The two of them had an alliance that relied primarily on strategically ignoring one another. It was simple to maintain. Elphaba preferred her books, but Galinda was the sort to take part in sedate extracurricular activities like embroidery circles and croquet and possibly crumpet-making, whatever it was superficial social-climbers were doing these days. As this generally left their room empty and silent, however, Elphaba never expressed any disapproval.
Until her roommate stormed through the door with tears on her cheeks, an entourage at her heels, and what seemed to be a set of knitting needles stabbed through the center of her hat. Elphaba's opinions on Galinda's accessories ranged from the apathetic to the derisive, but this was something different. She set down her notebook and stared.
“She's absolutely mad,” exclaimed Galinda, not unhappily, accepting Milla's proffered handkerchief.
“Of course she is,” Pfannee said. “You never should have gone. She only takes freshers for comic relief, you know. Nobody in their first year is able to untangle a skein of yarn without touching it, and sometimes not even if they can.”
“But you must have at least piqued her interest,” Milla interrupted. “That's as good a start in the discipline as any.”
“What are you talking about?”
Shenshen importantly lifted her chin. “A new organization. Exclusively for those interested in pursuing sorcery. It's knitting. And magic. So of course everyone wanted an invitation.”
“Of course,” Elphaba said slowly.
“And. Well.” Galinda flushed, but she was smiling. “She called me inane, but gave me one anyway.”
“Yes, a thrilling start,” Elphaba agreed. “You'll be a virtuoso in no time.”
“When my performance wasn't to her satisfaction, she corrected me.” Ruefully, she removed her hat and plucked the needles free, surveying the slightly smoking ends. “She does have a point, though. It either inspires you or it terrifies you out of trying.”
“So are you? Terrified, I mean. If you plan on being in Crage during the hour from now on, I'd like some advance notice if possible.”
Elphaba had seen her before. Gargantuan and strident, supposedly of Munchkinlander stock, though clearly the variety that had mixed with taller lines over the centuries. One of the introductory sorcery professors, renowned for weeding out anyone with less than iron dedication. There was a reason Shiz's reputation for turning out top-notch practitioners existed. There had once been some sort of scandal over her credentials; rumors still circulated about what became of the Tiger who'd had the temerity to question them.
A week later, though Galinda was stubbornly sticking it out and Elphaba was free to have the room to herself, she ended up curiously passing by the classroom.
“I'm sorry,” someone said dryly, “this is a private meeting. The mutation seminar is next month.”
Instinctively, Elphaba drew herself up. “I have no interest in learning how to make a scarf by snapping my fingers.”
“In your case, I'd recommend a mask. Think it over. This just might be what you need.” In the space of a half-second, Elphaba was met with a crooked smile and a swiftly closed door. It took several seconds for her to decide whether to resent or admire the retort. From someone like Avaric, it would have been puerile and insignificant, but delivery was everything.
When Galinda burst back into the dorm chattering about how class had ended with one girl shaking too badly to even cast on, manually or magically, Elphaba found she could sympathize. “I think Nascha's family might press charges,” Galinda added. “Mind you, Nascha lacks the constitution for such a high-pressure environment, but her parents are rich enough to make anything possible.”
The sorcery-cum-knitting instructor, whom everyone knew simply as Syl, was demoted to an unspecified position. That was the official word.
“Forcibly removed from the premises,” Shenshen confided the next time Galinda and her friends gathered on her side of the room. Elphaba, curled in an armchair, furtively leaned in a bit. “Madame Morrible said something about sending her to the Emerald City for a disciplinary hearing. She's meant to start over somewhere new, but nobody knows what that means.”
Turning a page, Elphaba could only wonder.