XVII. March Maroon Madness
On a breezy Monday night in the middle of March, Angelica and Rachel were walking from the school back to Ash House when Rachel lost control of a piece of parchment and the two of them chased it down in the alley between the houses presided over by Shag and Sear. Someone was unloading something from a cart, nearly invisible in the night but right in the way of the parchment. The two girls pulled up short twenty feet from the parchment, which had secured itself to the thigh of the otherwise invisible person.
Obscenities came from the molecules of air above the parchment. There was a flash and it flew off as if repulsed by static, and then with the two words trt sko, it burst into flame.
But the spell’s caster lost his invisibility. It was Andrew Andrews’s older brother David, a student at the Academy across town. Andrew’s own voice said something from the shadow of Shag’s back cellar door. But Dave was looking up at the two girls.
“Sek ag min,” he said, flipping his wand out of his jacket’s inside pocket and flicking it at Rachel, who grabbed Angelica’s arm as she struggled to resist the “stone sleep” spell. It was the cheapest really effective attack spell and most Academy students knew it; even some Lyceum kids knew it, and Angelica knew it was the next thing she would work on, or possibly the thing after next.
Both girls squeaked out Kno eur, the reverse spell against that frighteningly effective three-word sleep. Yes, a truly effective spell. It was so effective that when both Angelica and Rachel at least half resisted, and their reverse spells took effect, poor Dave sighed a regretful obscenity, slumped against the card and then crumpled to the ground, dozing.
They stood there swaying together, not yet willing to go over and grab the parchment. Andrew and someone else threw magic combat attacks at them from the cellar door, and both girls woke right up. Backing up from the scene, they batted away the attacks, and then took to their heels and dashed for Ash House.
Behind them, the alarms were whispering like mad. Ash came out of her house, pulling a sweater over her robe-like blue dress. She reached her hands out to her sides, and the girls came to a stop on either side of her.
“Is there anything I need to see?” asked Ash.
“Probably not, by now,” said Angelica.
“Well, all right, run along,” said Ash. “I had better go turn off the alarms.”
Angelica and Rachel found Ash’s cat Kenneth sitting on the walk in front of them as Ash swept past. Kenneth gave the girls a little inaudible mew, and then turned and led them back to their own side door. In a few minutes, there was a spirited discussion, though brief, on the subject of what was on the cart. The issue of whether or how Dave would pay for throwing an attack spell on Lyceum grounds had not been addressed by the time Ash got back and came up to tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they all needed to get to sleep.
Then Ash went back downstairs and found Susan White in her parlor, and they got behind a magical seal to discuss such matters themselves, over brandy.
The next day in Defense, Angelica asked Ash if they could start learning spells like that. As usual, Ash paused a moment, did a calculation and decided between a gently sarcastic brush-off and a grudging acquiescence. This time the acquiescence won.
“All right,” she said, “you only know the one-word sleep spell at present, is that right?”
“Yes, Mistress,” said Angelica, Cloudius and Tom all together.
“All right, everyone please break off what you’re doing now—Mr Laguna, would you mind helping Mr Webb up? I believe you did not quite knock him unconscious.”
“What are we doing, now?” asked Arnulf.
“Two word sleep,” Angelica said to him in a low voice. “If we’re good maybe we’ll get the three version.”
“Mistress,” said Pinhead, as Rats helped up to his feet, “if it’s okay to ask, why would we want to know a sleep spell? Don’t we just want to whack the snot out of them with magic combat?”
“That is an excellent question, actually,” said Ash. “Why would one prefer the sleep spell to other spells, or to just whacking the mucus out of one’s opponents?”
“I don’t know,” said Cloudius. “Whacking is faster.”
“Not necessarily,” said Angelica. “I can say spells pretty fast.”
“You’re pretty good with magic combat,” said Arnulf. “Some of us aren’t so great at it, right, Pinhead?”
“Shut up, Nulf,” said Pinhead. “Okay. But it’s still quick and you don’t have to remember words.”
“I can see how that might be helpful for you,” said Daphne. “But you’re more likely to beat their resistance with a spell.”
“But a sleep spell? Anyone can beat that.”
“The two word sleep,” said Angelica, “is harder to resist, and the three word sleep is really hard to resist and there’s a five word version.”
“And the sleep spell,” said Daphne, “is just a teeny bit subtle, which apparently comes in handy sometimes. My usual spell,” and she drew her magic sword and turned it in the sunlight through the classroom window, shedding reflected photons in streaks about the room, “tends to get blood all over.”
“And, Daphne dear,” said Ash, “you know school policy is very much against actual murder.”
“And,” said Angelica, “it’s the spell everyone at the Academy knows.”
“In any case,” said Ash, “please pair off, and find a good wand flick, and let us practice just the words at first, no energy behind them please, just the words. Sek. Ag. Repeat?”
Various versions of “sek ag” were heard around the classroom, nearly all of them with no energy behind them. They all tried it three times, and the third time they were more or less in chorus, flicking and flailing their wands like orchestra conductors. Then they all looked at Ash, except for Pinhead, who swooned and fell snoring to the floor.
“Mr Laguna,” said Ash, “I did ask you to—!”
“I’m sorry, Mistress Ash.”
“You are, and you are also doing the dishes tonight. A light punishment, except that we are having lasagne. Now, I think you all have the basic idea. so let’s try putting each other to sleep. Mr Laguna, I will be your partner.”
“Great,” said Rats, and indeed, one minute later he was lying on the floor dozing with a smile on his face.
“So what exactly were they doing the other night?” Natalie Lopez asked, as she and Rachel set around Angelica’s room with Daphne and Ahir, not quite ready to return to studying that Tuesday evening.
“They were trying out for the track team,” said Angelica, “just like I’m going to, and so are you and Rachel.”
“What?” said Rachel.
“You heard me. Now shut that door if you really want to talk about it.”
Rachel got up and went to the door. She looked out, then turned. “Should we let the guys in on this little confab?”
“It might be amusing,” said Daphne. “What guys are we talking about?”
“I’m coming,” said Arnulf, as Rachel stepped aside to let him through. “We trying out for the track team?”
“No way Jose,” said Cloudius, coming in behind, with Tom just behind him. “I’m gonna be backup catcher on the baseball team.”
“I get to be a bleepin’ relief pitcher,” said Daphne. “I can slug the ball out of the park and Whelp wants me to be relief pitcher.”
“You’ll get in games,” said Tom.
“You swing too quick,” said Arnulf. “You always want to butcher the poor ball. No wonder it avoids you.”
“Oh, so you’re my batting coach all of a sudden,” said Daphne. “What are you? Backup backup shortstop?”
“Something like that,” said Arnulf, sitting on the floor next to Ahir.
“He’s the Ryne Sandberg of Lyceum baseball,” said Cloudius.
“Don’t laugh,” said Natalie, “that guy’s gonna be good one of these days. So what are we really talking about here? Tell me it’s not baseball.”
“Hey now,” said Daphne.
“You are going out for track, Natalie. You are.”
“Okay. I am. Now what—?”
“Sigh,” said Rachel. “Ange wants to talk about those guys. Andrew Andrews and his stupid brother. I’ll be happy if I never see them again.”
“I’m just asking,” Natalie replied, “what do you suppose they were doing? Looked to me like they were either taking something off that cart or whatever, and putting it in the house. Or taking it out of the house and putting it on the cart.”
“So?” asked Arnulf.
“So,” said Angelica, “it was after eleven at night, at least one of them was using partial invisibility, and—well, did you look at that cart, Rachel?”
“I know what you’re going to say,” replied Rachel. “I didn’t really take it in.”
“What about the cart?” asked Ahir.
“It was a magical conveyance,” said Angelica. “They were not unloading cases of beer off a pickup truck. They were unloading something off a magical conveyance.”
“You’re sure they were unloading?” asked Arnulf.
“No. I think they were unloading. I’m not sure.” She half-grinned at Cloudius. “You have some input here, Cloud Man?”
“I think we should sneak into Shag House,” said Cloudius.
“Be my guest.”
“Aw, come on, you guys, you can’t expect me to go alone,” the backup catcher complained.
“I’ll go,” said Tom. He looked around the room. “Um, if everyone else goes.”
“Don’t expect that to happen,” said Arnulf.
“Why not?” replied Daphne. “You always say you’re not going to go, but you always go.”
“So,” said Natalie, “we’re just looking around the basement? Or is there something more ambitious going on?”
“Is she going?” asked Cloudius. “She’s not even in our house.”
“If she’s going,” said Ahir, “then I’d better be going, or I will raise a stink.”
“I’ll do the basement,” said Angelica. “But only the basement. Or maybe the attic. But not anything in between.”
“Does anyone know how it’s laid out?” asked Tom.
“I’ve been on the first and second floors,” said Natalie. “Not the attic or the basement.”
“Maybe,” said Angelica, “there’s a way to sneak in through the tunnels.”
They all looked at Tom. “Well,” he said, “obviously there is. The tunnels go everywhere.”
“There it is, Arnulf,” said Daphne. “We’re all going. You have to go too.”
He rolled his eyes, shrugged and said, “What the hell.”
Rumors of what had happened between the Ash House girls and at least one Maroon from Shag House crisscrossed campus for days. The watchfulness of everybody at least doubled, and now, where Ash’s residents and MacMorris’s minions had been chiefly watching one another, now they were both watching the Maroons and had an eye-stalk up in the air looking for other parties to join the party. Shag himself, not really a Maroon, looked uncomfortable about something; who knew what version of the rumor would have reached him first?
Tom and Cloudius were studying some maps from Tom’s increasingly weird collection the next night. They moved as much of Tom’s stuff as they could and spread them out on the floor, debating what corresponded to where on the city map and which parts they already knew.
“Hey guys, whatcha doing?” asked Beep Finger from the door. “Came up here to see if you wanted to study.”
“Sear’s history test,” said Tom. “I do need to study.”
“This is sort of like history,” said Cloudius.
Beep stepped in and took a distant look at the maps while the boys dithered about whether to hide them. “Is it Chicago?”
“Yeah,” said Tom in as vague a way as he could manage.
“Is it the, um, Chicago Underground?”
“You could say that,” replied Cloudius as craftily as he could.
“Oh come on,” said Beep, “do I get to go this time? I did okay last time.”
“Hey wait,” said Jen Chang, coming to the door from the nearby stairs up. “I’m from this house. You guys can’t bring her and not me.”
Ahir’s voice came from Arnulf’s open door. “Are you people talking about what I think you’re talking about?”
“What’s going on in there?” called Angelica.
Tom stood up and walked over to Beep Finger, then said, “Excuse me,” and went past her with a smirk. She and Jen followed him as he looked in Angelica’s door and said, “Mister Hexane requests your presence at a little reception, happening in fifteen seconds in his chambers.” He went on to Arnulf’s room, looked in and said the same thing.
He turned and there were Daphne and Spiny Norman. “We draw lots,” she said.
“No we do not,” said Ahir Shaheen, coming to Arnulf’s door. She was holding the history text, Morison and Commager’s European and American History through a Wizard’s Eye, 1600 to 1900. She looked down the hall toward the stairs and turned back to whisper, “I get to go! We already agreed.”
“Okay, meeting,” said Arnulf. “Tom’s office, ah, Tom’s room.”
Two minutes later, the entire human population of the second and third floors, plus Alicia “Beep” Finger and Natalie Lopez, was crowded into Tom Hexane’s room with the door shut. Eva the Ghost Kitty was outside watching the stairs, a job Tom didn’t have to tell her to do.
“So let me state some facts, if I may,” Ahir said. “We can NOT all go, not if we wish to sneak. And I definitely get to go, because I haven’t up to now and I am sorry but I deserve to. And Angelica and/or Rachel need to go because they were the ones who brought the situation to our attention.”
“So what do you propose?” asked Arnulf.
“Four people go,” said Ahir. One is me. One is either Angelica or Rachel. One is Tom, because of the map and the cat, whom we need. We draw lots for the other one.”
“Bull,” said Arnulf. “If you go, I go.”
“Reeeeally,” said Ahir, smiling at him while skewering him with those sharp brown eyes. “As happened when you went to the Field Museum and I didn’t?”
Arnulf rolled his eyes but shrugged. Cloudius said, “I should get to go.”
“Why?” asked Ahir, turning those eyes on him. He wilted.
“No reason,” he said. “Never mind. Forget I said anything.”
“You can go,” said Rachel. “You want to. I want to study.”
“We’re not going tonight, are we?” asked Angelica.
“I have already finished my studying,” said Ahir Shaheen. “Honestly, I was merely going over notes again and again. Even Arnulf has essentially done as much as he can. And with each night we wait, there is one more chance that they will move who or whatever it is that they are hiding, if that’s what they are doing over there in,” and she said, “Shag House,” with pity for its inmates, who would never be Ash House residents.
“Okay,” said Arnulf, “let’s do the job, shall we?” He pulled a deck of cards out of his pocket and counted off eight black cards and the King of Hearts. He shuffled them up and gave a card to everyone but Ahir, Angelica and Tom. They all turned their cards up: Rats Laguna had the King of Hearts.
“No way,” he said flatly. “Not without Cloud. If he don’t go, I don’t go.” He grinned at Cloudius, who gave him a thumb’s up.
“Okey dokey,” said Arnulf, taking the cards back and dropping off one black one. He distributed the newly shuffled cards to everyone but Ahir, Angelica, Tom and Rats.
“Hey, not fair,” said Rats and Cloudius.
“Sure it is,” said Arnulf, and Daphne said, “Seems fair to me.” They turned up their cards. Cloudius had the King.
“Great,” said Daphne. “You won’t go without Rats, right?”
“Nah,” said Cloudius. He handed the King of Hearts to Arnulf. “It’s more your kind of thing, Nulf. You go.”
They were getting almost too good at this. The Ash students spent the evening studying and playing quiet board games and reading, and when eleven o’clock came around and absolutely everyone was supposed to be asleep, absolutely everyone seemed to be asleep. The ghost and the cat Kenneth made their rounds, and then went down to Ash’s tiny study and pondered ancient books side by side.
Angelica got up quietly and slipped on her dark jacket, the one with the hood. She pulled out her wand and then slipped out the door. She tapped on Arnulf’s door.
Ahir Shaheen opened it. She had her black wand in her hand. Arnulf was behind her, sitting on his messy bed, looking at the JS wand. They were fully dressed, of course. “You ready?”
“Yeah,” said Arnulf, standing up.
Ahir smiled at him, then looked out in the hall. “Oooh, kitty, big kitty,” she cooed softly at Eva.
“I’m ready,” said Tom. “No need for my spear head, right? Just wand work tonight?”
“Just wand work,” said Angelica.
“Just wand work,” said Ahir.
Arnulf coughed. “Of course she has her saber or whatever that is,” said Arnulf.
“It’s hidden,” said Ahir, a little defensive.
“I didn’t say I minded.” He looked at Angelica.
“I got my long knife,” said Ange. “Objections?” He just raised his eyebrows.
Down the stairs they went, Eva in the lead, then Tom and Angelica, then Ahir and Arnulf. The ghost cat led them to the back of the house and out onto the back porch; Arnulf held the inner screen door carefully so it didn’t creak a bit. Tom and Eva went to a short, unobtrusive wooden door in the inner wall of the porch, which was cluttered and disused and, right now, bloody cold. In a second he had the door open, and they were descending steep steps that let out into a far lobe of the Ash House cellar. Odd objects lurked in the dark, barely touched by the light of their four wands. But Tom could read his map, and with just a little quiet rummaging (“SHESH!” hissed Ahir Shaheen), they found a narrow hall, black as the abyss, hidden behind a wooden panel.
It was a far shorter distance than the subterranean trek to Giordano’s, or even the hidden way to the school basement, but they got a little careless hurrying, all of them (except possibly Eva) disconcerted by the near-sound and near-sight of shady figures in the blackness. Even Eva stopped once and hissed, and then, after a few seconds, looked back at them, mraowed and resumed the journey.
Then they were pushing their way past a sheet of plywood and out into another cellar.
The Shag House basement was at least as large and complicated as the Ash House basement. The four kids and the ghost cat did not have the opportunity to map it out. They found themselves in a certainly very disused barrel room: all the barrels were quite decayed. High shelves glittered in the wand light with dark-tinted bottles of a wide range of shapes, but one did not know what they contained, nor did one make any effort to find out. Implements of some sort were nailed to the wall, and looked best left alone. Other shapes about the room, draped in cloth or cobweb or just piled about, did not invite close examination.
“Let’s move on,” said Angelica. “I’m pretty sure nothing has been in here in the past week.”
“Month,” said Tom. “Century,” said Arnulf.
“Sssh!” Angelica glared at them.
“Only She gets to speak,” said Ahir.
“Darn right.” With one more glare at Arnulf, she let Eva lead them on down a narrow passage between shelves whose shadows no one wanted to pierce but Tom. He let his wand drift into the ultraviolet in the neighborhood of a pile of small rocks and things that looked a little too much like teeth, and flinched with a little cry of dumbfounded disgust. He got shushed for his trouble.
The next chamber was much larger, and what of it they could see was almost well-organized: the walls were lined with shelves, the floor space was laid out on wooden pallets. Things piled directly on the floor had clearly rotted due to damp: rope, cloth, wood, metal, cardboard, other things. Nothing nearby looked recently disturbed. The four wandered on into the big room, Angelica on the left with her wand lit blue, Tom and Eva in the middle with wand light in the near ultraviolet and thus invisible to the humans, and Ahir and Arnulf, hand in hand, moved along the right with their wands in silver and a pale lavender respectively.
“Nothing is disturbed,” whispered Ahir.
“Through here,” said Angelica.
Eva hurried over and got in ahead of Angelica. It was a side room with a doorless doorway; the dirt on the floor showed recent passage. The cat stopped just inside and emitted a soft mraaaow. “What,” said Angelica.
“What is it?” asked Tom from behind.
Eva moved into the room, so Angelica and Tom did behind her. Angelica walked around the perimeter: it was perhaps twelve feet on a side, but the room was mostly filled with a table about seven feet by four feet. The table was mostly filled with a long rounded pile of something, covered in dark cloth. Instruments and other piles of things lay about the table. Along the walls were deep shelves also full of implements and jars.
Tom, following Angelica with his wand downward, said, “The floor tells the whole thing. It really does. People were in here this past, oh, I’d say this past week. They were doing something at this table. If this isn’t to do with what you guys saw, then I’d like to know what this is to do with.”
“Sssh,” said Angelica absently. Eva mraowed at her.
“I’ll tell you what this is about,” said Arnulf. He and Ahir had just come through the doorway. He was holding up the end of the black cloth. Under it were two feet. In the light of Ahir’s torch, which she adjusted from moon-like silver to sun-like yellow gold, it was clear they had been dead for a number of years. Yet something about them seemed recently used.
“The soles,” said Ahir. “They’re dirty.”
“Like the dude’s been walking around barefoot,” said Arnulf.
They all looked at each other. Eva waddled over to the door, turned and mraaaowed.
There was a whispering noise around them. “Alarms,” said Ahir.
“We’re out of here,” said Angelica.
The four teenagers, led by Angelica, stuffed themselves back into the sinister back room and then into the tunnel behind its piece of plywood. Eva was at the back, and at the last moment she turned around and growled low. Tom stopped, Ahir right behind him, in front of him in the tunnel.
“Someone’s been down here,” they could hear a boy saying.
“Get Lulu,” said another boy.
“Dave Andrews,” whispered Angelica from behind. “That’s his voice.”
“Who’s Lulu?” asked Tom.
“Lulu Bates,” whispered Ahir. “Second year. Lives in Shag House. Maroon all the way.” She shook her head. “Killer magic combat.”
“Then I suggest we make like a tree and leave,” said Arnulf.
“I agree.” Ahir pushed Arnulf back into the hall, and Angelica and Tom followed, pulling the plywood back into place as best they could while Arnulf and Ahir took the opportunity to smooch a little. Then they were groping their way away as fast as they could, their wands not lit except for Tom’s very lean pale glow in back. They were around a turn and then another when they heard noise far behind.
The plywood was pulled down and fell with a noise, hitting other things in that awful little room. Voices from behind were saying things like “they’re in there” and “Ash House is that way.”
“At least there’s no pursuit,” said Tom as the four kids and the ghost cat scurried along the last short straightaway to the Ash basement.
“Sensational,” said Arnulf. “Unless they, oh, know where we are and come looking.”
The four went up to their rooms without any apparent alarm triggering within their own house. Cloudius and Rats were in Tom’s room waiting to be briefed; Rachel and Jen Chang waited in Angelica’s room; Arnulf took Ahir up to her room and kissed her good night, and came down to find Daphne and Pinhead waiting.
These explanations were not especially compelling—“Feet?” was the usual first response, followed by “Were they connected to anything?” But about ten minutes into question time, Arnulf held up a finger, then cocked his head to the side. Daphne did basically the same, and so did Pindar.
“Who has the, uh, thing right now?” asked Daphne after a moment.
“Ahir,” said Arnulf.
Then they were out in the hall. They were charging up the stairs. Spells were being thrown. That wasn’t all that was being thrown. Ahir’s door came open and Jen Greenbelt came flying out, backwards. She picked herself up, and then fell over sideways as Arnulf and Daphne both hit her with magic combat.
“Sek ag min,” came a voice from behind. Arnulf and Daphne turned and there behind them stood Pindar. His eyes rolled up and closed and he collapsed snoring to the ground. An older boy stood in his place, holding his wand menacingly.
“Za nyk za,” came Angelica’s voice from the bottom of the stairs. The older boy half turned, and then seemed to get trapped in a loop, half turning to Angelica, turning back to Arnulf, raising his wand, half turning again.
Arnulf and Daphne pushed on and reached Ahir’s room. There were five people in there, one of whom was Ahir. The other four were trying to subdue Ahir. The first one they saw was Bob Flammifer, who went down to Daphne’s hold. The other three included two older kids, one of whom was Dave Andrews; the other had the big dumb Flammifer jaw. The third kid was Lulu Bates, and she and Ahir were battling intensely.
Arnulf held his JS wand out at full stretch and wove as he said “Pfft yrk gllg.” An intense and disgusting smell filled the near end of the room, and Lulu, Dave and the elder Flammifer all were forced to struggle with that. Arnulf zapped Dave Andrews, Daphne settled for slugging Pete Flammifer right in that big jaw, and Ahir, smiling, unloaded a burst of force on Lulu that sent her straight back into the wall. She slid down it and lay still.
Arnulf found that black Iranian wand in his face, and it was scary. “Arnulf Shmoke,” hissed Ahir Shaheen. “Never ever use that fart spell of yours in my room.”
“Sorry,” he said, “just trying to help defeat these, you know…”
She pushed him against the wall with her wand at his nose. Then she lowered her wand and kissed him. They separated and looked at Daphne, and at Angelica, Rachel and Jen Chang crowding into the door. Is it still there? Angelica mouthed. Ahir looked around at the four downed enemies, then went to her underwear drawer and stuck a hand in. In ten seconds, she nodded, then shut the drawer and twiddled a little lock spell on it with her wand.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Then everyone drew breath as the air pressure dropped. Three new figures were in the room: one, at least, was recognizable as the Flammifer boys’ dad. There were two women with him. They held out wands at the teenagers.
“Do not move a muscle,” said one of the women, a gawky forty-year-old with crimson hair. The other woman waved a wand at the downed Maroons and said “Tro ven an sta.” The four teens and the spell caster, a woman in her thirties with perfect blond hair, disappeared.
“Let’s see what else they have here besides our kids,” said Mr Flammifer.
“I think not,” said Ann Ash, appearing in the door. She and Susan White threw spells at the two remaining adults: ok si ra gfl, ok si ra gfl. Flammifer escaped, but he was turning to wax as he did so; the crimson-haired woman was not so lucky. She took Ash’s spell straight on and there stood a replica of her in wax the color of her hair.
“Well,” said Angelica with exaggerated satisfaction, “now that nightmare is over and we can get some sleep!”
“I think you can stay up for another half hour and explain,” said Ash, “exactly what happened here. Don’t worry. You can sleep in tomorrow. None of you is going to be attending any extracurricular functions for some time.”
“For our safety?” asked Daphne rebelliously.
“Sure,” said Ash, “and because you are all grounded.”
The Ash House kids were allowed to cool their heels for half an hour while Ash, White and the headmistress met behind closed doors—the closed doors of Ahir Shaheen’s room. There was an almost audible clap as two people from the Department of Magical Education’s security branch long jumped into the room, and then long jumped back out with the crimson statue of the Maroon woman. The door opened, and Ahir and Arnulf, in the hall, got to hear the innocent sounding tail end of Ash’s conversation with the gentleman from the Department, who gave only the briefest suspicious glance to the two kids.
Ten minutes later, Ash, having bid a patient good night to White, had her entire house seated around the big dining table. It was 1:30 am.
“Explain what you did and who did it,” said Ash.
“Okay,” said Angelica, and she promptly told Ash everything she could think of including the shape of the claw feet of the table the body had been on.
“And you all knew.” Ash cast her eyes across the inmates of her house. They all nodded, looking down. “Miss Shaheen,” she said.
“You stated at one point, did you not, that it was somehow your turn to go on an adventure.”
“Mistress—! Yes. Yes, I did say that.”
“I guess I need to remind you all,” said Ash, “that you are not here to have adventures. There are one hundred and twenty students at the Lyceum of the Lake Winds, and at least one hundred of them feel they are here to study and learn. Not. To invade. Other houses. Just to have a look around.”
After a silence of at least twenty seconds, Arnulf raised his hand.
“Yes, Mr Shmoke.”
“Uh, Mistress,” he said, “what exactly do you think is going on over there in Maroonland?”
“Don’t tell us you don’t wonder,” said Angelica. “Do not tell us, Mistress, that you don’t have theories and, um, concerns.”
“I have hypotheses,” said Ash, “that are not about to be tested by a bunch of thirteen-year-olds.” She glared at Tom. “And a twelve-year-old. Oh, I have concerns. I have concerns about my house kids getting expelled. Getting thrown in a cell. They have cells, you know, arch-sealed against escape. And oh, what is the other concern? That’s right. Getting yourselves killed.” She gave them all another round of glare. “Because what you are talking about? Tangling with the likes of Jezebel Whately? Or, with dead bodies with dirt on their feet like they’ve been walking? That kind of behavior has been known to leave people who engage in it very dead. And I do hope you don’t think I can get you out of that.”
“So just for the record,” said Ahir.
“Just for the record,” said Ash, “none of this happened. Just for the record, you ten. Yes, you ten. Are grounded. For the rest of the school year.”
A muffled groan was heard around the room. “But what about spring sports?” asked Daphne.
“You are excused for baseball and field hockey,” said Ash. She glared at the Amazon girl. “As long,” she said with great emphasis, “as you keep winning.”