No sooner had Will’s foot touched the bottom step of the staircase, did children begin to stream into the room. His eyes danced, looking at each and every one with equal regard as they brushed past him, eager to reach their rooms and to attend to business that did not involve him. It was plain to see they were all Draíochta, their uniforms equally similar to Tayna and Andrel’s. As for species, it was far more difficult to ascertain each. He saw a boy whose skin was tinged blue and seemed to be pulled tautly over his skull like it was pinned in place, and on the opposite side of the room was a girl who would have looked normal if her ears weren’t pointed and a couple of inches than expected. But as much as he stared at them, they stared back, and he soon realised, as his eyes shot down to the ground in embarrassment and he wrapped his arms around his winding stomach, that it was because of his clothes. He stood out amongst the clean and bright clothes of the others in what was faded and worn, and following Tayna and Andrel towards the commonroom, he wondered if he could compress himself enough amongst the crowd to disappear.
Through the wall, there was as equal a crowd, the room clogged from door to door, voices raised above the rest, commanding others to move out. Those that did were the smallest of the bustle, with a particular hue to their cheeks that led Will to believe they were younger, and soon noticed that on the blazers of the boys and the waistcoats of the girls was stitching of either one or two strokes over the breast pockets. Looking to the uniform of his friends for confirmation, both with two golden strokes apiece, he felt a little more at ease in distinguishing the years from each other.
Even with the room full like a rising sea of heads, many of the students noticed Tayna and took special care not to bump into her or to walk by without greeting, or at least without smiling. Will had come to perceive that way about her, but he didn’t know if she was happy with the respect she commanded, as she answered each gesture with a faint, perhaps shy smile.
Then, the collective pitch of the room dropped just a little, as did the room’s temperature. Will’s skin suddenly prickled, the hair on his arms rising on end.
‘Wilthric! Ilmatar!’ rang a girl’s voice from the back of the room, obscured until the crowd split down the centre, like two waves retreating from land, leaving Tayna, Will and Andrel at one end, and two identical girls on the other.