parts 19 and 20
The next week passed, at times seeming to slip through her fingers like water and at other times crawling. Alterations to the grounds and building continued at a predictable pace, though far slower than Kendra was used to seeing, mostly due to the differing technology. Charles found a few more students, young mutants who had noticed that they could do something unusual, sometimes afraid of what they could do, or something that had happened. One that was particularly worried was a young girl who had started growing blue scales, and she was terrified that she was becoming a monster.
Kendra had spent hours stalking vampires after that girl had been brought to the mansion. She’d also found a pair of Maerrocholith demons, something that had been quite scarce in her homeland, as they preferred a cooler climate. At least they had been a familiar type of demon, something she hadn’t had to guess about. Not like the large slime-thing that had resembled nothing more than a pile of moldy jelly creeping along the alley, dissolving a sleeping vagrant. Throwing blunt objects hadn’t worked, and it seemed to have a corrosive effect on metal, so she’d ended up setting it on fire. The thing had burned, writhing and keening, causing cloying, choking stench as it shriveled into a nasty heap that resembled tar covered gravel.
She was still angry. Still frustrated at the blind stupidity of people who could make such appalling judgments about someone from something as simple and meaningless as the color of skin. It wasn’t about what hue someone’s skin was, having pink, brown, tan, red, yellow or even blue skin didn’t make someone a monster. Didn’t make them stupid, or lazy, or incapable. Her brown skin didn’t make her simple witted, or lazy, or less worthy than anyone else. That girl’s blue skin, even blue with scales, didn’t make her a monster, didn’t make her less worthy of protection and education. Less worthy of opportunity.
It wasn’t something that she could fix as easily as slaying a vampire. It wasn’t something that could be fixed that simply. Not by killing a monster, or passing a law. Changing the way people thought took time and repeated examples, it took people teaching new ways to see the world. It would take years and patience.
Kendra didn’t know if she’d have the years it would take to see the world change. As a Slayer, her expected lifespan had dropped drastically, from the seventy years that the clerks at the stores could expect to something closer to an additional seven to twelve months from when she was Called. Having allies, having more resources to help her might enable her to live longer, but she still didn’t expect to see the same old age that her once-neighbors could hope to reach. Sometimes that made her angry as well, despite Mr. Zabuto spending years telling her to push away her emotions, to remain calm and above such transitory troubles.
Returning to the mansion, Kendra felt a little better. The school that they were starting could help with many of those issues. If they could learn to live together, human or mutant, surely something as simple as skin color would be easy to cope with? The school would help, would teach them that it wasn’t about the way a person looked, and that everything wasn’t about what a person could do as much as what they did with the abilities they had, how they used them, how they lived their lives. If the adults who were staff and parents spread that attitude to their friends, to the people they dealt with in their jobs, and if the students and the families of those students took that attitude out into the world with them... Maybe they could change the world.
It had been a hard night of slaying, and of wrestling with her emotions. Exhausted, Kendra retreated to her room and slept.
When she woke, Kendra dressed and made her way downstairs, hoping that she would be in time to catch the end of lunch. Despite the ease of fixing herself something in the kitchen, it felt nice to be able to dine with others, to socialize and enjoy talking with people about things that had nothing to do with slaying or prophecies or grave danger. She did manage to be in time, and found herself sitting at a table with Jean and the blue girl, who’s name she hadn’t heard.
“Have you been introduced to the other students?” she directed her question at them both, wondering if they were sitting alone out of choice or out of nerves.
“Some of them,” Jean murmured, and then sighed, “Most of them aren’t even close to my age. Other than Misty, the others who are even close are… well, they’re… umm…”
When Jean faltered, the blue girl who was apparently Misty wrinkled her nose and finished the sentence with an exasperated “Boys.”
“Ahh,” Kendra nodded. “Boys can be very strange. When I was your age, I was not permitted to speak to dem. My guardian thought that dey would distract me from me studies.”
Jean blinked, her jaw dropping as a fork of some sort of noodles with cheese paused part way to her mouth. “You weren’t even allowed to talk to boys? But that’s…”
“They’re afraid of me,” Misty whispered, her amber eyes glimmering with tears. “They think I look weird.”
“You don’t look like dey do,” Kendra agreed. “But it is not the shape of your body or the color of your skin to determine what sort of person you will be. It is what you do, what is in your heart. What you stand for, will fight for in your life.”
“Before I came here, the word I kept hearing was monster,” her eyes narrowed.
For a moment, Kendra was reminded of the eyes of vampires back home, amber when they fought or fed. The color was almost the same. But such a simple thing as the color of her eyes did not mean that the girl was a danger. “The color of your skin does not make you a monster, not even if your blue skin has scales. If you start trying to kill people so you can eat dem that would make you a monster.”
As both girls shuddered, Kendra added, “I do not advise such habits. Dere is always someone ready to kill monsters.”
“Eat people? That’s…” Misty made a sour expression, “That’s disgusting.”
“Dat is what monsters do. Eat people, kill dem because it entertains dem, causing pain and suffering eit’er just because dey can or because dey like it,” Kendra tried to regather control over her temper, her accent thickening with every word. “Some of de most dangerous monsters are people. Some of dem can even be born human.”
“But you’re going to teach us to fight the monsters, aren’t you?” Jean’s voice trembled. “So that they don’t get to keep hurting people?”
“Someone must be ready to stand, to defend dose who can’t defend demselves. Or perhaps someday you will need to defend yourself. I will do my best to teach you, teach as many of you as I can.” Kendra promised, hoping that she would have the chance to see how these girls, how all of the students would grow. Hoping that she could help them learn to stand against the monsters, not just those with claws and fangs, but the monsters that could pass as human, the monsters who were human.
End part 19.
The building was being reshaped into a school, looking less and less like a private mansion every day. Kendra worked with the children, spending hours trying to figure out what they could do and helping plan ways to get them into better shape, to teach them at least the basics of fighting. In this, Richard Kruchten proved a useful ally, not only discussing battles and warriors in his history lessons but helping her demonstrate a few simple things, and to show some simple weapon patterns.
She had slipped up, mentioning that her Watcher had taught her these skills. He’d looked so thoughtful after that that she knew he was up to something. If she was lucky, he had connections to the Council and could get her some useful information.
By night, she kept hunting, going into the city and finding no end of vampires and demons. Many of the demons were familiar sorts, types that she had read about in books and knew were supposed to be common enough in this area. There were only a few that she couldn’t identify, and she managed to eventually find ways to kill them. Decapitation, dismemberment and incineration was traditionally a place to begin, and it had yet to fail her with any unknown… well, there had been the moldy jelly thing, which had no head or limbs to sever, but had burned.
It was almost three weeks after the arrival of most of the students when she heard swearing from Richard Kruchten’s classroom, with words in English, French and German. Kendra decided that she wouldn’t have heard anything if she hadn’t been on her way to the garage to go patrolling tonight. She pushed the door open and glanced inside, seeing him glaring at some papers and swearing, one hand clenching a letter opener that mimicked a broadsword.
“Unwelcome news, Mr. Kruchten?” She walked closer, wondering just what the pages could hold to leave him this agitated.
Richard Kruchten spun in the chair, the letter opener lifted as if to fight, flushing as he caught sight of her. “Miss Kendra… I didn’t mean to disturb you…”
His words trailed off and he looked over her, his eyes hesitating at the knife tucked in one boot, the wooden stake not quite hidden by her sleeve, the length of iron bar that she’d tucked into her other boot, and the larger stake that she still held in one hand.
Kendra didn’t think he’d believe any feeble excuses, and so she didn’t offer any. “I was on my way out when I heard you swearing. Nobody reacts like dat to good news.”
“You mentioned something to other day. You said your Watcher taught you to use a sword. Most people don’t use that term, but it reminded me of some things that an old friend of mine in college used to say. I sent him a letter,” With a shrug, he lowered the letter opener, and sighed. “His response wasn’t quite what I’d expected.”
“Should I ask?” Kendra lifted one eyebrow.
“I mentioned encountering a woman, a very strong, very fast woman who knew how to fight. A woman who said her Watcher had taught her to use a sword.” He paused, slowly releasing the letter opener and letting it tumble onto the desk. “He said that there were only a few explanations, and that most of them were quite unsavory. He said that the Slayer was alive and well in Prague, so the woman I encountered was probably up to no good.”
“In Prague?” Kendra mused. Part of her wanted to leap for joy – there were Watchers, there were people who knew what to look for, could help her find answers. Another part was offended to be dismissed as probably up to no good – she was the Slayer! She fought so that people like this letter’s writer could keep breathing, keep doing whatever it was that they did. But it made a rather awful sort of sense – why wouldn’t this world already have a Slayer if they had vampires? Why wouldn’t the Council be watching their Slayer, aware of where she was and that there was only supposed to be one?
“What doesn’t make sense to me is… what is a Slayer?” he looked at her, eyes full of questions. “Can you explain this to me, Kendra?”
“Did you know dat vampires and demons are real? Real enough to go forth an’ eat people, kill dem in the streets each night?” Kendra shook her head, and sighed. “Long ago, de Slayer was created by a powerful ritual, a single woman given de strength to fight de demons and vampires. When she dies, de power goes to another. Watchers help de Slayer, training girls who may be Chosen, helping find the demons, tracking vampires.”
“But if there’s only one, and she’s supposed to be in Prague…” he shook his head. “Is that what you were doing? Going out to hunt vampires?”
Kendra nodded. “I… dere were some strange t’ings that brought me here. I do not understand it all, and I was hoping that the Council of Watchers could help me. Could find answers, maybe find a way that I could go home. Their Slayer may be in Prague, I have no reason to argue about her. But I am a Slayer.”
“Which would explain your strength. It would also explain how you know so much about fighting,” he sighed, and folded the pages back up. “I’ve seen decorated soldiers who couldn’t move the way you do, Kendra.”
“Part of me training, and part of being a Slayer,” Kendra admitted. “I was hoping… Slayers live longer if they have a good Watcher.”
“What happens without one?” He asked.
“Slayers do not reach old age, Mr. Kruchten. Like the knights errant of your beloved stories, we go forth and fight the darkness until we can fight no more, and meet the foe that defeats us. Without a Watcher, I want to have enough time to see this school off to a good start, to make sure the students will know how to fight, to defend themselves or to defend those who can not fight, the injured, the old, the children. To make a difference before I die. No Slayer can hope for more,” she sighed, and tried to smile. “I will leave you to swear at your letter. There are demons and vampires in the city, I will go out and Slay. It is what a Slayer is meant to do, after all.”
It was a bad night to be a demon or vampire in New York.
End part 20.