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So I tell them. Fenric isn’t impressed. Jan is skeptical. Zelin doesn’t say a thing.

“I just don’t see why it has to be the Key,” says Jan. She’s looking more and more like a He, in black robe with just a little white at the neck and wrists, and sounding like it too. He has been working on his deep voice. “It could be all kinds of keys. Didn’t you make a big list of different keys? Or it could be just the key to a treasure chest.”

“It could be,” I say, “but it isn’t.”

“But how do you know?” asks Fenric. “You only just got a glimpse.”

But I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to check my memory and make sure. I was sure when I saw it and every time I think about it I’m surer. And how can I explain that? Say, I’m just sure? So I just smile.

Sometimes I like being an adult.

Other times, not so much, and the next week provides me with more opportunities to explore that side of being this side of my eighteenth birthday.

Normally the orcs in their tens of thousands arrive outside the walls of Insmoor at the end of January and make the first attack in the first few days of February. But this must be an unusual year. The raid on the horde was, oh, the fourteenth of January? There’s another raid a week later, by which time they’re already setting up their south camp. We get in a bit of a tussle spell-wise, and I have to say, Go School! One of the city teams, one of Reginald Barnswallow’s prize squads, tries to invade a headquarters tent and gets in over their heads. So the faculty use their long jump spells to drop us in, and we find three of the city boys dead, one more turned to stone and the other five under serious fire. We drop in, Egmont drops a wax figure spell on an enemy necromancer, Glee rings the bell on her first use of the Hold spell, and Lucette and I lay about with ice and fire. The place is a shambles in about ten seconds; the flames from my fire don’t do the wax-figured necromancer any good.

And then, as if that weren’t enough to swell my ego (and Lucette’s), the following happens: bad guys toss Cease and Hold spells at us both, and Gregorio, and Greggy fails his resistance. Lucette yells kno eur! And so do I. It’s the reverse spell, which I just learned.

You have to resist the spell they threw at you, and your reverse spell doesn’t make that any easier, but if you do resist, and we both do, then the spell some dude threw at you goes back at the dude who threw it, and now it’s his job to resist. And he doesn’t: neither of them does, the chick who threw Hold on Lucette or the dude who threw Cease on me.

And just as we’re fully aware of how awesome we are, Egmont yells out, “Grab someone’s hand, grab that statue—!”

I don’t have time to process this, but I grab the arm of the stone figure in front of me and Lucette, and she grabs the arm of one of our dead friends, and in a moment we’re yanked as by a stout rope back to the Insmoor Magical Institute cafeteria.

Lucette and I are high fiving like nuts. I’m sure we look quite ridiculous. It’s a bonding experience. Anyway, the dead person is another good guy necromancer, and he ought to be thankful because the Aphrodite high priestess of Insmoor, Arethusela or something, is there to raise him from the dead, and he can be doubly thankful because, you know, Aphrodite? I mean, it could have been the Virgin and then where would he be? And the Stone Figure I managed to bring back with me when the professors pulled us back: that’s some guy called Fidrik of Glen Falls, who should be familiar to me because he was the enchanter in that group that included, let’s see, Gurth and Zelin, that we met on the way to my first trip to Valen.

Lucette and I take Fidrik off to Sleepy’s and get him good and drunk, and he tells us all about how badly planned the raid was. Talking about other people’s mistakes is always a good time, and we are pretty well into our fourth pitcher and sprawling all over the table laughing, when what do you know, Gurth and Zelin and Padric all show up.

The raid, it seems, which occurred south of town, was followed quickly by an orc attack on the totally unprepared East Gate. A band of ogres managed to take the left tower of the gate, and were only dislodged with hard work and heavy casualties. Something happened to Lali, apparently: not fatal, but not terribly happy. I’m so frickin’ drunk I don’t pay enough attention. Padric and Gurth both seem really upset. I gather that Gurth and Lali were arguing and then she got badly wounded and, oh god, he must be really pissed off at me. I feel pretty bad, actually.

And Padric? Well, there I am with Lucette, having a high time with some other sorcerer guy, and I don’t even spot Padric at first. Okay, I feel bad. I straighten myself out, give him a big wet kiss and head for the toilet area.

On my way back—what is it with the toilet area? I’m accosted by a surprisingly familiar scarred face.

“Daisy. Daisy. I have to talk to you.”

“Oh god. It’s you.” Oh god is a thing I seem to have recently picked up, just in time to express my adult feeling about things. And oh god. It’s Yanos.

So he gets all in my face about how we need to go somewhere and talk, can we meet somewhere, he really needs to get with me about something important that he can’t discuss here (or in the shop or in the Rose or the Mouse or the back alley or in his apartment where he doesn’t live anymore). And my increasingly sober mind is thinking through all the things he might want to talk about. I have a list of those things. It has one item on it, and if you put the letters M, O, N in front of it, you have the name of a furry animal that climbs trees.

And I don’t want to talk about that. Not with Yanos.

So I’m just trying to politely (really?) get out of this conversation and go back inside when Padric comes out the door to go to the latrine himself, and there I am, in heated conversation with Yanos, who has a hold of my shoulder and is really trying to convince me of something he can’t talk about here or anywhere else I know of.

Padric takes one second to think about it and then grabs Yanos by the upper arm. He swings Yanos to face him, then lands the base of his palm on Yanos’s right jaw. Yanos goes flying, Padric goes over and picks him up, and it presumably continues from there.

I don’t actually know, because by then I’m through Sleepy’s from back to front and headed up Beaker Street. In five minutes I’m running a bath, in ten minutes I’m soaking, and in ten more minutes, Zelin has let herself in and we’re having the conversation I actually needed to have, with me in the suds, and her (fully clothed, dried blood droplets on her shirt) in the chair by the tub, and her best pipe in my hand.