Chapter 1: The Invitation

Soft light filtered through the dingy, dusty, dirty old window. Gently the sun's warm rays caressed the children's skin. Quietly, they bent their necks, turning their heads down, flicking their eyes to their work. The sound of pencils scratching filled the King's room. Voices could be heard outside the door, students who had already finished their homework heading up to their dormitories for the night.

"Done," one student breathed, her light blue eyes scanning the piece of paper in front of her, checking for incorrect answers or missed problems. She seemed to find her work satisfactory, because she smoothed the paper out, tucked it into a folder, and placed the folder in her bag.

"First one done as usual," came a male voice. Charlie Bone smiled as another boy, sitting to his left, ran his fingers through his hair, grinning at the girl. His spiky blond hair crackled with energy, and his dark blue eyes danced. The girl blushed.

"I'm not the first one done, Tancred. Sander's done too." Lysander Sage, a tall African boy, grinned.

"Incorrect, Ms. Tolly." he said with a silly accent, "I just finished moments ago."

Emma Tolly could barely keep from laughing. Lysander could be quite funny when he wanted to be. The other children in the room were smiling too. They were happy for any distraction from their dull homework. Just a few weeks ago, Charlie Bone and the other endowed students had overpowered the Bloors, and taken over the school, renaming it Bone Academy. While the staff had changed (Weedon and his wife were asked to leave, to much rejoicing from the children), the lessons had not. Many of the endowed had left too. Dorcas Loom, the Branko twins, and Joshua Tilpin were gone, along with the Bloors. They had left after Ezekiel Bloor had been pushed down a set of stairs by his old dog, Blessed. Unfortunately, he had landed on top of Manfred, who was in the hospital, last anyone had heard.

"Oh my gosh!" Tancred gasped, sending an icy blast of wind through the room. "What?" Charlie asked.

"I totally forgot to ask you guys! Mom's going to kill me! I'm going to my cousin's house for a few weeks over summer break and you're all invited! They go Loth's Academy, where Dagbert used to go." he added. He looked around the room eagerly. "Well?"

Lysander shrugged. "Sounds good to me."

Gabriel Silk brushed his mouse-brown hair out of his eyes. "I'll check with my parents." Billy Raven, Charlie's adoptive brother, Charlie, and Emma all told Tancred that they would come too. Then, one of the ancient doors banged open and Olivia Vertigo entered the room. She unceremoniously dumped her bright pink bag on the floor, brushed her matching hair over her shoulder, and sat down by Emma.

"Hey, Liv! Do you want to come over to my cousin's house for a few weeks this summer?" Tancred asked, "They invited all the endowed."

"Okay, but if all the endowed were invited, we should ask Asa too."

"What?" Billy yelped, "But he's...

"He's what?" snarled a cloaked figure standing in the doorway.

Tears boiled in Jonathan Loth's dark eyes. He whispered the three words that had been haunting him for years.

"They hate me."

Three simple words. One powerful statement. A tear slipped out of his tightly shut eyes and raced down his cheek. Soon it was joined by another. Then, the dam broke. A waterfall of tears flooded down his face. He brought his knees up to his chest and cried. His sobs echoed around the small room. Finally, he stopped crying. Shakily, he stood up and stumbled to the door. He opened it and stepped out onto the balcony. He gazed sadly out over the forest. The moon's light gleamed off the wet pavement. He sighed. He climbed up onto the balcony's rail, took a deep breath, and jumped. He hit the pavement feet first, and began to run.

Jonathan raced by houses, shops, people, cars, trees, and finally, he was there. Home. Or, at least, that's what he called it. It was more of an old shack really, but it was HIS old shack. Not anybody else's. But something was wrong. The lights were on, and he remembered turning them off. A silhouette slipped past the curtained window. Treading carefully, he crept towards the house. He eased the door open, and snuck inside. Standing, its back turned to him, was a hooded figure. He stalked towards it. Suddenly, he darted forwards, and smacked his hand over the figure's mouth. His other hand closed around its cloak, pulling back slightly. Just enough to make whoever this was uncomfortable, but not enough to kill them. Strangely, the figure didn't make any attempt to fight back. Slowly, he walked around the figure so he was standing in front of it. Jonathan pushed its hood back and gasped.

"Manfred Bloor?"