Mac wasn’t one to be frightened easily, but the point of the dagger at his throat was enough to make his knees quiver a little. The menacing look on the scarred bunny’s face didn’t help either. Currently, it was directed at the girl, but he wasn’t under any false impressions that he wouldn’t get his own share of it. Mac did the only thing he could do. He dropped his weapon and froze. The girl did the same.
“What is your name?” The anger rolled off of the older bunny in palpable waves, and Mac was sure that his family would be getting a letter, if not himself. He had a good feeling that he might just get kicked out for this.
“Xela.” Her voice was steady, and her eyes were flinty. It was more than he could have done. The old bunny must have picked up on her courage and defiance, too, because he lowered the dagger pointed at her. She stuck out her chin a little more, like she was ready to fight.
“You will surrender your weapons and be escorted to your room. Your orientation is over.” Another bunny came over, dressed in similar clothing, but with less scarring. The younger bunny took her weapons as she handed them over, then walked away, clearly expecting her to follow. Mac wanted to snort with laughter. That’s why females didn’t belong in the Academy. Their emotions and feelings got in the way, and they lashed out at the smallest little thing. Being trained as a warrior made it all even more dangerous. Mac’s satisfaction was short lived, however, because now that Xela was gone, the scarred bunny’s face was inches from his own. Mac swallowed hard, clenching his paws into fists to hide his nervousness. Something told him that if he stuck out his chest and gave an attitude like the girl had, it would be seen as a threat to the old bunny, and that would only end worse for him. Mac kept his mouth shut and looked back at the scarred bunny unflinchingly. “You should have known better. She’s the first female that has been accepted into the Academy. She is facing a lot of ridicule from the males, as well as challenges. You should have never drawn your weapon on her. You will also surrender your weapons and be escorted to your room. Let’s hope that you do better in class when you’re asked to assess whether or not to attack.”
Mac was speechless. He had been reprimanded like a child. Anger built in him, and he tore his extra daggers from their sheaths, adding them to the trident on the floor. He was doing his best to bite his tongue, because he had the feeling that any outburst would only make things worse for himself. Being sent to his room was a little childish, in his opinion, but then again, he’d been treated like one. It angered him. Yes, he was the youngest to come through this process, but he was not a child. He turned to follow the bunny that was to lead him to his room. His gaze fell on Bluster, and he saw a slight disappointment in his new friend’s eyes. It cut him to the quick. How dare Bluster judge him like that? He’d only pulled his weapon to defend himself! If the Academy was going to be this petty and unjust, he couldn’t wait to graduate and get the heck out of there. He didn’t even bother looking at the art on the walls, or the elaborate layout of the building. Mac’s eyes were unfocused, and his feet moved mechanically as he followed his tour guide. They came to a halt in front of a plain wooden door, and the bunny walked away without a word. Mac stood there for a few more seconds, watching him retreat before he put his paw on the doorknob and slowly turned it.
The room beyond was a comfortable yet simple one. It had a central living area, with two smaller doors that led to sleeping alcoves. It looked like there would be two bunnies to a room. Since he was the first one in, he decided that he might as well choose his room and go to sleep. There was nothing else for him to do, since he’d been unceremoniously kicked out of the orientation. His eyes lit on a bookshelf, and he smiled. One thing that was close to Mac’s heart, was reading. Seeing books in his room cheered him up. A place that had books couldn’t be all that bad. Making up his mind without seeing what was in the two alcoves, he set off to the right, claiming that nook for his own. He smiled to himself. He’d chosen it because it was the closest one to the bookshelf. For Mac, it was the simple things in life that meant the most. Opening the door to his new alcove, he saw a bed that was carved of fine wood. It had very fine bedding that called to him, promising comfort. The trials and tribulations of the journey hit him all at once. Mac was weary and little pains in his paws and muscles were reminding him that they were there. Yawning heavily, he closed the door behind him, locked it, and dropped his pack. He’d unpack later, after he’d had a little nap.
When Mac sank into the pillows, he felt like he was sleeping on a cloud. It didn’t take him long at all to lose himself in dreams of floor to ceiling bookshelves around his little chunk of personal cloud, forgetting everything that had happened so far on his trip. He didn’t think about Xela or Bluster, or even the scarred bunny. He was off in his own little world.
Xela was angry. Unfortunately, she had a trademark that made situations like this even worse. When she was angry, it always seemed to be hardwired to her tear ducts. Anyone watching would think that the tears meant that she was crying to feel sorry for herself. That pissed her off even more. When she got mad, it just made tears come for no reason. In turn, that would make her more mad, and the viscous cycle would continue. Now she was in her room, and she hated it. She was the only female to ever have gone to the Academy, and they had no idea how to handle it. She wasn’t quite sure what precisely had landed her here, but she’d never found herself enjoying the things that females were supposed to. She had no interest in children, and she wasn’t fond of gardening. She did, however, know how to fight, and had a saucy attitude. It was something her father had cultivated in her when she was young, telling her that she could do whatever she set her mind to. Well, he was right.
This room was meant for two people, but of course, since she was a girl, they gave it to her alone. When she walked through the main room, her footsteps echoed, reminding her that she was here by herself, alone, and blazing a trail. It hardened her resolve even more, though, because she knew that she could show up these boys without even trying, and she would. As soon as they gave her back her weapons and cut her loose in class, she would show them. Xela loved her weapons. She had a shield and twin scimitars. Depending on the situation, she would wield one scimitar with a shield, or both. Her father had begged her to choose a different weapon, because the straightforwardness and necessary close quarters of the scimitars worried her mother, but she couldn’t be swayed. Xela loved the dance of the blades, curving them to make the most beautiful and deadly patterns, and having a sort of grace that most weapons lacked. Xela had a thought that she’d never voiced out loud before, but she was pretty sure that scimitars were invented by a female. Most men’s weapons were for brute force and had no secrets. They were crude or rough. Not the scimitar. It was elegantly curved and had a beauty to it that other weapons lacked. It was why she’d chosen them.
Turning her mind from her weapons, she instead thought of the bunny she’d met on the road. Mac. He looked like he was too young to be here. She’d thought of that when she’d gotten her first good look at him. Apparently, though, he was supposed to be here, or they wouldn’t have let him in the front doors. She bared her teeth at the wall as she remembered her own trouble getting in. The gate bunny had laughed in her face when she’d told him that she was here to start her training. His deep belly laughs had drawn the attention of the scarred bunny, and he’d asked what all the fuss was about. When the gate bunny explained why he was doubled over laughing, the scarred bunny took a good look at her then asked her for her name. When she’d given it, the scarred bunny had welcomed her, and she’d taken great pride in walking past the gate bunny, whose mouth was now hanging open with utter shock and amazement. He’d taken her to the orientation room and disappeared just as stealthily as he’d come to the door.
The silence pressed in on her, and she turned her attention to her pack. It barely had anything in it anymore, since she’d used the food and water on her journey, but there were a couple things in the very bottom that she would never leave home without…her favorite books. There was an empty shelf above her bed, and she took the books out, gently and lovingly organizing them on the shelf. When she finished, she put the empty pack under her bed and flopped down. The comfort surprised her. This was supposed to be the Academy. The place where warrior bunnies were trained. Why was it so soft and comfortable when everything about the life of a warrior was hard and functional? It was a mystery that she didn’t care to solve. Instead, she buried herself in the pillows and blankets, reached up above her to the shelf, pulled down a book at random and started to read. Maybe she could find herself a cocoon of happiness in this strange corner of the world where it was pretty obvious that everyone wanted her to fail. Before the next day and the first class, she had to compose herself better. If she could lose her temper just by being needled like that, then she had no business being a warrior. She’d let her own personal feelings and emotions dictate her weapon draw.
How long he slept for, he didn’t know, but a pounding on his bedroom door jolted him out of his cloudy dreams. He bolted upright, heart racing, reaching for a weapon that wasn’t there. He had to take a minute to orient himself to his surroundings, and to remember what had happened before he’d gone to bed.
“Who is it?” He wasn’t opening that door for anyone right now. He wanted to be left alone with his shame as he remembered being dismissed from the orientation.
“It’s Bluster. We’re going to be roommates. I thought maybe you’d want to come out and chat. I can tell you all about the orientation if you want. Classes start in the morning, and I think they’re going to be great!” Bluster’s voice was full of excitement, and it made Mac’s heart sink. No, he really didn’t want to know anything about the orientation. He’d missed it because of his own stupidity, and he didn’t need to be reminded. All he wanted to do was go back to sleep and hope that he could start over in the morning.
“That’s great. I’ll see you in the morning, ok? I’m just tired and need to sleep.” The silence at the door told Mac that Bluster had accepted his excuse.