‘Now,’ said Mr Quintius, ‘anyone like animals?’
Petrona’s hand went up. Ararnia put hers half up then retracted it.
‘Good, Petrona, Ararnia and Normal come with me. I’ve a little job for you. The rest of you have a read up on flying. Page 37. We won’t be long, there’s an important assembly for the whole school in half an hour. No messing about or trying to turn invisible. And er… Mr Sky – no attempts to walk on water. I heard about last night.’
Tiberius blushed a little and grinned. Mr Quintius nodded at Normal and he, Ararnia and Petrona followed their teacher outside. He led them away from the main building out into the grounds. ‘You’ll like this,’ he said looking back at the three following him.
They followed quietly, the morning was cold and their breath showed in frosty clouds as they walked.
‘This is Mr Kilian the caretaker,’ said Mr Quintius.
A short, thin figure in a brown flat cap, muddy waterproof trousers and a donkey jacket was out in the meadow behind the grange surrounded by hissing cobras, all coiled up and sat in circular rows as if it was a reptile kind of choir practice.
Mr KIllian took one look at the three pupils, raised his eyebrows and grunted.
‘Now KIllian, be nice, Miss Punch here loves animals.’
‘Grrchhgr,’ Killian cleared his throat noisily. ‘It’s them lions Mr Q,’ he snarled, ‘they keeps stealing the lambs’ breakfast.’
‘I heard that lions eat lambs don’t they sir?’ said Ararnia.
Mr Quintius laughed. ‘Not here Miss Mist. Here they all get along fine.’
As he said this they heard the sound of s single wolf howling. Ararnia shivered but Petrona narrowed her eyes and pointed towards the forest. The single howl was followed by chorus of sounds.
‘Sir, there’s a pack of wolves coming,’ she said.
‘Grrchhgr,’ Killian cleared his throat again, ‘feeding time,’ he muttered and he bent down and picked up a couple of mud spattered buckets and threw them at Petrona and Normal.
The branches on the distant trees shuddered and a carpet of leaves fluttered to the ground as the sound of thumping feet came towards them across the field. The howling grew louder and suddenly a pack of snarling wolves appeared. They skidded to a halt and stared at the little group in the meadow. Ararnia gulped loudly.