For Want of a Spoon

Originally posted on Patreon in Nov 2019 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.

For Want of a Spoon

Thank you to Cal for naming & helping me name the magical schools. 

If there were two things America had plenty of, people would say, it was space, space and magic.

(and money, most people would add, and then, muttering, “and luck.”)

“What are you doing this weekend?  I know we’ve got to study for runes and magical substances, and I have an essay on the Theory of Magic due, but—”

“Skycross game against Merriweather Academy.”

“Yeah, that.  Well, I guess I can study in the intermissions. How’re you doing on that splatter-shield spell?”

“That’s senior-year work and you know it is!….  all right, fine.  It’s functional about 75% of the time and it doesn’t drain my energy anymore, pulls it from temperature changes.”

“It’s Autumn.  Should be plenty to power it.”

America was dripping in space, resplendent with magic, and wealthy enough.  And yet its three premier magic schools were well within an easy one-day horse or carriage ride from each other.

Nestled on the border of three states, the three schools shared, in general, at least one of their founding principals, at least a third of their core curriculum, and, often, at least two or three of the Well-Known Magical Families.

An observer would be forgiven for thinking that the three schools had been founded by friends, or were allies now, or stood together against some threat, imagined or real.

“Doesn’t your cousin go to Merriweather?”

“Yeah. Says she thinks the brewing and world-barrier curriculum is more robust.*I* think it’s because she met a couple people at camp who went there — and because Garren Calvados is here.”

“Ugh.  Garren. Still, doesn’t that make family events tricky?”

“Not as much as mom’s cousin who went to John Leighsdale School.  Last year we had two cases of eggnog dosing, one surreptitious under-the-table-cursing, and great-grandma had to cast a Now You Kids Cut That Out.  Three times.”

“That’s a spell?”

“It is when you’re my great-grandma.”

One of the first feuds written down in the colonial history goes mostly unnoticed, because all three people were, when written down, going by pseudonyms and, when they founded their schools, using different pseudonyms.  If more people were to make the connection, perhaps they might realize exactly why the three premier magic schools don’t get along.

Of course, by now it’s rather baked in, as the saying goes.

“Election day Tuesday, too.”  The roommates in a third-story dormitory in Ancram Preparatory School were doing their best to ignore their History homework, which was a pity, as it would involve information that would move this story along, were they clever enough to notice it, and they were, on the whole, quite bright witches.

“We’re still not old enough to vote.”  Taylor wrinkled her nose.  “Besides, it’s going to be pouring.  Or snowing, depending.”

It might also tell them why the founders had chosen this cold, rainy, unpredictable, uninhabitable corner of the colonies instead of, say, Virginia.

“Yeah, but Madison and Yuki and Key and I are going to go hold signs at the protest line.  That new candidate for county executive —” The wrinkle of Truth’s nose said it all.

Their history teacher was a clever woman who had seen far more of that history than she cared to admit, a very engaging educator, and a very perceptive scout.  She liked to hide easter eggs in the homework — and in the text, another piece written pseudonymously, and not with the pseudonym she was currently using — which would cue in the brightest of her students.  Between that and a few interesting Science of Magic questions slipped in by her oldest and most favorite colleague, they often found one or two every decade who were what they wanted.

“Does it matter that he graduated from John Leighsdale?  I mean, his whole platform is in line with Ancram policies and, ah.”  They were sophomores.  They could be forgiven not being completely politically acute.  But even then, Taylor knew there were things you had to be careful saying.

It was a toss-up at the moment whether Taylor, Truth, both, or neither would be chosen by their history teacher.  Especially if neither of them opened their history of magic homework.

Truth raised her eyebrows.  The door was, after all, open.  “And he’s donated money to Ancram quite generously?” she filled in.  Money, you could talk about donating money.  “The problem is, he’s also donated to Merriweather and John Leighsdale.  If you fill in the blanks —” Truth’s mother was in finance at the state level.  “-he’s actually given the most to some foreign groups.  The schools are an afterthought to buff his political acumen.”

Finally, finally, Truth opened her History homework, if only to avoid watching the gears turn in her roommate’s mind.

“He didn’t.”

“He did.  I have some pretty solid proof.  Hunh.”

The names were unfamiliar, or, rather, they were familiar as history figures. Paul Revere. Abigail Adams. Angelica Schuyler Church.  They were not familiar as people, as gossip written as if they’d had a tiff after the homecoming dance. And yet that’s how the reading was laying them out for Truth.

“Did you know Angelica Schuyler – Church  – got in a huge fight with Paul Revere — Paul Revere, of all people! — about the distribution of, uh, aid and services. Oh, no. They fought about that — and with Abigail Adams, you know, Remember the Ladies… over the place of Great Britain in America’s future after they had a tiff over silverware, of all things.”

“Silverware.”  Taylor raised her eyebrows in an aristocratic expression she’d been practicing all year.

“…Do you remember that formal banquet we went to at Merriweather? That ‘Peace’ banquet?”

And it was entirely possible that Truth was going to be that one brilliant child this decade.  She certainly was leaning forward as she put details together.  “Silverware.  Specifically, where each piece goes on the table.  And you remember how the table was set…?”

“With the – oh, no.”  Taylor pinched her nose.  “A centuries-long feud? Over silverware?”

“My question – I mean, people have feuded over worse – is why, exactly, those three aren’t mentioned in the founding documents.”

“You don’t think – you don’t think it was them?”

“I think that there are two irreconcilable facts: that the founders of our schools are spoken of as being notable figures in the world they rose up in and that you cannot find a single reference to Isabella Nailand anywhere in any book, pamphlet, letter, or diary from the Revolutionary War.  And I think that Angelica Schuyler-Church really, really liked the flatware setting that we use here at Ancram.  And I think it’s interesting how much ‘realism’ our education puts into the lives of two specific figures in the Revolutionary War…”

“…Paul Revere and Abigail Adams.  Truth, this is – this is awful.”

“Awful?  Why?  It’s fascinating!”

“Because it means we’re going to have to spend the Skycross game Saturday breaking in to the Merriweather library, that’s why.”

And there was more than one reason these two had been placed as roommates, too.


I’m going to note: While these three people used those names for a certain period of time, that is NOT the same thing as saying that they WERE those historical people, or that the did the things those people are credited with doing, just that they… borrowed those identities for a little bit. Historical records from that era can be a little muddy, and it wasn’t that hard to pretend to be Paul Revere while he was somewhere else, back before social media or telephones (okay, there was magic, but…) 

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