Polly yawned. She would have given anything to crawl back to her dormy and fall asleep under the dusty, but warm, counterpane. But instead she had to sit in a hot, stuffy classroom, translating the more dull parts of the Aeneid.
The unmistakable voice of Miss Potts cut through Polly’s drowsiness. She sat up straight.
“Are you capable of concentrating on something for more than one second at a time?” barked the Latin mistress, rapping the edge of Polly’s desk with a ruler.
“Yes, Miss Potts, sorry, Miss Potts,” said Polly, trying with all her might not to yawn.
“Really, Polly, your behaviour is going from bad to worse. Not only did you disgrace the house at assembly this morning, with your muddy shoes and dreadful tunic, but now you can’t even stay awake for five minutes. What is more important than Aeneas, pray?”
Only saving the world, thought Polly, wearily, but she said nothing.
“Take a hundred lines of Book Three,” said Miss Potts. “What was that, Marjorie?”
“Nothing,” said Marjorie, not daring to glance at her chum.
“I want those lines delivered to my study after prayers tomorrow morning, Polly,” Miss Potts went on. “And I would like you to be slightly more awake then then you have been this morning.”
“Yes Miss Potts,” said Polly. How unfair it was! She had spent the night fighting the forces of darkness, and what did she get in return? Lines! Oh well, at least she hadn’t been expelled. It was really rather a miracle that she hadn’t been expelled already. The fighting, the missing classes, the torn and muddy clothes – anyone other than the grand-daughter of the school’s founder would have been kicked out long ago. But no one at the Mary Carroway Foundation quite dared to expell Mary Carroway’s favourite grand-daughter, no matter how often she turned up to class late. And besides, she was one of the best hockey players the school had ever seen.
Potty walked up to the front of the class.
“Now, where were we…. Mary Cochrane. Construe from line 175…”
As pretty, mean-spirited Mary stumbled over her translation, Polly thought about the previous night. Not just the appearance of Miss Cunningham, which was, alas, just a normal vampire attack. She’d almost been expecting Miss Cunningham to appear ever since she’d heard of the circumstances of her death. But not what had happened before.
She had been patrolling. That was what she did almost every night these days. Fenchurch-Saint Mary’s, the village where the Mary Carroway Foundation was situated, was a hot spot of supernatural activity. Miss Giles, the school English teacher, said that it was the site of a passage into Hell, and that there were several more such entrances all over the world. It was Miss Giles who had told Polly that she was the Vampire Slayer, almost a year ago, on her first day at the Mary Carroway Foundation.
Polly hadn’t wanted to believe the tall, bespectacled young woman who called her out of assembly and then almost dragged her into the school library before telling her that she was something called the Chosen One. But when she thought about the dreams, or rather the nightmares, it all started to make a horrid sort of sense. And she had noticed, recently, that something strange had happened to her. She had become much stronger, almost miraculously so. It all made sense. She just wished it didn’t.
But she had accepted it. And so began a different sort of life than the one she had expected to enjoy at boarding school, a life filled with vampire slaying and patrolling. A life without friends, except for Marjorie. No one wanted to be chums with a girl who was violent and secretive and always sneaking out of school after dark. If she hadn’t saved a terrified Marjorie from a fellow-pupil-turned-vampire one night during her first term, she would have been utterly alone. Marjorie had forced her to tell the truth about what had just happened, and Polly found herself telling the red-haired junior everything. Miss Giles, who, it turned out, was Polly’s official slayer guardian, or Watcher, hadn’t been very pleased about this at first, but soon she had to admit that Marjorie had her uses. Sometimes, if Daphne and Isabel were in the San., Marjorie even came out on patrol with Polly.
Well, thank goodness Marjorie hadn’t been out last night. Polly shivered as she remembered the curious scene in the woods. These vampires were different to anything she’d seen before. Usually the local vampires just seemed like mindless killers, but these vampires weren’t like that. There were two of them, a man and a woman, both dressed in the height of fashion. They both looked young, but of course, that meant nothing with those foul beasts. And, unaware of Polly watching them through the trees, they were talking.
“Is this the place? Really and truly?” said the girl. Her eyes were bright, gleaming and black as her sleek bobbed hair.
“You know it is, pet,” said the man. His hair was curly and blonde. His face changed into the visage of a blood-drinking demon. “I’m going to get myself another slayer.”
* * * * *
“So you just ran? You didn’t stay and fight?”
“I’m awfully sorry, Miss Giles. I was just….I felt all muddled,” Polly finished lamely. She was sitting on the edge of a desk in the school library, swinging her long legs. She wondered absently would she ever have an undarned pair of stockings again.
“And they were definitely vampires?”
“Definitely,” said Polly. “Honestly, Miss Giles, I was just too confused when he mentioned the slayer. None of the other vampires seem to have heard of me.”
“Have you ever engaged any of them in conversation?” said Miss Giles drily. She took off her glasses and polished them with a surprisingly jaunty scarlet handkerchief before replacing them on her high-bridged nose.
“Well, no,” said Polly. “But still.”
“I think Polly was right,” said Marjorie loyally. “He said he wanted to get another slayer. Why, that could mean anything. And probably not anything nice.”
“Nevertheless, it is the vampire slayer’s duty to, well, slay vampires,” said Miss Giles. “Not to run away from any that seem threatening.”
“I say, that’s not fair!” broke in Polly. “Miss Cunningham was jolly threatening last night, and I didn’t run away from her.”
“She didn’t, you know, Miss Giles,” said Marjorie.
“Miss Redwing,” said Miss Giles, “I know you are normally a sensible child, so I shall allow you to stay in the room. But say another word, and it’s 100 lines of Virgil for you.”
Marjorie opened her mouth to complain, then thought better of it.
“Now, Polly,” said Miss Redwing. “Everything’s been quite easy for you so far…”
“Easy!” cried Polly. “Oh, my sainted aunt!”
“Easy for someone living on a hellmouth,” Miss Giles went on. “So far, you’ve dealt with, well, run of the mill vampires. Now these new arrivals may mean more of a serious threat. They may want to target you for a special attack. They presumably want to kill you. They are very dangerous.”
Then, to the surprise of both Polly and Marjorie, she smiled gently. “And I have no doubt, Polly, that you are equal to whatever they may throw at you. Just because these new vampires may be more of a….challenge, doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to defeat them with relative ease. But next time, don’t run away as soon as you see them.”
“I won’t, Miss Giles,” said Polly, humbly.
“Sorry, Miss Giles,” said Marjorie.
“Now, I suppose you want to go off and play hockey,” said Miss Giles. They all moved towards the door.
“Not me,” said Marjorie promptly. “I hate hockey. I’m no good at it either, because I’m not terribly good at running. I much prefer books.”
Miss Giles smiled at her. “I know you do, Marjorie. That’s why you’re such a great help.”
”Oh, I say, am I really?” said Marjorie, turning pink.
“Well, I like hockey,” said Polly. “You should be pleased that I do, Miss Giles. After all, it does involve wooden pointy things.”
“Hockey sticks aren’t pointy,” said Miss Giles.
“Mine is,” said Polly. “Oh, I must dash, practice starts in five minutes and I still have to change. But I promise I won’t run away from any horrid vampires!”
She and Marjorie ran down the corridor, giggling madly.
“The earth is doomed,” said Miss Giles and, shaking her head, she turned back into the library.