The Apparition contest was held in a nearby mansion. Alexandra could tell when they entered that it was a wizard's mansion; shiny, polished suits of gleaming chrome armor, unlike the black iron Doomguards of Eerie Island, opened the doors for them, and within, two house-elves swept the floors before them while a third led them to one of the mansion's wings.
Rebecca Good scowled disapprovingly at the house-elves, while Magnificent Blaze made a point of trying to introduce himself to them.
It was explained to them that this wing of their host's mansion had been reconfigured for the event. Several floors had been converted into a mirrored maze. Every surface had been turned reflective; mirrors were mounted on the walls and ceilings, and while there were no mirrors on the floor, all carpets had been stripped away and the stone tiles underneath magically buffed and polished to a brilliant shine.
Professor Haster explained the rules. It was essentially an obstacle course, but they were not allowed to walk anywhere. In fact, each step they took would result in a loss of points. They had a list of objectives they had to reach, and accompanying tasks, which included transporting glasses of water, bouquets of puffy white dandelions, and delicate crystal sculptures.
They were given maps, which were of limited usefulness since it was necessary to visualize a destination in order to Apparate. It told them where to go, but they still had to either Apparate up and down corridors using line of sight, or "cheat" and run, with a loss of points.
If Alexandra hadn't been worried about Charlie and the Governor-General, she might have found it fun.
When she felt through her connection to her familiar that Charlie had returned to Walloon Tower, she began focusing on strategically moving through the maze, rather than simply Apparating along the most direct route.
"Destination, Determination, Deliberation," she repeated to herself. Lucilla had told Alexandra that she Apparated like someone throwing herself by the seat of her own pants. She thought she was getting better.
The first time she heard a howl of pain, she thought someone had splinched themselves. Then she heard hexes flying, and the sound of shattering glass.
She found the North California Champion lying unconscious in a heap down the next corridor she Apparated into. Then someone popped into the space behind her. Looking at the mirrored wall in front of her, she crossed her arm over her chest, pointed her wand behind her, and blasted the Texarcana Champion, Jonah Crawley, off his feet.
"So that's how it is," she said as Jonah's wand tumbled out of his hand. If it's not forbidden, it's allowed.
"Accio Wands," she said, and Summoned both their wands to her.
Jonah lifted his head, eyes still unfocused. "Hey!"
"You started it," Alexandra said. "Don't worry, I'll leave them somewhere you can find them. By walking."
The outbreak of dueling in the mirrored maze must have been intended. No one intervened to put a stop to it, and she suspected the judges were magically tracking the champions' progress. Everyone else had caught on by now, too, so when Alexandra Apparated into the same room as Albert-Louis Cachemarée, he shrugged apologetically before casting a Tentacle Curse at her. She slashed viciously through the suckered appendages that rose out of the ground and walls, using her wand almost as if it were a sword. The tentacles burst into slime and gooey residue. Now covered with ichor, Alexandra was incensed. She blew a storm of red dust down the corridor with enough velocity to blind the former Baleswood student.
Coughing and choking, he Disapparated before Alexandra could follow up. She was ready to hex him when he reappeared, but he didn't.
She had delivered all but one of her objects that had to be transported. When she Apparated back to one of the junctures that would let her go downstairs, she found herself facing Rebecca Good, the Salem Traditionalist from New England. Rebecca was consulting her map, so Alexandra's appearance caught her completely off-guard.
"Incarcerous," Alexandra said, and the startled Salem witch fell over, with ropes wrapped around her from shoulders to ankles.
Alexandra leaned over her, and snatched away her wand.
"What are you doing?" Rebecca exclaimed.
"Taking your wand," Alexandra said.
"You… blackguard thief!"
"I'm not stealing it. I'm just confiscating it until this challenge is over. Sorry."
"What do you mean, sorry? That's not how this is supposed to work! This is an Apparition challenge, not an arena!"
"I guess you haven't been paying attention," Alexandra said.
"I know your sister," Rebecca said through clenched teeth.
Alexandra hesitated. "You go to Salem? Are you friends with Julia?"
"She's nothing like you," said Rebecca. Alexandra realized with dismay that the older girl was fighting back tears.
Feeling less triumphant than before, Alexandra Apparated to the bottom of the steps, and felt a sharp pain in her left hand. She raised it and saw with dismay that she'd splinched herself and Apparated without her fingernails.
She could go back and collect them, or she could finish the challenge. As she pondered it, her fingers began to hurt in earnest. Clenching her teeth, she decided she could deal with the pain. A good batch of Fudd's Grow-All could replace her fingernails.
With her last objective collected, she had only to return to the starting point. When she Apparated there, she arrived immediately behind Hela Punuk.
Without even thinking about it, she pointed her wand and said, "Caedarus!" The glowing green ball of energy struck Hela square in the back. The other witch went flying into the wall in front of her, hit it hard enough to crack the mirrored surface, and crumpled, her reflection multiplied all around them, like a fun-house mirror.
"That was personal," Alexandra said.
She realized only after she said it that this was the entryway to the mirrored labyrinth, and just through the door into the next wing of the mansion, the judges and Mr. Mudd stood watching her.
Alexandra dumped all the wands she'd collected at her feet, and Apparated one more time to exit the labyrinth. Larry, Albert-Louis, Vanessa, and Magnificent had all finished before her.
No one said anything as she joined them, but the room was quiet and the silence weighed on her. There was a poof of air as Harriet appeared; she was the last one to make it out without walking.
I'm not even here for the Decathlon, Alexandra told herself. Though she was no closer to figuring out how she'd get to Storm King Mountain. She'd become caught up in the competition.
Standing next to her, arms folded, Larry glanced her way and shook his head.
"You have something to say?" she demanded.
"Nicely done, Troublesome. If you can't win fair and square, hex them in the back."
"Oh, like you weren't dueling and taking out the competition yourself?" Alexandra said angrily. Her hand was throbbing.
"Actually, I didn't. I didn't have to."
When the contest ended, with half the champions needing to be removed from the maze and administered Healing Charms, Larry strolled away, robes swirling around him.
Alexandra obtained a jar of Fudd's Grow-All from the school's infirmary, and applied it to her fingernail beds. The pain was becoming acute. Charlie, who was now sitting complacently in the golden cage Livia had given as a gift, made sympathetic noises as Alexandra winced. She could only hope her nails would be mostly regrown by tomorrow morning.
Instead of Apparating again, she took the long way from Walloon Tower to the dining hall. Her stomach was growling loudly by the time she got there.
Voices fell when she entered the room. The glares from the upperclass tables, and the other champions, were hard to ignore as she sat down and waited for Clockworks to bring food.
She felt like apologizing to Rebecca Good, but the Salem Traditionalist, when Alexandra caught her attention, scowled and turned her face away.
Hela Punuk sat alone, with bandages on her face, and stared daggers at Alexandra. Alexandra casually held up a middle finger.
"Not very classy, Alexandra," said Angelique. She shook her head as she sat down across the table.
"I didn't think you'd want to sit with me anymore," Alexandra said.
Angelique pursed her lips. "Oh dear, are you in one of your moods where you feel sorry for yourself because everyone hates you?"
She cheered up as Clockworks arrived with platters. "Hush-puppies! I love those!" She dished some onto her plate. "I see you've moved up a few spots." With the latest scores, Alexandra was now in fifth place, between Magnificent and Harriet.
To Alexandra's annoyance, Magnificent joined them again, "That was not righteous," he said, sitting down next to her. "You're a mean chickee."
"Then why are you sitting with me?" Alexandra asked. "And stop calling me 'chickee.'"
"I saw the way the Governor-General looked at you, and how he grabbed your arm. Stars, he really hates you, right?"
Alexandra looked at Magnificent oddly. "Yeah, he really does. Did you duel anyone in the mirror labyrinth?"
The Radicalist boy looked uncomfortable. "Well, Seimei tried to hex me, so I Stunned him. Oh, and Thule — she's almost as mean as you, right?"
Magnificent chuckled. "Right… So, she tried to bushwack me, but she ran. And Vanessa Lightwood, the chickee from BMI. Stars, she's fast! I Disapparated before one of us got Stunned, right? Not looking forward to dueling her."
Alexandra thought about the contests scheduled for the next day. The Charms challenge was "The Burning Times," and that was followed by "Ancient Forms" in which they would perform Transfigurations. She wondered if the ball that night would be a good time to slip out of the school. Flying away from New Amsterdam on a broom would surely get her caught. She thought she could get most of the way to Storm King Mountain with her Seven-League Boots, but then what? She was still without a plan of any kind.
"Alexandra?" Angelique said. Alexandra blinked and realized that while her mind had been elsewhere, the two of them had been talking to her.
She finished her dinner and pushed her plate away. Her fingers ached fiercely where her nails were regrowing. "I'll see you tomorrow. Good luck, rooster."
Magnificent grinned at her and popped another hush-puppy into his mouth, while Angelique just sighed.
On the third day of the Decathlon, the champions were brought to the New Amsterdam Quodpot Stadium. This turned out to be a small open-air stadium hidden behind the buildings adjoining the Wizardrail station, with enough bleachers and boxes for a sizable crowd. They were almost empty today; as with the other events, spectators were limited to those connected to the competition.
Most of the champions walked to the stadium from the school or their lodgings. Alexandra had chosen to avoid the dining hall again, eating breakfast at a local Muggle diner, then following her New Amsterdam map to the stadium.
When she entered the stadium, she brought out a wand sheath and hooked it to her belt. She had a suspicion about the nature of this challenge. From the sheaths she saw the other champions wearing, they had come to similar conclusions. Everyone wanted their wands to be easy to reach.
She caught Governor-General Hucksteen staring at her for just a moment, before he turned his gaze away. Alexandra carefully slid her basswood wand into the sheath.
Magnificent Blaze arrived by Apparition. Everyone gawked. He wore a kilt and sandals and not much else. Bare-chested, tanned, and muscular, he grinned at the other champions.
Alexandra shook her head at him. Rebecca Good was clearly embarrassed.
Professor Haster conferred in whispers with the judges, then approached Magnificent. They had a conversation, after which Professor Haster turned back to the other judges and shrugged, as if to say, What are we supposed to do?
He walked out to the center of the field, and addressed the competitors.
"Good morning, champions. As you know, today's first event is the Charms competition. The name of the event, 'The Burning Times,' refers to a sad period in history when Muggles, driven by their characteristic ignorance and fear, zealously hunted witches and wizards in an effort to eradicate wizardkind. Of course they mostly only succeeded in killing each other, as few magic folk were foolish or inept enough to fall into the clutches of Muggle mobs, but it did occasionally happen that an incautious witch or wizard was made the guest of honor at an auto-da-fé."
At this, Professor Haster waved his wand. All around them, tall wooden stakes rose out of the ground, followed by magically conjured piles of wood at their bases.
"This will be a test of both Charms proficiency and nerve," Professor Haster said. "As you have probably guessed by now, you will each be tied to a stake and set on fire."
Everyone started at that, and Professor Haster laughed. "I jest. Of course you will not be set on fire — only the kindling at your feet. You are to free yourselves by magical means. You will be scored on speed, and penalties will be deducted for any injuries you sustain in the process. Anyone unable to free themselves will receive no points."
This is twisted, Alexandra thought. She wasn't the only one to exchange looks with some of her fellow competitors. She assumed that the judges would rescue someone who was about to be burned to death, but it appeared none of the others wanted to ask that question aloud either.
Magnificent stretched, flexing his arms and chest. Alexandra wondered if he was deliberately trying to be distracting. It was definitely working on Harriet and Vanessa. Rebecca put a hand to her cheek and looked away.
"That's anti-Muggle slander, right?" Magnificent said. "Muggles hardly burned any witches, but we still talk about it just to make wizard-folk think Muggles are dangerous to us."
"Thank you for your insight, Mr. Blaze," said Professor Haster. "If you have an objection to the challenge, you may bow out, of course, and receive no score."
"Oh no," Magnificent said. "I'm going to smoke this event, right?" He snapped his fingers and produced a puff of smoke.
Alexandra saw more than one eye-roll. Then each of the champions was led to a stake. She knew this was mostly theatrical, but she had to admit it was unnerving to be tied to a stake meant to burn people alive.
New Amsterdam faculty used Incarcerous Spells to wrap ropes around everyone, then walked up to each of them to make sure they were firmly bound. They caught Seimei Kamo, Magnificent, and Albert-Louis all using charms to loosen their bonds before the competition started. There was no penalty other than their ropes being pulled extra-tight. Magnificent and Albert-Louis both groaned in pain.
The wizard who checked on Alexandra tightened her ropes, and tightened them some more, even though she'd made no attempt to loosen them. Then he conjured a thick strip of cloth to use as a gag. With his fingers, he shoved it almost to the back of her throat before tying it. Alexandra struggled not to gag while glaring at him.
Only close up was she able to see his face, beneath his hood. It was Richard Raspire.
He whispered in her ear, "Sometimes witches do burn."
She felt his hand on her hip as he grabbed her wand, then felt as much as heard the cracking sound of wood splitting in its sheath. With a smile, he withdrew from the pile of kindling around Alexandra and her stake.
Professor Haster said, "Good luck, champions!" With a flick of his wand, all seventeen piles of wood ignited.
Casting spells without use of one's hands or tongue was extremely difficult for anyone. Without a wand, it was practically impossible.
Slowly, forcing herself to work her jaws methodically and without panic, Alexandra started pushing the gag out of her mouth. She ignored the pain in her wrists and ankles where the Governor-General's lackey had drawn the ropes tight enough to cut off her circulation.
The flames licking at her feet were not an immediate concern. Just before entering the stadium, she'd taken the rest of the Fire Protection Potion she'd brewed during the Potions challenge on the first day. This seemed like such an obvious thing to do, she assumed everyone else had thought of it as well, so she was surprised when a couple of the champions began to twist and writhe in their bonds. Apparently some of them hadn't figured out yet the unofficial rules of this competition.
There was almost certainly an Anti-Disapparition Jinx on the stadium, though she'd try Apparating if she got the chance. Since the Governor-General meant to kill her, she also assumed there would be something special about her ropes, her fire, or both. And indeed, the flames around her seemed to be growing in intensity much faster than everyone else's.
It wasn't the fire that would kill her, though; it was the smoke. How long would they leave her here? Could Hucksteen actually keep the other judges from saving her?
She didn't need to be saved. As the flames reached her chest, she closed her eyes and leaned forward as far as her ropes allowed. The fire whipped around her face, but the Fire Protection Potion kept her from burning. Not so her gag, and in moments, she was able to spit burning chunks of cloth and bits of ash out of her mouth.
She was having trouble breathing, though. She dipped her chin and whispered, "Accio Wand."
She'd stayed up late the night before practicing this over and over, until she could do it in one try. She'd gotten the idea from Livia and Diana Grimm, who both seemed to have mastered the trick of tucking a wand down the front of their shirts where it couldn't fit. In her case, the spell had taken a lot of work, but her black hickory wand had stayed hidden down her front. She had expected a dirty trick of some sort, and her instincts about the sheath had been correct.
She wished she was able to see the expression on Hucksteen's face as her hickory wand slid out of her shirt. She caught it in her teeth, and decided that if they wanted a spectacle, she'd give them one. Mumbling around the wand in her mouth, she cast a Flame-Freezing Charm to make herself extra fire-resistant, and then called forth a fiery explosion.
She only meant to cast it from her hickory wand. But her yew wand, which she had kept tucked under the back of her shirt as a backup plan, blazed to life as well. It burned against her skin, and then both wands flared and for a moment she felt like she was caught in an oven.
The fireball lit up the stadium. At the center of the inferno, Alexandra felt the heat despite her magical protection. The black hickory wand between her teeth had become painfully hot, burning without igniting, like the yew wand broiling her from behind.
She fell to the ground and tumbled away from what little was left of the wooden stake she'd been tied to. Rolling across charred, blackened grass, she snatched her wand out of her teeth, and reached behind her to seize the yew wand, which still blazed hot in her hand. It was as if an invisible convection current was running between the two wands.
To her annoyance, she saw that Magnificent and Rebecca had both freed themselves first. More annoyingly, her clothes were nearly completely incinerated, and her wands refused to obey her when she tried to conjure a simple robe. She was forced to cover herself up with her hands, conscious of the judges and other spectators all watching her. She slid the yew wand underneath her, trying to keep it hidden from sight. She avoided looking at the Governor-General.
Rebecca had emerged somewhat less scathed, though her dress had burning holes in it and her hat was smoldering. This, Alexandra realized as Rebecca glared at her wide-eyed, was from standing too close to the blaze Alexandra had triggered.
"You should have worn something fireproof, chickee," Magnificent said. His kilt appeared undamaged. Sweat glistened all over his skin, and he seemed a bit redder than he had been before. He waved his wand and conjured a robe, which fell around Alexandra's shoulders.
"Thanks, rooster," Alexandra said, pulling the robe over herself. "You're a real gentleman."
He grinned, and winked at Rebecca, who just sighed and turned away.
Larry freed himself next. He appeared to have made his robes fireproof as well. Albert-Louis, Vanessa, Seimei, Harriet, and Hela followed. Jonah Crawley and several of the other champions eventually got away, though nearly as naked as Alexandra had been.
Only the champions from Columbia Territory and Hudson Territory failed to free themselves and had to be rescued by the watching faculty. The Palatine boy from Hudson appeared to have panicked completely. But none of them were seriously hurt.
Alexandra finally looked in the Governor-General's direction. His eyes fell on her, cool and betraying nothing.
It was a stupid murder attempt, she thought. He couldn't possibly have thought she was going to die here.
As if reading her thoughts, the corners of his mouth twisted upward, in a small, cruel smile.
Nope, she thought, that wasn't a real attempt to kill her. That was just him letting her know he meant to.
"Are you licensed to carry multiple wands?" Professor Haster demanded, once everyone was dressed and the fires put out.
"I didn't know I needed a license for multiple wands," Alexandra said.
"In New Amsterdam you do," Professor Haster said.
She pointed at Mr. Raspire. "Isn't breaking someone's wand a crime?"
Raspire, now with his hood down, revealing his ruddy, bald head, was unperturbed. "What an accusation, Miss Quick. Everyone knows carrying more than one wand risks a disjunction in their cores. The stress of the contest and your lack of proficiency in managing multiple wand cores led to the weaker one shattering."
Alexandra glared at the lying lackey of the Governor-General. "We both know that's bullsh—"
"Miss Quick, please remember you are a Decathlon champion and maintain proper decorum," said Professor Haster. "You are not allowed to abuse or slander the judges or faculty here. I should make you apologize to Mr. Raspire, but I understand you're very emotional."
"Nearly dying in the competition, and then embarrassing yourself —"
"I came in third!" she snapped. "After someone tried to leave me wandless! I'm not embarrassed!"
"The judges will have to confer," Professor Haster said. "Champions are allowed to prepare in any way not explicitly forbidden by the rules, but an unlicensed second wand is technically a violation of the law."
Alexandra wondered if Professor Haster was also the Governor-General's lackey, or just another idiot.
After a short conference, Professor Haster said, "Ingenuity and cleverness are an accepted part of the Junior Wizarding Decathlon. There are no rules against carrying a second wand per se. Miss Quick's score stands."
Surprised, Alexandra folded her arms and stared at Harriet and Larry triumphantly. Harriet looked outraged. Larry just snorted.
"However, for violating the New Amsterdam statute against carrying an extra wand without a license, you're to be fined twenty Lions," Professor Haster said. "And had it not been destroyed, it would be confiscated."
"Whatever," Alexandra said, glad that she had managed to keep her third wand hidden, in the spectacle of her self-immolation.
Professor Haster gave her a disapproving look. "We will break for lunch, and then reconvene for the sixth event of the Decathlon, the Transfiguration challenge."
Alexandra wished she could avoid Magnificent and Angelique at lunch, but they were both determined to hear how she had hid a second wand down her shirt.
"I'm impressed," Angelique said. "You certainly can't hide very much down there."
"Not everyone's as blessed as you, right?" said Magnificent, resting a hand on his chin and not being subtle at all about where his eyes were resting.
Angelique laughed. "Why, I ought to sic Honey on you."
"I'm not sure what that means, chickee, but I like the sound of it, right?"
While Angelique giggled, Alexandra's eyes followed the gazes of the other students in the dining room, who had noticed the entrance of a small crowd of newcomers. They looked like students, but they weren't wearing New Amsterdam robes.
Vanessa Lightwood stood up. "Damien!" she exclaimed. One of the boys who'd just entered wore a BMI uniform. He grinned and walked over to join Vanessa at her table. They clasped hands, to the cheers of her table companions.
"Awesome!" Magnificent said.
"What's awesome?" Angelique asked.
A boy of about twelve came running over to them. His robes were a blinding, glittery kaleidoscope of silver, gold, shiny purple, and reflective orange, with illustrations of animals that literally danced around his waist and up and down his sleeves. He had cornflower blue eyes and blond hair that matched Magnificent's, except it was much shorter.
"He" was also a girl, Alexandra realized. She was only able to tell once the girl had reached Magnificent and embraced him.
"This is my sister, Awesome," said Magnificent.
"I'm sure it is. What's your name?" Angelique asked.
"Awesome!" Magnificent repeated.
"Brother," the girl said.
"My brother, Awesome," Magnificent said.
"Your brother is awesome?" Angelique was thoroughly confused. "Or it's awesome she's — he's — your brother?"
"You just said she's your sister," Alexandra said.
"Brother," both Radicalists said together.
"He's a boy today," Magnificent said.
Alexandra looked at the child. "Is that… some kind of Metamorphmagus ability?"
The girl — or boy — stared back at Alexandra coolly. "You're not very awakened for a witch."
"Most Colonials aren't, Awesome," Magnificent whispered, which was absurd since Alexandra and Angelique could both hear him clearly. "Remember, we're not in Sedona anymore."
"But what is your… brother doing here?" As Alexandra asked this, she noticed all of the newcomers seemed to be someone known to the competing champions. Jonah Crawley bumped fists with a boy his age dressed like a cowboy bedecked with more bling than a rap star. Hela Punuk was clasping the shoulders of an old woman with long, gray braids, wearing furs like Hela's. Albert-Louis lifted a little girl, even younger than Awesome, off the ground in an exuberant hug. There were exclamations of delight and hugs and happy reunions all around the room.
Except for Larry Albo. Alexandra almost laughed when she saw who had come for him. A slim, beautiful girl with glossy black hair tied up in a ponytail stalked across the room to him, folded her arms, and just glared. Adela Iturbide had been Larry's girlfriend several years ago, but as far as Alexandra knew, they had broken up on not particularly amicable terms. That seemed confirmed by Adela's apparent displeasure at being here, which made Alexandra wonder why she was Larry's visitor.
The last person to come through the entrance to the dining hall was a small figure in red robes, with a hood that she pulled back as she entered.
Alexandra smiled. Anna smiled back and walked over. The two girls embraced.
"Her girlfriend?" Magnificent asked Angelique, in that same stage whisper.
Alexandra pulled away and faced the other three kids. Angelique hadn't answered, so Alexandra said, "This is Anna Chu. She's my best friend. Why do all of us have special visitors?"
"We're here to help you during one of your challenges," Awesome said to Magnificent. "But they wouldn't tell us how, or any details."
"I don't think we're going to help you," Anna said. "I suspect we're going to be bait. You'll probably have to rescue us from a dragon or something."
Magnificent frowned at this.
"You weren't forced to come, were you?" Alexandra asked.
"No, I was asked if I was willing to participate," Anna said. Awesome nodded in agreement.
Alexandra looked across the room at Larry and Adela. They seemed to be arguing, while trying to keep their voices low.
"It's nice to see you again, Anna," Angelique said.
"You too, Angelique," Anna said. "I'm sorry about what happened to Baleswood. I'm glad you made it out okay."
Adela gestured furiously, clenching something in her fist. Larry threw up his hands in frustration. Alexandra wondered why Adela had agreed to come if her attitude was any indication of how she felt about him now.
"Alex?" said Anna.
Alexandra turned her attention back to her table. "Huh?"
Anna looked at her oddly. "I was asking if you've seen any of the Wizard World Weekly articles about you."
Anna nodded. She pulled a bundle of newspaper clippings out of one of her sleeves. "They're broadcasting images of the Junior Wizarding Decathlon, you know, taken by that Eye-Spy."
Alexandra looked at the first picture Anna held out. It showed the golem strangling her.
Deadly Decathlon for Dark Wizard's Daughter, was the headline.
"You're kind of infamous now," Anna said.
"Like I wasn't already," Alexandra said.
"No, people are really following the Junior Wizarding Decathlon now. All over the Confederation. Usually it's just one news article or two; it's not like the real Decathlon, after all. But with the CNN using those stupid Snitches and Eye-Spys to capture dramatic moments, and, um, you being a contestant…"
"I'm, like, a tabloid star?" Alexandra looked at the next picture. There, in animated, full-color detail, was Hela Punuk strutting down a mirrored hallway — just before Alexandra Apparated behind her and hexed her in the back.
The Enemy's Daughter Continues to Rack Points Ruthlessly, said the headline.
"That was pretty harsh," Anna said. "Did you really mug four other champions and take their wands?"
Alexandra looked at the next clipping. The Eye-Spy had captured Alexandra in very unflattering detail as she tumbled out of her auto-da-fé, all but naked. The headline was: Almost Well Done.
Alexandra turned red. "They can print this?" she demanded.
"Well, they did, um, blur the image," Anna said, also a little red.
Alexandra grabbed the clipping, and it ignited and disappeared in a cloud of ashes. Down the table, New Amsterdam students glared at her, while a Clockwork immediately appeared to sweep the ashes off the table.
"I don't suppose anyone is rooting for me?" Alexandra asked.
"I am!" Anna said. "So are all of us back at Charmbridge. Well, all of your friends." Her shoulders slumped. "Pretty much everyone else is rooting for Larry."
"Well, this is fantastic," said Magnificent, patting Awesome on the shoulder. "But I think it's time for our next event, right?"
"We're not participating until tomorrow," Anna said. "Today we're just spectators. We'll be part of the Mysteries challenge tomorrow."
"But we get to attend the ball tonight, right?" said Awesome. "I'm going to be fabulous!" The youngster held up glittering sleeves that sparkled and dazzled even in the reflected light of the dining hall.
"Will that be your name, or does that stay the same?" Alexandra asked.
Angelique snickered. Awesome and Magnificent both glared at Alexandra.
"She's a jerk," said Awesome.
"Right?" said Magnificent.
Alexandra looked sharply at Anna, who said nothing but seemed to be trying to suppress a snicker of her own.