It was assault day. At any other school it would have been illegal, but at the Gorillamumps Academy it was mandatory. Even notes from your mother wouldn't be honoured on assault day, and anyone failing to turn up on the day would be best off never turning up again, as the punishments for missing assault day were arguably worse than asssault day itself.
There were some rules though; as Gorillamumps was the premier destination for the offspring of the world's mighty and powerful undead, there were rules about the amount of assault that was allowed, and the degree of the assault. The zombie children could be assaulted as much as you like, but not assalted or in any other way attacked with salt. Fire was also out, not just for them but also the vampire kids, the young mummies, and the Sporelets of the Creeping Mould. It was also banned for the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath, but no-one at Gorillamumps would admit to having met any of the Dark Young, so it was still a questionable point as to whether any were currently attending. Skeletons, ghouls, Gelatinous Cubs and flame-efts were all fair target for fire, though if you were daft enough to attack a flame-eft with fire you deserved the consequences of your actions.
Nicky, an undine, stared at the piece of plastic in her hand and wrinkled her face again as she tried to understand the rules of assault day. Little droplets of water splashed from her onto the plastic and trickled off onto the ground.
"Oh give it up, already," groaned Jermander, her vampire best friend. He was dressed, as usual, like a New Romantic, having decided that the eighties was an iconic era and fitted somehow with his parents Victorian ideals. He ran a hand through an impossibly stiff quiff and adjusted his lacy white shirt a little. "It's simple, right? On assault day we all try and kill each other with things we know won't have a big effect. No-one's really supposed to die, but it's good training for after school when we go out into the real world and run the risk of discovery all the time. Like, you're probably fine because you dissolve in a rainstorm, but for me, if I'm caught creating an army of pawns or influencing politics through blood, I might have to disappear for a few decades. And no-one's going to just let me walk out of there, or trickle down a drain into the nearest body of fresh-water."
"But... but it's not like this in the films!" protested Nicky. "In the films the humans all want to go the magic schools and join in!"
"You've got to stop watching that rubbish and start paying attention in lessons," said Jermander. "You've failed every class you've taken so far. We're only friends because our parents are neighbours."
"You're so mean!" Nicky dropped the paper, giving up on trying to read. She'd mastered about half of the alphabet, but the curvy letters all looked much the same to her. The teachers felt she was lazy, the headmaster thought she was probably retarded and regularly told her so, and even her best friend was mandated.
"Look, what's your plan for assault day? Maybe if you work out now what you're going to do you won't end up as a claim on everybody else's list."
"I don't have a plan," said Nicky hopelessly. "What's yours?"
"Tridents," said Jermander looking pleased with himself. "I did a bit of research and I reckon that most years everything's just improvised, which is a bit silly if you ask me. I mean, that gives the edge completely to the Gelatinous Cubs, the Werewolves, and the Dark Young."
"Are there really Dark Young at Gorillamumps?"
"Absolutely definitely. There's too many kids get admitted to the Mental Injuries Clinic each month for there not to be."
"Oh. What's a clinic, Jer?"
Jermander ignored the question and got back to his tridents. "See, a trident can pin the skeletons in place, pin down the mummies without hurting them. Well, much. The werewolves will be fine being stabbed so long as there's no silver or wolfsbane... by the way, did I tell you that I spotted wolfsbane growing the herbarium? I reckon one of the teachers is going a bit rogue again."
"Dear Gods, Nicky! Haven't you noticed? It's like your Harry Plotless films, every year another teacher goes completely bonkers and murders a few students before someone works out what's going on and brings him to justice."
"Is that what happened to Dr. Pumpkinhead?"
"No, definitely not. He just got a bit carried away with his barbecue and decided his own head would taste good." Jermander stared at Nicky, remembering that sarcasm was something she had trouble with. A bubble slowly rose through her face and popped at the top of her head, and he wondered how she ever remembered to breath. "Anyway, Nicky, I've got myself some stashes of tridents set up and I'm going for the record this year. The current record is by Miimelak back when the Frost Giants were allowed in Gorillamumps; he stamped on seventy-nine students and only two of them were disqualified for being actual kills. I reckon I can do eighty with a bit of planning."
"I don't think I can hurt anyone, Jer," said Nicky plaintively. She gurgled a little; instead of crying she just fell apart and splashed on the ground, and the gurgle was a fairly reliable indicator that that was about to happen.
"I thought you'd say that," said Jermander quietly. "Don't worry, I've got an ice trident as well. I figure that if I get you cold enough you'll be stuck in one place too, but you'll be fine when you thaw out."
"Oh, just meet me here tomorrow," said Jermander. "Assault day starts at nine, so let's get here for eight-fifty-five, yeah?"
"OK," said Nicky sounding a little more cheerful. "Maybe tomorrow will be fun after all! We're a team!"
"Yeah," said Jermander, smiling with his teeth. "Now, what kind of trident do you think will stop a Dark Young?"