Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters in this story if I did, I would be Tamora Pierce, and if I was Tammy, then Joren would not have died, and him and Kel would have got married or something, and Neal or Dom would have died in his place (ok not Neal, but Dom, Neal's to lovable.)

PROLOUGE

The life of Joren of Stone Mountain has been romanticized. Many say that his father hated him and did not want him. They even think that his father would beat his mother. Many say that he was evil and had no heart. And still they say that he actually did hire those two thugs that locked Lalasa in Balor's Needle.

The people who say these things have grossly messed up this youth's life. If his life had indeed been like that then I have no doubt that he would have fallen.

First we must address his father. Buchard of Stone Mountain was in fact a rather gentle and kindly man. He loved his son very much, and his wife Liliana, would have had many more children- all wanted- but for the fact that after Joren, she was no longer able to bare children. Buchard did not beat Neither Liliana, nor did he beat Joren, in fact there was never a closer father and son. Yes he did teach him his conservative views, but he was only doing what he thought to be best.

Next, Joren is not evil, nor heartless. He is just a rather private person with a slightly distorted view of the world. He is actually a very sweet guy.

Joren did not hire the thugs who kidnapped Lalasa. No he just took the fall for it in order to not get the person who did in trouble, but the reason she was up there was to sabotage Kel.

All in all Joren is just a boy misunderstood by the world, and this must now be cleared up. So on with the story.

Joren stood against his door- well more like slumped- when she stepped out of her room, following Salma who was saying as she walked away, "...as would any delicately reared noble woman."

The ten year old girl, leaned up against her own door, her face schooled to a blank. Yet Joren caught the look that was in her eyes just before she removed it, the look of a cat cornered by a group of dogs.

Wyldon was coming down the hall. The boys he passed joined him including Joren, many of them quietly whispering to each other.

Joren, could feel her eyes on him as she looked him over along with all the other boys I the group. The boy had long white-blond hair, and icy blue eyes. His cheeks were rosy- like a girls- and he had a slender build.

In turn he was scanning her over. Her hair was cropped short, the color of a brown mouse. Her eyes were hazel, with the look of a dreamer, and the lashes to match. Her entire face was blank of emotion. Instantly Joren both disliked her, yet was intrigued by her.

Wyldon stopped, the pages behind him halting him as well. Only four boys and the girl were left standing at their doors. The one closest to her, had brown hair and sprinkles of freckles covering his face. He bowed to Wyldon, along with all the others, including the girl.

Wyldon looked at them each in turn, his eyes resting the longest on the girl. He began to speak, "Don't think you'll have an easy time this year. You will work hard. You'll work when you're tired, when you're ill, and when you think you can't possibly work anymore. You have one more day to laze. Your sponsor will show you around this palace, and collect those things which the crown supplies. The day after that, we begin.

"You," he pointed to the boy with red straight hair. "Your name and the holding of your family."

The youth stammered, "Merric sir-my lord- of Hollyrose." His eyes were a pale blue, nose long and broad, and his skin having only the barest hint of a summer tan.

The trainer looked around at the various pages, "Which of you older pages will sponsor Merric and teach him our ways?"

A boy with faming red hair stepped up- Faleron, Joren recalled one of those dolts. "Please Lord Wyldon? We're kinsmen, Merric and I."

"And kinsmen should stick together. Well said Faleron of Kings Reach." The page went to stand by Merric, smiling down at his cousin- his junior be two years. Wyldon pointed to the freckled Esmond of Nicoline, who was taken under Cleon's wing- another daft fool in Joren's mind. Then came a youth who wore an impish grin, quickly he was snatched up by Joren's best friend Zahir Ibn Alhaz, a bazir who almost had the air of royalty surrounding him. The imps name was Quinden. The most notable pairing then came, the Prince Roald, took as his sponsor Seaver of Tasride.

Only the girl remained, and as Lord Wyldon stepped up to her, she gulped visibly- the nervousness in her was showing through her eyes, though she made a noble effort at trying to hide it. "Name, and fief," the trainer demanded gruffly.

She took a deep breath and replied, "Keladry of Mindelan." Keladry, thought Joren storing the name into his extensive memory.

Wyldon's eyes turned onto the group of pages and asked, "Who will sponsor her?"

Zahir sniffed and looked down on the young girl, "girls have no business in the affairs of men. This one should go home." As he glared at her, she calmly met his eyes, which wiped the slight smirk off of Joren's face- definitely an intriguing girl.

Wyldon's reply was stiff, but from his eyes it was clear he agreed with the young man, "we are not among the Bazhir tribes, Zahir ibn Alhaz. Moreover, I requested a sponsor not an opinion." He glanced around at the others, "will no one offer. No beginner will go unsponsored."

Vincent murmured into Joren's ear, "Look at her, she stands there like-like a lump."

Joren, who stood close to the trainers side stepped forward, and raised his hand, "may I, my lord?"

Wyldon looked down on the beautiful blond, and raised an eyebrow, "You Joren of Stone Mountain."

He bowed, barely concealing a smirk, "I would be pleased to teach the girl all she needs to know of life in the pages wing."

Joren could feel the eyes of Keladry on him suspicious to no end as she stared at him, as a few other pages giggled at him. Quicker then she looks, eh, he mused to himself. Her eyes turned to the trainer, eyes expecting for him to agree with Joren, who also believed the same thing. Instead the man frowned, and looked down at the blonde and shook his head, commenting stiffly, "I was hoping for another sponsor, you should employ your time and effort in the improvement of your study and riding skills." Joren inadvertly blushed at this, hating when his faults were brought up.

"I thought Joren hated-" someone behind him whispered and his eyes shot to them narrowing in warning, and shaking his head in an almost undetectable way.

Another boy hissed for him to shut-up. The girl's eyes turned downcast trying to keep her composure, and fighting to hide her deep shame and embarrassment, yet failing miserably. He watched as she clasped her hands behind her back and looked up, face schooled to a clean slate.

"I believe," answered Joren with false sincerity, "that I can perfect my studies and sponsor the girl at the same time. And since I'm the only volunteer-"

"I suppose I'm being rash and peculiar again," drawled the voice of Nealan of Queenscove, "but if it means helping my friend Joren improve his studies, I'll have to sacrifice myself. There's nothing I won't do to further the book learning among my peers." Everyone had turned to gasp at the bold fifteen year-old. Once again Joren's eyes narrowed to slits and glared at him. Was everyone in the palace against his plan or something?

Absently, Wyldon rubbed the arm under his sling as he said, "you volunteer, Nealan of Queenscove?"

"That I do, your worship sir." The last part almost seemed to have an edge of sarcasm in it, and the barest hint of a taunt.

"A sponsor should be a page in their second year at least. And you will mind your tongue."

"I know I only joined your little band in April your lordship," the hated Neal, replied cheerily, "But I've lived at court almost all of my fifteen years. I know the palace and its ways, and unlike Joren, I need not worry about my academics." Joren watched as the girl stared at the mad youth, and a pang wiggled through his system, of what he had no idea.

The trainer's eyebrows shot together, "you have been told to mind your manners, Page Nealan. I will have an apology for your insolence."

The brown haired boy bowed, and replied, his tone mocking, "an apology for general insolence, your lordship, or perhaps some particular offense?"

"One week scrubbing pots. Be silent."

The boy threw his arm out with the dramatics of a player, "how can I be silent, and yet apologize."

"Two weeks. First duty for anyone in service to the crown is obedience."

"And I am a terrible obeyer," Neal retorted. "All these inconvenient arguments spring into my mind, and I just have to make them known."

"three," Wyldon's voice had gone dangerous, and his eyes glinting.

"Neal, shut-up." Someone from behind said.

The girl Keladry, squeaked out, "I could learn-" she cleared her throat and in a stronger voice trying to make her self heard- believing no one had heard her yet he had. She repeated, "I could learn on my own."

Everyone turned o star at her, and Wyldon glanced, "What did you say?" his voice had an edge of steel.

"I'll find my own way," she repeated, receiving an unseen eyebrow quirk from Joren, at her audacity. She continued, "Nobody has to show me. I'll probably learn better, poking around." Neal stared at her as did Joren, yet his was different then Neal's, the girl was crazy.

"When I require your opinion," declared Wyldon

"It's no trouble, none at all Demoiselle Keladry. My lord I apologize for my wicked tongue, and dreadful manners. I shall do my best to encourage her not to follow my example."

Taking a moment to calm down, Wyldon said, "You are her sponsor then. Now enough time has been wasted on foolishness. Supper."

The pang retuned to Joren's chest as they all filed out. And that was the beginning of the rest of his messed up life.