Henry and the Malcontents, Chapter 1

Fiction By Annabel // 7/16/2009

 *Author’s note: Alright, here’s the first chapter. It could probably use some editing, so criticism will be greatly appreciated. Also, I’m currently thinking of a new name for the country…so far, I like Kraja and Agathon the best. Any other suggestions?*


It was Friday afternoon, and all was astir in the Teachers’ Lounge of Grausam Academy. Teachers and administrators milled about the refreshment table in their collared shirts and creased slacks, chatting and discussing weekend plans in a state of near-excitement. In one corner of the room, two middle-aged men hailed each other and began to talk over weak decaf.


“Limminer! Looks like we’ve made it through another week, eh, old fellow?”

The first man tittered somewhat nervously.

 “Not quite. I have an appointment with a student at four.”
“Aha. What is it about? Doesn’t think his grades are high enough, I suppose? Or perhaps he wants to file a complaint about the food here?”
“As a matter of fact, he didn’t tell me what he wanted me for. I think…”
“Or,” Rafer burst in, “perhaps it’s a personal matter. That’s the trouble with working at a boarding school—we may get paid more, but the students want us to be their parents and counselors on top of teaching them!”
They both laughed—Rafer, uproariously, and Limminer, obligingly. A keen observer might have seen through the companionable griping to the uneasiness that lay beneath, and known that the men were restless in each other’s company. The disparity between them was, in fact, so marked as to make true friendship between the two next to impossible. Peter Rafer was an enormous person, even for a minotaur, with wiry dark fur, yellowed horns, and a thunderous voice. Despite his great bulk—he stood well over seven feet high, and his weight, only guessed at, must have been tremendous—he failed to inspire respect. There was a certain air of coarseness about him; in the way he butted into conversations, in the way he swaggered as he walked, and in the way his clothes never seemed to fit him.
Henry Limminer was a direct contrast to his companion. A slight, bespectacled man, who stooped a little as he walked, he seemed the very personification of correctness and respectability. At forty-eight years of age, he was an established teacher at Grausam Academy, known for his sternness inside the classroom and his mildness elsewhere. He was a tidy man, fond of keeping his office and his pupils in immaculate order, but also a man most prone to excessive fretting.
He was fretting now, as he said goodbye to Rafer and scurried through the polished corridors to his office. He inwardly shrank from the coming interview. Though he did not know what it was about, he knew the student who had asked to speak to him. Zael Wintra had been a pupil at Grausam Academy for only four months, but already his name was covered with notoriety.
Limminer paused in front of the school bulletin board, pretending to read the many garishly-colored flyers that bedecked it. In reality, he was reminiscing about all he knew of the boy. He remembered the stir Wintra had caused when he joined the school—mid-semester transfers were rarely allowed. He must have had somebody on the Board, pulling strings, everyone agreed. Rumors abounded as to why the boy had left his old school. Some said that he was sent here because of failing grades; others, that he had been expelled for bad behavior. Still others told dark tales of parents so worn out that they had simply abandoned him.
Always striving to be just, Limminer long refused to credit the wild stories, but he had known, at the first moment of meeting, that Zael Wintra meant trouble. A battle, of sorts, had started between the two of them when the boy had walked into his classroom ten minutes late, on his first day. An impish-looking boy with long black hair and an insolent half-grin, he had stood waiting by the door until the teacher noticed him. Henry had determined not to let this tardiness slip past, and the battle had begun.
“Zael Wintra?”
“Please to address me as ‘sir.’ Wintra, you are ten minutes late.”
“It’s twelve minutes, sir,” he had replied matter-of-factly.
Henry had used his best instructor voice. “You are new to Grausam Academy, and perhaps unaware of our tradition of good attendance. We believe that being on time, among other things…”
The boy had joined in, chanting the words from the Academy’s official mission statement in a sing-song voice: “demonstrates reverence for one’s teachers and is conducive to the learning processes. It is vital to instill among the rising generation of this country the respect for others and the thirst for knowledge that are so…”
Afterwards, Henry thought of a myriad of ways he could have responded. He could have lectured him. He could have silenced him. He could have sent him to the Headmaster’s office, for the Council’s sake! But somehow, in the face of the imp’s unnerving assurance, all he could think of was “Take your seat, Wintra.”
Then, noticing that Zael was chewing what seemed to be pink bubblegum, he had added, “And please have the courtesy to dispose of your gum.”
He had somehow managed to fix the boy with his intimidating, do-as-I-say-or-you’ll-be-sorry stare.
Zael had stared back, his grey eyes intolerably wide, and kept on chewing.
The battle was over.
It was nearly inevitable that the inhabitants of Grausam Academy should wage war on Zael Wintra. Even before his actual arrival, they had known they would dislike him. How could they not? He was a new boy, who had switched schools under questionable circumstances—and if one believed only a third of the rumors about him, one had sufficient reason to avoid him altogether. That he was rebellious went without saying. That he was violent—the sort of boy who might engage in schoolyard brawls—was very likely. That he was a poor student was not as obvious—the Academy wouldn’t have let him in if he had been, would it?—but it was not impossible. Also, they decided, he probably broke rules and talked back to his instructors.
Upon his actually arriving on the grounds, the Academians were delighted to find their suspicions verified—he was just as impertinent, as indolent, and as unruly as they had hoped (they were obliged, however, to give up the charge of “violent.” Zael, far from being a fearsome belligerent, was a rather slight, scrawny boy). He did, indeed, talk back to his instructors. He often turned in school work late, or unfinished, or both. He was never groomed according to regulations, but wore long hair and sandals. And there was something else about him that no one could quite describe but everyone could recognize—an under-current of mockery in all his speech that nettled them all. Academy instructors, pupils, and staff-members united to do battle against this alien—shunning, haranguing, chastising, or ignoring him as the circumstances demanded.
After the embarrassment of the first day, Limminer tried to stay out of the war. He did, of course, discipline Wintra when he found it necessary (Since most pupils were already well-trained, the Academy did not have a very harsh disciplinary system. Punishments largely consisted of writing an extra essay or so, and they didn’t daunt Zael in the least), but he otherwise avoided all contact with him. Being an introspective man, he often tried to puzzle out his reasons for this. One reason was his reluctance to actively support his colleagues, whom he thought were pompous and overdone in their efforts. Another was, he admitted secretly, fear of further humiliation. There was a certain astonishing confidence and self-possession about the boy: he never failed to have a glib response to any attacks.
The truth was, Henry Limminer disliked Zael Wintra, and disliked the Academians, and wanted as little as possible to do with the whole lot of them.
Suddenly startled by the sound of the hall clock striking four, Limminer left his reflections and sprinted, flustered, the rest of the way to his office.
"What is going to happen?" he wondered, listening to the "click, click, click" of his polished shoes on the polished floors. Zael Wintra was unpredictable, if he was anything, and hadn’t given him any clue to the meeting’s topic—and Henry had long since given up trying to outguess him.
He passed office after office, reading the placards on the doors. "Ms. Julisa Seeman"…"Ms. Vanita Bates"…"Mr. Peter Rafer"…there was his door.
"Mr. Henry Limminer," read the sober, faded metal plate. "Instructor of History, eleventh-form."
Henry paused, short of breath, to compulsively adjust his dull brown tie. Then he opened the door and stepped in to meet his student.


Annabel, you are a terrific

Annabel, you are a terrific writer-- I love the words you use. Oh, and I can't wait to meet the student. I can't think of any constructive criticism at the moment, it is so very well written. :) Post more soon!


P.S. And I like both the names you were thinking of for your country! The one I like best is probably.... hmm... Kraja? I don't know, I like them both. :)



Teal | Thu, 07/16/2009

Wow, thank you, Teal! You

Wow, thank you, Teal! You have no idea how encouraging that is.

Annabel | Fri, 07/17/2009

Minotaurs in a world with

Minotaurs in a world with bubble-gum? Hmm...

I like the K-name best, the other is too close to Aragorn.

Julie | Fri, 07/17/2009

Formerly Kestrel

Kraja and Agathon are both

Kraja and Agathon are both good names. I like this chapter, and you are a good writer, as Teal said. I really hope you will finish this story!

Laura Elizabeth | Fri, 07/17/2009

The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --



I am loving this story! The minotaur kind of surprised me, though. And I must say that the country name I like best is Agathon, and I love the student's name, Zael.............. I'm looking forward to the next chapter!

Hannah W. | Fri, 07/17/2009

Thanks for the lovely

Thanks for the lovely comments, everyone!

I have a mental image of Rafer's shaggy, dark head emerging from the butttoned collar of a suit shirt. I know it's rather strange...it's one of the fun things about urban fantasy.

About the names: Kraja comes from a word that means "country" (i actually don't remember what language), and Agathon comes from a Greek word that means "good."

Annabel | Fri, 07/17/2009

Agathon is my favorite

Agathon is my favorite country name.

I really like this! Zael intrigues me, and yes, as you desribed Rafer I got this almost goofy-looking picture of a minotaur's head popping out of a collared shirt, lol!

Heather | Mon, 07/20/2009

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

danke schoen

Thanks Heather! Yes, Zael is extremely fun to write about, and one of my favorite characters--I only hope you'll continue to like him as the story progresses.

Annabel | Mon, 07/20/2009

*verging on panic*

I posted something nearly four days ago, and it's still not up! Usually it only takes about a day...is anyone else having problems, or is it just me?

Annabel | Thu, 07/30/2009

No Way!!!

I've been having that problem too. Except mine has been wating since last Friday!!! What do you think is going on?

Ariel | Thu, 07/30/2009

"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Oh so thats why you didn't

Oh so thats why you didn't post the third chapter of "never forget" on Sunday! I was pretty disappointed when it didn't show up...

But no, I don't really know. Unless...did you save it in draft first, and then submit it? I can't imagine any other reason...


Annabel | Thu, 07/30/2009


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