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First Step in the Door

--by Golth


The small classroom echoed with the sounds of scratching chalk and the loud voice of the professor, who continued his lecture on the small engine that the dwarves had just recently developed. On the chalk board of the room, magical chalk continued to trace the plans for the machine, the scrapping of chalk only stopping as the professor pushed up his monocle, looking over the class occasionally before he continued. The opened windows of the room let the lazy spring air blow gently in, the sounds of the birds outside chirping as they ever did in Eternal Quel’Thalas.

In the back row of the room, sitting in the last chair of the row closest to the windows, a young elven girl, considered an eleven year old by human standards, watched the world outside, gazing at the light spilling into the musty room.

“Dhizelandra!” called the voice of the Professor. “…I would suggest you pay attention! Your father took great lengths to enroll you in this school!”

Snapping her gaze back, Dhiz yawned loudly before she leaned her head back into her hand, staring forward. “But I was paying attention.” She protested.

Throwing a piece of chalk in the air and catching it, the professor haughtily looked down the row of chairs to her. “I knew bringing in someone of your “rank” would be a mistake, first you don’t pay attention and now you lie to my face! Very well, show the real students how you would put this engine together then!”

Standing up and straightening her dress, Dhiz walked up to the front of the room. She kept her head down, hearing the whispers of the noble children as she passed. Her father, only a merchant, had spent a fortune to get her into this school. His dreams were to join the ranks of the nobility and everyone in the family had to learn how to be one. However, since she had come here, every attempt by the students and teachers had been made to put her “in her place”.

“Now, show the class the skills of the Merchant Family Mi’Neris!”

Dhiz looked down at the small engine. It was a shoddy one, most of the parts scattered across the table. She pondered over the small engine, wondering why the academy was even showing these brats how to put one together. Most of them probably would never bother to use this knowledge again, instead throwing their servants at tasks deemed “beneath” them. She looked over the engine some more, placing a hand on her chin, mimicking the stroking of a beard. She took the pencil from behind her ear and stuck it in her mouth, chewing on the end of it.

“She looks like she’s pretending to be a dwarf!” someone of the class blurted out, amid giggles.

Ignoring the giggles, she continued to stare at the engine. It was a Mark II design, hardly a challenge but…

“Are you going to just stand there?” the professor asked.

Looking up, and letting the pencil roll across her lips, Dhiz gave a blank look to the teacher.

“You got half the parts of the Dwarven Mark II, and half the parts of the Gnomish Ultradeluxomatic 5000. You’re entire lecture’s wrong.” Dhiz replied matter of factly.

--

Sitting in the deans office, Dhiz continued to lower her head as her professors’ voice could be heard from behind the closed doors. The yelling had steadily risen since the dean and the professor had entered the room. She looked down at the sunlight at her feet, spilling in from the opened windows all around her. Twiddling her thumbs, she saw a shadow move before her.

“Wha’d you do?” a voice asked her.

Looking up, but avoiding eye contact, Dhiz gave a half shrug. “…I was being disrespectful to the Professor.”

The person moved again, moving in the way of her vision. Turning her head to the right, she quickly looked left again as the person started to move right. She blinked in surprise as a boy’s face suddenly came into view.

“Hah! I guessed your feint to the left!” he chuckled, looking right into her eyes. “You must have pissed off ol’ Dannenthal good. He’s really yelling in there.”

Dhiz blinked again as she looked into the boy’s blue eyes, and started to blush in embarrassment as he looked back. She wasn’t a noble, and she was supposed to keep her gaze down.

“Sorry!” she blurted, covering her eyes in a final attempt to lose eye contact. “I didn’t mean to…”

The boy tilted his head in curiosity at Dhiz as she kept her eyes covered. “…you okay?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean disrespect to someone of your…” Dhiz started, stopping as she felt the boy’s hands grab her own, pulling them away from her face.

“Stop that! It’s okay to look me in the eyes, I don’t care.” The boy laughed, looking back into her eyes again.

Dhiz’s heartbeat began to quicken as she struggled with the notion that this noble actually wanted to look her, a merchant child, in the eyes.

Grinning, the boy let go of Dhiz’s hands. “I’m Calienthal Lebethon, 9th son of the Lebethon family. Most people call me Caleb though.”

Dhiz continued to stare in disbelief, unable to bring any words to thought. “Ca…leb?” she finally managed to utter out.

“Yup!” Caleb said merrily, sitting down in the chair next to her. “It’s a combination of my first and last name, easier to say.”

Caleb looked back into Dhiz’s eyes again, smiling. “Who’re you?”

“Dhizelandra Mi’Neris” Dhiz sputtered out, clinching her hands together nervously. “Um…this guy I know calls me…Dhiz.”

Caleb raised an eyebrow. “Your boyfriend?” he asked, grinning.

“N…No! No, a dwarf that works with my Dad!” Dhiz blurted out quickly.

“So he the one who taught you about that engine?” came another voice, this time from the direction of the Dean’s office.

Both of the children looked toward the door, where the Dean stood smiling at the two, his robes blowing gently around him in the air. Standing suddenly, Caleb eyes widened a bit.

“Oh, uh, my Lord, forgive me, I forced her into the conversation, she didn’t mean to interrupt her punishment.”

Laughing, the Dean waved a dismissive hand to Caleb. “Don’t worry, she’s not in trouble. In fact quiet the opposite.”

A scoff and the sounds of heavy footsteps interrupted the dean, as Professor Dannenthal walked out of the room.

Taking up a slightly defensive position, Dhiz looked over the Dean suspiciously, who turned his sight back to Caleb.

“Though, I do admire your responsibility Caleb, you’ll make a fine Knight someday.” The dean said, still smiling.

“Thank you, my Lord” Caleb replied, bowing to the Dean. “I will dismiss myself from your presence while you two talk.”

Watching Caleb edging out of the room, the Dean grinned, waiting for him to get to the door. “…however, don’t you think that’ll make me forget you’re here for punishment, we’ll talk about that power crystal you broke playing with the practice weapons later.”

“Aww, man.” Caleb groaned as he walked out of the room.

Turning his attention back to Dhiz, the Dean gave a slight nod to the young girl, who quickly lowered her gaze as she remembered herself.

“That was quite a bold thing you did, not many would correct their professor, let alone someone of lower rank.” The Dean said, starting his pace around the room.

“Forgive me, my Lord, I did not mean…” Dhiz started.

“Bah, do not apologize, Lady Mi’Neris, in fact, be proud of your action.” The Dean said, cutting off her apology. “It does the Kingdom no good if those of merit are suppressed by the pride of those too self absorbed to notice their mistakes.”

Dhiz paused, daring to raise her head a bit, she quickly looked up at the Dean pacing the room before quickly lowering her eyes again.

“I am curious though to see your potential, however.” The Dean continued, turning on his heels back toward Dhiz. “…I’ll be taking personal responsibility for your tutoring from now on. You will be dismissed from Professor Dannenthal’s class, for the remainder of your semester. You will be here promptly on time, understood?”

Dhiz looked up and stared in disbelief, nodding dumbly.

“I will send a letter home with you to give to your father tonight, please be sure to give it to him right away? Understand?” asked the Dean, putting his arms behind him as he smiled down to Dhiz.

“Yes, sir, thank you my Lord.” Dhiz replied, grinning widely.

“Slade” the Dean corrected. “Slade De’Aerin”

--

The sounds of the water lapping against the side of the ship was the only calming sound that was coming from the ship named “The Wings of Winter.” Sitting on a scaffold on the back of the ship, near the rudder, a dwarf cursed profusely as he continued to work away on removing the rudder.

“Blasted piece o’ crap! I swear by me hammer tha’ I’ll…!” the dwarf yelled, reaching for one of the two warhammers that sat by his side.

“Pip! Pip! PIIIIIIP!” came a squeal of glee, and the sounds of running feet on the dock. Turning his attention, the Wildhammer dwarf shook his head, allowing a small grin.

“Careful, Lass! Yer’ gonna break yer head if yeh’ fall!” the Dwarf “affectionately” named Pip replied, the red color of rage on his face fading away.

Stopping before the scaffold and looking up, Dhiz waved a letter in hand. “Where’s daddy!? I got something important!”

Looking down and peering curiously, the dwarf pointed to the deck of the ship. “’Es up there, Lass, an’ what’s tha’ yeh got there?”

Dhiz, looking up and giving a big smile to Pip giggled. “A letter from the Dean!”

“Oh no…” Pip started, his face crumpling to worry. “Yeh’ dinna stick o’ fish or somethin’ in ‘es chair or mouth off th’ someone again did yeh?”

“Nope!” Dhiz replied, grinning as she ran to the boarding ramp of the ship.

Running up the stairs, Dhiz quickly looked around and saw her father speaking to some of the men that he did business with. Despite her excitement, she patiently waited for her father to finish his work, knowing full well its importance to him. Seeing him shake hands with the other elves in agreement, she started her dash to her father.

“Daaaaad!” she yelled, waving the letter about in her arms.

Turning, Demuth Mi’Neris grinned as his daughter ran up to him. Lifting her into the air as she reached him, he swung his daughter around.

“Dhizzy-girl! How was school?” he asked, setting his daughter down.

His smile melted as he saw the letter with the Dean’s seal thrust into his face. “Oh no, Dhizelandra, what did you do now?”

Dhiz smile stayed as she held firmly the letter to her father. “Mr. De’Aerin said for me to give this to you as soon as I got home. Said it was important!”

Taking the letter and looking with worry to his daughter, he quickly broke open the seal and started to read the letter. Folding it slightly as he finished, he looked back down at his daughter in silence for a moment. Kneeling down, he gently hugged her despite her own look of sudden worry.

“Your mother would be so proud of you, Dhizzy.” Demuth said, suddenly bear hugging her. “…you’ve just made the De’Aerin family our patron! Do you know what that means Dhizzy!?”

Her head slightly wobbly from being swung around so much, Dhiz looked curiously at her Father. “…uh…no?”

“It means, my girl…” Demuth smiled broadly. “That we’ve got one foot in the door to nobility!”

--

Walking through the halls of the academy, Dhiz quickly noticed that day a sudden change in the way she was treated. The boys suddenly wanted to talk to her, the girls asking if she needed or wanted to any new dresses since she couldn’t afford any good ones. (Which still peeved her, a roundabout way in her mind of insulting her) and the Professors actually greeted her as she walked by. It was a whole new world, and nobody seemed to mind her looking them in the eye.

“Do not think they’re accepting you, girl.” Said Dannenthal as he walked by his former student, not looking down at her. “It’s their way of sucking up to De’Aerin, do not think that you matter anything to them.”

Dhiz peered curiously back at Dannenthal as he walked away. Though he would never know it, his inadvertent wisdom would serve her well for the rest of her life.

Walking into the Deans office, Dhiz paused as she saw a familiar face.

“Eyah Dhiz!” said Caleb, suddenly grinning as he saw Dhiz enter the room.

Her heartbeat quickened again, though she wasn’t quite sure why. “Oh…uh…Caleb? You’re in trouble again?”

Lowering his head into his hands, Caleb rolled his eyes to Dhiz. “…yeah…”

“He seems like he gets into trouble every day…” said Slade, walking into the room and shutting a book that he was peering into. “I expect you two to see each other a lot. Make sure his poor behavior doesn’t offend you.”

Dhiz, looking back at Caleb grinned. “Of course not.” She said. “He was the first one here who was nice to me.”

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Cogitatus 20:08, 12 March 2008 (UTC)