Noble Mongrels and Putrid Purebloods
Location: The Academy
Timeline: Wednesday 11.16.2011, 0930 PM local
Maus hissed softly and everyone turned to look at him. He gestured, using handsigns they had all learned as children for no other reason than it was a fun thing to be able to talk about the Payers and they couldn’t know. It was like the military hand-code for tactical engagement with additional movements added, making it a little like ASL, but capable of being used one handed.
He suggested they move in groups and check the area, spread out, sweep the area in small groups and then regroup at the end down by his and Brann’s room. Silently the groups fanned out, footsteps silent as they practiced stealth skills they had learned when they were small, eyes sharp, ears waiting to catch the faintest sound. Since it was closest, Maus and Brann escorted Angel and Cat to their room, which was directly under the stairs. This wasn’t the only set of stairs down here but it was the closest to the dining hall and this was how they all usually went up and came down.
Cat pushed open the door and let out a soft gasp. The entire room looked like a tornado had come in and smashed everything. The bedding was in shreds, along with all of thier clothes and they could see the tattered remains of VooDoo Bunny. The stuffing was spread around the room like odd little puffs of snow, the pink velveteen fabric in so many pieces that she couldn't imagine a way to put them all back together. There were shards of glass all over the room, looking like they had taken all of the glass ornaments that Cat had created and thrown them about the room. Those didn't hurt, the loss of VooDoo Bunny however did. The doll had been one of the few things that Cat had really cared about. The clothes she could have cared less, the bedding too, even the glass sculptures that she had created painstakingly over the year to give as gifts to her family. None of those things really mattered. She could still remember Jericho giving her VooDoo Bunny when she was four. She bit her lip and looked around, shocked at the depth of the damage and the hate that had gone into this attack.
Outwardly Angel didn't seem to react to the wanton destruction of her home. She slipped inside the room, standing against one wall, her eyes roaming around the room as she cataloged each loss. Her bed had been destroyed, the legs snapped off, the mattress stabbed and sliced, her bedding shredded. She could see what remained of the once snowy white blanket she'd been wrapped in on the doorstep of the school, torn and burned.
The funky little pictures that had decorated the walls had all been taken down and smashed. The desks had been overturned the slicks and stashes on their undersides exposed and emptied. In the middle of the room the rug that she and Cat had painstakingly made out of old clothes, twisted and woven into a thick mat had been pulled up and burned in places. Under it their two largest stashes had been exposed. The square holes in the floor had been another joint project, hallowing them out, lining them with cedar, and filling them with the things neither wanted to leave out and around. Their good clothes, jewelry, shoes, Angel's small graphics tablet and the pendrive with digital portfolio on it, all had been torn, shredded or smashed.
Angel picked her way across the room, looking down into the hole, afraid to move the remnants of clothing and examine her bow. She kept it hidden under all her clothes in it's special case at the very bottom of this compartment. They must have found it late in the game because the structure of it hadn't been smashed or damaged though the string and carry strap had been cut and the arrows all snapped in half, the case ruined. She pulled it into her lap and began sifting through the remnants of what had been her good clothes. She tossed them aside until the wooden hallow was nearly empty then she glanced around, only Cat was in the room, no one would see...
She pulled on one side of the box until she could get her fingers into the groove she'd carved there and the clever latch Cat had made in the forge. It gave with a soft click and the wood came off in Angel's hands. Setting it aside she had to lay nearly flat her bow digging into her gut, to reach into the small hidden compartment and draw out the two metal lock boxes the space had been built to hold. She didn't need to open them to know that they hadn't been touched, there wasn't a scratch on them, she set the purple one next to her and handed the red one to Cat.
Looking around the room she took a strip of cloth from what had been her sheets and replaced the strap on her bow, slinging it across her back before getting to her feet. Only once she was out of the room, the purple box held against her chest, did silent tears begin to fall.
Maus snapped his fingers sharply getting everyone’s attention and quickly signed that their room had been destroyed. The others vanished like vampires before dawn, making for their rooms and finding, pretty much the same thing.
Maus and Brann, seeing the damage that preceded them to their room got to the end of the corridor and saw the door slightly ajar, stuck under it’s own weight and friction where it caught on the uneven blocks just like it was supposed to. Through the three inch crack they saw bits and pieces of electronics and paper scattered on the floor, torn into tiny pieces.
Maus gently lifted the door until there was a soft click and then with one finger, pushed the door open until it hit something he couldn’t push through. From their angle, it looked like the bunks beds had been broken and turned sideways. Clothes had been ripped to pieces, blankets and sheets too and urinated on, books torn apart and DVDs from Maus’ digital reference library had been destroyed. Jewelry had been stomped on and left, everything they had found they had destroyed and they had destroyed as much as they could, that it revealed most of their hidey holes.
The desk was broken; its secrets smashed open and Maus’ prize Frankensteined airbook had been beaten so badly it looked like they had smashed it against the corner of the wall by the desk. There were even impact marks that showed where they’re used the stone edge of the blocks to break the heavier and more durable things. Maus stood in the door for a moment and then turned around and headed back into the hall, down the hall, heading for the rest of the orphans.
He hadn’t said a word, he hadn’t seemed to react.
Brann pushed past the door behind Maus and his jaw fell in shock at the sheer level of destruction. Vandals not only obliterated Maus' computer and library, they upended the desk, the dresser, and the bunk beds and exposed their meticulously hidden stashes.
Brann's breath hitched with dread in his throat as Maus rifled through the contents of the desk compartment. A finely stitched leather journal cover slid onto the floor. Brann saw a deep knife gash from where someone stabbed cleanly through the book and cut the clasp. He noted slashes and burns on the rest of the cover, as if those who destroyed the book took perverse delight in defiling its contents. As that thought stunned Brann tattered pages fell free from the cover like tattered leaves.
"No," Brann dropped hastily to his knees to catch the pages, heedless of the sharp glass and bits of computer disk that dug into his flesh.
"No, no, no, no, no..." he shook his head in stark disbelief as he sifted through torn page fragment after another piecing together the most private and intimate details of his life. He stopped, speechless when he found a photo of a young blond man torn into tiny pieces and the eyes burned out. Brann's chest hitched with grief but he bit it down furiously. He climbed to his feet with eyes full of murderous purpose and made his way out.
Maus and several of the other orphans came out of their rooms to find Headmistress Jericho standing in the middle of the place where the corridors of the dungeons came together. She stood like a statue, her posture erect like a skyscraper and it seemed she towered over them all. She radiated a sort of heat, almost a shimmer in the air that those who got too close flet a prickly along their skin; the dangerous feeling of extreme anger and potential danger. Those who looked at her face could tell her jaws were clenched.
Brann parted the crowd and made as if to step around her and she caught him with her eyes and held him as he stopped, mid-step, eyes locked with her. Silently, her lips moved and formed a single word. "No."
Brann stared back for a long, silent moment before he opened his book. slips of torn paper fell to the stairs until he drew forth the pieces of the photo. He showed the headmistress the burned eyes and torn edges.
"This was all I had left of Hern." Furious rage trembled in his voice. "Now it's gone. We didn't provoke anyone. We were careful and followed the rules and yet they came in here -- into our home -- and they did this."
Unable to speak more, he very slowly stepped back and then back another step, falling in with the other orphans as they gathered around the Headmistress, a pace away and just outside of her reach should she have extended her arm. She looked in their faces and slowly, her rage subsided, the faint quivering from her body and the subtle vibrations from her that let them know what she was feeling faded, reduced intensity and eventually, after several heartbeats, faded away.
To be replaced by steely resolve over a deep sorrow.
Silently she held out her hands, offering one to Cat and one to Maus, palm up as if offering her support. It was an invitation to touch from a woman who was notorious for a lack of physical contact.
Cat took the offered hand and cocked her head to the side as she held her hand out to Angel. This whole situation was odd, the Payers had never hit them like this before and it made no sense for them to suddenly do it now. As Cat looked at the faces of her family, some openly angry some fighting back tears and some like Angel with tears streaking down their faces, she felt rage boiling through her. She wanted to pummel the ones who had hurt her family but she knew physical pain healed and she wanted them to have to live with the repercussion of what they had done this night for just as long as the Orphans would have to live with it, for the rest of their lives.
Angel's fingers were cool as they intertwined with Cat's. She had to set the box at her feet before she could take Bishop's hand but she wouldn't let it out of her sight, not for a while.
Maus stepped forward and took her hand and turned and reached out his hand, clasping Brann's as he had followed. Maus held Brann's eyes for a moment and nodded past him, to continue to create the chain.
Brann took Maus' hand with a kiss and reached back to take the next orphan's hand.
As the orphans all linked their hands to one another in the dim silence and came together again, Jericho spoke softly. "I have thanks to give, for my children, who make me proud of them every day. I," she said in a slightly louder voice, "will handle this but I will need your help and the skills you have all learned from us." She paused and panned then with her pink eyes, "Can we agree?"
Maus nodded silently, his face was grim.
Cat nodded as well, she wanted them hurt but she would wait to see what Jericho did first and then decide if more retribution was needed afterwards.
Brann nodded curtly, curious about the Headmistress' plan.
The rest of the head bowed once in a solemn wave of agreement and Jericho smiled.
And it was a terrible and beautiful thing.