And here's chapter five! It's been a long time since I updated and I don't know if I have any readers anymore, but I got inspired to write more the other day, and updates should be coming regularly. Thanks so much to my reviewers Alacaeriel, sparkyCSI, ginalee, aldoraspritelette, Jennykin, Loretta 537, Pathseekerme, and GinaStar – it always makes me happy to see I have a new review!

Many thanks to my beta, sparkyCSI! Your suggestions are so helpful, and it makes me feel so much better having you read through these chapters! D

To those waiting on Mass Effect fics from me – I promise I'm also working on another Kaidan fic and it will be up soon. :)


Cerys hesitantly followed Gwen to her first class in her new home. She hadn't been to a formal school in years, as her father didn't allow her to attend anymore after she'd finished her required lessons at the local temple. I hope I'm not completely out of practice, she thought with concern.

"What are you waiting for?" Gwen asked, giving her a look as she paused in front of the door.

"N-nothing," she stuttered in reply, and tugged on her new uniform in nervousness then followed her roommate into the classroom.

There were just a few other people in the room before them, so most of the desks were free, but Gwen led her to two places near the back. "I never like to sit up front," she said quietly with a grin. "Sitting back here means I can try to sneak in a nap."

Sleeping during class? Cerys wondered, puzzled. Is it that boring? She didn't question the statement, however, and sat down in the desk next to hers.

More students trickled in as they waited for the teacher to arrive, many of them Herald-Trainees, but a few Bards, fellow Healers, blue-clad students she'd learned from Kaevan were called Unaffiliates, and a lone Mage-Trainee.

"That guy there," Gwen murmured conspiratorially, pointing subtly at a young man in Trainee Greens, "is totally Lifebonded to my friend Jacy."

"Really?" she asked, intrigued. Cerys, like many other girls, dreamed of finding her own Lifebonded – if she even had one. But seeing people who were meant to be together would do for the time being, she thought.

"Well, Jacy thinks so," Gwen replied with surety. "For some reason he won't leave his girlfriend for her though. So annoying. Oh, and that girl over there-" a Herald-Trainee this time "-she's really mean, she was with my friend Raka and she got all mad and left him just because he kissed my other friend Dheina when they were drunk. And that girl, oh Goddess, this one time I saw her..."

She tried to keep up with all the stories she was being told, but all the names and exploits were a lot to take in, and she had to contain a sigh of relief when Gwen finally stopped talking.

Her relief didn't last long, however. An enormous dog – more like a wolf! – padded into the room and hopped up onto a medium-height table. Cerys looked with alarm at Gwen, who seemed unfazed and offered no explanation.

:Don't worry, child: she heard a slightly masculine voice say. Only- not quite heard. It was a voice coming from all and no directions at the same time. :My name is Rriin. I am a kyree – the 'wolf' on the desk.: The voice sounded amused now, and she looked back toward the front of the room, where the amber-eyed creature was looking at her. He gave her a wolfy "grin," his tongue lolling out of his mouth, and she smiled tentatively. :If you'd like to stay after class for a few minutes, I can tell you more about what we'll be discussing.: She nodded, and he looked over the rest of the class.

:Good morning, students: Rriin "said," and this time everyone else looked up too. :Today, we'll be learning more about the Karsites, and their history, religion, and basic culture. If you'll open your books to chapter two...: There was a rustling of pages as everyone flipped to that section – except Gwen, who was leaning on her hand and staring off into space. Cerys, who had no book yet, reached over to her roommate's desk shyly and opened the book, pulling it towards her a bit so she could see. Gwen seemed either not to notice or care.

Throughout the lesson, Cerys was constantly amazed. She quickly grew accustomed to hearing Rriin's voice in her mind, and since she knew so little about the Karsites, practically everything covered was new to her. The kyree's lesson was fascinating – he supplemented the information in the book with personal experiences he'd gained while living in the country. How many places has he lived? she wondered, intrigued.

Before she knew it, class was over, and the other students were grabbing their books and heading out the door, including Gwen, who left without even a glance back in her roommate's direction. Cerys was hurt, but said nothing – she didn't want to anger her this early in their "friendship," and she had to stay afterwards to speak with Rriin anyway.

She hesitantly stepped to the front of the room toward Rriin, who looked at her serenely. :Hello, youngling. You are Cerys Denarin, correct?:

"Y-yes, sir," she said.

:Very good. Welcome to the Collegium. As you've gathered by now, I will be your Cultures teacher. You're not too far behind the other students – you had good timing, getting here when you did: he informed her, and she smiled shyly. :You'll need to do a bit of catch-up reading, but not too much.:

She flushed. "I- I don't have a book yet," she admitted.

If he were human, he would have smiled kindly at her. As it was, he gave her another grin and wagged his tail a little, the long fur sweeping across the desk. :You can get a copy from the library, it's not a problem: he said soothingly. :Do you have time to go before your next class?:

She pulled out her schedule from her bag, grudgingly loaned to her by Gwen that morning, and consulted it. "Um... I have my Mindspeaking class next, in Herald's Collegium, but it's not for a little while," she said. "My mentor Kaevan is supposed to meet me back at my room to show me where it is."

:Excellent: he replied, then was silent for a few moments. Cerys was confused, but said nothing, feeling slightly awkward and wondering if she was supposed to do something. :One of my other students is in that class as well: he finally said. :He's agreed to take you to the library after it's finished so you can find your books.:

She smiled, pleasantly surprised – how nice of Rriin to find help for her, and of the other trainee to agree to assist her! "Thank you very much," she said sincerely, no longer feeling quite so odd about talking to a 'wolf.' "What would you like me to read for next time?"

:Try to get through chapter one. If you have any questions, just ask any of your teachers or the servants. I am the only kyree at the Collegia: he chuckled, :so there won't be any problem finding me.:

Cerys nodded. "I will. Thank you!" she said as she left.

She paused for a moment once she stepped into the hallway. I have some time before I need to meet Kaevan, she thought. I guess I could go back to the room to spend time with Gwen... A large group of talking, laughing students came by, making her move to the side of the hall, and she half smiled regretfully. Will I ever have friends like that? she wondered, then shook her head. Best not to think about that yet – not on her first day.

Perhaps she'd been too hard on Gwen, she considered as she headed back towards the room. After all, the girl was used to having her own room in an even nicer section of the palace than the Collegia, and suddenly she had a backward farm girl as a roommate. Cerys suddenly felt ashamed of her behavior. I hope she'll forgive me, she thought with worry. I'll go out with her and her friends tonight. Maybe I can show them that I can fit in after all.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she crashed into someone in the hall, causing her to jump in alarm – she hadn't even heard anyone coming! She stepped back, getting her footing again, to see a group of students her own age standing there, led by a girl in Mage-trainee yellow who had fallen to the floor. She stood up, brushing off her uniform, and Cerys could see the girl had a scowl on her face. She immediately opened her mouth to apologize, but couldn't say a word before being cut off as the other girl voiced her frustrations.

"Do you even bother looking where you're going?" she asked angrily, her eyes flashing. She took a step toward Cerys, who stepped backwards in fear. The girl's friends, five or six of them wearing blue and yellow, stood behind her, arms folded and chuckling. "Just because you Healers have been in the Collegia longer doesn't mean you run the place. You and those damn Heralds, thinking you're so special," she sneered.

'Damn Heralds?' Cerys thought, baffled. Who is this girl that she doesn't like Heralds? But she did her best to assuage the girl's anger. "I'm so sorry!" she said hurriedly. "I was walking and thinking, and-"

"Thinking?" the girl said incredulously. The mage-trainee looked her over like she was evaluating her, and from the frown on her face, she didn't approve of what she saw. "It doesn't look like you do much thinking, farm girl. It looks to me like you're more of the working type." The girl's friends snorted in amusement at this. Cerys hid her hands, which were rough from working on the farm, behind her back so they couldn't see the calluses, and blushed bright red. The girl, seeing this, crowed in victory, and Cerys blushed and backed away again. "She is a little worker!" she said with fake sweetness. "I bet you just work so hard out in the sun all day long, out on your little farm. Do you pull the plow, too, little ox?"

"Oh that's a perfect name for her, Siara," a blue-clad boy standing behind her said with a grin, then looked at her, cruelty evident in his eyes. "Our Ox is such a hard worker. It's too bad she hasn't figured out that being a student at the Collegia takes more than brute strength. I wonder how long she'll last?"

"As do I," Siara said with a venomous smile. Cerys had backed up so far she was against a wall, and the other girl took another step forward, then reached out to pat her roughly on the arm. "Good luck in your classes, Ox," she told her. "We'll see you around."

With that, the group walked away, leaving Cerys terrified and shocked, pressed up against the wall of the hallway. Why...? she wondered, trying to contain her tears. She felt a sudden need to run, to get away from this place where she clearly didn't belong, and instantly wished she were sitting on the fence of the field at home. But since she couldn't have that, she practically ran down the hall and out the door toward Companion's Field.

She passed a few people, but she avoided eye contact and continued her hurried journey. When she got there, she climbed over the fence and headed for a small wooded area that looked like it might be secluded. I just need to be alone, she thought desperately.

Cerys leaned against a tree when she arrived in the grove, and slid down until she was sitting, then buried her face in her hands and cried. Why had that girl said those things? She'd just bumped into her, it was an accident!

Because you don't belong here, and everyone can see it, a nagging voice in her head told her. You should've just gotten married and stuck to the life you knew. At least you fit in there.

She let herself cry for a little while, until she heard a rustling nearby that made her jump in surprise. "Who- who's there?" she called out nervously.

A white horse – a Companion! she thought excitedly – walked out from between the trees and came up to her slowly, concern in its gorgeous blue eyes. It lipped her tunic gently, and she half-smiled.

"I- I'm all right," she told the Companion. It gave her a look in response, one that said it knew she was lying, and snorted loudly. She couldn't help but giggle, then became more serious. "It's my first day here," she confessed, "and I already feel like I shouldn't have come. I bumped into a mage-trainee and she told me I should've stayed on the farm." She sighed and looked down, feeling tears welling up again. "What if she was right?"

The Companion shook its head, mane bouncing around from the motion, and nosed her in the chest, then took a step backward. When Cerys didn't do anything in response, it nosed her in the chest again. She looked at the Companion, baffled. "You want me to get up?" she asked, and it nodded its head in confirmation. She blinked in confusion, but did as it asked, and the horse turned so she was facing its side, then turned to look at her expectantly.

"You- want me to get on?" she asked, doubtful, but the Companion nodded again. Cerys shook her head in amazement. "But- I haven't ridden very much, and you don't have a saddle," she pointed out, which received a loud snort in response. She giggled again. "All right, I'll try." Grabbing onto its mane for help, she managed to pull herself up, then held on tightly to the mane with both hands as the Companion walked out of the forest.

Once they were out from the trees, it launched into a canter the likes of which Cerys had never felt before. What a smooth gait – a child could sit on the back of one of these creatures and not fall! The wind blew her hair back, and she closed her eyes and smiled.

Their journey came to an end far too soon, when the Companion slowed to a walk and then stopped near the fence by Healer's Collegium. She dismounted carefully and turned to face the blue-eyed creature. "Thank you," she said quietly, then, suddenly daring, leaned over give the Companion a hug, and it whickered affectionately in response, then, as she let go, gave her a gentle push toward Healer's with its nose. Cerys grinned. "I'm going, I'm going!" she said, and headed back toward her room.