amadhay: (Default)
 in which Amadhay tells lies

 

 

She didn’t have to fake anger when she saw Tairyn.

She was furious. Just the sight of him, sitting on Kimiko’s bed, talking gently to the other teenager made her blood boil. She wanted to kill him. She wanted to maim him. She at the very least wanted to scar him for life.

But that wasn’t part of the plan. She had to stick to the plan. Her fury came with a strange sort of rational thinking, something she had to thank Arne Riff for. It was good for filing away all of the sadness and uncertainty she’d been feeling the past weeks. Tonight was the first time since Indigo’s death that she finally felt she had a purpose. She had a mission. Of course, she still needed to feel all of those emotions to feed Kimiko, so it was also a problem.

Ribbon was close behind her as they entered Kimiko’s room. The lovers had been muttering to each other when they entered and Kimiko jolted to her feet, standing protectively between Amadhay and Tairyn.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, looking at Ribbon. “We agreed that she wouldn’t see him!”

“I didn’t agree to that,” both Tairyn and Amadhay automatically responded.

Tairyn gave Amadhay a rueful grin while Amadhay simply stared at him. This was the hard part of the plan. If she veered too far on one side of emotion, any emotion that wasn’t appropriate for what she was trying to portray, Kimiko would know in an instant. So for now, she focused on feeling confused. That was easy enough.

“We made that decision without them,” Ribbon answered with a shrug. “She promised not to kill him.”

“Well that makes me feel so much better,” Kimiko spat, but Tairyn stood behind her.

“She won’t hurt me,” he said assuredly, looking at Amadhay from over Kimiko’s head. “Will you, Mayday?”

Amadhay flinched at his use of her nickname. He had lost all right to using it the moment he had first betrayed her. She was too late to clamp down on the rush of betrayal and hatred and Kimiko jumped on it.

“See?” the symmetrical teenager gestured at her adamantly. “She’s about to hurt him.”

“No,” Amadhay finally responded, shaking her head quickly. She focused on the chip to feed Kimiko the right emotions, emotions of confusion and curiosity. She needed to make it seem like she had questions, and she did have questions, just none to ask Tairyn. None that she thought he’d answer honestly, anyway. The calming of her emotions made Kimiko relax a little bit. “I’m not. I just want to talk. I promise,” she lied.

She had every intention of hurting him, but she couldn’t think about that yet. First, she had to figure out where the chip was and how to get it. She was almost positive that it was in one of Kimiko’s hands because she thought she had seen the succubus holding it up to the banshee when she and Ribbon had entered. If it was, then this was going to be incredibly easy for her.

“See? It’s fine,” Tairyn said, pressing on Kimiko’s shoulder to make her move from in front of him. Kimiko regarded her with mistrust, but she did move to the side, allowing Tairyn to move forward. Amadhay pretended to focus on Tairyn as he stepped toward her, but her attention was fully on Kimiko as the girl slipped something into the pocket of her plaid pants. It was definitely a chip. She just hoped it was the chip.

“I’ve been wanting to see you, Mayday, I just didn’t know what to say,” he started.

Amadhay glared at his shirt, no longer needing to hold back her anger with him now that everything else was in place. “How about telling me how you started selling information about me? Who else did you tell all my life to?”

Tairyn looked insulted, as though he felt vilified. “No, hey, it’s not like that at all,” he moved forward and she had to physically stop herself from hitting him when he put his hands on her shoulders. “I have always been loyal to you.”

She knew she wouldn’t get real answers from him. She scoffed. “You have a great way of showing it.”

“Don’t be like that. I didn’t tell them anything until I was sure that they didn’t want to hurt you,” he swore.

Amadhay shook her head. “You’re an idiot,” she snapped. “An idiot with only your self-interest in mind. You get some hot girl fluttering her eyelashes at you and you just drop everything?”

“It wasn’t like that,” he pleaded, reaching for her hands. She pushed him back. He took a step back and didn’t try to touch her again. “You have to believe me. What Kimiko and I have didn’t replace you. I didn’t just see her and forget my loyalty to you. Everything I did here was for you.”

She gave a shaky laugh. “You sound just like Atlas,” she said soberly. She took a moment to file that away. All of the Palnoki seemed to display Atlas’ characteristics, especially when dealing with her, but unlike the others, she knew that it wasn’t how Tairyn was originally. Taking note to look further into that at another time, she looked him straight in the eyes. And then she punched him.

For the first time since entering Kimiko’s room, Amadhay allowed herself to feel what she was truly feeling. All the anger and betrayal, hatred and sadness seemed to stun Kimiko for a moment, until Amadhay landed another punch. When the aelfe knocked the banshee off of his feet, she felt a sort of euphoria. At that change of emotion, the succubus moved quickly, but not quickly enough, because Amadhay launched herself at Tairyn and Kimiko wasn’t able to stop her. The man was too slow to move completely out of the way, but he did move enough that her fist didn’t connect with his face again, but this time his throat.

She was okay with that.

Ribbon tried to dive into the fray, but Amadhay landed a good kick on her, pushing her back. The aelfe was on top of Tairyn, punching, scratching, and biting him, and because Kimiko was in there, she was hitting her as well. It was ridiculously easy to steal the chip under pretense of pushing against Kimiko. Once she had it, she sent another loose punch and hit someone, but she wasn’t paying attention to whom any longer.

She allowed Ribbon to grab her by the waist and pull her back. Amadhay pretended to struggle to get back at them, but Ribbon held her steady against her own body. Kimiko and Tairyn got to their feet and Kimiko started forward, but Tairyn grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

“Don’t hit her back. That won’t help anything,” Tairyn told Kimiko. Ribbon shifted her stance so that she was holding Amadhay more protectively now as Amadhay kept her fists clenched and the chip tightly tucked to her palm.

Sensing now was the time to do it, Amadhay burst into tears, focusing on her last moments with Indigo to make it feel sincere. Ribbon turned her from the hold into a hug, stroking her hair slowly.

“I told you this wasn’t a good idea,” she muttered. Amadhay couldn’t see the other two, but by Ribbon’s relaxing, she guessed that they were probably looking sorry for her. “You should go sleep,” Ribbon suggested in a way that made Amadhay pretty positive that she was being gotten rid of. That only helped her.

She nodded shallowly, rubbing her eyes and choosing not to look up at Ribbon. “I’m going to sleep with Atlas,” she lied.

Ribbon nodded. “Alright. I just need to talk to Kimmy for a clack, and then I’ll take you.”

She shook her head. “I need to be alone right now,” she whispered, leaving the room so there would be no argument. Ribbon didn’t even start to come after her. The door closed behind her with a solid thunk and Amadhay was sure that she had been right. They were going to talk about something they didn’t want her to hear and while she was incredibly curious about what it might be, she was also just as aware that she wasn’t going to get a better time than right then to leave. Everyone was either sleeping or prepping for their individual missions. No one would even notice her missing until, at best, the morning since she had taken to solitary morning walks. She just had to get to the transport hub.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas is truthful

 

 

If nothing else, it was waking up alone in Ribbon’s bed that made the decision for her.

The spot where Ribbon had lain was still warm, telling her that the woman hadn’t been gone for long, but the fact that she was gone was what gave Amadhay a moment to let the silent part of her mind speak. She had come here because she had seen something in the Palnoki that she hadn’t seen in the Phoegani. But the longer she stayed, the deeper into it she became, the easier she was seeing more aspects of the Phoegani in the Palnoki than she liked. There were still secrets, there were still innocents being hurt, there was still an ingrained hierarchy and a goal that she didn’t know furthered by pain she didn't understand.

The family aspect that she had once seen was starting to lose its finishing. Atlas was still very much in charge and he had no problem using his power to make the others do what he wanted. The faces were different, but the problems were still the same. She had traded in one evil for a newer one and while she wasn’t going to lie and say that she wasn’t part of the problem, she could honestly say that at least in the Phoegani, she knew where she stood. Here everyone kept changing their stories, everyone kept adding new dimensions to something she had thought to be a linear. The only thing she knew for certain was that Atlas hadn’t lied to her when he had explained why she was here.

“You are here because I want you to be.”

That was the only reason she was there. As much as she wanted to, as hard as she had tried, she didn’t fit into their tight knit community. No matter how much Atlas wanted her to be there, she couldn’t stay. As long as she was there, she would always wonder what they weren’t telling her. She would always wonder if Ribbon was only her friend, her lover, because Atlas wanted her to be. She would always wonder if they would target other people she cared about. She would always fear that one day she would open a door and find Monkey or Benjy or even one of her sisters being held captive, tortured, killed.

She wasn’t going to let that happen. Never again. She was determined that Indigo was going to be the last person she cared about to die right in front of her eyes without her doing anything. The thing was, she knew that going back to the Phoegani wouldn’t make it any better. Atlas had been right. There, she was simply another asset, another well-trained killer. She didn't know their goals, and doubted she would stand by them given a chance. She was just another piece of the puzzle, or worse, just a replaceable tool to be discarded when she was no longer of use. 

The true problem was that she feared that here, with the Palnoki, she was no better. Despite what Atlas and Ribbon, or even Tenshu and Kimiko told her or tried to make her believe, she couldn't help but to believe that there was more going on than she was seeing. And that was why she needed to go back. Not just for Christein and Benjy. Not just for her sisters and family. But because she needed to see more than she was. She needed to figure out what was going on, who was truly in charge, what everyone was trying to do. At least with the Phoegani, she could work her own agenda. She couldn’t be the Amadhay Atlas wanted, not while they were still killing people all around her and she didn’t know why.

Finally made up about what to do, Amadhay sat up. She set her feet on the floor and it felt strange. It wasn’t the plush carpet from the Ice Castle or the smooth wood from the Sand Castle. It was cobblestone and for some reason she couldn’t explain, that caught her attention. Cobblestone is so hard to wash blood out of.

Shaking her head to push away the strange thought, Amadhay got off of Ribbon’s bed. She paused at the wardrobe, momentarily thinking about changing, but decided not to. There was no point in drowning herself in Ribbon’s clothing when she was leaving her behind. It would only confuse her and make it easier for Atlas to convince her to stay. It was already going to be difficult in the clothes Atlas had dressed her in, but it would nearly be impossible if she were wearing Ribbon's. She would feel protected if she were wearing Ribbon's clothes and she didn't need protection; the weak needed protection. She had to be strong.

Purposely avoiding the mirror, Amadhay smoothed her hands over her hair, knowing that it was a curling mess and not wanting to see herself looking wild and untamed, especially since that was how she was feeling on the inside. For a moment, she almost laughed, thinking I bet I look just like Amaya. But then she pushed that thought back as well, leaving her hair in its natural form. Instead, she focused on what she could fix, straightening her purple dress so that the ribbons at the waist fell in neat bows at perfect points on either side. She ran her fingers over the lace collar to make sure it was all laying flat. The kitten pin that Ribbon had put on the dead center of her chest, she took off, setting it on the bed.

She nervously fixed the pinstripe stockings so that the lines were straight and the pattern was mirrored perfectly on both legs. Taking a deep breath to set herself, she left Ribbon’s room, closing the door softly behind her. For a moment, she paused, looking down both sides of the hallway to try to reacquaint herself with the set up of the building. It was different from both other Palnoki buildings she’d been in. She had mildly wondered if all the Palnoki buildings were different. Now she’d never know.

There were only three places she knew in this building, not including Ribbon’s room: Atlas’ room, the mudroom that led to the gardens, and the meeting room. She doubted that Atlas would be in the mudroom or the gardens, so she decided to try his room first. She wasn’t ready just yet to go to the meeting room, where Indigo had died.

Of course, however, she had to pass the meeting room before getting to Atlas’ room since Ribbon’s room was on the opposite side of the building, closer to the gardens than his was. It was purely by luck that she happened to hear voices coming from the meeting room as she passed it. In fact, she still would have passed it if she hadn’t heard Atlas’ voice, sounding angry.

“You are honestly telling me that you can’t get anything off of that chip?”

She paused, considering making her presence known, but Kimiko’s response changed her mind.

“I’m assuming that they had Base fix it.”

“And you aren’t skilled enough to break his coding?” Atlas demanded. “Maybe I should replace you. You haven’t been much of a help lately.”

“She almost had it,” Tairyn defended. “But then Ghost Sparrow and Red Baron got in the way. Again.”

“What were they doing there?” Atlas demanded. Amadhay moved closer to the door, listening more closely now that she had heard Benjy and Christein’s code names.

“I’m going to assume they were looking for Red Bird,” Ribbon stated sardonically. “Since they keep showing up. Everywhere.”

“They’ve shown up more than once?” Atlas was sounding even less pleased.

“I’ve run into them three times,” Ribbon admitted.

“They tried to corner me and Tenshu a few months back,” Cowboy added. She could hear a savage grin in his voice. “They won’t be trying that again.”

“Why is this the first I’m hearing about their interferences?” Atlas asked. Amadhay had to strain to hear him because his voice had gone low and quiet.

There was silence for a moment.

“They haven’t really been an interference until now,” Kimiko said slowly. “Just minor annoyances.”

“Annoyances large enough that they stopped you from being able to use Base Inventions mainframe,” Atlas reminded them in the same, even tone.

“If we could just kill them it would be easier,” Tairyn said, making Amadhay clench her fists in anger. He had been their friend. How could he even suggest that?

“Then why haven’t you?” Atlas asked, almost conversationally.

There was another silence. This time Johannes broke it.

“You told us that they were off limits.”

“Did I?”

“Because of Amadhay?” Cowboy reminded him.

“Amadhay would never have to know,” Atlas said, his voice sounding tense. “She hasn’t heard from them since coming here, has she?” he paused for a click, but no one answered him. “She hasn’t. For all she knows, they aren’t even looking for her. Kill them. If she finds out, we’ll comfort her later. But right now, I need you to get them out of the way so that we can get the information we need.”

Ribbon was hesitant when she spoke. “Is that an order?”

“Yes,” Atlas said, “Kill the phantom and the Hakinato. They’re not in my plans.”

“I’ll do it,” Cowboy volunteered when Ribbon didn’t say anything more.

“No. Ribbon will do it,” Atlas stated. “It’s her job. I have another job for you anyway.”

“With Tenshu?” Cowboy asked, “Because it’s getting more difficult to bring him out. The Heralds are getting fond of him, enough so that they ask too many questions when he leaves.”

“Just you and Stefan. Don’t worry. I need him right where he is. He’s vital in bringing the Heralds to us.” There was a pause in which Amadhay imagined Cowboy nodded his head. “You need to bring me Darach. He’s been playing with the Hakinato’s far too long. He’s forgotten who he really belongs to.”

Someone laughed, and since Stefan’s voice was still amused when he spoke, Amadhay assumed it was him. “I was wondering how long you were going to let him hide out there.”

“Darach Devalier is one of us?” Tairyn asked in a shocked voice.

“The game with Darach goes much farther than this one with the Phoegani,” Stefan answered, giving another laugh. “Though I doubt he’d call himself one of us.”

“I don’t understand,” Kimiko said.

“You don’t have to,” Atlas snapped, causing silence to fall again. “You just need to get to decrypting that personnel chip. I need to know who else to bring from the Phoegani before we destroy them.”

“I really don’t think there’s anyone else worth your time,” Tairyn spoke, sounding sure of himself.

The ice in Atlas’s voice mirrored Amadhay’s own feelings toward Tairyn at the moment. “I’m sure I didn’t ask you.”

There was a loud thump against the door and an accompanying grunt, making Amadhay jump back, but the door didn’t open. Instead, she was able to hear Atlas perfectly, telling her that he was at the door.

“In fact, I’m trying to decide if you are even worth keeping around anymore. Your information is outdated. I have Amadhay. Really, the only reason I can see to keep you around is to keep Kimiko happy, since you being here makes Amadhay decidedly unhappy.” She could hear the sound of a series of flat slaps, which she imagined was Atlas patting Tairyn’s cheek.“So if I were you, I would be silent and hope that Kimiko is able to decrypt the files soon, because if not, I might not be so easily persuaded to keep you around.”

“Atlas…” Kimiko started.

Atlas gave a low chuckle. “Just playing, Sweet. I won’t hurt your banshee. He makes you too happy. Just know that I won’t be happy until you’ve decrypted that chip.”

“I get it,” Kimiko said in a tense tone.

“I hope you do,” Atlas said. Someone, probably Atlas, clapped their hands. “Everyone knows what they’re going to be doing?”

There was an assortment of different confirmations. Someone started to pull the door open. “Oh wait, wait.” Atlas stopped them from leaving. The door was closed again.

“Has there been any success with the Heralds?” he asked.

“Other than Tenshu becoming close to Amaya and Blu? Not really,” Cowboy answered. “If anything, they’re more closed off since the Feral wolf incident.”

“Closed off in what way?” Atlas asked.

“It’s going to be difficult to bring them here. More difficult than expected. They’ve settled in Ratigattan and the Pirate King has decided to become their protector. Any move to change that will be met with with extreme resistance. I doubt we can keep them and fight him and the Phoegani all at once.”

“We can wait,” Atlas decided. “If push comes to shove, we can have Amadhay infiltrate. They didn’t notice the last time, right?”

Cowboy seemed hesitant. “She wasn’t under much scrutiny then. One wrong move and—”

“You can train her on how to be more like Amaya,” Atlas dismissed. “But as I said, it’s our last case scenario. I’d prefer not to have to put her into this.”

“She’s always talking about wanting to help,” Ribbon mentioned. “I think she’ll be thrilled to know she’s part of the plans.”

There was a certain sarcasm to the words. Or maybe Amadhay just imagined it there because no one said anything about it. Amadhay backed from the door, feeling betrayed on too many levels to count. Atlas had played her. She had been the game. She had been the game and he had played her so expertly that she had fallen for it, for him.

No more, she decided.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which amadhay is confused

 

 

Amadhay had a feeling that she was purposely being distracted from whatever Atlas was doing.

It took her a few loud exclamations and being steered in different directions to make her stop trying to convince herself that she was just being naturally suspicious. Once or twice, she would take as coincidence. Five times though? Five times was a stretch even for normal people.

Immediately, she had to clamp down on the mistrustful part of her that was screaming that she needed to figure out what was going on. She trusted Atlas. She trusted Ribbon. If the two of them had decided she didn’t need to know what he was doing, then she was going to go with their decision. After all, they had said that whatever Atlas was going to be doing was boring. Perhaps they were only trying to spare her.

Only it was really hard for her to honestly believe that. She felt very strongly that the two of them had gone out of their way to try to convince her not to come to the Mud Castle to begin with, Atlas only relenting, really, when he was holding her onto the pegasus. Ribbon, on the other hand, had been decidedly secretive since they had arrived. She had rushed Amadhay out of the comfortable room where Atlas had seated himself in wait for Stefan. She had urged Amadhay as far from that room in general, leading her through the gardens and the mud pool even though she knew Amadhay had no real interest in either. She had then led her through an awkward maze.

Or she had tried to.

They were lost right now. At least Amadhay was, which was saying something because she was known for having an incredible sense of direction—another skill Arne Riff had trained into her at a young age. To be honest, Amadhay simply assumed that if she was lost, so was Ribbon, an assumption that became certain fact when they had run into the same brush three times.

“Okay, I honestly have no idea where we are,” Ribbon admitted, squinting at the yellow flower Amadhay was positive they had passed three times. “But doesn’t that flower look familiar?” she asked.

Amadhay glared past her. “You said that the last two times too.”

“No, I’m certain this is a different one,” Ribbon attempted to assure her.

Amadhay gave her a long look. “Go on then. I’ll be right here when you come back.”

Ribbon shook her head. “What if I get out? I’m sure as Water not coming back for you if I do.”

“I can assure you that you won’t,” Amadhay said, rolling her eyes. “Go on. I’ll be right here.”

“Okay…” Ribbon said slowly, touching the pouch on her hip. “I’ll leave a trail just in case.”

Amadhay nodded, gesturing for her to go on. She waited until Ribbon was out of sight to attempt to crawl up one of the hedge walls. She wasn’t even surprised when no matter how high she climbed, she never reached the top. She had honestly been expecting it. Letting go of the green, she dropped right onto her feet as if she had only climbed inches rather than feet. She sighed and sat down just as Ribbon was coming back around.

Amadhay waved at her with a sardonic smile. “Welcome back, great voyager,” she said flatly. Ribbon stared at her in wonder before rushing forward to see that she had, indeed, ended up right where she had started. The trail of glitter was even in a full circle.

Ribbon gave an exasperated sigh. “Goddess, I just want to get out of here!” she exclaimed.

Amadhay sighed. “You shouldn’t have brought us through here if you didn’t know the way,” she said, kicking at a bush.

Ribbon gave a long sigh. “I thought I did. Kimmy and I come through here all the time. She always tears through here when she and Tairyn are trying to get a moment to themselves.”

Amadhay paused, looking up at Ribbon. “She and who?” she asked.

Ribbon blinked a few times before saying, “Kimmy and Ten. They come out here sometimes for privacy. Why? Who did you think I said?”

Amadhay shook her head, “Sorry. I thought you said Tairyn.” She gave an embarrassed laugh. “I don’t even know why he’d come to mind. He didn’t like mazes and he’s a swamp witch, not a hedge witch.”

Ribbon blinked innocently and Amadhay shrugged off the feeling that she had just been tricked. “Tairyn?” she asked.

Amadhay gave a small smile. “Tairyn was my first partner out of training. He was my best friend from the time I was nine until I was thirteen and we stopped talking. I don’t know why I’d be thinking about him. I normally don’t. He’s been on an offshore mission for a few years now.”

Ribbon shrugged almost guiltily, though Amadhay wasn’t sure if she had imagined the guilt or not. “How about we try the way I didn’t go?” the woman suggested, brushing glitter off onto her waterproof pants.

When Amadhay nodded, the two started picking their way through the maze again, this time in silence. This time around Amadhay led them, though she had never been in the maze before. Unsurprisingly to both girls, she was able to pick out a path based on what she was able to smell and hear, the cat of her aelfe making her senses stronger than the diluted elvish in Ribbon’s blood-witch.

“I hear Kimiko,” Amadhay said excitedly, positive that they were close to the end of the maze.

Ribbon perked up at that, following Amadhay’s gaze down the long pathway. “Follow her voice! She can get us out of here!”

Amadhay didn’t need Ribbon to tell her that, because she was already following the other teenager’s voice. As she followed, she was able to make out more than just her voice; she was able to make out snippets of conversation and another voice, a male voice that sounded mildly familiar.

“-and they’ve all been angry with each other for what feels like forever but it’s starting to get better, I think,” Kimiko said.

Amadhay narrowed her eyes, positive that the girl was talking about her, but not knowing why or to whom.

“Well that’s good, isn’t it?” the male voice asked. The voice was deep, resonating in a way that didn’t make sense for the rough texture.

“I guess,” Kimiko responded. Amadhay could just see her high ponytails over the top of the hedge. “It’s just that now that they’re not fighting, they’re all so confused and confusion tastes wrong. I mean I like their happiness better than their anger and sadness and loneliness, but they aren’t happy enough for it to taste like happiness, you know?”

Amadhay wasn’t sure what Kimiko was talking about, at all, but she could see her now, sitting on a bench. She was sitting on the back of the bench, making herself seem taller than the man she was talking to. He was sitting properly on the bench, his legs set apart and one of his arms wrapped around the girl’s waist.

When he laughed, he shook his long, long hair from his face. Amadhay froze, staring first at his hair. If he were standing, she would bet that it hit his knees now, quite a sight longer than his waist, like when she had last seen him. The dark black had either been dyed or stained a strange green color that reminded her of the swamp, much like his dark skin. Where it had once been a healthy brown color, either with age or from contact with the swamp waters, it now had a sickly, green hue to it and looked pale. He was taller than when she had last seen him and wearing clothes that fit him quite a bit better than the torn jeans, ripped and frayed jackets, and dirty t-shirts she had grown used to him wearing. But his smile was still his, was still a bright white shine across his otherwise dark features and his eyes still glowed an alarming silver color.

“Tairyn,” she whispered, coming to a stop.

His laugh stopped short, and she was able to compare his younger, melodious voice to his new, much deeper one when he spoke her name in reply. “Amadhay?”

Ribbon bumped into her. “Geeze, Red Bird. You can’t just run off without me. Give a girl some warning,” she said. When Amadhay didn’t shoot back a witty retort, she nudged the girl. “Red Bird?” she asked before looking past the girl, to the couple on the bench, who were frozen in shock.

Ribbon sucked in a breath just as Tairyn got to his feet. Tairyn, Kimiko, and Ribbon all spoke at the same time, Ribbon being the only one to properly sum up the situation.

“Mayday, I didn’t mean to—”

“Amadhay this isn’t what it—”

“Shit.”

Amadhay only stared at Tairyn for a few more clicks before she took off running. At first, she ran slow enough that she heard three sets of footsteps following her, but she kept going faster and faster until she was at the speed she and Sha’adahk had been working on, the speed that felt like no one else was moving around her. She shot right out of the maze, into the garden, where Tairyn and Kimiko had been. She went through that garden, through the bug garden, right through the mud pool, barely making a splash she was moving so fast. She kept going until she was right back where she had started out, looking for Atlas, needing to talk to Atlas.

Her eyes were burning when she shoved the doors open, dropping her speed the moment she touched them. The room was empty and for a moment, she wanted to keep looking for Atlas, until she realized she was better off on her own. Like when she was a little girl and scared and needing to be alone to synthesize her own thoughts, she looked for the smallest place she could curl up and be hidden. She stripped off the raincoat and boots, tucking them under a couch. Seeing a seat that she recognized from the Madra job, she knew it had a false bottom. Knowing it was the best chance she had at not being found, she pulled it open and curled up inside, placing the seat back on top of her.

Now in the dark, alone, and tiny, Amadhay was able to let herself be upset. She didn’t cry, because she was a Hakinato and Hakinato’s don’t cry, but she did rub viciously at her eyes because they burned.

Tairyn. Her Tairyn. Yes, she had assumed he had been the one to betray her from day one because they knew things only he would know. Yes, she hadn’t seen him in almost three years, and hadn’t seen him regularly in longer than that. But he had been her Tairyn. He was the same boy who had told her, when he had been fourteen and she only nine, that he was going to Bind to her one day. He was the same one who had been with her, had comforted her after she had killed on her first mission. He was the same one who had been holding her hand when she had first spotted Amaya, the wild and utterly vicious Amaya who had been rescued from the Thief Lord when she was ten.

It was one thing to believe that person could betray her. It was a whole different thing to know it. No matter how she was with the Palnoki now, it was a betrayal of her, of her confidences in him. She hadn’t told him her every secret so that he could turn around and tell her worst enemy. She had told him because she had trusted him, had sincerely cared about him in a way she hadn’t known she could. He had been the first person besides Monkey that she had genuinely felt something other than vague amusement for. She had thought he loved her and he had betrayed her. For what?

She didn’t know. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to know. She couldn’t imagine anything that would make his betrayal any less heartbreaking. It didn’t matter why he did it. It only mattered that he did. If anything, the obvious relationship he and Kimiko had only made her hurt worse. It was like a triple lanced betrayal. He had betrayed her as a friend, as someone she trusted by giving away her information so freely. He had betrayed her as someone who had loved him by replacing her love with Kimiko’s.

And Kimiko, Kimiko had known all of that, had known their relationship, she had to have. Yet still she had not only taken him from her or had hidden the relationship from her, but she had hidden him from her. Kimiko had purposely kept Tairyn, who he was to her, to the Palnoki, how he’d betrayed Amadhay, a secret.

If anything, Amadhay was positive that that was what was hurting her the most.

She hadn’t seen Tairyn in years, so while finding out that he had truly been the one to betray her hurt, it wasn’t what had her hiding. She had been around the women almost every day for the past few months and neither had even mentioned Tairyn, had ever brought up that one of her friends from the Phoegani had defected. She had trusted Kimiko. She had trusted Ribbon. But clearly they didn’t trust her. She had been sure that they wouldn’t hide anything crucial from her. She had been positive that they cared about her, but she wasn’t sure about that anymore. She couldn’t imagine that they could honestly care about her and hide something like that from her.

And with that, her mind went to Atlas. Atlas who she had gone to for comfort. Atlas who she had trusted more than all the rest of them, had trusted enough to allow him to get her on top of a winged horse. Atlas had to have known this and kept it from her just as much as Kimiko and Ribbon. More, actually, because she had outright asked him who the informant was and he had…

He had never told her that it wasn’t Tairyn.

He hadn’t told her it was Tairyn, but he also certainly hadn’t said that it wasn’t. When she had decided it was Tairyn on her first day as his captive, Atlas had completely ignored her, which she hadn’t even thought about. She had known it was Tairyn from day one. Atlas had all but admitted it by ignoring her.

In some twisted, demented way, Amadhay was still sure that Atlas was trustworthy. Kimiko, and—worst  of all, Ribbon—was not. They would have to start from scratch, if they were ever to regain her trust again. Ribbon had probably told her hundreds of tiny lies hundreds of times to cover up a slip up concerning Tairyn. Kimiko had told her that her partner’s name was Orvu, that she hadn’t met him because he lived far away and was completely uninvolved in all that the Palnoki did. All of those were obvious, blaring lies.

But Atlas, he hadn’t lied to her. Yes, he had kept it from her much like the women had, but that was his way. He never told her anything that he assumed she could figure out on her own. That was simply the way Atlas played with her. She knew that. She even loved that most days. She loved that he forced her to think instead of just letting her know everything she wanted to know.

In fact, considering his Gift and the way everything had gone, Amadhay was almost convinced that he had set it up for her to find Tairyn and Kimiko in the garden just as she had. It was too much of a coincidence that she just happened to be lost in the maze at the exact time, in the exact place that would lead her to hear Kimiko’s voice. It was too much of a coincidence that of all days, after them all working hard to keep her from seeing Tairyn—and she knew it must have been pretty hard considering Kimiko was a succubus and needed regular feeding from her partner—that she would just stumble onto him. Since Kimiko was almost always physically with her when not on missions, she couldn’t imagine when the two could have regularly been together. After all the effort it had to have taken the succubi not to be around the banshee, not to have him right on the same base, she was positive that there was no way that she had just stumbled onto them.

It was no coincidence that things had happened the way they had. Honestly, Amadhay wasn’t even sure that she believed in coincidences anymore. Every coincidence in her life, especially in the past six months could probably be linked to Atlas and his meddling. Every time she had accidentally bumped into someone right when they were looking for her, every time she had been right where she needed to be without knowing it, every time one of the Palnokians had been right where she needed them when she needed them, every one of those coincidences were Atlas’ doing.

For some reason, that calmed her. The idea that Atlas was at the helm, leading everything made it all less overwhelming. It made everything easier to manage.

Because despite everything else, she still trusted Atlas.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which kimiko is annoying

 

 

“Oh my gosh,” Kimiko gushed, “The suspense is killing me. Did you and Atlas fight?” she asked, flopping onto Amadhay’s bed, where the other girl was sitting with a magic book.

Amadhay glanced up at her and then back to her book, turning the page. Kimiko only noticed because she was pretty positive that the girl couldn’t read that fast, considering she had only turned the page a click before. “No,” she lied.

Kimiko rolled onto her stomach from her back so that she could look at Amadhay right side up instead of upside down. “Okay, what about you and Ribbon?”

“No,” she responded even more tersely, once again telling Kimiko that she was lying.

“Were the fights about the same thing? Oh, wait, is this a lovers’ quarrel? Did Ribbon profess her love for you and you turned her down for Atlas, but then decided that you aren’t in love with Atlas either, but secretly only love Tenshu?”

Amadhay rolled her eyes. “No.”

“Oh, so you’re in love with me?”

Amadhay looked at Kimiko and Kimiko smiled to show her that she was only joking. She really just wanted to see her smile. Seriously, she had only been gone for two weeks and when she came back, everyone was either not talking to one another or talking too much to one another or being ridiculously polite. She had been back for about a week and apart from explaining that Atlas’ favorite twins had turned out to be spies for the Skouras clan and that they’d been attacked with minor injuries sustained, no one would tell her what happened. The taste of everyone’s emotions running high was a confusing and less than appetizing swirl that was beginning to make her nauseous. She thought she might go crazy if someone didn’t crack soon.

She was pretty sure that Amadhay was going to crack, though.

“C’mon Mayday. Please? Pretty please? I just wanna know what’s going on. I feel so out of the loop. Barely anyone is talking to anyone else!”

Amadhay heaved a heavy sigh before setting her book onto the bed and focusing on Kimiko. Kimiko waited with an expectant look upon her face. “Fine,” Amadhay started. “I helped Ribbon take out the twins and fix them Palnoki style. Atlas exploded about it. He took it out on Ribbon, who fucking took it. So I’m pretty pissed at him.”

“Okay…” Kimiko said, trying to think of a good response to that other than ‘What the deep Water pit is wrong with you?’

“Atlas has basically, I guess, grounded Ribbon to base and maybe from me, since I never see her anymore. I’m avoiding Atlas because he’s an ass. Atlas is avoiding me because he knows I’m right. I barely know anything about the other problems. Tenshu and Nico are fighting about something. Cowboy and Johannes had a falling out about a mission. Stefan, I think, sides with me against Atlas, while Scarlet sides with Atlas, so they’re all not on good terms, but talking to each other in fake polite voices. That’s all I know.”

“Well that’s more than I knew,” Kimiko grumbled, sighing. “I think Tenshu and Nico aren’t relating very well right now because Nico is spending a lot of time with the Fire Herald, Jazz, since he’s her regnant.”

“Her what?”

“Regnant,” Kimiko repeated. She sighed at the clueless look Amadhay gave her. “You know the vampire-love structure?” Amadhay shook her head and Kimiko rolled her eyes. “Okay, this is kind of important, considering Vlad and Mitch are vampires and Nico tends to follow the power structure. Vampires, by nature, are one of three positions. They are either the dominant regnant, submissive possession, or  a linsh and both. Every one of them is born into one of those positions, though if they’re outside of a camarilla, I guess personality would determine it more than birthright.

“Whatever. A vampire can either be a regnant or a possession, though just by nature of the changes death wreaks, most dead-vampires are only ever regnants.” Kimiko squinted thoughtfully, trying to remember the exact way Vlad had explained it to her, knowing that if she didn't hit all of the points, that Amadhay would stay curious and then ask Vlad or Mitch, who would be insulted because it was bad manners to ask a vampire, especially dead ones, about the vampire-love theory unless interested in engaging in one of the roles with them.

"A regnant is the highest in the hierarchy, being a vampire or similar equivalence like an…elf or, like, like—Nico, a reaper. They are in charge. A possession is submissive, but still a vampire and higher than a thrall. A thrall is a non-vampire under a vampire, though—I guess—some living-vampires call their thralls possessions. An obtainer is a non-vampire dominant, which is less than a regnant, but higher than a possession. Get me?”

Amadhay nodded. “Regnant is higher than obtainer is higher than possession is higher than thrall.”

Kimiko nodded. “Okay, and regnants are incredibly possessive and protective of their possessions and thralls. Living-vampires tend to have a minimum of three regnants and thralls at any given time, but they can survive on their own if the relationships go to shit. Dead-vampires always have one possession to keep them safe.”

“Who’s Vlad’s?” Amadhay immediately asked, just as Kimiko knew she would.

“Me,” she said with a smile.

Amadhay stared at her for a few moments, visibly trying to synthesize all the information. “What about Cowboy’s?”

Kimiko rolled her eyes at the nickname Amadhay used for Mitch. “Tenshu used to be Mitch’s, but lately he’s been relying more on Scarlet, which is weird as all get out.”

“I wonder why,” Amadhay muttered, before frowning. “Wait, so Nico is in charge of Herald Jazz?”

“I mean sort of. Not in an all controlling kind of way that I think you’re thinking of,” Kimiko tried to correct. “Sexually, he is in charge. And intimately, in their relationship. But…she can choose to give him more control, and sometimes she does. But normally, there are limits. She has, apparently made any Team decisions off-limits.”

“Ah. Sounds like at least one of the Wonder Girls and Co. has a brain. That’s exciting.”

Kimiko frowned. “Exciting?”

“Yeah. It’s always fun to fight someone with a brain,” Amadhay said, a dreamy smile coming to her lips.

Kimiko wondered if she even realized what she said. “Are you planning on fighting her anytime soon?”

Amadhay gave her a surprised look. “What? No. Of course not. I mean not unless I have to,” she shrugged. “I think it might be fun to try to beat a vampire.”

“Mitch would be willing to practice with you if you’re bored,” Kimiko pointed out. She wasn’t sure that she trusted Amadhay’s interest in besting the fire Herald. She decided to mention it to Mitch or Scarlet when she saw them next, since Atlas seemed to have a deaf ear to suspicions about the girl.

Of course Cowboy would be willing to have an excuse to beat up on me again,” Amadhay hissed, clenching her fists as she narrowed her eyes.

Kimiko didn’t have to ask to assume she was thinking about the Madra mission. Mitch had told her about it, where he had beaten Amadhay almost into unconsciousness to keep her out of the way of his mission. “You know it’s not like that,” Kimiko scolded lightly.

“Nope, I actually don’t,” Amadhay replied, sliding to the side of her bed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I was going to go see what Sha’adahk is doing,” she stated, shoving out off of her bed and getting tangled in the curtains of the canopy. She gave a disgusted scoff before untangling herself and stomping off.

Kimiko followed. “Oh, I’ll just come with you then,” she said with a smile, linking arms with Amadhay even though the other girl didn’t soften at all.

They were both silent for a few clicks before Kimiko started talking again. “So when did you and Sha’adahk start getting all buddy-buddy?” she asked, noting that she had seen Amadhay with Sha’adahk every day since she’d been back.

Amadhay shrugged. “We aren’t,” she said. “He just likes to race me and I like to talk to him sometimes.”

Kimiko frowned, but covered it up with a smile when Amadhay looked at her. “Well that’s cool. Getting to know everybody?”

“Nope,” Amadhay answered, staring straight ahead. “Just Sha’adahk.”

“And why Sha’adahk?” Kimiko fished, tugging on one of Amadhay’s low ponytails.

Amadhay moved her head to the side to pull her hair from Kimiko. “Because I knew him.”

Kimiko made a face, looking down at her friend as she fixed her hair back into two points low on her head, almost perfectly symmetrical from behind. The irritated look on the younger girl’s face was a regular expression lately, as far as Kimiko could tell. She had been bugging her for three days and hadn’t seen Amadhay smile a single time. It was killing her. And considering Amadhay had been her main emotion smorgasbord for the past few months, it might literally kill her if the girl didn’t start giving her something that wouldn’t make her sick.

“How?”

“He was the one who convinced me to help kidnap Amaya,” she said.

“You kidnapped your own sister?” Kimiko asked, raising her eyebrows.

Amadhay gave her a look to tell her that she thought the question was stupid. “You all kidnapped Amaya. Remember? A year ago?”

Kimiko shook her head, honestly surprised. She hadn’t known that, though now that she thought about it, it made sense. Atlas, Stefan, and Sha’adahk had disappeared for a few months all around the same time, and when they had come back, Tenshu and Mitch had been sent out to befriend the Heralds. She had known that there had been some talk about kidnapping one of the Heralds, but had never heard any more on that. She had known that Sha’adahk had been sent on some sort of mission to retrieve something from the Ha clan and that somehow, the mission had been a failed one. She also knew that Sha’adahk had been really hurt on that mission. There had even been the strangeness where Ribbon had completely disappeared a few months even before that, worrying everyone out of their minds, but come back at the same time as Sha’adahk. That was when, as far as Kimiko knew, Ribbon and Atlas’ had started fighting about the ‘Hakinato lady’ that had turned out to be Amadhay.

She had just never put it all together.

“So wait,” Kimiko shook her head, trying to understand the current situation. “You’re hanging out with the person who tricked you into helping us kidnap your sister?”

“He didn’t trick me,” Amadhay snapped. “I made the decision on my own. I thought the Heralds might get rid of you.”

When Amadhay shrugged, Kimiko stopped. She knew that the Amadhay in past tense had wanted to kill all of them, had been a Phoegani assassin and deep into the mindset, but it still stung to think that the girl she knew in present tense as a friend could have wanted her dead. It also bothered her how easily Amadhay talked about it. While Tenshu and Amadhay had a ‘sure, we tried to kill each other and people each us of care about, but it happened in the past and we’re friends now’ kind of relationship, but she and Amadhay didn’t. Kimiko had told Amadhay how it upset her when the girl talked about times where she had tried to kill any of them. Which meant that Amadhay was purposely trying to upset her.

The thing was, Kimiko wasn’t sure why. She hadn’t been a part of the initial fight, or even any of the other fights. She wasn’t mad at anyone and hadn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. She wasn’t even taking sides in any of the arguments, though if she were, she would have taken Atlas’ side.

Amadhay’s cutting, cursing, and magic styles were all incredibly noticeably specific to Red Robin. She needed to be lying low, not doing anything that might leave a trace, especially with her two ‘friends’, Red Baron and Ghost Sparrow, on the lookout for any sign of her.  If somehow word got out that the Phoegani’s Red Robin was working for them, they could get a lot of trouble coming their way. The Phoegani wasn’t bothering them right now, aside from minor annoyances, mostly because they were still licking their wounds from when they had been infiltrated.

Not only could the idea of Amadhay defecting hurt Amadhay and the rest of them should the Phoegani decide to declare a full-scale war instead of their current polite stand offs, but it would hurt Tairyn. Kimiko couldn’t stand the idea of someone realizing that Tairyn was a rat and killing him. That was actually part of the reason she hadn’t let Tairyn see Amadhay yet. She was worried that if Amadhay knew that Tairyn was there and had told them personal information about her, that she would try to kill him. Kimiko couldn’t imagine what she would do if that happened, but she was pretty sure that the situation would devolve from there, with her trying to hurt Amadhay and either Amadhay or Atlas having to hurt her and then Tenshu would get involved and if Tenshu got involved, so would Mitch. It would just be bad. So, until she could figure out a way to soften the blow for Amadhay, she was going to keep Tairyn a secret.

But Amadhay didn’t know that. Amadhay couldn’t know any of that, so Kimiko was still unsure why Amadhay was lashing out at her.

“Well that’s…cool,” Kimiko called before rushing to catch up to Amadhay, who raised her eyebrows in question. “You’re making more friends. You’re getting more in the family.” Kimiko flashed a bright smile when she saw a dark look come over Amadhay.

“Yeah. More of the family,” she muttered, and Kimiko couldn’t help but to notice the way her fists clenched.

“Okay, I’m just going to ask,” Kimiko said, deciding that being blunt was the only way to go. “What is wrong with you? What did I do to you? Why are you so mad?”

Amadhay gave her an incredibly fake smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?” she said with a shrug and a slight shake of her head. “I’m not mad. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Kimiko rolled her eyes. “Oh please. You’re acting like my presence is physically harming you, so what did I do?”

“Nothing,” Amadhay replied shortly, pursing her lips. “I just don’t feel like playing fifty questions with you. I’m going to see Sha’adahk and I’d rather do it alone.”

Kimiko started, taking one step back before continuing to keep up with Amadhay. “I just want to know what’s wrong.”

“Nothing is wrong!” Amadhay yelled, finally stopping. She turned to face Kimiko head on, which was what Kimiko had been waiting for all along. “I’m fine! I just don’t want to rehash everything that has gone wrong with you. I want to go and run and not talk for a while. I can do that with Sha’adahk because he’s fast and can keep up with me and won’t force me to talk and won’t let me get lost. That’s why Sha’adahk. So leave me alone, Kimiko. Just leave me alone.”

Kimiko stared down at Amadhay for a few clicks, completely unsure of what she should say. Instead, she said nothing, taking a few steps backwards and nodding before she left Amadhay alone.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which there is sparring

 

 

Amadhay went skidding back on her butt.

Before Ribbon could drop kick her, she spun, kicking Ribbon’s legs out from under her and rolling so that she was on top of the woman. Ribbon grinned fiercely at her and flipped them so that she was on top.

“I like you better below me,” Ribbon joked, holding Amadhay down by the girls wrists and sitting firmly on her waist. “Do you give?”

“Not hardly,” Amadhay muttered before crying out “Irem no Va!” Ribbon jolted up from her before the teenager could finish the spell by touching her skin.

“Nice try, but you’ll never get anywhere if I know what your spell is before you use it,” Ribbon told her before a silver ball of magic swirled into existence on her hand. She threw it to Amadhay, who used her Gift to get out of the way. The magic continued to follow her, expanding as it flew.

“See? You had no idea how to avoid that,” Ribbon stated once the ball hit Amadhay in the back, flipping her through the air several times before the girl landed flat on her back with a loud, painful thud.

“That’s enough,” Atlas said from his corner of the room. He had been pretending to read for the past zoot of their sparring session. Amadhay knew he was pretending because he had forgotten to turn a single page of the book. He hadn’t even glanced at it, instead, keeping his eyes focused on them. Amadhay was embarrassed that he was there to see her have her butt kicked by Ribbon. The woman hadn’t even had to cut and use blood magic to take her down repeatedly. It made Amadhay feel incredibly lacking.

The entire point of these sessions was to strengthen her combat magic. All she seemed to be doing was rolling on the floor to avoid Ribbon’s. With a quick glance to Atlas, Ribbon stood above Amadhay, holding her hand out to help the smaller girl up.

“Don’t worry,” Ribbon said reassuringly. She smiled at Amadhay as she pulled the aelfe to her feet. Neither of them let go of the other’s hand. “You’re getting better. Last time I took you out with a fraction of my power. This time I had to focus the ball.”

“What’s the point of this?” Atlas asked, moving between the two women now that Amadhay was standing. Ribbon let go of Amadhay first, moving back from Atlas, who was giving Amadhay an imploring look. “There’s no reason for you to be learning this. There’s no reason for you to be using this. We’ll keep you safe. You could be learning something else.”

“Like what?” Amadhay snapped, “Embroidery?” She rolled her eyes. “I’m learning magic because I like magic, not because I’m scared I’ll be attacked. Besides, sparring with Ribbon cements that. If she can take me out, she definitely isn’t going to be taken out by someone I could fight.”

Ribbon choked back a laugh, turning her back on the two. “I’ll go get some water,” she called over her shoulder as she left the room.

Atlas took Amadhay’s hands in between his own. “Please, just think on it, Amadhay. You could do something else, something more befitting a lady.”

“I’m not a lady,” she immediately retorted, pulling her hands back. “And I don’t want to do something more befitting of one. I want to learn magic that could come in handy one day.”

“But it won’t,” Atlas assured her. “You will never have need to fight while you are here. We will keep you safe.”

“I’m not going to sit around and hide behind you all,” she told him, frowning. “If someone comes at me, I’m going to fight and if you try to stop me, I will leave. You gave me the choice, Atlas. I choose to be ready and able to fight.” Not to mention, she thought, That I won’t be here with you forever.

Atlas muttered something under his breath that she didn’t hear. “I’m not going to let anything get to you,” he swore.

She sighed. “Sooner or later, something gets through even the best defense.”

“Not here.”

Amadhay rolled her eyes and turned away from him, heading to the doorway.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“To get some water,” she snapped, moving faster once she heard his footsteps following her.

He didn’t try to catch up with her, but he also didn’t leave her alone. She made it to the kitchen in time to see Ribbon make a face at Kimiko, who was grinning at her with a knowing look.

“I don’t care,” Ribbon claimed as Amadhay stepped into the room. The brown-skinned woman glanced to Amadhay, past her, and then looked away. Amadhay didn’t have to look back to know that Atlas was behind her, even if she didn’t feel him. He was always following her, watching her, touching her, too close to her. She wished he would give her a breather.

She moved past the two to the sink, filling Ribbon’s favorite cup with water. She put it to her lips to take a drink, but it was lifted right out of her hands and poured down the sink.

“Filtered water is in the fridge,” Atlas stated, handing her a new cup. She gave him a bland look.

Kimiko groaned. “Atlas. Go away. Please.”

While Atlas looked to Kimiko, Amadhay picked up Ribbon’s cup and filled it up with water from the faucet once again.

“You’re stressing her out and when you stress her out, it annoys Ribbon and when they’re unhappy, I’m unhappy. If you want three pissed off girls, stay. Otherwise, go away.”

Atlas glanced to Amadhay, who pointedly drank from the cup, staring him in the eyes. He looked to Ribbon, who had her back turned to them, running a cloth over the seemingly clean table. Finally, he looked back to Kimiko, whose hands were clutching her chair, her face set in annoyance.

“Perhaps I should give the three of you time alone,” he suggested. None of them spoke, but there was an obvious ‘Ya think?’ response in the air. He nodded before turning on his heel and leaving the room. No one spoke until they could no longer hear his footsteps. By that point, Kimiko’s death grip on the chair had loosened, Ribbon’s shoulders had relaxed, and Amadhay had finished her water.

“Is it just me, or is he up your butt more than usual?” Kimiko asked, irritation still heavy on her husky voice.

“He’s so far up my ass that I’ve considered having him surgically removed,” Amadhay snapped, making Ribbon giggle.

“I know a great wart remover,” Kimiko joked, heading out of the kitchen. “I’ll keep him busy for today. Just know you owe me.”

“You have my undying love,” Amadhay called after her, moving to Ribbon’s side.

“I’d rather have your help with my hair tomorrow!”

“Got it!”

Ribbon was still cleaning an imaginary mess on the table when it was just her and Amadhay left in the kitchen.

“I’m pretty sure that whatever you were cleaning has moved to another state of existence by now,” Amadhay quipped, bumping Ribbon’s hip with her own.

Ribbon gave a soft laugh. “You’re probably right,” she said, dropping the cloth and looking at Amadhay. Neither spoke for a while, and then Ribbon spoke again. “He’s only hovering because he—”

“No. I don’t want to talk about Atlas. No Atlas for the next, like, ten zoots, okay?” Ribbon laughed, but Amadhay pressed it. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Ribbon agreed. “No Atlas for the next ten zoots.”

Amadhay nodded and relaxed, smiling up at her friend. She noted that the tiny silver ball in her left nostril had been replaced by a tiny snowflake. She realized then that the day was a holiday.

“It’s Atwea today, isn’t it?” she asked, merely mentioning it as a conversational topic.

Ribbon perked up at the mention. “Oh please, please, please let me take you to the Atwea festival. Please?” she pleaded.

Amadhay had every intention of going if it excited Ribbon that much. The best part, in her opinion, was that they would be somewhere warm, so the outdoors festival for the first day of winter wouldn’t be horrible. “I dunno,” she said instead, pretending to think about it. “Festivals aren’t really my thing.”

Ribbon deflated for all of a click. “Yes they are! You love festivals, you ass. C’mon. Please? Please? Please?”

Amadhay giggled. “Okay, okay. I love festivals. Are Ten and Kimmy coming?”

Ribbon shrugged. “Probably not. Crowds give Kimmy a stomach ache and I think Ten and Nico are out. So…just me and you.”

There was a shy look from Ribbon that turned coy after a click as Amadhay considered what the woman had said. She knew for a fact that Kimiko loved crowds because it was like a smorgasbord for her. Nico and Tenshu had only just come back for a few days from their “missions” with Wonder Girls and Co. But she wasn’t going to say anything. She liked just being with Ribbon. It was always nice when they were able to go out just the two of them.

“Is there a specific dress code?” Amadhay asked. She had never gone to an Atwea festival other than the one the Hakinato First Family threw back at Hartin, and she  had always been dressed by her servants in attire that her aunt, Arche Loralyn, had chosen and Arne Riff had approved beforehand.

When Ribbon got a calculating look, Amadhay knew that the answer was ‘No,’ but that her friend was planning on dressing her a specific way anyway. “Well,” Ribbon began.

“Alright, you just go and pick it out. I’ll wear what you want. But I get to choose what you wear,” Amadhay interrupted her before she could come up with some excuse.

Ribbon stared at her for a few breaths before grinning. “Just remember that these festivals are family friendly and I have an image to maintain.”

Amadhay snorted. “Really? As the unknown princess?” She wasn’t exaggerating. In the past few weeks, they had gone out onto the streets quite regularly. Tenshu, Nico, and Kimiko were all recognized and treated appropriately at least once per outing. Ribbon, on the other hand, had yet to be recognized by a single Palnokian. Amadhay was beginning to think that she was invisible.

“You never know,” Ribbon replied, heading out of the kitchen, towards their rooms. Amadhay followed her. “One of these days, I might get unlucky.”

“Yeah, you’re going to be recognized the same time I am,” Amadhay countered, though she was sure that it was more likely she would be recognized than Ribbon. That always made her a bit wary about going out for something as big as a festival. The more people gathered together, the more likely someone knew of her. Even though Ribbon had tried to convince her that Palnokians didn’t care much about Roadesian nobility, it was still a possibility that a Phoegani member or a wandering noble might be there and spot her.

However, that wasn’t a worry for Atwea. Everyone wore snowflake masks for the festivities. Five year ago, she and her sisters had gotten separated and despite the fact that not only was it before any of them had hit puberty and they were all nearly identical aside from the eyes and spoors, but they had been wearing identical teal dresses, and still they hadn’t been able to find each other for zoots, and only then because they’d all managed to have to go to the bathroom at the same time. That’s how hard it was to identify someone during Atwea festivities.

“Do you have a snowflake?” Ribbon asked as they turned the hallway to their rooms.

Amadhay gave her a droll look. “Why would I have gotten one?”

Ribbon rolled her eyes. “I dunno. Usually Stefan and Nico go ape shit and decorate the place in them and me and Kimmy grab up a few to make our masks.”

Amadhay smiled at the thought. “I never got to make my own. It was always made for me by the winner of the Autumn Lovers contest.”

Ribbon gave her  questioning look. “Autumn Lovers contest?”

Amadhay raised her eyebrows. “It’s a big deal in Ha’s Region, really in all of Roadesia. Artists come from all over with some sort of art of autumn and a panel of master artists judge them for the best.”

“Huh,” Ribbon said thoughtfully. “And the winner gets to make your masks?”

“And the winner makes masks for the First Family for a year until the next Atwea festival, when they’re released from the contract. It gets them a lot of novelty and whatever else artists want.”

“Does it pay?” Ribbon asked, pausing at Amadhay’s door.

“Of course. Plus they’re boarded at the Hakinato homestead, fed, and get everything they need for their work,” she said as she walked towards Ribbon’s room.

“Hey, maybe I’ll do that when you go back. That way I’d be able to see you on the regular,” Ribbon tossed back at her before entering Amadhay’s room.

Frowning after her friend, she lightly pushed on Ribbon’s door to be sure none of her nasty privacy spells were in place. They weren’t. “Go back?” Amadhay asked herself before entering her friend’s room. Did Ribbon think she had plans to go back to Hartin? Besides the fact that she had no interest going back to the Phoegani, she was presumed dead. Going back there was pretty much number one on her list of things not to do.

She shook her head to get the thought out of her mind. She’d talk to Ribbon about it later, but for the time being, she was going to focus on the festival and how much fun they would have. And the first matter of business was going through Ribbon’s closet

She scanned the room, more just by habit than for any real reason. The closet was slightly ajar, bathroom door wide open, and all of the windows were open. The faint ocean scented breeze made the gauzy curtains similar to the ones on Amadhay’s canopy flow inward. As much of the bathroom as she could see was empty, but Amadhay still moved far enough in that direction to be sure that no one was in there. The furniture in Ribbon’s room was close enough together to make it difficult for any average sized person—if Amadhay’s size counted as average—to hide behind, under, or between. Leaving the closet for last, she glanced to Ribbon’s bed.

The high bed had a redwood frame, with at least three feet below the bottom of three mattresses. Her bed was made, with silver sheets neatly covering all three mattresses, a pair of body pillows in the shape of Ribbon’s favorite actors on top of the sheets, and the intricately made, glittery comforter she never used but had for show folded neatly at the foot of the bed. No one under or in the bed, but there was a beautifully hand-carved mask.

Amadhay picked it up before she could stop herself, smiling slightly when she saw that the eyeholes were in the shape of gingerbread girls. Ribbon loved gingerbread cookies, so it was a pretty good guess that the mask had been made specifically with the blood witch in mind. The snowflake mask branched from the eyeholes, rather than the mouth-hole, which was irregular, and glittered as Amadhay turned it in her hands. It looked delicate, with only thin spindles of material tying into thin knots to cover most of the face and curved where Ribbon’s face would.

Smiling to herself, Amadhay moved to Ribbon’s closet, too distracted by the mask to finish her check of the room. She walked into the room-sized closet and looked around. Ribbon had a system to her clothes, separating them first into situations, and then into colors. The section with her jeans and sundresses was normally where the woman chose, but for this festival, Amadhay was looking at the less casual clothing. There were long gowns, pantsuits, and full body outfits that looked like costumes, but that, again, wasn’t what Amadhay was looking for.

For Atwea, only commoners and performers wore costumes. As the princess, Ribbon needed to be dressed formally, but not so much that she would stick out Ribbon seemed to pride herself on being able to blend in with the crowds. Amadhay could respect that, but the part of her brain that had been trained and had the proper etiquette drilled into her head told her that she couldn’t just go wandering around looking like a commoner.

She was looking through green dresses, short enough to not be formal, but dressy enough to not be casual, when she hit a dress that was entirely out of place. In the mass of green, which was unsurprising given that Ribbon’s favorite color was green, was a pale, silvery-lilac dress. Amadhay’s breath caught for the slightest click before she pulled the dress out.

No, it wasn’t the dress Ribbon had worn to the Emvia party four years ago, but it was strikingly similar. It was the same color, had only one strap, and would undoubtedly hang on her in the same way. Amadhay smiled to herself, touching it lightly. For a moment, she considered looking for the original dress, but stopped herself. It was another time, and they had been different people.

She quickly plucked its hanger from the rack, grabbed the shoebox on the shelf above it, and left the closet, pushing the door closed with her butt. With the mask in one hand, the dress in the other, and the shoebox under her arm, she left Ribbon’s room and entered her own.

The first thing she noticed was that there was a snowflake mask for her as well. Just as Ribbon’s had, her mask sat on her bed, its white a stark contrast to the black of her sheets.

The second thing she noticed was that her room was a wreck. Shoes, tops, pants were all over the floor, with dresses flung even further. Ribbon sat in her closet, looking from one gold dress to the other. One, that looked suspiciously similar to the one she had worn that Emvia party, was decidedly less covered than the second. It had no straps to hold it up, depending entirely on its tightness to her chest to do the job, and would cling to her like a second skin. It was as if someone had taken the old dress and cut it off at the thighs so that the redeeming part of it, the tulle skirt, was gone. The second dress was probably more appropriate for a family festival, especially if Ribbon expected Amadhay to run around with her. It had simple cap sleeves, a sweetheart neckline, and a loose skirt starting at the hips that made it to her knees.

Amadhay sat down next to Ribbon and dropped the shoebox on her lap before handing over the silver dress and snowflake mask. “Having some difficulties?” she joked.

Ribbon gave an exasperated huff. “Yes,” she said before looking at the dress Amadhay had chosen. She gave a small smile. “But I think you just made it easier.”

The older girl tossed the first dress into the closet and handed Amadhay the sleeved one. “Did you see your mask? It’s pretty epic.”

Amadhay looked around her room before looking back at Ribbon. “You’re cleaning this, right?”

Ribbon rolled her eyes before giving three distinct popping noises and snapping her fingers. The clothes jumped from the floor and flew back into the closet. Amadhay caught sight of them hanging themselves before the panel of the closet slid back into place, leaving Amadhay looking at the doe painted on the panel.

“Done,” Ribbon said smugly before standing up. “So, mask?”

Amadhay turned her back on Ribbon as the woman stripped out of her workout clothes. Listening as Ribbon said her normal cleaning spell, knowing that the woman only said it aloud for her benefit, Amadhay moved to her bed and picked up the mask, looking it over. The mouth-hole caught her eye immediately because it was in the shape of a key. The eyeholes were in the shape of cat eyes and, when she looked closely, she saw writing etched into the plaster. She couldn’t quite make it out, but it was the same writing on both sides. Other than those differences, the delicate knotting and branching was very similar to Ribbon’s, the only difference being how the mask stayed to her face. Ribbon’s knotted round her ears. Amadhay’s had a thin band that went around her head and could be slightly adjusted to keep it in place

“Where did these come from?” she asked, looking back at Ribbon, who was hopping on one foot, trying to get a heeled shoe onto the other.

“I think Nico. Stefan would’ve made them full head masks.”

Amadhay nodded, thinking it over. She had never really thought of Nico and Stefan as the artistic types. Nico was quiet and withdrawn around her, so she supposed she really didn’t have any reason to have made any assumptions about him either way. But Stefan, with his hands-on attitude and boisterous stories was a stark contrast to the studious, serious and dignified attitudes of every artist she’d ever met in Hartin.

She shrugged the thought away, pulling her tank top off.

“Need me to rebutton the bra?” Ribbon asked, suddenly right behind Amadhay.

For a moment, the younger girl considered moving away, not comfortable with anyone but her servants touching her back. But then, she nodded, knowing that it would be simpler for her friend to change the setting from workout to casual than for her to spend the next three clicks awkwardly moving the straps so that they were supporting her chest instead of inhibiting movement. With three smooth moves Ribbon did just that, unbuttoning all the straps, untwisting them, and then rebuttoning them.

“Good?” Ribbon asked, still standing behind Amadhay, her hands on her shoulders. With every breath, Amadhay felt her hair press against Ribbon’s chest. Instead of speaking, she nodded. “Good,” Ribbon said, moving back. “Then get dressed, ya hermit.”

“Your mother is a hermit,” Amadhay muttered jokingly, dropping out of the shorts she’d been wearing.

“Scarlet would be greatly insulted,” Ribbon quipped before repeating the spell she had used on herself.

“Got it the first time,” Amadhay assured her. “Irem rin,” she said, brushing down from her chin to her breast. She felt a tingle on her skin before turning to Ribbon. “Should I have felt a tingle?” she asked.

Ribbon nodded. “That’s how you know it worked,” she answered, looking into the mirror to put on her mask.

Amadhay nodded, finally pulling the dress onto herself. As she turned to Ribbon, her quick reflexes caught the shoes the taller girl had thrown to her before she even realized that the shoes were headed for her. The gold and black of the heels matched the dress, but Amadhay still paused.

“Are we sure we want heels?” she asked warily. “What if we have to run?”

“You can’t run in heels?” Ribbon asked, distractedly as she played with her hair, pinning the curls down to make the hair fluff to one side of her head.

“I can but I’d prefer not to?” Amadhay suggested, playing with the mask. Ribbon looked at her for a moment before shrugging.

“The wear something else,” she suggested. “Because there will be running. Running with the crowds, running games, running for food. Running is what Atwea is about.”

“I thought it was about winter,” Amadhay joked, setting her heels down at the edge of her bed. She kicked off her workout sneakshoes and slid into a pair of black shoes that slipped onto her feet and stayed with no straps.

“Need help with your mask?” Ribbon asked, approaching Amadhay again.

She didn’t. “Yes,” Amadhay said, holding it up for Ribbon. The dark-skinned woman grinned and took it, pressing it gently to Amadhay’s face. Where the face contours had been on the mask fit perfectly to the shape of her face and, for a moment, Amadhay wondered how Nico had been able to get her face perfectly molded for the mask. Ribbon pulled Amadhay’s hair down from its ponytail and worked the backing through the curls, weaving hair into the sides of the mask.

“Just making sure that it won’t fall off,” Ribbon explained unnecessarily.

Once the mask was fitted perfectly, Ribbon stepped back and Amadhay smiled at her.

“You look like beautiful,” Ribbon told her.

Amadhay gave her a small smile. “So do you.”

As if flustered, Ribbon looked away, to the clock beside the doorway. “We should get going. It’s been going for a few zoots now. Any later and we’ll miss all the good stuff.”

Amadhay nodded, headed toward the door. Ribbon beat her to it and took her hand. Amadhay didn’t say anything about it, simply smiling to herself as Ribbon led them from her room and out of the building.

It wasn’t until they were walking along the beach that Amadhay thought to ask about the festival. Aside from a few major points—such as the snowflake masks for Atwea—different places celebrated the holidays differently and considering Palnoki was a separate entity from the rest of Roadesia, she wouldn’t have been surprised if they had completely different traditions.

“What type of festival is this?” she asked.

“A winter one,” Ribbon said with a grin.

Amadhay rolled her eyes. “Back in Hartin, we celebrate Atwea with a big, public gathering with artists and performers and lots of dancing, sampling of trades and a free full course meal for everyone there.”

Ribbon grinned. “You’ll see,” she sang.

Amadhay could see, not too far in the distance, large groups of people. Where the tan sand turned white seemed to be where the festivities began. People were swathed in colors ranging from pastel to eye-blisteringly bright, with the only commonality being white masks on all of their faces. Clothing ranged from casual swimwear and jeans to exquisite costumes and expensive formal wear. There were even a few people wandering around, looking suspicious, in sneakwear.

As they got closer to the festivities, the music hit hard. It went from quiet and calm to loud and energetic in a click, making Amadhay aware that there must have been a spell over the festival to keep the sounds from going too far. That made sense. Besides the castle being only a mile or two away, the Qwuill headquarters were even closer, and nothing was worse than interrupting a Qwuill with loud, repetitive sounds. And she had no doubt that at least one Qwuill had chosen to keep working instead of joining in here, because Quills tended to be rather single minded when they started on a task.

The drums and feet pounding got into Amadhay’s body, making her move to the beat. Ribbon grinned at her, swaying to the sound of the strings. When the vocals began to the song, the two of them were on the white sand and pressed in close to the crowds.

No moon, no sun. Tonight we’ll come undone.

Ribbon’s lips were to Amadhay’s ear. “Dance with me?” she suggested.

“Let’s look around first,” Amadhay yelled over the music, sizzling, chattering, waves crashing, and sounds of people enjoying themselves.

Ribbon nodded, pulling Amadhay into her right before a group of inebriated teenagers rushed through the crowd, shrieking and giggling into the night. They sounded drunk off of the mood, rather than alcohol, and Amadhay was positive that they were succubi.

“Stay close,” Ribbon suggested and Amadhay nodded, keeping hold to the woman’s hand. They shied to the sides of the crowd, away from the performers and the dancing crowds.

When we’re alone, oh when we’re alone. When we’re alone…

Once they were away from the stage, there was much more room to move and Amadhay was able to walk at Ribbon’s side, rather than pressed behind her. The aelfe looked around, at the booths and stalls of all sizes. There was food everywhere, interspersed with aura readings, future-scrying, costume rentals, different clothing tents, specialized healers, weapon tents, animal tents, and games everywhere. A smile broke onto Amadhay’s face when she recognized one of the tents as that of a painter Arne Riff had banned from Hartin after the shifter had painted a humorous image of her uncle riding a dragon and fighting a phoenix.

“C’mon.” She pulled Ribbon after her, headed for the tent.

The blood-aelfe took one look at the pair of them and grinned widely, showing off sharp canines. “Couple portrait?” ge asked, already pulling out ges brown, black, gold, and green paints.

Amadhay looked hopefully to Ribbon, who rolled her eyes playfully. “Sure, why not?” she agreed, walking into the tent behind Amadhay when the painter gestured them in.

“Free picture is what I want to draw you. Paid picture is nice picture that you want.”

“Free,” Amadhay said before Ribbon could reach for her purse. She wanted to know what he would make of them.

As if ge had been hoping she would say that, ge rubbed ges hands together eagerly. “Sit, sit.” Ge gestured to the small loveseat that just barely fit the two of them.

They were close together, but neither complained. Amadhay was watching the painter closely as ge easily moved ges brush over the blank canvas. Ge never dipped into the paint, but paint did disappear from the palate, and combined with the speed ge used, Amadhay was positive that ges Gift had to do with painting. Ge was a speed painter, working even faster than Atlas did, but it didn’t seem to translate to a less than beautiful painting.

Amadhay glanced to Ribbon, who was looking around the tent, at the paintings that were hanging. When the woman laughed, Amadhay followed her gaze to a painting of Stefan with a wide, crazy smile and holding an oversized stuffed animal on his back. Snorting, she looked around the tent as well to find an image with Cowboy and Scarlet, Scarlet with her normal scowl and holding onto a rope around Cowboy’s waist as the vampire rode a toy horse.

“How much for that one?” Ribbon asked, pointing to the one with Scarlet and Cowboy.

The painter didn’t even look up. “Free if I keep this one.”

Amadhay made a face.

“How much if we keep this one and take that one?” Ribbon asked, lightly bumping Amadhay with her shoulder to let her know she knew how much she wanted the painting.

The painter made a face, pausing to think up a price. “100 credits,” ge said, dabbing at the painting.

Ribbon rolled her eyes, but reached for her purse. Except it wasn’t there. Amadhay took a moment to try to remember if Ribbon had brought a purse, and came to the decision that no, she hadn’t. So they had no money.

“Sorry, Red Bird,” Ribbon muttered, looking disappointed. “I can run back and get credits.”

“No, it’s fine,” Amadhay assured her, even though she was disappointed.

The painter turned the picture to them. In the picture, Amadhay and Ribbon were holding hands, riding what looked like a carousel. Both were seated on a cartoonish wolf with green eyes, tongue hanging out in a humorous smile. Amadhay’s eyes were enormous, nearly taking up her entire face and sky blue, like they used to be. Ribbon was looking down at her with an adoring smile, her smile taking up most of her face. Their legs, while probably proportional, looked comical, with Ribbon’s nearly doubling Amadhay’s. They both wore white dresses and the scene around them was covered in snow, but they were untouched.

Somewhere between the need to laugh and admiring ges work, Amadhay felt an abrupt fear. Ge had painted them without masks. Ribbon obviously noticed it as well, because she tensed, staring at their faces.

Ge handed them the painting of Cowboy and Scarlet rolled into a tube and when both girls gave gem a hard look, ge put a finger to ges lips. “I understand secrets.”

“We’ll be back for that,” Ribbon warned gem, pointing at the picture of them.

Ge shrugged. “I doubt it.”

With that, Ribbon and Amadhay left the tent. They wandered about for a bit, but there was a slight tension between the two of them and everyone around, as if they were worried others might know who they were.

“Ignoring that weirdness, food?” Ribbon asked after nearly thirty clacks, obviously trying to get her mind off of the painter and the painting.

“Sure,” Amadhay replied, letting the music distract her. She wanted to have fun, not think about being outed. While she didn’t think the painter had any plans to tell anyone she was alive or where she was, she still wasn’t comfortable with him having been able to see right through their masks like that.

“Meat, plant, or unhealthy?” Ribbon asked.

“Unhealthy,” Amadhay decided.

Ribbon grinned. “Good. I was eyeing those deep fried chips for a bit now.”

Amadhay followed her gaze to the chip vendor. “Which ones?” she asked. There were chips of almost anything that could be cut. The fish chips looked especially appetizing to her.

“Pizza chip.”

Amadhay made a face. “I said unhealthy, not suicide.”

Ribbon stuck her tongue out. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want it.”

They stood in line at for the deep fried chips behind a person, whose mask hid their gender, wearing a beautiful, translucent cloak. Amadhay wanted to reach out and touch it, but every time she did, she caught herself. After the sixth time of this, Ribbon tapped the person on their shoulder.

“Hey, hi. This might be strange, but she wants to touch your cloak. Can she? She’s going crazy here.”

Amadhay flushed when the person looked down at her, a knowing smirk on their face. “Of course,” they said with a voice like warm honey. “It’s spidersilk from the arachin weavers down there,” they pointed down the aisle that they had not explored yet.

They held their cloak out and Amadhay felt the fabric, rubbing it between her fingers. The pale blue translucent silk felt smoother than any fabric she’d ever touched before. She gave a quick sniff, and while it gave off a hint of magic, the only real scent coming from the fabric was frost.

“It’s beautiful,” Amadhay muttered, letting go of the cloak.

The person smiled and turned back to the vendor in time to order a pocket of deep fried tomato slices.

Once the person wasn’t paying attention to them, Amadhay looked to Ribbon. “We have to go back to the castle. I really want one of those cloaks.”

Ribbon grinned. “I can be really quick if you want to stick around here.”

Amadhay nodded to the person as they turned and smiled at them, giving a small wave before walking away. “I can go with you.”

Ribbon rolled her eyes. “We don’t both have to go,” he said before looking to the vendor. “One pocket of pizza, one of…?”

“Fish,” Amadhay supplied, making Ribbon roll her eyes.

“Just because your share is a cat, doesn’t mean you have to act like one all the time.”

Amadhay stuck her tongue out. “I like fish, you butt.”

The vendor turned back, shoving the sleeves of deep fried food at them. They almost had grease covered dresses, but pale hands caught the food before it could drop onto them.

“Watch what you’re doing!” Amadhay snapped.

“Hurry up,” the vendor stated, waving them off without another glance, already asking the people behind them what they’d like.

“Thanks,” Ribbon told the person who was holding their food. The man was dressed from head to toe in white, with a full wrap-around snowflake mask, a white suit, white shoes, white skin, even white hair. It was the red eyes that gave him away.

“Careful. It’s hot,” Atlas said, handing them their food.

Ribbon glanced at Amadhay, who rolled her eyes. “Thanks,” she said, taking her fried pizza.

Amadhay turned on her heel to walk away from Atlas, but when Ribbon didn’t move with her, she paused, looking back at her friend as she looked questioningly to Atlas, who was saying something too softly for her to hear, though Ribbon seemed to. Ribbon nodded and gestured with her free hand to her side, where her purse should have been.

Atlas shook his head, and though she couldn’t see his mouth because of his mask, she knew he was giving the brown-skinned woman an indulging smile. He glanced to Amadhay before looking back to Ribbon and handing her a pouch of what were probably credits. The man tilted Ribbon’s head down and the taller woman leaned forward so that he could press his mouth to her forehead in what would have been a kiss is his mouth hadn’t been covered and he had been able to press his mouth to the gap where the interlocking pronds of the snowflakes showed her skin.

“Have fun,” Atlas told both of them loudly enough for Amadhay to hear. He turned before either of them could say anything more, a tube strapped to his back similar to the one Ribbon carried.

Ribbon grabbed Amadhay’s hand. “C’mon,” she said, jingling the credit pouch. “Let’s buy the painting then get you a cloak, okay?”

“Absolutely,” Amadhay said excitedly, letting Ribbon lead her away. As they moved through the crowds, back to the painter, she couldn’t help but to look over her shoulder to see if Atlas was following them. 

Of course he was.


Next Chapter
 

amadhay: (Default)
 in which they go swimming

 

 

“Oi, Sexy Bird, we’re going swimming. Come with,” Ribbon commanded, pulling Amadhay’s attention from the book she was reading.

Because she wanted to better understand the others, she was reading in depth explanations of different races. She was working on a blood witch book and had already finished one on succubi and two on necromancers. The one on succubi had been a bit of an eye-opener on Kimiko. It made her far more understanding of the pair-obsessed girl’s mood swings. Her emotions completely depended on the emotions surrounding her and how sated she was at any given time. She thought that had to be worse than being an empath.

“No,” Amadhay said, turning the page of her book. She wasn’t really feeling going out in the sun and getting asymmetrical tan-lines and jumping into the water and having sand stick to her. She’d done that the first few weeks they had been here, until she had wounded herself, and since then hadn’t even left the building. The novelty of being away from the cold had already worn thin.

Besides, every time she hung out with Kimiko, Tenshu, and Ribbon in a group, the three of them kept asking her questions about her sexuality and her sexual experience. They were embarrassing and she was tired of dodging answering.

“Wasn’t asking,” Ribbon stated, pulling Amadhay up to her feet. She glanced at the book and rolled her eyes. “Besides, instead of reading about a blood witch, you can hang out with one in the flesh. It’ll be just like you’re still reading.”

“Only not at all,” Amadhay countered. “I’m sorry. Not really. I just don’t want to go out today. My head still hurts.”

Ribbon sighed. “Red Bird, I will carry you outside if I have to. I don’t want to, but I will if you force me. Your wound healed last week. You’ve been inside almost since we moved here and that’s unhealthy. There’s a sun, warmth, and fresh air outside. You need to have fun.”

“I have fun,” Amadhay complained. “I have loads of fun. I just want to read today.”

“Nope. C’mon,” she pulled Amadhay by her hands, smiling sweetly. “I even got you the cutest swimsuit yesterday. I wanna see you in it.”

Amadhay rolled her eyes. “Now I see what’s really going on,” she whined, but allowed Ribbon to pull her out of the library. Ribbon grinned, turning and pulling Amadhay after her. The woman put Amadhay’s small hands on her narrow hips. “You just want to see me in a different swimsuit.”

Amadhay squeezed Ribbon’s hipbones. The swimsuit she had asked Atlas (because she knew Ribbon and Kimiko would ignore what she wanted) to get her was perfect for her. It was black one-piece, with long sleeves and a brief-styled leg, almost a wetsuit and just as durable if she were to get lost in the water and go drifting for a while. She just liked to be prepared.

“I cannot tell a lie. I wanna see you in a real swimsuit.”

“My swimsuit is a real swimsuit,” she argued.

“Real ugly,” Ribbon gave her a look. “You wear it and all I can think is that you’re planning a deep sea mission. The one I got you will make your ass look fantastic.”

Amadhay snorted and moved faster so that she could press against Ribbon’s back. “Just my ass?” she teased.

“No, you’re right. I got it with your boobs in mind too. It’s going to make all of you look fantastic. And I wanna do it today ‘cause Atlas isn’t around to hog you.”

Amadhay snickered. “Just tell me it has enough fabric to actually be called a swimsuit.”

Ribbon let go of Amadhay’s hands to hold her hands to her own chest in a gesture of mock insult. “Me? Trick you into barely wearing anything? Why I never!”

“That wasn’t an answer,” Amadhay pointed out.

“I didn’t hear a question,” Ribbon said, sticking her tongue out as she looked back at Amadhay, who rolled her eyes again.

“What if I don’t want to swim?”

“Fucking cats and water,” Ribbon muttered before shrugging, “I can assure you that I won’t mind it if you just lay out on a towel. I can rub you down in lotion to make sure you don’t burn,” she said with an exaggerated wink that was purely intended to make Amadhay laugh, which she did.

“You’re such a pervert,” Amadhay told her as they entered Ribbon’s room. She didn’t have to look very far to see what she knew had to be her swimsuit. The gold one, consisting of three simple straps of fabric to cover only the chest and intimate bits, connected by thin string was obviously Ribbon’s, given that neither the top nor bottom would have fit much of Amadhay. While they were able to occasionally share clothing, Ribbon had a very tall, slender frame while Amadhay was incredibly curvy and short.

No, her swimsuit was also a one-piece, but thankfully had quite a bit more cloth. It was red, with a full top to hold her chest in, tying around the neck. The bottom was cut quite a bit higher than she’d normally wear, but considering it wasn’t a thong, she chose not to complain. There was a rectangular cut out pattern going from under the chest, down to her hips. It was strange, but symmetrical, so she couldn’t complain. All in all, it was a revealing swimsuit that she couldn’t really complain about.

When she looked at Ribbon’s smug smirk, she knew the woman knew it, too. “You’ve hidden my swimsuit, haven’t you?” she asked with a resigned sigh.

“Please,” Ribbon said. “I destroyed that thing as soon as I got this one.”

Amadhay sighed again. “And I suppose if I say no, you’ll dress me and carry me out?”

“Correct,” Ribbon nodded.

Amadhay gave a long sigh. “Fine.”

“Good. Hurry up!” Ribbon said, tugging her sundress over her head. “Kim and Ten are already out there and Kim burns like a piece of toast, so the sooner we go out, the sooner I can slather her in lotion.”

Amadhay rolled her eyes, trying not to watch as Ribbon stripped all the way down. She was always a little self-conscious when she had to get unclothed around Ribbon. While Amadhay knew she was attractive, she couldn’t help but envy Ribbon’s long legs and slender frame. She always felt fat around the woman, which she knew was silly because she was too muscular to be fat. Curvy and still plump? Yes. She hadn’t hit aelfen puberty yet, so she was still carrying her growing fat, which only served to make her curvier, not fat.

But that didn’t make it any easier when Ribbon just stripped in front of her. She had no fat anywhere on her, just pure, lean muscle. So when she donned the tiny swimsuit, Amadhay wasn’t even going to attempt to say she didn’t look hot. That would be a lie. Even if it was quite a bit less than Amadhay would ever feel comfortable wearing, that was what amazed her about Ribbon. The woman was incredibly comfortable with her body, which was somewhat surprising, considering the scars all over her lower torso, especially the really bad ones close to her groin.

Amadhay was self-conscious about the minor scars she had gained from missions and training, though of course that was more because they made her asymmetrical than because she was embarrassed or ashamed of having them. She was an assassin. Scars happened. If she didn’t have scars, that would mean that she hadn’t learned anything.

But those same scars were part of the reason she really didn’t want to put on the swimsuit. The cutout parts would show the three mostly vertical claw marks from the Feral she’d almost botched in capturing two years ago. It would show the burn mark on her right hip, from being too slow to avoid Rea’s fire breath in training. It would show the still healing scars from Madra, especially the one on her back and the worst of the bite marks on her shoulder. It would even show the scar right at her tailbone, which she got when she tried to heal Indigo and had only transferred his wound to herself.

Ribbon poked her in the stomach. “C’mon. Kimmy’s probably turning into a lobster out there.”

Amadhay smiled, pushing back all of her worries about her own imperfections. “You go first. I’ll catch up.”

Ribbon’s disbelieving look was expounded upon when the woman crossed her arms over her relatively small, but surprisingly perky, chest. “And then you’ll never come out. Nope. Change.”

Amadhay sighed. “I’ll come out, I swear. I just need a moment.”

Ribbon looked from Amadhay, to the swimsuit, and then back at the girl questioningly before raising her eyebrows, a look of realization upon her face. “You’re being shy.”

“I am not!” Amadhay disagreed, flushing as red as the swimsuit. “I just need a moment to figure out how to stuff myself into that.”

“I’ll help you,” Ribbon responded with a wink, making Amadhay roll her eyes.

“Can you not?” she suggested, pointedly tossing her tank top off to prove that she wasn’t shy about her body. She stepped out of her shorts and paused, glancing back at Ribbon, who was staring at her back. “What are you looking at?” she asked defensively.

“What’s that from?” Ribbon asked, closing the distance between them. She lightly traced the scar from Madra, from the curve of her lower back, almost up to the center of her ribcage in the back. The skin was still sensitive and the touch made Amadhay shiver and almost purr.

She pulled from Ribbon, turning so that her back was no longer to the woman. She had a feeling that telling her the specifics of Cowboy’s attention on her would only make pointless difficulties. “I made a mistake,” she said simply, crossing her arms over her chest. She knew she had to take off her underwear to put the swimsuit on, but Ribbon’s rapt attention on her body was a little discomfiting.

“Did it hurt?” the woman asked, her eyes finally trailing back up to Amadhay’s.

“Yes,” she admitted freely. It had hurt in more ways than one.

Ribbon turned her back. “Okay, I’m not looking. You can change now, scaredy cat.”

“I wasn’t scared,” Amadhay muttered, but did take the chance to quickly lose her underwear. She grabbed the swimsuit off of the bed and shimmied into it as quickly as possible. Tying the bow tightly behind her neck as perfectly as she could without actually seeing herself, she fixed the swimsuit. Making sure that the cutoffs were on either side of her navel, her boobs were mostly equal, or as equal as they could get with the left one being slightly larger.

“I’m decent,” she announced to Ribbon, who laughed.

“You were decent when you weren’t wearing anything,” the woman corrected as she turned around. She gave a wolf whistle. “Looking good, Sexy Bird.”

“Why thank you,” Amadhay said, smirking. “You’re not looking too shabbily yourself, Ribby.”

“It is physically impossible for me to look bad,” Ribbon said with a shrug before she tossed her arm over Amadhay’s shoulders. “Now let’s go save Kimmy from burning.”

Grabbing up lotion from the dresser nearest the door, Ribbon steered Amadhay out of her room and out of the building as quickly as possible. Once they were outside, she slowed a bit, as if getting outside had been some great obstacle.

From the front steps of the base they all called Sand Castle, Amadhay could spot Kimiko and Tenshu running around the beach, splashing through ankle deep water. Kimiko was laughing loudly while Tenshu was brandishing what Amadhay thought looked like a starfish.

“Look who I got outside!” Ribbon called loudly, making not only the two other Palnokians, but also other people enjoying the beach, look at them. Amadhay flushed when Tenshu gave a loud wolf whistle and Kimiko squealed, making a beeline for them.

“Yes! That is exactly what I was talking about!” she exclaimed, tackling Amadhay with a hug. Both of them fell into the sand, while Ribbon had sidestepped just far enough to avoid going down with them.

“I knew there was hot underneath all that gear,” Tenshu said, giving Ribbon a high-five.

“I like to think I’m hot wearing clothes,” Amadhay sniffed.

Kimiko took a deep breath, something Amadhay now knew meant she was feeding from her, and smiled blissfully. “This is officially one of my best days ever. Definitely top twenty-four,” she decided, still hugging Amadhay.

Amadhay honestly thought it was weird how excited Kimiko was to see her in a skimpy swimsuit. They didn’t have that type of relationship, or at least Amadhay hadn’t thought they did. But Kimiko had still yet to let go of her and their chests were pressing together. In fact, Kimiko’s black swimsuit top was barely holding her chest in, which, Amadhay thought, was a definite con to the cute thing. Kimiko probably shouldn’t be running around in it; the strings holding the top together were coming loose in the back.

 Amadhay, taking advantage of the fact Kimiko was hugging her, tied the top a little tighter, making sure that the tie was directly in the middle of her friend’s back. Kimiko, likewise, let go of her and fixed the bow tying Amadhay’s top to her neck, making it equal on both sides of her neck.

“That’s better,” Kimiko muttered.

Ribbon sighed. “You two are really weird. You know that, right? I feel like you two fixing each other’s symmetry is the equivalent to a hot and heavy make out session for me.”

Amadhay and Kimiko both rolled their eyes at the same time. Catching that, they burst into giggles. “Maybe,” Kimiko said, putting her arm over the shorter girl’s shoulders. “Jealous?” she teased Ribbon.

“You have no idea,” Ribbon drawled. A strange look passed between the two when Kimiko smirked, leaning down to take a deep breath from the air right at Amadhay’s face. The aelfe raised an eyebrow at the blissful look on the succubus’ face, looking questioningly to Ribbon, who had a bit of a strained smile.

Tenshu broke into the conversation again and ended the strange moment by tossing the starfish at Kimiko, who squealed even though it missed. (Which Amadhay knew had to be purposely. She’d seen Tenshu actually throwing and if he didn’t miss with a blade and seal, he sure as anything wasn’t going to miss with a starfish. It was basically a living throwing star.) She let go of Amadhay and started running again.

Amadhay looked questioningly at Tenshu, who grinned as he picked up the poor fish. “She hates starfish,” he explained before running after his sister.

Amadhay looked to Ribbon. “Well. I’m going to go find some starfish to chase her with,” she alerted the woman before darting off into the water to do just that.

Ribbon followed after her. “Wait! I haven’t lotioned you up yet,” she called.

“Don’t need it!” Amadhay called back.

“My ass!” Ribbon exclaimed, making Amadhay giggle. Instead of looking for starfish, she was now dodging Ribbon, who had the bottle between her hands. “You might not be as pale as Kimmy, but you’re still light enough to burn.”

“You’re gonna have to catch me to win the prize,” Amadhay called, laughing. She and Kimiko crisscrossed paths, nearly hitting each other, but just barely managing not to. Amadhay hopped over an intricately made sand castle, noting the detail even as she kept her attention on how far Ribbon was behind her.

“How is my prize making sure that you don’t burn?” Ribbon demanded.

“Please,” Amadhay scoffed, dashing back into the water. “This is all some ploy to be able to rub all over my body.”

“Oh no,” Ribbon exclaimed drily. “You saw right through my ploy. Whatever shall I do? Grab her!”

Amadhay ran right into two men, both of whom fell down with her. One did, however catch her by the waist. She wriggled, but since she didn’t want to hurt the unknown man if Ribbon knew him, she didn’t try too hard to get free.

“Aha!” Ribbon cried, closing the distance between them in three clicks. She had run right through the sand castle, which Amadhay thought was a shame. The man let go Amadhay go once Ribbon had her foot on the girl’s chest, lightly holding her down in the sand “Now I have you at my mercy!”

“I call cheats!” Amadhay cried out. “You had randoms catch me.”

“Amadhay, meet Diable and Riacaro,” Ribbon gestured to the identical men. Nothing about them really stood out to Amadhay other than that they were identical. “There, see? No longer randoms, so no cheat. Now stay still so I can keep you from burning.”

Amadhay sighed. “Fine,” she said, reaching up to Ribbon, who moved her foot and helped her to her feet. “But I get to help you catch Kimiko.”

“As long as I get her before she burns, I don’t really care.”

“Obsessive much?”

“You haven’t heard Kimiko whine when she’s burned. I’m going out of my way to do a favor for all of us. And since you’re just as obsessed with twos, I figure you’d probably be just as bad.”

She was admittedly whiney when she got uneven tan lines or burned on one side and not the other, so she couldn’t say that she blamed Ribbon too much. “It’s symmetry, not twos,” Amadhay corrected instead.

“What. Ever,” Ribbon stated, squeezing lotion into her hands. “Be ready, this is cold.”


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 In which Johannes’ not Rea

 

 

Amadhay honestly couldn’t put into words how horrified she was that the cyborg had a sharp, pointy object to the back of her head.

Kimiko had rushed off to get Johannes and come back with almost everyone in tow. Ribbon and Atlas had immediately fussed over her while Stefan and Johannes had checked over the wound. The arachin, vampires, and reaper all stood in her doorway, looking in, and Amadhay felt like she was under observation.

“I don’t think everyone was needed to stitch up this scratch,” she muttered under her breath. The looks she received told her that they didn’t appreciate her comment.

“It’s a bit more than a scratch,” Atlas reminded her, holding hair out of Johannes’ way as the cyborg stitched the wound closed.

“And she was going to heal it herself,” Kimiko added, making Amadhay glare toward her when she received more disapproving looks.

“I didn’t know,” Amadhay whined, flinching when she felt the floss-like thread tugging at her skin.

Johannes had immediately numbed the area with a salve before doing anything else, something Amadhay was thankful for. The cyborg had even put gloves on and snarled at anyone who got too close to the wound without her permission. That was the only way this reminded her of Rea. The dragon was incredibly possessive of Amadhay’s wounds, had been since the first time Amadhay had needed medical attention, when she was four and Amaya had nearly drowned her accidentally. For some reason the dragon still refused to explain, Rea had claimed Amadhay as her patient for as long as the girl lived. No one but Rea had ever healed Amadhay, so this was a strange experience for her.

The dragon did things differently than the cyborg did. For one, Rea would have been talking to her, while Johannes had yet to say a single word. Rea had always knocked her out if she had to put in stitches or set a bone, claiming that Amadhay was too whiney and fidgety of a patient. Rea always made her go to the medical wing to be treated, whereas Johannes had brought everything to her.

“There,” Johannes finally spoke, dropping the bloody needle on Amadhay’s vanity table. Amadhay looked at her by way of her reflection in the mirror. She attempted a smile, but the cyborg had a deadly serious look on her face. “If I ever hear of you attempting self healing again, I will tear your brain out,” she threatened, making Amadhay stare at her in surprise.

“Got me?” the cyborg demanded when Amadhay didn’t say anything. Amadhay glanced to Ribbon and Kimiko, who both gave her looks that told her to answer the cyborg.

“Yes?” she tried, glancing to Atlas, who was struggling to keep himself from laughing.

“Good.” Scarlet dropped a piece of mint chocolate in Amadhay’s hand and left the room, taking the four in the hallway with her.

Yeah, Rea had never given her candy either.


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