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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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“I said, I want to know who took my sword!” he shouted, taking a swing at the secondyear boy that had just spoken to him. The second-year, a muscular boy with red hair, fell backwards. He slowly got to his feet, a dark look on his face, but he didn’t seem reckless enough to fight back.

Unsatisfied, Torrent turned away from him and slowly scanned the room.

The few first-years who were still there had enough sense to leave. All of them, of course, except Fell. Averi wanted to physically reach out and drag Fell away. Or at least warn him.

She was about to try to get his attention, but she saw his eyes flicker, just for a second, over to Torrent, then back to his punching bag.

He knows, she thought. He knows and he’s still not going to leave.

“You! Get over here!” Torrent pointed to Fell.

Fell didn’t look over. He just kept jabbing the punching bag, his face grimly set.

Averi could feel her heart beating quickly in her chest. This wasn’t exactly how she had planned to return the sword—at the very least, she could have left it in Torrent’s room, and hoped that it was close enough to count as returned—but she wasn’t about to let Fell get hurt on her account.

And at that moment, Rakam nearly tripped over Averi on his way into the training room.

The concentration that Averi had kept on holding the Invisibility Rune in place was shattered. She flickered into view, though the sword remained hidden.

–  –  –

The startled expression on Rakam’s face was nearly worth the debacle that Averi’s Thief assignment had become.

He instinctively grabbed her, wrapping one of his hands around her wrist and pulling her into the training room, although the look on his face was still one of complete bewilderment.

“Look what I found,” Rakam said, pushing her in front of Torrent.

“What’s she doing here?” Torrent snapped, turning murderous eyes on her.

“I… I have something for you,” Averi stammered.

There was an awkward pause. Averi knew it would be nearly impossible to try explaining that she indeed had his sword, that it happened to be invisible, and it was also entirely weightless. Aside from sounding insane, Averi doubted that directly handing over the stolen item would actually count as anything other than a complete failure for the assignment. Although how much she could salvage from this situation was debatable.

“Well?” Torrent asked, his dark eyes searching her.

Words normally came so easily to Averi, but she found herself speechless. There was something deeper in Torrent’s eyes than just blind anger at losing something that was his. There was something hurt in his expression. Averi began to wonder if she had misjudged what the sword meant to him, though she couldn’t begin to understand what it was that made him feel so deeply.

“What do you have?” Torrent said again, and though his tone was harsh, Averi didn’t feel afraid.

“Leave her alone,” Fell said quietly. He had stopped pounding the punching bag. His hair hung down in his eyes as he squinted at Torrent.

–  –  –

The softness in Torrent’s eyes disappeared. “What, exactly, do you think you’re going to do, first-year?” When Fell spoke, there was none of the usual unassuming and self-effacing backwardness. Every word rang out clear and solid in the room. “I’m not going to let you hurt her.” Averi couldn’t believe what Fell was doing. Why would Fell willingly take on Torrent in a fight?

“I can only imagine,” Torrent said, cracking his knuckles, “that I’ll feel better after this.” Fell stepped up to Torrent, coming precariously close to him without even flinching.

“You’re not scared,” Torrent observed, in a tone that sounded almost amused.

“You’ve hit me before,” Fell said.

–  –  –

“Wait,” Averi said, so quietly it was nearly a whisper. Then, more loudly, “Wait! I have it. I have your sword.” The Lift spell was beginning to wear off, and Averi’s hands were pulled down as she rested the tip of the sword against the ground.

Everyone turned to her. So much for subtlety. So much for not failing. She let go of the Invisibility Rune. A bright metallic gleam shimmered through the air as the sword appeared.

Torrent immediately grabbed it from her in one hand, and his other hand went up and gripped Averi’s arm, just as he had on the first day of classes. “You took my sword,” he stated.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped as he shook her.

“What makes you think you can—” “Take your hands off her!” Fell cried, shoving himself between Averi and Torrent. Averi fell against the wall, and Torrent was pushed towards the center of the room.

–  –  –

To Averi’s surprise, Torrent allowed himself to be shoved back. He looked down at his sword, and Averi saw his eyes searching the hilt.

“Don’t pull a stunt like this again, Princess,” Torrent said coldly. “There’s a reason why the Thieves go after Clerics and Mages for their assignments.” With a warning glare at Fell, Torrent raised his sword with both hands.

Faster than Averi would have expected from him, and too fast for Fell to react at all, Torrent brought his sword down hard, smashing through the wall right next to Averi. With a terrible crash, the wooden wall behind her came apart, a gaping hole smashed through it.

Averi winced, but her eyes were locked with Torrent’s, and neither looked away. She hardly dared to breathe as Torrent stood only inches away from her, his hands still on the sword’s hilt, the sword still embedded in the wall. Averi realized that she wasn’t afraid.

Effortlessly, Torrent wrenched the sword out of the wall and rested the dull side against his shoulder. For the time being, Averi surmised, the destruction of the wall seemed to satisfy him. With one last look at Averi, he left.

Once he was gone, Averi noticed she was shaking. She looked up as Fell put his hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay,” Fell said. “He’s gone.” Averi gave Fell a small smile. “Thank you. For what you did. And for what you would have done.” Fell shook his head and looked away. “What was it that I did that you’d be grateful for?

Being ready to get hit by Torrent?”

–  –  –

It wasn’t in any of her tunic pockets or in her satchel. She had searched her bookshelf, under her bed, and in her desk drawers. She didn’t think Averi or Rai would have borrowed it without telling her, and after an hour of tearing apart her room, she started worrying that she had dropped it somewhere.

When a visit to the gardens and the dining room confirmed that it wasn’t in either of those places, she wandered into the Library and searched the tables and desks near the doorway.

Coming to the corner table she usually occupied, she scanned the tabletops, then after still not seeing her book, knelt and stuck her head under the chairs and desks to search underneath.

–  –  –

Surprised, she hit her head on the hard wood, cursed, and glanced out from under the table. A boy stood behind her, looking concerned. He was pale despite the warmth of the Light Orbs in the room, and he was much taller than any boy she had ever seen. He had eyes the color of young, mountain violets—a light yet vivid purple—and white-blonde hair that curled around his ears.

–  –  –

“Fine, fine.” She rubbed her head and glared out of habit. “Who are you?” “Lyre,” the boy said, extending his hand both as a greeting and an offer. She let him pull her to her feet.

“Did you want something?” Wisteria asked.

Lyre swallowed. “I didn’t mean to surprise you,” he said quickly, “but I think you might be looking for this.”

–  –  –

He held a book out to her, shifting under her scrutiny. She frowned and took it from him.

She checked for the torn page in the center of the book and for the name she’d written inside the front flap. When she looked back at him again, her face was awash with relief.

“I’d been looking for it everywhere,” Wisteria said once she had verified it was hers.

“I thought you might be,” Lyre said, shrugging. “The book looked too well-loved to be a throwaway.” “I take it everywhere with me,” Wisteria explained. She opened the book again, and her anxiety faded as she thumbed through it. “Where did you find it?” Lyre rubbed the back of his neck. “In the gardens.” “I do spend a lot of time there,” Wisteria admitted. She gave him a tentative smile. “I appreciate you returning it. Thank you.” “It was no trouble,” Lyre said. “You were easy to find.”

–  –  –

“Yes, you’re quite well-known.” Curious, Wisteria regarded him. “For what?” “Beating up all the boys in Combat Casting. Being the Princess’ roommate…and Rai Ravin’s lab partner,” Lyre said and chuckled when she made a face.

“Not exactly what I want to be remembered for,” Wisteria said dryly.

Lyre tilted his head. “You’re funny. I didn’t expect that.” “What were you expecting?” Wisteria asked with a raised eyebrow.

Lyre shrugged. “You always seem so serious.” “You seem to know a lot about me for someone I’ve just met,” Wisteria said.

“I’m friends with Rai,” Lyre said.

–  –  –

“Well, thank you for returning my book.” Lyre gave her a smile. “See you around.” ~*~ Returning Annalise’s dress was easy. The Lady in question was in the Library at this hour, and she had taken her crowd of noble ladies with her. To make matters easier, the window he had escaped from was still open—or rather, still broken from his earlier entrance. All Rai had to do was slip in, hang the dress in the wardrobe, and slip out the door.

Returning to his room, he couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride at finally, finally having succeeded. He had been feeling down about his lack of success in anything dealing with the Thief major, but if he kept doing well with assignments like this, then he could still hold his head up.

That’s why, the note on his desk in telling Thief Code was a rather hard blow. After he

deciphered it, the note read:

We regret to inform you that the Stolen Item (Formal Day Gown) taken from the target was found to be beyond the allowable scope of value for a Stolen Item for this assignment. The Stolen Item (Formal Day Gown) has been appraised at a value of over ten (10) Gold.

Consequently, you will be required to take The Ethics of Thieving next quarter in order to continue your studies at Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers.

Rai crumpled the letter, disappointed. Well, that victory was short-lived. He didn’t feel like staying in his room, so he wandered around and ended up in the deserted area of the garden.

–  –  –

“I thought I’d be better at it,” he mused to himself as he settled onto a bench. Didn’t he have enough practice gleaning house gossip by lurking in the shadows and listening to conversations to gauge the length and breadth of people and their values? Apparently, years of unraveling family secrets through such stealth had done little to help him discern what was important and what was not.

He sighed, lying on the bench lazily. There weren’t any students out here tonight—that suited him. For the first time in awhile, he wasn’t up to dealing with other people.

Thieves didn’t have any mythical figures that they blamed for their failures. Clerics often attributed their successes or misfortunes on the legendary Cleric Allora. So it was Allora that Rai chose to fault for this turn of ill-luck, both with his Thief assignment and with the fact that his isolation in the garden was short-lived.

“You’re on my bench, Ravin.” There weren’t many people that greeted him by his last name alone. There were fewer that managed to say it with such disdain.

“Good evening, Wisteria,” he said without looking. His lab partner moved into his range of vision, one hand on her waist. She held a light sphere in the other hand, and the Book of Runes was tucked under her arm. He sat up and swung his legs under the bench.

“I regret ever telling you about this place,” Wisteria said, not unkindly, but she didn’t sit down. “Now, I expect I have to share it with you.” “Don’t strain yourself being polite. I was just borrowing it,” Rai said. Wisteria raised an eyebrow. Rai sighed heavily. “But I can leave it to you.”

–  –  –

It must have been the way he said it because something made Wisteria simply sit and say, “No, it’s fine,” without further fuss. She propped her book open. The light sphere flickered cheerfully in the dark.

“You must be in a good mood today,” he observed. “It’s not every day that you’d let me share your bench.” “I lost my Book of Runes. But today, someone found it for me and returned it.” Book of Runes? Rai narrowed his eyes, suddenly realizing why Lyre’s stolen token for the Thief assignment had seemed so familiar. “Someone returned it? It wasn’t Lyre Cross, was it?” “As a matter of fact, it was. He mentioned that the two of you were friends.” That was an exaggeration. Rai debated telling Wisteria the truth—that Lyre hadn’t found her book so much as stolen it and then returned it—but he was willing to bet that there was some kind of Thief penalty for revealing another Thief’s work. Instead, he only nodded.

“So, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you,” Rai said, when he noticed she hadn’t turned a page in the last few minutes.

“Yesterday, in class?” This earned her an irritated look from Rai. “I meant, outside of class.” “Couldn’t you tell? I’ve been avoiding you,” Wisteria said. She paused a moment while he tried to puzzle out what she meant, then said, “Don’t want to get my formal gowns stolen and all.” “How’d you hear about that?”

–  –  –

“You have all the girls atwitter,” Wisteria replied, tilting her head forward with an amused half-smile. “Apparently, jumping out windows is dashing rather than potentially fatal.

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