Shanku hit the ground with a resounding thud.

"You fight like a brigand," her trainer said with disgust.

For a brief moment, memories of the faces of the pirates Shanku had served with flashed through her mind. She laid her ears back as a twinge of guilt struck her. Shanku got back up on her feet and braced herself for another round with her trainer.

Slowly over the next few weeks she forced out old habits of rushing an opponent and swinging her claws wildly. She began to learn precision and how to distribute her strength to last longer in a fight.

Once again, her thoughts drifted back to her brother and her best friend. She wondered what they were learning. Likely Hilael is being trained as a gatherer and Katari is being trained as a warrior. She growled to herself. Not that they'd be allowed out of their families' social classes. She relaxed a bit. But Hilael might have a choice. Ma might have been a gatherer, but Da was a member of the council. Her ears drooped sadly. Would Hilael be like one of those that exiled me?

It had been eight years since she last saw her family. Eight long years in exile. Away from those who had loved her more than any other.

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