CHAPTER 1: Aerlyn

CHAPTER 1: Aerlyn

She sat hunched in her dormitory, the words of the Professor echoing around her head. How could they just be erased? She glared at the door, willing it to open; yet the lock remained firm, and the sobbing of the girl beside her began to get on her nerves. What had she to live for anyway? She didn't have much of a life outside the door of this cabin. She lived on a farm, milking cows, heck, her parents probably hadn't even noticed her absence. Yet, her anger was short lived and she soon rose from the wooden bed, moving to the windowsill and staring out over the elaborate grounds before her. Perhaps it wouldn't be that bad after all.

"Hello?" a voice piped up from the shadows, and Aerlyn turned to the voice, her face silhouetted by the blue light of the moon. "Who are you?" she retorted quickly, and to her surprise another girl emerged from the darkness.

"Rael" she replied softly, joining Aerlyn by the window. "You? Where you from?", she pushed her blonde hair behind her ears and scanned the premises of the room.

"Aerlyn, the South" she replied and then staring at the girl the two examined the room. There were five girls in the dormitory, and one of them in hysterics. Aerlyn sat beside her and urging the younger girl to sit up, wiped away her tears. "Hey, hey" she cooed, until the sobbing of the girl subsided. "Why are you crying?"

"My family! My mother. I'll never see them again," the girl continued, and Aerlyn listened patiently.

The room remained in darkness, and slowly the five girls congregated together, leaning against the windowsill and talking in low hushed whispers. The youngest, Jame, the one who was crying wiped a tear from her face and looked bitterly at the wooden walls. "I don't want to be a Protector" she whispered after a moment "I don't like dragons."

Aerlyn smiled, anything had to be better than her previous life. Amria, a pretty girl with long black hair comforted the snivelling girl once again, rocking back on her hands and letting the pearly glow of the moon play over her face. "I wonder when dinner is," she muttered after a while, to which the others nodded in agreement.

"It's a small class" a pale girl piped up, her blonde hair short, and stuck behind her ears. She hadn't spoken until then, and now the four faces were upon her.

"It is" Aerlyn agreed, it seemed she was the only one unaffected by the idea of change. Jame passed a comment about one of the boys and the rest of them laughed. The pale girl, later identifying herself as Amelie pulled herself tighter into the circle.

"I suppose they won't really miss me" she mumbled darkly, tracing circles on the dusty floorboards, and glancing up occasionally as the odd glance was passed around the circle. A dry bell sounded, and instantly they jumped to their feet, a chorus of noise erupted in the passage, and they trudged wearily to the door. Rael tried the handle, and in some surprise found that the originally locked door was now unlocked.

"Strange" she mumbled entering the hall. An older girl walked stiffly past and Rael stepped out gingerly. "I think it's dinner time" she mumbled, as the aroma's of cooked meat met her nostrils. The others plundered out of the room, tramping down the frail steps until they entered the great hall. 40 students stood clustered in the hall, each lined in an anticipating line to get the food that was to be served. A couple groaned as a grey gruel was mounded on their plates, and took their seats complanitivley, spooning the lumpy mixture around in hunger.

Aerlyn joined the line, standing behind a much older student. She turned her nose up as she flashed her senior card and gathered the beef patty that she was offered. A mound of gruel was mounded onto her plate. Crinkling her nose, she took it to a table, where she sat alone, spooning the glue-like mixture around in detest. She sighed; it was going to be a long year. Whilst she shovelled the foul substance into her mouth, she glanced around the room; there was a huge age distribution, from 6 year olds to 25 year olds. She wondered if she was accidentally chosen.

When everyone was seated, Professor Ceph stood up again and with a smirk on his face said "I see you don't like the gruel". There was a loud groan from the older students who had taken it upon themselves to fling the substance at each other. "It is high in protein, a most certain benefit for class tonight. You will need to eat it, to succeed. For those who refuse to eat it, it will be a humbling experience, and only once you have all accepted it, will it start getting better."

Aerlyn forced another spoonful into her mouth, but pursed her lips together tightly to stop the gagging. Her eyes were watering, and she pushed the bowl away, her attempts at swallowing it futile. A cold hand touched her shoulder, and she jumped, spinning around to see the Professor.

"Can't eat?" he asked coldly. The talk in the room died down to hushed whisper as all eyes turned to her.

"I'm not hungry" she mumbled, dropping her eyes and locking her hands under the table.

"Not hungry?" he snarled, and with a smirk, he dropped his hands over the surface of the table, and from beneath them formed a plate of hot steaming food. The aroma washed around the room, and she felt her stomach begin to rumble.

"No" she mumbled, keeping her voice steady, but a deep growl of her stomach betrayed her and the plate disappeared from sight, only to be replaced with the now cold bowl of gruel.

"Eat!" he ordered and shoved the bowl beneath her nose. She hesitantly picked up the spoon, and glaring at him coldly lifted a shaking spoonful to her lips. As he walked off, he lowered his voice so that only she would hear, "eat, or you won't survive". She stared down at her bowl once again, and although she could barely stomach the foul substance, she had a strange inclination that the food wasn't just to satisfy their hunger, it might be for something else.

The hall was now silent as they ate quickly, emptying their bowls as quickly as possible, so as to not draw out the disgust. They rose silently, placed their bowls on the cleaning rack and headed noiselessly back up to their rooms. Again, she resumed her place on the windowsill, drawing her knees up to her chest, and wrapping her arms around them.

"Aerlyn!" Rael whispered from the darkness of the room, and she started awake "we have to go". She staggered to her feet sleepily and followed her out.

"Where are we going?" Rael shrugged, following the crowd of students from the building.

"I think we are meeting the dragons."