Weird: Book of Secrets, Chapter XIX [part ii]

The Easy Part Is Almost Done…

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27 of March 2021 – 1:25 AM

JETT

Zander, Deandrae, and I were discussing my aptitude with the trombone–I didn’t think I did so bad, but I definitely needed more practice–when I heard Cari talking to some witches in the hallway just beyond our class’s open door.

That’s right–she mentioned that she had to go around and talk to some people, I recalled, my eyes darting over to Zan’s. I knew he could hear them as well; he disassembled his trombone with a blank expression, as if he were distracted. Why’d she need to talk to them again? I don’t remember if she told me before I left…

“I know you aren’t the Towne Coven’s heir,” she said to Douglas, a kid who I saw playing the clarinet not moments before. “But I could really use your help. See, I invoked the Duel of Ardor–”

She was cut off as Alicia–a witch I saw playing the oboe–let out a huge gasp. “You what?! So soon?”

The only thing more confusing than their conversation was Zander’s tense expression. He probably knows what they’re talking about.

“It just feels like something I need to do,” said Cari. She spoke in a tone I was beginning to recognize as her professional voice; she used it whenever she was speaking to older witches, as if she needed them to see her as one of them.

That thought made me frown. Is she not considered one of them?

“I suppose I could consider helping…” Douglas sighed. “Though it depends.”

“On..?”

“On who’s going to your party tonight.”

He knows about the party–?!

I had already returned the trombone I borrowed to the “used” shelf by the professor’s office when I accidentally tripped over my own feet. I nearly ate it, but I managed to catch myself before hitting the floor–but not before I knocked over a row of music stands, all of which fell back like dominoes and filled the entire room with a series of loud bangs. The remaining members of the marching band all gave me their attention–some threw annoyed looks, while others (like Dani and Rina) laughed under their breath–with a few, like Aslan, jogging over to help me fix the stands.

“Thanks, man,” I told the werelion, gracious for his kind heart. I was too embarrassed to pay attention to anything happening outside of my own clumsiness.

We had the stands fixed after a couple of minutes, and I thanked each classmate that helped before meeting Zander at the brass section. He was already standing with his backpack slung over his left shoulder and his smartphone in hand. His expression was grim, as if he were reading bad news, but his thumb didn’t swipe at the screen, and his eyes weren’t focused on anything in particular.

I joined him, grabbing my own bag and listening for Cari; she was still in the hallway, only she was now talking to Max and another witch about the same thing.

“Do you know what they’re talking about?” I asked him under my breath. Most of the other Hunters had left the room, so I felt confident that the Enchanters couldn’t hear me while the few Haunters that stuck around just didn’t care.

He gave me a curt nod. “Cari challenged her entire coven to a series of magick duels, and she’s asking the head of each coven at AOA to teach her how to use their affinity.”

My eyebrows had risen at the idea of Cari in a duel of any sort, only to furrow at the mention of a term I did not know. “Affinity?”

“Each coven focuses on a specific type of magick, and that specific type of magick becomes their affinity,” explained my step-brother, reclaiming his seat. “Your friend Gal’s coven uses plant magick, and that Sage kid uses blood magick.”

I hadn’t ever considered that each coven would specialize in a different style of magick; I guess I thought they all learned as much as they could about all types, like in Harry Potter. “I thought Cari’s coven was supposed to be strong or something. What’s their affinity?”

Zander shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t know, man. I’ve never heard of them having one specialty. According to my dad, the de Ardos do a little of everything.”

I frowned again. “Why would your dad know that?”

“You know how he’s the Hunter Delegate for our district?” When I nodded, he added: “Well, Cari’s mom is the Enchanter Delegate for Spain.”

I blinked. “For Spain. As in, the entire country of Spain?”

“Yeah, bro.”

Since I was busy marveling over all the new information, my stepbrother chuckled and elbowed my arm, urging me to follow him. “C’mon, we can check out some other clubs before Middy, if you want.”

“Yeah, sure.” I can ask Cari and Max more about the duels then. On a curious streak, I blurted out, “Oh, you know Max? He was just in here playing the sax.”

“Yeah, I know him.”

“What’s his coven’s affinity?”

“Same deal as the de Ardos,” he shrugged again. “They do a little of everything.”

Then he surprised me by shining the spotlight on me. “How do you know Max again?”

“From Cari and Ax,” I revealed. “We eat at the same table.”

When Zander’s eyebrows rose in disbelief, I tacked on my own follow-up. “Why?”

“I’d be careful if I were you, man,” he chuckled. “I mean, my dad’s a politician, so he doesn’t really have anyone he takes orders from, you know? So I don’t have to worry about stuff like that–”

My face twisted up in confusion. “The hell are you saying?”

“Max’s dad and your mom,” he pointed out. “They both work for L.O.R.E. Alfonso Quercini is Ruby’s boss.”

🌚🌛🌓🌔🌝🌖🌗🌜🌚

27 of March 2021 – MID-NIGHT MEAL

CARI

It took almost the entire fifteen-minute trek back outside for Axel and me to explain the importance of the Duel of Ardor to Storm. By the time we came upon the lively basketball court, the werewolf appeared to more or less get the gist.

As promised, Izayah and Rosa were practicing with the rest of the Mad Howlers’ team, and we didn’t have to wait long for Jude and Melusine Jordan, their captain and co-captain, to call for a short break. Whitney, Jett’s friend, was among the players and she jogged over to greet us. After hearing our reason for sticking around, she did us the favor of waving down the Hawkins heir and one of his charges.

Izayah and Omar were blown away by the news of my upcoming trial, and the witch head applauded me for invoking the ancient rite before the first week of school was out. He agreed to meet with his charges later that day and get back to me with the name of my tutor. Omar had floated around the idea of Elyse teaching me, but I managed to convince them that I would feel comfortable with someone more experienced. Then Izayah gave me a lead on Lenora’s whereabouts and walked away.

After they returned to the court, I felt emboldened and approached Rosa Zaldivar on my own–only for her to roll her eyes at me and simply say, “Yeah, no.”

Considering that I really didn’t expect her to agree, I brushed off Rosa’s dismissal and led Axel and Storm to AOA’s auditorium, which was on the first floor of the main building. Storm complained about all the back and forth we were doing–only to clam up when we bumped into Cinnamon and Helena, who had just finished checking out sports clubs together. I updated my old friend on my progress while the werewolves talked–or rather, Cinnamon gushed over the various clubs she visited while her alpha listened mutedly–and it wasn’t until we were at the Intersection that Cinnamon insisted on visiting a different club with Storm. They bid us adieu and begrudgingly followed her as she skipped back to E wing, the tips of their ears flushed pink.

In the auditorium, we caught the tail-end of Lilly’s audition for both the drama club and an upcoming play. Her performance was pretty believable, captivating a few members of the art club that were painting backdrops. I noticed Lenora sitting in the front row with Arion as the two of them judged the auditions, and I waited until Lilly was stepping off the stage before I asked the witch head for a quick word.

Lenora Hollingsworth was just as snobby as ever; she held up the remaining auditions just so she could have Arion present for our conversation. I hadn’t planned on letting the Gossip King in on my announcement, but Axel pointed out sometime after that he would’ve learned the news anyway from any one of the witch heads.

Still, even though I had a pretty good idea of how much Lenora disliked me, her refusal to help was still a blow to my pride.

Lilly joined us on our way out, and by that point, Axel had insisted that we take a break from talking to witch heads and accompany him to the poetry club on the ground level, where we met up with Sage. Feliks was assisting Aslan Theron, another senior and AOA’s only male werelion, in explaining the benefits of joining their small club to the other freshmen gathered around. Whitney’s sister, who I vaguely remembered being called Estelle, was by herself in a corner, writing in a journal. Our group claimed an entire corner of the room for ourselves, and I had barely managed to walk the Bloodworth heir through the ups and downs of my day when the bell rang for Middy.

Less than ten minutes later, I was claiming my seat at our usual table with a sigh. “The night’s already half over, and I haven’t had the chance to check out any clubs…”

“Yeah, well, you haven’t exactly been goofing off,” Axel pointed out as he claimed the seat to my right. He had a blood smoothie in one hand and blood pudding in the other. No, not the sausage–my vampire sibling was carrying a small bowl of chocolate pudding that was made with human blood.

“Then why do I feel like I haven’t accomplished much?” I wondered.

Sage, who was already seated with a salad by the time I was weighing my dessert options, dabbed their mouth with a cloth napkin. “Alright, tell me again: who’s agreed, who’s refused, and who’ve you yet to ask?”

“You, Nini, Arabela, Douglas, Gerardo, Max, and Izayah all said yes,” I relayed, my eyes lowered to my tray as I picked at my stuffed shells. “Lilly also offered, but I really think I should ask Gunnar first. He and Camille are next on my list…”

Finally, I let out a sigh. “And Millicent, Rosa, and Lenora all said no.”

Gal ran to the table and dropped her bag onto the seat beside Sage with a huff. “I can’t believe I didn’t hear the Middy bell! There was so much work to do on the roof…”

Then she threw me an uneasy look. “Hey! Um, so, I have some bad news–but also some good news!… Uh, sorta..?”

I couldn’t help but smile at her forced positivity. “I already know, Gal. Gerardo told me that he’d tutor me.”

“And you’re fine with that?” When I nodded, my guide let out a hefty sigh of relief. “Oh, Goddess! I really thought you’d hate the idea. I’m glad I was wrong.”

“Granted, I’m not thrilled,” I muttered. Helena and Lilly had just arrived, taking up the seats to my left. “But learning from him is better than not learning at all, right?”

“Exactly,” she nodded, before stepping away from her bag. “Okay! I’m gonna go grab some food. See ya in a sec!”

Then she spun around and nearly collided face-first into Max and his tray; he managed to step back in time, dodging the Serafim witch. “Ack! I’m sorry, Max!”

“It’s okay,” he chuckled, easing around her to set his tray of food down beside her intended seat. Then my brother nodded in my direction. “Who else is helping you?”

“Uh, you, Sage, Nini, Arabela, Douglas–” I began recounting, only for Renette and Sofia to rush the table.

“Hey!” Sofia greeted us in a hurry, while Nini advanced on me. “So? Who else is helping you?”

I took a quick breath, my irritation rising. “You. Max. Sage. Arabela. Doug–”

At that moment, Oreste and Diego arrived at the table, sitting to Max’s right. “Cari, I heard you invoked the Duel of Ardor!” remarked Oreste. “And that you’ve been asking the witch heads for help.”

“Who’s agreed to–?” Diego began to ask, only for Jett to pipe up from behind me. “Hey, guys! I was w–”

“UGH!” I grunted out of frustration. “I’ll tell you all, okay? Just sit down so I don’t have to repeat myself!”

There was a brief pause before Jett meekly clarified, “Actually, I was gonna ask if Zan could sit with us…”

I blinked and turned in my seat, my eyes wide as they fell on the two werewolves. Jett and Zander were the same age and height, but that’s about where the similarities ended. Neither boy looked or acted like the other–at least, that was the impression I got from the few times I saw Zander from afar. Now that I had the two teenagers side-by-side, they seemed to be rubbing off on one another. Zander was coming out of his shell a bit more, and seemed a little less aloof, while Jett was more reserved than when he arrived.

“S-Sorry for… That,” I sighed and gestured for them to join us. “Yeah, you can sit here… If we even have any space left.”

“We got space down here,” Diego pointed out, scooching closer to Oreste to make room for our werewolf regular and his plus one. Jett and Zander thanked us and rounded the table to claim those seats just as Galiana returned with a tray of food.

“Wow! Our table was never this full before you enrolled, Cari,” she marveled.

“Which makes me think you all have terrible taste in friends,” I deadpanned. I smiled along as the rest of the group laughed, allowing them to believe that I spoke in jest.

To Be Continued
Updated on Mondays

Photo by Johnny Nguyen on Unsplash

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