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in which the curfew bell rings and your character goes to bed and hopefully, eventually, to sleep
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At 10:55 a bell warns students that they have five minutes to return to their rooms. 


Even the upperclassmen, if caught out far from their rooms by the curfew bell, run. 

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Orion doesn't really want to run but Chloe insists so he goes with her. He checks his whole room but there's nothing there, so he gets in bed and tosses and turns a little and goes to sleep.


Caio has gotten a bit turned around and has to beg a junior for directions but he makes it. He has not disassembled the desk yet. He settles for pulling the drawers out and setting them all over the floor, standing on end so they'll fall over if anything clumsy nudges them.

He sleeps... poorly.


Bella has been in her room since not that long after dinner, taking her desk apart with one of her tactical hair clips (they're very small, she has three). It's disassembled now, and she's had time to request a book and read a chapter and do some writing in her new notebooks and generally wind down for the night. She's already in bed when the bell rings, and it nearly wakes her up, she was so close to falling asleep. That's going to be very annoying, and it wouldn't be safe to sleep with earplugs, either. She eventually calms down from the racing heart of the bell-related startlement, and drops off.


Julia is not caught out away from her room, because she's been holding court in her room for the last while. Her room is glorious. It has Buddhist inscriptions in gold paint and shiny chrome walls almost so polished you can see your reflection, and an actual mirror and a desk lamp and her beautiful beautiful rug and a small shoe rack by the door for her outdoor shoes. She has changed into her slippers. 


"Well," she says to her rug, "I guess it's bedtime! That was a pretty lovely first day, almost entirely because I met you! Before I met you, I thought it was going to be a terrible first day. This place is depressing. But now I feel full of hope. And not even all that tired, because of the time zone difference, but I should probably ignore that and put down my ward and try to sleep. You'll look out for me, won't you? We don't want any mals in here slithering all over you trying to eat me up."


And she runs her finger along the room's perimeter, murmuring in Latin, and when she's done she does it again, because it's not like she's limited to her own fairly pathetic mana reserves, she's using New York's, and they won't mind a little extra use to make a little extra sure her room is as safe as a freshman can make it. Which isn't very, but the school isn't very dangerous yet, either, and she's not going to be the softest target on her floor. 

That was a depressing thought so she does a third run with the ward and then flops on her rug. "I want to go home," she says to it. "I know I'm safer here but at home it was more like - well, you could be hit by a truck, if you cross enough streets you'll eventually be hit by a truck, and here it's like, you're racing around trying to dodge each individual truck which is more stressful? It's worth it, though, to have come here, since otherwise how would I have met you? And I'm not alone, even at night, you're here, and I don't actually know if you're any good against mals but the mals don't know either, and I bet they don't want to find out. Should I do a Buddhist prayer or something? I don't actually know any. 


Buddha, if you're out there listening, please keep me and this rug and the other students in New York and the other students in the Scholomance and all the people in the world safe, but if that's too long a list, start with me and this rug, unless we're already all set, in which case start with Karen and Lissa, they had no idea about all of this and it wouldn't really be fair for them to get eaten on the very first day. And grant me virtues, I don't know what the Buddhist virtues are but I suspect I can use them - uh, patience, no, not that one, absolutely no patience and no fortitude either, grant me...optimism? And diligence? And - what else even is there. Chastity? Don't grant me chastity but like a slow burn romance where he admits he's not actually ready for sex and then we cuddle would be fine. Grant me .....pride, or is that a vice? Grant me the opposite of pride. Wow, I feel like I sound kind of needy here - uh, to be clear, if you grant me things, I will grant you things, I am a New Yorker and I pay my debts and I make people realize what they're capable of and people are safe around me and I can make their lives nice, and safe, and not miserable, and I hope that's what you're about, Buddha, but I will get some books from the library and learn."

And she kisses her rug, and crawls into bed, and watches her fairy-lights twinkle on, and thinks of and adds on some more prayers to Buddha, and cries a little bit for unclear reasons, and gets herself some water from the water cooler and then has to pee and pees into her void floor which she GUESSES has SOME advantages and then eventually falls asleep, not in her bed but on her rug, with her face a little wet and her makeup running.


No mals trouble her in the night.


He's done painting New York girl's walls well before eleven, but Julian has his own home improvements to take care of. He's got a cabinet with doors, which he manages to work off their hinges – he'll figure out how to turn them into shelves later – and spends a couple hours going at his drawers with a multitool. After a couple hours, he's produced a pile of wood bits he's too tired to do anything about and hopefully nowhere to hide.

He hopes all the banging isn't disturbing the kid in 77A. He hopes he won't actually meet the kid in 77A for a good long time, because it's probably going to mess with him the first time someone he knows dies and he really wants a double. 

His most valuable possession is a blanket enchanted to guarantee restful sleep. It doesn't do anything about the dreams. 


Annisa has a shelf, though it's a bit crooked, and a desk nothing can hide behind, and a pile of wood scrap to maybe improve this situation in the morning;.


And Annie has prospective - not allies, allies are for when you're older, but candidates for people to walk to meals with and people to trade with, people who seem like her, competent and careful and maybe a little in over their heads but - but some of them are going to learn to swim in time, right. Annisa's next to Daria who's good at wards and Shannon who's good at healing and one could imagine they make it through freshman year, watching each others' backs, though it does mean she has mixed feelings about Malak's stealth spell that would, specifically, encourage mals to pass her over and go for a neighbor -

She knows she's probably going to die but she doesn't feel like she's probably going to die? She feels like she's going to do well in her classes and be very careful and be stronger by the time things get bad. She has a month or two. You can build a lot of mana in a month or two.


She's been up since very early and she's utterly exhausted and she can only run her brain in miserable circles for so long.


Lucy feels worse pretty much immediately after parting from Wilbur. 

They did some more networking after dinner, but then they did have to go and disassemble her cabinet and his drawers, working together first in her room and then in his. They'll make something with the stuff later, probably shelves but maybe also something Wilbur can use for crafting. 

She dawdles until just before the bell rings before going back to her room; she's alert all the way and nearly tries to zap one of the walls before she bites her tongue. She doesn't have the mana to spare, yet. 

She is even more alert as she makes her way back to her room. She jams the door shut and locks it and relaxes, fractionally. She misses Wilbur. He didn't say much for most of the day, but he was there and it mattered. And her time zone is wrong and she's not even a little bit sleepy yet. But she has to wake up in time for homeroom tomorrow; it may be relatively safe, the first half of the first semester, but that doesn't mean it's safe to not be all there in class and maybe fuck up her homework and--

She forcefully derails that train of thought. She unpacks her bag enough to scrupulously check each nook and cranny for mal infestation. She rearranges the remains of her cabinet to make sure nothing could hide in the shadows cast by individual pieces of wood. 

She sits on the bed, pulls her knees up to her chest, and thinks morose thoughts for a minute, gazing at the lumber. 

Then she shakes herself, and walks over to her void wall. It's supposed to be disturbing, but it feels...comforting, almost. Probably it's the fact that it's the one direction mals can't come at her from. 

It takes some wrangling, but she manages to jam her bed across the void wall, head and foot pressed against the confining walls of her narrow room. At least she's more tired after doing that. 

She gets into bed, curling up with the blanket. "Goodnight," she whispers, drawing her fingers down the boundary of nothingness, and shuts her eyes. 


By the time night rolls around Leander has gone on a supply run to acquire paper and pencils and sticky notes, taken the drawers out of his desk — hasn't disassembled them, they make perfectly good trays for now and maybe in the morning he'll make shelves out of them instead but for now just having them be trays that sit on his desk uncovered and unenclosed is fine.

He wouldn't call himself phenomenal with wards or anything but he got his room warded. (He really hopes Karen's warding spell is working well enough. She doesn't in fact speak Latin.) He's never been very good at sleeping on a schedule and the anxiety and pent-up feelings he hasn't been dealing with all evening only make things worse; he paces around his room for a few minutes, then gives it up as a bad job and sits down and makes a list.

Death rate. How classes work. How homework works. The languages thing. Graduation. (That one is underlined three times.) Tracks and what they mean. Drawer disassembly. It isn't everything that'll be important, but it's a hell of a lot better than no list at all. He looks at the sticky note for a couple of seconds, and then gets up from the desk and turns out the light and tries again to go to bed.

If he were a different person, he might try praying. He is not in fact a different person.

All evening he told himself he wouldn't deal with his feelings and then he didn't in fact deal with his feelings and that was the right move, there were people who did have breakdowns in public on day one and Leander was not one of them and that's a good thing, but it means that now at night in the dark he has nothing to think of but Gaheriet. He still doesn't know what killed his brother— Astor survived and Engravain died in junior year to something that burrowed into his heart and Noelle died in sophomore year after she picked the wrong fight and he has no idea what killed Gaheriet or when, presumably it was less than a year ago since there wasn't word of his death from the UK graduates last year but there wasn't word of him being alive either and all of this comes out to the fact that Leander has no idea how long it's been that he only had one living brother.

He has a good memory. It's been years since the last time he saw Engravain or Noelle or Gaheriet but he remembers their faces perfectly well. He has photos somewhere in the things he hasn't unpacked, wallet sized, barely a few grams each. But he doesn't remember Engravain's voice and he's pretty sure his memory of Noelle's is wrong and it's only a matter of time before the memory of Gaheriet's fades too.

He wonders, vaguely, staring into the void wall and doing his best to cry quietly, whether their parents will even tell any younger children they have about the siblings who didn't make it out.


Karen has a lot of work to do.

She has two very different desks, two very different shelves, a bed, a mostly empty backpack, and her survival pack. First thing's first; she paces the perimeter of her room, holding the edges at the bottom and the top of the room in her head, and says her latin ward and does the motion. Hopefully that means she cast it. Then she does the second ward, the one from Z, and that takes a while and she has to go very slowly to make sure that she's saying things the right number of times, but hopefully she does it right and that works, too.

Then she drags Julia's bookshelf - the big one, that sits flush against the floor grate - and drags it over to sit in front of the door, as close together as she can manage. She thinks about whether this is going to be enough, and then drags one of the desks to sit in front of it, to stabilize it and to provide a little more weight if anything really nasty comes by. She is not under the impression that this could keep out, like, a dragon, or anything. It could probably keep out a zombie for a little bit. And it can probably keep out - what, evil rats? Evil centipedes? pretty well. It can't keep out the Blob, but what are you even supposed to do about the Blob. Nobody has said anything about being terrified about the Blob in particular, so hopefully that in particular is not a concern.

Okay. Focus. Not done yet.

She goes through the backpack and the survival kit and lays out all of her stuff on her desk. She has a lot of stuff, honestly, which is sort of good but also sort of complicated because any of it could develop a personality at any time, and she wants to ensure that her stuff is on the same team as her. She gets to the pokemon cards - she totally forgot she had those - and then thinks, what if it's like having a pokemon team? And she's never tried to handle a pokemon team of this size before, but it helps it feel like something she knows how to do, something she's practiced. She lines up her most valuable and distinctive items. Let's see - lit textbook, splash goggles, frog pencil sharpener, mummy keychain (wow, blast from the past), Game Boy, Game Boy charger, Game Boy games, mirror, rosary, elephant figurine, dragon figurine, flashlight radio, phone, swiss army knife, power bank, travel bidet, lighters, mug, saw, sewing kit, wristwatch, camp stove, pillow, playing cards. That's - twenty-five pokemon, okay, way more than she's ever handled before but not on the face of it impossible to maintain relationships with.

"Okay," she says, addressing her little army of totally normal-looking items. "Um, I don't know if any of you guys are alive yet, and if you are I don't know what you need, so just, uh, move, or something, if you want me to know that you need something."

No one moves.

" - okay, I'm gonna just continue with the announcements, then. We are - in a really dangerous place. A really different place. I don't know very much about it, and I expect that neither do any of you, what with the having just got here and the possibly having just come to life. - I'm Karen, I guess I should introduce myself. Karen Tiu. I've been hanging out with most of you for a while, but you weren't alive then, so I'm going to try not to assume that any of you know me very well. I'm - I think my plan is to post a morse code guide somewhere in my room, so everyone can see it if they're capable of seeing things, and go over the letters with you out loud the first time somebody moves to let me know that they need something, and then maybe some of you will be able to find ways of talking to me and telling me what you need, if you're able to learn it. I'm going to try to make sure that everyone who wants to learn can learn it.

"Aside from that - I think things are going to be really hard from now on. And I'm going to try to take care of all of you, but I'm going to need everybody's help to do that, okay? I'm relying on you guys. I'm going to need everybody's help to make it through this year. And, uh, the three years after that, I guess, if I don't get to go home at any point before graduation, it sounds like I probably don't. So - I'm hoping that we can help each other."

The objects continue not moving. She picks them up from their positions as an assembled audience, giving some of them spots on the bookshelf and putting some of them back in their packs, where they're probably used to being with their friends. She stands the mummy keychain up like it's looking at the door, as if it's really capable of staring monsters into submission just by being an extremely shiny plastic mummy.

She puts the textbook and the swiss army knife on the other desk, and positions the desk close enough to the head of her bed that she can hopefully grab one of them immediately if anything does come through. On a whim, she gets her duct tape out and tapes a bunch of her pokemon cards to the space above her bed, like a bunch of tiny posters, and tapes the St. Michael prayer card up next to them. It bears the image of an angel with a sword, crushing the devil beneath his foot.

And then she's done, out of things to do that need doing, and suddenly she's not a game protagonist or a movie character or the most powerful pawn halfway through a game of Rebuild, she's just a kid who has no idea what's going on, and who sucks at Spanish, and who probably isn't going to see her parents again, ever.


"Beowulf was weak when he was a kid," she says, to the room, and wonders if she's talking to herself or to her textbook, which presumably knows Beowulf because it has the entire poem inside it, although now that she's assumed it she's wondering if that's a safe assumption. - whatever. "It's only in one line, after he goes home, but it's in there. Beowulf was weak as a kid. And then he slew Grendel and Grendel's mother and a dragon, on the way out, and he once swam for like seven days straight while holding a sword and fighting sea monsters the entire time. So it's not - it's not, like, modernity-specific optimism, or anything, to believe that any pokemon can be strong if you train it. That even a kid who looks weak can become really powerful, eventually. Some people have always believed that. So - I'm going to believe it, too."

The room is silent. She's staring up at an electabuzz card, but electabuzz doesn't seem to have anything to say, and she doesn't really know how he'd let her know if he did.

Okay. One more person to talk to.

"God, um - I know I haven't been that good at praying, and stuff. Sorry about that. But - um, I really need some help right now? Uh, I'd explain the whole situation but I guess you already know it, so. Uh - please look out for me? And please look out for everyone else here, too. And - help me to do all of my homework, and keep making friends, and hopefully become strong enough to take care of myself and make it through graduation, even if I can't be strong enough to kill a dragon by myself. And thank you for Julia and for Vernon and for Leander and Lysander and for all of the kids who helped carry the bookshelf in here. I - guess that's everything for now, I'm kind of worn out. Uh. Please be with my parents, they've got to be so upset. Or they will be when they notice I'm gone, if they haven't yet. So just - be with them and comfort them and help them be okay."


There. That's everyone.

Her internal clock is really confused, but given her failure at sleeping last night, it's confused in such a way that it actually seems to still think it's night and that this is a perfectly good time to sleep, so in not that long, she drifts off.


She thinks her affinity is metal, which is wicked cool. One of the spells in the old German book that the creepy black wall gave her is for 'repelling malign spirits most foul', and another is for 'removing elements of metal such as shrapnel and projectiles from organic materiel in a nondestructive manner'. That one is just a sort of lengthy chant of 'fruit of the earth and fruit of stone, brothers in refinement but not nature, be separate now as you once were' and it doesn't seem to take hardly any mana even as it jerks out screws into her hand. It's smooth and easy. Is this how you figure out your affinity?

Her furniture's now converted into a few shelves, for safety. There weren't any mals in it. She dashes back out to ask her neighbors if they want disassembly help, and then to the cafeteria after confirming there's enough people in the halls that she feels safe-ish about it (still watching drains and corners and vents carefully, of course), so long as she gets to keep the screws. She gets a few takers, and now has a small bag of slightly rusty metal that will probably be useful for something.

-What does she have, aside from that. A spellbook that she's having trouble getting all the information out of, but can mostly struggle along by reading out loud with. Some stimulants and some antipsychotics. A bit of paper and a pen begged off a neighbor in exchange for a future favor. Her phone, with the important notes from earlier, the simple shield and force spell, copied out, so it should now be safe to disassemble it. The clothes she's wearring. Six rubies, one of which she thinks she's managed to put mana into when she was doing burpees earlier? A water bottle (full), a switchblade (carefully cleaned with her shirt and a bit of water and praised for making her feel safe), a tiny mirror that she looks at her shaved head pityingly with, and a tube of lipstick she's saving to trade off to a senior who seems well off.

Well. She's still breathing, so it could be worse.


Okay, no slacking off. Especially not the first night. After dinner, she takes apart her desk enough to be sure that nothing's hiding inside it. She gets her stuff out where she can see it. She prays.

She's a lot weaker than she's going to need to be by a month in. She's pretty sure that you can do a lot of training up in a month, if you're serious - she looked up suggested training regimens that real people really do - and she ought to get a huge amount of mana from doing something hard that she isn't any good at. But if she's still the slowest kid around when the serious mals get hungry, she's dead, and nothing will save her, so this is the sort of plan that you can't let yourself abandon halfway through.

In the future she's going to try to exercise in the morning, not in the evening, because exercising sort of wakes you up. Tonight, though, she needs more mana to protect herself. She doesn't have a good weapon, so when she's inside her room, her only real option is mana, and she doesn't want to leave that until morning. She has a theory that strength training interferes less with sleep than aerobic exercise, so she's planning to do push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, and she's planning to do them a couple hours before she has to sleep, so that hopefully the waking-up effects wear off before it's time to go to sleep.

Push-ups are ridiculous. They don't look like they should be that hard, you know? But she gets, like, four in, and she sort of hits a wall, like her arms are totally incapable of doing a fifth one. This is moderately planned - it's supposed to feel impossible, that way she'll get more mana for doing it anyway - but she thinks she might have overshot and that it might actually be impossible?

She wrestles with this one push-up for a long time, trying to get back up to the upward position. It's good for mana. It's terrifying, realizing how weak she must be compared to other people, if she can't even make the fifth one happen. Eventually she gets it, although she sort of cheats, doing this weird shift in her shoulders that she's pretty sure is not a part of proper push-up form. Then a different exercise, then a different one, until every major muscle group has systematically been turned to jelly. 

A month in this strategy would probably kill her. She's not going to be able to run very fast tomorrow, even with adrenaline. But she's willing to take that bet on day two, if it means she doesn't have to take it on day thirty. Besides, sleeping on it will help.

She just wants to rest on her bed, when she's done. She doesn't do that. She sits at her desk and takes out the kindle and opens it up to some of the medical reference material she thinks she might need when she's older, even if she can barely wrap her head around it now. She takes out some paper, and she copies. Tries to understand what she's copying, too, partly because that's more mana and partly because she does, actually, need to understand it at some point, if it's worth copying in the first place. It sort of hurts, even if it hurts less than the exercise.

When the curfew bell rings, she turns the device off and puts her basic ward down, noting with satisfaction how much mana she has now. Hopefully that doesn't just make her tastier than the other freshmen. That would be pretty ironic.

She prays again, and she goes to sleep.

She dreams of the testing room, of a handful of faceless French people sizing her up, determining whether she really is so gifted that it is worth sending her to school just for the chance to capture the value she will be capable of producing if she ever comes out. They want to hear her solve trigonometry problems, and write her languages, and cast her spells. They want to see her weave her magic into something in front of them, so they know she's not cheating, so they know that it really was her and not her mother who made the mending-shirts. You'll already have an enclave coming out, says her mother, and neither of them says that they both know she will not be a person to them, that they are only not using the word 'slave' because it seems very dramatic, doesn't it, in this modern world of theirs.

In the dream she realizes that it is a dream, realizes that this test is over, that the real test has begun, the one that is very directly a matter of life and death. So she ignores the trigonometry problems, which weren't making any sense in the dream anyway, and instead, she thinks about how she will spend her time tomorrow.

Right. Okay. So the first thing she should do is probably inventory her stuff for Annie—actually, no, the first first thing she should do is check over her room for mals. She does that. There's something in the back of a desk drawer; she squishes it. Now she should inventory her stuff for Annie.

She gets out her tiny notebook, the one that fits in the palm of her hand and has a little slot for a tiny pencil stub to write in it with, and she writes:

1 tiny notebook with pencil
1 composition spellbook, English and French (I'll tell her to expect you. She likes star motifs and being sung to. I think she'd be okay with being traded to a creative writing student.)
1 blue silk scarf with star pattern (wrapped around spellbook)
1 blue fountain pen (the spellbook likes it)
2 boxes of 12 ink cartridges each, for fountain pen
1 compass that points to the most dangerous thing in the room (unreliable, drifts clockwise)
1 Sharpie marker, glittery silver
12 sheets of gold leaf
12 sheets of silver leaf
1 small craft knife
1 box of 6 spare blades for craft knife
1 crochet hook
2 knitting needles
3 dark blue shirts with star patterns
1 pair dark blue jeans
4 pairs plain black underpants
6 pairs socks, 3 dark blue, 3 black
1 pair black Converse shoes
1 dark blue backpack with star pattern

The list spans many tiny pages when she's done. She goes back and numbers each page 1/9, 2/9 and so on, then carefully attaches the notebook to the handle of the backpack by doing its clasp up backwards. There, now if any impostor items sneak in, Annie will presumably be able to spot them.

Should she take off her clothes and add them to the pile? On the one hand, it's selfish to walk off into the void with all these perfectly serviceable clothes. On the other hand, she should've thought of that before she went and wrote down her careful inventory, which she would now have to amend if she added another entire outfit. She debates with herself a bit, then keeps her shirt and underwear on and amends exactly one line, to 2 pairs dark blue jeans. The backpack is getting a bit full once she tucks those in.

Last of all she takes her spellbook out of her shirt, unwraps and rewraps her in her blue silk scarf, hugs her one last time. "Annie from the cafeteria is going to come by tomorrow to check on me; do you think you can stay until then? I hope you'll like her. I think you might. She was nice to me." She considers this, then amends, "She was... the kind of interaction I needed right then, anyway, I don't think I can exactly call it nice. But I don't know if she'll have much use for you, and if she doesn't, I want her to get the chance to trade you to someone who'll cherish you like I do. Okay?"

Her spellbook doesn't answer. She folds her up ever so carefully in the blue silk scarf and tucks her into the top of the backpack with a corner peeking out, because it seems coziest that way.

She takes a deep breath and starts doing sets of pushups, and between each set she sings the spell she's proudest of, a soft little thing that wraps her room in layer after layer of thin gauzy wards. Each one by itself doesn't do much, and they wear away fast if they're not renewed, but if you can get enough of them going at once they'll reinforce each other, and they're so individually cheap that once you've got enough to do a good job warding, they're surprisingly mana-efficient all together. It's the only spell she's written that she thought was worth teaching to her enclave-mates. Maybe if she doesn't kill herself, she'll last long enough to come up with an improved version that actually contributes something meaningful to the field.

But no.

Once she thinks the room is warded well enough to last until the end of curfew, she opens the hatch in her floor, climbs down, and pulls it shut behind her. The void feels very weird and she kind of wishes she'd kept her pants but it's too late now. She closes her eyes and tries pushing off as hard as she can like she's launching from a swimming pool wall—only to spring back up against the grate with bruising force, rebounding from the nothingness.

Maybe she should try a different approach? She wishes she could write this down for science, but if she goes back for her tiny notebook now she's afraid she might chicken out entirely. Okay. If she uses force to push into the void, the void pushes her right back out. What if she instead just... lets go of the grate, and calms down, and lets herself gently fall in?

It's hard to tell if it's working; it's not like she can see much anyway, with the lights off and her eyes closed, so if it's getting darker she wouldn't know. Maybe she'll fall asleep down here and Annie will have to pull her back up through the grate and she'll feel very silly. On the other hand, maybe she'll fall asleep down here and she'll drift into the void in her sleep, which really sounds like the most appealing option right now. Is it getting harder to breathe? That doesn't sound like a calm drifty thought at all. Calm drifty thoughts only, please. Calm drifty sleepy thoughts about being gently wrapped in a blanket of darkness. There, that's better.

It doesn't take him till curfew to get to his room; he goes straight there from dinner and checks that he's alone in there. There are drawers; he just takes them by the handles and opens them - he's never yet seen a mimic and isn't worried about that - and when he doesn't see anything immediately alarming inside he shuts the drawers and gets down on his hands and knees to check for a monster under his bed. There's some kind of hermit crab thing that he can easily chase out, and then the room is probably empty, so he shuts the door after the crab thing and wards the place. Supposedly. If Jian was being honest with him about the spells.

He considers putting his things into the desk drawers but after being teleported with just the stuff in his pockets he finds himself incredibly reluctant to take anything out of them. He has to lie on his back, to avoid being poked by or crushing all his stuff. Without a change of clothes he's pretty sure you're not supposed to lie under the blankets, but on top seems fine. Probably. He hopes. With extreme reluctance, he takes his shoes off, and that's all, and lies down for the first time in an entire day.

- The bell wakes him. At first he thinks it might be morning but he's much too tired for that. Still, now he's awake, and has slept at all in the last day. He does another cursory scan of his room, only mostly trusting his exhausted zombie self from after dinner to have noticed anything. Although at this point if he's still alive then the room is probably empty and will just - stay that way, probably - if the ward holds. Right? Frankly, that's the safest he's ever been and he's already in love with this place.

It's that thought, of all things, that drives it home to him that he's not going home tomorrow. And that's - that's good. That's going to keep him alive. That's also going to put an end to all the fights he was having with his parents. And he's going to learn magic, and interact with Leander, and be around people who openly talk about the things that keep happening. This absolutely wonderful and he shouldn't be crying for his parents.

He is, however, crying for his parents. They're not going to know - even if he does make it out he'll show up at age eighteen as a missing person, probably presumed dead, no driver's license, and that's going to be horribly inconvenient but - he's going to show up looking different and there's no reason to expect them to recognize him - and even if he gets out and goes home and tells them all about it, that won't be for four years - he could bribe someone to take a message out, right, but they might die on the way out and he might have to explain that the people they're looking for don't do magic, and anyway they might not believe the messenger. There's nothing he can think of to do about that, and they're probably so worried, and even when he does get out of here and find them they might have moved - they might have died - they might have died by then of something he could have helped with - they might have died thinking he hates them and ran away... He thinks about ways to give someone an address without tipping the whole school off to his secret but actually that's a year in the future and he's not sure he can keep up the act that long, so maybe he'll just be open about it, pay a whole crowd to try, and then they'll know to wait for him...

...When he shows up at age eighteen looking different... he's not sure what kind of different to picture. But given this place's entire vibe he bets they absolutely have steroids available, one of which might be testosterone...

He makes a mental note to see the nurse at some point. Then he rearranges his pockets a bit so he can lie on his side, and goes back to bed.


Lily returns early from the cafeteria, and immediately gets to work disassembling her desk with her multitool, using her struggle with the wooden planks to build mana. She stacks the wood in a corner, largest pieces down, and sits in front of it as an improvised low table and gets out her bracelet kit. 

She checks her wire and her pliers and her wire cutters. Still tame. Good.

She clips a piece of black wire off one of her little spools, and curls the end of it around her rounded pliers into a loop. Then she takes the standing part (carefully eyeballed through long practice) and twists it three times around one of her precious rubies. 

- noise. 

She spins quickly, athame in her right hand, her blasting and shielding bracelets interposed between her and the threat -

- it was just someone stepping heavily in the hallway outside, hurrying back to their room. 

She sweeps the room carefully. Checks all the corners, under the bed, and the ceiling despite the fact it's made out of void. Something could be clinging to a wall, at least. 


She doesn't relax, but she gets back to her work. A second loop on the other end of the black wire and a snip to remove the excess material (carefully swept into an empty compartment of her beading kit) and she has the first link done. 

One down, eleven to go. She has just enough rubies to make a full bracelet.

It takes her two hours to complete the bracelet itself, and longer to get the overlaid storage enchantment right. She stays up an hour past curfew making sure of the details. She has caffeine pills, she'll cope. 

She has no mana left to ward her room once the enchantment is laid.

She stays up another thirty minutes building mana, lays the best wards she can manage under the circumstances (her warding bracelet a steadying presence on her wrist) and falls asleep, exhausted.


Vernon's exhausted, but not so exhausted that he doesn't make a point of being careful. He coordinates a trip to the bathroom with some other students who he frankly doesn't remember the names or faces of, because he's far too busy eyeing the vents and drains and dark corners and whatnot for stray mals. The only way to make up for being tired is by direct, systemic attention, and it's a shitty patch job at best. The bathroom is used, he has as much water in him as he can comfortably fit, and then he (after coordinating with other students) returns to his room. He wants very much to collapse face first onto the bed and start a brand new day, and forget this one of confusion and terror and extremely dumbly motivated interior decorating work that will definitely leave him sore tomorrow, and the many mundanes who are now at this school and how likely they are to be dead in the next couple of months.

He does not do this, because he's not stupid. He sets his backpack down, with all of the stuff he got from playing interior designer with New York (and he doesn't even want into the New York Enclave, he still thinks Manchester or London is a better bet) and he retrieves his scissors. They come apart into two tiny knives, and he sets about checking over his room for mals. He finds a tiny set of cocoons nestled between his desk and his wall, and he smashes them with his foot against the wall and throws what's left of them out of the void hatch.

"Sorry, guys," he apologizes to his scissors, putting them back together and returning them to his pocket. He thinks he can keep from going bad by acknowledging how it really is quite insulting to be made of knives and then only used for mundane things like 'cutting hair' or 'cutting paper' or the like, and instead also using them to stab things. So they know he appreciates them for what they actually are, not just what they can do for him. "But I'm sure you'll get plenty of chances to be sharp and deadly, and I really do need that, here."

His room made safe, he gets to warding it. After thanking his door for staying nice and locked while he was away. ("Keep up the good work, 'ppreciate it.") Fortunately he has the mana to do this, between wall polishing and math problems and the like. He has two wards, the standard warning if anything comes in, and a sneakier one about being beneath attention. Something that directly stops mals from entering would be better, but also more mana intensive, and he'd rather save those for when it's actually dangerous enough to warrant them. Then, despite how much he desperately wants to go to bed, he takes his desk's drawers out, and then apart. ("We'll get to know each other better in the future," he says to his multitool, "figured putting you to use was the best introduction I could make.")

Then, at long last, he's allowed to sleep. The curfew bell doesn't even wake him, when it rings.


Rebecca keeps a pleasant smile on her face till she's back in her room. Then - she has a little mana, from helping Julia, she can feel it there, but not much. She doesn't have anything to store it in, though, so until she can get something like that, she might as well spend it.

She doesn't actually know a warding spell. She asks for one from the void and spends a while reading it over, humming the notes, pronouncing the words - it's in Latin, but she recognizes most of the words from church music, church music asks God to keep people safe pretty often. The rest she can stare at till she has a good guess from context.

She clasps the book of Latin songs to her chest, and sings it, and feels the mana go out of her, and hopes that's enough. She sleeps in her pajamas and her slippers, shoes and handmedown clothes waiting for her in a pile by the door.


Jean says bonne nuit to the other Parisians, and a couple of the older boys walk him to his door, and they trade around cheek-kisses and remind him to set his wards, which he doesn't need reminding of.

Every single item in his room gets a good-night kiss, and then he sings a little song with all of their names in it, in French and in English, which he's been composing for weeks for this very occasion. He unspools a long gold-and-scarlet thread his sister wove for him, humming with her comforting mana, and wraps it around and around the perimeter of the room in a spiral upwards, tacked gently to the wall, and whispers the Hebrew rhyme that hooks into his new tripwire. Then there's a keep-out verse and an I'm-bigger-than-you song in French, for which he has to tap into the Paris mana store even though they're not very strong spells, and finally a one-sentence not-tasty spell in Iroquois just to be safe. None of it would keep out anything really determined, but it's not meant to; it's meant to give him a shot at sleeping through the night.

After that there's vocal exercises and stretches, to pay back the mana he borrowed and to build up his own; and then he snuggles into the bed, which is more comfortable than he's used to but very lonely, and closes his eyes and imagines beautiful things.


El is exhausted. She has never talked to people that much in her life.

She doesn't have enough mana for a ward, so she does pushups, until she does, until her arms are screaming at her, and then squats, till her legs are screaming too and she has a little extra. She puts the extra in the crystal she's wearing. She does crunches - she doesn't have anywhere to put her feet for situps yet - till her abs are screaming; that goes in the crystal too. She lightly alarms the room so she'll wake up if she needs to try to kill something.


Curfew is... a little bracing, the feeling of the discipline settling in for a place where every dictat matters, where everything is a test and every moment a risk. 

All unpacking really does it establish how little the boons she can bring are - tricks and fantasies she could throw together with what time they had. 

They drew Ecya Ecet Elena- A 'sharp sword of the stars', and held it in her hand. The enchantment was a worthwhile one, but hardly something that fit with the legends that the name came from, despite how humble those were, in a sense. 

It was odd to think that they had even gotten a chance to practice the magic of a language like that - that some linguists dream of a fantastical world could become true, through them. 

At least... 


For now...

It was a long day, and it would be no good to abandon rest so early. 

Her sword went to the side, her skin shifted, the inscriptions of warding forming from little discolorations of skin. It wouldn't be too much, if worse came to worst, but they needed every edge they could get. Besides... Figuring out what worked best here now was as good an idea as any. 

They tucked themselves in beneath the heavy sheets and let themself drift off, the warm heat of the sheets washing away her worries.



Camillo has twenty-five items of clothing. Twenty-five is five times five. It's a multiple of five (bang), and the sum of two perfect squares (squawk) and a perfect power greater than one (zip).

His first aid kit has one hundred and forty items in it. One hundred and forty is ten times fourteen, or two squared times five times seven. That's a multiple of five (bang) and of seven (buzz).

He brought in three pictures: one of his family, one of his friends, one holy card. Three is a prime number (crash) and a Fibonacci number (fibbi) and it's square-free (whizz).


By the time he's finished with his inventory, he has ... not much more mana than he started with, oops. So he pulls out his stupid crochet hook and struggles with the stupid half-finished project he inherited from a Tejano senior until he can ward his room, and then a little bit more so he has a shot at squishing anything that wanders in during the night, and he says his prayers and then he cries himself to sleep.


What this room needs, Mal figures, is a hammock. Nice an' cozy right up by the void ceiling. Nothing's coming at him out of that, and if he sleeps in a hammock, the critters might as well give up: he's got the high ground. It'll make a mighty fine crochet project.

It also needs wards, but he ain't exactly got mana coming out his ears. He sticks to his old stand-by, the fuck-off spell:

Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off,
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off,
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off,
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off!

It's in iambic pentameter, and it rhymes, which Mal feels oughta be fancy enough for anybody.


Lissa's already in her room by curfew, having quickly rinsed her hands and face in the sink. She's disassembled her drawers with help and handed over the screws, and after a bit of thinking she drags the disassembled shelf into the center of her room as well, just in case. She stands up on her bed and asks for a spellbook and catches it, reading through several times before doing her best to set up the warding spell it gives her.

She sits on her bed and takes some time to draw and write, sketching her new friends and writing down their names and room numbers so she won't forget, before pulling out the Swiss army knife and easing it open. She does this a few more times, muttering encouragement to try and get it to open smoother. She's not quite sure if it worked, though she does feel more tired after that.

Yawning, she does one last circuit of her room, knife in her hand, and manages to find and stab some weird many-legged thing that almost looks like a weird bug. She falls asleep with the knife closed in her hand, her new spellbook and sketchbook carefully set up on the shelf with a muttered "play nice with each other, okay?"


Z returns to his room.

The desk is sturdy and simple. No drawers. That’s a mercy.

He checks each drawer in his dresser, and then shoves it around to face the wall — better to keep everything closed up until he can actually ward it, he thinks. He lines his belongings up carefully in top of it, and scrawls an inventory on the wall above them in Sharpie.

He wards his room, reciting his spell at the door, and then the four corners, and then the door again. He gives his few precious piercings a half-turn and a good-work, imagining each one pinning his body together, keeping it solid and stable and whole.

Behind one of the posts of his bed, the second time he checks around his room, he finds an egg, about the size of a ping-pong ball, round and soft and papery, and his stomach swoops and then sinks.

He takes it to the middle of his floor, next to the drain, and slits the leathery shell open with his razor. Some acetone-smelling purple fluid spills out, viscous and clinging to itself like the white of a chicken egg, and along with it the curled-up fetal form of some shelled reptile, veiny and thin-skinned, dark eyes empty under semitransparent eyelids.

It takes a minute, staring at it twitching slightly on the ground, thinking it hates you, it wants to eat you, it will kill you if it has a chance, before he manages to lop its head off with the razor.

He cuts away the shell, setting it on his desk to dry, and then takes the bleeding body to the threshold to smear its insides in an X on his door, chanting go-away go-away go-away under his breath.

Then he goes back into his room and throws up into the void.


Zeke feels kind of sad and small about being all alone in his not-yet-orange room, but this is a correctable problem! He gets out his paintbrush and his orange paint and… the paintbrush he has is kind of small, actually, to paint an entire room with? He is briefly stymied by this before deciding to use it to flick paint over the wall, instead, and this is not actually much faster but it’s a lot more fun and oh whoops now an entire wall is speckled orange and it’s already later than he was supposed to be asleep.

He had been planning to build his own mana and stuff but he really needs to go to bed and using the power sharer sometimes is, like, fine, and paint flicking had at least contributed a little bit. He casts a set of three old Italian spells for warding, invoking the trinity, and a set of eighteen spells in Hebrew for physical wellbeing and strength and stuff; they each, individually, do almost nothing, but if he remembers to do them every night for the next year his room will be completely impenetrable and he’ll be even more of a Growing Young Boy.

(Having an affinity for incremental layered spells is honestly pretty lame but it’s also cool, sometimes, and his parents had found some excellent spells for working with it, and if they did almost nothing at first then they at least also cost almost nothing.)

He remembers to do a standard warding spell, too, which should actually work immediately, and he inspects his room for mals and squishes a little orange spider-y thing and feels kind of bad about having removed something orange from the world, and he does a handstand, and then he actually does go to bed.


Dasha reassembles herself some shelves and meets the awkward American girl and gets through most of her workout routine and wards Annisa's room for her and by curfew bell she is exhausted even though it's nowhere near night by her internal clock yet. The safest place for all her things is in her backpack, so she packs all of her things back into it except a small bronze icon of St. Olga of Kiev. Grandmother's choice of enchantment on it had been for fresh air, and soon as she pulls it out the room feels somehow less confining. Father's was an alarm - she taps the rim and asks "6:00 in the morning tomorrow, okay?". Hers had been for clarity of thought. She traces the spell-words carved in the back of the icon and stares at the faded paint and brilliant gold halo of the icon.

She hasn't prayed before bed since she was a little girl, but it's comforting to imagine Ruslan doing the same, safe at home for two more years. By the end of отьчє нашь her hands are shaking, because she's remembered about Chicago and maybe he isn't safe after all. So she goes through it again and again until her hands are steady again, because there's nothing she can do for her siblings but survive this year (and then three more, and then graduation -)


She means to put the icon up on her new shelves, but she falls asleep clutching it instead of her borrowed knife.

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