Selkies' SkinsInstallment 40Chapter 23
Pay Better Attention Kirsty
Ally caught the paper roll that one of the school ravens had just tried to bomb her with, then tossed up a bite of her sausage. The raven caught and devoured it easily, then swooped on the girl to catch some of that red hair it had been trying to get at for weeks. Using the paper, she fended it off and tossed a coin of indeterminate value at it.
With her luck it would be her largest coin in her pocket. The raven caught this and obliged the human, letting her keep that hair.
Kirsty noticed none of the ruckus next to her, instead staring into her cup. Her nose inched closer and closer, but never seemed to actually end up in the liquid. Ally pulled her up and pinched her side again to make sure her friend was really awake and had not been pulled off into the strange staring fits shiny surfaces produced in her lately. Once satisfied that Kirsty wasn't in Seer mode or about to fall asleep Ally finally opened the paper her father had sent.
Ally sighed in exasperation at the headlines.
North Korea denies nuclear testing.
Plastic pollution of oceans hoax.
Disappearances on the rise! Is your closet a portal?
Ghosts, are they real?
Newest oil rig in North Sea haunted, says worker.
"Got a copy of Enquiring Rogers and some printout off the internet that looks like dad thought you'd like. My dad must be off his rocker to send me the scandal sheets." Ally obligingly stuck the stapled sheaf of medical newsletters in Kirsty's bag when her eyes wouldn't focus on it. "Really, it's like you stay up all night when the moon is around full."
Ally then returned to picking through the news rag, still reading the headlines aloud.
Ghost fish responsible for off course liner.
Aliens control the U.N.
U.S. President really a Doppleganger.
Witchcraft... religion, folklore, or what that lady next door does?
Mermaids, Selkies, and Merrows- Oh My!
"Sounds like one of our papers. Are you sure that's really a Cowan paper?" Nevin leaned closer to Ally to read with her. His breakfast was already half gone.
"Yes, it's one from my world." Ally glared at Nevin, but turned the paper so he could see a bit better. "Not like one of your papers pays much attention to national events."
"But it's talking about real things like ghosts, selkies, and closet portals."
"It's a scandal rag. People read these for entertainment and to keep up on the gossip about movie stars and the Queen's family. I had a pen pal from America once that sent me a copy of their equivalent. Rife with Bigfoot and Batboy. To most, these aren't real... well, it has a few 'real' things like the North Korea thing."
"Closet portals are real. Come off it. And what about those C.S. Lewis Narnia stories?"
"Just stories Nevin."
"Oh yeah? Merlin is real and he has stories told about him... Let's see how you feel next time you're cleaning your closet and you find yourself in a forest."
"Nevin... If you find a forest when cleaning your closet, then you really have problems." Ally quipped and turned the page.
Kirsty yawned, half listening to the discussion and half wishing to go back to bed, preferably to reclaim her spot on David's chest and hope she didn't shed up his nose. Her mind churned over the plastic headline, oil rigs, disappearances, and selkies. With headlines like this either someone was doing their job really well to hide what was really happening, or doing really poorly at keeping things hidden. All she hoped for was that her mother wasn't one of those disappearances.
Ally thumbed by the selkie story again and toward the oil rig blurb. There were pictures of the rig, a very distant security camera shot of an older wooden fishing boat with some modern fittings, and an artist's rendition of the "ghost" that haunted the oil rig. If Kirsty had been looking, she might have recognized the outline, the cloak color, and the way the "ghost's" hair writhed, caught forever in inked pencil strokes.
Several more birds of various breeds and sizes came in, more packages for other students that would filter in for the rest of the morning. Instead of looking at the garish paper next to her, which Nevin was pouring over eagerly and sometimes giggling about, she gazed into her cup and tried to look for her mother. The sporadic and loud flapping would not let her concentrate, and Kirsty kept jumping every time she had nearly reached the proper meditative state. With a sigh she gave up and turned attention to her breakfast.
Kirsty yawned yet again and pushed her pasty around the plate, smelling a bit more of sea lily and lavender essence than normal to Ally. Ally watched her friend with concern, noting the dark circles becoming apparent and the haunted way her friend randomly looked skyward, got lost in her cup again like some pub denizen, or jumped up eagerly at the rustling of wings. Each time one of the winged deliveries came for someone else Kirsty sat back down in disappointment mumbling "even an addled tern or half drowned owl would do... Just to KNOW..." too low for any of the others but herself to hear.
Morvan Lilitu smirked more than usual at breakfast as he lifted his eggs to his mouth, directing his gaze across the dining hall. The eagle owl sitting on his shoulder flapped its wings loudly, catching his prey's attention for him. Kirsty did her best to ignore his triumphant gaze while Ally dumped seemingly a half cauldron of salsa on her salmon omelet.
“Earth to Kirsty! Back to shore from whatever little boat your brain sailed out on this time! You never eat so little. Are you sick?”
Kirsty re-affixed her eyes to the barely touched plate, instead of the swirling waves of the oak table grain where it met the red and gold waves of the table runner. Several other students at the Leomaris table were beginning to pass silvers and whispers as she attempted another bite. More eyes from the Spiralis table began watching them, the whispers and hisses there coiling and waiting to strike.
Morvan leaned across his table, head over the green and bronze scales of their table runner, whispering to Morgana. A half concealed gesture caused titters among his cadre which Kirsty continued to ignore.
“Oh, there you are, that's a lot better. We don't want you deciding to fish in class in Professor Gerwulf's tanks...”
“Ally, honestly! Have you ever seen me that hungry?”
“Remember that time your Da' had you brought by for the lunch visit while he was at work this summer?” Ally paused a moment, waiting for the cautious nod. “Mum's goldfish jumped out of his tank when your stomach growled before lunch. No fish is obviously safe when you're around.”
"Yer a right scunner ye are..." Kirsty kicked her ankle under the table and took a large bite, glaring at her friend, not even bothering to try dampening her accent.
Ally howled in almost mock pain, taking the reprimand in good nature, and intent on being as silly as possible to further keep her friend from her morose thoughts. Meanwhile, Kirsty jumped up, reaching for her mouth due to the searing fire now dancing on her tongue, the flames licking the air around her face, shrieking and yowling herself, before that cut off abruptly. She quickly extinguished that fire with conjured water, which promptly also drenched her entire frontside.
“Gods and Spirits!” Ally exclaimed when the water splashed her as well. The smoke still curled from Kirsty's mouth and wreathed her head, leaving only two large watery blue pools gazing out at her now in silence. “I'm so sorry. That HAD been the mild when I picked it up. I swear! Look, it's marked!” Ally pointed frantically toward the table, tears threatening to spill.
At the Bertramus table David looked up from his book and put both that and his tea down at the unexpected uproar. When seeing why he immediately sprang up and extricated himself from the table, which was not designed to be left speedily. “I'm checking on Kirsty...”
“Let us know how she is, I'll see to Ally in a bit, once she's calm enough to even hear me.” Thomas looked up at David as he took the first step away from the bench.
David nodded and left quickly, blue and silver robes flowing and swirling with each quickened step.
At the table, Thomas pushed the little cauldron of spicy salsa farther away from himself.
Diana leaned toward Thomas, frowning at his plate. “Thomas, did you put on the spicy or the mild?”
“Don't remember.” He promptly scraped the bulk of his salsa off of his food. “Not giving Spiralis anything more to laugh at though. Poor Kirsty.”
“Lilitu is not going to enjoy when this comes back to him...” Diana mused, turning now to look at the source of the loudest laughter.
Professor MacLeomhann had already risen, and was sweeping toward Kirsty like a vast curling wave of ancient forest trees, eyes sparking and the air seeming to crackle around her. Students shrank into their meals as she passed, not wishing to bring that ire on themselves and the detention that would likely follow.
“I'm not so sure about that Rule of Three from Ethics, Diana...” Thomas sighed. “I'm quite sure his family has had a rivalry with hers for generations. If it existed, I'd think that it would be her family with more influence.”
For those interested, the editor is starting to get healthier again and looking forward to getting back to work.
Missing letters fixed. More annoying than missing letters are wrong letters though.