The school was lined up in the main hall for assembly. All the staff were present. Mr Quintius led his class of new cadets in then joined the staff on the huge stage. He stood next to Professor Bagriel, who towered above him with his flowing blonde hair and his electric harp still slung over his shoulder. Next along was Christina the Astonishing, her long, red velvet cape swaying a little as she hovered there. Next to her was Mary, still barefoot and distracted as she scribbled on her art pad, and next to her Wing Commander Hygbald, his eyes half-closed as if he was dozing, with his hair as tufty as ever. Martha spotted Normal file in and gave him a rosy cheeked smile, she had a basket with her, probably stacked full of pies. Beside her, still in his flat cap, muddy trousers and donkey jacket was Kilian the caretaker, looking like a bit of gnarled twig in working clothes. And beside him was old Rafe, looking the same as ever. Quintius stepped forward and quietened the school down, motioning to them to stand. As they did the double doors behind the assembled school opened and the headmaster appeared, followed by two other figures.
‘Right settle down, settle down,’ said the head, even though the school were settled and as quiet as a mouse. ‘Sit down.’
They did. The two other figures took the two vacant seats beside old Rafe on the end of the stage. Rafe took the hand of one of the newcomers shook it and bowed his head a little.
Normal turned to Tiberius. ‘See that?’ he said.
‘See what?’ asked Tiberius.
‘Now,’ the head clapped his hands together and rubbed the palms as if he was outside on a cold day. ‘Two very important announcements this morning. First, I’d like you to meet our combat teacher. Madame Two-Swords.’
One of the strangers stood and stepped forward. She was small and slight and didn’t look as if she’d ever been in combat with anyone. She was dressed in a gold and green camouflage uniform, and was just about the smallest teacher Normal had ever seen. She looked around the hall, nodded quietly and sat back down.
‘And secondly – this morning in assembly we have a very special visitor,’ said the headmaster. ‘A high up from the celestial SAS.’