CHAPTER TWO: Hidden Treasures are there to be found
This is a preview of my new book The Last King of Shambhala.
Petta Road State High School, Australia. Midgard, the land of the humans. Present day.
The school veranda was very quiet. There were the muted sounds of classes in session behind closed doors, kids in P.E. playing on the oval, and the soft chirping and buzzing of crickets and insects from the bushes and the trees outside ... but on the whole, very quiet.
Ebben peered through a window at his teacher asking his new class questions and writing on the board. Nobody noticed his presence.
He stood back from the window, careful not to leave his breath on the glass pane.
All of a sudden, as the glare hit the window, he caught sight of something behind him in the reflection. It was the face of a scarecrow with shiny black eyes. A deep chill rushed through Ebben’s body.
He softly gasped, spinning around and knocking over a rubbish bin. Clang.
Rubbish scattered across the hallway. The scarecrow was gone.
Ebben slowly let his breathing return to normal.
Carefully and quietly, he set the bin upright, and shooed off a pair of large crows inspecting the litter.
Nobody in the class heard him.
“Giving me more to clean up are ya, lad?” said an old groundskeeper hobbling down the veranda.
“Sorry,” Ebben muttered, looking up at the burly man. “Won’t happen again.”
“It’s fine,” the old man said with a twinkle in his eye – the one that wasn’t half-closed – and added, “Just tame ya wanderin' mind and get back to ya schoolin’. You’re late.”
Ebben swore at the groundskeeper under his breath as he sheepishly crept towards his locker.
In his head, he could hear a raspy voice calling his name over and over.
“Shut up,” he whispered. “Go away.” Ebben shook his head, trying to free himself of the voice. “Get lost.”
Ebben looked back at the old man. He didn’t notice – or pretended not to notice – Ebben’s mutterings.
Hurriedly, his nervous bony fingers worked the combination on his locker door.
“Please. Go away,” he pleaded under his breath to the raspy voice.
Suddenly, a cold hand squeezed his bicep.
Ebben, already on edge, clambered back into the lockers, dropping his bag and spilling its contents. An apple rolled down the hallway.
“Talking to yourself again, Ebben?” came a patronising voice.
Ebben’s eyes looked up to see Jayden, Matthew and Shane closing around him.
“I was talking to the groundskeeper,” Ebben lied. But the groundskeeper was now nowhere in sight. Ebben avoided eye contact. “I’m late for class.”
“But we were just going to welcome you to the school – formally initiate you,” came the voice again. It was Jayden.
Jayden drilled his foot into Ebben’s stomach. Ebben winced as he fell to the floor, but refused to retaliate.
The boys laughed.
“Didn’t they do this at your old school?” smirked Matthew, adding a kick to Ebben’s ribs.
“They did something similar,” muttered Ebben. “But they only made that mistake once.”
“Speak up, rat,” Jayden taunted.
“I got expelled from my last school. I promised my mum and aunt no more fighting.” Ebben held his hands up and displayed his open palms. “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Hey,” Shane exclaimed, interrupting Jayden and Matthew’s ‘new boy interrogation’. “Check this out.”
Shane held up a rusty carved brass key with a blue stone on the end.
“It fell out of his bag,” said Shane.
“Give that to me,” said Ebben, scrambling to his feet.
“I don’t think so, chief,” said Shane, inspecting the key. “This will be worth a bit when we pawn it, I reckon.”
“It’d look good at my place,” laughed Matthew. “My little brother could play with it.”
“Give it to me,” Ebben said raising his voice. “My mum gave it to me, it’s very special and…”
“No, I think this is all we want actually, mate,” said Jayden.
Shane began swinging it about by the golden rope it was attached to.
“Give it to me.” Ebben moved to within an inch of Shane’s face.
“Or what?” Jayden hissed, pushing Ebben back. “Or what, mummy’s boy? You’ll tell your mummy on us?”
“Or you’ll be doing your school work from hospital for the next six weeks.”
“Big words for a...” began Jayden as he went to push Ebben once more.
But as he did, snap! Ebben grabbed Jayden’s wrist, pulled him in towards him, and rammed an elbow into his jaw with one fluid, lightning quick move.
Jayden slid down the lockers – unconscious before he hit the ground.
Matthew hurled his large frame at Ebben, as Shane hesitated for a split second. Thud! Whack!
Ebben side-stepped Matthew’s tackle, flung him into the lockers, and as Matthew turned his bleeding nose around, caught him square in the face with a side snap kick.
Matthew crashed down to the floor, not knowing which way was up.
Shane stared at the damage his friend’s head had made in the lockers.
Slowly he stretched out a shaky hand and offered the key back.
Ebben snatched the key. His eyes locked on Shane’s.
“Okay, now you know,” said Ebben, putting the key around his neck. “Now you know why I have to go from school to school. And why you shouldn’t touch things that aren’t yours. Is the lesson over, or do you want something to take home and reinforce what you’ve learnt?”
Shane turned on his heels and scampered down the slippery hallway.
Once the bully was out of view, Ebben wheezed, clasped his chest, hunched over, and squeezed his eyes shut. Almost immediately, a red rash spread from under his school shirt to around his neck.
“Ebben Alexandrov,” came an authoritative voice. “I think I’m going to have to call your aunt in again.”
Ebben looked up with a pained expression to see the headmaster crouching on his haunches, inspecting the unconscious Jayden and Matthew.
“My office. Now.”
Click here for Chapter Three. This is a preview of my new book The Last King of Shambhala.