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«EASTRIDGE ACADEMY: SCHOOL FOR ADVENTURERS BY KARA LOO AND JENNIFER YOUNG Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers Prologue Explain why you would be ...»

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Kara Loo and Jennifer Young





Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers


Explain why you would be a strong candidate for attending Eastridge Academy, School

for Adventurers, in 500 words or less.

“Hey, Farmington. You stupid farmboy, what have you got there?”

Fell Farmington gulped and quickly tried to hide the application for Eastridge Academy:

School for Adventurers. But he wasn’t fast enough. When he looked up, Lanks, along with Mannir and Yan, stood watching him.

Of all the local boys, this group was the most trouble. Lanks was bonded to the town’s blacksmith, and after hours of hammering away at metalwork each day, he was the strongest boy around. Yan, even luckier, was bonded to a paid fighter, so he spent his days learning different forms of combat. Mannir was free, with parents wealthy enough to support him until he learned the trade of his choice. Even though he was a few years younger than Lanks and Yan, they let him tag along because, more often than not, he had some spare coins he was willing to share.

“I said, what’ve you got there?” Lanks repeated, stepping menacingly close to Fell.

“Nothin’, Lanks.” But Lanks had already seen. His expression said that much. He glared at Fell with obvious resentment. A full two years older, Lanks had applied to Eastridge Academy back when he had turned fifteen and had been soundly rejected. “Think you’re better than us, Farmington?

Think you’ve got something we don’t?” “No. It isn’t, it isn’t like that,” Fell muttered, but Lanks had already snatched the application out of his hand.

2 Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers “How in Ren’s name did you manage to scrape together seven silvers, Farmington?” Mannir jeered. “Must’ve stopped eating for the past two or three years.” “I don’t waste my coin on games or girls,” Fell snapped, making a lunge for the application.

Actually, it had taken Fell three years of saving to pull together the money to apply. In those three years, he had thought only of training, learning, and, unavoidably, baling hay. All of that had been for this piece of parchment that Mannir now held.

Lanks laughed scornfully. “But what could you possibly offer Eastridge other than a few bales of hay?” “Let’s see,” Mannir said, opening the application. “Apparently dedication and hard work and—” Fell launched himself at Mannir, hitting him hard in the chest. Fell's only thought was saving the application. He knocked it outof Mannir’s hand, and it fell to the grass a few feet away as the two boys tumbled together on the ground, both swinging wildly.

Instantly, Yan was on top of Fell. He grabbed Fell by his patched tunic and threw him off of Mannir. Fell scrambled for the application, grabbing it and running as fast as he could back to the farm.

Yan caught up with him just as he made it to the cow pen. He shoved him forward, sending him tumbling to the ground. Fell rolled under the fence to the cow pen with Yan following him, pummeling him with kicks to his ribs and sides. Fell tried to roll away, but by then the others had caught up to him. Lanks grabbed him, throwing him back down in the dirt and holding him in place.

–  –  –

“All that for this?” Mannir asked, picking up the application and rubbing his bruised jaw where Fell had landed a solid punch.

“Why don’t you let us save you the trouble of waiting a few months for the rejection?” Yan grabbed the application and held it between his fingers, ready to rip it in half.

Fell struggled against Lanks, but the older boy was too strong. “Let go, Lanks!” he shouted. “I need that!” “Too bad,” Lanks said, pushing Fell harder into the ground. “It looks like you’ll have to stay here for the rest of your—” Lanks never finished the sentence. Fell felt Lanks release him and turned to see what had happened.

The herd of cows pressed around the unfamiliar boys who had entered their pen, lowing angrily. The three boys backed up as the herd shuffled closer, hooves stamping the dirt near their bare feet.

Mannir dropped the application as one of the cows nipped at him. The boys clambered back under the fence.

“Maybe old Bessie should apply to Eastridge. That cow’s got a better chance than you,” Lanks sneered as they left.

Fell sighed, brushing himself off. Bessie, a light brown cow spotted all over the chest and face with off-white markings, lowered her head down to nibble the grass near him. He rested the palm of his hand against the cow’s neck, letting the throbbing of his bruised sides subside before he moved.

“Thanks, Bessie. Good girl.” He sighed again. “But, I’ve told you… I don’t need a cow helping me fight bullies.”

–  –  –

With her big soft nose, Bessie nudged the envelope.

“You’re right, girl. Better finish this.” Explain why you would be a strong candidate for attending Eastridge Academy, School for Adventurers, in 500 words or less.

Fell crossed out the answer he had started and stared at the blank space. How could they ask him why he would be a benefit rather than an embarrassment to the school he had idealized since he was old enough to understand what it was? Eastridge Academy was where the best soldiers and Warriors of the realm trained. Fell wasn’t old enough yet to fight in the war with Serath, but when that day came, Fell wanted to be ready.

But Fell was far from being a Warrior. He had seen a few soldiers and adventurers traveling across the countryside, and he couldn’t imagine ever measuring up to any of them.

What Lanks, Yan, and Mannir had said crowded his mind, along with his master’s criticisms.

Bumbling fool, country bumpkin, clumsy clod. The worst part was that Fell couldn’t make a strong case for not deserving any of these titles.

Fell put his head down on the soft, cool grass. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the memory of what had just happened. But he couldn’t. He was fit for nothing but baling hay, and that’s what he would do, doubtless, until he died.

But no, something in him rebelled against that idea, something that had been rebelling his whole life. There were the hours of extra work spent poring over books to keep up with the classes he couldn’t attend because of one harvest or another, the fierce early morning training

–  –  –

sessions where he battered his body in mock fights and drills, and of course, the actual beatings, whether administered by his master or the local boys like Lanks.

Most kids here, like Fell, were bonded. However, Fell was the only boy bonded to such a pointless task. While other boys learned blacksmithing or butchering or even hunting, Fell learned to bale hay. Nothing more. He had mastered this task as far as he could tell, within the first few weeks, but he had three years left of his bond—until he was eighteen and released to his own devices.

However, there existed one loophole. Should a bonded laborer be accepted to a major university, it was held that the bonded would be released on the condition of sending wages back to his master for the work lost during the school year. Even had this not been the case, Eastridge would still have been Fell's destination, one way or another.

Now, at nearly fifteen, Fell was finally old enough to apply. Everything had led up to this… And while his thoughts filled with his failures and his humble prospects, he found a way to write about his determination, his fierceness, and his resilience.

But when it came time for him to inscribe his name at the top of the application, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Fell the farm boy, Fell the hayseed, Fell the clumsy clod. Fell fell down again. Fell who had just gotten beaten again by Lanks and Yan. Surely Eastridge Academy would see through his bold words and know him for the weakling that he was just by this cursed name. But it had to be filled.

With a sudden bold movement of his hand, Fell struck out in brash strokes, quickly filling the space. But not with his own name. In the space that was given, he took the name Fallan.

Fell took it in his hands and sealed it in the official envelope. Then he slowly climbed to his feet and began the walk into town to post it. Bessie started to follow him, but Fell shook his

–  –  –

head and pointed homeward. This, at least, he would do by himself. The walk was several miles, but to Fell, it felt all too short. His body still aching from the bruises and his pride more than stinging from the timely rescue by his master’s best milking cow, Fell was feeling less and less like an adventurer with every step.

By the time he had reached the post master, he had nearly convinced himself that Lanks and his crew were right, that he might as well save himself the months of waiting and rejection, not to mention the seven silvers. He held the application in his hands, then shook his head. This was his dream. He wasn’t about to give it up.

He looked at the application one last time before delivering it up, letting it fall into the drop box for the evening post. He had put all of his heart, all of his hopes into that envelope, and now his task was to painstakingly wait for a reply.

~*~ Wraith Ravin was an hour into his interview, and although he’d studied for hours and carefully planned out a variety of his answers, it had only taken five minutes for him to give up his hopes of predicting what the panel of Eastridge professors would ask him.

There was only one question that he had answered with any certainty, and that was when Professor Aisling, the Head of the Cleric Department, had asked him his name.

“Wraith Ravin. But please, call me ‘Rai’.” He had dropped the ending of his name, drawing out the ‘ay’ sound.

–  –  –

Aisling had asked him questions ranging from practical applications to wildly improbable scenarios like being trapped at the top of a mountain pass with two wounded teammates and he

–  –  –

had to pick one to heal. Or if he were in the middle of a battle with his team against over a dozen trained and armed soldiers how, as a Cleric, would he assist?

Then she took a completely different turn, asking him to imagine himself as a traveling Cleric who had come across a town being ravaged by a mysterious illness.

“Suppose the children had been afflicted with a high fever for several days. Their parents are frantic for you to do anything to bring down their temperatures. What rune would you use?” Rai saw the trap immediately and grinned. “Well, I could use the Cold Rune, but that would bring the temperature down to freezing, which might be far worse for the kids than the fever.” Aisling raised an eyebrow. “The question, Rai, was what you would use.” “The Probe Rune would tell me the cause of the illness. Or a Scry Rune, if I had access to a more skillful mage than I.”

–  –  –

That made Rai stumble over his next words. Nowhere in all of Easden taught that sort of dark magic.

“There are several ways—the simplest, of course, being to hunt down and kill the spellcaster—” This drew an appreciative chuckle from the Head of the Warrior Department but a glare from Aisling.

“Less drastically, ruensbane has been known to dampen magical effects enough so that the body’s own defenses can overcome it,” Rai paused, not sure if he should say the last thing that he was thinking. “Then there’s always the Unravel Rune. It’s said that, if such a rune really exists, it can get inside a spell and un-work it.”

–  –  –

Aisling nodded and made notes on her paper. Rai tried to follow the strokes of her quill, but it was impossible to tell what she was writing. He hoped they wouldn’t dock him for mentioning a myth. She flipped through the pages of his application for a few moments, then nodded to the rest of the department heads.

“His knowledge is satisfactory for the Cleric program,” she said at last.

Rai almost let out a sigh of relief, but he knew it was much too early to celebrate. The Cleric program was only half of what he was applying for.

A masked figure that Rai hadn’t noticed in the shadows before leaned forward.

“Wraith Ravin,” Nianzu said, whose voice was surprisingly feminine despite the ferocious mask, “please empty the contents of your pockets onto the table in front of you.” Baffled, Rai laid out the bits of paper and one of the many daggers he carried with him.

The rest of the Thief interview was just as perplexing. He was blindfolded and asked about the entrances and exits to the room he was standing in. He was given a code, and Nianzu timed him while he attempted to decode it. Then he was asked to demonstrate how he would melt into the shadows of the room. Just when he thought he was prepared for anything, she caught him off guard once more with a simple question.

“Just one last thing,” she said. “Wraith Ravin, what interest does a noble of the Fourth House have in the Thief major? Let’s not pretend that Thieving is a respectable trade in the circles you run in.” Rai Ravin was momentarily floored by the question. It was commonly held that the Thief major was less than reputable, but he had expected a Thief professor to be the last person to admit it.

–  –  –

He paused for a moment, unsure of what to say. However, he let his natural way with words quickly take over.

“While the occupation itself is somewhat controversial, Eastridge is one of the most respected institutions in the realm. Surely, the skills that we would learn in the Thief major can be put to nobler uses than what first comes to mind.” “That’s a pretty answer,” Nianzu said, before Rai could feel the usual sense of satisfaction at a speech well-given. “But I’m not asking for the answer you’d give your parents. I want the answer you give yourself.” Rai opened his mouth, a polished sentence ready, but Nianzu raised her hand, cutting him off.

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