Two weeks after Exam Week came Halloween Week, needless to say an important holiday in the Lyceum. They learned all about Hallowmas traditions in History of Magic; they brewed dark and stormy potions and also hot mulled cider in Alchemy; and, of course, they spent most of their off hours preparing for another Lyceum Halloween Week tradition. Each student had to work on a project between now and mid-January, and on Thursday and Friday of Halloween week, each of the 120 students of the Lyceum of the Lake Wind got ten minutes to describe that project to parents, masters and other students.
Meanwhile, of course, they were trying to kill one another, or at least get one another expelled.
On Sunday night, a week before Halloween, the school held a dance. It was tradition, a tradition rued, feared and detested by ninety percent of the male students. The other ten percent were in great demand. One of these, a very grown-up thirteen-year-old first-year named Andrew Andrews, romanced Angelica, sweeping her off her feet and then playing it cool.
“Why do boys do this to me?” Angelica asked Daphne suddenly in the library on Monday.
“Because you’re you.”
“All well for you. You’re an Amazon. You just dance with the other Amazons.”
“And we don’t step on each other’s feet.”
“Andrew didn’t step on my feet,” said Angelica with a sigh.
“So is anything going to come of this?”
“He’s supposed to meet me to study after classes tomorrow. We’re going to work on our projects together.”
“You’re not doing any, like, secret mapping we don’t want to let out, are you?” asked Daphne.
“No, illusions. Natalie and Rachel and I have been working up some things. What are you saying, I’d drop secrets?”
“No, no, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that your extracurricular activities would ever cause you to let anything slip about our extracurricular activities.”
“Well, good. Wait,” said Angelica. “You’re being sarcastic.” Daphne just grinned.
So it was that Angelica went to meet Andrew in another of the gardens at twilight. She had her notes. He had a couple of his friends concealed in the bushes.
“Hi, Andrew,” said Angelica.
“Hi, Angelica,” he replied. “You’re looking great tonight.”
“Why, thank you.” She came close to him. Boy, she wanted to kiss him. But at a range of about a foot, she stopped to think about that smirk of his.
“What’s the matter?”
“Uh, nothing,” she said.
“Are ya sure? You got any friends around or anything?”
“No, no,” she said, “I came here alone, of course.”
“Well, that was stupid,” he said. “If there’s a bunch of magic force thrown in this garden, and you’re the one who gets found here, you’ll get thrown out, you know.”
“And why would that happen?”
“I can think of a reason, stupid,” said Jen Greenbelt, jumping up from a bush. She was covered in dead leaves. But she threw a bunch of force at Angelica, and from the other side, so did Bob Flammifer.
Angelica threw up a hand and stopped Jen’s attack, but she concentrated on Bob, neatly turning his force around and whacking him with it. He went down, as usual.
Ag! came in Andy’s voice. Angelica easily resisted. But then Jen hissed, Trt sko! The fire spell!
But Angelica resisted that too, and put all her own energy into her own Ag. Jen Greenbelt went down dozing, her wand glowing hot but not enough to light anything on fire.
Angelica looked around. Apparently she was quite dangerous. Also, she was quite in danger: the alarms were whispering like mad. Bob was stirring, Jen was asleep, and Andy darling was just rounding the next building and disappearing into the twilight. Ange flung one more burst of force at Bob, bowling him over. “Tell Jen not to throw fire spells,” she said in a low voice. “It’s not fair.”
The Maroons managed to get away again, but the incident was noted. On Wednesday morning there was a stern announcement from the Headmistress about fighting during Halloween week.
By then, the parents had already started showing up. “Yeah,” Limpy had said Tuesday night at dinner, “the uncoolest ones show up earliest.” She grinned at Cloudius, assuming his parents—those rebel toymakers and toolmakers, so uncool as far as she was concerned—would be the first to arrive.
But it was Daphne’s mother Dajuna who took the first prize. Daphne and Ahir and Spiny and Angelica all came out Wednesday morning, along with Henrietta and a coffee-colored West Indian second-year girl named Clothilde, each with a sword (well, Angelica had a long knife she’d saved up for) and there she was, Dajuna, dressed in boots and a steel mesh loincloth and a sort of armored bra, leaning on her longsword.
“Daughter,” she said, “introduce me to your fellow warriors.”
“And then you’ll defeat me in front of them.”
“Of course, and then I’ll praise you in front of them.”
And so it was, except that Daphne gave Dajuna a few moments of concern and even landed a blow on Dajuna’s arm guard. Dajuna responded with a fierce counterattack, then stopped, held up her hand and said, “You fight well, Daphne, I will just say that I am proud.”
“I am too, mom.” They hugged, then stood side by side and watched Angelica trying her best to parry Clothilde, who fought with a sort of West Indian samurai sword, a machete with runes carved into its blade. On the other side, Spiny and Henrietta were trying to get past Ahir’s curved scimitar, and the Iranian, in tight long black pants, a loose long-sleeved black shirt and a black scarf to hold down her hair, laughed as she parried them. Minute after minute it went on: Ahir refused to go over to the attack, but laughed as she defended. Her attackers became enraged, and then got over it. Henrietta stopped and watched as Jen gave it one more try. No go.
“Five Amazons,” said Dajuna. “This one with the hunting knife is good, though she is not one of the sisters.”
“You mean me?” asked Angelica. “My mom’s pure wizard. You’ll meet her.”
“Ahir’s a sister?” asked Daphne. She looked Ahir up and down. She’d assumed the Iranian refugee girl was just tall and in good shape.
Ahir grinned at mother and daughter. “My mother should be here tonight,” she said. “Then you can decide for sure if I am or not.”
“I already know,” said Dajuna, and Henrietta and Jen laughed. Dajuna hefted her sword, then came at Ahir at three-quarter speed. Ahir fell back before Daphne’s mom’s muscles, but parried her blows with geometric precision. She was just about to call for a halt when Dajuna relented. “You see,” she said. “Who is your mother?”