Part 27: Wake Up CallsChapter 22: Wake Up Calls
Well, this is a surprise. For one, I wake up in my room- no, wait, the infirmary. For another is the fact that Im waking up at all.
Im alive, and Im not sure I want to be. I feel like crap- and while were on the subject, Im also pissed. Betrayed. Angry- no, furious. And whats worse, I dont know whether its me or Damien Im more frustrated with.
That says, it comes as a relief that I dont have to mull on my anger for long.
Virginia is the next to chime in with About time.
Its okay, Mary, Ellen resumes. Youre safe now.
Yeah, now, Virginia interrupts, wringing her hands. Mary, Damien nearly- nearly ate you! Do you know how scared we were when we saw you on the gym floor?! I told you not to trust him!
I blinked. Wait, how did you know I was in the gym?
Professor Potsdam found you, then called us, Ellen clarified.
What?! Ellen jumps, shocked. No, she didnt!
Okay, fine, Virginia says with a sigh. But she would have if he hadnt run off.
I shake my head, trying to clear it of the cobwebs. Did they duel or something? I ask.
Were not sure, Ellen says. She just said he ran away. Virginia wanted to go after him, Ellen went on, and Virginia nodded emphatically, but we thought getting you here was more important. As far as we know, Damiens gone for good.
And good riddance too, Virginia scowls. What were you thinking?! she repeats, turning back to me. You could have gotten killed!
I know, I reply quietly, my hand over my eyes, and that seems to take all the wind from Virginias sails. God help me, I add, I know.
I feel something press down on my bed, and I turn to see Virginia sitting down next to me. Hey, sorry, she says. I didnt mean to go all I told you so. I mean, yeah, if he had broken up with you or something like that, you bet Id be here saying that, but what happened was thats too much, Mary.
What did happen? I ask. I feel I feel so empty, I tell her and Ellen. It wasnt the right word, like how youd describe the ocean as slightly damp, but I didnt have any other way to say it.
Ellen and Virginia share a Look, before Ellen responds. Mary the nurse said- the nurse said that whatever Damien did, he managed to take a piece of your soul with you.
And how! If you compare the stats from the above picture to the one below:
Youll see that all our Smart and Strong have been lowered by a whopping 10 points each, while our magic skills have been reduced by 5 each- some major drops there. That said, any magic spells we had before still remain- dropping beneath their thresholds doesnt remove them from our spellbook. That said, if we want some higher-level spells, well need to train to their proper levels.
I could barely take it all in- he actually took a part of my soul with him?! I was so stupid, stupid, stupid! I sob through clenched teeth, my equally clenched fist thumping the bed. Im sorry, Virginia- Im sorry I didnt listen!
Hey, its not your fault, Virginia says, but her words of comfort rang hollow. Like I said, hed never gone that far before.
No, just for me, I reply bitterly. Because I was the stupidest one of all.
Shut up, Mary!
Both I and Virginia turned to Ellen, her outburst catching us both by surprise. Its not. Your. Fault, she says slowly, firmly and calmly, though its plainly evident shes about ready to explode. Damien did all this! Hes the bad guy here!
But I trusted him- I begin, but Ellens having none of it.
So what? she replies hotly. Are you blaming yourself for making him a bad guy? Because if thats the case, youre being very silly and I know youre not a silly person, Mary! If he is a bad person, she says, calming down slightly, then its on him, not you.
There is a long moment of silence. wow, Virginia says, breaking it. Never knew you had that in you, Ellen.
I dont like to get angry very often, Ellen admits. It doesnt feel very nice.
I grin. Well, I say, in that case, Im grateful that you got angry over me., Ellen.
Youre welcome, Ellen beams. Anyway, I guess you need your rest, so I and Virginia will be going then.
She and Virginia then say their goodbyes, but while their intentions are noble, I cant say Im fulfilling their expectations. My mind is just so- its not full, but its certainly messy.
Damien hurt me, stole part of my soul, and now hes gone.
He can never hurt me again.
Because hes gone, and Ill never see him again.
What is wrong with me?
The next day, it seems I have another visitor. Professor Potsdam, I say, a waft of her perfume announcing her presence more effectively than any of her greetings.
How are you feeling today, lamb? she asks with genuine concern. Its funny- I always thought of her as somewhat creepy, what with her magic style being the type to get under your skin, her mastery of White Magic, her being all right with necromancy and the like. But now that I think about it, she might just be more subtle than me or Grabiner, and perhaps a lot more tolerant of things than either of us too. That said
Lamb? I ask, through a tired smile.
Well, after last night, I dont think youd like to hear dear any time soon, she says, her own tired smile hinting at a long night. So, how are you?
I turn back to look at the ceiling- well, kind of, my eyes are closed. Sore. Tired. Like I want to just go back to bed. No offence, Professor.
None taken, she says warmly. If it makes you feel better, you have a vacation coming up; more than enough time to recover properly. Dont worry, Ill make sure neither you nor your family are bothered, she adds. Her mouths still smiling, and her tone hasnt changed, but theres something harder, more sinister in her eyes now, and I wonder if I shouldnt have stuck to my original estimation after all.
Wanting to change the subject (and because my curiosity was apparently untouched by Damiens soul theft), I decide to change the subject. What happened last night? I ask.
Potsdam sighs. I was hoping you could tell me, actually, she says. What do you remember? she asks, and I take a deep breath before I answer.
Oh God, this sounds so damned stupid, I curse. But after he said that, I I wanted to save him.
You consented, Professor Potsdam confirms, downfallen .
I nod. I thought I loved him, I tell her. Id have done anything for him. And you know what? I think I did.
Oh, my child, your problems dont just end there, Potsdam says. Under magical law, by giving consent you have effectively absolved him of any crime.
WHAT?! I exclaim. But he- he took part of my soul!
Potsdam fixes me with a flat gaze. Did you know that helping him might cost you your soul?
Well yes, I admit.
And did you put any conditions on that bargain? she asks. Did you demand anything in return?
I shake my head, feeling more and more like the idiot I am. I- I didnt. I trusted him, and said everything he wanted me to say.
Then, Potsdam sighs. By magical law, you made a binding contract, and promised him your soul. That being said, she adds, lightening up, there are always loopholes. For one, while you did make the offer, he didnt complete the ritual. I know a few otherworldly lawyers wholl be able to argue that being a breach of contract.
Otherworldly lawyers? I ask, curious despite my despair.
Potsdam shrugs. Well, lets just say that most lawyers souls are among the few known soul forms to have a life cycle.
I felt it best not to enquire further. What happened last night? I ask. I remember Damien starting the ritual, but blacked out soon after.
I deemed it more important to look after you than go after him, Potsdam goes on. To be honest, Miss Sue, I owe you an apology- I had thought he might do something of the sort, but he had escaped my detection. In the meantime, however, she goes on, now that he is no longer a student, we can alter the wards to exclude cambions. He will not return to trouble you.
But you said he hasnt committed a crime, I say, bewildered.
Not one we can convict yet, true, Potsdam says. But stealing part of a students soul as a result of emotional coercion? That is quite expulsion-worthy- and if that isnt in the school rules, I shall add it! she laughs.
She pats me on the shoulder. Try going about your daily routine, Mary, she says kindly. The sooner you get things to normal with yourself, the sooner things will get to normal all-round. She turns around. Though to be honest, I think that can wait until all your friends have said their greetings.
And good morning to you, Professor, he says, nodding to Potsdam.
To you as well, William, Potsdam says warmly. Ill leave you two for a while- and I have my own work to worry about after all!
She leaves the room, and as William sits down next to me, I wait for the inevitable lecture on how foolish Ive been- a lecture that never comes. Instead, he turns to me and asks Are you okay, Mary? Do you do you need a hug?
yes, I say, and he wraps his arms around me as I have another good, long cry, his hands petting my hair as I cling to his robes.
Its all right, Mary, its okay, he says. It happens to everybody.
I thought I try to say between sobs. I thought he loved me.
I hear him sigh. So did I, he says quietly. Its a long story, he says, when I ask.
Its okay, I tell him. I have time. And- and its nice to know that Im not alone.
He nods, and release me from the embrace, before fetching a chair and reversing it before sitting down on it next to me. All right, he begins. You know I was a Falcon in my freshman year, right? I nod, and he goes on. Well, Damien was my next-door neighbour, and the first person I actually met, someone I didnt know already.
Your sister did mention magical families were close, I tell him, and its his turn to nod.
Thats right, he confirms. Which is why Damien caught my eye, why he stood out so much to me.
I know exactly what you mean, I say ruefully.
Tell me about it, William laughs sadly. I mean, it was so easy to go along with whatever he had planned. He was always the one with the exciting ideas, the interesting stories. And he didnt stop there- the way hed lavish attention on you, like you were the only person in the world
It seemed that William is talking to himself now, yet everything he says rings true for me. We fall into another short silence for a while, before William manages to speak again.
He said hed never seen a boy like me, he says quietly. That hed never seen anyone like me before. He had me wrapped around his little finger. His tones get bitter as he goes on. But after he- after he got what he wanted, he changed. Suddenly, I was nothing to him, and I didnt take it well? Who would, knowing how easily theyd been fooled?
I nodded, his words ringing far too true for comfort. He was playing mind games with you, I muttered. Just like he did with me.
Just like he does with anyone who catches his fancy, William sighs. And just like he wanted, I let it get to me.
In the end, William continues, what it came to was me punching him in the face while a dozen people watched.
He turns to me. You know what made it worse? he asks. He was laughing. Before and after the punch- heck, Id swear he laughed harder after than he did before. This is just the way with him, he adds, placing a hand on my shoulder. He makes people crazy- but I never thought itd go this far.
I shake my head. I dont think anyone did. Virginia certainly didnt, and she had it out for him since the beginning.
William smiles at the mention of his sister. I have Virginia to thank for helping me after the punching incident. Just dont tell her I said that, all right? She doesnt really like to be seen as the soft type.
Oh, I know that, I smile.
And if you need anything, William says, like someone to talk to, or to keep you company, or even as a bodyguard, dont hesitate to ask me or Virginia.
I will, thank you, I tell him, and we share a little chitchat afterwards, but to be honest, Im not sure how much his offer would actually help. Sure, I might need someone to talk to- scratch that, I will- but bodyguards? Company? Right now, all I really want are answers.
I know it sounds silly, but my biggest question is- why am I even here? Professor Potsdam says she found him holding me in the circle, but unless she was specifically following him, it would seem a little too coincidental that shed wander by just as Damien was going to- going to finish the ritual. True, the ritual might have been a slow, involved process, but if that was the case, why would Damien hold it at school of all places?
And furthermore, even if he was pressed for time, we could have just met outside the school that night, or at least somewhere far from the schools buildings. I guess there might have been ley lines or something under the gym, but if that was the case, why build a gym there? Why not some magical laboratory or something? Something just didnt add up.
Or maybe or maybe I wasnt willing to let go of Damien, not even after everything hed done. As I drifted back into sleep, I couldnt tell know whether that thought disturbed or comforted me more.
Seriously, Mary, Virginia said, jumping on her clothes to get them to fit in a chest, you dont have to help out! Get some rest!
And let you do all the work? I ask. Im still feeling weak, to be honest, but over here, working with my friends- that feels a lot better than any amount of lying in bed. Someone has to make sure you two finish by today, I quip.
Glad to see everyones back to normal, Ellen laughs as I dodge Virginias thrown robe. Anyway, are you two going to the play next week?
Play? What play? I ask.
Donalds part of a musical, Virginia says, back to stomping fabric. Theyre having it the night before we have to leave; I might go if I manage to find my change. Push comes to shove- eh, tickets are five bucks, Ill just wait for my allowance to come in. Now, who wants to help me pack?
The next week, I walk back into class with everyone trying their best to be nice to me. Even Angela- at first, it looked like she was going to say something nasty to me, but Isobel was there, and between her and a few other first-years from various Halls giving her death glares, she simply turned up her nose and walked on. Guess the rumour mill was good for something after all.
Red Magic class, however, was a bit of a wash. Damien had drained me of part of my magical abilities, and while Grabiner did try to tone down his exercises, I kind of threw a wrench in his plans by not having any of it. Whatever his reasons, and despite how I still felt about him, Id be damned if I let his theft define who I am- and I am Mary Sue, the best damn witch in the Academy!
Or at least, thats how I felt until I got back to my room.
Note the stress- 68! The Damien event was supposed to add 50 points to Stress immediately, but for some reason it didnt trigger for a bit. All the better for me, that I could fit this scene in Yay for good bugs!
No, no, I tell her. Im still a little tired, I guess.
You didnt do too well in class either, Ellen says, worriedly placing her palm on my forehead. You were leaking Red Magic!
What, really? I ask, surprised. True, Id been focusing more than usual, but leaking Red Magic?
Ellens emphatic nod confirms it. You were concentrating really hard, and sweating, and you had this red glow coming off you, like smoke.
Huh, I guess thats why everyone was looking at me oddly. Oh, is all I manage to say.
Look, Mary, Ellen says gently, just dont work too hard and forget to rest, all right?
Good! You should take it more seriously then, she laughs, before growing a little quieter. Really, Mary, you dont have to go proving yourself to anyone, least of all us.
But I do, I tell her. I have to prove myself to, well , myself. I cant really explain it, I say, but I need to do this, I need to push myself. I feel so weak, and I cant stand it! Its like theres this empty gap inside me that I have to fill back up!
Well, Damien did, uhm Ellen trails off.
He did take part of my soul, yes, I sigh. But that doesnt mean I cant get it back- and if I cant get it back from him, Ill build it back up myself.
But you cant do that if youre tired, Ellen counters, hugging me. Even body builders need to relax once in a while, or theyll pull or tear something.
But- I begin.
No buts, Ellen says firmly. Im your friend, Mary, and I wont let you hurt yourself- not again. Like it or not, you cant do everything. And jso what if Damien's gone? It doesn't mean that you're alone.
Those words echo in my mind though the week, even unto the very end, when we're watching the musical.
In case you haven't figured it out, the musical's referencing this
It kind of ends on a downer, I suppose? I mean, sure, the world is doomed, but everything's so upbeat, I can't help but leave the theatre with a wide grin on my face. I know Ellen and Virginia were somewhat uncomfortable, what with the whole 'Don't make a deal with the devil' theme of the play, but as I assured them later, I lived through my deal. Unlike the play's main character, Serena the librarian, I had friends watching out for me, who'd stuck with me even as I ignored them. And best of all, unlike Serena, they managed to pull me back from the brink, and reminded me of who I am.
I am a witch.
And no lying demon is going to take that away from me.