Categories > Original > Fantasy > Monster

Day 2

by Togot 0 reviews

Tyler adjusts to his new situation and learns more about the world he is in

Category: Fantasy - Rating: G - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2019-08-10 - 9901 words

The short male Kannin looked at Tyler with beady eyes. “And you say he killed Termall and three students?” He asked without looking up at Malenia. She was a full two feet taller than he was. His white clothes and reddish fur made him look clean to the point of being sterile, just like everything else in his ward. The only blemish was a black streak than came up from his left cheek and crossed his face like a tentacle stretching toward his right ear. Along its way, it covered his right eye.

“Without getting a scratch,” Malenia added. “At least not from them. His other injuries seem to have been caused before his arrival.”

“Termall was your lover, was he not?” Turell asked. His voice sounded disinterested.

Malenia didn’t show any visible reaction to the personal question. “He shared my bed, but not my heart.” Her voice was cold, as if she were stating a fact that held no meaning. “He wished to gain my favor to attain power. Nothing more.”

A long silence followed, filling the room before Malenia spoke again. “How is he?” she asked as she stared fixedly at Tyler. Every room in the isolation ward had a room adjacent to it that could not be accessed from the hall. A simple spell allowed Terrell and herself to see the occupants without being seen themselves. Tyler was still sound asleep on the other side.

“Compared to what?” Turell asked. His voice held a hint of irritation. “If he were a Kannin I would suggest putting him out of his misery. He is small, weak, and has no natural weapons that I can detect. He has pathetically underdeveloped claws that do little more than protect the tips of his fingers. His fangs aren’t much larger than his incisors, and his fur is so thin that you can see his skin everywhere except for his head. His ears are tiny, misshapen and parallel to his eyes. His face is disgustingly flat, and his nose is deformed. I cannot fathom how such a creature could come to be so queer without blood magic.”

Turell smiled wickedly as he looked at his new sleeping specimen with greedy eyes. “I can’t wait to cut him open and see what his organs look like.”

“And what makes you think I’ll let you do that?” Malenia whispered in his ear. Turell’s body became tense and he turned slowly to see that Malenia had bent down to be almost eye level with him. Her expression was cold and merciless. Under her scrutiny, Turell’s egocentric attitude faltered.

“He killed a master and three students,” Turell said, fumbling with his words. “He’s a hostile creature, possibly from another world, if not another dimension, and he’s-”

“Under my protection,” Malenia said, cutting him off. “and not to be touched.” her tone left no room for argument.

Turell lowered his head slightly, a simple sign of submission, though the look on his face was that of a scolded child. “As you wish, Headmistress,” he said.

Malenia straightened up and resumed her watch of the boy in the next room as he turned under the covers. “How is his emotional state?”

Turell regained his composure and cleared his throat. “Again, I have no idea what the baseline is for his race, but if they are anything like him, I never want to visit his world. His emotions are not only volatile, they are so intense I was almost overwhelmed just by being in the same room with him. Fear, anger, panic, guilt, and suspicion so potent I could taste it in the air, and that was in his unconscious state.” Turell seemed to shiver as if trying to shake off the memory. “I put a barrier around the room to prevent anyone else in Haven from being affected. If you are serious about keeping this creature here, I highly recommend some form of long-term solution, or we will have the young ones killing each other.”

“Thank you, Turell, I shall keep that in mind,” said Malenia as she turned and walked towards the wall opposite of the stairs that led out of the observation room.

“Where are you going?” Turell asked.

“He’s awake,” said Malenia. She waved her hand, and the wall opened up for her. It was faster than taking the long way around, and there was no point in teleporting a few feet. The wall closed itself up once she was through, leaving no trace of the hole. She walked to the boy’s door and opened it.

Day two


Tyler stared at the ceiling while lying on his back. He hadn’t woken up in a hospital as he had hoped. He was still in the nightmare. ‘So much for the easy solution,’ he thought to himself as he let out a sigh.

He sat up and noticed a stool near the bed with some clothes folded on it. Tyler’s throat tightened up at the sight. One of those creatures had been in the room with him while he slept. He had been totally helpless, even with his sword in his hands. It seemed that they hadn’t done anything to him, but it still unnerved him as he stared fixedly at the intrusion. He was about to throw off his blankets and get dressed when he heard the door opening.

Tyler’s hand moved reflexively to his sword, and his eyes flared as he stared at the door. It opened, and there stood Malenia. She was wearing a different getup that fit her curvy form more tightly than what she’d had on the previous day. It was primarily blue with red trimmings.

She flashed him a toothy grin, showing off her large, sharp teeth again. Tyler wasn’t sure if she was deliberately trying to scare him, or if this was a friendly gesture for her race. Either way, it wasn’t what he wanted to be greeted to first thing in the morning. “Feeling rested?” she asked in a cheerful voice.

‘Feeling like I’m trapped in a nightmare,’ Tyler thought. Still, this creature seemed like she was trying to be kind, so Tyler decided to be polite, but there was just something about her that felt fake to him. It was like she was putting on an act. Her exaggerated facial expressions, shifts in tone and her overly nice behavior reminded him of some socialite who was pretending to like someone for appearances sake.

“I was kinda hoping I would wake up back home,” he said, and Malenia frowned.

“Yes, I imagine so,” she said, sounding genuinely sad, or was that just an act as well? “Not to worry, ” and she was cheerful again. “We shall get to work on that right away, but first there are a few things I need to be sure of, so once you are ready, we shall go out to the garden.”

“Great, once I get dressed I’ll be ready to go,” Tyler said, trying to stay positive, though he wasn’t sure what she wanted to check out. She probably wanted to learn as much about the alien as she could before sending him back. Fair enough. He grabbed the edge of his blanket, but hesitated to remove it when he noticed that Malenia was still standing there, smiling at him, waiting patiently. “Could you give me some privacy?”

“Some what?’ she asked, tilting her head slightly.

“Privacy. You know, leave the room while I get dressed.”

“Why?” She sounded genuinely confused.

“Because I don’t want you to see me naked.” He was raising his voice with irritation, but it seemed his explanation only perplexed Malenia more. “Look, it’s just a hu…“ Tyler’s voice trailed off as he realized he had not yet told Malenia what his species was. In fact, she had yet to ask him, or ask where he was from. It seemed like important information for sending him home. By that reasoning he should tell her, but what if her intentions were malicious?

A dozen scenarios ran through Tyler’s head. What if these things wanted to abduct more people and eat them? Somehow he didn’t see Malenia being a vegetarian. But if that was the case, why not just eat him? Did she want information from him? If so, why hadn’t she asked? Tyler just kept going around in circles, only serving to confuse himself further until Malenia finally spoke up.

“It’s just what?” she asked, keeping her voice pleasant.

“It’s just something my species does, ok?” Tyler spoke quickly, feeling pressured. “Just leave the room, wait in the hall for a second, I’ll get changed and come out, and then we can go outside to do whatever you want to do, ok?”

Malenia nodded gracefully and stepped back outside. Tyler sighed and got out of bed. ‘Ok,’ he thought. ‘not a dream, but she says she can fix this, so I’ll be back home in no time and tell my mom…what? What the hell am I going to tell her?’ He picked up the clothes that had been set out for him, afraid that they’d look as ridiculous as Malenia’s. He was surprised to see that they had given him a pair of jeans and a T-shirt just like his. In fact he thought they were his until he saw the blood-stained pile on the floor right where he’d left it.

He stared at his old clothes for a long moment. The blood was no longer red, taking on a dirty brown color. If he hadn’t known better, he might have been able to convince himself that someone had just thrown mud on his shirt, but Tyler knew better. He could still hear the screams in his head. His dreams had been filled with bloody images. Their faces were burned into Tyler’s memory, and the gruesome reminder on the floor made him sick to his stomach.

Tyler looked away and put on the new outfit, desperate for any kind of distraction. It didn’t take him long to realize that, although they looked the same, the materials used where different than his old clothes. They felt lighter and softer, especially the jeans, but he didn’t mind so long as he didn’t look like a fashion freak. The new pants didn’t have belt loops, but Tyler wasn‘t eager to take his old belt off of his bloody pants, so he resigned himself to carry his sword in his left hand. He slipped the knife in the back of the pants and under his shirt. It fit tightly enough to stay there so long as he didn’t move around too much. He put his shoes on and took a deep breath before pushing the door open and leaving the room.

Malenia was standing just outside the door, and Tyler was again reminded just how tall she was as he had to look up at her. The faint smile was still on her face as she looked him over. “I hope the clothes are acceptable,” she said before turning and walking down the hall without waiting for reply. Tyler followed after her at a respectable distance. She led him up a few floors and then they came to a large area where he saw several other Kannin. They all turned to stare, but they didn’t seem too bothered by him. They seemed mildly curious rather than fearful despite what he’d done the day before.

They came to what looked to be a main hall. It was huge with a high roof lined with a balcony connected by two sets of stairs on either side. There wasn’t much furniture in this area aside from a few couches along the walls were a couple sat talking. The center of the area was clear of any obstructions with a very smooth floor polished white. It could almost pass for a ballroom.

Malenia led him outside through huge open doors that seemed too big to be practical. They looked like they were always kept opened, at least during the day. A strong breeze came through them, and once outside, Tyler found that it was a bright, warm day. The courtyard was larger than Tyler expected. Smooth dirt paths webbed around patches of green grass and flowers with trees here and there. It had looked smaller from the bridge. He could see a large pond off to his right in the general direction that Malenia was heading. There were small benches along the path with a handful of other Kannin sitting or walking around. Some of them chose to rest in the grassy areas, lazing about without a care. It was beautiful.

Tyler took a breath and found that the air smelled sweater than anything he’d ever found back home. It smelled…clean. Tyler found it strangely refreshing, and the whole place put him in a more agreeable mood than he’d been in for a long time. That was no reason for him to let his guard down of course. He kept his left hand firmly gripping the scabbard of his katana while he walked, alert to anything that moved near him.

They came to a large grassy patch next to the pond. There weren’t any others around. In fact, they seemed to be avoiding the area. That wasn’t a good sign. The only thing that stood out about the spot was a thick tree stump in the middle, cut flat at knee height. Malenia walked over to it, turned around, and smiled at him.

“Would you mind putting that sharp pointy thing of yours in this tree stump?” she asked.
“I’d rather not, thanks,” Tyler said, and he tightened his grip on it. “This sword is the only weapon I’ve got.” It wasn’t strictly true, but no point letting her know that.

Malenia’s smile widened as she said, “How about if I give you this.” She pulled a hand out from behind her back and revealed a sword of her own.

‘Where the hell was she keeping that?‘ Tyler wondered as he looked it over. It was a katana, a fact which made Tyler very suspicious. Despite that, he couldn’t help but admire the weapon. The black leather scabbard was highlighted with gold stitching. The guard was also highlighted with gold and intricately detailed. The sword looked like it belonged in a museum. It was a nice blade and a tempting offer, but Tyler’s sword had already proven itself. More than that, it was one of his most prized possessions. His uncle had given it to him as a gift, and now it was the only piece of home he had left. He looked down at his sword and was surprised to realize just how comforting it really was to him.

Besides for all he knew this other sword could be a bait and switch, something that would shatter against paper. In his situation, it would be idiotic to take such a risk and lose the only thing he had that was keeping him alive.

Malenia seemed amused by his hesitation and said, “Now Tyler, do you really think I’d have to resort to such petty trickery if I wished you harm?” She smiled at him, showing off her teeth again, and the sight of it gave Tyler a lump in his throat. He hated that she could frighten him so easily, and it certainly didn‘t make him want to hand over his katana.

Malenia stopped smiling and her eyes took on a more gentle look. “I give you my word that if it gets even the smallest scratch, I will repair it better than new.” Something about the way she said it made Tyler lower his guard without meaning to, but he was still reluctant. “Please Tyler, this is important.” Her voice sounded sincere in a way that made him want to believe her. In the end it was still Tyler’s rational mind that made the choice, and the fact was that Malenia was right. She could kill him in a heartbeat if she really wanted to, sword or no sword.

When he accepted the weapon from Malenia, he found that it was surprisingly light. He cracked the seal with his thumb to assure himself that there was indeed a sword attached to the grip before he drove his own blade into the stump and backed away. He had a good guess what Malenia was going to do.

“Let’s start with something simple,” she said after thinking a moment. She held her left hand out to the side, and Tyler watched in amazement as an ice crystal shard formed in the air just past Malenia’s finger tips. With a flick of her wrist, she sent the shiny spike shooting at Tyler’s sword like a spear, but just before it hit, the ice vanished as if passing behind some invisible wall.
For a moment, Tyler thought the shard had shot through somehow, but there was nothing on the other side of the sword. No ice, no metal fragments, and no hole in his blade to indicate anything had happened at all. The ice had simply disappeared.

Malenia’s eyes narrowed, and without a word she held out her hand again. This time her palm was aimed forward, and a ball of fire came into existence just past her palm. Tyler recognized this one. He also noticed that Malenia’s fingers flexed just a little before the flame flew through the air at his sword, but just before striking the sword’s surface, the fire was snuffed out. “Alright then, “ Malenia said as she swiped her hand through the air as if throwing something.

Tyler saw several blurs move through the air like heat waves, and the ground past and around the sword was torn up as if giant invisible blades were slicing through the soil, but his weapon remained untouched. Tyler looked at the damage Malenia had just done with a few hand gestures and imagined what she could do to a person with an attack like that. Now he was starting to understand why Alanna had been more frightened of Malenia than of him.

“How about this then,” said Malenia as she raised a hand in the air and pointed a finger at the sky. Tyler jumped in surprise as a bolt of lightning shot out of her fingertip and struck blade. The tree stump was charred black and burning, but the blade was untouched. Tyler’s anxiety rose with each new spell, but he could see his sword unharmed. “Hmm,” said Malenia as she gave a casual wave of her hand and extinguished the flames on the stump.

Malenia stared at Tyler’s sword for a moment in silence, her eyes narrowed in concentration. She glanced at Tyler and whispered, “I wonder.” She pointed a finger at the ground, and a small pebble floated up. She flicked her finger and sent the tiny stone shooting through the air, and it bounced off the blade’s surface with a ding before falling to the ground. “Interesting.” Malenia looked at Tyler as if she were pondering something. She held up her hand, and a small ball of water formed in her palm. She smiled coyly as she flung it at him.

Tyler raised his hands to shield himself, but this proved unnecessary. The liquid sphere simply disappeared without actually hitting him. For a moment Tyler thought it had passed through or, even more disturbing, into him, but he didn’t feel any different, and there was no puddle behind him. Malenia held out her hand and this time, water rose from the nearby pond. Again she flung the ball of water at Tyler, and this time he did not bother to brace for the impact.

The ball burst like a balloon just before hitting him, and Tyler was soaked head to toe.

He looked down at himself before glaring at her. “That was childish,” he said, trying hard to control his aggravation.

“And amusing,” said Malenia as her smile broadened. “As well as harmless. Forgive me, but I thought it best not the throw anything lethal at you until I was certain.”

“Certain of what?” Tyler asked as he shook his hands in an attempt to dry himself.

Malenia seemed to check her fingernails as she casually replied, “That you are immune to magic.”

“What are you talking about?” Tyler said, his voice rising a little. “You said magic was what brought me here. You just nailed me with a water ball.”

“But not the first, and the second should not have burst as it did,” Malenia said. Her voice was calm and patient, unaffected by Tyler’s outburst. “Though you do have a point about your method of arrival.” She looked back at the sword in the stump. “Fortunately, I have a theory about that.” She held out her right hand, turned her wrist palm skyward, and flicked a finger upwards. A stalagmite of ice shot up, encasing the tree stump and the sword within. Tyler jumped back, surprised by the sudden appearance of the six-foot tall spike.

Malenia walked over to the stump, held up her left hand, and it caught fire, though it didn’t appear to cause her discomfort. She reached forward, melting the ice until her fingertip touched the flat of the sword. The moment she made contact, the fire around her hand went out. Malenia drew back quickly, and Tyler was certain that he saw surprise pass over her face, maybe even fear?

“I thought so,” said Malenia after examining her hand and looking through the hole in the ice. “Come here, little one, and see for yourself.”

Tyler didn’t like being referred to as “little one,” but his curiosity overrode his indignation, and he did as she asked. He made it a point not to get too close to the woman, and she stepped aside as if picking up on this discomfort. Tyler was quickly growing suspicious of how she seemed to know just how far she could push him, or how to appease him without him having to say anything to her. Was he that transparent?

He put that mystery in the back of his mind for the moment and looked through the hole. He saw that the ice wasn’t actually touching the surface of his sword. There was a half-inch-wide gap all around the weapon, but the stump was completely frozen. Tyler’s mind raced through the implications. The ice shard disappearing about an inch away before hitting the blade’s surface, the stone hitting it, the water ball bursting on him. And that first day, the fireball that seemed to pass harmlessly by him. It was like he had some kind of barrier around him. Not just him, but his sword as well.

“It can’t affect me directly,” Tyler whispered to himself as all the pieces fell into place in his mind.

“Cleaver boy,” Malenia said. She was practically beaming at him, and it made Tyler uncomfortable. “But magic can affect the space around you. If you were to be encased in ice like this, you’d be just as dead. Also, this only applies to spells which draw on pure magic. If someone simply throws a bolder at you, you’ll be killed” Tyler visualized that fate, and he didn’t like it at all. “Fortunately, only powerful Kannin can use such large spells, and most Kannin rely almost exclusively on the kind of magic you are immune to. Manipulating existing objects is slower than simply throwing a fire ball. I advise you to keep this a closely guarded secret. You killed the others because you had the element of surprise on your side, and that remains your greatest weapon.”

“Still doesn’t explain how I got here,” Tyler said. He was still straining his brain, searching for an answer.

“I suspect the spell affected the area around you, creating a kind of bubble to transport you. Magic often has to find creative solutions to a castor’s vague omissions. Termall cast a spell to bring you here, but he didn’t specify how, so the spell had to be creative to accomplish its goal. That’s probably why he needed so many additional castors to assist him. He most likely tried the spell on his own and failed.”

“You make it sound like magic’s alive and has a mind of its own,” said Tyler.

Malenia thought for a moment and said, “Yes, I suppose that would be an accurate description. It also tends to have a sense of humor and irony, if one is not careful with how they word a spell.”

Spell, there was that word again, only now Tyler was starting to believe it. What Malenia had demonstrated and described was not technology. Chemical reactions didn’t have a mind of their own. You might get unexpected results on occasion, but it was due to an unforeseen variable, not because the molecules felt like it. But there was one inconsistency that he noticed.

“You said you ‘word’ a spell, but you weren’t saying anything when you were blasting my blade, and neither were the ones I fought the other day.”

“A poor choice of words I suppose,” said Malenia. She looked up thoughtfully. “Was that ironic? In any event, only the most novice Kannin need to speak aloud when casting a spell. The rest of us need simply think the words and visualize what we wish to accomplish.”

“Great,” Tyler said looking at the coffin of ice. “So how do I get my sword back?”

Malenia made a fist and struck the ice with a quick backhand. It seemed to be only a tap, but it made the ice shatter like glass. She flashed him another toothy smile and said, “Pick it up, of course.” Malenia walked away, heading back to Haven while Tyler retrieved his sword. He also knelt down to pick up one of the shards of ice to take a closer look. It melted the moment his fingers got close.

Tyler froze, staring in surprise at the ground where the shard had been. There wasn’t even a puddle. A thought popped in his head, but he had to be sure. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure Malenia wasn’t watching before he reached out at a larger piece of the ice. It had the same affect. The moment he got close, it seemed to vaporize. Malenia was wrong; this kind of magic wasn’t a threat to him either.

Tyler’s mind raced as he and Malenia walked. It was hard for him to contain his excitement. Finally, felt like he had the upper hand. He had an ace up his sleeve against her. If she did act against him, she would almost certainly do something like that ice trick. She had said herself that it was faster than manipulating an existing object, and when she did, she would let down her guard for a split second. That would be his chance.

He pondered what other kinds of spells could and could not affect him. He had no doubt that Malenia was right about thrown boulders being deadly, but at least he’d have a chance to get out of the way. He recalled how the fire on Malenia’s hand had dissipated the moment she touched the sword and how she had reacted. What other kinds of spells did Kannin cast on themselves? He wondered if Malenia’s supernatural strength was magical, but if that was the case, why was she still able to use it against him?

Tyler thought about how she had cast lightning on his sword, and wondered what other tricks she had up her sleeve. Just how powerful was she? Did magic have limits? Could she summon a tsunami, and if she conjured a giant wave, what would happen to him? Would he just stand there as the magical water passed around him? What about sound waves?

“That’s it!” Tyler blurted out.

“What’s it?” Malenia asked. She had been walking in stoic silence the entire time, but Tyler’s outburst had peeked her interest.

Tyler chastised himself internally for his lack of self-control and quickly composed himself. “This translation spell you have going on. I’ve been wondering how it could work if magic can’t affect me, but since you said magic has a mind of its own and is able to find creative solutions, and since magic can affect the space around me, then the spell must be altering the sound waves before they get to me so that I can understand them. The only thing I don’t really get is how magic could know my language.”

Malenia gave Tyler a very bemused look. “I’m afraid I cannot say how magic could know anything about your language, but then I also didn’t understand much of what you said. What are sound waves?”

Tyler’s eyes shot to Malenia in surprise. “You don’t know how sound works?”

“I know that I hear it, and that I can make it,” Malenia said mater-of-factly. “Little more than that.”

“Ok,” Tyler said, and he took on a lecturing tone as he explained, “Sound is made by vibrations created with air molecules. These vibrations enter the ear, stimulate the eardrum, and are interpreted by the brain as sound. I’m guessing that, since the spell can’t affect me directly, it’s affecting the air molecules, changing the vibration before it gets to me so that what I hear is different than what you say and I can therefore understand you.”

Tyler was surprised by the smile on Malenia’s face. It seemed she had been hanging onto his every word. “Fascinating,” she said, and there was no lie in her voice. She really did sound interested to the point that it bordered on wonderment. It made Tyler feel rather awkward. Back home, being knowledgeable about such things led to being ridiculed and ostracized.

He held up the weapon Malenia had given him as collateral, offering it back to her, but she held up a hand, refusing. “Consider it a gift,” she said. “You may find it useful, and if we manage to return you home, it will be something to remember us by.”

‘Like I could ever forger this place,’ Tyler thought. “Wait,” he said. “What do you mean by ‘if’?”

Malenia turned and started walking without answering the question, and Tyler followed. He put that ominous remark in the back of his mind for the moment, but he wasn’t done theorizing. There was a big potential flaw in this ace in the hole. If conjured up objects like the ice were destroyed by his proximity, why were his clothes still on his back? Looking around at the Kannin in the park, Tyler had no doubt that the clothes he wore had been made specifically for him. Every Kannin he saw wore clothes that looked like they came from ancient Rome during the days of Caligula after a visit from queer eye for the straight guy. Sashes, robes, and odd dresses with wild, vibrant colors seemed to be the norm. Few of the males wore shirts, and the things the females wore would have gotten them arrested for indecent exposure back on earth.

Tyler doubted that they had sown his clothes overnight, so if they had conjured them up with magic, why hadn’t they disappeared when he touched them? As he thought about it, he realized the same was true of the very path he walked on. It was probably made with magic too. Hell, the whole castle was probably made with magic, which reminded him to look up at the walkway bridging the two towers that he had crossed the previous day. From the ground, it really drove in just how high it actually was, but there were no visible supports underneath, just a flat walkway. He wasn’t much of an engineer, but Tyler knew that something like that should fall apart.

Tyler knew that he needed more information, but he would have to be careful about asking for fear of tipping his hand. “Malenia,” he said.

“Yes,” said the large woman, without turning to look at him.

“These clothes I’m wearing, where did they come from? I don’t see anything like them on anyone out here.”

“I made it myself dear,” she said. Her voice was still pleasant and friendly. “I thought you would like something familiar to you, so I just copied what you had on as best I could. I’m afraid we have nothing like the material your pants were made out of, so I had to be creative.

“So you just magic them up then?” Tyler asked

“Not exactly. It’s true that manipulating objects requires more concentration than simply conjuring something, but conjured items only exist so long as you supply energy to them. It would be very taxing to conjure up clothing and have it sap your strength all day long, so most Kannin simply alter the materials they have every morning, though some with power to spare like to put enchantments on their garments to constantly shift at random.”

‘So that’s it,’ Tyler thought. His clothes hadn’t been conjured up, just rearranged with magic. He smiled to himself behind Malenia’s back. He still had his ace.

“So, was there anything else you wanted to check, or can I go home now?” Tyler asked. “Not that you don’t have an…” Tyler tried to think of a nice word while they passed a Kannin male with white fur and black stripes wearing nothing by a sash around his waist, “interesting place here, but I‘d really like to get home.”

“Yes, I imagine your mother must be worried about you.”

“Yeah,” Tyler said sadly. He wondered how she was taking his disappearance. Did she think he’d run away, or that someone had abducted him? Either way, she most likely had the whole state looking for him. He smiled at the thought of his mother screaming in the face of some police chief trying to patronize her, but then the smile left his face. He stopped mid-step as a thought occurred to him.

He looked at Malenia, and she stopped to look at him. “Something wrong?” she asked.

“You said my mother,” Tyler said as he eyed Malenia suspiciously. “not my father. How did you know?”

Malenia flashed her toothy grin which Tyler found very frightening, and she said, “Oh, just a lucky guess I suppose.” She turned and continued walking casually as if they were two acquaintances taking a stroll, but Tyler wasn’t buying that explanation. He hadn’t even needed to clarify his question. She had known that he lived with his mother, and not his father; but how? He was certain he hadn’t spoken of it to her, and he hadn’t dreamt of home, so calling out in his sleep was unlikely.

Tyler’s mind went into overdrive as he tried to find an explanation while he walked behind Malenia. Some small part of his subconscious put him on auto pilot, so he could devote most of his concentration to the problem. The most likely answer was that she had simply used magic, but Tyler was still having trouble accepting that magic meant what he thought it did, but the more he saw of this place, the less unlikely it seemed that these creatures were using any kind of advanced technology. The fact that Tyler was immune to it had been the final nail in the coffin of that theory, but it was still a difficult concept for him to accept.

But if this was the hocus pocus type of magic, what were its limits? There had to be rules to govern it. The fact that he was immune proved that. How many spells were there? Had Malenia asked a crystal ball about his life, or had she used some other means to gain information about him? So many questions and having no answers gave Tyler a headache. He decided to put the question aside for the moment and focus on his goal: getting home.

They had almost left the garden when Tyler’s bladder made its demands known. Maybe it was the water splashed on him, or the fact that he hadn’t gone to the bathroom since he’d come to this place, but nature was calling, and he had no idea where the toilets were.

“Hey, Malenia. Where’s the bathrooms at?”

She turned and looked at him as if he’d asked an odd question. “The what?” she asked.

‘Oh you have got to be kidding me,’ Tyler thought. He really didn’t want to have to go out into the woods to do his business. “The bathroom,” he said. “You know, place where you…um,” ‘How to put this?’ he thought. “It’s a place where you go to the bathroom.”

Malenia raised an eyebrow. “I’m afraid that’s not terribly helpful dear.”

“It’s where you shit and piss ok!” he said, almost shouting.

Malenia didn’t seem bothered by his language. She seemed to think for a moment before saying, “Yes, I suppose that would pose a problem for you.”

“You mean you guys don’t have to do that?” Tyler asked.

“Well we would, but we simply use magic to remove it from our bodies.”

‘Fucking magic,’ Tyler thought. “Well we need toilets, and if you guys don’t even know what those are, this is going to be a problem for me.”

“If you describe to me what you need, I’m sure I could accommodate you.”

“Um, ok,” said Tyler, trying to think of how to word this. “It’s a seat with a hole in the middle which forms into a bowl with water at the bottom. When we’re finished, we push a switch which opens a door in the bottom and makes the water carry everything away.”

Malenia smiled, but it wasn’t an immature, amused smile. There was a look of wonder in her eyes like when he‘d described sound waves. “How very clever,” she said, almost to herself. It seemed odd for her to be so impressed by a conversation about toilets. “I believe I can manage that,” she said and she walked over to a clear patch of grass.”

Tyler guessed what she was going to do, but saw a problem. “Just do me a favor,” he said urgently. She paused to look at him, and he had to think quickly of a way to justify this. “Do me a favor and make it using existing materials. That conjured up stuff creeps me out…please?”

Malenia gave him a very queer smile and said, “So, you can be polite after all.”

Tyler didn’t know how to respond to that, but as long as she did as he asked, he could mind his manners if it meant keeping his little secret a secret. A conjured toilet would likely vanish right under his ass.

Malenia held a hand out over the grass and a stone rose out of the dirt as if pushed up from beneath. It was almost like the ground was giving birth to it. Tyler watched in amazement as the rock was molded like putty into a rough approximation of what he’d asked for. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do the job. There was just one problem.

“Uh, this is another one of those things my people like to do in private,” Tyler said, feeling rather embarrassed. “So could you make a small wall or something so people can’t see me?”

Malenia made a short bow and with another wave of her hand made the grass around it grow before his eyes and weave itself into a wicker wall. The front entrance was a flap that could easily be pushed open, yet would close back on itself.

“Thank you,” Tyler said, and Malenia smiled. Tyler went inside and relieved himself. When he finished he realized his oversight: he had nothing to wipe with. He was wondering what to do when a rag fell through the open ceiling. Tyler looked up, thankful not to see Malenia peaking over the top, but he had no doubt she’d been the source. “Thanks again,” he said.

“My pleasure dear,” came her voice from the other side.

That solved that problem, but how had Malenia known? She had just said that Kannin didn’t need to use a bathroom, so they shouldn’t need to wipe their asses. Maybe it was just obvious, but somehow it didn’t feel right to him. He emerged from the improvised outhouse, and he and Malenia went into the building. He noticed as they left, that Malenia left the small structure intact behind them.

Tyler contemplated this and a dozen other things as they walked through the main hall of Haven. He wasn’t quite on autopilot, but close. His mind branched out, noticing things left and right. Despite being rather crowded, the halls were surprisingly quiet. The Kannin around him who were engaged in conversations did so with inside voices. There was no excited shouting or angry yells. Most of those speaking only did so in small groups, rarely more than four to a group, and almost all of them were males and females mixed together. The social hubs had no real artwork to speak of, and the Kannin didn’t seem to keep plants indoors. There were no magazine racks, in fact very few of the Kannin had books at all, and none of them carried any kind of backpack. The place felt like a school, and Malenia had referred to them as students, but it wasn’t like any school he’d ever seen.

Something made Tyler look up, and at first he wasn’t sure why. That unconscious part of his mind had registered something that was worth his attention, and as he looked around, he realized what it was. A Kannin female with black fur wearing a dark-blue dress was walking towards him. Her head was rounder than Malenia’s, her muzzle shorter, and her hair was shoulder-length. She reminded Tyler of a black panther. Her hair was so black that it seemed to have a blue sheen to it.

She had her cat-like eyes fixed on him as though he were a meal, and he noticed how the other Kannin moved out of her way. Some of them seemed to shrink from her, turning their heads as if hoping not to be noticed. He recognized the behavior, and a very familiar feeling came over him as she came up and looked him up and down as though he were unimpressive

“So this is the creature that killed Termall and three of his students?” She asked. Her voice was condescending. “He’s not much to look at, is he?” and with that she smiled. Unlike Malenia, this woman’s teeth were small and narrow, but somehow even more threatening. Malenia’s grin felt like a gentle warning. This felt like a threat.

Tyler glared at her and said, “You‘re one to talk.”

The dark-furred female paused as if struck dumb. She clearly hadn’t expected such a retort from him. She regained her composure and glared at Tyler as though he were something unclean that needed to be dealt with. “You clearly don’t know who you’re talking to.”

“I‘m talking to you,” Tyler snapped. “I‘ve put up with enough shit the last two days without taking crap from someone who should be off in the corner coughing up a hairball.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed slightly and went cold. “It seems you need to be taught your place,” she said in a voice that was deathly calm. She made a move to grab for him. She was startlingly fast, but Tyler was already moving himself. He reached behind his back and drew the stone shiv he’d been hiding there. He hated to use his trump card, but she was too close for him to draw his sword.

Just as he was thrusting forward, he heard a commanding voice call out, “Stop!” The dark woman’s claws froze inches from Tyler’s throat, but Tyler was more surprised to find that he had also obeyed the order. He wasn’t frozen; he could move, so why wasn’t he following through? This woman was going to be a problem for him. He could see it in her eyes.

The woman from Tyler to Malenia and smiled. “Worried I’ll break him?”

Malenia smiled back and said sweetly and said, “Look down, Deserae .”

Deserae ’s eyes narrowed a moment, no doubt wondering at Malenia’s meaning before she did as she was told. She found Tyler holding the stone blade half an inch from her stomach. She stared at it for a long moment in silence before her eyes slowly rose to meet Tyler’s. She looked at him as if seeing him for the first time, and he glared back at her. Whatever she saw in his eyes made something pass behind her own. Uncertainty.

Deserae withdrew her hand, slowly and steadily. She moved like a predator trying not to spook its prey. Tyler did the same, watching Deserae for any sign that she was going to attack again, and he was ready to respond in half a heartbeat. He took a step back and relaxed a little, but he was far from feeling at ease in the presence of these two women. He wasn’t sure who scared him more. Deserae was clearly violent, but if Malenia could scare her into being obedient, then what did that say about her? And Malenia didn’t seem at all surprised by his having a homemade knife. How long had she known about it?

“Well then, if you two are dong trying to kill each other,” Malenia said in an overly cheerful voice, as if she were trying to force some levity into the situation to dissolve the tension, “let’s continue the tour.”

She nodded at Deserae before walking away. Tyler waited a moment to lock eyes with the dark-furred female one last time as if to say, “I’m not afraid of you.” He was of course. She’d tried to attack him, and he had no doubt she could have ripped him apart, but he wasn’t about to let her know that. Her eyes told him something very different. It was as if she had decided he was something that needed to be dealt with. He felt her eyes on him as he turned to follow Malenia. ‘The sooner I get out of here, the better,’ he thought.


“So what was that chick’s deal?” Tyler asked as he walked behind Malenia down yet another hallway. They had been walking around for what seemed like hours. The castle felt more like a maze by the minute.

“I assume you are referring to Deserae,” said Malenia without turning to look at him. She walked as if she owned the place, which Tyler realized she did. Everything about her just screamed power and authority; her straight posture, her confident stride, how she regarded Tyler with mild indifference. It really irritated him. The faculty back home had always tried to put on an air of authority, but it always came off as forced. Malenia gave it off naturally, but that just bugged him more. It was like she knew she was better than he was with absolute confidence.

“You assume correctly,” he said. It also annoyed him how she spoke so properly, or was that a result of the translation spell?

“She is my second,” said Malenia with a soft sigh. “She is the strongest of the masters, and I rely on her to carry out many of the more trivial tasks involved with maintaining such a large clan. One of those tasks is keeping the students in line, and that requires a stern hand. She saw you as weaker than herself, and so she wished to assert her dominance.”

“The masters?” said Tyler. The word made him think slavery, and the fact that Deserae had been trying to assert dominance over him only cemented the image further.

Malenia nodded in a gracious way, as if she were in a royal court. “Those who have mastered a form of magic. They instruct the students.”

“So they’re teachers,” Tyler said, again thinking of Haven as a school. “and the dominatrix chick is like your vice principal?”

“I’m afraid I do not know what that word means,” said Malenia. “She is as I told you, my second.”

“Ok, so why is she such a bitch? Is she having a bad day, or is she always like that?”

Malenia turned and glanced at Tyler, though he wasn’t sure if it was because he had annoyed her or enticed her curiosity. Her face was hard to read. “What you saw of her is consistent with her temperament. She is proud, and jealously defends her position. Your attitude towards her was…unexpected.”

“What do you mean?”

Malenia paused a moment as if she were choosing her words carefully. Tyler knew that that probably meant he was about to hear a bunch of PC bullshit. “To put it bluntly, Deserae perceived you as being weak.”

‘So much for PC,’ Tyler thought. That was about as blunt as you could get. “So what, she’s just a bully?”

“I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that term either,” said Malenia. She didn’t seem bothered by it, but Tyler was finding the language gap rather annoying.

“A bully is a coward who abuses other because they are weaker than they are,” Tyler explained with a hint of bitterness slipping into his voice.

Malenia gave him another glance as if something he had said had surprised her. “It would be foolish to challenge those stronger than yourself.”

Tyler couldn’t help but smile to himself. “It’s never stopped me,” he said.

Malenia raised an eyebrow as she considered Tyler for a long moment and said, “Indeed.” she looked ahead and continued walking. “By your definition, I suppose most Kannin could be called bullies. The strong dominate the weak, and the weak submit to the strong.”

‘Oh we’ll just see about that,’ Tyler thought with a grin. He was already planning his next meeting with the black-haired bitch, and he hoped he got the chance to knock her down a peg. “And you’re ok with that?” he asked.

“I have implemented several measures for safety,” she said, sounding neither concerned nor defensive. “Killing is forbidden, and one may only engage in violence to assert authority or challenge for status.”

“Charming,” Tyler muttered. “So she was, what, trying to discipline me or something?”

“Testing you would be more accurate,” Malenia said casually. “You killed Termall, and he was one of the stronger masters. She likely felt threatened by you and wanted to determine who was stronger. I only intervened because I feared you would kill her.”

‘Damn straight,’ Tyler thought. If Malenia hadn’t stopped him, he would have gutted Deserae.

Tyler stopped in his tracks. Gutted Deserae? His mind flashed back to the dark room, the smell of blood, the sound of screams, and the feeling of his trembling hand gripping his sword. How could he have been so willing to do that again? He hadn’t hesitated when he’d moved to kill Deserae. He hadn’t given a second thought to stabbing her. ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’

“Are you alright?” Malenia asked.

“Huh?” said Tyler, snapping out of his introspection. “Yeah, fine. So what does queen bitch teach anyway? Nothing to do with children I hope.”

“Masters teach whatever form of magic they are proficient with,” said Malenia. “In Deserae’s case, that would be shadow and pain magic.”

Tyler stared at Malenia dumbfounded. “Shadow and pain magic? I thought you guys just controlled elements and chemical reactions like fire wind and stone. How the fuck do you use shadows?”

“There are many forms of magic,” Malenia said calmly. “Some more useful than others, though it depends on how you use it.” Malenia glanced at a student off to the right, a young male with brown fur and black crisscrossing stripes who was walking in the same direction they were.
Malenia held out a hand toward him, and her shadow seemed to rush out like an animal being set upon prey. It swept across the ground as swift as a snake and ensnared the unsuspecting student, coiling up his legs until it had entangled his entire body. He was lifted into the air belly up and limbs sprawled out. Tyler watched in amazement and horror. The guy was helpless, but he wasn’t struggling. After an initial surprised reaction, he had almost gone limp, and for a moment Tyler thought that Malenia had killed him.

Then the black tendrils gently placed the Kannin back on the ground and on his feet before retreating back into Malenia’s regular shadow. The Kannin turned around looking far less startled than Tyler would have been. Malenia smiled and nodded at him. “Thank you, Kivan,” she said politely.

Kivan nodded back and replied, “Of course, headmistress.” before he turned and continued on his way as if nothing had happened.

Malenia looked back to Tyler with a smug smile on her face, but Tyler could only gawk at her dumbfounded. It took a long moment for him to arrange his thoughts enough to form a sentence before he blurted out, “What the fuck was that?”

“Shadow magic,” said Malenia calmly.

“I know!” Tyler said loudly. “but how the hell can a shadow grab someone? It doesn’t have mass! It doesn’t even really exist. It’s just the absence of light. It is literally nothing.”
Malenia looked up and away as if in thought. “I don’t know,” she said “It just does. Would you like me to demonstrate pain magic next?”

“No!” Tyler yelled.

His reaction seemed to amuse Malenia. “Not to worry,’ she said. “I wasn’t going to do any permanent damage. Pain magic is only harmful if it causes the heart to give out.”

Tyler stared at her, horrified. “And Deserae teaches a class on how to do that?” he asked. “I’m going to regret asking this but…how?”

“The same way any master teaches any spell,” Malenia said indifferently. “demonstration and practice. As a stipulation to taking the class, any student can be used for the other students to practice on, or for Deserae to demonstrate a new spell on.”

Tyler simply stared at Malenia for a long moment before saying, “You have a class that teaches torture?”

“I’m afraid I do not know that word,” said Malenia.

Tyler sighed. “Well, I can’t imagine she has many students with that being the entrance fee.”

“On the contrary,” said Malenia. “Deserae teaches more students than any other master.” She sounded almost proud of that fact.

“What!” Tyler said. “Why? Are Kannin masochists or something?”

“I’m afraid I do not know that word either,” said Malenia. “As for the reason the class is so sought after, pain magic is both rare and powerful for a Kannin, making it well worth suffering to obtain. It was my intention that the students have a healthier respect for what it could do if they experienced it themselves first.” She bowed her head a smiled. “Also, Deserae insisted.”

‘Why am I not surprised,’ Tyler thought. “Look,” He said. His voice showing his growing impatience. “I admit that this is all fascinating, and I’m even willing to come visit again and learn more about it, but right now, I’d really like to go home.” He raised his voice with the last two words, but Malenia simply smiled at him, though, though there was no humor in it.

She had dragged him all over the castle, or school, or whatever it was. He’d seen a dinning hall, classrooms, dorms, and they’d even passed by a library, though Malenia hadn’t wanted him to go in for some reason. He’d been up and down more stairs in one day than an entire year of school, and his legs were starting to cramp up. His curiosity had helped him keep his tongue until now.

Malenia led him back to his small room, and gestured for him to sit on the bed. ‘This can’t be good,’ he thought. She then conjured up a small chair and sat across from him.

“Tyler, I’m afraid that sending you home is going to be more difficult than I had hoped,” she said. She spoke in that soothing tone doctors reserve for their patients when they have to give them bad news. “Alanna revealed that the spell used to bring you here was very vague, and Termall didn’t know of you or your world. I had hoped that he might have had some insight that would make matters easier. Sadly, this is not the case.”

“What are you saying?” Tyler asked, though he already had a good guess.

“I’m saying that, at the moment, I cannot send you home, nor can I tell you how long it will take me to find a way to do so.”

Tyler just stared at her for a long time. She didn’t break away from his gaze; her eyes were calm and patient, as if studying his reaction. “You’re saying I’m stuck here,” he said. It was both a question and a statement. Malenia offered only a small nod in response. Tyler looked away from her, his mind reeling with the realization that he might never see home again, or his mother, or another human being for as long as he lived. There were so many things he would never get to do. It was like being dead, only worse. His hand started to tremble, and then his entire body. He could feel hot tears welling up in his eyes. He didn’t want to cry, not in front of her. “Get out,” he said. His voice tight. When he heard no answer, he snapped his head around to yell, but found the chair empty except for a small tray of food and drink.

Tyler’s shaking hand clenched into a fist as he looked at the trey. He stood from the bed and backhanded the stool, sending it and its contents onto the floor. He felt something building up inside his chest, as if it were about to burst. When it finally did, he screamed.
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