Exam weekend came, the weekend before midterms. Everyone had his or her own form of studying. For Arnulf, it revolved around Ahir Shaheen. She was getting prettier every day, of course; she was exotic and even a little dangerous, given that people somewhere in the world might well be planning on wiping out her entire family. She had a sad, serious look that could cut through steel. When she smiled, he wanted to do exactly what she told him; she was his height, and practiced with the sword, which gave her added authority to be sure. But the clincher was that she really knew how to study and she made Arn better at it too.
Or maybe it was that she made him want to study, and want to get good grades, and want to be able to keep up with her in a conversation.
Or maybe it was that, with her help and Eva’s, Arnulf had learned more. He had learned a few things about Brutus. There was no master or student of the past named Brutus, of course, but the person that Arthur Shmoke was following—as a detective with the Magic Police—was a former Lyceum and Academy master who had been looking for, and possibly might have found, a peculiar and rare gem.
Tom stayed close by, not so much to listen in as to catch the vibe, and soon they were all three studying for hours every day, and quizzing Mistress Ash about everything. Eva actually met the spirit who wandered the grounds, and introduced him to Tom: an Ojibway mystic, murdered two hundred years ago but not dangerous to Tom or his friends. Tom felt relieved and even happy to know that a threat was not a threat, but afterward, as he remembered sitting there on the grass outside under the moon and talking to this old slightly glowing grey figure with burning eyes, he found it difficult to fall asleep.
The Indian Mystic Spirit (IMS) didn’t worry him anymore; what worried him was what else there might be, given that there really was an Indian Mystic Spirit (IMS).
Meanwhile, Daphne and Jen Norman spent a lot of time together, though only some of that was studying: there was so much else they could do together, like hack at each other.
Angelica’s method of studying involved pining for a glance from Josh (sigh) Hubble. And filling pages with “Angelica Hubble” signatures. It was even less productive than Cloudius’s study regimen of almost getting caught with Rats in the school basement, then almost getting caught with Rats in the house attic, then almost getting caught with Rats in the house basement.
Then on Sunday night they decided to get away from campus trouble. They walked several blocks off, turned and went a block and then turned back toward the school. There were dark figures around them.
“Is this a stickup?” asked Cloudius.
The figures laughed, a sound like a sewer system laughing.
“Gotta go,” said Rats, dragging Cloudius with him. Cloud seemed to have fallen under some kind of influence, but it dissipated as soon as his friend had pulled him down the street half a block. Still, they stopped and had a look back, and Cloudius, his face white, seemed barely able to remain standing.
“Havadrink,” said a black man in shabby clothes. “NoImeanit, havadrink, goodferyou.”
“Uh, no thanks, man,” said Rats.
“Some chocolate then,” said the black man. “Feryerfriend.”
“No, that’s okay.”
“Wait,” said the black man. He turned to look back up the street, then he raised the hand that had the bottle in the bag. “Sek il dak ag ra,” he muttered. A fuzzy lightning flew from the bottle mouth. One, then another, then another dark figure, staggering up, flopped on the pavement and fell asleep. Rats and Cloud just stared at them, then up at the black man with the bottle in the bag. He smiled at them. He held out a piece of something. “Chocolate? Dude could uzit.”
“Oh, yeah, thanks,” said Rats, taking the chocolate bar and handing it to Cloudius, who snarfed it down as they walked on. As they crossed the street to the Lyceum, Rats said, “Some dude, huh?”
Cloudius swallowed the last of the chocolate. “Did any of that actually happen?” he asked.
On Saturday morning, they were all studying all through breakfast, and then when they could in the locker room, and then whenever Whelp wasn’t looking on the sideline. Daph and Spiny were quizzing each other as they switched, offense to defense to offense. Arnulf and Henrietta were going over mixing rules for Alchemy between plays. Angelica was putting it all out of her mind and concentrating on football. She was Number One Receiver, and she could at least excel at this.
It was the Hoosier Lyceum’s Hoosier Wizards, a real arch-rival, but not a well-matched one. The Hoo-Wiz quarterback underthrew so habitually that Henrietta grabbed three interceptions with diving catches. Spiny and Arnulf each had one too, which added up to more than the total number of catches by the Hoo-Wiz offense. On the ground, they rarely pushed past the defensive line.
But of course Daphne, a tad distracted, kept the Hoosiers in the game, throwing three interceptions, two to the same cute African-American, both run back for touchdowns. They got one more touchdown on an Estelle-Daphne handoff muff. Extra points, however, were more like offense: the Hoosiers only got one of three.
“Daphne,” said Coach Whelp at half time, with the Zephs up 17-13, “you don’t have to work so hard to keep both teams in the game.”
And in the second half, Daphne got better. She had a touchdown to Angelica in the first half, a ten-yard slant that Ange paid for with a bone-jarring (but not quite concussive) hit. She held onto the ball. In the second half, Angelica got out beyond her defender, and ran in a long empty space, blue above, green below. As soon as she was in that place, she knew it was her favorite place of all. This space had only two inhabitants: her, and the ball, which was coming in on a lovely spiral, coming in on a flattened parabola at great velocity, flying in on the golden sunlight. Into her hands it fell, and she caught it, and she carried it as if she was flying, into the end zone. And then it happened again.
Two more Tom field goals filled a fourth quarter in which Estelle ran a lot, and the Hoosier quarterback, and offensive line, spent a lot of time lying down, looking up. Final score: 37 to 19. The Zephyrs of the Lake Wind were three and one.
On Monday the exams began, with Yellow Day eight am classes. For the gang, that meant Ramona Sear’s History of Magic class; Arnulf, being the only one of the group taking just five classes, had the required History of Magic classes on Crimson and not at 8 am. The rest of them cruised on fifty multiple choice and six short essays. The only other class that had exams on Monday were the Yellow 1:10 classes: White’s English I for Angelica, Daphne, Arnulf and Cloudius, and Norbert Match’s Light class, where Tom Hexane was learning all Match’s more elementary tricks and effects.
That afternoon before dinner, he was still showing off his tricks. The others, along with Eva, watched him make showers of light, suck up the light in the room, emit ultraviolet light, make a tiny spotlight, make disco lights, and fly down the range of color and brightness and back again. It wasn’t getting Angelica out of her funk.
“Maybe I should go knock on his door,” she said with a sigh.
“No, no, don’t,” said Daphne. “You need to study.”
“What’s the use. I’m gonna flunk out. I’m gonna be on the train home within the week. They’ll have me back in regular Seventh Grade in no time.”
“Oh, bull,” said Arnulf. “That English test was easy.”
“I freaked out. I couldn’t think of a thing. I stared at the paper.” She shot him a venomous look. “Do not be telling me it was easy. You’re supposed to be making me feel better, not worse.”
“The history test was easy,” said Daphne. “You did fine on it. You said so afterward. You’re just changing your tune now because you want to feel miserable.”
“And think about, sigh, Josh,” said Cloud.
“And feel more miserable,” said Daphne.
“I’m going to kill myself,” said Ange. She looked up, her hand on her short hair. “I’m going to go kill Jen Greenbelt. I swear I am. What have I got to lose? It’ll be a murder-suicide. I only hope I don’t screw up and do the wrong one first.”
“I can’t go sword fighting with you tonight, Spiny,” said Daphne to the girl in the doorway. “I have to sit on Angelica.”
“Oh, can I help?”