Chapter 37

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            Seated in the pine-scented green gloom, Kallai contentedly munched on a sausage roll, simply enjoying the company. Shuu lounged across from her, the crumby remains of an egg sandwich still clinging to the fabric of his loose pants. He caught her gaze and grinned. “Today much better was?”

            She smiled back and nodded. “Yeah. I can actually do the magic if I’m called on in class, even if I don’t use the right spells, so no one’s saying much to me anymore. It’d be nice, if half the class weren’t afraid of me. I mean, it’s not like I’d hurt any of them. Not if they didn’t attack me first.”

            He shrugged. “Your power they do fear. Natural it is.”

            Kallai shook her head but the sudden breeze bursting through the branches to swirl around them, had her freezing in place. Shuu’s head snapped towards the grass visible through the branches, and the figures approaching them. He held up a hand while his eyes remained intent on the strangers.

            In moments, the three men came to a halt just beyond the tree, their helmeted heads swiveling in their direction. “Kallai of House Magan,” came the echoing voice of one of them. “You are ordered to stand before us.”

            Frowning, Kallai couldn’t imagine why Council soldiers, and their tight red pants under the flaring uniform coat of dark blue matched with the plumed and goggled helmet covering the upper half of their face meant they couldn’t be anything else, would want to speak to her, but still she started to stand up. Shuu’s hand on her shoulder stopped her. He shook his head, whispering “You, what doing are?”

            She tilted her head in the direction of the soldiers. “They want to speak to me. It’s probably something important.”

            His grip tightened. “Dangerous it could be.”

            Kallai smiled. “They’re soldiers, under orders only from the Council. It’ll be fine.”

            Shuu frowned, but released her. As she pushed her way out from under the tree, he followed close behind, his gaze locked onto the three strangers. Kallai brushed the crumbs and pine needles off her robes before smiling at the men. Of the two in front, the one with the short beard remained silent, while the clean-shaven one was the one who’d spoken. She couldn’t see much of the third, positioned right behind the other two, only the bright red plume of his helmet visible.

            “You are Kallai of House Magan?” asked the speaker.

            She nodded. “Yes. How may I be of service?”

            “You are to be escorted off the premises. Your presence here has been deemed too dangerous to remain, by both the headmaster and a quorum of the Council. You are to accompany us now.”

            Kallai’s mouth sagged open as she felt colour drain from her face. Escorted off? She was to be escorted off the school property? And the headmaster had agreed to it?

            Shuu stepped up beside her, glaring. “It do try,” he hissed, winds already wrapping themselves around him so his hair waved back and forth. “And to you what I will do, do see.”

            The sound of something sliding against leather was the back soldier drawing two flintlock pistols, the bright metal flashing in the sunlight overhead. He pointed one barrel at each of them steadily. Shuu’s eyes went to him, then to the bearded man reaching at his waist for the manacles hanging there. Kallai recognized the symbols drawn into the metal. They were magic binding cuffs. She blanched, taking half a step back.

            As the winds around both of them picked up speed, the gun barrels suddenly swung out, the black holes pointing at the other two soldiers. Before anyone else could move, there was a sharp bang, flash of light, and the scent of gunpowder permeated the area.

            Even as Kallai watched, the lead two soldiers fell forward, collapsing in a heap at her feet.

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