After a three-way phone call between her sisters to check in, and a pep talk from the socialite Nix, Azkedelia finally felt ready to go meet some of her new classmates. The courtyard, although larger than any other she’d ever seen, was filled with mingling students and giant bonfires. She watched as some students showed off with small magic tricks and laughed as two students started a mock battle with miniature armies conjured from fire and ice.
She crossed her arms in front of her chest and leaned back against a stone pillar, enjoying the spectacle around her, when an icy hand on her shoulder made her jump.
“Don’t do that, you scared me,” she scolded DJ as she turned around.
DJ laughed. “Come on, I want you to meet some of my friends.” He grabbed her hand and started weaving through the crowd.
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” she asked with a grin.
He shook his head as he pulled her into a large group of students. The talking slowly stopped as everyone turned to look at her. Just by looking around, she could see that quite a few were vampires. They were the ones who were standing a bit further from the flames and had dimples beneath their bottom lips that hinted at their long fangs.
“Everyone, this is my new friend, Az. She’s part phoenix and fey, among other things. But she only likes to turn into flying creatures,” he slurred as he swung his arm around her and laughed, as if it were all a joke.
He pointed toward a dark skinned girl with white hair and steel eyes. “That’s Stratus, and her boyfriend, Thor, is the tall one with the red hair showing off.”
Azkedelia looked behind Stratus to see Thor wrestling with another guy.
“The guy who’s getting his ass kicked is Dune, and Laura is the girl standing behind them,” DJ said, grabbing a cup from another vampire and chugging the contents. “And there’s some more phoenix, Blayz, Pyro, and Ashe.”
Azkedelia gagged as she smelled the stench of blood coming off DJ. “It was nice to meet all of you, but I’ll catch you later.”
“Why you leaving so soon, babe? The party’s just getting started,” DJ protested, wrapping his arm tighter around her. “We could go find somewhere quieter.”
She shoved him off of her, ignoring Stratus’ laughter as he fell on the ground. “We’ll talk tomorrow. You’re drunk.”
“No I’m not,” he protested. “It’s only AB positive.”
She shook her head disgustedly and looked to find another space with a few less people. While crowds had never bothered her, she preferred to observe and only interact with a few people who interested her.
“Stupid drunk vampire. Like I’d go anywhere alone with him. He forgets I grew up with a vampire. Still have scars from her learning not to bite everyone,” she muttered, leaning against another pillar and looking around.
“Then you’re probably immune to their bites, aren’t you?” a boy asked from beside her.
Azkedelia turned her head and found herself staring into bright blue eyes. “Um, yeah, I am. But I still like to keep the scars covered,” she replied. “I’m Azkedelia.”
“Merlin,” he said with a dimpled smile. “You want to have a seat?”
“Sure.” She sat next to him on the ground.
He laughed. “I could always conjure you another chair, but if the stone is more comfortable…” His voice trailed off and Azkedelia smiled, finding his mirth contagious.
“Yeah, that’d be nice,” she replied, studying him from the corner of her eye. He was tall, at least six inches taller than her, with thick, wavy chocolate hair. His blue V-neck and red scarf looked brighter in the firelight.
“Azkedelia Keystone,” he said thoughtfully, staring at her without disguising it. “The entire school has been buzzing about you for weeks. They said you’d be the one with the multi-colored hair, the beautiful girl buzzing with so much power.” He tilted his head and his eyes flashed gold as he conjured up a small stool for her to sit on.
“If you ask me, they over-romanticized you. No offense though,” he added quickly.
She laughed. “None taken. It happens a lot to me. And Atlantis. And Nix.”
“Is that why the Keystone sisters never go to any CMS?” he asked, leaning forward and resting his forearms on his thigh.
“CMS?” she asked.
“Creature of magic schools. Like I’ve gone here since first grade and I’ve never seen any of you here before,” he explained.
She nodded. “Yeah. Mom’s kind of weird about that stuff. I’m only here because I begged and begged.”
“And begged and begged and begged,” he added.
“See? Someone here gets me,” she said with another smile. “So if you don’t mind me asking, what are you?”
“Seventh generation warlock. You’ve heard of Merlin and King Arthur, right?” he asked, then continued when she nodded. “That Merlin was my lots-of-greats-grandfather. My mom loved his name and couldn’t think of anything else she’d rather name her only child.”
“I like it. It’s different,” she stated, watching the firelight dance over his cheekbones.
“So is Azkedelia,” he replied with a smile. “Your mom seems to like unusual names as well.”
“Yeah. I think it’s because she’s a Suzanna married to a Peter. She wanted her children to have unique names.” Azkedelia leaned closer to the fire, her bangles clinking together.
“So have you looked at your schedule yet?” Merlin asked, changing the subject.
She shook her head. “I’ve been too busy looking around.”
“Did you like the invisible balcony?” he asked with a grin.
She rolled her eyes and put her head in her hands. “Probably the stupidest thing I’ve done.”
“Eh, you’re young. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of time to make more stupid decisions,” he said with mock sympathy. “I think we’ve got a few core classes together.”
“How do you know that?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
He lifted a finger to his lips to silence her and snapped his fingers. Two pieces of paper appeared in his lap.
“Here we are, your schedule and mine,” he said, holding them side by side. “We have history of magical creatures, mythology and literature, and anatomy of magical creatures together. Those should be fun.”
She grabbed her schedule from his grasp and looked at it. “What’s the phoenix class about?” she asked.
“That’s all about phoenix care, battle techniques, and the different parts and responsibilities of a Grellon,” he replied. “See that group of leather-clad kids pushing each other around? They’re one of the resident Grellons here. Their fiero, Pyro, is a jerk. I’d recommend you stay far away from him.”
“Got it,” she replied with a nod, watching the tall, dark skinned boy pin one of his friends to the ground. “That class should be fun.”
“Don’t forget about calculus,” Merlin added cheerfully.
“What?” Azkedelia panicked, jerking her eyes back to her schedule.
“Kidding. But the history class won’t be as boring now,” he replied. “I wouldn’t worry about your phoenix class. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
She looked back up at Pyro. “I hope you’re right,” she said, looking at his intimidating stature.