The king's palace was bustling as usual with servants and assistants running from one wing to another as they rushed to accomplish some task assigned to them by a noble, advisor, or any other important department head within the castle. Advisor to the king, Lucian Keeling took notice as two young maids darted through the corridor, carefully skirting around him with arms stacked high with fabric and embroidery for the queen's new dress.

He watched as the two backs disappeared down the hall before he continued on his way to his office; gazing at the different pieces of artwork which decorated the king's palace, he scanned over his favorites, admiring how the gilded frames accented the colors.

Every piece of art within the palace was created to depict a scene of Fidonian history. He slowed in front of a collection of his favorites, admiring the glaring reds and oranges on the canvas, stark in comparison to everything else on the battlefields. Each of them depicted a battle from the wars that took place before the time of peace. He could just make out the features of a young vampire in the piece at eye level, engaged with a werewolf, their rivalries long handled by the Fidonian regime of a time long ago. The largest painting hung high on the wall above his head, gruesome and enlightening, a young witch just having come into her powers being punished at the hands of the witch hunters-the massacre of Salem that led witches from all over immigrating to Fidonia for safety.

However, the ancient tapestry that hung from ceiling to floor just outside his office doors was his favorite depiction of their history by far. It depicted a battle scene of demons clashing with elves, witches, dwarves and a number of other creatures they'd been able to gather for the fighting. There were elves slashing demons with their beautiful swords and silver armor, witches battling fiercely, sending flames and lightning, rain and ice, into the bellies of their enemy.

The piece was meant to show how everyone had come together to fight their common enemy and look past their differences but the two figures in the center of the dark chaos were what drew Lucian's attention. Both figures represented the leader on either side of the war. The light leader was depicted in glistening white elven armor, with an angelic light shining around him; his long blonde hair streamed through the air behind him as his sword clashed with the leader on the dark side.

The dark leader was a woman in dark clothing with little armor. Her dark hair was braided down her back and magical shadows whipped around her, clinging to everything within reach, face twisted with rage.

He heard footsteps come to a stop directly behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he nodded and strode through his office door. Two of his attendants followed him inside and stood before his desk as he took his seat.

Waving a hand, gesturing for the two to tell him the news, "Out with it."

The shorter of the two nodded, "The academy representatives are asking which locations are allowed for the Intrepide this year, sir."

The other stepped forward, "They also want permission to incorporate certain creatures."

The two laid a set of papers on his desk with listed locations and creatures they were interested in using. He read over them for a moment, marking out which creatures that would not be allowed for safety reasons as well as the ones that were simply too much of a hindrance for him to deal with. The locations on the list were all 'mythical' cities and dungeons from history, such as Atlantis, Babylon, and even some of the more obscure pyramids not yet touched by human excavation sits, hidden from those who'd destroy their history or exploit their resources for their own pleasure. He handed the paper back without marking any of them out.

The aids looked at him in surprise after exchanging a look, "Sir, some of these places are too dangerous for students. Are you sure these are all okay?" the shorter asked.

Lucian nodded, "Why not? The representatives have good judgments. Have they decided who's competing yet?"

"They haven't yet but they will announce those chosen as leaders in the next couple weeks, sir," the tallest of the two spoke up.

He had a feeling of a few who might be chosen. The children of prominent families were almost always chosen to compete to show their skills and bring honor to their bloodlines.

He looked up to see they were still gawking at him and sighed, raising his eyebrows, "What else is there?"

The two looked at each other again before the shorter of the two spoke, "Headmaster Kalarook would like to know what you intend to do about security at the academy? It seems a student witnessed the murder of Connor Byron and the dark magic witches who killed him. He'd like to ensure that nothing like that happens again."

Lucian sighed, "I'll speak with the king and the other advisors about sending more guards to protect the school grounds. Also, I'd like to speak with the student who witnessed this. Who was it?"

"Viola Silva, the new unknown, Reid and Cecilia Silva's daughter," he explained to which the taller nodded his agreement.

This would make things complicated. The witness was not only a witch and unpredictable unknown but the daughter of a powerful bloodline. He'd have to make an appointment with the headmaster to meet with the girl soon to find out what she'd seen exactly.

He waved his hand to the aids, "That's enough, you two can go now. Let the headmaster know that I'll be dropping by to speak with the Silva girl before the beginning of next month and that I'll contact the rest of the advisors and the king on the matter of more security around the school. Let the student representatives know the allowed competition locations and the like as well."

Viola stretched her arms over her head, trying to work the soreness from her back and shoulders from spending hours on the floor. She watched as Xenos shuffled his tarot cards in front of Dani.

"What do you want to ask the cards, Dani?" he asked as he continued shuffling.

Dani frowned in thought, tapping a crimson tipped finger to her chin. "I can't think of anything," she said with a pout.

Xenos nodded, "That's fine! We'll do a three card reading then! Past, Present, and Future is always good."

Viola looked between them curiously. The three of them and Bion had spent most of the evening sitting at a low table playing games and eating snacks in the lounge between the dorms. Now, Xenos was teaching, or attempting to teach, Viola tarot reading. So far the whole process was gibberish to her.

Xenos shuffled the cards with practiced confidence before splitting the deck into three, gesturing for Dani to pick one. Once she had, fanned out the cards for her, "Now pick three cards," he stated.

She pointed to the three cards she chose as Xenos placed those three in the middle of the table in the order that she picked them.

Xenos grinned at Dani before glancing to Viola. "Okay, so we start with the first card she picked, that's passed," he said as he flipped it over. "This is the six of swords to represent your past.

Upright, the six of swords basically just means obstacles overcome," he flipped over the remaining two cards, "Present is the eight of wands, and future is the page of cups."

Dani nodded, beating Viola to the question, "So what do those two mean?"

"The eight of wands is the card of hope. So right now, things are going good and you're in a time of good news and hope," he explained as he pointed to the third and last card, "The page of cups is the card of imagination or a message. Generally, you'll get a spark of imagination or some kind of message of good news."

Viola considered that for a moment, "So she overcame some kind of obstacle, now she's in a time of hope where things are looking up, and she will get some kind of news or idea?"

Xenos nodded, "Pretty much it," he said as he began gathering up the deck of tarot cards once again. "Do you want to try, Vi?"

She looked at the deck curiously, "Is this something witches need to know how to do?"

Bion laughed, "The only witches who regularly use this type of divination are those with an interest for it or have a talent for it."

"But it's still good for all witches to know how this stuff works! Tarot card reading goes back thousands of years, it's used for so much more than fortune telling. Witches use it to find omens of different kinds and to help with decision making," Xenos explained.

"It's not as if that's the only way witches today are able to find warning signs," a new voice spoke, as someone approached their small table.

Viola twisted in her place on the floor to see a girl her age, striding up to their table. She was a tall, slim Indian girl with long ebony black hair tied up into a tight braid down her back. The way she sauntered toward them reminded her of the way she'd seen Sphinx walk into the house after having run off a mouse or bird.

Her startling cat green eyes fell on Viola after a moment of considering the cards. She suddenly held a hand out to her, "My name is Jaya Singh, you're Viola Silva, right?"

Viola hesitantly took her hand to shake, noticing for the first time that she had an English accent, "Yeah, that's me. Why do you ask?"

Jaya laughed, "Sorry to throw you off, you're the talk of the school right now. The witch who intrigued an entire school in a couple of weeks."

"What did I do?" she asked suddenly, vaguely noticing Bion and Xenos snickering to themselves.

"Nothing, you're just Professor Silva's younger sister and a daughter of the Silva clan. That makes you kind of a big deal here," she explained, smiling.

"I didn't realize my family had such a big influence here," she answered, still confused.

Xenos laughed, "That's not surprising actually, the Silva clan is one of the few founding witch clans here in Fidonia that don't feel the need to make sure everyone knows it."

"Is it a big deal or something?" Viola asked, looking around at Jaya and her friends.

Dani shook her head, "It is and it isn't. In Fidonia, the six founding races all have important prominent families. Like the vampires have the Dragomir clan-"

"And Santi," Bion butted in causing Dani to get him a pout before she continued.

"The elves have a lot of important clans as do the Dwarves. Most people just keep up with those of their own race, and the current leaders of Fidonia," Dani finished, shooting Bion a small glare that he returned with a grin.

Viola nodded, "That all makes sense but I had no idea that my family was one of those. I've never even met my grandparents."

"And that is the other reason you're so interesting, Viola," Jaya added. "You're from one of the important witch families but you have no idea how things work here. A lot of us here, have never been anywhere but Fidonia, it makes you interesting. Also, and I think I speak for all the noble family kids when I say this-we're jealous of your freedom."

"You're from one too?" Viola asked suddenly.

Dani nodded, "Yeah, Jaya is from the Singh Tiger clan. They're a noble were family but they're important outside of Fidonia too. Big trading business in India and the United Kingdom."

Viola sighed, "I think the longer I stay here, the more complicated things are getting. At least that explains the funny looks people give me when I'm walking down the hall."

Karma crawled into her lap with a huff, Or it could be because of the rumors that you'll electrocute someone.

"Karma! That's just mean-" Viola pouted as Delphi slithered across her shoulders.

Vi'ssss temper really sssssparkss, the snake said with a hissing laugh.

Jaya lowered herself to the floor by Viola with a laugh, "Do you guys mind if I join you for a bit?"

Turning to the others who shrugged in response, Viola nodded, "I don't mind. So," Viola started, looking at the thick black braid thrown over Jaya's shoulder, "you said that most people haven't been outside of Fidonia, but your family runs a business in India and England, doesn't that mean you've visited those places?"

Jaya shrugged, "Kinda but I've never gotten to interact with humans who weren't witches. I was never allowed to leave my family's estate without a guardian or my parents and then when I began classes at Naessaria, I stopped leaving Fidonia all together."

Viola turned to the other three, "What about the three of you? Have you ever left Fidonia?" she asked curiously.

Dani shook her head, "No, but for vampires, we need a special amulet or something like it to protect us from the sunlight outside of Fidonia, so it's just safer here for us, especially when we're not adults yet."

"Adult vampires don't burn in the sunlight?"

"Adult pureblood vampires exposed to sunlight isn't automatic death, young purebloods can withstand it for longer than those of us who were turned but it's highly dangerous," she explained. "So we prefer to stay here, or only visit places where there is little sunlight without the amulet."

Viola wondered for a moment what it meant to be trapped in one location for all your life, from fear of danger like it was for Dani. She turned to Bion and Xenos, "What about you two?"

Bion shrugged, "I was born New York City and lived there with my mother until I was about ten, when," he tapped one of his horns, "these things started sprouting up." He shrugged as he turned to look at Xenos, "you?"

Xenos blinked, "I was born here but my parents were Roma witches who traveled around so I guess you could say I'm from everywhere."

Viola smiled, glad for the chance to find out more about her new friends. It was nice being able to get closer to them like this, especially to Dani. She was slow to open up to her, even if they shared a room.

She spotted the intricate design of a dragon with its wings folded stitched in orange over the breast pocket of Jaya's sweater, "Oh! So you're in the advanced course?"

The tiger was glanced down at her shirt before looking up at Viola with a smile, "Yeah, why?"

"I just noticed, are you going to sign up for the Intrepide?" she asked curiously. Now that Viola had more understanding of the competition itself, she couldn't help but be curious about how it would play out.

The girl shook her head, "I don't think so, I'd rather just be on someone else's team." She shrugged, "I'm a tiger so I'm a skilled hunter and runner but the test sites always require more than just raw strength, I'm not sure I'm cut out for a leadership role."

Karma sniffed at Jaya from her place in Viola's lap, I think you'd do well in the competition but maybe being responsible for your teammates is too much for one person.

Jaya looked down at Karma curiously, "I see your familiar is a fox. I've heard that a witch's familiar represents them as a person, does that mean you're wily and cunning like a fox?" she asked with a playful smile.

Dani laughed and rubbed a hand over Karma's head, "If it's based on Karma specifically, I'd say it means that Vi is hungry and lazy."

Karma huffed, I am not lazy! Vi is very clever and nimble!

Viola smiled, running her fingers through Karma's red fur, "I wouldn't say Karma is exactly cunning, she always has my best interest in heart and despite her teasing, I know she's there for me. I don't think it's bad to have the traits of a fox."

The fox hummed quietly, content with Viola's statement but otherwise remained silent.

"Do weres have the personality traits of the animal they transform into?" she asked curiously, turning to Jaya again.

Bion shrugged in thought, "Gideon certainly behaves like a territorial bear."

Dani sighed, "Gideon is as big as a bear in his human form and he lets his size go to his head. He's just overly impressed with himself because he gets to be Victor's lackey."

Jaya laughed, "Gideon is a bad example, but yes since a lot of weres are predators we all have an aggressive side. I can't really speak for all were clans but my family holds the values of a tiger dearly; fearless, confident, determined, powerful, and competitive."

Viola grinned, "Bet I could outrun you in your human form," she teased. She missed her little races with Chloe and thought that since she couldn't go home and see her best friend, maybe she should challenge Jaya and the others to races instead.

Jaya grinned excitedly. "You're on. What do you want to bet?" she asked then suggested, "How about the loser does the winner's homework?"

She was about to respond when Bion interrupted her, "I don't think you want, Vi doing your homework, Jaya," he said with a laugh.

Viola pouted at him but she understood his meaning, she was new and therefore, didn't know enough about witches and Fidonia, let alone what an advanced class weretiger might have to know.

How about the loser has to admit that the other is the better runner? Karma suggested, swishing her tail back and forth, A prideful witch and weretiger would never willingly admit something like that.

Viola considered it for a moment, Karma was right, Viola took pride in being one of the fastest on her track team, and making sure to compete regularly with Chloe to prove herself. Jaya was a tiger, of course, she'd never admit to being outrun by a human, no less.

The weretiger quickly hopped to her feet, grinning enthusiastically, "You're on, Silva. Let's go now."

She laughed and quickly disentangled herself from the snake and fox who'd made themselves comfortable on her, "Out in the courtyard behind the dorms?" she asked

Jaya nodded, her grin never faltering as she turned to lead the way. Viola followed along behind her as the others laughed and began to gather their things to watch.

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