"… and may you be successful in your future endeavours!"
The crowd roared in tandem with the hats being thrown about. As expected, the graduates were excited. The high ceilings and vast space in the reception hall made sure that despite the dense crowding, it wasn't to the point that people were falling over each other. Tapestries of white and silver, navy and bronze were draped from the ceilings and rolled down the walls between each of the floor length window panes.
This reception hall had grand arches and chiseled pillars made out of tastefully aged stone and brick. There was a red carpet rolled down the walkway, leading from the entrance to the wide stage where the Dean was currently giving his speech.
The hall was located within the grounds of Starson Academy; a place where the rich, talented or sponsored gathered to study a higher level of education. It was renowned for being entirely neutral, unbiased and independent of an alliance that many countries had offered it. The academy tended to produce well-respected, powerful Magi, Scholars, and Knights alike that either filled the imperial courts, flawlessly worked at the Solas Tower promoting the evolution of magic, or became a notable person of society.
It was this very Academy that Fionera had just graduated from. She was a commoner of normal blood, a plain human who absolutely, definitely, had no otherworldly connections; nor was she a person of note that the Aristocracy would've sponsored to nurture her talent.
She stood on one side of the long, rich carpet, and stared at the blinding uniform of those parallel to her. She was at the end of her row, so she got a firsthand view of them.
'Without prejudice my ass,' she thought, staring at the different coloured uniform opposite her and being a complete eyesore. It was a sea white, with silver accents that spoke of its superior quality when compared to the dull tones of navy and bronze that surrounded her and the majority of those of.. lower standing.
Although both sides represented the academy—both proudly donning its colours—she couldn't help but feel a bit sour about the slight bias. Perhaps she wouldn't have this mild feeling of bitterness if the academy didn't continuously preach about its equality and fairness in discipline no matter your social class.
Unsurprisingly this crowd of knights in shining armour were especially rowdy. Of course, when one is used to being 'on top of the food chain', a little brazenness is to be expected.
Though I wish they'd shut up. Fionera heavily sighed and kept her thoughts to herself. No teachers or the Dean himself had asked them to quieten down so she eventually tore her eyes away from her aristocratic peers and chose to just ignore them altogether.
"..'nera?" Her friend, Alicia, nudged her without turning her head away from the Dean on stage. "You ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." She replied and nudged her back. Though perhaps she was too rough about it when her friend stumbles into the person standing next to them.
Her friend quickly apologised to who she'd bumped into. "'Nera!" She hissed accusingly, finally turning to Fionera with a glare and fierce blush high on her cheeks.
"Heh." Fionera's lips twitched as her forest green eyes stared at her friend from her peripheral vision. Although she hadn't meant for her friend to stumble like that, it was endlessly amusing to see her puffed up like a cat in indignation. Fionera was just glad that they had the kind of relationship that allowed them to be playful like this.
Fionera wore such a cheeky expression that the aggrieved girl wanted nothing more than to wipe it off her face.
"You—!" Alicia half raises her arm in retaliation against Fionera and her unsurprising bruteness when she's interrupted.
"We will now be distributing certificates! Please stay within the designated margins!" Following this a scroll unfurls in front of her face. Alicia is stunned into silence as she reads through its contents, but unsurprised at how it manages to stay airborne. Magic existed, after all, and seeing such a thing really wasn't an odd occurrence.
Fionera lets out a quiet sigh of relief. She'd been eyeing her friend who had a surprising pettiness despite being a straight A student and having an innocent looking face. After making doubly sure that she'd forgotten about it and didn't look to be making a move on her any time soon; Fionera turned her attention to her own scroll.
It was a certificate that showed she'd graduated from Starson Academy. Her full name, Fionera Loran, was written in bold print at the top of this certificate. Sure, there was an extravagance to it with the cursive font and gold-coated words, but other than that.. It really wasn't anything special. Though in gold, it was just a bunch of numbers and letters detailing the grades she'd achieved aligned next to all the classes she had taken.
Fionera would perhaps be embarrassed at having a low, barely passing score in one of her subjects, but no one else could see the contents written on it apart from who it belonged to. She taps the bottom of this scroll, watching as it curls back up before dropping out of the air. Fionera caught it with little fanfare, and once she tunes back into her surroundings — she found that the majority of people were already mingling with those around them.
At some point the lecturers and the Dean himself had left the stage and could be seen walking around the crowd giving a more personal congratulations to honour students and graduates of note.
Fionera realised that the casual air about the hall must've meant that the ceremony was over.
Finally, she lets out a deep sigh. Fionera was still sore from yesterday's 'activities' so standing so long in one place was absolute torture. She did a quick sweep of the hall with her eyes and noticed that the majority of the students were still conversing with each other despite her wandering mind and attention. Socializing with her peers wasn't the kind of thing that appealed to her right now, so Fionera stepped onto the carpet and headed out of the hall.
"Going so soon?" A teacher standing at the door called out.
Fionera looked over her shoulder. There was no one immediately behind her which made her a bit skeptical. Were they talking to her?
".. Fionera." They called out to her just as she was about to pass them.
Oh. They really were.
She pauses in her steps and backs up. Fionera stands a bit off to the side so as to not block the door's passage from others.
"Mr Harrison," she greets with a shallow dip of her head. "Did you need me for something?"
Please say no, she thinks, hopeful. There wasn't a single reason she could think of for him to drag her into an impromptu conversation. He was her teacher, nothing more. And in fact, now that she's graduated, Fionera is pretty sure that they're just acquaintances.
He was a decent man, good at his job and didn't have any weird rumours floating about. It was the bare minimum that anyone could ask of a teacher, but you'd be surprised to find out how rare even that was.
Just take Mr. Grene for example. It was only last week that he was accused of pilfering funds from the student club he was the teacher representative of. Before that, he'd gotten a warning about inappropriate behaviour towards some female students.
But that was irrelevant right now.
Fionera's teacher, Mr Harrison, taught two of her classes four days out of the week. One during the day and one after the sun had set. The first one was Magical Theory; the studying of Magic, what makes it tick and how to use it. And then at dusk, it was Ancient Creatures. The class itself didn't have too much funding, nor student interest, and so it was only able to use a classroom when one was free, hence it being at night.
Fionera had only taken this class to pad out her schedule and gain some extra credits she would've missed out on getting from not joining a club. She also happened to have a pretty solid foundation in the subject so Fionera figured she would breeze through the course — and she was right. It was her highest hitting category.
Her specialty was Magik Engineering, so other branch classes like Geology and Alchemy were necessary for her to attend if she wanted to graduate. After all, magic only did so much by itself, and minerals created different effects depending on what stones were used with what resonating magic. Solutions and potions were added effects, either increasing or decreasing potency and efficiency. There were a variety of ways it could be utilised really.
"Going so soon?" Mr. Harrison repeats and jolts her out of her reverie. He peered down at her through his monocle, the picture perfect scholar; neat and polite with a clear forehead and bright, intelligent brown eyes. His ever present, boldly embroidered handkerchief briefly made an appearance as he dabbed at the sides of his temple.
"It's too..." Fionera trails off unsurely. There was no way for her to describe her opinion on the graduation celebration currently going on behind her without sounding like a total bitch.
"Loud? Social? Happy?" He offered upon seeing her struggle. Fionera groans at his choice of vocabulary which he just chuckles at. "I'm just kidding. Take care, Miss Loran."
"You too," she replied, and shook his outstretched hand before continuing on her way. Fionera didn't bother to think too deeply as to why he had called out to her in the first place if that was all he wanted to say. It was a little suspicious and odd, a pretty much useless interaction — but maybe he was just being friendly? He had always been a little eccentric.
It really wasn't worth thinking too much about.
Outside of the hall a fair number of groups had already formed. They had likely left the hall to conduct more private or personal conversations while still being celebratory. Fionera already thought she was pretty fast at leaving but it seems some people had beaten her to the punch.
She breezes past all of these people with a single minded focus. She recognised a few of them, but it wasn't in her nature to grab their attention with a greeting when they looked otherwise occupied.
"Fionera! Wait!" Someone suddenly calls out from behind her and Fionera has to hold in a groan. It would be rude of her were she to let out such a sound, but when she recognises the voice, her shoulders unwind from when they'd first tensed up.
Her friend comes into view not soon later, stopping beside her and giving a light tap of her arm as if she wasn't sure whether Fionera had heard her or not.
"Alicia. Hey." She turns her head towards the shorter girl and greets her. Even though they'd been in each other's presence for the majority of the whole morning, this bubbly friend of hers was probably the only person Fionera tolerated enough to be in the presence of for an indefinite amount of time.
"Are you going back to the dorms? Did you want me to come with you?" Alicia inquires almost breathlessly. She had always been out of shape despite being slim, and the length Fionera had traveled in the short time that she'd left the hall wasn't exactly short.
Fionera visibly softens at her words. She'd already told Alicia that she wasn't going to be hanging around after the ceremony had concluded, but the shorter girl must've still been worried about her abrupt disappearance.
"I'm fine by myself," Fionera replied with a small smile. "Besides, I know how much you want to talk to our classmates." She pauses, already regretting the words on the tip of her tongue. "I'll see you at the party anyways."
".. party?" Alicia seemed to stare at her in stunned silence. "I thought you said you weren't going!" Her friend proceeds to accuse her, brushing a copper lock of hair behind her ear. It probably got displaced when she'd run after Fionera. She preferred having a loose braid thrown over her shoulder, but it must've been too loose if strands were falling away from the plait.
"… I did," she confirms, moving them to the side when someone walks past them. "But can't I change my mind?" Fionera looks away from her friend, something like guilt making itself known in her stomach. She.. had initially rejected the invitation, but that was mainly because of her mood at the time! Looking at Alicia though, and realizing that this only friend of hers in this goddamn academy was so excited to attend the graduation party organised by the students… Fionera should probably be a better friend and go with her.
She valued their friendship, despite her lack of display, so what was a few torturous hours out of her day if it kept Alicia happy? It was worth it, in her opinion.
"You can," Alicia narrows her eyes in suspicion. "But it's not like you to do so." She eyes her up and down. "Do you think I don't know you though? As soon as I let you out of my sight then you'll go around acting like a hermit again!"
She purses her lips. Was there anything wrong with that? But before she could say anything, Alicia frowned.
Fionera's teeth clack as she abruptly shuts her mouth. She'd sensed a change in mood.
"This is your last chance to see anybody, y'know?" Alicia says quietly, measuredly. "No one knows what you've decided to do after this, and…" She pauses, ".. and your personality may leave much to be desired, but there are people other than me that call you a friend, ok?"
..What other friends? Fionera startled. Her bewilderment must show on her face if the sigh Alicia lets out is any indication.
"You're so.. ugh, nevermind. Just make an appearance at least? It starts at 9pm."
"I know," she says, "Isn't that a little late though?" Fionera can't help but ridicule. She shrinks in on herself the moment Alicia sends her an unamused look. ".. I'll try."
"That's all I can ask for." Alicia pats her on the shoulder, "See ya!" and apparently she must've been satisfied with their talk if the way she happily trots off back to socialise with her peers is any indication.
What an airhead, she couldn't help but think fondly. "See you." Fionera says aloud in the somewhat quiet hallway. She lingers for a bit until she sees Alicia step back into the hall before she turns around and resumes her trek back to the student dorms.
Despite belonging to one of the most predominant races on the continent, all Fionera wanted to do was live a quiet life in a place far, far away from any kingdom and its influence. Her clan held high hopes for her, the strongest of her generation, to bring them into a new age of glory — but she refused this forced upon fate.
Fionera would live for herself and herself only. Somehow ending up travelling in the wilds with her sole companion being an unfairly attractive vampire Prince, was never part of the plan.
Stuck between a rock and a suspiciously human-shaped hard place, Fionera has to decide whether the peaceful life she had shakily attained is what she really wants, and if unravelling a sinister plot that plagues her native kingdom is worth giving all that up for.
.. Did she also mention there’s a bounty on her head? Because there’s a bounty on her head.
1. There is mature content/language.
2. This is a fantasy world where no comparisons to real life should be made.
3. The romance in this is a long, slow-going process; so please don’t expect the main characters to fall in love by the end of chapter 10.
4. All names, places, historical sites etc are purely fictional. I made the majority of them all up, but if they’re offensive somehow or overlap with any serious real life stuff, don’t hesitate to correct me.