Once the departing crowd has mostly thinned back out, Shona leads the way through the front hall and into an empty first floor classroom, where she pulls out some desk seats and arranges them into a wide circle. Only she sits down — Mide and I stand on either side of the circle, eyeing each other uneasily.
“Well… if it’s gotta be that way for now, that’s fine too,” Shona says with a shrug when it becomes clear that neither of us are moving. “So! It’s, uh, been a minute! How’re you doing? New life working out for you, I hope?” she asks. Mide shoots her a look that plainly says “seriously?”
“Eyna, could you tell her that there’s no chance of us ‘trying the team thing out just one more time’? Somehow I think you’ll back me up on this,” Mide says before I can answer.
I meet Shona’s eyes and shake my head. “Sorry.”
“Ehhhhh… well, I, yeah. Guess I coulda seen that one coming,” Shona says. No, that shouldn’t surprise anyone, but she still visibly deflates a little.
“Okay. Now that that’s all sorted out, what are you doing here?” Mide asks.
“I want to compare Harbinger notes with Aisling. I’d promise to leave you alone forever after that, only I might need to talk to her more in the future. But I don’t like being here either. Too crowded. I won’t be hunting in the area, if that helps.”
The two share a silent, uneasy glance.
“See, it’s because she thinks that’s our problem that I’m worried about this,” Mide says to Shona. “Look. Eyna. If a monster turns up in our school, you’re here and we’re not for some reason, and you can handle it without draining anyone or whatever it is you do, I WANT you to fight it. That’s what all this is about! Whatever’s got you in such a rush for Harbingers- ow!”
Shona elbows her pointedly, and she stops to rub her side.
“…Is your own very personal matter, I’m sure,” she continues, sounding like she’s repeating a warning to a parent who wanted to make sure she really got it. “But you hurt people while you’re running after them. If you can’t just stop doing… that thing…” She pauses, shuddering at what could only be one memory. One feeling. “Then do it far away from me and my friends. I don’t know what happens if you lose control and do that to someone who can’t jump to the front of the line for magical healing. And I don’t know what I’d do if you did it here.”
Yes, it sure would be nice if I could just stop. I take comfort in the knowledge that I won’t be “losing control” — not then, not ever. I did what I did to Mide because it was my only way to survive, but it only got that far because I wasn’t preparing properly.
…Come to think of it, Mide could probably help me learn how best to use this power, if we were on better terms. I’ve wanted to know for a while now what being drained is like for my victims. That was an extreme case and it’s probably different for normal people and Keepers, but she is the one person I could currently talk to about the experience. Seems best not to try that right now, though. Or probably ever.
“Look, with what happened… I’m stupid and new to all this. I went into it without a plan for how to use my magic the right way where I really should’ve had one. Now I do. I really didn’t mean to hurt you, it won’t happen again, and I’m sorry.” I don’t know how much any of it’ll help, but that’s all I can think to say.
“Yeah, well, you did it. It doesn’t really matter what you meant,” Mide says.
No. It really doesn’t, does it?
“…That’s fair,” I murmur back. Shona looks sad, but has nothing to say in my defense this time. Not that I’m surprised. What would there be to say?
“Glad we’re on the same page, then,” Mide says flatly. “Anyway. Whether Aisling wants to deal with you is her call. We should get going, if that was it?”
She looks back at Shona, who sighs loudly enough to fill the room. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess we should. Do you need directions, Eyna?”
I shake my head. “A girl outside already pointed me there.”
“Great.” Mide turns and heads for the door, but stops and looks over her shoulder just before she opens it. “Oh, and if someone catches up with you and tells you to turn yourself in, you should probably do what they say. Making any more of a mess won’t end well for you.”
“Uhhhh, yeah, that might be for the best,” Shona agrees, scratching the back of her head nervously.
“…What? Hold on, you can’t just leave that there! Should I be expecting that?”
“How could you possibly not?” Mide spits.
“Well, y’know, people… you make enough noise and people start trying to find out where it came from, yeah?” Shona cuts in. “Listen, though… I’m sure you’ve already heard this somewhere, but you really aren’t the only Keeper anywhere going through stuff like you’re going through, y’know? If you asked, there’d be someone who could help you figure out how to handle it.”
“I’ve met Niavh Fianata. If I need help, I know where to go,” I say.
“Oh. Oh wow, yeah, you don’t need any dumb shit advice I can give you!” Shona laughs a bit nervously. “So, then… ‘til next time, yeah? I hope whatever you’re doing with Aisling works out. I don’t really get her, but maybe you will!”
Meanwhile, Mide has already opened the door, walked out, and looked back in impatiently. Shona shoots me with a pair of halfhearted goodbye finger guns, then runs off to join her.
Well. That’s… I guess that… wasn’t any worse than I’d have guessed it would be? Whatever that means. Still, I take a while to gather myself before I leave the room. I sit at the nearest desk, bury my head in my arms, wipe my eyes just in case, and then it’s on to what I’m actually here for.
How much does Aisling already know about me, come to think of it? It sounds like knowing is kind of her thing. I can only hope it’s a good sign that these two at least haven’t mentioned Tetha at all.
There are no more incidents on the way to the club. A few people who haven’t quite left yet still give me looks as I pass by, but in the absence of any loud public Keeper drama, I just keep moving until they’re gone. Mor’s directions are easy to follow, and soon I’m at the door labeled simply “512.” In the little rectangular window, there’s a few people scattered around seats at the long, raised desks, but from here I can’t tell what, if anything, they’re all doing. I knock twice.
“What? Who’s knocking? Just come in!” a boy’s voice calls.
Okay, then. I take a deep breath and do that.
Light pours into the science lab through a window that spans the entire wall opposite the door, looking out over the school’s front courtyard and a small slice of the city beyond. The room is quite well-appointed, with all manner of scales and tubes and tongs and microscopes and other instruments I don’t recognize stored neatly on shelves lining the room or in cabinet space underneath the desks.
None of those are in use, though — the four uniformed students inside seem mostly focused on a projector screen at the far end of the room. At the top of the screen, a big bold heading reads:
HARBINGER CLASSIFICATION: IRAKKIA? (self-designation unknown)
Well. That’s interesting. I didn’t expect to find people who weren’t even involved discussing the second Harbinger I ever fought, especially not on the very day I happened to come by.
Beneath, the screen separates into four columns, labeled Cluster A, Cluster B, Other, and NOS. The A and B columns are filled with small bullet-pointed lines of text. The other two contain a single line each. Other’s says “-No known plausible candidates.” NOS’s reads “Ask Lucan if you’re wondering why we still waste space on this category. Seriously, Lucan, why?”
When I enter, a boy and a girl seated next to each other at the desk closest to me are in the middle of an animated argument about… something? Classifying Harbingers, I guess. I have no idea what that means in practice. It sounds impossible, but what do I know?
“I’m just saying, the thing with the weird sky is a textbook B trait and that’s the best match we have so far,” the boy says.
“Colm, there is no… no, there WOULD be a textbook, if it wasn’t locked up somewhere in the Archives with Redaction Agency spooks sitting on it! But until we can go beat ‘em up and take it, which, uh, I think we’re a ways off from that being on the table, we’re writing the textbook!” the girl yells, definitely louder than she needs to. The two look similar, with the same dark hair and freckles, though the girl is much shorter and their brown-green and green-brown eyes don’t quite match.
Redaction… what? Is that an actual thing?
The boy — Colm? — groans and gives her a pointed look. It’s probably not a thing.
“Anyway!” she continues after they stare each other down for a bit. “Until the textbook is liberated or written, pretending we’ll actually be able to solve a case like this one to any degree of certainty is…” The girl trails off as she turns to look at me and realizes I don’t fit in at all. “…Hm? Who’s… hi!” she finishes, turning my way.
Most of the others follow her lead at the sudden halt in the conversation. Not that I expected much better — a Keeper’s circle of friends are probably more likely than anyone to see me for what I am immediately. The last to notice me is a blonde girl in a blue beret, seated at the teacher’s desk and absorbed in something she’s doing on a desktop drive. Eventually, she peeks up over the top of the monitor and narrows her eyes. Judging by the blue, almost painfully bright light shining from her irises, that must be Aisling.
She thumps a book on the desk, breaking the uneasy silence, then stands. A tall older boy with neat brown hair, narrow grey eyes that look slightly less tired than Aisling’s, and thin-rimmed glasses you can barely see quickly moves to take her place at the desk, like this is a signal and a routine they go through pretty regularly.
“We’ll just be a minute. Carry on talking if you like, I’m sure I can get the gist when I’m back,” Aisling says, then meets my eyes and gestures with her head to the door. I step back outside, and she emerges a second later.
“Hi, Vyuji’s new girl. You aren’t here with an emergency question, are you?” Aisling asks as the door swings shut behind her. Up close, her curly hair looks like it hasn’t been brushed quite as much as it should, and if I ignore the piercing light in her eyes, they’re as exhausted as any I’ve ever seen. There’s a faint tinge of unpleasant heaviness in her soul, but she doesn’t quite feel sick… well, maybe a tiny bit. Just in that way anyone can become unhealthy by not sleeping enough.
She didn’t bother to introduce herself. I honestly can’t blame her. Anyone who comes looking for her here must know who she is, me included. Similarly, I don’t need to ask how she knew who I was — even just based on things I’m certain she knows, it’s not much of a puzzle. Vyuji met with her at some recent point and here’s a weird new Keeper. It’s annoying that my attempts to keep myself quiet have been so worthless, but… anyway.
“I don’t… think so? I’m not exactly sure what you mean by ‘emergency’ and I am trying to figure some things out, but Vyuji just said we’d have notes to compare,” I say.
Aisling bites her lower lip, but after a moment, she releases it and nods. “Good, because there’s a line for questions. Unless you had a really good emergency. Can your thing wait until our meeting’s finished? About an hour at most?”
“That’s fine.” I don’t want to give another Keeper any more reasons to hate me than she might already have, and if I weren’t here, I’d just be in my room working on my journal until dusk.
“Great. You’re welcome if you want to sit in.” And simple as that, she heads back inside. I shrug and follow her.
Back in the lab, the two kids at the desk closest have resumed their argument, and there’s a new bullet-point under the original note in the NOS column. It says “Just because we haven’t found the commonalities yet doesn’t mean they don’t exist (￣ヘ￣)”
Aisling scowls and hurries to the teacher’s desk. “Yep. True. Very true. Lucan, if you or anyone else think you’ve found enough connections to merit a new cluster, you’re of course welcome to propose it. Until then, stop trying to turn the non-category category into a home for your half-baked red-string conspiracy board hypotheticals!” she fumes. She sounds like she’s talking as much to herself as to the boy.
Lucan scoots back to his original seat, grinning and clearly satisfied with himself, but says nothing more on the matter. As soon as she sits back down, Aisling highlights and deletes his note.
“Anyway. We have a guest who doesn’t want to drag me off on some urgent mission, so that’s nice,” Aisling announces.
“It is, it is! Welcome to the Research Club, a home for everyone who wants to know everything they are hiding from us!” the little freckled girl says, with no further indication as to who they might be. She puts a hand to her chest as she continues: “I am Haunild Yadon, the youngest investigative reporter in Clarish history! Pleased to make your acquaintance!”
“…Colm Yadon. Nice to meetcha. I’m mainly here to keep this one at least partially chained to reality,” the boy next to her says. “For example, what she means by that is that she wrote a few of the pages on Aisling’s reef.”
“IMPORTANT pages! It’s an important reef! Is it only a real investigation if a news organization posts it on their reef after the Redaction Agency takes a scalpel to it?” she objects.
“No, but that’s usually when we call it reporting,” the older boy says mildly. “And hey. I’m Lucan, if you haven’t caught that from Ash complaining about my visionary spirit.”
“Um, hi, everyone. I’m Eyna.” I don’t know enough about reporting to comment on that, so I just wave and take a seat in the back corner.
The club members glance at each other, then back to me. Except for Aisling, who’s still looking over something on her screen.
“Don’t mind me. Just… do whatever you’ve been doing,” I say. I suddenly wish I’d brought a book to hide in.
“Hold on a second,” Colm says. “During our debrief with her, Shona mentioned an Eyna joining her usual duo. Was that you?”
What? I’m… ugh, I’m so stupid. Why did I keep using the same name after nearly eating one Keeper and fighting another to protect a Harbinger?
“Wasn’t going to say anything if they didn’t catch it. Sorry,” Aisling says tonelessly, without looking over the monitor.
Why did I give them a name at all? Wouldn’t they have just finished whatever they were doing before if I said nothing and brushed them off? Why am I so horrible at this? I just want to crack my skull open against a wall, let my soul leak out onto the floor, and replace all the broken parts of it with ones that can actually think.
“…Yes,” I say. Against every instinct I have, in a voice barely over a whisper.
“We’re discussing the Harbinger the three of you killed right now. Can you give a better description of its vulnerability to perception than ‘when we made a circle and looked at the Wound real close, all that obnoxious cheaty shit it was doing stopped working’?” Lucan asks without missing a beat.
“That would help,” Aisling says, leaning over to peek sideways around the monitor.
Wait, that’s it? That’s the big question they have for me? “Um, probably?”
Haunild grins and pumps both her fists. “Oh, now we’re in business again! Tell us! Tell us eeeverything Screaming Hymn wasn’t paying attention to!”
“I… okay. Sure,” I say. It sounds like a lot of talking to strangers, but at this point, I’ll take any chance that this meeting might not start and end horribly.
I have the room’s full attention as I share my perspective on the hunt for Irakkia to the best of my ability, with only a couple small exclusions around what I did to Mide. There, I just say that we both got hurt and only I was fit to keep going. Given what this group seems to be like, I’m expecting to be interrupted all the way through by an exhausting torrent of questions, but apparently the rule is that those only start once I’m finished telling my story.
They do have questions, though. Oh, do they ever. Most of the first ones are just asking for clarifications on things I didn’t describe the best the first time through. Irakkia’s Wound was full of things I struggled to understand myself, much less explain to a group that didn’t see any of it. Plus it just feels wrong having an audience for stuff I’m saying.
“Backing up from the Wound a little. Do you remember what that victim in the Sanctuary wrote?” Lucan eventually asks, once they’re satisfied with all the little details.
“Is there a place I can type it out or put it on that display? I think that’ll be easier.” And it’d be a bizarre thing to recite.
Aisling opens a text box, places it over the NOS column on the projected screen, and waves me to her seat. I type the poem out from memory:
a long long long time ago, someone fell through the sky
and built a castle floating in the clouds
this castle has no doors and no windows
no light shines inside it
not a single star or lamp or candle
if you or i were stuck in a place like that, where nothing comes in and nothing goes out,
or lose ourselves and never find us again
but the children who live in the castle are happy there!
those children spend lots of happy days crawling around in the dark
they need no light, for there is nothing their eyes can see
they touch each other with hands that have never felt anything
“And that was it,” I announce.
Aisling takes her spot back as soon as I’m done… oh well. This would’ve been easier with a monitor between me and everyone else.
As I cross the room on the way back to my corner, Haunild pulls her hands into her sleeves and wraps her arms around herself. “Mrrh. Chilly. Is, uh, is that you?”
“Oh, yes. Sorry,” I say. I really will work on that, but I can’t work on it right now.
“Any chance you can… turn it off?” she asks with a nervous smile.
“Right. Emergence,” she grumbles, then turns away to read the poem with the rest of the club. I don’t correct her.
“This is… one of the weirder ones we’ve seen, yeah,” Lucan says, first to comment on the writing.
“Do you see a lot of these?” I ask.
“Not exactly like this, but we do try to record and consider anything Harbinger victims say about their attackers. Sometimes it helps,” he answers. “Any guesses as to what that missing last line might’ve been? They’ve… found, forgotten… meh, there’s no way to say where it could’ve gone past that.”
“I don’t even think it was the last line. There was just a big blotch of smeared ink and wet paper at the bottom,” I say.
“Well, complete statement or no, that stuff about the sky-castle does sound kind of B. Did you catch its self-designation — er, its title? Shona didn’t, but she mentioned you were better with that sort of Harbinger thing,” Colm asks.
“It was… ‘The World Is Not The World.’ That’s most of it, at least. Maybe this’ll make more sense to one of you than it did to me, but there was some sort of distinction in its mind between ‘the world’ and ‘THE WORLD.’ I couldn’t say what it actually meant by that.” I think about whether to expand, then decide there’s no point in holding this particular card too close when I’m here to trade Harbinger information. “I didn’t understand their language yet. Not all the way.”
That gets a few more looks around the group, which I can’t tell how to read. Then… “And you do now?” Aisling asks.
“Yes. I can’t speak it, but I can hear it and read it,” I say.
Haunild plants her head on her desk and lets out a muffled wordless groan.
“Um? Did I say something wrong?” I ask.
“No, it’s not, you didn’t do anything, just… we have a member who’s really into languages. She hasn’t been around and she’d be real mad if she knew she was missing this. I’d call her and yell at her to get over here already, but… well,” she trails off.
At nearly the same time, Aisling and Lucan glance her way uneasily. “She’s missing. We’ve been looking for her for a few days,” Aisling clarifies.
“Oh. I’m… sorry to hear it,” I mutter.
Obviously, not every missing person was taken by a Harbinger. You hear a lot about those cases when they happen, of course, but I’m not even sure if most of them were. Sometimes, kids just run away or get lost and turn up later.
But that doesn’t keep the worst possible outcome from looming large in everyone’s minds.
“S’okay. We’ll find her. And maybe this is better for you, Eyna. She woulda buried you in questions about… I dunno. Phonemes or whatever it is she’s into,” Haunild continues after a moment.
“Yeah. You know, like…” Haunild waves a hand in aimless circles. “Language… sound stuff.”
“It’s a linguistics term,” Lucan clarifies after a silent moment. “It’s how they define a unit of… wait, first, do you care?”
Oh, good. I was afraid they were getting into some magic vocabulary no one told me about. “Only if it’ll make me better at speaking Harbinger,” I say.
“Which you described as mainly an abstract mental experience, right? You hear sounds or read sigils and just ‘know’ that they carry some meaning?” Aisling asks.
“Isobel’d be mad about that too,” she sighs. “It probably wouldn’t help, then. Maybe if you come back to it later, once you’ve got more of a… grounding in that language. Someone learning their first words in a normal human language wouldn’t get much out of studying, say, why the letter P makes the sounds it does, and in this case there seem to be a few more obstacles to understanding whatever structure and rules this magic language must have.”
“Then I can’t say I really care, no,” I admit.
Haunild shrugs. “Me neither.”
“That aside, other Keepers can still see those glyphs. There are at least a few transcriptions on the Sea — not so many photos, for obvious reasons, but those should still work. If we collected a few of those, could you translate them?” Lucan asks.
I don’t know if that’s how it works, but I don’t know that it’s not. “Maybe…?”
Aisling thumps her notebook on the desk again. “Good thought, but not the agenda for today. Any more questions about the Harbinger?”
“No, but I think I’ve changed my position. Much as I’d love to have been right in the first place, and that thing about ‘the world’ does still sound like a Cluster B concept, the idea of a B’s victim writing poetry about it doesn’t really square with how they do things,” Colm says.
“No major astrological incidents since the winter eclipse, either. Not that that’s a sure thing, but it is evidence against,” Lucan says.
“Well, no more incidents that they told us about,” Haunild adds in an accusing tone. Again, I’m not sure who she’s accusing of what.
“None that any of my sources told me about, either,” Aisling says.
“Huh,” Haunild mumbles. “Not even the…” She pauses, flicking her eyes my way. “…um, on the Sea?”
Aisling shakes her head. “I still haven’t been able to reach her since the last time I mentioned her. Besides, the sky was never one of her big areas of interest.” She chews her lip quietly for a moment before she continues:
“Anyway. That was a lot of good new data about this case, but I don’t think it brings us much closer to answering the original question. We still don’t know anything about this Harbinger’s source incident, if it had one. Maybe something about that would make sense of the discrepancies that kept us from calling it an A in the first place, but we have no way of investigating that as of now. It goes without saying that especially in the case of a dead Harbinger, the earlier victims are off-limits until they’re released from the Sanctuary with spotless bills of spiritual health. And until any prospective ‘interview requests’ are approved by their treatment teams,” she finishes.
“That was one time! And they kicked me out in the lobby anyway!” Haunild complains.
“You knew better then and you double know now!” Aisling scolds the other girl, who looks down poutingly like a sad puppy. “Moving on, all in favor of labeling Irakkia NOS until further notice?” she stands, vaults over the teacher’s desk, and sits on its near edge, idly swinging her legs as she comes to rest. She looks in my general direction, not quite making eye contact, and nods. “Feel free to vote if you like, although I don’t think it’ll swing anything.”
“What exactly are we voting on? I mean, you’re clearly trying to sort Harbingers by some sort of system, but I don’t know what the options are,” I say.
“Oh. Didn’t think of that. Usually people come here having read my work.” She pauses, twirling a short lock of her hair tightly around one finger, then calls out “Lucan, could you take this one? We’re almost done here and I don’t want to do the long version.”
“Sure. Your version does get really long sometimes.” Lucan shrugs and turns to me. “That alright with you?”
“Mhm. I don’t want to hold you up too much.” And I’d rather ask any deeper questions while I have Aisling alone.
“Cool. The short version is that we believe it’s a mistake to treat ‘Harbingers’ as a single class of being. We call them by the same name and react to them the same way, but the more you research them, the more you see that they’re really, really not the same. It’s an oversimplification, potentially a very dangerous one.”
I nod once. That sounds right so far. Yurfaln was nothing like Irakkia, and neither of them had anything in common with that unnamed thing in the forest.
“So we record all the ones we learn about. We look for patterns between them, ways in which certain Harbingers really are like others, and do our best to sort them into categories with common traits and origins. Clusters, because we don’t expect them to be as organized as, say, animal families, not anytime soon.”
“Isn’t it also dangerous to think up a box and expect them to fit into it?” I ask.
“Look, to protect yourself from something, you need to understand it, and we can never understand these things if we just leave them as a big scary squiggle in our model of the world forever!” Lucan snaps.
I flinch at the sudden noise.
“Uh, sorry,” he adjusts his tone. “Just… yeah, we’ve only gotten so far. We don’t advise using this system in its current form to try and predict anything about an active Harbinger.”
“Right. That makes sense, yes. I’ll let you finish.”
“Thanks. So Cluster A is, uh, I guess you could call them traditional Harbingers. Ones that basically line up with the way holy texts and safety lectures describe Harbingers. They seem to be based on some person or group’s negative emotions, and they usually feed on or spread whatever experience ‘created’ them. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question that comes with using that word here, but you get the idea. If you know anything about Harbingers, you know about these.
“Cluster Bs are weirder, but in a pretty distinct way that’s easy enough to understand. They don’t come from people, they don’t care about people as anything except things to inflict themselves on, and whatever they do care about, it makes no sense to any of us. Their feeding patterns are destructive enough that victims very rarely recover, or else they just drag people into themselves and never let them out, and they’re more likely to crawl out of their Wounds and attempt full incursions when they get big enough. We think they come from… somewhere else. Some other nightmare realm.”
“Or fallen stars. B Harbingers do seem to be more common around strange astrological events,” Colm adds.
“…That’s a hypothesis, yeah,” Lucan continues. “Anyway, ‘Other’ is for workshopping potential new categories, things we have ideas about but aren’t sure of yet. None of those are relevant here. And NOS — not otherwise specified — well. That gets back to what you were saying about our boxes. Currently, it’s for Harbingers too weird to fit in anywhere else, or ones that blend enough common traits of the other clusters that we don’t know what to do with them. I think there might be an actual category somewhere in that in-between space, but until we find more examples of Harbingers that fit into it, even I’ll admit that it is kind of a ‘half-baked red-string conspiracy board hypothetical.’”
Aisling glances up from the monitor and smiles at him. There’s a faintly predatory cast to her gleaming eyes.
“Yep, go ahead and store that one in your memory palace, Ash. Take it out and replay it whenever you’re feeling down. I don’t mind. You’re welcome,” Lucan says without ever looking her way. “Eyna, I think that pretty much covers the basics. NOS is where we’re thinking of putting this one. All in favor?” he repeats.
Four hands immediately raise. After a moment, I join them. I’m hardly an expert in whatever their system is, but ‘too weird’ seems like a perfectly good way to describe Irakkia.
“There we go, then. I’ll handle its entry on the master list when I get home,” Aisling says. “Meeting adjourned!”
Despite her strangely official-sounding announcement, the club members do chat and mill about for a little longer. They mostly leave me alone, just looking my way now and then, but after a minute Lucan does break away from a conversation and approach me. “Hey, no pressure, but do you think you’ll come by here again anytime soon? We don’t mean to tie you down and pump you for every bit of info we can. Just wondering if I should look around for magic sigils anyone’s tried to copy.”
“Maybe,” I say. Just like with Niavh a couple weeks ago, I’m a little surprised to find that I don’t think I’m lying. So far, this has gone… about as well as I could expect, for spending time with a bunch of people I don’t know? I’m not eager to come to this school regularly and keep running into Mide, but really it depends on how I manage with Aisling when the others are gone.
“That’s fair. I know you guys tend to keep pretty weird schedules. I’m sure Ash’ll keep me posted either way,” he says.
“Speaking of, not to rush you all out the door, but I did promise her we could talk business in private after this,” Aisling tells the room.
“Oh! Okay! We can take off, then,” Haunild says. “Byeee!” She hops out of her seat, grabs Colm’s arm, and tries to drag him along, but clearly doesn’t have the strength. He snrks a bit before he stands, shakes her off, and they both head for the door.
“Want me to wait outside?” Lucan asks.
“Only if you’ve got something else to do. Otherwise I’ll catch up with you tonight,” Aisling says.
“Sounds good. See you when I see you, Eyna.” Lucan waves and follows the other two out.
Whew. This was far from the longest or most painful delay I’ve ever dealt with, but it’s only made me a little less nervous about whatever comes next.
Once we have the room to ourselves, Aisling jumps down from her perch, grabs a chair, and drags it along the floor, swinging into position on the other side of my desk, right across from me. She takes a seat and leans forward, then looks right at me. I glance down, avoiding both the blinding glare of her eyes and staring right at another person.
“Alright. Sorry about the delay, and I really do appreciate the help — it’s been a bit since we managed to get more than one witness to a Harbinger in here. But before we go any further, there’s some stories I think I need to hear your side of. I do kind of have to keep track of local goings-on, you know.”
Right. Of course she does.
Well… at some point, I’m going to have to find out what people know about me. What they’re saying about me. What they’d do with me, if it’s really gone that far.
“……Fine. Where do we start?”