“Welcome, students, to the start of a new year.”
Rows and rows of blue hoods sat in the chapel, staring up at the woman talking at the podium, pale hands with flawlessly manicured red nails tapping sharply against the hard wooden surface. It was like this every beginning of the school year. None of the students could pick out a difference in the woman or in her presentation, the same way none could see a difference in the building that sheltered them. These things were the same at the start and end of time.
“To those new students, welcome to the Lethe Academy community.”
A cloaked student with pale delicate hands shifted, crossing thin arms. The student sitting next to it leaned to the side a little, a couple locks of red hair falling from under the blue hood.
“Here we go again,” the student with red hair murmured very softly.
“Do not speak. You know how she hates it when we speak.”
“You are the chosen few allowed to attend our school. Many of you come from less well-off backgrounds, and we at Lethe Academy are happy to elevate your status if you will do your part.”
The stained glass windows stretching up the steeple glowed softly with the last rays of the twilight sun, letting the images of various gods fighting, tricking, and loving each other radiate light for a last few minutes. Signs almost as big as the windows were hung on the stone walls, looking out of place against the gray, medieval architecture. They were a list of rules. Every letter was bolded. Every other word underlined.
‘Infractions that Earn Swift and Immediate Punishment:
Use or Possession of Drugs or Alcohol
Possession or Use of Weapons
Sexually-Based Activity (THIS WILL ALSO EARN IMMEDIATE SOLITARY RESTRICTION FOR THE FEMALE INVOLVED) (What counts as sexually-based is interpreted by the administrators on a case-by-case basis)
Tampering or Destruction of School Property
Disrespect Towards Administrators
Cruising (Leaving Your Dorm Once You Have Signed in and it has Closed for the Night)
Walking in the Woods After Dorm Closing Hours’ and so on. More and more rules always added, to the point where most people simply assumed that everything but doing exactly what the teachers told you to do was against them.
“The Lethe Academy is one of the most renowned boarding schools in the world. The faculty is rigorously tested before they are allowed to work here. The facilities outside of the arts and science halls are all kept in their original state from over a hundred years ago.”
Two students were sitting nearly shoulder-to-shoulder next to the student with the red hair and the one with the delicate hands. The only sign that these students were different was that their hands were green and their nails were long and sharp.
Neither spoke. One only rested a green hand on the other’s shoulder, squeezing gently. The other student did nothing to respond, and that in and of itself signified the silent thankfulness.
“All that’s needed to complete the image is for your excellence, and I’m sure that we’ll receive it.”
The rows of hoods shifted and six students stood, walking to the podium in a swirl of blue, white hands like froth moving against the colors. They all stood in a line, facing the students, and pulled down their hoods.
“These are the school monitors. Recognize their faces. If they find out about rule-breaking, they will report you to me or your dean.”
Down the row, several teenagers, mostly boys, stood rigid. A clean-shaven boy with a full head of dark blue hair. A boy with a shaved head, a growing goatee, and scars crisscrossing every inch of his skin. A girl with short turquoise hair. A boy with thick hair the same color as the girl’s. A girl with long black hair and a serious face.
All had the school emblem on their breast, the three roads coming together at a black pool.
“I’m sure that I won’t need them to come to me.”
Quiet settled. The room dropped several degrees.
The students all tensed as one, anticipating what was coming next.
“And I’m sure that I do not need to remind you that anyone caught practicing witchcraft will be immediately thrown at the mercy of the courts and burned at the stake.”
There was a long silence.
The woman gave a fake smile. It made the tattoo of the skeleton dragon on her face look twisted. “Classes start at eight o’clock sharp tomorrow. Dismissed.”
“Lights-Out begins in a minute! If your lights are still on by then, you have an immediate restriction!”
A girl with red hair scowled at the frowning serious-faced monitor before scrambling from the bathroom, sliding into her own room with grace that could only come from muscle memory. “Elf, are you in bed?”
Elf, an elf with royal purple hair and violet eyes (and who the girl with red hair would have no idea which gender she was had she not been placed in the girls’ dorms), looked up from reading a simple leather-bound book on the bed, snapping it shut. “Miss Red, you should turn off the lights.”
Red rolled her eyes. “Call me ‘Miss’ again and this will be a very unpleasant roommate-ship.” She flicked the lights off, closed the door, and zipped under the covers, squirming out of her pants and bra under the sheets. They had only been given five minutes to get ready. How Elf had managed to wash her face, brush her teeth, and change into a nightgown and still had had time to read was a mystery for the ages.
Someone pushed the door open. “Sorry, guys—doors can’t be shut at any time.”
Red sat up, scowling and squinting at the light invading the room. “Turquoise, that’s ridiculous.”
The short-haired girl monitor shook her head, smiling ruefully. “Sorry, Red. The school doesn’t want anything funny going on.”
“And they believe that all the roommates will be copulating with one another the night they meet like wild rabbits if the doors are shut?” Elf asked irritably, glaring at the light coming in their room from the hallway, too dim to read anything by but too bright to comfortably sleep with.
“Hey, I don’t make up the rules. I just make sure no one does something that can get them in trouble.” Turquoise leaned against the doorway. “Look at it this way—we’re enforcing your oath of chastity.”
“Chastity can kiss my ass. I like sleeping without light and people pacing outside my door,” Red said sourly. “I can already tell that I’ll be loving this year.”
Elf paused for a moment, then sighed resignedly. “It is just as arbitrary as the rest of the rules here, but we lack the power to do something about it.” She rolled on her side with her back to the door. “Good night, I suppose.”
“Sorry, Elf. I’ll make it up to you and Red tomorrow.” Turquoise smiled fondly. “Pretend you’re sleeping. Sirius is going through the rooms to check if anyone’s talking. Did you finish up your water?”
Red shrugged, fluffing her pillow with unnecessary violence. “Of course. Both of us did. Why?”
“I don’t know. They just want you all to stay hydrated and not get up in the middle of the night to get a drink, so they tell the monitors to ask. Good luck with classes tomorrow.”
Turquoise disappeared from the door. By the time Sirius, the black-haired girl monitor, came at their doorway to check on them, they were pretending to be thoroughly asleep.
“Big brother, I don’t like this place already,” the goblin missing his left eye grumbled, pulling his uniform blue cloak off and putting on a pair of pants to sleep in. “I mean, they’re way too uptight about this ‘no sex’ thing. What does solitary confinement mean? Why is it that the girls are the only ones who get it if they get caught having sex?”
“Are you complaining about not being thrown there yourself?”
“No, but how can a school get away with something like that?”
The goblin missing his right eye turned away from his little brother, pulling on his own sleepwear. “This is a very prestigious school. It reforms a lot of troublesome kids and sends them off to good colleges. They insist that strictness is key to that, and the rest of the world is willing to overlook some moralistic and sexist policies.” He looked back, smiling fondly. “So if you plan on sleeping with the girls, make sure they don’t get caught or you’ll find yourself running out of them quick.”
“You know me. A real Casanova.” The younger brother smiled and sat on his bed. “What about you? You seriously need a girlfriend.”
“I like to focus on schoolwork, thanks.” The older brother shrugged and smiled. “Besides, with all the rules they have surrounding stuff like that, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Nice to see that you have some sense, but let’s see if you keep thinking that way once you see all the girls.”
The scarred school monitor hung by the doorway politely, glancing in and doing a visual sweep of the room. “Especially Demon. She has any boy she meets on strings.”
“I doubt she’ll get Big Brother.” The youngest brother looked back at the older amusedly. “I swear, it’s like he’s a eunuch.”
“And it’s like you want to be thrown out of school,” the older brother countered, a smile playing across his face. “Besides, not everyone wants to sleep with whatever girl throws herself at him.”
“I bet you don’t even know what a eunuch is.”
The scarred monitor chuckled softly. “This argument will have to wait for the morning, Patch, Crim.”
Crim, the older brother, nodded, settling under his blankets. “I don’t know about you, Brother, but I want to be awake for the first day.”
“Classes are painless when you sleep through them.”
“Not when the teachers catch you and drag you off to be beaten. I’m only going to cover for you three times, then you’re on your own.”
The monitor chuckled softly again. “Maybe you shouldn’t be talking about this in front of me.”
Patch glanced over at him, giving a sly grin. “We know you won’t report us, Scar.”
“Just remember that I’m a monitor.” Scar yawned. “Now sleep. Whether or not you want to succeed, it’s always best to be well-rested.”
“Sure thing, Scar.”
He smiled ruefully, turning off the lights and leaving, keeping the door open in his wake.