Part 15: It's Halloween, Not Christmas!Chapter 12: It's Halloween, Not Christmas!
Well then, the solution to my little predicament seems fairly obvious- teleport the bridge over to the pit! I summon up the magical energies needed to move the bridge, but it's a lot harder than trying to teleport the bunny from the claw machine was- or even teleporting myself was. Was it because the stone bridge was massively heavy? Or were the anti-teleportation measures 'bleeding into' my own casting?
Whatever it was, the casting left me massively drained, scrambling my mind for a few moments, and leaving me out of breath and a little dizzy even after I collected my thoughts. I resolved to ask someone about it later- for now, I had a test to pass!
Whenever we cast a spell in a dungeon, it costs us mana as determined by our Smarts, seen in the top right. If the teleport hadn't worked out the first time, we would not have had a second chance
Once over the pit, I walked forward to a stairwell. I hoped it was an exit; I was way too out of it to fight my way to the surface, but knowing my luck, I'd probably end up having to face a one-winged Beholder or someth-
Huh. Looks like God woke up on the right side of my bed today.
"Congratulations, Mary!" someone says behind me, and I turn to face Professor Potsdam. "For succeeding in your test, I'll award you five merits!"
"Really? I get five merits for passing the test?" I blurt out.
"That's right, dearie!" Potsdam laughs. "Each test requires a great deal of magical skill, and passing them means you've paid enough attention in class to learn what you needed to know! Think of it as a reward for being such a good student."
Well, I wasn't about to complain. "Thanks," I tell her.
"You're welcome!" Potsdam grins.
I spend the rest of the day with Ellen and Virginia. Ellen teleported herself; I wondered how she managed it, since the other end of the pit was too far away to judge accurately, and teleportation required precise knowledge of your destination- heck, in my case everything was perfect, and I still landed in a hedge. But as it turned out, a simple casting of White Magic's Awareness was enough to tell Ellen all she needed to know about her destination.
Virginia being Virginia, she simply Pushed the bridge into place. "I can't believe you two got all complicated and stuff!" she laughs. "Honestly though, I think Raven and Kyo had me beat for being simple- Raven just Stoneshaped the rocks into a bridge, and Kyo just cast Green Magic on himself, then jumped across! Oh well, as long as we pass, right?"
"Right!" I say, and we all head back to our dorms with a skip in our steps.
So yes, those are the ways to pass the test; plain ol' Teleport can work, but only if you combine it with Awareness, while you can always 'brute force' things (literally in Green Magic's case) by Pushing the bridge with the eponymous Red Magic spell, Stoneshape the rocks with Black Magic or Strengthen yourself with Green Magic.
"Wow, Ellen," I muse, seeing her wolf down breakfast and coffee like a condemned prisoner. "The school's really got you running ragged."
"Huh?" Ellen says, her mouth full of Kellogg's Coffee.
"Seems like every Saturday you're off doing Treasurer business," Virginia says as she sits up in bed. "Couldn't they wait until 'normal human' hours to make you work?"
"Oh, uhm, yeah, sorry about that!" Ellen smiles wanly. "It was my idea, really- I didn't want to bother everyone else with work on a weekend."
"What about the people you're meeting with?" I shrug. "Don't they want to sleep in on a weekend too?"
"It's- it's just Professor Potsdam," Ellen says hurriedly. "Professor Grabiner would be in it too, but Professor Potsdam handles most of the actual work. She's okay with it, really!"
"If you say so," I say. Even so, Ellen decides to stay behind and catch up on some sleep while me and Virginia head off to the mall. For her part, Virginia seems quite preoccupied. "What's up?" I ask her.
"Oh, it's nothing..." Virginia laughs nervously.
"Well then, now that I know it's something, you have got to tell me," I grin.
"Well, see..." Virginia begins.
"Honestly, I'd like to give him a rock," she snorts, "but my parents would think it was mean. William too, and that'd just kill me."
"Well, what does he like?" I ask.
"I don't know- worms, maybe?" Virginia says helplessly.
"Come on, be serious!" I chide her.
"I am, I swear!" she replies. "Worms and bugs and all kinds of gross things! At least, that's what I think he likes, considering all the pranks he's played on me that involve those things. Stupid Donald," she huffs. "I thought about getting him some gummy worms, but he doesn't really like candy."
Say what? "...are you sure you two are related?" I ask. Taking my question as a joke, Virginia just sticks her tongue out at me.
"Don't you have any real suggestions?" she pouts. I consider for a moment, then it hits me!
Voting begins at the end of this post- but before you start typing, try to remember what Donald likes! Feel free to refer to past Chapters for info! I will not accept votes for 'not really' though. I mean, it's not as if Mary's spending HER money, hah!
While we're at the mall, though, I remember the small package I'm carrying myself, and I head to the arcade again, where I see precisely the person I came to see. Even considering his skills, Big Steve has racked up a really amazing score, and the smug smile doesn't leave his face as I walk up to him.
"Say, Big Steve?" I ask. "You have a moment?"
"Sure, what is it?" he asks, turning to me. God help me, he isn't even looking at the machine, yet the points keep racking up.
I sigh, and hold up the bunny he won for me last week. "Here, take it," I sigh. "You did all the work."
His face falls, and I begin to hear the sound of pinballs falling into the gutter. "But it was easy, and you paid for it too."
"Just take it!" I say again. "I'm being nice here!"
"...okay," he says after a second, plucking the bunny out of my hands.
As I walk away from the arcade, I hear the sounds of repeated game overs from the arcade. Man, now I really think nobody's ever given him anything before.
A few hours later, when we get back from the mall, a small box in Virginia's hands, we find Ellen staring at a notice on the school corkboard. "Says here that classes are cancelled on Friday, but it doesn't say why," she says, pointing at the board.
Virginia looks at the board, and sighs. "Honestly, they could at least remember we've got wildseeds here," she sighs in disgust. "It's because of the Dark Dance on Friday night, and it's considered really bad form to work the day before."
"No, no!" Virginia laughs. "It's not that kind of dance! Look- guess what night Friday is."
It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but it takes me and Ellen a moment before we realize what's going on. "It's Halloween night, isn't it?" Ellen asks, and Virginia nods.
"At home, we only do it for a few minutes," Virginia continues, "but in places like boarding schools or large guilds, where you can expect fairies and spirits to actually attend, they can go on all night. It's not a romantic-type dance, but you can bring a date if you want to."
With only four days left to go? I don't think so. No way I can get a date that quickly- not that I'm doubting my skills, of course. Just that I think going through all that effort for noth- I mean, I don't see why I should be bothered. That's it. Yes. Um.
In any case, the week proceeds without much incident. To Virginia's almost-disappointment, Donald was involved in another of Potsdam's pet (knowing Potsdam, this might have been literal) projects. As it was, she had to delay giving him her present. It wasn't until Thursday that something happened to throw me off for a loop.
"I don't know," I admit. "I'm not sure how you hold a dance in the dark. That said, if they have punch, I think I'd be okay," I say, and Ellen laughs.
"So, are you going to ask anyone to the dance? I know it's not that kind of dance," she adds hastily, "but... well... that just makes it easier, since it's not a real date and all..."
"Exactly, so what are you doing here instead of seeing how William's doing?" I say, poking her. "I told you, you should abuse your power! Call, no, summon him for a meeting!" I tell her grandly.
"Oh come on, Mary, you know I can't- what's that?" she asks, seeing something under our door.
"Well now, I guess you won't have to ask anyone!" she chirps, handing me the envelope, my name written prominently on the paper. I opened it up and read its contents:
Mysterious Sender posted:
Please don't throw this away. I know I've been terrible to you lately, but I needed some time to myself to sort things out, I guess you could say. But you deserve better than that, much better, and I'm sorry for not being brave enough. Please meet me tomorrow before the Dark Dance, in the garden, and I promise you I'll tell you everything.
"Who's it from?" Ellen asks.
"Damien, it seems," I say bemusedly. First he doesn't speak to me for a month, and now he's sending me letters? Pink ones?
"Wonder what's going on?" Ellen wonders.
"I don't know," I admit, folding the letter and placing it into my pocket, "but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious. Don't tell Virginia about this- I don't want her getting the wrong signals about me and Damien."
"You and Damien?" Ellen asks, eyebrow arched.
"Oh no, now don't you start," I smirk.
Friday evening sees me freshening up for the dance; Damien or no Damien, I'm going to have a good time at the party. Not that Virginia and Ellen are making it easier for me, what with their telling me to hurry up, they're going to miss everything! It's so unfair; the bathroom was occupied all morning and all afternoon, especially since the sinks in one of the seniors' bathrooms got clogged up thanks to a misfired prank.
Now it's late evening, and I've just got my first chance at the bathroom. The fact that I spent the whole morning asleep had nothing to do with it. When I come out though, I see Ellen's quickly retreating back, William and Isobel with her. Hopefully Isobel's got nothing going on with William- I can't bear to see Ellen's heart broken.
Or my arms, if Virginia's scowl is any indication. Thankfully, I realize it isn't aimed at me, but the Donald walking up through the hall. "What are you doing here?" she asks brusquely.
"The Giant Amoeba got into our bathrooms too," he says flatly. "I've been scrabbling in the dirt all day, and I need a bath," he says, before pushing his way between us and into the bathroom.
"I thought you said it was bad form to work today," I say, and Virginia snorts.
"Like Donald ever paid attention to rules," she frowns, and I decide to defuse the situation.
"How about that present you got him?" I ask. "This would be a great time to give it to him!"
And that was how Donald came out to face both of us, Virginia holding his present. "Holy- you actually remembered my birthday!" he says.
"Mary helped me pick it," she says, turning to me with a smug grin. I wasn't there when she actually picked out her present- what if she got him something nasty?
There, safe from any surprise exploding whoopee cushion-related fallout! "Anyway," I add, "I need to get going- Dark Dance waiting and all that!" I tell them before speeding off to leave a slightly frowning Virginia and bewildered Donald in my wake. It's already late; I haven't even reached the gardens yet and it's already getting dark.
In the distance, I hear the sound of drums, like a heartbeat, a sound only matched by the sound of my own heartbeat when someone catches me by the shoulder.
"Oh thank goodness," he sighs in relief. "Thank goodness I found you; I feared that it would be too late."
Aaand there goes my eyebrow, right up to the stratosphere. "Seriously, Damien? 'Too late'? Nice to see whatever fatal disease you've got hasn't spread to your drama glands."
"Heh, this is what I missed about you, Mary," Damien says, his cocky grin remaining for but a moment before it disappears. "Unfortunately, it isn't the only thing I've missed about you," he says quietly. "Look, Mary, This is hard for me to say, but..."
"Then why did you say it?" I ask him, the words running out of my mouth before my brain's put its shoes on.
"Because... because I was afraid of you," he says, running his hand through his hands and walking to a nearby window. "Afraid of what you were becoming."
"I beg your pardon? 'What I am becoming'?" I ask incredulously. "I haven't been bitten by any radioactive bats lately, if that's what you're afraid of."
"No, no, nothing so fanciful," he jokes back, before fixing me with sad eyes. "Mary, I know this isn't like me, but I- I really am serious about this, and I'd like you to treat this as such. Yeah, I know- it surprised me too. You surprised me."
"...all right," I reply, suddenly afraid of what he was going to say, and determined to hear what it was come hell or high water.
"And it's true," he continues. "All of it. I don't expect you to understand, Mary. You- you're filled with light. You're bright and fresh and honest and enthusiastic and- and that's what I like about you. And that frightens me more than you can imagine."
"Why?" I ask. "Look, Damien, I know you asked me to be serious about this, but the way you're making it sound, it's like you're a vampire who's repelled by fun."
He snorts. "Maybe I am, Mary, maybe I am. I've got a lot of dark things in my life, things I can't talk to anyone about."
"It used to be so easy," he adds quietly. "It was supposed to be easy."
"C-come on, Damien," I stutter. "You make it sound like we were dating."
"I started to feel like I could trust you- and that scared me," he says. "You're not like the other girls I've been with, Mary, not like any other girl here at Iris. Watching you explore your new world here at school, starry eyed, yet sharp tongued..."
He fixes me with his gaze. "It makes me happy. And that's dangerous- dangerous to both of us."
"Um, why?" I ask. "Stop sounding like a Goth's fortune cookie, Damien, and give me some straight answers!"
"I can't!" he yells, before taking a few deep breaths and calming down, leaning against a window as he continues. "Look, it's...I've never felt the same way about anyone the way I feel about you, and you have no idea how much that scares me."
"Yeah, you said," I sigh, leaning on the wall next to him. He flinches a bit, but calms down a moment later.
"I lied to you," he mumbles. "I lied to you, and then I tried to stay away. I thought it'd make my feelings for you die down, but I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder."
Presents? Like- "That apple pie was from you?" I ask, and he nods.
He laughs a short, bitter laugh. "You should have seen the look on everyone's faces when I came along. Anyway, did you like it?"
"It was good, to be honest, but getting mysterious presents is kind of creepy," I tell him.
"Sorry," he grins, "but I got the distinct vibe that if Virginia found out, you'd have been in a world of trouble. Rumour has it she doesn't like me much."
"To say the least," I sigh. "Well, at least you've graduated from 'mysterious presents'-creepy to 'detective stalker'-creepy."
"I'll take that as a compliment," he says, bowing. But the moment of familiar levity passes by all too quickly, and he looks at me again.
"I'd like for us to be friends again, if that's all right with you," he says.
"Friends," I state cautiously.
"Friends," he says firmly. "At least for now."
"I thought you were afraid of... of going any further," I say, unwilling to admit that maybe I was too.
"Gotta face your fears, you know," he laughs bitterly. "Besides, look at me! I look like a Damien ought to look- I can't possibly be afraid of a pretty girl with pretty pink princess hair."
"It's genetic, you goof," I chide him gently.
"If you say so- Princess," he smirks. Just as before, it lasts as long as a dewdrop in the midday Sahara. "So... friends?"
And there you have it, goons! Only two choices for this one!
What was in that box we helped Virginia buy?
- Something musical?
- A toy?
- A comic book?
- A figurine?
- A banana?
And will we continue to be friends with Damien?
- Of course we can!
- We need to build trust first!
- Give the Blue Meanie the finger!
Voting ends in 25 hours at 1200 GMT, August 3rd 2012!