.:Author's Note:. Welcome, reader. For those unfamiliar with my story Fernwood Academy, this is somewhat of a prequel, focused on two of the characters who play a relatively prominent role. This story is pre-slash (sorry, no explicit content here!). Happy reading!
Damon and Naetili
A group of magi were running on the grass field, kicking a black and white ball, laughing and jeering under a clear autumn sky. Naetili shuffled past without looking at them until he reached the squat buildings opposite the courtyard. The largest was admittedly taller than the others, but only just. The entire school was rather disappointing, in the faery's generous opinion. Primrose, his sister's school, was grand and old, pulsating with magic and a center of arts and learning. This place felt childish in comparison, pink and new, without even a hum of nobility to brag of. The glass doors were too human, the walls built of plaster and cement rather than cold hard stone and aged wood. Naetili stepped into one of the buildings, wandering down a carpeted hallway until he found the appropriate doorway and entered the main office.
"Hello," he said, addressing a werecat with bejeweled horn-rimmed glasses. "I had an appointment with Counselor Woodstone to review my schedule."
The secretary glanced up at him, slit green eyes inflated by her thick glasses. "Down the hall, second door to your right."
Naetili nodded and marched down the hallway, knocking twice before entering the room.
"Good morning, Khadalon," the woman greeted. Her glamour was impeccable, as though no more than a pretty, middle-aged woman with dark hair and long legs. The occasional flash of gold in her eyes and flitting of her tongue betrayed her, but only because Naetili was looking for it.
"Naetili," he provided politely, as was custom. Ms. Woodstone smiled and gestured toward the chair beside her. She crossed and uncrossed her legs, hands smoothing down the folds of her pencil skirt, before talking.
"I understand you are here because you wish to contend your schedule, Naetili?"
"Yes," Naetili admitted, pulling out the sheet of paper. "I am clearly beyond level I glamour, and I would like to drop Runes."
The counselor's eyebrows twitched upwards. "Is the class disagreeing with you?"
"I learned Fae runes at a young age. My only slight is calculative runes, and they are not covered in this class."
"You're right, of course," Ms. Woodstone shuffled through a stack of folders in one of the drawers of her wooden desk. "Calculative runes aren't assigned until your final year. If you've proven your capability, I suppose Professor Khirshen won't have any qualms about giving you an override. As for glamour, can you show me a full glamour?"
In response, Naetili exhaled slowly, reaching into the pool of magic within his chest and letting it expand. His wings shuddered and disappeared, his ivory hair darkened to a straw blond, and his face traded faerish attributes for a long, straight nose, small rounded ears, and blue eyes. The counselor smiled appreciatively. "Glamour II isn't being offered this year, but you can take it next year. However, you cannot be taking fewer than five classes, so we'll need to slip you into another class." The counselor shuffled through the folder, then turned to him with bright eyes.
"Have you taken Intermagi Cooperation?"
Naetili shrank back into his chair, expression turning sullen. "No," he admitted reluctantly.
"Well, as much as you would like to avoid it, it is a required course. You might very well take it now. You'll be a few classes behind, but it shouldn't be too much of a bother I should think."
Naetili shrugged noncommittally and Ms. Woodstone scribbled his new schedule with a fountain pen on a square piece of paper.
"Show this to Professor Karahalios. And do be sure to check in with Professor Khirshen before leaving his class."
Naetili accepted the slip with a stiff nod. He shook off the glamour as soon as he left the room, stretching delicate fuscia wings. The only thing that hadn't made the entire meeting worse, he reasoned glumly, was that he would at least have a free period.
Intermagi Cooperation was a course required in all public non-specialist magi schools by the Adaptation and Integration Committee to familiarize magi to other cultures and increase communal acceptance and cooperation between races. The course, however, was by rumor little more than a year of bickering and forced socialization between unlike individuals who would never again spare words for each other. It was pointless, idiotic, and ineffective, and Naetili prayed he wasn't paired with some pretentious Unseelie or murderous vampire.
Naetili was so wound up in frustration that he barely noticed the soaring ball before it smacked him square in the head. He yelped in shock, stumbling forward and steadying himself against a nearby bench. His head ached, blinking stars blurring his vision.
"Woah, sorry there mate!" a voice called hurriedly. "Leo can't aim to save his hide!"
Naetili glared at the boy who approached him, black and white ball stuffed under his arm. "Well maybe you shouldn't be kicking around a ball in the middle of the gods-damned courtyard like blithering idiots when there's a field for that!" Naetili snarled. The boy froze in his steps, looking surprised and offended. Naetili swept away before he could retaliate, fuming at the shit turn his day had taken.
Classes the next day were drab and boring, and Naetili spent his free hour doing Biology homework. When the courtyard bells tolled two, he grudgingly trudged to his Intermagi Cooperation class. The room was already full, separated into paired desks occupied by sullen magi. Naetili recognized Narii in the front of the room, paired with a bored-looking sprite, and the Seelie sent him a confused wave.
Professor Karahalios – a fully glamoured middle-aged man – shuffled around the room handing out papers. Naetili made a motion towards the professor, who met his eyes and opened his mouth in silent exclamation.
"Ah yes, you must be the transfer," Karahalios nodded, glancing at his attendance sheet over round spectacles. "Khadalon?"
"Naetili." The faery handed the slip of parchment to Karahalios, and the man smiled.
"Wonderful. Since you've arrived late, we haven't scheduled a partner for you yet. But as luck would have it, we had an odd number of students this year. Damon!" The professor raised his voice as he called the student. Several heads swiveled over to glance at him briefly, but only one student jerked out of his chair and trotted forward. Naetili regarded the boy with a sinking heart. He was definitely some kind of mixed-breed, with coal-black horns spiraling over a mop of brown curls and a long thin tail indicating phooka heritage, but the startling blue skin that could only belong to a kelpie or kappa. Naetili's partner strolled up, meeting the fae's gaze with stark yellow eyes. He was fairly unimpressionable and plain-faced aside from his strange mix of features, his chin oval and nose small and round, accented by full lips and thick brows.
"All right?" the boy greeted the professor. His eyes flickered back towards the faery and suddenly widened.
"You're that fae from yesterday!"
Naetili flinched at the outburst. "Excuse me?"
"You know, I was trying to apologize about the ball and you were an ass about it."
Naetili's blinked and realized that the boy from yesterday had, indeed, had blue skin. He narrowed his eyes, and opened his mouth to retaliate when the professor interrupted them.
"You two know each other?" Karahalios exclaimed, grinning. "Wonderful. This should make things easier. This will be your new partner, Damon. Go ahead and take your seats."
Damon appeared uncertain, then shrugged and flashed the professor a white-toothed smile made particularly apparent by his skin tone.
"Sure, 'kay," he replied easily. The professor nodded and shuffled away to quell a very nervous selkie nearby who seemed to be convinced his vampire partner was staring at his neck. "So," the phooka's voice startled Naetili back to his new partner, whose smile had thinned at once. "Your name is Naetili?"
"Khadalon," Naetili corrected immediately.
"Sorry?" Damon looked confused. "The professor said –"
"Don't you know it's impolite to address a Seelie by their first name unless invited to do so first?"
The phooka paused, looking embarrassed. "Well… no."
"Well now you do."
Naetili allowed himself a brief moment of satisfaction as the phooka squirmed. "How am I supposed to ask then?" Damon said slowly.
"You can call me by my family name."
"Khadalon?" The phooka frowned. "The professor calls you Naetili though."
"Professor Karahalios is much wiser and older than me. I can't say the same about you, however."
Damon narrowed his eyes. "Blimey, I get it. I'll call you Khadalon then." He glanced around and gestured toward two empty desks nearby. "Guess we'd better sit down."
Naetili slowly took a seat across from the phooka, crossing his arms over his chest. His eyes flickered over to the clock on the wall and he groaned internally as he realized there was still almost an hour of class left.
"Look, I know we got off on the wrong foot and all, but let's let bygones be bygones shall we?" the phooka suggested. Naetili said nothing the Damon took his silence encouragingly. "So, we did introductions a week ago, but I guess we should do that before anything, yeah?"
Naetili flicked his eyes back toward his partner. He exhaled through his nose. "Sure."
"Great," Damon flashed a grin, more genuine this time but still as unsettling. "Why don't you go first then?"
Naetili looked at him blankly. "What am I supposed to say?"
"Well, your name and race, normally. Plus some facts, I guess. Like... how many brothers and sisters you have, where you live, stuff like that, yeah?"
"You know my name and you should know my race," the faery said pointedly, flickering a wing obviously. "As for siblings I have one sister. And where I live is none of your business."
His blue-skinned partner frowned and after a moment said, "Alright. Well I'm Damon of clan Brankho, Irish Roscommon phooka, though mum figures there's a kelpie somewhere along the family line. Probably my grandmum, but no-one's ever met her. I've got five sisters and yeah, its hell sometimes but it livens things up during the holidays. And we live in Ireland."
Naetili hummed noncommittally, staring at an engraved rune in the desk that spelled something inappropriate.
"Look," the phooka leaned over the desk with a frown. "I'm not all fond of this class either, but if we're to pass we actually have to work together, yeah? So could you stop ignoring me?"
Naetili bit back a sharp retort and glared down at the sheet of paper between them. "So what's this?" he asked, allowing the phooka to stride into a description of the task at hand.
The last of his classes over, Naetili plucked himself from his desk and left the classroom without so much as a goodbye. He wanted nothing more than to closet himself in his room, or find a nice tree to meditate under, but the weight of several homework assignments was already pulling on his shoulders and he grudgingly turned toward the library opposite of the courtyard. Students scrambled about, loud and aimless with classes done, a brisk wind ruffling hair and loose jackets. Naetili shivered, suddenly missing the warmth of his home and the stone hearth, always lit in the months of winter, his mother milking belladonna at her study and humming Djio'rino softly as she worked.
"Naetili, are you lost?"
Naetili jerked to alertness, meeting the bemused smile of a long-faced faery with short silky curls the color of new spring grass.
"Jeze," he greeted, stilling his surprise. "Forgive me, I was deep in thought of home."
The faery waved a hand and sighed deeply "Nothing to forgive. I too miss the warm fires of my home in Rhoein."
Naetili smiled. "Even in that coat of yours?"
Jeze pulled the thick woolen coat tighter around his shoulders and grinned, meady-orange eyes twinkling. The coat was a gift from his father, as the faery liked to remind everyone. It was lambskin lined with soft alpaca wool from the Americas and buttoned with real silver. Jeze's father Davino was the head of the Lashir family, an extremely wealthy and influential line within the Seelie circles. Naetili's parents had nearly thrown Jeze and him together when they were first acquainted at a Court gathering, and aside from his sometimes-insufferable haughtiness, Jeze made a decent companion and Naetili tolerated his company more often than not.
"How are your classes?" Jeze asked.
"Tolerable," Naetili said. "I have an incredible amount of work already."
"A useless bore if you ask me, most of these courses," Jeze groaned. "If my father knew we were studying human history… besides, when I graduate I'll be enrolling in the Arkhen academy, and I'll be studying faerish politics and runes."
"Runes? I thought you hated calligraphy."
Jeze grumbled at that. "Well, yes, but father says I must be an excellent scribe if I want to study at the academy, and runes are, admittedly, a competitive ability."
"Who are you aiming to work for, the king?" Naetili snorted lightly. His companion straightened slightly at that, eyes glinting.
"Who knows? Professor Khirshen says I have a knack for leadership and sees greatness in my future, did you know."
Professor Khirshen was also a mousy-eyed brown-noser who did nothing but fawn over the richest and most powerful of the students, but Naetili kept his tongue and simply smiled.
"Speaking of, I didn't see you in Runes today," Jeze said.
"I dropped out. Runes I is all redundant to me."
"Glamour I as well. My enrollment was a complete joke, if you ask me."
Jeze's eyes narrowed, his expression briefly flickering with the ugliness of jealousy. It cleared and he clicked his tongue. "But that leaves you with only four classes."
"Ms. Woodstone put me into IC."
Jeze cackled. "Delightful. Who were you paired with? Tell me it wasn't a vampire."
"Thankfully not. It's some airheaded phooka boy."
Jeze rolled his eyes. "Well, best just to have it done and over with. And besides, that class can be quite fun."
"Well, he's only a phooka," Jeze supplied, a malicious smile playing on his lips. "They're so… sensitive about everything. Not quite as fun as selkie, but they're easy to rile up. It's almost a game."
Naetili frowned but said nothing. It was no secret that Jeze had a bit of a sadistic streak in him. Sometimes Naetili wondered if his companion didn't have a bit of Unseelie blood in him. They neared the library and he excused himself to find the geography section.