Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Bonus Story: Mardalan and Lal

Mardalan raised her eyebrows, impressed despite herself. “You’ve dressed appropriately.”

“Well, of course.” Lal sat in the spindly chair across from Mardalan, arranging her skirts with delicacy—as much delicacy as her long, pointed fingers could manage. “I didn’t want to insult my hostess by dressing down.” She was awash in a froth of purple-gray fabric, as many bows and furbelows as could be tucked into every nook and cranny. Her narrow frame was almost invisible under the flounces that adorned her shoulders and chest, so that it almost looked as though she had the bust to fill it out. She even had a matching hat, complete with enormous feathers and a stuffed pigeon, atop her tightly curling black hair.

It was all glamour, of course. So was Mardalan’s table and chairs, and her food and drink. But they were faeries. They lived and breathed glamour; there was hardly a way to separate themselves from it.

Mardalan laughed, remembering the number of balls and parties Lal had come to wearing a black turtleneck sweater and black jeans, but chose not to ask why Lal would dress well for a meeting she had requested and not at a formal ball. Instead, she raised the teapot, fragrant steam issuing from its delicately curved mouth. “Tea, Lal?”


The two of them were silent as Mardalan performed the ritual of pouring tea into both of their cups, adding milk and sugar as requested (Lal inclined her head to say yes to two lumps of sugar, and shook her head to deny milk), and placing a fragile sugar cookie on each of their saucers.

She lifted her teacup, but did not drink yet, watching Lal. Lal lifted her own teacup and brought it to her face, closing her eyes as she breathed deeply through her nose. “You provide a lovely spread, as always, Mardalan.”

Mardalan inclined her head at the acknowledgment of her hospitality. “I could provide something lovely for the ears as well as the other senses, if you would allow it.”

Lal gave a sneering, sideways look to Mardalan’s musicians, who were curled up asleep in a corner of the hall. “Yes. I appreciate your hospitality in acceding to the wishes of your guest and not forcing me to listen to music produced by slaves.”

“Feloc is no slave. He is a prisoner.” Mardalan sipped her tea. Perfect, as always. “But we have had this argument before.”

“We have. You will not change my mind, and I know I will not change yours.”

They were silent again. Lal took several sips of her tea and a bite of her cookie, her teeth bared as though she were snarling.

Mardalan finally put down her cup with a sigh. “Come, Lal. Out with it.”

Lal, to her credit, did not dissemble. She put down her cookie and looked directly into Mardalan’s eyes. “We want to reopen the school, but we must guarantee the safety of our students.”

“Your students have always been safe.” Mardalan lowered her eyelashes and reached for her cup again.

“Safe until you steal them from their beds. Safe until you ruin their lives. Safe until you destroy their futures.” There was a snap to Lal’s voice.

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

“The court is yours now. No more infighting. That means you have the power.”

Mardalan raised her eyes again and smiled at Lal. “Now you are saying things I agree with.”

Lal had not moved. “But you are not the only thing in this forest.”

“Of course not. You live here somewhere, as well.”

Lal did not rise to the bait—but Mardalan had known she would not; her dwelling place was well hidden, even from the prying eyes of Mardalan’s best spies. “Because you are the one with power, I need your help to keep the students safe.”

An unladylike snort escaped Mardalan. “Would you trust it if I did? You know I have no love for the humans.”

“I would trust your word, Mardalan. I know your word, and it is good. I know you do not love the humans like I do, but you are not interested in having your people interfere with them, either.”

Mardalan took a long sip of her tea, then set it down. “Very well. I will bind my people to an agreement that will genuinely stop them from harming or touching the humans. Will that satisfy you?”

Lal took another vicious bite of her cookie. “Perhaps. What’s to stop you from becoming another ruler like Alaineth, granting permission to touch the humans to any who gain your favor?”

Mardalan smiled, imagining what her people would do to gain her favor if they thought it might mean doing what they wanted to, or with, the humans. “Nothing, I suppose.”

Lal finally bent her head, lifting her arm and touching her forehead with her long fingers. “That’s not good enough, Mardalan. You need to understand how we feel about these humans.”

“They’re humans. Lesser beings.” Mardalan shook her head. “Why is it so important to you that they not be harmed? Why reopen the school? Without the humans here, we might live in peace.”

“I’ve tried to explain this to you. You never listen.” Lal gave her shoulders an impatient shake, as though her dark silk and lace were irritating her.

“What’s the point? I have my own humans here, anyway.” She gave a negligent wave at her sleeping musicians. “They never interest me. Only what they can do. I do love music.”

“You’ve never—“ Lal lifted her head and shook it. “You don’t speak to those humans. Not as fellow beings. You just take them and use them. No consideration at all.”

Mardalan frowned. “Why should I—“

“I don’t mean that you should be talking to your musicians and asking them their deepest desires. But you treat them like props. They do have deepest desires. If you had started with a conversation, you would know.”

“Conversation? With humans?” Mardalan rolled her eyes. Conversation with other faeries was bad enough—as Lal was showing her so clearly.

Lal smirked. “It’s no worse than conversation with most faeries I know, and far better than with some.”


“Have you ever bothered to try it? They might surprise you. In your hundreds of years, don’t you miss surprises?”

Mardalan looked down at her spread, admiring it anew. “I don’t need surprises. I have power.” She lifted the remains of her cookie and popped it into her mouth, letting it dissolve pleasurably on her tongue.

“You do miss surprises. Find a few humans to talk to. Just try it out.”

“How?” Mardalan was irritated that Lal believed she knew her better than she knew herself.

“We don’t only need a way to keep the students safe in the fall. To reopen, we will also need a teacher to replace Strega.”

Mardalan sneered at the mention of Strega. “She was weak.”

“I would have thought she’d want to stay, now that we’re making such strides in human-faerie relationships, but it seems she’s made up her mind. So what do you say?”

“What?” Mardalan looked up from her tea, confused.

Lal was smiling. “Come teach a class. You’ll have contact with dozens of students. I guarantee you’ll be surprised.”

“And what if I’m not?”

“At the end of the semester, we can reevaluate. Let me bind you and your people to keeping the students safe from harm. Come to campus a few times a week to teach. If they never surprise you, I’ll unbind you and you can have free rein again.”

“You’re very confident.”

“I’ve been working with humans for a long time.”

“What if I want to leave at the end of the semester? Will you let me go?”

“Of course. You can leave now, if that’s really what you want. You know that, right? There’s no more ruler. There’s no more constraints.”

Mardalan looked around at her hall. “I’d need time to put my affairs in order. The court…”

“There’s time. Just let me know who you’re leaving in charge, so I can negotiate with them.”

Mardalan straightened her spine. “No. I’ll take your bet.”

“Very well, then. Let’s write up an agreement for you to bind your people to, and for me to bind you to.”

Mardalan swallowed the rest of her tea, then snapped her fingers. Her servant scurried up. “Parchment and pens,” she told him. As he rushed off for the supplies, she looked back up at Lal, pressing her lips together. “This will be interesting.”

“Yes,” Lal agreed, a faint smile still playing around her lips. “It will be interesting indeed.”

Mardalan lay back on a chaise, throwing her hand over her eyes. She couldn’t believe the semester was finally over. How did Lal and Rook manage it, teaching not just one class, but several per semester? All those human students! It was exhausting.

“It’s been a long twelve weeks, hasn’t it?” came Lal’s voice.

Mardalan lifted her arm and glared at the other faerie. “How did you get here?”

Lal raised her eyebrows. She was dressed again in her customary black human clothing, but at least she’d made the concession of a skirt, rather than jeans. “Are you telling me I am unwelcome? I have always been permitted in your hall before.”

Mardalan sighed and sat up. “No, of course not. You are welcome here.” She was irritated—she knew why Lal was here, and she didn’t like it—but that did not give her leave to be a discourteous host.

She gestured, and another chair appeared for Lal to sit on. Mardalan would not honor her guest by providing a comfortable chaise when she had not honored the space with her dress; it was a tall, hard wooden chair.

Lal sat as gracefully as though she were surrounded by heavy skirts. “The semester is over.”

“And how was it for you?”

“It was most illuminating.” Lal smiled and shook her head. “Once again, the humans managed to surprise me.”

“I thought that was what you liked about them.”

“This was a bigger surprise than usual.” Lal drummed her fingers against the side of the seat. “I am not saying that I am not pleased. I am merely… surprised by how surprised I am.”

Mardalan shook her head. Lal was often baffling, but that had been an especially baffling little speech.

“And how was it for you?” Lal asked. “I was pleased to see that all your students passed your final exam, so you must have done a fairly good job teaching. I’m proud of you.”

Mardalan snapped her fingers for her servant. “Wine,” she said when he had arrived in a rustle of greenery. “Lal, will you partake?”


“Two glasses of the darkest red,” Mardalan said, and her servant scurried off to obey.

Lal looked around. “I’ve just realized something.” She was being excessively polite, allowing Mardalan to take her time answering the question. Mardalan recognized the unusual courtesty, and it only irritated her more.


“No music. I don’t even see your human musicians—just Feloc in his cage.”

Mardalan waited until she had a wineglass in her hand, so she could look into the dark liquid and not at Lal. “I let them go.”

“You…” Lal’s wineglass shook in her hand as she looked around wildly.

Mardalan looked up and smiled, pleased that she’d managed to render the smooth-talking Lal speechless. “You value surprise, do you not?” She took a sip of her wine.

Lal snorted. “You didn’t do it to please me.”

“No.” Mardalan turned the glass about in her hand, admiring the way the wine shimmered in the light. “I did it because… well, you were right.” She had to force the words between her teeth. “Humans are far more interesting than I gave them credit for. They are not the puppets I took them as, and I could no longer treat them that way.”

Lal shook her head. “That is far better than I expected of you. Whether or not you did it to please me, Mardalan, I am pleased.”

“They did surprise me, many times,” Mardalan said. “When there was an injury in my class… I was surprised by my fear. I did not want a student hurt. I realized that it is not so different than what I did to the musicians, so I gave them back their freedom. And when the ghost came to my class—I knew about her, of course, but I had thought she was a phenomenon, not a person. Now I know otherwise.”

“You knew—“ Lal began to laugh, then took a deep drink of her wine. “Mardalan, you continually surprise me. This is why I come here, despite disapproval of your ways. Perhaps now those ways I disapprove are changing.”

Mardalan shook her head and drank her wine.

“So, will you return next semester?” Lal asked. “Or do I still need to find a permanent replacement for Strega?”

Mardalan frowned deeply into her glass. “How long do I have to recover?”

“Six weeks. You’ll be fine.” There was a smile in Lal’s voice.

Mardalan knocked back the rest of her glass. “I’ll have to take your word for it, as you have more experience than I do. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, of course.”

“Of course.” Lal set her glass down by the chair, then rose. “I’ll take my leave of you and let you rest.”

Mardalan inclined her head in thanks, and looked about for her servant as Lal walked away—she needed more wine.

Lal stopped before she had reached the door, though, and turned back. “Mardalan. What happened to them?”

“What happened to who?” Mardalan turned to her servant and handed him her empty glass; he knew what she wanted and scurried off.

Lal raised her eyebrows. “The human musicians. Where did they go when you released them? Will I find them wandering, lost, on campus? Did they even survive?”

Mardalan shrugged, confused and irritated by the question. “What do I care where they went? They aren’t mine anymore.” Her servant returned with her wine glass, and she clutched the delicate crystal.

Lal opened her mouth for a moment, then closed it again and shook her head. “Perhaps you haven’t changed so much. Farewell, Mardalan. I shall see you again in six weeks.”

“Oh, you won’t miss the Solstice ball, will you?” Mardalan glanced over her shoulder at Feloc in the corner. “He’s been learning all kinds of new music.”

Lal smiled. “If I’m invited, I’ll be there.”

“Of course you’re invited. We’re friends, aren’t we?”

“Of course.” Lal’s smile widened. “In two weeks, then. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Mardalan returned her attention to her wine, and when she had taken a long sip, Lal was gone.

Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 59: A Guest

Tuesday, November 14

Corrie and Edie walked into their Intermediate Elementalism class. Corrie was working to hold back a smirk. Professor Lal probably wouldn’t like it if she was smirking at her. It would make her even less likely to take what Corrie was about to say seriously.

The two of them waited at the front of the class, by Professor Lal’s desk. There was also another presence along with them. Corrie couldn’t see or sense her, but—unless she had chickened out—she knew she was there.

Professor Lal frowned as soon as she came in, striding directly to her desk. “Corrie, Edie. Is there a problem?”

Corrie shook her head, working even harder to control her smirk. “Everything’s going well. We’ve just brought a guest to class, and wanted to let you know.”

Professor Lal raised her eyebrows. “A guest? Is that so.”

The professor obviously didn’t believe them. “Yes. Her name is Alice Atkins.”


“We’ve spoken to her,” Edie said. “She told us her name. She doesn’t like to communicate with people, but was willing to work with a medium.”

Professor Lal looked between the two of them, her lips pressed thin. “This is the ghost.”

“She has always hidden from magic professors because she was ashamed and embarrassed,” Corrie said. “We’ve known she was haunting Mary Thomas for months, and we spoke to her for the first time about a month ago, but we didn’t find out until recently how you and the other magic professors managed to not know about her.”

“We’ve investigated,” Lal said.

Corrie nodded. “She always hid from you and the other magic professors because she died making a huge mistake with a spell. She was trying to impress her magic professors at the time. Seeing any of you reminded her of the reason she died. You can understand how that would be painful.”

“I…” Lal’s eyes roamed around the air between Corrie and Edie as though she would be able to see Alice. Corrie was perversely pleased that they’d managed to render the faerie speechless.

“She doesn’t remember having you as a professor, which makes sense, since you didn’t remember her, either,” Corrie continued. “She remembers Professor Rook, so he might remember her, too. She’s not ready to face him yet, but she wants to—needs to, I think—come to magic classes.”

“Of course she can’t enroll as a student, since she has no way to fill out the forms or take tests, except through the medium, and the medium has their own classes to deal with,” Edie said. “But if she comes to classes, she’ll learn anyway.”

“And then maybe she’ll understand whatever went wrong with her final spell,” Corrie said.

Professor Lal sighed. “How do you know she’s here?”

“Alice?” Corrie said. “You don’t have to talk to Professor Lal, but can you move something on her desk so she knows you’re here?”

For a moment nothing happened, and Corrie feared that Alice had decided she couldn’t face a magic professor after all. But then a folder on Professor Lal’s desk flipped open and the papers slid onto the floor. To her credit, Lal didn’t jump, just looked down at the pile on the floor with her lips pressed together.

“Well, I can hardly stop your guest from attending class,” she said. “Not if she can’t be seen or touched. But I’ll get in touch with Lin and see if she can’t help illuminate this a little more.”

Corrie and Edie grinned at each other. Lal pointed at the papers on the floor. “However, we did have a handout for class today. So unless your ghost is willing to pass the papers to your classmates, the two of you have just volunteered to pick them up and do that. And hurry, because class ought to have started several minutes ago.”

Corrie shrugged. “Fair enough.” She bent, picked up the papers, gave half the stack to Edie, and began handing them out.

They’d helped Alice as best they could—and that had been quite a lot. From here, any more changes that had to be made, she could make herself.

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 53: Bad Luck

Corrie didn’t have a lot of hope that Professor Lal would be the one on duty, but she headed over to the magic building anyway. Somewhat to her surprise, Professor Lal’s door was ajar and the light was on inside. Corrie glanced around the hallway, but no one else seemed to be there. She knocked lightly on the door.

“Come in,” Lal said.

Corrie opened the door and walked inside. Lal was bent over her desk, a pen in one hand, reading something. “Hi, Professor Lal.”

Lal looked up at her, eyebrows arching. “Hello, Corrie.”

“If you’re busy, I can come back later.”

Professor Lal put down her pen and shook her head. “I am not busy. Do you have some concern about class? You are doing remarkably well—though, I should not say remarkably.” She smiled and stretched her arms above her head. “You are doing precisely as well as I expected, given how you performed in your introductory class, and your control is growing every day.”

Corrie grinned. She hadn’t come here expecting or even hoping to be praised, but it sure was nice, especially coming from such a strict teacher. “It’s not about that. It’s just some research I was doing, and I was curious. You’ve been at this school for a while, right?”

“A hundred and fifty years, on and off.”

Corrie nodded, hoping Lal wouldn’t ask her about what the research was. “Did you ever know a student named Alice Atkins?”

“Atkins.” Lal tapped her lower lip with her finger. “I remember an Otis Atkins. Alice Atkins… the name does ring a bell, but I don’t think I taught her. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I have memorized the names of all the students I have ever taught.”

“No, that makes sense.” Corrie was sure that if Professor Lal had taught a student who had died on campus, that would be seared into her memory. Corrie would certainly always remember the names of Elrath, Sean, Payton, and Elena, and she had barely even known Sean.

Then again, what if Professor Lal had taught Alice Atkins, and it turned out that she hadn’t died on campus? Maybe she was just tied to Mary Thomas because she had been a student there; maybe she’d died years after she graduated and returned to campus. That would help explain why the magic professors seemed to be so certain that there was no ghost in Mary Thomas.

“Maybe Alice Atkins was Otis’ little sister, and he told her not to take any of your classes when she came here,” Corrie suggested, grinning at the idea.

Professor Lal shook her head at Corrie. “I do not think so.”

“What about the Mary Thomas scholarship? Were you around when they were doing that?”

“Yes, I left the school for a time not long before Miss Thomas died, but I remember it had been her intention to leave her house and her money to the school. When I returned, they were giving out a scholarship in her name, and I remember two or three girls who received it before the money ran out.” She pursed her lips. “There was said to be some bad luck associated with the scholarship. I can’t recall why.”

Corrie raised her eyebrows. Maybe Alice had died at the school after all. “That’s weird. Why would a scholarship be bad luck?”

“It was given to girls who could not have attended a college otherwise. Perhaps they were not all well suited to this particular college.” Professor Lal shook her head. “I can’t tell you any more than that, Corrie. What is this research related to?”

Corrie bit her lip. “It’s just personal. I read that Alice Atkins made some contribution to magical theory, and I thought—“

“Corrie.” Professor Lal leveled an unamused look at her. “If this was about magical theory, I would know about it. Who is Alice Atkins?”

“I don’t know,” Corrie said truthfully.

“Are you following that ridiculous story about a ghost in Mary Thomas again?”

Corrie tried to control her annoyance. “Why are you so sure there isn’t a ghost in Mary Thomas?”

“I have personally investigated the story more than once, as have several other professors on this campus. We have seen absolutely no evidence of such a thing. Perhaps you should stop chasing nonsense and focus on your schoolwork instead.”

Corrie nodded, taking that as a dismissal, and left the office, frowning. She hardly saw the campus around her as she walked back to Sayer. How could the ghost have hidden her existence so thoroughly from the professors, when she was so very obvious to Corrie, her friends, and especially Lin?

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 18: Help

Corrie frowned and raised her hand. That sounded like the campus protections had changed since last year.

Lal nodded to her. “Corrie?”

“Did you get rid of the walls that were up for a while? They were supposed to keep faeries out and humans in.”

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 18: Help”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 17: See Her Coming

The next person to be called asked, “Are you sure there aren’t any vampires on campus? Couldn’t they come here if they wanted to?”

Professor Lal assured them that while vampires could, in theory, enter campus, it had never been a problem in the four hundred years that the college had been in operation, and that vampires had proper respect for and fear of faeries. She then assured another person that the vast majority of faeries in and around campus were on the side of humanity and would help protect the students against those faeries who were not. Then she had to assure someone else that the risk of a werewolf attack was extremely minimal.

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 17: See Her Coming”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 16: Magic People

The picture had changed to that of an ordinary, smiling young man, and then it changed again, to an older woman with silver hair. In the picture her calm expression turned to a smile, and two of her front teeth lengthened into fangs.

Corrie’s eyes widened and she glanced at Roe, who was frowning and watching the screen. She could have guessed… faeries and werewolves both existed, so why not vampires? But it seemed strange that, with all the supernatural experience she and her friends had had, they should have completely avoided learning about vampires until now.

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 16: Magic People”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 15: The Best Way to Defend Yourself

Lal waved her hand, and a projector screen lowered. The lights dimmed, an image appearing on the screen. Corrie smiled, remembering how impressive it had seemed when she went to her first magic class and Professor Lal had made things happen without touching them.

“Faeries can look like almost anything, though we generally have a humanoid base,” Lal said, moving to stand beside the screen. It showed a picture of a young woman and, beside her, a creature with gills and huge, blue, shining eyes. The picture changed, showing a young man, then the same man with his head turned to the side, showing a delicately lacy ear.

“Do not think I am giving you the full range of faerie appearance,” Professor Lal said. “These are merely examples. The point is, we can look like many things, and we can all hide our true appearances with glamour, so that we look like ordinary humans if we choose.”

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 15: The Best Way to Defend Yourself”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 14: Ghost Stories

Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 14: How to Protect Yourself

Saturday, August 26

Corrie, Edie, and Dawn arrived early to the magic building that morning, wanting to make sure they could get to their assigned rooms easily. After all, if everyone on campus was required to attend one of these classes, it would be a huge crowd.

To Corrie’s disappointment, the class list pointed them each to a different classroom. She and Edie were each in one of the big amphitheater-style classrooms, and Dawn was in the same one where they’d had trance class last semester. Corrie was on the top floor, so she waved goodbye first to Dawn and then to Edie as she trudged up to the classroom.

It was only about a quarter full when she got there, so she was able to find a seat in the front row, near the far side of the room. Professor Lal was standing at the front of the class, talking quietly to a couple of students Corrie didn’t recognize. No one seemed to be intimidated by Professor Lal, but she was in her usual glamour, and maybe they didn’t remember that she was a faerie.

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 14: Chapter 14: How to Protect Yourself”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 13: The Teeth

Chatoyant College Book 13: Chapter 89: The Truth

“What are we supposed to tell our friends and family about why we might not be going back to school in the fall?” Dawn asked. She knew she would tell her aunt Pru the truth—Pru had, after all, been a student at Chatoyant College and known a faerie herself—but she had no idea what to say to her parents or the few friends she had from high school. She’d been keeping the information about faeries from them for good reason.

“That is up to you,” Professor Lal said, her lips thinning. “The truth is an option.”

“You could also just tell them that there was a killer loose on campus and the school may be closing because of that,” Professor Rook said. “Use the truth, but not all of it.”

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 13: Chapter 89: The Truth”

Chatoyant College, Chatoyant College Book 13: The Teeth

Chatoyant College Book 13: Chapter 88: Working

The noise level in the auditorium rose quickly as the stage lights went down. Everyone else seemed to be hurrying out as quickly as possible while discussing what had just been announced, but Dawn wasn’t ready to get up from her seat just yet—and neither, it seemed, were her friends.

Corrie leaned forward and spoke to Dawn past Edie. “Do you think they’re really going to make it safe?”

“I don’t know,” Dawn said. “If they can find a way to put the magic back the way it was… why wouldn’t they just do that?”

Corrie nodded grimly. “Of course, if they could do that, why haven’t they done it already?”

Continue reading “Chatoyant College Book 13: Chapter 88: Working”