Selkies' SkinsInstallment 43 Chapter 24 (part 2)
Headmaster Guirmean met Morvan in the mezzanine where he had been waiting under the Examining Lintel. Professor MacLeomhann was nowhere in sight, although Morvan looked for her. Somehow his blue robes and glinting gaze were more intimidating than her green robes and sparking eyes would have been.
The carved representatives of the three houses glowered above the flatboard Professor Guirmean wore, notched inward at the back - unlike a mortar board - and edged tonight in beaded tassels of jet beads. Today they had color in their eyes. Deep blue sapphires sparked from the white and black ravens, while emeralds mingled with ruby shots in the eyes of his own house's snake. Finally, the lion regarded him with plain disdain and curled lip below topaz and garnet bullets. The latter actually growled.
"Good evening Headmaster, where is Professor MacLeomhann?" He did not bow, even slightly. Instead he stood still and ordered himself, whilst looking up and smiling in what he hoped was a winning and chastened way.
"The Headmistress is somewhat busy at this time due to some issues that came up with the group. Instead I will be escorting you to your detention assignment. I hope you followed her suggestion."
The Headmaster looked down sternly into his eyes, and Morvan felt a chill. For a moment it was as if there was nothing around them, darkness swallowed the mezzanine completely save for the Headmaster and the House personifications. In a panic he threw up a mental fight again, but it failed just as it had this morning. The darkness faded, and he could see. Now that he could see the Headmaster's face again he almost preferred the darkness.
The hand settled on him lightly, slender bookish fingers now lightly gnarled with age gripping him as commandingly as if Morvan was a sword, wand, or staff. The other hand still firmly gripped his gnarled stang, topped with his family emblem of the crane. The wizened wizard guided him out the doors, through the courtyard, past the fountains, and then toward the cottage of the groundskeeper.
Morvan struggled a bit to at least go at his own pace. "Sir, remove your hand. My father will not allow me to be manhandled so. I'm sure you do not realize what you are doing."
"Oh, realize I do Bairn Lilitu..." the Headmaster's grip only tightened. "You Switched food at Table with magic and seriously injured another student. You'll make it up to her whether your father wills or no."
Morvan glared at him, letting go the facade of respect. The Headmaster seemed unimpressed by his lineage and did not falter in his step. Merlin himself would have likely given such a cool look to Lancelot, Guinevere, and Arthur before the Morgana that his girlfriend was named for encased him in ice and trapped him in eternal sleep in some watery underground cavern.
The only time the Headmaster let go of him was when they paused at the doorstep of the groundskeeper's cottage. It was a one room affair with a deep peat roof the during the spring and summer was redolent with vivacious flowers of unbelievable hues. Vines of rose, moon blossoming jasmine, and raspberries crawled over the greystone siding that had been carved from out from local quarries while lichen sprinkled the rest of the stones in purple and green. Nearby hunkered the storage shed for the tools the groundskeeper used, and through the half open door Morvan could glimpse the glint of headlamps on the riding lawnmower that was known for chasing both students mischievous enough to try digging up the lawn's sod, and the moles that stubbornly tried to erect great hills near the gardens. Students riding stangs and brooms, according to legend, were not safe in the air either if they damaged the grounds.
Inside the shed, an engine coughed and sputtered.
The knocker on the oak door was a simple wrought iron ring, and gave a resounding summons once dropped onto the matching plate below, jarring Morvan from thoughts of what the ensorcelled machine might do to him. The bays of two large dogs came from within, and there was a rumble as they charged the door. This mingled with the thuds of the groundskeeper as he followed.
"Och, dry it up ye saps! Mus' only be bein' the Headmaster now." The door swung open and a black Newfoundland wolf mix eagerly pushed its way out to greet the Headmaster with slobbering kisses and shoulder pawing.
Professor Guirmean was pressed back by this wave of dark fur and drool while Morvan attempted to dart off to the side. A hand shot out from the door and fastened onto his cloak, yanking him back to be greeted by the growls of the matching dog that Dunstan Ainsley restrained. Though the newfoundland-wolf crosses were big, the groundskeeper was bigger.
The man was kilt clad in the Ainsley way of wide stripes of red and blue chased with thin crosshatches of white and black lines, and matching Argyle to the knee. A black fur sporran hung to the front, similar to the white pouch Makay wore at her hip on the High Days, but far more masculine. A dirk lurked at the waist, the sgian dubh tucked itself away in his kilt hose, and a Montrose Doublet contained white lace froth at cuffs and throat, his accents twinkling. A fly plaid draped over his left shoulder.
"Yer a goin' nowhere bucky," Mr. Ainsley growled. "Save to help perform the duties o' the Guardian with me an' the Headmaster. If yer lucky ye'll nae ha' annoyed the Hooded Man."
"Guardian?! Is that what I'm to do tonight? Wait... Hooded Man?"
"Aye... Didnae the Headmaster tell ye ye'll be a'payin young Miss Makay back fer takin' 'er voice? Tha's 'er most prized possession other n' mebby 'er brain or 'er sporran."
Morvan's eyebrow twitched at the groundskeeper's dialect, attempting to decipher it. Why on earth would a pouch be as 'prized' as a brain?
"Oh most I certainly did, Ainsley, but I did not tell him what he would be doing to make up for it." The Headmaster had gotten the dog under control again, scratching affectionately at it. Even sitting, the head came up to his shoulder.
"An' why not Professor? Seems to me a Guardian needs to know what he's aboot. Or is there a reason ye've been a waitin' sir?"
"I want him to meet up with the others first."
"Ahhh... Righty then. Allow me ter grab me crossbow and bolts, then I'm ready."
The dog that Ainsley had been restraining sat and watched Morvan keenly while his master grabbed the weaponry. The Headmaster waited patiently, stepping back a bit more to let Ainsley out and looking toward the hill.
The mist was coming down again, bringing the greener greens and greyer greys that made one wonder exactly how close or how far the realms of the fey and deity were. Fairies were known and seen, but it had long been known that the fairies most people knew of and thought as faery, originated in other realms of reality. Many students went on to specialize in the study of the fey, and some never were heard of again once leaving their preliminary studies. Such weather reminded him of his own youth and roguishness, though never to the extent he sometimes saw pass between Kirsten and Morvan.
Guirmean closed his eyes and sighed tiredly.
For those interested, the editor is starting to get healthier again and looking forward to getting back to work.