"You have until the count of three to surrender that," the teacher said, his voice low and level as every armsman in the room backed three paces away, covering their faces. "If you do not do so, child, I will assume you intend to attack me because you are in league with the drow and this is an effort to eliminate the House Greenhaven in its entirety. If that happens, I will kill you where you stand."
Belthor sucked in breath. "I'm not scared of you. I took Theron."
"A feat well-done, I admit," Protec said, "but when you faced Theron, his guards didn't have your friends in their custody." He nodded over Belthor's shoulder, and though the initiate didn't look, he knew what he would see if he did. "Maybe you can put up more of a fight than I think, boy, but your friends won't, even with their Gifts." He reached up for Belthor's staff, and firmly grasped the end. "I suggest you think very carefully about your next move, Spellweaver."
Belthor sucked in a ragged breath through his teeth.
"Belthor-" Tori started, before quieting as someone grunted.
Belthor quivered. The rage poured through his veins and steamed up his vision...
He sighed in the instant he released his grip on the staff it had taken stopping a war for him to win.
"Probably the wisest choice you've made in your time at this school." Protec handed the weapon off to a guard, who held it like he expected it to turn into a snake. "Where is she?"
"I don't know." Belthor didn't even try to conceal his anger. "And that's the truth. I don't have a clue. She didn't come back last night."
"Convenient." Protec reached into his coat, and out came his wand. Belthor eyed the tool as the wizard took two steps across the room. "And also, I think, a lie, but let's try something else." He turned back around. "What's her interest in Hastel?"
"Maybe it's because he's a prick?" Belthor suggested.
Protec laughed. He laughed quietly, but for a very long, drawn-out moment. "You, Spellweaver, have so much in common with the last aficionado of the dark this school produced that it's not even funny."
"Well, if you think he was such a pain, he must have been all right," Tori snapped. "You're getting nothing on Agnete from us. She's innocent."
"I doubt it," Master Protec said, and the sick thing was Belthor was starting to think she wasn't. "You are aiding and abetting a creature that has attacked a wizarding student and taken him for her nefarious purposes."
"Her name is Agnete," Belthor insisted. "And even if she did this, all you're going to do is use it as an excuse to kill her."
"Excuse?" Protec snarled. "She's a kidnapper and likely plans on murdering my brother's youngest! And you say I hunt for an excuse?" He shook his head. "No. There is no path forward endorsed by a reasonable man that does not end with the drow's blood being spilt. Maybe if you weren't so blind to the reality of what she is, you could see that." He curled his lip. "This generation is soft. You think a drow and a human can coexist? The animal will always be looking for a way to spill blood however is most convenient!"
"Yeah, and the drow won't," Belthor said.
"I hope your things are easy to pack, son of Morse," Protec said. "Because the only way you stay at this school now is if you earn a wand in the next twenty-four hours." He laughed. "Good luck." He considered. "I could help you if you helped me."
Belthor swallowed. "We'll go after her. Me, and Tori, and Sam. And we'll bring Hastel back-"
"This is not a matter for children." Protec shook his head. "The Masters will handle this ourselves. You obviously are in league with her. She's put you under some kind of Vod-spell, or perhaps offered you more worldly rewards for service." He turned to his guards. "Are there any ways they can escape without going through you?"
"No, sir." The man eyed Belthor, Tori and Sam while he said it. "My men have the building surrounded too."
"Good. Do not let them leave. Master Vignette will be along to entice their cooperation." Protec turned for the door. "I am going to lock the school down. I won't see anyone else taken while we wait on these race-traitors' return to the light."
"Don't hold your breath!" Sam snapped. Protec ignored him.
The guards in the room streamed out at their sergeants' orders, leaving the three initiates alone.
"This is bad," Tori said, with commendable understatement. "If Agnete really took him...she can't have, though!"
"I think she did," Belthor replied, sick in his heart. "It would explain why she was in the woods. And she had a staff. It must be Hastel's."
"I really hate Protec!" Tori turned and punched her couch several times. "I! Hate! That! Man!" She paused for a moment to massage her knuckles. "And I hate that he's right! Can't he at least be racist, stupid, mean and wrong too?"
"What are we going to do?" Sam asked. "We don't have staffs-"
"We have our Gifts," Tori said. Belthor nodded.
"We'll have to figure out the staff part later," he said. "If Protec and his goon squad catch up to Agnete, they'll kill her. There has to be more to this than meets the eye. She wouldn't just take Hastel."
"Are you thinking maybe he attacked her?" Sam asked.
"I don't know," Belthor admitted. "But we at least owe Agnete a chance to explain herself, and I know Protec and Vignette won't give it to her." He paused. "Not to mention that I think Master Vignette's going to torture us when she gets here. Did you get a different impression? Please tell me you did."
"...no," Sam said. Tori shook her head.
"Right." Belthor swallowed. "With no staffs and a half-wrecked apartment surrounded by trained armsmen, we've got to figure out a way to hold off a Master and escape."
"Not to mention," Tori added, "if Master Protec locks down the campus, that'll take the form of a shield around the whole thing that we can't get out of. Whatever we do, we have to do it before he locks everything down, or this'll be the shortest escape in history."
"Great." Belthor glanced around at the wreckage of Tori's door and the remnants of breakfast. "Then I guess we'd better plan fast, huh?"