The Schovajsas live in several structures spread across the landforms of a river delta in northwestern Iceland. Low to the ground and camouflaged, they are impeccably hidden from even those who seek it out. In truth, much of the residential area of the Schovajsas is underground, in a steady concrete bunker-like complex connecting all of the upper structures, spanning roughly four acres. A dock, though still hidden, is the only open structure visible. Two white boats and a coterie of jet skis are the only vehicles moored there.
Gabriel, dressed in insulated field gear for the upcoming boat ride, had sat cross-legged on his bed in the southernmost hall. His belongings were ready, stacked precariously in the main aboveground building. He had come back down, said his goodbyes, hidden his knives, and was ready to leave, but slouched on his bed with an absent scowl peering out from behind his folded-down halfmask. The only active light source in his room illuminated a terrarium. A hose rises out of the top of a humidifier and into a tank, fog billowing into it
, lit somewhat creepily by the soft violet light.
He stared at the dim terrarium, grey eyes settling on beady black. He cracked a small smile for the first time that day and walked to it. He pulled out the pins on the lid and scooped its lone occupant out – a female ball python with a peculiar pattern, loose coils disguising her length. She crept up his arm, nosing around his neck and continuing around, lazily girdling his neck. He set the lid back into place, turning the humidifier off.
“And what are you planning on doing with that, Gabriel?” A voice, somewhere outside his doorway.
He froze. “Uh, just saying bye. I’m going to put her up, now.” He didn't move to do so.
A hand cupped his elbow, but he's so used to the way that his family seems to ignore the fact that movement should generate sound that he managed to suppress the instinctive flinch. Vivian Schovajsa, warm as ever, pulled him into a hug. He sagged into it, burying his face in her shoulder. “You’ll be alright. I’ll take care of her while you’re gone, okay?” She pulled back. “It’s dark. I’m winking. I won’t tell a soul. Just be careful with her. ”
He had laughed. “I’m going to miss you. Don’t die while I’m gone, old lady.”
She patted him on the shoulder. “Only from boredom. Come on, it’s about time to go.”
She turned the light on in the hallway, and he stuffed a travel carrier into his backpack. It wasn't...entirely noticeable? Not his best work. Saga curled around his snoulder and upper arm, and he hid her under a large jacket. Gabriel turned to his grandmother and nodded. They made towards the end of the hall, where they followed a floorlit path to the docks. In the cold, brackish air, she turned to him. Her steely eyes softened.
“Kemur allt með kalda vatninu.”
“Aldrei er góð vísa of oft kveðin.” He pulled his halfmask and hood up. “Take care, Apex.”
At the back of the bus, he’d been able to watch the other students. What he hadn’t considered was, although an excellent vantage point, his position was subject to particularly violent jerking and rattling over every little pothole. He had tried to grit his teeth and bear it, but a large bump made them clack together painfully. Clutching at his mouth while trying to convince a pissed-off snake to stay his jacket hadn’t gone especially well, either. He slinked off the bus nursing several bite marks on his hands, a scuff on his collarbone, and a fucking headache.
The building is impressive, architecture reminding him of some areas of Reykjavík that their supply lines run past. The interior, however, is nothing like what he expected. He follows alongside the students, quirking a brow at the welcome banner. Inside the common room, his other brow joins the first. Vaguely impressed at the absolute visual discord, he flicks the bear tapestry and settles into a chair by it, dropping his bags at his feet. After checking on his suit and travel carrier, Gabriel slides a hand over his face, subtly eyeing the row of teeth marks. He rolls his eyes and pokes at Saga by his ribcage, earning nothing but a recoil for his troubles.