'It was dark and cold, I knocked on the door for a long time but nobody answered. Uncle said he'd found on the doorstep the next morning, almost frozen to death. It was Whiteas my mother knew of, but he was away in the Northern Sanctuary, Uncle was house-sitting for him. He took me in just like that, no questions asked, though there was a letter that my mother had given to me that I saw him read. After a month, he told me that I could change my name to Paradam, he adopted me. I chose Anala as my new name, it's what he always called me after my favourite statuette of a famous witch displayed in the manor. He didn't want me to call him Father, he thought he was too old for it, so I called him Uncle instead.
'I was with him for a year, and then Bosrold arrived.'
'So,' Will interrupted, 'you knew Bosrold before the Sanctuary?'
She nodded softly. 'He was there to look after me when Uncle went out, he didn't trust the household staff enough. Because Bosrold was magi too, Uncle thought he could be my tutor. I thought for a little while that we could have been friends, but he was never very nice to me. Whiteas died not long after that, and for a while, I think Uncle considered shutting down the Sanctuary. I told him that it could be different, that instead of a refuge, it could be an institute for young children like me. So he agreed, the Sanctuary was opened here, and I was there when it was. I suppose you could say that I got to cut the ribbon.'
Finally, after so long, her eyes met his. 'I know why you wanted me to tell you that, Will,' she said. 'You hoped that I'd remember how much I love Uncle, and it would make me stay.' She puckered her lips and her eyes creased with tears, 'but you don't need to remind me, because I already know. I always know what he's done for me, all I want to do is make it up to him, but I can't. I see him sometimes when it's just us, he looks so sad, and I don't know if it's my fault or not. One minute he seems so happy to be around me, the next, he looks bored of me, like I'm just some worthless novelty!'
'You know that's not true,' Will said, 'your Uncle loves you. So if you leave, you'll break his heart.' She shook her head, like trying to drown out his words. 'Anala, listen, you might be the next to be kidnapped, or you might not be, but don't you think that until you know that for certain, you should hold off on running away?'
'Will, it's not that simple -,'
'Isn't it? I thought that running away was the right thing to do, I thought that there was no way anything could get worse. I took a chance though, somebody told me that there was a reason I was here. Now I think I know what that is, it's finding out who's kidnapping the students.'
She scoffed, 'that's a big mission for one person.'
'So what if it is? You have to admit, the professors seem just as stumped as I am. I came here to see you to ask if there was a link between you and any of the students.'
She shook her head adamantly. 'Sorry, I don't know anything about the centaurs, and I've told you that I wasn't very close to your brother or sister. As for Andrel and Laguna, though I wished we could have been friends, we were just acquaintances. It seems that the reasons for kidnapping me don't tie in with the others, unless...'
'Well,' said Anala, pulling herself to her feet. She paced a little, stepping back and forth over Will's legs. He smiled to himself, the mystery of the kidnappings seemed to have completely distracted her from running away. 'There's always the political side to it.' He looked at her curiously, motioning for her to go on. 'Well, Laguna's just been kidnapped, that's bad by any standards. Then you have your brother and sister, even though they don't have Elemental powers, they're still part of the Avaric royal family, they're still important. And if you believe that I'm a target, that means that two Tetractys families will have been targeted.'
'Two?' he asked,
'Yeah,' she nodded, giving him another "you're an idiot" look. 'The Paradams and the Wilthrics.'