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Silence. Her eyes were closed and she lay on something hard. It was eerie as if time stood still. She moved her hand and felt the hard wood floor made slick with varnish. Then her hand came up to her face and touched the wetness that was making her itch. She opened her eyes and saw nothing. It was a strange kind of nothing. Like the lack of light. It wasn't darkness either. Her blood was trickling out of her nose. She could feel the minute flow like a heartbeat.  She knew where her hand should be, and that it had her blood on it. Then all her senses came rushing back like a wave. She screamed out in pain.

“Are you alright?” A tall young man was leaning over her. His face was bare, and he looked concerned. She nodded just a little, but her head hurt badly when she moved it. Something was throbbing, but she could not tell exactly where in her body it originated. 

She sat up slowly and the blood that had pooled in the dimple of her cheek ran quickly down onto her uniform. Her uniform was the yellow and purple of Feren. The coat of arms hung on the wall of the school interspersed with portraits of teachers and Feren family. She moved slowly to the corner of the room with the young man's help. He gave her a cloth to hold to her nose. He returned to the other children her age and continued the lesson. They were learning how to punch and she must have punched the stuffed mannequin too hard. It came back and hit her and knocked her down. She just didn't know what had happened to her afterwards. She longed to find Saido and ask him but knew her fellow paiges would be watching her closely. Saido was only ever close by when she slept, napping on her bed post still wearing his crow disguise.

"May I go?" Elda asked plainly wishing not to be in the class at the moment. The young Squire nodded his permission, and she got up and left the gymnasium and the class behind her.

The hallway was white and plain. Every once in a while, there would be a wooden door, but they all had classes behind them. It seems that just in Faris' short 400 years of life he had established equal and free schooling for the whole populace. Which also meant that the whole entire city and freeholds of Feren were trained for combat, even if they were a bit rusty. She knew of one noble girl in the class she shared who was treated no differently than the other students in the classes at least. However, the freeholder children were always ready to play servant to the girl to be part of her group.

There were others more like Elda who seemed to have an air of purpose, but also kept themselves apart from any group. They also excelled at their chosen combat studies if not the whole curriculum. Elda sighed out loud. She had yet to find her calling in combat. And the children made fun of her scaleless Kouri. Her cousin Nabiri had at least thought it pretty. She pouted for a moment because she was not in Sid Hayef with her cousin and Jelen. She passed a group of slightly older children who whispered to each other and pointed to her. They did not laugh at her, but held strangely cunning grins, like she imagined a cat would just before pouncing on its unsuspecting prey. She made her own spine tingle. 

She reached the door to her dorm. All those beds stuck together with nothing but a table and chest. It seemed so bare and gloomy. She walked down her aisle and saw two girls ahead digging through a footlocker. Then Elda realized it was her footlocker.

"Hey!" She yelled loudly and ran toward them.

One of the girls looked up terrified to be caught and ran, the other girl, however, stood with a jeer on her face. She held up the yellow dress Elda received at Sid Hayef. When Elda went to grab it back the girl acted like she would rip it, and Elda froze. 

"Please, give it back," Elda was close to tears but grit her teeth against them.

"Dana has decided no one but her should have silk this fine," The girl did not smile.

"I don't care about her or your group. I don't bother you. Why are you doing this?" Elda could only look at her dress in the girl's hands.

"Dana says there is room for only one noble here, and she is it." The girl gathered the dress closer to her.

"But, I'm not noble. My parents were poor," Elda was getting frustrated now.

"We know you traveled with the Arch Duke, and Lady Kenna herself brought you down to the dorms. Your dress is the finest silk we have ever seen, so you're lying." The girl cocked an eyebrow, "Besides we all know you are Draconi."

The girl ripped a small hole in a seam, then threw it down on the floor. Elda grabbed it up quickly.

"No! Jelen gave me this!" Elda cried as she gathered the dress to her like a mother would a hurt child.

"Jelen?" The girl snorted, then laughed, "So you talk to fairies?"

"Jelen is my family, and yes I talked to fairies." Elda was angry now.

"Oh, so you're some fairy princess then." The girl still mocked her and then quickly started toward the exit. She cackled delightedly, "Dana is going to love this!" 

Elda just put her face into the dress and cried. Soon she got up and laid in her bed. Saido came to sit on her bedpost and looked concerned. She just pet him and then put her head down and slept.

Saido's caws woke her gently from sleep, but she realized he was quite alarmed by the way he danced from foot to foot.  A large group of children all roughly Elda's age surrounded her on her bed. Elda rippled pink and was startled enough to sit up and draw her legs into herself. As she sat up the children took her blanket and rolled her forcibly into it.
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