The Let's Play Archive

Magical Diary: Main Route

by CommissarMega

Part 14: The Dragon Puffs Magic

Chapter 11: The Dragon Puffs Magic

I call upon my knowledge of Blue Magic, calling up illusionary copies of myself- can't really have a dance without backup dancers, right?

And (Is worksafe)

I (Worksafe, but )

DANCE. (Definitely , might be )

I fully admit I just wanted to show these off. I love the Internet.

I wonder how Ellen's doing on her campaign...

That morning...

Ellen jumps out of the bed as if she'd been waiting for that- more election things, maybe? It seems so- she comes back with a stack of paper- future posters, it looks like- and a large box beside.

"Oooh, let us see!" Virginia squeals, inviting me to peek inside the box as well. Inside, we see a pile of construction paper, cut into shapes, and a whole lot of plastic pins. On each of the shapes is a symbol of a horse pulling a carriage, and on the carriage is written 'Ellen Middleton for treasurer!'

"Nice logo," I say, holding up another card. "What's it mean, though?"

"I'm not sure it has to mean anything," Ellen smiles. "I just thought it looked nice."

"We'll come up with a meaning later if it's important," Virginia laughs. "Today will be real important for campaigning, though, and I'm not sure I can help both of you."

"Help Ellen," I say at once, then wince. "Not to say that you need the help, Ellen, but, uh-"

"Don't worry, Mary," Ellen laughs. "I know what you meant, and thank you both- eep!" she says, managing a small bow before she and I are thrown off-balance by Virginia grabbing us both and bringing us together.

"Man, look at you guys!" she says. "This'll be the best election ever!"

Back to the present...

"This is the strangest election ever," Virginia says bemusedly, as she watches my coolawesum moves. Apart from her, Grabby's hysterical laughter and the instructions of the medics loading him onto a stretcher, the area around me seems rather silent. But everyone's looking at me, and that's what counts!

"You go, girl!" I yell out, and everyone standing around turns to gape at Ellen, who in turn blushes deeply from all the attention (I think). She looks at me, and I give her a thumbs up. Gotta help my friend, after all. She doesn't look too happy, but I bet she's just embarrassed from getting so much attention all at once. My can-can is nothing to sneeze at, after all.

We spend the next day in free study, as Grabby started laughing his guts out as soon as I stepped in- a very good sign, I must say; no doubt everyone in this class would vote for me now, seeing as I got them out of Grabby's way. Just to be sure, I use a little trick I learned in Black Magic, as well as a little something I figured out in Red Magic before the elections began.

And so it is, as it shall be- I Push the chairs and tables in front of mine out of my way, as a moving inscription on the blackboard flows from it to the ceiling above my head: "Mary Sue: Today, your Anti-Grabby; tomorrow, Your President For Life!"

A bit heavy-handed, to be sure, but I think it's the only way this message will get through to the peons. A few students are grumbling as they push their tables back into place, but I'm sure that once they have had time to think about it, they'd be able to understand the sacrifices they would need to make.

Since we can't vote for the seniors or vice versa, there's no reason for either of us to listen to our respective speeches, and so the freshmen have to wait until the end of the day to shuffle into the gym and begin voting for me. Of course, I can be magnanimous in victory, and so I allow the poor, undoubtedly touched girl who amusingly thinks herself my competition to go first.

Ah, such simple-minded folk. Truly, it is the pink-haired's burden to lead them into enlightenment and civilization. No time like the present, I'll always say (and once I rule all, it will be what I've always said). I step up to the podium, and begin my first steps to ultimate power.

Yes, these options are in the game

"Peace through power! Side with me," I continue, "and you will never grow hungry again! Vote for me, Maria Lilium Augustina Caesaria Draconis Dominus, and together I shall take South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and I'll take over Canada and Mexico and Europe and next will be Russia and China and Australia and Michigan, and then I'm going to take over the world! YEEEEARGH!"

Silence follows, save for the uproarious laughter of Professor Grabiner (who'll I'll execute after he dies building my pyramid). For a moment I despair at the burden I have chosen to take upon my almighty self.

"You may applause," I pronounce with all the grace befitting one who will straddle the world like a Colossus.

And then after that, come the elections for Treasurer.

The applause is thunderous (though I'm sure it's only my presence near the audience that makes me think it's louder than mine), and I think I hear someone hooting in the back. Jacob takes it all quite well, bowing deeply. He seems quite popular; having him removed and replaced with Ellen should she not win might take a little while- sorry, Ellen. She's nice though, I'm sure she'd understand.

The applause is polite, but muted. Not a threat, and the fact that he's adorable would make him a suitable distraction from any necessary actions I might have to take during my rule. Definitely a shoe-in for an unimportant Cabinet position- well, more unimportant position, to be accurate.

Next up is Ellen's turn. She steps up to the podium, takes a deep breath, and begins.

"I know I might not have made the most impact around here so far, and I know that there are some of you who do know me, and might have doubts about how well I can perform as treasurer. To be honest, I have my doubts too. I've never held a position as important as this in my life, after all," she says, looking down at the podium. I am biting my lip- why are you doing this, Ellen?! They'll never vote for you after that!

Suddenly, she looks back up, and standing as close to the stage as I am, I catch a glimpse of the steel beneath. "But I can promise this," she adds determinedly. "I will do the job to the best of my ability. I will learn fast, because I know I have no choice. Because I know that you and the school are entrusting me with your money. Because I know how much trust you're placing in me, period. I cannot promise you I'll make the popular decisions, but I can promise this- no matter what I choose to do, I'll have your best interests in my heart."

She takes a deep breath, and says, "In short, I cannot promise you someone who you can like. But I do promise you someone you can trust. Thank you."

Way to give a backhanded compliment, Mary

Even before I vote, I do all I can to sway the vote in my favour. Not because I'm afraid, because I'm totally not, but because I really love My Constituents™ and I really do Care™ about their Well Being™. As such, I'm busy shaking hands and blowing kisses as I walk to the voting room. I even shake hands with the Cochran chit as soon as I see a camera. Sure, it means I have to line up again, but that is just a minor inconvenience.

Besides, once I'm Goddess-Empress lines for me will be a thing of the past. Forward thinking like that is what people currently expect from divinity before said people are lobotomized by my glory, you know.

Of course, I vote for myself and Ellen. I suppose they have some magical way of counting the votes, as it's less than an hour before we're called back into the gym. All around me, I hear whispering, and I can feel people staring at me. I let it pass; might as well let them etch their images of me into their minds before my radiant magnificence grows to blind them, I suppose.

The gym suddenly hushes as Professor Potsdam takes the stage. "I suppose I could give you all a speech about leadership and the like, but I think we all know what you're all here for!" she says to general laughter. "All right then- the position of freshman class treasurer will be held by... Ellen Middleton!"

She did it! She really did it! I know it's unbecoming of the Queen of All Cosmos, but I'm really, genuinely happy for her!

"And the position for freshman class president is-"

Pfft, I have no time for trivial formalities. I move to push my way through to the front-

"Minnie Cochran!"

As the applause swells, it dawns upon me- I lost. Me. The Dragon. Declawed, defanged, dewinged. Under the circumstances though, I think I take it well.

No, you nutty old bat, I would have made Iris great! When the Revolution comes you- you- ah, forget it.

Okay, here's how it really goes: First off, your character cannot win the presidential post no matter what you do. Indeed, if you run for Pres and Ellen runs for Treasurer, the only way Ellen can win is if Mary doesn't buy anything, thus freeing up supplies (and a scene) for Ellen. I completely forgot about that, rendering the campaign budget vote useless On the upside, we're $5 closer than we would be to buying the protective gloves, so... yay us?

"The teachers will be seeking out the newly-elected students today to discuss their activities and duties. The rest of you, have a wonderful weekend!"

Well, that was the plan anyway, but that next morning...

I heard a noise- is Virginia babbling again? I thought I'd got used to that. It's not her- someone's moving around...

Gathering her skirt, she tiptoes out of the room. I know it's weird, but I'm too tired to follow... zzz...

Stop missing out on potential plot, Mary! That said, this might not be the last time we've seen Ninja Ellen...

When Virginia and I get up later that morning, our allowances are under the door, but Ellen's isn't- and neither is Ellen, for that matter. "Wonder why not?" Virginia muses.

"Maybe something's up?" I venture. "She snuck out of the room really early this morning."

"Maybe it's treasurer business?" Virginia asks.

"On the crack of dawn on a Saturday?" I reply sceptically.

"Why do you think I didn't want the job?" Virginia laughs. I shrug; it's nowhere near a reasonable explanation, but I suppose it would have to do, especially since Ellen's still not back by the time the vans to the mall roll up. I head back to the arcade, intending to get some pinball practice in, but all the machines are taken. Instead, I head down to the claw machine.

The claw descends and catches the rabbit, but before I can maneuver it back to the chute, the timer runs out and the claw drops the rabbit. I hold back a very unladylike curse before I turn the air blue- wait, there's an idea! I try something simple first- a Push spell; if I can push the rabbit a little further to the exit chute, I can probably 'play fair' and pay for another, more successful go.

Nothing happens. Meh, not surprising- I've only just begun learning Red Magic, after all. That said, now that I'm done playing fair, there's only one way I can resolve this! I take a deep, slow breath, and feel the currents of Blue Magic flow through me. I concentrate on the rabbit, and the exit chute, then cast Teleport Other!

Nothing again?! You have got to be kidding me! Is this some kind of 'Technology Vs. Magic' thing going on? It would explain why there aren't any computers or cell phones at school- then again, I've seen students with digital watches walking around, and there are other machines like lawnmowers and stuff at school. Maybe the games here are just warded to prevent cheating? After all, the Grognarde Grottoe's run by wizards; stands to reason some other pinball wizard might have started up this arcade.

I am so deep in such thoughts back on campus, however, that I don't notice Professor Potsdam calling my name until she's practically on top of me.

"Oh, hello there Professor!" I say. "Did you have a good... day...?" I trail off, seeing the look on her face. "I guess not, huh?"

She shakes her head. "We need to have a short talk, Miss Sue," she says quietly, and I know I'm in for it.

Wha- how did she know about that? I have no time to theorize though.

"Never display magic in front of those who cannot use it themselves," she says quietly, but sternly. "We may have great powers at our disposal, but mortals have numbers. Even in the days of the Inquisition, when all they had to face us were with Bibles and swords, more wizards and witches went to the stake than even the Church thought they caught. And we live in an age of Geiger counters, infrared goggles and automatic rifles- we have to watch our step more than ever."

"I didn't... I..." I stammer.

"There are protections at the mall in case of accidents," she continues. "Do you understand me, Miss Sue?"

"No magic in the mall, or anywhere else where mortals can see it, " I mumble. "Or else I'd be facing sniper rifles and flamethrowers instead of pitchforks and torches."

Professor Potsdam's lips turn upwards in a slight smile. "That's one way of putting it."

"Sorry, Ma'am," I say. "But I think I should have been told this earlier," I tell her. "Heck, I even asked Virginia if anyone would notice us, and nobody batted an eye at our outfits! Then there's that game shop hidden by Blue Magic-"

"That's right, hidden," Professor Potsdam tells me. "People can tolerate, even ignore odd uniforms, and the Grottoe is masked to make it look, smell and feel as unpleasant as possible. What you attempted to do was a lot more obvious than that, Miss Sue."

I sigh. "I guess... I understand."

"Now, now, don't look so disheartened," Potsdam smiles, placing her hand on my shoulder. "It's not the end of the world. Just don't do anything like that again, all right?"

"Scouts' honour, ma'am," I say wanly, and hold up my right hand for emphasis.

"I'm sure!" she giggles. "To be honest, I must say I understand your little impulse. Those machines are built to cheat you!"

"I knew it!" I exclaim, my regret being overridden by anger. "There's a dollar down the drain!"

"It's not impossible to win, mind you," she points out. "But it takes quite the skilled player to do so."

I halt before I can stop my rant, and Potsdam looks at my wide-eyed, gaping-mouthed stillness with concern. "Are... are you all right, Miss Sue?"

"I am more than all right," I grin at her. "Come next week, there will be a reckoning between that machine and I. So to speak." I then pat a bemused Professor Potsdam on the shoulder, and walk off, cackling wildly.

Virginia's got the ball, and is dribbling it across to Ellen. Kyo comes in from the side, but Virginia deftly sidesteps him. He tries to tackle her again, but it's all for naught when he slides into empty space, Virginia having passed the ball to me a moment before. Manuel tries to intercept, but he's no sportsman, and I pass the ball back to Virginia in time for my friend to send the ball sailing through the air.

"What are you guys doing?" Jacob calls out from the doorway. Ellen turns to track the sound of her ex-opponent's voice, and the ball sails into the net. "Man, I hope you keep gold better than you keep goals," he remarks, which gets a scowl from Ellen and some muted laughter from Manuel.

"Jacob? What are you doing here?" Virginia asks suspiciously. "What are you doing here?"

"This is a Sports Club meeting, right?" he asks. When Virginia nods, he grins. "Then I'm here to play- you don't have to be a club member to join in the games, right?"

"No, just to set up events and stuff," Virginia confirms.

"Awright!" Jacob exclaims, flexing his arms- wait, he isn't exactly flexing them.

When you use each kind of magic, you get a sweet magical display like this. You've seen the Red and Blue Magic effects back at the mall, and I decided to go and show off a threefer.

"Hey, you can't do that!" Virginia says.

"Huh?" Jacob responds.

"Magic, doofus," Virginia scowls. "No magic's allowed on the field."

"Oh come on, we're wizards!" Jacob says, exasperated. "We use it in bounders all the time!"

"This is real sports, not bounders!" Virginia counters heatedly.

"What's going on?" Kyo asks as he comes up from behind us with the rest of the teams.

" 'This one'?!" Virginia, Ellen and I exclaim incredulously together. I don't know what they're thinking (though I can make some pretty good guesses), but another 'that one' from Jacob and... let's say Isobel's not here to protect him.

"Well, that's how we've been doing it in sports club," Kyo replies.

"What? That's wrong!" Jacob exclaims. "No, worse than wrong- that's unnatural! Look guys, it'll be fun- who's up for flying basketball?"

"NO!" Virginia says, her voice about half a decibel away from officially shouting. "No magic allowed! That's the first rule!"

"And how many people are going to follow that rule, hmmm?" Jacob sneers. "Let's hold it to a vote- Kyo? You're with me on this, yeah?"

"...yeah," he says.

Dammit Kyo, how could you be so blind when you've got peepers the Hubble Telescope's designers would kill for?

"For example, how could I play flying basketball? I can't fly!" I point out.

"Oh come on!" Jacob protests. "Without magic all we're playing are a bunch of mortal kiddie games! Why should we hold back from being the best we can be?"

Looks like someone's bitter over not being able to watch the Incredibles.

Oh man, blind and unhip? No wonder you can't get a girlfriend.

"Real losers, you mean?" Virginia snarls. Call me dim, but this is when I finally realize that Virginia's completely, utterly serious. Even at her angriest, she could come up with a better insult. Jacob's proposal is hitting her on a really personal level- and judging by his smug grin, he knows it, even if Kyo doesn't.

"Actually," Ellen pipes up, "it's because it's the rules."

"You do your best within the rules; that's good sportsmanship," she finishes. Her voice is soft, but firm, and judging by the look on Jacob's face, it's more resistance than he expected from Ellen.

"I- I think they're right," Manuel says. "Ellen and Mary and Virginia, I mean. If we compete without magic, then all that matters is physical skill. Some of us still have problems casting the spells we do know, and if there's an accident with magic, it won't be as easy to clean up or heal as a physical injury."

At that, more Sports Club members begin nodding.

"They've got a point."
"I need the exercise anyway."
"A healthy body makes for a healthy mind, anyway."

Seeing Jacob scowl even further, I have the sudden fear that he might say something to have the last word, and it might turn out to be his last words.

"How about it, Virginia?" I ask her. "You have to admit, not many wizards are in good shape, and a little magical help to get them to adapt can help them without getting them too frustrated."

Virginia stares at me a for a few moments, then takes a deep breath and sighs. "I... I suppose that's all right," she says through gritted teeth. "What do you think, Jacob?" she asks, turning to him.

"Pfft," he snorts. "Call me when you start playing real games. Come on, Kyo," Jacob says, but Kyo shakes his head.

"I think it's a great idea, actually," Kyo says, and Jacob throws his hands up.

"Fine then!" he snarls. "Have it your way then!"

We get back to playing again, but it's like some of the fun's been sucked out, and I suspect that some of the relief we felt at the meeting's end was not just due to our muscles' screaming dying down.

"We are," Ellen says, once we're done changing into a fresh set of clothes. The walk back is quiet and subdued. Far from the exuberant, sporty go-getter we'd been used to, Virginia now seemed fragile, and I was afraid to place my hand on her shoulder in case she shattered at my touch. Judging by the way Ellen looked at me, she felt the same way too.

We return to our room, and Virginia sits down with a sigh. Ellen and I sit down on my bed, waiting for Virginia to make the first move.

"I don't know," I admit. "I've never really settled on any one thing in particular. What about you, Ellen?"

"Uhm, a librarian," she says. "All those books, and my own place where I can read in peace for the most part- it sounded great," she shrugs. "But I don't think this is about us, is it, Virginia?"

"But I knew what I had to grow up to be was a witch," she finishes bitterly.

"I don't understand," Ellen asks her. "Why can't you be both?"

"I can answer that," I say ruefully, before explaining just why and how I lost ten merits the day before. "Basically, it's just too dangerous to use your magic openly."

"Mary's got it right," Virginia says.

"If mortal people knew about magic, then it would be natural to assume that whenever a wizard succeeds at something, it's because they cheated with magic. And even if a wizard gets famous, and tries to keep his magic under wraps, all it takes is for them to get a little absent-minded for a moment before their cover's totally blown. One little cantrip, and it might end up over the Internet in half an hour. Why do you think they ban computers and cell phones here?"

"But I can't have it, and that's that," she says quietly, and I realize she's trying very hard not to cry. Ellen's not taking it very well either.

"That's not very fair!" she says, folding her arms and scowling. Somehow, she makes that prudish exclamation sound like something from a Tarantino flick; it's quite unnerving. "If you don't want to be a witch, why did your parents send you here? So you're from a magical family- so what? It's not like you were shooting fireballs as a baby! If you were sent to a normal school, you wouldn't have to suffer! You made the Choice, right? Couldn't you have said no?"

"Thanks, Ellen, but it's not that simple," Virginia says. "The Choice doesn't work the same way if you're a born witch or wizard."

"Right," I reply cautiously.

"Do you know what happens to a wild seed who says no?" Virginia asks. "Remember, magic has to kept a secret. No matter what."

I gasp. "They're killed?!" I exclaim in shock. For her part, Ellen's gone pale, her hands clasped over her mouth.

Virginia looks surprised at first, then for the first time since Jacob's interruption, she laughs. "Nothing so dramatic- but it's still terrible."

"That... that's not very nice," Ellen says, an understatement on par with 'Those colonials aren't very fond of tea, are they?' and 'Carlos Mencia isn't very funny, is he?'

"It's all secrets," Virginia scoffs. "Nobody who isn't magical isn't allowed to know about magic. You're made to forget. It's kept wizards and witches safe since the Inquisitions and Crusades, and it keeps them safe now, at least that's what I'm told."

She then fixes us both with a hollow-eyed stare. "Now, what do you think happens to someone born magic, if their entire family is magic..."

There is silence for a few seconds while imaginations run wild. "J-just to be sure," I stammer, "they don't kill you, right?"

"They might as well," Virginia sighs.

"And they'd make sure I never came back," she says, then sighs again. "I chose my family, and for what it's worth, I think it was the right choice, even if it does mean I have to live with Donald. But just because I think I picked the right choice- it doesn't mean I have to like it."

There is another period of silence- then, before I knew it, I had crossed the room and sat down next to Virginia. I take her into my arms, and she lets the dam burst. Maybe the restrictions on us were there to keep us safe- but the girl sobbing in my arms makes we wonder whether they're all really worth it.

Come Monday morning though, Virginia's the first up as usual, and doing stretches in the middle of the room.

Seeing that huge smile across her face, I have to wonder if yesterday actually happened. Virginia catches the look I'm giving her, and her grin grows wistful.

"Hey, don't sweat it, all right?" she says. "I'm okay, really I am. It's just that I'd never really told anyone about it before and- well, thank you. Thank you both."

"You're welcome," a bemused Ellen replies as she picks herself off the bed. "What's this about Thanksgiving? I thought it was Columbus Day."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hey, let's have none of that around here, all right?" Virginia says quickly- maybe she isn't as past yesterday as she says, but it's hardly the right time to press her. Sometimes, you just need a little time to heal, and I go along with the change in subject.

"Why? What's wrong with Columbus?" I ask.

"Well, he's caused a lot of trouble for wizards over here," Virginia says. "My bad, I probably should have told you guys this earlier. See, first contact between the Europeans and natives went a little differently in magical history than mortal."

"Heck, most of American wizardry's rituals and knowledge comes from them, not to mention a whole load of overall White Magic knowledge. Back in Europe and mainland Asia, spirits were something you fought, mostly, while Africa and Japan weren't big on letting people into their secrets. But Columbus, he started up slave trading and that kind of stuff and left a really bad impression on the local magic users and spirits. Even when the Mayflower came over, most local magic-users weren't willing to help them out on the magical front. All this ignorance led to the witch hunts, unsanctioned magic, monster attacks- basically it was really crazy until British and French wizards came over."

"Oh, so it isn't really Thanksgiving then?" Ellen asks, and Virginia shakes her head.

"Actually, it is, " I say thoughtfully. "It's the second Monday in October, Canadian Thanksgiving. What? I saw it on the back of a candy wrapper once," I say, to the looks they give me. "Uhm, anyway, we have to get ready for the rest of the week!"

Red Magic was nothing more than me playing a game of catch up- not that I had a choice, considering how behind I was. That said, my knowledge of Blue Magic certainly helped; the Warm spell was just a slightly cruder application of Light and Silence, in that an intentionally 'leaky' magical field was used to contain created heat. Grabby approved of my creativity, but not enough to give me merits, even though he had the rest of the class practice with my method later!

"It would be against my principles to reward someone brazen enough to use magic outside the school," he said smugly when I pointed that out to him after class.

"First off, Professor Potsdam has already spoken to me about that," I say, counting off on a finger. "Second- you're reaching for an insult, and that's just sad."

"What can I say, Miss Sue?" he says with mock regret. "After your election performance last week, I'm afraid I'm all out of funny today. I should give you demerits for making me use it all up, come to think of it."

"Don't you dare," I scowl.

"Try me," he says with a beatific smile.

I take a deep breath, turn and move out of the class, pretending to not hear his "She actually gave herself a Latin name!" nor the giggling fit that came after.

Black Magic class was a lot more fun. For this one, we practiced triggering mousetraps with short-ranged telekinetic impulses. The sensation was quite odd; instead of the ~Mind Powers~ I'd come to expect from tv and video games, real telekinesis was actually done through the body part you're channeling Black Magic through, and you 'felt' what you were doing, though sensation was dulled. For example, when I magically set off a mousetrap, I had to press down really hard to get it to trigger, and when it snapped shut, I felt a momentary strong pressure on my fingers, but not enough to cause pain.

Professor Potsdam let us experiment with any body part we could think of ("and stay decent," she'd said, to much mutual embarrassment), and I tried it with my tongue and feet, which felt odd, to say the least. Raven tried it with her feet, and it seems like she's ticklish- learn something new every day.

The next day, I've taken the day off to study and refine my techniques, when I hear a knock on my door.

Take a good look at Minnie Cochran's sprite. With the exception of cape and hair colour, as well as eye choice, she's a dead ringer for Mary. It's been pointed out before, but all the characters in Magical Diary were made using the same basic template. With a little work, an item or two, and perhaps a comparison picture, you can recreate practically any female student in the game with the exception of Virginia and Ellen- and I'm not too sure about those two.

"You," I hiss.

"I beg your pardon?" Minnie asks, and I'm suddenly aware that I'm
A) In public
B) Unarmed

"N-nothing," I say with as wide a grin as I can manage. "Just a little cranky after practicing a spell. HA! HA! HA!"

"...right," she says, backing away slowly, obviously wondering if this is a good idea and reassured only by the presence of witnesses.

These study sessions are a bit special. IIRC, they have a 100% success rate, and give you 1 Smarts and up to 4 magic in the magic skill you have the least of, in exchange for 4 stress. I personally don't think it's worth it unless you're trying to go full-on rainbow mage, though I might make use of it here.

"...thanks," I say quietly.

"You're welcome!" she smiles. "Also... I want to say that I really appreciated your campaign, and I hope there are no hard feelings. For what it's worth, I did vote for you."

Huh. So I guess I WILL spare her once I rule the world. Those who voted for her however- salt miiines! "Sure, thanks," I say at last. We say our goodbyes, and head off to our classes. The rest of the week passes peacefully, but the weekend is another matter. Ellen's up and about early that Saturday morning, and is called again to treasurer business, leaving me and Virginia to go to the mall alone once more.

That's all right. I have a score to settle. A high score. When I reach the arcade, I wait for my ace in the hole to finish his pinball game before I start asking questions.

"Oh?" Big Steve asks. "What is it?"

In response, I point to the claw machine and make the biggest puppy eyes I can manage.

"Hm, I think so," Big Steve says. "Let me see."

He moves over to the machine, eyes narrowed. He looks at it like that for a few moments, before turning to me and holding out a hand. Of course, i give him the dollar.

...And misses completely, the claw stabbing into a nearby caterpillar plushie.

"Oh fudgebuckets!" I exclaim in frustration. "Oh well, it was a good try-"

Big Steve, however, appears undaunted. "Gimme another dollar. I can do this," he tells me; I could say that the sun will rise tomorrow with less confidence. What else can I do, but give him another dollar?

And... success! He manages to grab the rabbit and drop it into the chute a fraction of a second before the timer runs out. "Sorry about that first dollar, but I needed to test its reactions first."

And yes, you get an ingame, as well as Steam achievement for this

Oh Mary, snap out of it! I spent $2 getting this bunny, and Steve looks pleased enough with the achievement, but that being said... it was his effort that won me the bunny in the first place. I turn to Steve, wondering what I should do, or even say, but he's back to his pinball. I'll leave the bunny decision for another day.

Monday, unfortunately, wasn't it. I say 'unfortunately' thanks to the news Virginia brings.

"Wait, what?" Ellen gasps. Oh man, if she's scared, then nobody's safe! "But the end of the month isn't until next week! I've been too busy with my treasurer work to do a lot of study or practice!"

Oh Virginia, so merciless

"Will it be like the first one?" I ask.

"Nothing doing," Virginia grins. "This time, they drop you into a pit full of alligators and you have to fight your way out. William once had black hair, you know, then he took this test, and see what's happened!"

"You are such a liar, Virginia," Ellen pouts.

"It's not a lie if it's funny!" Virginia laughs. "Seriously though, all I know is that it's gonna take place in the dungeons, but only 'cos that's where all the tests take place. William did say that it will be the first one where we have to cast spells we've learned in class, so just flinging magic colours around isn't going to work."

Can't blame a girl for wanting to be prepared. I examined my spellbook, and while I'm sure Teleport would be useful, even in a warded dungeon (nothing Grabby said implied I couldn't teleport within the dungeon), most of my repertoire was sadly limited, so I pushed myself as hard as I could, and learned 4 spells.

Spark would be useful in case I had to start a fire- or finish a fight. True, it wasn't all that powerful, but neither was it expensive, and anything that could be affected by fire would probably end up freaked out of all proportion by it anyway. Or so I hoped.

Disruption was a complex spell, and only my previous mastery of Blue Magic let me even begin to understand the principles behind it. Grabby raised an eyebrow when I told him what i was trying to do, but he gave me some assistance anyway. I think he was proud- kind of an icky thought, to be honest, but oh well.

I thought Detect Charm would be useful; who knows what you can find in a dungeon? It wasn't just magic items I had in mind when I learned this spell, but secret doors, illusions (not sure if they counted as 'items', but it couldn't hurt to try) and the like.

Finally, Spirit Sight was a White Magic spell that, hopefully, would earn me a little supernatural help if I really got stumped. Mind you, there's nothing there about actually communicating with them, but I reckon if they could see me I could see them, and maybe we could charades out our communications.

All too soon, it's Friday, and I'm standing in front of the testing room. I'm not sure why they send us here if they're going to teleport us to the dungeon anyway. Maybe this time will be different?

"Greetings, Mary Sue," a voice booms out. "Behold: the abyss! The exit is on the other side! The dungeon has been warded so that you may not teleport out again- only by crossing to the other side can you succeed."

The voice took on a malicious tone as it continued. "You may, of course, choose to fail this test, and be teleported out safely and successfully- if you're willing to receive demerits and be counted as a failure. Good luck- you’ll need it.”

I nod, and look over the abyss. It looks bottomless, and though I’m sure that bit is an illusion, the fact that it is very, very deep is completely within the bounds of reality. Before doing anything, I decide to explore the rest of the dungeon. I walk along a single corridor with no obvious passageways out, which curves in an angular U-shape, which terminates in a dead- hello...

What do we have here, then?

And so we come to the first actual dungeon exam! The controls themselves are simple; see here. As with the rest of the exams this year, this test has several methods to pass it, and I think I’m going to let you make the choices how. First off, here’s Mary’s spellbook:

One, or a combination of spells might be able to help Mary escape this place. Of course, if you like, I could just solve the exam myself and it over the lot of you. That said, if you’re not too much fan of the goody-two-shoes approach, we can fail this test and get detention (I won’t simply fail because that is boring).

Our second choice is rather more innocent- what do we do with the stuffed bunny Big Steve won for us. Do we keep it? Or do we give it to him- after all, Mary would have never won that game on her own. On the other hand- $2!

SO! I’ll need your votes on:

Choice 1: Doing the exam!
- It’s too haaard, CommissarMega! You do it for me!
- I have an idea! (Note down your idea, and your fellow goons can vote on it as any other choice! Feel free to suggest more than one spell!)
- Screw da police! Let’s get some detention!

Choice 2: What do we the bunny?
- Let the worker enjoy the fruits of his labour!
- He didn’t work, we commissioned him! Our bunny!

Due to the nature of this vote (and me still needing a day or two to get used to the Ramadhan sleeping schedule), this vote will continue for the next 24 hours, to end at 1200 GMT July 26th!