South Bakare Preparatory School; 1293 Wess St., Trigón, Bakare
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Sanaer D'Kánaran let his silvery white hair fall into his eyes as he looked down at the plate of roast mutton in front of him, trying to ignore the taunts of the other students.
"Albino freak!" laughed one, a dark-haired youth whose redheaded friend, a boy called Ryamm Bayle, elbowed him.
"He looks like one of those mountain monks, the ones that worship Sehen!" Ryamm taunted. The other students hooted with laughter.
"Maybe he's the chosen of Sehen!" teased an older girl, casually using the name of a shunned god and making a sign of warding with two fingers. "Beware the Chosen One!" she snorted, with obvious sarcasm. Ryamm was howling with laughter; his companion was rolling on the floor in tears.
Sanaer didn't say anything, only viciously stabbed his fork into the slice of meat and mashed potatoes that the cafeteria gnome had given him ten minutes earlier. They'd done this to him ever since he was a first year at the South Bakare Preparatory School, and when he was a ten-year-old there might have been tears mingling with the gravy, but he was fifteen now. He put up with it, day after day after taunting, teasing day.
With false patience and supressed anger the youth waited for the other students to give up at their tormenting, sawing at the tough mutton in front of him. Sanaer looked down at his hands, his milk-white skin almost opalescent in the dim electric light of the school cafeteria. "Albino freak," he murmured darkly, quoting the dark-haired boy as he weakly pulled his hands back into the sleeves of his oversized black hooded sweatshirt as if to hide them. "Albino freak," he repeated softly, facial features hardening.
Sanaer knew hoodies were against school uniform, but he didn't care. Let Headmaster Brighton give him another day of detention. He already had quite the list to serve: two days from the fight he got in last week (that Ryamm Bayle had started, not him), another day for the (quite unjust) time that Arithmetic Master Garette had called on him in class and he hadn't known the answer, a fourth day for breaking the dress code yesterday with the same hoodie he had on now...
Sanaer looked down as he heard others sniggering behind him. The youth wanted more than anything in the world for his white hair to become a protective curtain in front of his scarlet eyes, in front of his colorless skin. He almost wanted to run away, if not for Arms Master Daran's swordplay sessions. Sanaer unconsciously brightened at the thought of the only instructor at South Bakare Prep who seemed to realize that deep down Sanaer D'Kánaran, Sanaer the albino, could be and was just like any other kid at the school.
Arms Master Daran was the only teacher at the school that treated Sanaer normally. The chemistry specialist seemed to pity him, and the arithmetic teacher acted somewhat prejudiced. Even worse, Lore Master Halakkar tried to completely ignore him. Sanaer hated the boarding school his grandmother insisted he attend, except for swordplay lessons. Probably the one thing I'm good at, thought Sanaer dully, lifting a forkful of tough mutton from where he'd been tracing patterns of swirls in the mix of mashed potatoes and gravy. He'd barely bitten into the meat when the schoolbell rang, informing him that his lunchtime was over.
Sanaer cursed mildly as he hastily gathered up his belongings, wistfully looking back at the plate of food that a haggard gnome carried off for disposal. Wearily he slugged his messenger bag over one shoulder, heading for his fifth period Lore class.
- - -
Sanaer grimaced as he felt a wad of paper hit the back of his neck, sniggers from the back of the classroom telling him exactly who had tossed the note. As quietly as he could, he reached down and gingerly unfolded the crumpled piece of paper.
HEY FREAK-- HEARD YOU
WERE THE CHOSEN OF SEHEN...
BLESS ME, WILL YOU?
Sanaer winced, glaring coldly at the two boys three seats behind him as he tossed the note back over his shouder. He slumped back into his chair, sighing as his stomach rumbled loudly. The albino youth kept his head down, hearing the two students still sniggering.
"Does anyone know the year in which the Demon Blades drove the raavatha from Harrow Keep?"
Sanaer's pale hand shakily went up; he knew this answer. Glancing around, he could see that no one else had raised their hands.
"Anyone?" Lore Master Halakkar's blue eyes met Sanaer's for a split second, lingering then passing on. "Nobody?" The teacher snorted in disappointment. "It was in 1245, the Year of the Demon's Flight. Why aren't you all writing this down? In 1245 the Demon Blade Kaera Enast ventured into Harrow Keep and there heard the prophecy of the Avatar, a story that you all have no doubt heard..."
A scrambling to find pen and paper followed, but Sanaer reached for nothing, taken aback. He'd known the answer to that question, and he'd been the only one who had raised his hand. He sighed. The instructor had completely overlooked him, overlooked him like everyone else he knew. In an odd way, that ignorance had been a harsher sting than Ryamm Bayle's taunting.
- - -
Wearily Sanaer collapsed onto his bed in the dormitory, the soft down blankets like a cloud to his sore body. All through last period Chemistry his lab partner had done the whole experiment himself, pretending Sanaer wasn't there, and on top of that the two girls a table down from him had been hissing comments behind his back.
Sanaer heard every word of what they'd said. "That albino kid... I heard his parents are in jail for life because of a mass murder," one had told her companion.
"Jail? I heard they got a death sentence," the other had answered. "For mass murder and worse!"
A boy from across the room had joined in. "I hear he lives with his gram now... somebody told me she's albino too. His whole family is," the raven-haired boy boasted, glancing at Sanaer. The boy lowered his voice. "They all worship Sehen-- rituals and everything... that's why they look like that..."
A girl shuddered, then leaned in closer. "Well, I heard his parents, like, didn't want him... they, like, tried to drown him or something when he was born and, like, Sehen--" she looked uncomfortable saying the word-- "like, saved him and made him his Chosen. That's why he's, like, albino-- they tried to, like, drown him in his own blood and then-"
"God, you're an idiot, Tarre," scowled Ryamm Bayle. "Y'can't just turn albino, even if your parents were scum enough to try and do it--"
"Boys and girls!" At this time Science Master Lareuen had interjected. "Go back to your seats and finish the feather fern experiment. Now, can anyone please tell me about the properties of feather fern in sedatives?"
Sanaer had stopped listening then, and so he stopped imagining. As the youth heard footsteps and voices at the dormitory door, he sighed, getting up and pulling the navy blue cotton drapes closed around his bed and burying his pale skinned face in the pillow. Sanaer heard Ryamm and his new friend Kiar, the dark-haired boy from the cafeteria, enter the room with what sounded like a few other junior boys.
"The freak's asleep," Kiar muttered, laughing quietly.
"Good," said Ryamm's voice, snickering. "I can't believe we have to share a dormitory with him... what idiot made that decision?"
"The headmaster," retorted Kiar. "But that albino kid... It's so funny watching him when you make fun o' him... He just acts like he can't hear you, but his face gives it all away..." Kiar stopped, thought for a second, then spoke again. "Hey, should we do it tonight?"
"That thing we talked about-- the ashes are in the common room grate, we can get to 'em now... besides--"
"Not yet," said Ryamm, parting the canopy around Sanaer's bed for a mere second before he let it fall back into place. "Maybe later this week. We gotta get the timin' right--"
Sanaer swallowed and hid his pale face deeper in the linen sheets as a prefect poked his head in. "Lights out," the senior barked, glaring around at the boys in Dormitory 15. "NOW." A few disheartened grumbles and cursing came from all sides of Sanaer's enclosed bed, but by that time the albino youth had closed his eyes, preparing to drift off to sleep.
- - -
The next morning the dormitory was empty as the albino youth peered out of the hangings. All the better-- Ryamm and Kiar wouldn't make fun of him this morning, The stone floor was still cold to his bare feet as he pulled on the collared dress shirt and sweater vest that was school uniform. As he yanked on the khaki pants and diamond-patterned socks that were followed by his shoes, he grabbed his messenger bag and textbooks and headed for first period Language.
The corridors were awfully quiet, Sanaer noted. Only a few students scuttled around, not saying a word to the albino youth. It was almost a relief-- when the halls were crowded between periods, people would go out of their way to knock Sanaer over or trod on his feet or even yank his belongings out of his arms. For once, Sanaer walked through the corridors without being harassed by the other juniors. It felt oddly liberating, he thought, rounding a corner and approaching the door of his first period class.
Language Master Yaratran turned from where she stood at the chalkboard and blinked disdainfully at him. "Mister D'Kánaran, do you find truancy amusing?"
"Truancy?" Sanaer looked around with a horrible feeling. Every other student's head was craned back at him, all of them were present. Sanaer was usually the first one there...
"Yes, Mister D'Kánaran. Truancy. Purposefully skipping out of the first half of class." Language Master Yaratran raised a graying eyebrow. "Do you have an explanation for showing up precisely an hour late?"
"The alarm..." murmured Sanaer vaguely, feeling stupid. "It didn't go off... I... I have it set for first period but it didn't go off..."
"Then you slept through it," the teacher concluded.
"No!" cried Sanaer, pointing at Ryamm Bayle. "It was him, him and his friend--" Sanaer's head whipped around, searching for Kiar. "They must have turned it off--"
"And now accusing other students for what you've done wrong?"
"No, you don't understand, I know they did it--"
"Did you see them do it?"
"Well, no, but--"
"Detention, Mister D'Kánaran."
"Detention," the instructor snapped again, grey eyes flashing. "Say anything more and it will be two days' worth, do you hear? Now sit down and try and catch up with the class."
Sanaer could hear the others snickering as he took his seat in the very back row, slumping down as low as possible to avoid amused glances. Ryamm Bayle leaned over from where he sat beside the albino youth, loudly chewing a wad of gum.
"So ya slept in this morning?" he sneered.
Sanaer glared at him, looking down at the page of his Language textbook. His silvery hair fell in his eyes as the redheaded boy grinned and leaned back, ruffling his coppery locks. Sanaer blinked as the teacher's droning faded into a low hum. He shifted into himself, shifted into the place where no one's taunts and tricks could touch him.
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