A Learning Experience: Chapter One, Turn Nine

After the fencing tryouts, the group gathers outside room 107.

The area around the room is oddly quiet; through the window in the classroom door, Mr. Ravenscroft's desk can be seen. The skull, "Yorick," sits on the desk near the in-baskets for homework, as usual.

To faerie sight, there is a tiny, flickering point of light inside each of the skull's eye sockets -- more noticeable now that the lights in the room are off.

Valeria turns to the others. "So, did anyone find out anything interesting?"

Valeria's statement distracts Trevor from eyeing Layla. "Well, I think Julian likes me. And he's a Senior and is helping out Miss K and Sir D, so I think with his help we should be able to secure weapons easily - though I think he'll want to come along. But don't worry, I'm sure I can persuade him to keep quiet about things, or whatever else we need him to do." With this said Trevor's eyes wander over to settle on Niko.

Bela looks at the skull, "Maybe we shouldn't meet here, unless we want Teach knowing everything, not that I don't mind."

Trevor looks in the window and waves. He turns back the group. "There's a place with ice cream and candy a short walk away. We could go there. Oh, and it's run by one of our helpful kin."

"Bela's probably right." Niko turns to Layla, "What do you think?"

"I could go for a little something," Emmet says. "Lead on."

"Well, if m'lady doesn't object..." Trevor bows to Layla. "...We're off then."

Trevor leads the way to the ice cream place.


Meyer's Ice Cream and Fine Chocolates is located a short walk from Larry K. Dixon High.

The inside is cheerfully decorated; there are a few booths along one wall, while the opposite one is dominated by the standard glass case with large containers of ice cream within. Displays of fanciful confections and stuffed animals are arranged near the case.

The large open area in the middle of the store is dominated by tables for customers to sit at.

Julian from the fencing team is sitting in one of the booths. Next to him is a dark-haired girl with unusual amber eyes, dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans and combat boots. There is a gold crescent moon pendant hanging around her neck.

Opposite Julian and the brunette are two other people -- a striking young woman with fine features; thick black hair falls to her waist, confined somewhat by a silver-colored hairband. Her eyes are an unusually vivid shade of blue. She wears a midnight blue top cut wide of her shoulders, showing off her creamy skin, and a black leather skirt.

To faerie sight, the young lady is even more lovely. Her hair is a rich raven-black that glimmers with deep blue highlights when the light strikes it just right. She has an unblemished porcelain complexion, and displays the fine features and pointed ears typical of the sidhe. Her eyes are a deep sapphire blue.

She wears a gambeson of quilted midnight-blue leather, cinched at the waist with a belt of black leather tooled with images of unicorns in a forest. Her legs are covered by form-fitting black trousers and black suede boots.

Next to her is a large, muscular young man with a thick crop of blond hair, hazel eyes, and strong, chiseled features. He's clad in a Larry K. Dixon varsity jacket over a tight T-shirt that shows off his impressive pectoral muscles and rock-hard abdomen, jeans, and sneakers.

To faerie eyes, the jock is even larger and more impressive. His skin is an icy blue, and his hair lightens to a wheat-blond hue. A pair of ridged horns curve back into his hair, and his very posture carries an air of strength and solidity. He wears a hauberk of ring mail over a tight leather tunic, and leather trousers and boots.

Julian notices the little group coming in, and pauses in his conversation to flash a smile and wave to Trevor and the rest, then returns his attention to his own companions.


Andromeda saunters over to the ice cream case and oohs and aahs over the selection. After a moment, she turns to the person behind the counter and orders, "I'll have a triple banana split, hold the pineapple, double the chocolate sauce, and no less than six - count 'em, six! - of those delectable cherries."

Emmet watches her for a moment, vaguely bemused, then takes a seat in a booth.

Bela heads in with the rest and looks about. Once everyone is at the table she leans forward and whispers, "Kate and Aidan both set off the radar so to speak, Aidan is wearing something. What did you guys see?"

Valeria answers in a low voice between licks of her raspberry sherbet, "Kate was really putting out vibes, if you know what I mean. But she doesn't seem to want to talk much -- she's kind of shy."

In the other booth, the dark-haired female sidhe leans over to whisper something in the troll's ear as he polishes off the remains of a sundae.

A few seconds later, a rumbling sound fills the area immediately around the booth as he starts chuckling.


Andromeda mock-pouts for a moment when the person behind the counter doesn't respond to her order, then sits with the rest of the group. She comforts herself with a long pull from Emmet's ginger ale float (through the straw, of course).

"I know what you mean about Kate," Emmet says as he gives his chimerical sidekick a baleful glare. "She's either this close to Chrysalis, or is Kinain. She reacted to Andromeda's voice as readily as she did to mine, and I'm positive she didn't like the look of my smile." He gives Bela a grin by way of demonstration. "She must think she's a furking nutcase..."

Emmet spoons a bite of ice cream from his float before continuing.

"And Aidan," he says around his spoon, cocking an eyebrow at Bela, "is either the winner of the last Green Gemstone Man look-alike contest, or he's wearing a serious tsatske under his shirt. Whatever it is almost glows with Glamour. I saw that much in the locker room."

He eats another spoonful of ice cream.

"Too bad I don't play on both teams. I might have been able to get a closer look," he says wryly. "Whaddaya say, Skirtboy, you think Aidan would let you play with his bauble if you let him play with your sword?"

Trevor manages to contain his laughter at Emmet's remark. "I don't know. I can try talking to him and see if he'll let me play with his treasure. As for my sword," he grins at Emmet, "It is at your service, if it is needed."

"Does anyone else want to order anything? I've got a line of credit here, so it's my treat. And if you want Andromeda, I'd be willing to get you a triple banana split of your own or to split one with you."

Trevor goes over to the counter and puts in an order for himself and for whatever anyone else wanted. Trevor divides his time waiting at the counter between watching his friends and eyeing Julian and his group.

Niko shakes his head at Trevor's question, and remains quiet, while listening to the conversation. Every once in a while he jots down a note or does a quick sketch.

Bela considers quickly, "If they have something mango flavored, I'd have sundae with that, hot fudge, and coconut. If they don't have mango, anything fruity. And if Aidan is like Emmet here, I'm sure one of us girls could try talking to him. Emmet, what or who is the Green Gemstone Man?"

Throughout, Bela keeps her voice low, and keeps an eye on Julian's table.

Trevor replies as he gets up to place the orders, "Well, it'd work with me too."


Bela's mango flavored sundae - with hot fudge and coconut - is done first. Trevor returns to the table and presents it to Bela with a bow. "Delicious," he says, winking at Bela.

Trevor returns to the counter via Julian's table, stopping to say hi.

Julian flashes a radiant smile at Trevor, and gestures to his companions. As far as Trevor's friends can tell, he's apparently making introductions, for the troll jock envelops Trevor's hand in his own huge one and gives it a hearty shake. Julian's low, mellow voice can be recognized, but whatever he's actually saying is lost, between the distance between the two groups and the Muzak playing in the ice cream parlor.


The door of the ice cream parlor opens, and Sally Harper bursts in, making a beeline for the ice cream case. Spotting the little group at Julian's table, she squeals with delight and bounds over, enveloping first the girl sitting next to Julian, and then the female sidhe on the opposite side of the booth, in exuberant hugs.

Spotting Trevor, she utters another high-pitched squeal of happiness and gives him the same treatment.

Trevor hugs Sally back. He talks to her, gesturing to the counter.


Emmet regards Bela for a moment before he answers. The look on his face isn't much different than the one he would give if someone asked who or what was Microsoft - that is, somewhere between derision and utter astonishment.

Andromeda kicks him under the table and answers Bela's question. "The Green Gemstone Man is a minor, though important, character in the first Dragonlance saga of novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman." She takes a sip from Emmet's float.

"He gets his name from the large emerald that was embedded in his chest by ... well, I'm sure you'd enjoy the story more if you read it for yourself. The series starts with Dragons of Autumn Twilight. They were first published something like ten years ago, but I think you can still find them on the shelves in better bookstores."


After talking to Trevor for a while, Sally gets a sundae and makes her way over to Julian and the rest. She squeezes into the booth next to Julian and the mortal girl, as the troll's huge frame makes sitting next to him and the female sidhe just about impossible.


After he's done talking to Sally, Trevor collects the rest of the order and heads back to the table.

After passing out the dishes, Trevor says,"I asked Sally about Kate - they're in the same calligraphy class. Sally said Kate was shy and jumpy sometimes too. Sally said that one time when she was helping Kate out, Kate looked ready to just about jump out of her skin. When Sally asked her what was going on, she tried to brush it off, but she looked almost ready to cry."

Layla says, "So what are our plans now? and here..."

She slides Bela a business card with the name, address, and phone number of her book store on it

"Actually... just in box,"

She hands one to everyone, Andromeda included

"but anyway..."

She trails off and waits for someone else to start talking

Bela takes the card and puts it into her bag then starts on the ice cream, "Well what do we want to do about, about the kids that are seeing things, it gets a little messy with the rules, so how do you feel about the rules? I mean what is more important, the rules or what is right?"

Then Bela smiles at Emmet. "Well I doubt you have heard of Rambha and Manikandhara, though I think Trevor and the other would like the story, I have heard that there is an English translation... there is something for everyone, adventure, love, romance, demons..."

Trevor looks rather interested - as much as he can with a mouthful of ice cream.

Val also leans closer, her gray eyes alight with anticipation.

Trevor puts Layla's card in his wallet.

Trevor looks at Bela and grins. "Would you believe me if I told you the rules are more important?" Not bothering to wait for her response, he continues, "What were you thinking of doing? I doubt it's what I came up with..." He winks at Bela.

Niko sticks the card in his bookbag and listens into the conversations being held at the table. "I think that sometimes rules are meant to broken." He looks down at his notebook, a look of remembrance crossing his face, "I know that rules are set up for protection, but there is nothing that we can really do except try to help them and ensure them that they are not insane."

A look of concern passes over Trevor's face.

Val frowns, her finely-drawn ebony brows pulling together. "Well, whatever we do, we should probably do it..." she seems to fumble for the right words, "...discreetly." She looks as if she's weighing a number of unpleasant alternatives in her mind. Her voice drops. "If we screw up, we could have the whole duchy on our butts."

At the other table, Sally is chatting happily away. Julian, however, seems to be only partly listening to her.

Bela nods at Niko's comment, "I don't think we should all approach them, they might feel ganged up on. How well do you guys know them?"

Val looks thoughtful. "Well, I've known Aidan since, like, eighth grade or so. Kate's a freshman, so maybe she doesn't know too many people that well." She looks at the others, apparently for other ideas.

"I was going to ask Julian about Aidan." Trevor glances over at the table with Julian, Sally etc. and then back to Bela. "I could get Sally to introduce me to Kate. She's a freshman, so she'd probably be happy to go out with me." He grins and adds, "I'd be willing to make the sacrifice for you guys."

Bela looks at Trevor sharply, "Doesn't that sound like you might just be abusing your good looks, taking advantage of how people react? And when we are done figuring this all out, what will you do with her then, you'll 'break up' with her? Besides, before we talk to either of them, maybe we should decide what we will say. Val's right about getting in trouble, and some of you might only get a slap on the wrist, I'm sure the upper crust might not be too happy about the rabble leading their bright young hopes into mischief."

"I don't look that good..." Trevor's voice trails off. "Okay, I guess that's not true any more. But why would using my looks be wrong? You don't have a problem with using your brain, do you? It's not like I would be forcing her. I'd have been happy as a freshman if some junior asked me out."

He pauses and then adds, "I hadn't thought of breaking up her." Trevor looks unhappy. "I don't like the thought - it sounds so unpleasant."

"There's always me asking her to go out on a group date - with us." He gestures at everyone seated around the table. Trevor looks sheepishly at the table. "It might actually be better that way. I've only ever really been on one date." He looks around at the group. "But please don't tell anyone, it's really embarrassing."

Niko glances at both Bela and Trevor during their argument. "She's in calligraphy, right? So why doesn't someone just ask for some afternoon lessons; claim that they couldn't take the class this year but are interested in learning. That way no one gets hurt and it isn't too obvious that there might be other reasons behind it."

Trevor looks a bit relived. He says to Niko, "That sounds like a good idea."

"It could work," Val says thoughtfully. "Of course, it being only the second week of the school year, she might say she can't teach someone too much just yet, but it's definitely worth a try."

She seems to be turning things over in her head. "Kate seems to be a little more at ease with girls, from what I've seen -- maybe it should be Bela or Layla who asks her at first?"

"I concede," says Trevor. He grins and adds, "Wouldn't Mr. Ravenscroft be happy with that bit of vocabulary?"

Emmet quickly enters the information on Layla's card into his iPaq, then tucks both PDA and card into a vest pocket. He takes a sip of his float then speaks softly.

"I think the calligraphy thing is a good idea. If her jumpiness is any indication, she's probably thinking she's losing her ferking mind. The last thing she needs is anyone playing fast and loose with her emotions - even if the original intent seems pure."

Oddly, this last is not directed at Trevor. Emmet's eyes are fixed on something unseen, as though he's remembering some past experience.

"If she's kinain, she'll need to be handled carefully. If her Dream Dance is coming, having some familiar faces nearby will help a lot."

A look of pain flashes across his features.

"If it's neither, if she's somehow sensitive to Glamour without having Faerie blood, then we're going to need some support from the faculty. Whatever we're looking at, we need to be damn careful about how we act."

He pauses to take another drink.

"Yep. Let's go for friendship and see where that leads."

"Sounds good to me." Trevor looks around the table. "Friends are important."

"I'll talk to her," says Bela. "I like calligraphy, it's an eastern culture thing, I'm new here, and she's a freshman; it wouldn't be hard to seem natural. So what is her last name and do we dare wait till tomorrow or should I try and get her phone number? In fact over the phone might be less stressful for her, she won't have to look at my ears."

"Sounds like a good idea," Valeria says. "Kate's last name is 'Richardson,' I think." She pauses. "So, I guess I'm elected to talk to Aidan, then? Unless you want to chat up Julian about him, too," she says to Trevor with a wink.

"I wouldn't mind talking to Julian," says Trevor with a smile. "And he seems to like me, so I think he'd be willing to talk."

Bela looks over at Julian's table. "Well, just remember that Aidan does have a girlfriend, and didn't someone say she was the protective type? So maybe a boy talking to him would be better, and perhaps one that isn't known for 'liking' everyone? We don't want to make his life hard and getting his girlfriend all mad at him would do just that."

Val smiles. "Actually, it was me," she says lightly. "But don't worry, Shakti and I go way back -- I met her before I met Aidan -- and she knows I've got no designs on him."

Trevor says, "I can still talk to Julian though. He may have noticed something that Aidan won't want to tell Val." He glances over at Julian. "I should talk to him when he's alone though. I could try tomorrow after school. Maybe I could get him to help with my homework or something like that."

Bela looks at Trevor, "And you sound like you just won't be a happy puppy until you get to talk to Julian. I'll try to call Kate tonight." Bela takes a bite of her ices cream. "So what are we going to do about the rats? And well I haven't had a chance to ask, before I go and get myself in trouble, who is who, among the nobles, and well not to insult Val or Trevor, how much does all their politics really matter here."

Val thinks for a minute. "Let's see -- as to the faculty, there's Lady Janelle; she wears Eiluned's arms a lot; Lord Preston dresses in Dougal colors; Sir Dariun wears a surcoat with our House's -- that is, Scathach's -- crest.

"The students? Well, I know of a couple -- me, Trevor," she pauses to give a friendly wink to the other sidhe, "Crystal Logan; she's a Gwydion, and makes sure everyone knows it..." her face twists with distaste. "Julian," she looks over to the other table "is Eiluned; and Dru -- that's Drusilla, over there--," she looks at the table where Julian, Sally, and the others are sitting again, "is Scathach." She pauses for a moment. "Those are all the ones I know; maybe we could ask Lady Janelle if there are any more?"

Trevor stands up and bows in a graceful fashion to Bela. "Laird Trevor Leon, Knight of House Fiona, at your service, m'Lady." He breaks into a grin and says, winking, "And the same goes for anyone else here." He sits back down.

"Sidhe politics matter to any of our kind." Trevor indicates the group around the table. "Many Sidhe have the Art of Kings. Combine that with some ruthlessness, and it's bad news for anyone they can order around. Politics means they have a reason to do so."

Trevor looks serious as he adds, "There's something else. My knowledge is rather lacking in this area, but there was a war when the vast majority of the sidhe returned. The simplistic summary was that it was sidhe vs commoners, but that's not the whole truth. Some sidhe supported the commoners, to some degree or other. So modern sidhe politics sometimes deals with the equality of the commoner kiths relative to the sidhe."

Trevor adds quietly, "I will not abandon my friends, no matter what their kith."

Val looks at Trevor with an expression of utter astonishment. "You mean you don't know about the Accordance War?" She looks almost pained as she continues. "About thirty years ago, just after the astronauts walked on the moon, the sidhe who'd left during the Shattering came back through the trods. They just waltzed right in, said, 'Thanks, we'll take over now,' and tried to put back the old divine right crap that'd been in place when they left."

"When the rest of us -- and I'm counting the Scathach among the commoners, 'cause the returnees did -- said, 'No thanks,' the nobility pulled the dirtiest trick yet -- invited the commoner leaders to a reune and slaughtered the lot of them with Cold Iron." A flush rises in her cheeks, and her lips pull back; the effect is somehow like that of a lioness baring her fangs. "That's when the war started. If King David hadn't come to throne, we might still be fighting."

Val's expression calms a little, but the flush doesn't leave her cheeks. "My Aunt Janna fought in the war; now she's in the Parliament, making sure that nothing like that ever happens again."

Bela watches Trevor's face during Val's history lesson. "And some kith never thought they ever had a 'divine right' even before the Shattering. The whole world doesn't revolve around the Celtic lands after all. There is an Elegbara story about the names of the kith, and how the sidhe don't have one anymore, they left the world and the world doesn't really want them back. But Val's house is respected. That is without question."

As Val goes through the second part of the story, with the slaughter of the commoners, Trevor's expression hardens, turning cold and terrible - a deadly beauty. His expression softens quickly after she finishes, as he looks around at the faces of his friends, as if to reassure himself that they were still all there.

Bela pauses, searching for words to change the mood. "Trevor, you should seek out the story, but from your house, and from us, your friends, it is always best to know both sides. The listen with your heart for the truth."

Trevor gives Bela a nod with a hesitant smile.

Bela meets Val's eyes then everyone else's, "What I was sort of wondering besides just houses, was pecking order. I know it is only a matter of time before I butt heads with someone. I did at my last school, there was this one babgha that thought that his classmates were excellent test material for his magic lessons. Granted I decided his life story was perfect material for satire, a time honored bardic tradition in many lands. I just love lampooning someone that needs it."

Trevor seems to have regained most of his normal demeanor. "The Headmistress at the top, the assistant Headmaster and the rest of the teachers. Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores, Freshmen. Now for us it's more complicated because you need to account for titles. Theoretically I could order around, say Miss Kapatelis, but practically, I wouldn't want to try it. But it still helps me, though more with other students." He pauses and adds, "And of course, money plays into it too." Trevor looks over toward Julian. "He's got rank, he's a senior, his family has money - and he's good looking to boot. I'd have to say he's near the top of the student pecking order. Ooo, and I've forgotten two other things - appearance and athletics. Julian's on the fencing team, with counts as being athletic, but Gordon - the troll - is on the football team, which is more impressive. I guess his size counts a bit too." He thinks for a moment and concludes, "I guess for us, being a Teacher or what class you're in with Title counts the most."

"It also matters what House you're from, for the sidhe," Val interjects. "The Gwydion and Dougal are the most respected, though the Eiluned are up there too. The Fiona and Liam are sort of more on the fringe, and we Scathach tend to get looked down on, at least by the big three." She looks disgusted for a moment before she gets herself back under control.

She taps her fingers against the tabletop for a few moments before continuing. "Crystal Logan is rich, pretty, a senior, a cheerleader, dating a football player, and she ranks almost everyone in the student body, so she's pretty much at the top of the student pecking order -- unfortunately." She takes a drink of water, as if to get the bad taste of admitting this out of her mouth.

"Julian is the only person I know among the students who ranks anywhere near Crystal either way you look, but he's Eiluned, so some of the others don't trust him. Gordon and Brandon -- Julian's friend and Crystal's boyfriend -- are both knights, seniors, and on the football team, so that puts them right up there too. My guess, though, is that Trevor ranks a little bit higher than they do this year, because of his kith. Dru and I are both squires and Scathach, but she's a sophomore, so I guess I might have a little edge over her." She shrugs. "Of course, being squires and Scathach both, we tend not to get noticed too much by the higher-ups anyway."

Throughout the discussion of the Accordance War Emmet's face looks as though it were carved from stone. There is a hard, shadowed look in his eyes, though his gaze seems a little unfocused. There are old wounds here - far older than his current mortal seeming.

His expression softens as the conversation turns to the who's-who of Larry Dixon, cold hatred replaced by the more familiar mixture of distaste and outright derision.

"Crystal Logan is an uptight, manipulative bitch," he says mildly.

Andromeda snickers, "And those are her better qualities!" Her comment brings a small smile to Emmet's lips.

"'Respected' is not a term many sidhe use in conjunction with House Scathach, though their actions in the Accordance War were far nobler," Emmet says. There is a certain weight in his words, a feeling of knowledge gained through experience rather than from history class or the war stories of a bitter grump. "Some of us don't forget. We notice."

He looks straight at Val. "I notice," he says, his tone slightly softer.

Val gives Emmet a grateful look, then looks thoughtfully at the others. "Okay, so I'll talk to Aidan, Trevor will talk to Julian, and Bela is going to talk to Kate. Anyone else want to do anything, or are we pretty well set?"

"I guess so." Bela looks around for a clock, "I should be heading home soon anyway." She works on finishing the ice cream.

Trevor pushes his dish away. "I think I've had enough of this." He nods to Bela, "I'll talk to Julian then." He looks over at Layla and Niko. "Ready whenever you are."

Time: 4:50 pm, Monday, September 9, 2002
Current weather: Partly cloudy. Expected weather: Partly cloudy
This web site copyright 2001 by Midori Hirtzel-Church.
This page first posted -- April 11, 2003

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