Angelica spent the rest of the weekend writing up her project for English, and felt tired and behind when Monday morning rolled around. But she found a strange thing in Temple’s alchemy class. He seemed to be teaching directly to her: making eye contact with no one else besides Rachele and Natalie, often standing directly in front of Angelica and saying, with great emphasis directed straight at her, things like, “It’s vital that you use exactly 3/8 teaspoon. A grain less, and you get nothing. A grain more, and you get a deadly poison.”
All through lab time, she heard his voice echoing in her head. It even seemed to be saying things he hadn’t actually said: “Stir with the flat of the dipper. Stir in just a layer of grains at a time. The mixture should turn blue, but it should pass through a purple phase for just a moment. Yes, just like that.”
“The effect was so weird,” Angelica was explaining later, in Tom’s room. She looked at Natalie.
“Yeah,” said Natalie. “I guess there’s worse things. I mean, I’m starting to think he’s on my side, and I guess that’s better than the other way.”
“It’s creepy,” said Rachel. “But what about Sear? What’d she tell you, Ange?”
Angelica took in a breath and looked around. Everyone stopped thinking whatever they were thinking and watched her.
“Not one of you noticed,” she said.
“We all noticed you went and asked her stuff in her office,” said Natalie.
“Well, you didn’t notice when she was talking about the Magical Crisis of 1930, did you? All right, fine, I know it’s History of Madge, and it’s supposed to be boring. But she’s not boring, is she?”
“I think she is,” said Rachel.
“I think she’s kinda hot, actually,” Arnulf said in a very low voice. Tom and Cloudius nodded.
“Well, okay, then,” said Angelica, “I think we’ve established that you didn’t hear what she said. Please allow me to fill you in. There was an Axis that attempted to destroy the MPW in 1930.”
“A what? The what?”
“The MPW. The Most Powerful Wizard.”
“Who’s that?” asked Cloudius.
“Well, that’s what I wanted to know. So I asked her. Like three times, in class. When she finally admitted to hearing me, she sort of looked around and said, ‘If you have questions, please hold them till the end.’ She never says that.”
“So you asked her,” said Daphne.
“She told me to come to her office at lunch hour and bring my lunch.”
“And what did she say? What did she say?” asked several.
“Oh, where do I start?” They all rolled their eyes. “Okay,” she said in a very quiet voice, “so there was this really rich French lady named Madame Lacanthe. She was at least four hundred years old. Sear doesn’t know how old.”
“Well, how old is she?” asked Cloudius. “Like a hundred and twenty.”
“But she looks about 18,” said Arnulf.
“Well, this Mme L, as they called her, she came to be known, and I don’t get how this came to be known, but she came to be known as the Most Powerful Wizard. The MPW. It’s sort of like being the Richest Person in the World.”
“J. Paul Getty?” guessed Tom.
“Sultan of Brunei?” guessed Arnulf.
“The Axis,” said Daphne. “You said Axis. Like the Nazis?”
“Yeah, actually, but not,” Angelica replied. “Any number of major wizards got together and decided she controlled too much of the magical, what, airwaves? Anyway, she was always kind of a recluse but all during the 1890s and on into the teens and twenties, while all these magical wars were going on, she was getting more and more powerful, just real quietly. All these famous wizards were against her. Sear told me a bunch of names.”
“What names?” asked Arnulf with a lot more attention.
“Funny I remember them, she just said them once. There was the Comte d’Avignon, um, Ririan Noir, Arro Ono, they were together in one rebellion, and then there was Roald Gror and Anona Har, I guess she was this beautiful wizard spy that Sear actually met once, and Friedrich Fissalf, they were another rebellion, and somehow these linked up, I don’t know. Three and three. And there was one more three, but Sear was really unclear about that one. I know she mentioned Caterina Paré, I’ve actually heard that name before, and Nura Neurin. And there’s other rebels still around: Gahan de Gahan, Abraham Glassni, Perez Zerak, she kept naming off names. She said, and this is what I really remember, you know it all ended only fifty-two years ago. Wizards can live a long time, if they keep their heads down. Know any of them?”
A moment passed. Then, “Yes,” said Ahir suddenly, and Arnulf at the same moment said, “Yeah, actually.”
Angelica raised her right eyebrow. The others looked back and forth between her and the couple. Arnulf just smiled, but Ahir said, “Zerak. He died, actually. In the desert. He did—he did a ritual. A ritual of death. But my father met him.”
They all looked at Arnulf. “Gahan and Glassni,” he said. “They came to talk to my mom about getting me in here, in school. She wasn’t going to let me.”
“Really?” replied Angelica. “Those guys talked her into letting you get trained? I bet they knew your father, huh?”
“Yeah, well, let’s talk about this big battle,” said Arnulf. “She lost?”
“No, not really. She seemed to have retreated. But no one’s heard where she went. So there are all kinds of theories and everyone thinks she’s manipulating everything behind the scenes, of course. But all these other people died or disappeared. There was a lot of turnover in the wizard world.”
“Gahan is definitely still around,” said Daphne.
“My grandma knows him. He hangs out with Amazons sometimes.” She smirked.
“Well, anyway, so. The Nazis.”
“Yeah?” asked Arnulf.
“Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler were wizards. So was Rudolf Hess, that guy who escaped to England and is locked up in that castle. They were fighting Communist wizards in the streets of Berlin, and then in the forests of Russia. And then in Berlin again. The Nazis got together seven of the segments. And you know, they wrote everything down, they were like these compulsive German types, right? They wrote everything down.”
“And there are like a hundred copies. Of the book.”
“A book about the segments?” asked Tom.
“About what they knew about those seven, which I guess was a lot, and what they thought about the other four, where they were and so on.”
“Do you suppose it’s down in the basement?” asked Cloud.
“Oh, right. Let’s take this valuable book of secrets and stick it right where Claudius Cloud would look first. Maybe in the basement of the North American Magical Library and Archive.”
“The what?” asked Cloudius.
“NAMLA. It’s under Fort Knox. Yeah. That Fort Knox.”
“Not the one in Maine?” asked Tom.
“So, back to the story,” said Daphne. “This Mme L, she supported the Nazis?”
“No, no, that wasn’t the idea. L was forced to go into hiding, or maybe she was killed but no one thinks so, and at the same time bunches of major wizards were killed, and the Controllers began to come out of the woodwork. Especially the Nazis, because Control wizards tend not to cooperate very well unless they have some kind of idea they’re all into.”
“And she wasn’t a Controller.”
“I guess she was sort of a Hider, but she wound up doing Controller things just to fight back. She organized a Council to try and enforce magic peace. I guess that didn’t work out. But the Nazis were Controllers, and there were lots of Controllers in the US and England who were waiting for the chance to raise the flag here.”
“Like any profs here?”
“The point is, all the older ones were involved in those days, on one side or another. Temple. Ash. White. The Headmistress. Blaine, Match, yeah, Sear, she was what, fifty or so in 1930?”
“So are you gonna tell us,” said Cloudius, “that Hiroshima was a spell battle?”
“No, it was a Final Strike,” said Arnulf. They all looked at him, then at Angelica.
“Something like that,” said Angelica.
“So what side is Temple on?” asked Rachel.
“I don’t know. That’s the funny thing. A month ago, I would have said he was one of Them.” She leaned toward Rachel and added in a whisper, “But he changed. Whatever he was, he dropped out and changed sides.”
“He’s still creepy.”