The medical wing of the Academy is somewhere no one ever wants to get sent to. A converted church, complete with alter that the head medic used as a desk. The head medic, Mr Greene, looked human, but he wasn't a medic for nothing. He was what was known as a Converter. He takes pain and converts it into heat. Other than that, he scared the crap out of everyone in the entire school. I guess that was also kind of a preventative measure. If you didn't want to face the medic, you didn't want to get hurt, so you were more careful. It pretty much meant that I was not happy about going there. Unfortunately, I was in no position to stop a determined Nat.
"Holly, if you've hexed your eyebrows off again, I'm not fixing them for you."
All three of us jumped when the head medic spoke from behind us. He swept an eye over what must have looked like a fairly pathetic trio. He raised one eyebrow before seizing my arm, guiding me with ease towards one of the alcoves hidden by a curtain, dismissing Holly and Natalie.
"Well, Miss Roth, if you would be so kind as to remove the armour plates, we can set about getting the sword out of you."
My fingers fumbled with the buckles, trying to pull off the rusted plates while Mr Greene left for a moment. Once they were finally in a messy heap on the floor, Mr Greene started to look at the damage done. I snarled at him as he touched the sword. He grunted in apology. I shot him a glare.
"I don't ask how you managed to get yourself skewered like a demon kebab, you try not to kill me when I try to unskewer you. Deal?" I nodded. "Ok, brace yourself. I'm going to have to pull this out of you. It's going to hurt for a bit before I start converting. Just try to keep still." For the first time, I noticed that he had brought in a bar of metal and a bucket of water. I glanced down at them and then back up at the medic.
"You didn't think I was going to put the heat into you, did you?"
I smiled tightly and braced myself.
Swathed in bandages, I made my way to the canteen. Thankfully, Mr Greene had taken away most of the pain. It was a fascinating process he used, taking the pain from a person and sending it down from his hand to the metal bar and into the water. I shook myself from those thoughts as I picked up a tray, looking at the food. Unfortunately, due to the diverse number of species, everyone's diet was watched really carefully. If you didn't have a good reason for skipping a meal, you landed yourself in the medic's office. As I previously explained, this was not something anyone ever wanted to do. The food on today's 'human and human like' menu didn't really inspire me, but having just come from the medical wing, I wasn't about to turn tail and walk myself back there. I wasn't that stupid. So I took a serving of shepherd's pie and dithered over a dessert. I really wanted an apple, but I can't really eat them. Stupid fangs always get in the way. The only other options were a rather pathetic looking banana or a piece of chocolate cake. To be honest, chocolate cake was more Holly's thing. I took it. Holly was likely to be here somewhere and would gladly take it off my hands. I carried my tray over to where Natalie and Holly were finishing off their dinner.
"Hey guys," I said, sitting down and poking my food, handing the chocolate cake to Holly.
"Heya kid, you all done with the pain vampire?" Holl, being her usual exuberant self, had found it funny in her first year to nickname Mr Greene as the 'pain vampire', since no one really knows what species he is and he sucks out your pain. It makes sense in my mind, but no one has, thankfully, ever used the name in front of him.
"Got more bandages than an Egyptian mummy, but yeah, I'm ok. He patched me up pretty well considering."
"Shadow..." Uh oh, I knew that tone in Natalie's voice. I opened my mouth to interrupt her, but she asked her first question, and now she was not going to stop asking until she understood everything. This is a girl who spends her weekends in the library for fun. "Where did you go? I mean, you poofed out on us in mid-conversation. I didn't even know you COULD poof!"
"I don't know if I can poof. My dad can. I'm not sure about my mum. But no, big lady in chief of my mum's people decided that she needed me for a bit."
"Er, 'needed you for a bit'. Right. Shad, you came back looking like someone was about to put you on a barbecue!"
I gritted my teeth, jabbing my fork at the suddenly rather holey potato. "Nat, Arias doesn't give two hoots about whether I live or die. I'm just a particularly useful tool to her. If I die, it's another annoyance out of her hair."
"Because I'm stronger than the rest of them. Scarier, because of that power. It's the reason I wasn't allowed to stay with Arellan." I kept my voice low, only audible to Nat and Holl, but that didn't stop the irritation in my in my voice from leaking out. I knew they wouldn't betray my trust by telling other people this kind of thing.
"She's.. was my mother." Natalie nodded silently, and didn't ask any more questions. That, unfortunately, didn't mean that Holly was placated.
I could have thought that the reflexes I still had from the battle were in my favour. My opinion changed afterwards though. After all, if I had taken the faceful of potato, I wouldn't have ended up standing in the shower, trying to get various pieces of dried, raw meat out of my hair. Mainly because, when Holly threw that potato, I ducked. It hit the alpha of the Academy's teenaged werewolf pack. And it was two days before full moon. Let's just say that it riled them up. And the thing about the werewolves was that, although they can't change forms at will for most of the month, for two or three days before and after the full moon, their forms were unpredictable and they could change at will. Or not, if their emotions get in the way. And the alpha was seriously pissed off.
"Oops?" Holly said. The alpha growled deep in his throat. This was not going to end well. The pack stood up. They rolled their muscles, loosening up. They were preparing to shift. I gripped the back of my chair tightly. Natalie and Holly had their hands around their wands. Neither side moved for the length of a heartbeat. A lump of raw meat collided with Holly's forehead.
"Oh, game on!" Holly was revelling in the soon-to-be chaos. I couldn't help but crack a smile. The alpha had no idea what he was letting himself in for. Before long, potato and meat were being slung liberally across the tables. Some hit the pixies, who are a really nasty species when it comes to revenge. Their strange drink that they had for each and every meal entered the fray. I dove under a table, already liberally covered in various foodstuffs. This was only the beginning. Holly, the werewolves and the pixies. I really didn't want to be around when the rest of the Academy joined in: the sorcerers, the sorceresses, the succubi, the incubi, the elves, the angels, the demons, the banshees and the harpies. There was going to be certain chaos. As usual, Holly was in the thick of it. Nat crawled under the table to join me.
"Wotcher, Shad. Mind if I hang out here for a while? At least until it stops being bedlam out there."
"Be my guest. I'm not budging."
"Cool, thanks. And Shad?"
"I think the werewolves managed to get you. You've got meat in your hair."
Needless to say, I had to spend a long time in the shower before I managed to feel clean again.
Thankfully, Miss Feather didn't punish us since we hadn't actually destroyed anything. It was an uncommon occurrence, being let off with a simple warning. Then again, I suppose when you get that many teenage mythical creatures with supernatural powers together, the best you can hope for is that no one gets hurt. And we managed to work out a little of the tension between the species in the school. I wish I could say all of my tension was gone though.
To say that the Academy is full of surprises was the understatement of the century. For example; you never knew who you were going to meet next. Case in point: I was hanging out in the library, looking for a book I needed for a mythical creatures assignment on vampires. The point of the exercise was to foster an interspecies friendliness, although it had been noted that only the strongest of the day students had been assigned a creature of the night. After all, the main body of the interview was to interview a member of the species you were supposed to be working on. I was looking for a book on vampire etiquette so as not to make an enormous faux-pas and end up on the menu. That might just put a bit of a crimp on my project. I pulled a book from the shelves, flicking through the index. Someone coughed politely behind me. I turned my head to glance over my shoulder. A boy about the same age as me stood there, looking very nervous. He looked somewhat familiar, but I couldn't place his slightly feminine, delicate features. He moved with grace and stood with poise. This was a boy that every girl in the school would be following, but for the moment, there was not a girl to be seen. He gripped the strap on his bag nervously.
"Are you Shadow Roth?" He asked in a lilting accent I tried hard to place. I closed the book in my hands, turning to face him fully.
"Yes, I am. Can I help you?"
"My name's Ilrune. I was told you came from Synairn..."
I watched him warily. How did he know about Synairn? "Yeah, I was born there."
A weight seemed to have been lifted from his shoulders. "You were the demoness under High Priestess Arias' care."
"Well, as I said, I'm Ilrune. I'm Careen, more specifically..."
"You're the Wingless." That raised the question of 'why the hell was he here?'. The Wingless were Careen children born without wings. Extremely rare, they were revered as a good omen and were the nobility of the race. Unfortunately, there was no way of telling if a child was going to be born wingless or not, not even if both the parents were wingless.
Ilrune looked at the floor, embarrassed. "Yeah, they thought I'd be better off here, away from all the fighting."
I placed the book back on its shelf, smiling reassuringly at Ilrune. He looked very much like a lost puppy. At least the Careen were well renowned for their ability to pick up languages in a few days of immersion. "Well, welcome to earth and welcome to the Academy, Ilrune. Don't worry too much, you'll get used to it. Come on, I'll show you around."
It was coming into the end of the year, summer was in full flight. I revelled in the heat. I can survive in cold, but the heat makes me feel alive! Not to mention that I always came down with a cold in the winter, and that was not a pretty sight. Every time I sneezed, I either changed forms or something exploded. People had taken to diving for cover because they never knew exactly what was going to happen. But in summer, there was no threat of that. I made the most of it. After class, most of the students took advantage of being allowed out into a nearby town, leaving the grounds mostly deserted. Holly, Nat and I decided to spend some time down by the lake. The lake was kinda a place where we could relax and be ourselves without frustrating each other. Nat would sit under our favourite willow tree with her book, I would do my homework, and Holly used her magic to push people into the lake. I stretched out lazily under the tree. No more essay assignments to do, no tests coming up and Merlas had returned from Synairn, safe and sound. It felt good to have nothing to worry about. I closed my eyes briefly. A half smile twitched one corner of my mouth. Unclipping my cloak, I focused my mind. I hadn't willingly morphed for a long time. I was afraid I'd forgotten how. Thankfully not. Like a reliable old car, I slipped into the motions with relative ease. In wolf form, no longer a cub, but a sleek, fully grown she-wolf, I winked at Natalie before bounding to the water, jumping in with an enormous splash.
After paddling around a little, I hauled myself out. The urge to shake all the water from my coat was overwhelming, but I needed to get back at Holly for attempting to splatter me in the canteen again. I waited until I was right next to her and Natalie. Then I shook, and took a fiendish delight in the task before I morphed back into human form.
"You are a stinker, Shadow Roth!" Holly spluttered. I smiled back, wringing out my hair.
"Hey, what's up?" Jamie appeared from behind the tree, grinning down at us.
"Nothing much," we answered. Jamie was a part of our little band as well, but he occasionally took off. I tried not to let that get to me. I know I had already kinda defeated the whole 'don't-get-close-to-anyone' thing, but I wasn't ready to face what I felt for Jamie. He was another part demon in a universe I thought they no longer existed in. I was glad to know that he was there, but I couldn't afford to let myself get attached. It would only mean that either I would get hurt, or he would. Or if things went far enough, we'd bring children into the world, children cursed with being part demon. Not something I would ever inflict on a kid. Not after what I had gone through. He nodded to me.
"Miss Roth, if you will?" He asked formally. I frowned slightly, getting to my feet. I couldn't fathom his game. He smiled at me, his brilliant blue gaze locked on mine. He raised his hands, palms towards me, to chest height. Oh goddess. Oh goddess. Oh goddess. I knew what he was up to. And it was highly dishonourable for both parties if one refused. He was asking for a courting ritual. I stared at his hands.
"I...I...I don't know how..."
"You'll pick it up, trust me."
I bit my lip, but raised my hands and placed them palm to palm. He smiled slightly. My demon side raised its ugly head. For a moment, I tensed, ready to battle it down. But it wasn't trying to take over. It wanted to dance. Tentatively, I let go of my control. The demon stretched, her influence spreading through my limbs, curling herself in my fingers. I became more aware of our beating hearts. Beating in time, our rhythm. I took a deep breath, and began to dance.
The demon's courting ritual is a little difficult to describe. It really has to be seen. The closest thing I can find to describe it is a tango crossed with a fight and ballet. It's supposed to be the two demons moving in time with each other's heartbeat, the demoness proving herself able to hold her own against a demon, and the demon's determination to have the demoness. At least, that's how it is in the more 'civilised' of the demonic species and cultures, including both mine and Jamie's. Jamie and I moved faster and faster, as is custom. It becomes a spectacle, but for the dancers, they don't even notice. At least, they don't notice until they find themselves back in the beginning position. I was breathing heavily, staring at Jamie. He panted, grinning at me. He leant his head forwards, dipping lower to kiss me. I'll admit it freely. The dance, the kiss. I was head over heels in love.