'Doesn't that hurt?'
She shrugged her shoulders gently, 'not really, like a paper cut. It's bearable. But you can see why I don't like this weather very much.'
'But - isn't Silex an Ice sprite? Can't he help you to control this?'
She frowned sadly, 'that would be the case...if Silex and I could at least call each other"friends." The Bond between Elementals of the same descendant defines our power, the closer we are, the more of each other's abilities we can tap into.' What? Is that how important the Bond is? 'Silex doesn't like me, and so no matter how hard I try, I can't share his ability to turn water to ice. That's something you'll likely hear from Mrs Hogston.' The sadness in her eyes faded away, and she suddenly smiled at him as if nothing had ever troubled her. 'But you don't have to worry about that, Will. You have Sayara, and she likes you. You'll be okay.'
You have Sayara...she likes you...
Suddenly, the grand clock began to chime, shaking the East and West towers with such a force that the icy stalactites broke away from the roof and shattered in the doorway.
'Damn,' Will hissed under his breath, turning away as Laguna carefully slipped her mitten over her frozen hand. 'I have to go!'
She waved goodbye, her hand still unyielding to movement, Will ran quickly and cautiously through the snow, hurrying through the arcade into the cloistered garden.
The snow had not been cleared from the path yet, leaving the garden covered in white, the tips of grass and flowers only just poking out. The jacaranda tree wore caps of snow on its clustered branches, the flowers frozen and swaying to the light wind that played around. Standing below it was a woman, even from a distance she looked elderly, in her seventies at least, but had the features of one who had once been very beautiful. Her hair was completely white, let down and falling to her shoulders, though it was plaited at her parting, finished with expensive glass beads that clinked in the wind.
She was wearing a brown dress layered with petticoats, a loose bodice and tight sleeves. A thick shoal was draped at her lower arms, and her hands were wrapped in a mottled brown muff. Will knew that she saw him, and he stood silently at the arch of the arcade, raising his hand in an awkward wave when nothing happened. He thought he saw her smile at him, then Mrs Hogston walked towards him, her skirt sweeping up the snow behind her. When she came much closer, Will could see that her eyes were blue, lit with a kind of youth that he had also seen in Paradam, like there was a part within her that had refused to age or change over the years.
'Willow Avaric, I presume,' she said with another smile. Her voice was demure and cheerful.
'Hi - err - hello,' he answered nervously, 'are you...Mrs Hogston?'
'Indeed I am. I'm glad you came, I wouldn't have liked to be standing out in the cold all alone.' Her hand crept out from beneath the muff, gesturing for him to come with her. Her nails were long and styled, painted pale pink. 'Shall we? My office is much warmer than out here. I'm sure you could do with some breakfast too.'
Feeling his stomach jump and grumble eagerly at the mention of food, Will followed Mrs Hogston out of the garden and towards the courtyard.