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"Darren, wake up!"

Darren stirred in his bed and tried to knock away whatever kept poking at him.

"Darren, you need to wake up," someone said as the rocking resumed.

The young man cracked his eyes and searched for the source of the annoyance. Darren discovered Maxwell, and he groggily spoke, "What are you going on about?"

"It's morning meal," Maxwell replied with a smile as he tossed his new roommate a change of clothes. "Let's get going, or we'll be late."

Swinging his legs off the bed, Darren rubbed the sleep from his eyes, asking, "Max, what do you mean, it's time for the morning meal?"

The dwarf leaned against the doorframe, "I guess the teacher who dropped you off didn't tell you anything about the school." Maxwell shook his head and stated, "I'm guessing Volodar dropped you off. He likes to mess with new students."

"Max," Darren groaned as he lifted the fresh clothes. "What does that have to do with a morning meal?"

"There aren't many students here," Maxwell answered. "As a result, all the meals are mandatory."

Darren looked out their window and realized the time. "We eat the morning meal before the sun comes up?"

"You'll get used to it," Maxwell replied.

"Either that or break," Darren muttered as he started to change.

"That's about right, D," Maxwell said as he opened the door. "I'll be right outside waiting for you, hurry up and get dressed."

"Yeah," Darren answered. "I'll be right out."

Maxwell nodded, closing the door behind him.

Darren looked at the clothes his roommate gathered for him. It took a moment for Darren to realize that the clothes in his hand weren't his. Staring at the door, he thought about what Maxwell wore. Returning his eyes to the balled clothing, Darren understood that Maxwell handed him a uniform. With a sigh, he pulled his boots from under the bed and dressed in the white shirt, grey pants, and pale blue tunic.

Darren twisted his neck until he heard the cracking of bones falling into alignment. Opening the door, he saw Maxwell leaning against the fall wall. Pulling the door closed, Darren quipped. "You should have mentioned that the school required the morning meal and uniform last night."

"I could have," Maxwell replied. "But then I wouldn't have gotten this smile." The dwarf touched a finger next to his lips and winked at Darren.

Darren shook his head and stalked to the stairwell and hurried down the stairs. The moment he heard Maxwell's feet clomping down the stairs, Darren asked, "How many students are there?"

"There are five other students at the Academy," Maxwell chirped.

Looking over his shoulder as he walked out of the dormitory, Darren asked, "How many teachers?"

"There are four teachers," Maxwell answered. "Leodor greets every new student, and it sounds like you met Volodar. The other two are Arlen and Imryll."

"All the teachers are elves?"

"Yup," Maxwell replied as he clapped Darren's back. "But don't hold that against them, aside from Volodar the teachers here are good people."

The two walked across the field towards the cafeteria, and Darren asked, "What's wrong with Volodar?"

"He tends not to like most new students," Maxwell answered as he opened the door. "Don't take it personally and pay attention to the martial arts classes."

Darren stopped and spun Maxwell around, "Martial arts?"

"Yeah," Maxwell turned his head studied the elves at the head of the cafeteria. Pointing at the elf with dark brown hair that collected around his shoulders, Maxwell continued with his thought. "That's Volodar. He's the one who handles all the martial arts training."

"Harsh instructor?" Darren asked as he followed Maxwell to a free pair of chairs.

Maxwell plopped into his chair and salivated as he lifted his utensils. Sliding his fork along his knife, he stared at the collection of food. "He's always harsh until the students get in shape."

Looking down at his stomach, Darren took his seat and looked at the food on his plate. "He doesn't like students that are fat?"

Shrugging his shoulders, the dwarf ate more food and glanced over at Darren's uneaten plate. "Don't let Volodar bother you."

"Easy for you to say," Darren replied sullenly.

Maxwell shoved food into his mouth and answered, "I'm a dwarf, and I'll never be what he considers in shape. You need to eat to keep your strength up."

Darren reached out and started eating his food. When he was halfway through his plate, he used his fork to point out the two women sitting with Leodor and Volodar asking, "Who is who?"

Maxwell washed his food down with the glass of water. Thumping the glass back on the table, he answered. "The blond one is Imryll, and she's the primary instructor for defensive magic, biology, and mathematics. Arlen is the brunette, and she'll teach you about literature, history and healing magic."

"How many specialties do they have?" Darren asked he loaded up his fork.

Grinning at his new friend, Maxwell scooped up the last of his food and slipped it into his mouth. With deliberate purpose, the dwarf savored his food before answering, "Each of them is a master in at least three fields."

"Wait!" Darren exclaimed. "How many fields?"

"In at least three fields," Maxwell confirmed as he pushed his plate forward. "They're all capable of teaching any of the various subjects, but they've found their preferences."

Darren sipped from his cup and watched as Volodar rose from the head table and walked past all the other students. He leaned over and asked Maxwell, "Isn't this hall larger than necessary for seven students?"

Maxwell shrugged as Volodar walked past them and muttered, "Get ready for a workout pudgy."

Darren groaned and dropped his fork back to the half-eaten plate.

"Finish eating and ignore him," Maxwell confided.

Darren turned to watch Volodar pass through the door, and he gripped the fork and went about finishing his food.

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