Selkies' SkinsInstallment 44 Chapter 24 (part 3)
It was not long before the three were off the stoop, the large dogs ranging around them as the Headmaster led the way up the hill and down the road to the front gates of the Castle's spread. There a small group awaited them in various garb, each according to the Tradition that they followed.
Young Mr. Harper wore light green breeches that were bloused below the waist and close fitting below the knee, was topped with a tunic of green and blue, edged in black and gold stitched roses, covered over with an olive Kinsale cloak. This cloak had been lovingly masked over with conjured ivy leaves interspersed with oak and mistletoe to the point that if the wearer wished to he would easily blend into the forest – despite the garish hat that was another nod to his family's bardic and troubadouric origins. The airy Demeter youth played with the purple feather in Harper's hat, clad in a white gown that mixed Grecian and Celtic attributes, likewise covered with a cloak and with her hood back.
The boy blushed at the attentions from his fellow Bertramus and shot self-conscious glances at the McNamara girl from Leomaris, where she giggled with Miss Makay, who only smiled that strangely wistful smile she wore far too often. Whether or not Miss McNamara saw young Mr. Harper's blush, where it was likely leaking below the mask of faux fall ivy leaves, he was not certain.
The Headmaster shook his head, glad that presently the group was occupied with the pursuits of youth before taking up the roles that their rites would ascribe. He appreciated seeing a curious non-Pagan joining her friends to learn about their beliefs. To him, it spoke of hope that one day perhaps the magical community would one day fully reintegrate with the non-magical without having to fear their powers being abused for governmental gain, or that their people would relive the Burning Times. Then again, as Allison McNamara was born to a non-magical family perhaps that was too much to hope for yet. Witches were still stoned and burned in African countries after all, so perhaps it could only be achieved after the world learned religious rivalries were useless and to differentiate fact from story.
McNamara did not have anything out of the ordinary on. She was dressed in a sensible warm dress in blazing harvest colors, her nod to the beliefs of her friends and the gathered members of this Society. She too was masked, though in simple black. Beside her, Makay wore a billowing dress in her family's tartan, an eyecatching medley of blue, green, and darker forest green. Her sporran was chased with silver and worn at the hip instead of the usual place others carried them, an oddity that he had never understood, and her fly tartan was held in place with pins fashioned like silver waves. White seafoam lace took the job of providing other accents, and the white lambskin cloak stirred restlessly. Her face was not masked, but instead had been painted with blue stripes and swirls on white, her hair arrayed with shells, tiny white feathers, and bits of white fur.
Makay patted and stroked her sporran often, playing with the fur of it and gazing longingly in the direction of the unseen sea when she thought the others would not notice.
He noticed though, and he knew that her aunt noticed as well where she stood with the checklist and her bagpipes near, tallying the yet others that were part of the Moot. Each of these students were carefully costumed and either masked or painted, a total of 13 of them. They would not be recognized as students of the school, nor would anyone stumbling on them – should they get past the Guardians – be able to recognize them as individuals at any other time either.
The Headmaster turned his eyes again over Professor MacLeomhann and her Scots variety of the Makay tartan in her robing and feline mask. This robing too was green, but more clearly reflected the relationship to forests due to the absence of the sea's blue, and the shots of red that young Kirsten's tartan lacked. Belara held an odd position in the remnants of that clan, though it shared a name with the mundane version of the MacKay line. Although she'd married in, her name had never changed due to the confusion it had been likely to cause students her first several years of teaching. That she'd never remarried after the loss of her husband even after so many years that Finnol was too young to remember him worried the professor.
On the other hand, Belara considered all the students in the manner of her own, even those she severely disliked, so it was safe to assume her married to her work.
All this was taken in quickly, then he was on them. Enough elderly introspection.
"Artair, Dunstan." Professor MacLeomhann nodded in greeting to them. "Lilitu..." No nod this time, and the way she spoke the last caused even Mr. Ainsley's hairs to stand on end and ice to prickle his veins.
"Is this everyone that's going Belara? It's a small group this year it seems."
"Yes, Artair. Some dropped out for the night because Makay will not be able to sing." Professor MacLeomhann gazed briefly and coolly at Morvan, no longer as relaxed as she had been before his presence was noted. "Others had to drop because their parents sent letters of request to keep them inside the school's boundaries. Professor Gerwulf was not feeling well, so we will be short a Guardian, even with Lilitu standing in.
"Then let's be off, shall we?"
“Indeed. I hope you heeded my warning young man.” She stowed her clipboard.
“Now Belara...I’m sure he’s not as far gone as that.” The headmaster touched her arm lightly.
Belara’s nose twitched. “We shall see.”
Kirsty pressed her lips together and bristled when she saw that Morvan had been brought. Ally shot her a concerned look, probably hoping that she wasn't going to try to drown him again if he made a wrong move. It was a tempting thought, but so far he'd not pulled anything new on her.
Her aunt was right there anyway. It wouldn't do to be banned from Moots as well as Duels.
Thomas stopped his blushing in Ally's general direction, and Diana left "Fluffy the floofy feather of foofdom" alone. Kirsty looked at her aunt for explanation, then to Mr. Ainsley. He only held his hands out at his side and palms toward her. She looked next to the Headmaster, who smiled slightly with his blue eyes sparkling, but very firmly and silently gave her to understand that Morvan would indeed be coming – no matter what she said.
So she said nothing, even though the other students were as confused as she was. But...why was the sodder there? Couldn't she even go to a Moot in peace?
For those interested, the editor is starting to get healthier again and looking forward to getting back to work.