been out in the wild.

Something was off about this bunch of kids. Half of them were out of breath and several were trying to discreetly nurse injuries. One girl, who looked about questing age, stood to attention with her hands behind her back, but her shoulders were moving slightly: she was rubbing a bruise on her arm in a way she thought no one could see. Another boy limped a little bit as he fell into line. From their avoidant eyes and guilty faces, Cal got the distinct sense that she’d just interrupted something. It was the same feeling you got when you walked into a room and realised, from the hush and swivelling eyes, that everyone had just been talking about you.

At first, when she shouted out Saffron’s name, no one answered. Cal consulted her clipboard again, frowning, checking she’d got the name right. Was it pronounced differently? She was just about to repeat it when a gravelly voice called out from the line-up. A teenage girl with rich brown hair and wide, amber-gold eyes identified herself as Saffron, stumbling over her words a little and blushing. As she jogged hastily over to them, Buddy smirked.

‘I think we’ve got an admirer.’

Cal nudged him in the rubs, grateful he hadn’t said it out loud. She smiled welcomingly at the teenager, astutely noting not only when Saffron glanced back over her shoulder but also at whom. The boy, who was watching with narrowed eyes, was bigger and probably a bit older than she was. Figured. Assholes never picked a fair fight.

“Yeah.” Cal’s vibrant red eyes lingered over Saffron’s neck for a moment before returning to the clipboard. “Says here I’ve got to take you out on patrol with me, show you the ropes. We’re going to need to get you a horse because there’s no way you’ll keep up with Buddy on foot and no way he’ll carry both of us all day.”

Buddy snorted, like, try me, sister.

Cal jerked her head, indicating Saffron should follow, and walked out of the courtyard with Buddy on one side and her new trainee on the other. She didn’t question whether Saffron could ride; everyone on Xara could ride, therefore Cal just assumed that everyone on Shaman could too. They headed back round to the stables, which was blissfully devoid of people, and Buddy waited outside while Saffron was sent in to pick out a steed. Cal folded her arms and leant sideways against the door frame, watching her apprentice interacting with one of the horses.

“Shoot for an arm wrestle rather than a full fight.” She advised, smirking a little. “Has the same impact, less likely to get out of hand and more likely that you’ll still be able to carry out your duties that day.”



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