Killian was shuffling through the most recent set of missives from the Court of Calamities and was just—there was something wrong, something worrisome in what he was reading.
And, it was something that he had noticed in the intelligence reports from the Courts of Miracles, Dreams, and Nightmares—something that Aedeir clearly had seen but was keeping behind their teeth for some reason that Killian didn’t understand as yet—these same threads and fits and starts of stories that seemed like they were just weird one-off skirmishes, weird lackadaisical testing of Court boundaries, but—
But, but, but, but—
It was more than that, and Killian could quite place his finger on what it was.
It was like there was some radicalizing—some sort of polarization—that was happening beneath the surface of an already fractious series of Courts while they were simultaneously being nibbled at on the edges—weakening and weakened, coming to an inevitable ruin.
It was distinctly unsettling because Killian didn’t know if what he was seeing was actually a thing that was happening—that he was somehow just intuiting that it was there—or if he were imagining it.
Hell, he could be imposing his own paranoia upon Aedeir, and she wasn’t holding anything back.
But, but, but, but—
Killian couldn’t be certain—not really—and the only way to figure this out was to trust his instincts and, well, say something.
This is going to end badly.
A few days after these thoughts had really coalesced in Killian’s mind—and, really, the fact that Killian now had the luxury of time to think and ponder and plan was just spectacularly odd to him—they were all sitting in the dining room of the house where the first part of their Scioncy instruction was to take place: according to what Killian understood, it was considered quite large being something called a “Victorian”, which Killian gathered was an architecture style.
After having lived in the Court of Calamities all of Killian’s life, the house itself was small, but the freedom that they were permitted—to come and go as they pleased, to learn what they wanted, to be the kinds of people that they wanted to be—was almost overwhelming.
And, Aedeir’s only rule was that, a couple of times a “week”, they sit down together and share a meal and check in with each other.
They still all had their individual lessons with Aedeir, but they were essentially free.
Yet, oddly, they found themselves all coming together more and more often the longer that they were in the Euigilans Somnium and becoming, well, friends.
Killian had never had friends before. Killian had had his twin, but he didn’t think that Imogen really counted as a friend—an ally perhaps but not a friend.
Here—in this strange world, in this strange house—Killian had friends for the first time, people that he really felt cared for him.
He didn’t really know what to do with that.
Which was why it was so difficult for him to bring what he thought he had seen in the missives from the Courts to them: What if they thought he was mad? What if that made them turn upon him as Imogen had turned on him?
Could he take that chance?
As Killian glanced around the table—Persis’ with a stack of books and a “laptop” out in front of her clickclickclick-ing away, Ione apparently osmosis-ing a book on her face probably asleep, Tove drawing something with a scritchscratchscritch for class, Grey clicking to themself as numbers dripped from their “pen”, Cassius plucking at the strings of a “ukulele” to tune it, Zoii trimming a bonsai, and Aedeir turning the pages of their textbook absentmindedly—Killian realized that if he didn’t trust these people with his mind, then there was literally no one else to trust.
Killian steeled himself, took a breath, and began. “Has anything seemed strange to the rest of you in the information that we’ve been getting from the Courts?” Killian was loath to call it home, and he knew that he was not the only one in that regard. “Like—there’s something seriously—well, hinky?”
Killian did not imagine the twitch that occurred when Aedeir heard Killian’s question. She didn’t look up, but she most definitely twitched.
“There is definitely something weird going on in Dreams,” Tove said as she continued to draw, but kind of shook her antlers at Ione as some indication that she should continue—that they had already been discussing this—and that Ione should explain what they had talked about.
Which was distinctly interesting since Ione was apparently sleeping beneath the book that they were osmosis-ing. “It’s—I don’t know,” came Ione’s voice from beneath the book that she evidently wasn’t sleeping beneath. “It’s like watching a kettle about to boil, and you can hear the boiling start before there are ever any physical signs. Or, like, when you know a storm is about to happen on a perfectly clear day.” Ione slid the book off her face into her waiting hands, closing it, and setting it on the table. “It’s like when someone is throwing a knife at you or shooting an arrow at you, and you just know that you need to move.”
Grey looked up from their numbers, still looking like their brain was taken up with the strange wonders that they found there—really, Grey’s excitement for the wonders and glories of the Euigilans Somnium’s iteration of arithmancy, something they called “mathematics”, was just the sweetest thing—and said vaguely “That’s a strangely accurate description of what I’ve been feeling too. Like, I know that there’s something going on, but I have no idea what it is or how to figure it out or if I’m imagining it and just being ridiculously paranoid—because I’ve never been known for being paranoid in my entire life.” The they all thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t remained unsaid.
The Euigilans Somnium had a colloquialism that summed this all up succinctly: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
Persis’ clickclickclickclick-ing slowed, and she lowered the screen so that she was actually able to peer just over the top of her stacks of books and “laptop” at the rest of them. “You’re not imagining things.” Persis tilted the screen back and went back to clickclickclickclick-ing with no further explanation.
“Persis,” Grey scooted closer to Persis. “You can’t just say that and then not explain what you mean.” Grey carefully pulled the “laptop” away from Persis so that she couldn’t fall back into what she had been working on. “Could you please elaborate?”
Persis sighed, tugged at the hem of her shirt, and sat up straighter in her seat. There was something very—expecting in retribution or retaliation or, well, something.
Killian knew that they all had their scars from growing up in the Courts of the Venery, but Killian didn’t often see it so—apparent. So very, very there and present and now.
Killian hurt so much for Persis and—boy-howdy—that was such a foreign emotion.
Killian would fight anyone who hurt Persis ever again (and might retroactively go after the people who had instilled this fear in her), and Killian was certain that he was not the only one if the way that Ione’s shoulders stiffened and the way that Grey’s fingers slipped to Persis’ elbow were any indication.
(They were all such a hot mess.)
Persis seemed to rally at Grey’s gentle touch and relaxed frationally. “The Court of Miracles Archivists keep track of all sorts of things, analyze all sorts of different events and connect them to their causations and correlations, and a dozen Archivists back, they started keeping track of these singular acts of violence and where and how they were connected to other events: Calamities’ move towards trial-by-combat and the militarization of Calamities that was the result, Dreams’ reaction to Calamities’ militarization with an emphasis on magick and the arcane, Miracles’ persistence on keeping to the middle of the road but not really doing anything about Calamities and Dreams increased tensions, Nightmares’ increased isolation.” Persis’ face was panicked for a moment as if she had said too much, had said something offensive and worthy of rebuke, but when nothing untoward occurred except for the sound of a room waiting for the rest of the story, Persis continued. “I mean, it was mostly just antidotal information—bare qualitative analysis at its best—but, well,” Persis looked distinctly sheepish here. “I like patterns, and I was seeing patterns in this information, so I created a spread sheet and started to construct some quantitative analytical schemas to break-up the qualitative details, and well, you’re not wrong: something is going on.”
Grey shook their head, their confusion and not-pointed-remotely-in-Persis’-direction frustration clear on their face. “Persis, darling, why didn’t you tell me about this?”
“It wasn’t relevant until now.” Persis shrugged. “It’s not what Archivists do.”
“Okay,” Grey said, ruffling Persis’ hair. “Fair enough, but when we get back to Miracles, we’re going to change that because you Archivists are clearly seeing so much more than the rest of us, and you should be being heard.”
Grey was just so good at that, at making people feel heard and validated, and Killian really wanted that ability.
He wondered if kindness was something that could be learned.
“So, Aedeir,” Killian turned to face Aedeir who had closed her textbook and was watching their weird little group quietly. “Is there any perspective that you might have? Anything that you might like to add?”
Aedeir’s eyes shifted towards Killian—strange pupils that were neither slitted nor rounded but something that was squiggly and cross-shaped—and she shrugged. “I have lots of things that I might add to this discussion, but at this point, much of it is supposition; however, you are all correct that there is something distinctly not-right that’s occurring and it has been going on for longer than even Miracles’ Archivists have known.” Aedeir folded her arms—not in a defensive posture but as if she were using those crossed-arms as a way to hold herself together, to channel herself, to more fully bring herself into unity, and again, Killian wondered about Aedeir and about Nightmares—and settled back into her chair, her self and seemed to meditate for a moment. “I can tell you that there is a group amongst the Euigilans Somnium who are partially responsible for what’s going on, but that what they are doing is also being facilitated by those within the Courts themselves, but that it has proven difficult to uncover just who is aligning themselves with this group.” Aedeir stretched her neck from side to side, almost like she was talking to herself for a moment, and as her attention seemed to come back to the table, there was something—different about Aedeir. Killian wasn’t certain that he would be able to actually explain what happened, but the person who was speaking for/from Aedeir suddenly wasn’t the Aedeir whom they had come to know. “I can assure you all with certainty that the Court of Nightmares has not been corrupted, has not colluded with those that seek our destruction. But, I know that the Courts of Miracles, Dreams, and Calamities have long been targets to bring to disarray.”
“Well, that’s a cheery thought,” Tove thunked her head against the table. “Really, how had no one noticed this sooner?” Killian watched as Persis began to deflate, but Tove’s hand came out and covered Persis’. “This isn’t your fault, sweetling. You were doing what you were told, and you’re like us: small, young, inexperienced. This is a matter of our elders couldn’t be bothered to do anything to protect themselves and their courts from something so insidious that it’s taken—what?—a couple thousand years to get to full growth.” Tove kinda glanced sharply over at Aedeir.
“Longer, really. More like ten.”
“Well, fuck, that’s so totally not our fault,” Killian thought that there was something just so appealing about Tove’s use of Euigilans Somnium vulgarity—and, totally apt. “The question now becomes what can we do to stop it. What can we do for our courts.”
And, just like that, the Scioncy of the Glittering Venery were planning widespread court reform and systematic change.
They were planning a revolution.
All because Killian had asked a question.