Chapter 11: Seniors
At lunch, El, Orion, Ibrahim, Liu, and Aadhya discuss the need to fix the barrier at the bottom of the stairs. They come up with a plan in which El will liquefy the iron wall and Aadhya will fold in carbon to make steel and then put the wall back, where El will make it solid again. This will require a great deal of mana. They ask Orion if he can use the power-sharer that the New York enclave brought. Orion answers that he must ask, since he is irresponsible with mana. El realizes that Orion has given excessive amounts of mana to the power-sharer—and that the other New York kids have been taking advantage of him, even convincing him that he’s not responsible enough to decide how to use the mana that he has captured. When the group asks Chloe for help instead, she is uncertain and afraid of the danger, so they agree to conduct a test run. Chloe gives El and Aadhya bracelets that link them to the New York power-sharer, so that they do not need to use their own mana.
The barrier-fixing group successfully tests the method. They figure that they can perform assembly-line-style and do the wall all at once. They know that they cannot ask the seniors for help, because the seniors would be happy to let the graduation maleficaria escape the bottom level and eat all the other classes of students—giving the seniors a much better chance at graduation. While leaving the workshop, the group overhears some seniors discussing actively breaking the barrier further. After the seniors pass, the group decides to fix the barrier immediately.
The repair goes well until a group of four seniors arrives and threatens the barrier-fixing group. Orion tries to stand up to them but is restrained by a fire whip. The seniors have been practicing combat for graduation, so El and her friends are outmatched. El rules out using her murder magic, since that would take her on a path of evil. The group pulls down the remaining section of wall, revealing a giant argonet monster, waiting to get through. The four seniors run away. El uses the near limitless mana from the New York power-sharer and disintegrates the monster. Through combined effort, the group gets the wall back in place, and the magic barrier is restored. Only a single bird-like shrike monster passes through, and Orion kills it. Aadhya is rewarded with a tooth from the argonet and the shrike’s beak, to add to the magical lute that she is crafting. The group informs the students above that the barrier is restored, and Chloe apologizes for having run away during the fighting.
El has always been aware that enclavers have advantages over independent students at the Scholomance, but in this chapter she learns that the advantages are even greater than she had imagined. When it becomes clear that the stairwell wall must be repaired, Chloe’s first response is to put in a maintenance request. This response shocks El, whose maintenance requests are rarely fulfilled. Even though she knows enclavers use their social power to avoid doing their own maintenance shifts, she had not realized that responses to maintenance requests were also unfair. That neither Chloe nor El were aware of the inequality of the maintenance system shows how privilege can be invisible even to those affected by it. Likewise, El has envied the enclavers’ easy access to mana to power their magic, but when she wears a New York power-sharer herself, she gains a new understanding of the huge amounts of mana they can use without effort. These advantages make life in the Scholomance fundamentally unequal, an aspect of the system of privilege that runs throughout the magical world.