‘I can hear something,’ said Ararnia, standing upright on the water again. She ran towards them across the silver surface, sending up ghostly splashes as she went. ‘It’s like… like the sound of wings beating,’ she said, jumping back onto dry land.
Tiberius shoved a piece of marzipan and mushroom cake into his mouth. ‘You lot are wacko,’ he said, spitting bits from his mouth as he spoke.
‘And you’re disgusting,’ said Ararnia, brushing damp crumbs off her sleeve. She pushed past him and started walking.
‘Where are you going now?’
‘To see what the noise is,’ she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Suddenly there was a deafening clap of thunder. Ararnia clamped her hands over her ears. The ground shook a little.
‘I think we all heard that,’ said Normal.
Ocacia narrowed her eyes again and pointed ahead. ‘It’s coming this way,’ she said. ‘Do we run?’
‘No, but we stay out of sight,’ said Normal.
‘Chicken,’ said Ararnia, ‘I’m going to see what’s coming.’
And she threw herself into a cartwheel, but never finished it as the ground shook again and she crumbled into a mess of arms, legs and red hair.
‘Look, nothing can happen to us here,’ said Normal. ‘Guardian Grange is a safe place.’
‘Yea, but what about those creatures the other night?’ said Tiberius.
‘What creatures?’ said Ararnia shoving her hair back and staggering onto her feet.
‘We saw these dark figures attack the fence. There were these purple sparks, and the guards had to fight them off.’
Ocacia shivered. ‘The war,’ she whispered.
She shivered again. ‘There’s this secret battle raging, most times we don’t see it, but it’s there. I don’t know much about it. I read a bit, that’s all. We should ask Mr Hygbald about it.’
‘Yea, or our new combat teacher,’ said Normal. ‘She might now.’
‘What? Little miss tiny?’ said Tiberius.
The ground shook again and clouds of smoke began to drift out of the night towards them.
‘Away from the lake,’ said Normal, ‘we’re out in the open here.’
They looked around. The nearest trees were being swallowed up in the advancing smoke. They were trapped between the smoke and the water. The rumbling noise and thunderclaps grew louder.
‘Only one thing to do,’ said Ararnia, and she jabbed her finger towards the silver lake.
‘Well that’s all right for you,’ said Tiberius. ‘You might be able to do handstands on it but I’ll be shark lunch out there.’
‘There are no sharks, and look, see there – that mist cloud’s moving over the lake. We can hide in it and watch from the water.’