Chapter 3 - Torn

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Chapter 3 of Moonless Age continues the story of Ariel's experiences and struggles in the male section of Orthorbbae. Despite the hardships she faces, she forms a strong friendship with Faen'arae and is ultimately forced to choose between life with her only friend and the duty she has to her clan.


Summary

Faen & Ariel

Ariel is comforted by Faen.[1]

The chapter begins with Ariel being escorted by Faen into the female section of the school, following the assassination attempt on her the previous chapter. Faen asked Ariel if she remembered the faces of the girls who caused her fall, unaware of Ariel's secret admission into the male section of the school. Ariel hesitated before answering simply that she did, deciding not to correct Faen's assumptions on the matter.

Seeking to move away from the topic, Ariel asked if Faen was there when she fell, or if she heard her screams for help. Faen freely admitted she was just there, seeking solitude away from those who would harass her, though Faen noting that Chrys'tel kept the bullies from following her. Ariel asked if Chrys'tel was Faen's friend, though Faen believed Chrys'tel was only protecting her on the orders of her family, seeking to retain good political relations with the Val'Sullisin'rune clan.

The pair then entered the Crescent's main hall, with Ariel reacting with awe to the grandeur of the architecture. Faen merely assumed Ariel to be a recent arrival with the first-year students. The sight of a wolf statue among the center fountain reminded Ariel of her clan, and her own weakness in the eyes of Quain'tana Val'Sarghress. As Ariel began sinking into a despairing shame, Faen's emapthy allowed her to sense the younger girl's troubled state. Seeking to comfort Ariel, Faen took hold of Ariel's hand and reassured her that everything would turn out fine. It was the first time anyone had done such a thing in Ariel's life[2], and she wished to herself than Faen, not Syphile had been her sister.

Still injured, Ariel was then taken to Faen's room, where Chrys'tel sat waiting. The Sharen student quickly objected to Ariel's presence, insisting she should have been left to die, as rescuing her posed a serious risk. As Faen ignored Chrys'tel's continued protests to tend to Ariel, Chrys'tel angrily stormed off claiming Faen's gentle attitude would get her killed one day. After she left, Faen turned to Ariel and asked if there was anyone should should fetch for help. Ariel directed her to seek Kel'noz, Headmaster of Davya tower. Faen then left to send for him, while Ariel began to pass out from pain and exhaustion as Chrys'tel looked on.

Kel'noz's Concerns

A month later, Ariel has returned to her studies at Davya tower. However, Kel'noz noted that, while her physical wounds had recovered, the experience had left her timid and traumatized. Though Kel'noz wished he could expel the boys involved, their remaining at Orthorbbae was the only thing ensuring they could not spread word of Ariel's presence to the world at large. Furthermore, Ariel had developed the habit of sneaking off to the lower levels to meet with Faen. While Kel'noz appreciated the benefits it had in allowing Ariel to relax, it would inevitably draw suspicion towards the young girl.

Kel'noz grimly bemoaned that he could not be too strict with the child, as well as the fact that Ariel was far too aware of it. However difficult the task with Ariel might be, he resolved to see it through; viewing the opportunity as a second chance to succeed where he had failed with Mel'arnach. Summoning Ariel to his office, Kel'noz informed her that he wished to train her personally to understand and master her mysterious affinity. Though he warned her that it might prove difficult and painful, she agreed so that she might be able to properly defend herself from the boys of her class.

Faen's Nightmares

During Ariel's fourth year at the school, a teacher lost control of her seed and transformed into a glutton demon, annihilating an entire generation of Beldrobbaen students. Only one child, Naal'suul, survived. However, she was heavily tainted in a manner than Faen could perceive all too clearly. Her powers already unstable and growing faster than her ability to control them, Faen soon became haunted by the presence of the taint within many of her fellow classmates, causing her to isolate herself even further.


Mir'kiin refuses to cooperate with Ariel.[3]

The Orthorbbae Towers Tournament

As Ariel's fourth year came to a close, Ariel and her class would soon be released from the bond preventing them from leaving the school. As a form of celebration, a tournament was hosted between the fourth-year students of each of the eight towers of Orthorbbae: Devya, Divya, Dravya, Druva, Davya, Danava, Darvan, and Drayvd. The students were to wear special armor that would harden upon receiving a blow from staves given to each child. After two hours, the tower with the greatest number of undefeated students would emerge victorious.

Ariel takes some small retribution for Mir'kiin's attacks.[4]

Immediately, friction erupted as several of Ariel's classmates, most notably Mir'kiin, refused to fight alongside Ariel; with Mir'kiin even going so far as to threaten to eliminate her from play himself. Though Sorane and Yafein attempted to keep the team unified, ultimately the group followed the lead of Mir'kiin, Nau'kheol, and Khal'harror, abandoning Ariel to her own devices.

A short time later, a pair of students from Devya tower, Suya and Faren, ran past Ariel as she lay in ambush. As the boys laughed about their recent successful skirmish, even flaunting a pair of glasses stolen from Yafein, Ariel was able to catch them entirely off-guard, swiftly disabling both boys. As Ariel moved to fully eliminate Faren from the match, Mir'kiin came up behind and began striking her armor, partially disabling her. As Mir'kiin ignored Ariel's protests of their being on the same team, he himself was attacked from behind by Sar'nel. Ariel was shocked as Sar'nel disabled her remaining attackers, leaving her untouched. Sar'nel then informed her that the clan came before all else, departing and leaving Ariel in a position to take a brief vengeance against Mir'kiin.

Ariel's Return Home

Kel'noz threatens Jer'kol with death for manipulating Ariel.[5]

Unfortunately, Ariel's actions had drawn the attention of Snadhya'rune, who watched Ariel's progress during the tournament on a set of monitors. Asking her sister regarding rumours surrounding Ariel, Khaless noted the claims that she was no boy, but in fact a girl. The question was largely rhetorical, as Snadhya'rune already had her suspicions, and the pair expressed an interest in initiating another purge of the male faculty in response to their "games".

This proved to be a far lesser concern than her more immediate decision, which was to order Ariel to depart from Davya tower and report to the main section of the school for reassignment. Though Ariel was excited at the prospect of joining Faen, Kel'noz informed her of the far more serious repercussions of such an action. He then told her that the decision was not theirs to make, and that Ariel would have to be taken to Quain'tana for the mighty Ill'haress to decide. Though noting her life would never be the same afterward, Kel'noz reassured Ariel that he was proud of her and that she had grown much in the past five years.

Upon their return to the Sarghress Fortress, Ariel was accosted by a soldier claiming to be her father. Immediately, Kel'noz stepped in and grabbed hold of Jer'kol, furiously threating to have him fed to the wolves if he repeated the act once more. Jer'kol was largely unfazed, having planted a seed of doubt in Ariel that he would linger for later use. As Ariel and Kel'noz continued into the fortress, he warned her of the many who would attempt to take advantage of her status as a potential heir to the clan.

Tasking the Heir

As Ariel and Kel'noz entered the Sarghress throne room, Quain'tana furiously rebuked Kel'noz for his trust in the male headmasters, noting their swift surrender to Snadhya'rune's whims. Though she bitterly entertained the notion of laying siege to Snadhya'rune for her interference, she was keenly aware that none of the other clans would support or allow an assault upon the neutral ground of Orthorbbae. After ordering the others to leave the room and grant the trio privacy, Quain'tana once more confided to Kel'noz of her frustrations with politics and rule. Turning to Ariel, Quain'tana asked her directly if she wished to accept Snadha'rune's reassignment to the Crescent wing. Ariel, unaware of the politics involved, eagerly agreed. Further frustrated by this response, despite the child's naivety, Quain'tana again disclaimed Ariel. Though Kel'noz was able to argue her down from this heated stance, Quain'tana asserted she was not going to recognize another failed heir. Musing for a moment, Quain'tana delivered an ultimatum: If Quain'tana was to be recognize Ariel as her heir, she would have to defeat the boy who had stabbed her, and bring him before her.

Finding Allies

Kel'noz rebukes Syphile.[6]

After being dismissed from Quain'tana's presence, Ariel waited in her room as Kel'noz offered to have Faen summoned so they might spend the last few days they would have available together before the next break at school. Kel'noz asked Ariel if she remembered Syphile, recalling a recent incident where an embittered and jealous Syphile had begun accosting Ariel. Despite her anger, she was quickly and forcefully cowed by a furious Kel'noz. Kel'noz noted to Ariel that, despite her lack of blood relation to Quain'tana, Syphile had once been considered as an heir to the clan, but failed and grew into the miserable being Ariel had come to know.

His thoughts turning to his own sister, Kel'noz recounted how Mel'arnach's rebellion had crushed his hopes for a suitable heir to Quain'tana. He further noted that not only was she suffering under the heavy burden of leadership, she was also the sole lynchpin of the clan. Without Quain'tana's authority, the Sarghress would quickly cease to function as a clan. Kel'noz turned to Ariel, imploring her to find allies, defeat Mir'kiin, and grow into a strong woman worthy of becoming Quain'tana's heir.

Characters

Main Characters

Portrait Ariel Val'Sarghress arc1.png
Ariel is a young Val'Sarghress girl in hiding as a male student at Orthorbbae.
Portrait Faen'arae Val'Sullisin'rune arc1.png
Faen is Ariel's best friend. She is slightly older than Ariel, and she is a student in the female section of the school.
Portrait Kel'noz Val'Sarghress.png
Kel'noz is the headmaster of Davya Tower and the older brother of Ariel Val'Sarghress.
Portrait Yafein Val'Sullisin'rune arc1.png
Yafein is the only member of Ariel's class that is friendly to her, but he is much more afraid of the other boys than he is of breaking their friendship.



Orthorbbae Students

Portrait Chrys'tel Vel'Sharen arc1.png
Chrys'tel is Faen's harsh roommate. She does not like Ariel, and she thinks that Faen is a soft weakling.
Portrait Dra'jyal Kal'yantra arc1.png
Dra'jyal is another student in Ariel's class.
Portrait Faren.png
Faren is a boy in Devya tower. Ariel encounters him in the tournament arena.
Portrait Gailen Val'Nal'sarkoth arc1.png
Gailen is another student in Ariel's class.
Portrait Khal'harror Val'Beldrobbaen arc1.png
Khal is a young boy in Ariel's class that encouraged Mir'kiin to kill her.
Portrait Kiel'ndia Vel'Vloz'ress arc1.png
Kiel'ndia is a tainted student in Faen's class.
Portrait Mir'kiin Vel'Vloz'ress.png
Mir'kiin is a bully in Ariel's tower. He discovered Ariel's gender, told the rest of the class, and has even tried to kill Ariel.
Portrait Naal'suul Val'Beldrobbaen.png
Naal'suul is a girl in Faen's class. She was the victim of an accidental demon release that killed all of the other Beldrobbaen girls of her generation.
Portrait Nau'kheol Vel'Sharen arc1.png
Nau'kheol is a student in Ariel's class that hates Ariel for being both female and of the Val'Sarghress clan.
Portrait Sar'nel Tions Sarghress arc1.png
Sar'nel is Ariel's cousin. She first meets him during the boys' school tournament.
Portrait Shinae Vel'Sharen arc1.png
Shinae is Chrys'tel's protector twin. She is one of the girls in Faen's class.
Portrait Sorane'saniil Val'Illhar'dro arc1.png
Sorane is another student in Ariel's class.
Portrait Suya.png
Suya is a boy in Devya tower. Ariel encounters him in the tournament arena.



Orthorbbae Faculty

Portrait Ashu'athama Val'Sharen.png
Ashu'athama is the lead headmaster of the male section of Orthorbbae. He is the announcer during the tower tournament.
Portrait Khaless Sharen.png
Khaless is Snadhya'rune's demonic protector twin. She feeds Snadhya the school's gossip.
Portrait Sate'ja Vel'Sharen.png
Sate'ja is one of Faen's teachers.
Portrait Snadhya'rune Vel'Sharen.png
Snadhya'rune is the headmistress of Orthorbbae.



Other Characters

Portrait Jer'kol Sarghress.png
Jer'kol is a Sarghress soldier that claims to be Ariel's father.
Portrait Liriel.png
Liriel is a strange slave that Ariel, Faen, and Yafein encounter in the marketplace.
Portrait Maya.png
Maya is a light elf slave for sale.
Portrait Mel'arnach Val'Sarghress.png
Mel'arnach is Ariel's eccentric older sister. She is picture by Ariel as an evil monster.
Portrait Quain'tana Val'Sarghress.png
Quain'tana is Ariel's mother and the Ill'haress of the Val'Sarghress clan.
Portrait Syphile Val'Sarghress.png
Syphile was Ariel's abusive caretaker when she lived at home.
Portrait Waer Sarghress.png
Waer is in charge of the wolves in the pen Ariel and Faen visit.




This article reflects events up to chapter 3.

Sources:

  1. chapter 3 page 4
  2. chapter 3 page 4
  3. chapter 3 page 15
  4. chapter 3 page 22
  5. chapter 3 page 27
  6. chapter 3 page 35