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TAoCD ch2: Welcome

Clementine claimed the seat farthest from the front in history class. Back here, he could get a good look at everyone he'd be sharing this room with for the rest of the semester. More particularly, he eyed the hands of each student as they made their way in and chose their seats. Not one possessed a Ravenblood ring, and in his disappointment, he sighed quietly and leaned back in his seat.

          As much as he wanted to give names and faces to his enemies, he knew he had to be patient. Yesterday was the first day of the semester, and killing Harrison had been a very risky move, but he'd gotten away with it. He'd not tempt fate, though. He got lucky that someone had decided to attack Molly that same night, or he might have been found in that library before he could flee the scene.

          There wasn't so much chatter among the thirty or so students in the class, but when Professor Warren glided into the room, his robe swaying like a grim reapers cloak, the students fell into total silence.

          The man's crimson eyes flickered from student to student, and as he reached his desk, he pulled a thick, leather-bound book from beneath it. The sound the collision made echoed around the gloomy room, bounding off the oak panelled walls and vibrating through the rib-vaulted ceiling. He had everyone's attention.

          "Good morning," he called, his voice something of a rumble. "I am Professor Warren, Aldergrove's renowned keeper of history. I have been here long enough to have taught some of your great great grandparents, and it brings me a certain joy to be lecturing for yet another semester."

          Warren moved around from behind his desk and started pacing in front of the silent, staring students. His tawny skin glistened in what little light managed to break through the trees outside and in through the room's tall, arching windows.

          He held his hands behind his back. "Aldergrove has existed for centuries and serves as an opportunity for ten of a hundred students. You should all take great pride in knowing that you have been chosen to take part in this semester, but you must also be cautious. It has been said that students are attacked here—that students die here. This is true. Only the esteemed may pass and join the elite in the New World, and one way to prove you deserve such a title is to take out your any means necessary," he drawled.

          A choir of mumbles broke the silence, but as Warren held up his hand, the quiet returned.

          "However," the professor bellowed, "only those of you who are perceptive and astute can claim your place. Not only must you survive, but you must also remain discrete. That is Aldergrove's greatest challenge. Watch your backs, pass your classes, and claim your right to a life free of death and depravity," he called humbly.

          Clementine rolled his eyes as more than half the class hooted and hollered. He was well educated in all these people's beliefs—he had to be in order to get into the academy, but he thought it was all nonsense. While the rich and entitled fought over their right to live in a cruelty-free world, the people where Clementine had come from were slowly withering away in a dying cesspool with not even a slither of hope that they might get the same opportunities.

          "Now," Warren called, leaning back against his desk. "Today, we start with the history of Aldergrove. Who birthed this sacred land? Who ruled, lost, and fought for it?"

          With a quiet sigh, Clementine stared aimlessly. The morning was going to drag on.

          When Warren's lecture came to its eventual end, the class started filing out the door. Clementine stayed in his seat, reaching into his trouser pocket. He pulled out a gold pocket watch to see that it was three minutes past eleven—it was time for his meds.

          He got up, pulled his backpack from under his seat, and followed the stairs down to the classroom's floor. He followed the rest of the students out, navigated the crowded, gloomy corridors, and barged his way into the closest bathroom.

          Inside one of the two stalls, he locked the door and pulled the toilet's seat down, which he sat upon. As he rummaged around inside his bag, locating a silver fountain pen. Carefully, he unscrewed its top, and inside, there was no ink, but a line of his small, white pills instead. He knew he'd end up needing to take a few with him—he wasn't always going to be able to get back to his dorm when it was time to take them and missing a dose would burden him with the awful, persistent symptoms of his sickness.

          Clementine tipped the pen back, letting one of the pills fall into his hand, and as he placed it on his tongue and swallowed, he sighed quietly and leaned his head back against the wall.

          The bathroom door then creaked open. Clementine sat up, a shiver of angst slithering down his spine. He hadn't been caught, but the fear of doing so possessed him for a moment.

          "Brent deserved it," came the voice of one of the boys that had come into the bathroom.

          The clicking of balmoral shoes against the marble floor indicated there were either three or four of them, and where Clementine might usually just get up and leave without so much as a glare, he couldn't do that here. There were more of them than him, and everyone knew that wandering around alone here made it more likely you'd not see tomorrow. So he waited.

          "Who do you think did it?" came another voice over the sound of several streams of urine splashing against vitreous china.

          "She's a seelie; it could have been anyone."

          "Looked like a dog got her."

          "If you ask me, I'd say it was one of the Gibbous Bloods."

          One of them scoffed. "Please. My father says they're the most cowardly of all the wolf walkers here this year."

          "I heard their Alpha is a highly respected council member in the New World, though."

          "Not for long. My father says he's getting old—time to replace him, I think."

          As they all zipped up, their shoes clicked again...and the sound of running water drowned out their voices. But Clementine could still make out their conversation.

          "Brent will be lucky if she makes it another night in the hospital wing. Someone is bound to kill her—hell, I might just do it myself."

          "You really want to go down as the guy who killed a pathetic, defenceless seelie? Come on, Marcel. We all know you can do better than that—we all can."

          "Come on," one of them said as the door creaked open, "we've got to get to art class."

          As the door shut, and the sound of bustling students outside quietened, Clementine leaned back against the wall and let himself relax. He knew he had to get to art class, too, but every time he took his meds, a brief moment of fatigue would grip him. Just a few more minutes.

          The door opened again. This time, however, only a single pair of shoes tapped against the floor. He listened...but the footsteps of whoever was on the other side of his stall's door started to slow. Clementine frowned—they edged closer...closer...and as the stall's door shook, Clementine's heart skipped a beat.

          He scowled as the lock shifted—whoever was on the other side was trying to get in. "It's occupied!" he shouted without thinking, giving his lonesome self away.

          But to his relief, the footsteps started heading to his right and into the empty stall beside him.

          Once he heard the stall's door lock, he rolled his eyes and screwed his pen back together. Then, he packed it away, picked up his bag and unlocked his door—

          A cold hand snatched his throat in the blink of an eye, but he was quick to react. He grunted, dropping his bag—he gripped the wrist of his attacker with one hand and used his other to grab his shirt. But as his back hit the wall, he struggled, the grip around his throat tightening.

          Clementine found himself fighting for his life. He choked, suffocating. He tried to identify his attacker, but the lack of air in his lungs was blurring his vision. All he could see was a pair of shimmering, golden eyes and a grin possessing a pair of fangs. He let go of the guy's shirt and tried clawing at his face with his nails—he pulled on his wrist, but with each of his attempts to fight, he felt himself getting weaker. Was this it? Was he really about to die in a bathroom stall?

          Disoriented group laughter then broke through the ringing in Clementine's ears. He tried gasping for air, and through his blurred vision, he watched his attacker look back over his shoulder—was he going to get caught? Clementine sorely hoped...but as the laughter grew louder, he felt the grip on his throat relent; he was pulled away from the back wall, and instead pinned against the right. He still tried to fight, but all his strength had been sapped away. And just when he thought this attacker was going to kick the stall door shut to conceal his attempted murder, instead, he moved his blurred face into Clementines...and kissed him.

          Unsure whether he was horrified or confused, Clementine stood there. He still held his attacker's wrist, even when he moved it to the side of his face. It only took a few moments of freedom for his strength to start returning; he prepared to attack, clenching his fist—

          He sharply turned his head as a group of three boys stopped outside the stall, staring inside with disgusted glowers on their faces. Clementine couldn't make out what they were saying, but judging by their expressions, he was sure they were insults.

          His attacker let go of him and stormed out of the stall before Clementine had a chance to glance at his face, all he saw was his ashen hair and the back of his navy turtleneck sweater. He grasped his throat, stumbling forward—

          "What are you looking at, fag?" the tallest of the three snapped.

          Bug-eyed and utterly dumbfounded, Clementine frowned and did his best to compose himself.

          "You can't say that," the boy to his left uttered, nudging his shoulder.

          "I can say whatever I want—it's true," he argued. Then, he looked at Clementine again. "Go on," he snarled. "Follow your little boyfriend."

          He wasn't about to stand there and argue with them. Whatever they were assuming, it wasn't the case, but he not only wanted to get the hell out of there, he also had no energy to plead his case to three irrelevant people. The word he'd said had sparked anger within Clementine, but all that mattered right now was that he was alive, and he wasn't about to tempt fate by arguing with a trio of fairly disgusted-looking kids.

          Confused and embarrassed, he snatched his bag from the floor, stormed past them and left the bathroom. As shaken as he was, he couldn't let it get to him. Someone had just tried to kill him...and if he showed how shaken he was, they may very well try again.

TAoCD ch2: Text
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TAoCD ch2: Image
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