The second day was a Crimson Day: yes, the Lyceum of the Lake Wind’s colors are crimson and yellow. For Daphne and Cloudius, the day started early but well. They both had metallurgy at 8 am with Andronicus Timms, an ancient and hard-skinned metal smith who informed them that the class would in future begin at 7:30 and not 8, “if we are to get anything accomplished.” They looked around: they were the only students. Down here in the cellar of the school, they were surrounded by shadows and piles of mysterious odds and ends.
Both of them knew they liked working with their hands, both already knew about safety, and both of them proved willing and able to hold up. Timms betrayed nothing, but time, in Metallurgy, flew by. Timms suddenly smiled to signal class was over. “See ya in two days,” he said. “I want effort like this every day.”
Arnulf had History of Magic with Pindar, and they turned out to be among the best students. Tom talked back to the young English professor Tracy Glohan, who was an animals expert; none of the other second floor kids were in that class, so they didn’t see him cut down to size with her Sarcastic Look. Daphne and Cloudius went from Metallurgy to Ash’s Math 1 class, where they both excelled. Angelica was in that class too, but she was completely underwater.
“Mistress Ash,” she said at the end of class, “I’m completely underwater. I need to take an easier math class.”
“I’m glad you didn’t wait for the water to get too deep,” said Ash. “After dinner, you and I will sit down and make sure you know how to swim.”
Then there was Temple’s Intro to Alchemy class, in which Daphne and Ahir sat with Tom in between. Daphne and Ahir kept looking at each other and rolling their eyes—old Temple knew a lot but seemed to delight in talking just over their heads. But Tom was keeping up and not talking back this time—if he had talked back, he might not have heard Temple, on the subject of wand applications, mutter that there must be one for identifying segments of the Eleven.
“The Eleven?” asked Angelica. “He didn’t say anything about that in my Intro Alch class yesterday.”
“I wish White would say anything interesting at all,” said Arnulf, who had Susan White, Ash’s best buddy, as his Intro Alch master. He was turning his new wand in his hand, and every so often having a glance at the base of it. They had all ended their day being given loaner wands.
“I didn’t tell you,” said Angelica, holding up her wand: it was fourteen inches, longer than any of the others, and pale yellow, almost white. “I now have a friend and an enemy.”
“How’s that?” asked Daphne, who was hoping to score a better one, even if she had to make it herself. Hers appeared to have been a randomly chosen stick, bark removed, polished.
“Jen Stinking Greenbelt,” said Ange, “she tried to foist the broken one off on me. It had a crack as big as the Chicago River in it. But Natalie, she’s in Professor Match’s house, she switched them around and Jen Stinkerbelt ended up with it and I got this nice one.”
“You like Natalie?” asked Cloud.
“I like mine okay,” said Tom, waving it: pine, not too long, nicely polished over a dark stripe that ran all the way down it.
“Natalie’s cool,” said Angelica. “Cooler than Jen, that’s for sure.”
“You’re not talking about Jen Norman, are you?” asked Daphne.
“Jen Greenbelt,” said Ange. “They’re both in Mistress White’s house. I know, right? There are too many Jens. Jen Norman calls herself Spiny.”
“Why?” asked Daphne. She set her wand down and pulled out her sword.
“It’s a Monty Python reference,” said Arnulf.
“The Shmoke Boy speaks,” said Ange. “How do you like your wand?”
“It’s fine,” said Arnulf. He was looking at the bottom end. It was a little circle. Carved into it, discolored against the light brown of the walnut wood, then polished over, were two letters. They weren’t in any secret script, any glyphs of power: they were straight, simple Roman letters carven in gentle curves and colored with brown grime polished over.
“J S,” said Tom, leaning over. Arnulf pulled the wand out of his view, then relented, and the two boys leaned together squinting at the letters.
“What’s it mean?” asked Cloudius.
“Former owner, I bet,” said Angelica. She smiled at Arnulf. “Maybe it was some great wizard. Well, it gives us something to do instead of homework!”
Another thing to do that wasn’t homework was football. Most of the forty first years tried out, both boys and girls. It seemed like first years might have a chance this year: last year’s team had been heavy with third years, and had also notably sucked. Coach Trena Whelp was evidently looking to make changes, and return to mediocrity at least.
Football among mages was different from football out in the wide world: for one thing, both boys and girls played. The reason that was possible was the other thing about mage football. Though the literal rules were the same, the abilities of the players were affected by their magical powers in very regulated ways.
Daphne, of course, was the sort of girl who might have gotten onto a junior high school team among non-mages, and Coach Whelp recruited her personally, coming to dinner at Ash House to say in front of all and sundry that she was going to be at least her backup quarterback.
“I can play too,” said Ange.
“Me too,” said Arn and Tom and several others.
“Well, try out,” said Whelp.
So they did. Jen “Spiny” Norman did too, and she was Daphne’s nemesis. She was trying out for defensive back and she intercepted pass after pass from Daphne and the other quarterbacks. Spiny was from Minnesota, from a “tribe” of Amazons that lived in hill country just across the border from the hill country where Daphne’s mom raised horses. Spiny was as tall as Daphne, but a little skinnier, with blond hair a shade browner. Their rivalry was of a specific sort, however: they were from opposite sides of the St Croix, but they were the only Amazons in their class. Spiny made starting cornerback. Daphne made backup QB, behind a third-year boy named Billy Swett, who was a mad scrambler with a powerful if not very accurate arm.
Arnulf, to everyone’s surprise, out-tackled and out-hustled the defensive recruits and even the previous starting safeties and snagged the starting job at free safety. Tom Hexane also made the team, as a kicker: the previous starter graduated and no one else was any good without using a spell of aiming, which could net a five yard penalty. (And no one else was any good at hiding their spells of aiming.)
Angelica surprised herself as well as everyone else. She tried out, of course, and it helped that she was feeling especially good that warm September Saturday. She couldn’t outrun everyone, but she could outrun Arnulf, and she caught all the passes thrown her way. Whelp didn’t even let her try out at kicker or defensive back.
And then the sun was shining in a broad blue sky in the late afternoon on that seemingly vast football field, Arnulf was far behind her, Spiny was covering someone far across the field, and the ball was twisting through limitless space, a perfect spiral from the left hand of the Amazon. Angelica ran and ran, as fast as she had ever run, as the ball peaked in the sun and drifted down into shadow. She stretched forth her hands, she wrested the ball from its parabolic path and pulled it to her, and there she was in the end zone, turning as she ran, not stopping, but looking back on the run to where Daphne, so far away she seemed a speck in the distance, was jumping up and down and hooting and hollering. Ange was still running when she got back to the coach, who, not cracking a smile, slapped her arm and said, “You’re number three receiver, you start Game One.”