By Sulia Serafine

[Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters featured within. Credit goes to Tamora Pierce and whoever else is involved. No profit was made from the fanfic, just amusement for those who choose to read it.]

[Description: a one-shot meant to satiate any urge to see that there just wasn't enough depth in the hatred with which this character is obsessed. Setting: sometime when the PotS characters were pages…]

He had been standing for quite some time and his legs were starting to hurt. He shifted from foot to foot, attempting to dispel the stiffness that had settled there. Sneering at his discomfort, as futile as it was, he touched the edge of the bookshelf and peered through the thin spaces between various tomes and volumes.

Three boys and one girl sat at a rectangular table. Papers and open books were scattered before them. Usually, they would never gather in the library, but the room's usual occupants had adjourned much earlier and the new group had been in desperate need of certain resources. Ink stained their fingertips from their pens and quills as they quietly conversed with each other over the solution to an arithmetic problem or the history of some ancient battle. Each was so consumed in his or her scholarly task that they did not notice him standing in the book stacks, spying on them against his nature.

No, not against his nature. He was sure that had he have been of lesser status, prone to lower levels of maliciousness, he would probably spy on them all that he liked. But as was the case, secretly observing these inferior nobles was not a hobby of his, nor did he wish to make it one. It was of his nature, but not of his status.

The tallest boy—young man, really—gnawed gently on his lower lip. He turned to the girl beside him and quietly whispered something into her ear. She paused before turning to reply. The boy smiled and went back to his work.

Joren almost felt as if he had been sitting between them, the breath of their whispers tickling the tiny hairs on his ear lobes. The youths that he studied were content and at peace. Not like him.

He braced his elbows against the shelf above his head and rested his forehead on his arms. His eyes remained riveted to the small study group. They were doing nothing fascinating. And yet, there was something else that made them completely absorbed in each other's company.

Friendship, he supposed. It was a laughable concept, this friendship. Garvey and Vinson flanked Joren nearly everywhere he went, but he did not consider them his closest comrades. Rather, they were of the only blue-blooded broods that his family approved of. And even if he had been inclined to seek companionship outside these circles, he most likely would have been appalled by the choices.

But Joren was sure that he was admired by people, if not friends. At least, he would be someday. When he was a knight, an honor that had greeted his ancestors before him would settle upon his shoulders. He would wear it like a proud mantle. Never mind the tasks that had to be fulfilled in order for this to come true. Joren didn't mind. Alas, he wouldn't have expected anything different.

Indeed, nothing different had been expected of him. It had always been known that he would carry on in his father's footsteps and become a worthy heir to Stone Mountain. Worthy was such a strange word, he thought absently. What a man's worth surely had little to do with what he did in his life. The things that were refused would make the difference.

I refuse to let that whore become a knight, he said silently to himself. His gaze became fixed upon the light brown-headed girl who was working more diligently than Joren could ever imagine himself to work. An intense loathing bubbled up within him. It seared his insides as if he had swallowed a large mouthful of whisky. It burned his throat and traced a hot line down to the bottom of his gut. Hot with rage. All he had been taught while growing up dictated that he should defend the way things had been for centuries. Defend tradition. And he would.

There was a stifled groan of frustration from one of the other boys. Joren was once again pulled into their world. He could almost imagine running his fingers over the quills and inkpots while trying to decipher the rubbish of political history with which they were charged to learn.

No. He wasn't. He couldn't. Joren watched them from behind a book stack, despising their very existence. He would never sit down with them like a fellow of their own kind. Not unless he had gone mad.

The tall boy completed his work with a flourish. An expression of pride overtook his face as he showed his parchments to the girl beside him. She looked up at him, nodding. At the confirmation of his correct answers, the boy grinned widely and gloated silently in his victory against the piles of parchments.

Strangely, Joren's heart had suddenly surged when this had occurred. He glanced to another part of their group and found himself just as pleased as the tall boy's other comrades. Thoroughly disturbed with his own reaction, he stepped away from the bookcase and clenched his fists.

He had his own lackeys to show his accomplishments to. He was fairly certain that they would not bat an eye, but lift their chins up imperceptibly and continue as if the world were some dreary, irksome thing that must be tolerated. Joren had to be tolerated.

Let them all rot for all I care. My being is far above their plane of mediocrity and inferiority any day.

He retreated down the shadowed aisles toward the library exit. He slipped through the crack formed by the large heavy doors and began to stalk rather sullenly toward the pages' wing. His fists were still clenched. Joren stopped and peered down at his hands. His nails had made tiny red half moons in his palms. Cursing softly, he rubbed his hands together. The spell of resentment that had engulfed his mind faded a bit. The blond boy sighed and went to the nearest window, closing his eyes and trying to catch the cool evening breeze on his face.

The sound of footsteps soon interrupted his meditation. He opened his eyes and glared at whoever had interrupted him. His lips immediately curled into an ugly sneer.

"Let me alone, wretch. Have you nothing else to do but impress your revolting presence on me after training hours are over?" he hissed.

To his dissatisfaction, Keladry betrayed no emotion. "I came to retrieve a book from my room. I would never bother with anyone as irritable as you."

She sternly marched past him, gaze focused straight ahead. She may have been growing quickly for a girl, almost the same height as him, but he noticed that her steps were shorter. He could see himself walking beside her, his long swift strides quickly overtaking her without much effort. She would look over at him and perhaps show annoyance at last.

Joren had always hated her emotional restraint. To make her throw a tantrum, see her tear at her hair, and to scream curses. He would grin at her flushed face and gladly listen to her shrieking. It would mean that he had won.

She finally looked over her shoulder at him before she turned the corner. Little did she know that he had already outpaced her with his long strides and was far around the corner. His expression donned a pleased smirk.

He squashed the vicarious notion and his imagined pacing self jumped back into his body. Joren turned his face toward the window again. The breeze had become colder. He rather liked it.