A/N: So this is going to be my first fanfic. Yep.

Right now, as I'm sitting in my room, typing this, I know that there's only like 5 Princess Academy fanfics. Not the most popular, eh? But I'm going to type this anyway. Because I'm bored. And I really should start writing something. Exercise my pen. Or my laptop.

Okay, so now that you know I have a really bad sense of humor, I'm going to wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans and start typing. Don't I talk a LOT?

Oh, and this is Peder's point of view.

One more thing: I am very lovey-dovey. Or whatever you want to call it. Romantic. I swoon (no, not really). 'Cause I'm a girl. And that's what girls do whenever they read one of the cutest romance novels ever. So . . . yeah.

Okay, last thing (I keep on forgetting): I probably don't need to include this because it's kind of like common sense, but this is going to be shorter than the actual book, partially because I can't give that much detail to everything and this is Peder's point of view, not Miri's. Not as exciting (girls are way cooler than boys, don't you think? :D) – so I'm going to cut it shorter to spare you the boredom.

Disclaimer: Yeah, almost forgot to include this (like everything else I forgot). I do not claim that I've written Princess Academy. And I didn't write the little quarry-speech songs in the beginning of all the chapters. Leave that all to Shannon Hale. (And – this is off the topic, but – Shannon Hale is like my . . . well, she's in my top five favorite authors – which includes J. K. Rowling, James Patterson, Richelle Mead, and Suzanne Collins – so you should read her books. Seriously.)

- Chapter 1 -

The east says it's dawn

My mouth speaks a yawn

My bed clings to me and begs me to stay

I hear a work song

Say winter is long

I peel myself up and then make away

Peder opened his eyes to the first streaks of dawn. His mind wandered, eyes already imagining silver-streaked linder as his hands mimicked swinging a mallet and the voice in his mind sang a quarry tune. His hands started moving differently now – they were now carving a goat out of linder. He closed his eyes once more as if to continue sleeping, but then he sighed and slowly rose from his pea-shuck mattress.

He dressed quickly into his clothes and started to lace his boots. His pa and ma were already up, about to join the singing workers outside. Esa, his little sister, was also up, softly singing along with the quarry workers.

"Peder!" his ma said. "Mamaw feels sore today, and Esa needs to learn wedge work. Could you tend to the house?"

Peder nodded. His ma handed him food and kissed his head. "Thank you."

That morning, Peder did household chores – sweeping the hearth, banking the coals, and drying the fresh goat dung for the fire. He could hear the quarry workers singing as they swung their mallets and dragged stones out of the pit.

He led the goats to a grassy slope blooming with miri flowers. Peder watched the goats grazing, absentmindedly picking up a piece of thrown-off linder and carving it with his knife. When he was finished, he realized he carved a girl and was even more startled to see that it looked like Miri, one of his friends. Wondering why he'd carved her, he suddenly noticed that one of the goats was missing. He pocketed the linder statue. A bleating brought his attention to a stream where the loose goat was chewing grass slowly.

Peder splashed across the stream, chasing and then catching the bleating goat. He looked up and saw Miri at the top of the slope, looking at what seemed to be a miri flower. Then he heard a loud horn blast from the village center and turned that way.

The village did not have horns, so that must be the lowlanders. But why would the coming traders need to announce their presence?

He looked back to Miri and saw her coming down the hill with her goats. He grabbed his tethers, wrestling the unwilling goats, and caught up to her. "Miri!"

Miri was fourteen and yet more petite than others much younger than her. Her light brown braid swung slightly as she traveled down the hill, and she almost tripped over some rocks, making her blush. He liked her blush; it was rosier than the setting sun. He loved how they both knew what the other was thinking. What he loved most about her, though, was her laughter. It never failed to make him laugh with her.

"Hello, Peder. Why aren't you in the quarry?"

"My sister wanted to learn wedge work and my grandmother was feeling sore in the bones, so my ma asked me to take a turn with the goats. Do you know what the trumpeting is about?"

"Traders, I guess. But why the fanfare?"

"You know lowlanders. They're so important." Peder's voice held contempt for the haughty lowlanders that believed themselves to be so much more notable than Mount Eskel.

"Maybe one had some gas, and they trumpeted so the whole world would know the good news."

Peder smiled; he loved Miri's humor.

"Oh, really, is that so?" Miri asked Peder's lead goat.

"What?"

"Your nanny there said that stream was so cold it scared her milk right up into her mutton chops."

Peder laughed. He wanted Miri to say something else, something else that would make him laugh. But she kept her mouth shut the rest of the way to her house.

They tied up the goats, Peder trying to do all the work, but the goats butted one another and the tethers got tangled, bounding his ankles. "Wait . . . stop," he said, falling flat on the ground.

Miri attempted to help but instead got herself tangled with him, too. "We're cooked in a goat stew. There's no saving us now," she said, laughing.

They finally untangled themselves, and suddenly Peder felt like he should lean forward and kiss Miri's cheek. He shook his head, wondering what he was thinking. "This was a mess," he said before she knew what he was thinking.

"Yes. If there's one thing you're good at, Peder Doterson, it's making a mess," Miri teased.

"That's what my ma always says, and everyone knows she's never wrong," Peder said, smiling. The quarry was silent now, no pounding ringing in his ears. He could hear his heartbeat and hoped that Miri didn't hear it. A trumpet blared again, and they ran to the village center.

Wagons for the traders were already set up in the clearing, but a blue carriage was the main attraction as it rolled in. Peder frowned; traders didn't travel in carriages. It must have been someone important, maybe someone from the government itself.

Miri started to say, "Peder, let's watch from –"

"Peder!"

Peder turned his head to see Bena and Liana waving from a distance off. Seventeen-year-olds Bena and Liana were the prettiest girls in the village, and they loved smiling at boys in the village. Recently they'd been smiling at Peder.

"Let's watch with them," Peder said, waving, shyly smiling.

Miri shrugged. "Go ahead." She ran in the other direction to where her sister, Marda, and Esa was. Peder watched her go and turned around back to Bena and Liana.

Liana smiled at him. "Who do you think it is?"

Bena said, "Do you think it's from a rich trader?"

Peder shrugged. "My ma says that a surprise from a lowlander is a snake in a box." Bena nodded; Doter, Peder's ma, was considered wise for her sayings.

A trumpet blared again and a brightly dressed man yelled, "I call your ears to hearken the chief delegate of Danland."

Peder pressed forward. Someone from the government was here!

Squinting from the sunlight, a man with a beard emerged from the blue carriage and frowned. "Lords and ladies of . . ." He stopped and laughed. Peder's hands curled into fists. "People of Mount Eskel. As your territory has no delegate at court to report to you, His Majesty the king sent me to deliver you this news." His hat's yellow feather tapped against his brow because of the breeze. He kept on pushing it away. A few of the younger village boys laughed.

"This past summer, the priests of the creator god took council on the birthday of the prince. They read the omens and divined the home of his future bride. All the signs indicated Mount Eskel." No one said anything, and he sighed. "Are you so remote that you don't know the customs of your own people? This has long been a Danlander custom. After days of fasting and supplication, the priests perform a rite to divine which city or town is the home of the future princess. Then the prince meets all the noble daughters of that place and chooses his bride. You may be certain that the pronouncement of Mount Eskel shocked many Danlanders, but who are we to argue with the priests of the creator god?" He pushed away his hat feather again.

"As is the tradition, the king commanded an academy be created for the purpose of preparing the potential young ladies. Though law dictates the academy be formed in the chosen town, your village does not" – he squinted, looking around in a disapproving manner – "indeed, does not have any buildings of appropriate size for such an undertaking. Given these circumstances, the priests agreed the academy could be lodged in the old stone minister's house near the mountain pass. The king's servants are even now preparing it for use." He swatted the feather on his hat away from his cheek.

"On the morrow, all the girls in this village aged twelve to seventeen are ordered to the academy to prepare themselves to meet the prince. One year from now the prince will ascend the mountain and attend the academy's ball. He himself will select his bride from among the girls of the academy. So let you prepare." The feather on his hat flew toward his eye. He tore off the feather and threw it at the ground, making the wind blow it from the village, over the cliff, and away. The chief delegate returned to the carriage.

Everyone was silent. I could hear Miri say in a low voice, "Snake in a box."

A/N: So I hoped you guys liked it. One thing I have to say about it is that I'll like it now, but in a few months, I'll read it again and say, "I hate it." 'Cause that's me. I'm one of those low-self-esteem people. At least it's better than saying that a bunch of nonsense words is greater than Shakespeare.

I update on an irregular basis. It might be the next day that I make another chapter, or a week later, or a month later. I procrastinate too, so don't really expect another chapter coming tomorrow.