“But you have to help!” Piper bunched her fists at her sides and glared at the woman Gretchen said was her sister. From what she could see they were nothing alike, and Piper couldn’t figure out why she didn’t seem upset at the news of the arrest. “I can’t get her out, I’m only a kid.”
Vice-Chancellor Murkwood sat behind her desk with a ghost of a smile on her lips. “If my sister has gotten herself arrested, it’s her responsibility to prove her innocence. The Witches Academy obeys the rule of law like any other. My concern is for your welfare. I can barely see you from that draught you’ve taken. It will take hours yet for you to become fully visible.”
“But the elves—”
“There’s nothing to be done at this hour, and I’ll have no more arguments.”
“You didn’t even listen—”
“Enough,” Vice-Chancellor Murkwood snapped. “In the morning, I’ll speak to the elves myself and get a firm account on what has happened. It’s clear the wretches are traumatized. I’ll make sense of their babbling in the clear light of day, and decide how to proceed. In the meantime, it’s your situation we must discuss.”
Piper folded her arms and regretted having come to the academy in the first place. If she’d followed Gretchen to the dungeons, she might have slipped the key from a guard and busted her free.
“As a budding witch, your place is here at the academy. I’ve read the report from Christmas Eve, and it’s clear you’ve come into your powers. Unless you are taught to properly harness the magic inside you, the threat of another incident remains.” She took a deep breath. “Living with my sister is hardly appropriate. You should be here among your peers getting a proper education.”
“Gretchen said I was too young,” Piper protested. “And I like living with her. She teaches me all kinds of things. She even wants me to go to school somewhere in the city. See? She’s trying to do the right the right thing, even if it is a dumb idea.”
“A dumb idea?” Vice-Chancellor Murkwood’s eyebrows knitted together. “You don’t see the value in knowledge?”
“I’d rather learn useful stuff.” Piper chewed her lip, wondering if she was somehow betraying Gretchen by admitting she’d rather learn magic. “I already know how to read and do sums.”
“Then you should be here.” Vice-Chancellor steepled her fingers on her desk.
“Oh yeah?” Anger flared in Piper’s belly. “I saw you in the marketplace. I know you were blackmailing Gretchen into sending me here. She doesn’t have the money to pay for the trouble I caused. It shouldn’t be her problem, it’s me who should have to pay it back. But you used that to get her to do what you wanted.”
The Vice-Chancellor’s jaw dropped, and she was silent for a moment before she gestured for Piper to sit. Grudgingly, Piper dropped onto the velvet upholstered chair with a rigid jaw.
“Members of the academy are charged with resolving magical problems in the kingdom, and act as agents when incidents occur. It was Gretchen’s responsibility to get the plague of krampuses under control.” She spoke carefully, as if trying to impress each word on her. “You were a part of the events, and it remains her responsibility to ensure that no more magical mishaps occur. I only ask that you come to the academy to learn.”
“What if I agree?” Tears welled in Piper’s eyes. “I’ll work off the debt myself. Just so long as you go and save Gretchen from prison.”
The Vice-Chancellor searched her face, and Piper saw emotion in her features. Sniffling, she hoped the woman would agree.
“You could go back to Edgewater on semester breaks, maybe even a weekend or two.” Vice-Chancellor Cordelia offered a half smile. “I can’t make any promises about freeing her until I have all the facts.”
“I can come every day. If she’s released, I can fly with Gretchen to the city every morning and be here on time. I can’t leave Monty behind, and if I’m always here, Gretchen might get lonely. And she promised to teach me how to…” Piper clicked her teeth shut, thinking it wouldn’t be wise to let on about pranking spells.
Vice-Chancellor Cordelia pressed her lips together in a thin line and narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know who Monty is, or what spells my sister is teaching you. But in the morning, we’ll see what we can do.”
“Really?” Piper sprang up from her chair. “You’ll get her out?”
Sighing, the woman across the desk shook her head, at once looking weary and resigned. “I’ll try.”
And so Piper saved the day
And if you’ve read An Elvish Sweatshop, you’ll know they headed down to the magistrates court in the morning to sort out the mess. If you haven’t read it, you can pick up a copy here.
Looking for more bonus content? Head back to the episode page where I keep it all in the one place.