Chapter 1: Of Lions and Orphaned Irkens
It all started with two Irkens born on the same day, yet who had very different fates. Both were born on November 8th, with several hours in-between. Still, this time-lapse would make a considerable difference in their lives when the time came.
One of the smeets was a little girl. She was born on a cold, clear night. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was the loving gaze of both her parents. Her mother held her warmly against her chest. The smeet laid her head on her chest, soothed by the familiar heartbeat as her father tenderly stroked her cheek. Curious, she reached out her arm to grab onto his finger with an inquisitive squeak.
"How will we call her?" The smeet's tiny black lekku twitched as her father spoke.
"I was thinking… How about Ilk?" The smeet looked up at her mother. That was the voice she had heard inside the dark, safe place! She giggled and reached out her little hands up to her face, wanting to be closer to her.
The tall, male Irken smiled. "She likes it," that said, he kissed his wife's forehead. "Ilk it is, then."
Meanwhile, a few streets away from the heartwarming scene, another smeet came into the world, this one a male. Born a few hours earlier than his female counterpart, the first thing he saw was the cold, unfeeling robot arm that brought him out of his warm, safe place. Almost immediately, he began to shriek, wanting his mother to hold him, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him.
The smeet continued to cry for hours afterward. The Irkenette didn't dignify him with a word as she put him into a basket and carried him away to an orphanage. It was known as 'The Miserable Place for the Miserable, Parentless Kids,' or MPMPK for short. The irkenette placed her charge on the front door's steps. For a few brief seconds, as she glanced down at her smeet, she hesitated. Eventually, though, she forced herself to walk away from the scene, leaving her wailing child behind.
At that hour, most of the orphanage's residents were asleep. The only person roaming the halls was a female Vortian with peachy skin known as Hecate. Since the orphanage couldn't afford to pay human employees, it had taken to hiring non-humans, though currently, Hecate was the only alien working there. At that moment, she was doing her rounds to make sure all the children were inside their rooms.
It was thanks to this that she heard the wailing coming from the door. Curious, Hecate made her way to the door through the dimly lit corridors of the building. As she pushed it open slightly, she found no one there, but the wailing continued. As she lowered her gaze, Hecate gasped upon finding the basket with a tiny Irken smeet tucked in it. The poor thing was crying his lungs out.
Hecate quickly unlocked the door and picked up the crying smeet. As soon as he realized he was being held, the Irken's cries diminished into sniffles as he snuggled against her chest, looking for warmth. The Vortian looked around for his mother but found no one.
"You poor thing…" Hecate whispered as she picked up the basket and carried it inside, holding the smeet in her other arm. "It's cold out there. It will be warmer in here, little one."
The smeet, happy to be held for a change, gurgled and started suckling on his thumb.
As she made her way to her room, she saw a note amongst the blankets.
Hello, my name is Zim.
12 years later…
Zim was abruptly awakened by the loud sound of a bell. It rang at seven a.m. every single day of the week. His frustrated groan was soon joined by a multitude of murmurs coming from the adjacent rooms to his. Rather than waking up like the rest, Zim tried to go back to sleep, but the bell wouldn't allow it: it was programmed to keep ringing until all the children were out of bed.
"Stupid hyoomans," Zim growled, putting old an old gray shirt and pants. The clothing was old and with a few holes in them, but he couldn't afford anything better. No one there could.
Zim made his way towards the (literal) mess hall, where all the other orphans had already taken their single bowl of cold soup, hard bread, and taken their seats. They eyed Zim warily, avoiding any sort of contact with him. Nobody liked the alien. He was not only weird in his attitude, but also in certain other… aspects. Though most were likely to avoid him, others liked picking on him to let him know just how hated he was.
Being the only Irken in that place, Zim was always picked on by the other kids. It didn't help that Zim had quite a bad temper, and the slightest provocation, be it accidental or intentional, was enough to send him into a yelling fit. This always gave them more fuel to their fire.
Zim grabbed his tray of food and went to his usual place in the farthest empty table, right next to the window. Despite the warm, clear day on the outside, the atmosphere was anything but enjoyable in that place. Zim quietly took sips from his soup, glancing through the window every now and then. He always scowled resentfully at the children who passed by with their parents. How dare they be happy when he was as miserable as possible?
Ouch! Something came into contact with his head. It was an empty soda can. The reaction was immediate. "Who did this?!" Zim yelled, clutching the can and holding it up as he jumped onto the table. "Who dares throw an empty drink container at my head?!" This caused the rest of the children to burst out into laughter, angering him even more.
"Zim, sit down!"
Zim and all the children went quiet when a tall, pale woman dressed in black slithered into the room. Miss Bitters was the orphanage's director. As her name implies, she is a dark, foul-tempered, and unhappy woman who did her best to make the children just as miserable as she was. Even Zim tried not to cross her. He'd never admit it, but she freaked him out.
"Okay, you little brats, as you know, the orphanage doesn't have enough dungs to waste on giving you a proper field trip," Miss Bitters growled. "However, this year, someone was foolish enough to make a donation, so the orphanage will take you to the zoo." She announced in an unpleasant voice, further scowling when the children whooped and cried in joy. "We'll be leaving in half an hour, so be ready, or you'll be left behind."
Zim was amongst the first to dash to the door, only to be knocked down by a large boy with orange hair.
"Out of the way, weirdo!" The boy had snapped.
Zim glared at the perpetrator. Torque, the orphanage's official bully and his tormentor from a long while back. He would have responded with a fitting insult, but right now, his main concern was to get ready for the trip. The kids rarely got to leave the orphanage unless they were adopted or turned eighteen, whatever happened first.
"Out of my way! Zim coming through!" The twelve-year-old Irken dashed through the corridor, avoiding ramming into children or merely pushing them out of his way, as was the case with Zita.
He quickly made his way outside, where an old, worn down yellow bus was waiting. Zim came to a stop right at the closed doors. This may seem dumb, but Zim always wanted to be at the front, so he still got ahead to save his place. So he stood there for the past twenty minutes despite the heat and the sweat running down his body.
"Zim? What are you doing?" His lekku perked up.
"I am merely reserving my place ahead of time, Hecate!"
Hecate laughed. She wondered if most Irkens spoke like that during their youth, or if only Zim did. "Here, let me lend you some shade." She held out an open umbrella to cover herself and Zim.
Hecate was perhaps the only friend Zim had in that place. Being a fellow non-human and the one who raised him since his arrival, she knew him better than anyone and understood how he felt.
"Are you excited? This is the first time you're going on a field trip."
Zim nodded his head. "Indeed. Finally, I can get away from the pesky hyoomans children!"
"Hum, Zim, you do know they are coming too, right?"
"As long as they stay out of my way, I don't mind. Especially Torque! Curse you, Torque!" Zim waved his fist up in the air.
"Zim, watch your language," Hecate said with a slightly stern tone. She knew it was futile, though. Trying to convince Zim to drop a habit was like wanting to persuade a chicken to fly.
Finally, the bus door opened. Zim was the first to climb up and claim a seat in the front row like he wanted. Hecate sat down next to him just as the rest of the children trickled in, or rather rushed to get in like wild animals. Zim laughed at them, earning annoyed glares. Once everyone was accounted for, the driver closed the doors and departed, ignoring the yells from the kids who didn't make it in time.
The ride to the zoo lasted half-an-hour thanks to the lack of traffic. It was Sunday, so most people were enjoying the weekend in their homes. Zim, in particular, enjoyed the city's landscape. It was his first time out of the orphanage, so naturally, he was very excited.
As they arrived at their destination, however, his mood soured yet again when Hecate cried out once they got off the bus. "Everyone make pairs! Nobody can be without a partner!"
Zim didn't even bother to try and just stood there as the other children made pairs. Aki with Alex. Brian with Melvin. Zita with Poonchy. In the end, he was the odd one out. Nobody wanted to pair up with the 'Irken freak.'
Hecate noticed Zim had been left without a partner again. This always happened in the orphanage's courtyard when he was excluded from games and the mess hall where he was never allowed to sit with the other kids. In the end, he only had her.
"Well, Zim, it looks like I'm going with you again."She offered him her hand and a sympathetic smile.
Zim said nothing as he grabbed her hand. It was always the same, anyway. The rest of the children left him out of activity groups. They made sure to let him know they didn't like him, not only because he belonged to an alien species, but also because of his… quirks.
This 'quirks' started since his seventh birthday. They mostly happened whenever he got angry or frightened, usually against Torque or whoever had messed with him. Zim had no control over it and had no idea of why it happened, it just did. Like that time Sara threw a piece of hot pizza at his head. Zim imagined she was eating cockroaches, and her pizza inexplicably turned into a big group of roaches that swarmed all over her. Zim was the only one who laughed as the bugs attacked everyone but him. This made them realize it must have been his doing somehow.
The orphanage could only afford the cheapest tour, so the only areas they got to visit were the African Savannah and the penguins. As they arrived at the Savannah, the group split up despite Hecate's attempts to keep them together. Zim snuck away and went over to the lions ́s cage, where an old male was resting.
"Stupid big cats…." Zim muttered. "All they do all day is sleep and eat, and sleep, just like filthy hyoomans."
To his surprise, the lion opened its eyes and turned to him, baring its teeth and twitching its tail. It hadn't reacted to the insult, had he?
"Wait, you understood what I just said?" Zim felt a shiver down his spine when the lion bared his teeth again, growling loudly this time. "Okay, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, big cat!"
The lion snorted.
Zim took a look at the plaque on the wall. "So you were raised in captivity, huh? If it makes you feel better, I kind of know the feeling. You could say I live in captivity too, surrounded by brainless hyooman monkeys and a scary old lady who gives me the creeps." Zim added quickly. "Don't tell anyone I said that."
The lion winked. Wow. That didn't just happen, did it?
"Hey, everyone, look at the lion!" Zim was caught entirely off guard when Chunk roughly pushed him out of the way, throwing him to the ground.
"How dare you push Zim, filthy hyooman!" Zim snapped.
"Shut up, freak! Why don't you go bother someone your own size?"
"I was here first!"
"Oh, what are you going to do about it, alien!" Chunk laughed at him. "Whine and cry like the baby you are?"
"Children, that's enough!" Hecate scolded, looking only at Chunk.
"Why don't you make us all a favor and get eaten by a crocodile, Zim!"
The other children voiced their agreement. "Yeah, one mouth less to feed!"
"SILENCE!" Zim yelled. His eyes were getting humid. Damn it, not now.
"Oh, look, the baby wants to cry! Baby wants his mama!"
"Children, stop it!" Hecate cried out, but her scoldings went on deaf ears.
Zim cursed himself for showing weakness. He tried wiping his eyes, but it was too late as the tears started trickling down his cheeks. He was surrounded by his tormentors. The Irken grabbed his lekku, closed his eyes shut, and tried to block their taunting little song as much as he could.
Stop it! Stop!
"Zim is a baby! Zim is a baby!"
"Not even your mama wanted you!"
Suddenly, the mocking laughter turned into screams of terror that were deafened by a loud roar. Zim opened his eyes.
The lion was not in its cage anymore. It had leaped out of the now barless confinement and curled protectively around him. His paw sent Chunk flying into a pond, prompting the other children and everyone in that are to flee. Hecate was frozen in fear, pressing her back against the wall.
"Zim, be careful with that animal!" she cried out.
Once it was sure they were alone, the lion looked at Zim.
"Thank you, little green man." Zim blinked. It just spoke. The big fucking cat talked.
"Err… you're welcome." He said awkwardly.
That said, the lion sprinted out of the room, disappearing amongst the trees outside.
Hecate rushed to check on her charge when the animal left. "Zim! Zim, are you okay?!"
"Zim is fine, Hecate," Zim snickered when he saw Chunk's agonizing shape. "And fortunately, Chunk-monkey is not."
The air in the orphanage was agitated that night. Nobody understood what exactly happened, how the lion escaped from its cage, or how it managed to break the bars.
But what everyone was sure of was that Zim was somehow behind it. The animal hadn't hurt him. On the contrary, it was protecting him. It even looked like he was speaking with the lion. Zita saw him talking to the animal, and was responded with small growls and snorts. It must be yet another of his 'perks,' they said. This event further strengthened their fear of the Irken.
After Hecate rounded up the children and took them back to the orphanage, she had no choice but to tell Miss Bitters what had happened. The children tried to pin the blame on Zim, but the old woman didn't care and sent them all to their rooms.
"Zim had nothing to do with the event, Miss Bitters," Hecate said nervously. She hated being with Miss Bitters alone; she had nothing against her, but her presence was… intimidating.
"So, you say the bars just disappeared like magic?" Miss Bitters scowled. "Next, you'll tell me that the kids will sprout wings, fly away, and I'll finally be free of them."
"I wouldn't say it's magic-magic! I mean, we all know it doesn't exist, right?" Hecate stuttered. She didn't really believe her words, she just wanted to get on her boss's good side. If she had any, to begin with. "Surely there's an explanation, but the point is Zim is not responsible for this. The children just want to pin the blame on someone."
Hecate excused herself and finally left Miss Bitters's office. Once out of earshot, she sighed in deep relief at the newfound distance from the old woman. Sometimes she wondered what had happened to her that turned her into… this.
Hecate made her night rounds around the orphanage's dimly-lit halls. The eerie silence and the dominant shadows made it feel like a haunted house, as there wasn't enough money for better illumination. That or miss Bitters didn't feel like giving the children any glimmer of hope in any way. A few times, she heard some whimpers coming from some rooms.
When she found Zim's door half-open and the room empty, she didn't panic. Whenever Zim was upset or wanted to be alone, he left his room and made his way up to the rooftop. It was supposed to be off-limits to keep children from falling off the roof, but Miss Bitters never bothered to put a lock on it. She was that careless about the children's well being.
Hecate walked up three flights of stairs, down a corridor and then up a metal snail staircase towards a door to walk into the rooftop's terrace, if it could be called that. The distant lights of the city's more urban area could be seen from here, as well as the nearby buildings and streets. The sky only had a few stars accompanying the crescent moon, the latter of which was partially hidden behind some clouds.
As she expected, Zim was sitting on the edge of the rooftop, hugging his knees as he gazed into the distance. Hecate couldn't help but recall the first time she found him here as a smeet, crying over being rejected for adoption. Soon it became a sort of safe haven.
"Zim?" she called as she took some tentative steps forward. "Are you okay?"
Zim didn't bother to look at her. He quickly but subtly wiped his eyes. The Irken didn't want anyone to see him cry, not even Hecate. He learned a long time ago that he should never let people know that they had gotten to him, this made them think he was weak and could be picked on more quickly.
"I'm fine, Hecate-miss." His hoarse-sounding voice betrayed him. Curse his voice!
He didn't look at the Vortian as she came to sit next to him, letting her legs dangling on edge. "Zim, it's okay to cry. Tears purify your soul and allow your wounds to heal."
"Zim's not crying! I just got something in my eye!" Thankfully, Hecate didn't press the issue any further.
They just sat there, watching the distant city lights and the colorful traces of cars moving through the streets. Despite the urban environment, their area of the city was pretty calm. Zim was continually staring at any Irkenettes that passed beneath them, some of them carrying or holding smeets' hands.
"What is it?"
"Do you think I'm a freak?"
Hecate stared at Zim in surprise. "Why do you say that?" She inquired.
She noticed he was hugging a worn-down stuffed dragon, dubbed Mr. Scales by its owner. Hecate recognized it. It was the toy that she found in his basket when he was left in the orphanage's doorsteps. Probably a present from his… mother. Zim would often carry it around when he was a smeet, and to this day, he always held it close to him.
"Why else would my mama leave me here? Maybe she just… maybe she realized there was something wrong with me…" Zim cursed himself as he felt tears welling up in his eyes again. He tried to hide his face into his arms again, but instead, he hugged his stuffed dragon tighter.
"Or maybe she couldn't afford to take care of you. Have you thought of that? What if she didn't have enough money, or what if she were ill?"
"That's a lame excuse! Many mothers in those situations still take care of their smeets! The truth is that she didn't want me because I'm a freak!"
"Zim, you are not a freak," Hecate said, a bit more sternly this time. "What happened today wasn't your fault."
"That's what you always say, but they always blame me for everything. And I don't know why, but a part of me knows it is my doing somehow!"
Hecate didn't know what to say to that. She had been a witness to the strange events that sometimes happened when Zim was around, but she refused to believe it was his doing. There was no way he could have made metal bars disappear out of nowhere!
"Zim, you're not to blame for what happened. It's just that people are afraid of what they can't understand and try to fill the gaps with made-up stories or blame people for things that are out of their control."
"But they always put the blame on me. Is it because I'm the only Irken here?" Zim insisted. "I hate hyoomans! They mistreat me only because of that!"
Hecate was sympathetic in that sense. Humans weren't precisely tolerant of aliens. Vortians, Irkens, and many other non-humans often suffer discrimination for being different. She had trouble finding a job herself; the only reason she had this one was that she was the only willing applicant.
"I admit they aren't… nice, but not all humans are like that. There are. Few decent humans out there."
Zim was pensive for a while. "Hecate, can I ask you something?"
"What is it?"
"Have you ever interacted with my kind before?"
She knew where this was going. "Yes."
"How are they like? How am I supposed to be like? Am I normal in Irken standards?"
"Well… Irkens are a proud race of warriors. They'd rather be with their own kind than other species. Most of their culture revolves around height. The taller you are, the better you are treated, and the more respected you are." Hecate explained. "You have the common traits of an Irken. You are proud, you don't like being with humans because you consider them inferior, and you show quite an obsession with height."
Hecate smiled teasingly. "Zim, I've seen you tip-toeing in your room and trying to measure your height with marks on the door."
"You're making it up!" Zim snapped indignantly, but his pink face said otherwise.
Hecate laughed. There was the Zim she knew and liked so much. "Okay, Zim, we should go to bed. Tomorrow's a new day, after all."
Zim groaned. He didn't really want to go to sleep, but his heavy eyes and already irritated mood said otherwise. Besides, he knew he'd need all possible energy for dealing with what happened at the zoo.
"Fine." He said as he begrudgingly got to his feet. As he followed his Vortian caretaker back downstairs, he quickly added. "Just for the record, this conversation never happened, okay? Zim has a reputation to maintain!"
"What conversation? I don't know what you're talking about." Hecate said with a wink.
Chapter 2: The Letter
Zim and Ilk each receive a particular letter that changes their lives.
Here we are with the second chapter, folks! Things will start getting magical from here on out.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Just as initially assumed, the incident was still the main topic of conversation the next day. According to some sources, the lion made its way out of the zoo and into the city, where it eventually boarded a ship headed to Africa. The authorities who took a look at its cage noted that the bars weren't broken. There weren't even bars at all anymore. It was almost as if they had… disappeared. As if they had never been there at all.
Zim was to stay in his room as punishment for sending Chunks, who had slipped into a sort of coma, to the hospital and causing the orphanage to waste more money than intended. Zim would be grounded until Chunks awakened or until the Irken turned eighteen, whatever happened first. Zim silently cursed Miss Bitters from behind her back after he returned to his bedroom. It's like he told Hecate last night, he always gets the blame for everything. On the bright side, though, the other children left him alone after the lion's attack.
The only willing visitor he got was Hecate every time she brought him his meals. Zim hadn't cared about the isolation at first, claiming he needed no one', but soon the solitude bored the heck out of him, and he made long conversations with his Vortian guardian.
Bless you, Hecate! And bless the curly fries!
The only activities Zim could do in his confinement were napping, looking through the window, hide from the roaches whenever they crawled from under the bed, or stare at the ceiling. On one occasion, he grabbed his plush dragon, Mr. Scales, as he contemplated. This might sound childish, but Zim considered the doll to be his 'best friend' and often talked to him when he felt lonely and Hecate was unavailable. It was probably a 'parting gift' from his mother after she left him, so maybe he unconsciously clung to it as the only thing he had from her.
Half a day passed before someone, probably Hecate, knocked on the door. "Zim?" Yup, it was her, alright.
"What?" Zim asked half-groggily. He was having a sweet dream!
"There is a… lady who wishes to see you." Lady? That's weird; no potential parents ever wanted to see him, mostly because he was an Irken. Hyoomans didn't want to adopt children of a different species.
That aside, this might be his chance to get out of here! With this in mind, Zim quickly slipped into a plain white shirt and gray shorts. Once he was presentable enough, he called out. "You have Zim's permission to come inside, Hecate and whoever you are!"
Hecate opened the door. Zim felt his squeedly-spooch knot. The lady in question was an Irken, just like him, and she was tall. Really tall. About Miss Bitter's height, maybe a bit more. The Irkenette's attire, though, was slightly weird. It consisted of dark cyan robes and a matching curly pointed hat.
"Zim?" The irkenette asked in a gentle voice. Her cyan eyes locked with his curiously.
"Y-Yeah, I am Zim!" He stuttered, his voice shaking uncharacteristically.
Despite not growing amongst his kind and being mostly unaware of the 'height factor,' Zim cowered in the presence of a taller Irken. As Hecate mentioned last night, the 'height factor' is the main force behind Irken mentality: the taller you are, the better you , of course, had no proper education of this, so he didn't show the appropriate respect.
"Are you going to adopt Zim?"
"Zim!" Hecate chided.
The Irkenette blinked in surprise. Any other Irken would have reacted aggressively, but not her. She understood why he didn't act accordingly. He lacked an Irken parent or authority figure to teach him the proper manners. So her response was a kind smile.
"Not necessarily. I want to talk to you about a more… personal matter. But first, let me introduce myself," Lena tipped her hat lightly and wiggled her lekku, a standard greeting or respect gesture amongst Irkens. "I'm Lena Cyanin, Astronomy Professor at Irkharth."
"Irk… harth?" Hecate repeated. "I've never heard of it."
Lena coughed uncomfortably. "It's not a normal school, miss…"
"Miss Hecate. First of all, there's something Zim has to know." Lena looked down at Zim again. "Zim, what I'm going to tell you might be a bit overwhelming at first, but-"
"Are you Zim's mama?"
"Zim!" Hecate yelped in dismay. She looked worriedly up to the newcomer.
Lena looked baffled for a few moments before blinking back into reality. "No, Zim. What I'm going to tell you is that you're a wizard."
Zim raised his lekku. "Gizzard?"
"No, wizard. You know, someone who uses magic."
"Zim is a wizard?" Hecate frowned skeptically. What was this irkenette up to? "Are you serious? You came here just to tell us that?"
Lena was prepared for such a reaction. It's common amongst no-maj borns, who are raised to believe that magic is nothing more than fiction. "I guess you remember the incident from yesterday, right? About the lion's escape." Zim froze in place. Hecate nodded warily. "How did the lion escape?"
Hecate wasn't sure of what to reply. "Nobody's sure. The bars were gone, but it didn't look as if they were broken. It was more like… like…"
"As if they disappeared?" Lena finished.
"...Something like that."
"And what happened before that? Did you get upset or angry in any way?" Lena asked Zim.
He didn't answer. He went back to that moment in the zoo, back to the jeers and mocking from the other children. He felt vulnerable. He wanted them to stop somehow. Then somehow, the thing with the lion happened… Wait, he had spoken with the lion too. Lena seemed surprised when he mentioned it.
"That's odd. Magical language isn't usually amongst the presented symptoms."
"Symptoms?" Hecate repeated.
"You see, when young wizards or witches are upset or feel threatened in any way, their magical power reacts accordingly and causes stuff like that to happen, as a sort of defense mechanism. It can't be controlled and occurs randomly during the first years of life. It disappears with age and the proper magical education."
"Hey, wait a minute!" Zim cried out loudly. "You mean to say that all the weird stuff that's happened… Stuff changing and…" Zim blinked as realization dawned unto him. "So, it was me?"
"Zim, I know this might be overwhelming, but-"
He didn't listen to what she said as he processed the news. Was he a wizard? He more-or-less knew what it was, as Hecate used to read him those sorts of stories back when he was a smeet. He remembered he sometimes wished he could do cool magic like those magical people, but Miss Bitters would always crush his hopes in the cruelest way possible, stating that magic was just an invention of ignorant people who wanted an explanation of why it rained. But this lady here just came and told him otherwise. That he was a magical person. All those flying books, all those roaches attacking the other kids, all the times his cuts healed quickly… It had been him all this time.
Zim didn't realize he had jumped to his feet and started to laugh. He did a sort of victory dance while crying out that he wasn't a freak and how he'd rub it into the hyoomans' faces.
"I'm a weezard! I, the great Zim, am weezard!"
"Err… Zim," Lena said warily. This wasn't exactly the reaction she had been expecting from him in question.
Hecate sighed, though her gaze on Zim was a fond one. "He should get tired in about five minutes."
"Zim, I have not only come to inform you that you're a wizard," Lena stated after Zim finally remembered she was still there. "I have something for you." She took out a sealed envelope from her robes. "It's an acceptance letter."
Zim raised his lekku. "Acceptance? Let me see!" He snatched the envelope and tore it open.
Irkharth Academy of Magic and Witchcraft
Headmaster(s): Almighty Tallest Mages Red and Purple.
Dear Mr… Zim.
We are pleased (sort of) to inform you that you have been accepted at Irkharth Academy of Magic and Witchcraft. Term begins on 1 September. You'll find a list of all necessary books and equipment-
We should add doughnuts in it!
Purple! Grr, look what you made me write! Just show up on time, Zim.
Yours truthfully (rather, the other way around since we're way taller than you)
Almighty Tallest Mages Red and Purple, headmasters of Irkharth.
"Wait a minute, 1 September?" Hecate gasped. "That's in two days!"
Zim didn't exactly hear what she said other than her dismayed claims of not having enough time or any money to buy the stuff, while Lena was trying to calm her down.
"Given his status as a no-maj-born…"
"No-what?" Hecate asked with a puzzled expression.
"No-maj is a term for people who don't have magic. 'Normal' people, if you prefer. A No-maj born is a witch or wizard who was born in a family of normal people due to wizarding ancestry." Lena explained, slightly impatient at being constantly interrupted. "No-maj borns are granted a credit to buy the required materials for first years, which includes a wand, the textbooks, and the basics."
"And where would Zim get all the magical stuff?" Zim asked.
"In the Wizard's market not far from here. I came to take you there so you can get everything you'll need." Lena glanced at Hecate uncertainly. "Usually the parents or tutor are required to accompany the new student, but… Well, given these unique circumstances…"
Zim and Hecate knew what she meant to say. The former quickly said. "Hecate could come! She's the one who looks after Zim, so technically that counts, right?"
"Well… Yes, I guess."
"What about Miss Bitters? We have to let her know."
Lena felt a shiver down her spine and shifted uncomfortably. "I talked to her already. She said she didn't… mind." This was an understatement, of course. That woman made it clear she didn't care. One less mouth to feed, as she put it.
"Let me guess: 'if that means I have one mouth less to feed, you can take him to the North Pole and enslave him for all I care," Hecate said with a sigh.
Wow. She had quoted the hag perfectly. "Yeah, something like that."
Zim was instantly on his feet. "What are we waiting for? Take me to weezard's market!"
It started as a typical day for the young Irkenette known as Ilk. Wake up at eight a.m., get dressed, make Lard Nar surprise breakfast, and enjoy a quiet morning. He worked so hard that he deserved some pampering now and then. As she was preparing the pancake mixture, she heard the ruffling of wings from the doorway. She found nothing as she turned around, but she heard it again, this time right next to her.
"Don't even think about it, Kor Kan." Ilk chided and pulled the bowl of mixture away from Lard Nar's nightingale familiar. "The last time you dropped your feathers all over it!"
Kor Kan chirped in protest.
"How about this? If you behave, I'll make a pancake just for you." Ilk giggled as the nightingale responded with happy trills and hopped unto her head.
She was giving the toast some finishing touches when she heard the familiar footsteps from the corridor.
"Something here smells good!" Lard Nard chimed, walking into the kitchen. He took a sniff. "I see. Cinnamon pancakes again, right?"
"What can I say? I thought of making scrambled eggs, but I didn't want to offend a certain someone." Ilk motioned to Kor Kan, who chirped in protest and pecked at her lekku.
"Let me lend you a hand." Lard Nar took out a long, dark brown wand and waved it. Plates and utensils flew out of the cupboard and floated towards the table, where they were neatly placed down. Additionally, Lard Nar placed a small bowl for Kor Kan, filling it with some marguerite seeds.
Ilk didn't exactly belong to a 'normal' family. For starters, Lard Nar is not an Irken like her. He's a Vortian, and her adoptive father. She never knew her birth parents because they perished in an accident when she was a smeet. Lard Nar, an old friend of her family, was named her tutor and he's raised her like his own child ever since. Sometimes he'd tell her stories about her parents and of how much they loved her.
Apart from being her tutor, Lard Nar is also a wizard. As you've seen from the demonstration, he's capable of using magic, and he owns a familiar spirit, his bird Kor Kan, who acts as partner, guardian, and spirit guide. His magic can be used for minor chores, such as putting the table and other small tasks, but his main job is that of a potion maker. No-maj people call him apothecary. Ilk herself was a witch as well, but she still had no wand, and her magical power manifested randomly due to her lack of experience.
Once breakfast was ready and they sat to the table, Ilk made sure to give Kor Kan his promised pancake. "Just don't give him too much, or he won't be able to fly." Lard Nar teased, chuckling as the bird pecked at his head in retaliation.
"It's not that big; I made it for his size." Ilk said while munching on her pancake.
"Hey, don't speak with your mouth full, young lady."
Ilk swallowed the food in her mouth. "Hey, Lard Nar, how did you feel when you got your acceptance letter?" Lard Nar pondered over his coffee slurp. He knew why she was asking. She was twelve years old already, and her magical education was due to begin very soon.
"I felt like it was the best thing that could have happened to me! You could say those are the best years of one's life. You not only learn many things, but you also meet lots of people, both good and bad."
"Where did you study magic?"
"Ah, I was enrolled at Battaneux Magical Academy. It's a nice magical institution, more open for different species."
"What about Irkens?"
"Well, Irkens are a bit more… complicated. They don't like mingling in with other species; they got this 'we're better than you' way of thinking. Due to this, they have their own magical academy, Irkharth, exclusive for the Irken race but one of the finest in the universe."
Ilk had heard or Irkharth. Irken witches and wizards spoke wonders of it, and many of history's greatest Irken sorcerers graduated from there. A few of her neighbors had already left for Irkharth or were awaiting their acceptance letters. "Is that were mom and dad went?"
Lard Nar patted her head. "They were amongst the finest students to ever graduate, my dear. I'm sure that you'd be just as good, if not better!"
"They have to send me a letter first, don't they?"
"If you hurry, you can still catch up to the mailman." He was teasing her, but she didn't blame him. These past weeks, she'd been continuously waiting next to the mailbox all morning, hoping to find an envelope addressed to her.
Realizing it was almost eleven, Ilk hurriedly ate her breakfast and ran to the inbox outside just in time to receive the mailman. "Hey, Smikka!"
The mailman that delivered to their street was Smikka Smikka Smoodoo (Smikka, for short), a breed of a fairy with short height, pointy ears, green-yellow skin, and beaded blue eyes. His only clothing consisted of a small hat with a winged envelope insignia, matching black gloves, loincloth, and a big handbag in which he carried all the mail. His tiny fairy wings were flapping rapidly to keep him in the air.
"Oh, hello, Ilk!" Smikka said, greeted amicably. "Let me guess: 'do you have something for me?'" he quoted.
Ilk rubbed the back of her head, chuckling. "What can I say? I'm excited! I'm twelve years old already, and I haven't got any acceptance letters!"
"You can thank the mail system for that. Letters and correspondence get mixed up and end up somewhere else, and people, of course, blame the mailmen for that." Smikka murmured bitterly, rubbing his rear. Stupid dog.
"These days she's been sick and I've been taking her turns. I hope she gets better soon; I'm getting worried."
"What did the doctor say?"
"He called for some tests, but they aren't ready yet. Anyway, I think I do have something for you." Ilk froze as she watched Smikka's hand searching through his satchel. He took out some envelopes of different colors and sizes. He eventually took a magenta envelope. "Here it is. It's from Irkharth Academy of Magic and Witchcraft."
Ilk snatched the envelope and stared down at it in awe. It had the school's primary colors and the symbol on the corner. "Thanks, Smikka!" She searched in her pocket and gave the fairy a good amount of monies. "For your kids!" She rushed back inside, waving the envelope happily. "Lard Nar, I got a letter!"
The Vortian nearly choked unto his pancake. He had to hit his chest and cough a few times. "Finally! What does it say?"
Ilk tentatively opened the envelope and slid open the letter, but she hesitated to read it. "Um… Would you read it for me? I'm a bit too nervous…"
Lard Nar rolled his eyes with a small grin. "Okay, let me see." Kor Kan brought the piece of parchment to him. It was written in red ink, meaning one of the headmasters had personally written it by hand. Interesting.
Irkharth Academy of Magic and Witchcraft
Headmaster(s): Almighty Tallest Mages Red and Purple.
Dear Ms. Ilk Nar
We are pleased to inform you that you've been accepted at Irkharth Academy of Magic and Witchcraft. You'll find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Terms begins on September 1.
Almighty Tallest Mages Red and Purple, Headmasters of Irkhart.
Lard Nar re-read the date. "September first? Oh, geez!" Damn the mailing system! This meant they only had two days. "Ilk, the good news: you've been officially accepted at Irkharth."
Ilk raised her lekku. This meant… A flurry of emotions overcame her. Irkharth. She had been accepted at Irkharth. She wanted to scream. She wanted to laugh. She wanted to twirl around and do her little victory dance. But she already knew the 'good news, bad news' lecture. "And the bad news?"
"Thanks to our 'wonderful' mailing system, the letter got delayed and it arrived much later than intended, which only gives us two days to go buy your stuff!"
"Two days?! How are we going to get to the Wizard's Market if your broom hasn't been fixed!"
Someone knocked on the door. Kor Kan flew towards the window and flapped his wings, chirping energetically. Lard Nar and Ilk found Smikka at the door, panting heavily, sweating and with a big, long parcel in his arms.
"See what I mean? They call me at the last moment and tell me there's another package for you! They could have told me in the morning and saved me the extra distance!" Finally, his wings couldn't bear the weight anymore and he fell to the ground.
"You okay, Smikka?" Ilk asked worriedly, helping him up.
"I think I need new wings."
Lard Nar took a look at the fairy's wings. They didn't have any cracks or cuts. "You're not dying; they're just swollen from flapping for too long without rest." He frowned and said before Smikka could speak. "I know, we can thank the mailing system for it."
"Well, how about you go inside and take some pancakes while we check this out?" Admittedly, Smikka didn't even have time to finish his breakfast, so he was grateful for the offer.
While he went into the kitchen, Ilk tore off the wrapping on the package. She gasped in awe. It was a brand new broomstick. And not just any, it was the latest Swiftwind model, one of the finest brooms for school. It was costly and not many could afford it. Who could have sent it?
"Hey, so what's inside the-? By my horns, is that a Swiftwind?"
Lard Nar! It must have been him to give her a surprise for her acceptance into the magic school. He must have been saving a lot of money from his earnings to buy it. While business was good, it wasn't enough to afford such an expensive broomstick unless he took lots of extra jobs. "Oh, Lard Nar, thank you! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!" she repeated happily, hugging her surrogate father tightly.
Smikka and Kor Kan stared at the scene, amused. Lard Nar didn't know what to say; he only patted Ilk's head, chuckling nervously. "Well, on the bright side, we can get to the Wizard's Market now."
Well, well, looks like their adventure has just begun.
To those who may not know, Smikka Smikka Smoodo is a screwhead slave that appeared on 'Megadoomer'. He switched the packages meant for Zim and Tenn out of spite for his race being enslaved. In this au, his species is mostly unchanged, except they don't have screws in their heads and they got pointy fairy ears and wings. Him working as a mailman is a reference to the the character working as a delivery service slave in the show. While not necessarily enslaved, his species is still overworked as the mailmen of the magical world, though.
See you in the next chap!
Chapter 3: Wizard's Market
Zim and Ilk go to the Wizard's Market to buy their school materials, unknowingly running into each other.
My gosh, I've had the most stressful Valentine's Day ever. See, I run a small shop that sells personalized balloons, and we had a LOT of orders yesterday. I barely got time to correct this chapter, so instead I decided to finish it properly today. And, well, here it is! I surely hope you enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Zim didn't have much to pack other than some clothing, Mr. Scales, and a few snacks he had saved to eat. Since the Wizard's Market was located in the outer area of the city, they'd have to get a transport to go there. Hecate was perplexed when Lena asked if they could access the rooftop. Despite her doubts, she led the two Irkens to the terrace.
"Why did we come here, miss Lena?" Hecate stepped back when the Irkenette made a blue broomstick appear out of thin air.
"According to the protocol, we can't be seen by no-maj people when we go." Lena explained.
Hecate looked at her as if she had gone insane. "Wait, we're going to jump off the roof on that?"
Lena smiled, mounted the broom and stomped on the ground with one foot. "Tia freyre!" To both Zim and Hecate's astonishment, Lena rose a few inches from the ground. Zim waved his hand under her, looking for any tricks she might be using, but there was nothing there. She was actually levitating! "It's way quicker than taking the bus."
"There's no way I'm letting Zim get on top of-!" Too late. Zim had already jumped unto the broom and mounted behind Lena, backpack in hand.
"Come on, Hecate! I want to try this thing out!"
The vortian groaned in dismay. There were so many things that could go wrong in riding a cleaning utensil without any seatbelts nor any form of safety measure. She muttered about how she'd regret this as she mounted behind Zim and made sure he wasn't going to fall off.
The first time Zim ever flew in a broomstick was perhaps the happiest experience he ever had in his life. Unlike Hecate, who was clinging to him protectively and yelling in her native tongue while telling him not to be scared, Zim happily spread out his arms and laughed, especially when they passed right through a cloud and a flock of migrating geese. His magenta eyes were scanning his surroundings as he felt the breeze against his face.
"Let's fly higher, Lena-witch!" he cried. He tried to spread out his arms again, but Hecate forced him to grab the handle of the broomstick again.
"I'm afraid there's a height restriction when carrying passengers," Lena said. "Besides, we're almost there."
It was a warm, clear day, so it was a tranquil trip and there isn't much to say about it. When they stopped over a seemingly normal village, Lena waved a long, white wand and shouted 'Revelatte'. A white spark shot out from the tip of her wand and into an invisible barrier of sorts. The barrier rippled and opened a small hole, allowing Lena to fly her broomstick right through it.
To Zim's awe, the village turned into a bustling town boiling with life. As they descended to the main square and landed in a spot for broomsticks, Zim noticed that most of the people wore robes and pointy hats of different shapes and colors, similar to Lena's. Additionally, there were not only Irkens, but also hyoomans, Vortians, Gelaxis, and many other species.
As soon as they landed, Hecate jumped off the broomstick and started kissing and hugging the ground. Lena withdrew her broom and made it disappear again. "Welcome to the Wizard's market."
"Couldn't we have taken a bus or something?!" Hecate snapped.
"There's no bus station here. It's to keep no-maj people away."
"Where can I get a broom? I want my own broomstick to fly!" Zim cried out, waving his arms to draw their attention.
"I'm afraid your credit doesn't include a broomstick, but the school will provide you with one." Lena explained. "The credit includes first course books, the school uniform, some basic tools, and a wand.
"Broomstick!" Zim repeated. Did he not hear what she just said?
Hecate sighed. "Okay, what do you recommend buying first?"
Lena pointed at one of the shops. "There. A wand is a wizard's primary tool, so it's the first thing you'll want to buy."
She hadn't even finished when Zim sped out towards the establishment. Hecate followed suit before Zim could get lost amongst the crowd, as it had happened once when he was a smeet. Zim barely avoided collision with a young irkenette and a male Vortian as they left the shop, earning an annoyed yell from the latter.
The inside of the shop consisted mostly of shelves displaying long, rectangular cases. As soon as they stepped in, the door's bell rang, prompting the shopkeeper, a thin alien with four arms and dark green skin, to come to greet them. "Welcome to Wandporium, where you can buy a wand for the price of bubblegum!" He held out two of his arms, though only Hecate shook them. "I'm Spleenk, nice to meet you!"
"Wandporium?" Zim repeated.
"It's a stupid name."
"Zim!" Hecate scolded.
Spleenk sighed in dismay. "That's okay, I'm not really good at coming up with names. It kind of runs in the family." His mood lit up as he seemed to recognize Lena. "Miss Lena! It's been a while!"
Lena nodded, smiling."Indeed, Spleenk. I still remember when I first came to buy my wand. I think I set your curtains on fire." Zim shifted in place at the idea of setting Miss Bitters's robes on fire too.
"So what can I do for you?" Spleenk inquired.
"You see, Zim here," Lena gestured to the young Irken. "Was accepted into Irkharth and he needs a wand."
"Good, then you've come to the perfect place! Follow me!"
They were led to a white room with lots of stuff such as vases and books inside. Zim was asked to step inside. Spleenk closed the door and opened a small, transparent window next to it.
"Okay, Zim, I'll be giving you different wands to test. All you have to do is wave it once. If something inside breaks, it's not the right one."
"Why in there?" Hecate asked.
"I used to do it outside, but since I always had to clean up the mess caused by incidents like the curtain one," Lena averted her gaze, blushing deeply. "Now I do it in there."
Zim tapped on the glass. "Why can't I just pick a want and be done with it?"
"It doesn't work like that, Zim. It's the wand that chooses the wizard, for one reason or another." Spleenk held out the first wand through a hole in the glass. "This one's made of cherry wood and unicorn hair. Wave it." Zim did as told. One of the teapots on the table exploded, scattering its porcelain pieces around the place. "Nop, that's not it."
Zim spent the next hour and a half repeating the same process over and over again. Take wand, wave it, something breaks, switch wand, try again. If what Spleenk said was true and the wands are the ones who pick their owners, technically this counted as being 'rejected', getting Zim in a bitterly disappointed mood. He was used to rejection, but this was ridiculous. Some of those wands were really cool-looking too, adding more to Zim's disappointment. A few times, other new students, some Irkens and some of other species, entered the room and found their wands after a few tries.
Even Spleenk looked astounded. "Oh, my. This is the first time someone's been rejected by every single wand in the shop." he said after the latest attempt.
"LIES!" Zim snapped, unable to wrap his finger around the idea.
"What do you do in those cases?" Hecate asked.
Spleenk rubbed his chin, thoughtful. "Well, there is one more, but…" he yelped when Zim somehow pulled him down by the collar of his scarf through the glass's hole.
"There's another? Bring it to Zim!"
"But there's something-"
With no other choice, Spleenk walked down the corridor and returned after a few minutes with a dark, twisted wand. "Ebony wood, phoenix feather core, nine inches, slightly rigid."
Zim snatched the wand and waved it. Nothing happened, other than a strange warm feeling in his whole body. The few, remaining items that hadn't already been broken didn't move an inch nor shatter. No broken pots or rain clouds inside the room? This could only mean one thing.
"Finally!" Zim yelled happily, lifting the wand into the air and waving it. He grinned ear-to-ear when nothing happened again. "Zim's very own wand! Now I can set people on fire with it!"
The three adults watched as he ran around the room, waving his new wand in excitement. Spleenk asked. "Should I tell him?"
Lena shook her head, smiling fondly at the sight. "No. We have no right to ruin it for him. Let him enjoy it."
Ilk stared down at her brand new wand. It was ten inches long, made of applewood with unicorn hair core. It had a nice, curved pattern. "Can't wait to try it out!"
"You could right now, but I'd recommend you wait until you have a bit more experience. You do know the basic spells I taught you, don't you?"
"Yeah, most of them."
"Good! Nothing better than to start with some basic knowledge. Just don't abuse it; I hear they are pretty strict at Irkhart."
"You mean it because of the incident with the broom?"
Lard Nar blushed. "Hey, those geese were evil, I tell you!" He said, embarrassed. On the way to Wizard's Market they had an unpleasant run in with a flock of migrating geese and the birds didn't take it kindly.
Their next stop was Vort Reads, a large bookstore located inside a neatly-painted blue shop. As the name implied, it was run by a Vortian named Nal Kon and her two children. The store sold not only the schoolbooks only for Irkharth, but many other tomes including storybooks, manuals for magical stuff, autobiographies, the popular Night Falls series, and many types of books.
"Hey, Lard Nar!" Nal Kon waved her hand from the counter. "About time you showed up with little Ilk! I was wondering when they'd accept her into Irkharth!"
"Yeah, you can blame the mailing system for that." Lard Nar said.
"The books for Irkharth are on that shelf over there. You should hurry before we run out of stock again."
Ilk began the more-or-less tedious search for the required books in the list. Most of them were basic ones, such as Standard Spellbook Vol.1, but there were others meant for a specific assignature, such as Beginner's Guide for Transfiguration. She was particularly interested in the charms and potions tomes. She always had a knack for both. In fact, sometimes she helped Lard Nar brew his potions.
"Look, Hecate! A dragon book!" she heard someone shout a few shelves away.
"That's Dragonology for Beginners, Zim. It's an optional book if you want to take the dragonology elective." Doesn't Irkharth have dragonology included amongst the elective classes? Must be another new student.
Someone gasped. "D-Dragons? As in, the big, scary lizards that breathe fire?" Must be a muggle parent with her muggle-born child. She couldn't blame her for having that reaction. Dragons were pretty dangerous if you didn't know how to handle them, or so she'd heard.
"Don't worry, miss Hecate, there aren't any dragons at school. They are kept in wildlife reserves away from settlements."
"I want it!" the child, named Zim, cried out.
"I'm afraid the credit only applies for the mandatory books, Zim."
Ilk felt bad for the kid. She knew the feeling of wanting something and being unable to afford it. Lard Nar only earned enough to get by, they seldom had money for luxuries such as a new broomstick or a talking doll. In fact, she was surprised Lard Nar somehow managed to buy her new broomstick. She wasn't sure why, but she ended up grabbing a copy of Dragonology for Beginners and slid it into the basket. Who knows? It might come in handy.
A shout of pain and panicked bird chirping led her to the next corridor, where Lard Nar had been half-buried in a fallen pile of books while his familiar was flying all around him, chirping frantically.
"Lard Nar, are you okay?!" Ilk cried, leaving her book basket behind to go help.
Lard Nar moaned in pain as he was helped to his feet by one of Nal Kon's sons. "I think an idiot grabbed a book from the lower part of the pile… Ouch!" he rubbed his back.
"You okay, mister Nar?"
"Don't worry, I've had it worse. I was at the Vortian rebellion fifty years ago, lad, so I can handle a bunch of old books!"
When Ilk went to retrieve her basket, it was gone. She looked around for a few minutes, but then she realized another student must have found it and claimed it for himself. Lard Nar once mentioned that Irkens were opportunistic, after all. Instead of getting angry over it, Ilk merely sighed and went to look for the same books, this time aided by Lard Nar to make sure no one else would steal her books.
"Should I expect something like this at school?" She couldn't help but ask.
Lard Nar patted her shoulder sympathetically. "It really depends on the individuals, but don't worry! Surely you will find a decent Irken or two to call friends."
Zim spent most of the shopping trip fawning over his new wand. He'd wave it every now and then, inadvertently causing minor accidents, most notably at the bookstore, where he sent a pile of books flying right unto a male Vortian with green goggles, prompting the young Irkenette next to him to aid him, abandoning her book stash. Zim noted those were the schoolbooks he was supposed to buy, so he claimed them and saved himself half an hour of searching throughout the bookshelves and stands.
As they passed by a broomstick store, Zim stopped in his tracks and stared at a small model painted in black with a silver tail. He read the label: Shooting Star. The excitement over his first flight was still fresh in his mind. He imagined himself flying on top of that broomstick, touching the clouds, racing Irken zhook cruisers-
After being brought out of his imagination, Zim frowned at the taller Irkenette. " How dare you ruin Zim's daydreaming?!"
Lena sighed. "You got everything from the list, so it's time I show you how to get to school." She waved her wand, summoning a map. It depicted a small town. "You must get to the ley-line station to get to Irkharth," she pointed at a tree in the map. "From there, you can use a Floo Network teleporter for students who don't have their own broomsticks. You just have to step in, shout 'Irkharth' and throw the magic powder. You will be transported to the entrance. Did you understand?"
Zim had actually returned to his daydreaming with the Shooting Star and didn't pay attention. "Huh? Oh, yeah! Zim understood, Lena-witch!"
Lena nodded. "Okay, then. I'll leave you at the carriage bound for this town and then I'll take miss Hecate back home. Are you sure you can remember all of that?"
"I am Zim, of course I can remember some instructions!" Lena wasn't sure he could, but if he said he could handle it, she had no reason to doubt him. Hecate, on the other hand...
"Can't I go with Zim? He could get lost, or…!"
"It's complicated. I must return to Irkharth myself to help prepare for the opening ceremony, and it's a long way from your part of the city. I wouldn't be able to take you back." She omitted the part where Irkharth was an Irken-exclusive location out of politeness.
"Chill out, Hecate! I can handle anything!"
The Vortian looked at her charge with concern on her face. "Are you sure you don't want me to go with you, Zim?"
Zim grinned. "Really, I'll be fine! Besides, I wouldn't like Miss Bitters to eat you."
Hecate was torn. On one hand she didn't bring money to travel back to the city, but on the other she was afraid for Zim. He wasn't aware of it, but he had a severe case of attention couldn't grasp information for too long and his… tendencies usually got him into trouble when she wasn't around. It would be the first time she'd be away from him for so long.
Eventually, she sighed with a nod of her head. "Can I see him off, at least?" She inquired, looking up at Lena.
"Sure. The carriage port is over there."
Lena led them to a smaller station on the edge of town. There were lots of carts and carriages stationed there, all pulled by winged Irkorses. People climbed into and descended from the vehicles hurriedly as they departed.
"See that one?" Lena pointed at a particular carriage pulled by two lime green irkorses. "You have to jump in as soon as it lands and the door opens. You'll get off at the second stop, in the town of Oakville. The ley-line terminal is there."
Once more, Zim didn't pay attention to what she said, but he didn't mind. He lifted all his bags and his suitcase, giving his caretaker a small, but confident grin. "Okay, then! I guess this is where we say goodbye, Hecate."
The Vortian was close to tears herself. "Take care, Zim." She wiped one lone tear running down her cheek. "Don't forget to brush your teeth, okay?"
Lena raised her lekku. The carriage was getting closer. "Here it comes, Zim! Remember: Okayville, ley-line terminal, Irkharth!"
"I'll remember it, Lena-witch!"
That said, Zim barely managed to jump into the carriage, luggage in hand, as the door closed. He waved at Hecate through the window. "Just you watch, Hecate! Zim will become the greatest wizard ever!"
Uh-oh, looks like Zim's on his own. Wonder if he'll be able to make it to school in time.
Chapter 4: New Friends
After getting down at the wrong station, Zim meets other first-years on their way to Irkharth.
Unfortunately, Hecate was right to worry about Zim. Half an hour after boarding the carriage, he casually found a copy of Dragonology for Beginners amongst his schoolbooks. He happily read through its contents, holding under his arm as he did so. The distraction caused him to miss the carriage's second stop and instead hopped down at the third another half an hour later.
Zim stepped out of the station, spreading out his arms triumphantly.
"Here I am! On my way to becoming a wizard! The almighty wizard Zim has a good ring to it, doesn't it?" He didn't notice the town's name written on the sign read Codtown instead of Oakville. "Okay, what did the Lena-witch say to do next?"
He wandered through town for a while as he tried to recall Lena's instructions. She mentioned something about a terminal… A bus terminal? Yeah, that must be it. Where to find it, though? The town was big, and he had no time to waste. Perhaps that Planet-Jacker over there knew something.
"Hey, big guy, do you know where Zim can find the bus terminal?"
The Planet-Jacker blinked. "There's no bus terminal here, little Irken."
This went for a few hours. Zim asked random people around for the location of the bus terminal, but everyone gave him the same answer, that there wasn't one, much to Zim's chagrin. Eventually, he got tired and did what anyone would do in his situation: sit down on the sidewalk, pout, and wait until something happens. Even that bored him out not long after, and he took out his wand.
"What should I do now, wand?" He asked. No reply. Why was he talking to a stick, anyway?
He noted the passersby stared at him as if he had lost his mind, but Zim didn't mind it. He was used to it thanks to the weird looks he always got from the other kids in the orphanage. He was going to show them not to mess with Zim!
"You shouldn't take it out in public, you know." Zim raised his lekku and looked up at the newcomer: a fat, short Irken wearing a silly sailor outfit. Remembering Lena-witch's words about no-maj people, Zim quickly hid the wand from view.
"I don't know what you're talking about, crazy-fella!"
The Irken smiled lightly. "It's alright, I'm a wizard too," he peeked his wand out of his pocket for a few seconds.
Zim perked up his lekku again. This guy must know how to find the terminal! The fat Irken looked confused when he asked him, though.
"Uhh… The ley-line terminal is not in this town; it's in Oakville."
"And what town is this?"
"Curse you, carriage! Curse youuu!" Zim yelled at the heavens out of nowhere, waving his fist and startling his companion. He didn't take into account that it was his fault he got down in the wrong town. Once he finished cursing the carriage, he remembered he had company. "Wait, you're attending Irkharth too?"
The fat Irken nodded. "Yeah, it's my first year too."
"Then why are you here?"
"Well…" The Irken blushed, letting out a sheepish chuckle. "I fell asleep on the carriage." Man, what a dork.
"Okay, so we're stuck here unless we think of something to get to Oakville ASAP!"
Zim looked around. Perhaps they could borrow a cart or a ship, but there weren't any on sight. Besides, it was getting dark, and Zim didn't want to stay out at night. It's not that he's afraid of the candy zombies Miss Bitters often talked about, no sir! Zim wanted to get to school and get his flying broomstick.
"I'm Skoodge Kritten," his companion said, introducing himself.
"Skoodge Kritten, aren't there any carriages with flying irkorses to get us back there?"
"The last one left twenty minutes ago."
"Why didn't you say so before?!"
"I…" Skoodge blinked. "I don't know." Zim twitched his left eye. A big dork.
Okay, time to improvise… An old hyooman vehicle (Hecate once called it a van) parked up a few meters away, and its driver went into the nearby bar. Zim pointed at it. "There! I shall take that hyooman land vehicle!"
"That thing? It's a no-maj car, and it's not ours! As far as I know, it's considered theft, and we could go to no-maj jail…" Skoodge didn't realize Zim was gone until he spotted him trying to get his stuff into the car's cockpit. Skoodge panicked and grabbed his suitcase. "Wait, don't leave me here!"
Zim didn't mind giving his companion a lift. He was too short to reach the pedals with his legs, so he needed a hand to reach them anyway.
"Skoodge, see those things at the bottom? They are to move the car around. The right one is to go forward while the left one makes the car stop. When I tell you, push the pedal I tell you, okay?"
"What was the left one again?"
Zim ignored the question and started the van. "On we go!"
"I told you to push the brake! Brake!"
"The right one is for acceleration!"
"You didn't specify!"
The good news: they were only two miles away from Oakville. The bad news: they crashed their borrowed transport in the middle of the woods thanks to Skoodge's silly blunder, so they had to make the rest of the way on foot. It took them all night, but eventually, they made it.
When they finally arrived at Oakville, they were exhausted and sore, but Zim still took a look at the town. It wasn't that different from the previous one; the only difference was the big hill with a large tree on the outskirts.
"What a weird bus station.." Zim muttered as they made their way up the hill.
"It's a ley-line station." Skoodge corrected for the hundredth time.
There were three other Irkens on top of the hill, right at the arch leading into the tree's hollow interior. They wore short, dark blue robes with matching pointed hats, and each held a broom in their grasp.
"Hey, maybe those three can tell us something!" Zim cried out.
Skoodge found something familiar about their clothing. "That's the Irkharth uniform!"
Zim snickered. "Good timing! Zim's going to introduce himself!"
Skoodge slowed down his pace. From this close, he noted those three were taller. "I don't think we should…" Too late. The three tallers had already taken notice of them.
Zim waved an arm. "Greetings, fellow wizards! I am Zim!"
The tallest one frowned. "I guess you must be a newbie, considering you don't have your uniform on yet."
"Indeed! Skoodge and I have come to attend Irkharth, but we got sidetracked. Now, do you know when the bus is coming?"
"You know, to get to school." To Zim's confusion, the three Irkens exchanged looks and burst out laughing. "What's so funny?"
"Are you that dumb?"
"It's a broom stop, moron!"
That said, the three Irkens mounted their brooms, shouted the same words Lena had used back on the rooftop, and just like her, they got off the ground.
"Ley-line terminals connect directly to Irkharth and other places through magic energies interconnecting since ancient times," Skoodge explained. "When you ride on the energy, you can fly to said magical spots. It's the magic highway."
"It's basic wizardry knowledge, newbie!" The taller Irken snickered. "If you don't know that, then maybe you should go back to whatever little town you came from and forget about being a wizard!" The three Irkens exploded into another laughing fit as they flew through the tree's bark.
Zim just stood there, silent for a few minutes. After a while, he snapped out of it. "Hey, there were making fun of Zim!"
"We have a bigger problem than that, Zim," Skoodge pointed at some circular stones right next to the tree. There was a sign written in Irken that read out of service on top of them. "We can't use the teleporters."
"Can't we just get a broom?" Zim asked.
"We can't use a broom that doesn't have a magical core; it won't fly."
"It's to make sure no-maj people won't get a hold of any."
Zim thought for a moment. "Wait a minute. If this is the way to Irkharth, other students are bound to pass through here, right?"
"I guess so…"
"So, all we have to do is wait for someone to come and ask them for a lift!"
Skoodge wasn't sure of it. Taller Irkens didn't like associating with shorties. It was a cultural thing for Irkenkind. The taller you are, the better the treatment. Then again, it's not like they had any choice.
They sat at the side of the road for some time until they saw another Irken walking up the road. He was even shorter than Zim if that was even possible, and his eyes were a shade of pink. He was carrying even more luggage and bags than Zim and Skoodge combined. Once he arrived at the top, he put his things down to recover his breath, wiping some sweat off his brow.
"Is this the ley-line terminal?" he asked bluntly.
"Yeah, but the teleporters are out," Skoodge said.
"Hello, fellow Irken! I am Zim, and I require a lift to Irkharth!"
The little Irken frowned. "Does it look like I have a broomstick on me?" He asked, raising his empty hands.
Skoodge pointed at yet another Irken wearing the Irken uniform coming up the hill. "Hey, someone else is coming!"
This one had curly lekku and thick black eyelashes, meaning she was an Irkenette. Her eyes were red like shiny rubies. Thank Irk, she was carrying a broomstick!
After their shopping trip, Lard Nar dropped her off at the carriage stop. She nearly missed the carriage headed for Oakville because Lar Nar wouldn't stop crying the whole time and didn't want to let go of her. Eventually, he did, and she boarded the carriage headed for Oakville.
Once there, she spent the night at an inn. She couldn't sleep, though. She was nervous. It was the first time she'd live amongst her kind, and away from Lard Nar. She had heard lots of bad things about Irkens, mostly about their height hierarchy and their xenophobic tendencies towards other species. That's the reason why Irkharth is an Irken-only institution. In all its story, there had never been any non-Irken students or staff in that school. Lard Nar said she had nothing to worry about because she was tall. It bothered her that her own people cared more about height than one's ability. She wondered if she'd have the same mindset hadn't her birth parents died.
Time flew as she was lost in her thoughts.
The next morning, she slipped into her uniform and put all of her things into her suitcase. Lard Nar had used an expansion spell on it so she could fit all her things inside instead of carrying it all on her back. Then she grabbed her broomstick and headed out the door towards the ley-line terminal.
As she arrived at the tree, she noted there were three shorter Irkens seated to the side of the road. One of them approached her.
"Hey, girl-Irken, do you have a broomstick?" Ilk blinked. Her broom was in plain sight, held on her shoulder. Did he not see it, or was he joking?
The shortest Irken rolled his eyes. "What do you think she has in her hand? A lollipop?"
"Girl-Irken, I am Zim, and I require transportation to Irkharth!"
Zim? Where had she heard that name…? Wait, the bookstore. This must be the kid who didn't get the dragonology book. Speaking of coincidences!
"The teleporters aren't working." The fat Irken clarified.
"We wouldn't be asking for a lift if they were," The shortest one murmured.
"What was your name again?
Ilk glanced at the three shorter Irkens, calculating their weights combined. "I guess we could work it out."
"Hey, hey, hey! You think her broom will support the four us with luggage and all?" Bob cried out, pointing at all their luggage and purchased materials, which had been temporarily cast aside.
"You don't have to worry about your luggage," Ilk put down her suitcase. "You can put it in here."
Zim stared down at the small suitcase. "How is my stuff going to fit in that tiny thing?" Ilk couldn't help it; she giggled at the clueless expression on his face.
Zim frowned at her, still sore about the taller Irkens making fun of his ignorance. "How dare you laugh at Zim!"
Ilk managed to calm down. Breath in, out. In, out. "I didn't mean to offend you, Zim, but you have amusing faces." She opened her suitcase, which was seemingly empty. "Don't worry. This suitcase has an expansion spell. You could put three full butterbeer barrels in here, and you wouldn't even notice."
Zim was skeptical. Was this irkenette insane? Bob and Skoodge were got their stuff. To his awe, they somehow fit their things into the suitcase. Excited, Zim pushed his luggage into it. Ilk closed her bag, took out her wand, and pointed it at her broomstick.
"Engorgio!" The broomstick grew bigger until it was long enough to carry the four of them. "Well, hop on, the opening ceremony should be starting soon!"
Once they were all on board, Ilk led the broomstick towards the tree and waved her want again, this time shouting 'revelo.' A wide circular entrance big enough to fly through opened up: they entered the tree's hollow interior. Right above them, there was a portal swirling in green and white tendrils of energy.
"That thing's taking us to school?" Zim asked.
"Yeah, the flight takes a few minutes, at best."
"There are lots of ley lines spread out across the world. We need to take the right ones, or we might end up elsewhere." Ilk explained.
"How come you don't know about the ley lines?" Bob narrowed his eyes at Zim suspiciously. "What wizarding family do you come from?" Zim didn't reply. He was mesmerized by the lights around them, swirling around and forming strange shapes. "Hello? Hey, I'm talking to you!"
Zim's lekku twitched. "Huh? Did you say something?"
Ilk had a good idea as to why he wasn't aware of basic wizard knowledge. "You are a no-mag-born, aren't you?"
"Don't call Zim names, girl-Irken!" Bob and Skoodge exchanged glances. Definitely a no-maj-born.
"My name's Ilk Nar, so that you know." Ilk said dryly, introducing herself. "So, I'd thank you if you called me by my name."
Zim didn't hear her. His attention was focused on a vague image in the nearest tunnel. "Hey, is that the hyooman city with the tall metal tower?"
"Did you hear what I just said?"
"Hey, we just came from there! Hi, fellow who owns the truck we borrowed!"
"I'm starting to think this guy's whacko." Bob murmured, to which Zim retorted with a yell, making Skoodge yelp in surprise.
Ilk blinked. These guys had severe issues. Were all Irkens like this?
"Okay…" She tried to think of something to break the tension. "So it's your first year too?" Her three companions nodded. "I'm excited!"
"You seem to know some spells already," Skoodge pointed out.
"Yeah, Lard Nar taught me some basic ones just in case. I'm glad he did, or we wouldn't be here."
"Is he your dad?"
"You could say so."
Bob muttered bitterly under his breath. "Lucky you. My dad forgot it's also my first year, and I had to come to the teleporters on foot."
Zim got in a slightly sour mood as they started to chat about their families. He hated when people talked about any topic related to parents or family. It reminded him of what Zim didn't have. To distract himself, he started fidgeting with his wand. Bob asked him if he was okay and mentioned something about a pet rabbit.
"Zim is fine, Bobby! I was merely admiring my wand!" Zim half-lied, holding it up so they could see it. He grinned as they kept staring at it. "Cool, isn't it?"
Ilk chuckled awkwardly. "It's pretty."
"I can't wait to do cool spells! I'm going to blow the other kids up, and they'll regret to have ever made fun of Zim! I can blow people up, can I?" Zim asked quickly.
"Theoretically you can, but-"
Zim laughed. "Yes! I'm going to show them all! Zim is going to be the best wizard ever-!"
He was so excited and so drawn into his rambling that he didn't notice his wand charging up until it sent a massive wave of explosive energy. Ilk lost control over her broomstick and sent them right into the energy wall. Zim unknowingly clung to Ilk's waist, but it's hard to tell who you're grabbing when your eyes are closed shut. He soon became dizzy as his companions' panicked screams sent high-frequency vibrations to his lekku.
Zim's screaming turned into a painful yelp when his back came into contact with the ground. Ow, that hurt! It's a good thing there was a pillow under him. He heard whispers and confused words all around him, prompting him to open his eyes. The first thing he noticed was that they were no longer in the tunnel; they had landed in a large room with mauve walls and wide windows on the sides. Tapestries with intricate patterns hung from the walls too-
"What on Irk?!"
Zim's lekku moved to the source of the voice. On top of the small step of stairs, there were several taller Irkens, all adults, Lena-witch amongst them. There were two, however, that seemed to be the ones in charge. They looked exactly alike, almost like twin brothers, except one had red eyes and was clad in crimson robes. In contrast, the other's clothing and eyes were purple.
Zim heard a painful growl under him. Ah, so Skoodge was the one who cushioned his fall!
"Who's on top of me?"
"Get off!" Bob cried out, his voice partly muffled by Skoodge's body mass.
Zim ignored them and looked around. There were lots of Irkens spread out in the rest of the room, all wearing the Irkharth uniform and staring at him and his little group in confusion. Zim recognized the three Irkens from before in the front rows.
Wait a minute. Irkens, Irkharth uniforms, tall guys wearing pointy hats and robes… This could only mean one thing.
Laughing, Zim raised his arms and cried at the top of his lungs.
"Victory for Zim!"
Looks like Zim has already meet his faithful companions! The reason I picked Bob the Table Service Drone is because, as a shortie, he'd be the most fitting third member, given he, Zim and Skoodge have that in common.
Chapter 5: GIR
After settling down on school, Zim summons his Familiar spirit for the first time: an hyperactive black cat named GIR.
Zim was so happy and busy looking around the place, fawning over being amongst his kind for the first time and all the cool stuff he could learn that he didn't pay attention to the opening speech nor the odd looks he was receiving. These looks continued even after the opening ceremony was over, and the new students were led to their rooms. Male and female dormitories were located in different areas of the school, not too far from one another, but separated by a long, wide corridor.
Ilk-smeet returned his and the others' luggage before following professor Lena-witch alongside the other 'newbies,' as the older alumni called them. Zim and the newly-arrived males were, in turn, led by the tall Irken clad in purple robes, who turned out to be one of the headmasters of Irkharth. Curiously, his name was Purple. How unoriginal, Zim thought but was wise enough to keep it for himself.
"Okay, you three, since you are the… shortest, you'll stay here." Purple said in-between munching a donut. He led the three remaining students down the mauve corridor lined up with doors, stopping in front of the fifth one. "It's your responsibility to keep it clean, bla, bla, bla, and you are to come back at nine p.m. sharp. If you're caught outside your dormitory after that hour, you're going straight to detention. Any questions?" Skoodge raised his hand, but the Headmaster either didn't notice or didn't care. "No? Okay, then, settle in and pick your beds. Don't forget the Familiar Summoning starts in half an hour in the transfiguration classroom." That said, he left.
Their dormitory was spacious and painted in mauve colors. It had a window on the far end, a desk, and three beds, one right next to the window while the other two consisted of a bunk bed. All had a single white pillow and red sheets.
Zim didn't waste any time and bolted upright towards the bunk one. "Zim claims the upper bed!"
"No way, I want it!" Before Bob could do something, Zim had already climbed onto the upper bed. "Hey, that's not fair!"
"I, at this moment, claim this bed as Zim's!" Zim plopped onto the mattress with a big grin. Ahh, it felt so much better than the orphanage's old mattresses!
Skoodge claimed the bed next to the window, placing his luggage next to it. "I hate to interrupt your argument, but we must still find the transfiguration classroom."
"The purple tallest said something about familiar! What do families have to do with school?"
"Familiar," Bob corrected with a frown. "Companion spirits born from a wizard's magical aura. All wizards and witches get one when they start school."Zim had to admit it sounded interesting.
"And how do these 'familiars' look like?"
Skoodge shrugged. "It depends on the person's personality. Most get black cats, but it can be a bird, a reptile, even a fairy of some sort."
Zim raised his lekku. "Fairy? They exist?"
"All 'fantastic' creatures do, for the record. No-maj people think they don't."
"So 'familiars' can be a magical creature?"
"It's rare, but sometimes, yes."
"Zim wants a dragon familiar!"
Bob snickered. "I doubt there's ever been a dragon familiar ever before-"
"I had my doubts, but you're partly deaf, aren't you?"
"Come on, guys, we're wasting time! Let's go!" Before either could protest, Skoodge was hurriedly pushing them towards the door.
They went back the way they had come with Headmaster Purple, returning to the main corridor and following the rest of the new students. Classes wouldn't officially start until the next day, so they weren't obligated to use the uniform yet. This made it easier to tell first-years apart. Amongst the new ones, they spotted Ilk, who was chatting with the other two irkenettes, probably her roommates.
Zim paid her no heed for now. All his thoughts were centered on what his familiar would be, imagining how it would look like. Surely it'd be a cool animal! Maybe an eagle, a lion, or even a dragon! Zim was hoping it would be a dragon. As a smeet, he had managed to see the How to Train your Dragon movies. He was always saying he wanted a 'Night Furee' ever since, something the other children always ridiculed him for. 'Dragons don't exist, weirdo,' they'd say.
The large group headed towards the west corridors of the Irkharth castle, and from there went up two flights of stairs to the western towers. The transfiguration classroom was a few doors ahead. It consisted of a vast room with a blackboard on the wall and many long desks and seats. In the ample space between the professor's desk and the first row of seats, a circle had been chalked up alongside smaller symbols drawn within.
Zim saw one of the taller Irkens from before next to the circle. His robes were colored a bright mauve, and his pointed hat had a curly end. "Welcome to the transfiguration classroom, children. I'm professor Leek, and I'll be in charge of helping you summon your familiars. First of all, do you know what a familiar is?" Someone raised a hand. Zim realized it was Ilk. "Yes?"
"A familiar is a companion spirit that serves as an attendant to a wizard, providing functions such as protection and guidance, teaching magical and healing arts, or in the case of dark witches and wizards, to do their bidding and to engage in sinister deeds." Ilk explained.
"Excellent! I see you were properly informed beforehand." Ilk blushed, rubbing the back of her head. Professor Leek continued. "Indeed, a familiar provides services to the wizard or witch it serves. The type of services depends on the person's alignment and personality, but the average consists of guidance, protection, and companionship. Whenever a witch or wizard is born, a spirit stands beside them. However, they are invisible and non-corporeal until properly summoned. Some families do so at birth, but most obtain theirs when their magical education begins. That is the reason you are gathered here today."
Professor Leek waved his wand, igniting the candles carefully accommodated on the chalk lines. "One by one, you'll each come into the center of the circle. You'll pinch your finger and let a drop of blood fall on the smaller circle; then, you only have to wave your wand and say familiaris streeda. This spell will bring forth your familiar spirit and grant it a corporeal form. Any questions?"
A female student raised her hand. "What form do familiars take?"
"That depends on your personality. There's no known way to accurately predict what kind of animal it will be."
"Do you have a familiar?" Asked a shorter male student.
Professor Leek laughed. "I do, but it's not here. Familiars don't necessarily follow their masters around because they are independent entities and may have different personalities to that of their masters'."
Zim waved his hand enthusiastically. "Can I get a dragon?" He received odd looks from the rest of the students, including Ilk. Bob and Skoodge hid their faces in their hands, embarrassed. Even Professor Leek was taken aback.
"Um… Well, there is a minuscule possibility, but it's rare for familiars to take those types of forms. Usually, they manifest as small animals." Professor Leek cleared his throat. "Alright, then. Who goes first?" He took a look at a long, yellow parchment. "Hmm… Ilk Nar."
Ilk took a deep breath as she stepped into the circle, taking her wand out of her pocket. She slipped her glove off her left hand and pressed a small, metal needle against her finger, only hard enough to draw a small drop of blood. As it fell into the smaller circle, she waved her wand and cast familiaris streeda just as Professor Leek had said. The fire on the candles flared up, and the white smoke gathered into the circle, forming a blue cloud with some lighting inside. Fifteen seconds later, the smoke dissipated.
In its place was a small, sleek ferret with snowy white fur. It blinked a few times before looking up at Ilk.
"My name is Miyukiuna, mistress."
Ilk smiled down at the ferret and held out her arm, allowing it to climb onto her shoulder.
Zim watched in awe as the ferret materialized and climbed unto Ilk. He was barely able to contain an excited squeal as he raised his hand, hoping to be picked next. Sadly, Professor Leek was calling them by list order.
The process was the same: the students would go into the circle, pour a drop of blood, cast the spell, and their familiars would materialize in a cloud of smoke. They appeared as cats, dogs, birds, toads, and other smaller critters. Skoodge's familiar took the form of a brown owl with a plump shape, much like its master. Bob got a fat green toad with yellow eyes.
"Okay, next is Zim… That's weird; he doesn't have a surname…"
Zim raised his hand energetically. "It's me! I am Zim!"
"Okay, Zim, here it says you are no-maj-born, so I must let you know a few things-"
"I know it already, just give me my familiar!"
"Are you sure? It might-"
Professor Leek sighed. "Very well, then. You've seen it many times already, so I don't need to explain it again."
Zim walked into the circle, removed the glove of his right hand, and pricked his finger to let a drop of blood fall into the smaller circle. He waved his wand (wow, even Professor Leek must find it cool if he's staring at it like that) and said the words. Instead of a small cloud, however, a loud explosion created a dark smoke screen. Professor Leek and the rest of the students jumped in fright and started coughing. Thinking quickly, Ilk waved her wand and opened the windows. The smoke cleared out after a few moments.
Zim, utterly oblivious to what just happened, opened his eyes, hoping to find a Night Furee familiar in front of him, but the circle was empty. "Huh? Where is my familiar? I want my dragon!"
"Huh, Zim? You might want to look at your head."
Head? Wait, is there something on top of it? Zim twitched his lekku as he heard something. Loud snoring. Curious, Zim looked up. There was a lean black cat asleep right in the middle of his head. Its mouth was wide open, its pink tongue hanging out of it. The snoring cat didn't seem to realize it had been summoned. Annoyed, Zim tilted his head forward to make it fall to the ground, but not even the fall woke it up.
"What is this? Where is my dragon?!"
"Well, as I said, it's infrequent for familiars to take those corporeal forms. Cats are the most common." Professor Leek coughed some more smoke out of his squeedly-spooch.
Zim poked at the cat with his foot. It didn't react. "What now?"
"You could try with a glass of water, that always works," Bob suggested.
The cat abruptly jumped to his feet-err, paws, and looked around. Big, round cyan eyes stared up at Zim curiously. After a moment of silence, the cat shrieked happily and jumped to Zim's face, crying out 'Master! Master!' repeatedly. Zim yelled and tried to yank him off, but the cat's claws dug further into his flesh. The other students (except Skoodge, Bob, and Ilk) started to laugh. Even Professor Leek couldn't contain a small, amused laugh.
Finally, the cat let go of Zim and was thrown to the ground. It stood back up again and looked up adoringly at Zim. "I'm GIR, master!"
Once he got over the anger over the fresh claw marks on his beautiful face, Zim looked down. "GIR? What does it stand for?"
GIR went blank. "I don't know." He hugged his legs, and try as he might Zim couldn't shake him off. "I love you!"
It's official. Zim hated his familiar. While all others are obedient and well-mannered, GIR is the opposite. He's noisy, hysterical, and outright dumb. He didn't let go of Zim's leg throughout the day, and every five minutes, he'd say 'I love you' and cuddle against Zim's thigh. In the few moments he managed to tear GIR off, the crazy cat would start bawling like a two-year-old smeet until Zim let go of his tail and let him cling to him again, this time to his head.
GIR annoyed not only Zim but also whoever was around at the time. A few other students had shot the black cat angry looks for coming out of nowhere and hugging their legs, causing them to trip. Or abruptly devouring whatever they were holding at the time, regardless of it being edible or not. Zim wondered how come GIR didn't get sick from eating so many quills.
"Are all familiars like this?" Zim asked as they made their way around the school halls. He already knew the answer to that, but part of him was hoping he was wrong.
"Well, you can't say. Familiars have their own personality even if they tend to have certain traits from their owners." Bob muttered this last part.
"My mom's familiar was also my babysitter," Skoodge added sheepishly.
"And what animal is it?"
Zim stared down, bitterly at GIR. The cat had started to eat some of the curtains from the nearest window. "Isn't there a way to get another one that isn't defective?"
Bob shook his head. "Nah, once they get their corporeal shapes, there's no turning back. At least, nobody has found a way to make familiars shift into something else. One of my brothers tried it, and it caused his owl familiar to poof out of existence."
"What do you mean by poof?"
As Bob tried to explain what he meant properly, the trio finally arrived at the dining hall. It was wide and full of tables and chairs, most of them occupied by students of different ages, height and grades eating and chatting. Zim raised his lekku to hear what they were saying. Most of them seemed to be talking about their summer vacation.
After waiting in line for about fifteen minutes, they finally arrived at the buffet. There was a great variety of dishes and snacks in the display being served by…
"What are those things?" Zim pointed at the small gray robot-like creatures serving the food.
"SIRs. They're metal golems that cook, clean up and generally look after the school." Skoodge explained as he was served a generous portion of mashed potatoes.
"I want waffles!" GIR cried out.
Zim sighed. "Those are for breakfast, GIR. This is dinner." GIR started to wail. All nearby eyes stared at them in irritation. Zim barely managed to contain a gulp as he tried to shush his cat. He quickly grabbed some curly fries and held them out. "GIR, I'll give you these if you shut up!"
That did the trick. GIR stopped crying, grabbed the fries, and devoured them whole.
"Potatoeees!" He jumped into the buffet table and started eating the fries until one of the SIRs ushered him away with a spoon.
That embarrassing moment put aside, the trio took their trays and looked for someplace to sit. Most of the tables were full of chattering Irkens. Zim noted all of them were taller than him, Skoodge and Bob, sometimes even by a few inches. This seemed to be enough for them to be treated as if they had some disease. They caught a few nasty stares aimed at them, though most of the other students only ignored them, except when GIR did one of his 'little scenes.'
Eventually, Skoodge's owl found an empty table in the corner of the cafeteria. It was notably older and in bad condition in comparison to the others, but it was better than nothing.
"GIR!" Zim cried out as his familiar devoured all his curly fries. GIR spat them back on the tray. Bob's eye twitched as he pushed his tray aside. His frog took advantage of it to gorge itself in mashed potatoes.
"So this is Irkharth," Zim thought to himself as he looked around the place again. He spotted the tallest Irkens eating on another table near the windows, accompanied by some teachers. Once again, his primitive Irken instincts kicked in, and he felt a blind admiration for the tallest Irkens.
"Who are they?" Zim asked, pointing at the tallers clad in crimson and violet.
Skoodge followed Zim's arm to the people he was pointing at and lifted his lekku as he realized who he was talking about. "Those are Almighty Tallest Mages Red and Purple," he explained. "They are the school headmasters and two of the-"
"Almighty Tallest Mages?" Zim interrupted.
"You know, the tallest and most powerful Irken witches and wizards in the world. Everyone in the Irken wizarding community aspires to be one, but not everyone gets to. If you don't reach the height minimum, it doesn't matter how skilled you are in magic."
"How do I become one?"
Skoodge blinked, perplexed. Bob raised a lekku. "Didn't you hear? You must be both tall and powerful in magic. Lack either of those, and you're done."
Zim kept staring at the headmasters longingly. He was so immersed that he didn't notice GIR was back to eating his dinner. So they were powerful and tall! If he became a Tallest Mage, then nobody would ever make fun of him ever again. No longer would he be looked down upon. He would be the one to look down upon people.
"Well, look who it is!" Zim recognized that voice. Indeed, he saw the same Irken he had seen at the bus stop approaching their table, followed by his cronies. This guy had a black raven, and the other two had a rat and a cat, respectively.
"Hey, you're the one who was laughing at Zim!" He pointed at the Irken indignantly.
"I see you managed to get here, though judging by how you interrupted the opening ceremony, I guess you had to ask for a lift and screwed it up." Skoodge was about to say something, but Bob quickly covered his mouth in case he'd say something stupid.
"Anyway, since you're clearly a no-maj-born and probably don't have any clue as to who I am, I'll be nice and introduce myself. I'm Larb Paxak, and these are Flobee and Alexovich."
"I am Zim!" Zim puffed out his chest.
"I know; you said your name back at the ley line terminal."
"You lie! Liar!"
Okay, this is getting awkward. Zim certainly has strange habits. Bob decided to intervene before he embarrassed himself any further, especially with all the curious stares around them.
"Zim, how about you lower your volume a bit? I think the people of Australia can hear you."
Larb turned to the tiny Irken. "And who might you be?"
"Hey, I know him! I think he's Scoot's tiny little sibling. He's always talking about how tiny he is," Flobee snickered. "And he wasn't exaggerating."
Bob shrunk under the table, deeply embarrassed. He just had to bring that topic up, didn't he?
"Hey, mess up with someone your size!" Skoodge came to Bob's defense. He quickly regretted it when the trio stared at him defiantly. "I mean, you s-shouldn't be mean to p-people…"
"You know what, Larb? He's right. We shouldn't be wasting our time with shorties like them."
"Indeed, I don't like wasting my precious saliva on no-maj-borns, shorties, and especially not shortie no-maj-borns."
Once again, it took Zim a few minutes to realize he had been insulted again. "Hey, take that back!" Too late. Larb had already left, so his words fell on deaf ears. Zim sat back down, pouting. "I hate that guy."
"Me too," Bob spoke from under the table.
"Me three." Skoodge whimpered.
Of course, what is an Invader Zim fanfiction without GIR in it? Instead of a robot, though, he's a black cat, thus matching the wizard theme of the story. Don't worry, he still acts the same as in the show and can do stuff such as eat anything he comes across with.
Familiars in this au take elements on Daemons from the His Dark Materials novels. While they're not the physical manifestation of people's souls, they are a small fragment of it. Master and familiars don't share physical sensations, but they tend to have a deep mental and emotional connection. Despite this, familiars usually have a different personality to that of their masters, though they tend to have a few things in common.
I made a clear reference to the HTTYD franchise here. I personally love it, and I'm quite sad that the movies have come to an end, but part of me is glad at least it was given a proper, satisfying ending rather than being forced to continue and turn mediocre *cough* Fairy Oddparents. Oh, here I go again about that.
And answering to Zim's Most Loyal Servant, I'll leave that for you guys to figure out. Right now, I'm not vying for any particular shippings between the main characters until a bit further down the road. Blue will appear eventually, though.
See you next time!
Chapter 6: The Headmasters
Thanks to GIR, Zim is called to the Headmasters' office. Meanwhile, Ilk seemingly against the interest of one of them.
Ilk could barely contain her excitement since her arrival despite the rather… embarrassing entry, courtesy of Zim.
As she was led to her assigned bedroom, she met her roommates Poot and Zee. Then they went to the familiar summoning, where hers took the form of a white ermine who called herself Miyukiuna, or 'Kuna' for short. Poot and Zee both got black cats.
During dinner, they got a lovely table near the buffet (if it could be called that, that is). Ilk got to know a bit more about her roommates. Lard Nar's advice: always try to be friends with the people you're going to share a room with.
She heard a small commotion in a table further away. She recognized the three Irkens she had brought in her broomstick, in part thanks to Zim's yelling. She saw another trio, all three taller than Zim's group, departing from the table. As soon as they left, Zim had to be held back by both Skoodge and Bob to keep him from going after them.
What a weird boy, Ilk thought as she glanced at him.
"Why does he yell so much? It's becoming annoying." Zee said, partly irritated.
"Maybe he's deaf," Poot suggested.
Ilk shook her head. "Nah, he pears pretty normally as far as I know. It's more of a habit of his."
"Some say he's a no-maj-born. That would explain why he never seems to understand what's going on."
Kuna climbed onto Ilk's shoulder and whispered. "Mistress, we should be heading back to the dormitory," she said. "It's almost time for the curfew."
The idea of talking animals is inconceivable for muggles and no-maj people. They more or less tolerate parrots and other animals that showed the smallest sign of intelligence and speech, but refused to believe that any creature that is not fully and completely sentient possessed any actual language.
Wizardkind knows better. Animal communication goes beyond growls, chirps, and non-human sounds. One of the main branches of Magical Language is the animal tongue, which is, in turn, divided into the animal kingdoms. Most magic school curriculums include the language of birds and a few mammals, but Irkharth teaches those, plus snake, fish, and even dragon tongue, amongst others.
Familiars are a different type altogether. While having the shape of beasts, they aren't animals. They are a fragment of a wizard's aura, spirits that took physical form. Their form of communication is 'actual' speech, which only their masters can understand. The reason is not fully understood, but it's believed that the familiars themselves use perpetual magic of some kind to keep their masters' matters a secret. The branch of magic that studies familiars is known as Familiarology.
Ilk, of course, didn't know it until recently. As a smeet, she wondered why Lard Nar was always talking to his 'pet' bird. Then he explained that one couldn't understand the speech of another's familiar. There are exceptions, but Lard Nar wouldn't explain any further. He made a funny face and tried to change the topic.
Soon after, Ilk joined her roommates and the rest of the students as they emptied the dining hall, making their way towards the dorms. She caught a glimpse of Headmasters Red and Purple walking down the aisle, their long, majestic capes flowing gracefully behind them.
"Ilk? Hello?" she heard Poot's voice.
"Huh? What is it?"
"You spaced out."
"Sorry, I just saw the Headmasters going to their tower."
"My sister says Headmaster Red is very serious and seldom smiles if he's not laughing at someone's bad luck or snacking," Zee explained. "He's way stricter than Headmaster Purple, who's far more easygoing."
"Can you blame him?" Ilk said. "After what happened to his wife and child… Who wouldn't be bitter after that?"
She didn't know all of the details, only that Tallest Mage Red used to be married and with a smeet, but both died. The exact circumstances were a mystery. The official version was that a criminally insane no-maj killed them. Tallest Red had refused any commentaries or interviews about the matter.
There was a commotion nearby. Ilk heard loud meows and Zim's voice yelling something. Someone tackled her to the ground, knocking Kuna off her shoulder in the process.
Once the dizziness over the fall passed, Ilk glanced down at the perpetrator: a lanky black cat familiar with bright cyan eyes.
"GIR!" Zim approached, looking utterly irritated. "Let go of her right now!" He yelled, grabbing his familiar's tail and trying to pull him off her dress.
Ilk panicked when she saw the fabric tearing.
"Zim, you're tearing my dress off!" She started pulling the cat (GIR, she heard) back to her chest.
"Hey, get your own familiar and let go of Zim's!"
"Are you serious?!"
The rest of the students gathered around to see the scene play out. Some of them were laughing; others looked concerned and were looking around for any professor. Poot and Zee were pulling on Ilk from behind to help her while Bob and Skoodge were doing the same for Zim. Ilk grew desperate when she heard her dress's fabric tearing. She tried to make GIR let go of her, but his claws somehow dug deeper into her clothing. Zim was in-between yelling at GIR and yelling at her.
"What is going on here?!"
Everyone froze, all traces of amusement disappearing.
Ilk raised her lekku. That voice… Looking down the hall, she saw the Headmasters swiftly coming their way. Both tall Irkens irradiated an elegant, but stern flair of authority. Even Zim went quiet and stiff and let go of GIR.
Headmaster Red spoke first. "I just made you all a question. What's going on?"
All hands pointed to Zim.
"He nearly tore her dress!" A student said.
"LIES!" Zim responded loudly. "Ilk-smeet got stuck in my cat!"
"You mean your cat got stuck in Ilk's dress," Skoodge corrected.
Ilk blushed deeply, trying to cover her exposed chest with GIR's furry body. Damn it, just in front of the Headmasters.
Headmaster Purple took out his wand and pointed it at GIR.
"Wingardium leviosa." To Ilk's surprise, GIR was effortlessly lifted into the air, somehow releasing his claws from her clothing, and then he floated over to Zim's head.
Almost immediately, she covered her chest with her arms, her lekku flat against her head in deep embarrassment.
Headmaster Red pointed to Zim, his tone stern. "You. To the office. Now." Somehow, Zim didn't look intimidated. In awe and wonder, maybe, but not fear.
"Certainly, sir!" He saluted happily. He followed Headmaster Purple down the way they originally came.
Headmaster Red frowned at the rest of the students.
"What are you looking at? Go back to your rooms!"
The crowd dispersed at his command, sending everyone to their respective dormitories, including Zim's roommates. Soon, only Ilk, Poot, Zee, and the Headmaster himself remained. Once alone, Red bent down and offered Ilk a hand.
"Are you okay?" He asked, concerned. Ilk was partly surprised at how quickly he could change his demeanor.
"Yeah, I think so," she said timidly, holding out her left hand to grab onto his gloved one, allowing him to pull her to her feet.
"Are you hurt? Did the cat scratch you?"
"I'm fine, professor, really," Ilk went back to hugging her chest. "I can't say the same for my dress, though."
Headmaster Red slid his want out of his sleeve. "Allow me…"
Ilk shyly dropped her arms from their posture, revealing the claw marks in the fabric. The Headmaster pointed his wand at it and cast reparo. The holes closed up and vanished as if they had been sewn back together.
"Was that Reparo?" Zee asked curiously.
Headmaster Red retreated his wand, sliding it back into his left sleeve. "Yes, it's a basic spell. You'll learn it this year in Charms."
"Thanks, professor!" Ilk said happily.
He smiled kindly at her. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to tell me. It's my job as Headmaster, after all. If you'll excuse me, I have to go deal with that boy."
"His name is Zim, professor. Don't be so hard on him; it wasn't his fault."
Headmaster Red seemed surprised for a brief moment, but he smiled again.
"I'll see what I can do, but I'm afraid I can't promise anything." He tipped his hat lightly. "Good night, young ladies."
Ilk watched him walk down the same corridor as Zim and Headmaster Purple.
Was he usually that nice to new students, or was it just her?
This wasn't the first time Zim was in trouble. Back in the orphanage, he was called continuously to Miss Bitter's office to be raked over the coals. So he wasn't intimidated by being called to anyone's office, he was pretty much used to it.
This time it did feel different, though, probably because of the ambiance. While Miss Bitters's office was gray, dirty, and had little to no illumination, making you feel in jail, the Headmasters' office was neatly organized and, true to Irken décor palette, painted mostly in fuchsia colors, but there were also traces of red and purple. The office was lit both with lamps and the moonlight coming through the wide floor-to-ceiling window. There were four bookcases with lots of books accommodated in them. Zim managed to see some weird titles such as Advanced Arithmancy or Irken Magical Artifacts Throughout the Centuries.
Zim stood in front of the wide desk, GIR happily in tow. Headmaster Purple was seated on the left side of the desk, tapping his fingers on the surface while snacking on some nachos.
Curled up next to him was a long violet rattlesnake with horns and wings; on the opposite seat, probably Headmaster Red's, was a similar serpent, this one crimson and black with a cobra hood. Zim wished his familiar could have been a cool creature like that. But no, instead he got-
"I love you, tall annoyed person!"
Purple's eye twitched uncontrollably as he glared down at the cat clutching his leg.
"GIR, leave the Headmaster alone!" Zim snapped at his familiar.
"But it's so soft!"
"Let go of him, and I'll let you sleep on my head!"
Thankfully, that seemed enough for GIR, who yelled happily and went back to hugging Zim's leg. Zim groaned. This wasn't the first impression he wanted to give to the cool, tall Irkens. This was the first time he had ever wanted to get into someone's good graces this badly. He never bothered with Miss Bitters because she was a hyooman, and she scared him. These two, however, did the opposite.
Zim's lekku twitched backwards as he heard the door creaking open. The young Irken went stiff and saluted, closing his eyes shut. He felt GIR letting go of his leg at last, but the following 'I love you' cry let him know he was probably going to 'hug' the newcomer.
Seconds later, GIR was placed on his head.
"What's your name, kid?"
He heard the newcomer sigh. "What I mean is, which family do you come from?"
Zim's squeedly-spooch sunk. He had been hoping they wouldn't ask him that. What was he supposed to say?
"Well, you see…" The words got stuck in his throat. How would they react if they learned that he didn't have a family?
"Um, Red, I think he's the orphaned no-maj-born." Headmaster Purple said suddenly. Zim opened his eyes and saw him looking over some papers. "Yeah, here it is. His name is here, but he doesn't have a surname nor any family history. Yup, an orphan."
Zim wanted to disappear. He wondered if there was magic to make him invisible.
"Oh." Headmaster Red looked awkward for a minute. "Well… sorry about that, kiddo." His expression became stern. "I guess you know why you're here, don't you?"
"You're giving me an invisible dead monkey?"
Both headmasters looked stunned and confused.
"What? No!" Purple snapped. "You're here for starting a fight on the first day!"
"Zim did no such thing!"
"Your familiar was attacking another student," Red said matter-of-factly.
"GIR wasn't attacking the Ilk-smeet; he just likes hugs," Zim said rather awkwardly. It sounded better in his head. "And anyhow, I didn't tell him to hug her! It wasn't my fault!"
"Zim, you are responsible for your familiar's actions," Red said.
The pit in Zim's squeedly-spooch grew larger. "Don't worry, sirs! GIR shall be disciplined for such misbehavior!"
"Look, master! No hands!" GIR cried from up above.
The three Irkens looked up. To Zim's dismay, GIR was balancing in the small chandelier above them by the tail, waving his front paws energetically.
"Oh, everything looks different! It's topsy-turvy day!" GIR got a bunch of confetti seemingly out of nowhere and threw it all over Zim.
Red rubbed his temple, while Purple was staring at the scene with a stunned expression. Zim thought they'd expel him, but seconds later, Headmaster Red said. "Look, Zim, since this is the first day and miss Nar told me to go easy on you-"
"And we want to go to bed already," Purple added quickly. Red glared at him for a few seconds.
"Yeah, that too." He looked back at Zim. "We're not giving you detention this once." His frown deepened. "But do teach your familiar some manners or we won't be so kind next time. Do I make myself clear?"
Zim saluted again. "Yes, sir!"
"You can go."
Still grinning nervously, Zim warily took some steps back in the direction of the door. His hand tentatively looked for the knob. After some awkward silence in the office (except for GIR's laughter and occasional 'oooh's), Zim opened the door and rushed out of the office.
Red and Purple stared at the black cat familiar, who seemed blissfully unaware that his master was gone.
"Your owner just left, you know." Purple said. "Would you mind getting your furry butt down the chandelier? You're sprinkling hair all over my doughnuts!"
GIR finally noticed Zim had left. Dropping down to the floor with a clumsy twirl, he ran against the nearby bookcase, knocking some books down. He was still dizzy over his little adventure on the chandelier. He collided against the desk and the wall before finally speeding out of the room.
"Okay, I've seen crazy familiars before, but that one takes the cake," Purple commented, munching on a slice of cherry pie.
Red didn't reply straight away. He was staring down at the new alumni list. His attention was on one name in particular. "Indeed."
So, Red and Purple have been formally introduced in this chapter. Just to clarify, in this au they are capable leaders and powerful wizards. They still keep most of their personality, though. They do enjoy snacking and slacking off, but they also get quite more active roles.
Another major character will be introduced in the next chapter. Till next time!
Chapter 7: The First Day
Zim and company must make it through their first day. Sadly, that's easier said than done.
Zim had never slept in such a comfortable bed before. The ones at the orphanage were hard like wooden plants and were infested with parasites that crawled unto their occupants' bodies to feed on their dead skin.
On the other side of the spectrum, Irkharth's beds were soft, comfortable, and with griffin feather pillows, according to the labels. Zim compared the experience with sleeping on top of cotton candy, his favorite treat.
It was such a sweet sleep that the next morning, he didn't want to wake up. Perhaps part of him was afraid that everything had been a figment of his imagination in his sleep, and he'd find himself back at the orphanage. But as he reluctantly opened his eyes, he found himself in unfamiliar surroundings. Mauve ceiling, comfortable bed, black cat on his head-
Wait, black cat on his head?
"Get off my head, GIR!" Zim yelled.
GIR rubbed his eyes, jumped off Zim's head, and curled up on the bed to go back to sleep.
Zim stretched his arms out with a big yawn, but as he was about to climb down, he forgot he had picked the upper bunk bed, resulting in him falling face-first into the floor.
"Ow…" Zim groaned. He rubbed his reddened face, getting back on his feet while glaring up at his bed. "Curse you, bunk bed!"
Bob murmured something and got up. He shot Zim an irritated frown.
"Are you always that noisy?" he growled in contempt.
Skoodge, having awakened a bit earlier than his roommates, was already slipping into his Irkharth uniform.
"We should start getting ready. The first class starts at nine o'clock. Our first classes are magical language, potions, and magic numerology. Not to mention breakfast."
"Do we learn to fly on the broomstick-things?" Zim inquired.
Skoodge took a quick look at the itinerary.
"Yeah, we'll have our first flight class after the lunch break."
Zim grinned in anticipation, rummaging through his luggage to grab his uniform and put it on. Dark blue robe, black gloves, and boots, the dumb tie he couldn't adjust properly, cool pointy hat… Zim looked at himself in the mirror. He looked cool! He could imagine everyone staring at him in awe, whispering in excitement at being in his mighty presence. He was Zim the next Almighty Tallest Mage, after all!
He was briefly brought out of his daydreaming stance by a poke on the shoulder.
"You don't have to wear a hat, Zim. It's for formal events only." Skoodge explained.
"But you have to take your wand and familiar. Those two are obligatory wherever you go." Bob let his frog, Elvis, climb unto his head.
Zim yelped when GIR, having witnessed the frog getting onto its master's head, assumed he could do the same and jumped straight to his face to hug it.
"Get off my face, GIR!"
"But it's so warm!"
There isn't much to say about breakfast time. The trio had to make a long line at the buffet, where GIR drove Zim and everyone nuts by asking, 'are we there yet?' every two minutes. Once they were in front of the food, GIR launched himself to the waffle station and started eating them all, coating himself in honey and whipped cream. Thankfully for Zim, he was quick enough to move out of the way just as GIR leaped towards his face again.
Admittedly, Zim wasn't sure of what to expect for the first class, as he had never gone to school. The only reason he could read and write was that Hecate taught him how to in her free time. He wanted to learn cool stuff like flying on a broomstick, but they had several other classes before that one, so Zim figured it'd be like a regular class. He'd sit and write the stuff of the board on his parchments.
First-years took most of their classes on the ground floor, switching in-between classrooms. The first one, room 101, had fuchsia walls, a red-carpeted floor, and long wide windows that overlooked the late summer scenery around Irkharth. The setup was similar to that of a lecture hall with long desks running across the room in rows.
To Zim's utter dismay, Ilk was sitting right in front of them, her ferret familiar curled up next to her. Zim quickly grabbed GIR and put him under the desk before he could see her. Whenever he thought she'd look back, he'd join GIR under the table for a few seconds.
"Wouldn't it be easier if you just apologized?" Skoodge asked.
"I didn't do anything; it was GIR!"
"Are we playing hide and seek?" GIR said.
Bob peeked under the desk.
"You might want to quit fooling around. The professor's here."
The magical language professor was a tall adult Irkenette clad in dark mauve clothing contrasting her hot pink eyes. Her voice was stern and loud as she introduced herself as Professor Poki and began a lesson on ancient runes.
Every time she waved her wand, the Irken runes on the blackboard would change. Zim struggled to write quickly enough, as he found quills harder to use than a regular pencil or pen.
Poki waved her wand again. This time, the symbols that appeared on the blackboard looked like a drunken smeet wrote them. Some recognized it as ancient Irken but were unable to read it.
"Is there anyone who can tell me the translation of this verse?" Professor Poki asked. It seemed like nobody would answer until a gloved hand stood out from the multitude. Poki raised her lekku. "Proceed, miss Phynxak."
Ilk glanced at the Irkenette who raised her hand as she stood up. She was taller than average, and her skin was a paler shade of green than usual. Her posture irradiated confidence. She couldn't see her eyes, but judging by her purple waist sash, they must be purple too.
The Irkenette took her hands behind her back and looked at the blackboard.
"Bless the one who leaves the stone untouched," she read as if the runes were written in ordinary language. "Woe betide the one who moves it."
The classroom erupted in awed gasps. Even Professor Poki looked impressed.
"That is most impressive, Tak! In all my years as a teacher, you're the only student who has been able to read this."
Tak didn't react to the excessive attention. She merely sat back down; her face held up high with dignity. Zim felt the slightest bit of jealousy. Ilk was impressed by her dominion over such a difficult language, and Skoodge stared at her with raised lekku, his face pink.
The next class was magic numerology. The teacher was an elderly tall Irken named Skrang. His robes were a shade of sapphire to match his eyes, as per tradition with Irken wizarding clothing. The particular trait this professor had was his bigger-than-normal head and his habit of talking fast without stopping to take a break.
Tak and Ilk were the only ones who somehow managed to write down everything he dictated. Zim fell asleep after five minutes of listening to 'senseless babble,' as he'd later call it.
"Numerology says you can describe the universe from one to five-"
"Professor Skrang," Tak interrupted, "I believe it's from one to four and not one to five."
"What?" Professor Skrang reread the paragraph. He gasped. "Oh, no! How could I make that mistake? You're right!"
"She's even smarter than Skrang!" One of the students murmured in delight.
Skoodge sighed dreamily as Tak sat back down.
The next and last class was potions. The group had to move to a classroom located in the dungeons. Though well-lit, the walls were made of stones, and the lack of windows and sunlight gave the place a repressive air. GIR and Kuna hid under their respective masters' clothing. However, the former was continually being pulled out and yelled at by Zim. GIR didn't seem to get the message and continued to jump back into his clothing in an endless cycle.
The potions classroom was as dark and unwelcoming as the dungeons themselves, equipped with wooden chairs and desks, cauldrons, and empty vials. There were also lots of lined up shelves with bottles, big and small, of all shapes and colors. Zim read some of the labels: sea dragon whisker, ogre toenail, snakewood root.
The bell rang. The professor walked in with heavy footsteps. Unlike the other teachers Zim had seen so far, this one was obese and had a small head in comparison to his massive body. His robes and pointed hat were a deep shade of purple.
"Any of you who hoped to take your wands and cast useless spells, I'm here to crush your hopes," He said in a rough voice. "I'm professor Sizz-Lor, and it is my job to teach you smeets the art of potion brewing…"
Zim and Bob didn't pay attention to the boring introductory speech. Instead, they peered at the nearby containers and tried to guess what ingredients they were housing. While entertaining, it diverted their attention to the point they didn't see Professor Sizz-Lor approaching until he yelled right into their lekku.
Both Irkens yelped in fright as they lost balance in their seats. Bob managed to straighten up at the last moment, but Zim wasn't so lucky and fell to the ground with a painful thud. The rest of the classroom, except his roommates and Ilk laughed. They were scared back into silence by a glare from Professor Sizz-Lorr. He turned back to Zim.
"So you think you know enough about potions to outright ignore me, huh?" He asked in contempt. "Then you can tell me the use of the doxycide potion and the ingredients it contains."
Zim went blank. "Huh… Chocolate chips?" He frowned at Larb's table upon noticing he and his cronies were laughing at him.
"HA! Wrong, Mr… What's your name?"
"I am Zim, and I will become an Almighty Tallest Mage!"
Sizz-Lor looked at him as if he had gone insane. The kiddo had even gotten to his feet and puffed out his chest.
"Curious claim from someone who doesn't know about such a basic potion." That said, he addressed the rest of the classroom. "Thanks to Zim here, you'll all write a seventy-inch parchment essay about the doxycide potion." The students groaned in dismay. "Now, get to work and stop complaining if you don't want to make one hundred inches!"
Zim murmured under his breath and went back to his seat, ignoring the nasty looks he got from his classmates.
"Curse you, Sizz-Lor! Curse you!"
"Just don't say it in front of him, or he'll have us make a hundred inches of parchment," Bob muttered. His left hand was still aching from all that hurried writing.
"Professor Sizz-Lor is known to be very demanding but effective… If you aren't on his blacklist, that is." Skoodge glanced at Zim. "And it seems you are already in it."
"On the first day, no less!"
The atmosphere was somewhat tense during lunchtime, as most first grade students were glaring at Zim whenever they could. Zim, of course, didn't care. He was too busy cursing Sizz-Lorr for making him look like a joke and stabbing his curly fries and donuts, imagining they were Sizz-Lor's head.
The only good thing was that soon enough, he'd finally learn to fly a broomstick.
Skoodge was about to get some more pretzels when he saw Tak making her way down the buffet and picking her meal. Oh, sweet Irk, she's coming their way! He quickly raised his lekku and tried to look as tall as possible. Sadly, Tak soon turned at the second row of tables to sit at the nicer ones, where other taller Irkens instantly surrounded her, Larb's group included.
Skoodge's disappointed gaze was interrupted by a cherry coming into contact with his eye, courtesy of GIR.
"Was that necessary?" He asked, rubbing his sore ocular orb.
"You looked like a candy-zombie!" Zim yelled. "Are you candy-zombie? Look out for your blood, Bob!"
"What? No, I was just…!" Skoodge hesitated. "I mean, she was outstanding in class."
"You mean Tak?" Bob said. "Well, yeah, she's a year above us, not to mention tall for her age."
Ilk, having heard the topic of their conversation, walked to their table.
"It's not only because of that," Zim yelled and hid under the table. She ignored the gesture. "She's from the Phynxak family. They're famous in the magic world. Some members of that clan are amongst the best witches in history.
Bob flung a cherry at his frog, who caught it with its long pink tongue.
"I've heard of that family. They've got 1,500 years of history, and all of them graduated from Irkharth with the highest honors. Not to mention their bloodline is purely tall," Bob muttered this last part with a hint of bitterness.
Ilk peeked under the table. "You okay, Zim?"
"Zim is fine, Ilk-smeet! I am merely looking for my fork!"
Ilk saw said utensil in GIR's paws being used to poke at Skoodge's owl playfully. She almost giggled, but she figured out Zim would feel offended.
"Whatever you say, Zim. Anyhow, it would be best if you guys hurry up. Flight class starts in twenty minutes."
The mention of flight class caused Zim to jerk and hit his head under the table, causing the drinks to spill over. The Irken crawled out of hiding and asked where it would take place. Ilk noticed a particular shine in his eyes. She couldn't blame him; she was very excited when she flew for the first time herself.
"Flight class is taken in the Quidirk field. It's easy to get there, you take the eastern gates and…" she hadn't even finished when Zim grabbed GIR by the tail and sped out of the dining hall.
"Maybe we should have mentioned he needs to pick up an auxiliary broom first," Bob said.
As Ilk said, Flight class takes place in the quidirk field at one P.M. It's a large, grassy field with white painted lines, and each side had three tall poles with rings at the top.
At the accorded hour, students made their way outside, all carrying their broomsticks. Most had to pick up auxiliary brooms from the school's storage room because they didn't have their own. Others like Tak, Larb, and Ilk went to get their own from their dormitories. Skoodge was kind enough to take a broom for Zim, who spent the first five minutes riding it and pretending he was already flying.
Unlike most subjects, Flight is taken by groups of different grades, each assigned different exercises according to their experience. Professor Krel, the flight instructor, was a tall Irken with mauve eyes whose robe had a collar which covered his mouth, and a pair of goggles in his pointed hat.
"Magic Flight class is about to begin," he said. "First-grade students will have a special class. The rest of you practice how to gain speed. Let's get to it!"
Older grade students mounted their broomsticks. Non-flying familiars, such as Tak's sleek black cat, climbed into the broom's tails just as their masters cast the flying spell and took off into the skies. Flying familiars, such as Larb's raven, flew alongside them. Meanwhile, first-graders formed two lines in front of each other, holding their auxiliary brooms in one hand. Their familiars sat to their right as Professor Krel began his explanation.
"As some of you know, broom flying is amongst the most basic magic for witches and wizards, but if you're not careful, you can get hurt or worse."
"Yes, sir!" Zim cried with a straight posture.
"Who of you have experience in broom flying already?" A few raised their hands. "Who can tell me the basic rule?"
"Eyes to the front, grip on the handle, and never lose your focus." Ilk answered, reciting Lard Nar's words.
"Good, miss Nar! Indeed, if you lose your focus or get distracted, the results can be fatal. Before you can get airborne, you must learn the security measures."
Zim was disappointed that the first half of the class consisted of a dull, boring explanation about posture, familiars on the tails, the proper way to hold the handle, etcetera. He didn't pay attention. Instead, his eyes darted off to the sky as he watched the older students flying. Some were doing acrobatics, while others were diving down and lifted back up at the last moment.
He casually spotted someone under a nearby tree. He was tall and thin, so he must be older, but for some reason, he wasn't flying with the others. Instead, he was doing something to his broomstick while a big, black tarantula (probably his familiar) watched on. Zim couldn't tell the color of his eyes due to the red goggles the taller Irken was wearing.
Skoodge nudged Zim lightly to bring him back just as Professor Krel decided to start the practical part.
"You will now mount your brooms, but do not take off just yet. Those with flightless familiars pay attention: your partner's magical energy will partly act as fuel for your broomsticks, allowing you to fly faster. For this, they must remain on top of the broom's tail for it to work," he looked up at the airborne students, looking for one in particular. "Miss Phynxak, would you be so kind as to show us the proper flight posture?"
Tak flew down. "Certainly, professor," she glanced back at her familiar. "Mimi!" Tak straightened her back and tightened her grip on her handle. Mimi, a sleek black cat with crimson eyes, sat down on the broom's silver tail, chest puffed out, tail curled up, head held up high.
"Excellent, Tak! Everyone, that is the proper posture for flight, both for you and your familiars. Now mount up!" Finally! Zim was the first to get onto his broomstick with an excited grin. "Okay, once you're mounted, make sure your familiar is properly seated on the tail before casting the spell. Then we'll fly in laps around the court slowly and only a few inches from the ground."
The excitement died down as quickly as it had come.
"Hey, when will we fly?" Zim protested.
"Mr. Zim, I cannot allow you to fly until I'm certain you won't fall to your deaths." Professor Krel mounted his broom and somehow cast the flying spell non-verbally. He hovered a few inches over the ground with his eagle familiar flying right next to him. "Okay, lift up and follow me!"
The group cried tia freyre. Their broomsticks reacted and hovered off the ground. Students who were already used to flying it handled it naturally; others like Skoodge were stiff, and their grip on the handles faltered.
Watching his companions was motivating enough for Zim, despite being sorely disappointed over the tedious exercise.
Taking a deep breath, Zim cried out. "Tia freyre!"
A few seconds passed, but his feet were still touching the ground. Zim opened and eye and realized he hadn't moved an inch. He tried again, but nothing happened.
"I think the broomstick is not working!"
"Sometimes you don't get to fly at the first try. It's a matter of practice, Mr. Zim," Professor Krel said. "But maybe it's got to do with the fact that your familiar isn't on the tail." He pointed at GIR.
The little cat had lost interest at some point and went to blow dandelions near the quidirk rings instead. GIR noticed he was being watched and waved his paw energetically at Zim.
"GIR!" Zim yelled.
"Fetch your familiar and keep trying, Mr. Zim. The rest of you follow my lead!"
Zim grumbled as he stomped his way over to GIR while his classmates followed Professor Krel around the quidirk field.
"GIR, what are you doing? You're making me look bad!"
"Look, master! I made you a flower crown!" GIR said happily. He held up said crown made with lilies and dandelions up to Zim, utterly oblivious to his master's angry expression.
"Stop wasting my time, and let's go!" Zim grabbed GIR by the tail, but as he tried to lift him off the ground, GIR dug its claws into it.
"I don't wanna!"
"GIR, stop it! Just get onto the stupid broomstick so that I can fly!" With a strong thug, Zim tore GIR away from the grass and placed it on the broom's tail. "Tia freyre!"
Unlike the last time, Zim felt his feet leave the ground. As he opened his eyes, he realized he was floating. He spread out his arms triumphantly with his signature 'victory for Zim' cry. But his joy was short-lived as GIR suddenly jumped to his head and got a tight, uncomfortable grip on it, followed by a loud frightened wail right into Zim's lekku.
"GIR, get off my head!"
"WAA! MASTER, I'M SCARED!"
Unbeknown to both, the 'surprise attack' caused the broomstick to dash through the air and fly out of control as Zim tried to move GIR's paws from his eyes. The broom broke through his classmates' formation, sending most back to the ground with painful thuds. Even Professor Krel was caught off guard, though he did manage to avoid a collision at the last moment. He cried out for Zim to stop, but his words fell on deaf ears.
Soon the broomstick gained altitude and flew through the formations of the older students; most who dodged Zim as he dashed past them. A few others weren't so quick and were almost knocked off the sky.
One of those was Tenn Vendish, an Irkenette in the same grade as Tak. Zim unintentionally rammed into her, causing both to fall off their brooms and plummet to the ground. Both screamed and hugged their respective black cat familiars, though GIR's yelling sounded more like an excited yell. Didn't he realize the danger they were in?
Both would have fallen to their deaths if someone hadn't cast a spell that brought them to an abrupt halt a few inches from the grass. Zim kept screaming even after the magic wore off, and he fell to the ground with a loud thud. It wasn't until Skoodge and Bob came, and the latter smacked the back of his head that he realized he was still alive, and the screaming stopped.
"Why did you hit Zim?" he snapped at Bob.
The older students gathered around Tenn to check if she was okay. Though still shaken by the experience, she got to her feet and stomped her way to Zim.
"Are you insane?! You could have killed us both! What were you thinking?!" She yelled in a nasally voice.
"Hey, you were in my way!" Zim tried to defend himself.
"You weren't even looking where you were going, idiot!"
"GIR was blocking my sight!"
"You are responsible for your familiar's actions." The group looked at Tak, who approached with a stern frown on her face, her familiar Mimi moving alongside her. Tak tucked her wand away. "Familiars are an extension of a wizard's soul. Whatever they do is the wizard's responsibility."
"You're making it up!"
"I got flowers for everyone!" GIR started throwing dandelions on top of Zim and Tak and ate the remaining stems.
"You don't get the point, do you? You could have killed someone!" Tak scoffed. "Then again, what else can be expected from an irresponsible no-maj-born?"
"Take that back!"
The two would have continued their argument hadn't Professor Krel intervened.
"Knock it off, the both of you!" he said, looking only at Zim. "Mr. Zim, that was reckless on your part! If it weren't for miss Phynxak, you and miss Vendish would have gotten seriously hurt! You should be grateful!"
"She started it!" Zim whined.
"Sorry, Mr. Zim, but you are going straight to detention once the class is over." He pointed at a particular spot. "You go wait there until then!"
Zim wanted to keep arguing. He would have, but he didn't want to be sent to the Headmasters' office one day after their warning, so he merely murmured as he picked GIR by the scruff of the neck and did as told, cursing Tak on the way there.
Uh-oh. First day and Zim's in trouble already.
I put Tak as the best student because from what we saw in the show, her skills are above even a normal Invader, with a superior disguise and SIR unit, not to mention she built MIMI and her ship from scratch all by herself. In this AU, she comes from a known Irken wizarding family, so she's a very skilled witch and takes her studies very seriously.
As for Sizz-Lor's role... Well, come on, we know he'd definitely be the Snape of this AU, though his temper is far more explosive and he doesn't bother to dissimulate who he hates.