Chapter 1

New Beginnings

Thunder struck and rain pelted down on anything that dared to remain outdoors. The figures that clung to the shadows dodged unseen attacks, though it was hard to make out where anything was. One sword glows faintly in the darkness, shrieks pierce the surrounding forestry soon afterward.

The war had been running its course, and after years of fighting, it was coming to a close. Now victory was certain, but the opposing army refused to admit this was true. What remained of their troops tried to defeat the inevitable, though they were failing.

Mages and soldiers charged from both sides, each proving their formidable strengths, but only one side would prevail.

The fight had lasted for an hour, and the other side was nearly out of fighters. Calls for surrender and retreat hailed from one half of the forest, the other crying out. The sounds soon faded, leaving the gurgles of lives being ended and whimpering from those who remained.

The prized soldier sheathed his sword, the flames that licked its edges fading as it hid from the world. His chest plate was covered in ash and blood, the helmet relatively unscathed. He lifted the helmet enough to show the angular face underneath, the once blue eyes hardened and dark. A fine layer of sweat caused the soot to slide with a single touch, but he was used to it. He'd fought for most of the war, since he was fifteen years old. Who'd believe he was only seventeen?

He looked back, the messy, silver hair just barely visible at the edges of his now visible face. The other soldiers around him were busy trying to gather their thoughts, not knowing what to do. They'd won the war, and now they needed to-

"Matthew! Come downstairs or you'll be late!" Matthew sighed, hearing his father calling for him from downstairs. He closed a black and white notebook, tucking it away in the back of his backpack. He'd need to finish writing everything down as soon as possible, or he'd forget again.

He swung the backpack onto his back, the black of the backpack almost blending in with his hair. Why did the clock always seem to interfere with keeping the fantasy world that was his dreams alive? It didn't matter much; if he forgot, he forgot. If he remembered, it'd be more stories to share with others.

After nabbing some toast and snatching ten dollars for lunch, Matthew bolted out the door. The car beeped at him after pressing the unlock button, that sound always being dreaded. The sound indicated the beginning of another day in the doldrums. After throwing the backpack in the trunk and getting into the car, he brought the engine to life and started the ten minute drive to school.

Traffic wasn't as bad, so Matthew managed to get to school without too much trouble. School; the prison where creativity was a flame that others tried to snuff out. It was an outlaw, forbidden from being used, lest the student seem to lose focus. He shook his head, keeping the thoughts from reaching his tongue. He didn't want to let his tongue start something before his mind could say otherwise.

After parking the car and grabbing his things, Matthew headed into the school. While dreading the idea of those long hallways and the lectures that lasted far too long, it was required, no matter how much he tried to rebel. His feet drug through the ruts he'd set for himself to his locker. Number 114; one of the few lockers that held no pictures of himself or graffiti of any degree.

Matthew wasted no time opening the silent door, tossing in anything that wouldn't be of use for hours. The door swung shut and, as per usual, the perky, should-be pro actress was standing on the other side. He'd grown used to the bouncy brunette over the years, but she seemed even more upbeat than usual.

"Hey, Bouncy, you seem excited."

"Hey to you, too, Mr. Dreamer. I've been hearing some rumors going around about that new girl that's supposed to be coming in. You do remember our conversation about it, right?" Matthew got the feeling he should remember, and the look she was giving him said the same thing. He scratched at the back of his head, trying to think of the conversation.

"Uh, well, it is hump day, and all." She rolled her eyes, though there were hints of playfulness. She must've known he'd say something like that, especially with her fist lightly pushing into his shoulder.

"You and your excuses. Well, I heard she's supposed to be coming in within the next couple days. I told you she's amazing at English, and she's been rumored to be an actress to boot. I guess you were daydreaming, as usual." Matthew recalled some of that conversation, though the new girl's name escaped him. He inwardly shrugged, figuring it wouldn't be long before that news got to him.

"That'd make sense. Have you heard anything else about her?" Bouncy feigned shock and despair, though he knew that it was just her acting skills at work. She couldn't fool him anymore, and they were both aware of it.

"You're making it sound like I didn't do my homework, Dreamer! Pay attention this time, because I'm not going to explain it again." Matthew nodded, not knowing how much time they had until the bell. She nodded, getting the response she wanted, or had at least hoped for, from her looks.

"I've heard she's a smart one. 'Sharp as a bed of needles,' some of the teachers have said, though her English was by far one of the most impressive things for them. She's been in a ton of plays, according to Mr. Russel. However, no one knows much else about her; she must really keep to herself." Matthew took mental notes on everything that'd been said. The new girl sounded like someone interesting, though he wondered if he'd truly get the chance to meet her.

The bell made the two jump, though they wished they could talk more. It was one of the better parts of the day for him; at least the conversations alternated in place of the scheduled, slow torture. He saw some of her friends come up to get her.

"Amanda, come on! We'll be late!" one of the other senior girls yelled. Amanda looked back at Matthew, glancing at the backpack for a moment.

"If you've got anything new in that 'notebook' of yours, I'd love to see it!" she called over the tromping feet. Matthew pointed to the backpack, then gave a thumbs up. They'd learned to communicate like this whenever there was too much activity going on around them, but she got the message. She smiled and headed towards her first class while he followed the crowd to his own room.

He slid into his seat in the middle of the room, looking out one of the windows. The chair froze his body, but he'd adjust. He despised the world of endless numbers and variables, but there was no point in squirming away from it. He took the supplies he'd need for the rest of the period, though whether or not he could focus would be another story altogether.

The second bell screamed at the students in his room, some of the others flinching further into their seats. The semi-plump teacher strolled in, her bun seeming too tight that morning. She set down her books and went to the front of the class.

"Students," she began, "we have the privilege of welcoming a new student into our school." Some of the students stirred with the statement, while others, much like Matthew, were too busy in their own worlds to register what'd been said. At least, that was until the door opened.

The girl's blonde locks were pulled back into a braid, though otherwise no one would've seen them. Her eyes scanned the room, reflecting everything in hints of grey. She stood straight, making herself seem taller than she was. The teacher gestured to the girl that stood in the front of the room.

"May I introduce you to Alana Hibenski, your newest student."