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Generated: Jul 17, 2021 5:55 AM
Post last updated: Aug 03, 2019 6:09 PM
to make dreams truths, and fables histories[take 1]
Kappa and Maggie run a class at Mind Control University
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She's fairly high-confidence that this was, overall, a good idea. 

Assuming Dean Mesmerra wasn't lying--and after the power she displayed, she might as well assume that, since if Mesmerra wants her to believe a thing she can demonstrably arrange it--she won't be in danger for her life, here. At all. Being under someone else's control is, well, it's not like that's not de facto the case for all ninja anyway, except maybe Kages. 

It would be nice to only have to answer to one person, and to be able to choose that person. 

But if she wants to have the chance to choose instead of having someone else take the choice away from her, she can't let down her guard. 

She steps into the room carefully and surveys its other occupants. 

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Hovering several yards above the floor is some kind of bizarre purple creature, the dark purple of its tail and belly stark against the almost-white of the rest of its skin. It's mostly humanoid, aside from the tail and a few other details, and curled up on itself in mid-air. 

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Taller than anyone else in the room, and only partly because it's floating a few inches above the floor, a skeletal silhouette drifts slowly back and forth along the back wall of the room. It's surrounded by a haze of black fog, dense around its body and thinning rapidly until only a few wispy tendrils make it as far as the wall a couple of feet away, and appears to have an approximately humanoid shape with long hair and unnaturally long skinny arms. Sometimes the fog shifts to reveal what looks like part of an obsidian ribcage, or a shadowy, featureless face.

It or something near it seems to be making a faint sound, just on the edge of hearing, a kind of distant staticky whisper that fades in and out in an irregular rhythm, never getting loud enough to resolve into intelligible speech.

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A much less unsettling humanoid figure is huddled in the corner of the room, closer to the apparition than to anyone else, very much with the attitude of someone who is nervous about the apparition but even more nervous about all the other people.

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A little ways away from that person, directly in front of the apparition and taking no particular notice of it, there stands a... woman, more or less. She appears to be human from the waist up and a giant spider from the waist down, with ten limbs in total, wearing a long-sleeved black shirt on her upper body and a few silver bracelets on various of her giant spider legs.

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Next to her—well, a short distance away, out of the immediate reach of those long limbs—stands a straightforwardly normal-looking human, somewhat androgynous and incongruously cheerful but otherwise not remarkable in any obvious way.

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Just out of reach of both of those two, forming a rough triangle, is a pale woman with white hair dressed like some kind of flapper hobo and trying and failing to hide the fact that she's periodically peering at the shadowy figure. 

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A short distance from the pale woman is a tall, broad-shouldered, unfairly beautiful man with his shoulder-length hair swept back behind sharply pointed ears. The ears and to some extent the prettiness are the only obviously inhuman things about him.

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Standing with the tall man—very definitely with and not just next to—is another man, more human-sized and human-shaped but equally unfairly beautiful, making no attempt to hide the way he's alertly watching everyone in the room.

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Another tall person, this one much less unfairly beautiful, stands near the corner with his back to the wall, fading into the background surprisingly well for someone who's got to be well over six feet. He has his hands in the pockets of his long black coat and isn't moving much.

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He makes an almost comical contrast with the small, silver-blonde, white-gowned wisp of a girl who stands a little ways farther along the wall, gazing at the floor with a distant, distracted expression, hands folded in front of her and wearing a pair of long delicate white lace gloves.

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Standing closer to the center of the floor and glancing around him uneasily is a shirtless man in black pants with blue skin, three curling horns protruding from his skull, and membranous wings folded against his back. 

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At a short diagonal, a man in simple black robes is standing placidly, his arms folded. 

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A little farther off a young woman in neat blouse and capri slacks glances around with cheerful curiosity. 

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Off at a slightly different angle, there's another androgynous human, looking around with a slightly unsettled expression. They keep rubbing their nose.

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Not that far from them, a muscular woman with a swimmer's build in an oddly-cut two-piece outfit that shows it off magnificently is standing at a lazy predator's almost-parade rest. 

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And then there's a pair of people who seem to have wildly different flavours of an overall strangely similar oddity: one of them has a fox's face and ears and long soft snow-white tail, and fur covering all visible parts of her body; the other has a bee's wings and antennae and bold black-and-yellow stripes, and glittering faceted eyes; and both are otherwise humanoid in shape and anatomy and the clothes they wear, a silk robe on the fox-girl and something in the vein of an armored bodysuit on the bee. (Neither one is wearing shoes.)

There's a third woman standing near enough by that it's not entirely clear whether the three of them form a group all together: she's not obviously inhuman in any way herself, but doesn't seem bothered by the company she's keeping. Her arms are folded and she's looking ahead with a mildly unimpressed expression.

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Just a little ways off, a cheerful-looking buxom girl is bouncing slightly, glancing around rapidly in excitement. 

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And a little ways off from her, looking wary but not looking warily at anything in particular is a young woman who appears to be garbed in flowing quicksilver. 

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With her, arms linked, is a woman of the same age, eyes half-lidded, looking as though she's intensely focused on something not in her field of view, in worn but clean and sturdy cargo pants and and turtleneck sweater with her hair in a tight plait down her back. 

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A very short girl who looks sixteen or so stands nearish the pair, surveying the room with bright eyes and a friendly smile.

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A regal-looking woman in a white dress, with long winglike sweeps of fabric trailing from its elbow-length sleeves, stands near the girl; she's picked a spot where the crowd is a little thinner, so that in a room full of people the majority of whom are carefully not standing too close to each other she somehow ends up with a little more room than most.

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A redhead with chestnut wings with copper crescents on the primaries is standing close enough to the nearest people to not be wallflowering but carefully positioned so that nobody is in position to sneak up behind her, shielded from view by her wings, partially folded but still extending about a yard and a half on either side of her. 

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On her other side, a dark-haired man in robes is glancing around with deliberately but imperfectly concealed contempt. 

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Near the dark-haired man is the most unfairly beautiful person in the room, radiating casual confidence in a simple outfit made from exceptionally soft-looking fabric. Her black hair falls in a single braid all the way down her back to nearly touch the floor.

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Closer to her than to anyone else, and nearly as unfairly beautiful, a woman with long curly black hair looks around with a wary yet faintly bored expression, like someone who is expecting threats from all sides but has been threatened too often to take any of them seriously.

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The other woman closeish to the two of them is merely ordinary levels of pretty, and either has the self-confidence to stand next to those two and not wilt or is very very good at faking it. 

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Not close enough to those three to be obviously connected is a woman with grey skin and pointed ears a different shape from the first unfairly beautiful man's. She occasionally surveys the obviously-male inhabitants of the room with resignation. 

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And then there's this ordinary-looking boy with rumpled clothes and messy black hair, cheerful and slightly distracted, whose gaze keeps returning to the grey woman with a thoughtful, curious air.

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Off to one side, a man with long blond hair in a button-down shirt and slacks has his arms folded, looking supremely bored. 

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Several yards behind him and a bit to one side, an eerily pale man fingers some kind of bandolier-like thing across his chest with handles sticking out, face guarded. 

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Clear across the room from the first half-woman-half-giant-spider, there is a second half-woman-half-giant-spider, pointedly not looking at the first one.

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And lastly there is an attractive young man—he's probably used to being the prettiest person in the room, when it's a less carefully selected room—wearing an elaborate robe and a slightly excessive amount of jewelry, including a magnificent black opal ring. His face and posture display a carefully cultivated aloofness that probably took him hours in front of a mirror to perfect.

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Okay. 

Deep breaths. 

She walks into the room and takes a position sort of at the back, not because she's trying to be at the back, but just because she doesn't see much reason to keep walking once she's reached the general area people are standing. Definitely. 

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The shadowy apparition pauses in its slow pacing, turns its head in her direction, and makes a soft hissing noise like fine sand flowing down a slope.

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And in a flash of light, a woman appears. 

What she looks like is different to each member of the class, but she's drop-dead gorgeous. If you have ever in your life had a sexy domme fantasy, this is it

(She smells perfect.)

(She's grinning widely, a pure joy evident on her face that some spend lifetimes striving for.)

(She looks so safe.) 

"May I have your attention please!" 

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Yes. Yes she can. 

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Anzu, having already been exposed to this display, is able to turn her head aside with some difficulty. 

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Oh goodness. 

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Oh.

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...wow.

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The girl in the lace gloves doesn't look up. She might very well be the only one who doesn't.

(She's listening, though.)

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"Thank you." She clasps her hands, still beaming. "While I have many names, the one that all of you shall know me by for the following year is Mesmerra--Dean Mesmerra, for I am the founder, administrator and absolute ruler of this school." Pause for effect. "I am a goddess of mind control. That's not bragging! I am not merely deific in skill, but a literal deity who draws power from every instance of mind control in every single world I touch. And the number of those is always growing." She tosses her hair a little, not quite smug, merely supernally self-assured. 

"Welcome to Mind Control University. Ours is an intensive program, and by the end of the year every single one of you will have the power to bring nations to heel with nothing but your own will and a box of scraps. Of course, this is a competitive program as well, in more ways than one--some of you will no doubt be Emperors and Empresses in your own right before the year is out, while others...may be pets, or toys, to the others. Remember," she winks, "do unto others before they do unto you! But there are, of course, limits," she says, turning serious. "Rule number one is that you are not permitted to sabotage your classmates' studies, be they your rivals or pets. Subtlety is key--you are here to learn cunning and finesse almost as much as raw power. An attempt to enslave one of your classmates discovered before the attempt is complete will result in your would-be pet being freed and a penalty laid on you, and no, I won't tell you what it is. There are so many possibilities, and even I don't know beforehand which one is going to be most appropriate." Pause. Headtilt. "Also, the library, classrooms, and cafeteria food are absolutely off-limits. Attempting to enslave one of your teachers isn't against the rules, and in fact will result in instant graduation magna cum laude if successful, but you will not be successful, and will no longer be off-limits to them. Don't do it." 

She smirks. "Any questions?" 

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Nothing for a moment, and then,

"What are the rules about enslaving people other than students or teachers?"

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"Excellent question. Surrounding the campus is a 'town' of sorts comprised of neighborhoods transplanted from each of your worlds. The only rule in how you treat the townies is that you are not permitted to bring them on-campus without special dispensation. None of them are as powerful as a teacher, but aside from that, I'll let you figure out the risks involved for yourselves. It'll be an adventure." 

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"This is a university, right? Is there tutoring available for those with, uh, no prior formal education?" 

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"Your teachers are aware that this class has been drawn from worlds with widely disparate levels of technology, culture, and educational standards, and their classes are calibrated accordingly. However, if you want to fill in existing gaps in your knowledge, the library contains an excellent selection of volumes on all topics--not just mind control--from every universe here represented and many more besides." 

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"Are students who arguably possess multiple identities counted per-body or per-identity?" asks the cheerful girl from earlier, now totally lacking any emotional affect whatsoever. 

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"That's a question that varies by student and by class, but as it happens, every student in the current class is counted per-body." 

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The thoughtful boy hesitates a little longer before asking, "So when you say we're in trouble if we get caught enslaving people before we're done—what counts as enslaved enough? And will we still get in trouble for doing stuff to people if we're not trying to enslave them? Or if they agree to it?"

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"What counts as 'enslaved enough' varies, but ideally you should bring any new slaves to me so I can give you credit for them and confirm them as appropriately enslaved. If you're not trying to enslave anyone then the penalty does not apply. If an enslavement is consensual, then it should be no trouble to retire to one or the other party's room first--your dorm rooms are absolutely impervious to scrying or forced penetration unless allowed by one of its inhabitants, by which I mean the students the room is assigned to." 

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"Huh. Okay."

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The apparition at the back of the hall drifts a few feet forward, makes a staticky crackling noise, and then... speaks. Or at least does something of which speech is a reasonably close approximation.

 

.̭̩͔̹̤̺̭͎̼ͭ̓̿ͥͥ̏̚͘͢.̓͋̐͌ͭ̽ͧ҉̶̗͙̙̦̜̳̦.̬̬͓͓͖ͦ̈́ͫ̓̔ͤ̈̓͢ͅw̬̦ͣ͟͞͡h̡̰̙̗͎̙̱̑̐͋̓̀́ạ̛͈͖͓͕̬̠̽͂͛ͯ̆͗͝t̢̳̣̮̓̏ͣ́̄̇͌͞.̡̢͍̳͍̿̐͗̒.͚̯̮̬ͦͦͪ̐͊ͧͭ.̥͉̠̙̥͖̙̭ͨ̃̀̄̈́̅͢.̴̯̪͈̬͚͉̦̹͍ͨͧ͗̐͆ͯ͋͐ ͇͎͌͡ḭ͓̹͍͖̟́̌ͪͤͯs̵̓͏̼̳͓̳̳ͅ.̞̈̆̈́͌ͧ.̵̱͖̙̗̬̤͕̎̈̚͢.̹̠̥̘̭̲͕̼̑̔̓́̓.̤̠̭̇͞͝ ̢̮̇ͥ̅͂ͧ̚͜.̷̙̘͇̑ͪ͗̐̍ͭ̀́̚͘.̢̮̩̥̎ͬ̔̓̿͛̂̓.̧͍̘̘̏́̔͡ạ̯͍̐̌͆̌̋́ͯ̊.̺ͭ.̵̦̠͖̩̤̭̓̈̊ͬ͞.̧̡͖͉̭͍͍̞͋̑ͨͣ̇ͮ ̶̪͉̙̫̳͉̦ͣ̽͛̑̓ ̵̟̙̔̀̈ͥ͞ͅ ͯ̔ͩ̈͏͈͚̳̲̠͉͍̠ ̡̨̰͈͕̰̦͚̐ͫͩ ͇̩͙̃.̶͉͉̭̫ͬ̒̊̽.̢̰͙̱͈ͣ̌̄͑̑̚.͔͖̹̫̤͒ͩ̎ͨͮ̽̾̍͟.̛̱̞̽̾ͩ̂͊̈́̄ͣ͛ͅd̨͉̝̉͒ȍ͖͉̙͉̹̹̅́̾͜r̠̖̺̗̼͖͎ͥ͋͒́m͈̻̺̹͕̭̭̟ͧ̓ͫ͒͑.̠̰̳̯͕̺̌͆̀̚͞.͍͇̯̀͆̓̇͒͒͒͢͝.̮͖̰̪̭̩͌͋̿́ ̛͕̟͍̈̓͗͂ͯ̅͘ṙ̖̫̮̗͈̱ͫ̽ͨo͉̹͔̰͋ͣ́ͥ͐̑̎ͧọ̡̤͈ͦ̒͂ͣ̇ṁ̧͓͇̪̤̱͓̦̰̍ͥ͊̐̉̾̆̽͡.̸͉̫͔̱͈̫̺̬̅.̛̤̼̣͛ͧ͒̒͗̎̒̇͠.ͤ͊̃̚҉̶̩͔̲͙̪̬̦ͅ

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"For beings who need to sleep and store possessions, a dorm room is a place to do that. Otherwise, its primary function is as an impenetrable sanctum." 

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It drifts back to hover next to the wall again, hissing softly.

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"Students will be expected to remain on campus or in town for the duration of the school year outside of field trips or short, approved jaunts. If you wish to have a leave approved, bring it to me and I'll allow it if there's a good reason. Dorm rooms are likely more luxurious than what you're accustomed to, but--outside exceptions negotiated before the school year--you must have a roommate. The room keys are over there," she gestures towards a board at the back of the room, covered in numbered pegs with two keys each hanging from each one, "help yourselves--and good luck!" 

And she vanishes as easily as she appeared. 

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After considering her options for a split-second, Anzu darts towards the board, scoops a key at near-random, glances at the number to memorize it, then makes her exit before anyone else has even reached the board. Once out of sight, she creates a water clone, sending it to her room with the key while she makes a hasty exit out to the "town." 

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The room has no lock and no handle on the outside, but when her key touches it, the door silently opens.

Inside, it's... magnificent.

Each of the two curtained and canopied beds looks big enough for three normal-sized humans to sleep in it comfortably, more than that if they didn't mind scrunching in a bit. The decor is mostly jewel-tones, with one half of the room predominantly red accented in black and gold, and the other half a range of cooler colours accented in silver. Between the two halves, opposite the door she's standing in, an open door leads into a decadent bathroom. All together the space could easily match a small house for size.

The two sides of the main area seem to have approximately equivalent levels of luxury, although the details differ. All the furniture looks comfortable, but on the blue side the armchairs are squashy and overstuffed, the bed is heaped with pillows and plush blankets, and the charcoal-grey carpet is several inches thick.

On the red side, the floor is stone, with a rough/smooth texture that looks like it would grip well yet be reasonably comfortable to walk on. The furniture is mostly wood, heavy and solid, upholstered where appropriate in red-and-black damask. The light fixtures use coloured frosted glass to suggest an open flame, cradled in a golden dish. There's a real actual fireplace, too, with a real actual fire in it. A couple of sturdy bookcases flank the massive desk.

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Her roommate seems to have gotten here ahead of her; he's curled up in bed on the red side, shirtless, hugging a pillow, with his eyes closed and a contented smile on his face.

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The water clone walks over to the bed on the cool side of the room and slides in. 

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"Hi," says her roommate.

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"Hello." 

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He stretches, then sits up.

"What's your name? I'm Sean."

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"Anzu." 

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"How are you liking the place so far?"

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Shrug. "Better than home." 

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"Doesn't sound like much of a recommendation, the way you say it."

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"Well. It's not." 

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"Where I'm from isn't that great either but I was doing okay there. You seem like you maybe weren't."

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Shrug. "I was better off than most people." 

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"Depending what's going on with most people that can be really not saying much. Wanna talk about it?"

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"World's divided into a warrior caste conscripted at birth and an underclass of normal people who have very little recourse if a warrior wants to do stuff to 'em." 

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"Oh, that's not great," he agrees. "In mine some people have superpowers but we're not born with them, we get them all of a sudden on the worst day of our life, and some of us decide to go around doing stuff to people and some of us decide to go around helping people and some of us decide to mind our own business. I'm the last kind, mostly."

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"We don't get a choice." 

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"Sucks for you. I'm sorry," he says with apparent sincerity. "That's one thing I like about being a parahuman, it means people have a real hard time telling me what to do."

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"I'm clanless. Lots of people can tell me what to do." 

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"That's a raw deal."

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"Mhm." 

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"—I have emotion powers," he adds. "I can tell what people are feeling and make them feel things. People are scared of that kind of thing at home, it's kind of nice in a weird way to be here where everyone expects everyone to be able to pull that kind of shit one way or another."

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"Huh." 

She nibbles her lip. 

"No one's especially afraid of me. Whatever Mesmerra saw in me to invite me here, nobody back home saw it." 

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"I would've thought I'd like people being afraid of me, and I guess it's pretty good sometimes, but—they're mostly afraid I'll do things I don't even want to do, sometimes things I couldn't if I tried, it's—" He shakes his head. "I dunno how to explain it but it's not as good as I thought."

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"Maybe if people were afraid of me they'd leave me alone." 

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"At home when people are afraid of you sometimes they leave you alone and sometimes they decide to take you out before you have a chance to do whatever it is they're afraid of."

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"...Yeah." 

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"Or they decide to take you out because it'll make people more scared of them. I don't get a lot of those, though, I keep to myself too much to have the kind of reputation that attracts them."

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"Yeah, you have to be, like, Seven Swordsmen level for that to happen." 

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"Oh? Who're they?"

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"My village has seven swords that were forged in a way to make it easier to channel chakra through them, and they're given to the seven scariest sword-using ninja the village has. ...A couple of them have gone missing-nin, though." 

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"Not sure I follow—is that missing like renegade?"

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"Yeah." 

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"Bet somebody's mad about them running away with the swords."

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"Oh yeah." 

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He laughs a little.

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"But they'd kill them either way, so." 

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"...are they gonna want to kill you if you try to quit?"

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"Well, yeah, but they won't be able to. You heard what Dean Mesmerra said about what we'd learn here." 

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"Well, sure, but—" He sighs. "I don't know, it's not like I can really make you a better offer. It's generally a good idea to avoid people who want to kill you even if they have almost no chance, cause a lucky shot will kill you just as dead as a fair fight, but my world isn't exactly the safest place either. I guess it wouldn't have anybody who was after you in particular, so there's that."

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Shrug. "I'm not planning to go back there." 

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"Yeah. I just—I wish I could offer people a safe place. It's what I did at home, sort of, but—I could never keep them as safe as I wanted to."

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"Hm?"

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"...I..." He struggles with words for a moment, then sighs and shakes his head. "I don't know, which part do you want me to explain?"

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Shrug. 

"You looked like you wanted to talk about it." 

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"I guess I do. I—it's complicated. I guess the short version is—there's these... things, people, monsters, I don't know what, we call them the Endbringers, and every few months one of them will pick a city somewhere in the world and show up there and spend a while killing everyone in sight and then leave. And it's not really possible to... do anything about them. People fight them, and it helps, or at least it seems to, but they've never been hurt, just driven off. And... in a world like that, it's hard to ever really feel safe. I can protect people from a lot of things, but not from that."

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"Oh.''

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"And... the thing I do is, I find someone who's unhappy, and I offer to make them happy. And if they say yes, and they like it enough to stay with me, I keep them. It's—nice, having people around who—want me to make them feel things. But—unhappy people are usually unhappy for a reason. One of my people—the first one, the one I kept longest—when I met her she was trying to kill herself, and when she was with me she didn't want to anymore, and then—she said it felt too much like a lie, feeling safe and okay in a world where the Endbringers could just wipe you off the map anytime they want. So..." He trails off into an unhappy shrug.

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"Oh."

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"I think what I want to do at this school is... find a place where she would've been okay, and move there. Or become someone who could've protected her the way she needed me to."

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Nod.

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"And you, I guess, want to become someone who can protect yourself."

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"...Yeah. Or. Find someone I can trust." 

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"...I'd protect you, if I could. If you wanted."

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"I--maybe. You sound trustworthy so far, but..."

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He shrugs. "Yeah. That's fair."

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"Thanks, though." 

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He smiles.

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She smiles hesitantly back at him. 

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He flops back down to snuggle his pillow some more.

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She lies down and closes her eyes. 

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Earlier, back in the orientation hall: 

Elodea shifts awkwardly. Students are explicitly not protected from each other. She bites her lip, glancing around, and finally strides forward and snatches a key off a hook that only has one. She doesn't really see how she can do better than random chance, not knowing anyone here. 

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The unfairly beautiful elf and his unfairly beautiful friend take a pair of associated keys at nearly the same time; they clearly know who to trust.

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Unnnnnnff.

They are unfairly pretty. If someone has to force themselves on her, which, sigh, talk about a good choice. Pity it's two a room. 

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One of them seems to have caught her looking.

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She flushes involuntarily and turns away, noting the room number on the hook she got her key from and gloomily wondering who's in that room. 

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They linger in the room as other students grab their keys and disperse. Soon there's no one left but the three of them.

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...Weird coincidence, or...?

(She hopes or.)

...Hesitantly, she turns to leave. 

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They follow her out.

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Okay. 

"Hi." 

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"Hello," says the unfairly beautiful human. "I think you should come back to our room with us."

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She closes her eyes.

"No."

She doesn't sound like she means it.

(Oh fuck this is hot.)

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The unfairly beautiful elf puts his hand on her shoulder.

He is unfairly strong, too, though he only shows as much of that strength as necessary to make his point.

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"Hmm, perhaps I should clarify," says the unfairly beautiful human. "I think you will come back to our room with us."

He doesn't really have to add 'whether you like it or not'.

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She puts up just enough resistance to make a point of it. 

Her pupils are dilated and her breath comes shallowly. 

Anyone who was using some kind of life-based magic to examine her body would quite clearly find that she was extremely turned on. 

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They march her down the hall like that, and all the way to the dorms, and eventually the unfairly beautiful human touches his key to a door.

The room on the other side is massive. It has a high vaulted ceiling supported by two sparse rows of marble columns, and on one side of the room there is a bed so tall it's set in a pyramid of shallow steps, big enough to entertain several guests in, and on the other side of the room there is an only slightly smaller bed that's sunk into the floor like a sort of cozy pit lined with pillows and floored with a mattress. Everything—the beds, the steps, the glossy marble floor—is some shade or other of off-white, warmer in some places and cooler in others, occasionally accented with a hint of soft grey. At the end of the central corridor that runs between the two rows of columns, there is a curtained archway past which an alert observer might glimpse a bath nearly the size of the larger bed.

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Wow. She forgets her token struggles for a moment, gaping at the room. 

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The unfairly beautiful human closes the door behind them all, leaves his friend holding Elodea, and goes to investigate the contents of all the alcoves and furniture and so on. It's not clear whether he's looking for something in particular or just taking inventory; his methodical search could be either.

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She swallows and blushes and looks up at her captor. 

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He's very tall. And very pretty. And very inescapably holding onto her.

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She whimpers softly and squirms and closes her eyes. 

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Then she will miss some of what happens next, and the next thing she knows he'll be scooping her up and carrying her to the big bed.

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Oh. Okay. 

She trembles slightly. 

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He tears her clothes off with casual violence and pins her to the bed.

Casual violence, in fact, seems to be the order of the day.

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Oh.

Fuck. 

Yes. 

Pain isn't specifically her thing but it has been so long since she's actually gotten laid and this guy is so hot and--

She can't consent to anything. 

But if it's the slightest bit ambiguous, the curse can't tell the difference between fighting and responding. 

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He is, it turns out, capable of getting even more violent.

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She has several decades of extremely violent personal experience. 

She does--something--and then her shoulder is dislocated and her arm isn't pinned and nails are raking down his back. 

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He snarls, grabs her arm again, and bites the shoulder she dislocated. Now it is not only dislocated but also bleeding profusely.

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She grins and headbutts him in the face. 

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There's something—different—about the way he gets when she's somewhat-seriously fighting back. More intense—and he was very intense to begin with.

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(His friend sits by the side of the bed, keeping an eye on them but apparently not moved to interfere.)

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You know, logically speaking, the added intensity shouldn't be hotter, given the circumstances, but. 

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If she thinks so, that's very convenient for her!

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She's got te~eth, she knows how to use them! 

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As she has already observed, so does he!

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She laughs through a mouthful of blood and does something with her hips that almost throws him off. 

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He pins her down harder. He seems inexhaustible; it's not clear when, or if, he intends to stop. (There's a usual event to mark that by, yes, but it's been and gone several times already without any sign of him slowing down.)

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She makes a noise somewhere between a moan and a sigh. 

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He keeps going—and keeps going—and keeps going—intense, violent, frenzied, in some strange state between lust and rage—

 

But he does stop, eventually. It may have been a few hours, by this point.

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His friend immediately climbs into bed to cuddle him.

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...She shifts, sitting up and wrapping her arms around her knees and biting her lip, trying to figure out if she would be at all welcome in this cuddle. 

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For a minute all he does is lie there, breathing deeply, in his friend's arms—

 

But then he reaches out, slowly, hesitantly, to put his hand on her arm.

All her remaining injuries immediately start to heal. It's a pleasant sensation, like soaking the pain away in a warm bath.

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Aw! 

She sprawls over in his direction and hugs him. 

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It turns out she is welcome in this cuddle. Now it is a cuddlepile.

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~Oh good.~

"Sorry about all the mixed signals," she mumbles into someone's shoulder. 

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"One of our classmates is a telepath and she gave me a hint earlier."

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"Say what." 

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"Which part of that do you want me to elaborate on...?"

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"Uh, how much she told you, I guess--sorry I just really wasn't expecting that answer." 

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"She said you're cursed so that this sort of thing happens to you a lot, and that you'd mind it less from us than usual."

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"Yeah. That was fun." Snuggle. 

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"I'm glad! A mutually enjoyable encounter seems much better than the alternative, for us as well as for you."

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"Mmhm. So you know my story, what's yours?" 

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"...my lord has a problem," he says, "and we're here in search of a solution. In the meantime, this helps. I'm not sure how to explain what the problem is but I can try if you like; it seems only fair."

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"I would very much like." 

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"...d'you know how, when most people get—upset, or stressed, or excited, they can calm down afterward? My lord—doesn't. Not completely. Not until he does something about it. If he tries to keep calm by force of will he'll only get more and more tense until he snaps and flies into an uncontrollable rage. So he makes sure to find an outlet before that can happen."

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(He's finished healing her by now; he snuggles up, but continues to let his friend do the talking.)

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Wince. "Well, that sucks. Kinda sorry for biting and scratching and stuff now." 

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(He smiles slightly.)

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"Thank you. It's all right."

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"If this happens again, I won't." 

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"That's good to know," he says.

"Would you like to stay in our room with us?"

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...She considers the unknown figure in the room that is technically hers. 

"Yes. Yes I would." 

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He smiles.

"My name is Atali, and this is Liamar."

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"I'm Elodea! Crescentlake. It is a genuine pleasure to meet the two of you." 

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"Very much likewise!"

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Mmsnuggles. "So what's up with the 'my lord' thing? If it's not prying." 

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"It's the appropriate way for me to speak of him, given our relative stations; he's the heir to a minor landholding, and I am his servant."

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"Okay. I'm a random nomad." 

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Liamar, smiling, finally speaks. "'Tali, the only reason you're still calling me that here is because you think it's funny."

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"That may be so," he acknowledges.

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She giggles and snuggles down closer to the both of them. "I like you. All the telepath had to pick up on at the time was how hot you were but I like you." 

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"We like you too. How convenient for all of us."

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"Yeah." 

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Elsewhere and earlier: 

Lucy picks a key at random off a peg that still has both. Probably she can deal with anyone who tries anything on her. 

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One of the other people who was standing near the back—the androgynous one—takes the other key from that peg and heads out without seeming to pay attention to who their roommate ends up being.

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Hmm. 

Well, she follows them. 

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Their room turns out to be... big. Very big. Mansion-scale, not in the sense that it would fit inside of a mansion but in the sense that a mansion would fit inside of it.

"Huh," says her roommate, stepping inside and looking around. The decor is tastefully elegant, and the room appears to be approximately circular and divided into three roughly equal sections: a walled-off bathing area, a relaxation area with human-sized furniture including numerous varieties of bed and couch, and a pillow-lined pit about four feet deep and easily broad enough to accomodate three elephants having a sleepover.

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"Whoah." 

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"Party-sized," her roommate comments. "Hi."

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"Um. Hi. I'm Lucy. Lucy Whately." 

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"I'm Dima." They smile at her. They have cute dimples. The door glides shut and they swing their bag down off their shoulder and toss it at a couch, where it lands neatly even though they weren't looking. "So, what brings you to spooky brain crime school?"

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"Well, they promised to feed me." 

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"Big appetite, or just down on your luck? I guess it's none of my business." They glance thoughtfully around the room, then back at Lucy, with a friendly, easygoing smile. "Do you mind if I take my clothes off? The briefing packet said I'm not supposed to go to classes or assemblies naked, but I'm not used to wearing this much, I never do at home."

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"Uh, okay. I guess I don't mind." 

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"Thanks!"

Off come the clothes. Dima turns out to have both breasts and a penis, which one imagines is not usual for humans but perhaps they're not a very usual human, and when they unpin their hair it falls nearly to the floor in glossy red-brown waves, and they twirl around so it flies out behind them and giggle and flop onto a couch.

"Oh, that's much better."

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...O...kay...

"Are clothes uncomfortable for you?" 

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"I don't know, maybe I'll get used to them, but I don't like them much."

They stretch out on the couch, wriggling into a more comfortable sprawl.

"I like being—part of the world, you know? This couch is so soft! I want to feel it! The air is warm and the light in this room makes my legs look nice and—I don't know, don't you ever feel stifled, all wrapped up like that? You have a pretty face and pretty hands and I bet the rest of you is pretty too."

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"...Not really. But I spent the first seventeen years of my life not able to wear clothes, maybe it'll change when the novelty wears off." 

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"Huh. Fair enough, I guess." Dima is now happily snuggling a couch cushion.

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Cute. 

"So, uh, that seems like a non-standard anatomical arrangement." 

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"Hmm? Oh, I guess. Where I'm from it's pretty normal to make your body how you want it, and this is what I wanted." They hug their cushion and grin at her. "Do you like my hair? I'm really proud of it, it took me ages to get it right."

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"Your hair is very nice. I designed this body too, but I don't know if I could do much after-the-fact tweaking. Probably someday, but it took me long enough just to get it, I don't really want to rock the boat." 

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"Oh, wow, is that your first try? You did a really good job!" they say earnestly. "I love your hair! And your face! You have a really lovely face. It's so well balanced! And those lips look very kissable."

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She squirms slightly. "Thanks." 

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"I know professional body designers who'd be proud to do work that good." They pause, and their smile turns flirtatiously speculative. "Are they as kissable as they look, though, I wonder?"

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"Uh--I don't know--I've never tried--" 

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Dima grins. "Well, do you want to?"

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"...Maybe???"

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"If you do, I'm game!" They sit up and pat the couch next to them invitingly.

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She squirms and bites her lip and hesitantly sits down next to them. 

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And Dima leans in and kisses her.

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!!!!!!

She has no fucking idea what to do here but she is gonna give it her best shot. 

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Well, Dima seems to be enjoying themselves, and also seems to know exactly what to do to cause all sorts of interesting sensations. If kissing is normally like this it's a wonder people ever do anything else.

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Ohhhhhhh melt melt melt. 

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Melting is good. Melting is a positive outcome here.

After a long while of really excellent kissing, they stop, and smile, and hug her, and nuzzle her shoulder affectionately. "Mmm. Very kissable."

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"Thank you."

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"I like you," says Dima. "You're cute and pretty and kissable and you designed yourself really well. Want to have sex?"

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SO MUCH BLUSHING 

"Okay."

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Dima bounces excitedly and kisses her again.

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Aaaaaaah okay. 

...How do you remove clothing when kisses. 

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Dima can take care of that! And then there will be more parts of Lucy to kiss.

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Oh. 

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Lucy is extremely kissable. Look at all these kissable parts.

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That would require a degree of flexibility she didn't build into this body and a degree of attention he's not leaving her!

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Well, fair enough.

 

Dima is, it must be reiterated, really really good at causing pleasant sensations. So good. Extremely good.

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Oh--oh--

 

oh

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Also, they can apparently extend their tongue to several feet in length, which opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities, sensation-wise.

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holy crap

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Eventually, after quite a lot of very enjoyable exploration of the kinds of sensations they can give her, they finally get around to trying the activity conventionally known as sex.

They're absurdly good at that too.

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"I'm, um--I'm not too small, am I, I've never actually seen a human penis before--" 

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"Hmm? No, you're fine," they assure her.

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"Okay that's just bigger than I was expecting is all." 

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"I think most humans have smaller ones, but this is the size I wanted."

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Blush. "Okay." 

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So, back to the thing where Dima is alarmingly good at causing pleasant sensations, then?

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Ohhhh yes.

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Good! Dima likes that thing. And they bet Lucy does too.

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Oh, oh, yes. 

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And then—

This whole time, Dima has very obviously been much more having fun giving Lucy pleasure than pursuing their own. But now they're finally starting to get a little flushed and distracted, and breathing heavily, and not maintaining such an unshakeable focus on Lucy—

—and then they hug her very tightly and let out a quiet sigh, and it's like she somehow feels all their euphoric inhuman bliss, and all the deep satisfaction and soft hazy peaceful contentment that follows it.

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"...Whoah...what's this?" 

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They don't answer, just snuggle her and hum cozily. If she really is feeling their sensations and emotions somehow, that's not a big surprise; it's hard to think clearly enough to talk. The effect is fading, or seems to be, but only very slowly.

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Her breath starts coming shallowly again, but for different reasons. 

She pushes him aside and scrabbles away, falling off the couch. 

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They make a startled sound and blink confusedly at her.

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She bites her lip and digs her fingernails into her arms--human body, human body, probably they could get away if--

"Not safe," she manages, shaking. 

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Dima sits up, concerned.

"Are you all right? What's wrong?"

(Panic is doing a pretty good job of clearing away the haze.)

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Deep breaths. Deep breaths. 

"I--you asked if I had a big appetite. I do. When I get hungry enough it gets hard to think and I--am not safe to be around when conscious thought lets go entirely." 

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"Oh! I'm so sorry, I didn't realize!"

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"Not your fault. You didn't know." 

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"Normal humans don't have that effect when they do that, but everyone I know does—I think I could change it to a different one, but I'm not sure how, I'd have to call home and ask—"

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Nod. "That would be...nice." 

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"I'm really sorry. This was supposed to be nice, and instead I scared you. Are you okay, do you need anything? Do you want a hug?"

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"Hug would be good," she agrees, scooting back over to the couch. 

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Then Dima can give her a hug.

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She snuggles right up. Snuggling is harder with only two arms but she's very motivated. 

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Dima turns out to be very good at hugs.

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"The room isn't party-sized. It's me-sized." 

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"...oh, that makes sense." Snuggle.

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Snuggle. "I don't--I'm not that hungry right now--you were probably safe." 

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"It's fine, anyway, I've probably had worse," they say distractedly, cuddling her.

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"I guess with the death ward that's possible but now I'm concerned for you." 

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"Oh, I'm all right, don't worry." They pet her some more. "People play with sensation a lot, where I'm from, it's not that big a deal."

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...Differently concerning, she thinks but does not say. Snuggle. 

"Last time was--bad." 

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Snuggle snuggle.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

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"I was thirteen, we didn't know it would happen, Grandfather had just died and Wilbur didn't know how to talk to the people Grandfather bought cows from, and Wilbur figured out how to contain me in the house so I didn't rampage through town, but. Mother was in the house." 

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"...oh no." More hug.

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"Yeah," she says, voice choked a little with tears. 

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So much hug.

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She starts crying on them. 

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They hold her and cuddle her and pet her.

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"'M sorry," she mumbles eventually. "We were supposed to be having fun." 

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Snuggle. "It's all right. We've got plenty of time to have fun later, it's okay to be sad now."

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"Yeah. Thanks." 

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Pet pet. "I'm sorry I scared you. I want to do better next time."

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"Why was it, um, like that? You said everyone you know is like that, but..."

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"...if you're not scared of it, it feels really good. And it's relaxing."

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"Gonna be super blunt, even without the trauma thing it seems a little--um--concerning--given that we're here to learn mind control." 

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"I can see how it would. But it really is something we all have, it doesn't seem any stranger to me than, say, the fact that hugs feel nice."

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"Mmmmkay." 

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Snuggle. "I'll figure out how to change it and I'll make it something that doesn't make it hard to think."

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"You're sweet." 

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"Awwww, thanks."

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Mmm, snuggle. 

Her body would like to remind her that she is naked and snuggling a naked person and inhabiting the body of a human teenager. She would like to remind her body what happened last time that went anywhere 

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Dima seems pretty happy to just snuggle her indefinitely.

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That is a much better plan. 

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Elsewhere and earlier. 

Keren hangs back slightly, studying the other students as they take keys. 

At an opportune moment, after someone who doesn't look overtly threatening at least takes a key, he plucks the second key from the peg before anyone else can. 

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His roommate doesn't hang back to see who took the other key off the peg; she heads straight for the dorms as soon as she has hers.

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He follows at a distance appropriate to going to the same place at roughly the same time but not following following her. 

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For some reason, their room is designed to mimic an outdoor space, like an enormous forest clearing. The outer wall is circular, outrageously tall, and supported by a ring of half-columns styled like tall straight trees, branching only at the top, holding up a domed ceiling with a sunny light shining from its center through a haze of very real-looking clouds. Tiled pathways sprawl across the floor, which is sloped in the shape of a shallow bowl, and between the paths there are fountains and charming little picnic tables and tidy planters that suggest garden beds; an artificial stream flows in next to the door, circles most of the room with delicate little bridges wherever the paths cross it, and then meanders down a series of tiny charming waterfalls before finally ending in a shallow pool in the center of the room, surrounded by a pleasant sitting area with tables and chairs like a cross between a living room and a garden party. A single small willow tree, growing in a very large pot, trails its delicate branches into the pool.

There are three buildings. One is next to the central pool, directly across from the main door, and its open double doors reveal a glimpse of an enormous bathtub. One is a kind of round stone tower with a lot of big arched windows, to the left of the path that leads from the door to the pool. The last is on the right side of that same path, somewhat farther away from it, and has much narrower windows and a design more like a small cozy fort.

 

"Wow," she says, pausing in the doorway to admire the view.

Then she dashes straight for the tower.

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Well. That was unexpected. 

He heads for the fort. 

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It's cozy and pleasantly decorated, and has a little sitting room and a little bedroom and a little study with a bookcase and a desk. Each room leads into the next with no hallways in between.

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...Oh. 

It's lovely. 

He sets his bag down, draws Ranna, keeping his finger pressed against the clapper, and heads back out. 

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His roommate has taken off her shirt and climbed onto the roof of her tower and is lying there basking in the artificial sun.

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...Nice. 

"Hello!" 

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She rolls over onto her front so she can look down at him, and waves.

"Hi! Wow, I didn't expect the rooms to be this good."

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"Neither did I!" 

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"I'm going to love this place when I get my wings back."

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"Your wings?" 

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"Yeah, I have wings usually. They're missing at the moment, but they'll grow back."

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"What happened?" 

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"I met some people who didn't like that I had wings."

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"It's terrible when that happens." 

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"Oh? Does that kind of thing happen a lot where you're from?"

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"That in particular? Not generally. But people with power do tend to react badly to people who seem to be gaining it." 

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"Yeah, I think that one might be universal. What's your name, anyway? I'm Naina."

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"Keren." 

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"Nice to meet you! What brings you here? I mostly came to get away from the people who keep cutting my wings off."

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"A little to get away from the Abhorsen, a little to get better at magic." 

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"Get away from who?"

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"The Abhorsen is a powerful mage from a powerful bloodline who likes to cut off the metaphorical wings of other mages if we're the wrong kind." 

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"Unfortunate. Well, hopefully we'll both do better here."

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"Hopefully. But I think we've got a pretty good chance; you heard what the Dean said." 

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"The implication that our classmates will try to enslave us was a little disheartening."

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"Eh, depends on what they're like, I suppose." 

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"Oh?"

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"Well, I don't know you very well yet, but based on first impressions I don't think it would go very badly for me if you enslaved me." 

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"Aww, I'm flattered."

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"One way or another, just don't prove me wrong." 

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She laughs. "I won't, I promise."

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"I'm glad to hear it. --So, the shirtlessness, is that a having-wings thing?" 

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"Little bit. Little bit I just felt like it."

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"I see." Boy, does he see. 

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She grins, and grabs the edge of the roof, and flips over the side and swings down into an open window, and seconds later climbs out of another open window closer to the ground and perches cheerfully on the windowsill.

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"You have excellent breasts." 

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"Thanks! Wanna touch 'em?"

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"I would love to." 

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She hops off her latest perch and lands on the floor, surprisingly lightly for having dropped such a distance.

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He slides Ranna back into its pouch and then dips her and kisses her. 

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Eeeeee.

She's highly enthusiastic about this. And also a really good kisser.

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Wonderful. 

With the hand not holding her waist, he takes her up on her offer 

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They're just as nice to touch as they are to look at!

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"Is wonderful breasts a winged-person thing?" 

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"You know, I've never checked."

She pulls him into another kiss.

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Mmmmmmm. Excellent. 

"You're stunning." 

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"Thanks! You're pretty cute yourself." Kiss. "And charming." Kiss. "And kissable."

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"I try." Kiss. "A little smoothness goes a much longer way towards moving things than a much greater amount of brute force." 

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"Very true."

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Okay less talking more kissing now. 

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Good plan.

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"So," he says after another little while, "is the touching offer limited to above the waist, or...?" 

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"Oh, not at all."

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"Oh good," he says, and kisses her again, and then briefly pulls back to pull off his bell-bandolier and set it carefully aside, and then kisses her again. 

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Good plan.

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He sets about removing the rest of her clothing. 

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He is just full of excellent plans, isn't he!

Out here on the floor is maybe not the most comfortable place to be doing this, but she doesn't actually mind.

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It turns out being charming isn't the only thing he knows how to do with his tongue. 

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Ooh.

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Excellent. 

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Why yes, he is.

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Oh good. 

Once that's reached a satisfactory point, he sets about removing his own clothes. 

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Naina can help! She's very helpful.

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"If we do this the conventional way, is there any risk of you getting pregnant?" 

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"Nope! Winged people don't do that."

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"Excellent." 

Then things can proceed in a normal, if perhaps higher-quality than "normal" would strictly imply, fashion. 

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Things are going to be very, very high-quality.

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Oh good. 

He purrs into her neck.

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Mmmmmmm.

Yes. Very high-quality indeed.

 

Afterward, she snuggles him a little, even though this floor is still kind of uncomfortable to lie on. He's worth snuggling.

And then—she pauses, mid-snuggle, and smiles, and sits up, and a pair of enormous raven wings sprout from her back.

"There they are!" she says, stretching them out to their full span and then folding them up again. "Oh, I missed these."

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"Was that a coincidence, or?"

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"Oh, they would've come in anyway, but it would've taken a little longer."

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"Your magic runs on sex?"

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"I suppose you could say that."

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"Fun."

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"It has its ups and downs. Pretty happy about it at the moment, though." She kisses him on the cheek.

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Aww. He kisses her on the cheek back. "Mine uses bells."

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"I was wondering about those!"

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"Do be careful with them; they're dangerous in unskilled hands. Or skilled ones, but less so." 

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"Thanks, I'll remember that. Not that I was particularly planning to mess with your things, but it's still good to know."

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"I don't especially want to find out how Astarael interacts with the death ward." 

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"Is that by any chance a bell that kills you?"

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"It is a bell that kills everyone in earshot!"

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"...Why is there a bell that kills everyone in earshot?" she asks, idly tucking a wing around him. (It's a very cozy wing.)

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Mm, cozy. He snuggles in. "Well, the primary function of the bells is necromancy, so it's less random than it sounds." 

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"I suppose that makes sense."

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"But it's not really useful except as a deterrent." 

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"Or if the person carrying it is suicidal. Or very, very deaf."

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"You know, I'm not actually sure if deafness stops the bells." 

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"And even if it stopped the rest it might not stop that one. I wouldn't want to be the one to test it, that's for sure."

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"No kidding--although I suppose if one were to test it, here would be the place." 

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"Yeah, in a place like this if they advertise a death ward you have to figure it's been tested against some pretty emphatic forms of death."

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"Yes...honestly, I'm curious how the bells work at all here, I have no idea if this place is connected to the Gates." 

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"The Gates?"

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"It's a liminal river inhabited by the Dead and divided into nine precincts. Beyond it is--presumably something--from which no one has ever returned." 

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"Death in my world isn't anything nearly so fancy."

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"Hm. Mosrael in particular seems likely to work oddly if at all, then." 

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"Oh? What's that one do?"

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"Mosrael is the Walker, which brings the Dead into life as it casts the wielder into Death." 

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"What an inconvenient-sounding bell."

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"It's not that inconvenient. Any necromancer worth their salt can handle the first few precincts, and it doesn't cast you far into Death." 

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"Still! So far I haven't heard you describe a bell that doesn't try to kill you at least a little bit!"

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"Well, the ones that don't are less likely to interact oddly with the death ward or the school! I've only mentioned two." 

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"Fair enough." Snuggle.

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Snuggle. "I admit I don't know much of anything about the thought processes that went into designing the system." 

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"I would definitely have questions for the inventor of the Kills Everyone Bell if I met them."

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"I'm also not sure what design constraints they had." 

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"Well, yes, that's definitely a good question to start with."

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"Mm, yes." He strokes her wing. 

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Cozy!

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"I'm curious to see how my bells will interact with other magic systems." 

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"Should be interesting!"

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"What does your magic do?" 

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"A lot of things! I'm not sure how much of it is going to come up, though, and I haven't been able to use it in a while. I'm not even sure I'll get all the same things back as I had last time I was doing well on the power front."

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"If you gain power through sex it shouldn't be hard for you."

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"In theory I'm going to have some other things to do with my time."

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"Well, true. Classes seem a bit mandatory."

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"The rest of the time, though..."

She kisses him.

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Mm, kisses. 

Kisses and logical progression from kisses?

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Good plan!

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Excellent. Any new fun goodies after?

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Nothing super obvious, but hey, it's not like the process wasn't rewarding in its own right.

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Mm, true. 

"Want to see any of the less-lethal bells?"

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"Sure!"

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He reaches for his bandolier and pulls out the tiniest one. 

Ting-a-ling! Ting-a-ling!

Does she feel sleepy now?

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A little!

"Aww, that's pretty," she murmurs, leaning on him and tucking her wing around him more cozily.

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"Thank you. Ranna, the Sleeper, first of the Bells."

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"It's cute."

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He buries his face in her feathers and hums happily. 

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She smiles and hugs him, careful of the bell.

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He puts it back in the bandolier carefully. "Do you dance?"

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...she laughs. "Not for a very long time."

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"Do you want to?"

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She giggles. "Sure!"

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He grins and pulls out the fourth bell, swinging it in wide pealing arcs. Jaunty tones fill the air, and he leaps to his feet, holding out a hand for her to take, and she feels a nigh-irresistible urge to do the same.

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Sure, she'll go with it.

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The Bell--suggests movements; her own power lets her refuse it, if she wants, but dancing like this is easy, her body knowing exactly what to do before she does it. 

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It's a lot of fun.

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Eventually the dance concludes and he lets the bell fall into his other hand where he grasps the clapper, turning the motion into a bow. He carefully replaces the bell in the bandolier. 

"That was Kibeth, the Walker. The others are Belgaer, the Thinker, Dyrim, the Speaker, and Saraneth, the Binder. I can't think of any demonstrations of those so friendly." 

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She waits until he has the bell properly put away before scooping him up effortlessly in her arms, twirling him around, kissing him, wrapping her wings around him, and setting him back on his feet.

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!!!

"I'm glad you liked it," he says breathlessly. 

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Ooh that sounds like she should kiss him again.

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Oh gosh she's so good. 

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Yes she is.

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"You are a delight." 

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"Thanks! So are you!"

She kisses him again.

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Mmmmm yes. 

"So--to whatever extent your magic runs on sex, what qualifies, exactly...?" 

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"Plenty of things. Why do you ask?"

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"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 

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"I bet we can work something out."

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He grins and kisses her again. 

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She scoops him up again, and this time carries him into her tower, because the amount of having sex on a stone tile floor they have done today is getting kind of ridiculous and she would like the next time to involve a bed. Or a couch. A blanket, even.

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Eee scooping. 

A bed sounds lovely. 

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Elsewhere and earlier: 

Larella gnaws her lip, hanging back a little, nervously, feeling a little like a kid who's nervous about being picked last for teams. 

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There's someone else hanging back nearby, but as the supply of unclaimed keys dwindles, he swoops in and picks up half of one of the last remaining pairs.

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--Okay, well, that settles it then, doesn't it. She picks up the other one. 

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He catches her eye and offers her a smile, quick and light and friendly.

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Oh. Well. Good, then. She smiles back. 

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"Shall we find our room together?"

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"Uh--sure!" 

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He smiles again, and turns to lead the way.

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Yeah okay seems legit. She follows. 

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"What's your name?" he asks conversationally as they walk.

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"I'm Larella." 

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"And I am Ozorne," he says.

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"So what brings you here?" 

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"The opportunity to become greater than I was before, of course. And you?"

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"I mean when you put it like that that's pretty much why anyone goes to any university. I'm here in particular because I have a voice that should be good for audio hypnosis." 

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"Oh, I'm a magical prodigy," he says casually, in the way of one to whom this fact is old news, "but not particularly in the relevant area. I'm not sure what about me drew our goddess's eye."

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"That makes sense. I was warned most magic wouldn't be like I was familiar with; it would be--rare for magic to be applicable at all if it wasn't directly, the way I'm familiar with." 

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"Oh?"

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"Well, Elf magic would be completely irrelevant, except I guess in terms of making a child with relevant power--Elves have fertility magic that ensures healthy children. Dryads can heal themselves by pulling energy from trees, or bolster trees by putting energy into them. You could maybe do something chemical with that. Ogres are just extremely strong. Shifters can take on any face they please." 

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"I see! So your magic is related to the species rather than the individual? That's fascinating. Ours isn't like that at all - well, I suppose it is for the immortals, but not for humans, which I am. We each have power or don't, or have more or less of it or different kinds, according to our specific human bloodlines and individual aptitudes."

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"Huh. Yeah, magic is by species, except for Death Tolls and Geneses--hybrids can get interesting synergies, sometimes. I'm a siren. We have magic voices, which is in fact relevant-but-not-directly."

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"What sort of magic do your voices have, then?"

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"We can do anything with them." She hums a few bars of string instrument music to demonstrate. 

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"Oh!" He looks genuinely delighted. "Can you do birdcalls?"

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"Sure! I dunno if you'll recognize any, we don't even have the same sapient species, but--" and she chirps and chimes a handful of noises from birds that are, in fact, unfamiliar to him. "If there are any from your world in your neighborhood I can pick them up there." 

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"I feel very silly now, but it hadn't occurred to me that different worlds would have different birds. I'm going to have to go around all the neighbourhoods to see them all. Maybe I'll take home a collection."

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"Oh, that'd be cool. Other worlds will have different music traditions, too, I have to bring home otherworldly music for my little sister." 

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"I'm sure my friends will want otherworldly recipes and otherworldly books."

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"My little sister is an epic musician." 

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He smiles. "Many would say the same about my best friend's cooking."

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"Ooh. Does she have magic for it?" 

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"As a matter of fact she does!"

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"Oh, excellent."