Pyrite Quillen's normally green eyes had taken on a jagged yellow tinge around the edge. His pupils were dilated, reflecting in sharp detail the implacable blank stare Cirrus put on the moment they heard him approach. Between the arms of his fresh-pressed uniform, they could see the rest of the crowd following behind. They made a great show of slowly sighing as they closed their potions book and slipped it into their backpack. They raised both eyebrows at Quillen in what they hoped came across as a coolly dismissive greeting.
"Fancy a fume?" the wiry young man held out a fistful of pen-sized crystals.
Cirrus gave the crystals a bored glance before leaning back in their chair.
"Not my speed," they put their arms behind their head.
"Not your speed," he said to the gathered crowd. Dull chuckles bubbled around table.
"Doing some hard . . . studying?" they asked, catching his eye with a blase glance.
"Studying. Group project. You know the deal."
"You do," the yellow had reached his pupils -- or maybe his pupils had reached the yellow. He leaned in closer, and Cirrus noticed a fine tremor in the hand clutching the crystals. They also noticed an odd lump bulging out from the side of his uniform. Something was wrong here. Not just the drugs. This wasn't his normal pestering.
He continued, "Making progress?"
"Honestly, no. I'm still waiting on my partners to arrive."
They took what they hoped sounded like a casual breath in -- actually an attempt to get a good sniff in. Crystal smoke residue, hair gel potions, fragrance charms. Ahh, there it was. Copper.
"All of them? All late?" he asked.
"It's a flaming bummer. Sparring practice must be going late. They're all nuts for it. I've never seen the appeal."
”Yeah, yeah. Sure; of course,” he responded, uninterested, ”How about that other one? What’s she up to?”
They reached out with an undetectable sensory spell, trying to find the closest mass of dry blood. The odd lump on Pyrite’s front resonated in his mind. So did something moving behind him in the stacks. It was the funniest thing, because they both sounded out in the exact same —
”Toussaint, I want you to — and I think you’re going to — tell me where she is.”
”Beats the flames out of me. She late for a meeting with you, too?”
”Oh yeah. Real late,” the laughs from around the circle were fewer and quieter.
”That’s a bummer for you.”
Any psionic student could have told you that the thought of selling her out had crossed their mind. Actually, it had stopped midway through their mind and set up a cozy cottage right in the forefront. But they couldn't shake the feeling, the certainty, that Pyrite was playing a different game today.
When two of his goons grabbed them by the shoulders and lifted them out of their chair, that certainty was just about all they could hold on to for support. Cirrus was much heavier than they looked, but nobody seemed to have told the pale elves that were effortlessly dragging them into the stacks. Between the crowd and the shelves, Cirrus’ view of the lounge was swallowed up in moments. They hoped nobody heard their ticking becoming increasingly frantic. The bellows action of their lungs sputtered, and they shut their eyes tight against whatever was coming next.