17. Things Get Worse
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I was only a little late getting to Potions class, but it was humiliating having everyone stare at me and my new body as I handed over the note and went to sit beside Calci. I'd gone from being a fairly normal boy, on the smaller side, to a small girl, and now I was a bouncy, buxom girl. If I saw a girl looking like me, I wouldn't have been able to take my eyes off of her.

Being attracted to my own reflection wasn't something I was used to.

I also wasn't used to the way my body bounced around. If I had to run, I'd probably get two black eyes. This would really take some getting used to.

Looking around I didn't see Micheal in the class, which was a huge relief. I'd figured he'd be in an advanced class, but there had been a fear in the back of my mind that I might have to actually be in the same classroom as him.  Resisting the urge to smash his face into a desk a few dozen times would have been challenging.

The potions professor came over to me, clicking and ticking with each step. I'd seen clockwork folk before, in pictures and occasionally walking around the city, this was the first time I'd seen one up close. It was naked like all of its people, I'd heard that clothes had a habit of getting stuck in their gears and joints. Bronze made up most of its body, with copper lining the joints, and creating facial details like lips, eyelids, ears and a nose. Shiny mirrors were carefully fitted into the eye sockets. There were small grates and holes on its body, letting me look inside at the complicated system of gears and springs that kept it running.

The big difference between the professor and other clockwork folk were the chemical stains covering its body. It's metal was dulled, pitted and cloudy, with odd patches of colour, ranging from a big purple blotch on its chest to pitch black dots on its right hand and arm. Disturbingly its left arm looked like it had melted at one point and it had never bothered replacing the metal that was weirdly bulged and rippled just above the elbow.

“Greetings, Petra. I am Professor Pyrotechny. You may call me Professor Pyrotechny,” it said in a voice that sounded like a mix of ticks, clangs and the wheezing of very tiny bellows.

“Hi Professor Pyrotechny. Sorry about being late,” I said, trying not to stare at it.

“It is understandable. Please do not do it again though. Today I want you to choose a potion from your alchemy text book, and create it. Choose one that you can do, and can be completed in,” it paused, its eyes glowed brightly for a moment, “thirty minutes.”

“OK,” I said, gulping at the pressure.

“Try not to explode. That will make you lose marks.”


The professor nodded jerkily, then headed off to look at a pot that was letting out a stream of pink and lavender bubbles. As the bubbles popped it smelled like a potpourri shop had vomited.

Calci leaned over, still stirring her pot which looked like it was full of tar. “You should do the balsamus fuliginis, on page ten. It's pretty quick and easy,” she said.

I thanked her while pulling out my text book. Flipping to the page, I quickly read it over. It was a healing salve that used a dangerously large amount of arsenic, but it was pretty easy. Most importantly it could be done in twenty minutes.

Turning on the heater which was built into my small table, I put a flat bottomed glass flask on it to heat up. Opening the cupboard at my feet, it was a lot like magic class, with all the ingredients and tools I'd need for most potions and alchemy, just better organized and with more bottles and less tentacles. Grabbing a bottle labelled wine and a measuring cup, I poured half a cup of the clear liquid into the flask. The smell of alcohol burned my nose and made me feel a little tipsy.

A spoon of thyme came next to help speed up the process. Then a large spoon of arsenic, followed by salt of tartar, mercurius vulgar, charcoal from a yggdrasil tree that was cut and burned during a full moon, and a drop of phoenix bile. After that all I had to do was stir it so it didn't quite boil.

At the twenty minute mark I was feeling pretty good about myself. The potion still smelled foul, but it had turned into a cool looking silvery goop. Carefully straining off the little bit of clear liquid that was beaded on top of the salve, I poured the good stuff into an ebony bowl to cool.

Professor Pyrotechny came over, at some point it had gained a yellow splotch on its head which was letting off a faint red smoke. I decided not ask what had happened, and instead proudly pointed at my bowl.

“I have some balsamus fuliginis ready for you, Professor Pyrotechny.”

“I see that you made it in time. Let us test it.”

My eyes went wide at the thought of testing the still very hot salve. I really hoped I wouldn't be the test subject.

Thankfully the professor took a small glass spoon from a compartment in its leg, and dipped it into the salve. A small strip of paper popped out of the slot that was its mouth. It delicately dabbed a bit of the salve onto the paper and waited patiently.

At first nothing happened. I didn't know if that was good or bad, but it hadn't exploded on contact, so I hoped it was a good sign.

Then the paper began to smoke.

Then it caught fire.

Then it exploded.

Professor Pyrotechny calmly took a rag from a compartment in it's leg and used it to pat out a few flames that clung to its face. Its nose and lips were a little melted, and soot covered it face. It put the cloth back, then looked down at me.

“You used mercurius vulgar, correct?” it asked.

“Uh... yeah,” I squeaked.

It nodded, a little more shakily then before. “The recipe calls for mercurius vitae. Read the labels more carefully next time.”

“OK. I'm really sorry.”

It let out a creaky sigh. “It is fine. I needed to replace my facial features soon, this merely speeds up my schedule.”

“At least you didn't set yourself on fire this time,” Calci said, with a small grin.

“Yeah. But I don't think setting fire to the professor is much better,” I said, mentally watching my future grades plummet into the abyss.


I managed to get to math class early, thanks to it being close to potions, and grabbed a seat in the middle of the class. I was soon joined by several of my friends, including Ivy who I'd barely seen all day.

She sat down beside me, pulled out her math book and proceeded to use it as a pillow.

“Hey Ivy?” I asked very cautiously.

She grunted.

“How did you do on that pass or die test yesterday?” I hadn't heard anything about it and I was really curious. Out of everyone I knew, she was the one I figured would pass it easily.


“How did you fail?”

She shrugged, which looked awkward with her head on the textbook. “Killed lots of things. Got full, decided to go to sleep. Woke up in school, after I got hit by lightning.”

“... Oh.” That sounded like something Ivy would do. “Sorry to hear that.”

Another shrug. “It was tasty. Sleep now. You take notes for me.”

“... OK.” There really wasn't anything else I could say. Taking notes and helping with homework was part of the agreement Ella had made to have Ivy act as our strong girl. And if I said no, Ivy would probably eat me.


Math had been boring, but thankfully uneventful.

My last class of the day was sure to make up for that bit of peace. It was combat class, and I really hoped things would start off nice and easy. There had to be a bunch of students in the class who were beginners like me.

The change room had lockers with our names of them for each of us. I was beside Naomi and Ivy, which made me feel a little bit better. Every other girl in the room looked like they could and happily would kill me. In fact the barbarian girl who wore scalps as everyday attire, was glaring at me while sharpening her sword.

Opening my locker, I wondered if I could lock myself in it until class was over.

In the locker was the class outfit. A thickly padded bra that looked a lot sturdier then the one I was currently wearing, padded underwear, and thick pants and a shirt. Undressing in front of all these girls was embarrassing. I kept my eyes firmly on the floor or in my locker, afraid they'd kill me if I looked around too much.

Moving around, the clothes seemed really light, almost like silk. But when I poked myself it felt like thick padding. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

Closing my locker, I headed for the door and my heart dropped. Almost every girl in the room was strapping on armour and carrying sharp, pointy weapons. Even Naomi had her spear, a small shield and what looked like magical cloth armour over top of her school outfit. Only Ivy and I weren't in proper armour or holding weapons, but Ivy didn't really need either of those.

I was going to die.

The classroom was outside, giving me my first real look at the sun since arriving at Doom Valley. The area was basically a flat cliff overlooking a lava field. Walking over to the waist high wall that would keep us from falling into the lava field, I suspected that this wasn't exactly a very good safety measure.

Walking over to the other side of the cliff, well away from the deadly fall hazard, I looked at the different types of armour and weapons that lined the rock face. There were the usual swords, clubs, maces, bows, darts, spears, elemental guns, staves, energy crystals, shields and similar things. But there were odder things, like a twelve foot tall scythe made for a giant, a massive wooden door, magic powered armour, golem armour, fans in various colours, a metal mask with sharp teeth and a crystal on the forehead, skeletal bird claws that looked like they could be strapped onto a persons hands, and more. I wondered if I could get a club for class, and maybe the golem armour, I'd heard that type of armour was supposed to practically fight for you.

More students had come out by  the time I was done looking. I saw Marcus, a friend of Garth's, come from the boys change room. I was about to go over and say hi, but Ivy came out at the same time. Marcus took one look at her, turned pale and went to hide in the corner. I couldn't really blame him, Ivy had been a little scary when we'd done our tour together.

I went to stand beside Naomi and Ivy, hoping I'd be ignored. It didn't seem to work. A lot of the girls and boys were looking at me, whispering to each other. I'm pretty sure I heard a few people say I didn't look that tough.

I was probably going to die.

Ivy started growling. Following her gaze, I saw the half giant who was a minion of the psychic freak Victor, push through the door. The big guy looked even larger than the first time I saw him. He was carrying a big club and had a few thick pieces of metal chained to his belly, arms and legs. His armour was topped off by a big cauldron sitting upside down on his head, held on by some chains looped under his chin.

Yep. I was definitely going to die.

A very tall, and very broad woman with green skin jumped down from the cliff above us. She landed perfectly on the wall overlooking the lava field. She was wearing a track suit and had a whistle around her neck.

“Listen up you weak little maggots,” the Orc growled, “I'm Sergeant Angel Slayer. It is my job to turn you into lean mean killing machines, and I will see it done or kill you in the attempt.”

A tiny, purple, cat girl, wearing a leotard and squealing with glee, came cartwheeling down the cliff. She hit the ground then somersaulted across the classroom, landing beside Sergeant Angel Slayer.

“This is Ameth, my assistant. She doesn't look like much, but she can't seem to die. No matter how hard I try,” she said.

“Aw, I know you love me!” Ameth said, rubbing her cheek against the teachers hand.

“No I don't,” Sergeant Angel Slayer said. She followed this up by grabbing the cat girls head and twisting it around three-hundred-sixty degrees, making a very loud crack.

Ameth giggled, rolled her head around, and there was the sound of bones snapping back in place. She licked her hand and began fixing her hair.

The teacher rolled her eyes. “So we decided to make her useful. She is the class combat dummy. Each of you will come up here and show me what you've got by hitting her. Don't hold back, or you'll be the test dummy in the next class.”

Ameth skipped to the center of the class, her long tail sticking up behind her. She took a boxing stance, growling and hissing, trying and failing, to look tough.

“Rocks For Brains, you're up,” Sergeant Angel Killer said.

The giant stepped up, smiling happily. “Crush the kitty!” he rumbled.

Raising his club to his shoulder, he swung it surprisingly quickly, like a bat, catching Ameth in the side. The cat girl squealed delightedly as she was flung through the air over the wall and far out into the lava field.

We could only watch as her tiny body hit the lava, bounced for several hundred meters and caught fire.

“WOW! That was fun!” she shouted, before sinking into the lava.

The teacher slapped her forehead and sighed. “I always forget to put up the forcefield. It'll take all evening for her to get back. OK, plan B.”

She went to the wall and took a normal looking belt that was hanging near the top. She looked around the class for a moment before staring straight at me. “Petra come here.”

“Do I have to?” I squeaked.

Her eye twitched, and her muscles tensed up. Before she could do anything violent, I hurriedly went over, shivering and tripping over my feet.

“Put this on,” she said. “You're our new combat dummy. This a resurrection belt. You can be killed, but you'll come back to life ninety-nine times out of a hundred.”

“But I don't want to be a combat dummy!”

An enormous hand grabbed my head. “You can be a combat dummy with a resurrection belt, or a combat dummy without one.”

I put the belt on.

“Ivy, show me what you've got,” Sergeant Angel Slayer said, walking off to the side.

Ivy grew fur, claws and big sharp teeth as she stalked towards me. Her growling echoed off the rocks around us.

“Ivy,” I whimpered, holding my hands up as if that would stop her. “I'm your friend. Remember I'm going to do your math homework for you. So take it easy on me, OK. Please!”

There was a blur and I felt teeth sinking into my throat.


Naomi could only watch in horror as Petra went down. At least it was quick, she thought.

She had to cover her mouth at the sound of chewing, cracking bone and the tearing of meat. Ivy moved back to her spot a minute later, carrying a large bone in her mouth. The werewolf laid down, curled up into a ball and began gnawing on her treat.

“Ivy! How could you?!” Petra yelled.

Their teacher ignored Petra, shouting, “Barbarina the Scalp Hunter, you're turn.”

A bald barbarian girl wearing a large number of scalps whooped with glee and jumped at Petra. There was a splash of blood, a cut off scream, and a howl of joy. Then Barbarina was holding a new scalp above her head.

“I think I'm going to be sick,” Naomi groaned.

“Mike the Knife!”

Naomi and several other girls had to jump back from the spray of blood.

“Louie Head Crusher!”

There was a loud crack.

“Natalie Needles!”

“STAY BACK! I'm war- ACK!”

“Bone Breaker Pete!”

Wincing at the sounds of screams and limbs being turned into pretzels, Naomi really wished that class was over.


“I'm really sorry, Petra. I didn't mean to stab you so hard,” Naomi said.

Washing the large amount of blood off of my body in the change room showers, I glared at her. “I don't care that you did it so hard, but couldn't you have gotten my heart on the first try.“

“I got nervous and missed. I'm sorry!”