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‘I wonder if have got a power, and just don’t know it yet?’ says Jacob, plunging his hand into a bag of sweets and grabbing a Rainbow Chew. The sweet dissolves on the ends of his fingers and drips back into the bag, running all over the Fizz Pops, which crackle as they melt. ‘I’ve tried shape shifting, flying and – I’m not invisible am I?’
Eric shakes his head.
‘Shame. I really thought I’d be able to fly. Rubbish sweets, these,’ says Jacob, reaching for another handful. ‘Do you want one?’
‘Perhaps you haven’t got any magic,’ I say, taking something round and sticky from the bag. I put it in my mouth. It’s warm and it tastes of… melon? It might not be melon, but it’s fruit of some sort and inside – is that mint?
Yuk – I spit it into my hand and shove it into the grass, watching Eric gently sprinkling the ground where Jacob’s feet are. Small puddles form and evaporate in the blink of an eye.
Mum insisted that I go early to the Field Craft camp, because she’s going to bring Tilly along later. That’s because Tilly’s hamster, Nightstorm, has had to go back to the pet rescue centre. Grandma was right – it bites. Dad had to have five stitches.
It also ate the curtains, precious velvet ones. Grandma went ballistic. So now Tilly says she’s getting a crocodile. Mum said maybe a cockatoo.
I persuaded Eric to come with me to Field Craft, and he persuaded Jacob. We’ve had to help Mr Worthy set up the activities. Apparently we’re going to do: stargazing, finding medicines in leaves, capture the flag, going for a nature walk and face painting. Mrs Worthy is practically spinning with excitement and has made a tray of grey biscuits that might, or might not, be cheesy. Mr Worthy keeps saying “Yo” and burbling about “genderequality”, whatever that is.
Eric sets up the telescope and fiddles with the tracking motor. He’s the only one that knows how to work it.
‘Hey, snot face! You’re looking the wrong way, and it’s daylight – dur,’ says Jacob, licking the hot sugar from his fingers.
Eric pinches his lips and keeps his eyes pressed against the eyepiece. He’s got the telescope trained on the castle. ‘Jacob, please be quiet. Tom,’ he says, ‘take a look at this.’
I’ve never looked through a telescope by day; it’s like being a spy. Everything over in Bywater-by-Sea is really big, but it must be two miles away. ‘What, exactly?’ I ask.
‘That person to the left, on the castle wall.’
I hadn’t spotted her. I think it’s a girl, dressed in black with a red thing around her neck, and she’s climbing over a pile of rubble out of the castle. She’s got a backpack on and she’s moving fast. ‘Who is she?’ I ask.
‘More to the point – how did she get in?’ says Eric. ‘If she can get in, we can get in. We can find out what’s going on.’
Jacob points at me. ‘You could shrink snot face. Let him go on an adventure – a teeny weeny adventure. He could take a Woodland Friend for company, go in and have a nosy around. See what’s happening, and have a tea party.’
Eric ignores him. ‘Did you recognise her?’
I shake my head. ‘She doesn’t look a bit like any of Tilly’s friends, she’s not...’
‘Pink enough?’ says Jacob. ‘It’s all going to be a disaster, letting them in.’
Jacob stands, stamps his foot and a spear of flame jets backwards from of his ankle catching Mrs Worthy’s barbecue heaped high with bean burgers, singeing the burgers and releasing a stream of hot cheese that runs out from the bottom of the barbecue and seeps into the grass.
Eric leaps to pour water on, which means that I’m left to put out the grass and make whistling noises as if this sort of thing happens every day.
Behind the smoking barbecue, a large saucepan pings occasional popped corn out onto the grass. So far as I know, it hasn’t been anywhere near a cooker.
Jacob doesn’t seem to notice. He just reaches for a carton of milk and pours half of it down his throat. ‘Tongue’s on fire,’ he says. ‘Must have been that chilli burger I stole off a year one.’ He’s still holding the milk. He stares into the container, as if there’s something alien in there.
‘What is it?’ asks Eric.
‘It’s alive – look, it’s turning to yoghurt! Aaah!’ Jacob flings the milk to one side, and it explodes in mid air, showering us with tiny specks of almost cheese.
‘How did your morning go?’ I whisper to Eric, as we wipe the goo from our green Field Craft shirts.
My marshmallow roasting Field Craft badge has developed a 3-D look. It’s not nice.
‘It was tough. I couldn’t follow him into his house, but I put out fires at the Art Shop, soaked a red hot lamp post, put a moat around the Model Village church, hosed down the veg shop. He was looking at the door handle on the town hall when his mum called him in. It was red hot. He surely must have seen it. I think it’s worse when he’s angry and, did you notice, his eyes go red a millisecond before the flames come?’
‘Well then we’ll have to keep him calm.’
We look around at the camp. Mrs Worthy has hung lace bunting from the top of her tent to the trees. There’s a neat pile of silver paper with scissors and glue sticks. They’re all slightly singed.
‘That,’ says Eric. ‘Could prove difficult.’
All the questions from previous chapters are still open to answer as well.
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