Will opened his eyes to the Sanctuary grounds, the air clean and untainted by the metallic scent of blood. Eirian was once more in peryton form, on its feet, arching over him contentedly. Will led prostrate, as feeling returned to his body he pulled himself up, Eirian continuing to speak, now in his mind.
'There is no life in Vincula for you anymore. There never was. You were put there to be kept under control, but you are more powerful now than anybody expects, and soon, you will be one with the gods. The lives of trolls and the children of outlaws concern you no longer.'
'I can't undo what happened,' Will said. 'This just shows me that the times I've used magick, it's caused damage.'
'You will learn, and when you do, the mystics of the White Forest have foreseen great trials and triumphs, as well as tragedies. If we were born to the world knowing everything, what is the point in living at all?'
'I guess, none,' Will mused, easing himself onto his feet and walking with Eirian to the sunken garden beside the White Forest.
'Percival Paradam never intended for this to be just a school, this is much more. He has rescued children whose best friends would wish them dead if they discovered they had magick. If humans cannot possess something themselves, they will want it eradicated so that none may possess it, intolerance is their greatest weakness.
'Now, young magi are born both with magick and fear in their blood, magi of all creeds and cultures. Even the lovely Princess Ilmatar's past is overwhelmed with fire and death, but I don't suppose she ever told you that.' Will's eyes widened, Tayna? 'The point is, your peers may hate you for the simple reason that they do not want you to fear as they have. You are a beacon to them, for your hope to fade is like the sun failing to rise in the morning.'
'I just know something will go wrong if I stay,' Will murmured,
'That is likely true,' said Eirian frankly, his voice light with amusement. 'And if you still want to leave, then go. Percival Paradam does not search for most students if they choose to leave, he respects their choice. But then again, you are hardly "most students", are you? Expect a torrent of magi to come after you until you are too tired to run anymore.'
Will was about to say something, but didn't, and exhaled despairingly, finding it pointless to argue.
'Soon, times will become difficult. Danger, pain and death will become reality, and only the strong of heart and soul will be able to endure and embrace it. I suggest you become one of those people in the meantime. It is, after all, your destiny.'
'No offence,' said Will, crossing his arms, 'but I've always thought destiny to be hoo-ha.'
'Regardless,' Eirian said sternly, 'the mystics of the White Forest sense it. Winter draws near, the nights become longer, and the moon no longer shines as brightly as it used to. Only the magi can stop this.'
The peryton turned on Will, and to his utmost surprise, began trotting back towards the White Forest, half-immersed in the bushes before Will called out. 'Is that it? You're just leaving me without an explanation?'
'It would seem so, yes,'
'How do I find you if I want another lecture?' he asked, smiling at the creature whose bright glow was becoming blurred amongst the trees.
'We will meet again, Willow Avaric,' said Eirian adamantly, now out of sight, 'when the clock fails to chime...'
What in Jotunn's name does that mean? Will thought, puzzled. Eirian was gone, and Will was too afraid to follow.
He noticed his suitcase broken on the ground and picked it up as the clouds crackled overhead, lighting with thunder. He felt the first drop of rain at the corner of his eyes, and as he began to walk slowly down the path, the skies ripped open and let through a cascade of rain, hitting the ground fast and furious like pellets. Will broke into a run, sloshing through the puddles into the marbled lobby, rain splashing down through the compluvium, flooding the pool below.
He shook his hair and wrung his shirt dry of water, approaching the main doors before two overlapping voices broke the silence. Instead of the armoured guards, the voices belonged to the two carvings of women either side of the door - which Anala called theLares.
'Where have you been, young man?' asked the first, its voice sweet and childish.
'Yes,where?' echoed the second, the voice identical.
Will thought for a moment, then grinned. 'I was running away,' he answered honestly, holding up his suitcase to their colourless eyes.
'Running home?' the first asked curiously,
Will shook his head doubtlessly, 'no, this is my home.'
Grains of stone broke away as the Lares smiled, and the doors began to slowly open. Will smiled as soft lamplight lit his face, the doors spreading wider and revealing the warm, grand hall. But, as the doors opened further, Vigilo came into view, ducked under the archway to glare down blindly with crusty eyes, a large lantern in hand.
Will chuckled gauchely, paralysed by the caretaker's glare, knowing that he had been caught. 'Busted?'
'Oh, yes,' said Vigilo, his old face beaming with satisfaction.