‘Willow! It’s the Mastery. Take this and run!’
His mother shouted over the noise of voices and possessions being broken. Will saw that he was running along a long corridor which was dark and lit with candles. His mother stopped for a moment only to press something into his hand and then continued, whilst the child - his youngest brother - strapped and swaddled across her chest, cried. Will realised that he was underground as he looked down and saw the roots crossing his path on the ground and above his head. Suddenly they stepped into the moonlight, Will saw other children running behind and alongside him, into the forest, led by Will and his mother.
‘What about Daddy? Where is he?’ asked Will, panting as he ran,
‘Daddy’s gone,’ she said, with tears pouring down her cheeks, ‘he’s gone, so has Bane and Argante, just run!’ Suddenly, two masked men with shining swords jumped out from the trees and cornered them.
‘Obey the Mastery, and give us the girl!’
‘No chance, you murdering bastards!’ shouted Marigalot. The man in front raised his sword high to swipe. But then Will watched in amazement as roots shot up from the ground at the feet of the Masters and coiled around their throats and began to tighten, before they fell to the ground dead. Marigalot turned around, pulling Will with her, still clutching his hand with a vice grip. With his head turned away, a man stood in front of them as in the distance were at least a dozen approaching men armed with an array of wands and swords.
‘Acrio…’ whispered Marigalot, ‘what are you -,’
‘This is it, my darling. Fulfil the prophecy, for our son’s sake,’ said Acrio in a flat voice, still facing the enemy whilst crimson blood streamed down his arm from a fatal wound in his chest.
‘Daddy!’ shouted Will, trying to run forward, but his mother held him at her side, ‘don’t go!’
‘I’m sorry, my boy. We didn’t have long together, maybe in the next lifetime…’
‘Listen to me,’ he said in a soft voice, ‘for what’s about to happen, we’re sorry. But I need you to do something for me, something only you can do. Can you do it?’ Whimpering, Will nodded. ‘When this is over, I need you to run for me. Faster than you’ve ever run before.'
‘But, but Daddy -!’
‘I’m sorry, my boy; this is how it has to be. My darling, you know what you have to do,’
‘Yes, my love,’ nodded Marigalot, ‘Willow, pass it to me.’ As she took the object in her hand, she said,‘remember to keep your promise, keep him safe.’ She dropped it on the ground and raised her foot as the enemy ensued. ‘Willow, when this is over, run straight ahead and you’ll find Carmen and Karn’el. Be a good brother, protect them.’
‘Goodbye,’ were her final words,
‘NO, MUMMY!’ Will could do nothing as Marigalot put all of her strength into crushing the object with her foot. A bright light exploded and everything that was, became white.
* * *
Reality returned and Will rubbed black spots from the corners of his eyes. The memory had felt so real that the shock made him fall to the ground, tears falling down his cheeks. Sapphire had rushed to him and was knelt in the dust beside him.
'Willow, are you alright?' she asked, panicked.
'I'm fine,' he said hastily. She would not know what he had seen, he would not let her know his agony. 'I'm just overwhelmed. I - I think it's a lot to process.'
'Of course,' she nodded slowly, 'but as I've said, we mean you no harm, despite what was done to you. You shouldn't fear us.'
'And yet,' he said coldly, 'I do.'
A clamour of voices suddenly came from outside Sapphire's room, they belonged to several men and one shrieking child. 'What the hell's wrong now?' asked Sapphire, standing, dusting off her knees and swiping aside the curtain, Will following behind into the unfolding madness.