Black Magic Academy
Emily Martha Sorensen
Copyright 2012 by Emily Martha Sorensen
Captives and Cabbage
“Good news!” Aunt Anklistine strode into the kitchen, rubbing her hands. Her hair was pulled back in its usual severe bun, wisps trailing out at the ends. Her angular face looked gleeful. “Someone stole a cabbage from our garden!”
Aunt Lilith squinted up from the cauldron she was stirring. She brushed her spotless apron and dipped a finger in the boiling liquid to taste the brew. “A cabbage? Already?”
Aunt Anklistine flicked at her boots. Caked mud clumped off and landed by the doormat. “Yes, already. They’ve been enchanted since yesterday. I told you my lures work quickly.”
Mildred looked up from the squirming orange mash she was supposed to be chopping for dinner tonight. It looked atrocious and smelled repulsive. Probably Aunt Hurda’s idea of dessert. Good news that someone stole from us? she wondered.
Aunt Lilith sighed. “You realize we don’t have a room free to keep a captive yet.”
“Oh, we can use Mildred’s.” Aunt Anklistine ran her bony fingers through her hair. “She won’t need it much longer. Once she leaves —”
“Excuse me?” Mildred burst in.
Aunt Lilith jumped, looking guilty.
“I thought she was banned from the kitchen.” Aunt Anklistine frowned at the corner where Mildred had sat hidden. “Doesn’t she burn everything?”
“She’s not stirring, she’s chopping. Besides, she has to learn to cook eventually.”
“What a nuisance,” Aunt Anklistine muttered.
“Mildred’s not a nuisance! There’s every chance she’ll grow up to be just as creditable as her mother. Besides, Drakin was . . .”
Evil? Vicious? Vindictive? No loss to anybody? Mildred thought sourly.
“. . . irreplaceable,” Aunt Lilith finished. “But our niece has her own qualities —”
“Such as trying to talk to Normals?”
Mildred’s face turned hot. One time she’d tried to sneak out of the manor to find a friend. Once. Why couldn’t Aunt Anklistine let her forget it?
Aunt Lilith sighed. “Be that as it may . . . you realize that if we leave to fetch the thief, we’ll have to take Hurda with us. That was Oplisa’s condition for letting us out for the day.”
Aunt Anklistine’s face pinched. “I suppose she might have some use . . .”
Mildred sighed. Aunt Oplisa saw it as her duty to coerce the middle sisters to include the youngest, but she rarely subjected herself to Aunt Hurda personally.
The front door slammed, and both aunts stiffened.
Aunt Hurda stomped into the kitchen. Her clothes were coated in mud and grass stains. Her favorite necklace of cockroach legs was knocked askew, and her right foot trailed a cobweb with brambles tangled in it.
“Got a cabbage missing,” she grunted.
“I know that. I planted them.” Aunt Anklistine folded her arms. “Unless two are missing because you just ate one?”
“What did you wear into my kitchen?” Aunt Lilith screamed. “Get out! Get out! Take that filth with you!”
Ignoring her, Aunt Hurda dipped her knuckle in the stew and slurped. “Not burnt enough yet.” She knelt down by the fire and blew. The flames roared.
Aunt Lilith wrenched her sister away. “Get out of my kitchen!”
Mildred tried not to giggle.
Aunt Hurda didn’t seem to notice. She reached out and snagged a handful of squirming orange mash.
“No good raw.” She shoved it in her mouth anyway. “Burn it, too.”
“I’ve told you before,” Aunt Lilith said through gritted teeth. “Stay out of my kitchen twelve nights a week, and you get to cook the thirteenth. Why is that so difficult to remember?”
“Once a week not enough,” Aunt Hurda mumbled through her mouthful. “Don’t get enough respect as it is.”
Aunt Anklistine’s eyebrows drew together. “Well, if someone hadn’t refused to declare a death-enemy when she came of age . . .”
“Nobody I wanted to kill,” Aunt Hurda shot back.
“That isn’t actually necessary,” Aunt Lilith snapped, snatching the remainder of the orange mash from the counter and squishing it into a bowl. “I’ve never killed a witch in my life.”
Mildred nodded. Very few witches took the term literally. Aunt Anklistine competed with her enemy to make nastier gardens. Aunt Lilith stole recipes from hers. Of course, Aunt Oplisa had killed her death-enemy years ago, but Aunt Oplisa killed everything.
“Speaking of which,” Aunt Anklistine said pointedly, “don’t we have a Normal to go out and capture?”
“Oh! Right. Right.” Aunt Lilith snapped her fingers, and the fire under the pot died. She smacked Aunt Hurda’s hand away from her shelf of alphabetized cookbooks, and said, reluctantly, “Would you like to come with us?”
Aunt Hurda grinned, showing her black teeth. “I like capturing things.”
Aunt Lilith’s shoulders slumped. “Go to your room, Mildred,” she said morosely. “Clean it out. We’ll be back in an hour.”
“But I need my room!” Mildred protested. “It’s small and private and has the best view in the manor —”
“Towers are traditional for keeping captives,” Aunt Anklistine snapped. “Stop arguing and do it.”
“Then where am I supposed to sleep?” Mildred cried.
“You can have Drakin’s old room,” Aunt Lilith said kindly, as if offering a generous gift.
Mildred stared at her in horror.
“I’ll cook tonight,” Aunt Hurda offered, pulling a limp ball of fur from her pocket. “Rat soup.”
“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” Aunt Lilith screamed, diving to stop her.