I awoke early, as usual, a legacy of growing up in a baker's household. I loved the early morning hours, the quiet before anyone else was awake. It awarded a chance for privacy, a commodity both precious and rare in a bustling busy town like Caissa.

So I stretched, and wriggled around in my warm bed until I could reach the pile of clothing I'd left on the floor the night before.

Something growled at me.


I flipped open the basket on the nightstand. The permanent spell on the ball of fuzz inside sprang to life, spreading a warm yellow glow through the room. I poked, cautiously, through the pile of clothing.

Nothing in the baggy tunic. Nothing in the long, loose skirt. But what was that lump, there, in my sock? I lifted the skirt away and let out a surprised shriek when a grayish green little something popped out and snapped at me.


Now, screaming and yelling profanity an hour before dawn isn't generally going to make you any friends, and even here at Sellingford's Academy for the Magical Arts there was no exception. The supervisor, a permanent resident of the sleeping hall intended to keep the juniors in line, came stampeding into my room, followed by a sleepy, eye-rubbing herd of curiosity seekers.

"What's your problem?" Allison growled, yanking her robe closed. Her short, viciously curly hair spiked out all over her head, and her eyes glared red and puffy.

"There's a demon in my sock!"

"There's a what?" Like most people, Allison wasn't at her best first thing in the morning. She blinked blearily, then bent over and injudiciously grabbed the sock in question. The lump inside moved and a nasty little greenish head popped out and bit her.

"Yow!" Allison rocked back, shaking her hand. "Kira, there's a demon in your sock!"

"I know that," I replied, with an exasperated roll of my eyes. "Now what am I supposed to do about it? And while you decide, could you hand me my tunic? I'm freezing!"

Trying to shake off her morning daze, Allison freed my tunic from beneath the demon-infested sock. The lump inside the sock growled again, but I got my tunic and pulled it on. There, much better. Nothing quite like being naked under a blanket while a crowd of first-annums watched the dorm mom getting bit by a demon in your room.

"Right, you little bunger," Allison said, and the crowd snickered. "You're not going to get me like that again."

She knelt on the floor, with much creaking and groaning, although no more cursewords fell on the attentive young ears outside. Then she positioned herself above the sock, which was now squirming and making little grunting noises. The demon inside arranged itself comfortably, just in time to have its rest disrupted once again.

Allison's hand darted out, quicker than snot, and grasped the end of the sock, holding it closed. She held her trophy up, giving it a triumphant shake. The demon let loose a thin, infuriated wail.

"Here, hold this," she said, thrusting the squirming article of clothing at me.

Gingerly, I held the sock closed while Allison picked herself up off the floor, tossing my skirt at me as she did so.

"Now, missy. Give me back that demon, and we'll take it to the Dean. We'll soon figure out who's at the bottom of this, and what's to be done to get the little guy back where he belongs. Oh, and get your skirt on. And find some other footwear!" She took the captive, snarling demon, and started chivvying youngsters back out of the room. "All right, all right, back to your rooms. Nothing to see here. Fun's over."

I sighed and reached for my skirt. Another day begun at the Magical Art school!