The bass from the music for the dance was audible as soon as Azkedelia and Merlin left the glen. When they landed in the courtyard, the sun was lazily dipping behind the school, painting the sky a rainbow of red, orange, and gold. Night's deep blue cloak was still far away, a pencil line against the bright sun.
Merlin held his hand towards Azkedelia. "Shall we?"
All the color drained from Azkedelia's face. "Merlin, I've got a bad feeling about the dance. Maybe we shouldn't be here."
Merlin laughed. "Az, I'm sure it's nothing. You're probably just in pain and that's influencing your mind."
Azkedelia looked at Merlin, the fear plainly visible in her purple eyes. "Merlin, I'm not in pain right now. This is a real, tangible instinct. There's something bad at the dance tonight. Please, let's go do something else."
Merlin stood in front of Azkedelia and looked into her eyes. "Az, you got all dressed up and used magic on me, I don't want that to go to waste. And besides, we're here to have fun. Come on, Az."
Knowing he wouldn't listen, she took his hand, a sign of her surrender.
Merlin smiled. "Now let's go dance."
The doors were open and Headmaster DiVanno and a dwarf were at the door.
"Miss Keystone, I see you're feeling well enough to socialize again. Does this mean you'll be back in your classes on Monday?"
Azkedelia nodded. "Yes, Headmaster DiVanno."
The headmaster smiled. "Very well. Have fun tonight."
After they walked in, Azkedelia laughed. "Merlin, did Headmaster DiVanno actually just smile?"
Merlin smiled and nodded. "I think he did. So much for him being an emotionless elf."
Azkedelia laughed, already feeling her fear recede. Merlin pulled Azkedelia on the dance floor.
As soon as one of Azkedelia's black flats touched the dance floor, a tall, pale djamphir with black hair walked to her. "Would you like to dance?"
Azkedelia looked at Merlin. Merlin nodded.
Azkedelia smiled. "Sure."
The djamphir smiled and took Azkedelia's hand as he led her further out on the dance floor. A slow song came on. The djamphir put one hand above her hips, and held her hand.
Azkedelia looked over his shoulder at Merlin. "Don't get to comfortable, Merlin won't be too happy."
The djamphir smiled, showing his fangs. "Don't worry, I won't."
Azkedelia looked down. "So I don't think I've seen you around here before."
The djamphir shook his head. "That's because you haven't. My parents decided to extend our vacation."
Azkedelia smiled. "I know what that's like."
The djamphir nodded. "So Azkedelia Italia Keystone, right?"
Azkedelia dropped his hand. "How did you know my whole name?"
The djamphir stopped dancing. "I know a lot about you, Azkedelia. I've known you for a long time. I've always been watching you. But your mother never told you about me, did she?" He laughed. "Of course she didn't. She never wanted you to know that Peter wasn't your birth dad."
Azkedelia took a step back. "How do you know my mother? And what do you mean Peter isn't my real dad? Of course he is."
The djamphir took a step closer. "No, he isn't. But I know who is."
Azkedelia took another step back. "What do you want?"
The djamphir smiled. "You'll find that out on the night of the lunar eclipse."
Azkedelia bumped into one of her Grellon.
"Is everything okay, Fiera Az?"
Azkedelia turned around, her face ashen. "No, Charcoal. It isn't. There was this djamphir…"
Azkedelia turned around, but the djamphir was gone.
Charcoal put her hands on Azkedelia's shoulder. "Fiera, what djamphir? I see none near you."
Azkedelia started shaking.
"Fiera, are you okay?" Ash walked up and stood in front of Azkedelia.
Charcoal shook her head. "Fiera says there was a djamphir that was harassing her."
Ash nodded, her lips pressed in a tight line. "Charcoal, you and the Grellon look for this djamphir. I'll take Fiera Az to Merlin. Fiera, what did this djamphir look like?"
Azkedelia took a deep breath to try and calm herself. "He was tall and pale, with black hair. He looked so familiar…"
Charcoal squeezed Azkedelia's shoulder once. "Maybe Fiera has seen him somewhere before. Don't worry, if he's here, we'll find him."
Azkedelia nodded and allowed herself to be led away by Ash. She pushed her way through the students until she found Merlin talking with a couple other warlocks.
Ash cleared her throat to get his attention. "Merlin, Fiera needs to leave the dance. Now."
Merlin grabbed Azkedelia and pulled her close. "Why?"
Ash shrugged. "She said she saw this djamphir and he was harassing her."
Merlin nodded. "Thank you. Go help search for him."
Ash saluted and walked away.
Merlin brushed a curl from Azkedelia's face. "Az, what's going on? I know you wouldn't get the Grellon looking for someone unless it was important."
Azkedelia tucked her head underneath Merlin's chin. "He said Peter wasn't my real dad and that he knew who was and my mom was hiding something big from me and my sisters. And he looked so familiar."
Merlin shrugged and wrapped his arms tightly around her. "It's okay, Az. We'll find him, and then we'll figure all of this out."
Azkedelia nodded and wrapped her fingers in the loose fabric of his shirt. "Merlin, that thing I was telling you about…"
"The one you said was coming after you?"
She nodded. "It's coming closer. Something bad is going to happen soon. Something really bad, beyond anything we've ever imagined. Merlin, promise you'll protect me, no matter what."
Merlin moved his chin and kissed the top of her head. "Of course. Nothing is going to get to you while I'm around."
Azkedelia flashed the beginning of a small smile. "Then I hope you're around for a long time."
Merlin looked worried and tilted her face up. "Why don't you think I will?"
Azkedelia blinked back tears. "Because whatever is coming after me will kill anything and everything in its way to get to me. And I hope it doesn't get to you or me."
Merlin leaned down and kissed her lightly. "I promise that I'm not going anywhere."
Ash walked back to Azkedelia. "Fiera, there was no djamphir even remotely matching your description. Maybe the djamphir left."
"He didn't leave. He's a shape-shifter. He's still here. He lives at the school." Azkedelia blinked, not sure how she knew this.
"So he's a student?" Merlin asked.
Azkedelia shook her head. "No. He's not a teacher, either. But he lives here."
Merlin looked at Ash. “Thank you, Lieutenant, I’ll take it from here. If you find the djamphir, bring him to me.”
Ash saluted and walked away, passing the message onto the Grellon. Merlin wrapped his arm protectively around Azkedelia’s shoulder and led her away from the dance. They slipped out through a side door. The fresh air helped clear her mind, dispelling her fear. Merlin led Azkedelia towards the dorms.
Nix opened the door when they got to Azkedelia’s room. “Why are you back so early? The dance isn’t over yet.”
Merlin nodded. “Something happened.”
Nix raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”
“Our dad was there,” Azkedelia said, not too sure how she knew that.
“What was Peter doing at the dance?”
Azkedelia shook her head. “Not Peter, our real dad.”
Nix smiled. “Az, maybe you hit your head during one of your injuries. Of course Peter’s our real dad.”
Azkedelia shook her head again. “No, he’s not. We need to talk to mom and clear this up.”
Nix took a step back and walked towards the mirror. “Paeblae dinyasae.”
The mirror briefly glowed dark blue and then cleared, showing Genevieve, the girls’ mother.
“Hi mom! How are you?” Nix asked.
Genevieve smiled. “I’m great, Nix. But why are you at Azkedelia’s school?”
Nix looked down. “I had to come help her with a few things.”
Genevieve looked past Nix at Azkedelia. “Azkedelia Italia Keystone, what is going on here?”
Azkedelia looked up at her mom. “Mom, I was hoping you could answer that. Tonight at the dance, a djamphir came up to me and he said you never told me about him, you never told any of us about him. He didn’t tell me his name, but he looked familiar. He was pale, with black eyes and hair. Who is he?”
Genevieve looked down. “Az, Nix, I never wanted to tell you this, but…”
Peter walked up behind her. “Hi girls! How are things going?”
Nix smiled. “Great, dad, but mom was about to tell us something important.”
Peter looked at Genevieve. “So they know?”
“They only know parts of it.”
Peter nodded. “Then tell them the whole thing. They need to know.”
Genevieve nodded. “Nix, Az, Peter isn’t your real father. Your birth dad’s name is Cambio. Cambio is a power-hungry shape-shifter. I didn’t know that when I married him. But after you three were born, that was when I started to see his true colors. He’s an evil shape-shifter, with a soul so dark, it should never even be spoken of.”