Chapter 8: Remedial Magic.
So, I am curious: for those of you who remember, how many of you actually believed at this point that someone was trying to kill Alexandra? And how many of you suspected that Mr. Journey was behind the bridge failing?
Alexandra's grin faded, and she looked unusually thoughtful for a moment. “No,” she said. “I think someone tried to kill us.”
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone's not out to get you. I meant for Alex to seem overly dramatic and imaginative in immediately assuming there was a plot to kill her, but the problem is that of course there's going to be a plot to kill her, so everyone assumed she was right and I didn't do as good a job as I was hoping in developing the red herring notion that maybe Alex just needs to stop thinking the world revolves around her.
Wait, the Invisible Bridge does what?
And I just caught another "Whoops!"
“I've heard the Dean arranges for someone to fall off every few years, just to keep anyone from messing with it,” another boy said. “It's made to vanish most of the time, you know, but sometimes kids sneak out here and try to rematerialize it.”
I... totally forgot about this. Yup, I think originally my notion of the Invisible Bridge was that it disappears except when in use. But after this, I always treated it as a permanent fixture. Alexandra would have a had a somewhat harder time running away in book four if there was no Invisible Bridge across the valley while school is out.
This gets back to the fact that I hadn't really thought out the whole "Journey tries to kill Alex by making part of the bridge disappear" plot as thoroughly as I should have.
It is easy enough to assume that what the boy above said was just a false rumor, though, like many of the other things people are saying in this chapter.
So, Alexandra finally arrives at Charmbridge Academy after eight chapters. I introduce the diversity of cultures there, as well as the JROC, and the Witch Rangers. Alexandra becomes Anna's roommate, and Darla and Angelique move in next door, with consequences to follow for the rest of the series.
“There are Scout troops at Charmbridge?” she asked aloud. She had been briefly interested in the Brownies when she was eight, but the other girls hadn't appreciated it when Alexandra staged a pitched battle between their dolls and their stuffed animals that inflicted extensive casualties on both sides. Alexandra had been annoyed that they wanted to stay indoors baking and sewing instead of going camping.
This was probably unfair. I understand that Brownies and Girl Scouts do a lot of camping nowadays.
This is also the chapter where I introduce ASPEW. After making a fairly big deal about it (or at least David does), a few people have pointed out that I haven't ever really followed through on this, and it seems that, like Hermione's brief campaign for Elfish Welfare, it seems to be a plot thread that I've simply dropped.
Dean Grimm was dressed in a severe-looking dark suit with a knee-length skirt, making her the only faculty member before them who could have passed for a Muggle. Alexandra recognized Hephzibah Price, still dressed in black robes and conical hat, but the other six women and four men were unfamiliar. They were mostly wearing robes, though one of the women was actually wearing a hoop skirt, while another, who had a short haircut and a long scar across her face, was dressed entirely in black leather. One of the men was wearing a plaid kilt, another looked like a fur trapper, covered in pelts.
Huh. Obviously the woman with the short haircut is Ms. Shirtliffe, but I have no idea who the woman with the hoop skirt, the man with the plaid kilt, or the "fur trapper" is, or if I ever meant for them to be recurring characters.
“I must also remind you that shamanism, mysticism, pagan rituals, and other forms of so-called wandless magic are strictly forbidden unless you have been granted a Cultural Practices Exemption by the Department of Magical Education,” said Ms. Grimm. “Also note that voodoo remains classified a Dark Art by the Confederation Wizards' Congress. Every year some group of students forms a little coven to experiment with 'forbidden' magic, and every year someone winds up jinxed, cursed, or worse, and someone winds up expelled. Do not meddle with magic you don't understand. I assure you, whatever you've heard to the contrary, all of these 'native' or 'alternative' traditions are nothing more than crude approaches practiced by ancient cultures who had not yet refined the principles upon which modern magic is based.”
This was another thing I knew I was going to do something with, but at this point, only a vague idea what. (I mean, of course Alex is going to get involved with that dark coven, right?)
In frustration, she turned to “Section Four: Wizard History.” The history resembled nothing she had learned in school (and Alexandra had not been much interested in Muggle history in the first place). What were the names of the first four Colonial New World Territories? When was the Confederation Congress established? What caused the California Disunification, and which new Territories resulted? The Voodoo Wars and the Wizard Pow Wow of 1838 sounded interesting, but Alexandra knew nothing about them.
So, the Confederation pretends to be very multicultural, and as we gradually learn, it's really not so much. This chapter was also, I admit, me taking cheap shots at the American education system and standardized testing. But as we learn at the end of the book, there really was a reason why Alexandra was given the SPAWN with so little preparation (even if it may not have been one of Dean Grimm's better ideas).
And yes, I do know what the California Disunification, the Voodoo Wars, and the Wizard Pow Wow of 1838 were about. :)
Alexandra scowled. “All I get are stupid questions about things I don't know, then I do some magic and get told it's not the right magic. I hope this isn't how you usually teach.”
Shirtliffe raised an eyebrow again. “Do you talk to your Muggle teachers like that?”
“Sometimes,” Alexandra said, after a pause, and Shirtliffe laughed.
“I'll bet you do,” she said. “And I suspect you're going to see more of Dean Grimm than you'd like.”
“I've already seen more of Dean Grimm than I'd like,” Alexandra muttered.
“Have you?” Shirtliffe replied. She grinned toothily. “Yes, you're definitely going to be one of those students every teacher knows by name in a hurry. I look forward to seeing you in class, Alexandra.”
Ms. Shirtliffe has always been one of those secondary characters lurking just prominently enough for it to be evident that she's got a story of her own.
And Alex gets her terrible SPAWN scores and a great big chip on her shoulder.
Overall, I have to say that while I think I slipped some mildly interesting bits of worldbuilding into this chapter (and dropped some foreshadowing), this was probably one of many chapters that went on too long about relatively inconsequential details. Heck, even I was a little bored while rereading it.