Chapter 8: Excuses
Corrie bit her lip, worried. Maybe Leila really didn’t know her sister that well, if she thought the book didn’t seem like something she would do. But what were the chances that it hadn’t been Mardalan at all? Not good, she thought—Professor Lal had been pretty certain it was her. Still, she could ask for more clarification. “What about the book itself? Professor Lal checked it for malevolent magic, but there wasn’t any in it. Just bad information. Does that sound like something she would do?”
“Yes, it does. She would wish to sneak it past Lal, and creating a book that is actually magical would make that more difficult. I am not sure about the information, however. She is not very creative.”
“It wasn’t creative,” said Dawn. “It just left out some important stuff.”
Leila nodded. “That does sound like her. As I said, perhaps her priorities have changed. I am certain she has never been in a situation quite like this one before.” She smiled, but it was not a happy smile. “Facing one’s own mortality can do that.”
“I thought you didn’t kill her,” said Roe.
“No, of course not.” Leila waved her hand as though to brush away any fears. “I would not wish to do that. I only wished to teach her a lesson. She thought that hurting my trees, making me angry, would force me to join her. She needed to understand that I will never give in to her.” She was still holding Edie’s had, and pulled it closer to her as she spoke.
Corrie didn’t like that Leila was putting Edie in the same category as her trees—though Mardalan had done the same thing, of course, kidnapping Edie in order to get Leila to come to her. Actually, maybe that made it worse. But Edie looked happy. She squeezed her hands together under the table and willed herself not to say anything critical.
“I guess if she learned her lesson, she was looking for something else to do,” said Dawn. “She’s probably bored.”
“That’s right,” said Annie. “If she’s not with her court, there are no humans to torment or balls to dance at or… whatever else she does. Conversation with the other two.”
“She has her servant,” said Leila.
“The thing that seems weird to me is, wouldn’t she want to see what she’s doing if she messes with us?” said Edie. “Giving us that book doesn’t do anything she can see.”
“She gave it to you directly?” Leila said sharply, turning to look straight at Edie.
“What? No.” Edie blinked, pursing her lips. “I mean, she just got it into the library, but she obviously intended for it to get into student hands. Anyone who knew magic and read it would know what was missing.”
“Oh, yes, I recall now.” Leila’s shoulders relaxed. “I do wonder how she got it onto campus, however. Her servant would not be able to put it inside the building.”
“He wouldn’t have to,” said Dawn. “If it was left outside, one of the librarians or Emi would see it and bring it in. And the box was labeled as donations. I don’t know if it was left outside, though. It wasn’t wet or anything.”
Corrie shivered. “I don’t like the idea of that twiggy thing being on campus at all. He chased me through the woods once—it was really freaky.”
“I would advise you to be careful going out at night, and stick to the paths, but I am sure you are already doing that,” said Leila.
“Yeah, we try to be careful,” said Roe. “We know what’s out there.”
“Indeed.” Leila took a big gulp of the water from her glass, emptying it. “I should return.” She gave them all polite, old-fashioned nods, and stood up, bringing Edie with her.
Edie smiled and waved at the table. “I’ll see you guys later. Don’t worry, I have my bracelet.”
“And your girlfriend,” Corrie said, smiling and waving back. Leila gave her a quick smile before they walked off.
Annie yawned. “I guess I should get back to the dorm, too. Plenty of work to do.”
“We have half the week off!” said Roe.
“Yeah, but I have to spend it all with my relatives. I want to get as much work done as I can before I go home.”
“Me too,” said Dawn. “I’m going to have a lot to talk about with my aunt Pru over Thanksgiving.”
Corrie nodded and stood up. “I still have my biology homework for tomorrow. This whole ‘evil faeries out to get us’ thing really makes it hard to find time for homework.”
“Too bad none of our teachers will accept that as an excuse,” said Dawn, making them all laugh as they gathered up their dishes to return.