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A Deadly Education

Recap & Book Summary

The Quick Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.

For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

Quick(-ish) Recap

Galadriel ("El") is a junior at Scholomance, a school of magic, with a very strong natural ability for mass destruction and dark arts. She doesn't want to be a dark wizard ("maleficers"), but her affinity for destruction limits her ability to use her powers. Learning non-destructive spells is much more difficult for her, while destructive spells are overpowered in her hands. Others can often sense her darkness, too, which is why El is a loner.

There are two types of power that can fuel spells: mana and malia. Malia draws from the life-force of other living things, and users of it are known as "maleficers". Mana is generated through effort, like exercise or labor. El is "strict mana".

Orion Lake is a very well-connected classmate, considered the "hero" of their class. Orion's family is part of the New York enclave, the most powerful in the world and his mother is soon to be the leader of it. Enclaves (identified based on location) are groupings of wizards that share power and protect each other. Entry into an enclave is highly sought-after, and everyone sucks up to students born into enclaves, called "enclavers", in hopes of securing a spot.

Orion starts hanging around El because he suspects she is a maleficer who had something to do with the recent disappearance of one of their classmates, Louisa. However, the actual culprit, Jack, ends up attacking El, and Orion saves her. After the misunderstand is cleared up, Orion continues to hang out with El. It leads to a major boost to El's popularity.

There are three educational tracks at school: incantations, alchemy, or artifice. El is an incanter and has a project that requires all three disciplines to complete. She recruits Aardhya (artificer), an acquaintance of hers, and Orion (alchemist) to help. They create a magic mirror. Afterwards, the mirror repeats a prophesy that El has already heard before, that El is the bringer of death and will sow death and doom and bring down enclaves.

Scholomance is structurally designed to protect young, untrained wizards from maleficaria ("mals"), dangerous creatures that feed on wizards for their mana. Still, mals manage to get in, so students must be on alert, especially loners like El. Moreoever, in order to graduate, seniors cross through the lowest floor of Scholomance (considered the "graduation ceremony"), which was designed as a barrier to keep mals outs. It's an area overrun with mals and many die in the process. Preparing for the "ceremony" is a major part of being a student at Scholomance. There is a scouring machine that goes through the halls of the entire school twice a year with a wall of mortal flame that kills all the mals. The lowest floor ("graduation hall") has one, too, but it's been broken since 1886. Attempts to repair it have left powerful wizards dead.

El is in the library when she finds a maw-mouth, a unstoppable mal whose presence means certain death. There is only one known instance of killing a maw-mouth, and it involved nine powerful wizards. El manages to single-handedly kill the maw-mouth. She doesn't think anyone will believe her afterwards and tells no one.

The New York enclavers are puzzled by Orion's friendship with El, since he has never show much interest in anyone else including themselves. They eventually extend El a high-prized invitation to join their enclave, but El has come to realize that she wants nothing to do with the elitist enclaves that prey on and exploit others' desperation. Instead, El works to parlay her new social capital into an alliance with Aardhya and another friend, Yi Liu, for their ceremony next year. El feels lucky to have real friends now and people to watch her back.

While Orion's heroics has saved hundreds of students from mals, that means the mals are now desperately hungry, especially the ones in the basement. They've created a hole in the barrier which is how the maw-mouth ended up in the school. Orion has been trying to patch it up, but El learns that a group of seniors have been knocking out his repairs in hopes that mals will feed on the lower-classmen to sate their hunger somewhat before the ceremony.

Together, El, Orion and some of El's friends (all juniors) manage to collectively repair the barrier more securely. But the seniors are angry about this. After some argument, a plan is formed for El, Orion and a group of talented seniors to attempt a repair of the scouring machine in the graduation all before the ceremony in one week. After much preparation, a group of 20 of them manage to get in and make repairs, though two die.

When they return to the main floors, the warning bell has gone off signaling that the scouring machines are about to run. Soon, the seniors have now departed, though whether they exited into a newly-scoured hall or one crawling with mals is unknown. El and Orion decide to formally start dating. Induction happens, where new freshmen are magically drawn into the school. One of them comes bearing a letter from El's mother. It reads: "My darling girl, I love you, have courage, and keep far away from Orion Lake."

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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

Chapter 1: Soul-Eater

Scholomance is a school of magic where Galadriel (“El”) is a student in her junior year. She needs to clean her room, but needs to gather power for a spell to do so.

There are two types of power used to fuel spells: mana and malia. Malia draws from the life-force from living beings around it, and it’s considered “wicked” to use. Those who use it are called “maleficers“, and they suffer negative, disintegrating effects from its usage eventually. It takes time to heal up from its negative psychic effects.

Maleficaria (“mals”) are evil creatures, such as soul-eaters, that attack wizards and especially school-aged ones. They are old enough to have mana, but not old enough to know enough about what to do with it. Being at school, as opposed to being out in the normal world, offers some protection for young wizards who are still learning their craft. However, to graduate from Scholomance, the seniors are taken to the “graduation hall”, which is a basement filled with Maleficaria, and left to fight their way out. If you survive, you graduate. El’s father died during his graduation ceremony.

Instead, El grew up with her mother in a hippy commune. El’s mother is a good wizard who only uses mana for spells, which is a positive life-force that takes work to generate. In her room, El does jumping jacks to generate mana to clean her room. She has some emergency crystals that contain mana, but doesn’t want to use those. El also has to worry about stockpile mana for the graduation ceremony.

Upon graduating, El hopes to get into an enclave, which is like a club of wizards that help each other and generate mana together. Destructive magic tends to be drawn to El. It’s not very useful for much other than wreaking havoc, but having someone with that type of magic can be a good protection against others who might wish you harm.

El’s mother took her to live with her father’s (wealthier and more powerful) family at one point, but her great-grandmother sensed her destructive affinity and prophesized that El would bring “death and destruction to all the enclaves in the world” and needed to be stopped. So, they had to get out of there. Others often sense El’s affinity as well and steer clear of her.

El is frustrated by Orion Lake, who is sort of a hero on campus. He likes to rush in and save the day, and El wants him dead. He’s “saved” her life three times, though she would argue she didn’t need saving. Moreover, she doesn’t want the reputation of being a damsel in distress since it’ll hurt her chances of getting into an enclave.

Most recently, Orion had blasted a soul-eater that had slithered into her room/cell, but that created a mess and destroyed her door. Most of the other students at Scholomance adore Orion. Most years, over a hundred juniors would be dead by this point, but thanks to Orion’s heroics, less than 20 had died so far. Orion was born into the New York enclave, the most powerful enclave in the world, so it guarantees him a life of luxury no matter what. Orion’s mother is the presumptive future Domina (leader) of the New York enclave.

Chapter 2: Mimics

Scholomance does not exist in the real world. Instead, it was built in a void by artificers, who are magical builders of stuff. The school has been magick’ed into appearing to have walls and floors (etc.), but it’s not subject to the same rules of physics. Instead, it’s a “persuadable” space, so its physical properties can be altered according to your thoughts. If you believe something creepy will jump out at you, it likely will. If you think a walk is short or long, it becomes shorter or longer.

After the soul-eater attack, El needs to go down to the school workshop to repair her door, but journeys anywhere can potentially be dangerous. El needs someone to go with her, but she lacks social capital at school. Instead, Orion offers to accompany her, and she grudgingly accepts. As they walk, Orion tells El that the mals don’t attack him for some reason. He also is able to pull mana from killing mals.

When they get there, El approaches the boxes of supplies warily, since Mals are known to jump out of them. There’s no guarantee of what you’ll find in the boxes since it’s all drawn from the void. Instead, the tools or supplies manifest in whatever way they want so you’re left taking what you can get. El finds some valuable stuff that day. However, as they fill their pockets, mimics disguised as chairs attack her and Orion and they have to fight them off.

Afterwards, Orion watches her fix her door. He notices that she only uses generated mana. Most people pull bits of malia from harmless sources like the air or bits of wood, but El does not. She knows that if she tried to pull malia, it would be taken from a human. For most people it’s much harder to draw from humans, but for her it’s the opposite. When Orion argues with her about it, El demonstrates on him, pulling some of his life force, and Orion looks aghast.

Chapter 3: Maleficer

At Scholomance, most things come with some degree of risk. Mals can crawl under the door, so El sets trip wires. At breakfast, Orion insists on joining El even though she is blatantly rude to him, and he zaps a mal that appears under the eggs. Another mal had killed another student earlier that breakfast.

There are no teachers at Scholomance. Instead things like spells, assignments and whatnot are conjured up by the school itself from the void.

There are three educational tracks at school: incantations, alchemy, or artifice. El is studying incantations. Incantations can be learned through languages (translating spells) or writing your own. El is studying languages, because her destructive affinity is too strong. Her useful spells end up destructive if she tries to write her own.

Her affinity also means that learning useful spells is tough for her, but the destructive ones she reads once and never forgets. Her spells are often too forceful, too. Her strong destruction affinity means that a spell that might light a match for one student will incinerate the entire school and suck up everyone’s life force if El uses it. Also, El is not unattractive, but her affinity additionally means that anyone who is interested her soon gets the feeling that she’s capable of devouring their soul and is generally turned off by it.

After breakfast, El heads to class, but the group of classmates she’s walking with volunteer to go with Orion to the stockroom for supplies so El goes with them. Afterwards, El demands to know why Orion seems to have taken an interest in her. It’s implied that Orion believes she’s evil and is keeping an eye on her. Orion suspects that she had something to do with the disappearance of a fellow student, Louisa. (El believes Jack Westing, a maleficer classmate of theirs, was the one who was involved.)

Other kids start to think Orion’s interest in El is romantic in nature and it ups her social status. A boy named Mika saves El a seat at alchemy labs. Later, Nkoyo, an acquantance, invites her for dinner. El asks if she can bring Yi Liu, who is a friend of hers who is a little bit of a maleficer but not like Jack.

After dinner, there’s a knock on the door. El expects to see Orion, but instead it’s Jack, who plunges a knife in her stomach. Jack knows Orion is poking around the Louisa situation and blames El for it, even though El hasn’t mentioned Jack’s name. Caught off guard, El is temped to use her dark magic to fight off Jack, but Orion appears at her cell and fight him instead.

Chapter 4: Things That Go Bump in the Night

Afterwards, Jack is a charred corpse. Orion helps El apply a healing patch that El’s mother had prepared. A warning bell soon rings for curfew, and students that are in others’ cells after curfew is bad news, as it makes them a target for mals. However, Orion refuses to leave. As Orion fights of the mals that soon attack the room, he notices her stash of rare crystals (vessels for storing mana).

El reluctantly admits her mother is Gwen Higgins, who is known as a great spiritual healer. El arrived at school with a stockpile of empty crystals from her mother, and El has been working hard to try to fill them with mana before the graduation battle. Orion continues to fight off mals (which generates mana for him for some reason), and he easily fills some of the crystals. El gives him a crystal as a thank-you. When the morning comes, Orion is exhausted, so El uses a simple rejuvenation spell her mother had taught her on him.

As they stumble out of the room together the next morning, rumors abound. The students from the London enclave, a very powerful enclave, start showing an interest in El, with hopes that if they lure her then they can get Orion if they really are becoming an item. Of course, El knows better than to throw over her existing friends, Yi and Aadhya (and to a lesser extent, Nkoyo), for these temporary new friends. Instead, she brings them with her to network with these other, more well-connected students. She wants them to know that she’s someone who pays her debts and who will share an advantage if she gets it.

Later that day, El asks Aadhya for help on a magic mirror assignment she’s working on. One part of it involves a process that borrows from all three disciplines. Aadhya is an artificer, and El suspects she can ask Orion to help with the alchemy. He agrees. They then have an awkward dinner with her friends, his New York enclave friends and some students from the London enclave.

Chapter 5: Sirenspiders

Afterwards, El, Aadhya and Orion head down to work on the magic mirror. Aadhya seems to be showing off for Orion, while El is determined to show off for Aadhya in hopes to secure her as an ally even after Orion lost interest in her. However, as El begins her incantation, trying to bind magic into the mirror, two sirenspiders show up. But Orion takes them out, and the incantation goes perfectly.

Afterwards, the newly forged mirror spouts the prophecy, once again, that El is the “bringer of death” mean to “sow wrath and reap destruction” and etcetera. El dismissively covers the mirror up.

The next day, Orion gets called over to join his friends, and El eats alone once again. She tells herself she prefers it this way, but a part of her knows how lonely and exhausting it is to fend for herself. There’s always the possibility a mal can lurk out at you, and having no one else to watch your back for so long is tiring. She thinks of how the enclave kids will graduate and go off to their well-protected enclaves with sentries keeping watch, and she thinks of growing up with just her mom as they spent an hour each night putting up wards to protect them. The mals are especially hungry for El because of her powers. The first one came for her when she was nine, and they haven’t stopped coming since. Her mom has been worn down in the intervening years trying to fight them off.

But then, Aadhya sits down at the table and Liu joins along with some of her friends, too. El knows they are just showing good sense in paying back the favor she did for them yesterday, but El feels relieved and shakily emotional about it, anyway.

Afterwards, Orion asks why El didn’t join him, and she’s rude to him about it. It occurs to her that Orion knows now that she’s not a maleficer, but just wants to hang out with someone who doesn’t suck up to him all the time. Still, she admits to him that she didn’t realize he wanted her to join him.

Chapter 6: Manifestation

El and Orion become friends. El has never had true friends and Orion’s crew just suck up to him, so it’s not something either of them are familiar with. Orion joins El at the library, and he tells El that he felt responsible for Louisa because she’d asked him for help and he’d angrily said no, and then three days later she was dead. El says that Louisa likely turned to Jack for help, and he took the opportunity to kill Louisa (likely to gather malia).

The library is one of the safer places at Scholomance, though it can be hard to claim a spot. El works deep in the stacks in a corner filled with texts in long-dead languages. Many students are careful to avoid those languages, since if you spend to long looking at a language, they school may decide that you are effectively studying that language and start providing spells to you in that language. In general, you aren’t able to progress forward until you learn the spells you’ve been given. It can leave people “spell-choked” if they aren’t able to learn that dead language.

When they get to El’s library desk, she checks around for mals. El gets jumped by mals on a near-daily basis, but Orion (and other enclave kids) rarely gets jumped. The maleficaria sense weakness and go for it. El, often alone, is a natural target. Enclave kids — with people to help them, advanced shields, plenty of company and power-sharing devices — are much worse targets.

Orion suggests working at the library again tomorrow, but El has a maintenance shift. It involves helping to patch up or clean things at the school. Enclave kids like Orion generally collectively outsource their maintenance shifts to one person in exchange for letting that person into their enclave after graduation. El’s shift involves cleaning the alchemy lab, and Orion offers to come with her.

El knows she should be buddying up to Orion’s friends in order to increase her chances of getting in to their enclave or ally with them for graduation, but she doesn’t want to do it. Even Aadhya notices and advises El to think strategically, especially because El turns people off. Aadhya explains that being around El sometimes feels like there’s just a bad vibe. Still, El has a plan to find a way to showcase her own powers in hopes that she’ll be recruited as an ally on the basis of her own power, as opposed to her friendship with Orion.

One day at the library Orion goes charging off somewhere. She follows him and can hear there’s a battle down the hall, and she thinks it may be her moment to prove herself. However, but the school seems to want to prevent her from joining in and large books start appearing in the shelves and catching her attention. She finds an unlabeled book that has clearly been carefully hidden and is likely quite valuable.

When she finally emerges, she sees that a bunch of mals are in the reading room of the library, and there is a maw-mouth, an enormous and unstoppable mal, lurking there. They don’t bother teaching it at school because if you come across one, you’ll likely die. The only defense is hunkering down and hoping it hunts elsewhere. No known lone wizard can kill one, and none have ever been seen anywhere in the school other than the basement. El also knows that her dad died trying to distract a maw-mouth from killing her mom. The other mals in the library were likely running from the maw-mouth.

Outside the library, Orion is battling the other mals, unaware of the maw-mouth. Cynically, El realizes that even if she managed to kill it now in the empty library, no one would know and she’d likely use up all her mana in the process, leaving her vulnerable by graduation time. Still, she realizes she needs to at least try, since it will devour many people. She charges at it, and as it attempts to consume her, she throws a bevvy of killing spells at it.

It works, and the sludge of the dead maw mouth ooze into the floor drains. Orion comes back inside soon after to give her the all-clear regarding the other mals.

Chapter 7: Misery

Afterwards, Orion asks El what happened, but she doesn’t want to talk about it, fearing that no one will believe her. El is dazed over the encounter, looking at her drained mana but also realizing that she has the power to kill a maw-mouth. She wonders if kids would be impressed or just scared if they understood her powers. Back in her room, El reads about the one known successful attempt to kill a maw-mouth. It had involved nine wizards with about a thousand times more mana than El had and four of them had died in the process.

When El finally gets a chance to look at the book she’d found in the library, she sees it’s in Arabic which means she’ll have to keep studying Arabic if she keeps reading. However, she gapes when she realizes it’s a spell part of the set needed to build an enclave. Natural enclaves requires generations of wizards living and working together stably to form over time. Most of the largest enclaves are instead constructed by spells, but those spells, called the Golden Stone Sutras, are thought to have largely been lost.

This book only contains one of the spells, but it’s an important and very valuable one called the Golden Stone phase-control spell. By the time El stops reading, her hands are shaking. The next day, El talks to Aadhya about it, who offers to help set up an auction for the book. They plan to auction off five copies of the spell.

Chapter 8: Crawler

Aadhya and El plan a demonstration of the spell during breakfast in advance of the auction, but there’s a distraction. News is one of the seniors, Todd Quayle from the New York enclave, has poached someone’s room. Todd’s room was located in a dangerous location and he took the room of Mika, a loner with a better, safer room.

Scholomance assigns the rooms, and the only way to change rooms at Scholomance is to get rid of someone else. Killing them is not enough, instead you have to physically force them into the void to clear out the space for yourself. No one knows what happens to people who are lost to the void. The rest of the kids shun Todd after this vicious act.

Orion angrily confronts Todd. Todd snaps back angrily at Orion. Todd says that thanks to Orion’s heroic antics, the mals in the basement (which he and the other seniors will be facing off with soon) are hungrier than ever for people to snack on. Todd says he saw a maw-mouth go by his doorway, and he knew he needed a different room. El realizes that Todd is likely right, and that the mals in the school have been especially numerous lately likely because they are desperate. Still, Orion doesn’t know what to say in response, so El butts in and defends Orion.

Later, El heads to the library which is surprisingly empty, since the kids are all scared of a potential maw-mouth lurking around. Orion goes off to try to hunt it, not knowing that El has already killed it. She takes the opportunity to mend a chair in the reading room, a preferred area of the library, and claims it by writing her name on it. The rule at Scholomance is that if you mend a piece of furniture, then you get dibs on it for the rest of the year. Orion searches everywhere, but can’t find the maw-mouth. The kids wonder if Todd imagined it.

The next day, El works at the library, and her friends and Orion join her. Magnus, one of Orion’s friends, is convinced that El has lured Orion away and tries to kill El by setting a crawler for her. Orion manages to see it and kill it, but it creates a problem for El. Because Magnus tried to kill her, El now has a right and the burden of retaliating or else it will seem like she’s scared of them.

El leaves the library seething in anger. However, as she seethes, she thinks of what she could do to them. She thinks of how she’s a better person than them, too. But she also realizes that anything she could do to retaliate would lead her down a road of becoming significantly worse than them. Instead, the only option was to let it go.

As she comes to this conclusion, Aadhya comes in. She flat-out asks El if she killed the maw-mouth. Aadhya has pieced together that the incantation El used to make the mirror would require an very powerful wizard to do, and that it’s way too difficult an assignment for Scholomance to give to any random student. Aadhya is also sure that Todd saw the maw-mouth because why else would he be scared enough to poach a room otherwise. Aadhya says El should be telling everyone about her feat and that they’d all want to her for their enclaves, but El says that she doesn’t want to join the enclavers.

Chapter 9: Unknown

El remembers growing up that she’d begged her mother to join an enclave, but her mother had refused. El had been determined to join one after Scholomance. But El resents the excesses of the enclaves and their need to exploit others to further their power and influence.

Scholomance was originally built by the enclavers only for the use of other enclavers. They started letting other people in later, but El realizes now that it wasn’t an act of kindess. Instead, they needed cannon fodder, people to serve them, minions and maids. Everyone else does extra work to try to suck up to the enclaver kids in the hopes of getting an invite into their exclusive enclaves.

With the realization that she wants nothing to do with the enclavers, El knows she needs to really start building an alliance if she’s not going to try to ally with the enclavers. As El, Aadhya and Liu get ready one morning, Liu announces that she’s going to cut her hair off. She’s been using bits of malia to maintain it, but the malia usage is taking a toll on her. Aadhya mentions wanting Liu’s hair if she does to create a lute to ward off siren-spiders.

El decides to offer Liu the phase-changing spell in exchange for her hair. Aadhya, a talented artificer, can then take it as her “cut” of the spell auction. Aadhya jumps in, phrasing it as a firm offer of an alliance between the three of them. Aadhya says the lute will benefit all of them at graduation. Before Liu can answer, they get interrupted.

Later, El broaches the topic of an alliance again. Liu admits that she’s low on mana, especially now that she’s stopped using malia. Liu has a mana aplification spell given to her by her family, but she hasn’t learned it yet. El tells her that if she hasn’t sorted it by the end of next quarter, then she’ll pick up Mandarin and learn it. El realizes that Liu may not be the strongest choice for an ally, but El simply likes her as a friend and wants her to live, too.

El contemplates her life when she was living among mundanes (people without the ability to store and use mana). Mundanes can be harmed by mals, but they have the protection of not believing in these things. By not believing, mals are weakened. Mundanes also offer little if any reward for mals, because mundanes lack mana. If a wizard tries to do magic in front of mundanes, it will be harder, as will subsequent attempts to do that spell. If you keep trying to do magic in front of disbelievers, you’ll lose the ability to do magic.

Later, Chloe, one of Orion and Magnus’s New York friends, stops El from sitting at her desk in the library. She warns that Magnus has put a spell there. When El gets mad at Chloe for being part of the crawler scheme, Chloe tells her it wasn’t meant to kill her. It’s a malia-sucker so it would only draw out her malia, since Magnus was concerned that El might be a maleficer. Chloe is surprised when El says that she’s “strict mana” and doesn’t use any malia.

Afterwards, Chloe says that they want to recruit El into the New York enclave. El declines and demands to know why they even want her. Chloe says that El is the only person Orion wants to hang out with. Orion spends time with the rest of the New York enclave, but has no interest in them. He was like that even when they were children. He’s only ever wanted to hunt mals. But for the last couple weeks, he seems to do whatever El invites him to do. The rest of them have been debating whether El is some sort of maleficer who is using magic to do something to him to get him to act this way.

El realizes that Orion’s enclave sees him as this golden prince and keep wanting him to fit into that idea, which is probably why he doesn’t care to hang out with them.

Chapter 10: Grogler

The next day Orion is very tired in class. El doesn’t know why, and he doesn’t explain. El and Aadhya hold the demonstration of the phase-changing spell in shop class. However, near the end, the room starts vibrating. As it continues, all the students run out and upstairs. El sees Orion rush down, so she follows him back down to help. She gets to him in time to see him thrown through the air by a giant tentacle.

In the stairwell, El realizes that it has managed to escape from the graduation hall, which means that all the other mals are likely to follow. El ends up having to freeze the creature, a grogler. Afterwards, Orion admits that he’s been trying to mend the hole in the wall where the mals are escaping from, which is why he’s so tired.

Chapter 11: Seniors

At lunch, Aadhya inspects the material that Orion has been using to mend the wall, but advises that it’s not strong enough to hold for very long. The group — Aadhya, Orion, El, Liu and Ibrahim (an acquaintance) – decide that they need more people to generate the mana needed to properly hold off the mals so they can thoroughly fix the walls. They also can’t alert the seniors because the seniors know that if the mals escape, they’ll be more inclined to attack weaker under classmen, so some of them will be inclined to just let the wall fall.

When El suggests they use Orion’s mana from his enclave he reluctantly admits that his power share blocks him from open access to the mana stores because he’s bad about controlling how much mana he uses. El is angry on his behalf since it’s likely Orion contributes much more than his fair share due to his ability to generate mana from mals.

They end up having to ask Chloe for help so that Orion can have full access to the enclave’s mana. (Chloe initially suggests they put in a maintenance request for the wall, but it’s pointed out to her that one kid doing a maintenance shift wouldn’t be able to handle this.) Soon, El and Aadhya start practicing how to melt down and reform metal in order to patch up the wall. They initially plan to do the repair tomorrrow, but they overhear some seniors saying that they’ve been punching out Orion’s repairs. Instead, they proceed to try to fix the wall immediately.

They are part of the way through when the group of seniors show up, planning to break open the wall. When the juniors refuse to leave, the seniors attack Orion and entangle him. As Ibrahim works to free him, Chloe runs away. El and Aadhya hurridly finish patching up the wall while they fight off mals while Liu shields them.

The patching works and Orion is okay. Chloe does head back down after having recruited a horde of kids to help in the fight, though it’s no longer necessary. Still, El holds it against Chloe for having left them there.

Chapter 12: The Graduation Horde

Afterwards, Magnus says they should call a tribual on the seniors for trying to knock down the wall, but the others know that the seniors would likely be on their side. Orion announces a plan to try to cull the graduation mals. The mals are hungry and will continue to be hungry unless tons of students die. El tries to dissuade him, noting that the gates are only open for thirty minutes.

As they argue, the senior valedictorian, Clarita Acevedo-Cruz, interrupts. She tells Orion that he’s likely saved around 600 lives in his time here. It’s why the mals are hungry, but it’s also why the students are having to compete for food, too. The school expected to have less students by now. She also points out that there’s only nine hundred seniors, and in a normal year half of them would die during graduation. It’s not fair for them to additionally bear the full burden of the mals being desperate due to Orion’s heroics.

Instead, Clarita suggests that Orion fix the scouring machine in the basement which first broke in 1886. A scouring machine periodically goes through the halls of the school to release mortal fire on any mals, but the one in the basement does not work. By fixing the machine, they can permanently stop the mals at graduation. However, El doubts it will be easy. Multiple crews were sent to fix the machine before it was accepted that escaping was just part of the graduation process. The most powerful wizard alive at one point tried to fix it and ended up being killed by a maw-mouth. He did make some repairs, but they only lasted three years.

El is angry with Clarita for suggesting that they send Orion to almost certain death. Instead, El says that she’ll go, and that they’ll need the best seniors to go with them if they’re going to try to fix it, and the whole school needs to be generating mana for the effort. Soon, the seniors are all discussing who should go with enclaves offering positions for volunteers.

With graduation a week away, there is a frenzy of activity at school, with lots of trading going on as seniors get rid of any tools or supplies that won’t be helpful for the graduation ceremony. As El gears up for her mission, Chloe and Magnus arrange for others to finish her lab assignments and take her exams.

The plan is to have artificers and maintenance-track kids build the parts and do the repair. Meanwhile, incanters would shield them. In total, 20 people are on the mission. Clarita offers up a very powerful group shielding spell, and the repair team prepares the parts and practices doing the repair as quickly as possible. They also have to figure out a good way into the hall. The school is built specifically for that area to serve as a barrier, to prevent mals from getting to the students. They plan to go through a maintenance shaft, but it’s unknown what they’ll find in there.

On graduation day, Orion goes down the shaft first with El up next. The rest of the kids follow. One student, Vinh, uses some magic that turns part of the wall into one-way glass so they can get a glimpse of what awaits them. The kids finally enter into the hall calmly. The hordes of mals at first just perk up their heads, as a few of them start scuttling towards them. Once the mals really start coming, they break into a run. They make it to the machinery, but one girl, Ellen, trips and is killed. The incanters get the group shield up according to plan.

On the repair end, something has gone wrong which means it’ll require more time. Orion fights mals to keep generating mana. Still, the mals manage to take out David, one of the shield-bearers. Finally, the repair is done and the group is ready to make their exit. They get together and a yanker spell tears them all out of there in a sudden motion.

When they get back, they are tossed in with the graduating seniors. They realize that the bell has gone off to signal that the scouring equipment is about to run through the halls with a mortal flame, incinerating everything. El and Orion run out to try to make it to their rooms, but it’s too late and the flame is soon approaching. Orion, scared, grabs El and kisses her, but she knees him to get away from him and sets up her own mortal flame to act as a shield around them.

Chapter 13: Mortal Flame

The flame passes quickly, and sprayers cool down the halls. El wonders if their repair worked and if the graduation hall is now cleared out with few surviving mals. There’s no way to know.

Predictably, Orion is hailed as a hero by the rest of their class. El picks up some stuff from the workshop before heading up to her cell. Chloe pops in with a sincere apology and an offer of friendship. El grudgingly accepts.

Later, Aadhya and Liu pop in to hear about what happened. El tells them about the repair that ended up taking an hour. They joke around and tease her about the kiss. As they strategize for how to collect mana for their own graduations, El thinks wistfully about being able to use mana freely due to the power-sharer that she’d used during the repair.

Liu also shows them one of her pet mice, originally brought in to use for maleficer purposes. Now that she’s giving it up, she’s making them familiars, since she has an affinity for animals. She offers to train one for each of the other girls, to help watch out for stuff and check their food. Liu also mentions that her cousins will be arriving as freshman later that night.

The girls leave when they find Orion waiting outside. The two dance around the topic a bit, but Orion finally says that he’s interested in dating if El wants to.

At induction, the new freshman are magically pulled into the school. The freshman then head to the cafeteria, bearing letters addressed to the students inside. El is surprised to hear that her mom has sent her a letter. The other students are surprised to learn that Gwen Higgins is El’s mother. As her friends show off and share things their families have sent them, El feels happy to finally feel the joy of induction for once.

Orion joins them, and El finally looks at the note her mother has sent her. It’s one line that reads “My darling girl, I love you, have courage, and keep far away from Orion Lake.”

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