by Manda Vranic
There’s a lot of theories about how the Chosen One is chosen. Magickal talent is a big one, though in a few cases they have to lean on the latent pretty heavily. Reincarnation. Genetics. Inter-dimensional influence, that was a big one a couple of generations ago, probably the result of mixing too much Foundations of Magick pre-exam cramming with mundane drugs, in my opinion. There’s even a theory they choose themselves. I don’t think anyone really knows how it works.
That’s why, after I killed him, the new headmistress made me write down everything I remembered about the battle. So we would know as much as we could for the next time. It was like the weirdest school essay I’ve ever written.
It’s not like I was the only one who’d bloodied him by that point. Battle is a shitshow, all shouting and flashing thunderbolts and orbs of blue fire. I was just trying to prevent this girl who’d been my lab partner in Alchemy in second year from Inside-Out -ing me. I dropped her, and there he was.
Sometimes I can see him when I’m not quite awake in the middle of the night. Half of his school jacket all soaked dark, and burns, charred black and red, on the side of his face. He had only one eye left, the blue one. Those stupid odd eyes. Like a border collie.
I don’t think he was feeling anything. For all his whining, he really was at his best under pressure. He nearly scalped me with Magnifying Glass in the Sun before I—
I don’t want to go over it again.
I did write about how when he crumpled, I didn’t believe it was true. I wanted…trumpets, I guess, or for everything to stop around me. I wanted to feel like I’d done something grand. Instead, I just felt kind of…undermined. Like opening a present on your eleventh birthday and finding it’s your father’s old school tie and having to pretend you’re as excited about it as he is.
Headmistress Bordlecorn made me take all that out. She was always going on about the need to be succinct and precise, back when she was the Cant and Incantations mistress. It wasn’t what I felt that was important, she said, it was what I’d done. And we’d lost so many of our own, everybody needed someone to be a hero, I guess.
What was left of that term was all off. Everybody was buckling down and pairing up and nailing the rest of their lives into place. Apparently it’s always like that the year after a regime change. Dark Merlin, I was bored.
You’d think I’d have savoured it. I was golden. Got to do anything I wanted. Could have had anybody I wanted too, if I’d wanted them, but I didn’t.
I passed my year with honours even though I’d pretty much stopped going to classes. As if killing the Chosen One had earned me infinite extra credit. Summer holidays were a bit rough, too. My parents were so proud, and they kept looking at me with such expectation.
I was still sorting my feelings out, or trying to figure out whether I had any left. Sure, it was the first time I’d killed, but I was having trouble getting myself to believe that it was also the last. That it was over. I mean, everybody who started school the same year as he did knew that it would come down to that, that we would be the ones who ended it, one way or another. I guess I expected it to be in our last year. When we were ready to leave. When we were done.
And he wasn’t a bad guy at all. A little self-important, a lot self-conscious. I guess that’s not surprising, knowing he was the Chosen One. I mean, I got the “all your family since the beginning of time has gone to Maplewyck and we expect you to do us proud” speech before I went off to school, and that was bad enough. I never saw the point of hating him, despite his off-putting ideas and his tragic taste in friends. He helped me figure out an Amulets configuration once, when Zegwater would have made me stay all evening burning my fingertips off until I got it right. That was way back in third year. I don’t know why I even remember it.
The year after the battle, the sparkle was rubbing off me. I got called into Bordlecorn’s office and lectured about how everyone knew I had more great things in me, if I only applied myself. But school just wasn’t the same, like all the salt was gone out of it. There were so few students left in Aspenmist that they huddled together at one end of their table like the condiments cruet was a fire keeping them alive. Only two new first years were sorted into their house. It was hard to get much satisfaction out of yanking their chains anymore.
Some of the Glimmervale lot had a little too much fun doing it, though. And I say this as one of them. Of us, I mean. There’s a traditional rivalry between us, okay, but it’s hard to get behind a bunch of sixth-years pranking an eleven-year-old with transformation spells.
It was little things, too. That was the autumn we had that glow-ivy infestation, and we were all covered in luminous sucker bites for weeks. Small, but those things sting. It took forever to find and root out all the tiny shoots. It would have been easier with more Aspenmist to help. They were always good at finding things.
And the first barrel of elderflower beer they tapped that season had gone sour. That wasn’t a good sign. And the ghosts in the library seemed to be watching me more closely than usual. And I failed Transfiguration, which is not like me at all.
It took me a while to figure out. I didn’t start to feel better until I realized that everyone was wrong about everything.
Every Chosen One thinks their way is the only right one. The other side, of course, will take whatever the Chosen One says and fight it down to the bone. They’re all so, so wrong. It’s this endless back-and-forth that’s the problem, all this upset and rearrangement. That’s why we need to kill the Chosen One. Not to tip the balance in favour of one side or the other. To remove the thing that tips it—to get him, get her, stop them so we can finally have some peace.
It isn’t wrong to kill the Chosen One. It isn’t. It just needs to be done sooner, before there are armies, before there are even sides, before the whole shambles starts all over again. One person alone could do it, if they were skillful and prepared and kept an eye out. Maybe with a few others, if there was anyone they could trust. A small group at most. No battles. No heroes. It gets out of hand. People get hurt.
It’s my last year. All my mistresses and masters say I’ve really pulled my socks up this term. I’m doing independent study in Magickal Offence and Defence. Most of them seem pleased. Like now it’s my destiny or something. Bordlecorn’s talked to me about coming back to teach after I graduate. They’re still short of staff, after everything.
I’ve thought about this a lot. When the next Chosen One shows up, I’ll know what I have to do.
In the meantime, I have work to do. Bordlecorn can’t live forever. When I’m in charge around here, things are going to be different.