Chapter One: A Question of Religion
He was the talk of the class. Who in Oz was this strange new boy? Elphaba and Boq noticed he'd decided (wisely) on sitting in one of the far back seats in life sciences. Boq suggested they go talk to the new student, who, apparently, was a tribal prince.
"What if he thinks we're crazy?" Elphaba asked. "After yesterday, I wouldn't blame him. Besides, he surely has different customs than we do, don't you think?"
"Since when have you cared if people think you're crazy? Come on, it might be an interesting learning experience to find out about his culture." Boq pleaded.
"Oh, all right, all right." Elphaba relented, her pointed nose in the air. She, Boq and (to her disappointment) Avaric climbed the bleachers and Boq and Avaric sat on either side of the new student. Elphaba chose to sit next to Boq, as far from Avaric as she could get.
"Hi, I'm Boq." He looked at Elphaba, expecting her to introduce herself.
"Oh! Right. I'm Elphaba," she said hurriedly and sat down.
The new boy introduced himself as Fiyero. His life and culture were interesting indeed. He was a Winkie (a student from the Vinkus, to be politically correct) and he was a prince of the Arjiki tribe. Elphaba wanted to ask about the blue diamonds tattooed on his skin, but thought that perhaps it would be rude. She nudged Boq again; she wasn't going to come up with conversation.
"What's life like in the Vinkus?" Boq asked.
Elphaba leaned closer, curious.
"Well, half of the year is our hunting season. We hunt as a tribe. And our apparel is much different than everyone else's around here. We are different in many ways, I realize. One of them obviously, would be the color of our skin," Fiyero's eyes drifted towards Elphaba, "and the tattooed markings on our bodies."
Her cheeks darkened and she smiled lightly. "I'm nothing ethnic. I'm a freak of nature. I'm not elfish. I'm actually from Munchkinland. I'm the only green Munchkinlander. Well, I know I haven't heard of any others."
"So it may be, we're both quite different." He was comfortable with them. The prince acted as if she was just like everyone else he'd met at Shiz. He acted as if she was from a different part of Oz (and she was), as if she was a foreigner, but not a freak of nature, and she liked that.
Elphaba felt the strangest tingling when she looked into the Vinkus boy's eyes. His eyes, like his skin and the blue diamonds, were beautiful. Perhaps it was how different he was, but it was more than that. She wasn't of the nature to have a crush on anyone and she barely knew this boy. But she couldn't help it… he was so – well, she had to admit it sooner or later – desirable.
Doctor Nikidik began talking and mumbling suddenly, and the four students sat up straighter and attempted to listen. After a few minutes, Elphaba became bored and started doodling in her notebook. She drew a picture of the teacher, more of a cartoon exaggeration, really, and wrote on the bottom: mumble, mumble, mumble. She passed it to Boq.
Boq read it and almost snorted, grinning. Fiyero, curious, looked over Boq's shoulder to see what he was laughing at. He smiled, looked at Elphaba and nodded, as if agreeing with her. She was unable to stop herself from smiling back.
They left class together. Not long after they exited the building, though, Avaric called Fiyero over to him, acting like they were best pals, which immediately made Elphaba turn icy. When Fiyero had walked away, she said, "Poor boy. I thought there was hope he could succeed, but now, seeing as he seems to be so close to Avaric…"
"Oh, Elphie, you are such a cynic."
"And you are a fool."
"I am not!"
"You were in love with Glinda, and only fools fall in love."
"Whatever you say."
That night, when the usual group met at the café, Avaric had brought Fiyero along. Elphaba, though still suspicious of his friendship with Avaric, was glad to see the prince. There were moments that she wished he wasn't there, though, because she found those beautiful blue diamonds to be incredibly distracting. She hated to admit it to herself, but she was a little disappointed when he said he'd been married for a long time, because they do the pre-arranged marriage sort of tradition in the Vinkus. But it wasn't as if she really liked him or had a chance anyway, so she shrugged it off.
Avaric started a grand discussion on religion, which immediately turned into banter between the two Thropp sisters. Nessa would have none of Elphaba's supposed atheism.
"There is no soul, Nessa. I have no soul. Perhaps you do, but I certainly don't."
"What would Father say if he heard this?"
Fiyero interrupted. "We don't have much religion in the Vinkus."
"Really?" Asked Elphaba. "Your people are geniuses."
"Elphaba!" Nessa was scandalized.
"You don't believe in the unnamed God? Or Lurline?"
"We celebrate Lurlinemas, but the only thing we do then is give gifts; we honestly have no idea why we're celebrating."
Elphaba was enthralled. "Wow. Too bad Munchkinland couldn't be like that."
Nessa gave up about then and pretended not to care.
"So, if you don't have religion, where does tradition come from?"
"The only tradition we have is marrying young, and arranged by our parents. We don't know where that came from. It may be just a societal thing. I honestly don't think that it's all that strict; because I've seen people find ways around it. But it's difficult to get around, so, unless they really had a good reason, I see it as pointless to refuse."
Elphaba nodded solemnly. "That's very interesting."
Fiyero smiled at her and then Avaric started talking (it was all talk with Avaric) about the Philosophy Club. Elphaba looked up at Fiyero once to find him looking at her and she quickly looked away. Those diamonds…
He was naïve, and there was a certain appeal about that. However, Elphaba was sure that he would lose such naiveté if he hung too much with Avaric.
As they walked back to the dormitories, Fiyero approached Elphaba. "What makes you so against religion?"
"Aren't you supposed to be attached to Avaric?" The cruelty in her voice came as no surprise to her, but it did surprise her that he ignored it.
"Avaric is a little above the rest of us, isn't he? Boq told me what he said about me the first day I walked into class."
Elphaba softened immediately. "It was really rude of him. He says that sort of thing all the time, though. Try not to be offended."
"I don't really care what he said. He does have a bit of nerve acting like he's someone's best friend right after insulting them, though."
"Yes, he does."
"So, you didn't answer my question."
"About religion? Oh, it's just, my father was a Unionist minister and I had more than enough religion growing up than I wanted in an entire lifetime." Out of the corner of her eye, she studied the diamonds on his hands, not sure why she was doing so.
"I can imagine that would be enough to do that to someone."
Elphaba replied, "It sucked."
Fiyero laughed. "Sounds like it."
The girls and boys seperated then, the girls to go back to their building, and the boys to go back to theirs. Trying for subtlty, Elphaba said, "It's too bad you have any tradition at all. I mean about the marrying young thing. Because what if you loved someone else?"
"I've seen people get out of it," Fiyero shrugged. It didn't seem to bother him much.
"What do you mean?" Elphaba asked curiously.
"Well, my elder sister got out of it." He answered. Not very good at his own subtlty, he said, "I'm allowed to date, anyway. So at this point I don't care much."
Seeing Glinda, Pfanee, Shen-Shen, Nessa and Nanny heading towards the girls' dormitories, Elphaba hurried, "I'd better go."
"I liked talking with you. See you in class."
When she joined the rest of the girls to head back, Elphaba's supposedly non-existant soul was flying high.