When half-human enchanter Maddy Dune wins the All-Arduvulin Spelling Bee she plunges into the heart of a terrifying conflict no one warned her about. The Department of Criminal Magic is clueless. Her adoptive parents are hopeless. Her only allies are a birdlike emissary created by the murderous kylochs of Ghula and her adoptive father's fantastically clever clockwork cat.
A sentient starship, refitted and pressed into service... quite possibly mad. An unstable crew, captained by a ruthless woman... quite possibly pirates. A fresh recruit, with an unexplained past... and his cat. In a world where nothing is what it seems and heroes are in short supply. Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. Just sit down. Buckle in. And hang on.
Fifteen brides-to-be have been murdered by sorcery most foul. Detective Inspector Nadine Oortsgarten has her suspect. A disreputable scoundrel with a shadowy past, known criminal associates, and a very short life expectancy. Professor of Enchantment Eusebius Quille.
A dozen of the best young spellcasters in the land. The heir to the throne, determined to beat them all. And Maddy Dune, a half-human enchanter who'll settle for getting through the competition without killing anyone.
This story was first published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 27.