Chapter XXIV: The Butterfly and the Leech (9/11)Mature

She jerked like recognising a name from a past life, and narrowed her eyes to look at him as he had done to her. She opened her mouth but no sound came out, then a second time mustered to say, 'Will? It's you?' she asked disbelievingly, as if she couldn't believe her own senses. She crawled towards him and leant against the bars, a slant of light settled across her face and lit up her eyes like simmering water. 'You're here?'

'Yeah,' he said, crawling towards her, a twisted sense of happiness building within him. 'I'm here.' All that separated them were the bars, but Laguna reached through for his hand and clenched it tightly, using a strength to test that he was real.

'I thought I'd never see you again,' she said, her voice shaking with sobs, 'I thought I'd never see any of you again. But you're real, you're really here, you're -,' she stopped amidst her happy thoughts, her expression hardening with despair, 'you're here. No, they caught you. This isn't alright.'

'I know,' he said, the trouble he was in settling in. 'But you're okay, that's a relief. We were searching for you for months, but you've been here all along...I don't know where here is though.'

'Me neither,' she said, shaking her head, keeping her voice hushed. 'They keep debating whether to transport us somewhere past the wards, so all I can gather is that we're still in the Sanctuary somewhere.'

'So, you're really okay? I mean, they didn't hurt you, did they?'

'No, nobody will go near me because of my royal blood. The worst they can do is tell me I'm a disgrace and what they'd like to do to "the Maiden of the Swirling Tide" if she was older and just a magus. It hacks them off that I can channel them out.'

Will managed some comfort from being near her, there was a strength within her that not many seemed to sense, it showed itself through serenity and control, and if only a little, he felt some of it through her like the stroke of a wave.

They sat together, their grip on each other's hand loosening but never breaking apart. Will recounted all that happened during her disappearance, and in return, Laguna shared what she knew of the Mastery and whatever they were planning next.

'They're growing, Will. It seems they've been increasing in number for a few months, but I don't know how they can have such a following and not let the public know. They seem to be based in Anamae. That's where the majority of them seem to be, but some of the children around here have come from as far as Calrior in the Deep West. This operation is too organised to have started up suddenly, I bet they've been planning this for years,'

'I don't think they ever stopped planning, Laguna,' said Will. 'I think they were just lying low, scattering their numbers to regroup later on.'

'They were waiting for something. Something important,'

'Waiting for us. I think they knew that Paradam would find us sooner or later. It was easier than trying to find us separately, instead they waited for us to group together, then try and take us all at once. Like fish in a barrel.'

'More like whales in a bath tub,' Laguna snorted, her voice echoing into the silence that told them it was nearing night.

The End

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