We meet the protagonists of our story as they are shuffled into a new Fang.
"You have never belonged to another Fang."
On the first day of a new term, three students at the House of Bells academy, Cathak Pyres, Cathak Oresta, and Ledaal Gale Whispered, rise in their barracks to a disturbing sight. Each room has been entirely emptied and cleared, as if nobody had ever moved in. With no possessions to gather -or even clothes to dress themselves-, they tentatively exit to the hallway before class is called to muster for the morning, where they meet with each other and quickly surmise that the same fate has befallen all of them. When the horn sounds to gather all the students of the school to the field, they are pulled aside by Quartermaster Juwinn. They hope she's going to inform them of a surprise exercise they've been assigned, but they're instead given a confusing and cryptic briefing.
As Juwinn tells it, the fangs that they believed they belonged to never existed, and the three of them have always been in a fang together: the Fang of the Lost Hand. Of course, each of them know this to be entirely untrue, especially since the Lost Hand is a fiction, but they learn a good reason to play along: someone from each of their fangs has been associated with traitors to the Scarlet Empire, and if one student gets expelled, their entire fang does as well. Though Pyres, Oresta, and Gale have been spared that fate, they'll be working two students short of a full unit, while the entire school sees them as suspect and weak.
After a tour of the wreck they've been assigned as a dorm, they rush to morning line-up. Pyres wordlessly seizes the position of Fanglord, thanks to Gale shunning it entirely and Oresta focusing on making sure Pyres didn't rob Gale of a spot. Unfortunately, their new spot in the line places Pyres just next to Ragara Brevin and the Coral Helix, who instantly decides to throw insults at Pyres and the rest of the new Lost Hand. Oresta, not one to suffer antagonistic idiots, succinctly shuts him up with a reminder that students talking during line-up usually regret it.
The morning briefing is short but exciting. The other students from the Lost Hand's old fangs are being marched to their expulsion, with some conspicuous absences. The standard hour of morning exercises are canceled, and the students are dismissed to a rare, relaxed breakfast. Before long, Brevin gets back to his maladroit mockery, and Pyres decides it's time to show him how to really insult someone. Brevin challenges Pyres to a duel after a solid lambasting, but just as Pyres is about to engage, Gale urges that their time would be better spent getting ready for the new term. Pyres turns away and leaves in solidarity with his fang, not giving Brevin's opinion much more thought
Brevin decides to sacrifice his own breakfast time to bother the Lost Hand further. Pyres is far more gifted at taunting, however, and Brevin is the first to lose his cool, lunging at Pyres. It's an embarrassingly quick fight. Pyres opens with a strong pommel strike using Hope and Abandon. Brevin tries to get a cheap shot on Oresta, but she sweeps his leg and follows up with a devastating blow to Brevin's chest, bowling him over a table and knocking him unconscious. Because Brevin went in by himself at a clear disadvantage, the rest of his fang restrains themselves from escalating the fight. All this before Gale can finish eating a single breakfast roll. The class cheers at the swift comeuppance for a hasty assault.
When the Lost Hand leaves the mess hall, Juwinn is waiting outside. They're not in trouble, thanks to the House of Bells' policy about violence in the student body (i.e. make sure it doesn't interrupt class). Juwinn, however, wants Gale to deliver a tactical analysis of the engagement. Gale rates her new fangmates with great favor. While it seems like Juwinn may have been looking for a different answer, she releases the students to carry on with their day. The Lost Hand contemplates their upcoming challenges and attends classes, where Pyres catches the eye of a shy student.
After class, the three decide to take the first step towards making their barracks habitable: getting some real beds. It should be easy - nobody is going to miss the beds in their old rooms, and it's not technically stealing to just relocate school property to a more useful location, right? Unfortunately, Gale gets caught in the act by Juwinn, and her stilted attempts at justifying the act earn her a meeting with Future's Sting, the jade whip. Chastised, if not necessarily chastened, Gale makes for her comfort zone: the school library.
Gale enjoys some time with Cynis Bracken, the keeper of the library. They bond over books, secret snacks from off-campus, and gateway strategy. During that time, Bracken gives Gale the only information she can regarding the curious events that started their day: there was no reason the new Lost Hand should have been spared expulsion. Only the Commandant, Tepet Nuven, could have pulled off something like that, but nobody could begin to guess at her motives. With some encouragement from Bracken, Gale departs to rejoin her new fang in the barracks.
Gale arrives to find that Pyres and Oresta have just been delivered a message with a staff seal. It's ominously brief, but quite clear in intent.
Two hours after first light
The following are reactions from viewer's non-canon students.
- "The only thing helping Ragara Brevin save face after picking a fight he didn't win was how much like a lovely, pale flower he looked in his kimono while crumpled on the ground." Cynis Fallen Petals, 5th year
- "Well, I guess someone figured out why students shouldn't be using Artefacts in the mess hall; though Oresta cuts a good figure." Peleps Atlas, 6th year
- "By the dragons will they just get a room already..." Tepet Aoife, 6th year
- "How sloppy does your form have to be to let your opponent throw you off-balance with your first strike like that? I mean, Oresta made it look like that's what he MEANT to do. Then again, look who his commanding fangmate is." Tepet Kendra Kai, 5th year
- "Why...why are you talking to me? Paper...wh...? Fine. Just don't bother me when i'm working on this. The new fang? Don't really know. It's not like any of them take the same classes. I mean, crafts and restoration? Not their thing it seems. From the cafeteria ruckus, sound like trouble at least. We'll see. Enough?" Cathak Jak Cuse, 5th year
- "Training grounds turned to school yard. We finally have a glimpse at how deep the river is and suddenly it's like everyone forgot how to swim. A few of us are just mediocre, most are downright pathetic." Tepet Quiet Torrent, 5th year
- "It was an unseemly display that quite ruined my meal. Escalating to physical violence speaks of a lack of adequate forward planning and preparation. However, Ragara Brevin can be a bully and a bore, I am not surprised he became embroiled in such a situation." Tepet Yunomi, 5th year
- "Oh? Now you want my opinion? I told you 2 years ago. Even than, it was clear that Ragara kid would get his ass kicked because of his temper. He's just lucky that the two Cathaks he charged by himself showed mercy. If he'd try that stunt with me, or any of my House, he'll have the Last Kiss." Mnemon Ptack, 5th year