The Night Watchers story belongs to AvalonTheQuin. This is a short story about my OCs from her world. This particular story comes in four parts from four different perspectives...
James: Grin and Bear It
Khione: Questions and Answers
Nineve: Unexpected Complications
Q: The Benefits of Invisibility
“James, are you listening?”
James’s head shot up and he grinned nervously at Callidum. “Of course,” he said, pinching his arm to wake himself up further.
Callidum smirked faintly and turned his attention away from James. James immediately bent down and pulled out a scrap of paper to jot down a note, pulling at the uncomfortably tight collar of his uniform. Folding up the paper, he passed the note to Leselia who was sitting nearby. She gave James a suspicious look before unfolding the paper and reading the words scrawled across it. Her expression darkened and she threw the crumpled note at James’s face. “Not in your wildest dreams, idiot!” she hissed.
James tried to restrain his laughter as Callidum’s watchful eye swept across the room again. Shrugging, he mouthed “your loss” to Leslelia and turned to toss the same note to Sasaki. It missed, however, hitting Elman in the side of the head. He glared at James in annoyance and began to unfold the paper. James waved his hands desperately, mouthing, “It’s not for you!” Elman gave James a mildly confused look but as he read the note he seemed to understand. James gestured to Sasaki, who was sitting nearby. Elman shook his head wearily and threw the paper into the waste basket. James sighed and glanced up at the clock. Two minutes. With his proximity to the door he could be out in less than ten seconds and he would have a full thirty minutes of free time. That should be enough to find her.
As the bell rang, James leapt out of his seat with his bag slung over his shoulders and bolted for the door. Just as he had his hand on the doorknob, however, Callidum’s voice called out. “Wait a moment, James.”
James groaned and turned slowly back to face the front of the room. Those who passed gave him varying degrees of satisfied smirks. Finally, only Callidum, Khione, and himself were left in the room.
“I’ll come back in five minutes,” Khione said, striding away. As she passed she gave James her trademark look of icy severity and James glanced between the two of them. A ghost of a thought came into his head and the shadow of a smile crossed his face. No, that was ridiculous. Khione had a heart of ice that would melt for no one. James thought that he must be losing his touch.
“Sorry about that whole note-passing thing,” James began as the door closed. “It won’t happen again, I promise.”
“You promise? Well, that is quite a statement coming from the most notoriously deceitful trickster at our school.” Callidum held up a hand before James could protest. “That is not why I have called you back.”
“Oh, that’s awkward.”
“I did notice your note-passing if that is what you are concerned about but I trust that it was harmless enough. No, what I wanted to speak with you about is your interest in a certain elf by the name of Nineve.”
“What about her?” James demanded, perhaps a bit too defensively.
“Nineve is a gentle, innocent soul that should not be taken for granted,” Callidum said. “I think Francesco made that quite clear to you as well.”
“Haha,” James said in a bored tone. “It’s not like I’m serious with all of this stuff. I wouldn’t take Nineve for granted. And how do you know all of this? Are you always watching me or something?”
“I just happen to be in the right place at the right time,” Callidum replied with a mysterious glimmer in his eyes.
“Okay...so, can I go now?”
James ( )eathed a sigh of relief and hurried out of the room, nearly running into Khione as he dashed off toward the central courtyard. His eyes roved the halls, looking out for ginger hair and a green gown. At last, as he arrived on the edge of the courtyard, he found Nineve seated on a stone bench with a lyre in her hands. Her fingers plucked the golden strings with ease and grace so that the sound that came from the instrument was as soft as silk and fluid as water. James tried to gather his wits. No pointless flirting. Could he manage that? Okay, ( )eathe. She wasn’t going to stay here long so he had no time to lose.
James took a step out of the shady hallway and into the sunshine spilling across the courtyard but as he did so another figure appeared at the opposite edge. Francesco. James cursed under his ( )eath and scrambled away. In doing so he backed into someone coming around the corner. James turned and found himself face-to-face with a tall, menacing man with dark hair and an eyepatch slung over his eye.
“S-sorry,” James managed to say, his eyes flying from scar to scar on the stranger’s face. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
“You were hiding from Francesco. Why?”
“We don’t get along.”
“Well,” the man growled, “I’m Ricky. Francesco’s ( )other. If you have a problem with him, you have a problem with me.”
James muttered another curse. “Gods, there are more of you?”
“Get out of here. I won’t ask twice.”
“Yeah, right, of course.” And with that, James took off and disappeared around the corner. He skidded to a stop behind a column, however, and glanced out at the courtyard. Nineve had risen to greet Francesco with a look that he knew all too well. Well, he shouldn’t be surprised that she liked him. He was strong and courageous and honorable, everything James could never realistically hope to be. James sighed and rubbed a hand wearily across his eyes.
“Take my advice,” a strangely familiar voice said, “and just be straight with her.”
James started slightly as he turned and found a girl standing directly beside him. He felt as if he’d seen her before. Her sea-blue eyes and dark chocolate colored hair seemed familiar somehow. “Have you tried sneaking up on Khione like that? I bet you could, you know.”
The girl smirked. “I would never try something as stupid as that.”
“We’ve met before, right?”
“Yeah. Q, remember?”
“Oh. I remembered Q being a guy.”
“Gender is an easy thing to forget, I understand,” Q remarked sardonically. “Really, though. I know that you just act out because people expect that of you. Nineve would appreciate it if you were yourself around her. Just make sure you won’t be interrupted by Francesco.”
“Or Ricky, apparently. Does that guy have any other secret siblings I should be watching out for?”
“Not any here. That I know of, anyway.”
James glanced back out at the courtyard. “Thanks. Anything else you want to tell me?” James looked back and found that Q had gone. “Never mind.”
Francesco finally bid goodbye to the elf and as soon as he disappeared James prepared to step forward. He hesitated again, looking up and down the corridors. No one in sight. Well, he couldn’t waste any more time. Nineve turned at that moment and spotted James standing half in the light. She smiled hesitantly. “James.”
James hurried forward. “Look, I’m sorry for being...well, me. I know Francesco must have told you how much of a lying scoundrel I am and I just wanted to say that I’m not always like that.”
Nineve’s smile lightened. “Callidum told me that as well.”
James sighed. “That elf is everywhere, isn’t he?” Nineve giggled. “Well, it’s true that I’m reckless and not used to commitment. A bit of a wild soul, looking for trouble wherever I can find it.”
“That seems a bit of a self-destructive habit.”
“Runs in the family.”
“So why are you here?” Nineve asked. “Not just to make amends, I assume.”
“Not really. You’re different from a lot of the young women I’ve met. You have such a warm, genuinely kind and inquisitive spirit.” Nineve blushed. “It’s true. Now, I’m not strong or ( )ave or ambitious. Francesco is. So I can see why you like him. But, if you ever change your mind...you know where to find me.”
“Where?” Nineve inquired, bemused.
“Wherever Francesco isn’t. Or Ricky. Apparently he has a ( )other.”
“You seem to be a kind man, James.” She held out her hand.
“What’s this for?”
“I’ve heard that this is what you do when you want to make a deal.” Nineve’s green eyes glinted enigmatically. “I may not be staying for long but I’m already finding reasons to remain here longer. Though I am not certain about anything yet, perhaps you will be one of the reasons I stay. It is up to you and the others to determine that.”
James smirked before taking Nineve’s hand and shaking it firmly. “I look forward to proving myself.”
At that moment, the bell rang overhead. “You ought to get to class,” Nineve said, raising her eye( )ows.
James shrugged indifferently. “I’m trying to figure out how many classes I can skip before Lady Mertillia notices and threatens me within an inch of my life. Still,” James added, considering, “Maybe this isn’t the class to skip. Weapons training, you know. I really need to practice if I want to survive this school.” James began to run off across the courtyard. “I’ll see you later!”
Nineve gave James’s retreating back a cautious smile. “Perhaps,” she said quietly.
Khione, meanwhile, had returned to Callidum’s classroom. Even in the dim light of the room Callidum’s white hair seemed to shine like moonlight. Khione reprimanded herself. She could not become distracted now, not when she had been so careful. “No one ever gets to me,” she had often promised herself. “And no one ever will.”
Well, that promise was slowly crumbling away. Khione couldn’t decide if that was a good or a bad thing. Did the benefits of having a heart outweigh the drawbacks? It certainly hadn’t in her past; the pain had nearly driven her mad with grief and promises of revenge.
Callidum seemed to sense that something was wrong and he swiftly approached Khione to meet her in the middle of the room. “What is it, my flower? You seemed distracted yesterday when we ran into each other in the hallway.”
“I received this letter yesterday,” Khione said, pulling out a creamy envelope sealed with scarlet wax. “My father is dying. As one of his last wishes he wants me to see him at his estate.”
Callidum’s starlit eyes filled with some deep emotion Khione had yet to learn. “Will you go to see him?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I hardly slept last night because of it. I think I should; it seems the right thing to do.”
“Perhaps it will provide you some closure as well.”
“That is what I hope.”
Callidum reached out and drew Khione into an em( )ace. Khione wasn’t quite certain what to make of that. She felt that she should either struggle away or Callidum should keep his arms around her for hours. She was strangely safe and vulnerable at the same time; again, was that good or bad? Khione decided to stay. Her chin rested perfectly on Callidum’s shoulder and she could ( )eathe in the scent of the stars and the forest from his coat.
“I am so sorry,” he said, and Khione felt his voice on her neck. She should have worn a higher collar. She didn’t like this feeling, this change. She had been fine in the shadows, buried in the ice. She should go back.
“I’m not. Any love I felt for my father died with the rest of my family,” Khione replied coldly.
“I could come with you, if you would like.”
“No. I need to do this on my own. You can let me go now.”
Callidum obliged and Khione took a step back. “I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I know that you must think I am moving too quickly. You are just becoming used to this feeling but I have felt it many times and I will try to give you time.”
“It’s not your fault,” Khione added quickly, flustered. “But yes, perhaps time is what I need. When I return I would like to speak with you again.”
“Of course,” Callidum said, giving Khione a short of bow before vanishing into thin air.
Khione reached her father’s estate only an hour later and when she arrived she presented the letter to the guards at the iron gate. “My father wishes to see me,” she said, her eyes cold and unreadable.
“Of course,” the guards replied, opening the gate and eyeing the twin swords which gleamed menacingly from their sheaths on Khione’s back. Khione strode forward and came down the pathway to the front doors which were opened for her by uniformed servants. With every step Khione took into the manicured, luxurious house her body tensed further. This was the house of the enemy, the belly of the beast. She shouldn’t be here unless her swords were in hand and she had come for justice. It was too late now; death was claiming that right for her. Perhaps that was for the best. Khione trudged up the flight of snowy marble stairs and was led into one of the great, cavernous bedrooms. It was furnished with gold and scarlet velvet, decorated ornately and expensively. In the bed at the far end of the room Khione could make out the figure of a sickly man, not old, but drawn and wasted from some disease. His new wife, a dark elf with silvery grey skin like Callidum, knelt at his side. Khione approached with cold fury in her eyes. “Out,” she ordered the woman. The elf scrambled to her feet and fled from the room.
Khione looked down into the eyes of her father, those dreary, fading eyes that once held life and laughter. “Why did you send for me? Did you wish for an early death? Because these blades have been thirsting for your blood for so many years, father,” she finished with a mocking emphasis on the last word.
“If you must kill me, then do it quickly. This sickness is eating away at me like vultures at a rotting carcass.”
“You deserve a slow and painful death,” Khione replied. “Fate and justice seem to be on my side.”
Khione’s father labored for ( )eath and attempted to sit up. Khione noticed with disgust that she had some of his same facial features. “I wanted you to come here because I have made too many mistakes in my life for me to allow my only surviving child to do the same. When I left your mother I was looking for happiness with another woman. I never found it. I never found what I was looking for, and to be honest I am not sure I even knew what I wanted in the first place.”
“You murderous, lying coward!” Khione spat with a poisonous tone. “You seem to have forgotten the part where you murdered my mother. And my siblings. It may not have been you personally but it makes their death all the worse. You couldn’t bear to be there when the life left their eyes and your future was made secure. You didn’t even do it yourself.”
“I know that what I did was wrong–”
“No!” Khione nearly shouted, icy rage rising. “Don’t try to justify yourself. Not now. It was a mistake for you to call me here.”
Khione began to stalk away toward the door. “Khione!” her father called with every last effort of life. Khione froze and grit her teeth at the sound of her name on his lips. “Don’t waste your life because of me and my mistakes.”
With that, Khione could sense her father’s darkened soul fluttering out the window and his last ( )eath sounded across the room. “Here ends an era,” Khione muttered, throwing open the door and finding his wife standing fearfully outside. “He’s dead,” she said coldly.
“How could you?” his wife cried.
“I didn’t kill him, witch,” Khione retorted, striding past the quavering woman and hurrying down the gleaming staircase to the front door. “He just died as all snakes and cowards must: alone, hiding in their holes.”
Khione returned to the Night Watchers Academy in a contemplative and hostile mood. When Francesco nearly ran into her in the hallway with his eyes on another nearby figure, Khione snapped at the well-meaning man and ignored his polite requests for forgiveness. No one ever gets to me, she repeated to herself. No one ever will. But was that the way to live? Closed off from everyone else and keeping even those she liked at an arm’s length? She had tried to keep herself disconnected from her father so that when the time came to meet him again she would have the cool sense to drive a dagger into his heart instead of having a heated conversation. She’d failed that endeavor. And as for what her father had said...now that she thought of it, Khione didn’t know what she wanted. Not anymore. She had been on a path of what she called justice for years and that path had drawn her to the Night Watchers Academy. Was there anything left in her life? Her path had been cut short and now she was lost in the wilderness. Khione wondered if she even had much purpose before; until now she believed that she had survived that fateful night all those years ago for the purpose of avenging her family.
Khione let off some steam in the training room with the practice dummies with thoughts whirling through her head. Perhaps with her skills she could protect others from receiving the same fate as herself. The Night Watchers Academy had helped her to focus, to grow. Now it could help her find her place in this world. And...and there was something else she was here for now. Or someone, rather.
Khione found Callidum standing on the balcony of the observatory. The sun was just slipping behind the horizon and the first stars were starting to join the moon on its celestial journey. Callidum turned when he noticed Khione’s approach and gave her a hesitant smile. “How was your father?”
Khione came to stand before the elf. “Dead. I don’t really want to talk about it.” Khione stood on her tiptoes and leaned in to give Callidum a light kiss.
“What was that for?” Callidum asked in surprise.
Khione shrugged noncommittally. Then she turned and vanished into the night, gone with a turn of her cloak. She’d made her choice. She, unlike her father, knew what she wanted.
Nineve felt as though someone was watching her as James disappeared into the maze of hallways. She turned and caught the flash of an icy blue eye vanishing into the shadows. “Wait!” she ran after the figure, and with her quick elven feet she was able to catch up.
“You should stay away from that boy,” the dark stranger growled. He was now wearing an eyepatch, but Nineve distinctly remembered the empty socket riddled with scars. The thought made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle but she knew that there was more to this man than his threatening scars.
“James? What’s wrong with him?”
The man whirled around and Nineve couldn’t help but feel a thrill of fear flutter in her stomach at the fury in his pale eye. “I’ve seen his type before. He hunts for innocent young women like you, those who don’t know any better. They’re easy targets.”
“But he doesn’t seem like a dishonorable man,” Nineve protested.
“That’s the idea. He treats you as though you are different, the most special of women. He wins you over with his words and once you’re convinced he strips you of everything you hold dear and leaves you in the dust.”
Nineve’s large green eyes shone like the sunlight which filters through forest leaves. “I just came here to learn about the history of this land. I never expected to be caught up in all of...whatever this is. I should have stayed home. I’m so ( )ainless! I can come up with facts and figures with no problem but when it comes to social situations I can’t seem to figure out what is right and wrong.” The tears which had welled up in her eyes began to spill over her sun-kissed cheeks.
The stranger seemed to wilt a bit. “I didn’t mean to upset you. You just remind me of my sister. What happened to her...I never want that to happen to anyone else again. You would do better with Francesco.”
Nineve blushed. “Francesco? What about him?”
“I was watching your conversation with him. It’s obvious that you like him. You’re not the only one, of course, but what’s not to like?”
“I know that he doesn’t feel the same way,” Nineve replied dismissively. “Perhaps I ought to leave this place now. I’ve learned so much about the history of this academy and I should leave this environment before I get too caught up.”
“Stay a few more days,” the stranger said, retreating into the shadows. “You have a beautiful singing voice.”
With that, he was gone. Nineve's eyes searched the darkness. “I didn’t even ask his name.”
So the plot thickens, Q thought to herself as she watched Nineve wander off. Her turquoise eyes shone in the shadows but for some reason no one seemed to notice that. Q had been leaning against the wall with her arms folded but now straightened and strolled down the hallway with her hands in her pockets. The benefit of being invisible–not literally, mind you, but effectively invisible–was that she could learn so much from people’s conversations. Social experiments, she called them. She was writing a book on social behavior which was largely based on these experiments. With her low-level telepathy she used to have it would have been even easier to gather information, but she tended to avoid that anyway since some would be able to detect her intrusion into their thoughts. Khione, for instance, had learned to block all mental attacks. She was one of the few files in Q’s binder that had only a few notes scribbled inside. Most of them she had gathered from Callidum. She suspected that there was something to that but she doubted Callidum would get anywhere with Khione.
Q’s attention returned to reality and she narrowly avoided collision with Leselia and Antonio. “Excuse me,” Q apologized. The two continued down the hall as if they hadn’t heard her. Q shrugged and continued along the halls. She spent most of her time wandering, occasionally asking a bored-looking passerby if they would answer a few questions. She was intending to get another interview with James if she could–it had been a while. And perhaps...no, that was a bad idea. She should avoid Deracante at all costs in the future. He of all people seemed to be able to see her for who she was and that was a bit uncomfortable. Well, she could have a normal conversation with him. It had been ages since she’d had a normal conversation. Ever since...well, better not think of that just in case there were other telepaths around.
It was late afternoon when Q passed by the training rooms. She could vaguely hear the sound of some kind of fight inside. Fights were always fun to watch. She always made certain she was around for those. She’d nearly fallen out of the tree she’d been perched in with laughter when a sodden Ricky was hunting down Mira with a furious rage. Q gently pushed open the door and peered inside. She found, to her dismay, that it was only Khione who was raging about inside.
Khione furiously sliced the arms off of one of the dummies with her twin swords and threw her dagger at another. It lodged in the place where a heart would have been in a living being. “I should have killed him while I had the chance!” Khione shouted, decapitating another dummy with a deft swing of her blades.
Q hastily retreated and closed the door again. Perhaps she should give her some space. Clearly she was wanting to be alone with her thoughts if she was in that room when everyone else would be outside.
Q sighed heavily and scaled one of the trees just outside the building to look down on the beach. Pulling out her journal, she made a few notes before she found herself sketching a face. Dercante. No, don’t go there, Q. Not again. You’re not meant for that kind of relationship. Q furiously began to erase the sketch when she reconsidered. Well, it wouldn’t do any harm to keep sketches of everyone. Faces did seem to blend together over the years. But it was as if he had seen past the indescribable veil that had kept her effectively invisble from the rest of society for ages...well, he was a mage. Maybe that made him different. No, she’d met mages before. Or, rather, spied on their conversations with others.
“Hello again, Q!”
Q nearly fell out of the tree in surprise and caught herself before she tumbled off of the ( )anch she was perched upon. In her haste to keep her things together she dropped her journal. “H-hey, Deracante,” she said.
“You know,” Deracante remarked, bending to pick up the journal, “I never learned your full name. I assume it’s not Q.”
“How did you guess?” Q replied, unable to keep her usual sarcasm from her tone. Her eyes widened as the pages of her journal flipped open in Dercante’s hand. “Those are just notes and doodles of mine, nothing special!” she explained urgently.
“Is that really what I look like?” Deracante wondered, and Q’s stomach lurched uncomfortably. “I’m surprisingly handsome.”
“It’s nothing, really,” Q said, snatching the notebook from Dercante’s outstretched hand and blushing. “Just a sketch series I’m working on.”
There was a moment of awkward silence in which Q hoped Deracante would go away–instead of looking at her with those perfectly clear eyes of his–before the mage spoke again. “How long have you been at the Academy?”
“Oh, you know...a while. Almost my whole life. That’s all I’d like to say,” Q added before Deracante could ask more questions. Dercante took the hint and began to stroll off, but as he was walking down the lawn Q called, “It’s Qarina, by the way!”
Deracante glanced back. “Nice seeing you, Qarina.”
No, Q. No, no, no. He probably has a girlfriend. He probably has a crush on someone else. And he certainly doesn’t need or want a girlfriend like me, Q thought. Sure, he noticed that I was staring at him during the interview but I’m sure James or Francesco would have noticed the same thing. Maybe we could just be friends. Distant friends with no real connection. Maybe I should leave. No, that’s ridiculous. I can’t leave. I’ll just avoid him in the future. Oh, yeah, that’s a realistic expectation. It’s not like I haven’t been through this before and the last time I tried avoiding someone it was an utter failure. I’m a moth and he’s a flame. Funnily enough, though, he’ll be the one who gets burned if I get too close. I have too many scars to feel the pain. So spare him the suffering and just don’t. Just...don’t.