Rhea looked out through her window and sighed. Another cold wintry day. She despised the winter. The entire season held terrible memories for her, but above all, the cold season messed with her powers. She was always thinking about how much she wished it was summer and her powers would react by not working.
“Hey, you coming to first period?”
Rhea turned to see Alexia, her werewolf roommate, standing in the doorway with her backpack.
Rhea nodded and stood up. She grabbed her own backpack from the floor beside her bed and followed Alexia through the girl’s dormitory to the stairs.
“Hey, Myst,” Alexia greeted her best friend, Myst the werecat. The two were never farther apart than their dorm rooms. Principal Berret had allowed them to have all their classes together, but she wouldn’t let them share a dorm room because she felt they needed to meet new people.
Rhea followed the two girls down the stairs and out through the entrance doors ofNightMareSchool. The fresh breeze felt good against Rhea’s skin and she breathed in the nice cold and fresh air.
“Feels nice, doesn’t it?” Alexia asked, shivering with the sudden cold.
Myst nodded. Rhea had noticed the werecat didn’t talk nearly as much as the werewolf did. Myst had shoulder-length wavy black hair she kept in a pony and soft chocolate brown eyes. When she morphed into a cat she had the softest fur Rhea had ever felt.
On the other hand, Alexia had striking gold hair and brilliant golden eyes. When she transformed into a wolf, she had course golden fur and a bark much worse than her bite.
“Hello, girls,” Professor Spriggla greeted them in front of the glass greenroom. Spriggla was the herbs and potions teacher. She was short with short brown hair and completely leaf green eyes with no whites. Students debated over whether she was a dwarf or elf because there was no way to be sure. She had the features and height of a dwarf, yet her ears ended in tips as elves were supposed to, and only elves and faeries had completely single colored eyes with no whites.
“Hello, Professor,” Rhea greeted. In the classroom they worked in groups of four. Rhea’s table had Myst and Alexia, as well as a nature faerie named Zendaya.
Professor Spriggla entered the room as the rest of the class arrived. Zendaya came in last and came over to their table and took her seat beside Rhea.
“Sorry, Nevara wouldn’t let me go…” Zendaya set her books on the table and gave her explanation with a smile, though Rhea noticed the red welts on Zendaya’s arms, as though she had been whipped. Zendaya caught her look and quickly pulled on her jacket to cover her arms. Her large purple wings twittered nervously and her long brown hair was pulled back in a braid. Her large green eyes with no whites were watching the professor. Rhea turned to where Professor Spriggla was telling them how they would be concocting a potion today.
“Now, this potion is very precise. One wrong measurement and it will probably blow up in your face.” Professor Spriggla was smiling sweetly as she said this and Rhea wondered how the woman was even sane anymore after all the mishaps that had occurred in her class. “Work in groups of two. You have the full hour to work. Begin.”
Rhea turned to Zendaya, who was already flipping through her text book to the page Professor Spriggla had mentioned.
“Here we go,” Zendaya said, pointing to the potion. “Pigimenta. It’ll change a person’s appearance.” Zendaya set to gathering the items they would need while Rhea looked over the potion’s instructions. She was a witch and so this should have come easily to her. Yet she always found herself relying on Zendaya’s knowledge of herbs and potions to get through these activities.
“Here,” Zendaya handed her a poppleglot fruit and took a knife from the front of the room. “Could you hold that still while I cut it in half?” Rhea nervously held the small purple and green polka-dotted poppleglot on either side with both her hands. Zendaya deftly sliced it in half and swept it into their cauldron. She checked the textbook and went to get the next ingredient, a half cup of dabblewater. Rhea looked out through the glass walls of the greenroom and thought about how they were only a year away from graduating fromNightMareSchooland finally being free to wreak havoc upon the world.
Rhea turned and saw Zendaya was looking at her, holding a mekalmelon. “Sorry,” Rhea said, blushing. “I totally zoned out, didn’t I?”
Zendaya nodded, smiling sweetly, no bitterness in her voice as she explained that they were on the last step of the potion. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to break into your thoughts; I just needed your help in cutting this mekalmelon.”
Rhea shook her head. “Don’t apologize, Zen, it was my fault.” Rhea helped Zendaya cut and measure out the mekalmelon and add it to the potion. Zendaya mixed the contents of the cauldron with a large spoon and looked inside. “Bright purple.” She glanced at the textbook. “And that’s what it’s supposed to look like.” Zendaya smiled and sat down in her seat. Rhea sighed and looked around the room. Three groups’ potions had exploded and one’s was bubbling. Alexia and Myst were the only other group who ended the class with the correct potion.
“Great job, class!” Professor Spriggla told them as they left the greenroom.
Rhea walked with Zen, Alexia, and Myst back to the school. Myst and Alexia had were-class on the third floor with a were-dragon for a teacher, while Zendaya and Rhea had Defense with Vice Principal Baramore on the first floor.
“See you guys later,” Alexia waved as she and Myst headed to the stairs.
“Bye,” Rhea returned. She and Zendaya turned to their left and walked down a long corridor until they came upon the vice principal’s office. Vice Principal Baramore had had a large room connected to his office so he could simply walk through a door to get to his classroom. The classroom was large with weapons lining every inch of the four walls.
“Why, hello girls,” Vice Principal Baramore greeted them as they came in and joined the rest of class standing in front of him. “Today we are going to pair up and simply use our magic to see who out of the pair has learned the most. Yes, this is an assessment; no, it will not count as a major grade. Begin.”
Rhea turned to Zendaya and frowned. “My magic is weakest in winter…”
Zendaya smiled. “Mine, too.”
“Well, let’s see how this goes then, shall we?”
“Uh, actually,” Baramore stepped between them. “I was rather hoping the two of you would pair up with some new people today. Ah, Zabrina, Natalia, please come here.” Zabrina was a witch Rhea had met before, but Natalia was a pixie she had never encountered before. “Natalia, please work with Rhea, and Zabrina with Zendaya. Thank you, girls.” He walked away and Rhea wondered why he had interjected and forced Zendaya and her to work apart. She shrugged it off and turned to Natalia.
Natalia was small and petite. She had glowing orange wings and swirling designs on her arms and legs the way Zendaya did when she was using her magic. Her short purple hair bounced on her shoulder as she flew into the air.
Before Rhea could react, Natalia was flying at her. Rhea quickly dodged out of the way and held out her hands. “Wingmenta!” A burst of blue light shot out from Rhea’s hands and hit Natalia’s wings, causing her to fly off course and collide with the wall. But she recovered quickly and was back on her feet in a second.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Natalia scowled. She held out her own hands and the lines on her arms glowed purple as she muttered, “Disenchanta!” Rhea felt her hands go cold. She tried a few spells, but nothing would work.
“What did you do?” she asked a smirking Natalia.
“You froze my wings, I froze your magic.” She winked as she began running at Rhea. Rhea dodged her easily and reverted to the hand to hand combat Baramore had taught them. As Natalia got ready to bring a fist down on her, Rhea kicked out her leg and swept Natalia’s leg out from under her. The pixie crashed to the floor and glowered up at her.
“Enough,” Baramore stepped between Rhea and Natalia and the rest of the class froze in their fighting. “I said to use your magic. Hand to hand combat was last year’s lesson.” He looked angrier than Rhea had ever seen him before. He was young and had long black hair and dark brown eyes. No one knew what shadow creature he was because he seemed to possess powers of every kind.
Rhea helped Natalia to her feet and they both stood in front of Baramore with their heads bent. “Sorry,” they muttered in unison.
“You are all dismissed.” He turned back to his office and shut the door behind him.
“Great job, Rhea, you made him angry,” Natalia said as she walked away with Zabrina. Zendaya and Rhea were the last in the classroom.
“You coming?” Rhea asked Zendaya from the doorway. Zendaya was still standing in the center of the room.
“I’m just going to go check on him,” Zendaya turned towards Baramore’s office.
Rhea shrugged. “See you later, then.” Rhea left the vice principal’s classroom and headed towards her third period class. She walked through the dark corridor and came out in front of the stairs.
“Ready for third period?” Alexia asked, walking down the stairs with Myst. Rhea nodded with a smile.
“What kind of creature do you think Professor Vaiko will make us dissect today?” Rhea grinned.
“Actually, I heard he’s not even in class today,” Myst said, speaking for the first time all day in her quiet soft voice.
“Why? Where would he go? I mean, the guy hasn’t got an actual life of his own, has he?” Rhea asked.
Alexia shrugged. “Let’s get to class and find out, shall we?”
Their AP Shadow Creature Biology class was in the basement of the school because Professor Vaiko often had his students dissect minor demon-creatures and Principal Berret couldn’t stand the smell of rotten demon-creatures.
When they entered the classroom, the students were sitting on tables and shooting sparks of magic at each other. Professor Vaiko was one of the strictest teachers in the school, and just upon entering the room Rhea could tell Vaiko wasn’t within a hundred miles of the class.
“Where’s our sub?” Rhea asked Nevara, a sun faerie and Zendaya’s twin sister.
She grinned. “Who knows and who cares?” She flew into the air with her tiny orange wings fluttering behind her. Her golden blond hair was cut in layers to her shoulders. She was so different from Zendaya that Rhea wouldn’t have known they were even related if she hadn’t worked with Principal Berret on admissions to the school.
“Hey, where’s Zen?” Alexia asked Rhea. Rhea turned to see Alexia and Myst sitting on desks towards the back of the room. She stepped closer and sat on a chair.
“She went to talk to VP,” Rhea answered.
“And Nevara didn’t bother to ask?” Myst guessed. Myst was really protective of Zendaya because of her loyalty to her friends and Zendaya’s innocence and vulnerability.
Rhea shook her head.
“Did you expect her to?” Alexia asked with a frown. She turned to Rhea. “Why did she go to see VP?”
“He got mad at Natalia and me for fighting hand to hand rather than with magic. Which totally didn’t make sense since she froze my magic and I couldn’t do anything else anyways…”
“Natalia, the new pixie-girl?” Alexia asked. Rhea nodded. Alexia groaned. “That girl is the single most annoying pixie I have ever met.”
“What did she do to you?” Rhea asked.
“She told us were-beings were outcast Shadow Creatures that didn’t deserve to go toNightMareSchool.” Myst rolled her eyes.
Alexia laughed her barking laugh. “Yeah, and then she had the audacity to tell us we shouldn’t be in our AP classes just because she didn’t get into any herself.”
“Seriously?” Rhea asked. “Sounds like we’ve got another Nevara on our hands, huh?” Myst nodded.
Just then, Principal Berret walked into the classroom. She clapped her hands once and the class instantly fell silent. Nevara slowly descended into a seat. “As this class knows, there is no teacher today. You were supposed to show up outside my office twenty-five minutes ago. Yet you are making noise and wreaking havoc in this room.” She turned on her heels and left the room, the students walking out in single file behind her.
“What even happened to Vaiko anyways?” Alexia whispered from behind Rhea.
“I have no idea,” Rhea replied with a shrug.
They walked up the stairs and down the corridor opposite Baramore’s. Principal Berret’s was at the end of her corridor and the class stopped in front of her door as she turned to face them
“Professor Vaiko will be out for a while and so from now on I want you all to meet in this corridor and I will teach this class.” She glanced at the watch on her wrist and scowled. “You’ve wasted more than half of this period and so we’ll begin tomorrow. For the rest of this class you have a free period.” She turned sharply and entered her office.
Rhea turned to Alexia. “Have you ever seen her so wound up before?”
“Do you think something happened with Vaiko?” Alexia asked, starting to walk away from the corridor with Myst and the rest of the class.
“You guys go on ahead; I’m just going to check on her.” Rhea turned and knocked on Berret’s door. She swung it open and stepped inside, closing it behind her. “B?” She stepped into the dark office and saw the principal sitting in front of her desk with her head resting on her crossed arms on her desk. She looked up when Rhea walked in.
“Rhea dear, sorry about that…” Berret sighed and shook herself. She sat back in her chair and smiled to Rhea. “Can I help you with something?”
“I was actually wondering if I could help you. What happened?” Rhea sat down in the seat across from Berret’s desk.
Berret sighed. “Nothing. I’m just having problems with the school.”
Rhea looked at her intently. “It’s more than that, though, isn’t it?”
“Are you reading my mind or something?” Berret asked with a smile.
Rhea laughed. “No, I just know you that well.”
“So you won’t take ‘I’m fine’ as an answer?” Rhea shook her head. “Well then, might as well get it out, huh?” Berret sighed again and leaned forward. “Vaiko is dead.”
Rhea’s gray eyes widened. “Dead? How?”
“There’s some kind of creature killing Shadow Creatures out there. Vaiko went out to see if he could find out what it was. He never did. Baramore found his hat out in the forest.”
“Wait, if there’s no body, how do you know he’s dead?”
“Considering the hat was torn to shreds and bloody…” Berret looked away. “Plus the fact Vaiko’s head was under the hat.”
Rhea gasped. “Are you serious?” She thought back to her second period class and the way kind Baramore had snapped at them. No wonder. Finding a dead colleague was enough to put anyone in a sour mood.
“Do we know anything about this creature? Is it a demon-creature? Or a Turned Shadow Creature?”
“All we know is that it’s called the Darkness. It consumes everything in its path.”
“And where is its path?” Rhea asked, dreading the answer.
Berret looked grim. “On a straight course forNightMareSchool.”