Sasha paced impatiently up and down the hall, skirt swishing. At last the announcement came.

"And the award for best student overall goes to...Sasha Jadriel."

She had known what was coming, but the sound of her name still thrilled her. She did a little dance and slipped out silentle, smoothing down her floor-length gown. She arranged it and stepped onto the scarlet carpet on the center aisle. Sasha shoved down the light, giddy feeling that was rising in her and walked up to the stage as quietly and demurely as any young lady should. The rest was a blur.

As Sasha stepped up to the stage to accept her award a scream sounded and a willowy blonde was rushing toward her. Sasha felt an excruciating pain in her back and there was the sound of skin breaking and fabric tearing. SHe rose into the air, and something sticky and wet poured down from her back. And then darkness descended over her.

When Sasha woke up, she was lying on her stomach on a hospital bed. She carefully clambered out of bed and winced at the pain all across her back. There was a strange numbness all over her body from waist down, she found. Stiffly, Sasha walked out of the room and into the hall, ignoring the fact that she waas wearing nothing but a skirt and bra. A nurse rushed by and then stopped and did a double take.

Sasha asked slowly, "What is wrong with me?"

The nurse stiffened and grabbed Sasha by the arm. Without a word, she led her into the bathroom and indicated the mirror hanging from the wall. Sasha looked at it, fully expecting to see a horrible form of leprosy or something. Instead, she saw two sleek, delicate bird wings.

The nurse studied her in the mirror and then spoke for the first time. "Child, you are one of the Winged."