Friday afternoon break at H. G. Wells had finally rolled round, and Ayna and
Kari were chatting quietly in the yard when Nyssaias finally managed to catch up
to them.

"Ayna?" Nyssaias said. "Could I speak to Kari privately for a minute?"

"...Why?" Ayna said.

Nyssaias took a deep breath. "It's kind of a personal issue."

Ayna eyed Nyssaias, then Kari. "Kari?"

"Okay." Kari said.

"Okay." Ayna said. "I'll see you at the usual place, 'kay?"

"All right." Kari said.

Ayna nodded, and hurried off.

Kari took a deep breath. "...All right. What is it?"

"I need to tell Embericles about you." Nyssaias blurted. "About what's coming
after you."

Kari tipped his head. "You don't need my permission for that."

"I..." Nyssaias took a deep breath of her own. "I need evidence, Kari. Something
to show her. Otherwise she won't believe me."

Kari sighed. "That's not easy, Nyss. I can't access my power any more, and even
if I _could_, it wouldn't be the power of a Demon Lord...

"And my realm's been sealed off - no-one can get in or out."

Nyssaias thought. "What effect would a Dark Muse have on a Demon Lord?"

"Exactly the same effect they have on everyone else." Kari said quietly. "For
the Divinities of the Dark, though, actually calling on a Dark Muse is
effectively admitting you can't handle the situation - a sign of weakness."

"What do you see when you look at a Divinity?" Nyssaias inquired. If what he saw
was different from Embericles's true form, then maybe...

"It's... hard to explain." Kari said. "I... I see the spark of Divinity inside.
I know what _kind_ of spark it is. It's not just sight, it's... knowing. I
_know_ what I'm looking at the minute I see it."

Nyssaias couldn't help herself. "What do you see when you look at me?"

"Light." Kari said quietly. "Happiness. Joy. Wonder. Laughter. Acceptance.

"I see all of these, and more.

"I see... I see you evoking that light in the hearts of others, shining it into
the shadowed corners of their souls, helping them explore those feelings in

Nyssaias thought about it. He'd described the Light pretty well, true... but
he'd missed something, something important.

"What about love?" she said.

"Love is a thing of the Light, yes." Kari said quietly. "But there is also
something of the Dark in it, too. Yours is the lighter side - the warmth, the
happiness, the gentleness, the caring. The Light that binds together."

"And the Dark?"

"Pain." Kari said. "The pain of empathy, of shared suffering. Loving only one,
and no other. Fear. Betrayal. Jealousy. Anger. It cannot be otherwise. Our
differences and similarities bring us together... but they also hurt us. You
understand the other - and suffer with them. Your differences bring them
support, as theirs brings it to you... but it also brings conflict, simply
_because_ you have different views on the world."

He shrugged. "Or I could be pulling this out of my butt. It wouldn't be the
first time."

Nyssaias digested this, thinking it over. He had some good points, true... but
she wasn't sure that was the whole of the matter, not by a long shot.

Finally, she took a deep breath and looked him in the eye.

"Do you have _any_ evidence at all?"

Kari chuckled ruefully. "I doubt you want to use zaqqum-fruit to prove your
case - I don't know Embericles all that well, but I don't think she'd appreciate
becoming a simple Divinity.

"The trouble is, you need evidence I was Aballon - and that's not available.
Besides, I'm pretty sure Embericles didn't know Aballon in the first place."

Nyssaias's wings drooped. "But if I don't have any proof, how can I convince

"Not everyone needs evidence to believe." Kari said. "Why don't you just tell

"I don't want her getting hurt, Kari!" Nyssaias burst out. "I don't want to know
I could have told her and she didn't believe me! That she got hurt because of

"Why _shouldn't_ she believe you?" Kari said quietly.

"I need to tell her, Kari." Nyssaias said. "I need to know she'll listen."

"Why wouldn't she?"

"Because she _doesn't_, Kari." Nyssaias said frankly. "She doesn't listen to me
telling her about the girls, and the girls won't listen to me telling them about

"Do you think she wouldn't listen if it was something this serious?" Kari said.

"...That's what I'm afraid of." Nyssaias said. "I've never _told_ her anything
this serious..." She thought about it. "I've never even _had_ anything this
serious to tell her."

"There's worse, believe me." Kari's chuckle was hollow. "You honestly think she
wouldn't listen?"

"...I don't know, Kari." Nyssaias said finally. "I just..." She looked up at
him. "I don't want to see her get hurt..."

"Then tell her." Kari said. "She may not listen... but tell her that, at least."

Nyssaias set her shoulders. "...All right. I'll do that."

She eyed him thoughtfully for a moment. "Kari..."

"Yes?" Kari said.

"I hope you're not going to take this in the wrong spirit, but..."


"By your own admission, you weren't particularly bright as Aballon." Nyssaias
said. "How did you manage to develop this level of insight?"

Kari chuckled ruefully. "It's like regeneration, Nyss. Aballon had a different
outlook on things from Kari. I'm rather more self-aware than I used to be, more
introspective. Parrots don't actually get to _do_ all that much round the house,
so I had a lot of time to think, and three thousand years to think over. Plus
there's the matter of living in close proximity to four - count them, four -
Divinities. That's a lot of time to make sense of those Divine sparks."

He grinned, green eyes sparkling. "That, and I bluff a lot."

Nyssaias raised an eyebrow. "That would explain it..."

"Good luck with Embericles." Kari said.

"Thank you." Nyssaias said.


"Could I ask you something?" Nyssaias said, as she and Embericles walked home
from school.

"You can ask." There was a hint of wariness in Embericles's voice. "I might not

Nyssaias took a deep breath. "What would you say if I told you there was a
reasonable chance we'd have to fight off repeated demonic attacks in the
foreseeable future?"

Embericles arched one dark eyebrow. "First, I'd remind you that, technically,
_I'm_ a demon."

Nyssaias rapped her knuckles on her own head. "Oh, right."

"Then I'd ask you to elaborate."

"All right. Er, I can't really offer you hard evidence of what I'm about to tell
you, but it is true..."

Embericles cut her off with a gesture. "Just tell it."

"Okay. Um, let's see... You know about Demon Lords, right?"

Embericles shrugged. "Some. Not firsthand, since I've never left Outside, but

Nyssaias gave a little internal wince at yet another reminder of how utterly
different from her own her friend's life had been. "So you know their position
in the Dark's hierarchy?"

"Middle-management, more-or-less."

Nyssaias nodded. "But that position puts them in an extremely dangerous
position. The Princes see them as a threat. Their fellow Lords see them as
competition. Their minions see them as obstacles. And the Archangels see them as

"As a result, no Demon Lord ever dies of old age."

"What does this have to do with us being attacked by demons?" Embericles said.

"Because we have a Demon Lord - a _former_ Demon Lord - at school."

Embericles's lips twitched just a bit. "That doesn't surprise me. Who?"

"It's Kari." Nysaaias said.

Embericles raised a cool eyebrow. "The bird girl's boy toy? _He's_ a Demon

"Was." Nyssaias said. "He _was_ a Demon Lord, but..."


Nyssaias took a deep breath. "There is a... a weapon. It's not widely known, and
its resources are limited. It was created to destroy the Things Beyond, but one
of its secondary functions is to burn away the darkness in the Divinities of the
Dark - rendering them powerless in the process."

Embericles's voice chilled a stage. "Go on."

"There was a major incursion by the Things Beyond about..." Nyssaias hesitated.
"About a year ago.

"Some of the Divinities of the Dark - those who dwell Beyond - took this as an
opportunity to attack the mortal realms themselves - to take a realm for their

"However, one group - both mortal and Divine - was prepared for them; they'd
been armed with the weapon I told you about.

"When the incursion came, they were ready.

"One of the attackers was a Demon Lord called Aballon." Nyssaias paused. "He
ruled one of the more... cliche-ridden realms Beyond. When the incursion came,
he joined.... well, basically, because that was what Demon Lords _did_ - attack
the mortal realms, attempt to conquer or destroy them."

She wound down, conscious of a sound she'd never heard from Embericles before.
It was a laugh... of sorts. A soft, slow, chilly little chuckle that made the
hairs on Nyssaias's neck stand up. She did her best not to look at Embericles
until the sound had faded.

"Go on." Embericles said finally.

Nyssaias nodded, and went on. "Most of the attackers were driven back, the gates
Beyond sealed off from both sides.

"Aballon, however..." She coughed, suddenly embarrassed. "Aballon got hit by the
weapon. It burned the darkness in him away... and it, um, well..." She coughed
again. "It turned him into a parrot in the process."

Again, that chilly little sound from Embericles.

Nyssaias waited for it to subside.

"Let me guess." Embericles said finally. "Parrot-boy."

Nyssaias nodded.

"So how'd he end up becoming our very own Harry Potter lookalike?"

"Ayna and Xeffy's father-" Nyssaias winced - Embericles's expression had frozen
over at the mention of the word - but continued nevertheless. "-he's a History
Muse, and a practicing magician. He asked Kari if he wanted to be human, and
Kari said 'yes' - so he cast a spell that enables Kari to switch between parrot
and human." She coughed again. "I _think_ the Harry Potter thing was, um, well,
one of those subconscious things."

"Uh-huh." Embericles said. "So why are we going to be attacked by demons _now_?"

"Because..." Nyssaias took another breath. "Because the Celestial Bureaucracy
found out he still existed."

Embericles's eyes were cold, unreadable. "Go on."

"Now they know," Nyssaias went on, voice wobbling, "Aballon's enemies can track
him down, and, um, they can finally take the opportunity to, um..." She screwed
up her courage. "To kill him."

"And anybody around him, right?"

"Exactly..." Nyssaias nerved herself. "They won't care who gets in their way.
They want him dead - they don't care how it gets done." She shuddered, feeling
the chill down her spine.

But Embericles's reply chilled her even more.

"Sensible enough. Even better, get the most out of your revenge by taking out
your target's friends and allies, too."

"That's... _awful_!" Nyssaias gasped, shocked to the core.

Embericles shrugged. "That's how it's done. The smart thing would be for
parrot-boy to run, far and fast." Her eyes narrowed to slivers of blue ice. "So
why doesn't he?"

Nyssaias nodded. It was a good question, and one she'd asked Kari herself.

"Because he believes people would try and come after him." she said. "Dominic -
that's Ayna and Xeffy's father - first and foremost - Kari _is_ in Dominic's
custody, after all. And they might try to use them to make him come back."

Embericles snorted. "Of course they would. But that's not the real reason."

"I don't know." Nyssaias said quietly. "Kari seemed pretty convinced."

"I'll believe it when it happens." Embericles said. "It's bird girl, isn't it?
_That's_ who he's really worried about."

"I couldn't say." Nyssaias said. "I can only tell you what Kari told me."

"He just told you he was a Demon Lord." Embericles said. "You think you can
trust him?"

"That's what they said about you." Nyssaias said quietly.

Embericles walked along in silence for a few moments, her eyes distant.

"What does this have to do with me, anyway?" she said finally. "_I'm_ not one of
parrot-boy's friends."

"But I am." Nyssaias said.

"And you want to put yourself in the firing line for him?" Embericles said.

"...If it comes to that." Nyssaias said. "I hope it doesn't, but..."

"Why?" Embericles said. "Why do you even care?"

Nyssaias closed her eyes, pained. "Because he's my _friend_, Embericles. Because
they all are. If Kari's right, I can't just walk away. I have to be with them. I
have to... I have to _help_."

"What about me?" Embericles demanded. "Where do I fit in?"

"You're my friend too." Nyssaias said quietly. "I couldn't choose between you.
If I was with Kari, I'd be thinking of you. If I was with you, I'd try to take
you along to help."

"Ah. Now we get to the heart of it." The redhead's tone grew deathly cold. "You
want me to use my powers for his sake. Am I your weapon, then?"

"That isn't it at _all_!" Nyssaias exploded. "I'm just warning you because I
don't want you to be hurt. And... well... because I... I'd feel better with you

"And if I didn't want to go? If I didn't want _you_ to go?"

Nyssaias closed her eyes again. "Don't ask me that, Embericles, please..."

"If I said I didn't _want_ you to go?" Embericles pressed.

"...Why?" Nyssaias said. "Do you dislike him that much?"

Embericles's expression froze over. "I don't give a damn about him one way or
another. Does it matter?"

"_Yes_, it matters!" Nyssaias shot back, cheeks burning. "I'd want to know why
you weren't letting me help my friends!"

"So what _I_ want doesn't matter?"

"Of course it does! I just want to know _why!_"

Embericles opened her mouth, then closed it again. "Fine. See if I care."

She stalked off.

"Ember-" Nyssaias began. "Ember, please-"

But if Embericles heard her, she gave no sign.

Nyssaias felt the tears trickling down her cheeks.


May 21st, 10th Year of Pandora's Ascension

Dear diary:

Embericles and I argued today - another new experience for me.

And I don't know why.

I told her about Kari, and of the demons he believes will be coming for him - I
think she accepted it, but I couldn't tell. Time will tell there, I suppose.

It's certainly more than I was hoping for - I had my fingers crossed all through
it, hoping she'd listen.

That wasn't what we argued about, though.

After I told Embericles Kari's story, she started asking me questions - at
first, she was asking about the story, but then she started asking what it had
to do with her, what it had to do with me, why I should even care.

Then she asked me what I'd do if she asked me not to help them.

I couldn't answer at first. She was asking me to choose between her and them,
and I can't do that. I can't make that choice - they're all my friends.

I asked her why she'd ask me to do that.

She wouldn't tell me - said it didn't matter.

I couldn't leave it there - I had to know.

She turned around and demanded to know if what she wanted didn't matter.

I told her it did - but I wanted to know why she wanted it. Why she was asking
me to do this.

She stormed off.

Why would she ask me to do something like that? Why wouldn't she tell me her

I want to make things up between us. To put things right, so we can talk again.

And I need to know why she reacted the way she did.

I can't tell Father or Kassiandra - not yet. It's too close a thing, too

It's strange. I thought I could tell them everything, but I can't. There are
things that I don't want to tell them, things about my friends - like Kari's
story, for example.

I'm afraid of telling them, afraid they might try to protect me by keeping me
away from my friends - which is something I can certainly understand. If Kari's
right, then we're putting ourselves in danger simply by helping him.

But he is one of my friends, and I can't simply not help him - I can't stand by
and allow this to happen. I have to be there. He's asked for my - for our -
help, and I've agreed.

It's odd, but I feel uncertain writing this, worried. I'm almost tempted to
write my hesitancy into this...

No. No, this isn't a story. Just stick to saying what you need to say.

I need to talk about this to someone.

Not Father or Kassiandra, for the reasons I've laid out above

Not the other girls. I could tell them, I know, but I'm not sure they'd
understand - they've always been uncomfortable around Embericles.

Which leaves Kari. He's never been uncomfortable around Embericles - he might be
able to help me understand her reaction.

I have to give it a try, at least.

I'll let you know how it turns out.


"Why did she do it?" Nyssaias said. She'd arranged to meet Kari outside the
'Round, and the two of them were currently seated on one of the pub's benches.

Kari sat in thought for a few minutes.

"Without knowing more, I couldn't say." he said finally. "But..."

He fell silent again.

"Do you know if she's ever had a friend before?" he said.

"...No." Nyssaias said, choosing her words carefully. "I don't think she's had
any friends - well, real friends - for a long time."

"...Ah." Kari said. "In that case..." He hesitated. "In that case... I think she
might be afraid of losing you."

Nyssaias _blinked_. "What?"

"You're her first friend in gods know how long." Kari said. "Given that... don't
you think she'd want to make sure she didn't lose you?"

Nyssaias opened her mouth, and closed it again.

"...Afraid?" she said finally. "She's afraid of losing me?"

"...That's what I'd _suspect_." Kari said. "Without knowing more, I couldn't

"...Then why did she storm off?" Nyssaias said.

"Pre-emptive strike, maybe?" Kari said. "If she's already cut you off, then it
won't hurt if something happens."

"...But that's not what I want, Kari." Nyssaias's voice trembled again. "I don't
want to lose her. Not like this..."

"...Then I think we need to talk to her." Kari said quietly.

"...We?" Nyssaias said.

"Yes." Kari said. "We."


The landlord of the Wild Rose Arms peered closely at the parrot perched on
Nyssaias's shoulder.

"New pet, lass?"

"I'm looking after him for the day." Nyssaias said.

"Ah." the landlord said. "Well, the Brat's in, if that's why yer here."

"Thank you." Nyssaias said politely, and made her way up the stairs.

She hesitated outside the door, suddenly nervous, remembering her first visit

Kari eyed her, then nodded to the door.

Nyssaias nodded, and rapped on it once, twice.


"Embericles?" Nyssaias tried. "It's me, Nyssaias."

Still nothing.

Kari shook out his wings, ruffling Nyssaias's hair, and hopped to the floor,
before morphing into human form.

"Let me try." he said quietly.

Nyssaias nodded, and stepped aside.

"Embericles?" Kari said. "It's me, Kari."


Then the door opened.

Kari and Nyssaias jumped.

Embericles stood in the doorway, watching them coolly, saying nothing.

"I just wanted to say my piece." Kari said. "Then we'll get going."

"But-" Nyssaias protested.

Embericles raised a hand. "Let him talk."

Nyssaias fell quiet, reluctantly.

"I know what I'm asking of Nyss, Embericles." Kari said. "What I'm asking of all
my friends. No matter what I do, I'm placing them at risk.

"That's why I told them - so they'd be prepared, so they'd know what was coming
after them.

"They don't have to stay. They could walk away, not get involved. They know they
can do that." Kari's mouth twisted upwards. "It'd certainly be safer."

Embericles's mouth twitched.

"But..." Kari took a deep breath. "For whatever reason, they've decided to stick
with me, help me out.

"They _want_ to help."

Embericles's eyes flicked to Nyssaias, before returning to Kari.

He took another breath. "If it were down to _me_, I wouldn't have put any of
them at risk - I would've run straight for the hills."

Embericles's mouth twitched again.

Kari met her eyes. "But that won't work, and I know it.

"I don't want them hurt, Embericles. I honestly don't think I could take that.
All of this is because of me, and the people after me.

"But it's not my choice.

"It's _theirs_. It's their choice to make.

"And I have to live with that.

"Nyssaias cares about you, Embericles. If something happened to you... it'd hurt
her, hurt her badly."

Nyssaias nodded.

Embericles's eyes flicked to her again, seeming almost to thaw a little, before
returning to Kari.

"You can't stop the world, Embericles." Kari said. "It _will_ hurt you - that's
part of the price we pay for living in it."

Embericles's gaze grew colder.

Kari drew another breath, and pressed on.

"And it will hurt those you care about, no matter what you do."

The Dark Muse's eyes became chillier still, almost accusing.

"We can't stop it." Kari told her. "But we can at least be there when it _does_
hurt them - and have them there when _it_ hurts _us_."

Embericles regarded him, saying nothing.

"It works both ways, Embericles. It helps us as it hurts us." Kari sighed,
looking down. "In the end, that's all I can tell you.

"I don't have anything else."

He stepped away from the door.

"Come on." he said.

"But-" Nyssaias protested.

"Come in." Embericles said abruptly.

Kari and Nyssaias looked at each other, and then went in.

Embericles closed the door behind them, then turned to face them.

"Do you want some tea?" she asked out of the blue.

"Um, what?" Kari and Nyssaias said, more-or-less in synch.

"Do. You. Want. Some. Tea?" the redhead repeated.

Of all the possible responses, this was among the last Nyssaias had expected.
She opened her mouth, closed it, then managed, "Why... yes. Thank you."

Embericles thrust an empty cup into her hands. "Then go down to the landlord's
apartment and borrow some sugar. He'll give it to you." Her eyes were locked on
Kari the entire time.

Nyssaias hesitated, looking back and forth between the two, feeling as though
she were missing something.

"Please," Embericles whispered, "go get the sugar."

"All... right. I'll be right back."

When the Light Muse had left the room, Embericles walked over to Kari, eyes
still fixed on his, until they were only inches apart. The ex-Demon Lord felt a
chill in his bones as the shadows in the room grew thicker and heavier, strange
whispers and growlings sounding just below the edge of his hearing.

"I was a Demon Lord, Embericles." Kari said, staring into those eyes, into the
Divinity beyond, feeling his knees trembling beneath him. "I know what the
darkness can do, believe me."

Embericles held up a pair of fingers. "Two things, _Aballon_. Just so we
understand each other.

"First of all, your problems are your problems, not mine. If they make
themselves mine, I'll handle them."

She let one finger drop. "And if Nyssaias gets hurt because of you, I swear to
God I'll make you wish the Archangels had killed you. Understand?"

Kari allowed himself a tight smile. "More than you'll ever know," he said, quite

That seemed to satisfy her, at least enough that by the time Nyssaias got back
with the sugar, she had stopped glaring at him.


"Here you go." Nyssaias told Ayna, allowing Kari to hop off her shoulder and
into the hallway. "Thanks for letting me borrow him."

"That's okay." Ayna hesitated - while she didn't like Embericles all that much,
or even quite understood why she and Nyssaias hung out together, Nyssaias was
still _her_ friend... "How did it go?"

Nyssaias hesitated. "We... talked a bit. I'm not sure we settled things, but
we're talking..."

"That's... good." Ayna hazarded.

"I'd tend to agree." human-Kari said from behind her.

Ayna jumped. "Kari!"

"It _is_ good." Kari said. "They _are_ friends, after all."

"Um..." Ayna was feeling somewhat conflicted - on one hand, Nyssaias was _her_
friend, and if she was happy making friends with Embericles, then she could live
with that. On the other, it was _Embericles_, who Ayna personally would rather
avoid as much as possible.

"It's alright." Nyssaias said. "It was something the two of us needed to settle.
I don't think it entirely worked - but I think we did enough."

"Ah." Ayna said. In truth, she hadn't wanted to press Nyssaias too much on what
her 'personal matter' might be, given that it involved difficulties with
Embericles - if Nyss wanted to talk about it, she would (even though Ayna had
worried about why Nyss'd want /Kari/, of all people, to talk to Embericles).

Nyssaias nodded, then looked past her to Kari. "Thank you for your help."

"Thank you." Kari said.

Nyssaias's gaze returned to Ayna. "I'll see you both at school, all right?"

"...Alright." Ayna said.

She closed the door behind Nyssaias.

"You're putting Nyss in a tough spot." Kari observed.

"Don't start that, Kari." Ayna said. "Fine, she's friends with Embericles, but
that doesn't mean we have to like it."

"That's part of the problem." Kari noted. "Nyss knows you don't like it."

"And Embericles doesn't like _us_ being friends with _her_." Ayna said. "See?
Goes both ways."

"Which is why Nyss's in a tough position." Kari said. "If her friends don't like
each other-"

"I _know_, Kari." Ayna sighed. "But I _don't_ like her. And I'm not about to
start any time soon.

"She's _cold_, Kari. Cold, cruel and bitter. Cut her open and you'd find a heart
of ice. I'd almost think she _liked_ rubbing people up the wrong way - if she
actually liked anything."

"So where does that leave Nyss?" Kari said.

"_I don't know!_" Ayna snapped. "We don't like Embericles, she doesn't like us,
and _Nyss_ gets stuck in the middle. You think _any_ of us like it?"

"I know _I_ don't." Kari retorted.

Ayna crossed her arms. "Well, _you're_ the one with three thousand years of
experience. What do _you_ think we should do?"

Kari rubbed at his glasses. "I have absolutely _no_ clue."

"Uh-huh. Now _there's_ a surprise."

"I don't know _everything_, Ayna." Kari said dryly. "Let's face it - we'll be
lucky if this ends _messily_."

Ayna raised an eyebrow. "So how come you don't know how to solve this one?"

"Well, let's see." Kari said. "You don't like Embericles. Embericles doesn't
like you. You're both friends with Nyss. Therefore, the question is whether
there's a way so you and Embericles can at least get along with each other." He
met her eyes. "Given that Embericles doesn't like anyone who isn't Nyss, and you
don't like anyone who ends up pumping dark inspiration into your brain for
months on end, I'd imagine the answer to _this_ one isn't going to be one I can
pull out of my backside."

"...Oh." Ayna said finally.

She was quiet for a few moments.

"So what do we do?"

"I wish I knew." Kari said.

Ayna fell quiet again.

"...Want to get a drink?" she said eventually.

"Coke'd be fine." Kari said.

Ayna nodded, and together they headed for the kitchen.


Monday morning, and the usual suspects gathered for breakfast - although a
couple of them looked to be having second thoughts about today's...

"Pancakes, anyone?" Kari said, holding a Tupperware container open.

Kwen looked inside. "_Those_ are pancakes?"

"Tentative theory based on initial observation: they may be." Molly said.

"They're pancakes." Nyssaias said, lifting one out and rolling it into a tube,
before munching on it daintily.

Molly gingerly took a pancake, inserting it somewhere in the mass of tentacles
that served her as a mouth.

Kwen took one as well, batting her hair-snakes away as they attempted to snaffle
a bite of their own.

"Nice," she decided.

"Dad made them." Ayna offered.

"He's good." Kwen said.

Before Ayna could say anything else, a hand snaked past and snatched one of the

Embericles bit into it, chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then swallowed.

"...I liked that." she said finally. "Thanks, parrot-boy."

And with that, she turned and walked away.

It took a few moments for the full import of what had happened to sink in:
Embericles had actually said 'thanks' to someone - an event most of them would
have rated up there with Maxil performing a drag revue for sheer improbability.

The other girls gawped at her retreating back, then turned to stare at Kari.

"We talked." Kari said by way of explanation. "She's an interesting girl, once
you get talking with her."

He offered the container round.

"Anyone want another pancake?"


Summary: Friendship cuts both ways.

Disclaimer: H. G. Wells Memorial High School created by Paul Gadzikowksi.
Nyssaias, Embericles and the landlord are BK Willis's. Aballon was introduced by
Paul Andinach (Nyss's account of where Aballon/Kari came from summarises part
of the third Hoedown, 'Goodnight, Sweetheart'). Everyone else is mine.

The Grel, Molly's species, were created by Paul Cornell.

With thanks to BK Willis for his interpolations and recommendations.


Copyright 2004 Imran Inayat