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Welcome To Ilirea

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ERAGON

6:45... Where the hell is that girl?

Eragon sat fidgeting in his car, parked outside Saphira's house with the engine rumbling softly. If she didn't get out here in the next few minutes, they were going to be late, and then he was really gonna be mad. His left hand gripped the steering wheel til his knuckles turned white, while the other tapped out a steady rhythm on the gear shift in time with the music. Every couple of seconds, he glanced at the front door. When the clock read 6:49, he decided he'd had enough.

The blasting of his car horn echoed throughout the quiet neighborhood. If it had woken any of her neighbors, it would be Saphira's fault. Even with his insistent honking, it took her another minute to come bursting out of the front door, backpack slung haphazardly over one shoulder and hair looking a disheveled mess.

She wrenched the passenger side door open and practically fell into the seat. He didn't wait for her to buckle her seatbelt before throwing the car into first and tearing out of the neighborhood. He'd be damned if they were late on the first day of their Senior year.

"Sorry," Saphira said breathlessly, rifling through the pocket of her backpack for only-God-knows-what.

"What took ya so long, Saph?" he asked in an irritated voice. "I told you I'd be out there at twenty-til."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," she replied, drawing a hairbrush from her bag and running it quickly through the blonde mess that was her hair. "I forgot to set my alarm, I'm sorry. Band camp was killer last week and I'm still exhausted."

"Yeah, well just wait til you've gotta be at the school at 5:30 for a competition." She gave him a sideways sneer and narrowed her bright, blue eyes.

"Thanks, Mr. Sympathetic." She finished brushing her hair and checked it in the visor mirror, the bangles on her wrist jangling and tinkling loudly against one another as she flipped it down. Eragon guessed she was satisfied when she put her brush back in her bag. "How do I look?" she asked, turning towards him a bit.

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, trying to concentrate on the road at the same time. She wore shorts, as it was still hotter than Hell, and a short-sleeved t-shirt with the logo of some band screen printed on it. His eyes traveled up to her tired face and recently-brushed hair.

"When did you get that done?" he asked, motioning to the area on his own head he was trying to point out on hers. As her head moved, he could glimpse the electric blue highlights a little easier, though when she moved back they were covered again.

"Sunday," she replied with a smile. "You like them?" He glanced back, and decided that the blue looked good against her light blonde hair and tan skin. It made the color of her eyes pop even more than they already did.

"Yeah, you look good, Saphira." She smiled even wider and then turned back to the front windshield. "What about me?" He was making fun of her now, but she didn't seem to care.

"You look like you don't give a damn what you look like," she said with a laugh, scrunching up her freckled nose.

"Damn right," he laughed. She cranked up the radio, blasting some song that he was pretty sure was by the band on her t-shirt. By the time the song was over, they were pulling into the student parking lot on the north side of the school, inching at snail's pace due to the long line of cars trying to get into the narrow entrance. "They really need to do something about this lot," Eragon grumbled.

When they finally pulled into a parking space, the clock read 7:05; ten minutes til first bell. Eragon was less than thrilled that he'd gotten stuck with a first period his Senior year; he would have liked nothing more than to sleep in every day. Unfortunately, he was an idiot, and had neglected to take his required multimedia class til this year. And, also unfortunately, the only one he was qualified to take was only offered during 1st. So here he was, draggin' his ass to school before his brother had even opened his eyes. As for Saphira, well she was just a glutton for punishment.

"I'll see ya at lunch, Eragon!" Saphira called, and Eragon had to shake his head in order to focus. He hadn't even noticed her getting out of the car.

"Bye, Saph!" he called quickly as she melded into the crowd entering the school. He thought he saw her wave over her shoulder, but she disappeared before he could be certain. As slowly as he thought he could get away with, Eragon got out of his car and grabbed his backpack from the back seat, slinging it over his shoulder and pushing the door shut with a metallic creak.

Hordes of kids filed or ran past him, shouting and laughing with their friends. There was something kind of exciting about the first day of school, but Eragon knew that feeling wouldn't last through the week. They'd be complaining about getting up early and staying up late before he knew it. It was the same every year; he shouldn't be surprised. The only difference this year was that he didn't share in their excitement.

Eragon glanced down at the schedule he held in his hands, skimming the classroom numbers and teacher's names for probably the thousandth time. He'd had three of his teachers before. Mrs. Green his Freshman year for Algebra 1; she'd be his Statistics teacher this year. Obviously, Coach Haley was familiar to him, and he'd taught the Weight Training class for forever. Then Mrs. Dalton had taught him Sophomore level English; she was the teacher for the Humanities class he had with Saphira. Mr. Wall taught his Computer Lab class, which was the first one of the day. And his last class of the day was a Teacher's Assistant course... for Ms. Herbeau. She was the Drama teacher, and he couldn't figure out how he'd ended up as her assistant. He'd heard some crazy stuff about her; guess he'd get to finally find out if they were true.

He looked up at the brick facade of the building in front of him. Okay, he thought with determination, here we go.

 


 

Eragon sat in his 3rd period Statistics class, tapping his pencil on the desk top agitatedly. Mrs. Green stood before the class in front of her Smart Board, glasses perched on the end of her nose as she read her syllabus for this semester aloud. As nice as the old lady was, she was pretty damn boring. If today was any indication, Eragon could tell this was gonna be a hell of a long semester.

Thirty minutes later and she was finally done prattling on. And with only twenty minutes left in class, Mrs. Green gave them free reign to do what they wanted for the rest of the period. Eragon wasn't gonna ask twice. He fished his phone out of his jean pocket, checking for any notifications.

"Your girlfriend's annoying the hell out of me." That was from Murtagh, delivered at about 8:30, which would put him in 2nd period. What did he have? Oh right, Astronomy. Saphira was in the same class.

"For the last time, she's not my girlfriend, you ass." Eragon hit send with a slight smile and then moved on to the next one.

This time, it was from Saphira. "Murty says he's gonna hit you next time he sees you, since he can't hit me. ;)" Eragon had to stifle a chuckle, and opted for a poorly concealed cough instead. He felt bad for that teacher, having both Saph and Murtagh in their class. Must be hell.

"Try not to bother him too much, Saphy." He knew she hated when he called her that, and it was with a smug sense of satisfaction that he hit send.

Before he knew it, the bell was ringing for the end of class and everyone was scrambling to get out. His desk was situated next to the door, so he had no problem scurrying out of the classroom and into the already-congested hallways. It was a cacophony of laughing and voices, ringing in his ears. The Freshmen were easy enough to pick out; they all had these terrified looks on their faces, and most of them didn't know where they were going. A few Seniors in bright green shirts stood at the ends of the hallways that lead to the main hallway, ready to point any lost Freshies in the right direction.

Eragon weaved in and out of everyone with practiced precision. He stood about a head taller than everyone around him, so it was only a matter of picking out the best route. His next class was Weight Training, down under the gym. A gaggle of girls walking slower than seemed humanly possible blocked his way, so he cleared his throat as loudly as he could, causing what he assumed to be their leader to turn with a disgusted look on her face. As soon as she saw him though, that look disappeared into one of mild embarrassment. He smiled quickly and seized his opportunity to dart past all the girls as they erupted into a fit of giggles.

 


 

Weight Training was, as always, his favorite class. He loved being able to lose himself in working out while the school day went on around him. It was like taking an afternoon nap of sorts, except for the fact that he happened to be lifting more than a hundred pounds over his head at the moment. But working out was cathartic for him; a stress relief. Coupled with the fact that he had a free period after this, he couldn't have been happier right now.

"You good, man?" Jamie, his spotter, asked him quickly. Eragon grunted in response, did two more reps, and then replaced the bar on the rack.

"Thanks, Jamie, I'm all set," he said to the bigger kid. He was an outside tackle on the defensive line, and a hell of a good one at that. At 6'5 and 240 pounds, Eragon didn't think any of the quarterbacks in their league stood a chance against this monster.

He glanced up at the clock on the wall. 10:55. He checked with Coach Haley and left a little early to get to the showers first. After showering quickly and putting his clothes back on, 4th period was over, and the sounds of hundreds of kids heading frantically to lunch floated in from outside the locker rooms. He grabbed his backpack out of the locker and then slammed the door, clicking his lock shut. In his pocket, his phone buzzed like an angry bee.

Eragon pulled it out and glanced at the screen. Saphira: "Meet me in the library?" He sighed, a little overdramatically. They were supposed to be going out to lunch; why was he surprised she needed to go to the library on the first day of school?

"Be there in a sec," he replied. The library wasn't far from the gym, but he had to trek past the cafeteria to get there. A huge line of people were already waiting to get through the food line, most of them underclassmen who didn't have off-campus privileges. Some of the younger girls stared as he walked by, but he ignored them, though the feeling of their eyes on him never left.

Mrs. Martin, the librarian, greeted him as he walked in, and he waved in response. It was quiet in here, as it ought to have been. Maybe that was why he'd never liked it; it was just too quiet for his liking. He did a quick glance about the room, looking for Saphira's familiar form. And of course, she was nowhere to be seen.

"Where r u?" he texted in irritation. The response took a few moments to come.

"History section." He huffed angrily. Right, because he knew exactly where that was. Eragon walked a little further into the huge room, keeping to the edge to avoid walking through the section where all the tables were. After he sighted down a couple of the aisles, he finally caught a glimpse of her distinctive hair. Eragon made his way quickly around all the tables and down the narrow aisle where Saphira was perusing the spines of books.

"What are you doing, Saph?" he whispered, glancing around to make sure he wouldn't be disturbing anyone. "I thought we had plans for lunch?"

"We're still gonna go, Eragon, don't get your panties in a twist." He bristled slightly at the sarcastic remark. "I just need to get my hands on a book before that two-faced little snob gets it." He watched her for another few moments with mock displeasure.

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

"I got a tip from Grace, who has the same Humanities course we're taking, just during 2nd period. She said there was a book that was required reading that got left off the syllabus," Saphira explained calmly, moving a few books around to look behind them. "There's only two copies in the library. Grace got the first one, and she hid the second one for me." Saphira pushed a couple books apart and huffed in annoyance when her oh-so-important book wasn't there. "Too bad Gracie dear couldn't remember which titles she hid the damn thing behind."

"And who exactly are you worried is going to take this book? Why don't you just buy it?" Saphira whirled on him quickly.

"We're taking a college course, Eragon," she hissed quietly. "Have you ever been to the campus bookstore during the first week of classes?" He shook his head dumbly. "It's a madhouse. I have no intention of going down there. Besides, if I don't have to spend the money on a book, I'm not going to." She turned back to the stacks with an irritated look on her face. "As to the other question... I think you know."

"Oh, don't tell me this is about that stupid rivalry you have with what's-her-name," Eragon said, rolling his eyes slightly.

"It's not a stupid rivalry, Eragon." Saphira actually sounded offended, so he looked over at her. Sure enough, there was a hurt look in her eyes. "You know what it means for me to be valedictorian. My parents don't have a lot of money; I need to get a good scholarship if I want to make it to A&M. The only way to do that is to be top of the class. I have to beat her." Eragon held his hands up in defeat.

"Okay, I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking," he conceded. Saphira remained quiet through the rest of her search, until she finally found the book and let out a triumphant squeal.

"Come on, let's go," she said excitedly, any offense she'd taken forgotten completely. Eragon followed behind her as she bounded up to the front desk to check out the book. There was quite a line, so they'd have to wait a little longer. Saphira leafed through a few of the pages as they waited in line, while Eragon looked idly about the room, people watching absently.

He was surprised by how many people were in here, seeing as it was only the first day of school. He guessed there were just a bunch of people who took their grades a lot more seriously than he did. No doubt, he had good grades, but he didn't go out of his way to make sure he did. Not like Saphira, anyways. And this girl she had a petty rivalry with. What was her name again? He couldn't remember.

In the midst of his thoughts, Eragon realized he'd been staring at one table in particular, without really looking. And now that he was, he was shocked utterly still.

Sitting at the table, was a girl. She looked to be in his grade, and she was bent over the table, poring over a textbook with a notebook open at her right hand. Scores of different colored pens, highlighters, post-it notes, and other study materials were laid out on the table meticulously. Shoulder-length, black hair curtained her face, but he could just glimpse the features of her face.

"Saphira," he said quietly, leaning towards her without ever taking his eyes off this girl. "Who is that?" She looked back at him, and then followed his gaze to the dark-haired girl.

"Are you kidding me, Eragon?" she hissed, elbowing him in the gut painfully.

"Ouch! What was that for?" He rubbed at his stomach where she'd hit him, though it did little to ease the pain.

"That's Arya," she said with a sneer, glancing back at the table quickly. Despite Eragon's loud cry of pain, her eyes had never strayed from her studies.

"Who?" Saphira whipped her head back to him with narrowed eyes.

"Seriously? I've had a rivalry with this girl since Freshman year and you don't even know who she is?" she said in disbelief. Saphira scoffed slightly as she turned away, but Eragon couldn't take his eyes off this girl. It was like there was something magnetic pulling his gaze towards her, drawing him in. Why had he never noticed her before? He knew there was no way he'd ever had a class with her; he would have remembered that.

"Come on, you drooling idiot," Saphira said, grasping his forearm and pulling him along. She checked out her book and then they were on their way. And throughout lunch, Eragon couldn't get that girl out of his head.

 


 

Mrs. Dalton had always been one of his favorite teachers. She had this way of teaching that made it fun, and a lot of her projects were hands-on and interactive, which he enjoyed. The fact that he'd be getting college credit for this course only made it that much better. And the fact that Saphira was in this class with him.

It was still a few minutes to the bell, but he and Saphira had already taken their seats. He just hoped Mrs. Dalton would let them keep their seats, and didn't have a seating chart. At his right, Saphira was chatting away about something. But he wasn't really paying attention; not anymore, anyways. Because the last person he'd expected to see walked in the door.

"God, you have got to be kidding me," Saphira said under her breath. As for Eragon, well... he had to mentally slap himself to get his mouth to close. Arya sat on the opposite side of the room, near the back of the class and away from everybody else. Eventually, once everyone else had arrived, the seats around her filled in and Eragon couldn't help thinking she looked uncomfortable. The second bell rang and Mrs. Dalton stood up from her desk.

"Alright, everyone, settle down please," she said, setting herself up on a cushioned barstool. "Welcome to CE Humanities, which is, as I'm sure you all know, a college credit course. I trust you all have your textbooks already. If not, you've got a week to get them from the campus bookstore. To start off today, I'm going to be giving you all assigned seats, so everybody up and at 'em."

Saphira groaned at his side, gathering up her things, but Eragon was silently celebrating, hoping he'd be seated next to Arya. Mrs. Dalton started reading off names and pointing to seats, placing Saphira a few desks over from where she was already sitting.

"Eragon," she said, looking up at him, "you'll be seated next to Miss Draper, over there." She pointed, and he shifted his gaze to where she'd indicated. Emerald green eyes stared back at him, wide and maybe a little... surprised? He walked over and sat at her left, pulling out his notebook and binder and keeping his head down. That magnetic force he'd felt before was gone, and it was replaced by an icy coldness. She sat completely stiff in her chair, eyes trained on their teacher and mouth clamped into a thin line.

"Now that's out of the way," their teacher continued, "I'll be passing out a quiz. This is not for a grade; it's meant to simply test the knowledge you already have so I can know what our starting point is." She passed out the quizzes to each row and they were handed back one-by-one. "You all may converse during the quiz. In this class, we're going to be doing a lot of group projects, so I want you to get used to working together. Alright, you can begin."

A hushed murmur broke out amongst his classmates. At his right, Arya was bent over her quiz, circling answers and penciling in responses with a speed he'd never seen before. Damn, he thought, she must really know her stuff. He looked back at his own quiz and read the first question.

'When was the Romantic Era in music? A. 1780-1850 B.1820-1910 C. 1650-1730 or D. 1790-1910' What the hell? he thought, furrowing his brow. He had no idea what the answer was. A quick scan of the rest of the questions told him he didn't know the answers to them either. Hesitantly, Eragon turned to the girl at his right, still working on her quiz.

"I have no idea about any of these," he said lightly, trying to play it off with a laugh. Eragon saw her shoulders tense slightly, but her eyes never left the page.

"Maybe you should have done the suggested reading over the summer," she replied quietly and in a terse voice.

He was a little caught off-guard by her hostility. Then again, he might have acted the same if some stranger had just started talking to him out of nowhere. But if they'd be sitting next to one another all semester, he had to try and at least be nice.

"Yeah, maybe," he admitted with a sheepish grin and laugh. "I'm not much of a reader, to be honest."

"Well then," she said, turning to him with the most dazzling smile, "I guess you're stuck to guessing, aren't you?" He didn't know what to say. She... she was making fun of him.

"I'm sorry," he said quickly, "have I done something to offend you?" Her fake smile dropped quickly, and then she was eyeing him warily, scathing with those intense, green eyes.

Finally, she said quietly, "You don't remember at all, do you?" His confused look must have been answer enough. She looked away, but he could tell her hostility had been replaced with something else: hurt. Before he could say anything in response, she stood up and handed her quiz in to Mrs. Dalton. She returned to her seat, but Eragon didn't make another move to talk to her. Something wasn't right here... What did she mean he didn't remember?

Once the class was over, Arya put her things away quickly and then hurried out of the room without a look back at him. He watched her go, more confused than ever, but he was brought back by a sharp slap on his shoulder.

"What is the matter with you, Eragon?" Saphira asked him, eyes wide in disbelief.

"Saphira, what are you talking about?" He slowly began replacing his materials in his bag before standing up and making his way out of the class with everyone else.

"Why were you talking to her?" she demanded.

He eyed her carefully as they walked down the hall, pressing through crowds of people that decided the middle of the hallway was a perfect place to stop and have a conversation. "Just because you don't like her," he called over the hum of voices all around them, "doesn't mean that I can't like her." They finally pushed through the most heavily populated area to a clear space, underneath the circular staircase that led to the upper floor.

"Eragon, you really are dumb," she growled. "Do you not remember your Freshman year at all?"

"I've tried to scrub it from my memory," he muttered.

"Maybe this will help to jog it," she said, popping him on the side of the head. "Remember 'metal mouth mooncalf'?" Realization hit him like a freight train. 'Metal mouth mooncalf'... it had been the demeaning moniker they'd slapped on that poor girl back in their 9th grade year.

"Shit," he whispered, wide-eyed as the memories came back to him. "That's her?"

"Yeah," Saphira said exasperatedly, "and I'm sure she thought you were making fun of her by trying to talk to her back there." He remembered his Freshman year, when he'd been unbelievably stupid and desperately trying to fit in with the older guys on his football team. There was a girl in his grade; he didn't really know her, and he hadn't really cared. She was a nerd; a geek; a freak with braces. They'd made fun of her without caring what that might mean. Now it seemed karma was coming to bite him in the ass.

"But... b-but I―"

"You screwed up, Eragon," she said unsympathetically, "big time. Come on, we gotta get you to the drama room or Miss Herbeau is gonna fire up the cauldron to put you in."

"Wait, what?" he said incredulously as she dragged him down the almost-empty hall. It must be getting close to second bell.

"Oh," Saphira said distractedly, "didn't I tell you she's a Wiccan?" Eragon felt a shudder go through him at the thought. Saphira just laughed at his discomfort and led him down a hall across from the gym. If they'd gone straight, they would have ended up in the lobby to the auditorium, but Saph turned quickly to the left to go down a short set of stairs. They were in the Performing Arts wing, somewhere he'd never been before. He'd never had a reason to go there; now it seemed he'd be here on a daily basis.

They passed the choir room on their left, from which he could hear a girl's gentle, warm singing. After that were a couple of offices he assumed belonged to teachers, and then a room full of students with guitars. He glimpsed a few huge, wooden instruments leaned against the back wall on a standing rack, and deduced that this was the orchestra room. They passed a computer lab on the right, a couple of smallish rooms where people were practicing, and then a large room with huge filing cabinets. Saphira told him this was the Music Library. Around the corner from that room was a door with glass panels on either side.

"Here's the drama room," Saphira said, finally releasing his wrist. "I'll be in the band room if Miss Herbeau happens to let you go." She motioned over her shoulder to another door at their left. "But don't count on that. Good luck." She turned swiftly and left him standing in the hallway by himself. He glanced into the room through the glass panel and saw it was empty. Weird, he thought, putting a hand on the knob and going inside.

It was quiet and dimly lit. The overhead lights were off, but there were bistro lights strung along the perimeter of the ceiling, giving the room a warm, orange glow. Long tables took up most of the room, and there was an old-timey chalkboard on the right wall. There were some words written in a looping, fancy script, but he didn't understand them. They looked like they were in a different language... Latin, maybe?

There were a couple of doors at the far end of the room, and one of them was propped open so he could see a dressing room. And on the wall to his left was a large, glass window looking into an office he assumed must be Miss Herbeau's. More bistro lights in the office gave off a soft glow. He could smell incense burning somewhere, and Eragon thought that couldn't be very safe. On every wall there were posters and pictures of plays and musicals, so many he couldn't count them all. He walked a little further along the right-hand wall and found another door, tucked into an alcove so he almost didn't see it.

Hesitantly, he twisted the handle and pulled it open slightly, stepping forward to go through. Before he could take more than two steps though, a sharp cry filled the air, and a streak of black ran past his feet. He jumped back with a yelp, taking care not to trample what he now realized was a huge, midnight black cat. The creature jumped lightly onto one of the long tables, turning and perching on the edge to stare at him with yellow eyes as big as saucers.

"Hey, kitty," he said quietly, walking slowly to the table it sat upon. The cat flicked its tail before wrapping the tail around itself, blinking slowly at him. Eragon reached out a hand, which the cat sniffed at. Tentatively, he scratched behind its ear, and let himself smile a bit when the cat leaned into his touch and closed its eyes, purring contentedly.

"You must be Eragon." The voice startled him nearly out of his skin, and he whirled around to see a tiny woman with the craziest hair he'd ever seen. It was a light brown, with shades of blonde here and there, and curled wildly up around her head. Sharp blue eyes inspected him carefully, but her mouth was twisted into a wry smirk. Her skin was dark, with a hint of warm caramel.

"Uh, yeah, that's me," he replied, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I guess I'm your assistant for this semester, Miss Herbeau."

"Oh please," she said quickly, allowing her smile to widen, "call me Angela. All the other kids do." He thought it might be a little weird to call a teacher by her first name, but he nodded all the same. "Come on, I'll show you around." She beckoned him through the door he'd tried to open, and he followed her dutifully.

"I'm surprised Solembum let you pet him," she said over her shoulder as he stepped into the huge space before him. The ceilings were at least thirty feet high, and it seemed he'd stepped into some kind of workshop. To the left, there was a sort of garage door that stood open to the outside. In an alcove beyond the door, he could see his brother's motorcycle parked in the shade. There were kids roaming in and out of the door, carrying wooden beams or power tools.

"Uh, who?" he asked distractedly, taking in all the sights.

"Solembum," she repeated with a laugh. "My cat. He's not always friendly with the kids, but they know not to touch him. He found you before I could warn you, though it seems I didn't have to." He grunted in response, unsure of what to say. What kind of teacher brings their cat to school? "Now, during 7th period I've got my techies in here, so try not to get in their way. They get a little cranky, especially if we're getting close to opening night." Eragon didn't have the foggiest what she was talking about, but he nodded anyways.

In front of them was another huge opening that led out onto the auditorium stage. He could glimpse the edge of a canvas that he guessed usually covered this opening, but right now it was open, so he could see a group of kids sitting in a circle on the stage while one stood in the middle talking about safety procedures...or something like that.

"Up those stairs―" she pointed to a metal staircase that reminded him of a fire escape "―is where we keep the costumes. That's where you'll be spending most of your semester. I need somebody to organize the wardrobe, and luckily I got a strapping kid for an assistant this year."

"Organize?" he said dumbly. She turned on her heel, flinging her crazy hair wildly.

"Yup!" she exclaimed happily, leaning over to a worktable and picking up a white three-ring binder. Inside were pages and pages of paper with numbers and words typed all over them. She handed it over to Eragon. "This is our costume inventory," she explained, "and I hate to say that it's become quite disheveled over the years. In that binder, you'll find every piece of clothing this department owns, and I need for you to organize it. Our fall drama production is coming up in a few months, so I'll need it mostly done by then. Think you can do that?"

Eragon stared at the papers in front of him, eyes wide. "Mmm, yeah, I think so," he replied. "But, how do you want me to organize it?"

"By color, of course!" she said, clapping her hands together. "I color coordinate all my shows, Eragon. The productions look so much more put-together that way, don't ya think?"

"Oh... uh, sure." Eragon wasn't quite sure what to think of this odd little woman, with her crazy hair, paint splatter overalls, and combat boots. Saphira's words came back to him then, and he noticed a pendant she was wearing around her neck in the shape of a crescent moon and stars. He'd never been overly religious, despite what his mother might have wanted, but that didn't mean he was gonna mess around with witchcraft. Against his better judgment, he was starting to get freaked out.

"Well..." She paused expectantly. When he didn't respond, she rolled her eyes slightly and waved her hands at him in a shooing gesture. "Go on, get up there. You'd best get started." He nodded quickly and clambered up the metal ladder, binder in hand. "Hey! Grant, I need you to get a group of guys and start on that platform!" Miss Angela―there was no way he was gonna start calling her by her first name―was off and running again, twittering around the workshop like some kind of fairy.

At the top of the stairs, he was let out onto a sort of mezzanine that was the ceiling of what he thought might be the music library. There were only three walls, and then an open side that was only contained by a metal banister with an opening for the stairs. And cluttering up the entire space were boxes and racks and piles and piles and piles of clothes. There had to have been thousands of pieces up here. Shirts and pants and dresses and shoes, all strewn about with no semblance of order whatsoever.

Dread filled his chest at the thought of organizing this disaster in front of him. He heaved a sigh and rolled up his sleeves. This was going to be a hell of a long semester.