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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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“Torrent and his lot are always rougher than the others,” Fell said. “Just try and stay away from them when the choosing starts.” Javen shook his head. “How do you do it, Fell? How do you keep going back? One of them always makes sure to choose you, and you get it twice as bad as anyone else.” Fell shrugged. He had noticed, but complaining would do little good. If he couldn’t take it, he didn’t belong in the Warrior major. It was as simple as that. He was about to explain it to

–  –  –

Javen, but he didn’t think he could find the words to really say it in any way that would make sense. Instead, he said, “I’ve got the least experience, don’t I? So I’ve got the most to prove.

Come on. We’ll be late if we don’t go now.”

–  –  –

“Just one more time, then. If I can do it one more time, so can you.” Javen gave a half-smile and sighed. “Just one more time then.” At the Sparring Grounds, Javen rejoined Cai and the rest of his friends while Fell remained at the outskirts of the class. There, as usual, Averi came up to him with a smile and a wave.

“Ready for another day?” she asked.

“Someday, you’ve got to tell me your secret for how you never seem to get a scratch,” Fell teased.

Averi made a face. “I’m starting to wish it wasn’t this way. I can’t walk two steps without getting a scathing look from one of the first-years. I’ve half a mind to think taking a punch now and then wouldn’t be entirely bad…” Fell shook his head, eyes wide. “Averi! Don’t ever say that!” The idea of Averi going through what he took for a routine day made him pale. While he couldn’t have deluded himself into counting the Princess as one of his friends, she was always nice to him and imagining her getting hurt twisted his stomach into knots.

–  –  –

A smile tugged at the corners of Averi’s mouth, and Fell was surprised to realize that he was the cause.

“Don’t worry, Fell. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m off-limits,” she reassured him. “But what good is any of it doing? Outside these walls, there’s a war. If I end up in battle, the Serathian soldiers aren’t going to show the same leniency.” Fell didn’t want to think of the war, of Averi ending up in battle, but he couldn’t very well tell her that, so he didn’t reply.

By then, the clock tower had begun to toll, and by the time it finished, the second-years had picked their first-years. It was already the fourth week of class, and the number of first-years had dropped so there were more pairs than groups of three. Fell didn’t even try to avoid Rakam as the older boy made a straight line for him. Fell did glance around to make sure Javen had indeed ended up with one of the Warriors outside of Torrent’s group. He was reassured by seeing his roommate paired with a quiet brown-haired boy who never dealt out more than bruises.

“Not paying attention, First-Year?” Rakam snapped, shoving Fell over to one of the more hazardous-looking rings. The gritty sand covering the ground was scattered with prickly plants that jutted out with sharp spines that Fell had found out were mildly poisonous, creating a blotchy, itchy rash wherever they managed to puncture the skin.

But Fell tried not to let his recognition of this particularly cruel choice of grounds register as more than grim determination. He saw Rakam expectantly searching his face, and Fell was oddly pleased that the second-year didn’t seem to find what he was looking for.

“Ready to start?” Rakam asked, punctuating his question with a punch that, had it connected, would have probably left Fell doubled over in pain, as it had so many times before.

However, to Rakam’s surprise, Fell dodged.

–  –  –

Rakam glared at him, annoyed. “Who said you could dodge?” Then Rakam kicked him, hard, in the stomach, and he crumpled on his side, trying to protect himself from the onslaught of blows.

~*~ “Back again?” Rai asked as Fell limped into the Infirmary. Rai supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. Since that first day, he and Wisteria had been continually treating Fell’s injuries, which seemed to get progressively worse. This time, he was nursing a wounded arm and favoring his right leg. His face was covered in bruises, and it looked like his nose had been broken again.

“Just couldn’t stay away,” Fell said, with a lopsided grin that revealed a few missing teeth.

Wisteria shook her head. “This will take the rest of the hour. How do you manage to get into these situations?” “They just sort of find me,” Fell said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make more work for you.” Rai laughed. “It’s not any trouble. If anything, you’re giving us a lot to practice on.

Wisteria’s just about perfected her bone fusing charm. How about I start on the teeth and you look at his leg?” “The leg? I healed his leg last time,” Wisteria protested.

“Thus, you should already know what to do,” Rai smiled, already flipping through his book to find the section on replacing teeth.

–  –  –

“Don’t worry. I’ve already found the page,” Rai said. Broken teeth were a rarity, and he wasn’t about to let this chance slip through his fingers.

–  –  –

“So you can hold it open for me,” Wisteria said. “You got to fix his broken thumb last week. It’s my turn this time.” Rai thought about protesting, but she had a point. Besides, the probability of Fell getting his teeth knocked out again was…well… relatively decent actually. With resignation, Rai handed Wisteria the book open to the right page. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as he started tracing the all-too-familiar runes for bone-fusing over Fell’s leg.

Wisteria went about healing him in her usual, brisk manner, though she did double-check the runes before she wrote them out over Fell’s lips.

It did indeed take the rest of the hour to completely patch up Fell. But, by the time it was done, he considered it well worth it to see Fell with all of his teeth back in place, all of his bruises faded, and his familiar, painfully optimistic smile back on his face.

“See you tomorrow,” Fell said.

“Hopefully not, right?” Rai prodded.

Fell smiled all the brighter with this encouragement. “You’re right. Maybe I’ll see you the day after.” ~*~ Once again, Averi returned to her room after sparring class without a single injury.

Disheartened, she lay down on her bed, trying not to see Fell’s beating every time she closed her eyes.

Thoughtfully, she held up the silver bracelet on her wrist. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she started to write out an intricate rune. She was nearly finished when the magic became unfocused and fizzled. She frowned, trying again. She thought she had the lines

–  –  –

right, but when she cast it, the magic came apart. It was frustrating, exhausting work, made worse by the fact that she had never gotten it right.

It was almost a relief when she heard Wisteria’s familiar voice breaking through the silence.

“Of course I repaired them instead of re-growing them. He had the teeth right there in his hand! I think…” Wisteria’s voice got progressively closer. And louder.

“But, according to my four years of healing study, repairing the teeth doesn’t make the teeth half as strong as just re-growing them.”

–  –  –

Averi sat up and jumped off the bed, which would hardly have been proper and perched rigidly on her chair.

“According to our textbook, it’s just a myth. I’ll show you.” There was a jostle of the door, and Wisteria flung it open. “It’s right here.” “Good evening, Averi,” Rai said, his tone changing to a much different one than what he had been using with Wisteria in the hallway. “You must have boundless patience to live with Wisteria. I only see her for a few hours in class, and she nearly drives me to my wit’s end each time.” Averi laughed. “At least Thieves don’t have partners.” “Here it is,” Wisteria interrupted, producing the book. Inscribed with the title Healing Practices for Practical Healing, it had the image of the Cleric Allora’s wyvern serpent engraved across the cover in copper-colored ink.

–  –  –

Rai took it from her and read, “While it has largely been held that re-growing teeth creates a stronger end result than repairing teeth, recent evidence shows that the condensed time in which the teeth are re-grown weakens the finished product. This suggests that further research is needed to definitively state which is preferable.” “See?” Wisteria challenged him.

“It doesn’t say anything,” Rai pointed out.

“Exactly. Neither is better than the other,” Wisteria insisted. Rai shook his head. The clock tower tolled, signaling the beginning of the dinner hour.

“All right, all right,” he said.

“You’re giving up easier than I expected,” Wisteria said. She grabbed the book back from him and snapped it shut.

“Giving up isn’t the same as knowing when the great Wisteria Ling is being too stubborn to listen to reason. Maybe we can call it a draw and go to dinner,” he said, and turning to Averi, he added, “As our objective third party, it’s your call.” “Dinner sounds good to me,” Averi agreed.

The three of them began walking toward the dining commons. Averi hung back with Wisteria and let Rai take the lead.

“Who were you healing today that had broken teeth?” Averi asked, suspicious. Only one person’s teeth had been knocked out, and that was… “Fell,” Wisteria said promptly.

“This poor kid who keeps getting beaten up almost every day,” Rai said, jumping in before Wisteria could explain.

–  –  –

“That’s right,” Wisteria said. “You’re a Warrior minor.” “Really? I’ve never seen you in the Infirmary,” Rai said. “And I’m fairly sure we’ve gone through everyone in that class.”

–  –  –

“Strange, we’ve seen girls come through. Is it because…” “Obviously, it’s because she’s a princess,” Wisteria interrupted.

Rai nodded. “That makes sense. But I didn’t figure everyone would know. Though most nobles would make the connection from your name and how you look,” he said, gesturing vaguely to the trademark platinum-blonde hair and amber eyes that were common in the royal family.

“Not everyone recognized me, but the people who did made sure everyone else knew,” Averi said, thinking of how Torrent had quickly spread the word through his group of bullies that the Princess wasn’t to be touched for fear of reprisal.

There was a pause in the conversation when they reached the dining hall and grabbed trays. Looking over the food laid out for dinner, Rai asked, “So, how do you enjoy the Warrior minor?” “It’s terrible. I’m not particularly fond of watching people get hurt, especially poor Fell.

They seem to really have it out for him,” Averi said. “I haven’t the slightest idea why.” Wisteria made an indelicate noise. “Most likely because they can get away with it. He’s not exactly able to defend himself, is he?” “But it’s not even a matter of just getting away with it. It’s what we’re supposed to do— beat each other within an inch of our lives, get healed, and return to do it again the next day.”

–  –  –

Averi stopped, as they all took their respective seats at one of the dining tables. “Don’t you think there’s something wrong with that?” “Yes, actually, I do,” Rai said seriously. “That’s why I’m not a Warrior minor. What did you think you were signing up for? You’re learning how to hurt people and how to take getting hurt in the process.” Averi thought back to her daydreams of heroically swinging a sword at faceless bandits in her quest to aid helpless villagers. “I suppose I didn’t think much about the people I’d be hurting.” “But if you didn’t hurt people, we wouldn’t have anyone to practice on,” Wisteria said thoughtfully, polishing off one of her three apples. “Not, of course, that it redeems the Warrior classes any,” she added.

Rai resisted the urge to smile. “So why did you want to be a Warrior?” Averi shrugged. “When I was little, my brothers would tell me stories of the Warrior Ren and how he defended the weak and the poor and helped people. I wanted to be like him and his Mage, Kaethe. Together they did so much good in the world…or so the stories go.” “But they always leave out how many people get hurt along the way, don’t they?” Rai said. “At any rate, if you really dislike being a Warrior, you should consider changing minors.

You know, there’s always the other end of it, the Cleric minor.” I’m not ready to be that useless, Averi thought to say, then realized she was talking to two Clerics. I’m definitely not ready to be that tactless.

“I’m not ready to make so drastic a shift,” Averi said, finally. “I’ve never really found Cleric work that intriguing to begin with. You would, for instance, never find me arguing about the best way to repair teeth.”

–  –  –

“Regrowth,” Rai supplied automatically, earning a scowl from Wisteria.

“Truthfully,” Averi said, stalling Wisteria’s retort, “I was hoping for something a little more exciting.” “Your only option left is Thief,” Wisteria said dryly.

“I guess ‘exciting’ is the word for it,” Rai shrugged. “Though I’m probably not the best person to ask.” “What do you generally do?” “I’m not sure I can tell you that information. Very secretive, us Thieves,” Rai said “I thought you couldn’t even find half your classes,” Wisteria muttered.

Averi smothered her laughter as Rai shot Wisteria a look.

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