First Contact

"Ready, Kari?" Ayna said.

The parrot shook his head. "No."

Ayna's mouth turned down. "Me neither."

"C'mon, guys." Xeffy said. "I've faced worse audiences than this. I'll be right
behind you."

"Uh-huh. The three of us against the whole school." Ayna said. "Remember the
winter dance?"

Xeffy twitched. "Look, Mr Maxil knows what's going on. If something gets out of
hand, he'll step in."

"...Somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better." Ayna squared her shoulders,
Kari readjusting his position. "Okay. Here we go..."

The three of them walked into the schoolyard, none of the other students paying
them any particular attention... least, apart from the girl sitting on the school wall, purple ribbon
entwined with her black hair, who watched as the twins came to a stop just
inside from the gates.

Ayna took a deep breath, and patted Kari on the head. "Okay. Here goes..."

The parrot nodded, straightened, and hopped off Ayna's shoulder and onto the

Nearby students caught sight of him, and started nudging each other to get a
look at this.

Kari took a deep breath, and /morphed/, shifting to human form - a short, skinny
boy with black hair and green eyes, in H. G. Wells's boys' school uniform and

In other words, the spitting image of one Harry Potter.

The schoolyard fell silent, except for the sound of several hundred students
being astonished.

Kari swallowed.

There was a time, back when he was the Demon Lord Aballon, where he would have
revelled in this sort of thing, enjoying the pause before announcing himself -
even if his minions had usually preferred doing the 'boss wants an awed silence,
so we'll give him one' routine.

_Now_, though, he was acutely aware that several hundred teenagers had just
noticed Harry Potter standing in the middle of their schoolyard.

And he could hear the quiet sussurus of whispering starting up.

"Hey, isn't that...?"

"...Can't be. What's he doing here?"

"...Who's that?"

"Shh. That's Harry Potter."


"...It's a Terran thing."

"Oh. He's a celebrity?"

"...You _might_ say that..."

"...What's he _doing_ here?"

"...She actually got him. I don't believe it. She actually got him..."

"Is that really him?"

"..._Looks_ like him..."

"Can't be. Doesn't turn into a parrot..."

"...He might do..."

Kari was suddenly very, _very_ aware he'd turned bright red.

"That's _enough_."

Maxil stood on the school steps, hands on his hips.

"...Mr Maxil?"

"...Did he invite him?"

"That's enough." Maxil repeated, as he walked down the steps. "Remain where you
are." He jabbed a finger at the students in front of him. "You - out of my way."

The students in the line of fire withdrew, leaving a corridor between him and
Kari, waiting to see how Maxil'd handle _this_ one.

Kari swallowed again. His throat had suddenly gone dry, and he could _feel_ his
morphic field waiting to flip in panic.

Maxil marched up to where Kari stood, stern gaze fixed on the hapless boy.

"Kari." he said finally, with no small degree of sarcasm. "Thank you for finally
gracing us with your presence."

"Um..." Kari said eloquently.

"While I appreciate that your current form was _not_ your conscious choice, I do
_not_ wish to see this school disrupted moreso than it already is. Therefore, I
will thank you to ensure that any confusion, misunderstanding or disruption
directly caused by your current form is kept below an appreciable level -
otherwise, _I_ shall have to do so, and I do _not_ appreciate having this school
disrupted by a single pupil. Is that understood?"

"...Um, yes, sir..." Kari managed to get out.

"Good." Maxil turned to the crowd that surrounded them. "Right. As some scant
few of you may finally have realised, this is _not_ the real Harry Potter."

This generated an appreciable "Aww..." among various parts of the crowd.

"This is, in fact, Kari, our latest student. He happens to be a shapeshifter
able to shift between human and parrot form." Maxil brushed Kari's hair away
from his forehead, revealing it to be unmarked. "However, his human form is
locked as Harry Potter - minus the scar."

The crowd's "aww..." was distinctly disappointed now.

"And I will be most _definitely_ displeased with any student who tries to use
Kari's resemblance to disrupt this school for any reason." Maxil shot a look at
Cain at this, who had a 'Me, sir? I have no idea what you're talking about, sir'
expression on his face. "Is that understood?"

"...Yes, sir," came the reluctant assent from the crowd.

"Very well." Maxil said. "Now move along."

Reluctantly, the crowd began to break up, with one or two wistful looks directed
at Kari.

Maxil nodded in stern approval, and headed back into the school.

Kari let out a breath he'd forgotten he'd been holding.

"...Are you okay?" Ayna asked in concern.

"...No." Kari admitted, knees trembling. "You know, there was this one time...
one time... I had a whole demonic army storm my throne room... and it wasn't
_nearly_ as terrifying as what I've just been through..."

"Come on." Xeffy said. "Wanna sit down?"

Kari nodded in appreciation, and the trio set off for a convenient bench.

"Hm." the girl sitting on the wall murmured to herself. "Interesting..."


At break, the self-proclaimed Mythological Mob got together.

Well, only Xeffy actually called it the Mythological Mob. The others nodded,
smiled, and generally tried to ignore her.

They'd started off as the 'Winged Brigade' - Nyssaias and Ayna, with Xeffy as an
honorary member, and Embericles counted but not included, so to speak. However,
after introducing Nyss to Molly and Kwen, Xeffy had found the name somewhat,
well, /lacking/... until inspiration had finally struck her (too hard, with a
brick, in the head, according to Ayna) - the 'Mythological Mob'.

In Xeffy's defence, there _was_ a certain amount of logic behind it, which went
something as follows:

She and Ayna were both Sirens. Nyss was a Light Muse (and happened to look like
an angel, which didn't hurt). Kwen looked like a Gorgon. Molly bore a striking
resemblance to the star-spawn of disturbing legend.

(...And then, Xeffy thought privately, there was Embericles...

...who was, apparently, a Dark Muse of some kind - according to Nyss, anyway -
and who happened to look like a demoness most times and something far, far worse
at others... assuming you wanted to count her in.

Which Nyss clearly _did_, and Xeffy preferred, well... _not_.

Nyss was doing her best to get everyone to get along, but without much success.
There was too much history and too much to be wary of there, so the Light Muse
was pretty much stuck with dividing her time between Embericles on the one hand
and the rest of her friends on the other.

Maybe time would change things, but Xeffy doubted it.)

Ergo, the Mythological Mob.

Plus, on this occasion, one Harry Potter-lookalike.

Who'd somehow managed to be fortunate enough to dodge the surprisingly large
number of students who wanted to talk to him.

Molly examined Kari thoughtfully. "Fact: the likeness is almost identical.
Theoretical query: I wonder how deep the resemblance goes. Somewhere above
biodata, obviously, but where?"

"Um, Molly?" Kwen hinted. "I think you're freaking him out."

"I'm already freaked." Kari said, deadpan. "Don't worry about it."

Nyssaias frowned. "Why Harry Potter?"

"...Don't ask." Kari said wryly. "I think it's something in my subconscious. Of
course, _it_ didn't think things through..."

"Statement: Tell me about it." Molly said.

Kwen eyed Ayna. "Uh-huh. And this'd have nothing to do with Ayna being a
mega-Harry Potter fan?"

"...Like I said," Kari said, blushing a little. "Blame my subconscious."

"I _see_..." Kwen said, eyeing Ayna, who'd turned an interesting shade of red

"Query." Molly said. "Why turn a parrot into a boy in the first place? Better
vocal ability? Opposable thumbs? Greater ease in walking?"

"Yep, yep, and yep." Xeffy said. "Oh, and the whole Divine power thing, too."

"...You're a Divinity." Nyssaias said, crossing her arms.

Kari shot a dirty look at Xeffy, who shrugged. "Hey, might as well get it out of
the way now. Yep. Divinity First Class, unclassified."

"...You two enjoy doing this, don't you?" Nyssaias said finally, after this sank
in. "Smashing long-held Divine assumptions without even blinking."

"Worth it for the look on your face." Xeffy said, snickering.

"If this is what you do _now_," Nyssaias said, "I shudder to think what you'd do
as adults."

"Me too." Kwen said.

"Count me in." Kari said, off of Xeffy and Ayna's looks. "I've _lived_ with you
two, remember?"

"Somehow, I'm not surprised." Kwen said.

"/Why/ aren't you classified, though?" Nyssaias pressed.

Kari sighed. "Do you know Zaqqum?"

"Zaqqum-fruit. The fruit of hell." Molly supplied.

"Close enough." Kari said. "Zaqqum-fruit was created to battle Those Beyond...
but it also works on those of the Dark.

"Like me.

"In my case, it burned the Dark in me away - but there was no Light left in me.
I ended up neither Light or Dark - unclassified."

"Light cannot exist without Dark..." Nyssaias murmured.

"And when neither are left in you," Kari said quietly, "all you have left is
that fundamental Divine spark. With no way to channel it."

"No _known_ way..." Nyssaias said.

"...Yes." Kari said.

Nyssaias turned this over in her mind.

That such a thing existed... _that_ it existed meant it had a part in the Divine
Plan. But that the Dark had, to the best of her knowledge, _not_ ceased to be,
suggested that access to zaqqum-fruit was, for whatever reason, limited -
whether through rarity or restrictions on use by those who had it.

What would happen if one of the Dark found out about it? What would they do?

And if zaqqum-fruit existed for the Dark... did that mean there might be
something that could snuff out the Light?

Nyssaias shuddered involuntarily. The idea of being... of being a Divinity, no
longer a Muse of Light... and _accepting_ it... scared her, almost beyond words.
How could Kari be so calm about it?



"...Doesn't it, well..." Nyssaias floundered. "Doesn't it _bother_ you, not
being one of the Dark any more?"

"Yes." Kari said quietly. "I'm _powerless_, Nyssaias. When I _was_ a Demon Lord,
I could call the power to my fingertips with a thought.

"Now... all I have is the sight. I can _see_ Divinity. I know what it is.

"But..." He glanced at Ayna. "I don't have the power. No matter how much I might
wish it. How much I might need it.

"And I don't have the personality that possessed it, either. Part of my
transformation. What I'd use it for _now_ isn't what I'd use it for _then_...
but I don't have the Darkness in me to use it any more. I've got to get by like
every other mortal.

"I lost the power..." Kari glanced at Ayna again. "...But what I received in its
place was worth it.

"For me, anyway."

Ayna pinked again.

And Nyssaias began to understand. Only a little, perhaps... but still...

"Who's this?"

The group jumped, startled.

Nyssaias looked up to meet Embericles's cold blue eyes.

"This is Kari." she said. "Kari, Embericles. Embericles, Kari."

Kari was staring at Embericles. "...I _see_."

Another thought started to tickle at Nyssaias's mind. Kari had said he could see
Divinity... did that mean he could see Embericles's true form?

"Sure you do." Embericles said coolly. She turned to Nyssaias, casually ignoring
everyone else's presence. "I need your help with my English assignment," she
said, a bit of the frost thawing from her tone. "Will you come and look it over
for me?"

"Sure!" Nyssaias grabbed her bag and got to her feet. "See you, everyone!"

"See you!" they chorused back as they watched the two walk off.

"Help with an English assignment, my _butt_." Kwen muttered under her breath,
once they were safely out of earshot. "_Everyone_ knows that girl aces English
Comp. She just wanted to get Nyss away from us."

Xeffy turned to Kari. "So what'd /you/ make of our resident Dark Muse?"

"Gets to the point, doesn't she?" Kari observed.

".../Gets to the point?/" Xeffy echoed. "Are you _sure_ about that? You wouldn't
say something like, oh... cold enough to freeze a Yeti's butt off?"

"No." Kari said. "I've only just met her, Xeffy. I'm not about to come up with a
psychological profile."

"Unlike _some_ people we could mention..." Kwen observed, her hair-snakes

"HEY!" Xeffy and Ayna chorused.

"Uh-huh." Kwen said. "This from the girls who were so busy overthinking what
Molly'd done, they couldn't see what was right in front of them."

"Opinion: Kwen has a point." Molly put in.

"Thanks, guys..." Ayna muttered. "That _really_ makes us feel good..."

"Shouldn't we get going?" Kari said, nodding to the students already filing in.

"All right, all right..." Xeffy grumbled.

Unnoticed as they left was the black-haired girl with purple ribbons who'd
watched all this from across the yard.

She hadn't heard it, of course; she'd been too far away for that.

But what she'd seen had been interesting.

This looked to be promising. She'd have to keep an eye on future developments.

Meanwhile, however, there were other things to attend to...

Miyo Someya sighed, stood, hefted her bag, and headed inside.


End (for now)


Disclaimer: Maxil is the BBC's. H. G. Wells Memorial High School created by Paul
Gadzikowski. Nyssaias and Embericles are B. K. Willis's. Cain is from 'Desert of
Fear'. Everyone else is mine.

With thanks to B. K. Willis for his suggestions and interpolations.

Summary: Is Kari ready for school? Is school ready for him?


Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat.