'You didn't know?' asked Tayna inquisitively, 'oh, right...I guess you wouldn't,'
'How old were they in this photograph?'
Tayna leaned in and checked the date with a calculating expression, 'Eleven, I think. It's at the start of last term, and their birthdays were later in September, so I think that's right. I remember everybody in our year thinking it strange that they were in first form so young. But I think Paradam expected to find you soon, he wanted you to be in the same classes, it wouldn't have been fair to separate you again.'
Anguish washed over Will.
Everybody had fought to bring the surviving Avaric children together, but only he had remained safe, and with each moment he looked at the photograph, he ached to see his brother and sister. He'd wished in Vincula for a different life, and even though the Elemental Court had taken his memories and cruelly taken him from his family after such horror, they hadn't won. They couldn't make him forget his magickal Gift, or that he was a prince, or even that he had a brother and sister who desperately needed their elder brother. He would find them, if it was the last thing he did.
'Okay, one thing I don't understand is this,' said Tayna, breaking Will out of his daze, 'whoever the kidnappers are, what do they want with smart students?'
'Wait, you don't think they're the murderers?'
'What proof do we have? None, there's no way -,' she stopped suddenly, glancing over the articles and widening her eyes. She swiped the article of Carmen and Karn'el from the table and held it up to the light, 'do you see that?'
'See what?' Tayna directed him to look directly underneath the article, where the sun shone through the paper, and he saw with amazement, a watermark. But not of any word or motif; of the Evil Eye. They both had to ignore their developing migraines as they looked at each other victoriously.
'This proves it, Will! The watermarks, it must have been a way to identify who was the next to be kidnapped.' Will didn't want to think about how big an operation it must have been, or how they had managed to print the watermarks, he focussed on the fact that they had figured out the truth. 'So, the organisation that murdered our families wants smart students because...'
'Because,' Will said, 'the woman said it. She said they were willing to start a war for us, and to start a war -,'
'You need soldiers,' continued Tayna, 'prodigy soldiers at that. They'd have a full operation, the sporty students would be the perfect foot soldiers, and magickal students would be even more valuable. But...'
'I don't want to be mean, I love him to death and all, but why would Andrel be one of the chosen to be kidnapped? He doesn't excel in any subjects, he's always admitted to being a cruiser.'
Will didn't hide that he was stumped by her question, he remembered when he'd been trapped in Almara's office, she'd never fetched him because she'd been kidnapped... 'What if the kidnappers weren't after Andrel?'
'What do you mean?' asked Tayna, confused,
'What if the kidnappers never meant to take Andrel. The first formers said they took Almara because she was a witness, but what if it was the other way around? They wanted Almara and they went after Andrel because he was the witness.'
'It makes sense if you say that,' she deduced, 'Almara was renown for her magickal skills, the Eyers would want her for that.'
Will fell back against the cushions and sighed, 'so, we have all of this information. The question is...what do we do with it?'