23. Punishment
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Lady Plague sat on the throne of mithril and emerald green spider silk, that filled one entire side of her office, staring down at Blood Wing, Micheal and myself with her pitch black eyes. The dragon skull on her golden sceptre seemed to be growling at us.

Around her were priceless works of art from artists that even I recognized, windows showed scenes of what looked like a golden paradise, and a goblet made of pure orichalcum that filled with a strange fizzing liquid when she picked it up. It was quite different from the side of the room where the three of us were standing.

Well actually I was the only one standing. Blood Wing was hovering in the air and Micheal was sitting on the stone floor clutching his ribs, quietly groaning in pain.

On our side of the room, it was bare stone walls and floor, lit by some soul fire torches, that moaned mournfully as they burned. There were various torture devices lined up against the wall, along with animated chains, and two golems who had ominous reddish black stains covering their hands, arms and chests. To ensure we realized how badly we screwed up, there was a ragged ghost, dressed in a school uniform, rocking in the fetal position while it giggled to itself, muttering something that sounded disturbingly like, “More please. Punish me more!”

“Who would like to speak first?” Lady Plague asked.

For once Blood Wing was quiet. She actually looked a little scared, which I hadn't honestly thought was possible. Micheal groaned more loudly, wincing as he hunched over. I didn't want to say anything either, so I kept my mouth shut.

“Petra, let's begin with you,” the teacher said.

Taking a moment to work some spit around my suddenly dry mouth, I forced myself to look her in the eyes. “You remember how Micheal tricked me on the first day, right?”

She nodded.

“Well I've tried to avoid him, but he keeps coming after me. He even used a potion to transform me again,” I said, gesturing at my breasts and hips. “So I asked Blood Wing for help. She gave me an enchanted stick that when broken would summon her to help me out. When Micheal attacked me again, I used it and she teleported in. Micheal didn't take the hint to leave and the fight broke out.”

Lady Plague turned to Blood Wing. “Why would you help this weak, unimportant girl?”

I felt an insane urge to interrupt and defend myself, then I remembered that Lady Plague was one of the most powerful and evil sorceresses in the world. Interrupting her was probably a very bad idea, that could all too easily become a terminal mistake. Also she was right.

“W-well, Lady Plague,” Blood Wing said, for the first time ever speaking in a near whisper, “this minion is the roommate and friend of Princess Ella. Since I'm good friends with Ella, I thought it was only appropriate to help her, when I heard of her problem. She's just so helpless, like a starving little imp begging for scraps. I couldn't turn her down.”

Once again I kept my mouth shut, as what was left of my self-confidence shrivelled up and died.

“And gaining a favour from Princess Ella never crossed your mind?”

“Well, she will owe me for this. That kind of favour can't be discounted,” the half-fairy admitted.

The teacher nodded once. Her gaze shifted to Micheal. “What do you want to add to this?”

Micheal tried to sit up straight, winced and hunched back down. “I wouldn't call making Petra more attractive an attack. I've already gotten three girls asking for the same treatment. And I wasn't going to hurt her, I just wanted to talk to her. Then Blood Wing came out of nowhere and started attacking me.”

“And the tar around Petra's feet came during the fight?”

“Well,” Micheal paused, probably trying to think about how much he could lie to the teacher. “I didn't want her kicking me while we talked. She's pretty violent.”

Sipping her drink, Lady Plague looked at all of us with contempt. “You have wasted enough of my time. Micheal for attacking Petra and not knowing when to stop pushing your luck, one week detention. See me after last class. If you have armour, I'd recommend wearing it, the zombies can get twitchy during their cleaning.”

The creep turned white in fear. His mouth moved as he tried to say something, but nothing came out. I couldn't resist smiling at seeing him so terrified.

“You are also allowed to miss class for the rest of the day while you get your injuries looked at.” She waved her hand and Micheal disappeared with a small pop.

I suddenly found myself staring at my feet, wondering what my punishment was going to be.

“Blood Wing, you surprised me,” Lady Plague said. “You attacked Micheal with little thought, using brute force to try to overcome his potions and magic. But then you showed a spark of cleverness in overcoming him. You also managed to show a tiny bit of political forethought helping Princess Ella. There may be some hope for you yet. Here is a slip to excuse your lateness, now leave.”

Blood Wing looked shocked, almost dropping the piece of parchment that was as large as she was that appeared in her arms. It looked like she was about to say something, then she shut her mouth and zipped out the door at high speed.

“Petra, you had best become stronger as quickly as you can. You won't always be able to hide behind your roommate, and being connected to the princess also puts a target on your back. Do you understand?” the teacher asked.

I nodded, not wanting to risk saying anything stupid.

“Good. Don't let me see you in this office again, or I'll personally see to it that you either toughen up or die trying. Here is your slip, now go.”

The parchment that appeared in my hand made me jump in surprise. “Thank you!” I squeaked, as I ran for the door.


At lunch everyone wanted to know what had happened. Blood Wing was at her usual table loudly telling her minions and a few friends, or maybe they were just allies, about her spectacular victory and how she'd surprised Lady Plague with her cleverness.

As I was telling them what happened, and not embellishing it, too much, I noticed that Ella was looking quite pleased with herself. She wasn't gloating, that wasn't her style, but she was smiling a little more proudly than usual. She was also occasionally looking straight at Victor who seemed to be shifting nervously in his seat.

Frankly I couldn't blame her, Micheal was my problem and Ella had ensured he wouldn't be a problem for a while, if ever again. Victor, on the other hand, was her problem. He'd openly tried to mind control her and despite his beating, that couldn't be ignored. With Micheal out of the way, he knew we would be coming after him next. So we needed to be even more careful, because his best chance of surviving was taking us out first.

“So your messed up spell saved the day?” Calci asked in disbelief.

“Yeah. Blood Wing captured it and made it bounce around until it was about ready to explode and let Micheal have it,” I said.

“And Lady Plague didn't punish you for disturbing her class?” Naomi asked.

I shook my head. “She just gave Blood Wing and I a warning, and told us to get to class. She didn't even ask many questions. It seemed like she knew everything that had happened and just wanted to see what we had to say.”

“She probably cast a spell to see into the past,” Garth said. “Temporal spells aren't easy, but at her level looking a few minutes into the past would be a piece of cake, and it wouldn't anger Father Time.”

That did make sense, but the thought of messing with time, even in that minor way, made me shiver. Father Time was not someone anyone wanted to mess with.

He was one of the three entities that were above the gods and demons. The other two were Lady Fate and The Mad Immortal Emperor of Arp. Unlike those two, Time usually avoided dealing with the world, but when someone tried to do something stupid, like going back in time or getting a clear look at what the future would hold, he would get involved, and he was very creative in his punishments.

The best known punishment was an entire building that was stuck in a bubble of slow time. The mages who had tried to go back in time, were trapped, moving one second every century, and unable to leave. That was one of the nicer punishments, and it was enough to make most people avoid trying to break time and space.

“How is our second plan going?” Ella asked.

She of course meant our plan to free Victor's mind controlled minions using a potion. There was a chance they wouldn't do anything, they might even like working with Victor. But if his minions were upset about being brainwashed, they would deal with Victor for us, leaving our hands clean when punishments were handed out.

“We're working on it, but it will take a bit of time. It's not exactly easy,” Calci said.

“Good enough. We'll just have to keep being careful, until you're ready. I don't want to risk using Blood Wing for this, even if she'd be willing to do it, and most people want to avoid Victor,” Ella said.

Worried looks went around the table, none of us wanted to risk Blood Wing being controlled by an enemy.

“What has he done to make everyone so worried about him?” I asked.

Clarice nudged her boyfriend Gold with her elbow.

“They're not really afraid of him, but his half-giant, Rocks For Brains,” Gold said. “On the first day Mayhew, an orc that is bigger than almost everyone else, started making fun of Victor. We think Victor used his powers to make Mayhew try to punch him. Rocks hit him over the head with his club. Mayhew was in the infirmary for two days and he doesn't use words with more than one or two syllables anymore.”

“So we need to get rid of his minions, if we want a real chance to get at him,” Ella said.

Calci and I looked nervously at each other, finally realizing just how important our part of the plan was.