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I felt a bit irritated. After a little while, Mahesh finally came to a halt at the end of a broad street. He opened an iron gate and went inside, I following him. Inside was a small pathway at the end of which stood a small hut. It had two windows and one dusty door which looked as if it had not been used for weeks.

I was eager to into the hut and see what was inside but Mahesh was only gazing up at the sky. I looked up at the sky and understood what he was gazing at……. The full moon was very beautiful and the hut was looking ghostly in the moonlight. I suddenly became alert of his intentions and moved a step backwards. He was on four legs now, covered in fur. I realized panic-stricken that Mahesh was a Werewolf. Slowly, Mahesh clambered toward me, a look of hunger in his face.

He was so close to me that I could feel the smell of his hot breath slapping against my face. I started to run, but he was too fast for me. I opened my eyes and saw myself lying in a small bed in a circular familiar room. Beside the bed, stood a thin, fair, familiar-looking woman. Laughing aloud at my own wit, I climbed out of bed to get ready for school.

This series has been a long journey of discovery for the protagonists and the readers. They go back to their original goal of looking for their sister Amber. As usual there is a lot happening around them and a few glimpses of what is about to unfold in their future is very fascinating. In his detailed descriptions which are nearly photographic, Travis Simmons has managed to awe his readers again with the transfusion of the clean Wyrd into Sara.

Dear Readers, do read all the books to get an all round experience of the world of the Wyrd. Just one review of one book in the middle of the series does not do justice. A dream reveals what Angelica and Jovian are, but what does it mean for their future? With casters neutralized, a mighty blow has been dealt to the allied forces. The dwarves and trolls attack the keep, and the struggle to survive the war in the north is upon them. Buy the Book from 17th July at Amazon. Travis has been writing since he was What happened in the world before these characters came into it?

At first they were little ideas but as he discovered the names for his characters a whole story about them emerged. He has also written the Infernal Design series. He lives in a small town at the base of the Adirondack Mountains and hoofing around my neck of the woods gives him a ton of inspiration for his novels. He loves research, and speculating on different ideas and theories. There lived a family with twenty-six members. Suddenly, a member went missing. And just when it was her day.

Just when the rest planned giving her special care and maybe even a treat, she was apparently mislaid, misplaced, absent, vanished. Persuading the petulant seemed a difficult task. Think, search, seek, hunt. All these lines, and where is she? Where is O? However, there was a gradual deterioration after that and the latest, Concealed in Death , appears to be written by someone else completely. I do not recognize the style of writing and there is a distinct lack of clarity in the plot. It is as if someone tried to copy J. Robb but did a bad job. Two of my favourites being:. Naked in Death completely hooked me and I knew this was a series I had to follow.

The in Death books have every ingredient that I love. There is crime, drama, romance, fantasy and a bit of futuristic thrown in. Robb website.

Books - Elle Casey, Novelist

Spoiler Alert! Contains key plot points from the In Death series. Please see the full books list for a quick series reference. After the wars, cities focused on renewal and revitalization. A series of resorts and vacation spots, such as Vegas II, exist off-planet in space, which is also where the majority of prison populations exist. On-planet, streets are filled with cars on the ground and in the air, able to switch between hovering and driving.

Although it jeopardizes her case and her career, she falls for him and Roarke becomes her first and only love. Eve continues to grapple with their relationship and her growing dependence on him during the first two books. At age eight, Eve was found in an alley in Dallas, Texas, covered in blood and with no memory of who she was or what happened. She was given the name Eve and put into foster care. Because of her ability to solve the more difficult and high-profile cases, Eve had recently become a media darling.

Once Eve marries Roarke, the nightmares become less wracking because he is one of the few people in her life to give her unconditional love and she feels safe with him. Throughout their relationship, their previous demons become less haunting as they build a life of love and trust, the first real family either has ever known. But because of her own horrific childhood, the cases Eve finds most difficult are those centered on missing and exploited children and she often becomes deeply entrenched in the lives of the victims, seeking justice with an obsessive intensity.

Eve is an honest cop, though her passion for the job leads her to sometimes make emotional decisions that come back to haunt her. In many ways, this couple was destined to be together. Source: J. This story tests the strength of each character profile. What I enjoy about these books are how strong all the women characters are, somewhere women in the world now would like to be. However, strong female characters does not mean that the males are weak. They are not. It is a beautiful and ideal balance. What is not to love about a world where you can fly over the approaching traffic and escape it!

Although absent of the fashionable flourishes that are popular amongst richer Caldran girls - evident on Aphelia's attire, for example - Sieglinde's fairly plain dark robes are clearly of good quality. Up close, you can see why she seems a little intimidating to approach; framed by long, raven black hair, her pale features are sharp but far from unattractive, even though she projects a blase air of aloofness. She seems a touch guarded and her tone bland, but her demeanor is not unfriendly, even as she gestures to a chair, inviting you to sit down beside her.

Well, awkward for you , mostly. Sieglinde reaches over to her cup to take a drink as if nothing in particular is amiss. You don't think that this is her way of asking you to leave - especially not so soon after she invited you to sit - but she doesn't seem to be in a hurry to rush to a conversation, though. Neither are you, really, but the wordlessness makes you feel increasingly self-conscious. Struggling to find something - anything - to talk about, you catch Sieglinde flipping a page in her book, and you immediately blurt, "W-W-What are you reading?

Both probably feel as desperate and embarrassing to ask. But it's the most obvious object in Sieglinde's possession, and you had to point out something. But Sieglinde seems unbothered by your inquiry. It actually looks fairly new, not anything like the rough and worn books you would expect to have sat on the library bookshelf for a long, long time. You may be mistaken, but you think you see a hint of a ghost of a smile on Sieglinde's lips at that observation. The original treatise was written by hand ninety years ago by Baroness Leandra. No one since has written on the subject nearly as extensively.

It's not that you don't comprehend the quiet words coming out of Sieglinde's mouth, but it does feel like you're missing some important context that makes actual understanding possible. Perhaps she meant to leave it at that, but she gives you a glance a moment later, observing that her answer is probably intensely unsatisfying for you. Taking a small breath, she snaps the book shut in her hand before elaborating, "We are trading partners, and there are diplomatic missions every now and then.

But courting favor with one of the two superpowers on Iuryis is difficult, certainly with our paltry trade volume. It is not helped by our uncritical adoption of political and cultural mores that surely must work out for us because they made Ornthalia powerful. Nor is it helped by a superficial understanding of the social and political complexities of the Imperial Republics that starts and ends at 'they can protect us from Tenereia'.

And even if most of our learned diplomats and merchants manage to acquaint themselves deeply enough with the powers-that-be within Ornthalia, they would prefer to write short reports and little notes back home rather than an entire treatise from which a new generation may learn. Then, with a hint of dry wryness, she adds, "Assuming these people are any good at penmanship. Despite all the information provided, you still feel like Sieglinde has not actually answered your question. It still doesn't stop you from feeling like you've offended someone who really should not be offended, but her voice is still calm and patient when she concludes, "By the standards of any other country with a degree of sanity, no, it's absolutely abnormal and inexcusable to have such lapses in diplomatic effort.

But by the standards of a country as self-absorbed as Caldrein? It's a lot to digest, and if you didn't feel it before, you certainly feel like you're having a discussion with someone who - despite being two or three years older than you at most - seems like she's in a completely different league where intellect is concerned. With little better to say, you inject a tone into your voice that sounds just a touch defensive as you murmur, "You d-don't seem to like Caldrein very much. It's still very small, but it's actually indisputably a smile instead of something you end up having to wonder if you just imagined it.

Still, you give it your best effort as you murmur, "I-If you say so No matter how well we are trained, mercenaries alone cannot turn aside an enemy so many times our number. It is to Ornthalia that we must seek some measure of aid The Caldran people have been far too enamored with its mercenaries and its neutrality, and are too bull-headed to realize otherwise.

You blink for a moment, blanking out before hurriedly answering, "A-About ten years Most people describe your family's move from the woodlands to the plainstowns as "immigration", as if the forests in Caldrein aren't actually part of Caldrein itself, as if they are some other political entity, as if you have moved across borders. While it is true that many dryads with Caldrein's borders consider themselves to be a separate social entity distinct from the Confederacy, they have also not objected to being labeled as part of the Caldran people for as long as the term has existed.

At least, that is what you think, until Sieglinde adds, "It would be useful to understand the strengths and shortcomings of both societies. Perhaps more importantly, she doesn't seem to "take pity on you" as much as she's pragmatically weighing benefits and drawbacks. It's this, you suppose, that makes you blurt, perhaps against your better judgment, "M-My parents say that the dryads of the woodlands r-respect space and privacy, and p-plainsfolk are gossipy and invasive. Then, a small nod in your direction: "Thank you all the same.

The small hint of amusement does not leave Sieglinde's lips as she concludes, "Well, I shall endeavor to be neither gossipy nor invasive. Sieglinde nods. How ready do you think you are? I h-hope I am? But you also realize that it's hardly a reassuring answer for someone who has actually been accepted by one of Caldrein's academies. So, mustering what courage you have, you take a deep breath and manage, "I-I mean, y-yes, I think I'm ready. Being learned is of great importance in our trade and indispensable should you wish to become one of Caldrein's finest Or epistemology, really.

That which we learn, or perhaps even the art of learning itself, is a means by which we interact with reality, not a substitute for reality itself. Recognizing them as the first, largest group you set sight on when you first entered the Great Hall, you shrink a little bit in your seat, knowing that they're most likely for Sieglinde instead of you. Immediately, you spot Lucille and Aphelia at the head of their group, with the former looking friendly and the latter looking as effortlessly regal as ever. Noticing your presence a moment later, she regards you too with a nod, albeit one noticeably smaller.

Watching the group walk away, it occurs to you that Sieglinde was perhaps not invited to actually shop , but to form a more permanent relationship with fellow ladies Aphelia and Lucille. Did Sieglinde have this in mind when she politely rejected the invitation, or was it just simply something else?

You don't give voice to your curiosity, though, not when Sieglinde is already asking you a question a moment later, ignoring how awkward you felt about being otherwise nonexistent in the previous conversation. And when you nod, she remarks, "There must be an interesting reason why you've chosen to come here, then. You've come here A freeholder you may be, but no one, certainly not your family, has ever objected to increasing your household's financial security or spending ability.

Your sense of personal achievement wants to validate your own existence, to show that you are one of the deadliest and most competent warriors alive. You only live once, and becoming a Caldran mercenary is a chance to see the world, to live the most exciting stories, and to explore all its wonders. The enemy takes more and more Caldran land each passing day, and it is your obligation as a citizen of the Confederacy to defend her and her people. Time passes as your conversation with Sieglinde continues.

Unlike your previous conversation with Emilie, Nikki, and Vesna, however, you are mildly surprised - at least in hindsight - to realize that you have actually been doing a fair amount of talking. Perhaps Sieglinde's a good listener, or she just has the way of making you feel like sharing things with her. Regardless, it's only after the two of you part ways that you realize that you haven't exactly managed to ask any significant questions about her, nor did she voluntarily share, so you still know remarkably little about Sieglinde. At the end of the day, you don't suppose that you've actually become close For a prodigy whom no one seems to be in a hurry to talk to, that's about a good a sign as any.

In fact, you are so preoccupied with the aftermath of your conversation with Sieglinde that by the time you return to your dorm room, you have forgotten about the fact that you're supposed to have a roommate who checked in already, and thus find yourself a little surprised when you end up staring blankly at an athletic-looking aseri in your room. Your apparent roommate sports black hair that goes down to her shoulder blades, with her ears and tail possessing matching colors, and an attire that suggests that both of you are broadly in the same socioeconomic range.

Although she hardly seems genuinely unfriendly, Stephanie doesn't smile, and you get the impression that it's not something she does naturally. It doesn't stop her from looking you up and down with a mild sense of curiosity as she murmurs, "Wow, a dryad. Your bag was on the b-bed when I arrived. I went into town to shop with some people I met. I didn't exactly come in with a fortune, and it's not like Faulkren is big enough a town to carry really interesting goods.

It certainly doesn't look like she actually brought anything back, judging by the absence of extra bags in the room. I don't suppose you've ever done anything like this before, have you? Then, realizing that this may make you sound inadequate or unprepared, you quickly add, "I-I mean, they said that they'd a-accept even apprentices who've never t-trained before, and I was My, um, parents have done their share of soldiering, so I know how to use a sword, at least. It also makes you feel like you're already falling behind, so you flail around mentally for some kind of background you can try to sell as "experience".

Then, truthfully, and with a voice that slowly and steadily trails off, "Um, I-I didn't actually learn anything from her, though, and, well Oh," blinks Stephanie. Which, of course, leads you to more of that frustrating quiet, so you desperately blurt out, "Well, u-um. But Stephanie responds, either actually genuinely interested or at least humoring your attempt to revitalize your dialogue, which you suppose will have to be good enough. B-By six years. She was a-actually born in the plains. Given that Sieglinde was the exception when it comes to using the term "urbanized" instead of "immigrated" or some other term, you suppose you aren't terribly surprised that the next person you talk to doesn't really seem to instinctively consider the dryads of the woods to actually be Caldran.

It's just one of the facts of life about being a second-generation dryad "immigrant". It doesn't bother you as much as other things are likely to bother members of other races. In fact, with the partial exception of elves, aseri and humans seem to have a lot of children, although you suppose this is compensating for the fact that not many of them survive childhood.

Although she nods, Stephanie looks like she's still sort of trying to process all of this in the back of her head, trying to contextualize the information she has just been given. So s-six years I have a half-sister. O-Oh," you manage blankly, even as Stephanie shifts awkwardly again, as if realizing what has just left her lips and thinking in hindsight that maybe this is not something she should've said.

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And then there is more awkward quiet. Unlike Emilie, Nikki, and Vesna - who always seem to have something on hand to chatter about - or Sieglinde - who seems to be perpetually engaged in deep and complex thoughts - it is getting ridiculously difficult for both of you to come up with something workable to talk about.

Honestly, you have no idea why this is taking as long as it has and being as troublesome as it is. The ritualistic parts of socialization complete, Stephanie actually waits for a moment before cautiously asking, "Just to get it out of the way so we're clear, you Then, helplessly, "Growing roots in your sleep? Shedding leaves from your head? Sunbathing naked? Kei , Mar 15, If you did not leave your home and strike out like this, you would remain forever the shy dryad, ignorant of the wider world. Sieglinde Corrina Ravenhill Cliques begin to form within the apprentice body.

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Many of them are unsurprisingly centered around the most privileged in no small part due to their social standing and relative wealth. Aside from the obvious "benefits" that are perceived to come from having a friendship with some of the Confederacy's most powerful, there's also the fact that they tend to be the most capable of the apprentices at Faulkren; many of them have had private tutors and personal trainers throughout their respective childhoods, and most already know basic tactical doctrines and are at least somewhat proficient in at least one weapon of their choice, something that becomes apparent as the young aristocrats practice their own martial skills on their own time despite such classes not having started yet at the Academy.

One obvious example is someone from your own squad, with Sieglinde not only already learned in the theories of warfare, but also deadly proficient in the use of a spear. Similarly, word is already spreading that Aphelia has a similar level of competence in both her scope of knowledge and her ability to wield a rapier while also spinning a dose of magecraft. Most heavily involved in the social scene at Faulkren Academy gravitate towards the social circle surrounding Aphelia and Lucille, even though the latter herself seems to be more a follower than a leader.

The Path of Judgment (Drifter Series Book 1)

The few other ladies here are also subject to varying degrees of attention, all of which they handled in different ways. Some bask in the attention, others try to play it off.

Sieglinde herself seems indifferent to what popularity she has, and most of her fans are eventually limited to those who are fine with admiring her from a distance. Even if it is representative of the social advantages she has enjoyed since birth, you respect how far ahead Sieglinde already is as someone who has been groomed since youth to be a competent leader. Alas, it certainly doesn't help your sense of confidence. You decided to embark on the path of a Caldran mercenary for what may be considered a selfish reason: You want to change. More specifically, you are unhappy with how you're the shy little dryad.

All those grand goals that people have for becoming a freeholder - wanting to be of use like Vesna, wanting to embark on an adventure like Emilie, wanting to earn your own livelihood like Nikki, wanting to help your country like Sieglinde - are probably nothing more than lofty dreams if you yourself are a sheltered little girl, uncertain and unconfident, ignorant of the wider world around you.

Ascending the ranks of the Caldran mercenaries is, for you, both a means and an end; it is a potential confidence-booster and character-builder through which you can find the insight and the personal fortitude to pursue true goals of your own.

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This is proving to be a difficult prospect already, given the makeup of your squad, which has been designated Squad Four. Sieglinde goes without mention. Your very own roommate, Stephanie, is also more physically fit and already knows her way around with a katana; she reluctantly but quickly admits that she doesn't hold a candle next to shining stars such as Sieglinde and Aphelia, but that's still much better than where you are at present. Both are outperforming you where calisthenics are concerned, and while you find solace in the fact that you and Stephanie are on the same page academics-wise, it doesn't exactly help your sense of confidence.

The only real source of comfort you have is Elizabeth Irivich Zabanya, Sieglinde's roommate and the fourth member of your squad. Your impression of the tiny, elven girl with fair blond hair and doll-like features is that she seems to sleepwalk through life. Well, no, that's an exaggeration; she mostly only sleepwalks through the morning, and typically gets better - at least a bit - at lunch.

Really, though, she does seem to resemble a slightly grumpy and pouty kitten that perpetually never gets enough sleep. You try to talk to her at times, but although she never entirely brushes you off, she mostly seems a little disinterested and maybe a little bit sullen. You try not to hold this against Elizabeth, and take solace in the fact that it seems like you're not the weakest link in the squad.

There are, however, warning signs. There's the fact that her name indicates that she is highborn. There's the fact that trainers and instructors only seem mildly exasperated when she doesn't show up for classes or training, something that you initially assume to simply be one of the privileges of being born an aristocrat. And there's the fact that when you try to make small talk with Sieglinde and ask about how she's getting along with her roommate, Sieglinde sees fit to calmly but cryptically warn, "Do be careful around Zabanya. It's during lunchtime on the third week that Penelope - a human apprentice from another squad, scruffy in the way girls from laborer families tend to look - passes by Elizabeth in the Great Hall and "accidentally" spills a bowl of soup down the latter's dress.

It's "accidental" - complete with quotes - in part because Penelope is smirking as she feigns a sarcastic apology, even as her friends giggle. It's only later in the day that you begin to hear explanations and rationalizations of why Penelope apparently took offense with Elizabeth; some say that she was unimpressed with the girl who slept through the lectures and training that they've struggled to get through; some say that the offending apprentice was slighted by Elizabeth's rejection of an invitation of friendship; some say that Penelope has a chip on her shoulder against the highborn or perhaps just elves in general, and Elizabeth seemed like the easiest target.

You are already seated at your table when you see this happen to Elizabeth, and you are still nervously debating whether or not to go over there and comfort - if not stand up for - a fellow squadmate. However, the only warning sign you notice is from Sieglinde, who - rather than reacting with anger or disgust or even indifference at the sight - seems a touch alarmed.

Her voice drops to a whisper, but you're still close enough to hear the elven mage whisper to Penelope, "If you're begging for forgiveness, shouldn't you be doing so on your knees, like a mongrel? She easily has more than a head over Elizabeth, and the push is forceful enough that the latter actually falls backwards onto her backside, prompting a few laughs from onlookers. Stephanie, however, finally emerges from the crowd, looking displeased at the scene and seemingly ready to come to Elizabeth's aid, but the elf casually rises back to her feet and reaches out to grab Stephanie's arm, stopping her.

Stephanie shoots Elizabeth a bewildered look, even as Penelope and her friends laugh and march off in celebration of their mischief. But rather than look apologetic or offended, Elizabeth merely smiles sweetly at Stephanie, and for no reason you're sure you can explain, there's just something about it that sends chills down your spine.

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And the incident may even have been forgotten as the day otherwise progresses uneventfully. But it's well into the evening, just before dinner, that the true meaning of Elizabeth's words becomes known. You and Stephanie return to your rooms in preparation for your evening meal, running a little late as you are doing so; already, most of the students have vacated the dormitories for the Great Hall, and after two weeks of acclimating to the new training regime, few of the Academy's apprentices now collapse exhausted into their beds just before mealtime.

Nothing seems entirely out of place, except on your way out of the West Wing, you find one of doors to the dorm rooms left slightly ajar. Specifically, the dormitory belonging to Penelope. Even more strangely, you hear a strange mixture of muffled sounds: The crackling of electricity, the moaning of pained suffering, the sobbing of desperate begging. And stranger still: A chill wind was flowing out from the dorm room. The sight that greets you as the two of you open the door is chilling: Blades of ice protruding from the floor and walls and ceiling of the room where they have frozen over, threatening to impale those who come near; Penelope, a sobbing wreck curled up on the ground, whimpering near-incoherent apologies; her friends, sprawled across the floor as they writhe and twitch.

And Elizabeth, standing in the middle of the dorm room, magecraft tome in hand against her chest, icy mists and sparks of electricity swirling around her a naked threat, a naked show of arcane power, a foot placed on the back of Penelope's head. It's only after seconds of you and Stephanie gaping in stunned silence that Elizabeth finally notices - or at least deigns to notice - both of you. The smile she offers both of you - even as she playfully places a finger on her lips as if to suggest that this is a secret between the three of you - is as sweet as ever.

Last edited: Apr 11, Kei , Mar 16, Only one dryad chooses a weapon requiring more finesse, opting instead to take up archery. Being herded into groups based on weapons, you soon find yourself and the other dryad apprentice who chose greatswords being called over by an aseri instructor: "Greatswords over here. It doesn't quite have the reach of a poleaxe or a spear, but it's close enough, and where only the end of a poleaxe or a spear inflicts lethal wounds, you have the entire length of your greatsword.

It's heavy, but congratulations: You're dryads. This will be like a broadsword to you, except where broadswords are found in more urban situations, greatswords will be of great use on a chaotic field of battle as well. A greatsword is a good weapon against cavalry, something you'll be expected to work on before I allow you to move onto your next weapon. All in all, you're pleased with your choice; a greatsword seems to play to your strengths, and while it doesn't necessarily excel at any one area relatively to other weapons of its length, weight, or dimensions, it can accomplish a large variety of tasks and fulfill a great deal of roles that would otherwise be impossible for other weapons.

Soon, the instructor is beginning to guide you all through practical exercises. Now to strike, simply push your dominant hand forwards in a straight line, almost as though punching someone. The sword will sweep down and stop roughly where you might imagine the head of your opponent might be. Until you're ready for it, you will rely on an up-down form of attack. But I'd like to see prediction stop four kilograms of steel coming down.

You do the same, feeling the weight of the blade without too much of a struggle. But your fellow apprentice is of an average height, whereas you're vertically-challenged, and so you almost have to catch your balance as you lift a sword that is almost as tall as you are into the air.

The sight is apparently amusing enough that a round of giggling goes about the dryads, including from those who have chosen other weapons and just happen to see you raise your greatsword. But despite a furious blush that rises up onto your face, your instructor looks on with a mixture of amusement and approval. Last edited: Mar 29, Kei , Mar 17, Niebher , cB , Equity and 6 others like this.

I know that I may not be getting a lot - if any - replies in a story-only thread for a quest hosted on another forum, but I want to thank everyone who's been liking my posts thus far. If you are enjoying this quest, please feel free to share it with your friends or anyone whom you think may be interested, on or off SpaceBattles.

If any of our group have squadmates in the incomings, make contact and try for an alliance; otherwise retreat for now. Kei , Mar 20, For better or for worse, this isn't the sort of lie that's easy to cover up; all it would take is someone being a bit faster or more inquisitive than you'd like. Nor, frankly, are you a particularly good liar. It helps that you're shy all the time, and it helps that - whether you've ever intended to exploit this or not - people have always found you young and small and adorable enough to forgive, but there's no point in expending this good faith and goodwill on something that's probably incredibly minor.

Quietly, you withdraw from the treeline and back to your campfire. Under normal circumstances, you may not have eluded the attention of the two aseri in their group - what with the superior senses of hearing and smell they have - but these are the woodlands, and you blend in well with your native ground.

At a brisk pace, you quickly return to where the rest of your teammates are. You really wish she doesn't assume the worst of you all the time.

Judgement in Death // JD Robb 12

Aphelia, for her part, reacts instantly: "Defensive positions. We'll talk with them, but don't let them ambush us. They do not take terribly long; although they move stealthily, it's easier to spot their silhouettes skulking through the trees once you know they're coming and from which direction. The human you recognize among them eventually comes close enough for Penelope to risk calling out, "Wendy? Given her social profile here at the Academy, Lucille is easily recognizable, but she isn't alone in waving cheerily at your team's elf. One of the two aseri from the other team - the one carrying a spear - is quite loud in her greeting: "Oh, hey, Aphelia!

Yes, part of it is because she and Lucille were the ones who greeted you directly when you first started making friends in the Great Hall of Faulken Academy. But it's also in large part because she's somewhat loud. Well, "loud" is perhaps an uncharitable word; although it's true that Mia has some problems when it comes to indoor voices - one may well wonder how her team has remained undetected all this time - it's perhaps better to characterize her as "boisterous".

Although not really a troublemaker, Mia has clearly established a reputation as a happy and excitable girl with an almost infectiously life-of-the-party personality, a bit of a class clown. And although she's not highborn, Mia does hail from a very well-to-do merchant family that puts her in the loose social orbit of Aphelia and Lucille, all while being on good terms with most other apprentices in the Academy.

At the very least, you know Mia by reputation if nothing else. The same cannot be said for the other aseri who keeps a step behind everyone else in general and Lucille in particular. Although there are a bit more than a hundred apprentices here in Faulkren, you still at least recognize the uniquely white-haired aseri to be Melanie Aster, an apprentice also from a good merchant family like Mia. Her conspicuous lack of an obvious weapon means she's probably a mage She's clearly shy; even if you missed her general tendency to not speak or her perpetual air of mild embarrassment or her not often making eye contact, you recognize this inexplicable feeling of kinship, the feeling that you're not the only sane one, and silently wonder if she's feeling the same.

The two of you accidentally meet glances, and with flustered embarrassment and mild panic, both of you blush and quickly bow your heads to each other in polite - and almost apologetic - greeting. I'm just surprised we didn't hear you coming from kilometers away. Although not as loud as Mia, the elf can be pretty talkative too, given how involved she is with the social scene at Faulkren. It smelled really good. Besides, you sure were ready for us creeping up on you. You're not surprised she hasn't linked the name to you; you're not exactly a very high-profile apprentice.

Still, once Vesna points in your direction, she recognizes you as a dryad - there are only ten-or-so of you at Faulkren anyways - and she nods, "Ah, no wonder Melanie and I didn't smell her! The rest of your brain, however, takes a very different interpretation of Mia's words, and you blush furiously at the thought as you struggle in vain to come up with some kind of protest.