Chapter XIV: In Deep Water (2/14)Mature

The light glared on the face of his bedside clock, but he read the time as a quarter of an hour to the allotted time. Quickly, he changed into his weekend clothes, black trousers, a white tunic and his favourite new item - a jacket made from teal-coloured leather. He sealed himself into his winter boots, and quietly sank down the staircase to the bottom floor.

Few had risen as early as he had on a Saturday morning, but those that had were playing excitedly in the snow. Once into the entrance hall, the snow dusting their hair and shoulders began to melt, and they left wet footprints on the tiles that glistened in the sconce light. Both sets of grand wooden doors had been opened up, in just an hour, the water in the impluvium had turned to ice, leaving blossom petals half-frozen within it. Will stepped outside, the cold air hitting him like he had broken through an invisible barrier that kept the frost out.

The grounds were beautiful, covered in thick blankets of white, snow falling on the treetops like white caps. The beach remained clear of snow, melted by the water, making the outside look like a greyscale painting blanched of all colour. Everything was desolate and tranquil, and Will stood watching for a moment, watching his breath turn to mist in front of him, his body convulsing with a gentle shiver. He looked up and saw ice stalactites along the gutters, the tips like daggers, tinkling in the breeze and gleaming like glass.

As he continued to watch, he suddenly saw figures running past the lake, obscured by the trees for a moment, then coming into view as three Talamh girls, nymphs specifically. Knitted bobble caps were pressed over their dainty heads, holding in their streams of hair. Leg warmers were bound at their ankles, and they laughed as they raced into the sunken garden. Moments later, a centauride appeared, her pale, glossy coat speckled with snow, laughing alongside the nymphs. Will listened to them laughing, calling out in protest as one scooped a cluster of snow in their hands and threw it at another. Never in his life would he have imagined seeing such a sight, nymphs of all creatures playing in front of him, creatures that lived in the bright, plentiful forests, far from the muddy confines of Vincula. Centaurides, any kind of mystic at all, were never seen, and now they were in front of him, happy, carefree, protected.

Suddenly, Will wanted nothing more than to walk around in the snow, to feel it pure and fresh in his hands, not a sloppy mess as it eventually became in the East. Though excitement overwhelmed him, he took his first steps trepidly. He sunk down quickly, making sure that his boots gripped the ground safely before advancing down the path that was presently being swept into sight by Vigilo. Will passed the abarimon, and despite his blindness, Vigilo's acute senses found him, and he looked down at Will with a glimmer of fear in his crusty eyes. As the caretaker quickly distracted himself with his sweeping, Will wondered if he was remembering his chastisement by Professor Conway, hoping in a small part of his mind that it wasn't him that such a large, threatening creature was intimidated by.

The End

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