The Fae World: Earth: Tamara: Talking to Quentin

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the Fae World: Earth collection

From the day River had asked Tamara if she would work on a project with Quentin, one she was entirely sure he’d made up, she knew something had changed. It was the ice dragon, Silmarcus, who’d changed things, with the stories he told as they were trying to find a way to send him home, and it had been easy to see how much of an effect those stories had on Quentin, if you were actually looking. That didn’t mean she wanted to spend more time with him that she normally did, but for River… when she’d started at the fae school she’d never expected one of her teachers to become a friend and yet that was what he’d become, probably because of all the time she’d spent with him while they were working on the glamour she was going to use on her old prom dress.

Biting hard on her lip Tamara made her way to the magic room, where Quentin was waiting for her, wished she’d said no, wishing it wasn’t Quentin, wishing she hadn’t started to feel sorry for him because it was obvious that he was beginning to think instead of simply accepting the beliefs of his family. Adrian mentioned it first. His brother talking to him willingly was something that hadn’t happened in years. Then Naida said something about Quentin apologising to her for being such a bastard and that, apparently, had been the word he used. Yet he’d never said anything to Tamara, even though they were in four classes together, which she couldn’t help thinking was due to fear. He was scared of what her reaction was going to be, after everything he’d done to her. With Naida and Adrian it was easier – they were family and families forgave things even when they probably shouldn’t.

Tamara wasn’t sure what her reaction was going to be. After the conversation she’d had with River she hadn’t been able to stop herself from imagining what might happen, but it kept changing. There were days when she accepted Quentin’s apology for acting the way he had and days when she didn’t. It all depended on what he said. Like most of the mixed bloods she’d got into the habit of watching him, just in case he had another one of his outbursts, because he did like to tell people what he thought of them. In some ways his sisters were easier to deal with. They hated her from a distance. Quentin had always made it obvious who he disliked and why, but since Silmarcus’ visit he’d stopped. Most people probably thought someone had told him to tone it down, because they didn’t know about Silmarcus, but she was certain Quentin’s changing beliefs were the reason.

For what felt like hours Tamara stood outside the door. She was never going to be ready for the conversation she was about to have, so she didn’t know why she tried to prepare herself, but eventually she opened it and stepped into the magic room. It was a room she’d always liked. From the very beginning it had been one of her favourite room and her love for it had grown, in part because she’d spent so much time with River in there. She hoped that good feeling would help. She wanted to give Quentin a chance, even though she couldn’t help thinking that she was making a mistake by meeting him in the first place. As she did her eyes met his.

“Hi,” he said, sounding more unsure of himself than she thought was possible.

“Hi,” she replied, choosing not to cross the room, because if things went wrong she wanted to be able to escape easily. “How is this going to work?”

Quentin shook his head. “I didn’t really think that far ahead.” He brushed a hand through his hair and she thought she could see his hand shaking slightly. “Tamara, I know I acted badly before and I’m sorry. My family has certain beliefs, beliefs that I accepted without stopping to wonder if I should, but I now realise that I need to think for myself, rather than let other people think for me.” He sighed and she wondered if he realised he was speaking a little faster than normal. “Not even having a brother like Adrian made me think, but then I didn’t know about his animal parts for a long time, and when I did find out I was already indoctrinated into my family’s beliefs, so I accepted the explanations that I was giving about a recessive gene, because I am, apparently, an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot.” Tamara lent against the wall, mentally breaking Quentin’s far too long sentences into something she could reply to. He was definitely not his normal self. “I can understand why you’d think the way you did. My problem is with the way you showed those thoughts and that’s something I’m not certain I can forgive. Being a bully, because you thought of anyone with mixed blood as a lesser being, is one of the things I don’t think you can explain away, as it was your choice. You chose to tell people what you thought of them without seeming to think about how that may affect them.” She shrugged. “How do I know that you won’t switch who you target? Plenty of people believe they have pure fae blood…”

“Even though I wish I had an explanation for why I bullied people I don’t.” Quentin sighed. “All I can think is that I picked up bad habits from my family and then, because I so wanted to be like my father, I channelled him to an extent that meant I was actually worse that him. Honestly, even though I haven’t acted like it, I started thinking he was wrong before, when I first saw you, which scared me. I didn’t want to let go of who I was. I couldn’t let go of who I was, not without it affecting everything in my future, and the thought of my future being affected… it terrified me, Tamara, and the fear I felt made me act badly.

“When I look back all I can do is cringe. Everything I did, everything I said, it was like my father had taken over my body and started speaking for me. He didn’t want any of us to come here in case we started to think, because he knows he’s clinging to a past that doesn’t exist any more and a future that would never have happened, but it is the best school, River is one of the best magic teachers, and Mother wanted us to come, so he gave in. If he ever found out that he was right he’d wish that he didn’t. Adrian’s already let him down, first by showing the ‘recessive gene’ and then by accepting what River taught him as the truth. Now I might do the exact same thing, even though I never wanted to, and I tried so hard to stop it from happening. Too hard, really.”

“Making mistakes is something everyone does.” Tamara studied Quentin, wondering if it was possible that he really had changed enough to be able to let go of the person he had been, the person his family had wanted him to be, and start the long process of accepting that his old beliefs were wrong. “Naida and Adrian said you’d spoken to them.”

“They were simple, compared to you. Adrian was always willing to give me a chance, because we’re family, and when I apologised to him for becoming a clone of my father he said he understood why, he didn’t hold any grudges, and he was willing to start again, if that really was what I wanted to to. It was nice. It also made talking to Naida seem like something I could do. She’s my cousin, she has fire magic stronger than any I’ve seen in the fae, and I was letting my father’s beliefs colour my judgement again, when I hadn’t even given her a chance. Now I have a chance to have a relationship with both of them, which is something I should have had from the beginnin.”

“I am glad.” She nibbled on her bottom lip as she tried to make a decision, but it was almost impossible to do. “Let’s take things slowly, Quentin, because right now I don’t know what I should do. I want to give you a chance. There’s just this niggling doubt that won’t go away and I hope you can understand why.”

“Of course I understand.” Quentin smiled. “I’m just glad you’re willing to do this. River told me that this was going to take time, because of the choices I made when I first met you, and I don’t blame you for wanting to be careful. In your situation I think I’d be exactly the same, but that’s never going to happen, is it?”

Not feeling as uncertain as she had to begin with Tamara crossed the room to one of the desks at the front and sat down. “I don’t know. There is a chance, if your choices start to become more obvious to the rest of the students here, that you might end up being treated the same way you treated me by your sisters or the other fae you currently spend time with, those who think of us as mongrels, as creatures that shouldn’t exist, because they won’t understand why you’ve started to accept us as people.” She looked at Quentin. “You’re going to need to prepare for that, just in case.”

Slowly Quentin nodded. “I am hoping to put that time off for as long as possible, Tamara. My parents aren’t going to be happy when they find out about the choices I’ve made recently and I’m really not ready to deal with the lecture my father will give me. That’s why River came up with a project that meant we’d need to work together outside of class. By spending time together with that in place I’ll have time to prepare myself for the day my father does hear about what I’ve done.” He brushed his hand through his hair again. “He’s going to disown me and when that happens I’ll have nothing.”

“You’ll have friends who’ll stand by you, no matter what.”

“Maybe.” He looked down at the desk. “Is that enough though?”

“That really does depend on you.” Tamara wasn’t surprised at the question or at the pain behind it. “You’ll have lost in order to gain, but sometimes what we lose isn’t always worth what we get in return. If your inheritance was money or property then you might feel like gaining friends isn’t comparable and yet for some people those friends would be worth more than either of those things. Right now it’s something you don’t need to think about too hard. No one untrustworthy knows that you’re starting to have doubts about what you were taught when you were younger, so take your time to work out what you really would appreciate more. Personally friends are worth much more to me than money, but we never had much. If I was in your position I can easily imagine asking the exact same question.”

“Before we travelled to Earth my older brothers and sisters would have inherited the majority of my father’s property, but what happened on Kalinia changed everything. Now I’m one of the eldest and I could inherit my father’s second home, far more money than any one person could possibly need, and a number of other things that I can’t remember at the moment. Gaining friends… if some part of me didn’t believe it was worth it I wouldn’t be here. It’s just the voice inside me that’s still telling me I shouldn’t be spending any time with you at all that’s making things difficult and all I can do is hope that it will fade away in the future.”

“It will, if you stick to the choice that you made when you talked to Adrian, but it you don’t it’s likely that voice will just keep getting louder until it takes over the part of you that’s actually started to think about why your parents believe the things that they do. On Kalinia things were very different and they’re clinging onto that, because they don’t know how to let go and, honestly, I don’t think they want to learn how. Letting go, to them, probably means something very different to what it means to you. They probably feel like they’re holding on to the people they lost.”

“Sometimes I feel that way.” Quentin bit his lip. “I might not have met my siblings, but hearing Father talk about them… it’s as though they’re there, right in front of me, and I can never live up to them. Father had more children because he felt he needed to, even though he probably shouldn’t have done.” Their eyes met and the last thing Tamara had expected was to see tears in his, which did make her wonder how hard life had been for him, being the chosen son. “Unfortunately Father has held onto some beliefs that he shouldn’t have done, so my sisters won’t be inheriting from him, they’ll be inheriting from Mother, and as far as he’s concerned two of my brothers aren’t his sons.”

“Two? I knew about Adrian, but…” She studied Quentin. “It’s another one of those things you don’t talk about, right?”

“Our family is good at that. There are so many things we don’t mention, because it’s much easier not to. Father doesn’t like to think about certain choices that he’s made, choices that are apparently for the best, so we’re all very careful not to say the wrong thing. Even Mother’s been on the receiving end of his anger more than once and she’s the other parent. I know she’s glad that their marriage won’t last much longer. She never wanted Adrian to be disinherited or for him to feel like he wasn’t welcome at home. Father’s previous wife would have reacted in the same way as Father, which is why my other older brother was disinherited, and it makes me think that the shifter married into Father’s family.”

“Adrian doesn’t know about him, does he?”

Quentin shook his head. “The only reason I do is because Father told me. If, for some reason, my brother should die before me, which is something Father never would have thought of before, I need to know everything I can about my family. He told me about all the decisions that he’d made from the time he stepped onto Earth, about the surviving siblings I have who chose to stay with their mother rather than with him, about things I really didn’t want to know about, and it’s thanks to that conversation I started to wonder who he really was. Before that I’d looked up to him, but now I don’t know what to think anymore, or what to believe, especially as you’re stronger than me magically. He always said that you were lesser beings, because of your mixed blood, and now I can’t help thinking he just wanted me to believe that, so I wouldn’t mix with the ‘wrong’ people.”

“As much as I wish it wasn’t true you are right – your father, even though you say it was your mother’s choice, would have wanted you to come here because it is the best school, but letting you come here meant making certain that you believed the same things he did. Maybe, at the beginning, he wasn’t even thinking about whether you’d end up at the school, but he would have wanted to protect you from the things the truly thought might damage your prospects in the future. That doesn’t mean he was doing it maliciously, Quentin, he was simply doing what he thought was best for you, and your siblings, because he does care about you.”

“I know that, but that doesn’t make it any easier. There are days when I hate him for making me into his mini-me. You are right about when it started and when I think back to the afternoons I spent in Father’s study, listening to him tell me about how I was his favourite son, because I had wings which meant I was more fae than any of my other siblings… he has no idea that the wings come from another race and he wouldn’t believe me if I told him.”

“No, he wouldn’t, but you know and that’s the important thing. You accepted what you were told as the truth, even though it would have been much easier for you to have pushed it aside and carried on as normal.”

“Honestly, I did try. More than once. Then I’d look at myself in the mirror and see my wings. Every time I did I was reminded of what I was told, that I’d inherited them from the Little People, a race I didn’t even know existed until we met Silmarcus, because not even Father knows the true history of our race. He simply accepted what he was told by his father and his mentor, who’d been taught the same thing by their elders.” Quentin sighed. “I could have done the same, if I hadn’t met a bloody dragon.”

Surprising herself Tamara shook her head. “I don’t believe that. Even though it might have taken a lot longer than it did I think you would started to question your father’s teachings.”

“Really?” Quentin stared at her and she could see the disbelief in his eyes. “I’m not so certain.”

“Why should you be? All you can see if who you were and who you are now. I might not have liked you then but I could see the potential, so I do think, after another season of us sharing classes, you would have stopped to think about why you believed the things you did.” She shrugged. “Maybe I’m just too willing to think that there was always a good person in you somewhere.”

“How can you think that after everything I did to you, and Adrian, and Naida? I was a bastard to all three of you, because of what you are.”

“Yes, you were, and I’m not magically going to forget that, but I do understand why you made the choices you did. I’ve never been in that sort of position, so I can’t say if I would have made the same decisions – I hope I wouldn’t, as, to me, they were mistakes, but I was never taught that mixed bloods were lesser beings.”

“What were you taught?”

“About the fae or about mixed bloods?”


Tamara bit her lip. “In all honesty we weren’t taught much at all, which I think was a mistake. The problem I really think we have with the system we’re using is that we’re doing our best to keep apart. You don’t want to connect with us and we don’t want to connect with you, so it only happens when we have no other choice, like here. What we need to be doing is working more together to make this a home for all of us, no matter what blood we have, otherwise the likelihood is that one race will attempt to exterminate at least one of the others, if not more.”

“How do you suggest we go about doing that?”

“Mixed schools from a much earlier age. Even if mixed bloods can’t learn magic before we reach our late teens or early twenties at least we can share other lessons, like geography, and history, and maths.”

“Fae magic is much more controlled than any other, so it’s not so much that you can’t, but that the elders don’t let you. You could have a magic tutor from as young an age as you wish, if you knew that you had magic. However it’s not something that manifests in uncontrollable ways, normally, now that things are much more balanced than they were at the beginning, because then your magic could appear with a bang. Really you’re very lucky not to have had to deal with that, especially as the elders…” Quentin bit his lip. “Now that I’ve come to accept that mixed bloods do have a place in society I’ve been thinking more and more about the choices that the elders made. Since the beginning all the majority of them have done is fight Willow. They didn’t want her to create the school, so they did everything they could to change it, and that’s why there are so many mixed bloods out there who haven’t been taught how to use their abilities even though they should have been.”

“I never thought I’d hear you say that.”

“We have no right to act as thought they aren’t our problem, because they are. How many fae do you think travelled here without thinking and left their lover with a fae baby? Of course they had no idea what would happen in the future, but not knowing this would happen is no reason to walk away from our responsibilities, and we aren’t the only race that does it. The dog shifters used to banish their criminals here, as the limited magic meant they wouldn’t be able to change, which means there are a lot of human-shifter out there, but they aren’t willing to do anything to help them, because they aren’t pure shifter.” He raked his hand through his hair, looking more angry and exasperated about the whole mess than Tamara ever thought she’d see. “I hate it, but there really doesn’t seem to be much I can do to change anything.”

“Hating it is a step in the right direction, Quentin.” She smiled at him. “The time will come, I hope, when we will be able to change things, although I won’t live anywhere near as long as you.”

“This is something I didn’t want to mention today, Tamara, but I want to, because I want to be honest with you. If we’re going to take a step towards being friends today then I need to tell you that I do know who your great-grandfather is, but I promise you, if that’s good enough, that he isn’t the reason I chose to talk to you.”

Attempting to find the words to reply to what he’d said was more difficult than she thought it would be. “If you hadn’t of talked to Adrian and Naida first that is a possibility that would have crossed my mind, but you did. That changes things. Had this been about my great-grandfather you’d have come straight to me, you wouldn’t have bothered talk to them, because it wouldn’t have mattered. What would have mattered was getting me onside.” She shook her head. “Thank you for being honest with me though. It does help with the decision you’re asking me to make by having this conversation with me.”

“Whether we’re going to see each other again after today as anything more than enemies.”

“Yes, and if we are how we’re going to do it, because keeping it a secret from you family isn’t going to be easy.”

“I figure we have until at least the end of the season to use the working on a project excuse. By then I need to have made up my mind, one way or the other, because I’m not going to be able to go home otherwise. Last time it was hard enough and I was so sure he was going to see my thoughts in my eyes when I was looking at him, but he didn’t, thankfully. Honestly the argument we’re going to end up having is one I don’t want to have.”

“The argument you might end up happening.”

Quentin bit his lip. “After this I think it’s pretty inevitable. You’ve talked to me without letting our past get in the way and I will never be able to thank you enough for that. I believe that the only decision I can make is one that keeps you in my life, if you’re willing to think of me as a friend.”

“Even though I never thought it would be it is a possibility. I like you.” She shook her head. “Everything you’ve said has showed me that you have changed, more than I thought you had, so I think I’m ready to call you an acquaintance at least.”

“What was I before?”

“A bastard.”

He laughed. “That is true, so I can’t argue with that.” He sobered. “Really, now, the only issue we’ll have in the future is convincing your friends that I should be given a chance.”

“We’ll cross that bridge if we come to is, because that might never happen, not if you start regressing into someone I hate.”

“No matter what that isn’t going to happen.”

“You can’t be certain of that.”

“Maybe I can’t, but I don’t want to be him any more and if I can do anything to stop it I will. I like thinking, Tamara, and I like being my own person instead of my father’s clone. The possibility of losing my inheritance because of my choices means less to me than losing myself does, which is what I’d do if I let myself become him again.”

“Then I’ll do my best to help you make certain that doesn’t happen.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know I don’t, but I want to. You’re someone I could, in the future, call a friend, while your other self was someone I could never have liked. Obviously it’s your father than I don’t like, if you truly believe you were becoming a clone of him.”

Quentin nodded. “I really do.” He sighed. “He was so determined that I was going to think the same way as him I think he might have accidentally used his magic to pressure me into it. Now that I’m away from him I’m away from his magic, which means I have more freedom to be who I want to be rather than who he wanted me to be.”

“Can magic do that?”

“Yes, it can. It’s what’s called coercive magic and is usually only used subconsciously, although there are some people who do choose to use it against other people. They’re very difficult people to deal with and I really don’t want to think that Father did that to me on purpose, because if he did I’m going to have to avoid him for the rest of my life, otherwise he’d just turn me back into the person he wants me to be.”

“Is there any way you can shield against it?”

“For some people there is, but I’m not mentally strong enough.”

“Don’t say that unless you’ve tried, Quentin, because you might be.” The way he stared at her told her exactly what she needed to know. “River’s always said that the only person who might be stronger magically than me is you, but you’ve never applied yourself. You’ve done as much work as you’ve had to and nothing more.” She bit her lip. “Maybe we should make this into a project as well as an excuse to actually get to know each other.” Without really stopping to think about what she was doing she stood up and held her hand out to him. “Come with me.”

When he took it she smiled and led him into the little room she used when she was working outside of class. “Why am I doing this?” he asked, sounding bemused.

“Do you want an answer?”

“I think I do.”

“So you can learn more about yourself and me at the same time, because you know I spend a lot of time working with River outside of class, and you think that me taking you somewhere I might have hidden magical workings shows that I’m willing to trust you.” Tamara shrugged. “Nothing in that room is any different to the sorts of things that River teaches every week.”

“They are yours, though, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are. River said I could keep as many of my notes here as I liked, because no one else uses the room and I wouldn’t have space in my dorm, not with everything else I’ve bought since I started at the school. He says I have more books than the library.”

“Do you?”

“No, I don’t, but I’ve managed to pick up a number of interesting books second hand and they all have notes in from their previous owners about all sorts of things. Even though some of them don’t work testing it all is really interesting, so I’m hoping to find some more soon.”

“I know the sorts of places you can check for things like that. Father isn’t interested in books, but Mother is, and I’ve helped her find things that she was looking for, because I’m more patient than she is so I spend more time checking places where they probably won’t be. The number of times they’ve been misfiled…” Quentin shook his head. “For me that is part of the enjoyment though and if it wasn’t for that I would never be able to spend so much time with her.”

“What will happen when your parents separate?”

“That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, Tamara, because when it happens I know Father will find someone else and he’ll have more children, so his legacy is secure, just in case. He’s so terrified by the idea of not having any children that he’s just going to keep having more, until the time comes when he dies, as I really do think that death is the only reason he’ll stop. On Earth he’s had two ‘batches’ of children, although we were born much earlier than he wanted us to be. Mother said it was a mistake, one he didn’t mean to happen, but I get the feeling he did do it on purpose. Between us and his first ‘batch’ there’s only ten years, although if he had some more now there would be a twenty year gap between us and them.”

“How many children does he have?”

“Fifteen. The first ‘batch’ was eight and we’re seven. It’s likely he’ll have the same amount next time, which will mean there will be twenty-three or twenty-four of us, and that’s a lot of children in a short period of time. Most fae leave it around fifty years between batches, but I don’t think Father will, because of his fear.” Quentin sighed. “Of course it doesn’t help that he keeps disowning children as he doesn’t like the decisions they’ve made.”

Tamara brushed her free hand through her hair. “If I finish my studies here and become one of the fae will I be expected to do that.”

“Not all of the fae do the same thing. We have habits we picked up, due to what our life was like on Kalinia, but here things are different. It was inevitable and I think that’s why everyone was terrified of it happening.” He nibbled his lip. “Changing, for the majority of the fae, is terrifying, and it always will be, which I think is why I clung on so tightly to the person I thought I should be when I arrived here. That was a mistake and I hope I’ve learnt from it, because I don’t want to be that person. I’m hoping you’ll be there to make certain it doesn’t happen.” Their eyes met and he squeezed the hand she didn’t realise he was still holding. “I need you there to tell me when I’m being a moron.”

“Naida and Aidan would be happy to tell you.” She glanced down at their hands. “Why do you need someone else?”

Quentin did the same thing, looked down at their still joined hands, and smiled. “I don’t need someone else, Tamara. I need you.” Their eyes met when he looked back at her. “Nai and Ade forgave me because we’re family. With you it’s different. You’re not family, but you’re still willing to give me a chance, and that… I don’t know quite how to explain it, but it means more, in a way.”

“In that case I think I’ll do what I can to help you.” She freed her hand from his, gesturing at her space as she did so. “Now, did you want to have a look around and see what I have here?”

Grinning, he nodded. “I really would. I think I’ve already seen a couple of books Mother doesn’t have.”

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