Chapter 7 — Threats
I know, I know, I keep saying I will keep up with this (and reread all my own damn books) but frankly, I'd rather read other people's books, or else write my next one. But I do need to refresh my memory about certain details, so let's just try to pretend it hasn't been nearly two months since my last AQ reread post, 'kay?
So, last chapter ended with Alexandra arriving at her first Mors Mortis Society meeting, and discovering Darla, Angelique, Tomo, Maximilian, and Torvald and Stuart there, among others.
And of course, John Manuelito makes his introduction.
“You may have seen us around school,” the older boy continued. “Some of you probably know each other as well.” He nodded at all the prospective new members. “Remember that outside of these meetings, we don't talk about the Mors Mortis Society. We learn magic that's forbidden at Charmbridge, because the Confederation is governed by outdated, puritanical laws. Your teachers will tell you that certain magic is 'Dark' or 'evil,' but they'll never tell you why some curses are forbidden, and others aren't. The truth is, most so-called 'Dark magic' just has a stigma on it, either because it's non-traditional, or because somewhere in history, some wizard used that magic to do bad things.”
Well, that actually sounds pretty plausible, doesn't it?
John quickly demonstrates that they really are messing with Dark forces by summoning a jibay, or chindi. (By the way, I've seen some people, on TVTropes and the Quickipedia, referring to them as Dementors. They're similar — I made them serve a similar purpose deliberately — but they are not actually the same thing.)
Alexandra got the impression of a face and form that was human, though she couldn't precisely see it. It was like looking at black smoke in the darkness. More than the human-like figure, though, she sensed something else, as its eyes – what she supposed must be eyes, in what she supposed must be a face – scanned the room.
Ill will. That was the feeling Alexandra got, like a cold breeze blowing across all of them. She saw others shuddering as well and averting their gazes. Whatever entity the Mors Mortis Society had summoned, it was not friendly.
It drifted to and fro, while the students muttered and shivered, but it seemed bounded by the line of black sand. Then the blonde girl pointed her wand.
“Anathema jibay!” she declaimed, and the smoky black figure was sucked back into the void. She waved her wand again, and the blackness faded to stone gray, the wall became solid again, and the painted figures returned to their previous places.
After the meeting, Max tries to bully Alexandra into quitting, which works exactly as well as anyone who knows Alexandra even a little bit knows it will. Then the next morning, he harasses Alexandra and Anna even more, and that, combined with Alexandra's keeping her MMS activities secret from Anna, is beginning to drive a wedge between them.
Then Max makes his first dumb move. Well, his second — his first was thinking he could browbeat or bully Alexandra out of doing something in the first place. Actually, his first was arguably keeping his relationship with her secret instead of telling her everything right from the start, but then, everyone in Alexandra's life does that. And people wonder why the girl is mistrustful and prone to going off on a wild hair.
She could see light through the trees, where the edge of the forest met Charmbridge's fields, and Anna was waiting, when her broom suddenly veered to the right. She pulled up and leaned over, trying to steer back on course, and for one instant thought she saw Maximilian holding his wand, before the trunk of a tree rushed at her and knocked her out of the air.
Max's brilliant plan was to put her in the infirmary and make her miss the next MMS meeting, and maybe scare her into quitting entirely. You know, if you beat a twelve-year-old girl up enough, maybe she'll be cowed and stop being so uppity. Yes, Max is a big fat jerk. He is acting with fundamentally noble intent, but he's an arrogant prick. Just like Daddy. However, in the kid's defense, he's sixteen. And already a pawn in a game that's way over his head. By Daddy.
Alexandra thought that if you liquefied earwax, laundry detergent, and a pound of beetles, it would taste something like this. She decided not to ask what was really in it – she was afraid the actual ingredients might be even worse. She couldn't help but make a horrible face as she brought the mug back to her lips and swallowed as much as she could between large, shuddering gasps of breath. Mrs. Murphy nodded with approval and took the mug from her after she drained the last of it.
I do like that description of Fudd's Grow-All.
After this, Bran and Poe show up, and Alexandra is very happy to see them, and as usual cons them into bringing her books for nefarious purposes.
The chapter ends with Alexandra demonstrating that she can also be a big fat jerk while acting with fundamentally noble intentions.
“Just so you know,” she said, in a low voice, “Anna has friends. Lots of friends. And if you do anything else to her – if you cast one hex at her – you're going to be hurt a lot worse than this.” She held up her other arm, in its sling.
Tomo stared up at her, her dark eyes angry and indignant.
“Don't you dare use any curses we learn from the Mors Mortis Society on Anna,” Alexandra whispered. “If anything happens to her – anything –” She shook Tomo, making the other girl squeal a little – “I'll assume you did it, and I'll turn you inside out! Understand?”
Tomo swallowed, but didn't answer. Her face was expressionless now, but it had gone white.
Alexandra suddenly felt uncomfortable, looming over a girl so much smaller than her. But Tomo had started the feud with Anna, she told herself, and she suspected the sixth grader might have joined the Mors Mortis Society for exactly that reason. Nobody was going to use any Dark magic on Alexandra's friends.
One of Alexandra's least attractive qualities is her willingness to bully people herself. She doesn't do it often, and she always does it for reasons she thinks are justified, and she's not as bad as Max, but she definitely has bullying tendencies. Mostly she outgrows this as she gets older. Mostly.
This was an important chapter in laying groundwork for future events (not just in this book). But boy were there a lot of saidisms. It reminded me that in book two, I was still using words like "declaimed" and "objected" and "laughed" a lot for dialog tags. I don't think it was until book three that I broke that habit.