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Too Ghoul for School

An Encantado Charter Academy Cozy Mystery

by Sarina Dorie

Witches, ghouls, and mind readers—oh my! Murder and mystery abound in this supernatural novel.

Vega Bloodmire has no problem with the label “villainous witch,” though she draws the line at being called a self-centered hag. Life isn’t easy being twenty-two, drop-dead gorgeous, and the most fashionable witch in all the land—especially while working as an intern teacher at a magical boarding school.

Just when Vega thinks she has student teaching figured out, she is framed for murder. Worse yet, she fears she might have revealed her darkest secret—one so awful she will be shunned by Witchkin society even if she can prove her innocence.

Vega needs to find the true culprit behind this crime in order to save her reputation—and her life.

Enjoy this spin-off series from the world of Womby’s School for Wayward Witches. This book starts with Vega Bloodmire’s life before working at Womby’s when she was a new and inexperienced teacher at Encantado Charter Academy. It is the first book in the series of stand-alone novels. These mysteries are meant to be read in any order.

Clean, cozy, no sex or swearing, PG 13—perfectly fine for teens or grandmas who like paranormal mysteries at magical boarding academies.

Tropes: Antihero, Book of Spells, Crazy Clairvoyants, Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally, Evolving Powers, Inaccessible Magic, Portals, Reluctant Hero
Word Count: 65000
Setting: magical boarding school
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Tropes: Antihero, Book of Spells, Crazy Clairvoyants, Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally, Evolving Powers, Inaccessible Magic, Portals, Reluctant Hero
Word Count: 65000
Setting: magical boarding school
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters


Paint the Town—or Classroom—Red


Vega Bloodmire strode down the hallway of Encantado Charter Academy, a gradebook in her arms, her high heels clacking against the tile like nails being pounded into a coffin. The school was as quiet as a graveyard—as it should be at six in the morning—which was why she had arrived this early. It was the only time she had the classroom to herself, away from Mr. Milton’s unpredictable behavior.

When her mentor teacher wasn’t drunk, he was calculating and plotting. If he wasn’t undressing her with his eyes, he was doing something else creepy. It was only Monday, and she already dreaded the week. At least she only had to endure two more weeks before she would get to teach without him officially observing her.


The head custodian, Maude Verhexenweber, stood on a ladder, using her wand to remove glittering graffiti above one of the classroom doorways. The penis a student had drawn on the ceiling and wall shimmered like quicksilver.

Maude didn’t take her eyes off her cleaning duties as Vega passed. The custodian looked human enough, though the stench of dog rolled off her so strongly Vega suspected Maude was a shifter. Vega had seen her smile once. Maude’s teeth were closer to a dog’s than a human’s, with pronounced canines and pointed incisors.

Unlike some Witchkin, the half-breeds descended from Fae and mortals, Vega was fortunate she could pass as human. She was six foot one with perfect posture, her short bob of black hair highlighting the sharp angles of her cheekbones. The remedies she took to diminish her natural gray pallor that would mark her as abnormal also had the side effect of making her paler than average.

Her mother had once complained that black washed out Vega’s complexion and made her look as if she were in perpetual mourning, which was why Vega’s entire wardrobe was now black. From her rhinestone heels to her matching gothic casual flapper dress and crimson lipstick, she was her mother’s worst fashion nightmare.

Working as an intern teacher at a magical boarding school for witches was no easy task for someone as fashionable as Vega, especially since she had just turned twenty-two and was cursed to be beautiful.

A curse for everyone who underestimated her.

Vega stopped at the door to Room 33. A sign was posted that read:

Classroom closed and in need of repairs. Please report to Principal Simpson.

This sign obviously wasn’t meant for her. She was a student teacher. The classroom was supposed to be available to her at all times for preparations. Just because some delinquent student had destroyed tables or chairs with magic didn’t mean she needed to stay out of the room.

Unlike the other occasions Vega had arrived early, the door was locked. She didn’t need a key, though. She removed her wand from her black sleeve and touched it to the door handle. She was so well-practiced at the charm used for unlocking doors, she didn’t need to recite an incantation anymore.

Oddly, the minor charm she used didn’t work. Green mist rose from the handle, giving off a putrid stench like rotting cabbage. Vega waved the vapor away. The words on the paper rearranged themselves, the handwriting the same, but the message altered.

The principal is expecting you. Please go to his office. You will be assigned another classroom today.

Vega ignored the message. She had spent hours preparing the next two weeks of lessons. She only needed to pop into the classroom for two minutes to retrieve them. Even if the administration decided to move her classes to some other room, she still had to get her supplies.

Vega used a more effective spell for countering magically warded doors. The lock clicked. As the door opened, she smelled what had happened before she saw it.

A thousand dormant senses awakened in Vega with one whiff. It was buttery like a flaky crust on a pecan pie. Earthy notes of nuts combined with an overpowering sweetness that reminded her of corn syrup with a hint of vanilla. That was how Vega’s nose interpreted the aroma of death, though she suspected to anyone not descended from demons, cadavers might not have smelled so pleasant.

Someone had died recently. It had been between two to three days ago. Logic told Vega it couldn’t have been before Friday evening, because she’d been working on lessons until dinnertime, when Mr. Milton had arrived at his classroom.

Her belly cramped with hunger.

As the door creaked open, she took in the grisly sight before her. Blood splattered the chalkboard and the ceiling. Most of the bits of gore were behind the teacher’s desk. A giant puddle, mostly brown, but still a rusty red toward the center, stretched out from under the desk. The fabric of the chair was stained black.

The delicious aroma of decay called to Vega. All she could think about was falling to her hands and knees and lapping at that dried puddle like a cat.

Vega’s mouth watered as she imagined the explosion of flavors on her tongue. She knew she should close the door and report to the principal’s office, but instead she stepped forward. Instincts compelled her to scavenge.

Common sense told her not to approach the clumps of flesh clinging to the chalkboard. She was not going to be a filthy ghoul like her ancestors. She had human and high Fae blood in her too. She would not stoop to the level of ifrit and other demons who craved the taste of death.

The only reason she crossed the threshold of the classroom was because she had to get her lesson plans from the desk drawer. There was no possible way to complete the remainder of her practicum without it.

Blood splatters dripped down the handles on the desk. What might have been a half-smeared footprint marred a section of floor near the puddle. There was no body or parts, nor was there enough gore for her to eat. This was like gazing at someone’s cookie crumbs on a plate.

In the distance, someone said something, but that voice sounded like it came from a mile away. The only thing Vega could hear was her blood pounding in her ears.

A hand on Vega’s arm startled her from her corpse lust.

“Ms. Bloodmire, is it?” The custodian’s bushy brown eyebrows rose in concern. “Didn’t you see the sign the principal posted?”

“My lesson plans—” Vega glanced back at the desk. Her mouth watered.

Maude squinted at her like she was crazy. Could she smell Vega’s desire, hear the way her heart had sped up in anticipation? If she was a dog shifter, she might sense Vega’s unnatural reactions.

Vega tried to act normal, casual, not like a weirdo who wanted to lick the blood off the walls. But she couldn’t. She rushed out of the classroom and leaned against the wall outside, trying to catch her breath.

It had been stupid to even step inside. She had been so close to shoving bits of gore into her mouth. Three seconds later, Maude might have caught Vega in the act. Naturally, she would have informed the principal, who would have reported her behavior to Celestor College for Girls. Eating the dead was the sort of behavior an elite college wouldn’t tolerate. The Witchkin Council would be called to investigate.

If they caught on to what Vega was, she wouldn’t just lose her internship and get kicked out of college. She would be blacklisted. No one wanted someone descended from demented demons as a teacher. No school would hire her, period. She wouldn’t even be able to crawl home to Mummy and Daddy in shame because the council would follow up with an investigation of them as well. Witchkin were fine with those descended from the high Fae who looked mostly human.

Witchkin society might have looked down on those with animal characteristics, but they only truly feared those with lineage from demons or creatures that used forbidden magic like pain, blood, and death magic. Ghouls fit into that category.

Ghouls like Vega.

She would be shunned if the world knew what she was. Possibly stoned by other Witchkin.

That was if the Witchkin Council decided not to exterminate her right there. Vega was fortunate Maude had intervened. If she hadn’t, it wouldn’t just be Vega’s reputation that would have been ruined, but her entire family’s. Vega might not like her parents, but they didn’t deserve to be hunted down. Nor did her aunts, uncles, and little cousins deserve that fate.

Maude followed her out and closed the door behind them. “That wasn’t meant for your innocent eyes, hon.”

“My innocent eyes?” Vega repeated. The hunger in her belly clawed at her, making it difficult to focus. She leaned against the wall, not realizing she’d wrapped her arms around her middle until she saw Maude’s gaze flicker to her growling stomach.

“Are you all right? Do you need me to get a garbage can?” Maude frowned.

Vega stared at her, not comprehending why she would need a garbage can.

“Are you going to be sick?” Maude asked. “Principal Simpson was trying to spare you from that grisly sight. You should have heeded his warning.” She nodded to the sign.

If Maude thought Vega was ill from the sight of blood, that was probably better than realizing she was hungry.

No, she was not hungry, Vega told herself. She did not crave human corpses. She wasn’t like a pureblood ghoul who craved delicious, buttery flesh.

“Yes, of course.” Vega pushed herself away from the wall and straightened. She spoke with the refined New England accent of her family, so different from the West Coast accent most of the staff spoke with. “I apologize. I just wanted to get my lesson plans. I thought the repairs were a broken chair or something minor.”

She could now see that statement had been misleading, probably to not alarm the high school students at the school and to keep them from gossiping. Or tampering with a crime scene.

As Vega walked away, she could still smell the cloying sweetness of blood, even with the door closed.

It was only when the smell of death was gone, and her head had cleared, that she thought to wonder who had died in the classroom.







Deals with the Devil


“You should not have gone in that classroom. I put a sign on the door.” The principal wagged a stern finger at Vega.

She sat in the principal’s office, feeling like a naughty child being chastised. She sat tall in her chair, trying not to let him see her anxiety.

The air was thick and muggy from the fish tank dominating the back wall, stinking up the office with seaweed, salt, and fish. Miniature merrows gnawed on the carcass of a trout, their bodies resembling ten-inch mermaids, but with claws and razor-sharp teeth.

The stench of rotting marine animals had never aroused Vega’s ghoulish cravings. It was a relief that she had her wits about her again.

The principal leaned over an untidy desk covered with stacks of detentions, reports from meetings, memo papers too faded to read, and athletic achievement awards he must have been filling out the previous week.

At any moment, Vega expected him to ask her why she’d gone into the classroom. What if Maude had recognized the corpse lust that had been in Vega’s eyes and knew what kind of demon she was descended from?

Principal Shaddrick Simpson was a diminutive man with kelp growing in his hair that he’d tried to comb over his bald spot. He could have used a glamour to give the illusion of more hair, but he was probably spending that magic on something else he deemed more important than making people find him attractive. Either that or he was in denial that he had a problem.

From Vega’s perspective, it was hard to ignore the gleam of light from the candelabra reflecting off his polished scalp. It couldn’t have been shinier if he’d waxed it.

Mr. Simpson eyed her shoes. “Did you step on any of the blood?” Before Vega could answer, the principal continued. “We’re still investigating what happened. The Witchkin Council will be here tomorrow because someone got the stupid idea in their head that this might not be an accident. Now we’re going to have to warn them someone may have contaminated the room.”

Vega waited until the principal paused to breathe before interjecting. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to get my lesson plans. I didn’t know it was a crime scene.”

“It isn’t a crime scene! It was just an unfortunate accident. Why does everyone always suspect foul play?” His face turned red and blotchy. He took a few calming breaths. “Mr. Milton had a heart condition.”

“Mr. Milton? What?” Vega’s nervousness turned to confusion. Her mentor teacher was the one who had died? It was his classroom, so that made sense. But the principal’s words didn’t. “Are you saying his heart . . . exploded?” She had heard of many magical ailments but never a heart attack that caused someone to splatter themselves across the walls. “What kind of heart condition results in spontaneous combustion?”

She tried to remember if she had seen any scorch marks on the walls. She’d been too preoccupied thinking of a potential meal to notice.

“We are looking into those details. It isn’t unheard of for a magic user to make a fatal error during a medical episode like a heart attack. He could have been trying to self-medicate with magic.”

Vega was quite aware of the kind of self-medicating Mr. Milton had done, usually at ten in the morning with a bottle of whiskey in the woods behind the school—while he was supposed to be supervising her teaching his students. It was unlikely the man had suddenly decided on a new treatment for his problems.

Though if he had, it wasn’t to his benefit that alcohol was flammable. She couldn’t have wished a more fitting fate for such a loathsome man.

The real question she wanted to ask was why was the principal lying about it?

“Right,” Vega crossed her arms, quite aware the principal was full of unicorn malarkey. “A heart condition.”

She supposed she should have been overcome by remorse about her supposed mentor’s death like a normal person, but all she felt was . . . relief. She tried to paint her face with the same façade of false sympathy that everyone else in the world had mastered when social etiquette dictated they should at least try to look appropriately saddened.

“Teachers are going to ask you what happened.” Mr. Simpson leaned forward, kelp shifting into his face. “Parents and students are going to want answers. If anyone asks, you are to tell them you don’t know, they can ask the administration, or you can say you heard he had a heart condition. Any of those answers will suffice. You will not tell others what you saw. Do you understand?”

Vega nodded like she was supposed to do. Her professors at Celestor College for Girls were always talking about the importance of making good impressions on administrators. At least while her internship was still going on, she supposed she should follow their advice, smile, act professional, and appear as normal and well-adjusted as everyone else.

She would give the principal what he wanted so long as he didn’t make any problems for her. She was fortunate he hadn’t brought up her argument with Mr. Milton. Not wanting him to ask about it either, she directed the conversation back to what she needed.

“Where am I supposed to teach today?” Vega asked.

Maude might have been a miracle worker with magical graffiti on ceilings, but there was no way she could get bloodstains out of that desk, floor, or walls before school started in less than two hours.

“That classroom is closed.” The principal’s tone was firm. “As soon as the counselor gets in this morning, she’s going to find other classes for Mr. Milton’s students until we hire a substitute.”

From the delectable aroma of meat that had marinated in its own juices over the weekend, Vega took it the principal had only just discovered the body and removed it this morning.

She hoped he didn’t know about her argument with her supposed mentor on Friday. She remembered all the other times in her life people had looked on her with suspicion for murders she hadn’t committed. Mr. Simpson had mentioned the Witchkin Council would be investigating, but she didn’t know how to approach that topic when he had already insisted the death was a heart attack. It might look suspicious if she asked.

He was more concerned about what to do with students. Perhaps that was for the best.

He wasn’t the only one with a headache to deal with as a result of Mr. Milton. In life, her mentor teacher had tried to ruin her career prospects; it was almost predictable he would continue to do so with an untimely death.

“What about student teaching? How am I supposed to be able to do my internship without a class?” Vega needed to finish her first-semester practicum in order to get credit with her college. “I’m supposed to be going over remedial wards with sophomores first period.”

“You aren’t going to teach today. Your mentor teacher is dead.” Mr. Simpson stood as if ready to dismiss her. “You’re going to have to tell Celestor College that you need them to place you at a different school.”

Vega stared in horror. She was so close to finishing practicum. She just needed two more weeks of work. In mid-January, the semester would end, and she might have the chance to find herself a new mentor teacher. Her supervising advisor at the college had already told Vega the importance of finishing this internship. Especially after the first one had ended in disaster.

Or at least, Vega had thought it had been a disaster at the time. In hindsight, her latest mentor teacher’s death was far worse than not getting along with the first teacher she’d been assigned to.

In any case, it was too late to find a new mentor teacher for this semester. Mr. Milton hadn’t turned in most of the paperwork to Celestor College for Girls all quarter, claiming the college hadn’t sent it the first time, and the secretary at Encantado Charter Academy must have lost it the second time it had been sent. When Vega brought the forms herself, he’d conveniently misplaced them and told Vega’s supervising advisor from the college that she hadn’t ever given the papers to him.

Mr. Milton had been a lying, manipulative man who should never have been given student interns. Especially not young female ones.

All this now meant Vega would have a zero and no credit if someone didn’t take over as her mentor teacher at Encantado Charter Academy, fill out the blasted forms, and give her credit for the teaching she’d done. Vega was not willing to let all that hard-earned work amount to nothing because Mr. Milton had been lazy, incompetent, and now dead.

Principal Simpson waved a hand at the door that led to the office and the rest of the administration wing. The door swung open, and he inclined his head toward it with a smile as false as any worn on a debutante’s lips.

Vega could see Mr. Simpson thought she was someone else’s problem. She needed to make him see she could be his solution.

“Sir, why don’t you just have me teach what I was already planning on teaching today? We can put a note on the door to tell students to go to a different classroom—”

“We don’t have any spare classrooms right now. And I don’t have any staff to spare who can babysit a student teacher.” He took a seat, shuffling papers around on his desk like he was trying to look busy. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a full plate at the moment. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s so much work to be done.”

“I don’t need anyone to babysit me. I’ve been teaching all semester without supervision.” It was a slight exaggeration, but mostly true. When Mr. Milton wasn’t off smoking, drinking, or harassing his fellow staff, he had been napping at his desk.

Vega knew he’d been genuinely asleep because she’d pretended not to notice students hexing the lecherous tyrant. Only now did she consider whether turning a blind eye to the pranks of students might have resulted in his death.

“What? You have?” Principal Simpson gestured to the door, which closed. “Student teachers aren’t supposed to be left alone with high school students.”

Ah, another detail he didn’t want his staff overhearing. As if the other teachers didn’t know about Mr. Milton’s negligence.

Vega feigned ignorance. “Oh, I didn’t know. Mr. Milton left me to teach without him on numerous occasions. I’m certain I can handle teaching without a licensed teacher present. I would be doing so anyway in just a couple weeks.”

“Even so, that’s out of the question.” He shook his head. “It’s against the rules. We could get in a lot of trouble for allowing a nonaccredited teacher to be unsupervised with students.”

Vega’s first instinct was to threaten and blackmail like she had been raised to do, but she was trying to fit in with the middle class. Normal Witchkin, not from wealthy and entitled families, who had to make their way in the world, couldn’t use their power or status to threaten to close the school. Though Vega suspected she had seen the principal’s weakness earlier; she could push on it if she needed to.

Mr. Simpson didn’t want parents or students to know how a teacher at his school had died. He cared about the school’s image.

Vega tried to find a solution that would suit them both. “Remedial Charms, Counter Hexes and Protective Magic, and Beginning Wards are all required classes, are they not? Students can’t graduate without those classes. Eventually you’re going to have to find a substitute to cover these subjects. But the substitute won’t know what grade to give students. Mr. Milton didn’t take attendance or write grades in his book. It will be so disruptive to the students’ learning and their grades to have a new teacher step in just before the end of the semester.”

Mr. Simpson closed his eyes, his forehead furrowing as he listened. She could tell that he knew she was right, but he simply shook his head.

Vega rushed on, using a different angle. “It would be less expensive to let me teach the classes and for you to pay other teachers a small stipend to “babysit” me during their prep periods. Some of them might be eager to earn something extra while they sit in the classroom grading essays.”

His eyebrows rose the moment she said the words “less expensive.”

Apparently, money was the language the principal spoke, and Vega had just found the correct dialect to get his attention. She was surprised his motives hadn’t been to help the students and ensure their learning wasn’t disrupted, but she supposed she had a lot to learn about administrators.

“I imagine it will save you a lot of hassle and time for someone knowledgeable to step into the position for . . . free, rather than a substitute who will probably try to take advantage of the school and charge double because it’s the end of the semester, and they know you’ll be desperate for someone to fill in.” She watched his face for weakness. “And then of course, there are the parents to consider. I wonder if any of them will be angry about their students missing out on two weeks of wards and protective magic meant to defend them against wicked Fae in the real world. I hope none of them withdraw students. That might affect the school’s finances. . . .”

He grimaced.

“But you have two student teachers right here in the building who can help you out.” Vega didn’t know how Amy, the other intern, would feel about being voluntold, but Vega was confident she could convince her that this was in both their best interests.

Plus, she owed Vega a favor.

“We still don’t have an extra classroom.” He spoke quietly, as if the comment were to himself, not to her. There wasn’t much protest in his words, only contemplation.

“I can teach in the courtyard today. It will fit in perfectly with the lesson.” A slight mistruth.

“It’s only thirty degrees outside this morning. Parents will complain.”

“Students have been taught a charm for warming spells. It will be the perfect opportunity to put it into practice.” Vega forced herself to grin like a natural optimist—not a scheming and manipulative opportunist. “Parents will be thrilled when they find out what good multitaskers students are. It will be an excellent demonstration of real-world skills.”

Assuming students didn’t accidentally light each other on fire.

“I’ll see if Mr. Altlandt can observe you during his first-period prep.” He nodded decisively.

Vega sauntered out of the principal’s office, savoring her victory until she remembered that she didn’t have any lessons for the day. They were all located in the drawer of a classroom no one was allowed to enter.

She’d gotten what she wanted. Now she had to live with the consequences. She had no idea how to wing it.


About the Author

Sarina Dorie has sold over 200 short stories to markets like Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, and F & SF. She has over eighty books up on Amazon, including her bestselling series, Womby’s School for Wayward Witches.

A few of her favorite things include: gluten-free brownies (not necessarily glutton-free), Star Trek, steampunk, fairies, Severus Snape, and Mr. Darcy. She lives with twenty-three hypoallergenic fur babies, by which she means tribbles. By the time you finish reading this bio, there will be twenty-seven.

You can find info about her short stories and novels on her website:


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