Hrafn considered the looming school building. Castle-like in structure, with class rooms and dorm rooms, and with a picturesque village just across the bridge. Very pretty. Very white-washed. He'd give it a week before he made up his mind about the place.
Hrafn had been kept mostly out of public sight and away from the wider world outside his home since he was little. He'd been home schooled, and most of the company he'd kept had been the castle subjects (few though they were) and the local wildlife. Well, apart from the fairies, but that had come a bit later. It was all very traditional fairy tale... except that he wasn't a damsel locked in a tower, or a princess in hiding from the evil machinations of a dark fairy, or whatever else.
What he had been, was a surprise. His somewhat infamous mother had been expecting a daughter, and had picked out a name for a little girl. His father had been quick-thinking enough to masculinise (if that was even a word) the name. Technically, the name his mother had picked was gender-neutral, but it was used for girls a lot more often than for boys. Hrafn might have been a really, really, really old version of the name, but it was definitely masculine. Besides, having an antique kind of name was hardly a bad thing in a place where everybody was living a literal fairy tale.
Hrafn didn't mind the mostly-isolated childhood. His dad had explained why to him – several times, as Hrafn became old enough to understand a little bit more each time he asked 'why' – and he'd had his parents at least. Well, technically his mother hadn't physically been a presence in his life for the past ten years, but that didn't mean they didn't talk. Hrafn had come to like talking to his mother less and less as the years went by, but they still talked.
Anyway, he was old enough that being kept away from everything was getting... frustrating. His dad had understood. His mother hadn't been keen though, and Hrafn honestly didn't know (and didn't want to know) how his dad had talked her around, but he was finally allowed beyond the woods and forests that surrounded their home. Being encouraged to interact with people his age, rather than just Cook and her sons, a pair of soldiers, and numerous animals, pixies, goblins, and fairies. He had been enrolled at Ever After High.
"I can't believe it!" a blonde squeaked as she and her friend walked by where Hrafn was standing, just looking at the place he'd be living for the next while. "Legacy Day happens this year, and there's just ever so much to do!"
"Totally, right?" her strawberry-brunette friend agreed with a flip of her hair. "I mean, this year's after party is going to be a page-ripper!"
Hrafn blinked at the pair of doves, little red ribbons around their necks, as they carried a white trunk, hung from more red ribbons, after the two girls. He'd heard – from both of his parents as well as some of the animals he had grown up with – about the princess effect. It wasn't universal, but some animals were more vulnerable to the effect, and some of the princesses were more potent with it. Doves, Hrafn knew, were extremely vulnerable to the princess effect. Seeing a pair with ribbons around their necks as they carried a girl's luggage for her was a first though.
So maybe he hadn't had a chance to yet, just travelling from his home to the school, but still. He had never seen doves wearing ribbons around their necks before, and he had definitely never seen them carry anything heavier than twigs to build a nest with.
And what was Legacy Day?
While he'd been puzzling over the birds, the two girls had kept walking and he couldn't hear them any more. Besides, asking about something he'd overheard from their private conversation wasn't the best of introductions. His parents had taught him manners, even if he'd only had them, the fairies, and the animals to practice with.
Hrafn shrugged to himself and headed up to the school himself, and reached the massive open doors just in time to see a giant totter.
"Ah! My eyes!" the giant cried out as he slapped a hand to his face, tripped over his own feet, and began to topple – in Hrafn's direction.
"Woah!" he yelped, and dropped his bag so that he could swing both hands up, magic radiating around and from them, so that he could catch the giant before he either crashed into the architecture or squished Hrafn. "Okay there, big guy?" Hrafn asked once the giant was back on his feet and the magic had faded from Hrafn's hands.
"I'm okay," the giant confirmed.
"Good," Hrafn answered with a shaky smile.
"Uh, I'm Tiny," the giant offered.
"Nice to meet you Tiny," Hrafn said, and tried not to show on his face what he thought of such a name being given to a giant of any size. "I'm Hrafn."
"Mr... Hrafn," Madame Baba Yaga greeted when he entered her office, hesitating only a moment over the lack of any name other than his given one. "Please take a seat. We really do need to sort our your enrolment before classes begin tomorrow."
Hrafn obediently sat down in the available chair, half-distracted by the various scrolls that were floating around the old witch and the quills that were autonomously writing on them. He wanted to learn that spell.
"I thought my father had sent in my class list choices and my enrolment forms ahead of me," Hrafn said cautiously. "Did they not arrive?"
"They did," Madame Yaga confirmed, "but there are some time-tabling conflicts, as well as some... interesting class choices."
"Let me guess," Hrafn said with a crooked, sheepish smile. "Guys aren't supposed to want to take Princessology?"
"Indeed," Madame Yaga confirmed. "Can I ask why that was on your list of class choices?"
"Because of the curriculum," Hrafn said plainly. "Princessology, so far as I could tell from the outline, covers how to interact with other beings of all classes and species in a fair and graceful manner. I've been home-schooled until now, Madame Yaga, and while my parents did drill me in etiquette, I need all the social graces I can get."
"I suppose," the old with allowed thoughtfully, hand on her chin and she considered him. "It is, however, scheduled to take place at the same time as Cross-Cultural Reference Class, Experimental Fairy Math, and Magical Meteorology, all of which you have expressed an interest in. All of which, also, do not have a gender requirement."
"Oh," Hrafn said with a dissatisfied frown and a slump to his shoulders. "Well... I'm most interested in the Cross-Cultural Reference Class, of those. Do those classes run all year, or are they only offered one semester of the year...?"
"You will likely have the time to take most of those classes during your time here at Ever After High," Madame Yaga promised with a kind smile, "but definitely not all in the same semester."
"Okay," Hrafn said, and took a deep, bracing breath. "Then, this semester, Cross-Cultural Reference Class, please."
Madame Yaga nodded, and one of the quills, which had previously been still as it hovered by its floating scroll, made a very deliberate note.
"Now, Hero Training and General Villainy are also both on at the same time," Madame Yaga continued, "but before you can take Hero Training, you have to pass Heroics one-oh-one, which is in a different time slot, if you really do want to study both. Most students don't, as they know if they'll be heroes or villains from following the paths their parents trod."
"Yes please, Madame Yaga," Hrafn insisted. "My family has been... well, Mother says it's all a matter of perspective, and on Father's side there is a lot of..." he paused, and reconsidered what he wanted to say. "Complicated stuff that I don't feel comfortable talking about to just anybody, sorry Madame Yaga."
"Perfectly alright," she dismissed, and that quill made another note, "but I am a faculty advisor, if you ever need someone to talk to about anything that's troubling you."
"Thank you, Madame Yaga."
"Alright, there are a few more conflicts..."
In the end, Hrafn was taking less classes than he'd expressed an interest in, but that didn't mean his time table wasn't pretty full. He had a free period from two-thirty to three, before General Villainy, on Mondays. On Tuesdays he had from ten until ten-thirty, between Chemythtry and Grimmnastics, to do with as he wished (probably start on any Chemythtry thronework), and he also finished half an hour early at the end of the day. Wednesday was completely packed, and on Thursday he again had his free period right before Grimmnastics, from two til two-thirty. He got out a whole hour early on Fridays, but had no other free periods that day.
"The school also has a BookBall team, and there is the Royal Student Council if you're interested in that," Madame Yaga advised as she handed him his finalised class schedule. "And though you aren't taking any of the music classes, don't let that prevent you from picking up an instrument in your own time if you're interested. Students who are taking Muse-ic Class, Environmental Music, or Bewitching Song will be able to get extra credit if they tutor another student, so take that into consideration as well."
"I will," Hrafn promised. "Thank you, Madame Yaga."
"Which still leaves the matter of a room mate," Madame Yaga said, precluding any attempts by Hrafn to leave her office.
"Wow," said Dexter Charming, Hrafn's new room mate, who was also acting as tour-guide through the school – at least for the first day. Depending on how their class schedules lined up, possibly for a bit longer. "So, you've never left your home before?"
"Not gone beyond the woods around the place," Hrafn agreed. "I'd never seen another human, apart from my parents, outside of the newspapers and the mirrornet, until I was allowed to leave home to come here."
"Wow," Dexter repeated. "That's... that's something else. That's... really old-school, that kind of isolation."
"So I've been told," Hrafn agreed. "Repeatedly, by every innkeeper who's place I stayed at on the trip here."
"Sorry," Dexter said with a wince.
Hrafn shrugged. "It's true," he pointed out reasonably. "I figure everybody will get over it around about the same time as I adjust to being around so many people all the time. I'm mostly glad that my parents agreed that keeping me isolated wouldn't help anything, and that I should have friends my own age. And species."
"Well, we've got a few around the place that aren't human," Dexter pointed out, and made a subtle gesture in the direction of where the next generation of the Three Billy Goats Gruff were eating their lunch.
"I did notice," Hrafn agreed with an amused smile. "I almost got squished on my way in by the improbably named giant."
"Tiny?" Dexter queried, surprised. "He's not normally the type..."
"Oh, I'm pretty sure it was an accident," Hrafn assured Dexter as they headed for the food line. "It sounded like something bothered his eyes? Anyway, he tripped over his own feet and fell. I'm lucky I could use magic to catch him before he landed on me."
"You can use magic?" Dexter asked, impressed, but it was clearly rhetorical, because he didn't allow time for Hrafn to answer before he said: "Awesome. I can barely hold a sword right."
"What kind of sword do you use?"
"There's more than one kind?!" Dexter yelped.
"Short swords, long swords, slightly curved swords, swords that are actually just really big daggers," Hrafn listed, "swords that are so massive you'd think they're impossible to lift, swords that were made specifically for cutting down infantry while riding a horse..."
"Wow, that's a lot of different kind of swords," Dexter said, blinking behind his glasses as he tried to take that all in. "We only learn about the kind of sword a knight uses in Hero Class. Dad calls it an arming sword, I think."
Hrafn's expression must have conveyed the question he didn't know how to phrase, because Dexter kept talking.
"Oh, my Dad's Dr King Charming, he uh, he teaches Heroics one-oh-one," Dexter explained, and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "He's uh, not as impressed with my showing in his classes as he'd like. Not like my bro-"
A flash of light from across the castle-teria caught Dexter's eye.
"-ther," he finished, and sighed as he turned.
Hrafn followed Dexter's gaze, and blinked at the sight of the blonde girl he'd overheard earlier, walking down the steps from the mezzanine floor of the castle-teria, arm in arm with a blonde boy, both of them smiling and waving to the crowd of their peers who were all waving and cheering right back.
The littlest of the Three Little Pigs (generation next) fainted, and so did a few of the girls in the crowd.
"Speaking of whom," Dexter grumbled.
"Do you want to duck out?" Hrafn offered.
"No, better to get introductions done," Dexter denied with another deeply felt sigh. "We've got Good Kingdom Management with both of them after lunch. I mean, unless you're taking History of Evil Spells instead?"
"I did want to take both classes," Hrafn said with an easy shrug, "but with the scheduling conflict, and the other courses I'm taking, Good Kingdom Management won out. For this semester at least."
"Oh fair lady of love, I am in sore need of your help."
Hrafn stuck his head out from behind his locker door and looked around – ah. Hopper was currently green an making an appeal to C.A. Cupid. She was new to the school the same as he was, and similarly unconcerned about destiny. Well, unless she thought some cute couple were 'destined' to be together. She was very much about following the heart, rather than a pre-determined path.
Not a fan of Crownculus class though. Like Rosabella, she wasn't so great with numbers.
Cupid, very obligingly, but without thought to Hopper's protestations, gave the amphibious prince a peck.
"That's not his problem," Hrafn said as he shut his locker door and walked over to join them.
"Yeah, I, uh..." Hopper hesitated.
"Breathe," Hrafn cautioned, and lay a hand on his friend's shoulder. He had made an effort to get to know and befriend the guy, despite his initial misgivings. Hopper was alternately awkward and amazingly eloquent, and a good guy. Sometimes he just needed help. "Calm."
Hopper took a deep breath, and let his shoulders sag as he shot Hrafn a grateful smile.
"When I get tongue-tied I turn back into a frog," Hopper admitted, and managed to get out the admission without causing the transformation. "And... I always get tongue-tied around Briar," he said, and turned from Cupid to stare dopily at the object of his affections, who was at her own locker across the hall.
"He's also sent her chocolate covered flies and a bouquet of pond weeds," Hrafn shared with the pink-haired, be-winged girl.
Cupid, without meaning to, pulled a face.
"Yeah, pretty much," Hrafn agreed. "It's the froggy influence."
Hopper's shoulders slumped and he hunched over in depressed embarrassment.
"Hey, there's got to be some trade-off," Hrafn comforted. "You rock at poetry when you're green."
Hopper smiled a little, but still turned green eyes on Cupid.
"Help?" he entreated.
"You know what? I got this," Cupid promised with a smile.
Hrafn nodded in acceptance of the girl's confidence in her match-making skills, and left them to it – after all, he had places to be and things to do himself.
Dexter sighed and slumped into his desk chair in their shared dorm room. This was followed by an inarticulate but clearly frustrated wailing as he kicked his feet and waved his balled fists in the air.
"Problem, Dexter?" Hrafn asked carefully. Hey, if his best friend and room mate was going to be amusingly ridiculous, Hrafn was going to be the most awesome best friend forever after, and not laugh at him.
Whatever was making Dexter act in such strange and entertaining ways was clearly distressing him, and laughing at misfortune – while something his mother would approve of generally – wasn't at all polite.
"You know how Briar is hosting a party on Friday night?" Dexter checked.
"Notices went up when she got the official okay for it to be held after hours in the Castleteria," Hrafn confirmed. "I think I heard that she promise it would all be cleaned up by Monday before classes. What about it?"
"I want to ask a girl to go with me, as a date," Dexter revealed. He didn't sound too happy about it though.
"I didn't know you had a crush on any of the girls in our year," Hrafn said, surprised. "Uh, unless she's not in our year?"
"No," Dexter sighed. "There's no girl. I just... I wish I was more like my brother, then girls would just fall for me. Literally."
"If you sent the girls around you into a swoon, then you wouldn't be able to talk to them," Hrafn pointed out reasonably. "But you are friends with a few girls in our year, right? Why don't you ask one of them, and see how it works out?" he suggested.
"What?!" Dexter yelped. "No! What if they laugh at me for even suggesting it?"
"Dexter, the only way that would happen is if you asked Maddie, and in such a convoluted way that she thought you were speaking Riddlish," Hrafn assured his friend and room mate dryly.
"Who are you going to ask?" Dexter asked.
"I'm going with your sister," Hrafn answered.
"What?!" Dexter fell off his bed with the violence of his reaction to that statement. "With Darling?"
"Well I'm certainly not going with Daring," Hrafin said with a repressed smirk.
"You're dating my sister?!" Dexter wailed.
"No," Hrafn corrected slowly, drawing out the vowel. "I'm escorting the lady to a party. I'll probably ask someone else to the next party, and a different person to the one after that. You know, get to know people in a social setting? Be casual? I know I don't have a lot of experience with people, but that's the advice Dad gave me before I came here."
"So, when your magical key appears, you insert it – gently – into the Storybook of Legends," Headmaster Grimm was instructing them. "Then stand, shoulders back, and declare your destiny to the world! Have I made myself clear?"
"Uh, Headmaster Grimm?" Hrafn queried, and raised a tentative, questioning hand.
"No questions? Good," the man said with a smile.
Hrafn frowned. Either the man was going blind and deaf with age – unlikely – or he had been deliberately ignored. Which he didn't like in general and he thought was a horrible thing for any kind of educator to do to any student under their guidance.
Legacy Day rehearsals were taking up the last two periods of Friday classes. Time which Hrafn would normally have free, but some other students in his year group would otherwise be in History of Tall-Tales, Wooing 101, or Poison Fruit Theory.
Dexter had explained to him what Legacy Day was when the announcement of rehearsal time and date had gone out, but Hrafn still had been left with some questions that his room mate hadn't been able to answer. And now it looked like Headmaster Grimm didn't want to.
"Now, we're going to practice with this tiny manual of entirely reasonable school rules," the Headmaster said, and stepped aside slightly for the Three Little Pigs.
Two of the Little Pigs were carrying a tome over their heads, the third and smallest just following behind. The two doing the carrying heaved the massive hard-cover onto the plinth, where it landed with a great thump. Their labour done, the three pigs headed back down the stairs.
"Who will go first?"
While Hrafn wasn't sure about the whole Legacy Day thing, and he definitely didn't appreciate having his doubts and questions ignored before he even got to properly voice them, he did appreciate that this rehearsal meant he got to learn the names of all of his year mates, including the ones he somehow didn't share any classes with. Whether or not he would be able to remember them all afterwards was a different matter. He'd never had his ability to associate names with faces tested before, after all. No people around for him to have to worry about it. It was an interesting mental exercise anyway, to memorise names, faces, and even a thing or two about their family histories, as they mentioned (some more briefly than others) whose footsteps they'd be following in.
"I'm Hrafn," he said, when he was waved to the podium, "and I... um. I'm confused."
"About what?" Headmaster Grimm demanded lowly.
"Well, I inherited some of my mother's skills, and I was told that I'd be able to find the things I'd need to inherit the rest of my powers while I was here... but I got a lot from my dad's side too," Hrafn explained with a little bit of a frown. "And, well... I'm pretty sure the things I inherited from Dad mean I can't follow in Mother's footsteps. I know that the things I inherited from Mother kind of mean the same thing the other way around... so what happens when I've got two powerful legacies, but don't have a clear destiny?"
"In that case, as with those sons and daughters of alumni who are... superfluous to the needs of their fairy tale," Headmaster Grimm said with greatest delicacy, "you pledge to follow your destiny, and the Storybook of Legends will itself reveal to you what that destiny will be."
Hrafn's small frown twisted sideways as he thought about that. He wasn't at all sure how he felt about relying on a magical book to tell him what his destiny was. He wanted to figure that out for himself. That wasn't even taking into consideration the legacies he'd inherited – which he was adamant was different from his destiny.
"What if I don't want to take the pledge?" he asked.
"Then your story ceases to exist," Headmaster Grimm informed him with greatest, grimmest, solemnity.
"Okay," Hrafn said, nodding along and not particularly bothered. So far as he knew, he didn't have a story of his own anyway. Again, the legacy that he'd inherit when he signed was not a destiny that he could fulfil. "I don't have a story, so that's not a problem."
"Mr Hrafn, despite lacking knowledge of your destiny right now, I assure you, you do have a story. If that story ceases to exist, then you will cease to exist," Headmaster Grimm told him, and loomed over him to further emphasise his point. "Poof."
"Aha," Hrafn said weakly, not at all sure how much he believed that, though the headmaster was probably an authority on the subject.
"Now, Mr Hrafn, please continue."
"You know what? I gotta go," Hrafn excused himself.
That he left behind a frustrated and upset headmaster, and a lot of shocked fellow-students, he didn't much care in that moment. Both of his parents had always told him that stories weren't the be-all and end-all of a person's life, and he refused to believe that not having one would see him disappear in a puff of smoke.
"Mr Hrafn," came the announcement over the school PA system during Cross-Cultural Reference Class on Monday morning. "Please report to Baba Yaga's office."
"Sorry for the interruption, Professor Badwolf," Hrafn apologised as he collected his books, his notes, and stood to leave the class.
"If you're not done by the time class lets out, come by my office for notes on what you've missed and your thronework assignment," the grey-haired, golden-eyed man instructed gruffly. He generally spent most of this class looking human, unlike General Villainy, where he was more furry and wolf-like in appearance in general.
A different class dynamic required different handling. There were just as many heroes and moral-lesson characters in this class as there were eventual villains, whereas General Villainy was almost exclusively someday-villains. Hrafn really respected Professor Badwolf for how he handled the different classes and students differently. He was always gruff, but that was just him.
"Yes, Sir," Hrafn agreed as he pulled his book bag over his shoulder and headed out of the room.
"Madame Yaga?" he called as he knocked on her door and pushed it open cautiously. "I was..."
Hrafn blinked at the line-up of four other students on chairs, another empty chair, and Headmaster Grimm standing behind the other students as Madame Yaga floated off to one side.
"Summoned?" he finished.
"Hrafn, take a seat," Madame Yaga invited, and gestured to the empty chair with one long-fingered hand. "As a faculty advisor, it's my job to speak with the, um..." she hesitated nervously, and looked over her shoulder at the headmaster.
"Troubled students," Headmaster Grimm finished, a frown on his face.
Hrafn matched the headmaster's frown with one of his own. The man had said 'troubled', but the tone implied 'troublesome'. Hrafn was deeply suspicious that this, whatever it was supposed to be, was the Headmaster's reaction to Hrafn's actions at the Legacy Day rehearsals. Both of his parents had explained about actions and consequences, each in their own ways, and both had used examples from the many and varied fairy tales that populated their world.
"We're here to get you back on the right path," Madame Yaga said with forced cheer. "I'll, er, let your friends explain."
Oh, now that was a stretch. Hrafn had only been attending Ever After High for a month, not the year-and-change that most of his classmates had. So while he was pretty sure he could count his room mate as a friend – Dexter was a great guy, if suffering a lack of self-esteem – he hadn't made a lot of others. Dexter wasn't here. Of the four students sitting just across the room, only one could really be counted as more than a passing acquaintance or classmate.
Daring Charming, Dexter's ridiculously self-confident brother was present. They shared Heroics 101, Good Kingdom Management, Grimmnastics, and... that was about it. In part out of room mate loyalty, and in part because Hrafn found Daring's laugh annoying, Hrafn had made no efforts whatsoever to befriend the more popularly acclaimed Charming sibling.
Hopper Croakington the Second was similarly in those three classes with Hrafn, as well as Crownculus. Hopper, Hrafn had become friends with. The guy was articulate and cerebral when small and green, but lost nearly all of his cool when he got some human height to him. It was like a crazy split personality, or something. Making friends with Hopper – properly – was something that took a bit of time and effort. Worth it though, and right now, his friend was looking confused and on the verge of a froggy transformation.
Making friends with Sparrow Hood – the third fellow-teen present – required earplugs or a lot of headache-relieving potion when he was on a music bender, which was most of the time outside of class. They shared Heroics 101 and Grimmnastics like the others, but also took Beast Training and Care together, and they got on okay, but went their separate ways outside of those times. Hrafn was glad that he wasn't taking Muse-ic with the guy, as he'd heard enough of his singing (if it could be called that) and seen him attack his guitar often enough without adding class time to it.
The fourth and final fellow student that had been recruited for this whatever was a real surprise though. Apple White sat there with a look of earnest concern on her face, and Hrafn really didn't know what she was doing there. Again, they shared classes, but... that didn't automatically make them friends. They sat at opposite sides of the classroom in Crownculus and Good Kingdom Management, Hrafn took a front row seat in Chemythtry, while Apple sat a bit further back, and he took a rear corner while she sat front and centre in Throne Economics.
They had never talked, which he had at least done with all of the guys present.
Still, as annoying as it was, actually calling all of them out on it – and saying to their faces that they weren't friends – would be rude. His parents had not raised him to be rude. Admittedly, his mother had hopes that he'd be a few other things, but definitely not rude. So Hrafn sat down, and sat through it. Pointless as it probably was.
Daring was more interested in his reflection than in whatever he'd been asked to come in to say, which was normal enough for him. Hopper was himself confused over why he was there (yes, he was friends with Hrafn, but what was he being asked to do, exactly?). Sparrow just slammed a chord on his guitar and screamed "yeah!". Apple seemed to know why and what the meeting was about, and even though she didn't really know Hrafn from a bar of soap, she made an effort. Disconcerting as it was.
"Your destiny is really important!" she insisted, wide-eyed and smiling. "Our destinies define us and, well, I can hardly wait for mine. I'm sure, once you find yours, you'll be just as hexcited about it as I am about mine! I mean, I'm going to become Queen some day!"
She was kind of fixated on that, Hrafn had noticed. He knew the Snow White story, even as isolated as his parents had kept him. The mirror net was a thing, and even in isolation he'd had access – it was part of why he'd gotten sick of being isolated. So much to see and do, no chance to see or do it.
"May I go back to class now?" Hrafn asked.