Authors: Stephanie S. Sanders
“Sure, let's go,” my mouth said, even as my brain screamed in protest.
We followed the winding stone halls toward the Dread Master's study, but when we got to the door, it was locked.
“He's probably teaching class.” I turned to go, but Dodge leaned casually against the wall and blocked my way with his foot.
“Oh, come on, Drexler. Don't tell me a villain like you doesn't know how to sneak into the school Master's study.”
“Well â¦ I â¦ Of course I do!” I said. “But what do you care?”
“I just figure â¦ we're at a school for villains. Let's do some villaining already. Or maybe you're scared?”
The new kid was taunting me now. He was proving himself to be sneaky, controlling, and a rule breaker. He was totally cool! I could hardly believe he'd been kicked out of Morgana's school for good behavior. I glanced quickly up and down the hall to be sure Tabs, the Dread Master's pet cat-a-bat, wasn't spying on us, then I whipped out the key I'd stolen years before and unlocked the Dread Master's door.
The room looked pretty much the same as the last
time I'd been in it. Master Dreadthorn's black onyx desk stood in the middle of the far wall, facing the door. Shelves lined the other walls, filled with gruesome jars of floating eyeballs and creepy crawly things. A fine network of cobwebs was strung across the upper shelves. The
of the Dread Master's deathwatch beetle echoed in the stillness of the room. A faint, reddish light glowed from behind the desk where a glass cabinet held Master D.'s crystal ball.
“Okay, you've seen it. Let's get out of here,” I said, trying not to sound nervous.
“Hold on,” Dodge said, sauntering casually past me. “Is that a crystal ball?”
“Yep.” I looked nervously back at the door before adding, “I stole it once.”
He seemed genuinely interested as he moved around the desk for a closer look. I reluctantly followed, wishing Dodge was sweating even
as much as I was.
“Do you have a key to the cabinet, too?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “The Dread Master keeps it on a chain around his neck, so fat chance of stealing that. I guess if you were good enough you could pick the lock, but don't even think of trying it. You do
want that kind of trouble. Start smaller, man.”
Just then, I heard a noise in the hallway. It was
probably nothing, but I was suddenly aware that we'd been in the Dread Master's study long enough. I pried Dodge away from his love affair with the crystal ball, and in a few moments we were running down the hallway back to our room.
“That was fun!” Dodge said, launching himself onto the bottom bunk of his bed. “You've got nerve, Drexler!”
“Thanks, you too!” I said, still filled with adrenaline.
I thought Dodge was going to be a pretty cool roommate. I was looking forward to introducing him to my allies, Jezebel and Wolf Junior, the next day. It was hard to use the word
, since villains don't usually make friends. However, the year before, I'd chosen Wolf and Jezebel as my co-Conspirators for a dangerous Plot. During our time together we'd battled a multiheaded dragon, a crazy gingerbread witch, and Chad, whoâdespite the freckles, glasses, and delicious cookiesâturned out to be a fearsome opponent.
We talked a little more. I told Dodge what classes were like and which teachers were the softest.
“Stiltskin for sure is the easiest,” I said.
“What does he teach?” Dodge asked, folding his hands behind his head and leaning back on his pillow.
“Spelling. You know, spell-casting,” I said.
“What are some of the other classes?”
“Well, let's have a look at your itinerary,” I suggested, and Dodge pulled out the paper Miss Salem had given him in the office.
“Let's see, first period you've got Stiltskin. That's good. Then there's Stealth and Evasion class with Master Igor, which alternates every other day with Mischief class with Mistress Madwit; try saying that three times fast. Break for supperâwhich we usually call lunch since it's in the middle of the schoolnightâin the cafeteria cave. Then Weapons with Mistress Helga. Watch out for her. Mad Science with Doctor Mindbroodâyou should be good at that if your dad's a doctor. Last is History of Villainy with Master Dreadthorn. Set your watch for a
He laughed. Then we talked about EViLs, or Educational Villain Levels.
“There's Crook, Rogue, Fiend, Apprentice, and Master, just like at Morgana's. Only we don't have to wear those ridiculous outfits. You know? With the berets?”
“Oh, uh, yeah,” Dodge said. “I hated those dumb hats.”
The berets gave all of Master Dreadthorn's students the right to mock the kids at Mistress Morgana's. It was part of their snooty dress code. If you've never
seen one, a beret is a kind of saggy hat. It looks like a balloon that deflated on somebody's head.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, reaching under my bed.
“Starving!” said Dodge, standing up suddenly.
I pulled out a couple of chocolate bars. I had connections with a certain chocolate-loving vampire. However, when Dodge saw them, he cringed and backed away.
“Oh, uh, no thanks,” he said, eyeing the chocolate nervously.
“You don't like chocolate?” I asked, unwrapping mine and taking a big bite, just in case he thought I'd poisoned them or something. Villains do that kind of thing.
“No, I mean, I'm, uh â¦ allergic,” he said.
I just shrugged my shoulders and fished around for a few old gingerbread cookies I'd stashed away months ago and handed them to Dodge, who eyed them nervously.
“What? They're still good,” I said, proving this by taking a bite myself. I almost broke a tooth, but it didn't kill me. Then I finished off both candy bars myself while we continued to talk.
“Like I said before, you'll have to start over as a Crook, which stinks, but don't worry. If you're any good, it won't take you long to move up.”
We talked until daybreak about classes. I told him about last semester's Plot and how I'd earned the rank of Fiend. We even speculated about what it would take to invade the girls' dorms and promised to plan a raid soon. Finally, when we'd exhausted ourselves, we fell asleep.
The next night was Saturday. We got up, got dressed, and made our way to the cafeteria cave for breakfast.
Wolf and Jezebel were already there. My plan was to take Dodge through the line and join the others at the table. However, the plan failed utterly when we were approached by an Apprentice troll who towered over us like a small mountain.
A brief description for anyone who has never seen a troll: They look kind of like humans, but their heads are tiny and mostly bald, with big, bulbous noses and pointy, oversized ears. They have arms like apes, huge flat feet, and generally look like a bunch of potatoes that have been glued together. The forest variety is distinctly tree-ish and usually easier to manage than the heartier (and uglier) mountain variety. They are always mean.
The troll smashed one immense fist into his other hand menacingly.
“I was in line here,” he said to me and Dodge as he budged in front of us.
It was a blatant lie, but I wasn't going to argue. Two hundred pounds of angry troll can't be wrong.
Even if I wanted to contest the troll and risk a fight, there was no way a teacher was going to help if things got out of hand. At a regular school, maybe. But at a school for villains? The teachers would only encourage the troll to pulverize us.
“Listen up, troll,” Dodge said, holding out his hand to block the troll's way. “I don't believe you
here in line. I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to stand aside and let us pass.”
” the troll thundered.
Most of the cafeteria had already been staring at the new kid when we walked in. Now everybody was staring.
“Uh, Dodge,” I said, discreetly tapping his shoulder. “Not the best idea.”
“Oh, don't worry, Rune. Our friend â¦ What was your name again?” Dodge turned to the troll.
“Frank,” the troll bellowed, his eyes red with rage.
was just leaving, weren't you, FREAK?”
, pipsqueak, and I was
just leaving. I
was just getting ready to kick your Crook behind into next Tuesday!”
Freak, I mean
, made a motion of pushing up his sleeves, which was kind of comical since he didn't have sleeves. But I didn't laugh because Frank then pulled back one of his tree-trunk-size arms and balled his hand into a fist.
I ducked. Dodge, however, just buffed his nails on his shirt, blew on them, and managed to look completely bored as he stifled a yawn. It was the final straw for Frank. The troll swung, sinking his heavy fist into Dodge's face. Or at least, he
have hit Dodge's face. But, by some miracle, his face was no longer there.
In fact, Dodge had moved with lightning speed out of harm's way and wound up behind Frank just as the towering troll threw the punch. Dodge kicked Frank in the backside with his boot, knocking him off balance. Two hundred pounds of sprawling troll slid down the cafeteria line, throwing tiny Crooks into the air like bowling pins.
Frank wasn't finished. He came back for another round, angrier than before. His hands opened on either side of Dodge's head and crashed together like cymbals. Still, somehow, Dodge managed to move aside, while at the same time knocking Frank's feet out from under him.
This continued for a few more rounds. Always, the troll would attack first, but his bulk and strength were no match for the speed and catlike grace of the wiry new kid. It was like Dodge just floated through the air. Finally, the troll hit his head on the cave floor and knocked himself out. The entire cafeteria erupted in cheers, and gold exchanged hands as people settled up their bets on the outcome of the fight. Dodge stepped over Frank gingerly and proceeded through the breakfast line as if nothing strange had occurred.
We made our way between tables of chattering kids (all staring openly and pointing) to where my allies were waiting. Across from us Wolf's tongue lolled, and his tail wagged excitedly.
“That was awesome! I'm Big Bad Wolf Junior, by the way.” Wolf held out a paw to shake with Dodge.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Guys, this is Dodge VonDoe. Dodge, these are my allies, Wolf and Jez.”
Jezebel Izolde Valeska Dracula,” Jez corrected, holding out her hand to Dodge. He actually kissed it, which seemed kind of gross to me, but Jez ate it up. I mean, not
. She was still on her mostly chocolate diet.
We talked as we ate. I told them about giving Dodge a tour. When we got to the part about the girls' dorms Jez interrupted.
“Did you see all the new construction, then?”
“No, what new construction?” I asked.
“All the girls are buzzing about it. Apparently we're getting a very important new student. Lots of added security. There's a special dormcave being set up near the end of the girls' corridor. Everybody says it's the biggest one, but I assured them that
is the biggest and nobody is coming here who outranks
Just then Jez's face went pale. Well, paler. I mean, a vampire's face is
pale. Beside her, Wolf's eyes were huge and his tail drooped.
Even before I turned, I knew who was behind me. He wore the usual imposing black, head to toeâblack button-down shirt, black pants, black boots, and the long cloak trailing behind. One might observe certain similarities between the Dread Master's wardrobe and my own. This, I might note, is purely by chance. I wasn't copying him or anything! It's just that a villain only has so many wardrobe choices. I mean, think about it. When's the last time a villain took over the world wearing sneakers and sweatpants?
“You must be Master Dreadthorn! I'm Dodge VonDoe, transfer student from Morgana's school.” Dodge extended his hand.
The Dread Master stared at Dodge and said nothing. He didn't bother shaking his hand, either. Eventually,
the dazzling smile faded from Dodge's face, and he cleared his throat before sitting back down.
“My study, Rune.
“But it's Saturday,” I said weakly.
sorry. I didn't realize villains take weekends off now. World domination will just have to wait until Monday, is that it?”
“See you later, guys,” I said mournfully as I pulled myself up from my half-eaten breakfast.
“I need to see you, too, Countess,” he added.
Jezebel stared openmouthed at Master D. “Me?” she asked.
“In one hour,” Master Dreadthorn said, then left.
I followed the Dread Master to his study, wondering what kind of trouble Jez was in. Outside the study door, Tabsâthe Dread Master's cat-a-batâhovered, waiting to be let in. Master Dreadthorn unlocked the door with a key that hung on a silver chain around his neck. The only other person who had a copy of the key was Master Stiltskin. And me, but of course Master D. didn't know that.
Tabs flew ahead to her favorite dusty, cobwebbed corner, folded her black wings against her furry sides, and curled up to sleep. Master Dreadthorn strode around his desk, placed both of his pale, long-nailed hands on it, and stared up at me. Behind him, locked in
its glass case, the Dread Master's crystal ball glowed red. As usual, I was not asked to sit down. So I stood beside a leather chair waiting to hear my doom, although I couldn't think of what I'd done this time.
“Someone broke into my study yesterday,” the Dread Master said.