"I'm cold," said Nicky, and when Jermander looked at her she was looking a little bit opaque. Being an undine, a magical creature made entirely of water, this suggested that she was near freezing point. Jermander shrugged.
"It's Blistermas, Nicky, it's bound to be cold. Especially here at Gorillamumps, the campus has psychoactive weather you know. Why don't you put a heater in?" There were very few undines at Gorillamumps, but the clever ones – that is, all the ones that weren't Nicky – carried small electrical heating elements with them in the cold weather. Like the element of an electric kettle they could dip them into their bodies and heat their water up quickly.
"I know the campus weather is psychotic! I experience it nearly every day. What other campus has regular sunshine to the point of inducing a drought?"
Jermander shrugged again, not really interested in correcting Nicky or pointing out that psychoactive weather reacted to the students' unconscious expectations. The regular parching heatwaves that Nicky experienced were a consequence of everyone's dislike for her.
"Why are we out here?"
Jermander actually groaned, and since he was a vampire it was an impressive, deep, resonant groan. "I told you Nicky, three times already. It's Blistermas, and Old Man Vinegar does his rounds tonight. If he finds anyone sleeping who hasn't left him a gift out he gives them Herpes. I want to see how he does it. I want to find out how he manages to get round so many people in just one night."
"It's a franchise, Jer, that's how he does it. My uncles have been running the undine franchise for years now."
"A franchise. So there's lots of Old Men Vinegar then? And... wow, that's why you don't have Herpes, isn't it? I wondered how you'd managed to avoid it all these years."
"I don't understand," said Nicky. "How did I manage to avoid what?"
"It's ok," said Jermander. "I get it now. So who's the local franchisee then, do you think?"
"Can we go in yet? I'm cold!"
"No! I want to find out who the franchisee is. They must have the vials of Herpes all year round, they must have to keep them somewhere safe. This is potentially useful information, Nicky."
"I can get you vials of Herpes from my uncles," she said, sounding sulky. "We don't have to sit up here on this roof in the cold all night."
"It's not the same," said Jermander, though he was wondering if Nicky's uncles might not be a good back-up plan. Do you think it's a student or a teacher?"
"Did you leave a gift out?" asked Nicky. "You could just put paint or something on that. My uncles hate it when undines try and booby-trap their Blistermas gifts."
"GPS tracker," said Jermander. "But this is more fun, trying to catch Old Man Vinegar in the act."
"But it's co-o-o-o-old!"
Jermander was going to reply, but while he was thinking about what to say there was a distant crack and purple lightning licked the underside of the clouds. Then there was a small sonic boom that rattled the tiles, and an ancient Rolls Royce Silver Phantom screamed from a silver portal and roared down to the campus grounds like a dazzling meterorite. It levelled off just above the playing fields, and came to a halt at the door of the dormitory block. There was another sharp crack as air rushed into the space where Jermander had been a second before and a whiff of the charnel house, and Jermander had turned into a bat. He fluttered his wings and launched, accelerating downwards towards the car at a speed that would have ripped the wings off a normal bat.
"Don't leave me!" yelled Nicky, but she was too late, she was alone on the roof.
As Jermander whooshed past the car, not slowing down in case the franchisee saw what he was, he was gratified to find he'd timed things just right and the franchisee was getting out of the car, a sack in one hand that rattled as though it contained many glass vials.
"Myrilla Chinchilla!" he whispered to himself, realising too late that he was travelling too fast amongst the erratically-laid-out buildings of Gorillamumps.