The Monsters of Blackbriar Academy

September 27, 2017

Chapter I.

 

“I almost died nine times on my way here. Nine!” The orange blob on my floor chirped. The round monster, about the size of a basketball, jiggled like jello as it spoke. Despite its lack of an obvious mouth, it warbled in a musical voice. Two wobbly, fern like antenna waved gently through the air. I yanked another wooden splinter out of its back. Yellow ooze leaked out the monster’s body, and flowed into the gaping wound. It solidified into a layer of delicate skin, as if the wound had never happened.

I dropped the ooze covered splinter onto the floor. It landed on the carpet with a stack of nearly thirty others.

“Alright, all done,” I muttered as I leaned back, “I think that’s the last of them.” I rubbed at my stinging eyes with one hand. I yawned silently as the blob slowly prodded itself with one floppy arm. The clock next to my bed said 2:09 A.M. Silvery moonlight streamed through my windows. It threw giant, unfamiliar shadows on my walls. It had been a pretty rude awakening when the monster, covered in enough splinters that it looked like a porcupine, had scraped through my window.

“Thanks Andrew,” The monster said, “Although, I suppose it’s your fault I ended up like this in the first place.”

“How’s that?” I asked. I scooped up as many of the splinters as I could and plodded over to the trashcan. The first few sticks clattered as I tossed them in. I winced, and gently placed the rest of them in.

“The security around this place is way too tight. I almost died nine times, and that was just by climbing the wall up to your window.”

“Relax, Lux,” I sighed, “The new students just started the Spell Casting class, so they ran out of room to practice. Just wait a few weeks, and they’ll all have fizzled.”

“A few weeks! I can’t just spend a few weeks coopped up in this little room. I’m not like Simon,” Lux yelped.

“Who said you had to stay here?” I muttered, “Just go back home and don’t visit me for a while.”

Lux ignored me as she wobbled over to my bed. She slid around like a slug. A really fast, nimble slug. She crawled up the headboard and perched on my pillow. I winced as she trailed yellow slime over the surface.

“Okay, I’ll stay here for tonight, since you insisted,” Lux said. She nestled further into the depths of my pillow. I shot her a glare, but decided against kicking her off. Once Lux made up her mind, it was impossible to get her to change it. With another sigh, I flopped back on my bed and lay there, feet dangling off the edge.

“You guys need to stop bothering me in the middle of the night,” I said, kicking my feet aimlessly back and forth, “I’m starting to look like a raccoon.”

“Ooh, a raccoon. When was the last time I ate one of those,” Lux mused. She started humming. The melody was beautifully alien.

Sorry, the glowing purple letters appeared in midair above my head. They looked like they were made out of flickering flames. The word hung in the air for a moment, before fading into nothing.

“Oh you’re up,” I said.

“Hi Simon,” Lux chirped.

Simon crawled down from his perch on my ceiling. He hung upside down on the wall as he eyed the two of us.

Simon was pretty big, as far as monsters went. He was about the size of a large dog, but that was where the similarities ended. Shape-wise, he kind of resembled a centipede. He had a long, tube-like body with dozens of jagged legs that stabbed into the plaster. Huge, black plates overlapped to form a hard outer shell. His legs, like the curving spines on his back, were an eerily glowing dark brown. If anything, Simon’s head was even more disconcerting than the rest of him. It was pretty much just a giant eyeball. That was what it seemed like, anyways. The giant, cloudy eye took up almost all of the space on his head. Two nearly transparent, horizontal eyelids slid open and shut. The only other recognizable feature on the monster was his mouth. Four vicious fangs, hairy and curved like a spider’s, dripped saliva that looked like tar.

A long, slight tail curved over his head. Coiled up in this plaited tail was a ragged looking teddy bear. Its fur was faded with patches, and one button eye was bigger than the other. Simon waved the bear around, and glowing words appeared right above its head.

“Hello, Lux, it said, How are you doing?

“Awful. I almost died ten times on my way here,” She replied.

“I thought it was nine,” I said. Lux flicked slime at me, before proceeding to tell Simon all about her overexaggerated adventure. I yawned and closed my eyes. After that, it was only a few minutes before I drifted off to sleep.

 

◉◐◑◉◐◑◉

 

I woke up feeling more tired than I had when I’d gone to sleep. My mouth tasted fuzzy, like something had crawled in there and died. I sat up slowly and stretched out my shoulders. Some time during the night, Simon and Lux must have moved me into a more comfortable position. I was actually laying down on my (albeit slimy) pillow.

“King me,” Lux sang. I blinked a few times in the sunlight and glanced around. Simon and Lux sat on the ground with a checkerboard between them. Where they had gotten that, I had no clue. Simon reached out one nimble leg and flipped over one of their improvised pieces. Instead of real checkers, they were using loose change, scraps of paper, and even gum wrappers. Lux danced back in forth in celebration. Until Simon mopped up her remaining pieces in one move. Then she sagged like a deflated balloon.

Another game? Simon asked hopefully.

“Nah, I think I’ll tag along with Andrew today,” She said, “Playing checkers with you is unhealthy.”

“The Pleiades won’t like that,” I said, “They’re the ones who like coming to school with me.” Oh yeah, I realized as I scratched at my bed-head, I’ve got school today. My clock flashed 6:32 A.M. I slid out of bed with a sigh, knowing that I wouldn’t have time for a shower. Not if I wanted to get breakfast. I skirted around the two monsters, opened my bureau, and rummaged around. I wrenched out my school uniform; a pair of gray pants, a black shirt, and a black blazer The golden letters on the breast pocket said Blackbriar Academy.

Five minutes later, I darted out of my room. My overstuffed backpack was slung over one shoulder, and Lux was perched on the other. She was surprisingly light, even though she clung on with a death grip.

Have a good day, Simon said as I shut the door. I tossed a wave over my shoulder. I trotted down the empty hallway, going past the lines of green doors. The rest of the dorm was just starting to wake up. Other kids stuck their heads outside their rooms, or lined up near the bathrooms. I clattered down three flights of stairs, before emerging into the sunlight. A blast of cool air hit my face. The brisk wind smelled like musty leaves.  My feet clicked against the cobblestones as I darted outside.

Blackbriar Academy was about as big as a small college. It was set up in a general ‘U’ shape, with a giant courtyard in the middle. The main building was a four story brick building built decades ago. The roof was made of green copper, which matched the strands of ivy climbing up the sides. That, and the fact that it was filled with so many complicated passages, nooks, and terraces, had given the building the nickname: The Maze. Besides that, there were five other outbuildings. One contained the research facility, one contained the library, and the others were dedicated to spell casting and various weapons classes.

I made it about two feet before I skidded to a halt. I’d almost run smack into the kid in front of me. The courtyard was completely packed. Kids of all ages jostled each other in some sort of improvised crowd. The boy who I’d almost run into glanced at me, before shoving his way forward. I vaguely recognized him from somewhere. He was pretty big, so I was able to squish through the line after him. Eventually, we made it to the front. The crowd was being pinned back by a few teachers. Just their presence seemed to form an impassable barrier. Kids kept peering down the road, and murmuring to each other. I stood there for a few minutes, shifting from foot to foot, completely confused.

“What’s going on here?” I asked Lux. She gave me a floppy shrug. The big boy next to me turned around.

“Did you forget?” He asked in a bored voice, “Mr. Takagi told us about it. They’re bringing in a giant monster. Apparently it has a huge amount of power, and they’re gonna use it for the Monstrology class.”

I blinked a few times. He’s in my homeroom, I guess, I thought, That’s the only class I have with Mr. Takagi.

“Thanks, um..,” I said, staring at the cobblestone by my feet. I couldn’t remember his name. He didn’t seem to notice, and only gave me a curt nod in return.

“A monster, huh. I wonder what it is. Maybe it’s a Jackalope!” Lux mused.

“Jackalopes aren’t big,” I replied. The kid next to me glanced back. He shot me a sharp, confused look. I didn’t meet his gaze, and just stared past him. He had surprisingly good hearing.

Suddenly, an excited roar went through the crowd. I jumped like a skittish cat, almost throwing Lux off. She aimed a punch at my face, but ended up missing. A few seconds after that, the monster came into view.

It really was huge: about the size of a horse. It was being led by seven members of the M.S.O. (Monster Special Ops). Dressed from head to toe in black, each of them hauled on one of the high tension cords wrapped around the monster. Even so, they were getting dragged around as the creature struggled. A few of them were nearly yanked off their feet. The crowd cheered as they slowly dragged the monster forward.

The monster looked like a mix between a fox and a tiger. His face was very catlike, as was the rest of his sleek body. But his legs were more long and slender, like a fox’s. He had a long, fluffy tail, almost as long as the rest of his body. He was covered in thick, shiny black fur. Electric blue stripes and swirls covered his face, back, and tail. Long, blue tufts tipped the top of his triangular ears.

His two icy blue eyes stared coldly at the people around him. Unlike the rest of his body, which kept twitching nervously, his eyes were calm. Almost too calm. I felt my stomach drop. A shiver ran through my shoulders.

The monster’s voice filtered to my ears. It was making a clicking noise, like the sound of marbles clattering into each other.

“Eighty-eight, click, eighty-nine, click, ninety, click,” The monster whispered. Then it jerked its head violently. One of the men yelped as the cord skidded out of his hands. Blood dripped down from his tattered gloves, but he still managed to recover. The monster let them tug him forward again.

“Ninety-one, click, ninety-two, click,” Like a metronome counting up. It wasn’t quite every second, and there didn’t seem to be a central pattern to it. Then I realized that he was counting feet. Every time the M.S.O. managed to drag him forward one foot, he would count up. I shuddered as he neared one hundred. His eyes had lit up, like a predator just getting sight of its prey. His pupils dilated, turning into pools of blackness rimmed by blue.

“Ninety-eight, click, ninety-nine, click,” The monster continued. I could see his muscles tense, even under the carpet of fur.

“Stop it!” I screamed. I pushed forward, breaking the invisible line that bound everyone else. One of the teachers, a fat lady with wispy silver hair, started towards me. I spun out of the way and darted forwards. The monster turned to look at me. So did everyone else. My back shuddered and twitched with the force of their stares, my face starting to get hot. I didn’t stop moving, though.

The spell I started chanting felt unfamiliar on my tongue. I’d learned it so long ago, I was half afraid I’d forgotten it. But the words came back to me as I went along.

“You who walk in darkness: I see you. You who talk with shadows: I bind you,” I began. As I spoke, I heard the shouts of everyone around me.

“What are you doing?” One of the M.S.O. members, a grossly skinny man, demanded.

“Get back here Andrew!” A teacher yelled from behind me.

“Are you serious?” Lux laughed from up on my shoulder. She jumped off, like a rat bailing out of a sinking ship.

Click-cl?” The monster clicked incredulously. I squeezed my eyes shut and ignored all of them.

“You who wear a cloak of fear: I name you. Your will is mine, and you will obey me!”  I didn’t have to yell the last part. The monster was only a few feet away. The men holding him were completely stunned, and didn’t even try to stop me as I ran past. The monster stared at me in blank amusement. My hand glowed green as I started activating the spell. I reached out to touch the monster’s forehead. My heartbeat roared in my ears.

The monster tried to jerk his head backwards, but I lunged the last few inches. My index finger poked him right between the eyes. For a moment, the whole world glowed green. Exhaustion ripped through my body, almost making me choke on my own spit. A headache set in at my temples. The monsters eyes glowed the same green as mine, and I could feel his will struggling against mine. He really was strong. After what felt like an eternity, we ended up at an impasse. Neither of us moved as we stared each other down.

“Oh? Churr,” This time the monster made a noise like a mix between a laugh and a purr. He sounded bemused.

“Just play along,” I hissed under my breath. I made sure to move my lips as little as possible. My heartbeat throbbed in my ears, and my vision started to crack around the edges.

“Why should I? Click.” The creature asked.

“Because your plan wasn’t going to work. If they think I’ve turned you into my Familiar, they’ll let their guards down. I’ll release you soon enough, so just go with it,” I growled. The monster’s eyes flew wide open. It jumped backwards, or at least tried to. It was still being bound by the ropes and my spell, so it could only manage a little, awkward bird-hop.

“You can, click, understand me?” He stared at me with wide eyes.

“This isn’t playing along,” I muttered, “But yeah, I can.”

“Kid, get out of here!” Another of the M.S.O. members yelled, this one a woman, “This thing’s way too powerful to be a Familiar. Go away!” I gritted my teeth, but held my ground.

“Well, what’ll it be?” I asked, “If you don’t play along, then I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get you out of here.”

The monster fell silent for a bit. I could feel his cold eyes staring at me, weighing my deal. Then he burst out laughing. I stepped back for a moment as the monster exposed fangs like icicles.

“Alright human, churr, I’ll take your deal. Get me out of here, click,” The monster said as the men struggled to maintain control of him. The ropes all over his body started creaking.
    I believed him. Monsters never lie.

“Don’t move,” I told him. Then I picked up one of his massive, blue tinged paws. The claws on each were about as long as my finger, and serrated like a combat knife. Still, the monster let me pick it up, as docile as a horse. And I put it on my head. The monster stiffened, but he still didn’t move. The green light surrounding us faded as I released the spell. We weren’t battling wills anymore, so he was probably my Familiar. At least temporarily.

Gasps rose from all around us. We stayed like that for a moment, before I poked the paw back off my head.

“You can let him go now,” I told the man standing behind me. From what I could see out of the corner of my eye, his mouth had dropped wide open. The M.S.O. agents began to argue.

“It’s a trick!” The angry woman yelled, “Kid, don’t fall for it.”

Another one, a guy who was fascinatingly normal looking, said: “I don’t think so. That monster woulda taken off his head if it were still wild. He must’ve succeeded somehow.”

The argument went back and forth for a while. Some teachers had come closer and were starting to join in. I stared at the ground, fighting back a headache. Finally, one stern voice cut through the crowd.

“We’ll never know unless we try,” The principal shouted. I recognized her, at least. Principal Mandsour was a middle aged lady, with graying hair at the temples. She always seemed to be chewing gum, and wearing sweatpants. The sort of lady you would expect to be a stay at home mom, instead of the leader of a prestigious institute.

Various forms of protest rose up, but the principal waved them down. She smiled and blew a bubble. Pink gum splattered over her face, but she didn’t seem to notice.

“If Andrew thinks he’s got the thing tamed, then we’ve got no choice but to trust him,” she said.

If possible, that drew even more angry shouts. But the principal didn’t take no for an answer. Finally, the argument petered out. The cords binding the monster sagged as the monster tamers let them go. The monster twitched, but he kept his word. He stood still and waited.

“You should probably sit,” I told him, “I’m going to need some help.” He sat down, tail waving above his head like a ribbon. I reached up and started untangling the ropes. I slid one of them off his muzzle, and he started slicing through the ones on his legs. The adults that gathered around me were so tense that it was starting to make me nervous. I kept a careful eye on them.

“Is that the last of them?” I asked as I untied the last rope from the monster’s fluffy tail.

“Yes, click,” The monster replied. He flexed his paws as he stood up. There was a lull in the entire courtyard, as if everyone were holding their breath. With a start, I realized that everybody was still staring at me. My face got hot again, and I could feel sweat between my shoulder blades. The adults, on the other hand, started to relax. I could feel their appraising gazes, and hear their amazed voices. Taming a monster as powerful as this one was nearly impossible, and everyone knew it.

“Well done, Andrew,” The principal announced. She didn’t seem the least bit surprised. She motioned towards me.

“Come on,” She said, “Let’s see about getting that Familiar properly tested.” I started forward, and the adults got out of my way. I avoided the impressed glances of the M.S.O agents, and the shocked silence of the crowd. The monster started padding after me like an obedient dog. Nobody else could see the intelligent gleam in his eyes.

“Are you alright, churr?” The monster asked.

“Yeah, kind of,” I mumbled. I stumbled a bit, and he nudged me back upright with the tip of his muzzle. I was still dazed, but not so dazed as to forget my promise. I whispered the words of the Cancellation spell under my breath:

“Return to darkness, return to shadow, I return your name to you. Take it, and go free.” When I opened my eyes, the monster was still there. Did he not notice?

“Ah, you can leave now,” I said under my breath, “They’ve let their guards down, so you could probably get away.”

“Oh? Click-cl? But you’re an interesting, click, human. I think I’ll stick around for a little bit, click, click.”

“Huh?” I turned around.

“I’ve never met a talking human before, click, and you saved my life, churr, churr. And, I can’t help but feel that I should follow you around. With your power, click, churr, you must not have a boring life.

“..I guess.”

“Plus, you would get in trouble if I, click, click, managed to get away now.”

“Erg,” I muttered.

“Good, then it’s settled, click.”  I couldn’t help but feel that everything was far from settled.

    I came to a stop in front of Principal Mandsour. She gave me a friendly smile, and reached out towards the monster. He stiffened, but I gave him a nod. The principal scratched under his ears, and though he gave a barely noticeable wince, he didn’t bite off her hand.

He’s a good actor, I thought.

Suddenly, scattered applause started ringing through the air. It began gathering momentum, until it was a full-blown roar. The crowd was clapping for me. They could see me, and they were acknowledging it. I jumped as the noise started. Then I made the mistake of glancing at them. Their faces glowed with amazement, admiration, and envy. I felt my stomach twist, and I pinned my gaze back to the ground.

“Um, c-can we go?” I asked. The principal smiled and nodded. We started off towards the school as the teachers began ushering students off to class.

 

◉◐◑◉◐◑◉

 

 

The monster, Principal Mandsour, me, and the seven members of the M.S.O. were walking through the winding halls of The Maze. Wooden floors creaked under our feet. The noise seemed somehow somber. Like it dreaded to break the silence. The monster kept looking at everything, gawking like a tourist. He seemed like he had a million questions, but he wisely kept his mouth shut.

“That was a very showy event,” The principal smiled at me. I flinched as her voice shattered the silence.

“Um, yeah. Sorry about that,” I mumbled.

“Oh, it’s completely fine. In fact, I should be thanking you,” She said.

“Eh?”

“Well, that monster was about to go beserk, right? I only noticed at the last second. If it weren’t for you, we probably would have had a very messy situation on our hands.” She didn’t look the least bit perturbed. It was like she was talking about a family picnic, not the bloody massacre of dozens of people. I suppressed a shudder.

“As if, click,” The monster said, “Why would a magnificent creature like myself, churr, murder a bunch of kiddies, churr?” I ignored him.

“You don’t need to thank me,” I said, “It was a really stupid thing to do.”

“Well, as long as you realize that, too,” The principal grinned and clapped her hands. We’d come to a halt in front of a giant door. The wood was chipped and worn. One corner was completely blackened by soot, and it looked like the claws of something had gouged out an area in the center. I winced as the principal shoved it open. The hinges shrieked like some sort of banshee.

On the other side of the door was a small room. The thick cement walls were covered in complex engravings. I only recognized a few of them as spells, the rest were way too advanced for me to even hope to understand. A long pane of glass covered one wall. It was just as scratched up as the rest of the room, making me think that it was a lot sturdier than it looked. On the other side of it, I could barely see another room.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s the Testing room. A stupid name, I know, but I’m not the one who came up with it. Honestly, if I were someone who was that patently uncreative, I’d probably gouge out my eyes with a spoon and..,” One of the M.S.O. agents cleared his throat, cutting off the principal’s bizarre rant. The monster and I both took a cautious step back.

“Well, anyway, we’re going to need you to stay in this room for a little while,” Principal Mandsour continued, “Only until we can be absolutely sure that the connection is going to hold. I know how strong you are Andrew, so I would have liked to skip this part, but ‘safety comes first,’ so we’re a little stuck.”

She knows I’m strong? What does that mean? I thought. I didn’t have time to ask, because the principal slapped me hard on the back. I stumbled into the room, barely avoiding falling on my face. The monster padded in behind me. He still looked smugly amused as he sniffed around the room. I whirled around to see the door starting to close.

“Uh, wait,” I muttered as I took half a step forwards.

“Don’t worry,” Principal Mandsour smiled, “Me and these boys here will be on the other side of the glass. If anything happens, we’ll come to your rescue as fast as we can.” She threw her arm over the shoulder of one of the one of the M.S.O. agents. Even through his mask, I could see his grimace. Then the door slid shut with a bang.

I sighed and slouched over to a corner. My backpack dropped off my shoulder as I slid to the ground. I pressed my head against my knees and sighed again.

“You sound, click, peeved,” The monster said. He came over and sat down next to me. I could feel a tuft of his fur brushing against my wrist. It tickled, but it was surprisingly soft.

My stomach growled softly.

“I’m hungry,” I said.

“..Me too, click.”

    We were silent for a little while. The ticking and flickering of the fluorescent lighting was starting to drive me crazy.

“I just wanted to have a normal day at school, you know? Now everybody’s going to look at me,” I said out of the blue. The monster clicked a few times, but didn’t say anything. We both fell silent again.

“Maybe I really am a freak,” I whispered. I was really tired. My eyelids kept drooping, and my arm was twitching for no apparent reason. Even if it was for just a little, the Familiar spell had completely drained my reserves.

“Of course you’re a freak, click,” The monster said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. I stiffened.

“You’re a human, churr, who can talk to monsters. And, even though you were pretending otherwise, you didn’t stop me because you knew I was going to kill those Black-masked freaks click, click,” He continued, “You’re a human, click, churr that values monsters. There’s nothing more weird than that.

I lifted my head to look at him. He was laying next to me, paws tucked under him like a cat. He didn’t look at me, which was somehow more comforting. I felt a smile tug the edges of my mouth.

“I’ve never had anyone be so frank about it,” I said with a snicker.

“Well now you have, click.” The silence didn’t feel quite so oppressive now. I relaxed and leaned against the monster’s side. He made a more comfortable backrest than the wall, anyway. I yanked a book from my backpack and flipped it open. If I was going to be here for a while, I might as well not be bored.

“By the way, my name is Grashko,” The monster said, “Since I’m going to be sticking around you for a little while, I might as well introduce myself.” I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye.

“I’m Andrew,” I said finally.

“Nice to meet you Andrew, click, click,” Grashko rasped.

“Yeah, likewise,” I said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from Magic 101; a Guide for the Novice Practitioner; (Page 11):

 

There are three main types of magic that can be utilized against monsters. The first and foremost of these is Combat magic. Spells of this sort can be used to directly damage and even destroy monsters. Combat magic can be further divided into many different sections based on its elemental classification.

 

The second type of magic is Taming magic. Taming magic allows the practitioner to influence the mind of the monster. Many Taming spells involve enslaving the monster’s will, or swaying the creature’s emotions. Some experts in this form of magic have been researching the feasibility of communicating with monsters. However, this goal is completely unreasonable, and no attempts have been successful.

 

The third, and final, form of magic is extremely rare. It is known as Crafting, or Imbuing magic. This form of magic allows the practicer to enchant items with certain abilities. Imbuers are extremely valued among monster hunters. Their abilities make them excellent for defensive and healing spells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

“Here, take this,” Principal Mandsour told me as she thrust a handful of papers at my face. I sat in the overly stuffed couch in her office. The dark brown leather creaked softly as I leaned forward to grab the papers. I glanced through them, but couldn’t quite get my eyes to focus on the black squiggles I assumed were words.

My brain felt like it was wrapped in a layer of industrial strength spray foam. After a few hours of reading, I must’ve fallen asleep in that boring cell. When I’d been woken up by the howling door, the guard had taken me here. I rubbed at the red lines that had been pressed into my skin by Grashko’s fur. The bumps felt unfamiliar, like the marks you get when you sleep on a carpet. I gave up trying to read the papers, and set them in my lap.

“Um, what’s this?” I asked. A yawn split my face apart. The principal grinned at me, and popped the gum bubble she was blowing.

“It’s your new schedule. You’re being transferred to the Honors Class. Congratulations!” She said.

I blinked a few times.

“Oh. Does this mean Grashko and I passed?” I asked.

“Grashko?”

“Ah, the um, monster. You know, the one I tamed,” I forced a tired smile. I felt like a stuttering lawn mower trying to start up.

“What an interesting name,” the principal said, “But yes, it means you passed. That monster turned out quite docile. It didn’t even try to take a bite of you once you passed out. You impressed a lot of people today.”

“Oh.”

“You don’t sound too excited.”

“It’s not that, I’m just a little tired,” I lied. Principal Mandsour jumped. She actually whacked her forehead with her palm. I winced as a red mark appeared on her head. She didn’t seem phased, though.

“Oh, that’s right. What was I thinking? You just expended all that magic, and everything. I’ll go get someone to send up a plate of food for you,” She said. She shoved a pile of papers off her over cluttered desk, and fished around through even more junk. With a grunt of triumph, she managed to yank a phone out of the depths. It was one of those old fashioned, clunky phones with the wind up dials. It was a dark indigo color that reminded me of grape flavored cough medicine for some reason. I watched in stunned silence as she made a call.

“Hello, is this the Chef? Yes? Okay, good. I’d like you to prepare a large helping of whatever you made today, and bring it up to my office,” She said. My stomach growled like a hungry animal, and the principal glanced at me.

“Make that two helpings,” She said as she hung up the phone. A few moments later, as if by magic, a red faced man wearing a black apron sidled in. Judging by all the stains on his clothes, he was one of the cooks. He threw himself through the door, and practically tossed the plates to me. What the..? I started to think. Then Grashko stuck his head through the still ajar door. He was panting, dripping saliva all over the floor. His tail twitched back and forth like a snake.

“Heeeey, Andrew,” He rasped, “Share some of that with me, churr.” The cook yelped and collapsed to the ground. He had a look of pure terror on his face, like someone who thought he was going to be plunged into the depths of hell.

“Don’t torment the staff,” I said. I scooped up a forkful of food, and started snarfing it down. Grashko moaned and lay on the floor.

“Come on, I’m begging,” He whined. I ignored him. My stomach felt like a hollow pit that would never be filled. I didn’t even care that the hamburger was soggy, or that the broccoli was undercooked. I ate so fast, everything just kind of bypassed by tongue on its way to my stomach.

Principal Mandsour helped the shuddering cook past Grashko. The monster didn’t pay him a bit of attention. He kept glaring at me like he was trying to bore a hole in my head. Finally, when I’d stuffed myself as much as possible, I set the tray down on the ground and kicked it towards Grashko. He pounced on my leftovers with a growl. They were gone in about two seconds. What are you, a vacuum cleaner? I thought with a shake of my head.

“Next time, I get my own meal, click,” He muttered as he cleaned off his whiskers.

I strangled back a burp as I picked up the papers again. I skimmed through them, but they said the exact same thing the principal had. I was being transferred to the Honors class. It was kind of legendary; the class that only the best of the best got into. If I was being transferred there, it meant that they recognized that I had immense talent. I felt my stomach drop. I wished that I hadn’t eaten all of that food.

“What’s wrong, click, click? Did you get a cramp, churr?” Grashko asked.

“If you’re going to puke, do it in the trashcan,” The principal said, like it was a perfectly natural thing to say. I took a deep breath and forced a smile.

“I’m fine,” I muttered to myself.

“That’s good. You should go get some rest, anyway. I’m giving you the rest of today, and tomorrow off. You’re going to start class Wednesday, so don’t forget that you’ve been transferred. All the other information is on the sheet,” She said.

I stood up slowly, more than a little stunned. They weren’t even going to give me a week off. The principal started pushing me towards the door.

“Have a good day off,” She smiled. Then she closed the door in my face.

 

◉◐◑◉◐◑◉

 

I finally managed to stumble back to my room. It took me awhile to get through the winding hallways of The Maze. Some kids tried to stop me on the way, but they’d backed off the instant they saw Grashko. It was funny to watch them do a double take when they saw the giant monster padding along behind me. I was actually kind of thankful he was there with me. People were so busy gawking at him, that they nearly forgot about me.

Still, it felt like an eternity before I reached my door. I slumped inside, and collapsed face first on my bed. I stayed like that for a moment, before sighing and flipping onto my side.

“You’re still alive?” Lux yelped, “We were just about to go rescue you.” She was sitting on the floor with a pocket knife gripped in one ‘arm.’ I wondered where she’d gotten it, especially since knives like that were forbidden in school. Her antennae drooped in disappointment.

See, I told you, Simon said. He was perched on my desk with a notebook set in front of him. Despite his words, it looked like he was doodling out spells. He hastily slammed the book shut. I sighed and put a hand over one of my eyes.

“No you didn’t,” Lux protested, “You were just as worried as I was.”

I wasn’t acting nearly as frantic, though, Simon pointed out.

“Gaaah! What’s this behemoth doing here?” Lux had caught sight of Grashko trying to squeeze through the door. He had to crouch, but he was still managing to creep through.

Is this the monster you were talking about? Simon asked. He stiffened as well.

“Yeah,” Lux growled. She flicked out the blade of the pocket knife and started sliding forwards. Grashko batted her gently away, and she splatted into the wall.

“Watch what you’re doing, click, weakling,” He hissed. He finally got all the way into the room. He circled twice, before slumping down on the floor.

“Simon, Lux, this is Grashko. He’s going to be staying with us for a little while, I guess,” I said.

“What?” Lux growled, “You picked up another weird friend? More importantly, is your room gonna be able to fit us all?”

Nice to meet you, Grashko, Simon wrote, Do you like checkers?

“So you, click, both live here, huh? Will I have to pay rent, churr, churr?”  These confusing conversations kept bouncing around the room, but I tuned them out.

“I’m glad you’re all getting along already,” I whispered with a sigh.

 

   

◉◐◑◉◐◑◉

 

“Alright, what about this one?” I asked as I flipped to a random page. I was sitting on my bed, enjoying my only day out of school. Simon glanced over my shoulder. He was clinging upside down to the wall above me.

The Vetala, huh? Simon wrote, Those ones are a myth. Not even monsters can bring the dead back to life.

    “Hmm,” I looked at the picture and flipped to a new page. The spine of the old book, called Rarely Glimpsed Monsters, creaked as I leafed through it.

“What about this one?” I stopped on a picture of a shaggy creature with giant feet.

Sasquatch? That one’s real, Simon said.

“Really?”

Yes, it’s actually a type of parasitic monster. Normally they stick to infecting fish, but on the off chance that an animal imbibes one, they end up warped. Most humans experience extreme swelling of their feet, hair growth, insanity, and eventually death.

“I wonder what parasite monsters sound like,” I muttered. I leafed through the book again.

They are not very intelligent, nor pleasant creatures, Simon wrote. Black ichor dripped from his jaws and splattered to my bed. I flicked it off without looking.

“You should be glad you’ve never met one,” Lux said, “All they talk about is eating.”

“Get off my back, click,” Grashko growled. He was lying on the floor, still half asleep. Lux was sitting on his back, getting yellow slime all over his fur. She ignored his half hearted attempts to shake her off.

“Um, okay. What about a Wolpertinger?” I asked. The picture in the book looked so bizarre, I had to ask.

You pronounced that wrong, Simon said, It’s Wolpertinger. The fact that he was writing it did not help at all with pronunciation.

Those exist too. You’ve met one. Remember Beezle?

I spluttered out a laugh.

“Man, they got this picture totally wrong,” I snorted.

Agreed, Simon wrote.

Grashko crawled to his feet with an explosive yawn. Lux still hung on to his back.

“Do you always wake up so late?” I asked. My clock flashed at 10:54 AM. Grashko shot me a sleepy glare.

“Not usually, click,” He said, “Do you always scream in your sleep, click-cl?”

“Some nights, anyway,” I said with a shrug, “If I do, you can just whack me with your tail, or something.”

You get used to it, eventually, Simon wrote, And if not, we can always gag him. I rolled my eyes.

“Ha, ha, very funny,” I muttered. I went back to flipping through the book.

Grashko’s ears suddenly pricked forward.

Click, click, What’s that?” He asked.

“What’s what?” I asked, “My book?” Simon looked equally as blank.

“No, that sound,” Grashko said. I strained my ears as hard as I could. There was the noise of Grashko’s breathing, the whistle of the wind outside, the creaking of the Dormitory, the sound the water pump made. I didn’t hear anything out of the usual. A few seconds later, a gentle scratching noise reached my ears. It was coming from the ceiling. All of us glanced up, just in time to see my vent clatter open. In a flash of movement, a monster tumbled from the ceiling and landed on my desk.

The thing was about the size of a cat. It resembled a weasel, with a long, ribbon-like body. Its head also looked like a weasel’s, except for its face. That was just a seething mass of what looked like smoke. Vapor flickered into the air and dissipated. Two red pinpricks of light formed the thing’s eyes. The monster was covered in thick scales, the sort that fish have. At the tip of its scaly tail was another head. This one looked in the opposite direction, although it too was only smoke. Four powerful legs with long claws shredded into my Monstrology textbook.

“Ah,” I said as I watched my book turning into long curls of paper. Then the thing crouched and leaped towards me. It flew through the air with a high pitched whistle. I didn’t have time to react. One second it was on my desk, and the next, its vicious claws were inches away from my throat. I flinched backwards, but not fast enough. One of the claws began to nick my throat.

The bang made me jump. It was so loud and sudden, that it took everyone aback. I blinked a few times. The monster had disappeared. I glanced over to my left, and let out a sigh.

The weasel-monster had been shoved into the wall above my bed. A spiderweb of cracks surrounded its body. The main head had been shoved through the plaster, and the other one flopped around as it tried to free itself. Lux sat on my bed, staring at it. Yellowish steam rose off her body. I looked from her, to the smoldering burn mark on my carpet, to the hole in my wall.

“You really need to stop wrecking my room,” I sighed. I watched the monster struggling to free itself. Its claws flailed uselessly at the wall. It was totally stuck.

“What are you talking about? I saved your life,” Lux tried to thump her chest, but her stubby arms just kind of flapped aimlessly.

“Thanks, but did you really have to wreck the wall. How am I going to explain this to the Dorm Matron?” I said.

“Just tell her you captured a monster. They’ll probably give you a metal, or something.”

I didn’t bother responding to that.

“What was that all about, click?” Grashko asked. He was standing right next to me. I guess he must have tried to help me too. Lux had just gotten there faster.

“Probably nothing,” I said.

“Huh? You’re, click, click, totally calm after almost getting killed?” A bead of blood rolled down my neck as if to prove his point. I shrugged.

“I took down all the spells around my room. Monsters always duck in here thinking it’s abandoned, and end up freaking out when they see me,” I said.

This is the third time this month, Simon said. He was the only one who hadn’t moved. The strange monster gave up trying to claw its way out, and flopped limp. I watched him for a moment. Then I scooted forward. The head on its tail snarled at me. There was a resigned sort of look on its smoky face. I’m not sure how I could tell, I just got the feeling.

“Stop it, I’m trying to help you,” I told him, “Calm down, or I won’t be able to get you out of there.” I got another feeling the monster was glaring at me. But it didn’t thrash around or try to gouge my hand. I dug my fingers into the drywall around its face, and started peeling it away. Paint and plaster flecked off in my hands. Simon crawled over to help me. It took a while, but finally we managed to dig out enough. The monster yanked its head out of the wall, and tumbled head over head to my bed.

It turned to look at me.

“There, now you’re out,” I said. My hand was covered in a bunch of tiny scratches. One corner of my index finger nail oozed blood. I stuck it in my mouth.

“..You didn’t need to,” The monster muttered sullenly, “But thanks.” He was covered in a layer of white powder. Still, he seemed relatively okay. I shrugged at it a bit.

“It’s fine. Just as long as you don’t attack me again,” I said. I glanced balefully at my wall. Ah, now it’s even wider. Why did Lux have to make such a big hole? That idiot. I’m never going to be able to explain this, I thought.

“I cannot comply with that,” The monster said. His voice was deep and echoey, like he was talking through a cardboard tube. I turned my focus away from the wall.

“What did you say, click, churr?” Grashko asked. He still hadn’t relaxed, unlike Simon and Lux.

“I have orders to assassinate you. I am not to leave until I have accomplished that,” The weasel-monster said. I forced myself not to flinch. Assassinate was an odd word to hear, especially from a monster. And ‘ordered?’ Who could have done something like that? One name popped into my mind, but I shoved it away. It doesn’t matter right now, I thought, focusing back on the monster. His eyes got bigger all of a sudden. His smoky face began to roil even more, like some sort of witch’s’ cauldron. I watched as he readied another leap. Grashko growled from next to me.

“Oh, okay,” I said. The monster paused. I could feel him staring at me.

“What?” He snarled.

“Go ahead. I doubt you can actually kill me, but you can try,” I smiled at him.

“You’re taunting me?” The monster asked incredulously, “I could rip off your face in a heartbeat!”

“You’ve acknowledged me as an equal.”

The weasel-monster was taken aback.

“Huh?”

“You thanked me earlier, and you’re qualifying this as an assassination. That means you’re already thinking of me as an equal.”

“So what?”

“So, everything,” I snapped my fingers, “Sorry.”

With a wordless growl, the monster leaped at me. His claws swiped at my face. Grashko crouched, but I held out my palm to stop him. A second later, he saw why. I didn’t even bother to duck out of the way. The monster missed me by nearly three feet. He slammed into my bedpost, and dropped to the floor. He crawled quickly back to his feet, and leaped again. This time, he managed to slam face first into my carpet. He spat out swears as his thick claws snagged on the wool. Grashko started laughing.

“What did you do to him, churr, churr?” He asked.

“I used a made-up spell. It’s a variation on Taming magic that makes messes with your head. I call it Illusion magic,” I said with a grin, “It’s easier to cast when you mess with your enemy’s morale a bit.” The weasel-monster howled in anger, and charged pell-mell into the door.

“So that’s what all that overconfident talk was about. But seriously, what an uncreative name, click,” Grashko snickered, “If you made it up, I take it you haven’t shared it with anyone, click-cl?”

“Are you kidding me? It’s way too over-powered. Besides, the sort of Taming magic it takes is off the charts. I’m pretty sure there are only a few people who’d be able to use it anyways.” My jaw cracked as I yawned.

“See, it’s already catching up to me. It won’t be long befo..,” My voice cut out mid thought. My mouth flapped uselessly for half a second, before I shut it and shrugged. Then I collapsed onto my side. One of my eyes fell shut, and it took all of my willpower to keep the other one open. Even my bones felt exhausted. Grashko clicked in alarm. Though he was standing right next to me, I could barely hear him.

“Is he alright, click?” He asked.

“Sure,” Lux’s bright voice sounded far away, “He’ll be out for a few hours. That’s what he gets for showing off. You hear me, Andrew! Next time, just leave the small fry to us!”

I let out a lazy giggle.

At least he’s not passing out this time, Simon wrote.

“Okay, just rest,” Lux patted me on the head, “We’ll take care of the monster for you.”

“Don’t kill him,” I managed to murmur.

“Right, right. Simon will erase his memory,” Lux replied. Simon was already approaching the weasel-monster with a piece of paper wrapped up in his tail. I couldn’t really see it since my vision was rapidly turning black, but I knew from experience that it had a spell circle doodled on it. Lux slid over next to him.

“Hey Lug,” She shouted. There was silence in the room, until Grashko realized that she was pointing at him.

Click, Lug?” He spluttered.

“Yeah, you. Take care of Andrew.”

“Hmm? I’d think I’m much more suited to taking care of an assassin than you, click, click. Why should I, click, stay here?”

I couldn’t see what Simon wrote, but whatever it was must have been convincing.

“Fine, I’ll stay, churr. But honestly, I’m not that big, click,” Grashko muttered. He slumped to the ground next to me. I heard the door bang open as Simon and Lux dragged the weasel-monster out.

Churr, churr, Still, I was right,” Grashko said, “You’re like a magnet for trouble, click. It’s almost like you’re one of us, click-cl.”

“One of who?” I said. My brain wasn’t working quite right, yet.

A monster, click,” Grashko’s voice got soft after that, like he was talking to himself, “Who would send an assassin after you, click, click? A talking human is just too interesting to be killed, churr, click.”

“It was probably Pyr,” I muttered.

“Pyr? Who’s, click, that?”

“She’s an underboss in the local monster Syndicate. It’s called Red Shadow,” My voice went all crackly, and I could feel it fading, “She keeps trying to kill me.” My voice trailed away.

Grashko’s icy eyes stared at me in concern. That was the first time I’d seen that expression on his face, or was it? My brain was already wandering away. I smiled at him, gave a brief nod, and passed out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from Rarely Glimpsed Monsters (1965); Page 211:

 

Out of all the rare monsters populating our world, the Wolpertinger is among one of the most elusive. There are very few sightings of this monster reported, and even fewer that can be verified. Many sightings report only a glimpse of this magnificent creature. From these, we have been able to come up with a semi-accurate image of the Wolpertinger.

 

It has the head of a squirrel, the body of a rabbit, and large, curling antlers. In many reports, long claws and webbed feet have been sighted. In some cases, it has been seen to have a rooster’s tail, while others seem to see the tail of a monkey. In any case, it is a relatively small monster, at a maximum of 12 inches in length.

 

Habitat: Forests, swamplands.

 

Diet: Beetles, mosquitoes, and likely fish.

 

Colors: Range from red, purple, brown, and blue.

 

 

On a separate note, there are a few museums claiming to have a taxidermy model of what appears to be a Wolpertinger. Experts have determined these to likely be fakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

“What is that? Click?” Grashko asked as he darted across the field. I ambled along behind him. He was standing in front of a spell circle etched into the ground. It was huge, and surrounded a dark hole in the ground. Seething shadows slithered in and out, like the tentacles of some interdimensional octopus. Every time one of the tentacles brushed against the spell circle, red and yellow sparks sent it shuddering back.

“That’s Crash. He got sealed underground a while ago,” I said.

“You know this one too, click, click?”  Grashko laughed.

    “Yeah. He’s not much of a talker, but he loves to eat raw bread dough.”

“Hmm.., click-cl,” Grashko peeled away from the hole to follow me. He kept looking everywhere, like some sort of wide-eyed tourist.

“What’s that?” He asked again. I rolled my eyes, but glanced in the way that he was looking.

The meadow surrounding Blackbriar Academy was nearly two miles wide. I stared over the flat plains of crunchy, brown grass, to the place where the forest rose up. The transition between the two was so sudden, it looked like a barrier of trees. Dark branches raked the air. Even from here, it was obvious how tall the trees were. They loomed above everything else like a crooked colossus.

“That’s Blackbriar forest,” I said.

“Can I eat it, churr?”

“Um…,” I blinked a few times.

“Of course not, that would give Monster a tummy-ache,” A voice snickered from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder, and shot the monsters a vague smile.

“Oh, you guys are here,” I said.

The three monsters clinging to my backpack smiled smugly back. On a whole, they kind of resembled voodoo dolls. They were each about a foot tall, and all had the same primitive, human look. All three were made of a dark brown, burlap looking material. They all had very flexible limbs, and square heads that could rotate all the way around. They all moved in strange, flowing steps, like a tree waving in the wind.

The three each had their own individuality, though. One of them was bigger than the others, with larger arms, and a thicker body. It had two coal black eyes that looked like a cross, and a single slash for a mouth.  The second one was smaller and thinner than the others, with a lighter colored skin. Long, willow-like, green hair flowed from its head. It had two, wide blue eyes that looked creepily human. This one’s mouth was stitched firmly shut. The final monster was medium sized, with a featureless face. The only thing on its head was a glowing purple circle in the middle of its forehead. The lack of eyes and a mouth made this one the most terrifying of all.

They all talked with one voice. It was soft and whispery, and sounded both male and female at the same time.

Grashko seemed a lot more startled than I was. He jumped, and shot them a glare.

Click, Who are you?”

“They’re the Pleiades,” I said with a vague wave.

“We are the Pleiades,” They said.

“More friends of yours, churr, click?” Grashko murmured thoughtfully, “You have quite a few, click.”

“I guess.”

We continued ambling across the field. The wind whipped all around us, buffeting my clothes. It shrieked like a rusty bike.

“How far away is this classroom, anyways?” I muttered. I dug my crumpled schedule out of my pocket, and held it in front of my face. The wind crinkled the edges of the paper around my fingers. I squinted to read it against the glare of the sun.

“It says Annex, Room 1,” The Pleiades whispered.

“I know that,” I said, “I just need some better directions. I’m already twenty minutes late. The teacher said to go straight along the path, but I still don’t see any buildings.”  And it wasn’t even a path anymore, just a slightly trampled area of grass. The fact that Grashko kept trotting back and forth made it even more distracting.

“Haven’t you been down here, click?” Grashko asked.

“Only to feed Crash. I don’t usually explore this area,” I said.

“Andrew likes the forest better,” The Pleiades giggled, “He’s so unadventurous. Like a hippo.”

“..Urg,” I growled. I hitched my backpack higher on my back, ignoring the laughter from behind me.

Click, found it!” Grashko yelled from ahead of me. I darted the last few steps to stand next to him. Beneath our feet, the path suddenly fell away. In front of us was a giant, shallow crater, filled with boulders. Right in the center of the crater, was the Annex where the Honors class was held. It was the most mismatched building I’d ever seen. It was small, a single story, with maybe three or four rooms. The roof was made out of dozens of different strips of metal, some corrugated with rust, while others gleamed brightly. The stone walls were patched with wood and cement blocks. An old piece of plywood was nailed up over a broken window.

“I thought this was the class were only really powerful kids went, click, click,” Grashko said, “It looks more like, churr, a home during the Apocalypse.”

I swallowed my doubts and started jogging down the hill. Gravel clattered under my sneakers. I dodged a giant mass of blackened rock that looked like it had exploded from the inside. Grashko leaped from boulder to boulder effortlessly. We both hopped onto the porch at the same time. It groaned ominously under my feet. I nudged open the door, and poked my head inside.

The inside of the building was even shabbier than the outside. The tan tile floors were splattered with mud and other mysterious dark stains. There were nearly a dozen different paint patches on the walls. A crack spiderwebbed through the plaster. The desks were all mismatched. One of them was almost completely covered in circular burn marks. The whiteboard had what looked like claw marks that slashed through the middle.

There was a weird smell in the air. It was acrid, but also slightly sweet. I sneezed as I entered. But that wasn’t the weirdest thing. The classroom was completely empty. There were a few bags piled up near the door, but that was it.

“Is anyone here?” I asked. My voice echoed around the room. I wandered around, trying to figure out where everyone was. Behind me, Grashko managed to squeeze through the door. He glanced around the room, and his nose wrinkled.

“After all that, we came to the wrong place, click,” He snorted. I sighed in reply. I didn’t notice the door until it slammed open. Grashko jumped in surprise, and nearly bowled me over. As I shoved the monster off of me, I glanced at the lady who had barreled in. She was really thin and tall, and her long, gray hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She stared at me blankly for a moment.

“Are you the new kid?” She asked. She had the deep, gravelly voice of a smoker. I nodded. She must be the teacher, I thought.

“Okay,” She said. Then she chucked a paperweight at my face. She really put some speed behind it; the thing whistled loudly through the air. My hands instinctively shot out to try and catch it. The only lucid thought in my mind was, Ah man, this is gonna hurt. Right before it smashed into my palm, the thing just exploded. Blue flames flickered in the air for a moment, before fading into nothing.

I let out an explosive sigh and glanced at Grashko. He made a show of yawning. Electric blue flames flitted off his one outstretched paw.

I didn’t know he could do that, I thought.

“Ha, you really did tame that massive monster. And it’s powerful too,” The lady said. Her voice was laced with anticipation. I realized I was gaping at her with an open mouth, and closed it with a snap.

“Um, what was that for?” I asked.

“Just a little test. Nothing worth getting worked up over,” The lady responded with a wave of her hand. You could have killed me!  nothing ‘nothing’ about it! I thought. Although, it was kind of nice to know that Grashko would try to protect me in such a situation. Judging by the magical flames, he hadn’t really tried too hard yesterday.

“Come with me,” The paperweight-throwing teacher said. She ducked back through the door. I paused for a moment, trying to calm down my heartbeat, before following. On my back, the Pleiades squirmed. I glanced back at them. They were exuding a miasma of smoggy fog. Strands of bloodlust and fury wove their way through the mess. A high pitched whistle, like the sound a kettle makes, started ringing through the air.

“Hmm, what are they doing, click, click?” Grashko asked. Even the teacher looked curious, and she couldn’t hear the noise.

“..Stop being so annoying,” I whispered as I flicked the middle one on the forehead, “I don’t need you to curse everyone who you don’t like.”

“Aw, but she deserves a rash for picking on Andrew,” They whined, “A big, itchy one.” I shrugged.

“Yeah, and that’ll make her hate me. No way,” I whispered back. The Pleiades groaned, but didn’t seem to push it. The teacher glanced back at me. I forced a smile as I pushed my way through the door.

We were back outside again. The ground on this side was just as jagged as it was on the other. It took me a moment to spot the students standing next to one of the giant boulders. There were twelve of them in all. There were a few younger kids, maybe around 10 or 11, but most of them looked my age. They were gathered near a row of targets. There were maybe five dummies, meaning lines had formed at each booth. Bright flashes lit up the air. They must have been Combat magic spells, judging by the crackling noise and the acrid smell. Kids laughed and chatted as they waited their turn. They stopped talking as we drew near.

“Alright everyone, listen up,” The teacher announced. I jumped a little as every gaze fixed on me. Most of them seemed to be smiling at me, or at least not openly hostile. Then they noticed Grashko, and the whole field erupted into excited babble. At least he managed to draw their attention away from me. Having a giant monster following me around was good for at least something. Grashko ignored everyone like some sort of haughty princess.

“This is Andrew, he’s a part of our class from now on,” The teacher announced brusquely. Then she turned to me.

“I’m Tina, this is the rest of the class. You missed the first few minutes, but we’re practicing Combat magic. Go stand in line.” Ah, it’s just basic stuff. But why Combat magic?  I thought, And what’s with her introductions? I’ve never called a teacher by their first name before.

    Still, I wandered off to find a spot in line. I chose one at random. Grashko tried to follow me, but I waved him off. He shot me a grin and wandered off to perch on a boulder.

“Hey,” A girl’s voice said from next to me, “Sorry about our teacher. She’s a bit of an oddball.” I turned to look at her. My first thought was that she resembled a tomato. She had bright red hair, and a red tint to her face. A set of slightly crooked teeth grinned at me.

I went back to staring at the ground.

“My name’s Maya,” She said brightly, “Maya Thornston.” She had an overly peppy voice. And wait, did she say ‘Thornston?’ That didn’t seem right. The Thornston family was famous. They were some of the best Monster Hunters around. Legend had it that one of the previous family heads had decapitated the Mongolian lizard and stuffed it. Apparently the thing was on prominent display somewhere within the family’s mansion.

Why’s she here, though? I wondered, The Thornston’s can just hire tutors, so they don’t need to send their daughter to the Academy. It just seems weird.

“..Likewise” I said instead. I could feel the girl still staring at me. The awkward silence must have gotten to her, because she started chattering again.

“You’re Familiar is awesome. I wish I could get one like that,” She said, “And you’re pretty lucky: you get to do magic on your first day. My first day here, I had to calculate the mass of a swarm of Choke Shrimp. I mean, have you ever tried to weigh Choke Shrimp? I’ll tell you, it’s a pain. Oh look, Elias is up next.”

As she spoke, a boy in her line stepped forward. He had blond hair, wore a pair of thin, wire rimmed glasses, and had a sword sheathed at his waist. His mouth was curled up into a smirk. With a weird flourish, he slid it out of its sheath. The blade was thin and slightly curved. As the boy focused, the blade began to glow bright red. It started humming with power. Red sparks flew off the end and fell to the ground. They melted into the rocks by his feet.

“Ooh, magic,” The Pleiades giggled.

He walked all the way up to the dummy. Most people chose to cast a spell from at least ten feet away, but I guess that swords were an exception. With a yell, the kid stabbed his sword into the target. I half expected it to skitter off, but it actually stabbed through. Like, all the way through. The dummy glowed bright red around the sword, and bits of molten wood began to leak out.

I stared blankly at the target. The wood was melting? That was a new one. With a heave, the glasses kid yanked his sword out. He was sweating and panting, but he raised his sword proudly. The dummy looked like it had exploded from the inside. It had been split in half nearly all the way down. I shuddered as I pictured what that would do to a monster. The teacher went out, tugged the broken target out of the ground, and replaced it with a new one. She jotted down something on a clipboard, and motioned the glasses kid back.

“Nice job, Elias,” A couple of kids called. Elias grinned as he made his way back. He looked so smug that I had the sudden urge to punch him in the eye. It surprised me; I didn’t usually didn’t care enough to get mad at anyone.

“He’s such a show-off, isn’t he?” Maya chirped, “But he does have the skills to back it up.” Her line shuffled forwards, but so did mine.

The next kid who stepped forward in my line was a lot younger. His spells had a lot of power, but they didn’t cause nearly the damage of the other kid’s. He shuffled sheepishly back.

The next kid had similar luck. Then the girl standing in front of me stepped forward. She was Asian, and looked maybe 12 years old. She had her nose buried in a book, and she didn’t even look up as she started chanting her spell. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but it was probably gibberish anyways. Some of the more unique spells had their own language.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Just as I was beginning to wonder if she’d failed, the ground began to rumble. Thick green vines erupted from the earth and began to wind around the dummy. I watched, wide eyed, as they slowly began to squeeze. The target creaked and groaned ominously. With a squelching pop, the whole target was smashed to a pulp. The vines crumbled to dust, and the girl stepped back.

“Nice job, Cleo,” Maya said. The girl ignored her, and kept reading.

“Looks like you’re up next,” Maya said to me, “Just try your best.” I shuffled to the front of the line. A bunch of kids glanced at me. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I got ready. The teacher was replacing my target. While she was there, I caught her attention.

“..Um, excuse me. Do I have to use Combat magic?” I asked quietly.

“No,” The teacher said, “..Is what I would usually say. But it’s your first day, and I’ve already seen how proficient you are in Taming magic. Use Combat magic this time around.”

I shrugged as I stepped forward.

“Honestly, why do I have to do this?” I muttered to myself. The Pleiades crawled up my back. Two of them perched on my shoulders, while the other one sat on my head.

“Yay, Andrew’s doing magic,” They giggled, “We want to see Andrew’s magic. We missed out on the Taming spell, and only heard of it from Lux. Show us some magic.”

“You’re being pretty demanding today,” I said.

“Magic, magic, magic,” The Pleiades hummed. The smallest one tugged on my hair impatiently. I snorted.

“Fine, I’ll hurry.” I began to mentally riffle through every Combat spell I knew. It didn’t take too long. I picked the most powerful one I knew: a spell that grew ice spikes through a target.

“..Okay,” I muttered. Then I cast the spell. Unlike Taming magic, Combat magic didn’t usually need a spoken spell. Only the most complex ones needed anything more than concentration.

I pointed my fingers at the dummy. Its wooden face was shaped into a crude image of a monster. Spells didn’t affect anything that wasn’t related to monsters, so they’d stuck a piece of a monster inside each of the dummies. Some had claws and teeth inside them, while others had whole skeletons. I closed my eyes, and imagined focusing my spell to help that fragment of monster break free of the dummy. That was the least nauseating way to look at it.

Glittering, blue prisms of crystal began to form around my palm. Rainbows of light danced on the ground. Then I released the spell. The ice shards flew through the air, whistling all the while. They shattered against the dummy with a sound like breaking glass. I squinted through the icy mist surrounding the target. The thing was completely unscathed.

Grashko burst out laughing so hard that he fell off his boulder. The Pleiades started giggling too.

“Andrew has such pretty magic,” They whispered, “Pretty, but useless. At least, when he’s trying to fight. Just like a hippo.”

I choked on a laugh.

“Hippos are actually pretty vicious,” I muttered. I started heading back to the end of the line. I could feel the other students staring at me even more. Some of them had openly tittered, but most seemed confused.

“How in the world did you get in this class?” The kid with the glasses laughed, “With skills like that, I’m surprised you even managed to get into this school.”

The Pleiades growled in annoyance. I just ignored the kid. Had he forgotten about Grashko already? Was he an idiot? Maya gave me a confused smile as I passed. I stood at the end of the line and stared at the ground. I quickly zoned out. I wonder what we’re having for dinner tonight? I thought absently. Then the world exploded.

 

The massive fireball rocked the ground. I yelped as the shockwave knocked me down. I tasted dirt and blood, and realized that I’d bit my lip. Panicked screams started coming from all directions as the boulder-field started to get filled by dark smoke. I lay on the ground and coughed. The smoke smelled awful, and it was so thick, I could barely see the ground five feet in front of me. My ears were ringing slightly, so I couldn’t quite hear what the Pleiades were saying.

The smoke was already clearing, though. It wasn’t long before I could open my eyes without tears smarting them. I crawled back up to my feet and glanced around. It didn’t take too much effort to figure out what had happened. In the place where one of the dummies had been, was a five foot deep, smoking crater. And, standing across from it, dazed and blinking, was Maya.

Her face was stained by soot, but I could still see the look of resigned horror as it passed over her face. She collapsed to the ground in a heap.

“Is everyone okay?” The teacher asked. There were nods and yes’s from all around. The teacher nodded briskly.

“Alright, back to work,” She said. The students started forming ragged lines again. Judging by their halfhearted moans, and the way they shrugged off the incident, I guessed it was a pretty regular thing. The Asian girl, who had been in front of me in line, didn’t seem like she had even moved. She was still reading, even though her book looked slightly more tattered than it had before. She glanced at me above the pages, gave me a slight smile, and buried her nose again.

I sighed. None of these kids made any sort of sense.

The teacher dodged around the crater and went over to Maya.

“What happened, click, click?” Grashko asked. I jumped. He was standing right behind me, glancing back and forth. His fur was bristled up on the tail, and he looked like he expected an attack at any minute.

“An explosion. Didn’t you see that?”

“I was asleep, churr,” He said.

“You were laughing at me a minute ago!”

“I fall asleep fast, click.”

I shot him an incredulous glance.

“Whatever,I said. I went to get into line.

“Andrew,” The teacher called. I turned to look at her. She was crouching in the dirt next to Maya. She beckoned me over with one finger. I headed over, dragging my feet through the dust. Grashko padded along behind me.

“I need you to take Maya to the Infirmary,” The teacher told me, “She hurt her wrist. I can’t go myself, and you’re the only one here who absolutely sucks at Combat magic. I doubt I could teach you anything.” She said that last part almost too matter of factly. I nodded, and waited as Maya crawled up to her feet. She was holding her right wrist with her other hand. It was already swelling and turning an ugly shade of greenish brown.

“Let’s go,” She said through gritted teeth. Then she started walking out of the crater. I followed close behind.

“I bet you’re wondering what all that was about,” Maya said after we’d been walking for a while. I could see the school building in the distance. It loomed over the field like a proud giant. I gave a shrug.

“I’ve got a lot of magic, but I can’t really control it well,” She said with a fake smile that didn’t reach her eyes, “I always end up blowing everything up. It’s kind of the reason I got sent to school in the first place.”

I glanced at her now. She was limping; it looked like her wrist wasn’t the only thing that had been hurt.

“..Okay,” I said.

“You don’t say too much, do you?” Maya gave a snort. She didn’t put too much feeling behind it.

“..Not really,” I muttered.

“I’m sorry, you probably think I’m ridiculous. I just met you today. What am I even talking about?”

“..Do you have a concussion?”

“I don’t think so. I’m just tired.”

“..You probably have a concussion.”

“It’s not a concussion!” She snapped. Then she turned to look at me with a gasp.

“Oh crap. I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just, I’m kind of stressed right now. I’m so-o-oo sorry.” She dragged out the syllables on ‘so’ way longer than she needed to. I wasn’t sure what effect she was going for, but the way she said it sounded totally fake.

“What an annoying human, click, click,” Grashko observed from behind me. I found I couldn’t disagree. I shrugged her apology off, and walked further ahead. It had been stupid of me to think I could talk to her.

“..You definitely have a concussion,” I muttered once I was out of hearing range. The Pleiades giggled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from Rarely Glimpsed Monsters (1965); Page 137:

 

The Cresnaught is a type of strange monster that only targets woodpeckers. It does not discriminate by woodpecker species, but will not target any other animal. Because of this, even though it is proven to exist, this monster has been classified as rare. There are few reliable reports of people who have managed to glimpse them in the wild.

 

The Cresnaught is a transparent monster, made of what appears to be haze. Its general shape ranges from a diamond, to a sphere. It is two inches in diameter, and extremely hard to spot. The Cresnaught floats by the head of a woodpecker, letting out a frequency of noise that is only audible to the organism it is targeting.

 

On a separate note, many monstrologists suspect that this monster is the reason that woodpeckers constantly bang their heads against trees. This has yet to be proven by anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

A week later, I was walking back out to the new classroom. The past few days had been completely uneventful. Maya had gotten a brace on her wrist. She didn’t have a concussion, though. After that, she had tried to talk to me again, but I avoided her. I just wasn’t in the mood to talk to another human.

Now, I had almost reached the building when a black cloud descended around me. Glowing black pigeons scattered feathers as they fluttered around my face.

“Good morning,” The whole flock spoke in unison, sounding eerily amused.

“Morning,” I said. I didn’t stop moving forward.

“The sky is very pretty today, isn’t it?” The birds said.

“Yeah, it is,” I lied as always. The monsters were gathered so thick, I couldn’t see anything around me. The sky had been blotted out by ink. Deep within the roiling flock of birds were what looked like flickering storm clouds. A raindrop splashed into my face, and then another and another. I sighed and braced myself to get soaked.

“Out of the way, weaklings,” Lux yelled, “Don’t you have mail to deliver?” The flock of monsters let out a collective sigh, and scattered. My ears popped, and a gust of wind whipped up my hair as the creatures disappeared. I kept staring up at the sky. It was a clear, bright blue.

“What was that, click, churr?” Grashko asked. He had been left outside the swarm. He wasn’t looking too concerned, though. He must have gotten used to seeing me with so many different monsters.

“The Stormflock is still bothering you, I see,” Lux said. She shook and sprayed me with watery slime. I wiped it off with my sleeve.

“You didn’t have to drive them off. It’s not like they do it on purpose,” I mentioned.

“You have to put your foot down with weaklings like them. Otherwise they’ll crawl all over you,” Lux retorted.

I took another step, and my foot landed on a soggy envelope. The plastic wrapped around it was slick with water. I bent down and scooped it up. The envelope was a deep, crimson color. There was nothing on it that suggested who it had been sent from. I didn’t even see a return address. Only my name scrawled across the top in blue ink. I ripped open the plastic wrap, shredded into the envelope, and took out the letter. Grashko and Lux peered curiously over my shoulder.

There were only two words written inside. It said ‘Let’s talk.’ I read it over twice. Then I turned around.

“Grashko, can you burn this?” I asked.

“What, click-cl?” Grashko said.

“It’s fine if you don’t want to. I’d just rather not eat paper so early in the morning.” Grashko blinked at me. Wordlessly, he grabbed the envelope in his mouth. It burst into bright blue flames. He spat the ash back onto the ground. I started walking again.

“Do you, click, know who that was from?” Grashko asked as he bounded up beside me.

“Yeah,” I said, “And I’m not interested. Let’s go.”

Grashko glanced at Lux.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” She said with a shrug. Grashko huffed in annoyance. In a few minutes, we reached the school building. I nudged open the door and ducked inside. The Pleiades were sitting on one of the desks in the back row. I shuffled over to them, dropped my backpack, and slumped into the chair. Grashko sat next to me, and Lux jumped onto the desk.

“It’s the fatso,” The Pleiades hissed as they pointed at Lux.

“What was that?” Lux screeched. They both glared at each other and snarled. I ignored them. Half of the class was already there. The Asian girl who was always reading sat next to me. She was the only who sat anywhere near me. I was pretty sure her name was Cleo. She never made to talk to me, and I was grateful for that.

When the last kid had darted through the door, Tina the-paperweight-chucking-teacher stood up. She clapped her hands to gain our attention.

“Alright,” She said, “Don’t get too comfortable. We’re going out into the field today.” She didn’t sound too excited about it. She leaned back against the whiteboard and rubbed her temples. The class had the opposite response. Some of them openly cheered. Most of them leaped up and formed a ragged line near the door. The Pleiades crawled onto my back first, and made faces at Lux. She growled at them, and hopped onto Grashko with the skills of an acrobat. He didn’t seem to notice.

“Where are we going?” I heard a kid chirp. Tina glanced at him.

“Blackbriar forest. Come on,” She snapped. The class filed out and started towards the woods. I stayed near the back, watching them babble to each other. The forest soon loomed above our heads. We stopped at the very edge. Tina turned to face us, and lit up a cigarette. The kids up front coughed as she blew smoke in their faces.

“Listen up,” She said after taking a drag, “Split up into groups. The younger kids are with me. Just in case you need clarification, there will be two groups of four, and two groups of three. There’s strength in numbers, so you should hope you don’t get the smaller groups.”

With those encouraging words, the teacher let us form groups. I planned to stay in one place until the groups had mostly formed. Maya had other ideas. She grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me behind her. I was so stunned, I didn’t protest. Maya and I came to a halt in front of two other students. One of them was Cleo. The other one was a boy I didn’t recognize. He was tall and muscular, with shaggy, dirty-blond hair. His eyes were bright brown and sparkly. He had a wide, infectious grin on his face. All in all, he reminded me of a golden retriever.

“Alright, I got him,” Maya said, slightly out of breath. She shot me a huge smile.

“Hi, I don’t think we’ve met,” The grinning boy said, “My name’s Trevor. Your Familiar is amazing! Can I pet him?” He started reaching out his hand towards Grashko.

“..I wouldn’t do that,” I said, “He might take off your hand.” Grashko’s ears were plastered against his skull. He bared his fangs and let out a low growl. Trevor drew back his hand.

“That’s so cool,” He said with an even wider grin. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Cleo glanced at me over her book, and gave me a small smile.

“Is everyone ready?” The teacher snapped. She didn’t give anyone time to respond.

“Recently, we’ve discovered elevated levels of monsters in the area. It appears they have been gathering in the woods. Why, or exactly how many is unknown. Our mission is purely reconnaissance. You are to take notes on the number and type of monster you encounter. Any questions?” The teacher snapped. She took another deep drag of her cigarette.

“Why are they sending us?” Maya asked. The teacher stared blankly at her.

“Because we’re awesome,” Elias said. This got a huge laugh from his group. Maya ignored him and stared at the teacher. Tina just shrugged.

“Anything else?” She asked. There were no other takers. The teacher started off into the woods, dragging her group of three behind her. The rest of us followed her in.

“Each group goes a separate way,” Tina snapped, “We meet up back here by two. If you aren’t back by then, we’ll have to send a search party. So don’t be late!”

 

◉◐◑◉◐◑◉

 

Two hours later, my group still hadn’t found any monsters. We kept moving, searching for even a glimpse. But there were no tracks, no glimpses, not even a whiff of magic. All we saw were gnarled trees, and prickly thorns that raked our skin.

“This isn’t working,” Maya grunted as she tried to untangle herself from a pricker bush, “Usually we see at least a dozen monsters by now.”

“It is strange,” Trevor said. He was still smiling, and not looking a little bit tired. He glanced back at me.

“What about you. Can’t you use your Familiar to psychic them out, or something?” He asked.

“..No,” I said.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Trevor said good naturedly. He turned to help Cleo out of a ravine.

“Liar,” The Pleiades whispered in my ear.

“He didn’t ask about you,” I whispered back, “He only asked about Grashko.”

“Only liars make excuses.” The Pleiades laughed. There was a pause as I watched Maya finally get out of the pricker bush. She lunged away, only to smack her forehead against a branch.

“By the way, where are they hiding?” I changed the subject. The Pleiades glowed for a moment as they focused their magic. In a matter of seconds, their eyes snapped open.

“Under you.”

“Huh?” I grunted. Then the ground underneath my feet disappeared. There was a moment when it felt like I was weightless. Then gravity took over, and I plummeted downwards. I heard the screams of my classmates as they plummeted too. After one, painful millisecond, I slammed into the ground at the bottom. I landed on my hands and knees, and rolled as best as I could. The bottom of the hole was made of rock hard clay. My knees and elbows were skinned and bleeding. Dirt and clods of grass rained down on me from above. I coughed away the dust. Grashko landed gracefully next to me.

My classmates were all sprawled on the bottom with me. Cleo had landed in a crouch, with her book held above her head like it was a precious artifact. Trevor lay on his back, stunned and winded. Maya was holding onto her still bandaged wrist, groaning and sneezing.

I glanced upwards. We were at the bottom of a nearly ten foot deep hole. I stared up at the wide circle of light above me.

“Is everyone alright?” Trevor shouted. His voice echoed around the hole.

“..Yeah,” I said back. I crawled up to my feet and dusted myself off as best I could.

“I’m fine,” Cleo said.

“Still intact,” Maya muttered, “Mostly.”

Click, For the record, I was the only one to land on my feet,” Grashko said.

“Where are we?” Trevor asked. He crawled slowly up to his feet too. He was still smiling, though it seemed a little strained at this point. I glanced around the hole as best as I could. I was surrounded by walls of loamy earth on three sides. The fourth side was dominated by a giant tunnel. I peered into the shadowy depths.

“..A tunnel,” I muttered, pointing at it. The monsters were the only ones who heard me. Grashko dropped into a battle ready crouch. His tail lit up with blue fire, throwing flickering shadows on the walls. Lux slid up onto his head and started glowing yellow. The Pleiades sat on my shoulders. They seemed calm, but I could feel them gathering magical energy. The humans were totally oblivious.

“Did we fall into a sinkhole?” Maya mused as she too stood upright, “I mean, I’ve heard of it happening, but nowhere near here. And don’t sinkholes usually end up burying you? We’re totally fine.”

“Not totally fine,” Cleo said. She was shaking dirt out of her book.

“Maybe we can climb out. Did anyone bring any rope?” Trevor asked. I started towards the tunnel, and peeked into the shadowy depths. Grashko was right behind me.

“..Is anyone there?” I called. My voice echoed down the tunnel. The other kids turned to look at me.

“Woah, holy crap!” Trevor yelped. I ventured into the tunnel. It seemed to go on for a while, from what I could see.

“Hey Andrew, what are you doing?” Maya called.

“..Investigating,” I said.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Lux snapped, even though she knew none of them could understand her.

“We shouldn’t go down there. It’s dangerous. Who knows how long it goes on for. We could get caved in, or run out of air and suffocate. There could be deadly gases,” Maya kept talking, but I ignored her and kept walking.

“I think he’s got the right idea. Our mission was reconnaissance, right?” Trevor commented good naturedly. He followed behind me and the monsters. The other two glanced at each other, and followed too. I led the way through the twisty tunnel, fingers dragging over the muddy wall. Grashko’s flame lit up the cavern. The tunnel ceiling was high, and we had plenty of room. The air was strangely fresh, even though we were underground.

“How long are we going to keep walking,” Maya asked after we had gone a while, “I haven’t seen any monsters down here either.”

“Well..” Trevor started, but he never got a chance to finish. We had reached a massive cavern carved out of the earth. Vaulted ceilings soared above our heads. The most striking thing, though, was the number of monsters. There were hundreds of them, crowded over the floor. Small ones, big ones, ugly ones, just-plain-mysterious ones. Monsters cluttered the cave, completely silent. I could feel their eyes on us.

“Whaa-,” I was pretty sure Trevor had said that, but his voice had cracked during the middle of it. The others were stunned into silence. Grashko peeked over my shoulder.

Click, Isn’t this quite the gathering,” He said, “I’ve never seen so many, click, churr, monsters in one place.”

“Told you so,” The Pleiades whispered.

Three spider like monsters jumped out of the tunnel behind us. They latched onto my classmates and began to wrap them up in sticky, red thread. They were turned into grotesque mummies in moments. None of them had even had time to scream. They dropped to the ground without a sound. They weren’t even struggling at all.

“Wait a second,” I said, “Don’t kill them.”

“Don’t worrrrrry,” One of the spider monsters hissed, “Theyyyyyy are unhameddddd. Jusssst assssleeep.”

“Oh,” I muttered, “But, honestly, what’s so important that you had to drag me down here in the middle of the day? I got your letter, I would have come eventually. Now my classmates are going to get suspicious.” Grashko sat down behind me. He looked at his surroundings with wide eyed fascination. Now that they had realized I wasn’t under threat, my friends had relaxed quite a bit.

“Are you sure about that?” A frighteningly deep voice asked. I turned to look at the speaker.

“Yes, Ghoda,” I replied, “I’m sure.” The monster that was floating above me smiled. He was huge, almost twice as big as Grashko. Most of his long body, except for his face and legs, were covered completely by a wavy mane of hair. This dark crimson hair almost resembled kelp. It waved gently on an invisible current. The monster’s face and head resembled that of a horse. Two horse-like ears stuck up from between the strands of his thick forelock. He had two pairs of small, gently curving horns too. His fur was the color of sun bleached bones. His large eyes were silver with specks of green. A grin stretched wide across his face. His front legs were long, and jointed like a human’s arms.

His rear legs were more like that of a horse’s. He had four blue, cloven hooves. Bangles and bells dangled off his ears and wrists. They chimed softly like wind chimes as he moved.

“Hmm,” Ghoda said. He drifted downwards so that his eyes were level with mine.

“It’s nice to see that you’ve made some new friends,” He said, glancing around at the monsters, “And kept some old ones too. Hello again, Pleiades.”

“Hello horsy,” The Pleiades giggled.

“Hold on a second,” Lux snapped, “What’s going on here? How do you know Andrew?”

“Hmm,” Ghoda said, “Well, we met quite a while ago. I saved his life back when he lived with his Aunt. That was, what, six years ago?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Saved his life, click-cl?” Grashko asked.

“Hmm,” Ghoda said, “Yes.”

“What are you doing here, Ghoda?” I said, quickly changing the subject, ”I thought you were all the way across the world.”

“Hmm? Well, I just thought I’d give my favorite human a heads-up before I destroyed his one and only home,” Ghoda blinked lazily, his silver eyes glittering in amusement.

“Come on, you know this isn’t my home,” I said with a shrug, “Why would I care what you do to the Academy?”

“Hmm, didn’t think so,” Ghoda said.

“What’s going on here?” Lux asked, “Who are you? Why are you here? I’m so confused!” Grashko crawled up to his feet with a grin. He had already figured it out, even if Lux hadn’t.

“Hmm, I gathered an army,” Ghoda laughed, gesturing around the cave, “We’re going to fight back against these dastardly humans. Destroying Blackbriar Academy will strike a blow that the humans will be hard pressed to recover from.” The crowd of monsters let out a wall shaking roar. They stamped their feet in a sloppy rhythm.

“And,” Ghoda continued, “I’d like to enlist your help, Andrew.”

“You realize he’s a human, right, churr, churr,” Grashko said, pointing at me.

“Hmm, maybe physically,” Ghoda said, “But mentally, he’s just as much of a monster as the rest of us.”

I sighed, “Look, I don’t want anything to do with your invasion plan. You’re a good friend, Ghoda, but I’m not going to kill anyone for you.”

“I never said that,” Ghoda exclaimed, doing a lazy barrel roll across the cavern, “I just need you to give us access to the school. Open doors, give us information, that sort of thing.”

“You’re still going to kill people?” The Pleiades whispered.

“Hmm? Of course not. What gave you that idea? We’re simply going to use guerilla warfare to turn the building into a smoldering crater. The psychological damage alone should be enough to discourage the monster hunters.” I let out a sigh of relief as Ghoda said that. There had been a part of me, however small, that was concerned that these monsters were going to go on a blood soaked rampage. Ghoda mistook my sigh for reluctance.

“It’s not like you’re attached to this place. Hmm, you have just as much of a reason to hate it as the rest of us,” He said. I blinked a few times. Awful memories surfaced in my mind, before I mentally stamped them back into the shadows.  I turned to my friends.

“What do you guys think? Should I help?”

“I’m all for it, churr, churr,” Grashko said with a predatory smile, “Let’s destroy some monster hunters, click.”

“I still don’t really get it, but that sounds fine to me,” Lux chirped.

“Andrew has already made up his mind,” The Pleiades said, “We only want to help.”

“Okay,” I said, turning to face Ghoda, “I’ll help you guys take down Blackbriar Academy.”

 

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