry, but you reminded me of someone I know,” Nikki quickly apologized.

“It’s all good, mate. Robbie Holt,” the girl introduced herself, giving an unusual bow of her head toward Nikki. “And you’re the Queen,” the Aussie girl said confidently. “The one who is to restore our glory, at least. Bit too much of a Yank to be the other one. You are Aung-”

“I’ll have none of that,” Nikki shot back curtly, glaring at the newcomer. Clearly, she was going to need a little ‘education’ about the state of affairs if her spirit believed in the reformation of the Nine Queens. “You have a Sidhe spirit. Aesgloweth?”

Robbie frowned, turning up her lip in a half-snarl of disgust mixed with anger. “As if! Ninometh, second daughter of the Queen of the Ice Realm, at your service,” she said proudly, though the statement seemed a little less than regal given her thick Australian accent. “Though it’s a load of bollocks that the daughter of the Ice Queen would show up in Queensland instead of somewhere less tropical. Like Siberia. Or New Zealand.”

“If the courts were ever restored, you know Aesglowen would be rightful heir.” Nikki chose her words carefully.

Robbie snorted in disgust. “Ice is here,” she declared. “I met her the other day while taking a gander. Bit of a wanker if you ask me,”

Nikki’s eyebrows rose. “The other white-haired Sidhe girl? Um … Elle, I think?”

“Yeah, I think that’s her name, mate.” Robbie saw Nikki’s surprised expression. “When she didn’t respond to Ice, or recognize her bloody sister, I didn’t want to push it. Didn’t seem worth the hassle, if I’m being honest. She didn’t seem to want anything to do with me.”

“That seems a bit rude,” Nikki observed. “Look, I’d love to stay and chat, but my training team is scheduled for a sim in about twenty minutes, and I need to get ready for that.” She gave a wry grin. “You’ll learn about our sadistic rangemasters and sim trainers in plenty of time.”

“But … we’re bloody Sidhe!” Robbie protested. “Why …?”

Nikki’s expression turned to an icy glare that could freeze air. “Enough of that!” She glanced around quickly. “I know where you’re coming from on this, and you need to stop! You and I need to have a serious private discussion about this. The sooner, the better. Are you in Dickinson Cottage?”

Robbie shook her head. “Nah. When I said I didn’t have a problem with stranger mutations, they put me in Whitman.” She laughed. “All you Yanks seem to think that everything in Australia that walks, crawls, slithers, or swims is out to kill you, so they probably figured an odd mutation or two wouldn't be a bother." She grinned broadly. "After growing up in Brisbane, Whitman seems like a bloody vacation.”

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Thursday, September 28, 2007 - Dinner
Crystal Hall. Whateley Academy

Nikki wearily plopped her food tray on the Team Kimba table, sighing heavily as she sat. “I hate afternoons like this!” she grumbled as she picked up a fork to stab at her salad.

“We had the same sim,” Hank retorted sharply. His frustration was palpable, and even the presence of Lily. “When is this bad luck going to end?” He shook his head. “Kayda’s never going to stop giving us grief about this afternoon.”

Lily snorted a half chuckle. “She still hasn’t stopped kidding you about the sim for her team when you were trying to be a villain!”

Hank gawked at her. “I wasn’t feeling very villainy that day!”

“Behold the Mighty Moose!” Toni laughed. “Trying to steal Agamemnon’s Balls! You really need to take a class in villain dialoguing!”

“And remember to keep your speechifying family friendly,” Nikki added with a smile.

“That’s one of the more popular sim videos,” Jade said with an innocent smile. “I heard it’s being used in Dialoguing 201 this year.”

“Yeah, so now Kayda and the Ghost-Walkers will have two things to tease you about. Speaking of sims, where’s Ayla? With Charge, I bet.” Fey smiled. “I wonder if she’ll play innocent or rub it in that her distracting him was part of the Ghost-Walker’s plan?”

“Ayla? Probably plotting to poison that pestilent perturbing pretend patissier,” Toni chuckled.

“Oooh! Points for alliteration!” Jade giggled.

Hank scowled. “I’m not a foodie, and that little asshole annoys me! I can’t understand why Ayla hasn’t ‘accidentally’ phased his taste buds out of existence!”

“Excuse me,” a girl’s voice called out from over Fey’s shoulder. “Nikki, can I … that is, my friends suggested that ….”

Anyone not facing Fey spun immediately to see who was nervously trying to interrupt the Team Kimba table. It was the white-haired Sidhe girl, or rather, one of the two white-haired Sidhe girls. Since this one didn’t have a pronounced Aussie accent and excessive self-confidence, it had to be Elle.

Nikki looked at the Sidhe girl, trying to remain impassive, but not quite achieving that goal. “Yes?” she asked, stifling the torrent of questions coming to mind. “You’re Elle Ruud, right? From Norway?”

The girl nodded. “I kind of need to apologize for something.” She continued before any of Team Kimba with raised eyebrows could say anything. “You asked if I knew the name Aesgloweth. And I said I didn’t?” She winced a bit. “That was kind of a lie.” She lowered her voice. “My spirit’s name is Aesglowen, not Aesgloweth. It was close enough and unusual enough that I knew who you meant,” she added meekly.

“That’s kind of nit-pickey, isn’t it?” Toni asked a bit sarcastically.

“I see.” Nikki observed the girl’s demeanor, holding her hand up in a ‘stop’ position toward her roommate, to hopefully quell comments that might not help the discussion.. “Would this, perhaps, have anything to do with Ninometh or an Aussie girl named Robbie Holt?”

Elle nodded fractionally, her eyes reflecting a torrent of mixed emotions.”It’s …”

Nikki shook her head. “I have a feeling this discussion would be best in private. Do you have some free time, say around 8?”

Hank shook his head firmly. “Echo Five Six.”

The redhead’s eyes widened a moment, then she lowered her gaze, shaking her head. “Crap, that’s right. I forgot.” She sighed. “There’s no way we’ll have time before curfew, either.” She rolled her eyes. “And I’ve got to find time to let Ninometh know the score.” She looked at Elle again. “Do you have a kind of … private … dream-like, kind of imaginary place? Where you talk to your spirit?”

Elle’s eyes widened. “Um, yeah,” she said hesitantly. “How do you know?”

“Not important,” Nikki said. “I can meet you in your dream-space tonight if you’d like?”

Elle felt a physical shudder as her spirit screamed ‘No!” repeatedly in her head. Clearly, Aesglowen was terrified of Nikki, regardless of what happened with Ninometh. Having Nikki, the Sidhe Queen, come into their shared private space was very unnerving to Elle’s spirit.

Before Elle could speak, Nikki, sensing her fear, shook her head. “Okay, I can tell that probably won’t work.” She thought a moment. “I can talk to a cottage-mate who routinely helps people ‘dream walk’. She could arrange a neutral dream-space. If you get uneasy, you can leave.”

“Nikki,” Hank said, his voice full of concern, “do you really want to inflict Kayda’s angst on Elle?”

“Or anyone for that matter?” Jade piped in from the end of the table.

Toni nodded her agreement as she flipped into a one-armed handstand on the back of her chair while simultaneously grabbing a half-apple from her tray. “Yeah. Her Angst-O-Meter is stuck at eleven!”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Since Ayla isn’t here to say it, I will. First, Angst-O-Meter isn’t a real thing, and second, since she got things squared away with Loophole, Kayda’s been pretty calm and happy.”

“Kayda? Happy?” Hank gawked in mock alarm. “It’s a sign!” he cried, face pointed skyward and stretching his arms outward and upward in a melodramatic way that was a very poor imitation of a televangelist. “Repent now, for the apocalypse is upon us!”

“D minus for acting.” Toni flipped the half-apple into the air, switched hands on her handstand, and caught the apple, all in one dizzyingly-fast but graceful move. “And the downside is that we need to find some other source of dramatic entertainment.” She looked at Lily. “I don’t know what you’ve done to Hank, to get him so much less serious than Ayla, but I approve!”

Jade looked up thoughtfully. “Danny’s been having an interesting year so far! Maybe he’s trying to earn the title of Angstiest Poesie this year!”

“Can we get back to the matter at hand?” Nikki implored in an exasperated tone. “Elle, do you think that would work?” When she saw the hesitation on the white Sidhe girl’s face, she half-smiled. “A shaman is like a doctor, so Kayda would never talk about anything that is discussed. It’s about as private as we could ever get.”

When Elle continued to look pensive and uneasy, Lily decided to interject. “Elle, I can tell this is very important to you. Kayda is a very dedicated shaman-in-training. This might be the way to answer some of the questions you – and your spirit – have.” She smiled in a comforting way. “Since I’m not as crazy as this band of loons, maybe you can take my assurance that this can’t hurt, and might help you?”

The white-haired Sidhe girl looked around the table; suddenly, their jovial clowning-around was gone, and they all looked genuinely sympathetic. It was enough. “Okay. We can try that. What do I have to do?”

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Thursday, September 27, just after curfew
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy

No sooner had Ayla come into the common space known informally as Kimba Corner than Nikki practically trotted to intercept him. “Now that you’re done canoodling with your French tart, I need some intel.”

Ayla merely raised one eyebrow. “One of the new Sidhe girls?” Before Nikki could answer, he cocked his eyebrow even higher. “The Aussie girl or the Norwegian girl?”

“I’ll need to find out more background on both of them, but for now, let’s start with the Norwegian girl.” She half-smiled. “For some reason, she’s very nervous around me, so I arranged a meeting in neutral ground.”

“So why the interest? It’s more than just that she’s a Sidhe,” Ayla observed, “or that she talked briefly to you at dinner. Your comments and questions, and how she reacts to you, indicates something is concerning you.”

Ayla sat down and flipped open his school laptop. It only took a few seconds for him to access his intel files and open the file on Elle Ruud, which he then relayed to Nikki. The most starting to all of them was Ayla’s comment that “Elle belongs in Poe.”

“Thanks. I’ve got to go meet with Kayda.” She read her roommmate’s inquisitive glance. “I’ve probably got as many questions as she does, so I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Yet.” Jade said with certainty.

Nikki nodded. “Yet.” She paused in the doorway. “And Ayles?”

“Yes?”

“You haven’t slipped and mentioned anything to your French pastry about Danny and her sister, have you?”

“No, why?”

“She was asking some … interesting … questions this afternoon,” Toni said before Nikki could answer. “While you were off getting tutored in nineteen-dimensional tensor algebra-type statistical calculus mathy-stuff. Or whatever it is that Kayda’s supposed to be tutoring you in.”

“The class is ….” Ayla saw the glare he was getting from the others, and decided against explaining the real title and nature of the advanced math class.. “No, I’ve been very careful to steer around that topic.”

Hank sighed audibly. “Nikki, when you talk to Kayda tonight, please ask her to get Danny to straighten this out with Amelie and Adalie. I’m getting tired of covering for him, and I think Addy is starting to get suspicious.”

“Okay, I’ll bring it up. Night, all.”

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Dream Space of Aesglowen & Elle

“Do we have to?” Aesglowen sat beside Elle on a ledge on a snow-and-ice-covered mountain, which seemed to be their preferred landscape, at least as of late. To their left, the broad ledge sloped downward to lower heights, and to the right, it continued upward, both directions vanishing into kind of a misty, snow-swirly twilight fog.

Elle nodded, clutching the hand of her spirit doppleganger supportively. “Yes, we have to. With that Aussie girl, it’s gotten too complicated.”

“We could just ignore her.” Aes suggested timidly.

Elle gave a derisive snort. “How well has that worked? It seems she’s made a point of hunting us down all the time since we first met her.”

“But … what about the other girl. Nikki?” Aes visibly shuddered. “She scares me. A lot.”

“I know,” Elle reassured her spirit. “She scares me, too. It’s said that she’s a very powerful magic user. But … she knows things that I don’t know and that you can’t remember.”

“Maybe I don’t want to know,” Aes suggested. Despite her adaptation to frigid climates, she shivered again, more from nerves than from cold. “Maybe it’s better if neither one of us knows.”

Elle was considering the profundity of Aes’ suggestion – essentially that ignorance might be bliss in this case, when she heard her name being called. “Elle?” The girl’s voice called again from her left, from lower parts of the mountain.

“Can you ignore her?”

“I’ve been thinking about doing just that,” Elle whispered back, feeling her own nerves start to tense up at some type of unknown encounter. Nikki had promised that the one helping them was nice and fair.

“Elle?” the voice called again, from much closer.

Thought it was twilight in her dream world, and lightly snowing, without cover of a white-out blizzard the girl would find them rather quickly. “Over here,” Elle replied, clutching Aes’ hand tighter.

The girl approached them, emerging like a wraith from the twilight and swirling snowflakes. Elle started; the girl was definitely not what she’d expected. Of modest height, the girl wore her long black hair in two braids that framed her darker-toned face. Beaded leather thongs provided a pretty accent to her braids, and her cheeks were adorned with broad, short stripes of red and white. More white face paint marked her brow and nose in some type of ceremonial pattern. Her figure was difficult to make out, because she was wrapped in a heavy, fur-covered robe to protect herself from the cold. Tawny-colored high moccasins protected her feet from the ice and rocks, disappearing upward under the heavy robe. Despite her makeup and robe, or maybe because of it, Elle thought the girl had an honest, simple beauty about herself.

Elle stood, leaving Aes huddling down on the ledge and glancing fearfully toward the newcomer. “Nikki told me your name is Kayda? She said you’re a shaman?”

The girl chuckled. “Shaman in training. I still have a lot to learn, But yes, my name is Kayda.”

“Are you an American Indian?” Elle blurted out, unable to contain her curiosity. “I read stories when I was in school – Cowboys and Indians, and buffalo, and tepees and stuff.”

Kayda laughed pleasantly. “American Indian, Native American, the First Nations, the People – we have been called, and call ourselves, many things.” And before Elle could reply, Kayda continued. “Nikki asked me to help arrange a meeting in the dream world, so I’m kind of your guide for the evening.” She also noted the nervous state of Elle’s spirit. “We will meet in my dream space, since it is neutral ground to you and to Nikki. That way, she won’t be entering your space, and you won’t have to go to hers.”

“Okay,” Elle said uncertainly, while Aes seemed to relax a bit that Nikki and her wouldn’t be intruding on each others’ spaces. If Nikki entered Aes and Elle’s space, given how frightened Aes was of Nikki, the invasion of her privacy might shatter any confidence she had left. And if they had to go to Nikki’s dream space, she feared that she’d be trapped. Neutral ground seemed like a good compromise.

“My spirit and I invite you under the rules of a council. There will be no fighting. The meeting will be peaceful, and any may leave at any time.” Kayda looked at the frightened spirit sitting nervously on the cliff’s edge. “Does that sound agreeable?”

Elle looked to her spirit; though she was in control and in theory could order her spirit to do her bidding, in reality, Aes was like an imaginary friend, an invisible partner, and ordering Aes to do things against her will seemed way too wrong. After shifting her gaze back and forth between the Indian girl and Elle, Aes finally gave a tiny, hesitant nod.

“Yes. What do we have to do?” Elle asked.

“Just take my hands,” Kayda replied. “It’ll work best if I’m touching both of you, so one on each hand would be best.” She paused, watching the expression of the spirit girl. “I can make it work either way, but it’s easier if I have direct contact with both of you.

With a skeptical look, Aes slowly rose and took one of Elle’s hands. Holding Elle’s other hand, Kayda guided them to the left, downward on the ledge, which almost immediately began to dissolve into a greyish foggy nothingness. Elle knew from holding Aes’ hand that her spirit was about to panic, but a new landscape emerged within seconds. It was twilight again, but the sky was crystal clear, the sky dotted with millions of tiny lights, and the haze of the galaxy stretched from horizon to horizon. Ahead of them, a nearly-full moon cast a surprising amount of light onto the grassy hillock where they’d ‘landed’. On the horizon, there were more rolling hills all around them.

In front of them, down the hillock on a small flat area, a fire flickered, adding a bit of light the pale silver glow of moonlight. It was enough to silhouette a few conical structures. It took only moments to descend the slope and enter the little camp.

Unsurprisingly to Kayda, there was no tea brewing. Instead, Wakan Tanka stood beside the fire pit with her arms crossed, an angry expression on her countenance. <What is she doing here?> the spirit demanded in the Lakota language.

From the grasp on her hand, Kayda knew that Elle, though not understanding Lakota, understood Wakan Tanka’s tone. No doubt Aes did as well, since she flinched.. <She is my guest> Kayda replied. <I know what you said about the SIdfhe. I know of the bad blood. But I also know Nikki, and her struggles and vows after she lost her spirit,> the Lakota girl continued. The other woman’s eyes narrowed.

Kayda shook her head sternly before the other could speak. <I am providing a neutral meeting ground,> she said simply. <As is the shaman’s duty – to mediate whenever needed, which you told me would be one of my duties as Pejuta – to mediate, to help bring the Nations together so we can all prosper.>

Wakan Tanka’s eyes widened at Kayda’s tone, then she nodded imperceptibly. <I see you are learning, especially to not be dominated. Unlike that other Sidhe girl and her arrogant queen spirit.> She sighed, her gaze looking away at the pale orange orb just above the horizon. <There are days I think I chose wisely, and days I think I chose poorly.>

Kayda goggled a moment at the spirit’s confession. <Which is it today?>

Wakan Tanka ignored the question and looked back at Kayda. <You are correct. This is good training.>

Kayda smiled. <Speaking of Nikki, I would appreciate it if could make some tea for my guests while I go get Nikki. She is part of the mediation.>

A few minutes later, Kayda returned with Nikki. The redhead greeted Elle with a polite hug, but as she neared Aes to give a similar greeting, the white-haired Sidhe ducked behind Elle. Nikki halted, closing her eyes and sighing heavily.

“Sit,” Kayda ordered, then she got a cup of tea for herself and one for Nikki.

After a sip of the soothing tea, she looked to Elle. “You wanted to talk to me? What’s on your mind?”

Aes had been staring into her tea, but she looked up. Perhaps she’d been expecting a lecture from The Queen Who Is to Come. “Where’s … the Queen?” she asked, sounding a bit confused.

Nikki winced and looked down, visibly pained by the memory of losing Aunghadhail. Kayda put her hand supportively on Nikki’s arm and spoke for her. “Aunghadhail’s spirit was … lost. In a magic battle,” Kayda explained.

“She’s … gone?” Aes asked, her jaw hanging open in astonishment.

“She’s gone,” Nikki said firmly. “She was part of the past, not the present," she added with the tone of someone determined to set her own destiny, not to accept the destiny of a long dead Sidhe queen. At least that the impression she was trying to project. "She’s gone, just like the past is gone.”

“I remember … queens? And Ninometh – she said she should be the queen, that I wasn’t worthy of it?” Aes shook her head in confusion. “Was I really … a queen of something? Ice and snow?”

Nikki nodded. “Yes, you were, Like your mother before you, and her mother before her, and so on.”

Elle held onto Aes’ hand to comfort her spirit. “Ninometh?”

“Yes, your sister was named Ninometh," Nikki chuckled. “Elle, you need to explain to her the concept of ‘bratty little sister’.” Then she sighed again. “Although, your three little sisters Sara, Helena, and Thea weren’t exactly brats, were they?” Elle’s jaw dropped in astonishment at what Nikki knew. She shuddered suddenly, wondering exactly how MUCH Nikki knew. “Not yet, anyway.” Nikki added.

Kayda chuckled along with Nikki. “Trust us – younger siblings will always be brats at some time or other.”

“How much … do you know?” Elle asked nervously, her mouth hanging open in shock.

Nikki smiled, but it was a sympathetic, knowing smile. She looked at Kayda. “Poe,” she said simply to the shaman girl. When Elle glanced at Kayda, she got the same knowing and sympathetic smile. Confused, she looked back at Nikki, still expecting answers. “Enough. And I can promise you, for everything I’m worth, that we will never, ever reveal your secret. If that is ever revealed, it will not be by us.”

Kayda nodded her affirmation of Nikki’s promise.

Elle fidgeted for a bit as she weighed the vow of secrecy the two had taken against her own fear of disclosure. Everyone at home had reminded her of how closed-minded and bigoted some Americans were. In Meraker, her change was just another oddity of her mutation. In the US, she'd heard that it could lead to physical violence by some narrow-minded bigots.

“Maybe we need to get Ninometh in this discussion?” Nikki suggested. “It would help set everyone straight, and I'm sure many of your questions, she has as well."

"And we wouldn't have to do this twice," Kayda added with a smirk.

Elle was about to reply, but Aes beat her to it. “Maybe. Maybe that would be best.”

Elle squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Remember, if it gets uncomfortable, we can always leave.”

Aes looked sadly back and forth among the other three. “We’ll have to talk to her sooner or later, right?” She looked down, studying the half-full cup in her hands. "I … I don't want to, but …."

Elle wrapped her arm aroiund Aes' shoulder. "I'm here with you."

linebreak shadow

Second Floor, Poe Cottage

Finding Elle and bringing her into her dream world had been a lot more draining on Kayda than she'd usual for such tasks; she suspected it had a lot to do with the power of Elle's Sidhe spirit and Elle's untapped and uncontrolled magic potential. As a result, she was a little groggy as she stumbled down the corridor, enough that she wasn't looking and walked headlong into the Resident Advisor, Elaine Nally.

Elaine, Lanie, caught the Lakota girl as she somewhat stumbled back from the inadvertent encounter. "Whoa, girl," Lanie chuckled as a startled Kayda looked up suddenly at her. "If you wanted a hug or kiss, you could have just asked! No need to try to tackle me!"

"Sorry," Kayda apologized again. "I'm a little tired, and I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."

Lanie waggled her eyebrows suggestively. "Does it look like Ah mind if you charge into my arms?" she drawled before startlng Kayda even more with a kiss right on her lips.

When the brief friendly exchange was finished, Kayda sheepishly smiled, blushing. "I don't mind, but I'm kind of in a hurry here." She saw the puzzled look on her friend's face. "Nikki asked me to 'mediate' a meeting between her and the white-haired Sidhe girl, Elle. Seems there's another one, an Aussie girl, who's making a bit of trouble about the courts and queens and stuff."

"Sounds serious."

Kayda nodded. "It is. After a kind of brutal sim this afternoon, I'm now spending a lot of essence and energy to remotely keep my dream space open from the real-world for them while I try to convince the Aussie girl to join in. She wants to meet with Nikki anyway – something about rightful heir and such, so Nikki figured if we can get her in the same dream space, they can hash it out all at once, and I can try to keep them from killing each other."

"Courts and Sidhe and the queens?" Lanie thought a moment. "You get back to your dream world. Ah'll have Mrs. Horton send her … what's her name?"

"Holt. Robbie Holt. Nikki said she's in Whitman."

"Consider it done. Ah'll get Mrs. Savage to send her over, and Ah'll bring her up to your room as soon as she gets here. Between Mrs. Horton and me, we can make it a very important, official request."

"That sounds good."

Lanie's eyes twinkled mischievously. "You owe me one for this!"

"I thought I prepaid with that kiss," Kayda shot back playfully.

"That was for almost runnin' me over," Lanie grinned. "Wait til you see what Ah'm going to charge for this little favor."

"You're bad!"

Lanie waggled her eyebrows again. "Ah know it, and Ah'm proud of it!" As Kayda turned, Lanie had another thought. "Kayda, maybe if it's Five-Fold Courts stuff, the Healer could help?"

Kayda paused, then nodded enthusiastically. "Presuming, of course, that he's not busy banging Tansy!" she teased her friend. The fact that Wyatt, Lanie, and Tansy were in a 3-way relationship was not exactly a state secret.

"Without me? He wouldn't dare!"

Kayda rolled her eyes at Lanie's jesting. Then again, maybe she wasn't joking. "Yeah, go ahead and ask him."

linebreak shadow

Kayda's Dream Space

Uneasily, warily, Wakan Tanka refilled Nikki's, Elle's, and Aes' cups, being as mnimally hospitable as she could given the circumstances.

"Thank you," Nikki said. "Wopila tanka?" She saw the woman's eyes widen. "Is that right? Thank you?"

One of the older spirit's eyebrows rose, and then she nodded. The wary look was reduced a bit; at least this one was not as arrogant as the Sidhe queen. She couldn't detect the spirit of the queen who had refused to help the People in the time of the Bastard and the Sundering. She considered that perhaps her vessel, Kayda, was more perceptive about the redhead than Wakan Tanka had given her credit for.

Nikki smiled at the older woman's acknowledgement. "Wihikayda …."

The older woman frowned. "Wihikayda?" She shook her head. "I call her Wihikayda. She … choose name Kayda."

Nikki started that the older woman had spoken English. She was suddenly a bit warier of Kayda's avatar connection; how much of the conversation had the older woman understood?

Aes got the conversation back on topic. "You knew my mother?" Aes asked. "I mean, your spi … Aungfhadhail?"

Nikki sadly shook her head. "I'm sure Aung did. But those were her memories. I've got bits and pieces of them, but she didn't exactly leave me a memory card."

Aes' brow furrowed in confusion. "Memory … card?"

Elle chuckled lightly. "Not important. I'll explain later."

Aes lowered her gaze. "I … I don't remember. I should remember my mother. My sister. But I can't find the memories in my head."

"I think her name was Kaladrielle," Nikki offered.

Wakan Tanka's eyes widened, and she sat bolt upright. "Kaladrielle?" She erupted with a string of Lakota that none of the girls could understand, but it was obvious from her expression and excited tone that the name was familiar. Whether it was good or bad was unknown, but it made Nikki nervous. Aunghadhail and Wakan Tanka had definitely not been on the best of terms – uncomfortable truce was probably the most generous description – and it was possible that the older woman felt the same about Aes and her family.

The trio of visitors were more surprised when Wakan Tanka walked to Aes and sat beside her. She put her hand gently on Aes' shoulder, still speaking in Lakota; it was becoming evident that Wakan Tanka had different feelings for the name Kaladrielle than she did for Aung. Elle's and Aes' hesitance faded quickly as Wakan Tanka's words and arm around Aes' shoulder somewhat affectionately was unmistakably conveying warmth and friendship. Still, it would have been far easier if they had understood Lakota.

It seemed that hardly any time had passed before Kayda returned, descending the hill with another pair of girls beside her. They looked quite similar to Elle and Aes. In the same way that Elle looked like an identical twin to Aes, the two girls looked like another pair of twins. As they neared, the girls' features became more clear, and Elle couldn't help but flinch when she identified Robbie Holt with her spirit Ninometh. Both of them had a casual stride that looked a little cocky and self-assured. Given their earlier encounter, this didn't surprise Elle.

Wakan Tanka looked at Kayda, who replied with a quick tilt of her head toward the two newcomers. Again, she switched to Lakota. <These two are Roberta Holt and her spirit Ninometh.>

The older woman stiffened, glaring at the two newcomers. <I should not let you bring Ninometh into our camp.> she said sternly.

<Oh? Why not?>

<She was a spoiled, undisciplined child. A … brat … I believe is your word.> the old woman huffed. <Her mother was friendly and kind, sometimes joining for a hunt, sometimes to join us at the fire in winter to talk, to dream, and during those visits, she kept the snow and the wind calm. She was a friend of the People.> She glared at Nikki. <Unlike Ninometh, who delighted in playing tricks. She caused great storms, and laughed as the People struggled. She chased off buffalo as the People tried to hunt. She is a trickster, as untrustworthy as Iktomi. As untrustworthy as the Queen, who, like Ninometh, was often cruel, and other times indifferent.>

Kayda sighed heavily at Wakan Tanka's stubbornness. <The Queen is gone. You know that. We have nothing to fear from her. Nikki knows the truth of the Sidhe Courts, and she has been frightened from even thinking of following the path of restoring the Courts. She has a human heart, not a Sidhe one.>

<Maybe.> The older woman looked up at Kayda. <But Ninometh? I can tell her spirit is still wild, undisciplined, and arrogant. She is unpredictable, and therefore a danger. I do not like her in our camp >

<She is here, like Elle and Aes, to answer their questions, and so that Nikki can ….>

"Hey, sorry I'm late! Did I miss anything?" The deep voice boomed through the camp, and a big tall young man strode easily into the camp and plopped himself down on a log, as if his presence in the camp was totally normal. Aes, Elle, Robbie, and Ninometh flinched when an eight-foot tall bear shambled in behind the boy, and like him, sat down. Seeing a huge bear sit like a human may have been entertaining in a circus, but to most of those gathered at the fire circle, it was a terrifying sight.

"Did you have to bring the bear?" Kayda frowned at the young man.

"Shaman," the large bear spoke, further startling the visitors, "I was the Healer. I was there. More than any, I should be here, in case any memories or history is needed."

"Wyatt?"

The tower of a young man shrugged. "When Lanie told me you were talking about the Courts, Baloo insisted on coming along," he replied.

Kayda shook her head. "Great. Scare the hell out of my guests. All we need to complete the terror is Tatanka wandering into camp."

Elle's nervous gaze went back and forth between the young man and the bear.

Kayda shook her head, sighing, then turned to her guests. "Nikki and I can vouch for the character of the Healer." Wyatt cleared his throat, frowning at Kayda.. "Oh, and Wyatt is mostly harmless."

Nikki nodded her agreement. "The Healer was physician to the Court of the Nine Queens. He knows more about that time than any … entity."

Robbie's eyes widened, and grin spread across her face. "Great! So you can tell us all about the courts and their glory, right?"

Ninometh nodded. "And my family? And," she shot an unpleasant glance at Aes, "what it takes to be a Queen?" No doubt she was hoping to find justification for her to be queen, and not Aes.

"Let's get one thing straight, here," Nikki interrupted sternly. "The Queen is gone. Her spirit, which I held, is gone. She was destroyed in a magic battle. There is no Queen!"

"What do you think the Courts were?" Baloo followed Nikki with a question. He looked at Aes.

Aes scooted nervously a little closer to Elle. "I … I don't know," she said, staring morosely at the ground. "I can't remember. Just … some images, some sounds." In the flickering light from the fire, glistening tears could be seen on her cheeks.

Ninometh grinned. Aes was proving herself unworthy, without her having to say a word. "I remember a bunch of palaces. Regal robes, Lots of ceremonies, and guards in fancy uniforms. There were a lot of parties and balls and feasts. I remember we had a nanny who took care of us. She was kind and smart, and we always had games to play! She took us all around the nine realms, to some of the human camps – all over!"

The Healer looked at Nikki, shaking his head. She, too had a weary, sad expression. "You were too young," the bear said softly. "You were far too young. You weren't old enough to understand how the courts worked." He gazed evenly at Ninometh, then at Aes. "It wasn't kings and crowns and palaces. The nine realms were full of a brand of political squabbling and fighting and backstabbing. Worse than you could imagine. Assassination attempts were unfortunately not uncommon. Wars between the realms were not permitted, the 'peace' enforced by the Queen and her guards, but petty rivalries, raids, small attacks …" The bear shook his head. "Sidhe politics were vicious."

With a grim expression, Nikki nodded. "Worse, for us, as humans mutated into Sidhe, is that most Sidhe were racist toward humans, and cruel beyond belief. Some enslaved unfortunate human captives. Some simply didn't care. Some used humans as toys, things to play with. If you've ever seen a child playing with a small animal or pet, you know what I mean by that."

"What was my mother like?" Aes asked innocently.

Through the dialog, Kayda was translating to Lakota for Wakan Tanka. When she heard this question, she became quite animated, in a pleasant way.

With Kayda translating to English, the older woman began to tell her tale. Kaladrielle was rare among the Sidhe. She treated humans as equals. She visited the People often, especially in winter, where her power could take the edge off a vicious snowstorm, or calm the wind. She would amaze the children by making the skies light up in fiery colors like her eyes did. Other Sidhe mocked her, told her she was weak for treating the People as she did. She ignored them, and became friends with many tribes. Aes and Ninometh were smiling as the story was relayed to them.

"Unfortunately," the Healer began after Wakan Tanka had told her story, "some saw her attitude toward humans as weakness, and unworthiness of her crown. An assassin took her life." He watched the girls goggle at him, horror-stricken.

Nikki nodded, then she looked at Aes. "You were meant to die in that same 'accident'," she added. Aes and Elle gawked at her words, then looked to the bear, who nodded grimly. "You were your mother's daughter. Despite your nanny trying to 'cure' you of your mother's weakness, you took after your mother."

"But we are Sidhe!" Ninometh objected strongly. "We're a regal race! Now it's time to restore our realms!"

The bear shook his head sadly. Wyatt clasped his hand on the Bear's shoulder. "Tell her."

The big bear looked questioningly at Wyatt, then at Nikki. "Tell her," Nikki agreed.

The bear drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, quite obviously lost in thought as he tried to figure out how to say what he knew would be hard for the girls to hear. He looked directly at Ninometh. "In a way, it was indirectly your fault that your mother was assassinated, and the attempt tried to also kill Aesglowen." He looked down a moment, then looked back at Ninometh. "Some factions in the Sidhe courts couldn't stand your mother's attitudes. They wanted humans to be … erased, to take their lands for the Sidhe, to establish more Realms for their 'special' race. She was a conscience for many of the Sidhe. So she had to be eliminated."

"And me?" Aes asked timidly.

"You were your mother's daughter. As crown princess, you were next in line. The feared you would be too much like your mother, and that stood in the way of their plans."

Ninometh frowned. "But … how was that all my fault?"

The bear gazed evenly at her. "You toyed with the People, treated them as inferior, were cruel to them. Your attitudes fit their agenda. And then a young guard took a fancy to you, and figured that if he were the reason you ascended to the throne, you might be grateful and accept him as a suitor."

Ninometh gulped uneasily. This no longer sounded good for her ambitions and aspirations.

Nikki bit her lip, wincing, then she spoke. "Aunghadhail could not tolerate these blatant attacks on the Sidhe royalty. The young man was caught, and, well," she visibly winced, "his end … was … very unpleasant. And very prolonged. To set an example."

"Was I … the queen?" Aes asked softly. "She says I was."

"When you had recovered enough," the Healer said simply, "Aunghadhail placed the crown on your head, while your little sister sat hating you through the entire ceremony. Rumors were that she said many, many hateful things against you. She wanted you dead, so SHE could be queen. There would have been another attempt."

Ninometh tried to shrink into the ground. "I … I don't remember any of that."

Nikki shook her head. "You were young, you were naïve, and then, before Aesglowen had fully recovered so she could begin her duties, the Bastard came. The final war began, a struggle for ultimate survival, and then the Sundering, where the Bastard tore apart all of space-time in his rage against the Sidhe people, the Nine Sidhe Realms, and the Five-Fold Courts."

The Healer looked sympathetically at the two spirits. ":You don't remember everything, because the Sundering tore apart your very spirits. It took for the shards to re-coalesce. Some shards were lost. Memories were lost."

Nikki stared at the two, and from her expression, the two spirits knew better than to say anything to her. "The Sidhe people had an almost … instinctive … sense of superiority, a sense of arrogance. If any of that attitude came into resurrected Sidhe Realms, what do you think would happen as the numbers increased?" She watched their reactions. "That is why I will never be party to reforming the Nine Realms. That's why I will fight against that action with every fiber of my being."

"You both have families," Wyatt chimed in for the first time. "Could your families, or towns even, stand up to a tidal wave of Sidhe magic that was bent on destroying anything human, so they could claim the land as their new realm? Do you want to take that chance?"

"But … I'm not like that!" Robbie protested.

"Ninometh," the Healer said, staring directly at the spirit, "Do I need to remind you of the Pact of Solomon? Do I need to remind you of the consequences that would befall you if, in your lust for power and glory, you were to try to assert control of your host?"

Ninometh's eye widened as she stared at the Healer for several long seconds. "No," she finally admitted. "I don't need to be reminded."

"There will be no courts. No new queens. None. Do I make myself clear?" Nikki demanded with an ominous frown.

Both spirits nodded wordlessly. "I don't want to be queen," Aes added. "I just want a peace with my host. I think I'm entitled to that much, aren't I?

"So now what?" Robbie asked. "You expect us," she tilted her head toward Elle, "to be best mates? Hey, let's go fire up the barbie! I feel like a party with my mate? How about we go on a walkabout together?"

Nikki, Kayda, and Wyatt shook their heads firmly. "No You're two individuals. You owe no family obligations to your spirit. You aren't family. You go live your own lives. If you become friends, that's your choice. If you never speak to each other after this, again, that's your choice."

"So that's it?" Robbie asked again. "All that talk about queens and the courts, and now you' just saying, 'Never mind; fuck all of that nonsense?"

Nikki started to object, but Wyatt cut her off. "Pretty much. Nice stories, but the past is the past. Leave it buried."

Elle nodded immediately, but it took Robbie a few seconds to agree. There was nothing more said by any party; the two girls and the two spirits were contemplating what they'd heard. Finally, Nikki spoke. "I think I've taken up enough of your time. I hope you understand our position now."

Kayda escorted the girls, a pair at a time, back to their own dream spaces, and then returned to the fire circle and sat down beside Nikki. "Well?" Kayda asked.

"That went a lot better than I expected," Nikki said. She glanced up at the bear. "Thank you for your help, Healer."

Kayda took a sip of tea. "She doesn't remember? Aes, I mean? She doesn't remember anything about the Realms and the five-fold courts?"

Nikki glanced at the bear. "I didn't get any sense that she was lying. Just confused. I think she really doesn't remember."

The Healer clasped a huge paw on Nikki's shoulder. "In that," he said wearily, "she might be the luckiest one of us."

 

FIN

Read 1767 times Last modified on Tuesday, 06 February 2024 03:12
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ReadingIsGood
3 weeks ago
Nice to see a story with Nikki taking an active role for a change.
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Guest
3 weeks ago
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Metzger
6 days ago
As previous comment said, nice to see Nikki having an active part in the story. Will be cool to see how the dynamic will be for these two odd sidhe sisters in future stories,
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