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been out in the night
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Danny seemed shaken but unharmed. Cal decided to take that as a success. She grinned at him, part relieved, part guilty and part trying to cheer him, while Buddy did his catwalk strut behind her. Ever since Buddy had spotted some aja-riders doing a special kind of dance – they’d called it ‘dressage’ – he’d been obsessed with it. He trotted off twice a week to watch hem practice and told Cal all about the new moves he saw at great length later. He’d taken to practicing the moves himself in private and rolling them out as a kind of victory dance whenever he was happy about something, like now. His favourite was what Cal called his ‘catwalk’: picking his feet up in a really prissy way and half-walking, half-hopping in a line. Buddy reckoned he looked like a star. Cal thought he looked like a pansy.

At least she wasn’t the only one with an embarrassing familiar. Danny’s cheeks turned a cute shade of pink as his tiger bounced around them, exclaiming at an ear-splitting volume. Cal spread her arms.

“YEAH SOL!” She yelled back, mimicking the tiger’s volume with an amused, vaguely puzzled expression. Why the tiger thought that was cool, she’d never know.

Sol was pretty cool, though. Cal had never seen giant cats before she’d come to Shaman, and the first time she’d met Solarius and Lunarian she couldn’t stop staring at them. The novelty had worn off but she was still going to take every opportunity for massive cat cuddles which came along. Ignoring her own familiar, she dropped to her knees and used both hands to vigorously rub Sol along his underbelly, more playfully than gently. Buddy stopped strutting and tossed his head, apparently incensed that nobody was paying him any attention.

“Uhh, yeah.” She answered Danny’s question a little cautiously, keeping her eyes on the tiger. “Yeah, Buddy had lightning magic back on Xara which he lost when we came here. Now I seem to have it.”

She kept her voice upbeat but her eyes low. Magic was nothing to be ashamed of on Xara – quite the opposite – but it was strongly associated with the higher classes. Cal had always insisted on the nickname Cal and never her full name, Caldera, because of how fancy it sounded. She’d spent a lifetime distancing herself from the elite image her mother had tried to construct for her when she was born… and now she had lightning magic, like a peaky.

“Cal really needs the practice.” Buddy told Danny seriously. Cal aimed a kick at his legs but missed.

“Watcha reading?” She asked, nodding at the boy’s book in an effort to move the conversation away from her less-than-perfect powers. “And, uhh, probably no need to mention to your brother about the effects of lightning striking a person, yeah?”


CALDERA



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