Excerpt for Chatoyant College, Book 6: In the Orchard by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Chatoyant College: Book 6

In the Orchard

Clare K. R. Miller

Smaragdine Books

As Corrie, Dawn, and Edie probe the secrets of Chatoyant College, they find themselves falling ever deeper and deeper. Edie keeps disappearing, and when Corrie and Dawn look for her, they find things that might not want to be found. Is she being used and manipulated? Or is she really helping willingly? And just how far will Leila go to keep her secret?

In the Orchard (Chatoyant College, Book 6)

by Clare K. R. Miller

Smaragdine Books

Text Copyright © 2017 Clare K. R. Miller

Shareable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Cover image by Clare K. R. Miller

Smashwords Edition

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, and locations are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

This file is licensed for private individual entertainment only. The book contained herein constitutes a copyrighted work and may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into an information retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electrical, mechanical, photographic, audio recording, or otherwise) for any reason (excepting the uses permitted to the licensee by copyright law under terms of fair use) without the specific written permission of the author.

Prologue: The Trees

She knelt down beside the tree, sowing handfuls of compost into its soil. In her heart, she knew it would not be enough. Even though she had created the compost herself, from her own leaves and berries. Even though she had put her heart and love and tears into it. It was the only thing that could help, and still it would not be enough.

Having emptied her bag of compost, she wrapped her muddy hands around the tree’s slim trunk, bent her head against it, and wept further. How could this tree be dying? She had been caring for it since it was planted. And she was not the only one; the people who had planted this tree, the children who lived in the small building beside it, had cared for it too. As they—all of them—cared for all of the young trees that had been planted here, where the agreement made the trees theirs. These trees had been planted to feed the humans, true, but they were still living beings in their own right, and there was no reason they should fade like this. This might be the college’s land, but more than enough magic had accumulated here over the years to strengthen them.

She straightened her back and dashed the tears away, uncaring for the mud that would streak her face. She would wash it before she saw any humans. A combination of their minimal wisdom and the subtle suggestion of the magic that hung over the college’s land kept them from venturing from their walls at this time of night. All of them slept.

She stood and wended her way through the orchard, touching each tree at least once, silently asking each the same question. Had something been done to them? Was there anything more she could do for them?

Pain, they whispered. Emptiness. Taken away. Pain. Thirsty. Hungry. Pain. Love. Caretaker? Hungry, thirsty, pain. Work. Struggle. Magic. Draining. A feeling of cruelty, laughter, coming from outside. Taken away. Hungry. Thirsty. Pain. Love.

Their voices were quiet and slow, but she understood them nonetheless. And by the time she had gone through the orchard twice, she had her answer. There was something she could do. But she would need help.

She walked through a third time, slower, spending a little more time with each tree. This time she told them to hush, and to sleep well. She would help them. She would be able to save them. She did not tell them that she would likely not save them all… but she would save most, and she would never allow such a thing to happen again.

Chapter 1: Waking Slowly

Wednesday, October 8

Edie seemed to wake slowly from a heavy sleep. She blinked hard at the sunlight coming in her window and slapped at her alarm. The alarm stopped, but the sunlight didn’t go away. She sat up and yawned hugely. The sleep still hung over her. She’d had a dream… hadn’t she? She reached for it, but it was gone.

Well, it would be time to get breakfast soon. Yawning some more, she picked out clothes and dragged them on. Her limbs were heavy. Maybe some food would wake her up. She needed to be awake before it was time for French class, certainly.

Corrie came in the room, a towel wrapped turban-style around her head. “Good morning!” she said cheerfully.

Morning,” Edie grunted. At least, she meant to say that. It came out more like “mm.”

You’re up early,” Corrie said while she got dressed.

Am I?” Edie looked at the clock, and while she could register the time, she couldn’t figure out whether it was actually earlier than she usually got up or not. Her brain was still too fuzzy. “I guess that explains it. I feel like I didn’t get any sleep.” She must have set her alarm for a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday. Well, that wasn’t so very strange. And now she wouldn’t have to reset it for tomorrow.

Corrie leaned over and squeezed the water out of her hair. “Well, while you’re up, do you want to get breakfast with me and Dawn?”

Edie nodded. “Sounds good.” She sat down on her bed and stretched her arms while Corrie finished her preparations, tying her hair into a ponytail and putting her shoes on. Then they went into the hall and Corrie knocked on Dawn’s door.

Just a minute,” came Dawn’s voice from inside, slightly muffled by the closed door. They waited, and after a moment she appeared. She grinned at them. “Hi, Edie! Did you miss us so much that you decided to have breakfast with us?”

Edie smiled a little hesitantly at her. “Actually, I think I just set my alarm wrong.”

Dawn laughed. “Well, we’re glad to have you along anyway.” They started off toward the other end of the hall, where Roe came out of her room before they had quite reached her. The group made their way down the stairs of Gilkey.

Last night, after Edie had read the note Corrie had left for her, they’d gone to their pagan study group together. There, she’d gotten similar apologies from Dawn, Annie, and Roe. Naomi hadn’t apologized, but she didn’t know Edie very well, and anyway, Edie hadn’t seen her since Sunday. She felt much better now that she and her friends had made up, though. She still thought they were ridiculous for being so overprotective as to try to protect her from her own girlfriend, but she supposed she could forgive them for that. It was just because they cared about her, after all. And she cared about them, so she couldn’t really stay mad at them for very long.

When they reached the dining hall, Edie got herself a big pile of eggs and a cup of hot chocolate. She couldn’t stand the taste of coffee, but she needed something to wake herself up. “Chocolate has caffeine in it, right?” she asked Dawn when she sat down.

Dawn nodded. “It does. Of course, the question is how much actual chocolate is in the dining hall hot chocolate!”

Edie took a sip and wrinkled her nose. Dawn was right. It did seem to be mostly hot water. Well, it was better than nothing, and maybe the protein in her eggs would help too.

Corrie and Roe soon joined them, talking about Professor Lal. “…assigns really tough papers,” Roe was saying. “But I don’t think there’s a single paper on our syllabus. Just a midterm exam and a final exam.”

Corrie nodded, sliding into her seat across from Edie. “Maybe it’s for other classes. I mean, there are only like four or five teachers in the magic department, right? She must teach a lot of other classes.”

I guess so.” Roe poked at her mushy oatmeal. “I’m just afraid she’s going to spring one on us.”

I don’t think that’s something she does. She likes surprising us with questions, but the syllabus is pretty clear and detailed.” Corrie took a gulp of milk, then added, “I’m more worried about the fact that there are only two exams.”

Me too,” said Dawn. “Where did you hear she assigns tough papers?”

Roe shrugged. “Someone in my English class was talking about it. Not anyone I know.”

If you guys really want me to take magic next semester, you probably shouldn’t talk about how tough and scary the class is,” Edie grinned.

Dawn laughed. “Maybe you’ll get an easier professor. I think they alternate semesters to teach it.”

Chapter 2: A Favor

Corrie, Dawn, and Roe had to hurry to finish their breakfasts so they wouldn’t be late for class. Edie ate a little more sedately, feeling a bit lonely when they all had to leave and she was still sitting there. Maybe someone would join her? She looked around the room, but didn’t see anyone she knew. Eventually, she finished her hot chocolate and eggs, shushed her quietly-grumbling stomach, and deposited her dishes.

She wandered outside into the cool, slightly gloomy day, trying to think of something to do to pass the time before her French class. She had her things with her, including her knitting and a book, so she could entertain herself for a while. But the weather wasn’t nice enough to sit around outside, so she would have had to find a building to sit in. There was the library, but she’d spent so much time there just to study and seethe that she’d gotten pretty sick of it.

Well, the theater building had some pretty comfy furniture. And after all… Leila might be there. The thought put a smile on her face and turned her footsteps quickly toward the large building.

It was quiet this early in the morning, no one yet practicing any lines or hammering any sets. She walked around the building on the inside, looking for a place to sit. She settled on an easy chair not far from the doorway. From the window she could see the glass walls of the magic building, but apparently classes had already started; the sidewalks were deserted. It was actually quite peaceful. She just sat quietly for a few minutes instead of taking out her book or knitting. She might have gotten up way too early, but this was still nice.

Unfortunately, after no more than five minutes, her peace was interrupted by a group of students entering the building chattering. She was annoyed at first until she realized she recognized one of the voices. She jumped up and ran out of the little hallway she was in. Sure enough, there was Leila, accompanied by a girl and two guys who Edie vaguely recognized.

Leila smiled brightly when she saw her. “Edith! What a lovely surprise! You weren’t waiting for me, were you?”

Edie grinned and kissed her before responding. The other three were heading off into the theater, anyway. “No, I just woke up too early and came here because it’s chilly out. But this is even better than studying! I didn’t know you were going to be here this morning!”

Leila put her long, black-clad arm around Edie’s shoulders. “There’s going to be a discussion about choosing a play for this semester. I have to persuade them to choose A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Of course,” said Edie, nodding. She really wanted to see Leila play Titania, too.

You seem especially cheerful today, my dear,” said Leila. “What’s changed?”

Edith had to think about it for a minute. “Oh! My friends apologized. We made up.” She smiled again at the memory. Now she had her girlfriend and her friends once more.

Oh, that’s wonderful!” said Leila. “I felt so awful for you, when you were upset. It is very sad to be without friends.”

Me?” Edith cried. “What about you? You’re the one they were accusing of… I don’t even know what. Awful things.” She couldn’t tell Leila what they had really been accusing her of. Not without a long explanation. Eventually, she would probably tell her, but for now, it was nice to at least think her girlfriend was safe from the faeries’ attention.

Leila gave Edith’s shoulders a squeeze. “I don’t mind at all, you know that. They don’t know me. You do, and you kept your faith in me.” She laid a kiss on the top of Edith’s head. “Now, I really have to go into that meeting or they shall start without me, but before I do, can I ask you for a favor?”


Do you have any plans for the evening?”

Just the club meeting…”

Leila pursed her lips. “Would you terribly mind missing it?”

No, of course not. It’s just a social club.” And she would do anything for Leila.

Leila smiled. “Then would you meet me outside the co-op? At, say, seven PM?”

Sure,” said Edie. “What are we doing there?”

I’ll let you know when we arrive. It shall be a surprise.”

Edie laughed. “Okay.” Normally she might not like the idea of a surprise, but if it was Leila, it was sure to be something good.

Leila reluctantly slid her arm off of Edie’s shoulders. “I’ll see you tonight, then.” She blew Edie a kiss as she headed into the main theater, where the meeting was apparently taking place. Edie watched her go, then turned to gather up her things. She might as well head to class.

Chapter 3: A Perfect Score

Edie was sitting in the classroom, checking her French homework for mistakes, for five minutes before anyone else even showed up. She hadn’t thought she was quite that early, but the clocks in the classrooms didn’t seem to be consistent with each other or with the ones elsewhere in the buildings. She suspected students of sabotage and teachers of counter-sabotage.

Zip plopped down in the seat next to Edie, breathing hard. Edie looked at her in surprise. “Were you running? You’re not late or anything.”

Zip grinned, catching her breath. “I’m trying to start riding my bike to class. I was at Hillel this morning, and apparently the route here is a pretty steep downhill. I never noticed when I was walking.”

Edie raised her eyebrows. “I never noticed, either. Shouldn’t a downhill be easier?”

It is easier, it’s just exciting! And then I did run to class because the clock I saw when I came in said it was later.”

I had the same confusion,” Edie said. The classroom was slowly filling up around them. “What were you doing at Hillel?”

Zip shrugged. “I just felt like a kosher breakfast. And maybe some exercise, since I did have to ride there and back. It’s a nice invigorating chilly day.”

Edie couldn’t help laughing at that. “I don’t know if invigorating is the word I’d use!”

Zip turned her head and looked at her, her body still leaning heavily against the chair back. “You should get a bike. It’s a lot of fun and it’s faster than walking.”

Luckily, Edie was saved from answering (she would have had a hard time being polite about it, since Corrie was also always trying to get her to go running) by the appearance of the professor. The class wasn’t quite full yet, but she asked in crisp French for one of the other students to start collecting the homework while she handed out the tests from last week.

Edie felt anxiety churning slightly in her stomach as the teacher wandered haphazardly around the classroom, handing out tests as she came to them and reprimanding the students who arrived late. The anxiety quickly vanished, though, when the test paper landed on her desk. It was upside-down, but she could still read the number, written in large red letters and circled. It was 100. She’d gotten a perfect score on her French test!

As Edie turned her paper right-side up, Zip leaned over to see what she’d gotten. Her eyes widened. “Wow,” she mouthed, then she gave Edie a thumbs-up and a grin. When Edie grinned back, Zip held up her own paper to show she’d gotten a 93. Apparently, she didn’t resent Edie for setting the curve. If there was a curve. Maybe there wouldn’t have been one anyway.

The professor didn’t make any comments about the test, just began class like usual when all the homework papers had been collected. They were learning the subjunctive mood now. It was confusing, but Edie took detailed notes, determined now more than ever to get it right. Maybe she could get a hundred percent on her next test, too.

She gathered up her things slowly when class ended, her brain still full of French verbs. When she stood up, she realized Zip was waiting for her. They fell into step together, walking down the hallway. “It was cool meeting your family this weekend,” Zip said.

Edie grinned. “My family can be pretty cool. I wish my little brother and sister had showed up, too. Leah would have liked you. But apparently she’s too busy reading to go anywhere. And it’s too bad I couldn’t meet yours.”

Zip shrugged. “They were just interested in seeing Hillel and inquiring about how Jewish I was being.”

Edie snorted with laughter. “I guess I wouldn’t meet their standards.”

Nope.” Zip gave her a wink. “But a girl’s got to have some secrets. What do you have after this?”

FYE, in a little while.” They had reached the sitting area near the front of the building, and Edie gestured towards the chairs. “I usually just sit around here until it’s time for class.”

Oh, I’ve got to get to my math class.” Zip wrinkled her nose.

Ouch. Good luck with that.” Edie knew she would have to take math eventually, but she didn’t want to take it on her first semester at a new college. That was probably a good thing, too—with all the distractions that had happened so far, she probably wouldn’t have been able to pay much attention.

Thanks. See you later. Come to services on Saturday!” Zip waved and headed for the door.

Edie waved back, ignoring the comment about services. Every time they parted at the end of class Zip told her to come to services. Maybe someday she would, but she’d given up responding to the invitation.

Chapter 4: Love is Blind

Magic class was just as stimulating as it always was. It was impossible to fall asleep in this class, as Corrie had discovered on Monday; Professor Lal always noticed, and woke you up with pointed questions. Not that Dawn ever tried to fall asleep in class. Even if she had been that tired, the sight of Professor Lal’s true face, with its terrifying mouthful of sharp teeth, was enough to keep her alert.

That reminded her… she ought to give her aunt a call.

When class ended, she lingered, packing up her notebook slowly. She noticed Corrie and Roe doing the same. They were probably all hoping for the same thing: some news from Professor Lal about Leila. Since they’d discovered that Edie’s girlfriend was a faerie, they’d asked Professor Lal for help. Of course, faeries weren’t inherently dangerous—the fact that Professor Lal was teaching them and had saved Edie from another faerie proved that—but they’d met far more dangerous ones than nice ones.

Professor Lal looked up from her desk and raised her eyebrows, apparently surprised to see them still there as the rest of the class hurried out to whatever they had next. “I’m afraid I don’t have any news for you, girls,” she said.

But you’re keeping an eye on her, right?” Corrie asked hopefully.

Professor Lal nodded. “As much as is reasonable. As I said, we’re not close. Just because someone is the same species as me doesn’t mean we talk all the time.” She smiled a little.

Didn’t you say you were less worried, Corrie?” Dawn asked.

Corrie shrugged, her smile fading. “Less worried, yeah. I did realize that if she was going to do something to Edie, she should have done it before we found out what she was. And apparently she hasn’t done anything yet. We just saw Edie and she was fine.”

Professor Lal’s smile widened. “See? Your friend will be just fine. Of course, I’m sure she’d be better off if she were taking a magic class and knew how to recognize magic.”

Both Roe and Corrie laughed at that. “We’ve been trying to get her to take one all semester,” Roe explained. “I think we’ve almost persuaded her to sign up for spring.”

But even if she didn’t, she does have a four-leaf clover and she knows how to use it,” said Dawn. “I thought she was careful about it, at least after Marlin. But she won’t use it on Leila.”

Professor Lal shrugged. “Love—or lust—can make people blind. Especially when one’s lover is a faerie. Now shoo.” She flicked her fingers at them as though to chase them out of the room. “We all have work to do. Midterms aren’t too far away, you know.”

Dawn, Corrie, and Roe slowly walked out of the room and headed outside into the chilly air. “Why did she have to mention midterms?” Corrie complained. “As though I don’t have enough to worry about.”

Dawn nodded. “I know what you mean. But let’s move on to a new interesting subject. Roe, you haven’t mentioned your study sessions with Professor Strega lately. How’s that going?”

Roe sighed. “Slowly.”

Not making much progress with the visions?” Corrie asked sympathetically.

Roe shook her head. “We’ve gotten to the point where I can stop them if I want to, but that’s not really all that helpful. They don’t seem to show up again later if I do. She has me keeping a dream journal, but so far I don’t seem to have had any nighttime visions like I did that first week. Or if I have, I didn’t remember them.”

At least you’re not waking up in the night screaming,” said Dawn.

Yeah, but there’s no guarantee that I won’t. And I haven’t had enough visions in the last few weeks for us to decide exactly what kind of visions they are.”

What kind? What do you mean?” asked Corrie. “I thought they were obviously prophetic visions.”

Well, they are, but we don’t know whether they’re mutable—that means if something happens between the vision and what it refers to, it could be changed—or immutable, which means the opposite. I’m pretty sure it’s the first one, but Professor Strega wants more evidence. She says I could get both types, too, and if so there should be a way we can distinguish between them.”

Sounds really complicated,” said Corrie.

Roe laughed. “I think that’s just because you haven’t started learning magic yet. Professor Strega says there’s a difference in mindset, and I have the magic mindset because I’ve been having visions a lot.”

You like her a lot, don’t you?” Dawn asked.

Roe paused. They’d reached the door of one of the other academic buildings. “I’m cautious,” she finally replied. “She seems to know a lot, and obviously she’s helped me make progress with the visions, but Professor Lal seems to be suspicious of her, and that makes me worry.”

I’m sure Professor Lal is keeping an eye on her,” Corrie said dryly.

Roe smirked. “Yeah. Well, I’ve got another class.” She gestured at the building. “See you guys later.”

Chapter 5: Charlie

When Roe had gone, Corrie turned to Dawn. “Do you have anything to do right now?”

Dawn shook her head. “I have another class later, but I don’t have anything in particular to do until then. Why?”

Corrie looked down at her hands, one of which was picking an imaginary piece of fuzz off her T-shirt. “Would you come with me to talk to Charlie?”

Charlie?” It took Dawn a moment to remember that Corrie’s father—or the man who had said he was Corrie’s father, and also a werewolf—had said that his contact on Chatoyant College’s campus was named Charlie. They didn’t know of any Charlie other than one of the two RAs for Gilkey. So it made sense that Corrie would want to go talk to him. “Sure. You need some moral support?”

Corrie nodded and let out a breathy, nervous laugh. “And maybe some convincing. I’ve tried to go talk to him a couple of times and keep chickening out.”

Dawn almost couldn’t believe her ears. Corrie, chickening out? She was probably the bravest person Dawn had ever met. Well, this was a different situation than confronting a faerie who might wish them harm. She nodded and turned around, heading back toward Gilkey. “Do you think he’ll be there?”

I have no idea,” said Corrie, her usual amused grin back on her face. “But I have to try at least once. Maybe if he’s not in, having you to convince me will help me remember to go another time.”

Well, if he’s not there this time, and you want me to come with you another time, I will,” Dawn promised. “Have you told Edie about what happened?”

Corrie sighed and shook her head. “I want to—I know she’ll have some advice or at least support—but I haven’t come up with any way to bring it up. Especially since we haven’t been speaking most of the time. And I kind of feel like it’s less important than keeping an eye on Leila…”

Edie won’t think so,” Dawn pointed out.

Well, of course not.” Corrie shrugged. “Maybe I’ll make a point of bringing it up tonight. You know, guess what, I might have a dad after all.”

She fell silent as they opened the door to Gilkey, and Dawn didn’t say anything. She couldn’t think of anything to say. Hopefully, Charlie would have something resembling answers for them.

They reached the door to Charlie’s room, just down the hall from Lorelei’s. It had a whiteboard on the front that was covered in notes, as well as a baggie half-full of condoms with a sticker proclaiming that they were free and to please use them. Corrie stopped, staring at the whiteboard, but Dawn didn’t think she was reading the notes. She squeezed Corrie’s shoulder sympathetically. “If you don’t knock, you won’t even find out if he’s here.”

Corrie turned and grinned weakly at her. “You’re right.” She took a deep breath, lifted her hand, and knocked once.

Just a minute!” came a man’s voice from inside.

Corrie turned to Dawn, her eyes wide. “I guess he’s here,” she whispered.

Dawn nodded. “And now we’ll find out what he has to say. It might not be him, you know.”

Corrie didn’t answer, but that might have been because the door opened at that moment. Charlie smiled at them. He was very normal-looking: average height, with sandy hair and brown eyes, wearing a black T-shirt, jeans, and grayish socks with a hole in one of them. “Hi, Corrie and Dawn, right? Aren’t you Lorelei’s responsibility?”

Dawn waited for Corrie to speak, but she didn’t say anything, so Dawn took the initiative. “Yes, but there’s something we wanted to talk to you specifically about.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Well, come in. I’m always available to students who need me.” He gestured to the room and held the door open for them. Dawn gave Corrie a little push and they both walked inside. The room they walked into was about the size of their doubles, but it held a couch, a few chairs, and a TV. There was another door in the back that Dawn guessed led to a separate bedroom. Corrie and Dawn headed for the couch. Charlie sat down in one of the chairs facing the couch, saying, “Usually I have guys wanting to talk to me, and girls from my floors want to talk to Lorelei.”

This isn’t gender-related,” said Dawn with a wry smile.

Charlie nodded. “I guess not. What is it in relation to?”

Corrie took a deep breath and, to Dawn’s eyes, obviously steeled herself. Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap. “It’s about the man who says he is my father.”

Chapter 6: Prove It

Charlie didn’t react to that, except to draw his brows together a little in polite confusion. “You don’t know who your father is?”

Corrie shook her head. “No, but I think you do.”

There was silence for a moment. Dawn considered saying something, but this was really between Corrie and Charlie. She was just there for support. She would only speak if it became really necessary.

Finally Corrie said, “Do you or do you not have communication with a man off-campus?”

I talk to all kinds of people,” Charlie said blandly. “Some of them don’t have any connection to Chatoyant College. I hope you have contact with other people, too.”

He was a little too unsurprised by the accusation, Dawn thought. She noticed Corrie’s hand going for her pocket. Good—checking for illusions never hurt, even if there had been nothing on the man who said he was Corrie’s father. At least, nothing that Dawn knew about. Charlie looked perfectly normal to her eyes, too.

Corrie took a deep breath. “Look, if you don’t know what we’re talking about, that’s okay. It might have been somebody else. But this weekend, a man who said he was my father came and talked to me. I don’t know whether to believe him or not. That’s not the main problem, though. The problem is that he said his contact on campus was named Charlie. If that’s you, I want you to start telling us the truth.”

Charlie frowned, stood up, and walked to a chair closer to them. He sat down and leaned forward earnestly. “He probably was talking about me,” he said in a soft voice. “I do have contact with a group of… people off-campus. But believe me, Corrie, I had no idea any of them were related to you. Or to anyone here.”

He didn’t seem to know that Corrie’s father had claimed to be a werewolf. Well, that part could wait until they established what was going on. “Maybe he didn’t tell you,” Dawn said. Corrie seemed unsure, and she thought she could help smooth things along, at least. “But could you have told your friends about the new students this year? Maybe Lorelei mentioned us, I don’t know…” She trailed off, now doubtful herself. He knew about the faeries, didn’t he? Lorelei had said that the person who trained the RAs had told them. But did he know that they knew?

I know all the students in this dorm. I may have mentioned you specifically, because you seem to be getting along very well with Lorelei. Then again, most people get along with Lorelei.”

It didn’t matter, Dawn decided. She wasn’t going to be giving him any new information that would put him in danger—and if he was passing information on her friends to people they’d never met, maybe she didn’t care if he was in danger anyway. “You know about the faeries, don’t you?”

He sat up a little, raising his eyebrows again. “I do. I confess to being surprised that you do.”

Dawn glanced at Corrie, but she was still staring at her hands. Dawn nodded at Charlie. “Then Lorelei didn’t tell you everything. Do you know what happened to Annie at the beginning of the semester?”

Yes. Lorelei said she handled it.”

Dawn couldn’t help wondering why Lorelei would have downplayed her, not to mention Corrie’s and Edie’s, role in things. Wouldn’t it be useful to all the RAs to know what she could do? “Well, we helped. I have the Sight, so I was able to deal with things pretty well.” When he didn’t respond, she added, “I can see through their glamours and I seem to be relatively immune to the rest of their magic.”

Oh!” He nodded slowly. “That could be useful. Are you saying your question has something to do with faeries?”

No, no, sorry,” Dawn said, waving her hand. “I guess we sort of got off-topic. The point is, we’re not unaware that there are things out there that aren’t human.”

The point is,” said Corrie in a grating voice, “the man who said he was my father also said he was a werewolf.”

To Dawn’s astonishment, Charlie smiled. “Ah. That makes things easier, then. It probably is me he was talking about. I hope it doesn’t frighten you to think that one of your RAs is a werewolf.”

No more than it does to know that some of our teachers and fellow students are faeries,” Dawn said calmly.

Corrie’s mouth was set in a tight line, which was probably as close to scowling as she ever got. “Of course, there’s the question of whether we believe you.”

I thought you were comfortable with the idea.”

Just because faeries exist doesn’t mean werewolves exist too,” Corrie pointed out.

I suppose that’s true.” Charlie looked at his watch. “Would you like me to prove it to you?”

Chapter 7: Wolf

Dawn looked at Corrie for her reaction. She was certainly curious to see some proof, but once again, she felt that it was Corrie’s choice. If werewolves really existed, then that was just one more point in favor of the man who said he was Corrie’s father being truthful—and she didn’t think Corrie actually wanted it to be true.

Really?” said Corrie skeptically.

Really,” said Charlie. He stood up. “I have class soon, but there should be enough time for you to get a good look at me.”

I’d like to see it,” Dawn offered.

Corrie took a deep breath. “I guess I would, too. I want to know the truth.”

Charlie nodded and stood up. “I’ll be back in just a moment.” He walked toward the door that Dawn had noticed earlier and went into the other room, but didn’t close the door all the way. She could see a sliver of light through the door and saw a little movement inside.

It was quiet for a couple of minutes. Then the door was pushed open from the inside, and a wolf trotted out.

Dawn was barely aware of jumping to her feet. True, she’d been half-expecting him to really transform, but she’d thought it might be some sort of humanoid animal, or something a little less intimidating. But this was just a wolf (though, strangely, a wolf with brown eyes). He was much bigger than she would have imagined, his head coming up past her waist.

Corrie, unexpectedly, seemed quite calm. She was looking at the wolf curiously. “Can you communicate?” He just wagged his tail and opened his mouth in a canine grin. At least, Dawn hoped it was meant to be a grin. It was full of sharp white teeth, but then again, so was Professor Lal’s mouth, and the wolf’s weren’t quite so pointed.

Dawn took a deep breath and edged toward the other room. The wolf was standing in the middle of the living room, so at least she had plenty of space. “Do you mind…?” she asked hesitantly, gesturing toward the open door.

The wolf wagged its tail, so she took that as permission. She went into the room and looked around. There was a small pile of clothes on the floor by the bed—definitely the same clothes Charlie had been wearing earlier. She could see the hole in one of the socks. There was another door, too, half-open enough that she could see that it led to a bathroom. She peeked in there, too.

Charlie the human was nowhere to be found. She hadn’t been expecting that he would—even if he wasn’t a werewolf, who kept a tame pet wolf in a dorm room?—but she’d had to check.

When she went out into the living room again, she saw that the wolf was closer to Corrie and she was patting its head a little dubiously. The wolf’s head swung around to see Dawn as she emerged. When she moved away from the door, it went in. She saw it grab the doorknob with its teeth and drag the door most of the way closed again.

She walked over silently and joined Corrie on the couch. After a couple of minutes, Charlie emerged, fully dressed again—he’d even put on shoes this time. “Well.” He smirked. “Are you convinced?”

I think so,” said Corrie, a little faintly.

I was expecting something… different,” Dawn said, with a long pause. She didn’t really know what to say, as a matter of fact.

Charlie nodded, taking his seat near the couch once again. “The stories don’t always get it right, of course. But if you’ve dealt with the faeries, you should be used to that.”

True,” said Corrie. “So you can just turn into a wolf whenever you want?”

Pretty much,” he said with a smile. “It’s easier the closer it get to the full moon—if this had been a week ago, I might not have been sure I had time, but since the full moon is on Friday it just takes a few minutes and not much effort. And it’s different for newly-turned werewolves, too—my parents are both werewolves, in the pack that I communicate with. Oh, and I don’t have to change at the full moon, either. It’s a pretty sweet deal, all things considered.” Dawn couldn’t help smiling. It did sound like a pretty good deal.

So what can you tell me about the man who said he was my father?” Corrie asked, her face turning serious again.

Charlie grimaced. “To be honest, I don’t know. He didn’t speak to me about it, whoever he is. Can you describe him?” Corrie gave a brief description and Charlie shrugged. “That could be one of a few people. I can speak to them about it on Friday—we usually meet at the full moon.”

No thanks,” said Corrie quickly. “I mean… maybe another time. I want to talk to my mom about it first.”

Chapter 8: I'll Call Her

I understand.” Charlie stood again. “Sorry to kick you out, but I’ve got to get to class. I assume I can trust you two to keep quiet about this.”

Of course,” agreed Dawn. “But can we tell Edie? She’s Corrie’s roommate and we probably should have brought her with us, but she has class right now.”

Charlie opened his door. “If you can trust her to keep quiet,” he said, ushering them out. “I don’t want this getting all over campus, you know? People are still really superstitious, even if they know magic.”

She won’t tell anyone, either,” said Corrie. “But I have to tell her about my father when I get a chance…”

Right. I just don’t want a screaming mob.” He gave them a wry smile.

Corrie grinned. “Understood. It won’t get out.” They waved as he left the building, heading for class.

Corrie turned and headed for the stairs, and Dawn followed her. She didn’t say anything, deciding to let Corrie speak first. Corrie was silent until they had reached the third floor. “That was interesting,” she said mildly.

Dawn grinned. “To say the least. I have to say, I don’t know what I was expecting to happen when we talked to Charlie, but whatever it was, it definitely didn’t involve him turning into a wolf.”

Corrie snorted with laughter. “I didn’t expect that either.” Then she sobered, her smile fading somewhat. “But I guess that’s a part of his story that’s definitely true…”

Dawn didn’t have to ask which “him” Corrie was talking about. “Not necessarily,” she pointed out. “Charlie didn’t know who he was. He isn’t necessarily part of his pack.”

I think I’d rather have him be part of Charlie’s pack than some strange werewolf,” Corrie said. “At least that way we actually know how he found out about me.”

I meant he might not be a werewolf. Just because they exist doesn’t mean everyone who claims to be one is one.”

Oh.” Corrie twisted her mouth to the side, making a face. “I don’t think that’s likely. Besides, how many people who aren’t werewolves know they exist?”

Two, at least,” Dawn grinned.

That made Corrie laugh again. “True.” They’d reached the fifth floor. She slowly pushed open the fire door that separated the stairs from the hallway. “I actually would rather think that the man who came to see me is my father than that he is some random stranger, though.” She glanced sideways at Dawn, biting her lip. “I mean, at least he has an excuse to show up. I don’t really want another stalker.”

True. I don’t want you to have another stalker, either.” They paused in front of Corrie’s door. “So are you going to call your mom now?” Dawn finally asked.

Corrie shook her head and looked at the door. “I have to go to my history class soon, I think, and she’s most likely at work anyway. But I’ll call her today.”

You sure? Do you need me to remind you?”

Corrie smiled. “No, don’t worry about that. I call her every day. I just hope I’ll get up the nerve to actually ask her about him. Maybe after I tell Edie about it.”

Dawn nodded. “Well, I’ll see you later then.”

Yup.” Corrie unlocked her door and went in.

Dawn walked next door and unlocked her own door. The room was empty and dark. She flipped the light on and looked at the clock. She had half an hour before she had to get to her sociology class. She could study, but there had been something else she’d wanted to do, hadn’t there?

Oh yeah… call her aunt.

She got her cell phone out and sat at her desk, looking at the phone. How should she start this conversation? They’d already talked about faeries and the Sight while Pru had been visiting. She hadn’t gotten any good answers then. At least she knew why she had the Sight. But why did Pru have the ointment she’d described in the first place? How could she have made friends with a faerie, and know he was a faerie, if she didn’t have the Sight to tell her about the faeries?

The first question, she decided, would have to be about the faerie who had actually given her the ointment. Then she could ask for details. She flipped the phone open and reached for the “call” button.

Just as she was about to press it, Naomi flung the door open. “What a day!” she sighed dramatically. “And it isn’t even over yet! I tell you, the art department is simply brutal.”

Dawn grinned and shut her phone. Naomi’s stories were fun. “There’s no way it’s any more brutal than magic or sociology. You have it easy.” She could call her aunt another time.

Chapter 9: History

Corrie did not pay much attention in her history class. She was distracted partly by the conversation she had had immediately before it, and partly by the professor himself. It wasn’t that he was interesting, or attractive, or any of those things. Not by himself, anyway. It was that they’d found a picture of him in an old yearbook, and he had looked exactly the same as he did now. That was almost as good as proof that he was a faerie.

The four-leaf clover she carried, which worked so well against other faeries’ glamours, didn’t seem to have any effect on him. She didn’t know enough about faeries to know whether he had a really good glamour or just happened to look like an old man. She probably never would know enough.

She also found herself acknowledging that it only made sense to think that the man who had accosted her and Dawn on Saturday night was what he said he was: her father and a werewolf. There was nothing that lying could have gained him, and it was at least better than another stalker. She’d seen Paul, the stalker she already had, around campus a few times in recent weeks. The spell that kept him twenty feet away from her still seemed to be in force, but that didn’t stop him from watching her.

Still, it was very uncomfortable to think that the father she’d never known had suddenly found her and taken an interest in her, not to mention that she apparently had some non-human blood. She couldn’t—


She nearly jumped out of her seat, looking up at Professor Drehmer. He’d evidently caught her daydreaming, gazing off into space as she doodled spirals in her notebook (quite a few, she now saw out of the corner of her eye). And now he was looking at her expectantly. He must have asked her a question. Well, she’d better say something. “Sorry, Professor Drehmer, I didn’t quite catch that…”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Perhaps someone else can explain to Corrie what the text has to say about the factors leading to a Union victory at Gettysburg.”

Several hands went up, and Professor Drehmer chose someone near the front. Corrie sat back in her seat with relief. She might be in a bit of trouble, but least she didn’t have to answer the question. Which was good, since she couldn’t remember what the text said on that point. She listened carefully to what the other student said and jotted down notes.

Professor Drehmer nodded when he was done. “Thank you, Jason. Unfortunately, this is a point at which our textbook is not perfect. I am certain you will all forgive me for correcting its misconceptions in lecture, rather than giving you an additional text to read. The key difference is…”

Corrie scowled at her notes and crossed out everything she had just written with a vehement, dark line. Then she turned her attention to what the professor was actually saying.

When the class was over, she packed up slowly, nervous that the professor was going to ask her to stay after and talk to him—but not so nervous that she was going to try to escape. She faced up to her mistakes. However, it did not seem that Professor Drehmer was as strict on this point as Professor Lal—he had already left the classroom by the time she was packed up. Then again, if she didn’t have a good grasp on magical theory, she could probably hurt somebody; all not having a good grasp on history would do was make her do poorly on tests.

Since she had a couple of hours before it was time for dinner, she determined to make up for her apparent lack of knowledge about the Civil War itself to make her essay on the causes of the Civil War as good as possible. Once she got back to her room, she focused on that and didn’t really look up until Dawn and Naomi knocked on their door for dinner.

She and Edie got up to join them in the hallway. Dawn grinned at her. “Call your mom yet?”

Corrie sighed and rolled her eyes at Dawn’s persistence, but she was smiling too. “Not yet. Probably after dinner, before the Rainbow Alliance meeting.”

Why do you have to call your mom?” Naomi asked as they walked.

I call her every day,” Corrie said. “Dawn just thinks I need to be reminded, apparently.”

It doesn’t hurt,” Dawn said with a shrug.

I think if Corrie was going to forget she would have done it already!” Edie said. “And you haven’t, have you?”

Corrie shook her head. “The only day I haven’t called her since I arrived on campus is last Saturday, when she was here.”

Rico and Duncan also joined them for dinner, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious—in honor of this chilly day, apparently, the cooks had made a big vat of alphabet soup. Corrie had two bowls. It started to drizzle while they were eating, and unprepared, they all ran back to Gilkey with their arms over their heads. It wasn’t until they were halfway up the stairs that Corrie realized Edie was no longer with them.

Chapter 10: Where's Edie?

Corrie spun around and looked up and down the stairs. Dawn, who had gotten a bit ahead of her, stopped as well. “Corrie? What’s wrong?”

Where’s Edie?” Corrie said. She ran down the partial flight of stairs she’d just come up, looking for Edie on the lower floor. But why would she be there? “Edie?” she called anyway.

What? What happened?” asked Naomi, confused.

I don’t know,” Corrie heard Dawn reply from upstairs. “She’s not here anymore. Did any of you see her leave?”

Halfway down the next flight of stairs, Corrie paused and listened for replies, but she didn’t hear anything that sounded like a yes. She ran down the rest of the stairs, looking for Edie, but she wasn’t in the stairwell, or in the hallways, or in the common room. As she ran back to the door to look outside, she heard other footsteps on the stairs.

Soon Dawn and Rico had joined her. “Do you see her anywhere?” Rico asked softly. His voice was calm and soothing, but it didn’t do anything for Corrie’s concern.

No,” she replied. “It’s dark…” She trailed off uncertainly. They’d been inside for long enough that if Edie had left before they went in the building—which she must have, or they would have heard the door shutting behind her—she could easily have gotten to the other side of one of the other campus buildings. And it was in fact dark, and still drizzling.

Should we go look for her?” Dawn asked.

Corrie shook her head wearily. She turned, shut the door, and leaned against it. “We’d have to run all over campus looking for her, and we could still miss her. Besides, I can think of two explanations for her being gone. One is that she left on purpose. The other is that she was magically kidnapped somehow. How else could we not notice her leaving?”

But there’s no reason that she would leave without telling you, is there?” Rico asked, squeezing Dawn’s hand.

Corrie sighed. “If she was meeting Leila somewhere… well, we made up about that, but she might still not want to talk about Leila with us. She probably knows that I still don’t trust Leila.” She was calming down quickly now that she’d thought about it. This was the most reasonable explanation, after all.

But what if it was the other explanation?” Dawn asked. Then she grimaced and answered her own question. “There’s nothing we could do about that. Unless we could ask Professor Lal…”

We could try that,” said Corrie, peering out into the rain, which was getting harder. “Do you want to try looking for her?”

Yeah,” said Dawn. She went up to the little window in the door and peered out too. “But let’s get jackets first. And maybe umbrellas.”

They trooped up the steps. Naomi and Duncan had apparently gone on ahead to their rooms, as they were no longer waiting. At the fourth floor, Rico stopped and asked Dawn, “Do you want me to come along?”

If you want to,” said Dawn hopefully. “If we do have to look for her, it would be better to have another person.”

He nodded and pushed open the fire door. “I’ll grab my umbrella, then, and meet you back down here.”

Dawn and Corrie continued up. Corrie and Edie’s room felt empty, but she told herself that she was just being overly worried. Nothing seemed to be actually missing. She switched her shoes for rain boots, put on a jacket, and headed back out. She and Dawn went down the steps, Rico joined them, and they went back out into the rain.

It was dark, and raining harder, but at least it wasn’t windy or foggy. They followed the paths to the magic building and stood in the entryway for a moment, shaking the rain off themselves. Then Corrie took the lead, walking down the hallway where she remembered the teachers’ offices were. The whole building was shut down and dark, but it was only Wednesday night. There had to be someone around.

Professor Lal’s office was close to the front. It was recognizable by the pentacle made of sticks twined together that was hanging on it. It looked dark, but Corrie knocked anyway. There was no answer. She tried again, and waited in silence before turning around to look at Dawn and Rico. “Should we try other professors?”

Dawn nodded. “We might as well.” She turned to Professor Rook’s door (which had a large picture of a raven on it—knowing what his faerie form was now, Corrie wondered if it was a picture of him) and knocked. There was no answer there, either. Corrie decided to try the handles of the doors, but they were both locked. She looked down the hall. None of the office doors seemed to have light emerging from them.

Chapter 11: The Orchard

Edie realized what time it was as she and her friends were walking back to the dorm from dinner. She was going to be late meeting Leila! She tried to say something, but they were busy talking about the rain (which was, in fact, annoying, but she had a hooded jacket on so at least it wasn’t falling on her hair). And they wanted to get back inside. So she just turned away, peeling off from the group and towards the environmentalist co-op.

It looked warm and cheery inside, with the lights on and candles in one window, but that wasn’t where she was going. She walked through the damp grass, around the building to where the orchard was.

Leila was leaning against a tree waiting for her. As Edie approached Leila straightened up and smiled widely. Edie couldn’t help grinning back and jogging the last few steps before throwing herself into Leila’s arms. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.” Not that she could worry about it very much right now, anyway; she was holding Leila, and Leila was holding her, so everything was right with the world.

Leila twisted one of Edie’s curls around her finger. “No, you’re just on time.”

Reluctantly, Edie pulled away slightly so she could look Leila in the face. “So what’s the big secret?”

Leila laughed softly. “It’s not really a big secret. I just want you to help me with something.”

Of course.” Edie looked around. “In the orchard?”

Not only in the orchard, but the orchard itself.” She unwrapped her arm from around Edith, but took her hand instead, and began to lead her through the orchard. “Do you remember when I told you that the trees weren’t growing well?”

I think so. On Sunday, right?” They had stopped in front of a tree that just looked like a sapling to Edie, but the leaves on it were browner than on the trees around it. Maybe it was sick, like Leila had said.

Yes. I think I have found a way to help them, or at least to keep them from becoming sicker, but I need your assistance.”

Edie looked at the tree. “Well, if you tell me what to do, I can do it. Wouldn’t one of the other people who live in the co-op be a better assistant, though? They know more about plants.”

Leila kissed the top of her head. “You are the only assistant I could ever want. Besides, none of them have the unique qualities that you have.”

If it weren’t a subject that Leila was so serious about, Edie might have thought she was just flirting. “What unique qualities?” If she had any, she didn’t know about them.

Leila laughed, a laugh that sparkled like frost on a window. “Just a moment.” She lifted her hands to Edith’s face and pushed her eyelids down with her thumbs. Edie stood still obediently, though she had no idea what Leila was doing. After a moment Leila let go of her eyes and touched each of her ears. Then she let go and smiled at Edith. “Now we are safe. You see, with your mixed faerie and human blood, you are uniquely positioned to help these trees. I wish I could have gotten your grandmother’s help, as her blood is more balanced, but with the rules…” She seemed to lose her trail of thought, staring into space, then shrugged her shoulders. “Well. You should do nicely.”

Edie grinned. “What do I need to do?”

Just stand next to me and let me touch you. I will need to draw on your energies.”

Sounds like my idea of a good time.” Edith happily took Leila’s hand in her own. As Leila knelt down by the tree, pulling Edith beside her, she asked, “How do you know I have mixed faerie and human blood?” It didn’t surprise her to hear it, but she was curious.

When I met your grandmother,” Leila said. Suddenly she looked over at Edie, concerned. “You are not adopted, are you? Or your mother?”

No, I think they would have told us by now.”

Good, good. I thought…” Leila put the hand that wasn’t holding Edith’s on the soil by the tree’s trunk and squeezed Edith’s hand, but continued talking. “I thought you must have some blood. There is something about you that sparkles.”

Edie laughed. “Thanks, I think?”

Leila smiled, still focusing on her hand, it seemed. “It is indeed a compliment. We are drawn to you. I would have thought that it was only some distant ancestor if I had not met your grandmother. It burns brightly in her, and she knows it. I wonder if I have met her mother.” She stood, shaking the dirt off her hand, and tugged Edith up. “Come, we must move on to the next tree.”

Chapter 12: Doors

We’d better try all of them,” said Corrie. “Maybe none of them are there but it’s worth a try, right?”

Absolutely,” said Rico. “We’ll move down the hall. You knock on one door, we’ll knock on the one across from it. We could probably use the help even if two of them answer at once.”

Good plan.” Corrie moved down to the next door. It had a small plaque on it that read “Virginia Agnew.” It was dark, but she knocked, and as she’d mostly expected, there was no answer.

The next door read “Visiting Professor.” As far as she knew, they had no visiting professor. She wondered if they ever did or if it was just in case they ever did. And where could they be visiting from?

The last door in the hall wasn’t even labeled, and there was dust on the doorknob. It was dark in the hallway, but she could see from the light coming in a large window at the end of the hall. She knocked briefly, then went to stare out the window. She could see nothing but the empty campus—okay, there were two people walking a bit farther away, but it definitely wasn’t Leila and Edie. One of them was male and the other had very long, dark hair.

After a moment she felt a presence at her side and turned. It was Dawn. “No answer, I guess,” Corrie said.

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