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7.

I’m sure real wizards just twist their long jump rings and appear straight there. In fact, I know that’s true. I, however, am an enchantress, as is Lucette. We’re stuck with running all the way to the Insmoor Magical Institute. It’s warmer than it’s been, so the snow falling is actually freezing rain, and we splash through half an inch of it on the sidewalks while another inch comes down from the sky, not even counting the stuff sliding off the roofs on us. We are both well-dressed for the weather: she’s got a short plaid skirt and a tight red sweater with a thigh-length coat over it and no hat, and I have a knee-length peasant dress, in off-white, with a cardigan-ish thing and a woolen cap but no coat. We’re soaked within a block. We have our wands in our hands.

“This weather,” shouts Lucette, “it’s gotta be their doing.”

“I’m gonna learn that spell,” I shout back. “Give them a dose of their own.”

“Your first? The three word weather spell?”

“No! Maybe third! I have a whole list, Lucette!”

“So do I,” she shouts as we splash across North Bridge Street and the biggest puddle in the central district. “Cease! Mind stab!”

“Hold, stone sleep, Arnulf’s Fart,” I shout back.

“Oh, good one. Shadow scout! Feelings is a three worder!”

“Lots of choices,” I say. We pull up in front of the big gate. Things look normal. It’s the picture of what a school closed for vacation (or orc wars) looks like. But somehow in some sense I didn’t have till this year, I can see the glow around the library wing. Lucette can too.

“Library,” she says.

I say, “I think someone’s making an unauthorized withdrawal.”

“I bet you hate that when Padric does it,” she says. Before I can think what to say to that, we’re running across Roedark Street and through the muddy side garden. We get to the side door of the library and dither. It flies open and four black-clad half-ogres emerge with gigantic black crossbows.

Ag,” we both shout, waving our wands. They all go down sleeping in the sleet. “”On the other hand,” I say, “the classics still have their place.”

We charge in through the door, which we’ve never seen open before. A group of people is standing in the middle of the big central room: they seem to be defending the reference desk. For a tenth of a second I think it’s just them. There are brand-new stone and wax statues decorating the reading room, including one girl I know who looks like she was just sitting there studying for her alchemy test when they showed up.

Immediately we get hit with hold spells. We raise our wands. We’re holding hands: my wand’s in my left hand, hers is in her right. No plan. We shout kno eur together: the reverse spell. And we discover something odd.

We have no trouble resisting. It’s the hands: I mean my right hand holding her left. I feel a tingle there.

We just used about a quarter of our total spell energy for the day. And two of those wizards at the reference desk are held.

More happens, and it happens so fast I don’t get it all. I get a cease spell and fail, but when my spell power drains away there’s more spell power, with a lemon-vanilla flavor that can only be of Barnswallow origin. So I toss another kno eur, this time to reverse a stone figure spell, and guess what? There’s a statue at the reference desk.

And just then, with a psychic crash, four more figures appear: it’s Shmoke and the Headmistress, and two wizards I’ve never seen. They’re cussing each other out as they throw very fast, very long spells. Shmoke: I’ve never seen him in actual action, and it’s news to me. Anything they throw at him looks stupid. He does something to one of them, a guy with a little goatee who looks like he wants to look evil, and the goatee guy is thrown off in some random direction. The other, a venomous-looking brunette, uses about a ten-word cease on Shuy, who tries her own kno eur—I used the same spell as the Headmistress!—and fails. Shmoke throws a big spell at his last surviving foe, and things look bad for her.

She throws a quick spell, maybe six words, and everything slows down. I can see Shmoke’s spell coming at her at about a foot per second.

She waves her wand around and she and about half her held, Sleeped and stone-figured pals disappear. Shmoke heaves a sigh of disgust.

Several more faculty show up, or come un-held: Stintsing, Eald, Zing-Grey, old Givmore. They go about the room dispelling and de-stoning, while the librarian, Helgelin, and her assistants sigh and begin straightening things up. Egmont and Glee and Gregorio, all among the held and stoned, barely have time to stretch and dust off before they’re put to work.

“You two,” says Shmoke. “Nice job.”

“Uh, us?” says Lucette. We look at each other. Then we giggle and high five.

“Now shut that door and pitch in, will you? There’s plenty to clean up.”

 

And that was the last gasp of the orc war, it turns out. All that’s left to take care of is a few raids on the retreating enemy. Padric takes yet more wounds; I see Unwin at Sleepy’s with Eleanor and while she still looks fine, he’s got bandages on his bandages. Zelin gets called out on the next two nights as some sort of secret unit she’s in chases the foe back where it came from, but of course she doesn’t get wounded, no, not she.

As for Lucette and me, we’re buried in clean-up work all over the Institute and the town. And we’re up for our sorcery tests.

 

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