The Black Dragon
by Ruth Foot
The Black Dragon
Colm De Barra audibly sighed for what felt like the thousandth time. He poured himself another shot of Baileys, which was nowhere near as good as the Leprechauns' brews, but not bad he supposed.
He grimaced as it burned his throat. He was always left with the envelopes for the students who would arrive in September. He always found it a little degrading, yet he understood, sort of. He was senior enough to be trusted with them, but young enough to be burdened with them.
He reached one name, and his eyebrows nearly vanished from his forehead. Surely not... He muttered a quick delivery spell for Salania, and it flew through one of the many hatches in the wall.
"101 down, 60 to go." he muttered, giggling far too much, then realised he may be a little tipsy. He mentally slumped, deciding he'd have the morning. It was far too late now, he thought, as his interfering cuckoo clock burst to life, demanding he should be asleep by now.
Yes, Mother. he thought grumpily, although the cuckoo reminded him more of his Aunty Aoife than anyone.
His head spun as he trudged down through the tunnels to the Teachers' chambers; with either the alcohol, the events earlier that day or a mixture of the two.
It was bad enough that George Miner, possibly the best Warrior he'd ever seen, was originally going to stay on as an apprentice for the stuck up Tinka Van Hollng (who had left, Thank God), but now George had left mysteriously and Professor Whipply was keeping her mouth shut tighter than a clam.
He sighed at the loss, as George would have been his apprentice by default.
Maybe then he wouldn't have to deliver these bloody envelopes.
A Mysterious Letter
The echoes of their voices still bounced around his head as he was dragged to the office yet again. The hypnotic chant that always urged him to beat the life out of the other person. His heartbeat matched the rhythm of the chant that demanded him to Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fi-
"Mr. Thomas?” interrupted the head teacher, as Jack snapped back to the present. His headmaster was glaring over his desk. “This is the fourth time we’ve caught you fighting, and frankly I can no longer give you any more warnings.” stated Mr. Chambers bluntly. “We have tried to exclude you for a certain number of times, and that hasn’t worked... So you’ve left me with no choice but to expel you.”
“Left you with no choice?! What the hell?!" a brief smirk, unnoticed by Jack, flickered on Chambers’ face before a stern glare replaced it. Jack fumed silently, and Mr. Chambers tilted his head to the side (reminding Jack of a bird.)
“Is that it? I’m almost disappointed.”
“You want me to carry on?” came Jack's rhetorical question, but it went ignored as Chambers rummaged through one of the drawers in his desk. A small “Aha!” broke the silence as Mr. Chambers presented a red envelope to Jack. Jack took it and frowned at it.
Before Jack could open it, or even inspect it properly, the flustered receptionist came in with Jack’s parents. Jack stuffed the envelope into his school bag as his father strode into the room, completely furious. His father was tall and broad shouldered, his mother small and thin; a contrast many had noticed.
“Here you are, Sir,” grumbled the receptionist, before hurrying away.
“What do you think you’re doing, Jack?!” boomed his father. “I get a call in the office about my good for nothing son having yet another fight! I’m sure you did plenty, Sir.” Spat Mr. Thomas at Chambers.
“Arthur! Please, calm-”
“Yes, well that’s quite enough of that.” Interrupted Chambers but to no avail, as both parents started arguing loudly. Holding the bridge of his nose to calm himself down, he muttered to Jack, “Open the letter later... And-" he paused to glance at the two glaring adults and sighed. “Please... Try to keep your temper under control, for your own sake.” He grimaced sympathetically as Mr. Thomas dragged Jack from the office.
The car ride home was unbearable as Mr. Thomas' anger radiated in waves and filled the car in an impenetrable silence. They arrived at the neat little suburb, the car not even stopping before Jack burst from the car and slammed the door to escape his father’s rage... It was the maddest he’d ever seen him be, in Jack’s opinion. His mum managed to catch him up, and placed a hand on his left shoulder while he was fidgeting with the key to open the house door.
“Sweetheart? He’ll calm down, he always does eventually." Jack sighed audibly as he shook his mum's hand from his shoulder.
“I wish you’d both stop caring about me.” he spat grumpily. He managed to open the door, drop his bag in the hall and run up the stairs to his room, slamming the door as he went. He flopped ungracefully and settled into an uneasy sleep.
Jack woke to find it pitch black outside. His stomach grumbled from the lack of food, and he stumbled out of bed. He plodded down the stairs, slowly getting faster as he woke up properly. His soft footsteps padded across the cold lino floor to the kitchen, where he grabbed a bag of crisps from the cupboard. He sat munching until a creak of the wonky stair alerted him to someone creeping down them.
“Mum?” the creak continued as if someone was trying to be quiet. Jack swallowed. “Dad, is that you? This isn’t funny!” The tall silhouette of someone holding a cricket bat inched closer down the hall.
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my home?” growled Mr. Thomas. He stepped forward yet again, and Jack noticed that his Dad was brandishing his grandfather’s prized cricket bat as he stepped into the light from the kitchen.
“Dad? It’s just me.” he scoffed, but Mr. Thomas' eyebrows furrowed further, until his eyes almost disappeared. Tom felt his stomach sink as his Dad glared at him with no recognition at all.
"It's Jack? ...Your son?" Mr Jackson faltered for a moment, but his voice came out angrier than it had before.
“I don’t have any children. So... Who are you?” he asked again, his grip tightening around the bat as Jack tried to stutter out his words.
“B-b-but, Dad! It’s me!”
Jack froze. “...What?”
“Get out!” he yelled, finally taking a swing at Jack, who thankfully ducked. Before his Dad could physically hurt him, he ran past and grabbed his bag from the hall floor. He ran out of the house barefoot as his father shouted after him, threatening him with the police if he ever went back in the house again.
The door slammed loudly behind him, and instantly he collapsed, both physically and emotionally as he kneeled and started to sob with shock. He quickly became ashamed of himself, as he angrily smeared the tears from his cheeks.
“Is this any way to behave, Jack?” he berated himself. “You’re thirteen, for crying out loud!” He sniffled and shivered as the cold wind nipped at his unprotected skin. “There must be some way to fix it... Whatever it is...” he muttered. He mentally ran over the day’s events and groaned mentally at his earlier outburst of “I wish you’d both stop caring about me.”
But that couldn't have done anything... Right?
He sat down on the pavement, next to his school bag. Out of the corner of his eye, a strip of red caught his attention. His heart hammered as he yanked the red envelope from his bag and spun it over to tear it open. He stopped. It was blocked by a black wax seal of a dragon. He swore it had.... No, it must have been a trick of the light. Yet the dragon seemed to... smirk at him. He quickly dismissed it as he tore the envelope and yanked the folded letter out, desperate for some answers. He didn’t notice that the dragon’s grin grew wider as he read.
The letter came from a school named Pamplemousse, and it was full of congratulations from the headmistress Professor Whipply. She informed him that due to his notoriety as an excellent fighter, and his truly spectacular enchantment that was placed on his parents, he was awarded a place in the school. It mentioned a telephone number to call if he wished to accept. It also had a hastily scrawled note in different handwriting telling him that the memory wipe he had placed on his parents would also be reversed as soon as he wished. He had, according to the letter, a deadline for an answer; 3 days, 23 hours, 57 minutes, 43 seconds, no, 42, 41, 40... He watched the letter in fascination as the letter slowly counted down, almost like-
“Magic.” He breathed. Without hesitating, he pulled his phone from an outside pocket and clumsily dialed the number.
"Honestly Alouette, I am disappointed in you." stated Miss Poulin. She was a plump, short woman who clucked around, like her name suggested. She was snottily peering down her button nose at a tall blonde named Alouette, who seemed to shrink in her chair. "I'm afraid that you have left me no choice but to expel you from this school." Alouette couldn't breathe. It was just a stupid fight! She'd been getting good grades, and was only just settling in, but... The school saw it as a threat to the balanced society of her school, Collège Stanislas de Paris, as the other girl had been taken to hospital for serious injuries.
She was escorted from the building, and promptly, yet politely kicked out. She was left stranded on the busy Rue de Notre Dame de Champs street, and, sobbing, she phoned her Maman to take her home. It would usually have taken less than twenty minutes to walk, but wanted her maman to cheer her up. Her maman, Lucille, cooed over her and drove her home to Rue Roger. Alouette couldn't honestly be happier to be home. She almost stood on a red envelope that was waiting on the doormat, and Lucille picked it up.
"Alouette? There's a letter for you."
"For me?" asked Alouette confused. "But I-"
"Just open it! I'm curious too!" her maman smiled as her daughter greedily tore the envelope. The winking dragon seal made her pause, but she opened the letter.
I would like to congratulate you in receiving a place in our school. You have been chosen for your exceptional skills as a fighter, and you have currently undiscovered magical talents that can be mastered with the guidance of our tutors. I will await for your reply,
Professor Whipply, Head Mistress of L'Ecole Magicque de Pamplemousse.
"Why is there a school in a Grapefruit?" she asked herself. Her mother overheard, and her eyebrows vanished from her forehead.
"Yeah, a magical one." she didn’t notice her Maman sinking into an armchair. "Magical Talents? Me? They must be-" her laugh died on her lips as she saw her maman mumbling incoherently.
"Maman? Are you ok?"
"No... I... Your father was magical, too, Alouette. In fact, I was almost surprised you weren't. He said he came from a magical background, and that his descendants would almost certainly be magical too, but..." The silence settled, and Alouette longed to break it. Her Father had died when she was young, and her Mum hadn't told her anything about him before. Her voice cracked as she asked;
"He was... A Wizard?"
"...Yes he was. He went to the Magic school here actually, and only told me about his talents when you were born... He worked with Dragons, and he had to take care of them but his job... Killed him. I remember it so clearly when that man came to tell me... Charlie, I think his name was... He looked as if the life had been drained from him. I'd never believed what your Dad said to me while he was alive... About being magical. It all crashed down on me then, on the doorstep." she laughed nervously as Alouette gaped. A silence descended, and Lucile took Alouette's hands into her own.
"Whether you accept the place or not, I'll support you. But... Are you sure you want to learn magic?" Lucille looked Alouette in the eyes, and continued before her daughter could get a word in edgeways. "You're thirteen, and it will be a lot different than what you're used to, but- "
"Maman, I want to do something different. I want to learn how to use magic and... And know how Dad lived and-." Lucille nodded, and gave Alouette the phone. Alouette inhaled deeply as she carefully dialled the number;
"Better hold on!"
The instructions on how to get there arrived with the post the day after they had decided. However, an oddly dressed girl, (in paper pirate hat, yellow and black scarf, purple t shirt, bright blue tutu, skinny jeans and what looked like flippers), delivered the letter to Tom, who was still sat on the side of the road. She looked hardly older than eighteen, had ginger hair and the freckles to match. When she spoke, it lilted with a Scottish accent.
“Are you Tom Jackson?”
“Er, yeah, that’s me. Are you from..?”
“Pamplemousse? Yeah, I’m here to reverse your brilliant spell. Is it true you wiped their memories?” Tom blushed and stared at the floor as he muttered a yes, and the girl’s eyes widened. “Wow! 5th year have only just learnt how to do that and you’re not even a firstie! Well, this ought to be fun.” She grinned, rubbing her palms together maniacally. She strode towards the row of houses, and then paused to look behind her.
“Are you going to show me which house is yours? Or should I just march into the first middle aged couples’ house I see and then convince them that you’re their magical son?”
“Oh yeah, I’m sorry! I should have thought, I mean-”
“Just lead the way, huh?”
“Oh… Yeah.” He grumbled, as he stood to let his joints click back into place and get some feeling back into his frozen feet. He marched onwards as the girl tried not to stumble over her footwear. He stopped abruptly in front of his old home and the girl nearly went flying. (As there is a certain method of flight that consists of throwing yourself on the floor and simply wishing not to fall head first, she could actually have flown a couple of feet before either had noticed.)
“So. You’re presumably magic and you’ve come to help me.”
“Yes? Your point being?”
“What’s your name?”
“I haven’t told you?” she asked. Tom shook his head in reply, and she looked genuinely confused. “Oh. Well, my name’s Kate Nimmo, will be a 6th year Lordandor in September, and messenger for the North of the U.K.”
“Are you on your own?”
“…Admittedly, there’s only about a hundred Pample students in the U.K, as most go to the school in Scotland,” she paused, “but Pample is for all ages, not just eleven to eighteen year olds. I first discovered my talents on my twelfth birthday, and it was too late for me to go to the Scottish school as they only accept 11 year olds as First years. Thankfully Pamplemousse noticed, so I’ve become the best memory restorer of my age-” she noticed the shocked look on his face and quickly hurried on, “ –At least, that’s what everyone always tells me.”
“Yeah.” She laughed. “I’d better get started then.”
“Thanks so much for your help.”
“Hey, it’s no problem. OH! Almost forgot!” she pulled out an envelope from the waistband of her tutu. “These are your instructions on how to get to Pamplemousse. If I remember right,-” Tom was too busy tearing the envelope with excitement, “-you’ll get a small packet of teleportation talc, to get you to the pick up point-,” Tom pulled out a small cellophane packet of orange powder, “-an address and timestamp for the pickup, which you must remember so you catch it on time.” Tom looked up again. “Right, remember; Timestamp, address, and keep your temper under control. You got that?”
“Yeah yeah, of course… Will it be me on my own or…?”
“No there’ll be seven other pupils on the sled with you. Apparently, one of them is French.”
“Yup. I’ll be at school, alongside house ghosts,” Tom blanched at the word, “ and teachers, if you need any help.”
“Thanks Kate… Did you say-”
“Nope, I’m not telling. Spoilers, y’know.” She grinned one last time before turning on the spot and vanished with small puff of smoke. A tinny disembodied voice called back, “Don’t forget the time and address!”
"Maman, I'll be fine." came Alouette's muffled voice from her Mum's shoulder. Eventually, Lucille let go of her daughter, and said for what seemed to be the thousandth time;
"Good luck, sweetheart. Write to me every day, you hear? Remember to keep safe."
"I will Maman." she reassured, "I'll be back before Christmas and I will write to you before then." She looked at her mum, who was obviously trying not to cry, and for a brief moment, she felt guilty, but brushed it aside. "Bye Mama."
Her Mum sniffled in reply, not trusting her voice. Alouette glanced at her watch, and her eyes bugged.
"Merde! I'll be late!" Alouette briefly heard her mother's stern voice as she started to reprimand her for the language, yet Alouette had spread the powder in a circle, stepped into it, and clearly said, "Houses of Parliament, London, England." A cloud of orange mist rose from the circle of powder around her, then before she knew it, her apartment had gone.
The sensation was not unpleasant, just unexpected. Her head felt light, and her skin tingled as she floated in a mass of orange cloud. Just as suddenly as it happened, her feet hit solid ground and the cloud evaporated. It took a moment to feeling solid again, yet her luggage evidently didn't have such issues as it landed with a WHUMP next to her.
She looked at her surroundings, at the uniformed look of the business commuters that all seemed to be in a hurry, like a grey mob rushing to and fro, and the disorientated tourists in loud clothes pointing at Big Ben behind her.. However, a flash of colour a few feet away caught her eye. She moved towards it, only to find a small cart, that would have fit in in the medieval times, tied to, what looked like, a dozen cats. Unlike medieval times, however, were the bright coloured stripes of Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Bronze, Gold, Silver and Black that made it stand out. Nobody in the grey mob noticed. A small, grumpy looking man sat at the front holding the reins, but he was far too small to be any normal human... And the pointy ears looked alarmingly sharp. The cart was empty, yet the man grunted at her and pointed his head to the back.
"Yes, you! I need to go to Essex next! Hurry up!" the unintelligible Birmingham accent was somehow understood as Alouette dragged her luggage to the cart and slid it under the least wonky looking seat. The man (Goblin, but Alouette didn't know this), glanced behind him and pointed to a seatbelt and grinned somewhat maliciously. She hurriedly tried to fasten it, and just managed to as they lurched forward.
"Better hold on!" he hollered with a grin, as her face paled with the sudden speed.
The sensation wasn't too unpleasant, but it certainly was expected. Alouette's stomach sank to her feet as the cart climbed at a monstrous speed above the clouds. It was almost like a rollercoaster, as every flurry and current of the wind knocked the cart, their steady climb would dip and dive every now and then and it kept her heart in her throat. As the cloud below them thinned, she couldn't help but think aloud,
"Can't they see us?"
"No, they can't. Stupid humans are blind to everything." She was surprised to hear the gruff voice as if it was coming from next to her. "You might want to hold onto your breakfast." he chuckled as they dived down through the clouds. However, the ground continued to get closer and closer, yet the speed didn't slow. She could literally see the detail of a single leaf on a tree that brushed past, when the speed just stopped. The feeling was like loud noise that had been playing for so long, then silence; it was a shock to the system.
Alouette was trembling, her stomach was flipping, and her heart was pounding, yet she couldn't wipe the daft grin off her face.
"Ah, adrenaline. Nothing like it, eh?" asked the Goblin, a rough chuckle emerging from it's shaking shoulders.
A small puff of orange alerted them to someone else's arrival. A tall, broad shouldered boy with messy long hair came spluttering from the cloud. He angrily tried to brush the cloud away, but it evaporated at his touch. A pile of suitcases dropped from the trees and landed in an orange pool of slime. The powder obviously hadn't worked for the luggage. He groaned, then attempted to clean the mess. Alouette noticed the growling from the goblin and watched him bemused as he turned a dark red. She felt like she was in a tennis match, between watching the boy's painstakingly slow, yet cautious dabbing with a tissue, and the goblin's impatience that was obviously growing by the second.
She had to interrupt. She turned to the boy, who was grumbling under his breath.
"'Scuse me? You could do that later, no?" The goblin's growling subsided, and the boy looked up for the first time. He blinked at her.
"Uh... Yeah, I guess." He stood up from his crouched position, managed to squeeze the suitcases under the chair opposite Alouette, and slumped into it. He eyed Alouette, then smirked.
"I'm Tom Jackson" he said, extending his hand.
"Alouette Despris." she took his hand and they shook.
"You French?" he asked. She laughed as he pulled a face. "Sorry... Brain not working", he apologized whilst grinning sheepishly.
"You alright back there?" came a gruff question, and both nodded. Alouette pointed to her seatbelt, and Tom managed to find his to strap himself in. They took off again, and Alouette couldn't help but notice Tom's green hue. As they rose higher, she heard him mutter;
"I'm gonna be sick. I'm gonna be sick. I'm gonna be sick." and her heart sank. At the next pick up, she maneuvered herself as far away from him as was physically possible.
They finally arrived on an island which, according to a boy called Cameron, was surrounded by magic that blocked it from non magical eyes. The passengers relaxed, (all 8 of them), as they came to a stop. They were parked behind a long line of similar carts, but they seemed to be the only people there.
The other passengers in the cart were Fienne Williams, a quiet girl from Wales, who throughout the journey hadn't spoken a word, yet Tom, who was sitting next to her, noted the mischievious grin. The other passenger, a girl who'd sat opposite Tom, was from Yorkshire. She owned a mass of curly ginger hair and introduced herself as Ruby Tuesday. The girl informed Tom and Alouette that she and Fienne were in the same year, despite Fienne being only eleven. They were both in their third year in Axelquist, one of the houses. Fienne was only eight in their first year, but Ruby swiftly took her under her wing. There was a five year age gap, but that didn't seem to bother either girl. Ruby was Fienne's translator; she understood the tiny girl's silence and would answer any questions fired at them.
The next two passengers seemed slightly shy at first. Amber Jones, from a different part of Wales to Fienne, was quiet, but would at least answer her own questions, albeit timidly. She constantly hid behind her curtain of black hair, and her hazel eyes were framed by wire framed glasses. The next boy, Caleb MacWinter, wore glasses like Amber, and remained silent for the majority of the journey, but that was where the similarities stopped. He was buzzing with excitement and babbled occasionally. He insisted that he would stand out above the others in some way, and was determined to make a lasting impression.
The final two were both possibly in their later teens, which surprised them all as they had never been to Pamplemousse before. The first to be picked up was Cameron Doolan, who was rather quiet throughout the journey, but answered questions while fiddling with his coat sleeves. He had a rather large expander in his ear that Fienne was transfixed by. The other was an older looking boy called Albin O'Donnel, who would stare at the clouds over the Atlantic. His face was priceless, like a child opening their favourite present at Christmas. He was sitting next to the edge, opposite Alouette, and he'd point to a certain cloud and call it a Cirrus or a Cumulus, which confused almost everyone on the cart.
The silence was starting to unnerve a few, but Fienne pointed to a plain part of a brick wall, and Ruby caught everyone's attention as before their eyes, a small, traditional sweet shop seemed to spread across it. The shop banner and window panes were painted in pastel shades of green and purple, and the banner above announced that the shop was called 'Sugar Queens'.
As most hadn't eaten in hours, most scrambled over each other to get out, apart from Tom, who looked like his appetite had gone somewhere over the Atlantic but he clambered from the cart because he didn’t trust himself not to be sick over someone's luggage. Fienne and Ruby waited, and then told everyone which were their favourites, one of which was curiously named Dragon's breath liquorice. Fienne pulled a face, but Ruby highly recommended. The Goblin decided to interrupt at this point.
"As I am in sole possession of your luggage, which you all left behind, I guess it would be a good time to introduce myself to some of you. My name's Gob." It was mainly met with silence except for Cameron's enthusiastic "hello". Gob carried on. "There is no need to worry, as your luggage will arrive at your dorms, once most of you are placed. Ruby and Fienne will show you around as they're in their third year." he said, addressing the new pupils. He turned to Ruby and said, "I trust you can get them to the great hall in one piece? Don't let the Ferumbellators at them, you know what they're like."
"I've got it, Gob. You can trust us."
"I should hope so too. Good luck to all of you! Any potential Lordandors, do us proud!" With that, he awkwardly jumped back behind the reins and set off. Any who blinked would have missed him vanish straight through the wall, which then splurged back, making a noise not unlike bath water going down a plug.
"I thought only humans went to Wizarding schools." stated Cameron as everyone stopped staring at the wall and walked into Sugar Queens. The bell jingled merrily as they walked through the door, and Ruby was quick to answer.
"It's a common misconception led by the media. Elves, Goblins, Centaurs, and sometimes Vampires have been known to study here, after all, they are magic and would like to learn how to use it. Especially Werewolves. A few friends of mine are werewolves actually. Ghosts are sometimes in lessons too, especially the Pepperdew ghosts. They enjoy listening to their favourite subject being taught, y'know. It's actually quite funny sometimes; there'll be two ghosts in there, sometimes arguing about which teacher taught it the best."
"...Wow. I guess I've been proven wrong."
"Er, Yeah, I think you have." smirked Ruby, as they traipsed through the shop. After ten minutes of going straight with no apparent change in their surroundings, Tom thought he'd speak for all of them and asked how long it would take to get there. Ruby and Fienne both shrugged.
"It depends on the Gatekeeper's mood. She's alright, but... A little crotchety sometimes. Also, beware of her Cragon."
"Cragon?" asked Alouette.
"Cat-Dragon. She calls him Mr. Frumpkin. Aha! Here we are!" A rather menacing gate stood before them. A booming female voice called out;
"WHAT'S THE PASSWORD?" Ruby looked confused and shouted back.
"We don't have a password!" again, the voice boomed back.
"YES, WE DO. I MADE ONE UP THIS MORNING!"
"But... We weren't here this morning!"
"OH. Yeah... Well I'd better let you in then, hadn't I?"
"...Yes, that would be good." nodded Ruby as if talking to a six year old. The gate swung open to reveal a woman in her thirties behind a usual shop counter, but with a wooden barrier blocking their way. The wooden barrier was scorched around the edges, as her Cragon laid tied up by a piece of mangy rope next to it. The woman looked up and Ruby introduced her to the new pupils.
"This is Miss Tanner, and that-" she said, pointing, "-is Mr. Frumpkin." Miss Tanner had a broad grin on her weather beaten face, and her hair was greying slightly at the temples. Mr Frumpkin was an ordinary looking ginger tom... Apart from the forked tail, spines across its back and folded up red wings. As it breathed in its sleep, small rings of fire emitted from his nose. Fienne was the only person to approach the creature, and she sat down beside it and scratched its head between the ears. A low purr emitted as its tail flicked peacefully.
"You staying there, Fi?" asked Ruby. Fienne looked as if to stand up, but noticing that it's scratcher was about to leave, Mr Frumpkin sprawled across Fienne's lap, and seemed to smirk at Ruby, as if daring her to ask Fienne to stand up.
"...I'll take that as a no then."
Continuation of the Tour
Ruby continued to lead them through the shelves of sweets. Eventually, they started to descend.
"Don't worry guys, it will do this for a bit. It will level out, Pamplemousse is underground." Cameron, who was easily the tallest, banged his head with a loud CLANG against what seemed to be a water pipe.
"…Yeah, you might want to mind your head." she added unhelpfully with a sympathetic grimace.
It only took a few minutes until a light glowed from further down the shelves. The shelves had now started to become scarce as slightly ancient fizzing apples still puffed now and then as they passed. The light grew brighter as the shelves finally stopped.
"This, is Pamplemousse." Stated Ruby proudly. The others tried to look around her, but could only see another tunnel. The only difference was the flaming torches attached to the walls. They lights carried on for as far as the eye could see, until it was swallowed up by the darkness.
"What, another tunnel?" asked Cameron, but Ruby didn't respond until they'd picked up speed.
"The school is pretty much a maze of tunnels. They've been around since the time of the Founders." she added enthusiastically. The tunnel opened up into a crossroads with six passages leading out in every direction. This was when Ruby stopped.
"Right, I need everyone to concentrate; this system works if we all want the same thing." she glared at anyone who wouldn't do as she said, "We all need to think of..." she sighed as she realised. "None of you have seen the Great Hall, have you?" Everyone shook their head and she groaned. "Right... Why did I have to do this? Sorry... Everyone think of a great gathering... and if that fails... Follow me. I'll get you there." she said, and marched straight through the middle passage.
"Oh thank Lordandor, we're here!" Nobody else said a word as the crowds of people from all ages hurried and bustled around them. The seven of them managed to worm their way through, and somehow Fienne joined Alouette and Albin at the back, chased by Mr Frumpkin, which made their group nine strong.
Being in the crowd was a culture shock as the crowd were noisy and diverse, different colours and equally different people trying to squeeze past each other. Conversations of different languages were shouted over their heads and reunions happened all around them. Most were the usual hug or hair ruffle, but few looked as if they hadn't seen each other in years, not just a few months.
They shuffled along with the rest of the crowd through a set of huge, ancient looking, wooden doors that led to a giant space. The cavern was about the same size of the Royal Albert Hall in London, and was filled with chairs. There was two main sections; the 'Stands' as Tom saw them, and the circle in the middle.
The stands were slowly filling up with the crowd, and were obviously split into four different coloured sections; purple, red, green and blue. In the middle were a lot of fold-up, grey, plastic chairs that were clearly used only for this occasion. In front of the dull, wonky looking chairs was a long table with thirty or so hard backed wooden seats that were currently empty. They seemed to ooze authority, so everyone seemed to avoid those chairs in the middle, as they were obviously for the teachers, whenever they arrived.
Ruby stopped them, and Fienne joined her.
"So, this is the part where I leave you to it! You will always have older students, teachers and sometimes the ghosts to help you if you have any problems... I feel rather guilty though... Just leaving you to the mercy of-" Fienne coughed quietly, as she held up four fingers to Ruby. "Four?"
Fienne rolled her eyes. She beckoned Ruby closer, and muttered something in her ear as everyone watched them bemused.
"Oh... Okay, Fienne and I have four general things to help you with; Tunnels, Houses, Placement and... Poltergeists?"
"Yes, so please listen to this! Tunnels; every tunnel gets you where you wish to be, as it is slightly enchanted to lead you to your destination if you concentrate on it. Teachers will give you maps, but they are very confusing and make it very easy to get lost if you have no idea where you need to go, but teachers will argue that it's faster, as you're not only following your will but the map of this place.
"People have gone missing before, and have been found years later wandering round, miles from where they needed to be, as these tunnels somehow twist into a good thousand miles and they are a nightmare to get round if you have no set direction, so always have a goal, and you'll be fine."
"Did that sound okay?" she asked in general, and it was followed by nods all round and slightly terrified expressions, but Ruby was satisfied and barged on.
"Houses; four of them, and they are Axelquist, Pepperdew, Ferumbellator, and Lordandor.
"Axelquist is my house, and the students are renowned for their sarcasm and wit, eh Fi?" Fienne snorted, (the first noise she'd made all day.) "House colours are blue and gold, animal is a fox for it's sly behaviour. Not all of us are sly... Honest." An audible laugh came from Fienne.
"Pepperdew is okay, but their students are really clever, and usually about one or two subjects are their obsessive topics; they could talk about it until the cows came home, you know? Purple and silver, the wise old owl leads them to good grades and places in Universities around the globe, if they so wished.
"The Ferumbellator folk are physically and mentally strong, their minds are the ones that can stand high pressure, and are notorious fighters. I don't have the view that everyone else seems to have, that they're bullies, but I just think they're bored. They have the most awesome symbols though; red and black, animal is a Dragon. A Dragon would be better for us, right?" she said to Fienne, who merely looked at her bare wrist pointedly.
"I am hurrying, honestly... Where was I? Oh er, Lordandor, the slightly weird house. They make the best friends though. It's pupils are the social outcasts, the shy lads and lasses that all fit together in one big happy House. Green and bronze are the colours, animal's a frog. They are the joke of the school though, which is a shame, as most of them are the kindest people you could ever meet... Most are just shy or quiet. Fienne was a stall!" everyone looked at Fienne, who blushed slightly, "She was in there for ages, as they couldn't decide between putting her in Lordandor or Axelquist! I shan't digress though."
"The Placement is pretty easy; you're all led to a separate room, and four mist-like spirits judge you into which house you belong. Well, five if you count the white one. It doesn't really do much. It glows every now and then, like it did for me, but you can just ignore that one. It seems pretty daunting, but everyone's been in the same boat, so there's nothing to worry about." Amber raised her hand, "Yes?"
"How does it work? Do they read your mind or something?"
"Yes, in a way, they do... But it's a little complicated from what I saw. Each spirit analyses you differently; The red one sort of envelops the person, probably judging appearance. The purple slides through the head, testing brains probably. The blue hovers over your heart, oddly. The green doesn't do much, but sometimes it speaks up.
"I heard that each one resembles the spirit of the houses." interjected Cameron. "Red analyses physical strength, too weak and they'll be in another houses. Purple does analyse the brain, but measures stress too; if they have barely any, they go to Ferumbellator, and it reads your mind, or they say so at least, and if you have knowledge, then you stay in Pepperdew. The blue-"
"Yes, okay, I think we get it." laughed Ruby, cutting him off as the others' attentions were obviously waning, and time wasn't exactly staying put either. "I have one last thing to tell you about; Poltergeists. We currently have two.
"One is the self proclaimed leader, Kelly Graham. She is the strategist and of the pair, who plans the attacks. She's the one you have to be most wary of. Never hand her a paintball gun.
"The other is Gwen Ocean, who is the analyzer. She can simply glance at someone and will know what ticks them off; the dark, water, dirt, being late, etc, and she tells Kelly, who plans, who attacks. Gwen analyzes the attack, and sees how successful the attack was in annoying their victims, then she tells Kelly the success rate, who bases her next attack on how well the previous went on that particular person, and it just carries on from there.
"For some reason, whether they respect the potential pranksters, or our ghost has scared them off, they leave Axelquist pupils alone, but are relentless against other houses. On that note, I shall let you choose one of those oh-so-comfy looking chairs in the middle, and leave you be. You may see us if you're sorted to Axelquist." with that, she and Fienne walked to the blue section and sat down in the now huge crowd.
"Well then... I suppose we should take a seat." said Cameron, sudden self appointed leader. They followed his lead, and sat in a small clump on the end near the door, just as the teachers led out.
The teachers seemed to grow from the ground like plants as they slowly grew and moved to sit at their chairs. One of the teachers caught Tom's eye; Mr. Chambers, his old headmaster. Tom followed the teacher with his gaze as he managed to hear Cameron witter on about how Mr. Chambers had been on the staff for ten years and was the best Defense against the Dark Arts teacher this school had seen. Tom span round to face Cameron.
"You know about him?"
"Yes. Did you know he's a recruiter?"
"You don't mean...?"
"He becomes part of the staff at schools that have potential magical students, then waits for the moment to arrive when he can tell them about Pamplemousse."
"Well. I was one of his recruits."
"Really? Wow! I wish I'd met him before coming here! I mean, meeting the famous Daniel Chambers-" Tom blocked him out again, as the final teacher grew from the floor.
The display was simply incredible as her body grew like a tree. It started as a sapling, then a strangely feminine form took hold of the tree as it grew wider. Two branches grew, but only five twigs grew on each. A knot in the wood morphed into a face, and moved upwards as it was level with the branches, whose twigs moved closer towards the end. Eventually, it was rather obvious that the tree wasn't a tree, but a woman. The branches finally dropped to the woman's side, and a smiling face greeted them all. She was young, possibly in her late twenties. Her black hair was in an up do, and her dress was incredibly detailed, as if it was carved from wood, yet it was definitely fabric. This was obviously their head teacher, Professor Whipply. A small podium rose beneath her feet and she cleared her throat to begin.
"Welcome all of you to Pamplemousse! Welcome back, for some of you even. It's nice to see that even though our world is facing harsh times, that you all seem to be moderately cheerful. I know this year will go swimmingly, and I would just like to wish the first years every success in their academic career.
"However I'd like to remind all of you that although education is possibly the most important thing here, remember to have fun, gain friends, lose friends, be young whilst you still can. You have plenty of time to perfect what can be perfected, learn what can be learnt and be whatever we can be to help us in the future."
"Older years, you are now dismissed. First years-" her voice was drowned out over the students in the stands moving from their seats as one; the chattering hubbub seemingly louder in the echoing hall. She stopped talking and rolled her eyes, fingers drumming impatiently on her podium as the last few stragglers left through four tunnels in each corner of the Hall.
"First years, you just follow the House leaders to the Placement room. I wish you all the greatest luck, and that you'll be happy within your new home." She smiled serenely, flicked her wrist, and disappeared in a swirl of wind. Every teacher but four did the same, so Tom supposed that the two men and two women would be the Head of House.
The woman in purple sighed wearily, and commanded them to follow her down through the steps that mysteriously appeared where the podium was last seen.
A short boy, who seemed to be under ten, slowly rose from a chair in the middle. He awkwardly brushed past the other new students and sat on the stool. The red wisp wasted no time and dimmed slightly, obviously not impressed. The purple seemed slightly hesitant, but brushed through the boys head, dimming like the red. The blue elegantly shot through his chest, and part of it shifted direction as if it was looking at the green expectantly. The green glowed, and the placement completed. The Lordandor stand cheered, and he was shooed off to the stands.
A striking African girl, possibly eighteen or so, rose from her chair. Her athletic, graceful movements had everyone watching, but her eyes truly gave her away. The flinty eyes passed over the crowd in the stand next to her, and they all leaned backward slightly. She gingerly awaited the wisps' decision, but the red glowed fiercely almost instantaneously, and she was sent to Ferumbellator.
A pale boy in his late teens stepped forward. His eyes darted around the room from underneath a thick strawberry blonde fringe, as if working out if someone would, or could, attack him. The red dimmed again, causing the bespectacled teacher to raise an eyebrow at it, and she heard it mutter something along the lines of, "What do they need me for? These students nowadays, no challenge whatsoever. No fun at all..." Aly Powell, the Deputy head, Name Caller and Keeper of the Wisps, snorted, and cleared her throat as she hid her laughter.
An athletic ginger haired man in his early twenties unfolded from his chair. He folded himself down onto the stool, and it was oddly fascinating. A few elder Ferumbellators were eying him with interest, as was the red wisp, but grumbled as he was sorted into Axelquist.
Another boy in his late teens stepped forward, and he stood confidently. Oddly, all but the blue wisps dimmed, but he d just as pleased as the blue stand, who erupted as Damion swaggered over to their section and chose a seat next to a group of lads around his age.
A girl who looked barely older than twelve stepped forward, and she visibly trembled as everyone stared at her. She could feel their eyes scouring her soul as they weighed her up. Again, all but the green wisp dimmed, and she seemed genuinely relieved to have her part over.
A man in his early twenties stepped forward, and felt absolutely ridiculous yet he didn't have to suffer long, as he was sent to Pepperdew post haste.
Another girl stood up, and the wisps contemplated her fate. She seemed to be arguing with the blue when it dimmed, and the purple glowed slightly brighter, as if assuring her that she belonged in Pepperdew. The purple stand politely clapped as she sat down.
The ritual continued, with Sarah Caldwell, whose placement took longer than the others. It stretched on as a susurrus rose from the stands. Eventually, the green dimmed, and the bespectacled girl quick stepped to the purple stands.
Carrie and Stanley Collins, two black haired twins, were placed into Lordandor and Pepperdew respectively.
Helga Cox, a meaty, scowling girl was instantly placed into Ferumbellator, alongside Edna Crawley, who looked virtually identical to Helga.
Timothy Crow, was a lean, lanky boy who couldn't be much older than Thomas, yet the way Tim held himself showed a natural poise and strength, and Tom knew that he was one to keep an eye on. He barely stood on the 'Stage' before the red glowed fiercely.
Hannah Davies, Michael Davies and Théo Davies, (who weren't related), were placed into Pepperdew, Axelquist and Lordandor, then Alouette's name was called. Her face blanched slightly, but Tom nodded to reassure her, and she felt better as she nervously stood before them.
How she knew the purple was speaking she didn't know, but it's voice sounded as if a thousand voices, young and old, loud and soft. I can't deny she isn't yours, Charlotte, but there is intelligence there. Don't waste it, will you? The voice asked, addressing her
The blue had a more confident tone, and insisted she keep the wit in Ferumbellator.
The green had nothing to say, so the red glowed possessively and the others dimmed.
Alouette was slightly stunned as she walked towards the red stands, which erupted with applause. She wanted to ask how they knew she was meant to be in Ferumbellator; she didn't feel strong at all. She sat next to Timothy Crow, and watched as the ceremony continued in a blur as she waited for Tom's fate to be decided.
Cameron Doolan was called up after Alouette, and was immediately sent to Pepperdew, where he seemed to settle in quite nicely. Five Evanses, (Adam, Freddie, Rachel, Sam and Taz) were all placed into Ferumbellator, and they were all broad shouldered or tall, and they had the athletic poise that everyone else in Ferumbellator seemed to own. Alouette almost felt self conscious.
Sophie Forest, to Axelquist.
Aria French, to Pepperdew. A little movement eye, and she noticed the white orb glowing softly. 'C'est bizarre' (That's odd) she thought.
Chord and Viola Gambon, the former to Axelquist, the latter to Lordandor.
Daisy Garden, who visibly winced as the snickers rose from the blue stands, went to Lordandor.
Rose Gardener, on the other hand, was faced with louder laughter, and before she got to the stage yelled, specifically at the blue stands, that Yes, she knew her parents must have a sense of humour, but could they please shut up? She didn't even need to stand on the stage, as the blue wisp glowed merrily. A male teacher in long coat and top hat sniggered as the people in the blue stands shuffled away from her when she sat down beside them as a fellow Axelquist.
Corey Goulding was a well muscled boy who was instantaneously sorted into Ferumbellator. The girls in the closer rows eyed him with interest, (and some of the lads) as he was roguishly handsome. Older male students protectively wrapped arms around girlfriends' shoulders, to reassure them that they still existed.
Harmony and Melody Griffiths, (not related), to Pepperdew and Axelquist.
Immediately after Rose Grubbly's name was called, a large buzz rose from the stands, as Rose was a Goblin. Her short stature, large hooked nose and pointed ears immediately gave her away, and the silence didn't die down until she had been placed into Lordandor. Professor Powell gave them all a steely eyed glare, but continued down the list.
As each name was called, Tom felt even more nervous. He almost fainted with relief when a large group of Hughes' was called up, (Abigail to Lordandor, Callum to Axelquist, alongside Daniel, Dean and Ella, Jed and Jim to Pepperdew, Luke and Mark to Ferumbellator, Natalie to Axelquist, Rosie to Pepperdew, where Jim greeted her slightly bemused, and they started discussing children's TV programmes with a small discussion arising from other students around them. Finally, Vanessa was sorted into Axelquist.)
It was only George Ingram and Anna Jackson left, who were both placed into Pepperdew, and then Tom was called up. As he stood, he felt every eye of the Red stand on him. They knew he would be one of them, as he'd inherited his Dad's broad shoulders, which almost instantly marked him as a Ferumbellator. Everyone knew where he was going, including Tom himself, but he still felt slightly nervous as to where he'd be for the next five years, at least. As he stood on the stage, the red wisp spoke with a thousand deep voices.
Well, there's no doubt as to where you're going... Yet I wish to give you a fair warning; You are the Black Dragon, and will lead the revolution against the Monster of the Deep.
Before Tom say another word, the red wisp glowed, informing the school that he was in Ferumbellator, unsurprisingly, and he walked to the Red stands. Alouette moved up for him, and he found himself between Alouette and Tim Crow, he nodded an acknowledgement.
The rest of the ceremony seemed to drag now he'd been sorted.
Andrew Jaswell went to Axelquist.
Another large clan, The Jones', went up; Amber, the girl from the cart, was sorted into Lordandor. Ash, the guy, to Lordandor, Ash, the girl, to Axelquist, Coral to Lordandor, Ebony to Pepperdew, who smirked as she sat down, Pearl, Scarlet and Violet to Axelquist as well.
Johnathan Keats, barely older than twenty, had a rather upper class upbringing, which immediately rolled off him in waves, making some of the Ferumbellator students sneer in disapproval. He joined George Byron in Pepperdew.
Michael Kingstone to Ferumbellator.
Jack Knight was immediately sent to Axelquist.
Justin Lawn, valiantly ignoring the snickers, went to Lordandor. A teacher whooped in approval, and nearly every student in the stands laughed. All the soon-to-be students in Pepperdew looked at Cameron, who informed them that the teacher who'd been so enthusiastic, was actually his sister, Professor Lawn. Rumour had it that she was insane, and she kept hearing voices in her head that were telling her what to do, but of course Cameron didn't agree with them, as she was the Professor who pointed out the Twilight saga's shortcomings and was infamous for having extremely heated discussions with those who disagreed.
Rob Lemon went to Pepperdew, and everyone nodded in approval of his Superman logoed t-shirt.
Caitlin Lennon to Axelquist, Eleanor Lennon to Pepperdew, Some of the purple students audibly hummed a few bars of the Beatles' famous song as Eleanor sat down. John Lennon, who looked scarily like his namesake, was sorted into Pepperdew. He sat next to Eleanor, and both tried not to laugh as everyone else did. George Harrison, a second year student, left his guffawing friends to join them, and started talking with John about the merits of the Beatles.
Ava Livingstone caused a rather heated argument between the red and blue wisps, but the red dimmed, and she was finally sent to Axelquist. Her moody stare and stocky build pegged her as a Ferumbellator, but her dry humour seemed to win out.
June Llewelyn to Pepperdew.
Pepsi Lockley went straight to Axelquist, and the students who sat around her choked back their laughter as the seventeen year old glared at them.
Caleb MacWinter, one of the boys from the cart was placed into Lordandor, and he almost ran gleefully to the green stands, much to the Reds' amusement.
Jane Matthews, a surprisingly weedy girl came to Ferumbellator. Thomas found himself muttering,
"Is she seriously in this house? I'm sure that-"
"Actually," came Tim Crow's voice beside him. "Our house isn't just about physical strength... But mental strength too." Tom watched the girl shuffle awkwardly next to the people sitting beside her who seemed to be twice her width. Whatever 'Mental Strength' meant, she seemed to stick out like a sore thumb.
A few McDonalds were next; Liz to Axelquist, Sam the guy and Sam the girl to Lordandor, who virtually clung to each other as they sat down.
Julia and Paul McCartney, both brown haired twins, were sent to Pepperdew. Paul sat next to John Lennon, and pretty soon, the "Beatle group", as they were soon dubbedpractically vowed to stick together for their school careers.
Buttercup Meadows virtually died of embarrassment. She was stood on the stage for longer than the others had taken, and sure enough, a heated debate between not two but three wisps broke out. After nearly ten minutes of being placed, Buttercup muttered a single house, and was placed into Axelquist. Rose Gardener from earlier managed to push herself through the throng of people beside her, and ran down to where Buttercup was sitting. Instantly, everyone backed away from the pair, and would possibly remain that way for the rest of their academic careers.
The wisps paused at Claire and Katie Mellar, as they had argued how they didn't want to be in the same house as their sister, but it eventually settled on Axelquist for Claire, and Pepperdew for Katie.
Dalita Mellinto was a stocky girl whose hair was plaited to the small of her back. She was placed into Ferumbellator, with a triumphant fist pump as she went.
Taj Merlino's wicked grin placed him into Axelquist.
Martha Morrison, who seemed almost eight foot tall, was placed into Ferumbellator.
Heddwyn Munford was a tall, freckly ginger boy of about fifteen who was placed into Lordandor. However, a few people grumbled at how Axelquist were robbed of a student, as he didn't seem shy as he joked with other members of his house.
Mario Napoli again caused a stir. His footsteps seemed to click, and to some of the closer students it was obvious that his feet weren't actually feet at all, but hooves. At this point, Cameron Doolan was excitedly chattering to an older student that a Faun hadn't been seen in Pamplemousse for decades. Mario was placed into Lordandor, as the attention made him extremely nervous. He softly bleated as everyone stared at him, but cleared his throat.
"Can you all stop staring please? It is rather rude, you know." a few students had the decency to look ashamed and all of them turned away as the next pupil, James Nathaniel, caught their attention.
To say the boy was rather large would be an understatement; He was colossal. Easily 10 foot tall and huge shoulders made everyone a little uneasy, and some giggled nervously as he perched delicately on the Stage. Unsurprisingly, he was sorted into Ferumbellator, but surprisingly, he looked upset as people shuffled away from him. He sat in an empty row and started to whimper. Alouette saw his distress and squeezed past Tom and Tim to get to the semi Giant.
"What's she doing?" whispered Tim.
The giant looked her way, tears evident in his eyes, and she slowly sat beside him. The giant grinned and wiped his eyes a little forcefully. After about five more people were called up, Tom excused himself and sat down beside Alouette. Less than three people after that, Tim followed suit. Awkward relocations aside, their attention was back on the Placing.
Emily Nesbit was a striking brunette, and Tom felt almost disappointed when she was placed into Lordandor.
Andrew Nimmo was called to the stage, and Tom started. Andy was placed into Ferumbellator, and before Tom quite knew what he was doing, he invited Andy to join them. The boy was instantly recognisable as Kate's brother with the ginger hair, blue eyes and freckle splattered nose. Andy sat down slowly, quite unsure of why this older boy was grinning at him.
"Is your sister the Messenger of North U.K?" burbled Tom, and the boy nodded.
"Yeah, a few people have asked me about her today, as she's given some people instructions and stuff. I just want to warn you though..."
"I'm stranger than her." he stated with a grin.
The placing seemed never ending, and Tim was itching to leave. After Laura Noble passed by him to get to a seat further back, he gave up resisting the childish urge and muttered under his breath;
"Ten thousand green bottles,
Sitting on a wall..."
Tom joined in at 9,960 bottles, after Maude Nomada and long-haired Quinten Norma were placed into Ferumbellator, Albin O'Donnel ran straight to Cameron Doolan, as he was placed into Pepperdew, Ricard Oliver into Lordandor, Patrick O'Neil to Axelquist, Una Orance to Lordandor, and finally Sam O'Riley to Axelquist. Nine thousand, eight hundred and ninety five had met their demise when Sonya Orr was called up. They both faltered slightly as they noticed the bright red fez that was perched on her head. She grumbled slightly as one of the teachers gestured to her to take the offending headwear off, but she did it, albeit reluctantly. Lordandor had looked hopeful for her, but Pepperdew was her chosen option.
Tiago Parr, a dark haired boy with oddly pointed ears was placed into Pepperdew too. Tim stopped the nine thousand, eight hundred and seventy second bottle from falling by muttering,
"Must be an elf..."
"They exist?" came Alouette's voice from beside Tom.
"Well. My Mum reckons she went to school with one, and she ain't no liar."
"Cool." said Tom. "And if one green bottle, should accidently fall-"
"There'll be 9,871 green bottles, sittin' on a wall!" Tim grinned back. Alouette rolled her eyes.
"Vous êtes tous deux tres enfantin" (You are both very childish) she scoffed.
"Thank you!" thanked Tom. Tim eyed her warily, but thought nothing of it.
Isabelle Phillips was sorted between bottles 9,870 and 9,867, and she joined the green stands. Andy Nimmo, not wanting to be left out, decided to join them in song, much to Alouette's dismay.
Massimo Picola only took two bottles (to 9,865) to be sorted into Axelquist.
Olivia Poppy, a girl with the same pointy ears as Tiago Parr, was sorted into Ferumbellator. People moved for her to sit next to them, but she ignored them all as she sat beside Andy. Tim hastily stopped singing and found himself staring at her ears instead. Tom stopped, and frowned at Tim, who seemed bewitched by Olivia's ears. Tom poked Tim in the shoulder, and Tim irritably brushed him off as he spun round.
"Dude, don't leave me hanging here." answered Tom to Tim's questioning glare.
"Please, Leave him." begged Alouette wearily.
"It can wait..." said Tim distractedly.
"I dunno! Just... Do it yourself."
"It looks stupid doing it by myself!"
"Hey, I'm singing too!" protested the forgotten Andy.
"May I ask what is wrong?" came a musical voice from behind Andy. Olivia looked between Tim and Tom, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Oh, we were just-" answered Tim and Tom at the same time. The former blushing.
"They were at the 9, 863rd green bottle." answered Alouette wryly.
"Oh, I love that song!" piped Olivia, and Alouette groaned as a light soprano voice was added to the mix of baritone voices. Patrick Quillan, a tall Irish lad, went to Axelquist. ONE bottle. All four singers were duly impressed, but as the next person was called, both Tim and Olivia stopped.
Laars Quince was an elf, but Tom was confused at why gasps rose from the stands. Even some of the teachers below looked astonished. Tim blinked, turned solemnly to Tom and Alouette.
"He is the Prince of the Elves. His family have been a closely guarded secret for decades, if not centuries, but that changed with the Rebellion in the 80's... Nobody has heard from them since-"
"No humans have heard from them." corrected Olivia, but she was staring at this suddenly noble looking Prince. If he was human, then he'd be roughly 17. Utter silence descended upon the hall as everyone waited with baited breath. The cry from Ferumbellator rose, and the other three houses roared in disapproval. The noise took a while to die down, but Laars seemed unfazed by it. He quickstepped up the levels, and spotted Olivia. He smiled with relief to see a subject from his own race, and sat down. Andy nearly fainted, Tom and Tim glanced at each other, and in that glance agreed to not carry on with the Green bottles.
The urge to do so, however, grew with each placed student. Olivia had an idea that could keep them occupied while they were bored, and Tom noted the small glance Laars gave the small huddle of four before quickly diverting his gaze. The huddle consisted of Olivia, Tom, Tim, and Andy, but before she could speak, Tom sat back up.
"Do you ever get bored?" he asked the Elvish prince. Laars smiled slightly and admitted that the Placement wasn't as daunting as he thought, because he was used to sitting in a meeting with other Elvish lords twice his age as they argued about how their race should be run. Tom Oh'd in interest, and before long, the pair were talking about seemingly normal things, although it quickly turned into a quick fire round of questions;
Favourite Books? No time, but he'd love to have that time.
Samantha Quinten slipped past Laars to a seat further back.
Movies? The response was a bemused, 'Movies?' Olivia looked at Andy in question too, so the boys decided not to pursue that matter.
Jacob and Jamal Roberts, yet another set of twins, to Pepperdew.
Food? This was easier to answer, as Laars laughed and listed a strange mix of both Human and Elvish food. Pizza soon became debated, and all the males looked at Olivia in astonishment at her lack of experience in human Italian food.
Kadar Roberts to Lordandor.
Fabrizio Rumba to Axelquist.
Robert Silver, Candea Silzer, and Sophie Slivish all managed to squeeze onto the end of their row. Sophie tucked a piece of hair behind her pointed ear in shyness.
Everyone in their row, including Alouette and James, were asking questions frantically; about the culture. Did girls get pierced ears? (Olivia's shocked expression said, "No. No, they don't"), and did all the males have to grow their hair long? (...Come to think of it, no. But why do all Humans have their hair cut short?)
Alex Smith, a girl in a long brown trench coat, went to Pepperdew.
Andrea Smith was the last person to join their row, making a grand total of eleven, while the other rows had about nine, without a semi giant who took up the space of three.
The Smiths kept on coming, with Benedict to Pepperdew, Benjamin to Axelquist, but the questions kept the row entertained. They failed to notice the wind Nymph Bryony float to Lordandor. Chris and Ellen to Pepperdew. Jared, a pale boy with a brooding glance gave people the shivers who was placed into Lordandor, and somehow got to a seat in the time it took to blink.
Did the Elves ever consider getting back in touch with Humans? Laars admitted that he'd left of his own accord rather than with the Court's permission. He'd had enough of the exile from the rest of the world, so firmly told them that he'd like to be the first to start their communications again.
Joanna to Pepperdew, Joseph to Lordandor.
(From Andrea to Olivia) Skirts or Jeans?
'Jeans? I haven't heard of them... I can't abide skirts or dresses though, I prefer Breeches.'
Kurt to Axelquist, Phillip to Pepperdew, Sarah to Axelquist.
(From Tim to Olivia) Does it feel weird to have pointed ears?
Uh...No, not really.
Tim to Lordandor, Yan to Axelquist. The final Smith, Zara, went to Pepperdew.
(From Laars to Tom and Tim) Did they learn Archery at school like Elves did?
Tom regretfully answered for both when he said No, and Laars vowed to teach them. The two agreed gleefully.
Will Snow to Lordandor, Danni Summers to Pepperdew. James Taylor was placed into Ferumbellator, but stumbled up the stairs. Andrea, who was on the end of the row, ran down to help him up. He thanked her gruffly, and she gasped as she noticed his eyes. She instantly apologised, but he just laughed it off, explaining that he'd been blind for most of his life and was quite used to it. She offered if he wanted to sit with them, and was astonished when he asked if it was next to the Prince.
"How did you-?"
"I can hear y'know. I know your name is Andrea Smith by the way you speak, as you talked during the placement without realising. Your perfume gives you away too."
"The mutters that went round the hall once you sat down tell me you took the last seat on the row of the Prince."
"It's nothing. When you're blind, you make the best of your other senses. We'd better get out the way of Daniel."
"Daniel?" she turned around, and sure enough, another boy was climbing up the steps nimbly. Andrea stepped aside for Daniel Thomas to pass, then she led James to their seat.
"Hey Ally, mind moving up?" Alouette looked back confused. "Yes, you. Alouette, wasn't it?" The whole row shuffled slightly so James could fit, and even then it was a rather tight squeeze. A brief scan of the students below told them that there was only thirty or so left.
"Might as well watch this last part, eh?" said Olivia, and Laars agreed. The questions slowly died down, and they watched the final thirty one students being sorted.
Dominic Thomas to Axelquist, the tall twelve year old definitely had a mischievious air about him.
Enric Thomas went to Pepperdew, but Laars shuddered. The boy looked normal, but the Prince swore there was something odd. James Taylor agreed. James Nathaniel seemed equally untrusting.
The four Thomas J's, (as the row called them), were Jacob, Jenny, Jessica, and Jordan, and they went to Lordandor, Pepperdew, Axelquist and Pepperdew respectively.
Megan Thomas joined Jessica in Axelquist.
Scott Thomas joined Jacob in Lordandor.
Toph finished the Thomas's by going to Axelquist.
Roka Toran, a peculiar girl, was placed into Pepperdew. She seemed so tiny, yet emitted a great wisdom for someone her size.
Peter Ulrich brushed past their row grumpily, and even James Nathaniel felt anxious.
Yuki Ulster went to Lordandor.
Perreta Una to Axelquist, and she laughed along with the students at her name.
Isis Unvad, a wild haired elf, went to Pepperdew.
Oscar Victors was another well built student, and even he knew that he'd be in Ferumbellator.
Una Viola, a bespectacled nineteen year old, went to Pepperdew.
Andrew Vorac caused another muttering. He was deathly pale, and his eyes prowled hungrily over the students closest to him. He grinned at them, and they flinched nervously at the sight of his sharper-than-average incisors. The other three houses collectively breathed in relief when he was placed into Axelquist.
Sandrine Wandsworth was mercifully harmless in comparison, and went to Pepperdew.
Alex White went to Axelquist, and found that she was sitting next to Andrew. James Taylor muttered to Andrea how Vorac wasn't necessarily to be frightened of, as he had told Alex White that he'd thought it'd be funny to scare the younger students. Just another Axelquist Joker.
Charlie Williams was a broad Scottish lad, and his voice boomed around the cavern. Axelquist were almost sad to find that he was in Ferumbellator.
Jazmina Wintell was a delicate, bird-like fifteen year old who was placed into Lordandor.
Danny Winters went to Pepperdew, and he was virtually a Matt Smith lookalike. Sonya Orr, the girl with the fez, nearly tripped in her haste to sit next to him.
Varun Xante went to Axelquist.
Flora Xavanous, yet another Elf, was placed into Pepperdew.
Georgina Xavier and Henrietta Yanders went to Ferumbellator.
Jazmine Yellow went to Lordandor.
Kade Yentil went to Axelquist.
Lawrence Zainab to Pepperdew.
Caitlyn Zanolor to Pepperdew.
Vanessa Zante to Axelquist.
It was an almost anti climatic moment when Professor Whipply asked the head of houses to lead their houses out. Professor Andrew Chase strolled to Axelquist and started giving his "Beginning of year Speech", Grace Venables did the same for Pepperdew, as did Louise Wyatt for Lordandor. Colm de Barra practically marched to their front row, and the elder years all stood up to leave. Barely a word was spoken as the first years were left alone with de Barra.
He was tall, a little lanky, but oddly scary in the 'If you defy me, you'll know about it' way. The upper years had gone through a tunnel, and Colm motioned for the first years to stand up and follow him. Some unknown force made them comply, and he marched them through the same tunnel their elders had. Their route changed however, when the older students went to a right fork, and Colm led them to the left.
Their tunnel seemed to carry on for hours, but eventually, Colm stopped in front of an old fashioned door. He glanced behind to make sure they were watching, then he grinned as he opened the door. On the other side was what looked like... A 1920's city!
"Welcome to Emeryville." said de Barra in a smug tone as he took in their shocked faces.
The Cavern must have been huge, as it seemed like it never ended. The roof was possibly enchanted to give a view of the actual sky, as Alouette's watch read 18:30, and the sun was just beginning to set in the cavern, casting a red glow over the roofs of the tall buildings. Jazz poured from a window near by, and the chatter of a large group met their ears as a group of students rounded a corner and disappeared into a bookshop.
"All right students." began Colm in a Galwegian brogue. "This is the Ferumbellator cavern, and the bookshop that half the house went into just then is your common room. Your dorms are pretty simple to find; just follow the signs. If you mess up, the older kids will either kick you out or help you. Mostly likely kick you out though.
"You will need to be fitted for uniform tomorrow, but the rest of the day is free. Explore the cavern, unpack, whatever, but work is expected to start the day after tomorrow. Understood?" Nods all around.
"Good. You have the option to go home during Christmas and the Summer, but if you wish, you can stay with friends here.
"Oh, Before I forget; knock on a Twelfth Night three times and you should be alright." with that, he simply sank into the ground without a trace.
The group stared at the spot where he had sunk, and then looked around them. They split up into five different sections subconsciously; Tom, Tim, Alouette, (closely followed by) James Nathaniel, Laars, Olivia, Andrea, James Taylor, Sophie and Andy started walking toward the sign that said "Living Quarters", the five Evans's decided to follow just behind. An elite group of the best looking, (Corey, Robert, Candea, Samantha, Daniel, Oscar and Ebony) went towards the bright lights to the left, the sturdiest and broad shouldered, (Maude, Quinten, Peter, Ebele, Helga, Edna, Michael and Dalita) all strutted down the street and past the bookshop to the right, but those remaining, (Charlie, Martha, Georgina, Henrietta, Laura, Luke, Mark and Jane) all stood around for a moment longer, before following the sound of Jazz to the Bookshop.
The group of fifteen kept to the grungy street. The buildings got taller and grubbier as they kept walking, and the jazz had faded into the background noise. If anyone started to doubt which direction they needed to be, a sign on the side of the building assured them.
The Evans's were mostly quiet, but spoke amongst themselves just behind Tom's group. A sign pointed to their left, and they obediently rounded the corner. They were instantly faced with seven tall apartment buildings, each labeled with a number from one to seven.
"Well. I guess we aren't at building four then." stated Tim, causing a giggle from Taz Evans. Perhaps it was her imagination, but Alouette was sure that poor Taz had received a death glare from Olivia.
The Lobby of building one was pure 20's glamour; polished marble floors and gold hued lamps hanging overhead. A wide desk sat in the middle of the room where two students in their late teens were sat behind. One was a boy who was having an animated conversation on an ancient looking phone, and the other was an extremely bored looking girl who was filing her nails with a scowl on her face. As the group approached, the male student smiled up at them kindly, but the girl glared at them as if they weren't worth her time and continued her filing. They walked into earshot to hear what the boy was saying.
"Pardon? Yes, yes of course we can handle it, can't we Trude?" the boy asked the scowling girl. She glared at him and grumbled under her breath as she filed her nails even more furiously.
"I have to go now Mr de Barra. Uh, Yeah we got business... Yea- I'm fine we're fi- BYE." He slammed the phone with a frustrated sigh. He smoothed his hair back from his forehead, then smiled at the group.
"Hi guys, I'm Joe, this is Trudy-"
Trudy sniffed. "Alright."
"-and we're here for the first week or so to help you settle in. Now, this is where you'll be staying for the year; studying, sleeping, eating, whatever. Breakfast is delivered at eight sharp, Lunch at half twelve and Tea, Dinner, whatever at half six. Tonight the food will be served at the Common Room. The Common Room is usually open to all from half three to half... Eleven?" nod from Trudy, "So you can at least get to sleep by midnight." he grinned. "Oh! Speaking of which-" he spun round and grabbed a clipboard from behind him. "-Here's a list of where your rooms are. Uh-" he patted the left side of his jacket and started to panic. "-Where are my glasses?" he asked to nobody in particular. He started to rifle through his inside pocket as Trudy snatched the clipboard from Joe.
"Boys are on the left of the building, girls on the right, kay?" Nods all round.
"Good. Thomas Jackson, Timothy Crow, and Andrew Nimmo to the left-"
"Thanks." answered Tom gruffly as the three went left.
"Alouette Day-pree, that how you say it?"
"Right, You, Olivia Poppy, and Sophie Slivish to the right."
"Thank you." answered Sophie.
"Uhh James Taylor, Corey Goulding, and Robert Silver floor two."
"Thank you... Is there a lift, or-"
"What," she scoffed, " Are you blind or something?"
"Yes, actually." he answered calmly. Trudy's expression lapsed into embarrassed horror, and Joe looked like he was going to cry in sympathy.
"Sorry? No, it isn't your fault. An honest mistake, I'm sure. floor two, yeah?" And with that, James walked away from the group a little stiffly. A lift dinged softly as if it was waiting for him, and James looked almost grateful as he spun to face the sound. Andrea bit her lip in worry as she watched him retreating.
"Umm okay." Trudy said shakily. "Andrea Smith, Taz Evans, and Rachel Evans floor two."
"Thank you" said Taz, as Andrea had practically sprinted to the lift with James Taylor. The door closed on them both and Rachel groaned impatiently.
"Adam Evans, Sam Evans, and Freddie Evans to floor three."
"Thanks" answered Freddie cheerfully.
"Uh... What are your names?" she asked the remaining pair.
"I'm Laars, and this is James."
"Uh... Top floor, okay?"
"Thank you Miss." answered Laars, and the two waited for the lift with Rachel and Taz.
"Nice Place." stated Tim appreciatively. Tom hummed in agreement. The room was simple but cozy, warm lights, black and red striped wallpaper and a small en-suite bathroom to the side. Andy had already claimed the bed closest to the window, which had a small view of the street outside.
Tom noted the hatch in the wall. Possibly for food, he thought. He collapsed onto the bed next to Andy, and Tim inspected the bathroom. Tom was starting to nod when he heard Tim declare that the blue toothbrush was his, they could fight over the green and purple one.
"GREEN!" yelled Tom before Andy could even breathe.
"Mine!" shouted Olivia as she dashed to the bed nearest the window. Sophie sniffed with disdain. The room was a little too dark for her, but it was nice enough, she supposed. Alouette noticed the luggage under the beds, and yanked her suitcase from underneath the middle bed. Olivia was still lying spread-eagled on the bed when she'd finished packing, and Sophie was sitting on her bed cross legged.
"So where are you from?" she asked Alouette curiously.
"Paris in France."
"Is it nice there?"
"Yeah. I think you'd like it."
"I'd love to see the Human world, but..." she trailed off, and Alouette decided not to push the matter. Sophie stared at the floor for a moment, but decided to unpack her things. Olivia stirred, and it seemed as though she'd fallen asleep.
"Elves are usually rather lazy creatures." stated Sophie. "We're ferocious fighters though, so that balances it somewhat."
"Where are you from then? I've told you."
"I'm from Maplerio in Elcourin."
"Oh. Is it... Nice? I've never heard of it."
"You wouldn't have." laughed Sophie, but her laugh fell flat. "Elcourin and Salania have been cut off from the Human World since Humans murdered our King and Queen. That's why it's such a surprise to have Elves here now, especially Laars."
"Humans killed your King and Queen?!" gasped Alouette.
"Yes. My race has been mistrustful of yours ever since."
"But...Why? Why did they kill your King and Queen?"
"They wanted our resources." stated Sophie simply. "Our home isn't populated with cities like this-" she pointed out the window, "-You Humans have been building them for centuries, yet you run out of wood and coal, then need more... It doesn't make sense to me."
The mood was interrupted by a knock at the door. Alouette opened the door, only to be faced with James Taylor, Andrea, Laars, James Nathaniel, Tom, Tim, Andy, and The Evans' who were all somehow crammed into the corridor.
"We were just going to the Common Room... Would you Ladies like to join us?" asked James Taylor smoothly, mock bowing. Alouette gladly accepted, and asked Sophie to wake Olivia up. The task wasn't as easy as it seemed, for Olivia nearly attacked Sophie for waking her up. As they left the building, Olivia stormed off in the general direction of where the Common Room was, whilst Laars reassured Alouette that to wake an Elf up is to have a death wish.
The streets were darkening, and the street lights were slowly flickering to life. As they walked, more and more students joined them, including a few familiar faces from the Sorting. The older students all knew where they were going, and the group were lead to the Bookshop they saw earlier. The group expected it to be packed, but was surprised when they got through the door and found it empty.
The students in upper years behind them decided to lag back, letting the lower years work it out. They all stared blankly at the shelves, but James Taylor was slowly running his hand along the rows.
"What are you doing?" asked Andrea in bemusement.
"I'm so glad they made these books Braille." muttered James, as he came to a book that made him stop.
"But... What are you doing?" she asked, prompted by the grin that was widening on his face. He didn't answer, but rapped the book three times. The shelf swung back to reveal a boisterous bar, and a wall of jazz music and chatter hit the group.
"So... Our Common Room is a Speakeasy?" asked Taz with glee.
"A non-Alcoholic one, anyway." chuckled a fourth year student behind them. "I'm Denny, Denny Jones." he introduced himself. "This is the Fearless Dragon."
Fearless Dragon and the Fashion
"...Nice name." stated Taz.
"Yeah, it was either that or 'The Fat Dragon' "
"Did it have to start with 'F' or something?" asked Andy laughing.
"Well..." started Denny. "I'm not quite sure. I think they just wanted it start with the same letter as the house."
"Ah." The group all followed him through the throng of students. He noticed when they hovered around him when he started talking to his friends.
"Look-" he said kindly "-Why don't you go find a seat? The band will be on in about ten minutes, and they'll give you food once you've sat down."
"Thank you." said Laars appreciatively, and they sat down at a large table by a small stage, and soon enough, plates of food were delivered by student waiters.
"This is so bizarre." muttered Rachel to Andy, who nodded vigorously. Sophie frowned at the steak, and decided to ignore it, opting to eat the vegetables that came with it. Laars and Olivia didn't seem to have a problem with it.
The small space soon became crowded as more people came closer to the stage to see and hear the band. A few older lads, (and a girl with drumsticks) sneaked on un-noticed with brass instruments, led on by Denny with a slightly battered-looking trumpet.
Without anyone really noticing, the band struck up a tune, and the atmosphere suddenly livened up. Raucous laughter paired with jazz and general clinking of cutlery added to the feeling that they'd travelled back in time and were actually in a speakeasy. (Albeit a non alcoholic speakeasy)
The small underground space soon became very crowded as what seemed like the entire Ferumbellator house was crammed into it. Of course, it probably felt more crowded to the group because most of the house were dying to meet the famous Elvish Prince.
Laars didn't notice, or ignored them, but either way, people eventually got bored and drifted away.
Apart from one.
"Excuse me, your highness?" came a timid male voice. The long-haired Quinten Norma introduced himself to the table, not quite meeting Laars' eyes.
"Is everything okay? D-d-do you need anything, my liege?" stammered Quinten, and to the surprise of everyone, he bowed in front of them.
"How am I 'Your liege'?" asked Laars. "You're human, no?"
"Uhh... My Mum's an elf and my Dad's human sir. Been living in Salania all my life sir, and I thought that maybe... I-I-I dunno." he trailed off with a nervous laugh. He lowered his head as he stood under the close eyed scrutiny of the table. From the angle, the slight point at the tip of his ears was slightly more obvious.
The table all swivelled to look at Laars to gauge his reaction. He blinked, and then offered an empty seat at the end of their long table. Quinten accepted hastily, and for some reason made any further conversation awkward.
Both Sophie and Olivia eyed him warily as he was from the separate Elvish nation that was renowned for it's "Savage" standard of life. James Taylor and Andrea decided to head to the small section cordoned off as a dance floor, with James looking very anxious as Andrea dragged him off, declaring that she'd teach him how to dance. Tim, meanwhile, was noting the mechanics between Olivia's nose wrinkling and ear twitching.
"So, um, Quniten." started Tom, starting to grow tired of the silence. "Where a bouts are you from? In Salania?"
"West Drogi, sir." Alouette snorted at Tom's sudden promotion, but Tom didn't notice, ego fully inflated.
"I'm from Salania too." interjected Laars.
"Really? I thought you'd be from Elcourin!" exclaimed Olivia.
"El- What?" asked Taz.
"Elcourin." laughed Olivia. "Is an Elvish nation. Me and Soph live there."
"Wish I could live in an Elvish nation." breathed Rachel, resting her head in her hands and looking off into the distance somewhere.
"Well that probably won't be possible." warned Sophie. "Elves aren't particularly fond of humans."
"Why?" asked Rachel innocently. The Elves, half-Elf and the students with a magical background all looked rather uneasy.
"Because-" started Freddie, but Laars spoke first.
"Humans killed my parents when they heard I was born."
"Woah! Wait-" said Taz, who like Rachel was brought up in a purely human background. "-Weren't your parents the King and Queen of a Nation? Surely the humans were punished!"
"No. They seemed to get away with it because the people hated how my Parents united the two nations... They only started to complain when Humans tried to steal our resources-" Alouette had already heard this part, and was looking rather uncomfortable. She glanced at Tom, and his expression was guilty. "-But, " said Laars with an uneasy smile, "It happened long ago, and there hasn't been that much damage done."
"No, just you being sent into exile and our entire nations sealed off from the Human world..." muttered Sophie darkly.
"Well, I like the humans I've met so far." said Olivia cheerfully.
"Me too." grinned Laars, and Adam tipped his drink towards Laars with a thankful smile.
"Elves are cool." said Andy.
"Second that!" interjected Tim.
"Third!" Alouette and Tom agreed.
"Fifth." rumbled a deep voice from the other end of the table.
"He speaks!" finished Tim.
"Well of course I can talk!" scoffed James Nathanial. "I may look like a savage, but I do have the ability to communicate with a fellow man."
"-And probably with a wider vocabulary." laughed Laars, and extended his hand to shake James'. "I do apologise, for I have misjudged you."
"Perfectly alright. I do confess-" he looked around the table "-Mother told me that Humans and Elves are vicious creatures... But you have all proved that isn't true."
"Thanks mate" grinned Freddie.
"Yeah." said Tom, but a yawn interrupted him before he could agree with Freddie.
"Anyone else shattered?" asked Tim, who was rubbing his eyes blearily.
"Now you mention it-" said Olivia, who glanced at Andy who seemed to be asleep. Rachel "Aww"'d under her breath, and Tim, whose mind was made up, scooped up the eleven year old with a small grunt.
"Come on Tom, we better get him back, eh?"
Tom hummed, but was secretly glad, as he was slowly falling asleep too.
"I think it'd be wise if we all went to sleep." suggested Alouette.
"Second that." yawned Sophie. Without much else consent, their group stood up to leave. The band had paused for a few minutes, and Denny noticed them leaving.
"Leaving so soon?" he called to them. Laars spun around.
"Yes, it has been a long day and we could all do with some sleep." replied Laars as everyone else drifted away. Denny nodded.
"Ah ok then. Remember; you lot have uniform fittings tomorrow."
Andy woke up in the middle of the night to find himself still in his clothes in the red and black striped room. Tom was lying on his back in his bed, staring at the ceiling, wide awake. Andy was about to ask why, when a chainsaw-loud snore came from the other side of the room.
"He did warn me." muttered Tom. "I wish we had some way of SHUTTING HIM UP!" he yelled at Tim's general direction. A small silence settled, including a pause from Tim's excessively loud snoring. Andy nearly died laughing when a muffled What? came from Tim's pillow.
His chuckles died down as he fell asleep again.
Andy was rudely awakened by Tim shaking his shoulders. He didn't have any time to question it before Tim explained in a garbled mess,
"We'relate,sograbsometoast!" Andy shuffled out of bed whilst Tom ran in, still brushing his teeth. He frantically grabbed his shoes from under his bed and managed to tie his laces and continue his teeth. Andy was still slightly confused, and wasn't helped by Tim, who in a rush, shoved some cold, yet deliciuos, toast into Andy's mouth, picked the poor boy up and slid him into the shoes that were next to the door for him.
Tom wiped his mouth with his forearm and threw the toothbrush into the sink haphazardly. Tim had successfully slid Andy into his shoes by this point, so Tim dragged Andy through their door and Tom locked it behind them. Tim let go of Andy, who was struggling to keep up with them as they passed Joe and Trudy at their desk.
"Whoa, HOLD IT!" yelled Joe, causing Tom to stop and Tim to bump into him. "You boys follow the arrows and you'll be fine."
"Thanks." panted Andy, watching Tom and Tim dash out of the door. It was far too early in the morning to sprint after a pair of boys who were at least two and four years older than him.
It was when Tom, Tim and Andy rounded the corner that the tunnel widened, but split into four separate tunnels. There were a few people milling around each entrance, all segregated into houses and uniforms.
Except for a small girl, probably from Lordandor, and two girls that Tom recognised from his own house. The small girl was being pushed around by the two obviously older and stronger girls. She was stammering out a plea for them to leave her alone, but it only made the pair laugh even harder. One snatched the bag from the smaller girl's back and threw it to the other, starting a game of piggy in the middle.
Tom looked at Tim, and was stunned to see the naturally chilled out Tim looking very cheesed off.
"Hey!" shouted Tim at the pair, making them stop. It also attracted the attention of other first years in the Pepperdew and Axelquist groups. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size, huh?" Tim asked rhetorically.
The girl who was currently holding the small girls bag dropped it with a thunk, effectively spilling out the majority of it's contents.
"What?" she sneered. "Like You?"
"No-" came another voice from behind her, which happened to belong to none other than Ruby Tuesday. Her Egyptian robes were in obvious disarray, and her flaming mass of red hair paired with narrowed eyes framed with a thick black eyeliner made for a scarily impressive figure. "-But as I'm a third year, I can dock points from Ferumbellator, so if I even GUESS that you're picking on this girl-" glared Ruby "-You will be punished. Now make like your ends, and SPLIT."
The two girls hurried off, but were barged into by Albin O'Donnel.
"You ok?" he asked the girl, who looked like she'd collapse of nerves. Cameron Doolan was not far behind, picking up the girls books.
"What's your name, hun?" asked Ruby, sufficiently calmed down.
"S-s-Sian Buxton." the small girl stammered. She was still shivering slightly, and Tim enveloped her in a hug.
"Seriously though, Sian. You must tell someone if this happens again, okay?" said Tom. "I'm sure Tim'll kill anyone who comes near you." he grinned, glancing at Tim, who rolled his eyes.
"Right then, you lads better get your uniform." said Ruby to The Pepperdews and Ferumbellators. "I'll take Sian to the Lordandor outfitters. That okay?" she asked Sian, who nodded against Tim's chest.
"Tim? You ever letting her go?" asked Tom with a laugh.
"Yeah, wait." Tim gave Sian a last squeeze. He held her at an arms length. "Seriously, just tell me if anyone, and I mean ANYONE, picks on you."
"Okay." she nodded. Cameron handed the bag back and Sian took it gratefully.
The all went their separate ways, but Tom couldn't help worrying about Tim. He practically buzzed down the tunnels, never managing to keep his hands still.
"...You okay mate?" asked Tom nervously.
"Yeah, I'm fine, just, buzzed, you know?" he garbled. On 'buzzed' he faced Tom, and the wild eyed, slightly crazy look nearly had Tom walking into a wall.
After goodness knows how long of waiting, Tom was called into the Ferumbellator Uniform Fitters. The two girls who'd picked on Sian were Edna Crawley and Helga Cox, and Tom tried to hold back his laughter as the girls were almost obscenely squeezed into beaded flapper dresses. They avoided his gaze as he brushed past into a surprisingly light room.
Sunlight, or something similar, came from a window in the ceiling, which made all the polished surfaces light the room from below. However, a table in the centre of the room was covered with so much fabric, tape measures, scissors and other miscellaneous sequins, beads, and buttons that it was the only table that Tom could even glance at without being blinded.
"Alright?" greeted a girl casually, probably not much older than sixteen.
"Uh, yeah. Fine thanks."
"I'm Rachel Griffiths and I make uniforms for Ferumbellator. Before you ask, I've already left, just last year, yes I'm trained, and yes, you can call me Rach. Please, do not call me Miss Griffiths." she grinned.
"I'm Tom." he muttered meekly.
"Yeah, I know. I called you in." she laughed. Tom was slightly taken aback by her general chattiness. Rachel held a definite one-sided conversation, occasionally writing measurements in a slightly battered notebook as a tape measure measured practically every measurement there was to get from Tom; Head diameter, waist, hips, thighs, feet, even hands at one point.
Measurements collected, she barked orders at scissors, sewing needles, sewing machines and goodness knows what else, until he had four or five black suit jackets and tailored trousers, half a dozen waistcoats, (Red for now but could change at any point if he wished), two pairs of shoes, (just in case), ties in various patterns of red and black, and a custom made Trilby, which he immediately adored. He changed into his new uniform behind a screen in the corner, Rachel still giving him information that was making his head spin.
"Laundry will be collected every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from the basket under the bathroom sink during lesson time, and remember to pick money, paper, whatever from your pockets first. Any, and I mean, ANY alterations that need doing can be sent back here, and the altered clothes should be washed for you in the morning, okay?"
"Good. ...You finished?" she asked, obvious impatient. He stepped around the screen, and her face slid into a self satisfied smirk. "Very dapper, Tom." she grinned, walking around him, inspecting the fit around his shoulders and winced as the seems were close to breaking already. She pushed his shoulders forward, just to test them, but they held reasonably well so she was satisfied to let him leave. His uniform earned the universal "Not Bad" face from Tim as he stepped back out the Fitting room.
Tim was still with Rachel when Alouette emerged from a smaller tunnel to the left of Rachel's cavern. She was in a dress that was a much better fit than the two bullies'. It wasn't this that drew Tom's attention, but the newly cut Twenties haircut which somehow flattered the high cheekbones and large eyes.
"Where've you been?" asked Alouette incredulously. "We were waiting for you for ages!"
"Sorry, but Tim's alarm clock was still set in France's time."
"He lived in France?" she asked. "Whereabouts?"
"Uh South Coast I think. Apparently his Dad was a street magician for the tourists. Not actually magic, so it was rather a shock when Tim turned out to be."
"Cool. Um, do you want to go for a haircut?"
"What are you trying to say about my hair?!" asked Tom angrily, self consciously protecting it with the hat Rachel had given to him earlier.
"Nothing! But y'know it just... Makes it feel more real." her sentence trailed off nervously. Tom visibly relaxed.
"Oh. Is that why you-?"
"Well, yes, but I wanted a change." she said a little too brightly. Tom was stopped from asking too much when Tim swaggered out of the Uniform Fitters.
"Ooh, very nice." grinned Alouette.
"You think so?" asked Tim, whose grin matched Alouette's. His black suit and red tie matched Tom's, as Tom hastily pointed out. Alouette told him he didn't need his ego boosting any more.
"Ah, Young Tom. I have something you don't." said Tim in a mock serious tone.
"And what would that be, Old Tim?"
"Spats." answered Tim, who promptly pointed to his new shoes with pride.
"Really. That's all?" asked Tom sarcastically, who tried to ignore Alouette's giggling.
Ghosts and the Normal Routine
The morning after their fittings, Andy found himself waking up first. The dumbwaiter was pinging quietly, so he opened it slowly, causing a small grumble from the hatch as he slid it up.
Three plates of steaming fried eggs on toast caused Andy's stomach to protest loudly, so without hesitation, he picked up one of them and started eating at the end of his bed.