She couldn’t stop staring at him even though she knew she should stop. She had never gotten so close to one of them before.
I walked into the cafeteria and my eyes automatically strayed to that spot. The spot where he sat every day with his royal family. They never sat with anyone else, and the unwritten rule was that you didn’t bother them, and you definitely didn’t approach them unless invited. The Elves didn’t come down from their mountains often. They were a secluded race for starters, on top of that they were royalty. Put those two together and you had a group of students that were untouchable.
“Eliza! C’mon. At this rate the shifters are gonna eat all the food! What were you looking at anyway?” My friend Arabella was pulling me towards the food line. She was small like me, but stronger than she looked. We were both underdogs in this school.
“Nothing! Just taking in my surroundings.” I said innocently. I knew she was going to give me a hard time about staring at him again.
“Really? That’s the story your sticking to?” Arabella asked as she arched a dubious eyebrow at me.
“Leave me alone Ara! I can secretly obsess.” I said as I rolled my eyes.
“Actually no, you can’t! The last person they found staring at him got the beating of a lifetime.”
“First off, that was a very sketchy looking Ogre. He looked like he meant the prince harm. Secondly, I’m just getting my fill for the day. Now come on, didn’t you say they were going to run out of food?”
I knew it was the best way to get her off my back. Arabella’s stomach seemed to rule a lot of her decisions. Later when we sat down to eat my mind started to wander.
I knew that the only reason they were here at all was because they were forced to be here. We all were. Once we reached 15 years old our secondary education started at the Convergence School. Here we were supposed to learn how to be the leaders and fighters in this new world. The classes here went beyond grammar and arithmetic. We learned battle strategy, hand to hand combat, weapon training and we learned to hone our powers for maximum efficiency. Most importantly, we were supposed to learn and work with each other. This school was turning out leaders and warriors that would help turn the tide in the ongoing war with the demons.
I have been here for three years. In those three years, I’ve been secretly watching him. All my friends thought I was crazy. Elves were not known to be friendly. No outsiders have ever been let into their inner circle. The prince and his sister cooperated during class, but outside of class they were cold and apathetic.
Most of the students that I’ve met were passionate about being here. Be it for the things they’ve been through, or because of the loss they’ve suffered. I happened to fall into both of those categories. I lost both of my parents and have suffered personally at the hands of a sadistic demon. It kept me locked in a basement for weeks right after it killed my parents. My escape was pure luck, and I knew that if I survived I would learn everything in my power to be a warrior. I wanted to be out there fighting these demons and sending them back to hell.
Maybe the Elves wanted no part in this war or maybe we just didn’t understand them. I was betting on the latter. I knew from personal experience that judgment could be passed with one glance. I worked hard against it. I’m a Sylph or Air Spirit. We were small by design and often assumed to be weak. There weren’t many left of my kind, which made me a mystery here. I got stares everywhere I went, and there was always plenty of gossip to be had on how I had made it to the upper ranks of our program. No one wanted to believe that I could be that good. There were only a select few within my ranks that knew and gave me the respect that I deserved. It didn’t bother me, neither did the gossip. I knew what I was capable of, and that’s all that mattered.
Lately, I’ve noticed him watching me. At least I think I have. I try not to look or stare for fear of being punished, but it’s almost like I could feel his eyes on me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it and tried not to give it much thought. For the most part that worked for me. Until the day that I got paired with him. I’d never been this close to one of them. My fascination with his race had more to do with my obsession with him than anything else but still, it was thrilling. All around me the other students were looking at me with pity and horror. He usually didn’t participate in the pairing exercises. I guess It was my lucky day. I was bouncing with excitement as he approached me. I tried to be serious, but I failed. Miserably.
As he walked towards me he didn’t give anything away. He had his usual stoic mask on. In the 40 seconds it took for him to walk to my side of the arena I allowed myself a good long look. I never got to really look at him. He was a lot taller than me, but that didn’t mean much since I was only about 4 feet tall. He towered over me by a good three feet. He had long white hair that was secured in a half ponytail keeping his face unobstructed and leaving his pointed ears on display. I could finally see the delicate markings on his forehead that signified him as Elven Royalty. He was slim with an athletic build that was common among his kind. His movements were graceful and fluid. You never saw him appear awkward or unsure and he never fumbled as I often did. His face held delicate features that seemed in opposition to his personality. I sensed he hated that about himself. I’m not sure how I knew that. Maybe it was because he seemed to always show excessive force when he participated to offset who he was, and how he looked. He wasn’t next in line for the throne. As I understood it, he was fourth behind his three big brothers. Maybe he was angry for having to be here.
When he finally reached me, I smiled up at him like a lunatic. Seriously, I must have issues because I should’ve at least tried to appear unflappable, but that just wasn’t me. I was a glutton for punishment because when I said hello to him he rolled his eyes at me. I should’ve known better than to think he might actually be civil to me. He has never been nice to anyone, why would I be the exception? After the teacher gave the instruction we were set to practice. I was to protect him from an oncoming threat. Shocking right?
“What could you possibly do to protect me that I couldn’t take care of myself?” The arrogance and disdain that rolled off his tongue instantly ignited my anger.
“Why don’t you stop running your mouth prince boy, and start moving your ass, so I could show you.”
There were gasps nearby. Oops! I guess I wasn’t supposed to talk to royalty that way. I took a quick look around and didn’t see any guards running to behead me so I thought I was in the clear. When I looked back at him he had a slight lift to his lips. He was trying to suppress a smile. “Prince boy?”
I snorted. “Yeah, okay. Don’t worry I’ll come up with a better one next time.”
The simulation started and a demon that looked like a wolf with a snake tail stalked us. At first I thought this would be a walk in the park. He looked scary, but I should’ve been able to remove the threat with my tornado. I was creating my vortex when the thing started breathing fire at us. I shrieked in surprise as I felt the heat cover my body, the flames missing us by a foot. As soon as I collected my wits I transported us with my wind right behind the creature. I left prince boy behind in my wind cloud and sprang forward while pulling my sword from my back sheath. I flew right over the meaty part of his body and arched forward with my sword slicing his head off with one quick blow. I landed primly on my feet as I watched the head roll to the side. I smiled at the sight, happy I was able to beat this simulation rather quickly. It was only when the simulation faded and left me back in the arena that I looked up to see prince boy’s face. He was completely shocked as he stood there staring at me with his mouth agape.
I sauntered over to him, “are you ready for round two?” I asked saucily.
He stood upright. His posture rigid as he stared down at me with squinted eyes. “Bring it on Tink.”
I flinched as his comment hit me. Tink! Really? Was he comparing me to Tinkerbell? What the hell! I mean yeah, I’m small, and my wings had the same shape as hers, but my wings were much prettier. They had an iridescent gloss to them that made them beautiful. My hair was brown not blond, and I didn’t run around in a skimpy green dress and slippers! I tried not to let my irritation show as I signaled for the next simulation to start.
This time the demon that came at us looked like a cross between a man and an insect. It had four spindly legs and a thin midsection. It’s human like head was attached by a long giraffe like neck and it had a beak where the nose should be. As soon as the simulation started it ran straight for us. Without thinking, letting only muscle memory rule my actions I pulled my sword and sliced the thing in half. Unfortunately for me, I missed the head. I saw the two pieces of body twitching on the floor pushing towards each other. I watched in awed horror as the two demon halves started to regenerate separately. The half without a head grew a new one. Great! Now we had two demons to deal with. They started scuttling towards us at a pace that was unnaturally fast. I knew I couldn’t dispatch both at the same time so I created a wind tunnel to hold one while I flew to meet the other. Sword in hand I flew right above him and hovered for a minute. He was too fast and I didn’t want to miss my chance and open myself up for a bite. This thing had some nasty looking teeth and was salivating a lovely green color. It hissed in irritation when it couldn’t get to me. I almost laughed until it realized it had another target available. Shit! Without further hesitation, I pulled against the demon with my wind power to stop his progression to the prince. It was hissing and screeching its dissatisfaction. I was within arms reach when the prince sliced his head off and gave me a smirk.
“Aren’t you supposed to be protecting me?” He taunted.
I didn’t have time to engage him. I knew we were being timed. I brought the other creature to me with my wind while staring at the price. As soon as the writhing creature was before me, I halted my powers and let the demon drop to the floor. Without hesitation or ceremony, I promptly cut his head off. While all that was going on I never broke eye contact with the prince. When the head hit the floor I made sure to kick it over to the prince for his snide remark. His eyes widened slightly before he thought better of it and schooled his features.
The next two simulations the instructor told us to switch off, and I was grinning from ear to ear. I was going to make this smug asshole protect me, and I wasn’t going to make it easy. I wanted to see that self assured smile fall off his face. I may or may not have purposely put myself in harm’s way while he was busy. Nothing I couldn’t get out of myself, but I knew it just pissed him off. I snickered as I took down the latest demon we were dealing with while he struggled to make it back to me. He sneered at me as he past me and practically knocked me over. It was rude and childish, but I was no better. Frankly, I knew this was the only time I got to be like this around him and I wanted to take advantage of every minute. Everyone always tiptoed around him and made sure they never crossed boundaries. As for me, well, I just kept forgetting that he was actually a prince and treated him as I would any other smug asshole. I wasn’t going to hold back on him because of his position. If he needed to step up his game than so be it. The demons weren’t going to take it easy on him because he was a prince.
We’d been going at it for hours. We had been challenging each other to our ultimate limits and it was starting to show. We were both getting sloppy as exhaustion started to take its toll. The last simulation ended and we were actually back to back leaning on each other probably more than was acceptable. As the last simulation cleared, I noticed we had amassed quite an audience. Everyone stood there in stunned silence. We both broke apart and stood upright in an instant as the instructor walked over to us clapping his hands.
“Well done! I haven’t seen that kind of teamwork in a long time. Great work Eliza! You seemed to push Prince Evindal out of his comfort zone. I have never seen him work so hard before. Prince, with respect, I am pleased at the work you’ve done today working with Eliza. The way you guys worked off each other’s strengths and weaknesses was amazing. From now on you two will be a permanent team. No sense in wasting time with other partners. You two were meant to fight together.
We both groaned simultaneously. Seriously? I was just trying to piss him off. Admittedly, I probably fought harder and faster today than I ever had. I sighed audibly.
“Well prince boy, I guess you’re arrogant ass is stuck with me.”
He snorted out a laugh. “I guess so Tink. This is going to be fun!”
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