“I have a great idea!” Coronabeth had far too happily exclaimed one slow and boring day at Canaan. “Let’s play a drinking game!” The dining room full of necromancers and cavaliers looked at her like she had a second head. “C’mon it’ll be fun!” Corona batted her big eyes in a way Harrow assumed usually worked to convince people to do her bidding, but if it impressed anyone in the room they didn’t show it.
“We are here to study ancient theorems about immortal servitude to God. Sister, where in that description of our duties do you read ‘drinking game’?” Ianthe, for once not attached to her twin’s hip, drawled from across the room.
Corona waved her words away like they weren’t perfectly accurate and said in her most bubbly voice, “But this will be fun! We’ve been here for a week, and all we do is walk around and read books. Plus it’s pouring rain outside, so this is the perfect day to just relax and get to know each other better!”
“While becoming inebriated?” Sextus actually looked up from his stack of books—a feat that indicated a small bit of Corona’s blinking and smiling had struck home.
“Yes!” Corona stepped farther into the middle of the room, drawing their eyes to her like moths to a light. “My favorite game is Never Have I Ever; it’s the perfect way to get to know each other more!” She smiled slyly, “And get very, what was that word Sixth, inebriated ?” She let the letters roll out of her mouth in such a way the word sounded like something from one of Griddle’s lewd magazines. Harrow was very happy the annoying redhead had elected to keep sleeping instead of coming to breakfast; she knew there would be no threat strong enough to keep Nav from jumping at the chance to play a drinking game with Coronabeth.
“We’ll play if we can have beer!” The Fourth adept spoke up, his cavalier excitedly bobbing her head.
“Deal!” Coronabeth beamed.
“No!” The Fifth shouted in unison.
Both Corona and the Fourth pouted the slightest bit at being shot down so suddenly. “Lighten up,” Corona chided the Fifth. “A little beer isn’t gonna hurt them.”
“Third, they’re fourteen!” Abigail Pent, more mother than necromancer, exclaimed.
Before an argument could erupt, the last person Harrow ever expected to agree to this spoke up: “I only drink wine, Third. If there’s any of that here, then sure I can play.” Silas Octakiseron casually examined his perfectly filed nails as he spoke, prompting even Corona to look shocked.
Her expression quickly faded into delight and she jumped up and down with happiness. “Yay, another player!”
“Eighth, aren’t you sixteen?” The Second adept and her cavalier stood against the far wall, observing everyone as usual. Her snide question held the same air of judgment as with everything else she said.
Silas shrugged like his age wasn’t a concern. “So?”
The Second cavalier raised one of her equally judgemental eyebrows. “You shouldn’t be drinking then.”
“I only drink ceremonial wine; It hasn’t hurt me yet.”
Pent scoffed. “Says the one from the house known for brain damage.”
“ That is completely unrelated!”
“Hey, hey,” Corona waved her arms trying to bring the attention back to herself. “There’s no reason to start fighting! The whole point of this game is to help us learn more about each other, so we fight less. Fifth, if the children get water can they still play?”
“But beer—” The Fourth’s cavalier tried to protest, but was shushed by the Fifth who agreed to water as a replacement.
“Great!” Corona spun around for no apparent reason. “Anyone else wanna play?”
“I guess we should, for, you know, supervision,” the Fifth cavalier tentatively said, trying to mask his enthusiasm. His wife pondered the idea then nodded her head in agreement. The Fifth and Fourth excitedly fistbumped behind her back.
“I want it on the record we’re joining purely out of boredom,” the Second adept spoke. Her cavalier’s half masked smile blew holes in that story.
Corona clapped her hands like a little girl. “Babs and Ianthe will join too!” She declared. Ianthe rolled her eyes, but didn’t disagree. Corona ran her gaze over the remaining adepts and cavaliers, which was really just the Sixth and Harrow. “Are you three going to join? Ninth, where is that handsome cavalier of yours?”
Before Harrow could snap at Corona to never say that phrase again, Griddle entered the room as if summoned. “Ninth!” Corona bounced over to Gideon who of course froze under the gaze of a gorgeous woman. “Would you and your adept care to join a fun drinking game?” If Corona was looking for confirmation her big eyes and smooth voice could still charm people to her will, she got it when Harrow’s dumbass cavalier nodded yes without hesitation.
“ I never agreed to such a thing!” Harrow snapped.
“We’ll play too; why not,” Sextus conceded. His cavalier stared at him like he suggested they hurl themselves ass first into Dominicus. “What? It’s not like we’ll get far today with this rain,” he explained in response to her look.
All eyes turned on Harrow, who utterly and profoundly despised the idea. Sextus’s assumption about the rain was correct sadly; the storm was raging so hard there was no way she’d be able to get across the fractured terrace to the lyctor studies. If anything, this game could be good for getting a better read on her competition. “Fine,” she sighed. “But I’m not drinking alcohol.”
Corona pouted. “But this game is so much more interesting when everyone begins to get wasted!”
“I’m only seventeen, Third. Plus I value my brain cells.”
“Oh dear God, they’re all children,” Pent wailed.
Harrow had to admit, Coronabeth knew how to pick a game. The group had been playing for almost fifteen minutes and, dare she even think such a word, it was almost fun .
“Alright, my turn!” Corona squealed as glasses were refilled with either water or random alcoholic beverages dug up from the fridge. “Never have I ever, been skinny dipping. In water that wasn’t a pool,” she added after a look from Ianthe, who then subsequently took a drink.
Neither Harrow nor Gideon had taken a drink yet, which Harrow was fine with; watching the others admit to their vile secrets was amusing enough. The amusement was upped when Silas Octakiseron of all people picked up his wine and took a drink. “It was a childhood dare,” he reluctantly admitted after eager prompting from the Third.
“A dare involving being nude in water?” Ianthe asked incredulously.
Silas’s face flushed a bit and he adjusted his collar awkwardly. “When I was younger, and less intelligent, some close colleagues dared me I couldn’t swim across a river and I wanted to prove them wrong, but I couldn’t get my robes wet. So yes, the dare involved me being in water without any clothing.” His face became more and more red as both the Third and the Fourth burst into laughter.
“Congrats Eighth, you’re a degenerate like the rest of us!” Corona toasted Silas who was trying to hide within his cloak. “Your turn Captain,” Corona inclined her head to the Second who had also not had the honor of drinking yet.
If Harrow’s first impressions were correct, and they always were, Judith Deuteros was a hardass who hadn’t smiled since she stepped foot on a Cohort ship. There were probably hundreds of things the woman hadn’t done, same as Harrow herself. So it was jarring when the adept paused and narrowed her eyes, like she was struggling to think of something. “Never have I ever, been to a party,” she finally said.
All three of the Third drank—of course, the Third was known for its exorbitant galas—as well as the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth. The Fourth adept tried to switch his water with the glass of beer the Fifth cavalier had, but the man’s reflexes were incredibly fast and he caught the sneaky hand. Eyes fell on the Eighth and Ninth who hadn’t lifted their glasses.
“I don’t know if I could live without parties,” Corona lamented.
“It’s not hard,” Harrow said dryly.
Silas nodded with agreement then laughed. “I can’t believe the Sixth has parties,” he said incredulously.
“They aren’t enjoyable in my professional opinion,” Sextus admitted, “just necessary occasionally.”
“Parties are always fun!” Corona exclaimed. She suddenly reached forward and took the Sixth cavalier’s arm. “When this lyctor thing is over you both should come to a Third party! There’s wine and food and music; the most beautiful music to ever hear! You simply must come!” The cavalier slowly nodded, but her eyes said ‘No fucking way’.
“My turn, my turn!” The Fourth cavalier excitedly waved her hand to gather everyone’s attention. “Never have I ever had alcohol .” She stressed the words while glaring at the Fifth who both smiled before finishing their respective glasses.
The Third, Sixth, and Silas all drank, but the Second and Ninth remained with untouched glasses. “I can’t believe you four haven’t had alcohol,” Ianthe drawled, her speech already having a watery sound underneath.
“Yes, following the laws for age of alcohol consumption and having devotion to your duties is quite shocking apparently,” Judith spoke with her normal judgemental tone. Her cavalier gently smacked her arm as if to tell her to knock it off.
Corona laughed louder than normal, the conglomerate of beer, wine, and a mystery liquid discovered at the back of the fridge already making its way into her bloodstream. Her long eyelashes fluttered in a way that could have been erotic or terrifying as she sneered, “Oh take the stick out of your ass, Captain.”
The group continued playing and Harrow caught herself almost smiling a few times. Whoever’s turn it was stopped going in order and became an attention grabbing contest of who could wave their arms and shout first. Someone from the Third usually got it as all three of them were rowdy drunks.
During a brief pause for Corona to stumble to the bathroom, the Fourth said they were going to the kitchen for snacks. As they left in a flash of blue garments and too many piercings, Magnus the Fifth casually leaned over to Naberius the Third and asked, “Is there still alcohol open in the kitchen?”
“Ov’ course there iz,” he slightly slurred.
Magnus bolted from his seat and dashed into the kitchen, his shout of “Isaac! Jeannemary! If you touch that beer I swear...” fading behind the door.
Corona returned and half collapsed back to the floor beside her sister. “‘Right, we’ve been goin lotsss. One of yu guyzz go.” Whatever was amusing about the words Harrow didn’t comprehend, but both sisters started to giggle anyway.
“Fine, I have one,” Silas gathered everyone’s attention. “Since the Third takes pleasure in hearing about degeneracy, never have I ever”—he paused and sucked in a breath like the words took insurmountable courage to say—“read literature of pornographic nature.”
“You mean a skin mag?” Marta the Second crudely asked. Silas flinched at the words, but nodded. The cavalier took a swig of her drink and almost coughed it out. “Fuck, that burns,” she rasped as she rubbed her throat.
The Third drank, the Sixth cavalier took a sneaky sip while angled away, and Harrow felt the first hint of shame as Griddle took a drink as well. Corona’s eyes could have fallen out of her head as she watched them. “Congrats Silas, you got 'em both to drink!” She squealed loud enough to shatter one of Canaan’s windows and fell forward the slightest bit, barely catching herself before she could faceplant. Her cloudy gaze focused on Harrow and her semi-choking cavalier as Griddle realised, same as the Second, just how much alcohol hurt. “Ni’th, ‘ave I ever told you ‘ow damn pretty ur cav iz?”
“No, and please don’t.”
Corona pushed herself backwards into her sister’s arms and burst into another round of laughter. “Waas your guys’ fav magazine? I looove any with a princisss.”
Harrow leaned closer to Griddle’s ear and hissed at the lowest decibel humanly possible, “One minuscule muscle twitch in response and I’ll kill you right here.”
Thankfully Corona’s question was mostly directed at Marta, who in turn shrugged and said, “This could be biased, but I’ve only ever taken an interest in ones with a Cohort theme.”
Magnus the Fifth returned with the disgruntled, and still sober, Fourth teens in time to ask, “What are we talking about?”
The look in Abigail Pent’s eyes silenced even Corona from spouting off. She beckoned for the kids and her husband to sit again and breezily said, “Nothing.”
“Porn,” Naberius countered, dipping his finger into the beer and swirling the liquid around.
“Alright, this was fun now goodbye.” Abigail rose and in an instant pulled her husband and the teenagers from the dining room.
“But—” the Fourth adept protested only to be shushed by the adults.
“You’re too young for these conversations.” Abigail’s voice echoed from Canaan’s large hallway. The Fourth kids continued their protests to rejoin the game, lamenting about how they ‘were so’ mature enough to drink with the others and hear about ‘those weird comics’.
“Now that the killjoys ‘re gone”—Naberius sucked on his alcohol drenched finger—“let’s try s’mthin more risqué .” His linguistic ability, diminished from the start, had worsened as he loudly slurred, “Neva have I ever resorted ta cannibalism!” Even Ianthe’s eyebrows went up, and, quite thankfully, nobody drank. “Worth a shot,” he admitted.
“Who in here did you want to check wasn’t a cannibal?” Sextus finally spoke up, eyes reflecting the same judgement as the Second.
Naberius rolled his eyes as if Sextus was asking the dumbest question possible. “I mean, the Ninth an’ Eighth seem r’lly freaky.”
Silas and Harrow glared simultaneously. “I’m choosing to ignore that due to your intoxication,” Silas glowered.
Naberius opened his mouth to retort, probably with something half incomprehensible, when Sextus’s cavalier graciously jumped in with a commanding, “How about I go.”
“Thank you Cam,” Sextus murmured as he removed his glasses and wiped them ceremoniously on his grey robe.
The cavalier pondered for a couple seconds before saying in the most bored voice, “Never have I ever lost a duel.”
Naberius begrudgingly took a sip as did Griddle. Harrow forced her lips to remain flat and uncurled, even as the amusing memories of her annoying companion getting her ass handed to her by Aiglamene on the Ninth filled her cortex. Marta the Second smiled widely and kept her arms crossed, proudly not touching her drink.
“It appears our cavaliers are two of the best,” Judith spoke to Sextus. “Perhaps one of these days we will need to have a friendly settlement as to whose is truly the greatest.”
Sextus considered the idea then gave a singular head nod. “If our paths cross in such a way one day, I am sure mine will not beat yours too badly.” Both adepts smiled politely, but their eyes each held a confident bravado Harrow wanted to openly scoff at. Although, seeing such a fight would be quite the treat.
“Kestion”—Corona raised her hand—“does ‘duel’ ‘clude Necro duels?”
“Sure,” Sextus answered. “I haven’t had the privilege of dueling with my powers though so I cannot drink.”
Ianthe and Corona both drank, although Ianthe had to have the glass placed in her hand by her sister. Silas drank as well, refusing to give an explanation as to how the Eighth dueled. Harrow was in the same boat as Sextus, having never dueled another adept, but she was confident even if she had she wouldn’t need to drink. The Second remained without having raised her glass.
Ianthe set her drink down and shakily refilled it with a large bottle perched behind her. “I am determined to find something the Second and Ninth adepts have done,” she cooed, strangely more sober than her sister. Her eyelids fluttered as she slipped deep into thought, eyeing both the Cohort women as well as Harrow and Griddle. After a few minutes of silence, an evil smile—the only kind Ianthe could make—spread across her face. “I don’t mean to call anyone out with this, but I do see something you both have in common.”
Harrow casually eyed the Second as Ianthe spoke. If the definition for the word ‘polar opposites’ was ever given a picture, that picture would be of the Second and Ninth. Even their necromantic capabilities were opposites: the Second being masters of thalergy while the Ninth masters of thanergy. Harrow couldn’t find what invisible tether the scheming Third twin believed she had struck.
“Never have I ever slept with my cavalier .”
Silas made a loud choking noise and Harrow expected him to start reciting the tomes right there. “Third, that’s blasphemy towards the oath of cavaliers and necromancers!”
Ianthe shrugged, that sick smile never leaving her lips. “They both have handsome cavs. It’s a reasonable guess.” Her sister shamelessly drank, giving Naberius—who looked like he wanted to spontaneously combust—a playful nudge.
The room fell eerily silent for a couple seconds, eyes on the Ninth and Second. “I would never,” Harrow growled, pushing as much disgust into her voice as possible. “I hate to agree with the Eighth, but that is one blasphemy the Ninth has never committed.”
Judith Deuteros nodded wordlessly, agreeing with Harrow. She could have gotten away with that response had Marta the Second not scoffed, loudly. “Shut up,” Judith hissed, but the sound had brought the Third’s attention fully onto them.
Ianthe’s grin widened, showing her sharpened canines. “Second, is there something you want to tell us?”
Marta ignored the twin, instead pushing the glass of alcohol closer to Judith. “Rules say drink if you’ve done it. So drink.”
Corona squealed loudly as Judith quickly chugged the glass and winced at the taste. “Don be ‘mbarrassed, Captain,” she listlessly giggled. “Iz not a flaw to ‘casionally break the rules.”
Judith set the glass down and glared at her cavalier. “What was the point of revealing that?”
“Your holier than thou attitude was starting to piss me off,” Marta plainly said. A deep blush came over Judith’s face, barely concealed by her dark skin. The response was enough for Marta who sat back against the wall with a tentative grin.
Ianthe snickered and dipped her slender fingers in and out of her drink in what was supposed to be some sort of lewd gesture Harrow supposed. “I see there’s a bit of a sadist in you Second.” Harrow hoped it was the alcohol that emboldened the Third to openly wink at Marta as her hand continued to assault the innocent glass.
“Back off Third,” Judith growled, a sudden possessive gleam taking over her eyes, “or I’ll drain that pretty thalergy of yours.” Her gloved hand tightly wound it’s way around her cav’s forearm; the action as well as the seriousness of her tone sobering Ianthe enough for her to realize there was no mistaking her ultimate demise should she continue flirting.
“You’re all heretics,” Silas groaned. “Why must I be cursed with the responsibility of upholding the laws of God while those beyond give them no care?”
Marta let her hand trace over Judith’s briefly before returning to their strict military stance. Her deep eyes bored into Silas’s dead ones as she plainly stated, “Because not caring makes life enjoyable.”
How disgusting, Harrow grimaced as the game continued, the image of the Second’s affectionate gestures worming deeper into her brain. Who could possibly be entranced in such a way by a cavalier ? So primal and beneath that of a necromancer. I suppose it’s for the best Griddle and I hate each other.