Chapter XXI: The Nightmare Man (4/13)Mature

'No!' Wilhelmina breathed with terror, 'those weren't murders, it was a fight gone wrong, everybody in Illicit Street knew that. Willow isn't a bad person like you think, he's good.' Her voice suddenly choked with tears, Will flinched, he hadn't known she was capable of such emotion. 'You put him in my care to keep him safe, to keep him out of trouble, what good would locking him away do? You've taken everything from him - THIS ISN'T FAIR!' Will heard a heavy clatter against the floor, he guessed that Wilhelmina had collapsed in sobs. He also knew with certainty who the other was - somebody from the Elemental Court. He couldn't believe that he had forgotten such an event, not only had the bearers of the Evil Eye tried to take him away, but so had the Elemental Court. Was it Wilhelmina who had kept him safe for so long, surely not?

Why am I so important? What does everybody want from me?

Recovering from her hysteria, Wilhelmina asked this exact question. 'What do you want with him, anyway? What use is a child -,'

'Willow Avaric will never be a child, none of them will be,' he said bitterly, 'He is a danger to us all -,'

'Only to humans, only to you -,'

'Wrong!' he spat, 'I may admit that the further away his eighteenth birthday stays, I benefit, in fact, so do you, but I refer to the power within Willow Avaric which threatens us all. I have been told little of it, but I know that it is deadly and powerful - something monstrous -,'

'You lie,' Wilhelmina hissed under her breath, 'I permit you to call him dangerous, because we all know that they are, but I will not allow you to call my son a monster...'

He laughed again, full of mockery, 'your son? Oh please, do you really believe that you could ever replace his mother? She was a beautiful and powerful woman who could have conquered the world alone. Even though Willow knows nothing of this, to have the audacity to think that you are remotely worthy of him is laughable. Do you know what we did when we heard you'd appealed for legal adoption rights? I nearly pissed myself with laughter -,'

Will heard the sound of shoes skidding across the floor, then the thump of the wall, he saw a glimpse of Wilhelmina's putrid feet race across the room, pinning him furiously against the wall, 'speak no more! I can give him much more love than many. I do not wish to replace his mother, I simply wish to keep him happy!'

'Mummy, mummy,' murmured the younger Will, he didn't seen conscious that he was saying such a thing, like it was the portent of a memory trying to break through, but failing. He was oblivious as much as everybody else that the enchantment was flawed, and it was safer that way.

'You despise anything magickal, is that why he is here, in such squalor as Vincula? To make an example of him, to show everybody that you can take the most esteemed and powerful of magi families, make them helpless and throw them in the mud? You are foolish to think our faith can be dented so easily. What would you try and do, murder all of the royal children? It would keep you in power, eliminate the bloodlines, you would never be opposed.'

'It is foolish to give me ideas, troll, I might just do as you say - starting with him -,'

'Make no mistake, I would follow the monarchy to my dying breath, they have treated trolls and beastfolk well, and my loyalty could never go to you. However...if you were to secure Willow's safety, I may reconsider...'

He chortled disbelievingly, 'you would watch your monarchy and your own people fall for the love of one boy?'

Wilhelmina did not hesitate to say, 'yes.'  Guilt weighed in Will's stomach, he had forgotten about her in these past months, preoccupied with the wonders of the Sanctuary, he hadn't know how much she cared for him, and hadn't realised what a struggle it must have been to let him go.

'Sadly, I will have to decline -,' there was the sound of moving material, racing footsteps, and suddenly the man appeared at the bottom of the staircase. In the darkness, only the bottom half of his face poked out from the hood into the light, his thin, white moustache puckered as he grinned, seeing the younger Will listening to them with amusement. Deftly, he began clambering up the staircase, stretching to grab his ankle. Will leapt backwards, shrieking with terror, spinning around and struggling up the stairs on his chest like a snake.

The End

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