parts 15 and 16
Kendra followed Charles as he led them through a few narrow roads to an apartment building. The front door wasn’t locked, though each apartment would be, and Kendra looked at the dull carpeting with dismay. It was a dull brown, with fuzz at the edges, and the walls had been painted an unappealing yellow. She would hate living here, and would probably welcome fighting with vampires and demons, if only to not pay attention to the colors of the building.
Charles tapped on a door, his posture telling Kendra everything about how nervous he was at the idea of speaking to someone about the school and how much he wanted to conceal that nervousness.
Kendra tried to remain unnoticed, standing off to the side in case of some sort of attack. She wasn’t precisely expecting one, but there was always a slim chance. And in some areas, the danger from humans was high enough for concern as well - especially if Charles started telling them that they were different, that they weren’t normal and they took such words poorly. As good news, she didn’t feel any vampires or demons nearby.
She tried to stay unobtrusive as Charles and Erik talked to Mrs. Caitlyn O’Malley, first reassuring her that they weren’t collection agents and then that they didn’t have to do with any of the local unions. Her evaluation was that the woman was worn tired by her life, by work and stress and time. Apparently Mr. O’Malley worked two jobs, leaving Caitlyn to tend the apartment and take care of the four children.
Spotting someone peeking around the corner, Kendra spoke, “You should come out and ask instead of hoping we will answer questions you have not asked. We do not bite.”
“Brandon, how many times must I be telling you not to listen in?” Mrs. O’Malley sighed, and looked back to Charles. “I’m sorry about that. He’s a good boy, but…”
Brandon moved closer, still hesitant as he lurked just inside the doorway. He watched Charles and Erik as they made awkward small talk before he looked at Kendra and blurted out, “Why are your colors so red? All red and orange and gold… Most people are gold and green.”
His mother had gasped, her eyes darting between Erik and Charles “Brandon…”
“Mrs. O’Malley, I was already aware that your son possessed a unique ability,” Charles spoke softly.
“The last time Brandon tried to tell anybody about the colors, he was told that he’d just had his head knocked too hard against the wall, and we should remember not to do that again. Apparently, his teacher thinks switching at a boy’s back and shoulders will be a better way to make him learn than beating him about the head. He even advised that a willow switch would work best,” the anger in her words suggested that the only head and back she wanted to beat belonged to this teacher. “How that man found himself teaching children is a horror and a mystery…”
“Is it only around people that you see these colors?” Erik asked, eyes bright with questions. “Does the weather affect them, or have any objects or places had the colors present?”
“Mostly people,” Brandon stared at the floor, one faded blue sneaker digging at the brown carpet. “There’s some colors around animals, but they aren’t as strong, or as bright. And it takes a while for them to fade away if something dies. Sometimes there’s still traces around the dead animals in the alleys. Not objects, and not around places.”
“You said most people have green and gold around them, but Kendra’s had red in them.” Charles asked, “Do the colors around myself or Erik look normal?”
“A bit brighter than most, but the colors are normal. Hers are different. I’ve never seen anyone with red like that before,” Brandon shook his head. “I’ve seen a few women who had some orange streaks, but never anyone with red before.”
Kendra tilted her head as she considered what that could mean. “Have you ever seen a man or boy with de orange streaks in their colors?”
“Not real orange,” Brandon paused, and his words slowed as he offered “Jimmy Keegan’s got sort of a yellow-orange, and his daughters both have some of the orange streaks.”
“Mr. Xavier, why did you come here today?” Mrs. O’Malley asked. “I’m delighted that you aren’t calling my boy crazy, and a bit curious how you already knew he could do something, but neither of that tells me why you’re here.”
“Mrs. O’Malley, Brandon…” Charles took a breath before continuing. “I knew that Brandon had a special ability because I have a special ability. I want to start a school, a place for others with such talents. A place where they can learn, not only reading and math and history, but how to use their abilities. A place where they won’t have to hide what they can do; a place that they won’t need to feel afraid.”
Kendra smiled as Charles got caught up in his dream. His eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, and the corners of his mouth tilted into something close to a smile as he spoke. Kendra suspected that Mrs. O’Malley had a large practical streak in her nature, and offered, “Of course, ordinary educational matters will not be overlooked. Students will be taught what they need to know to find jobs or go to college afterwards.”
“It sounds… different. Have you very many students yet?” Mrs. O’Malley was considering the various words.
“It isn’t as if I have much to lose, Ma. I know I’m not struggling at school, but I’m not going to make it to college on my grades, and we can’t afford to send me. Jobs aren’t falling from the sky, and if I can learn more about the colors, about what they mean…” Brandon shook his head. “I want to try it.”
“The plan is recent, I’ve only just begun putting things into place,” Charles began. “Brandon is the first person that I’ve asked to become a student.”
“If this school doesn’t work out as well as you’re hoping, will you make certain that my Brandon still finds a decent job?” Mrs. O’Malley’s voice sharpened with worry.
“Of course,” Erik’s voice was smooth.
“How soon should I be ready to go?” Brandon asked.
“If you came with us, I could put you in a room at my home. I don’t have any special facilities set up yet, but classes could be held in the library, the garden, or over the dinner table easily enough.” Charles mused.
Brandon chuckled, “And if I go with you now, I might have a bit of say-so in how things get set up, as well as probably helping with the work?”
“Helping, but you wouldn’t be doing all the work by yourself, and that certainly wouldn’t be the main reason you were there.”
Brandon shrugged, “Let me gather up my things, and I can go with you tonight.”
As Brandon ducked out of the living room, his mother turned to face them with a challenging glare that would have done many demons proud. “You had best take good care of my boy, understand?”
Charles stiffened, pulling himself up as straight as possible, “Of course I’ll take good care of him!”
“That will have to do. Perhaps one of you could remind him to write or call home occasionally.”
Charles and Erik nodded, and it wasn’t long before Brandon emerged again, with a lumpy carry-all slung over his shoulder.
The trip to the car was quiet, and it wasn’t until he was settled in the back, sitting behind Charles, that Brandon asked anything else of consequence. “How did you know? That I could do something, I mean. It took me a while to convince Ma and Pa.”
Charles hesitated, considering how to answer Brandon’s question. “Each of us was born slightly different, and each of us possesses some ability that most people do not. I can sense mutants, though I am unable to tell what ability they have, and I could feel that you are a mutant. I have met other mutants, and I have seen that ordinary people are often afraid of those who are different, those who can do things that they can not. I want to create a place that serves two goals, the first being to teach mutants to control their abilities, so that their powers are not a danger to those around them, and the second purpose being to teach people to live together in harmony, human and mutant alike.”
“I see colors around people. Other than thinking I got hit too hard over the head, how would that be dangerous to anyone?” Brandon leaned back, glancing between Charles and Erik. “You said you and Erik were mutants, and maybe that’s why your colors are brighter than most. But… Kendra isn’t ordinary either.”
“I do not think I am a mutant,” Kendra offered a smile. “I am the Slayer. I suspect that is why there is red in the colors you see around me, and that the girls and women you see with the orange have the potential to become Slayers.”
“A slayer? That…” Brandon shook his head, not quite looking Kendra in the eyes. “That doesn’t sound like peacefully living together.”
“I slay the vampires and demons that prey on humans. It is me destiny, and what I will do until the night that I die,” Kendra sighed. “I doubt that most demons or vampires would care if someone is a mutant or not before they try to eat them.”
End part 15.
For several miles, the car was quiet, the only sounds coming from the engine and the tires moving over the road. Then, Brandon spoke again, his voice soft. “My grandfather believed me about the colors. He also used to tell me stories, stories about monsters and heroes and magic, old stories passed down for generations back in Ireland. A couple of them mentioned warrior women; one kept battling the Fomori, and another hunted kelpies and another battled dark Fae from the barrow-mounds and stone circles. The old gods had blessed them, according to the stories, and the fought with the strength of ten men, and could run with the speed of a wolf.”
“Those warrior women sound like Slayers,” Kendra murmured. “Did your grandfather tell similar stories? Perhaps of warrior women in other lands?”
Brandon shook his head, “All Grandpa’s stories were in old Ireland.”
Charles asked his own question. “The Fomori? I don’t think I’m familiar with that term.”
“In the old legends, the Fomori were a race of malformed giants. When the first people came to Ireland, the Fomori were already there, as were the Tuatha de Dannan. The Tuatha were… I guess you’d call them elves. They lived in the wild lands, and sang, and worked magic, and went away from the Irish people and their iron tools. The Fomori… they demanded a tribute of the Irish people’s cattle and children. They wanted a grand feast.”
“That would explain the cattle, but why would they demand the children?” Charles hesitated, “no, surely not…”
“Both the cattle and the children were to be food,” Brandon gave a small shudder. “The Irish people refused, and so they battled with the Fomori from that time onwards.”
“Demons,” Kendra commented. “If somet’ing tries to eat people, I count it as a demon, and somet’ing to be Slain.”
“Makes sense to me,” Bandon muttered. “But how do you kill something twice as tall as a man, capable of ripping arms from their shoulders, and devouring a man to the bones?”
“Swords help, as does having the strength of ten men and the speed of a wolf,” Kendra offered with a smile.
“I guess it would,” Brandon agreed. “But I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of Fomori in New York.”
“There are vampires. There may be other demons that I have not yet encountered,” Kendra was calm. Brandon’s words were a confirmation, this world had known Slayers, had stories of their hunts and abilities. Surely that meant there were Watchers out there, somewhere. That made her feel better.
“I think Grandpa would like to meet you, Kendra,” Brandon grinned.
Arriving at the mansion, Brandon peered through the window, “It seems rather big.”
“Yes. More than large enough to find a room for you, to convert part of it into a school, with all the classrooms and offices required,” Charles smiled.
“That should help make your dream a good deal easier,” Brandon muttered.
“I shall make certain that the students at this school do not neglect the body. Charles will make certain they can learn about math, and science and literature, and I will make certain they can run and climb, swim and fall safely. I can teach them to fight and defend themselves, to use a sword and a bow. Not all changes will come peacefully, and they must be able to defend themselves and those they care about.” Kendra spoke softly.
“That makes a rather scary sort of sense,” Brandon muttered.
* * * * * * * *
From that night, things seemed to pick up momentum. The kitchen was deemed suitable for now, though plans were drawn up to put in a second one at the other end of the house. A second green house was built, with Erik using it as a hands-on way to go over mathematics and physics as applied to construction, and to cover a bit about plumbing and why copper pipes were better than lead. Kendra and Erik made some changes to the gym equipment, finding denser material to use for weights, tripling the amount that could be lifted.
Charles recruited a few more people for his school, and the permits for a private academy came through, though the ones or modifying the house in any substantial fashion were being delayed. The people that he’d brought in were an eclectic group, the only common thread being that each of them either was a mutant or had one in their family, and they all wanted to build a better world for tomorrow.
Dorothy Weaver was a trained nurse, frustrated at being denied a decent job due to her cocoa hued skin. She brought with her five children under twelve, a shaggy yellow dog, a parrot that spoke a handful of words in French and German, and a husband who rebuilt car engines. The idea of coming to a private school where she and her family could live and her children would be educated in return for attending the needs of the students, who were yet to be gathered, sounded like a gift from God to her. The fact that she could always tell exactly what temperature something was, be that a person, animal or object, meant she never had to worry about someone getting mercury poisoning from convulsions. Charles called her ability ‘a little gift, but quite practical.’
English grammar, spelling, and literature would be covered by Melissa Beaumond, a quiet woman with twin boys who could vanish when they wanted to get into things, one of which was capable of walking up walls and across ceilings as easily as most people walked across floors. She never spoke of their father. All three of them looked as if they had been in the sun for a long time, with bronzed skin, bright hazel eyes, and a few paler streaks in their brown hair, though Kendra suspected that the answer might lie as much in their ancestry as in their leisure habits.
History would be covered by Richard Kruchten, a small, wrinkled old man with a passion for the middle ages, a time he spoke of in glowing terms as ‘the days of honor and bravery, of knights and fair maidens, of glory won and lost by heroic actions.’ He brought with him shelves of books about those centuries, covering the many wars, volumes of heraldry and the rules for tournaments and honorable duels. When Kendra finally had the chance to see his classroom, she discovered a suit of armor in the corner, along with two shields painted with crests, and several replica weapons.
Kendra could hear him behind her, so she asked the question as she studied the mace hanging on the wall, tilted at an angle that would be ideal to grab it and battle someone in the room. “Do you know how to use them?”
“I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I have enough of an idea to not hurt myself,” Richard Kruchten’s voice carried a hint of an accent, though Kendra couldn’t identify it.
“You are more a scholar than a warrior?” Kendra gave the man a smile, noticing the way he balanced himself and watched his surroundings. This was not someone who needed to be taught to pay attention or fall safely.
“Much more,” he gave a small shrug and a smile, “Considering that you are taller than I am, I wouldn’t make much of a warrior, now would I?”
“Size isn’t everyt’ing. What did you do before Charles convinced you to come here?” Kendra tested him with her senses, but he felt entirely human to her, with none of the presence of magic. He hadn’t brought anybody with him, perhaps he was another mutant.
“I tried to teach history to bored college students, and studied the changing codes of nobles and knights,” he tilted his head and asked, “Did you want to take a closer look at the mace? I’ve found that most are drawn to the swords.”
“The swords would be a poor fit for me hands, they are intended for someone a bit taller, and to be used with both hands,” Kendra half turned, lifting the mace from the wall. It fit nicely in her hand, and she could feel from the weight that it would be well suited to a battle.
Giving it a few careful swings, she smiled, “A wonderful mace.”
“You seem to know your way around weapons,” his eyebrows had lifted, and he had moved back a bit farther as she tested the mace.
“T’ank you. In case Charles did not say, I am Kendra, and I will be in charge of physical fitness for the students. Hopefully, we will eventually have enough people that someone else will be able to attend to the daily details, but we want everyone to be healthy in body as well as mind.”
“He hadn’t mentioned,” A shake of his head, and then he added, “He did say that someone would be insisting on those things for the students, but he didn’t say who.”
“I seem to be surprising a good many people,” Kendra replied.
She was hopeful that the school would continue coming together like this. There had been a few problems, but they’d all been minor, easily sorted out with time and patience. Her patrols had been interesting, with more vampires of the same sort as the ones she’d already seen, and several demons. They hadn’t been demons that she was familiar with, but they had fallen to basic physical attacks. Just in case, she’d kept up the habit of patrolling with wooden stakes, a sharp steel knife, and an iron wrapped club, just in case of something that was better attacked with metal, or with blunt force than the point of a stake or the edge of a knife.
Kendra tried not to worry about where Charles had been going. She tried to tell herself that he was just searching for new students, that he was busy working for the school. That it was her imagination that there had been the scent of perfume clinging to his jacket last night. That it didn’t matter if there had been perfume. That she hadn’t heard him and Erik talking about ‘the lovely Victoria Grey.’
It wasn’t working very well.
End part 16.