Two years had passed since they stood in front of the gates, two long years for some that had passed by like a flash for Feuor. He had found that his early practice had paid off when came to the wielding of weapons; he excelled in the arts of swordsmanship and was among the top five in his year with a pike. He worked and trained hard each day to improve his skills, always striving to use the pike that was his father's gift for joining the Academy.
"Very well... Well done Feuor, you can handle that sword pretty well it seems. Bring on your shield and we shall run through some evasive manoeuvres." The trainer appreciated his hard work and was keen for him to learn ever more difficult passes in his quest for perfection.
Feuor quickly found his place in the Academy; he enjoyed everything about his training and mixed well with his fellows, at ease both on the practice ground and in the common-room.. Indeed, some of the girls seemed especially keen to mix with him, even if he was an outlander; his fighting skills and well-developed muscles more than compensated for his origins.
For Nih'na alas, it was otherwise, although she had found herself to have a gift for all magical skills and proceeded to learn them with ease.
Unfortunately, however, she was the only Homin in the class who was of Zoraï birth and it placed her somehow outside the group of her peers in a way that the more outgoing Feuor had not had to contend with. The fact that she was knowledgeable and clearly skilled, merely added to the jealousy and pettiness of some of her classmates.
They did not often talk to her or invite her to work with them, unless they were especially stuck on some magical problem, usually they ignored her, or she caught the glimpse of a grinning face or the tail end of a whisper as they made fun of her Mask. She responded by turning to her books, her only friends, and studying harder than ever.
Feuor had noticed that she often seemed to be alone when he was walking from one class to another, and he always tried his best to share lunch with her whenever he could. When they were together she smiled and joked, but he had noticed that when he caught sight of her at other times, the smile was absent and she hurried along with her head down in the pages of a book. Not even to her parents did she mention the loneliness and unhappiness that the she was enduring due to the cruelty of her fellow students.
The classes that they had first joined mixed Homins of all abilities together to see who might shine at what, but after a year things had shifted and the very best students were selected to work together. In these new, more specialised classes many came from the better areas of the town, families with a heritage or a fortune and the leisure time to devote to such studies instead of the daily grind of existence. To them, the fact that this outlandish, blue skinned figure was doing better than all their wealth and family influence could manage was galling in the extreme, and the teasing gradually became something rather darker.
One day things went a step too far.