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This is the story of Izeri, a weather faerie with a terrible secret, as he fights for love, acceptance, and his very life on the campus of Alyrrawood University, the preeminent school for faeries, mages, werefolk, and vampires. Erotic M/M fantasy romance
Standing at the stern of the large, slow ferry, Izeri stared out into the damp, clinging mist, his brow furrowed as he tried in vain to push it aside and let the sun in, or summon a wind to blow it away, or turn it to rain or snow. He wasn't really all that surprised by his failure--he hadn't been able to use his glamour on purpose in years, but it was worth a try. It wasn't like he had anything better to do on the four hour ferry ride up the river from the port city of Braevern ry Maas.
At least he didn't get sea-sick, unlike two dozen or so of the other students on the ferry. The vomiting hadn't stopped since they had cast off. Izeri glanced over his shoulder, tucking a strand of his long silver hair back behind one ear as he watched a young human male fling himself at the rail and empty his stomach with much retching and gagging. Delightful company.
The passengers were a mix of humans and faeries, though he knew not all of the humans were as they appeared. Alyrrawood University, one of the most acclaimed universities in the known universe, accepted only mages, which were exclusively human, werefolk, who could be of any species, vampires, who could also be any species, and faeries. Izeri fell into two categories, though he'd only admit to one.
Turning back to stare at the fog, Izeri worried his lip between his teeth as he watched a dark shape in the fog materialize into a wet, weathered dock. Being accepted to Alyrrawood was a huge accomplishment for him. He was the first in his family to go to an off-world school. Everyone he knew was so proud of him, especially his parents. He didn't want to let them down.
Izeri glanced over as someone stepped up to the stern rail a few feet away from him. The young human looked like he was trying not to be sick, his skin bearing a greenish-gray hue. Izeri supposed when he wasn't trying not to vomit, he'd be handsome, with shaggy golden-brown hair and bright green eyes, but Izeri had never really fancied men that way. Now and then, he'd see a guy who make him look twice, but that's all he ever did--look.
Tapping his fingers lightly on the rail, Izeri considered meandering away before the human decided to speak to him--or throw up, which was looking like a possibility--but he didn't move. None of his friends had gotten into Alyrrawood; he knew no one at the school, which in a way was a blessing, a clean slate, but it made him feel rather alone. Izeri jumped as the ferry blew its horn, the sound muffled by the fog. Taking a deep breath, Izeri turned to the human.
"Feeling better?" he asked for lack of a better idea. The only other thing he could think to talk about was the weather, and that would be a short conversation. The human looked over at him, green eyes giving him a quick once over. Most humans couldn't tell how unusual Izeri looked with his coal black skin, hair like spun moonlight, and dark blue eyes. This once couldn't seem to, either. Izeri gave him a hesitant smile. "I saw you getting sick on the upper deck." That's where most of the vomiting had been happening, which was why Izeri had moved to the lower deck.
"Yeah, I just...don't like boats," the human said and turned back to the rail. Cautious, but not unfriendly, Izeri decided. Better than being reckless or arrogant. Izeri rested his forearms on the rail and laced his fingers together.
"Me neither," he said, though he didn't really have strong feeling about boats one way or the other. "I'm Izeri Auve, by the way." As per human custom, he offered his hand.
"Jakil LeMae," the human said, grasping his hand and shaking it. "You're a...fey?"
"Ruith fey, actually," Izeri said, taking back his hand and lacing his fingers together again. "A weather faerie."
"Really?" Jakil said with a laugh. "Any chance of you doing something about this fog?"
"Wish I could," Izeri said with a sigh. "My glamour has been acting strange the last few years." Generally not something a faerie would ever confess, but Jakil was just a human, so it didn't really matter. "Which is why I've been looking forward to starting college. I'm a meteorology major. What about you?"
"Undecided," Jakil said. "I was thinking about pre-med, but I've heard it's a hard program to get into."
"I had a cousin who tried. He worked his ass off studying and still failed." Izeri glanced over at him, his gaze falling on a pale, old scar on Jakil's hand. "You're a werewolf, right?"
Jakil shook his head.
"Earth mage," he said.
"Oh. That explains the vomiting," Izeri said and laughed. Earth and fire mages were notorious for their inability to handle water crossings. There weren't many mages in Izeri's high school--it was mostly faeries--but he had known a fire mage who swore he'd vomit if he even went over a bridge. Strangely enough, being in the water didn't effect them the way being on the water did. "So, where'd you get that scar?"
"My uncle's dog," Jakil said, rubbing at the marks on the back of his hand. "It was trained to guard the barn and I got too close. I was only eight. That was the first time my magic manifested--it buried the damn dog, under three feet of solid dirt. By the time they dug it back up, it had suffocated."
"That's awful," Izeri said with a shudder. "And you were only eight?" Perhaps he had picked the wrong human to befriend. A werewolf would have been so much better. Mages tended to be devious and manipulative, not to mention dangerous when crossed. Still, he couldn't just walk away; that would be rude, and mages made better friends than enemies, as his aunt used to say. "Man...I was four the first time mine did anything. I--" He forced a laugh. I made it rain on my sister's kai'lao party--that's kind of like a birthday party, only...not." Kai'lao was celebrated on the anniversary of the first time a faerie's wings appeared, typically ten to twelve months after they were born, and rather than cake with candles, everyone feasted on traditional roasted pig stuffed with coquira fruit and spicy bauka nuts. "I was mad that she was getting all the presents," he said with a shrug.
Jakil chuckled. He did have a warm and friendly laugh.
"One time, I--"
"Excuse me, sirs." Izeri stepped back as one of the human deckhands moved between them and unfastened the latches on the gate. The ferry shuddered and rocked slightly as the engines rumbled into reverse, stopping the boat a few feet from the dock. Izeri glanced over at Jakil, hand over his mouth and eyes shut, fighting valiantly not to throw up again. The deckhand opened the gate and jumped over the dark, swirling water. Another human tossed him mooring lines and handed across a wide wooden plank.
"All ashore," the man on the dock called and Jakil practically ran across the plank, the board bouncing with each step, and Izeri shook his head as the earth mage flung himself to the ground and practically kissed the dirt.
Mingling with the press of students that flooded off the ferry, Izeri lost track of Jakil. He supposed the young human didn't seem too bad, but he hoped they weren't roommates. He probably should have asked.
When their luggage was brought up from below deck and tossed upon the end of the end of the dock, Izeri jockeyed to the front of the crowd and grabbed his overstuffed duffel bag. Slinging it over his shoulder, he fell in step beside a couple of faeries, though they gave him only a cursory glance before ignoring him. Through the crowd, Izeri saw Jakil standing alone, waiting for his turn to pick up his luggage. Izeri smiled and waved before heading up the hill.
Short legs forcing him to take quick steps, Izeri was soon out of breath and had to slow, the taller faeries leaving him behind. He didn't really care. He didn't like sidhe much anyway, and other fey were almost as bad. He found humans much simpler to be around. There were typically two kinds--those that liked faeries and those that didn't, and they took no pains to hide their feelings. Faeries were all about status and glamour and the color of your wings, and for a fey who couldn't control his glamour, that social circle was pretty much closed.
Hearing the crunch of footsteps in the gravel beside him, Izeri glanced over at a young human with shaggy brown hair. For a moment, he thought it was Jakil--all humans looked so much alike, after all--but the guy had rich, hazel eyes and his hair was too long. He also had a pink, puckered scar on his forearm, and this time, Izeri was pretty sure he knew where it came from.
"Hi," Izeri said, holding out his hand as they walked. "I'm Izeri."
The human's gaze darted to Izeri, then away again, and he ducked his head, his shoulders hunched, and tucked his hands in his pockets.
"I'm Moonsinger," he mumbled, his voice so quiet, Izeri almost couldn't hear him over the tramp of their feet in the gravel.
"Nice to meet you," Izeri said, letting his hand drop back to his side. Truth be told, he didn't like shaking hands and was a little relieved. Faeries weren't big on physical contact with strangers. "This is my first year at Alyrrawood. How about you?"
Moonsinger shook his head and for a moment, Izeri thought that would be all the answer he'd get.
"It's my second," the human said finally.
"Oh, good," Izeri said. "Maybe you can show me where the dorms are."
Moonsinger nodded, but didn't speak. Not big on conversation, apparently. They walked in silence for several minutes, the gray blanket of fog hanging in every direction and giving the impression that the entire universe was comprised of a single strip of damp gravel with high gray-green grass on either of the path. Only the occasional dark shadow in the mist--a bush or tree--gave any sense of movement at all.
"Does this fog come around a lot?" Izeri asked.
"Every day," Moonsinger said, "unless there's a storm."
Izeri arched his eyebrows.
"That's just not natural," he said, and being a weather faerie, he knew what he was talking about. Moonsinger nodded.
"The school's cursed," he said, but before he had a chance to elaborate, the sound of running feet broke into the quiet bubble of solitude. Half a dozen young humans ran up, stopping when they saw Moonsinger.
"There you are, Singer," one of them said. "We've been looking all over for you. We wanted to go for a run, show the new guys the grounds--" Moonsinger nodded, a look of painful, hopeful longing on his face. "And we wondered if you'd take our bags to our rooms." It was like watching a candle be snuffed out. Moonsinger looked down at the ground and nodded, silently taking each bag as it was thrust into his arms.
"Thanks, Singer," somebody said. The whole group of them shifted into wolves and trotted off into the fog. With a sigh, Moonsinger shouldered as many straps as he could, tucked the rest under his arms, and began to stagger back up the path.
"Do you want some help with those?" Izeri asked, walking beside him.
Moonsinger shook his head.
"I got it, thanks."
They walked in silence for a few minutes, Izeri slowing his stride to stay with the overburdened human. After a while, Izeri's curiosity got the better of him.
"You're a werewolf, right?" he asked. Moonsinger nodded. "So why didn't those guys ask you to go with them?"
"Somebody has to carry the bags," the werewolf said with a shrug. "I didn't want to go with them anyway." He glanced over his shoulder as though afraid the others might have heard him. Izeri didn't believe him, but he didn't argue. It really wasn't any of his business.
Suddenly, Moonsinger turned to the right, his footsteps changing pitch from gravel to stone underfoot.
"How do you know where you're going out here?" Izeri asked, hurrying after him.
Moonsinger paused to adjust his grip on one of the bags and nodded toward a faint shape in the fog.
"That old dead oak there," he said. "Just before it is the main path to the dorms."
"It's be nice if they put up a sign," Izeri said. "A guy could get lost out here in this crap."
"You get used to it," Moonsinger said. "And the gravel path leads around to the main entrance of the school. it's longer, but you wouldn't have gotten lost."
"Good to know," Izeri said. Before long, steady amber lights appeared through the fog, the muted glow lighting the side of a six story stone building with row upon row of narrow windows, some lighted, but most dark. Izeri followed the werewolf to a pair of double doors, where a nearly constant stream of students was flowing in and out.
The dormitory building was well-lit and clean, and crowded with students going about their business. Izeri saw a couple of guys headed to the showers, towels and toiletries in hand, others searching for their rooms, and many more loitering in doorways and small groups, all talking and laughing and being friendly. Without a word, Moonsinger slipped away, heading for the stairs leading to the upper floors. Feeling very small ad alone, Izeri began searching for his room.
It wasn't hard to find, what with the doors being numbered and in order, but it was an interesting search. Ignoring condescending looks from sidhe and curious stares from other fey, he made his way down the hall, dodging a large, blue and white striped cat as it chased after a large owl that flew overhead, a pair of purple silk panties clutched in its talons.
That reminded Izeri of what he was really going to miss while at school--girls. Alyrrawood U was an exclusively male school, and while he was sure that didn't bother most of the guys who attended, he'd always been rather picky about who he took to bed. He wasn't sure why, but he'd just never found himself attracted to another guy that way. He'd had a few crushes and even kissed a guy once, but had never felt the urge to go farther than that.
Stopping outside the door marked with a shiny brass four, he knocked lightly before trying the doorknob. It wasn't locked. Opening the door, he peered inside, but the room was unoccupied. the bed on the right side of the room was already taken, covered with a simple blue comforter. Izeri stepped inside and shut the door, a little miffed to discover that the door had no lock. He supposed in a school of all male students, having someone walk in you while you were changing wasn't a big deal, but he still would have preferred his privacy.
Tossing his bag down on the unmade bed, he unzipped it and began pulling out his things. Shaking the wrinkles out of his shirts, he folded them and placed them in a drawer of the provided dresser. He was arranging his socks on one side of the top drawer and his underwear on the other when the door suddenly burst open and an incredibly tall human stalked in, soaked from his long blond hair to his bare feet. Izeri froze as the guy stopped, a scowl knitting his brows together over jet black eyes.
"Who are you?" the guy asked, his voice deep and befitting his stature. Izeri may have been short by human standards, but this guy was huge, his shoulders broad and his legs easily six inches longer than Izeri's.
"I-is this your room?" Izeri asked and the guy nodded. "I guess I'm your roommate, then. I'm Izeri Auve." He started to extend his hand, but realized he was still holding a pair of his boxer shorts. Besides, the guy didn't look like he wanted to shake hands. Izeri watched him cross the room to his own chest of drawers and pull out a dry pair of jeans and a black T-shirt. Without a word or a care as to who else was in the room, the tall human stripped off his wet shirt and shoved it into the net laundry bag hanging at the foot of his bed. His skin was tanned, but red and raw looking from the wet and cold. How the hell had he gotten so wet? Had it started raining?
"So...are you a mage?" Izeri asked, uncomfortable in the silence. He turned to finish putting his clothes in his drawers.
"No," the guy said, and his tone made it clear than any further attempts at conversation would not be well received. That was hardly fair, though. Izeri wasn't the talkative sort, but he enjoyed a polite conversation once in a while, a word or two about classes or the weather. Did this guy really expect to live in the same room and never speak?
"So, you're a Were, then? What kind?"
"None of your business," the human said. Izeri closed his drawers and turned back around to say something, but his retort died upon his lips. The guy was stark naked, his back to Izeri and his butt in full view as he dried himself with a towel. Izeri quickly turned away again.
"If we're going to be roommates, can't we at least--"
"I don't like roommates," the guy said. "I don't like fey. I don't like people, so just shut up and mind your own business." Izeri stared down at his half-unpacked duffel bag, but he couldn't bring himself to finish taking his things out. He tried to tell himself that it would be all right, but the thought of sharing a room with this ray of sunshine made him wish he'd stayed home.
Turning on his heel, Izeri stormed out of the room and almost collided with a human. Were they everywhere?
"Sorry," Izeri said, stepping around him.
"No problem," the human said. "I take it you met old Sharkface."
Izeri stopped and turned back.
"That tall guy? That's his name?"
The human, a red-head with flickering orange eyes--clearly a fire mage with too much money if he could afford such cosmetic alterations--laughed and opened the door across the hall from Izeri's--hopefully--soon to be former room.
"Not really, but it suits him," he said. "His name is Charias. He's a wereshark."
"Oh," Izeri said, glancing over at the closed door. That explained a lot. Izeri hesitated. "Do you know where I should go to ask for a different room?" He felt like a hypocrite now, but an asshole was an asshole, regardless of what kind of creature they turned into.
"Sure, just go across the commons--that's the grassy place in the courtyard--and through the doors. Look for the administration office."
"Thanks," Izeri said and headed down the hall. Of all the people in the universe, they had to put him in the room with a wereshark. Suddenly, that earth mage Izeri met on the ferry, Jakil Lesomething, wasn't looking too bad.
Finding the administration office turned out to be the easy part.
"They're all full?" Izeri repeated, standing up straight so he wouldn't appear quite so short over the high counter. "Can't you switch me with someone?"
"I'm sorry," the human behind the counter said, "we can't switch students just because they don't like their roommate. May I suggest speaking to the Resident Advisor or a school counselor. Perhaps you and your roommate just need a mediator."
"Yeah, I doubt it," Izeri muttered. "Thanks anyway." Hand shoved deep in his pockets, he left the administration office, but realized he had nowhere to go except back to his room. Faced with that dismal prospect, he walked the long way around the commons, staying beneath the wide breezeway.
Glancing up, he noticed a lone human lugging a battered leather suitcase toward the dorm building. It took him a moment to recognize Jakil, the earth mage. Izeri hesitated and considered turning around and going the other way, but decided he could use someone to talk to, even it was just a human.
"Hey, did you get lost?" Izeri called, hurrying down the breezeway to catch up with Jakil. The mage raised his head and smiled, looking relieved to see a familiar face.
"Pretty much," Jakil said. "I ended up in front of the library." He shrugged and shook his head. "Did you find the dorms?"
Izeri nodded and pointed toward the double doors.
"Yeah, that's the main door right there." Jakil sighed and started toward it, his longer legs making Izeri have to hurry to keep up. "I was just on my way back from the administration office," Izeri said, hoping to find a sympathetic ear. "My roommate's an asshole, but they said there's nothing they can do. Apparently, enrollment is at the maximum this year and there isn't a single empty bed anywhere."
"Maybe you could get someone to trade with you," Jakil said. Izeri opened his mouth to ask if Jakil wanted to, but before he could speak, Jakil opened the door to the dormitory building. They both stopped short as the massive wereshark filled the doorway, his lifeless shark eyes moving from Jakil to Izeri. Izeri drew back, looking down at the ground as his roommate stalked past.
"You want to trade?" Izeri asked, though he already knew the answer. No sane person would volunteer to take his place. He glanced over his shoulder, watching as Charias vanished into the foggy commons.
"Let me guess--" Jakil said. "He's your roommate?" Izeri nodded. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Izeri said. He had expected as much. "His name's Charias, apparently--He's a wereshark. The fire mage in the room across from mine had to tell me. When I tried to introduce myself, sharkface just stared at me until I left." Not exactly what had happened, but he didn't feel like talking about what had. Izeri sighed. "I guess I should go unpack now while he's gone," he said. After a brief hesitation, he added, "Later?"
"Yeah, later, Izeri," Jakil said as Izeri headed down the hall to his room. Jakil was okay, for a human, and compared to Charias, he was positively perfect. And it wasn't like he had faeries lining up outside his door wanting to be friends. Izeri sighed again. He'd known it wouldn't be easy, but even his mother, the consummate pessimist and worrier, and underestimated the gulf between him and his fellow fey. If only he could have dyed his hair...
Closing himself in his room, he ran a hand back through the long, silver strands, pulling a lock of hair over his shoulder and watching it shine in the muted gray light from the two windows in the opposite wall, one positioned in front of each old, worn wooden desk. It wasn't a bad color, it was just...wrong. It was too pale and it didn't match his eyes. Back before the incident, he had been shades of stormy gray, his hair like thunderheads and his eyes like the fog. Even now, six years later, he was still startled by his reflection sometimes.
Moving quickly around the room, Izeri put his things away, his shoulders tight as he anticipated the return of his roommate. He supposed he really couldn't blame the guy too much--it couldn't be easy to be a shark. It was probably almost as difficult as being a shival. Then again, that had never given Izeri a free pass to be the galaxy's biggest asshole.
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