Chapter 1:

Expelled

Sitting in an abnormally straight and hard-backed desk chair, the girl looked down at what was supposed to be a challenge. But rather than find herself perplexed, she found it a complete bore. There before her lay a napkin, a plate, and three forks, and she was supposed to figure out which order they went in during a meal. Elodie released an extremely audible sigh. Her teacher, who had been explaining the importance of napkins, looked up, fire blazing in her eyes.

"Do you have a question Elodie?" she asked icily. The girl rolled her eyes.

"Well?" her teacher posed. The question itself sounded more like a threat. Standing up, Elodie shifted her weight to one leg, brushed her raven colored hair out of her eyes, and putting her hands on her slender hips, she stated her problem.

"Why am I here?" she asked, the pain of knowing she was about to get in trouble sounding in her voice. The remaining girls in the room, who had been chatting quietly, simultaneously rolled their eyes, but stopped their conversations to listen.

"I mean, really," she continued, "I am not like any of the other girls here." At this point, the girls in the room gave their neighbors sarcastic looks, as if to say, "Well I'm glad she figured that out!"

"And I don't believe that proper etiquette is going to do something so great as to make a hero out of one of us." Her teacher's jaw dropped. Elodie saw it as an opportunity, and she continued.

"I mean, you teachers are always praising the great heroes of the age. I'm talking about the sword-wielders and all that. You even give some credit to the heroine Tarlie! You have shrines to all these great people, and you tell us of their great deeds, and yet, here you are, teaching us to eat daintily with forks and napkins. What on earth is that going to do to destroy evil? Are we going to bore it to death?"

"That's enough!" her teacher had finally found her tongue. "I've had it with you!" She took out a slip of parchment and a quill, and began to scribble furiously on it, splattering her face with ink.

"Elodie take this to the Headmaster's office," she handed the parchment to her, "and he's going to deal with you. You are dismissed!" Elodie fixed her teacher with such a stare that she actually recoiled, and then, as if nothing had happened, she casually picked up her books and sauntered out of the classroom, slamming the door behind her.

Once she was positive she was out of anyone's view, Elodie hung her head. She had really let her anger get away from her this time. It certainly wasn't the first time she had argued in class. Her father would be furious.

"But she did ask," she muttered to her self as she took her time walking down the isolated hallway. And in spite of the fact that she knew she was in deep trouble, she couldn't help but grin, as she remember her teacher's stunned face.

"What is it this time Elodie?" asked the secretary, a squat, frizzy woman, in a bored voice the moment Elodie entered the office.

"Yeah, as if you're interested," came the muttered reply.

"I'll notify the Headmaster that you're here…again," she said monotonously, and getting up, she waddled into the back room.

Elodie sank, as well as she could anyways, into one of the wooden chairs the office had set up against the wall. Looking around at the undecorated room, she sank down low enough so she could be semi-comfortable.

"This place is so dull," she muttered.

"The Headmaster is busy at the moment, you'll have to wait Elodie," said the secretary as she returned.

"Yes ok," Elodie waved a hand, as if she were a queen dismissing one of her subjects. The secretary returned to her desk and began writing up another report, pausing to scratch her nose with the inky nub of her quill. Elodie returned her attention to the uninteresting office.

"This school is so dull," she thought, "The walls are dull, the floor is dull, the teachers are dull, the students are dull…" and she continued thinking in that manner, until a man stumbled into the room, as if by accident.

"Is this the office?" he asked. The secretary looked up from her desk, and for the first time, she seemed truly interested in whom she was speaking to.

"Uh…why yes it is," she said, and then very rudely, she began to look him over, head to toe. The man looked back at her for an awkward moment, waiting for her to say something more, but she seemed too captivated by the very sight of him to notice.

"Oh. Ok then," he said meekly, and settled himself into the chair next to Elodie's.

After waiting politely for a minute, the man turned to the secretary, who was still gazing at him, a glazed look in her eyes.

"Um, do you think you could inform the Headmaster that I am here? I believe I have a scheduled appointment." The secretary continued to watch him with a faraway look, but then she jumped.

"Oh! Of course," she squeaked surprised. Then she bustled back into the back room, not even bothering to check her schedule book to see if there even was an appointment.

The man turned his attention back to the office, but he quickly lost interest with the lack of things to look at. He then turned to Elodie.

"So," he asked, "what are you here for?" Elodie looked over at him, and immediately understood why the secretary had been so content in looking at him. He had pitch-black, shaggy hair that curled at the ends, framing his face and his high cheekbones. His eyes were the color of the sky at night, and they twinkled, as if to make them seem more sky-like. Elodie didn't know if she had ever seen such a handsome man before in her life, but she wasn't about to trip on herself for him.

"What are you here for?" she shot back. The man seemed taken aback by such a smart reaction, but he quickly recovered.

"I asked you first."

"Well," Elodie muttered, "if you simply must know, I am in trouble."

"A lady in trouble is a damsel in distress…may I save you?"

"What?" she looked over at him. Half a grin was on his face; his teeth were a stunning white.

"May I save you?" he asked again playfully. Elodie stared. She had never met a man who acted like he did before in her sixteen years of life.

"No," she said, as if someone had just asked her to borrow a quill, and then she returned to gazing about the office, and playing with her fingernails. She could tell that he had been amused with her, and she purposely kept from looking in his direction.

A minute later, out of the corner of her eye, she saw him turn away, and she decided that one more glance wouldn't hurt. She turned her head, and found herself looking into his eyes. She quickly broke contact and the man laughed.

"What's your name?" he asked, his voice dripping with amusement.

"…Elodie," she reluctantly replied.

"Elodie," he repeated, as if he had heard it before, but couldn't quite remember where or when.

After an awkward silence, Elodie asked him, "What's your name?" and for some reason, it made him laugh.

"Darius," he said.

"So…why are you here?" she asked. This time, Darius didn't laugh.

"I was given some information that a great hero, about your age, resides here, and I am here to fetch him. Only it seems my information may have been faulty, as this is a place not for heroes, but a school for young ladies, such as yourself."

"Not like myself you mean," she muttered very quietly, but not so quietly that he didn't hear.

The secretary walked back into the room. "I'm sorry," she said to Darius, "it seems that no appointment was ever scheduled for you sir, but the Headmaster says that after he deals with this young lady out here," her eyes rested on Elodie, "he will be glad to speak with you."

"Thank you ma'am," Darius replied politely.

"You may go in now Elodie," the secretary said. Elodie reluctantly got up and gave Darius a little wave goodbye, as she walked back into the Headmaster's office to greet her doom.

As she sat herself into yet, another uncomfortable wooden chair, the Headmaster, she noticed, didn't even take out parchment or a quill to write up her report. Elodie silently handed over the little slip her teacher had written up. He read it over quickly, his brow furrowing. Finally he set it down with a sigh.

"Elodie," he began, "it says here that you argued with Professor Pulliot. It says that, in short, you called her class boring, and a waste of time, and that studies should be focused on being a hero." He paused, letting his watery-gray eyes bore into hers.

"Sir," Elodie began to protest, "I just don't see why we need to learn how to cook and clean and sew, and attend fancy dinner parties. Not when people have done such amazing things, such as saving a country."

"Those people," the Headmaster said, "The people we honor for their good deeds. We call them heroes, because they did something wonderful for the good of mankind. But have you ever wondered- could there be different kinds of heroes?"

Elodie snorted, "Well of course there aren't different kinds of heroes. What kind of question is that?" Her Headmaster was a wise man, she knew, but he seemed to be downright foolish in asking such a question. If there were different kinds of heroes, then there wouldn't be heroes at all!

"What about the husband, who works two jobs so he can feed his wife and children, is he not a hero to his family? Or the father who takes his son hunting, and teaches him to shoot a bow and arrow? Is he not a hero in his son's eyes?

The point is Elodie, there are different kinds of heroes. Or, if you refuse to believe it, then perhaps the word itself has a different definition. Everybody has his or her own definition of what a hero is. Do you see my meaning? Do you understand, that while, you see nothing that resembles heroism here, there are others that might?" Elodie did understand his point, but she really couldn't see how someone with proper education in etiquette could be a hero.

"Yes, and no sir," she said, "I understand what you mean, and it makes sense, but to me, sewing a torn dress just doesn't make me a hero." The Headmaster didn't look disappointed, only sad.

"I figured so," he said sorrowfully, "and now for your punishment."

"Lines," she asked grudgingly. The Headmaster took his glasses off and looked straight into her eyes.

"Elodie," he said, "I don't know why you're trying to ruin my school's reputation. But I'm telling you, it won't happen again."

"Yes, I understand," Elodie began in her apologetic voice, but the Headmaster cut her off.

"I mean it this time, it won't happen."

"Yes and-"

"You're not listening Elodie, now let me finish. From the time you first entered this school, I knew you were trouble waiting to happen. I'm telling the truth, it didn't surprise me at all when you walked into this office on your second day of enrollment, proclaiming almost proudly, that you had cut off your roommate's hair. Because she annoyed you.

I have given you many warnings, and more than your share of second chances. You will give no more problems to this school."

"Yes! I am sorry!"

"Elodie! You didn't let me finish! You are daftly and deaf! I am expelling you!" Elodie, who had stood up in protest, sad down. She felt numb and far away.

"You're-you're expelling me?" she asked in a voice that sounded too meek to be her own.

"Yes Elodie, I'm expelling you. As of this very moment in fact. I am weary of the trouble you have caused. This is a finishing school, not a political office! I have never had to expel a student before, but you have pushed me over the edge. Go to your room and pack your things, a carriage will be waiting to take you home." The Headmaster pointed to the door and Elodie shakily stood up and left his office red-faced, tears welling up in her eyes.

She composed herself as she walked back into the main office. She would not let anybody see her distressed. She would hold her head up high, and laugh at anyone who confronted her.

"You may go in now sir," the secretary said breathlessly to Darius, as Elodie walked out of the office.

"Just a minute," he said, and then followed Elodie out into the hallway.

"Well?" he asked her, and Elodie for once, answered, only because it wasn't the threat "Well?" that the teachers used on her.

"I've been expelled," she said without a trace of tears, only strength could be heard in her voice. Darius felt a great amount of respect grow for her. Deep inside him, he knew that she had the makings of a great leader, even in a country that believed only men could have those powers. Then comprehension dawned on him.

"Elodie," he said softly, "Would you believe me if I told you that you were born to be a hero?"

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