«EASTRIDGE ACADEMY: SCHOOL FOR ADVENTURERS BY KARA LOO AND JENNIFER YOUNG Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers Prologue Explain why you would be ...»
Vane was starting to get arrogant, throwing the Water Orb at her feet or at her head, making it more difficult to Bounce back. Wisteria frowned. She needed to end this. This time, when she cast the Bounce Rune, she spun it sharply, sending the orb veering to the side. Vane didn’t have time to Bounce it back; in fact, he barely dodged out of the way.
Unfortunately, because of the angle, the Orb flew straight at Averi. The Princess, intent on her own casting, never saw it coming. The orb smashed into her face, making her fall backwards in a spray of water, coughing and sputtering. Wisteria gaped.
The other students burst into restrained laughter that simmered as a whisper went around that it was the Princess who had fallen.
“This isn’t a game, children,” Professor Colwyn said, picking up and slamming her books on the table. Her delicate voice hardened as she said, “Someday, what you learn here will be the difference between your life and your death. And the reason why I’m so adamant about teaching you children these basics is that there are enough students who don’t survive all seven years here at Eastridge and even more who die out in the field. And it’s my job to make sure there are as few of either as possible.” Averi slowly and quietly climbed to her feet, although the rustling of her robes sounded like thunder booming in the quiet that hung in the air after Professor Colwyn’s speech.
Everyone seemed to hold his or her breath until, at last, she said, “Dismissed.” ~*~ Wisteria was surprised by all the people she’d managed to offend in the two days she’d been at the Academy. She had alienated the servants by not tipping the proper amount, quarreled with the kitchen staff over the food, and to top it all off, had landed the magical equivalent of a sucker punch on her roommate in class—not that the last part hadn’t been a little satisfying, but it was hardly a nice thing for her to do.
Wisteria briefly debated apologizing to Averi, but she had no idea how to actually go about it. So instead, she quickened her pace to make it early to her last class of the morning.
The Art of Healing was held in one of the laboratory rooms. Bottles of various ingredients, cooking knives, small fire pits, and empty beakers lay on top of dark, wooden tables.
The students who had shown up early were clustered in the back talking quietly, and Wisteria walked to stand with them. Above the door to the room hung the crest of Allora, a wyvern serpent entwined around a protective circle and the widely recognized symbol for practicing Clerics.
The professor was already there, writing symbols onto a wide chalkboard. She looked a bit scattered despite her professional robes—gray and white ringlets of hair were clumsily secured atop her head by copper wire, while intelligent brown eyes scanned the room. At the chime of the hour, she took a leaflet of papers and stood in front of the class.
“I am Professor Aisling,” she said in a tone that was neither scattered nor clumsy.
“Welcome to The Art of Healing. This class is mandatory for all Clerics, major or minor. We will meet twice a week for three hours. The first two hours will be devoted to lecture and bookwork, and the last hour will be spent doing hands-on work in the healing ward. For the lab-work, you will be attending to the minor injuries of Warriors from Sparring I. You will be assigned partners for the year. Once you have your partners, you can start the assignment I’ve laid out for you.
We’ll start with…” She checked her roll sheet. “Aloric and Axion.” Next to Wisteria, two boys raised their hands. Aisling pointed to a table, and they both moved to sit down there.
“Boon, Corrin.” A girl and a boy stood to take the new table that she pointed at. Wisteria settled in for a long wait, as she continued down the list. Eventually, she came to “Lane and Lux”, which alarmed Wisteria at first, but as the names ran down the list and she heard names like “Mooncaster” and “Nightling”, she remembered her name was now… “Raven, and…Ravin.” “What?” Wisteria asked, as another voice echoed her question.
“Would I be one of those?” a voice asked, prompting Wisteria to turn around and glare reflexively at the familiar boy behind her.
“Is there a problem?” Aisling consulted her sheet. “Wraith Ravin, and Raven, no last name.”
“Wraith Ravin would be me,” the boy said, moving to the new desk.
“And, Raven, no last name, would be me.” Wisteria slid next to her new partner as Aisling moved on. “I was hoping they’d expel you.” “Evelyn let me off with a warning, so it looks like you’re stuck with me,” he said. “So, ‘Raven’, is it?” “I could ask you the same thing,” Wisteria said with a glare. “Wraith Ravin. How did you pick that? Don’t you think it’s a little dour?” “Well, actually, that’s my real name. Wraith Ravin. My parents had a dark sense of humor.” “Oh,” Wisteria said.
“But, really, ‘Wraith’ is just too serious for me. I usually drop the end, and go by ‘Rai’,” he said. He tilted his head as he looked at her. “Doesn’t the Princess call you Wisteria?” “Yes,” Wisteria bristled.
“You’re telling me that you actually chose the name Raven over Wisteria?” “What’s wrong with ‘Raven’?” Wisteria asked, suddenly defensive of the name that she hated. It was one thing for her to dislike it, but who was he to judge her?
“First off, there’s nothing wrong with the name ‘Wisteria’. Sure, if you’re going to be a famous adventurer, it’s a little hard if your name is Fred or Mildred, but Wisteria? That name’s practically made for mystery and legend.” “What’s so wrong with Raven? Isn’t that mysterious and legendary?” “Sure, but it’s also the most popular name in school.” “Oh, really?” Wisteria asked dryly.
Rai blithely ignored her sarcasm. “Yes, every other angst-ridden mage and brooding warrior, whether male or female, takes the nickname Raven.” “I haven’t heard anyone else go by that name,” she said, frowning, although come to think of it, she hadn’t been paying attention during roll call at her other classes. “There weren’t any other Ravens here today except for you.” “This is Cleric class, though, isn’t it?” “What does that have to do with anything?” “Clerics are generally…you know…” “No, I don’t know. They’re what?”
Wisteria raised an eyebrow over what he was implying.
“Not to say that you aren’t,” he said quickly.
“You don’t know anything about me,” Wisteria said, focusing intently on her desk.
Rai tilted his head and remarked, “I’m not opposed to learning.” “Let’s just say I haven’t had the best experience so far,” Wisteria said.
“It’s only the first day. Give it a chance. You might find something to like about it.” “Why bother? I’m not planning on staying.” Rai’s jaw nearly dropped. “Eastridge is one of the hardest schools to get into. Why would you throw that all away? Why did you even apply if you didn’t want to go here?” “Apply? I didn’t do any such thing. My mother forged my application,” Wisteria said, punctuating her statement by absently pounding her fist on the table. “I don’t intend to stay here any longer than necessary.”
“So you’re planning to get expelled?” Rai asked, catching her fist before she toppled one of the beakers.
Wisteria gave him an exasperated look and wrenched her hand away. “What, you think you’ll have trouble finding another lab partner?” “Not one with your charm,” Rai said with a straight face.
Wisteria rolled her eyes, but Rai was spared her retort when Aisling assigned “Xenith and Zera” and moved on with lecture.
“Today’s lesson will cover healing the most common injuries you’ll see today on the students from sparring class…” Sparring class? Wisteria thought. What kind of injuries could they possibly get during sparring class?
~*~ Fell Farmington had no trouble finding the Sparring Grounds. He did, however, have trouble working up the courage to enter. The circular stadium rose impressively before him.
Warriors who looked like Warriors walked in, ready for the first day of training.
He saw Javen and Cai walk in, along with a handful of other Warriors that he vaguely remembered seeing earlier in the dormitory. They strolled in confidently, looking eager and excited, and received no harassment from the group of upperclassmen standing nearby. Then again, they were also not the nervous wreck that Fell was. For that matter, each was probably the best fighter in his village or had already mastered several forms of combat, or— “Um, hello?” a familiar voice said.
“It’s Fell, right?” the girl asked hesitantly. Turning, Fell saw it was Averi. She wore her white-blonde hair back in a half-braid. She had on simple breeches and a tunic, but the garments were made of the finest material and embroidered with precious stones.
“Yes,” Fell said, quickly standing up straighter. “And you’re Averi.” This girl was probably the prettiest girl he’d ever seen, much less talked to, and she’d found him staring dumbly at the entrance to the stadium.
Averi smiled at him. “You’re a Warrior major, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you be getting to class? I’m a Warrior minor, and I think that means we’re both headed to Sparring.” “I think you’re right,” Fell agreed, sneaking a glance at the entrance, which was thankfully clear now. “Let’s go.” Averi and Fell walked into the Sparring Grounds together. Inside, the stadium was divided into many different arenas. The Warriors were standing in a knot at the center.
There was a tall, broad-shouldered man circling around the Warriors, slowly pacing as he surveyed the group. When the bell tolled, he began to speak.
“This is Sparring I. What we do in here is practice, but there’s a war going on out there.
It’s my job to make sure you remember that,” he said. “Because wherever the fighting is, that’s where you’re going to be. Whether it’s a war or a raiding party of bandits, whatever the fight, you’ll be the ones fighting and dying to hold the line. Being a Warrior means risking death each time you step into battle.” Some of the first-year students looked nervously at the man and the upper-classmen standing around him.
“Sparring is the fundamental core of the Warrior curriculum,” the man said. “This class is for first- and second-year students in either the Warrior major or minor. I am Professor Halden.
Technically, I oversee this class, but for the most part, you’ll be working in pairs. After a few months or so, when the numbers have thinned, I’ll be working more individually with each of you.” “Sir?” A girl with brown hair and skin raised her hand high in the air.
“Yes?” Halden said, looking surprised to see anyone asking a question.
“What do you mean by ‘after the numbers have thinned’?” He laughed. “For those of you who don’t know, the Warrior classes have the highest wash out rate of any program at Eastridge. By next month, you’ll break records if over half of you are still here.” There was a slight tremor that ran through the group of first-year students.
“Well, we’d better get started,” Halden said. “Second-year students, choose your firstyears.” There was a chaotic scramble as the second-year students each grabbed one or two firstyears. Fell hoped that he’d be in one of the many three-person groups, but much to his dismay, Fell found Rakam looming over him.
The older boy grinned, gripping Fell’s shoulder in a too-tight hold. “Looks like it’s just you and me, kid,” he said.
“Wait, Rakam, you don’t want to, to—” Fell stammered.
“I need a partner too,” Averi said, stepping up next to Fell.
The last thing Fell wanted was for Averi to be in danger with him. Even worse, he saw Torrent headed their way. But before he could protest, Torrent grabbed Averi’s arm and turned her towards him. Taller than her by several inches, with dark hair and dark eyes, Torrent towered over her with a brooding expression on his face.
Fell panicked. He had to do something. He couldn’t let him hurt her.
“I’ve got these two,” Torrent said. “Go take one of those girls.” “Right. Got it,” Rakam said, looking a little uncertain but moving off to corner the girl who had raised her hand earlier.
“I-I’m Averi,” she faltered.
“Torrent,” he said. “And you, I didn’t catch your name yesterday.” “It’s Fell,” Fell managed to say.
Before they got any further, Professor Halden spoke again. “Now that you’ve all had a chance to introduce yourselves, pick a sparring ring and get started. The second-years will take the first-years through the basic sparring steps.” Fell glanced around and saw some first-years being led to the grassy rings in the center while others were taken towards sand pits or hard packed dirt rings on the edges of the stadium.
Torrent pulled Fell and Averi towards a rocky ring at the edge of the Sparring Grounds.
“Well, Princess,” Torrent said in a low voice, completely ignoring Fell.
“Just so we’re clear, normally I’d spend this session making sure you know what a broken finger or a twisted arm feels like,” he said, squeezing her wrist. “It’s a little tradition we have here, particularly when it comes to girls.” Though Averi didn’t look frightened, Fell was terrified for her. His eyes fell to where Torrent’s hand was locked around her wrist.
“Yes, normally,” Torrent continued, “I’d make sure you knew exactly what you’re getting into with this major. But something tells me that harming a Princess of Easden would land me in more trouble than it’s worth.”
“I don’t need special treatment,” Averi said as he finally released her.