Latanya Carter stood outside the Religious Studies building staring wistfully at the night sky. She’d come to work at Highcraft University fifteen years ago much to the astonishment, and jealousy, of the other professors. After all, she was a child in their eyes. Though she was tall even then and her weight appeared in pleasant curves. Kinky brown hair fell to her chest; dark eyes stared at them with elderly wisdom and more than a little contempt. Just recently she’d turned thirty-five and earned some semblance of respect from the others. But they’re opinions were irrelevant. The reasons for her being here were simple. Remain hidden. Survival at all costs. Latanya’s thoughts were interrupted by one of her students and she had to paste a smile on her face.
“Good evening, Professor Carter.” Greg Oakly grinned, his loping walk coming to a sudden half. “It’s nice out tonight.”
“Indeed. But class is about to begin.” She gave a curt nod and turned around.
“Professor, wait! Do you really believe this stuff?”
She bit back an annoyed response and forced her face into a neutral expression. “Will that be a problem?” A hardness crept inadvertently into her voice.
“No. Just curious” but his lips twitched at the corners as he tried not to smirk.
Once again, she wondered why he bothered to come at all. To call him a nuisance was a disservice to the word. With her mask still in place she slipped inside, only holding the door because she remembered to.
The night dragged on as she discussed human witchcraft. Of course, she didn’t call it that out loud. During her classes she’d talked of its history within different cultures but when she could she taught them spells under the guise of examples. A few had secretly tried it. She could tell from the magical tracks following them. Inwardly she’d frowned. Not only was it sloppy and opening doors for things they scoffed at, it risked revealing her. Tonight she made a point of spiritual cleanliness and its importance to the practice. Doing everything in her power not to glare at the group of boys talking in whispers that were clearly audible to her. No doubt they expected the spells to help in their bar hops. They’d be lucky if they weren’t dragged off by a starving succubus since the spells they used called for a supernatural hunger. She wanted to pull aside the group of girls who tried attracting a werewolf. Latanya was so dumbfounded by their attempt she almost assisted them, instead of making the magic go awry. If only werewolves weren’t so hard to clean up after. As she moved onto the subject of Wicca, she had to resist a chuckle. It’s creed reminded her of the Valyne witch houses. They were the first to fall.
“And it harm none, do what ye will.” Her voice sounded far away.
Priestess Rhelomeer with silver hair streaming behind her and blue silk dress waving elegantly in the wind. On one dark hand a sapphire jeweled-ring glowed with their combined power. The other houses called for retribution against the invaders; she used her strength for cleansing. And her magic was pulled into their shadow until nothing remained.
“What do you think of this class? Naïve, idealogic? Does it call to you?” It is hindrance to necessary action.
“What about protecting yourself?” asked Adriana Williams, a girl who’s persona was a high class courtesan. Her red mascara and pink lipstick complimented her bronze skin. Her eyeliner ended in winged-tips.
Latanya gave a noncommittal shrug. “That’s for you to decide. If there is one thing I admire of this religion, it’s choice. And the consequences of that choice lay solely on the shoulders of the individual witch.” She moved from the board to sit on her table; Long legs crossed and straight-backed in a regal pose. “Of course, harm is still harm. Does an action justified by your perspective fit into the rede?”
Her students looked at each other, waiting for someone else to answer. Just as she opened her mouth to call on someone, a deep baritone boomed from the back of the classroom.
“The hypocrisy must make a nice breeze as it flies over you. Why don’t you tell us if your actions were justified when you scattered your house.”
She made a show of thinking as she discreetly called up magic. Finally, she looked up to meet the silver blue eyes she’d been running from. The body Prince A’Nkafa wore was a man named Kahlil Howard, whether he remained alive or not she didn’t know.
“No answer, Ms. Carter?” His voice shook with suppressed laughter.
“We were right.” Her voice sent a blast of cold air through the room.
Looks of confusion and the beginnings of panic were frozen on the students face.
“You are archaic. You and all who belonged to the ruling houses.” He jumped, leaving behind Kahlil’s body and taking his true form before landing before her.
Her eyebrow arched and her lips pressed together in a knowing smile.
With barely a flick of her wrists, she had bands of golden light tied around him slithering over his armor; red and black, made of reptilian scales it glowed. Hopping off her desk she walked over to him, one finger tapping one of the curved teeth that stuck out of each shoulder.
“Oh, you poor fool. You think you’ve cornered our priestess?” Her laughter echoed around them. “You think you’re that strong? No. You’ve made a terrible mistake.” She now faced him, her eyes changed from dark brown to opal.
His eyes widened as she changed, towering above him when she’d been looking up at him moments before. Her frame became thinner and her fingers stretched; growing talons. Her feet resembled a raptor’s. Smoky black wings unfurled to reveal mouths full of razor sharp teeth. Only her face remained vaguely humanoid.
“The Zerin are incomplete shadows.” She flapped her wings to make her point. Rapping her knuckles to show her skin had hardened, she had no need for armor. “Do you know my name prince?”
The shake in his voice was barely perceptible as he said, “House Xyria’s assassin, Kaarja.”
Her grin was malicious. “Good. Your soul will tell the others who has slain you.” And she removed his bonds.
He formed a sword with a rock hilt and a flame blade, electricity crackled around it, and lunged towards her. Kaarja easily dodged the attack. A blur of movement followed as she dived and slashed. A plate of armor fell. Then, another. What remained was heavily bruised. There was no time to gloat as he charged again. She lept to the side only to throw herself backwards as a smoky figure brought down its blade. A move that would’ve hacked through one of her wings. Her breathe caught as memories of these creatures coming through her bedroom walls forced themselves to the surface. Like ink stains they’d spread. Rage built, slowing everything down. She sent out silver hooks that wrapped the shadow creature and pulled it towards her. She folded her wings around it and the mouths opened. Purple energy flowed into them until only a wisp remained. Except for the creature’s screeching, she would appear to have it in a gentle embrace. Her heart ached as she remembered fallen warriors, her students. A’Nkaffa was there as she opened her wings. He thrust his sword forward. He had every intention of running it through her chest. Instead a dark cloud exploded from her encasing the entire classroom. He tried stilling his movements, but she could see the magic at his core. Bright red; full of his determination to live though he was outmatched and passion for the cause. He had been there; led the attack. The greatest of the houses had fallen. Survivors forced to flee to planets so far behind them it was a wonder the inhabitants could speak. She attacked him from behind, her talons digging into his skin. He sent her flying with a pulse of energy and turned, his sword held up. His eyes darted around. Barely flapping her wings she glided past him, watching the wind ruffle black hair. He swung blindly and she grabbed his wrist. Squeezing until she felt the bones in his hand break. Guessing what she meant to do he began to struggle wildly, letting out a piercing scream meant to disorient her. Jerking her towards him, he head-butted her. Giving him just enough slack to break free. He was gathering energy for a counter spell when she tackled him, one hand around his throat and one knee in his stomach to hold him down.
“As if I would be so kind.”
She drove her talons into him, paying no attention to his screams or twitching as the mouths tore away at him. His magic slammed into her, his last attempt, but it soon sputtered out as she absorbed it. Standing, she turned back into Latanya Carter. Not a hair out of place. She snapped her fingers and the cloud disappeared. Tracing a line around him she whispered a spell that would hide his remains for now. Then, she unfroze the students and picked up where she left off.