The Heir of the Dragon
Blake was grateful to hear that when the professor brought them to their rooms, it was because their luggage had already been deposited in the hallway for them to unpack. He had been getting pestered with questions all day about his family, and there was only so many ways he could tell his curious classmates that he wasn’t interested in discussing the topic. The professor said they would not be needed again until the celebratory opening dinner to welcome the new students, and he was content to lock himself away in his room and hide the key until then.
“You’ll be rooming with two other members of your cohort,” Professor Darkflame explained to the students as they began to gather their things. “The rooms on the left will be for the girls and the rooms on the right will be for the boys. Choose whoever you want to room with, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Indeed it didn’t, because a few moments after giving that explanation he had already departed, leaving the children to their own devices.
Some teacher, Blake wryly noted.
A lot of students had already worked out who they wanted to stay with. It was mainly the girls who had sorted themselves out quickly, which wasn’t surprising as there were less of them, even if only by a difference of one student. Amy had already chatted up a few roommates while Sabine Scarlet had already claimed a room, chastising two other girls who were carrying in large designer suitcases. And Chloe Bellajean had skipped that step entirely, striding into the closest room to her without even bothering to grab her luggage, no doubt resuming her nap.
On the boys’ side of things, the prince had determined his group rather fast, ushering Rafe and Est into one of the rooms. He was no less hostile since learning Blake’s identity. The two shared a cold look from across the hall. There were, of course, several other guys who came up to Blake asking him if he’d like to room with them. He’d politely turned them down, not interested in their company (or their annoying questions).
Blake ended up rooming with Ark, who Blake had asked for the sole reason that the aloof student expressed no interest in Blake or his family at all, and a boy named Ryan who seemed friendly enough, and had asked fewer questions than most of the other students. Even while unpacking, he only asked Blake once if he was going to unpack his duffel bag, and accepted the “no” with a good-hearted smile and then promptly shut up.
The peace and quiet was exactly what Blake needed to relax after the stress that had risen from being exposed as Blake Harker.
Blake received some looks from the other students in his cohort for lugging the heavy duffel bag with him to the dining hall, but he didn’t really care what they thought. The alternative was leaving his bag back in his room… and even with the fact that it could only be opened by a key, Blake wasn’t going to let the bag out of his sight.
As a child, the last thing his mother had ever given him was five dragon eggs. It was the last remaining treasure of the Harker family. And on his way out, he had also obtained a sword that he had later learned was named Soulfire. Both that sword and the eggs were now safely stored in his duffle bag, to keep anyone from getting their hands on them.
Thankfully, no one really knew what was in it. They just thought he was odd to be lugging it around. He didn’t mind being odd. It would actually help him keep his private matters private.
The main dining hall was quite a sight to see, even larger than the auditorium, maybe twice the size. If the hall of his ancestral home could seat dragons, then the ceiling many stories above his head would give one room enough to stretch their wings and fly! Lined across the room were a great many long tables, clearly designed for cohorts to share as they each sat thirty. At the center of the room was a large raised stage, and beside it a round table with room enough for fifty, around which the teachers and faculty sat, talking with one another over plates of food.
And the food! Blake had been so stunned by the sheer size of the ancient stone chamber that it had completely slipped his mind! But now, he could smell the odor of countless delicacies wafting his way from the far side of the room. He started to drool as he saw large tables lining the walls, covered in all manner of treats, blood-red steaks and full-roasted chickens, fancy cakes and mounds of pastries stacked high towards the ceiling. He stared enviously, wondering if this was the sort of feast that nobles enjoyed every day.
After filling his plate with a large steak he never would have been able to eat back home with a small mountain of mashed potatoes at the side, he sat down at the large table that had been assigned to the first years in the Stars cohort, sitting at a corner seat to minimize his interaction with his fellow students. He set the duffel on the floor beside him and began digging in.
“Heya Blake!” Amy plopped down next to him with a big grin on her face. “Ain’t it like, totally boss we’re in the same cohort?!”
“...Sure,” Blake said, at least trying to be polite to the girl.
“So, didya know that you’re the talk of the school?” Amy asked.
Blake was aware.
“Yeah, I was talking to my roommates about it, and they were all like ‘unbelievable, a Harker is still alive?’ and ‘I wonder how strong he really is’ and ‘where’s he been hiding all this time?’ just stuff like that. Oh, look, there they are!”
Amy waved at Audrey Angelique and Nina Marslow, who nodded her way but sat at the other end of the table regardless, though Amy didn’t seem to mind.
“Oh! Look, it’s Elly! Elly, Elly, over here! Over here!”
Amy waved frantically at the startled girl, who was staring back at them with fear in her eyes like she was facing a phantom beast. Amy was still calling out to her though, and people were starting to look her way. It didn’t take long before the startled girl scurried over to them.
“C’mon, sit!” Amy said, patting the seat beside her.
“Uhum, um…” Elly eyed the table that was starting to fill up with other students. She turned to look at Blake. She lowered her head, and Blake barely caught her mumbling “can I… sit between you two?”
“Sure thing!” Amy chirped, scooting over to make room for Elly to sit down. Elly slid onto the bench and seemed to shrink, slouching over and lowering her head.
“No meat?” Amy asked, surprised at Elly’s choice of dinner. It was filled with fresh vegetables and sweets, but nothing else.
“Um… I don’t… I don’t eat meat,” Elly replied. Blake glanced at the assortment of meats strewn across Amy’s plate, noting that the two girls couldn’t be more different.
“Well, look who it is!”
Elly nearly jumped from her seat at the sound of the girl’s voice. Blake glanced up at the three girls in front of him, a blonde and a tall brunette flanking a ghost of his past. It had been ten years since he’d last laid eyes on Sabine Scarlet, and those years had left a lifetime of changes. No trace of the pudgy-faced girl from his childhood play-dates remained. The big green eyes that shined with laughter in his memories were now narrowed and combative, like she was spoiling for a fight. Her plump lips were curled into a sneer that made her otherwise-beautiful features repulsive, and it was only by the familiar red hue of her silky-soft hair that he could recognize his old friend at all.
“Is that what you’re having for dinner?” She snorted, glancing scornfully at Elly’s plate. “No wonder you’re so scrawny.”
Elly lowered her head to stare at her lap. Blake could see her face turning crimson.
“I’m serious you know, a balanced diet is essential,” the redhead continued. “Maybe your awful mana level is because you’re malnourished. It can’t be that you were born such a pathetic failure.”
“Hey, come on now,” Amy said, her smile falling from her face for the first time. “Leave her alone, we’re a cohort. You shouldn’t pick on her.”
“Well, I don’t consider her a part of our cohort,” Sabine snapped, crossing her arms in front of her chest and tilting her nose up contemptuously. “Seriously, such a meek, pathetic little girl like her? She’ll just drag the rest of us down! We’ve already got one empty slot; we don’t need her here serving as another one. She’s just some no-name failure from who-knows-where, no one would miss her if she just dropped out, you know!”
“I would,” Amy protested. “And so would Blake, right?”
Blake didn’t answer her.
“There’s no point in sinking to her level, Amy,” Blake calmly replied. “She’s the one who’s really a no-name failure, after all.”
“What was that?!” Sabine snapped.
“The Scarlet Family? Someone from a house of your standing shouldn’t be going around acting like she’s queen of the skies,” Blake said.
“That’s… my family isn’t-!” Sabine continued to sputter, turning as red as her hair.
“It’s pretty pitiful that you need to talk down to people to feel superior to them now, Sabine. Nothing like back when you burst into tears because you tripped and got your brand new dress all dirty,” Blake coldly taunted, relishing in the frustration burning on her face. “Now it seems like you’re the kind of person who pushes other girls into the mud instead.”
“You-! You remember that?” Sabine gasped, her jaw dropping. He could see the realization dawning in her eyes. “You… then you really are-! I thought it was a lie, but… but… but how did-?! They said you…”
Blake didn’t have any intention of answering that, turning back to his food as Sabine’s face went pale.
“Thank you,” Elly told him softly enough that Sabine probably couldn’t hear.
While Sabine sulked and Amy continued to pester him with questions that he ignored, Blake continued to eat his food in peace. He finished his plate before he realized it, but his stomach just continued to growl. He was still hungry, who could blame him with all the delicious choices available? He rose from his seat and took his plate back to the buffet for seconds, glancing cautiously at the duffel bag he left behind. With everyone around, no one would steal it, right?
He had his eye on a particularly large and steamy roast that was positively oozing crimson juices onto the tray. He wasn’t entirely certain he could finish it, but the food here was so good that couldn’t help himself. But as he moved to grab it he hit the tongs of someone else.
“O-Oh, excuse me,” Blake said, looking over to see a girl staring right at him. She tilted her head to the side in a quizzical look, a smile pulled across her face as her shiny eyes narrowed.
“Nonsense,” she murmured, her alluring voice touching his ear with a tickling sweetness that made his heart flutter in surprise. “I was enjoying picking out food the usual way, but please, be my guest. You’re a first year?”
“Yeah,” Blake said, regaining his composure. The pretty girl had thrown him off for a second, but he wasn’t going to let her distract him and make a fool of himself. That was what he thought, when she suddenly stepped closer to him, closing her eyes and taking a deep sniff. Her sweet apple perfume tickled his nose and he stumbled back, his heart pounding in his chest.
What… what was that? He asked himself, startled by this odd girl. He took a closer look, but he didn’t recognize her from the first years. She had hair of a golden hue so light it was practically white, cut short to frame a dazzlingly gorgeous face. Her bangs fell like feathers over her eyes, gray and glittering with swirls of brown, green, and blue. Looking closely she was older than he had first thought, older than him by at least a few years, with a strange twinkle in her eye like she was laughing at some private joke. Most odd about her was the feather she tucked behind her ear, a feather from a bird he had never seen before. Like her eyes, it caught the light as she turned her head, shining a myriad of colors. She stepped into his space again and leaned in closer, her eyes shining even brighter. He felt himself being so drawn into those oddly-colored eyes that he had to take another step back again to keep from losing his balance.
“…Fu,” the girl’s laughter was the soft lilting ring of wind chimes, ringing out in a soothing tone that made him relax. While this girl was certainly odd, he didn’t feel at all put-off by her.
“Your mana is so fascinating,” she said. “I wonder what that burning scent that’s lingering in it is, it smells quite nice.”
She stepped aside and swept her hand towards the steak that Blake had completely forgotten about, reaching past it and taking a thin slab of roast pork instead. She stepped past him and strolled away, the faint scent of apples lingering in the air around him. Blake shook his head, his thoughts returning to clarity without that odd girl throwing him off. He took the steak and headed back to his table.
Sabine’s sulky mood had improved by the time Blake returned to the table, much to his irritation. She was in the middle of gossiping with her friends, and thanks to her grating voice, his steak didn’t taste as good as it should have.
“Hey, look over there!” Sabine said. “It’s the Sky Crests!”
“Sky Crests?” Amy looked over her shoulder at where Sabine was pointing. “What? Who?”
“Ugh, don’t you know anything?” Sabine scoffed. “They’re the pinnacle of the school! The greatest students who are always at the top of their classes, so talented they’ve been recognized by the Magic Association themselves! Anyone who’s anyone who came from the Rem Magic Academy was awarded with a Sky Crest by the school.”
“They look really stuck up to me,” Sabine’s blonde friend commented.
“It’s not being ‘stuck up’ if you’re actually better than others, Mindy. The Sky Crests are the best of the best, like her. Reed Rivers!”
Elly gasped, her head shooting up from her plate so fast that Blake was startled himself. He raised his head and turned to look in the same direction Elly was. There was a smaller table than the one the cohorts were sitting at, with a group of older students sitting around it. Blake did a double take. Surrounded by other students was the blonde girl he had just spoken with. Looking at her from a distance and not caught up in those eyes of hers, he noticed now that her uniform was different from theirs; every student at that table’s was! They all wore dark coats. But he didn’t pay the other students any mind, his attention devoted solely to the blonde, not noticing that she had glanced up from her food until he found himself caught up in those eyes again. She smiled at him and gave him a wave.
“Who’s Reed Rivers?” Amy asked.
Blake blinked, snapped out of his trance by Elly’s shout, turning towards the meek girl. He didn’t expect her to be the one to speak out like this.
“She’s a prodigy,” Elly explained. “She’s the youngest student to earn a Sky Crest! She’s one of the most talented students to attend the Rem Magic Academy, and she’s only in her third year, she’s amazing!”
“Why, you’re too sweet!” the blonde girl laughed. “Thank you for your kind words!”
Everyone reacted in shock at the older student’s sudden appearance among them.
“Wha… how?!” Elly sputtered, her eyes going wide as saucers. Blake felt similarly. Seconds before, he had been looking at her from across the room, and then when he glanced away, here she was, resting her elbow on the table and leaning over, joining in on the conversation like it was nobody’s business.
“Where’d you come from?!” Amy gasped. “That was, like, super-fast! You’re even faster than my sister!”
“Magic, of course,” the girl named Reed replied, standing up straight and giving Amy a wink. Now that she was standing, Blake could make out her clothes in better detail. Her coat was black with white trim, and silver buttons emblazoned with the school’s emblem danced in the light. It was longer than he’d expected, trailing down her back and flared opened to show her legs. On the collar he could make out a tiny badge clipped on bearing the royal seal, what Blake assumed to be the Sky Crest.
“Magic?” Sabine asked, leaning in closer, intrigued. The entire table was turned in the direction of the older student as she laughed, just as drawn in by the allure of a Sky Crest student.
Reed swirled her finger through the air and held her palm out. To Blake’s amazement, the air around her palm began to look a little strange, like it was bending or being twisted. A thin hole swirled into existence in the space above her hand, and from its depths a shiny red apple fell into her grasp. She lifted it up to her mouth and took a big, juicy bite.
“What was that?!” Amy gasped. Blake quietly shared in her astonishment, not at all sure what he had just seen either. It was like the air itself had torn open and an apple had magically fallen out of it.
“Dimensional transfer magic,” Elly quietly answered.
“How would you know?” Sabine snorted.
“Right on the money,” Reed winked at Elly, the shy girl blushing and turning her head away in surprise.
“That’s impossible,” Sabine protested. “I thought you needed to do, like, special rituals and a magic circle to create a dimensional rift!”
“Well of course, but that was such an inefficient system,” Reed explained, taking a few more bites of her apple. “So I decided to make it a smidgeon more convenient, and now I can create dimensional rifts like that!”
She punctuated her sentence with a snap of her fingers, another hole tearing itself in space, which she discarded the apple core into.
The entire cohort stared in as stunned of a silence as Blake was, everyone blown away by the older girl’s performance.
“Isn’t magic impressive?” Reed laughed. “But there are a lot of interesting things in this world, wouldn’t you say?”
Reed turned her smile on Blake.
“Blake Harker, isn’t that right?”
Blake gasped. He hadn’t told her his name.
“Word has spread, I hear your family members ride dragons.”
“Dragons are extinct,” Blake coldly replied.
“Oh, poo,” she huffed. “Are you sure? I’d love it if you could show me a dragon with my own two eyes.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” Blake scowled.
“Oh? So… then what’s this?” Reed held her hand up and the air warped into another portal, a large round egg appearing from within it. She presented it to Blake, the sky-blue egg shining in the light, waves of cream whirling across the small, smooth scales.
Blake’s blood went cold. How… how did she…?
“This is a dragon egg, isn’t it?” Reed asked, her voice sounding hopeful as she stared at it, her eyes shining with childish glee. “It’s so warm, how can you say that the dragons are extinct when you have such a lovely thing as-“
Blake didn’t even let her finish, lunging from his seat towards her. But she was gone before he could reach her, easily side-stepping him as he stumbled forward.
“Now, now, I just wanted a peek, it’s rude of you to hide such a treasure in your bag,” Reed said, running her other hand tenderly along the egg. She winced slightly as she touched it and pulled her hand back, but her smile didn’t falter. “Don’t worry, I could never hurt this precious thing…”
“Give it back!” Blake shouted, whirling around and grabbing her by the collar. How could he have been so careless?! He was supposed to protect the last dragon eggs, and this girl had just snatched one from him like it was nothing! He tightened his grip on her coat, closing his other hand into a fist.
“Do you see the emblem on my collar?” Reed asked, raising her hand and pointing at the small silver badge. “It’s the Sky Crest. A word from your upper classmate in a fellow Stars Cohort, while all forms of violence at the Rem Magic Academy are discouraged, the faculty doesn’t pay much mind to the normal goings on, that’s been my experience here.”
She patted him on the head.
“But the one kind of violence that there is absolutely zero tolerance for at this school is the unapproved use of magic against another member of the student body. That will result in immediate expulsion - with one exception.”
Reed raised her hand and snapped her fingers, and Blake quickly found he had no ground to stand on. His hand slipped from the girl’s collar and she rose up to tower above him, or more accurately, he began sinking quickly down into a portal opening beneath his feet. Scrambling to stay balanced, he sunk into the portal up to his chest, his arms scrabbling desperately on the floor to keep him from falling into who knows where.
“Those of us with Sky Crests are permitted to use magic in order to resolve student conflicts,” Reed informed him, kneeling down next to the portal. She reached out and tussled his hair, her tone not even threatening. It reminded him of the way his aunt used to tease their dog.
“Don’t act up next time, okay?” She scolded him. “If a rowdy nail is sticking out, you gotta hammer it in, ‘kay?”
“Uh…” Blake didn’t know what to say right now.
“Here, you can have it back,” Reed said, setting the egg down on top of the duffel bag gently. With another snap of her fingers, Blake felt the portal around him grow wider and wider, and suddenly he wasn’t holding onto the floor anymore but tumbling through the darkness, falling, falling…
…Right into his seat. He blinked in confusion. The portal had dropped him right where he had been moments earlier. He felt his steak begin to come back up on him. Whatever that magic was, his body wasn’t responding well to it. His head still spinning, he caught Reed giving him a smile and a wave as she walked away, leaving him with multiple people rushing to talk to him about the egg they had just seen, and what it was like to be the subject of her magic.