Authors: Jack Simmonds
With a click of her fingers five mop and buckets popped up in the middle of the floor. “And you will clean your own mess up!” she barked leaving the room. I stood slowly, I think all of the vomit was out of me. My stomach twinged again, and I clutched it groaning along with the others. Robin was sprawled across the dirty floor heaving into one of the buckets. Hunter had passed out in a corner of the room and the white haired girl was scrambling to open the window. The rest of her friends were sprawled on the floor clutching each other.
“You alright Robin?” I said, as a little blob of stuff fell out the corner of his mouth. Gross.
Robin heaved again and looked up, his eyes bloodshot, his face red and blotchy. “What do you think?”
I grabbed the mop and bucket which swelled with soapy water as I neared. I slopped it on the floor and guided it around my patch of yellow sick. My arms felt incredibly weak, like they had been beaten by a troll for an hour. My legs didn’t feel like my legs, they felt like someone else's — numb and wobbly. Grettle was propping up Ellen and helping her mop the sick up with a disgusted expression.
Joanna looked up through thick bushy hair at me. “We can’t do that twice a week surely?”
The white haired girl was tilting her hair back and fanning herself, trying to pull some of the air from the open window inside. I noticed as I stood, feeling very sick, how utterly stunning she was. Her face was mischievous like a pixie, and her hair was like a beautiful mermaid’s — long, bushy and silky. Some strange feelings gurgled inside me and I wasn’t sure if they were the guilt of looking at this new girl over Tina, or whether it was more sick ready to come up. I shook my head, hoping it would expel any thoughts of the white haired girl.
All the sick was just about mopped up. Robin was leaning on his mop for dear life in case he might topple over and Hunter didn’t know what part of his body to clutch, so settled with lying in a foetal position. It had been the hardest, most gruelling hour of my life. Magisteer Simone was an absolute git, and made us do so much physical exertion that it drove most to be sick — and she didn’t even let us stop when we were, she made us do press ups in other people’s sick. That’s what set me off being sick, having to come face to face with Robin’s! It stank! She really enjoyed barking: “
Twenty press-ups!…Fifty sits-ups!…Another thirty press ups!…A hundred squats!
Then when we did, it was never good enough: “
Hunter missed a rep, that’s five more for everyone!
” or “
You must touch your toes on a sit-up!
” And you couldn’t just not do something, like Hunter did, halfway through refusing through absolutely exhaustion, to do another hundred star jumps, she screamed in his face: “
YOU PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR A WIZARD! A HUNDRED MORE SITS-UPS FOR EVERYONE!
It was torture. And now everything hurt, my back, my sides, my legs, arms, neck, head, even parts of me I didn’t know existed.
One good thing I supposed was that it gave me no time to think about my brother Harold being a Magisteer at the school. Every time I thought about it, I went even weaker. So I stopped, putting it out of my mind until it was confirmed properly — when I saw him with my own eyes. A part of me thought maybe they were mistaken, it was someone who sounded like Blackthorn, or coincidently had the same name but was of no relation. Yeah, that would be it… hopefully.
Everyone exited the room as quickly as we could (waddle was a better word), down to lunch where I for one, ate nothing. I couldn’t. Robin didn’t either, he just sat making moaning noises whenever he moved. “Pass me a drink of water please Simon,” said Robin.
“Get it ‘yerself!” said Simon grinning at Robin’s apparent pain.
“You stupid idiot,” Robin smarted, before reaching across the table for the water jug. “AWWOOO!” he cried clutching his side, and causing people from the surrounding tables to look in both parts sorry for him and knowingly. He poured himself a glass gingerly and looked up at Simon menacingly. “You will see mate, when you get up there later, how you enjoy it! Then we’ll see if anyone passes you the water.” Robin slammed the jug back on the table and moaned again.
I just sat in silence trying not to move, for when I did, it hurt. About five or six tables away was the unmistakable white haired girl. She was suffering too and was nibbling on the end of a baguette and rolling her eyes skywards. I glanced across at the Magisteer’s table again to see if my brother was there. Only Magisteers Trunwood, Mallard and Dodaline were up there, no one else.
“Here he is,” said a voice behind me. Then, the most agonising pain — I screamed as a heavy hand clapped me on the back.
!” I whimpered turning my stiff neck, my eyes watering as I came face to face with the blue eyes and charismatic charm of Ernie Partington.
“Woah, sorry Avis didn’t mean to. What’s wrong with you?” he said.
Hunter glanced up from his slumber and said, “Simone.”
! I see, well I’m sorry and if it helps, it does get better, no not better, easier.”
“Thanks, I think,” I said as Ernie sat on the empty seat next to me. Last year Ernie was a ghost, and found me when I was locked up in one of the high turrets, he remained a great companion for me during that time, sneaking me food and doing work with me. I found a way of bringing him back to life at the end of the year using the Book of Names that Malakai was trying to keep. Robin was the one who actually raised us both back to our bodies in record time — for I had become a ghost too, it was all part of my plan to end Malakai. We agreed afterwards for Ernie to take all the credit for ending Malakai, instead of me, because think about — Malakai is my parents employer. They would kill me if they found out the truth. Now Ernie had come back to life, he could retake his last year. He chose Magisteer Nottingham’s form the Phoenix’s, who were very pleased to have a celebrity amongst their ranks.
“How was the summer with your parents?” he smirked.
“Hell,” I grimaced.
He laughed. “That bad? Well I’d hate to rub mine in your face. It was great to go home again,” he looked up into the ceiling and smiled, then blinked. “Tina says they gave you trouble? You had to escape and live in the Percevius’ Den Inn, in Gnippoh’s?”
“Avis, that place is dangerous, lots of unsavoury characters,”
I sniffed. “Yeah that’s why I didn’t go out. Didn't want them spotting me, they’d recognise me wouldn’t they? And tell my parents immediately. Anyway, I didn’t know where else to go.”
“You could have come to ours?”
“I could, except I don’t know where you live.”
Ernie frowned again. “Did Tina not give you our address?” I shook my head. “She must have forgotten,” he said looking over towards her on the Hubris table. “Weird coming back to life after ten or whatever years… all the friends I had are gone, moved on with their lives, had children, working and all that,” he smiled meekly.
It must be hard to lose all those people and have them grow up and forget about you. “Even went and saw my own grave. Next to Mother’s. So, that was strange.”
“Anyway, if you want or need anything just come find me, my dorm is on south wing, room 33y.” He got up, then just as he went to go, turned back. “And er a little drop of mango perry will help ease the pain. Promise.”
“Cheers,” I smiled, before grimacing. “Oh but there’s no mango perry at lunch.”
Ernie leaned in closer and whispered: “Just tap the table three times and ask for it, you might just get some,” he winked.
As Ernie went back to his table, I turned to Robin, my neck turning stiffly. “Did you hear that?”
Hunter leant a hand forward and wrapped the table three times. “Mango perry please,” he said. “Literally, I will do anything to get rid of this pain.”
After lunch half our form limped upstairs to another new class with Magisteer Wasp. Trust it to be up about a hundred flights of stairs! Robin, Hunter, Joanna, Grettle, Ellen and I limped up each one as if it were a mountain peak, a grunt and moan after each hurdle. The other half of our form, who hadn’t had the most gruelling physical workout of their lives (yet), had got bored of waiting for us and zoomed off ahead.
We finally made it, up to the very topmost point of the tallest spire in the school. We held each other, panting and wheezing as we came through a huge midnight blue drape at the top of the widening stairs. Through that was a small hallway with a moss covered glass roof. It didn’t help my stomach knowing that we were so high up in the school, it made my knees go giddy again just thinking about it. We stumbled forwards through big oak doors.
“Aha, here are the late ones!” called a flittish voice. “And what are your excuses? Too many steps I presume? Well, your compatriots managed just fine.” The voice was coming from a small man dressed immaculately in the middle of the room. He had curly blonde hair with greying sides and a boyish complexion — the overall look could have easily likened him to a Cherub in a suit. He stood with an expectant look, fingering his lapels.
I saw Jake, Graham and Simon giggling to one another at our apparent uncomfortableness. “Sorry Sir…” said Grettle, stepping forwards. “We had a lesson… with… Magisteer Simone… this morning,” she panted.
,” said the tiny man, understanding suddenly. “You poor things, come in and take a seat wherever you like. I’ll fetch up some Mango Perry for you,” he said kindly. I was a little taken aback at the kindness after having the evil Magisteer Simone, that now I wondered if Magisteer Wasp was playing some horrible trick. But sure enough, after sitting down gingerly, Magisteer Wasp returned with a big bottle of chilled mango perry and a large tray of glasses.
The room was huge and round, above was a giant blue glass dome with markings that were hard to make out in the daylight. Their were no seats as such, but cushions that were spaced apart around the circular stone steps that went right around the room. In the middle was a tall wooden plinth that Magisteer Wasp took. Tall wooden rafters reached all around the top of the room. Goodness knows how high up we were and no way would I intentionally try and think about it.
“Lovely to have you all here and to meet a new class,” said Magisteer Wasp who had a slight twang to his voice that was hard to place. “My name is Magisteer Wasp and we will be learning the AstroMagical chart together. A little about me — I am born of an Outsider Italian father and a Golandrian mother. My first job was an apprentice to the now famed Wizard author and explorer Arthur Hape-Heath. I became Heath’s trusted AstroMagical Chart advisor over the twelve years I worked for him. But in the end, I found a love for teaching in an environment I found more tailored to my advancing years, giving me time to study other things. Now, enough about me, who do we have in here?”
I found Magisteer Wasp very pleasant and AstroMagic interesting. I imagined that it could have been really boring if someone other than Magisteer Wasp was teaching. Robin found him really funny and laughed as Wasp squeaked the full table of signs out in one breath. AstroMagic, he explained, was basically the effect of the gravitational pulls of planets, stars and moons on our Magic. He said that there are certain infusions you can only make in the sign of Kreller, which is in November and December, or Spells that work better under certain signs. And once one knows fully the AstroMagical chart, then you can tailor your magic to these unseen forces.
“It reaches such an extent,” said Wasp. “That one could perform a Spell and it be utterly ineffectual, for the sign you are in, renders it useless. Of course it depends when you are born yourself of course.”
It was already a very long first day and with two lessons left and a mountain of stairs to climb back down, I sighed. Don’t get me wrong it was good to be back, great in fact, but with my muscles already hurting, the fact that my brother might be teaching at the school, as well as lots of new magic to process — made my poor brain feel like a heavy drooping weight at the top of my spine. The Mango Perry seemed to be working, it felt as if it were greasing my creaking bones, rendering them slightly useful again.
Half way down the stairs Robin turned to me. “I just thought,” he said, frowning so hard that his round glasses nearly disappeared into his cheeks. “You didn’t get your channeller back last year from…
. So… did you buy a new one?”
I looked around to make sure no one was listening, Graham and Simon had shot ahead, while Hunter and Ellen were still at the top of the stairs looking down at them feebly. “I forgot to tell you,” I whispered, for in all the fuss and excitement of seeing Robin and Tina in Gnippoh’s and then returning to school, I had completely forgotten about the meeting with my Granddad. “I’ll tell you when we see Tina. Two more lesson’s first.” Robin groaned, he, like me, just wanted to go to bed.
“This must be a joke,” said Robin. “The classrooms are so far apart! How do they expect us to get to each lesson on time?” he was really grumpy now and shuffled along scuffing his feet, I hated that.
“Pick your feet up!” I said. Mind you I had to agree with him, the next lesson was Numerology with Magisteer Commonside, back down all those stairs and all the way over to the other side of the school, on the first floor! Pushing our way through about fifty heavy drapes, down numerous corridors that looked identical, we finally found classroom number one-hundred-and-eleven.
“Oi, wait for us!” called Hunter, trailing behind with Ellen.
“We’re here now anyway,” I said, getting rather annoyed with Hunter calling after us all the whole way. I didn’t want to be late again.
“COME IN!” boomed a voice from behind the door. I looked at Robin.
“Why do I have push the door?” he said. I sighed and pushed, ducking inside the new room. Graham, Simon and the others were already waiting.
“You’re not late,” said Commonside with as little expression as a person can. He stared dreamily as we crossed the threshold into this rather cramped room with a raised seating area and tiny desks. “Yes, the room is a little cramped, used to be a broom cupboard I think, anyway it was number one-hundred-and-one, so I couldn’t resist,” he said, not looking at anyone in particular. Robin and I took the last remaining desk near the front as they were the only seats remaining. All around the tiny room were numbers, plastered to the ceiling, the walls, the seats and chairs. They covered everything. Numbers were not really my thing, words were, so I had to force myself to take an interest. Robin eased himself into his chair very slowly, causing Dawn and Jess to laugh.
Robin huffed. “It’s not funny!” he called, levering himself in sideways.
“Now then,” said Magisteer Commonside who was gazing into the ceiling. He was incredibly plain looking — with plain beige clothes, half a head of fair hair and about as much charisma as a chewed pencil. His face, while plastered with absentness, was beige too: a long beige nose, beady beige eyes and thin beige lips. He was just so plain, he had no redeeming features whatsoever. “Numerology is the study of numbers. Obviously,” he said, and I felt a sigh echo inside me. “While it’s hard to prove their effects magically, they have sure popped up throughout the centuries and shown their worth to those fortunate enough to be allowed to study them properly.”
Robin leaned towards me, ever so slightly and mouthed: “What a load of waffle.”