There are five continents on the planet of Anrachel: Ut’Zaro, Charfias, Vermifiut, the Versian Realms, and Miakadia. Ut’Zaro is a mountainous continent that has both deserts and jungles dotting its landscapes. Charfias is fertile, benefitting from its circle of active volcanos. Miakadia has many islands and sits just above sea level, sporting marshlands and swamps, as well as a massive rainforest in the very center. The Versian Realms is green; it’s as almost as fertile as Charfias (but without the volcanoes), and it boasts lavish hills and white seaside cliffs. Vermifiut sits in the middle of these four, a strange conglomeration of their characteristics, and is the only continent not ruled by dragons.
Vermifiut is divided into tribes, states, and clans. The elves occupy the central most area, building grand palaces and libraries amongst the thick trees of the forests. Traveling amidst the plains of the west are the centaur tribes, cycling through pastures and farmlands according to the seasons. To the south are the selarthins, distant cousins of the elves who live in clans in the jungles and cliffs. Amidst them all are the dryads, protecting their shrubs and trees with prickly determination. Though many wars have broken out between and amongst these different factions, Vermifiut has built a reputation of being relatively peaceful and cooperative. It was no true surprise when a centaur named Atleus announced that he was planning to build an academy designed to foster that peace and cooperation across all five continents.
“It’s annoying how big Atleus is on this school of his,” Alroy grumbled to his father, Caio, King of the Versian Realms.
“Do you think it could work?” His brother, Ioseph, asked.
King Caio’s green tail twitched as he examined the invitation for his sons to attend Atleus’s school. “Atleus is considered trustworthy, and he is being backed by Mid-Realm.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Alroy harrumphed. “Everyone knows Acadamians are all war-mongers.”
“That is one perception of their work,” Caio mused. His golden eyes flicked to his eldest son, who had remained silent to this point. “What do you think, Shyftin?”
Both Alroy and Ioseph were green, though Ioseph had golden wings and belly, and Alroy’s secondary color was merely a lighter green. Shyftin was a draconic albino. His scales and wings were snow-white, and his eyes were a piercingly vibrant purple. He gently took the invitation in his claws and examined it. “I think it could work if everyone actually tried. I’ve heard the Fire King Tarquin is sending his own daughter to the school, and that Mid-Realm sent its Second Chronicler to help establish the foundation. With that kind of support, I think it could stand a real chance.”
“And it would look bad if we didn’t send a representative,” Ioseph said.
“Agreed.” Caio walked to the cavernous balcony that overlooked his realm. “Who would be an appropriate representative?”
“I’ll go,” Shyftin said. “I think it would make a good impression with the other kingdoms, and it would give me a chance to build diplomatic relationships.”
“But it would also expose you to threats that wouldn’t be able to reach you otherwise,” Alroy countered. “Send me, Father. I would be honored to represent the Versian dragons! Plus, I can defend myself if it turns out to be a trap.”
“I can defend myself just as well as you can! Better even! Father, it would look better if you sent me. Think of the trust it would convey to the others. Think of the support!”
“It’s too risky to send you. Send me!”
“That’s enough,” Caio chided gently. “Shyftin, Alroy is right. You are the next king of the Versian Realms, and we cannot risk losing you to some duplicitous scheme. Alroy, unfortunately I do not believe you to be qualified to act as ambassador and diplomat. You’re too hot tempered and suspicious, and you are second in line to the throne. You and Shyftin will remain here and continue your training. Ioseph, I want you to be our representative to Vermifiut Academy.”
Ioseph flapped his wings in alarm. “Me, sire? Why?”
“Because you’re still part of my first nest, so your rank will be impressive and will show a firm support for what Atleus is working for. Also, you have a secure handle on your secondary form.”
“So I not only have to go to this new school, but I also have to be human?” Ioseph hunched his shoulders. “Great.”
“Sir, please reconsider,” Shyftin said. “If King Tarquin can—”
“King Tarquin is sending his Last Princess, not his heir. My decision stands, and this discussion is over. Ioseph, you will be leaving at the end of the month. Take what time you need to prepare.” Caio strode out of the cave, effectively preventing any argument.
The brothers sulked collectively for a moment, then Alroy flew off the balcony in a huff. Ioseph and Shyftin stared at the invitation left behind.
“It’s a crazy plan,” Ioseph said. “Throw everyone who hates each other in one place and he expects peace? It’ll be a bloodbath!”
“Give it a chance, Io,” Shyftin said. “I sincerely doubt the other races will send their radicals to the academy—well, excepting the Ut’Zuks.”
“They are my biggest concern, but the Mikadians and the Fias aren’t necessarily reliable either. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to deal with the other races. They’re exhausting!” Ioseph sank to the floor and covered his face with his wings. Then his head shot back up so he could snarl, “And I definitely don’t want to walk around in a weaker form! That’s just begging someone to kill me!”
“Now you’re being dramatic. If anything happens in that school, it will be a political nightmare. It could spark a war.”
The brothers got quiet, now eyeing the invitation as though it were a snake.
“I don’t want to go,” Ioseph repeated. “I don’t think I could handle that pressure.”
Shyftin tapped his tail thoughtfully. “It’s too bad our shapeshifting abilities are so limited. If I could change into you, I could go in your place. And you could stay here and learn some politics.” He batted his brother with his wing and cackled.
“But you can’t.”
“Not yet, but we have almost a month to figure it out.”
“Wait… You’re not seriously suggesting that we go against our father’s—no, the King’s—explicit instructions?”
“Yes. Atleus’s academy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build bridges and alliances with people you’d otherwise never see. The next Head Chronicler of Mid-Realm is already there, and you just don’t meet people like that! I don’t want to ask other people to make the alliances for me. I want to be the one making them. And you’ve already said that you want nothing to do with the school.”
Ioseph shifted on his feet, a breeze rising from his indecision. Shyftin kept his brother’s small wind contained in the cavern while he waited.
Then the breeze stilled and Ioseph sighed. “Fine. I’ll help you. And I may have an idea on how to switch places.”
A week before Ioseph’s departure, Shyftin gained approval from Caio to spend time rotating between the five selarthin tribes that lived in the Versian Realms. That one week he did spend with the selarthins, but when Ioseph left the royal caverns, he went to meet his brother outside the tribe lands. Then Shyftin continued on to the Vermifiut Academy, and Ioseph continued Shyftin’s diplomic work amidst the selarthins.
Shyftin spiraled above the brown castle-like academy, waiting patiently as the watchers announced his arrival. A red dragon came swooping in from the south, veering sharply to avoid interrupting his flight pattern. Shyftin pulled up and hovered in the air, staring at the dragoness as she paused long enough to huff a flame of greeting at him. The elf on her back straightened in his saddle and raised a hand in greeting, then the dragoness swooped down and landed in the courtyard. A centaur and a dryad appeared at the entrance, greeting the dragoness and her rider before waving to Shyftin. Shyftin began his descent as the elf removed the dragoness’s saddle.
“Welcome, Prince Ioseph of the Versian Realms,” the centaur said. “We are honored by your presence here, and by the trust your people have placed in our academy. I am Head Master Atleus, and this is our Head Chronicler Chelan.”
The elf joined the centaur, the dragon saddle slung over his back. He eyed Shyftin thoughtfully. “You’re Prince Ioseph?”
Shyftin spread his wings and inclined his head respectfully. “I am. Third Prince of the Versian Realms, and Sixth Hatched of King Caio and Queen Evalda. Are you Chroniclus XXXII? The Second Chronicler of Mid-Realm’s Böchard?”
The elf set the saddle on the ground and bowed. “That I am. It is a pleasure to meet you, your highness.”
The dragoness approached the steps, her form shrinking, red scales becoming equally red hair as she transformed into a trim young woman. Her blue eyes were sharp, and she grinned as she slid under the elf’s arm. “It’s good to see you again, Prince Ioseph. I feel like you’ve changed a lot since last year. Though I doubt you’d remember me, since I spent more time with your brother, Prince Shyftin.”
Shyftin’s eyes narrowed, and he hunched down to examine the dragoness. “Agrona, Last Princess of Charfias?”
“You do remember.”
“I do. It’s good to see you again.” Shyftin could tell that she knew who he really was, but he decided to take it as a good sign that Agrona had flawlessly switched his name with Ioseph’s. There was something in the way that she was smiling that made him uncomfortable, and he didn’t know if that was his bias against fire dragons, or if she really was up to something.
Atleus looked from one dragon to the other, a frown creasing his flat face. Even the dryad, Chelan, looked pensive. Then Agrona laughed and waltzed indoors, Chroniclus close behind her.
“Am I late?” Shyftin asked Atleus.
“No,” the dryad grumbled, “Princess Agrona was early.”
Atleus was staring after the pair, then he turned to Shyftin and smiled. “I apologize for Princess Agrona’s behavior.”
“Don’t. She didn’t do anything wrong. Is there a room prepared for me?”
“Of course. Please follow me.”
The centaur trotted into the academy, paused just inside and swished his tail. Shyftin hesitated long enough to look at his white claws, before transforming. He was just as white in his human form—white hair, white skin, with the only color coming from the intensity of his eyes. Atleus led him into the depths of the academy where rows of empty caves had been hollowed out. A light at the end of the cavernous hall hinted at a cliffside entrance, and the scent of salt water confirmed its existence. Atleus placed him in cave near the edge of the cliff, giving him a beautiful, if noisy, view of the ocean crashing on the rocks a mile below. The centaur invited him to take time to rest before joining them in the main hall for dinner, and he dismissed himself.
Shyftin had a moment to himself before he felt a warm presence enter the cave. He turned and tried not to be surprised to see Agrona lingering in the entrance. She was in her dragon form, her eyes intensifying in the light of the bright blue sky outside. “All the bipeds are gone,” she said. “This is your cave. You can be what you want to be here.”
“What if I want to be human?”
Her form shifted, turning from dragon back to human. “You wouldn’t be the first. May I come in and bother you for an hour? Maybe two.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You may enter.”
She glanced down the cavern hall before stepping inside and sitting on a ledge. “I must apologize if I’m indelicate, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I was fairly certain that one is born an albino. I was also quite sure that you were green.”
Shyftin didn’t know how to answer. How well did Ioseph and Agrona get to know each other that week? He turned his back on her so she couldn’t see the worry in his face.
“What’s really awful of me is that I thought it was your older brother that was albino.”
“That’s enough! I get it! Ioseph and I switched places. What are you going to do about it?”
“Wow. You broke faster than I thought.” She shrugged and settled back on the ledge. “I’m not going to do anything about it. Why should I? You’re both from the royal family, you’re both dragons. What’s the difference really? Though I’ll admit that I’m a little disappointed that Atleus didn’t catch you in your lie right away. You and Ioseph aren’t exactly identical.”
“My father tries to keep our identities a relative secret from the lesser races. Atleus wouldn’t have known me from Ioseph unless we were named.”
“So why the switch? Why are you here instead of Ioseph?”
“Because I wanted to come. This is the perfect opportunity to build lasting friendships and alliances with the lesser races. Perhaps what we do here will prevent another Dragon War.”
“Perhaps, but you might want to start by not referring to non-draconic races as the ‘lesser’ races.” Agrona winked then stood, moving out of the cave. “Welcome to the academy, Io.”
She looked back expectantly.
“You seem to be familiar with the Second Chronicler.”
She grinned. “I’m familiar.”
“Do you think you could introduce me?”
She cocked her head to consider then nodded. “Sure. You can sit with us at dinner tonight. I’ll see you then.” She waved and disappeared.
Shyftin eagerly planned and rehearsed his coming conversation with the Mid-Realm chronicler, then spent the final hour before dinner combing his hair and finding the right look that could compliment his whiteness. He settled on a dark purple suit to compliment his eyes, then took a deep breath, and made his way to dinner.
He was expecting to see Chroniclus sitting at the head of the table in a place of honor next to Atleus, considering his status, but the silver-haired elf was nowhere so prominent. The head table had three elves sitting there, but none of them were Chroniclus. Shyftin stood in the entrance to the great hall, looking at the many long tables that filled the room. He caught sight of a smaller table by the massive fire in the side of the room. It only had two people sitting there, and they were getting many dark looks from the other students. Shyftin spotted a flash of bright red hair and made for that, recognizing the unforgettable tint of Agrona’s human hair.
He stopped a few feet away and stared, suddenly understanding why the table was getting such dark looks. Agrona was in Chroniclus’s lap, and they were kissing. He took a step back. Agrona spotted him and pulled away from the elf’s mouth to raise an eyebrow at him. Chroniclus sat back a little, but his arm tightened around the dragoness’s waist. They both waited for Shyftin’s next move. Shyftin carefully approached the table, feeling all eyes on him even as he calculated how to recover political standing after eating with the obvious pariahs.
Agrona slid onto the bench as Shyftin sat down. “I honestly thought you were going to back out there.”
“You did catch me by surprise,” he admitted, helping himself to the food rather than looking either in the eye.
“Are you going to ask about it, or are you going to pretend it didn’t happen?” Agrona asked.
“I’m—I don’t know. It’s awkward even without the obvious problem.”
“What problem?” Chroniclus asked bluntly.
Shyftin glanced at the other students, who were all still watching their table.
Agrona rolled her eyes and huffed a burst of fire at the other tables. Some of the students yelped, but they all suddenly became interested in their own business. Chroniclus and Agrona both looked at Shyftin.
Shyftin fiddled with a pepper and kept his eyes down.
“Anrachelan dragons are compatible with most other biped species,” Chroniclus said. “There even used to be a strong half-dragon population on the planet.”
“That was an age ago. But since the drachenspulung, no one has dared to mix. Everyone knows it’s a sore spot for the Ut’Zuk.” He leaned forward, addressing Agrona directly. “We’re supposed to be working on bringing peace! You’re antagonizing the most powerful, most volatile dragon race on the planet!”
“They’re not here,” Agrona hissed. “And I refuse to live in fear of a race that has been defeated. Twice! They’re not that powerful.”
“It took the combined might of the other three dragon races to beat them back! Do you not care about all the lives that this little affair of yours could destroy?”
Chroniclus took Agrona’s hand, and they both glared at the prince.
“If you really want peace,” Chroniclus stated, “you can’t be scared.”
“Maybe you’re right. But you shouldn’t be rubbing your relationship in everyone’s faces with such blatant displays of affection. That’s just asking for trouble.”
“Hiding our relationship isn’t going to help.”
Shyftin looked again at the students around them, noting how they’d automatically divided themselves into groupings of their own race. Centaurs were sitting with centaurs, elves were sitting with elves, and selarthins were sitting with selarthins. Chroniclus and Agrona were the only ones who had left the safety of their species to mingle with another, and they were being ostracized. Shyftin tore a leg from the turkey that graced their table, and he gnawed at the bone as he tried to work through the multiple implications.
The rest of the dinner was quiet. Chroniclus and Agrona surprisingly kept their hands to themselves. They didn’t push or pressure Shyftin to speak, and they didn’t try to force their views on him anymore. Instead, they just sat and ate, and occasionally stared into the fire. When they had all finished eating, Chroniclus and Agrona dismissed themselves to work in the library. As soon as they were gone, Atleus came up to Shyftin’s lonely table.
“I must apologize for their behavior,” the centaur said. “The Academy does not condone their relationship, and I must beg that you not hold it against us.”
“Have you done anything to deter their relationship?”
“Of course. They’ve been placed in separate classes, disciplinary letters have been given to both them and the heads of their families and kingdoms, they’ve been given personal restrictions.”
Shyftin tapped the table thoughtfully again, his eyes wandering to the peaceful flames. “I don’t like it,” he said finally.
“Again, I apologize, sire. I am hesitant to do more considering Chroniclus’s rather powerful position with Mid-Realm Academy. I’m sure you can appreciate the delicacy of the situation.”
“I don’t care about Chroniclus’s position—at least, not in this case. I’m more concerned with your treatment of them. You say you want to bring and foster peace between the races, but you’re penalizing the only pair who are actually trying.”
Atleus blinked. “I beg your pardon, sire?”
“Look around you. Everyone is sitting with their own people. They’re not even trying to intermingle! And why should they? They see Chroniclus and Agrona together, and they see how they’re treated. They don’t want to be treated like that.”
“But Chroniclus and Agrona have developed a romantic relationship. That is not the kind of relationship I intended to foster.”
“Why not? Dragons have mixed with other races in the past. It’s not unnatural. And I daresay that if Agrona was a selarthin, you wouldn’t be restricting them. The only problem with their relationship is that she’s a dragon, isn’t it?”
Atleus didn’t answer, but he couldn’t meet Shyftin’s gaze either.
“That’s what I thought, and that’s what I have a problem with.” Shyftin stood and walked away.
If he was completely honest, he was still struggling to accept their relationship as well, but he knew that it was wrong to keep them apart on the basis of race alone. If it was a forced or abusive relationship, then he’d be against it, but they both looked happy together. He couldn’t bear to break that.
The next day brought the first set of classes. Shyftin had made sure that his schedule was as diverse as possible; his first class was the basic sociological structure of a selarthin tribe. The second class was on the seasonal migrations of centaurs, and the third on the elvish governments. Shyftin carried the books to all three classes to lunch with him, pouring over his notes as he ate.
He didn’t notice Agrona’s presence until a lock of her red hair dribbled onto his book. He jumped at the sudden realization, and he plopped his head into his book with a sigh as soon as he recovered from the surprise. Agrona laughed as she settled onto the bench beside him.
“That’s some heavy stuff you’re beating into your brain,” she said. “Are you sure you can handle it?”
“It’s all introductory, so I should hope it won’t be too overwhelming. I also hope that I don’t switch the selarthin tribal hierarchy with the court hierarchy of–,” he quickly checked his notes, “Fin Gambol.”
“Good luck. I’m still trying to master differentiating between elves and selarthins.”
“Excuse you.” Chroniclus scowled as he sat down, putting more space than usual between him and the dragoness. “The physical differences between elves and selarthins are painfully obvious. Elf ears are significantly smaller and their tips point toward the crown.” He gestured toward his own ears, brushing back his silver hair so that they could be seen. “Selarthin ears are larger, and their tips stick out toward the shoulders. Also, their eyes are larger, they’re taller, and their frames are significantly more willowy.”
“But elves are more graceful,” Agrona said, trying to redeem herself.
“It’s too late. I’ve disowned you.” Chroniclus stood dramatically and began to walk away.
Agrona pretended to swoon and leaned on Shyftin’s shoulder. “It appears as though I’m single now. Would you like to take a flight around the cliffs later today? I know this beautiful spot…”
“That’s enough.” Chroniclus pushed himself between them, giving Agrona an exasperated look.
Agrona leaned back to whisper loudly, “I have to be a lost cause so he’ll keep me around as a project.”
Chroniclus ruffled her hair and gestured to the books on the table. “Looks like you’re taking some good classes. If you need any help with these, I have access to wonderful resources.”
“Thank you. And if I may ask, why are you sitting with me? I thought our dinner together didn’t go as well as I had wanted.”
“It was very awkward,” Chroniclus agreed. “But a lot of the fault lies with us. I know our mixed relationship is difficult to accept…”
“…For purely stupid reasons…”
“…But under the circumstances, I think you handled it pretty well.”
“Plus,” Agrona added, leaning back on the bench, “we heard several elves complaining about how you reprimanded Atleus, and we’re grateful.”
Shyftin looked down. “I’m grateful you’re giving me a second chance. I am ashamed of how I behaved last night.”
“If you’re willing to learn, willing to grow, then we’re willing to work with you.”
“I mean, this is a school, right?” Agrona laughed as she spread her arms wide. “Why be here if you’re not willing to learn and teach?”
Shyftin grinned and closed his books. “Then let school begin. Tell me about yourselves.”
The couple complied, and it became a meal tradition for the trio to gather around the fire and tell tales about their lives. Shyftin found that he shared a few classes with each of his new friends, and he grew more and more accepting of their relationship. They grew more open to him as well. Four months later, they were inseparable friends.
Atleus stopped by their table one evening, and, after frowning at Chroniclus and Agrona’s coziness, said to Shyftin, “Prince Ioseph, I must have a private word with you in my office. If you would please oblige me?”
Shyftin glanced at his friends and followed the centaur out of the great hall to the Head Master’s stable-like office.
The centaur paced behind his massive desk, his tail flicking as he pawed the stone floor. “I have unfortunate news,” he said. “Your father has just informed me that your brother is missing.”
Shyftin stiffened. “My brother? Which one? Not Alroy!”
“No. Your eldest brother, Shyftin.”
“Oh.” Obviously, he wasn’t missing, but if Atleus thought he was, that meant something could have happened to Ioseph. “Shyft was visiting the selarthin tribes. Was he intercepted? Did he not report in?”
Atleus studied him, his flat face unreadable as he answered, “King Caio did not tell me the specifics. I was told only that Prince Shyftin is missing, and that the King will be here tomorrow morning to see you. I’m sure you’ll be able to learn more from him.”
“Of course, sir. Is there anything I can do in the meantime?”
“No. But you will be excused from your morning classes. You are dismissed.”
Shyftin held back his grimace until after he left Atleus’s office. His first instinct was to leave the Academy and find somewhere to hide, but he quickly quelled that idea and tried to prepare himself for the inevitable confrontation. He went down to his cave, relaxed into his dragon form, and stared out at the sea as he struggled to plan.
He heard Chroniclus wish Agrona good night and heard the rigid urgings of Chelan for the elf to leave the caves. Minutes passed, then he heard the clinking of claws against stone as Agrona poked her head into his cavern.
“What did you do? And why did you not include me?”
Shyftin ruffled his wings but didn’t face her. “Apparently Shyftin is missing.”
She sat beside him, peering at his expression. “You mean Io? Is he okay? Where is he? What do you need? What do I do?”
“Nothing. My father is coming here tomorrow.”
“Do you think he knows?”
“If he knows, that means Io is safe, but I’m in trouble. If he’s coming to check on Io, then I’m in trouble, and Io is really missing. I don’t know which I’d prefer.”
“What can I do to help?”
Shyftin finally looked at her. “I don’t know.”
The next morning dawned agonizingly slow. Shyftin watched the sunrise from the courtyard as he waited for his father’s arrival. He saw the first stirrings of the academy, and he didn’t miss Agrona’s anxious face peering out at him from the darkness of the windows. Atleus brought him a rack of venison for breakfast, then reappeared an hour later to check on him. As the sun hit halfway to noon, he caught the glint of light flashing off the wings of approaching dragons. Shyftin’s heart raced, then leapt into his throat as the color of the dragons pulled away from the blue sky. There were two greens, four purples, and twelve pinks; though the personal details of each dragon were still too indistinct, Shyftin could guess their identities. His father, mother, and his trusted guard were coming to collect him.
The watcher on the walls called out a warning, and a dryad ran inside to fetch Atleus. Shyftin changed into his human shape to better hide, and moved to the door of the academy to await the Head Master. He retreated even further into the academy when the dragons began their circling descent, his stomach twisting in sync with their spirals. Ioseph was with the party, which meant that his father was coming solely for him.
“Greetings, King Caio of the Versian Realms,” Atleus said, bowing as Caio and his guard landed. “I hope your flight was pleasant and without incident. We are honored by your presence, even as we are mortified by the situation that surrounds it. Has there been any news?”
“Greetings, Atleus, Head Master of Vermifiut Academy. Where is my son?”
Atleus gestured furiously for Shyftin to step forward. “Here he is, sire. Safe and sound. And might I add that Prince Ioseph is excelling in all of his courses? He has been an exemplary student. We’ve been honored to have him.”
“That is not Prince Ioseph,” Caio said. “Prince Ioseph, step forward.”
Shyftin and his brother exchanged apprehensive glances as Ioseph obediently stepped forward. Atleus visibly paled, and he stepped away from Shyftin as whispers began to ripple through the academy. Shyftin braced himself.
“I must apologize for this confusion, Head Master. This is the son you were supposed to receive, and who was supposed to attend your fine school. The dragon you have there is my eldest, Prince Shyftin.”
A collective gasp went up through the students who had ditched class in order to satisfy their curiosity. The whispers rose to a babble, and Shyftin could hear echoes of his name.
“Prince Shyftin, please join our party. We have taken enough time from classes today. Thank you for your time, Head Master. I apologize for the disruption.”
Shyftin turned back into a dragon and slunk over to his father’s side, feeling the brunt of the King’s fierce gaze.
“If I may detain you a moment longer, King Caio?”
Shyftin stopped in his tracks and slowly swung his neck around as Chroniclus emerged from the shadows of the Academy. The elf knelt before the dragon king, head bowed in the most respectful manner.
King Caio’s tail twitched in annoyance, but even he recognized Chroniclus as someone with power, so he nodded in silent permission to approach.
“Sire, I understand the gravity of the situation,” the elf said, “but I beg you to reconsider your decision to remove Prince Shyftin from the academy. As the Head Master has stated, Prince Shyftin has been excelling in his studies, and he has been working to build unity throughout the student body. As such, he has proved to be an invaluable presence, and removing him would cause the academy to suffer.”
“While I am pleased to hear that the Prince has performed well, it does not excuse his behavior within the court nor his rebellion toward his father and king.”
Chroniclus nodded then cocked his head to the side. “May I have a word, sire?”
King Caio eyed the elf then swung his head around and walked to the far side of the courtyard. Chroniclus followed him, waiting patiently as the King transformed to his smaller, human form. In that shape, his voice wouldn’t carry, and he and the elf could have a private conversation. They talked for what felt like hours before finally returning, King Caio deigning to remain in his human form to speak to the centaur head master.
“Prince Shyftin will be returning to the Versian Realms,” Caio informed Atleus. “He has a sentence he must carry out as punishment for his disobedience and disrespect. But with your permission, I would like for him to return to your school the following year on the condition that he continues to excel in his studies and serve the school as ambassador from the Versian Realms.”
Atleus bowed. “I am grateful for your mercy and support, King Caio. We will hold a place of honor for Prince Shyftin, and we eagerly await his return.”
Shyftin looked from Chroniclus to his father, to the smiling Agrona lurking in the windows. He bowed his head in pious gratitude to his father, to the Head Master, and to Chroniclus. Ioseph’s mouth hung open, and even Alroy looked stunned. King Caio shifted back into his dragon form and raised a claw to the air. The dragon guard spread their wings in sync then they all leapt into the air and flew off.
Shyftin looked down as the academy began to shrink. Whatever punishment lay ahead, he didn’t regret his actions. He had at least two friends there, waiting for his return. He couldn’t wait to come back.