51: Reconnecting
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The party was subdued as we left the plateau, everyone stewing in their own thoughts while we descended back into the fae city. A lot of responsibility rested on our shoulders now. So much, in fact, that there was a good possibility that life on this world would be utterly obliterated if we failed.

We were halfway back to the ship when Bassi stiffened beside me, and I stopped to follow her gaze. There was a fae woman leaning against a wall up ahead of us on the thin street, her expression impassive.

Her hair was a brown so deep that it appeared to be made of polished mahogany, trailing down to her shoulders in gentle waves. Her eyes were a piercing sky blue that seemed to capture my own gaze and hold it in a vice. She was beautiful, but in that same regal and untouchable way that many fae were. It was like a marble statue had come to life.

“Isme,” the woman said, her voice clear as the blue of her eyes. “It has been so long, and you left without saying goodbye.”

“It became clear to me that I was not welcome here,” Bassi stated, her expression a rictus of control. “Is there something you wanted?”

Rather than answer immediately, the woman pushed off the wall and stalked towards us, hips swaying sensuously as she did so. The others of our party were staring openly at the strange confrontation, so I surreptitiously motioned for them to continue on to the ship. Whatever was about to happen, it would be better without a crowd watching.

“You look different,” she said, glancing up and down Bassi’s frame.

My lover frowned and stepped closer to me. “Syra, what do you want?”

“I wanted to see you, obviously,” Syra smiled, stopping in front of us.

She reached up with a delicate hand and tried to touch Bassi’s face, but I was faster. My hand dripped with blackened shadow, claws out, spines running down the outside of my arm. It was the most demonic my shadows had ever looked, and with those shadows came a hiss of pure rage and warning.

“Do not touch her,” I growled. Anger was rapidly growing within me, consuming me. This woman had abused and hurt my Bassi. My strong, stoic Bassi. My small, anxious Bassi. She was going to learn what it was to lose the power she so obviously craved over others.

Syra didn’t flinch, but her eyes widened slightly in surprise. “And who are you?”

“I am Mist, of the Court of Night, given this body by Creation herself,” I told her, my voice humming with the shadow of violence. “She is mine, and I am hers.”

“Oh? Is that so, Isme?” Syra asked with a false smile.

I looked back to Bassi. “Can I kill her?”

Bassi laughed. She actually laughed. “Can you? Absolutely, she was never anything but a courtier. Her skill in combat is limited to using a knife to spread butter. Should you? Probably not. At least, not until we’re ready to leave.”

“So rude,” Syra pouted, shaking her hand free of my grip. “I am curious, though, my little Isme. Why do you appear to be a full blood now?”

“Probably because I fell in mutual love with a goddess-born fae,” Bassi said with a loving look in my direction.

“Hell yeah,” I said with a feral grin, my tail lashing angrily back and forth. It had appeared at the same time as my arm, and now I didn’t want to let it fade.

“That sounds like superstition,” the infuriating woman said with her nose drifting into the air. “Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps you were always a full blood, but a late blooming one.”

Bassi raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think so. I don’t particularly care anymore either. I’m happy as I am, where I am.”

“Oh, nonsense,” she laughed, and this time she did touch Bassi’s cheek. “You belong here. Maybe even with me…”

“No, I don’t,” my lover replied, shaking her head. “I belong with Mist.”

“She’s not even Wind Court,” the vile bitch scoffed, sneering at me openly now. “Look at her, she looks more like a monster than fae.”

“I was also born as a human,” I pointed out, grinning evilly, my new fangs on full display.

I watched in fascination as her face crumpled into open disgust. Bassi had told me about this chick, but seeing was believing. What a piece of work.

“I think we’re done here,” Bassi said calmly, taking my hand and leading me past Syra. Not a moment too soon, too, because my anger on behalf of my lover had reached boiling point.

Unfortunately, it didn’t sound like she was done with us yet, so I did something I hadn’t tried before, but that I was fairly sure would work. I pulled Bassi into the shadows with me and skipped us quickly down the street.

“Whoa!” she exclaimed, clutching my hand in a vice grip. “Since when could you do that?”

“Since just now, apparently?” I grinned, leaning in to give her a long, slow kiss. “Are you okay?”

“Surprisingly, yeah,” she said, hugging me tight. “I had myself all tied into knots over seeing her again, but when it actually happened… she’s not very scary. I guess I only just now realised how pitiful she is. She has no real power, so she attempts to manipulate those who do.”

“That’s good,” I said, glancing behind to see the evil bitch in question finally figuring out where we’d gone.

“Plus, I had you beside me,” Bassi murmured, giving me a final squeeze before we continued our journey back to the airship.

****

Arriving back on the airship, I was almost immediately accosted by Joan, who dragged me back to a sitting room along with Beth, Leon, and Victoria. Bassi let me go, as she was needed with Jitters and Kory to liaise with the fae about our guns and to load up on supplies.

Sitting down on the plush red sofa, I groaned and stretched. The view out the window was gorgeous right now, with the high peaks of the Wind Court receding into the distance.

“What a fuckin’ day,” I groaned as the stretch reached my toes.

“I think yours was a little more intense than mine,” Beth commented dryly. “After all, you fell out of the fucking airship.”

“You what?” Joan squeaked, staring at me with wide eyes. “Holy shit girl, calm down! Wait, assuming you’re… you know, a girl.”

“I am, yes,” I laughed, patting the seat next to me for her to join me. “I’m a girl but complicated, is the best I can describe it. It’s like my gender was cobbled together from spare parts. It looks and functions mostly the same, but it’s a bit funny looking if you stare too hard.”

“Cute!” she giggled, grinning widely. “I always knew you were too cool to be a dude.”

“Wow!” Leon exclaimed, hand on his heart. “That hurts.”

“Suck it up, little man,” Joan grinned. “You’re outnumbered here.”

“Oh, I missed you Joan,” Victoria sighed, placing herself gingerly into an armchair. “Your sass fuels me.”

“Missed you too, Vic,” the newcomer said. “How have you all been dealing with everything? What have I missed?”

“Oh, god,” Victoria said, running a hand through her hair. “That’s a long story. Leon?”

The tall man blew out a long breath and gazed thoughtfully out the windows for a moment. “I think about two thirds of the class got put near or inside Anamoor. We lost… two, I think, early on. Most of us were able to come together and join an adventuring guild, or what passes for one in this world. Mist wasn’t one of those.”

I snorted and pulled my mask up, then wiggled my eyebrows at the others. “I fell in with a gang of thieves and started fucking their leader.”

“Yeah,” Leon chuckled. “She did that. More of our class arrived from the wastes and we linked up with them, but we lost another three on various contracts. Plus there was uh, the one that Mist killed.”

He said the last with a wince, and Joan turned to stare at me. I shrugged. “He was using his powers to rape, kill, and kidnap women for sale as sex slaves. I didn’t really feel like being generous.”

“Good,” she replied coldly. “Any idea who he was?”

I shook my head. “Nope. I didn’t really wait to find out. We were in the middle of fighting at the time.”

"Ah well," she shrugged. With her attention on me now, she poked my arm. "Now I want to hear about you. All the details."

So, bashfully, I explained all about meeting Whistle and the rest of the Slate Snakes. I explained my laughable attempt to hold onto my old self, and how eventually I had embraced the new. Then, I got into my relationship with Bassi, and how it had started out as sexual but had morphed into a deep love.

“God, that’s so fucking cute,” Joan sighed at the end of it. “I figured something was going on when you didn’t immediately try to crawl out of your own skin during the transformation.”

“Yup, well, your intuition was solid,” I laughed, scratching at the back of my head shyly. “Very much enjoying this, to be honest.” Then lowering my voice conspiratorially, I said, “Plus, Bassi has a foot long tongue. That thing does some work.”

“Wait, for real?” she squeaked, her cheeks tinting pink as her imagination ran wild. “Oh my.”

“Yeah for real,” I whispered. “When we first started this journey, she—“

The door opened and I paused, watching as Jitters entered the room. She looked grumpy, with a big frown on her face, and made a beeline for me.

“Men are extremely frustrating,” she told the room at large, before throwing herself into my lap.

Surprised, I steadied her with an arm around her waist and asked, “What did they do?”

“They don’t believe me when I’m sayin’ the rail field ain’t stable enough and that’s why your cannon up and exploded,” she pouted, her adorable wispy brown hair in complete disarray.

I winced, remembering the sudden fall and confusion. “Oh, it was mechanical failure?”

“Aye, it definitely was,” she agreed. “Nothing was getting past them mage shields. Which reminds me, actually. I wanted to bounce some ideas off your skull ‘bout upgrading the ship’s combat capabilities, if that’s all fine with you? I’d rather not go n’ meet the big man down in his little furnace, yeah?”

“Where did you get this one?” Joan asked, grinning with open admiration at Jitters. “Smart, funny, good with her hands, and extremely cute?”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” I smiled, hugging Jitters to me affectionately. “Joan, this is Jitters. Jitters, this is Joan.”

“Joan, eh? That’s a silver tongue you got there, but it ain’t going to work on me,” Jitters said, her hand shaking as she pointed it at my classmate. “I ain’t been interested in any soul yet, and somethin’ tells me you won’t be breaking my streak just yet.”

“Hey, hey,” Joan interjected quickly, putting her hands up. “Just giving compliments where they’re due. Women who make things are inspiring as fuck.”

“Well then, in that case,” my little lap sass said, wiggling slightly. “I accept your compliments with the utmost thanks, kind lady. You are quite pretty yourself.”

Yeah, okay Jitters. You better watch that streak of yours, because in my experience, assuming sexual and romantic attraction always went hand in hand was a good way to be proven wrong. Who knows, maybe if Joan became a lock, she might even want to get into bed with her? It was certainly a possibility, considering the way she talked about picking locks.

 

Okay, placing this story on hold for a little while. It's Gauntlette time, plus I might set up the new story to auto-post in the near-ish future. Also, if you like my stories, please consider patroning! I'd really appreciate it :D. Thanks for reading anyway, and consider giving the story an upvote!

Edit, several months later: Actually, this is a great place to end book 1. So yeah, the end??

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