“Perc’val Par’dam – they wants your heads, don’ts they?” Wilmina stammered, her lip trembling madly. “I’s can shout yu’s ‘ere. Yu and yur littl’ beast never be leavin’ –,”
“You could try,” said Percival smoothly, “but you would become intertwined with the greatest traitor of the Seventh Age.” He gestured to himself – it was never a title he’d been proud of, it had never worked to his advantage; until now. The ceiling creaked with slow footfalls, Percival’s gaze slipped upwards for a moment before narrowing brightly back to Wilmina. “Heretics are allowed few luxuries, and that does not include adopted children.” He gently pressed down on Anala’s arm, forcing her to lower her wand. She stowed it in her pocket. “As he comes of age, dangers will encroach around him, ones you cannot protect him from. Only he can do that, and only if he knows how.”
He looked at Anala and then pointed to the narrow stairway, directing her towards it as Wilmina’s teeth began to retract. In truth, they were as fragile as glass and would have broken if she’d tried to use them. At the foot of the stairs, Anala peered up towards the high roof with spots of missing thatch filtering light like oculi. At the top, a doorway opened into the attic, where she could only make out rafters draped with drying clothes and an old rug. Halfway up the stairs was a doorway into the extended tower, the inside sifting with darkness and impossible to see into. She was sure the creaking meant he’d woken up, and she made her way slowly towards the top, her heels bending down the wood of each step. Her elbows jabbed against the opposite, whitewashed walls to lend her support, but she couldn’t escape the feeling of being sealed in a narrow paper box about to be crushed. Discomfort spread through her like a shiver as she reached the middle of the stairs and looked nervously into the tower entrance. The darkness was still and fully-formed for a moment, then something leapt from it and surged towards her. She managed to let out half of a gasp before arms were around her, one around her stomach locking her arms down, the other across her chest pressing something cold and sharp to her jugular.