The Christmas holidays weren't much of a break from work for anyone. The students were absorbed in the huge workload they had to get through before the January exams, and the staff were busy keeping the students in line. This did not mean that the students didn't find opportunities for fun, though.

"Say it!" pleaded Eryss.

"No!"

"Say it!" demanded Sandflame.

"No!"

"Say it!" begged Ilex.

"NO!"

"Say iiit!" whined Nikki.

"If I say it, will you all go away?"

"Of course!" promised Suzi.

General Ironbeak sighed and drew himself up. The students pointed their camera phones and held their collective breath as he prepared to speak ...

"Nevermore."

The students cheered. Ironbeak flapped irritably towards the door, nearly being knocked out of the air by the three magpie brothers, who were tossing a small golden ball around. Tiraamilaen the golden-eyed otter ran into the hall behind them, clutching one side of her face and screaming "Give that back, you jerks, I need that!"

Snowspine tottered into the hall beside Tira, green in the face and clutching a copy of Marlfox like a life preserver, and stiffly sat down in the empty seat beside Thom. He shoved the huge pile of homework he'd spread all over the table out of the way and asked the hedgehog "What's up?"

"Oh, uh, S and S were out on a mission for the past few days, so when they got back I asked them what they'd been doing."

Snowspine seemed reluctant to continue, so Suzi prompted xir with "Yes?"

"They told me." Snowspine turned even more green at the memory.

"Ah, they've been sorting out Suzi's work?" said Thom with a snigger.

Suzi poked him. "Thomas, you have no right to mock my work. It ... might have needed some improvement, but I didn't mix up Martin and Matthias' names, turn the Sword into a lightsabre because it would, I quote, 'look cooler', or post a chapter consisting entirely of four pages of the words 'I'm so drunk' typed over and over again."

"Oh, that fic!" Fernflower's face lit up. "I love that one, I've never seen anything so funny!"

"Thanks. I think," muttered Thom.

"You hadn't updated it for a while before we came here, why's that?"

"I was home from college for the summer and my parents changed the lock on the liquor cabinet. I tried cough syrup, but it's not the same." Thom saw the other students' expressions. "What? A lot of great writers were under the influence when they wrote."

"Yeah, but they usually have the sense to reread their work while sober," Sandflame pointed out. Thom responded with a scowl and a one-claw salute. "Yes, very mature," the haremaid said, unfazed, and resumed reading. "C'mon, guys, we all have exams after Christmas!"

Maligant looked back down at his book and muttered "My fic's better."

"Uh, Mal, your fic might be better, but your summaries suck," Suzi pointed out. "I've seen them."

"Why?"

"Well, for one thing, 'may contain violence'? You're the writer! If you don't know whether there's violence, how are we supposed to know?"

Thom smirked. "I read that one. I got nothing against gore, but 'may contain violence' really isn't a detailed enough description when the very first sentence is a graphic disembowelling scene."

"But graphic disembowelling scenes are fun!"

"Not on a school night," Maisie Ann winced. "I didn't sleep for a week after that."

"Hey, your openings aren't any better!" Thom ponted out.

"I always warn for everything!"

"Uh, yeah," Thom agreed uncomfortably, "but as I recall, one of your works warned for violence, foul language, and graphic sex, then opened with the main character reading said story to a bunch of Dibbuns. That just ain't right."

"Well, the kids were getting the censored version!"

"Maybe, but if that's the case you should say so!"

"SHADDUP!" came a yell and a blast of icy wind from the next table, stopping the argument in its tracks. When a dragon tells one to shut up, one shuts up.

The silence lasted a good five minutes before Aaron Fuchs smugly said "My work's better."

"Then why is your homework assignment to pick out the flaws in it?" Thom asked him.

"Because the teachers don't appreciate art." Aaron shoved the paper he was reading across the table. Suzi turned it round, read it, and giggled.

"What?"

"Geez, Aaron, I thought I got into the weird descriptions sometimes … Captain Plugg looked deeply into your character's 'auriferous oculi'? What did that poor thesaurus ever do to you?"

Thom grabbed another page and flicked over it. "Wait a second, I've read this fic before, and I know that last chapter they were still searching for the treasure map. Why do they suddenly have it now?"

"Oh. Um, I had to cut out the bit where they found it. Some jerk reported me for explicit content, and I had to cut that chapter before I could repost it," Aaron explained. Fernflower looked conspicuously innocent.

"Ooh, I know that feeling. Spoilsports. But couldn't you have just cut the detailed bits and kept the rest of the chapter, if you had to cut anything? Now it just doesn't make any sense." Suzi reread the printout, trying to follow what was going on.

"You say that like it made sense to begin with," said Thom. "Apparently Mossflower's undergoing an attack of pod-creatures and Aaron forgot to mention that. I can't imagine the real Captain Plugg saving the life of some random fox, or spouting poetry about him."

Ilex squinted at it over Suzi's shoulder. "No, see, that's not Captain Plugg - it's Captain Plug, with one G. Maybe it's his evil twin."

"Ha ha."

"And - oh dear." Suzi giggled. "Did you not notice you'd spelled 'fox' with a U instead of a O? Kind of appropriate, but ..."

Aaron, blushing, yanked the printouts away. Drake the dragon snickered.

"Hey, yours wasn't any better!" Aaron snapped at him. "Remember the one where Martin was a werewolf?"

"Uh, how does that even work?" Suzi asked. "Wouldn't it be weremouse? Mouse-wolf? Whatever ..."

Slagar appeared behind Ilex with a swirl of his cloak, causing the vixen to jump. "Well, having fun dissecting each others' work? Excellent. Saves us from having to explain how bad it is to each of you." He loomed over Fernflower. "Oooh, I remember this one!" he cackled, waving to a hare who was leaning against the wall and gnawing on a pasty. "Basil! Basil, c'mere, you've got to see this!"

Basil came over, looking curiously at the printout. "Ah, another of her silly Sues?"

"Not quite," said Slagar, grinning. "This one's a fight scene between you and me - if you can call it that. Go on, Miz Fernflower, read this page out."

Fernflower, looking confused, cleared her throat and started to read. "...and then the fox pulled out his bolas, swung it above his head, and let it fly, and it wrapped itself around Basil's waist, pinning his arms to his side."

Basil blinked indignantly. "Wait a bally moment, y'mean I just stood there and let the rotter sling me like that?"

"Wouldn't a stone bolas break his ribs, not just knock him over?" Thom asked.

"Depends on how hard you throw it," said Slagar with a shrug.

"The fox chuckled, said 'Just like old times, eh?' and took out another bolas-"

"'Just like old times'? What's that supposed to mean?"

"I was going to handle that in a prequel, but I never got round to posting that before you dragged me here!" Fernflower protested.

"And when did I have two bolas?" Slagar glanced at the bolas slung from his belt. "Though actually that's not a bad idea. There is an inherent problem in a weapon you have to throw away and retrieve … never mind, carry on."

"-and swung it over his head again, and let it fly again to wrap around the hare's ankles."

"And again I don't try to dodge or make a run for it!" Basil rolled his eyes. "What am I, a target-practice dummy?"

"Basil fell to the ground, and gazed up at Slagar as the fox took out a large cloth and tied it around the hare's mouth."

"Tchah! If there's one thing I can't stand it's being gagged, wot!"

"Hm, actually Basil, I think it would suit you very nicely."

"Shut up, half-face!"

"Slagar then picked Basil up by the waist and slung him over his shoulder with a soft grunt."

"I completely detest the fact that I've made no fight against the blighter! Sure, if he had snuck up behind me an' knocked me out, that'd be realistic, but this-!"

"I'd tell you to stop complaining, but that's bothering me as well," Slagar said, shaking his head. "Where's the fun if they don't try to fight back?"

"'Since you're the only one who knows me,' the fox purred-"

"'Purred'? Alright, what with the being tied up and all, this is getting a tad worrying …"

"'-I can't have you ruining my plans. Its time to kiss you goody.'"

Basil dropped his pasty. "Wait, what?"

"Oops, that was a typo. It's supposed to be 'goodbye'." Fernflower blinked at her stunned or giggling classmates. "Why are you all looking at me like that?"

Suzi fell out of her chair, weeping with laughter. Thom held up a paw and spluttered "No more, no more! If I laugh any more I'll lose bladder control!" Fernflower reread the page and blushed very, very deeply. Slagar grinned broadly.

Basil took the printout and flicked through it. "So he ties me up, disturbing dialogue, blah blah ... hang on a mo, when he comes back I'm nowhere to be seen and nobeast on my side even seems worried about me! Where did I go?"

Fernflower blinked again. "Um ... oops. I knew I forgot something."

"Yes, you certainly did! You forgot I'm a seasoned warrior, there's no way I'd let the rotter just catch me like tha-"

Basil fell flat on his face as Slagar's bolas wrapped around his knees.

"You were saying?" Slagar said smugly, placing a footpaw on Basil's neck. Basil protested in a muffled voice. "Tsk, such language in front of the young impressionable students." Slagar plucked a pawkerchief from his pocket and stuffed it into Basil's mouth, then slung the hare over his shoulder and climbed out the open window. The students heard him yell "Dinnertime, boys!", followed by a loud splash, the hissing of Minis, and a muffled yell.

Aaron glanced out of the window. "Hope the resurrection process works on staff, too."

"It does, don't worry," said Ilex. "Remember when Pikkle accidentally ate my Assassination 101 homework? Still don't know why I got detention for that."

Maligant shrugged. "Yeah, he'll be fine. Wanna place bets on how soon he gets Slagar back?"

Fernflower refused to speak to Suzi or Thom for the rest of the week.


[Miss Minty: Thanks to everyone who gave us fic ideas! Especially to Kelaiah, who actually wrote out that bit of Fernflower's and the canonicals' commens on it. Sorry if we didn't get yours in. If you have actually done anything mentioned, please don't take it personally, and remember there's always a worse fic out there. We're also sorry this took so long - I've had a tough year at uni, and after Mr Jacques' passing I just wasn't in the mood. This will be the last purely silly chapter, I warn you. We want to finish this eventually, so an actual plot is coming up. Stay tuned.]