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Five Things Lucia Montana Did Rather Than the Washing Up

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1. Made up her own words to the Angel of Caprona

Lucia's mother had told her off, and her Aunt Maria had threatened to box her ears, and her cousin Rinaldo had called her names. No-one had stood up for her. Paolo and Tonino and Lena and Bernardo had done the spell too—but they all went hunched and ashamed and let Lucia take all of the blame. That wasn't the worst part. The worst—the absolute worst—was that Lucia had to do the washing-up so-called properly anyway.

There was nothing Lucia hated more than washing up. She hated sticking her hands into murky water without knowing what was lurking there. She hated the way her skin got wrinkly and gross. And she hated the way there was no end of it. She'd thought she'd figured out a way to be done with it forever. It had nearly worked.

It wasn't fair. Aunt Maria had said it was sacrilegious to use the Angel—but what was the Angel for, if not to help people? Mamma had said she was wasting the virtue of Casa Montana, but Tonino said that Benvenuto said there was plenty of power to go around. Chrestomanci had said that the spell was a testament to the strength of the Montanas, and he was a powerful enchanter. The grownups all listened to him respectfully when he talked about the war and the Petrocchis and so on, but they didn't listen to him about Lucia's spell.

It ought to have worked. It had worked. Except for the part with the smell. And the insects. And the way the dishes had refused to come quite clean, even afterwards. But those were details.

It had been a brilliant idea. Next time, she'd do better.

2. Blackmailed Tonino

"Papà's going to kill me," said Tonino, burying his face in his hands. Why he hadn't brought his troubles to Paolo the way he usually did, Lucia didn't know—except he'd be crushed if Paolo thought badly of him, and he didn't care what Lucia thought. The upshot was that Lucia was shivering in her nightdress in the courtyard of the Casa Montana before the sun was up on a Saturday morning, and she wasn't happy about it. "Oh God, Mamma's going to kill me."

"They're not going to kill you. You're their fair-haired baby boy, aren't you?" Lucia considered. "They'll probably kill Cat, though. How many lives has he got left?"

"Angel of Caprona," Tonino moaned.

"Now I understand why you've been going around with Angelica so much lately. Good strategy." Lucia nodded approvingly. "Make sure to point out that at least Cat isn't a Petrocchi. Maybe they'll only kill him once."

"They don't have to know. Not yet." Tonino raised his head. His eyes were dark and round and pleading. It might work on their parents—clearly it had worked on Cat—but it wasn't going to work on Lucia.

"How do you figure? The two of you came in at midnight last night, and the cats could smell it on you. And—from what you tell me—he's currently asleep in your bed. Who knew enchanters were impossible to wake up after a night of vigorous sex?"

Tonino went pink, and said, "Papà, presumably." And then, in response to Lucia's glare, "There are five of us, you know."

"I can count," said Lucia shortly. "And I don't need you to tell me how babies are made. Honestly, Tonino, what were you thinking?"

"I was thinking—here's my chance, and if I don't take it, it's gone forever. He's leaving tomorrow, Lucia, today that is, this evening—"

Sixteen, Mother of God. Had Lucia ever been sixteen?

"The cats won't tell, if Benvenuto says not." Tonino was giving her puppy-dog eyes again. "And if you'll just help me levitate him to the guest room—I tried, but you know I'm no good at magic by myself."

"That's past Aunt Gina's room," said Lucia. "She'll vivisect all three of us."

"We'll be very quiet. Please, Lucia. I'll take over your lessons for the little ones, I'll do your share of the washing up—" There was an un-puppy-like gleam in Tonino's eyes as he saw he'd hit home. "I'll do your share of the washing up for a month."

So Lucia crept along after Tonino and tried not to look at the pale young man in his bed, covered only by a thin sheet, as she sang him a floating sort of song. Tonino hummed counterpoint. Without Tonino's help, Lucia doubted she could have done it—even unconscious, Cat really didn't like having magic done on him. But Tonino had been right about him being impossible to wake. Even when they were not as quiet in the halls as Tonino had promised, even when they let Cat down into the guest bed with enough of a thump to rattle all the furniture in the room, his only reaction was to turn his head and snuffle softly. Luckily, Aunt Gina seemed not to have heard either. Several of the cats had, but they just poked their heads into the room, glanced disdainfully at the humans, and swept back out.

That evening, before Cat had to leave to catch his train, Aunt Gina prepared an enormous, festive farewell dinner. Tonino was miserable. Cat picked at his food mournfully. As far as Lucia could see, the trouble—aside from lovesickness—was that Cat didn't care for steak, and had never, in the course of a month's stay, managed to let Aunt Gina know it. But Aunt Gina saw an opportunity for drama, and pounced.

"You're not eating! I ruined it! On your last day!" she wailed. "But I've been so absent-minded today—someone kept me up all night with their racketing about." Here she glared at each of her children, nieces, and nephews in turn. Tonino blushed. Cat quailed.

"Sorry, Aunt Gina," said Lucia placidly. "I was practicing a new summoning. I don't think I've quite got it right yet."

"Inconsiderate child!" Aunt Gina shouted. Cat shot Lucia a grateful look, and Tonino one that—this time Lucia blushed. She was surprised Tonino didn't catch fire.

Gone forever, Lucia's eye. If this kept up—and until Tonino screwed up his courage to talk to their parents—Lucia was going to have enough blackmail material to escape doing the washing-up for years.

3. Saved the world

It was the Petrocchis' fault, as usual. It was true that the Angel had said the Montanas and Petrocchis had to work together, for the peace of Caprona. And it was true that Lucia had been inside the Casa Petrocchi, and it had smelled . . . well, thanks to her own washing-up spell, it had smelled much better than the Casa Montana had at the time. But that didn't change the fact that the Petrocchis were dishonest, given to shoddy spellwork, and dangerously irresponsible.

That went double for Gio Petrocchi—Pinhoe, he'd been, before he married Angelica. And it went for Marco too, for all he called himself Petrocchi-Montana. The three of them, and their crazy English business partner, and their cars.

"You had to get greedy, didn't you?" Lucia grumbled. Tone-deaf Angelica strode scowling onwards, but Lucia's Montana-trained ears picked out a high whine against the background hum and clatter. "Down!" she shouted.

Lucia and Angelica threw themselves onto the gravel path as something sleek and chrome dove out of the sky. Lucia sang a canceling charm, and the machine fell. Angelica beat it savagely with her crowbar, muttering, "Spell unmake, engine break."

"Mother of God, it's not as if wasps are rare," Lucia went on, pausing to give the thing one last kick before they continued down the road, where what had once been a rustic villa nestled in a fold of the hills. "If you need them for your dwimmer-engines, why couldn't you have paid some boys to collect them for you? Why did you need your own zombie queen?"

"You don't understand the economics of it," said Angelica primly. "We wanted our scooters to be affordable to university students and factory workers."

"Well, now you've got a swarm of crazed scooters willing to die to protect the hive," said Lucia. "And what's going to happen come summer when the young queens are ready to fly?"

"That's why we're taking care of it now," snapped Angelica. "Idiot."

Then three more scooters swooped down on them and they had no more breath for argument. Lucia sang, and Angelica swung her crowbar wildly, smashing lights and mirrors. As they gained the valley floor, there was a sudden burst of fine mist, and an overwhelming smell of oranges. Scooters poured forth from the hive in angry, buzzing droves.

"The citrus bomb's worked!" called Gio's voice, from somewhere near the hive's entrance.

"I got that, dear, thanks," said Angelica between her teeth. Lucia coughed, and her voice faltered. Angelica's crowbar didn't. The scooters were sluggish now, but there were so many of them. Lucia and Angelica stumbled desperately towards the entrance, along a path cut by Angelica's crowbar, Marco's strong voice, and Gio's orange juice cannon.

The four of them dashed through the door, and a scooter landed a lucky, clumsy swipe at Angelica's legs with a broken mirror. She fell.

"Angelica!" shouted Gio, and ran forward to catch her.

"The queen, the queen, get the queen," said Angelica, in a voice tight with pain.

It—she—stood alone in the middle of the factory floor. She had the front half of a scooter, and a back half grotesquely swollen, glowing, pulsing. Too large to have gone through the door when her offspring had—and also, the orange juice didn't seem to bother her. Marco had picked up the cannon where Gio had let it fall, and was spraying for all he was worth, and keeping up a canceling charm the whole time. The queen's engines just growled. A pair of wicked antennae-mirrors emerged from her backside, and then another.

"Marco! Remember that symphony Rosa took us to last year?" Marco stared at Lucia in confusion, his face red and strained. Lucia began to sing. "Stehe! Stehe! Denn wir haben deiner Gaben Vollgemessen!"

Comprehension dawned. Marco picked up the song. "Die ich rief, die Geister, werd' ich nun nicht los." The new scooters being born shuddered and stopped. Piece by piece, as Lucia and Marco finished the song, the queen fell apart.

Gio was dressing Angelica's wounds as they murmured sour nothings to each other. Lucia and Marco approached the queen cautiously, to make sure that the animating dwimmer really had gone out of her.

"Thanks for your help, Lucia," said Marco. "I know we don't always get along, but—"

"Nonsense, Marco, you're family. Besides, Roger was saying—" Lucia looked around the factory, suddenly aware of something missing. "Where is he, anyway, the English coward?"

"Doing the most critical and dangerous job of any of us. Explaining things to his father." Marco quirked a smile. "What was he saying?"

"He said once this mess was sorted out he had an idea for Petrocchi & Chant's next product," said Lucia. "It seems his cousin told him that in her world they have automatic dish-washing machines."

4. Said nice things about the Petrocchis

It was a really clever spell for restarting a stalled engine. Unfortunately, it had come to Lucia like a vision, at two in the morning, and refused to leave and come back at a more reasonable hour. Now it was nine, and the spell was nearly finished, and Lucia's head was beginning to hurt. The kids squabbling in the courtyard weren't helping.

"And you can smell it all the way down the Via Sant' Angelo!" shouted Enrico, Lucia's cousin Carlo's oldest son.

"It isn't even on the Via Sant' Angelo, piss-for-brains!" Rosa and Marco's daughter Ada retorted. "It's on the Via Cantello, so there! And you smell!"

Lucia leaned out over her railing. "What's all this noise? Don't you know some of us are trying to work?" And thought, when did I become Aunt Francesca?

"Aunt Lucia!" Enrico grinned up at her triumphantly. "Isn't it true that Francesco Montana made Ricardo Petrocchi eat his words?"

Lucia felt the last words of the spell she'd been working on—the ones that had been about to come right—slip away from her, and looked more closely at the kids. Rosa's children were outnumbered, and getting the worst of it. Ada had a bleeding scratch down her arm, and her brother Gianni's bottom lip was split. Lucia sighed, and came down the stairs. "All you children," she said, fixing each one with a glare, "come with me." And they went quiet and chastened, just as if she were Aunt Francesca, and followed along.

She led them out the gate of the Casa, and stopped, and pointed above the gate. "It's just the Angel," said Enrico.

"Read the words on his scroll," said Lucia.

"Carmen pa, Venit ang, Cap,—It's nonsense," said Enrico.

"It isn't nonsense," said Lucia. She smiled conspiratorially. "It's a puzzle—a secret code. Would you like to figure it out?"

Paolo's son Paolino's eyes lit. "Yeah."

"Let's go," said Lucia, and she led the crowd of children, Montanas and Petrocchi-Montanas, through the streets of Caprona.

"But we're going to—" Gianni started.

Lucia put a finger to her lips. "It's a secret," she said.

"This is the Casa Petrocchi?" said Enrico incredulously when they arrived. "Where's the flies?"

"Look, there's an Angel just like ours!" said Domenico's daughter Margherita.

"I told you—" said Ada.

"Cis seculare, elus cantare . . ." Paolino was muttering. And then he burst out delightedly, "It's the Angel! The song," he explained to his cousins, who were staring at him as if he'd lost his wits. "If you put together the words on our Angel's scroll with these."

"Clever boy," said Lucia. "That's the secret. The Montanas and the Petrochhis are two great spell-houses—the greatest in Italy. We built Caprona together, and we have to work together, for the peace of Caprona. Enrico—Ada and Gianni are Montanas, and Petrocchis, and they're your cousins. Fighting with your cousins is what lets the White Devil in."

"The White Devil?" said Ada, round-eyed.

"Trust me," said Lucia, low and musical, "you don't want to meet her."

It was a thoughtful group of kids that followed Lucia back to the Casa Montana. She hoped she'd put them off fighting for long enough to finish her spell, at least. Or, if not that—"Now," said Lucia, "let's see you all work together like cousins should. There's the dishes from breakfast that want washing up."

The children groaned. Lucia smiled, in spite of her splitting head.

5. Became the head of Casa Montana

Lucia's mother was dashing about making last-minute arrangements for the trip. Rosa was watching the babies, and Corinna was giving a lecture at the University. Paolo was working on a new spell for the Duke. And Tonino was in England, as usual. So it fell to Lucia to pick her father up from the hospital. A burly nurse wheeled him down to the car in a chair. He'd always been thin, but now he looked wasted, old and fragile.

"You're handsomer than ever, Papà," Lucia told him, as she helped him in. He could walk, really, but he wasn't steady on his feet.

"And you're still a terrible liar, Lucia." He smiled at her, and she felt like she had to swallow the heart back into her chest. It hadn't been a lie, exactly. Maybe it was just seeing him in the sunshine again, after weeks of white hospital corridors, and worry.

"Well, soon you'll be on a cruise ship, you and Mamma, in the middle of the Mediterranean," said Lucia. "Nothing to do but lie in the sun and drink wine."

"No wine. Doctor's orders," Papà grumbled. "And you'll be the head of Casa Montana."

"For a couple of months." Lucia tried to deflect her anxiety with a grin. "I'll try not to burn down Caprona until you come back."

Papà met her grin with a level, solemn look. "No, Lucia. Your Mamma insisted, and Dr. Nastasi agreed: No more work. No more stress. I'm coming back in two months, but I won't be head of Casa Montana again."

Lucia stepped on the brake, hard, and the bicyclist she'd nearly hit shouted a curse at her as he flashed past. "For good? Papà, I'm not ready."

"What, you think you'll know less about running Casa Montana in two months than you do now?" said Papà.

"No . . ." said Lucia. "But . . ."

"Well then," said Papà with a nod of satisfaction. "I always knew it would be you, you know. Ever since you did that washing-up spell when you were thirteen."

"Really?" said Lucia. "But that was so stupid of me."

"True," said Papà. "But it was a damned clever spell. And no one else could have persuaded the rest of the kids to go along with it." He closed his eyes in reminiscence. "Rinaldo had a plan to cut me out of the succession back then, did you know? Stupid boy. He couldn't even get Domenico to back him in the end."

Lucia laughed. "Oh, well if you're saying I'll make a better head of Casa Montana than Rinaldo . . ." She shook her head. "I don't know how you do it. Herding the cats is the easy part."

"You'll do fine," said Papà.

"I suppose." Lucia chewed her lip thoughtfully as she pulled into the Casa's garage. "The head of Casa Montana never has to do the washing up, does she?"

"No," agreed Papà. "She never has to do the washing up."