Ventur was feeling pissed off. He’d been feeling that way more often recently and that just seemed to piss him off even more. He felt like it was harder and harder to control himself and he was getting into more and more arguments with his friends because of it. Even Theo, who would usually sit calmly as Ventur paced and ranted about his troubles was starting to make pointed comments. Then there was Rheandra. She seemed to actively seek him out and wound him up on a daily basis. She would talk in her exasperated way about how magic is power and should be embraced for the good of all, about what he should be doing with his unique ‘gifts’ and about what she would do once she was free of this prison she was so tragically confined in.
Her latest rant had been about how it was only your actions that defined you as an individual. All your words were useless if you didn’t do anything to put them into practice. The hypocrisy of this had made Ventur flare with rage. He felt it course through him as if someone had suddenly lit a fire in his mind. Alien thoughts flooding his head he clenched his fists and ground his teeth, doing his best to ignore the self-entitled Vampires on the table below him.
All they ever do is talk. They make all these grandiose schemes and say how they’re going to hone their skills and change the world once they’re out of ‘this place’. The voice laughed, high pitched and dark. Ventur shivered. He’d been thinking the same thing but the words in his head were not his own. The voice certainly wasn’t. He looked around surreptitiously but he couldn’t see anyone near him. “They talk and talk, pitiful really. They’re living in an environment that’s custom made to enable them to do the one thing they profess to want above all else in the world and in their arrogance, they can’t see that it’s right in front of them. They play the role of the dark princesses trapped inside their dark little prisons. Pathetic. You could take them out with one hand behind your back. You should. You know they scare the other children. It would make everyone happy.” Ventur looked around in earnest now. Whoever was talking needed to stop right now. A few boys across the room stopped what they were doing to stare openly at him as he desperately searched for the source of the words but there was no one there.
Below him he could absently hear Rheandra jabbering on about how all that was left of your memory after you were gone was your achievements and the only value in a person was what they achieved in their life. He studiously ignored her. The rage was still there, burning away at his self-control. He wished he could tell her to shut up. He wanted to shake her, to scream and to…make her stop. He wanted to be left alone. He wanted all of this to stop. He clamped his hands over his ears and pressed his head to the glass of the window he was perched in front of. He felt the anger beginning to fade away and took a deep breath. Rhea wasn’t talking to him anyway, she was talking to Leona. He was trying his best not to hear her words or see her face reflected in the glass he was now staring through. It was getting close to dusk so, if he didn’t focus on the dark blue of the sky just right, the glass became a mirror showing him the girls pointed glances and frustrated stares. Ignoring them was becoming impossible. Leona sighed dramatically. He hadn’t reacted the way she wanted and now she was raising her voice.
“It’s such a shame that people waste their lives on such stupid things. I mean, half the schools mooning after that out of touch freak Hunter. He has the year seven brats chasing rabbits in the fields for Magda’s sake! How powerful can he really be? Ooh look kiddies, it’s a scary little rabbit! Get the rabbit before it gets you!” The girls collapsed with laughter. Rhea nudged Leona lightly on the arm and stage whispered, “Subtle as always Leo”. That was too much for Ventur. He looked down at the girls and almost shouted “At least catching Rabbits does something useful, like, y’know, feed people. All you ever do is talk about how best to use your powers and never actually use a single fucking one of them! You say how great and all powerful you are and how you’ll be judged by your actions after you’re gone…well if that’s the case then you’re both worth less than the stupid rabbits!” The words poured out of him full of venom and fire. “At least their lives have made a difference to the planet. They help keep you fed; so far all you’ve managed to do is waste resources and deplete the Oxygen supply for the rest of us mere mortals!”
Leona had gotten up to smack him but he dodged out of her way easily enough. He left before anything else could happen. He couldn’t afford to get into another fight with a Vampire, last time his leg had been broken and he’d been in a cast for two weeks. Mistress Sage had channelled her powers into him for a couple of hours every afternoon and the brace had come off in the end but the time spent in it was too frustrating to want to repeat it any time soon. Even though Leona hadn’t come into her Vampiric powers like Rheandra had, she was still strong and more than capable of braking parts of him off that he was rather attached to.
It was in an anger infused haze that he found himself heading towards Master Cóir’s office. He had passed several teachers already so he assumed that he’d hidden himself without even realising it, again. Master Cóir had told him that he needed to pay more attention to his use of magic because there were creatures and people out there who could see him far more clearly when he was cloaked than when he was not. Srivatsa’s, for example, saw the normal spectrum of light but could also see the magical energy that was given off by everything on the planet. He said it was like a subtle glow that traced the outline of all matter, but that it became brighter the more active the magic within that matter was. When Ventur was cloaked he would be so clear to Srivatsa’s that they wouldn’t be able to ignore him, just as a human couldn’t ignore someone shining a torch towards them. Vampires, likewise, could sometimes see him because of this or simply smell him; that was how Rheandra always knew where he was. Then there were other magicians and magical creatures. Ventur had just started to learn about the different types of magics and their complexities were mind boggling. Their subtle differences and the ranges of spells that could be cast within the different schools was almost without limit. Master Cóir was a Lightbringer on top of being the most accomplished Hunter in history and a Master Carpenter and Spellweaver. He supposed that living for as long as he had had given him time to practice but still it was somewhat mind blowing for Ventur to think that one person could be capable of so much.
He figured that it was safe enough in school to stay cloaked though. He didn’t want another detention on top of everything else. He crossed the great hall silently and made his way along the ancient stone corridor towards his mentor’s office. He heard two voices talking softly and saw the shadows of Master Cóir and someone else outlined against the grey rock before he saw them. Master Cóir had his back to him and he was far enough back from the teacher for him to not to be able to sense Ventur, provided he stayed talking to the stranger. The stranger, however, was something else entirely.
Ventur stared at the most captivating man he had ever seen. He was like a living ancient statue. He had black hair that curled in gentle waves down to the nape of his neck and softened his angular jawline. He wore tight leather like Master Cóir and, like Master Cóir, this simply managed to outline his muscular physique rather than cover it up. The dark green jacket clung tightly to his shoulders and waist and covered his arms to the wrist. He wore gloves and Ventur found himself imagining what it would be like to take the expensive clothes off of him and if he was as toned as he looked. His skin was tanned an olive brown, his eyes were a deep sea blue that glimmered with both amusement and frustration. As he watched the strangers gaze flickered to where he stood, frozen in place and then settled back onto Master Cóir as if he were just checking the corridor to make sure they were not overheard. He needn’t have worried. The men were talking in a foreign language that Ventur couldn’t understand. It sounded Mantean but it wasn’t like anything they’d been taught in class and they were speaking so quickly that Ventur could barely make out the sounds never mind the words. It was frustrating as hell and did nothing to help improve Ventur’s mood.
After a while the stranger’s lip twitched in an amused way. “Are you going to introduce me to your little Stalker in training or not Cóir?” The man had a very slight lisp in his deep, warm voice but somehow this just sucked Ventur deeper. Frustrated as he was with the two men and his lack of understanding, he nonetheless felt his heart rate speed up at the strangers’ words. Master Cóir snorted and turned to face Ventur. “He’s getting very frustrated with us,” the stranger said, “I can only guess as to why, but I’m putting money on him not being able to listen in on what we’re saying.” The stranger’s voice had a quality to it that made Ventur want to hear more. Knowing the gig was up, he consciously uncloaked himself and hesitantly walked closer, wondering how many more of Master Cóir’s friends could see him?
Master Cóir’s head tilted to the right and he chuckled at the look that was on Ventur’s face. “Ventur, this is Master Alcibiades, my colleague. Master Alcibiades, this is Ventur, one o’the pupils I teach an’ yeh, a promisin’ Stalker in the makin’ if he listens to his teachers an’ stops wanderin’ the corridors when he’s not supposed to.”
Alcibiades laughed and looked closely at Ventur. “Rules are there to be broken kiddo, don’t let the old man here blow too much smoke up your ass. Think of them as,” he paused to consider his words “guidelines. Yeah, guidelines, that’s what I do.” He winked and Ventur felt himself blush.
“Nice to meet you Master Alcibiades. I didn’t mean to interrupt, I’m sorry.” The heat was rising up the back of his neck and he was sure his stomach was trying to tie itself into knots.
Alcibiades smirked down at him, Ventur shuffled his feet and looked to Master Cóir for help.
“Wha’ya doin’ here Ventur?”
With a sigh and a concerted effort not to look at Alcibiades he started to talk. He tried to control his urge to babble and prayed that he wasn’t making a complete prat of himself but his mouth seemed to have a mind of its own and before he quite knew what was happening he had recounted most of what had happened in the library. He managed to resist the urge to tell them about the voice, he sounded like enough of a freak as it was judging by the way both of the Hunters eyebrows were rising towards their hairlines, but he did his best to explain how angry he felt. How he had tried but he couldn’t seem to control it. He looked desperately up at Master Cóir and fiddled with the sleeve of his uniform. “So, yeah, I thought I’d come here before I got into any more trouble.”
“Let me get this straight” Alcibiades said slowly and Ventur reluctantly turned to face him “You’re living with two power crazed Vampires who are plotting to take over the world. You’ve managed to get into fights with them and survive, and you come to Cóir here for, what, advice on anger management?” He looked to Master Cóir and asked “What kind of place are you running here? The kid doesn’t need advice he needs a bloody bodyguard…and a social life.” He paused as if to consider what he had just said and then added “kid, I’m taking you out.” He slapped Ventur on the shoulder firmly.
“No, you’re not. The boy’s fifteen an’ there’s no way I am leavin’ him to the likes of you Alcibiades. He’s a good heart an’ I won’t let you at it before he can understand what’s happenin’ an’ definitely not before he can defend himself.”
“Clearly that’s not a problem.” Alcibiades laughed. His hand was warm on Ventur’s shoulder, even through the leather glove. Ventur daren’t move in case the older man took it away but he looked up to see blue eyes looking down at him and twinkling with mischief, and the promise of endless fun. “Too late old man.” Alcibiades said softly. “He’s more like me than he is you. I don’t need to find him, he’ll find me soon enough.” Ventur felt Alcibiades squeeze his shoulder and knew that he was blushing all over again. “He’s a born Stalker, like you said, and they fall under my jurisdiction, not yours.” He patted Ventur’s back once more “we’ll put off the outing until later then but seriously kid, I mean this in the nicest possible way, you need to get yourself a social life. You don’t wanna end up like the old man there.”
Before Ventur could even think of what to say to that Alcibiades had turned to face Master Cóir. He held out his right arm to shake the Hunter’s hand and Ventur watched as his jacket sleeve pulled up to reveal metal where skin should have been. He held his breath to prevent the gasp from escaping his mouth but somehow Alcibiades noticed and with a quick and dangerous smile said “Perils of the job kiddo. Try not to take life too seriously, it likes to trip you up when you do.
“Cóir, pleasure doing business as always. I’ll let Her Royal Emperorness know how you feel about the plan straight away.”
“An’ I’ll send my report by secure transmission. Now I don’ mean to be rude, but I ‘ave a student to escort back to his room an’ two teenage Vampires to ‘ave words with. As y’know, the acquisition of power’s not a goal to be taken lightly an’ they need to be informed abou’ wha’ their ambitions can cost ‘em.” Ventur jerked as he felt Master Cóir’s none too gentle hand wrap around his upper arm and he was steered to stand next to his Mentor.
Confused, frustrated and still somewhat angry Ventur watched as Alcibiades shook Master Cóir’s hand and smiled ironically at him. “Indeed” was all the man said before inclining his head to them both and walking away down the hall.