Chapter 1

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I'm hauling my luggage out of the school van when I see the elf squad heading my way. They aren't crossing the wide gravel drive in front of the farmhouse to welcome me. More like they want to sneer down their long noses at me, then savor passing me over.

I'm told every magic school has them, the wannabe elves. It's more a fashion choice than anything else, but elves are known for their fondness for beauty. They're supposedly into black and white and ruffles and lace and all sorts of jewelry, so the elf-squad has more of their share of all that. (I know a total of one elf, by the way, and he does fit that pattern, but I suspect it's still a stereotype.) But I guess when you've finally escaped Oklahoma public schools, you can dress however you want, so I don't really blame them.

Still, it seems like a lot of work, all those braids and jewelry. Plus, it's a million degrees out, and they're wearing black. In August. In Oklahoma.

Okay, so am I, but they just take it too far.

Jason Brown angles towards me, a little off the group's apparent trajectory, so I know it's intentional. He's the only one of the elf squad who really ever deigns to talk to me. His leather jacket is open, showing off a blindingly white t-shirt and, I kid you not, black jeans and black biker boots. His white hair is showing dark at the roots, as if he hasn't had time to bleach it over the summer. Maybe not—unlike most of the elf squad, Brown has a summer job.

When he's within a few feet, he says, "Quirk."

Just that. My name. Not hello, not How was your Summer? We're not friends, exactly, but he does sometimes speak to me... mostly because I tutor him in math.

"Brown," I say back, raising my voice to be heard over a sudden blast of hot wind.

"Aoidh." He eyes me for a second, one brown brow quirking up in a half-hearted Spock imitation. It needs work. "Still can't say it?"

Magic families like to give their kinds names that mean white or bright or light. It's a bit like dark-side-proofing your kid at birth by naming them Luke Skywalker. Kids who don't get those names that prophesy awesomeness? A lot of the time they adopt one, like Jason Brown has. Why he picked an obscure Irish name that's hard to pronounce—Aoidh—I don't know. I try to respect his choice, though, since I know all about choosing my own name. Still, the instructors all call him Brown, so I call him that too, like he calls me Quirk.

The elf squad has followed him over though, the remaining two guys and four girls eying my pathetic choice of luggage. Or my not-aesthetically-frayed jeans. Or the scuffs on my trusty second-hand Doc Martins. Maybe my done-at-home haircut. Not all magic families are wealthy.

But most of them are. I may not own expensive clothes, but I know quality when I see it. It takes money to carry off the elf-squad look.

The two guys who join Brown are either way over-committed to the look... or they might actually be part elf. I've heard they're cousins, and they look enough alike that I buy that story.

The taller and leaner of the two has gone full magical elf. He's got gold eyes, and I've never asked if they were contact lenses. He wears a circlet of metal coins and pearls about his forehead, gold cords woven into his handful of artfully arranged braids, and other things strategically nestled into the rest of his long white hair. There's a tiny gold ball at his neck with tracings of circles about it, and he's wearing a white flowy shirt over his black leather pants. He's the smartest of the bunch. Not just because he's not wearing a jacket out in this heat. He gets top marks on almost everything—just not math.

His cousin—whom I secretly call the drow—is the group's ascetic. Today he's wearing a short black jacket with the hood up, his long white hair spilling out one side. No jewelry, no frills, or anything. He's got violet eyes and is very pretty to look at, though, so he fits in.

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