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Typos and missing stuff fixed. I know I had those fixed before saving...
Den of the SeaLion
They did not get to watch the castle, built to incorporate the sacred three, instead of the more usual sacred four, giving it a triumvirate look instead of the more usual foursquare layout, grow and rise during their approach. The storm was so thick, they did not see it at all until nearly at the foot. They therefore did not get to see the statues of the three houses' heralds come to life and attention. Yet still, despite the tearing wind and rain, the black marble and white marble ravens of Bertramus hopped and glided from parapet to rampart eagerly from Bertramus' Tower, at the top of which was the Observatory. The fishtailed lions of Leomaris sported over the walls, coming from their tower, closest to the loch. The serpent of Spiralis awakened from where it coiled above the underground secrets of the subterranean House, and slipped up the walls to watch their approach.
As usual, a Spiralis serpent could not help trying to eat one of the Ravens of Bertramus, whilst the first students were filing in the main door once through the main gate. One of the Sealions of Leomaris put a stop to it, as usual, by a "gentle" application of giant paw to stone head, bringing the usual titters (and huddled gasps from those whose first year in their hidden world it was) when Spiralis coughed the White Raven back up.
Kirsty paid the display no mind. Like the Sealion of Leomaris, she was too busy helping to make sure that one of Bertramus' "Ravens" could slip off unscathed. She planted a swift kiss on David, before he made his break away from the others to dash into the forest. Thomas was already busily bustling some of the females inside, using his own cloak to help shelter an unusually short first year that had lost their cape to the wind.
"An unusually tough initiation for the younger ones this year..." She mused, whilst humming and distracting anyone that might have seen David slip away. If any had not already been distracted by the storm, they would easily forget or believe he had just been one of the storm shadows that were sighted often when the storms came. Indeed, those around her that were still out in the wet were already beginning to forget the chill cutting to their bones, hearing her as they all filed in.
Once in, she dried herself and went strait for where the Choir was gathering. On a day like this, she knew their Director would be certain to make use of the magical voices he had selected, and was always adding to. He was one of the suspected half breeds, and like her aunt, was involved deeply in some of the other students' "special studies."
The other members of the Choir had all known the same in their bones. When she met them, the tall form of the Director had just strode to the lines forming, slightly pointed ears peeking out from his dark hair and slanted eyebrows hovering over smiling eyes. She stood in her place with her rank, and when Thomas arrived and took his place to the side with one of the school lutes, Kirsty listened to the soft rolling rumble of instruction given to them. As one, they marched into the Feasting Hall, up to the stage behind and above the Head Table, and gave their performance. Though the storm still raged, fueled by a divinity's anger, none were able to hear it while the students sang and bones warmed and dried, nor after the Headmaster gave his speech, nor even during the following feasting.
Kirsty went up the stairs, her belly full from the welcoming feast, ahead of the others of her House. Here too the tempest still howled and tore at Castle Carrick's ramparts, far more noticeable than in the Feasting Hall, and whipped the loch below into froth. She wondered whether it was fierce enough to do anything to the loch-Selkies' village. The Lake called to her, she heard it whispering in her blood, just like the streams of water below the castle. She closed her eyes, trying to picture it, but was too distracted by knowing what night it was, to focus well enough for any better water-knowing.
"When I can get into the Lake, I'll find out."
Instead of passing through the secret entrance like her Housemates would to their House common room, instead she went to the door of her aunt's chambers. Not the office, which everyone knew how to find, but where she lived during school months, which hardly any of the students knew about.
When she got to the door, and hovered her hand over the trigger, the fishtailed lion emblazoned on the shield covering the entrance sprang to life and looked her over, no longer paint on steel and leather. It reared, rampant, and seemed as if it might leap right off the shield to devour her. Taking a deep breath, she reached out a hand and placed it firmly on the muzzle, even though she risked having her hand bitten off.
"Easy Leomhann, it's just me. Kirsty."
The lion calmed, and nuzzled gently on hearing her whisper its name. After a polite request, again in Gaelic, though this time Scots Gaelic, it returned to being a golden ornament painted on an ancient shield. The shield swung open, a door appeared, and she opened that too. Kirsty went in and sat beside the fireplace, on the cushion beside the green velveteen wingbacked armchair.
On a table nearby was a tin of biscuits, and a small settee that matched the armchair was off to one side of the room with it. On the other, a bookcase dominated the wall, and around the room prowled a lion through the paintings. One portrait was empty, as it almost always was, due to Lady Bloomsworth being employed, as she had been since her commissioning at the Founding, with standing guard over the trigger entrance to the Leomaris' common room. Behind a desk, a dark wood door led to Professor McLeomhann's bedchamber.
She only had to wait a half hour or so longer for her aunt to finish eating and discharging the rest of her first-night duties, before the door opened again. Kirsty rose, and curtsied, before the tall woman with the severe dark bun and flashing eyes hugged her tight to green velvet robes, the scent of old books, magic, and the lake.
"I missed you auntie."
She nodded. "I missed you too."
Another bone crushing hug from the aging professor pressed the air from her lungs. Kirsty sat when requested, again on her cushion, while the professor sat in her armchair listening to what could not be sent in owls about her experiences back home since her visit for the Midsummer rituals.
"I am glad the Midsummer went well, but I must say I am not surprised by how busy your parents are and have been. There is far more afoot than I can tell you. All the worst sort of timing. Too much pressure on the clans." Professor McLeomhann sighed deeply, rubbing her forehead at the thoughts of other news her position made her privy to, then continued. "I am glad that it is still safe enough for you to board the train with the others, instead of having to be brought directly by Byron. I fear that day may be coming though."
Kirsty nodded. "I'm nervous. I don't know how I can balance school and what Mara and the Lady want me to be learning."
"You'll manage. Your mother did, and her mother beyond that. I daresay all of your ancestors on her side have balanced everything well enough. However, I want you to be particularly careful with these" she paused and wrinkled her nose, weighing her words, "things on patrol this year." Her sharp green eyes pierced her niece. "You stay in your usual areas, or in the lake during your night studies when I am not able to be there. And no running around the forest hunting. That goes for both you AND David."
"But... not even a mouse?"
"Not even a mouse, unless it's inside. When you are with David for his transformations, you stay inside. Please. Helping him stay safe is the whole reason you are allowed to bend the rule regarding male and female students at night, and why I agreed to teach you how to be a shifter on top of everything else on your docket."
"I know..." Kirsty sighed, chastened at the usual reminders, then nodded. "Yes auntie. I suppose I'd better go lay down and wait for the others to go to bed, so I can go keep him company without suspicion."
Her aunt nodded.
"It would be wise."
Overhead, a particularly large clap of thunder rolled, and the rain beat harder on the tower window's glass. Kirsty got up, and gave her aunt one final hug for the night, before she would have to start referring to her as "Professor" in front of the other students, then left for bed.
Kirsty sighed, looking up tiredly from her spot on the bed where she rested from the long, rather harrowing, train ride and the effects of the welcoming feast. Visions of darkness and storm continued to haunt her, which was not aided by the uncharacteristic tempest beating on the castle. That had blown in from the sea, off the loch, and Kirsty could still feel some of Mara's rage in it, though she had no reason to understand why.
Crimson velvet hung around her, and Imp sat watchfully beside her pillow, back from his ranging. She listened carefully to the sounds in her dorm room, the soft rise and fall of her dorm mates' sleep. Carefully and quietly she slipped out of bed, looking to see if they had left their drapes open. Several sleeping heads were peeking from crimson blankets trimmed in gold, but all eyes were shut in sleep. Ally was even snoring.
She slipped from the room, her blue night robe giving barely a whisper as she pulled it over her moon-white night gown. Down the steps she padded, the stone walls cool on her hand. Each wooden door gave forth the same heady silence on her way to the common room.
And that room, she was pleased to discover, only had empty chairs, study tables, and the crackling fire. The boys of her House were at least in their rooms, if not asleep. Imp nodded a reply to her unasked question when she glanced at him. Kirsty sighed deeply, glad that she wasn't going to have to wait any longer on her self-imposed mission.
She made next for the portrait hole, and stepped out silently, with a nod of thanks to the guardian of the House where she hung upon the hidden door, stroking the fishtailed lion lounging on the painting of the shore. The lady in her rose dress and ancient blonde updo, threaded with pearls, nodded back in return, long since resigned to the fact that those under her care snuck out now and then for interhouse rendezvous, pet projects, illicit adventures, emergency toilet runs – and in Kirsty's case, specially approved classes, lengthy swims in the bath or lake, and monthly visits.
"Be careful... remember what's stationed outside the grounds."
"Don't worry, Lady Bloomsworth, no side trips."
"Good girl. I'll let your aunt know you've left. Everyone else is inside."
She gave a formal curtsy to the lady, spreading her skirts with a rather provincial flourish. With a breath, she willed the change she had been practicing at for years. Bones compacted and slid to new positions, and the disconcerting shrinking and changing of her skull and brain accompanied the unnerving momentary discomfort. Her vision and sense of smell sharpened more than it already was, and when she opened her eyes to verify her change as complete, she found her point of view much lower down.
Kirsty stretched, then examined sharp claws before making sure her fur lay in proper order. In less than a minute total, a sleekly long furred white cat, with piercing intelligent blue eyes and black whiskers padded off. Lady Bloomsworth watched the cat as far as she could down the hall and stairs, before shaking her head and settling in for her rest.
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