Hrin Academy for Boys was exactly what Eaden had expected. It was a towering gray stone building with well-kept grounds. The students were all snobby rich boys, conforming to Eaden's expectation, painfully so. They were all uniformly dressed in blue doublets, white hose and white silk shirts; Hrin colors. And of course the city's emblem, embroidered on their doublets, a gull soaring over stormy seas.

Eaden was put with the younger boys for his academic classes due to his lack of education. He felt extremely uncomfortable in his new, clean clothes. He also towered all of his young classmates making him stand out even more. By the time lunch came his brain throbbed painfully and felt like it had been blended up then fired. He sat alone and ate gratefully, relishing the solitude and food. He hadn't had such a nice meal in years.

After lunch was what would become Eaden's favorite hours. The boys proceeded to the training grounds where they would perfect their archery, swordsmanship, hand combat and riding skills. First came archery. Eaden bean with the younger boys he'd had class with. Eaden far surpassed their amateur skills so the instructor moved him up to advanced. Here he met one boy, which he could truly and wholly say he loathed. Just from the looks of him Eaden disliked him. He stood with his overly pointed nose high in the air and his steely dark eyes looking disdainfully down at his loyal subjects. His flaxen hair was slicked back upon his impudent head. He wore his school uniform like it was a king's outfit over his pasty white skin. And his thin, pale lips that were barely even there were eternally molded into a smirk. He was the best of everything, including archery; some boys even went as far as carrying around his quiver for him.

It made Eaden absolutely sick how the girls fawned over him and the boys marveled at his skill. Eaden got so disgusted that he couldn't help but challenge the blonde; on Eaden's first day no less. Eaden strode over, parting the crowd circling the popular boy.

"Malvon!" he yelled, he'd heard others say his name.

The pale blonde turned, smirking at Eaden's ruffian appearance. He straightened his shoulders. "Who are you?"

"Eaden Medalia, I'm new here," he explained. He still couldn't believe he was doing this, the teacher could return at any time from helping the other boys.

"And why are you wasting my time?" Malvon demanded impatiently.

"I'd like to challenge you to a match of archery," Eaden told him.

Malvon snorted and laughed heartily along with the others. "I'm the best. I won't stoop to challenging an amateur."

The others guffawed stupidly. Eaden waited patiently for them to finish. Malvon noticed that Eaden hadn't left yet.

"Shoo," Malvon said with a careless wave of his hand.

Eaden smiled and shrugged. "I understand if you're scared." Then he turned and started walking away.

"I'm not scared," Malvon called angrily after him.

A grin spread over Eaden's face. That trick never failed, pride always won over. Eaden kept walking over to the shooting range. He stuck two arrows into the ground and nocked one. Without a hint of effort he drew the string on his long bow and let the arrow fly. The arrow sunk neatly into the center of the bulls-eye. He knew that would get their attention. Sure enough Malvon took position at the target next to him. His audience spread out behind him, watching intently. Malvon wordlessly nocked an arrow to his mahogany bow and drew it slowly. Then he released the arrows letting it soar through the air to land exactly in the middle of the bulls-eye.

Applause rippled through the crowd. Malvon grinned and turned to Eaden. Eaden was already drawing his bow and releasing another arrow. It landed right next to the other. No applause. Malvon shrugged and drew another arrow. It split his other in two, landing in the same exact place. His fans went wild: whistling, whooping and clapping. Only one more to go, Eaden thought, I can beat him. Eaden drew it slowly and concentrated, aiming carefully, when it felt perfect Eaden released. Someone brushed up against him bow arm just as he released sending the arrow veering off its course. It landed on the outer rim of the bulls-eye. Eaden spun angrily to see who had jostled him but no one was there, they had slipped back into the crowd. Malvon sneered at him and drew his last arrow. It landed neatly next to his others. He laughed coldly and nodded to Eaden, smirking and his eyes dancing triumphantly. The onlookers swarmed Malvon with applause and congratulations.

At that time the instructor, who had been occupied with the younger boys, strode over, his cloak billowing behind him. His eyes were angry and fierce.

"Eaden and Malvon!" his clear voice rang out. "Archery duels in class are forbidden."

The crowd surrounding Malvon scattered like a herd of deer fleeing a predator. Malvon stood, abandoned, with his arms crossed over his chest.

"I would've expected you to know better," the instructor told Malvon. "Since Eaden is new here he will pass with a warning, this time. You, however, will get the full punishment, knowing very well the rules."

Malvon's burly friend, the only one who had remained, protested. "But Eaden was the challenger! And he insulted Malvon, so Malvon couldn't refuse."

"I don't recall addressing you, Lordon," the instructor replied coldly.

"Sorry, Master Kristmal," Lordon apologized, ducking his head and retreating.

Master Kristmal turned to Malvon. "You will write an essay on why you do not have to agree to a challenge. It should be at least three pages long."

Malvon's sneer disintegrated into a gape. "But sir!" he protested.

"Don't argue or I'll make the requirement longer," Master Kristmal snapped. "I want it in two days. You are dismissed."

Malvon shot a glare at Eaden. Eaden attempted to escape but Kristmal called him back. He reluctantly returned.

"That was a very stupid thing to do," Master Kristmal told him. "You should never challenge someone as good as Malvon if you're not sure you can beat him."

"I was sure," Eaden replied. "And I would've won or at least tied if he hadn't cheated."

"You can't cheat in an archery contest easily," Master Kristmal replied.

"His friend purposefully bumped into me just as I was releasing," Eaden explained. "If you don't call that cheating, I don't know what is."

"You can expect no less from the likes of him," Kristmal said finally. "Now he'll be even worse, you'll never make any fifth year friends, they are all completely dedicated to him."

"I'd actually be a sixth year normally," Eaden replied. "I'm not here to make friends anyway."

Master Kristmal shook his head. "That isn't the way to go about life. You'll never make it here if you don't have someone to watch your back."

"I can take care of myself. I've lived on the streets most of my life, I think I can handle a bunch of prissy snobs," Eaden said confidently.

"Suit yourself," Master Kristmal said shrugging. The bell sounded, announcing the end of class. "Eaden, I'd be happy to teach you a few pointers in archery or mathematics. Stop by my office whenever you want," Master Kristmal suggested.

"Thank for the offer," Eaden replied. "If I can learn my way around this place, I'll surly stop by."

Master Kristmal smiled to himself as Eaden hurried away. He had not met the likes of such a boy in many years. There was something about Eaden that reminded him of himself when he was a boy, confident and rebellious. He sensed something about Eaden that scared him though; he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

Eaden followed the others to the next class, which was swordsmanship. Once again he was placed with the younger boys much to the glee of Malvon and his friends. Unfortunately Eaden didn't pass the test that would allow him to join the advanced or even amateur group, he was stuck with the novices. Eaden's class didn't even get close to a sword that hour. They just got to amuse themselves with attempting to hit each other with bit wooden sticks. Eaden lazily blocked the boys he was paired up against and taunted them by poking their unprotected areas. Still the hawkish teacher snapped at him to move his feet and stop using the staff like it was a knife.

Eaden was much better at hand combat and easily passed the test admitting him to the advanced. Somehow that hour he managed to collect a handful of bruises but he suspected his opponent had a lot more. Rising lessons were also simple and once again Eaden was allowed to join the advanced class. He was able to ride his beautiful Moonstar, the other boys' horses were wonderful, but in Eaden's eyes none matched up to his rare palomino mare.

By dinner time Eaden was starved, tired, loaded with class work and sweaty. He wished he could've plopped down and went to sleep but he still had mountains of work to do and he'd promised he would try to visit Luna, since it was her last day stuck in the infirmary. He ate quickly and snuck out of the dining hall. At the door leading outside waited Malvon.

"Where do you think you're going?" he demanded. "No one is allowed out until the end of the week."
Eaden shoved past him and reached for the door handle. Malvon grabbed his shoulder and spun him around.

"I'm talking to you," Malvon said angrily.

"And I'm ignoring you," Eaden replied. He pried Malvon's hand off of his shoulder with excessive force. "The head of the school gave me permission to visit my friend in the infirmary."

Eaden knew from eavesdropping, a consistent habit of his, that practically everyone in the school had a deep-rooted fear of Headmaster Trinas, the extremely strict and temperamental head of the school. He knew no one would dare question his authority and he had such a bad memory if someone asked him about Eaden Trinas would contradict them for fear of being proven wrong. He left the school without further hindrance. Outside he waved down a coach driver and had him take him to the infirmary. He paid the driver with the money he'd stolen and got out at the stop.

Luna was asleep when he entered. She looked so peaceful with her dark hair spread around her face. One lock lay across he face. Eaden kneeled beside her and brushed the hair from her face. Luna's eyelids fluttered and she smiled up at Eaden. Eaden's heart flopped; he couldn't understand these feelings he'd recently developed for her. They had always been strictly friends, nothing more.

"You look horrible," Luna told him.

Eaden smiled wryly. "I feel horrible."

"You didn't have to come and see me, I would've understood," Luna told him.

"I promised," Eaden reminded her. "I have to tell you about my first day of school, remember?" Luna perked up and rose to hear his story.

"Well, as I thought, everyone of the boys are pampered and rich. They leave their money around like it's useless or they just have so much of it they don't care if someone steals it," Eaden told her.

"How much did you take?" Luna demanded, laughing.

"Two crowns, forty-three cavits and twenty dins," Eaden rattled off, grinning mischievously.

Luna sat up, her eyes wide. "Two crowns!" she exclaimed in shock.

Eaden smiled innocently like a boy caught red-handed. "I couldn't help myself."

"Damn, Eaden. You need to stop this kind of thing. They're going to notice two crowns missing!" Luna exclaimed. "What other kind of trouble did you get into?"
"You sound like you're my mother," Eaden complained. "I only did a slight thing with challenging some prissy boy to an archery duel. But I got off the hook since I'm new and don't know the rules. The boy cheated and won, so I may have to risk challenging him again."

Luna could only shake her head in disbelief. "What are you going to do with all that money?"

"It might come in handy later on," Eaden said, shrugging.

Luna caught herself staring into his memorizing green eyes. She tore her eyes away and slumped back down on her pillow. "Well Salmair said I need to stay here until the end of the week but I'm allowed to get out of bed tomorrow," Luna said. "So I'll see you in two days."

Eaden knew a dismissal when he heard one. He rose and stretched. "I'm so exhausted," he told her. "You have no idea how hard they work us."

"Eaden," Luna said as he left. "Thanks again for coming to see me, even if all you could tell me was how much trouble you got into your first day."

Eaden nodded and waved, leaving. The coach driver was waiting for him when he came out. Eaden clambered aboard and attempted to stay awake for the ride. Worst of all he knew that he still had work to do before he could even think of sleep. At the gate of the towering Academy Eaden paid the driver and tiredly walked through the grounds and slipped in the doors. He had some trouble keeping hidden from the prowling teachers positioned throughout the halls. He finally made it to the sixth year hall, where he would be staying due to his age. Malvon waited, barring his way inside.

"Malvon, stop being immature, let me pass," Eaden pleaded tiredly.

"I want to know where you were," Malvon replied. "And repay you for that pleasant assignment Master Kristmal gave me as punishment."

"Mind your own business and suck it up," Eaden snapped.

Malvon's muscles flexed and Eaden ducked as his fist cam plummeting at him. Eaden grabbed his wrist tightly and turned, throwing Malvon over him. Malvon crumpled up on the floor not far away, yelling in rage. Malvon hoisted himself up and charged at Eaden. Eaden easily stepped out of the way and landed a nicely placed kick on the back of his knee. Malvon's leg buckled causing him to loose his balance. He neatly rolled and jumped back up in a fighter's stance.

At least he knows something, Eaden thought. Eaden felt an arm slip under his. He grabbed the arm with his other and rolled the boy behind him over his shoulder. At that time numerous bodies pummeled him from behind. I should've known, Eaden thought grimly as the boys struggled to hold him down, Malvon never is alone. When a large group of boys had managed to restrain him, Malvon strode over, dusting off his clothes, smirking.

"Can't even fight your own battles?" Eaden spat.

Malvon shrugged. "Why should I if I don't have to? Besides you need to be taught a lesson, one way or another. You need to learn that I am not someone to be taken lightly."

Eaden struggled forcefully throwing a few of the boys off balance and causing them to go sprawling to the floor. They instantly got back up, however, and rushed to suppress him. Malvon shook his head, smiling.

"You can't win," he said confidently.

He strode closer to Eaden and stopped only a few feet away. He stared at Eaden, sneering. Malvon punched Eaden hard in the stomach causing him to double over, coughing and trying to catch his breath. He took Eaden's head in his hands and slammed it against his knee. Eaden fell to the floor, released, wheezing and holding his head in pain. A painful bruise was already forming around his eye and blood was dribbling down his cheek. Malvon and his group fled, leaving Eaden in a heap on the stone floor. Somehow Eaden managed to crawl through the door and throw himself on his bed. His roommate stared.

"What happened to you?' the brown-haired and freckle faced boy asked.

Eaden moaned. "Fight," he rasped.

"With who?"

"Malvon, he's a fifth year," Eaden explained.

"Oh yeah, you're the one in my archery class you challenged him," the boy remembered. "We sixth years don't usually mingle with the fifth years." He shook his head sadly. "You shouldn't get involved with the likes of him."

"Yeah, I know that now. The filthy bastard outnumbered me," Eaden replied.

"I'm Crevi, by the way," the boy said.

"Eaden." Then he groaned and turned over, falling asleep.