WILL FELT AS IF HIS WORLD HAD BECOME DARKER, LIKE A PARAFFIN LAMP CASTING LIGHT AT ITS LOWEST LEVEL.
Erin had been quick off of the mark once Laguna was discovered gone, she had pulled a palm-sized piece of jet from her pocket. It had been smooth and shone like oil, an elaborate serpentiform symbol chiselled in and painted white. The lines had lit up as she'd held it close to her lips and spoken like in conversation. In a matter of minutes, professors had hurried out to the scene, accompanied by sixth form leaders. Professor Conway had approached the Elementals, disconcerted about what was going on, and taken them up to Principal Paradam's office.
He felt in mental and physical turmoil, his head throbbed as if he'd been tipped upside down, and all he could think about as he sat on the staircase leading up to the gallery was that he could have saved Laguna. Knowing she was gone seemed to highlight her absence, she'd been erased from the scene like being torn from a photograph. As he watched Tayna and Sayara making hushed conversation with Mrs Hogston, their cheeks tear-stained, the scene seemed incomplete without Laguna beside them.
Erin and Professor Conway were present, talking quietly yet animatedly to Paradam. 'Is there any chance that this will reach outside through the students?' Erin was whispering,
'We've sorted through all outgoing post,' said Conway, looking grave and calculative at the situation. 'Any with so much of a word about the matter has been returned to the students.'
'The reaction?' asked the principal flatly. He sat behind his desk, his mouth a tight line and his fingers pressed together until the pads drained white.
'They weren't happy about it,' he said, 'but neither was I to be doing it in the first place. If they don't understand why now, they know that they must sooner or later. Leave the publicity to me, principal, let us deal with matters at hand.'
Paradam nodded with understanding and looked up at the Elementals positioned nervously around him.
'Everybody listen,' he said, raising his voice whilst still sounding calm. 'I know that this has been a shock to us all, but we must think both calmly and positively. As we have done all year, we are putting all our efforts into finding Miss Amadahy. I don't want anybody to suffer over this. Children,' he looked around at the Elementals, at Tayna and Sayara, at Will, and at the others sitting in a group on the floor, 'I think it would be best if you return to the commonroom. Eat, get some rest, talk to a member of the faculty if you have any concerns, but please do not worry. We will not let Laguna come to harm.'