Zendaya walked out of her room with Araminta and met up with Myst and Alexia outside.
“Ready for our first day of defense and fighting classes?” Alexia asked with a grin.
Araminta smiled. “No homework, no real classes? What could be better?”
Alexia nodded. She and Araminta linked arms and started walking for the stairs. Zendaya smiled at Myst and they followed behind.
“Uh, Zen?” Myst asked in her soft voice.
“Yes, Myst?” Zendaya asked.
“Do you know where Nevara is?”
Zendaya stopped and looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I haven’t seen her since you’ve been back…” Myst stopped as well and looked at Zendaya.
“Where could she have gone?” Zendaya asked.
Myst shrugged and started walking again. Zendaya walked beside her.
“What happened?” Alexia asked, looking back. She and Araminta had reached the stairs and were looking back.
“Nevara is missing,” Zendaya said.
Alexia raised her eyebrows.
“Why don’t we look for her tonight and get to class right now?” Araminta asked, starting to step down the stairs. She was looking at the watch on her right hand. “We’re already five minutes late for Spriggla’s defense class.”
“Oh, shoot,” Alexia muttered and started rushing down the stairs. Zendaya, Myst, and Araminta followed her closely. They rushed through the front door and ran in on Spriggla’s class.
“Nice of you to join us, girls,” Professor Spriggla commented.
“Sorry, Professor,” Alexia apologized for all of them.
“As I was saying, this class is to teach you all how to defend yourself how to defend yourself while fighting in the woods.” Spriggla turned and led them all out into the forest. Zendaya looked around at the class and saw that Hunters and students had been placed together. But the Hunters were all walking in one group and the students were keeping their distance.
“Now, when you’re fighting in the forest, you have to remember to never got caught backed up against a tree. Always maneuver yourself into a position advantageous for your own powers.”
Zendaya glanced around the forest, noticing they weren’t far from the clearing where Zendaya had followed Nevara to. “Hey, Alexia.” Alexia turned. “I’m going to walk around a little, okay? If Professor Spriggla notices, just tell her I forgot something in the school.”
Alexia raised her eyebrows but didn’t question her. She merely nodded and turned back to the professor.
Zendaya stepped back slowly and dashed off to the right. She didn’t hear the professor calling her name so she assumed she hadn’t been noticed. She sighed and looked around. She was only a few yards from the clearing where she had been caught. As she walked along, she caught sight of the tree she had been tied to and ran to it.
There was no one in the clearing, and no signs of anyone having been there. Nevara was nowhere to be seen. Zendaya sighed. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting. To find Nevara in a secret meeting with the Darkness and Bellonella? She turned and started walking back towards the defense class.
Just then, she heard noises that weren’t Spriggla’s.
“Are you sure no one noticed you leaving the school this time?” a husky voice demanded.
“I’m quite certain. Zendaya wasn’t anywhere to be seen.” Zendaya froze. That was Nevara’s voice!
Zendaya stepped towards the voices and caught sight of Nevara and the large shadowy creature from before. She was standing behind a tree at an angle from which neither would be able to see her.
“Good. With Bellonella gone, we’re going to have to summon more spirits,” the shadow man said.
Nevara nodded. “I can’t believe Berret was able to dispel Belle so easily. She was always going on and on about how the only time anyone was ever able to get rid of her had been an onoraii three hundred years ago.”
“That onoraii three hundred years ago had been Berret.”
Zendaya and Nevara both froze.
Nevara broke the silence by laughing. “Berret isn’t three hundred years old. And she can’t possibly be an onoraii!”
The Darkness appeared to nod. “You wouldn’t think so. But you’ve heard how Berret created the Werewolf Room when she first came to the school, correct?”
Nevara nodded. “Everyone’s heard about that.
“Well, have you ever noticed how old that room has to be? It’s part of the wing that was dded to the school nearly two hundred and fifty years ago. And it’s closest to the center of the school, meaning it was one of the first parts added. Can you tell me how Berret was able to add that room into the very center of the new wing without tearing it down?”
Nevara was at a loss for words. “But, then if Berret is three hundred years old…”
“Baramore is as well, yes.” The Darkness walked around the clearing. “Anyways, what I need you to do is to go back to the school and continue finding out what Berret andGriffinare planning. They must have sent those three kids off to do something important.”
Nevara nodded. “I’ll find out, don’t worry. Zen was in that room with them. And since Bellonella didn’t get to report back before she evaporated, I’ll get the information straight from Zendaya herself.”
“Good. I knew I chose a good disciple with you.” Nevara glowed under the praise and Zendaya backed away. She needed to get away from there before one of them discovered she was there. She turned and ran back to the defense session. Professor Spriggla was no longer lecturing and instead the students were practicing attacking each other and seeing how the other defended.
She looked around at the calm faces and wondered what they would say if she told them the Darkness they were training to fight was just around a few tree.
“Find what you were looking for?” Professor Spriggla asked, coming up behind her. Zendaya started.
“Um, yes, Professor. I did. Sorry about leaving,” Zendaya stuttered over her words and saw Natalia snickering with some of her pixie friends.
“Don’t worry about it, dear. Next time, let me know when you’re going to walk off into the forest though, alright?” Spriggla smiled and walked away to see how students were practicing.
“Nice save, Zen,” Alexia winked, walking over with Myst.
“What save? She totally knew I had just walked off,” Zendaya replied with a grin.
“At least you didn’t get in trouble,” Myst said quietly.
“Want to fight?” Alexia suggested. Zendaya nodded. “You and Myst against me, okay?”
Zendaya formed her hands into fists and felt them glow a dark purple color. “It feels so nice to be purple again,” she commented before blasting at Alexia with the branches of the trees.
“Good control of nature, Zendaya,” Professor Spriggla commented as she walked by.
Myst half morphed so she had cat ears, tail, and claws. She snarled and leapt for Alexia. Alexia half morphed as well, her wolf ears fidgeted and her fluffy golden tail twittered as her claws slid out. Zendaya forced the branches that had attacked Alexia earlier to form again and wrap around the werewolf.
“Hey! That’s not fair!” Aelxia cried as she hung upside down from the branches. Myst grinned.
“All’s fair in love and war, Alexia, dear,” Myst said, turning back into a human. She high fived Zendaya and Zendaya let Alexia down.
“Good job, students!” Professor Spriggla called them back together by clapping her hands. “You did well today. We will meet again tomorrow. For now you should head off for your next class.”
“What have we got next?” Araminta asked Alexia, walking up with her boyfriend, Ciel. Ciel was another vampire with white blond hair and silvery eyes. He didn’t talk often and was a complete contrast to Araminta’s loud and often obnoxious behavior.
“Aiming and Shooting with Baramore,” Alexia replied, glancing down at her training class list. “This should be exciting,” Alexia said as they began walking back toward the school, “an entire class of VP telling us how amazing he is at shooting things.” Alexia winked and grinned to tell Zendaya she was only joking.
As they entered the school, Drey, the head of the second Hunter Clan, was standing blocking their path. He let the other students and Hunters go, but wouldn’t allow Zendaya and her friends to pass.
“Can we help you?” Alexia asked harshly.
“As a matter of fact, you can,” Drey said with a smile. He moved to one side so they could see the young girl standing behind him. She was their age with long black hair and golden twinkling small eyes. When she smiled, her teeth were dazzling white and her Hunter clothes looked like they belonged in a mortal fashion magazine. “This is my daughter, Demetria. And I want you guys to take her to class with you.”
Zendaya narrowed her eyes, but before she could say anything, Alexia had already burst out.
“Why do we have to take her? I’m sure she knows plenty of Hunters who could take her along, doesn’t she?”
“Of course she does. But I want her to get to know you guys.” Drey looked at them hard and then smiled and turned to walk away.
“Sorry about him, guys,” Demetria apologized. “If you want, I’ll just tag onto a group of Hunters.” She turned to walk away, but Zendaya placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
“No way. Of course you can stay with us. If your father wants you to get to know us, then get to know us you shall.” Zendaya smiled and could see Demetria relax.
“Thanks guys,” she said, following beside Zendaya as they walked to Baramore’s corridor.
“Now, I want you all to first decide what you want as your weapon of choice.” Baramore had already begun the class as Zendaya and her friends entered the room with Demetria. “Whether it be sword or magic, decide so we can spend the rest of the time perfecting your various aiming and shooting techniques.”
Alexia raised her hand and Baramore called on her. “Does morphing into a wolf count as a weapon? And can that be aimed?”
Baramore sighed. “Alexia, why are you and Myst in this class? You should both be up in Were-being 101 right now.”
“Well, my class list says…” Alexia glanced at her list at the same time Zendaya did.
“Alexia, it says my name on there,” Zendaya hissed.
“Oh, you know what, it does say Were-being 101! I am so terribly sorry to have bothered you! Come on, Myst.” Alexia grabbed her friend’s wrist and dashed out of the room.
“Oof…some days I wonder how some of you get dressed in the mornings.” Baramore shook his head. “Anyways, as I was saying, we are going to fine tune your aiming in this class. For today we are only aiming, but tomorrow we will be outside and actually shooting.”
Zendaya glanced around the room and noticed this class was mostly filled with Shadows. Baramore must not have thought Hunters needed much practice with aiming as they did it as a profession anyways.
“Zendaya, would you mind helping out over here really quick?” Baramore called her over to his desk.
“Yes, Vice Principal?” she asked, formality used because of all of the students.
“I need you to run over to Berret’s room quickly and give her this paper.” Baramore held out a folded slip of paper and smiled. “Thank you, dear.” He turned back to the class and began explaining how to aim on a windy day. Zendaya smiled to Araminta and Demetria before leaving the classroom.
As she walked down the corridor, she felt it was quieter and colder than ever. Winter was setting in and with it dread for the forthcoming attack from the Darkness. Everyone could feel its imminence and everyone wanted to be ready when it came.
“Um, Principal Berret?” Zendaya asked, knocking on her door.
“Yes, come on in, Zendaya,” Berret called. Zendaya entered the principal’s office and saw that Berret was sitting at her desk, writing something. “You can just leave the note on the edge of my desk,” she said without looking up. Zendaya approached the desk and set the paper down. “Thank you.” Zendaya turned to leave, but just then, sound of frantic writing ceased and Berret cleared her throat.
“Would you wait one moment, Zendaya?” Zendaya stopped and turned back around.
“Of course, principal,” she replied.
“I just wanted to ask you. Do you know the name of the spirit that inhabited your body the past few days?”
Zendaya nodded. “Her name was Bellonella.” Berret’s eyes widened and she froze. Zendaya didn’t know what to say. She didn’t understand why the name had caused Berret fear. “Do you know her?”
“I did, once. She’s an ancestor from your family line, you know,” Berret replied. Now it was Zendaya’s turn to be shocked.
“She’s my ancestor?” Zendaya sat down in a chair across from Berret’s desk.
Berret nodded. “She only tries to take over the very strongest faeries, and only of the very best birth and blood.”
“What did she want with me?” Zendaya asked.
“I suspect she took you over to use you to spy on us. I doubt she ever expected to be dealing with an ono-‘ Berret cut herself off and coughed. “With a faerie as strong as you.”
“You were going to say onoraii, weren’t you?” Zendaya asked.
“What do you know about onoraii?” Berret demanded.
“Only that they’re supposed to be very strong,” Zendaya replied.
Berret nodded. “They are indeed. Incarnations of the most primeval beings.”
“So Bellonella wasn’t lying,” Zendaya muttered.
“Oh no, onoraii are very real. And very difficult to be around.” Berret smiled, as though laughing at her own joke. “Now, you should probably head back to Baramore’s class. I’m sure you’re missing prime aiming technique notes.” Berret winked as Zendaya got up to leave.
She walked through the corridors back to Baramore’s class and saw that inside the students and Hunters were all lined up against one wall and aimed at the opposite one. Demetria and Araminta stood beside each other and Zendaya joined them, standing between them.
“What did I miss?” she asked.
“Only VP telling us how not to stand or squat or squawk,” Araminta replied with a wink.
“Remember to keep the wind direction in mind when aiming. And never shoot unless you are completely sure you will hit your mark. If you can’t do it with one shot, don’t do it at all.” Baramore was walking around the room, assessing everyone’s stance. “Stand taller Ciel. You need to hold that arm out if you’re planning on stabbing someone, Ferona. You call that any way to hold a bow and arrow, Hiro?” Baramore stopped to help a young Hunter adjust his stance.
“How long is this going to take?” Demetria asked. She was holding her sword in a way that Zendaya could tell anyone who approached her would feel instant death.
“We only have fifteen more minutes before our next class,” Araminta said, glancing at her watch.
“Araminta, Demetria, and Zendaya may leave, as they are the only ones in this class with a close to perfect stance,” Baramore smiled at the girls as they walked out. Zendaya looked at her two companions.
“Our next class is Close Quarters in the basement with Professor Markowito,” Zendaya said, looking at the list Alexia had left behind. “We can wait for Lexx and Myst before heading down there.” Zendaya stopped in front of the stairs and waited for her other friends.
“So, what’s this school like?” Demetria asked, trying to break the awkward silence.
“It’s a wonderful place,” Araminta replied enthusiastically.
“Why’s that?” Demetria asked.
“Well, for one thing, they have blood provided for the vampires.” Araminta winked and smiled.
“And for another they actually teach us how to live in the real world,” Zendaya added.
“And why can’t this be the real world?” Demetria inquired. “Why does the real world have to involve mortals? What’s so special about them?”
“They make up more than three fourths of the world’s population. Hunters and Shadows are a tiny population compared to them. We have to consider their world the real world,” Araminta replied.
“But why? They just get in the way. Without them, Hunters would have no reason to hunt Shadows and we could all live in harmony, right?” Demetria put out.
“That’s true…” Zendaya said contemplatively.
“But still. It’s not possible. Unless you’re suggesting we annihilate the humans,” Araminta said gruffly.
“I’m suggesting no such thing.” Demetria and Araminta both crossed their arms over their chests and turned away from each other as Alexia and Myst joined them.
“Ready for a dose of Markowito?” Alexia questioned everyone as she walked toward the stairs leading down to the basement.
“Who’s ever been ready for him before?” Araminta asked with a grin, happier to talk to someone other than Demetria.
“Who is he?” Demetria asked Zendaya.
“Only the strangest man to ever walk these hallways,” Zendaya replied with a wink.
Myst elbowed her and smiled at Demetria. “Don’t worry. He can be really nice… if you follow his directions.”
They came out in the basement and saw they were the first ones there.
“Finally, a class we’re on time to!” Alexia said enthusiastically. Professor Markowito looked up from his desk and smiled.
“I’m afraid not. You’re nearly two hours early for this class. You must have at least one other before coming here.”
Alexia groaned and took the sheet of classes from Zendaya. She flattened it out and saw it had been folded so that two classes were hidden under the fold. “Gosh darn. We have class with Professor Chekarla right now.” Alexia went dashing up the stairs with Araminta at her side. Myst sighed and followed, Zendaya and Demetria right behind her.
As they crossed the main entrance, Demetria waved to her father, who was standing by the door. They ran up the stairs to the third floor and burst into Professor Chekarla’s room. The room was crowded with students and Hunters and Zendaya and her friends were forced to stand at the very back of the classroom.
“This is so not cool,” Alexia muttered. “Late to three classes in a row. This is even worse than real classes.”
Araminta snickered. “Maybe if we could follow that schedule correctly we’d be able to get somewhere on time.”
“We have Defense with Professor Rakshata after this. We are so not going to be late!” Alexia vowed.
“Her class is right across the hallway, right?” Myst asked. “It’d be pretty hard to be late.”
They quieted down and listened to Professor Chekarla as she told them what to expect from the Darkness and various lesser and Greater demons. As the hour came to an end, Chekarla allowed the class to leave early.
“Yes!” Alexia grinned, excited to be able to keep her vow.
“Uh, Alexia, could you and your friends wait a second.” Alexia slowly turned around, glowering at the professor. “I needed to ask you all if you could do me a favor?”
“Sure thing,” Araminta said with a smile.
“Could you five run down to the basement and get my tanks of grindlebobs? Professor Markowito was borrowing them for an experiment. Thank you!” Alexia led the way out of the room.
“Alright, let’s do this quickly,” she said, glancing at Professor Rakshata’s room across the hallway.
They dashed down the stairs to the main floor and ran to the stairs leading to the basement.
“Sorry, girls, but I’m quite sure you have one more class before mine,” Markowito commented as they came into his room again.
“We actually came to get Professor Chekarla’s grindlebobs for her,” Alexia said, striding over to the three tanks in one corner of Markowito’s classroom.
“Ahh, how thoughtful of you.” He went back to his paperwork as the girl hefted the three large tanks. Alexia and Myst took one, Zendaya and Demetria the second, and Araminta hefted the third on her own.
“You sure you don’t need help?” Zendaya asked as they reached the stairs.
“Nah, vampire strength, you know.” Araminta winked. They reached the first floor and rushed to the stairs and took the steps two at a time. Just then, the bell rand and students and Hunters came rushing out of classes all around them. They were on the second floor and could barely make it up the stairs as the crowd dwindled away and the second bell rang.
Alexia groaned. “Hurry up guys!” They reached the third floor and Alexia ran for Chekarla’s room, dragging Myst along with her, nearly dropping the tank. Zendaya and Demetria entered the room behind them and placed the tank on the floor by the door.
“Thank you so much, girls!” Chekarla called after them as they ran across the hall and into Rakshata’s room.
“Nice of you to join us girls,” Rakshata commented in her quiet and calm voice. “I was just telling the class how we would be discussing how to use technology to your advantage while fighting out there.”
“Of course she would have a tech class,” Alexia commented in Myst’s ear. Myst giggled. Zendaya was gazing at Rakshata. The dark skinned, dark haired woman was one of the sweetest teachers the school had. She would never get mad at students and she was really cool. Rather than sending a student to the principal for doing something wrong, she would stop her class to tell them how to do the crime correctly. Zendaya smiled as she recalled a time when a were-bear had come to class late claiming they had been in the library and there was no need to report his tardy to the secretary. Tardies resulted in demerits which resulted in detentions. Rakshata had smiled and nodded. But after the student had sat down, she had commented on how next time he shouldn’t take his bunny slippers to the library with him. He had turned beat red upon noticing his sleeping in was evident in his not being fully changed.
“And if you use the tech in this way, you’ll be sure to have the advantage,” she was saying as Zendaya came back to the present. Rakshata turned away from her board and looked at the class and sighed. “Now, I know you guys want to be here nearly as much as I do, so let me tell you something.” She leaned forward and winked with a smile. “If you tell anyone I let you out forty minutes early, we never had this conversation and you were in here the full hour. Okay?”
The students and Hunters grinned and nodded as they picked up their stuff and filed out of the room.
“Oh, Zendaya, could you come here one moment?” Zendaya turned back to the professor smiled.
“Sure thing.” Alexia led Myst, Araminta and Demetria through the door. “We’ll wait for you at the stairs, okay?”
Zendaya nodded in thanks and turned back to Professor Rakshata. “How can I help you?”
“I was just wondering if you would help me out after you finished up your classes. I needed someone to test out my new invention, and quite frankly, most of the students are scared of me.” Rakshata winked.
Zendaya smiled. “No problem. I’ll be by as soon as I finish Markowito’s class.”
“Thanks, dear,” Rakshata said as Zendaya left the classroom and met up with Alexia and the others at the stairs.
“Now, we’ve got forty minutes, and we aren’t going to let anything keep us from getting to Markowito’s class on time, got it?” Alexia told everyone.
Demetria grinned and whispered to Zendaya, “She’s quite serious about her classes, isn’t she?” Zendaya grinned.
“Anyways, let’s get some food,” Araminta suggested. “The place will be super crowded with Hunters and students after the last class, so let’s get in there early, shall we?”
“Sounds like a good plan,” Alexia said with a smile, descending the stairs. As they entered the dining hall, Zendaya saw that their entire class had had the same idea. They finished eating and started walking to Markowito’s class.
“Five minutes left. Let’s head down,” Alexia said, leading the way.
“Quite the little leader, too,” Demetria said.
“Ahh, finally here at the right time,” Professor Markowito said with a smile as Zendaya and her friends took seats at the front of the class. Other students and Hunters began to file in and Markowito began his class. “Now, this Close Quarters class is to teach how to maneuver yourself when caught in a tight spot.”
Zendaya let her mind drift as he continued about what close quarters were. She thought about Rhea and the two Hunters and where they might be right now. Zendaya focused again as a fire message burned into existence in front of Alexia and the werewolf gasped as she read it.
“What is the problem, Ms. Alexia?” Markowito asked in exasperation.
“Sorry, Professor. I have to go. Principal Berret has called me.” She left the message behind and dashed out of the room.
“So much for getting to class on time,” Demetria muttered. Zendaya glanced at the paper note Alexia had left behind and nearly gasped. The note was from Principal Berret and it said that her little brother had gone missing.
“That can’t be good,” Myst whispered as she read the note. “He’s always wandering around. And if he wandered into the wrong part of the woods…”
Zendaya nodded grimly, not wanting to hear it. If Alexia’s brother had run into the Darkness, there was no saving him now.
Zendaya couldn’t focus on what Markowito was saying for the rest of the class and when the bell finally rang, she dashed out of the class and up the stairs with Myst and Demetria. Araminta had stopped to talk to Ciel.
As they reached the top of the stairs, they ran into Alexia, who had been heading for the basement.
“Is class over?” she asked, voice devoid of emotion.
“What happened?” Myst asked, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“PB says he went missing this morning and that I shouldn’t keep too much hope…” Alexia replied dully.
“She didn’t say that, did she?” Zendaya asked, shocked.
“No, but she might as well have done so.”
“Don’t worry, Lexx, he’s been in tough situations before, and he’s always come back,” Myst assured her friend.
“He’s never been up against a creature that could kill Vaiko!” Alexia burst out, shrugging off Myst’s hand and running toward the stairs.
Myst stared after her with wide concerned chocolate brown eyes. “What could I have said?” she asked quietly.
“Nothing,” Zendaya reassured. “All we can do is hope Alek is okay.” Zendaya could hear her voice waver. Alexia’s parents had died when Alek was only two years old. She had raised him and brought him to the school where Principal Berret had allowed them to stay even though they weren’t old enough to attend classes.
Zendaya walked with Myst and Demetria to the stairs.
“Well, I’ll see you guys later,” Demetria said as she headed toward the large purple door that led to the fifth floor. “It was nice to meet you all. And I hope Alexia finds her brother.” Zendaya nodded.
“It was nice to have you around to day. And thanks.” Zendaya smiled and watched as Demetria stepped through the glowing purple door. She turned and stepped up the stairs with Myst. “Mind if I stay in your room for a while? I think Lexx needs some time to think and Araminta won’t be back from her ‘date’ with Ciel for a while.”
“Of course. Nevara still hasn’t been around so I doubt she’d mind,” Myst replied, opening the door to her dorm room. Inside, Zendaya could easily tell where the line between Myst and Nevara’s side of the room was. The right side of the room was perfectly cleaned and neat. Nothing was out of place. The open closet door showed a closet filled with ironed soft colored shirts and dresses. Meanwhile, the left side of the room was cluttered with fashion magazines, the closet filled with clothes thrown this way and that.
“Nice room,” Zendaya commented.
“Thanks,” Myst said with a smile. They sat on her bed and talked late into the night about classes, teachers, and friends.