'They know how to control us, though,' said Laguna, swerving from the subject of the future with her usual grace. She explained to Will about how she'd taken to trying to escape early in her capture, using water in high pressure to break the hinges. 'After a while, Sapphire caught on. Now she adds cantarella into my water jug, it hydrates me enough to keep me alive, but it's poison, it would half-kill anybody else. But they know about Elemental immune systems, all it does is weaken me, enough so that I can't use natura magica or sanguine magick.'
'That's what I gave Kaelin,' Carmen said, mumbling sadly. 'He asked us to hide some of the poison and dilute it over a few days, then when it was weak enough, to give it to him. It made him seem dead for a couple of hours, we timed it for the evening inspection.' Her eyes began to fill with tears, her throat thickening, shaking her head to clear it of the sounds of his screams. 'I told him it was a bad idea, that he wouldn't be able to get out, but he wouldn't listen. He said he had a little sister to take care of in Solomo, that he had to get back to her and -,' Karn'el gripped her arm and bid her to stop talking.
'It's done, sis',' he said, 'don't torture yourself over it.'
Carmen glared out and down at the closed curtain of Sapphire's quarters, her gaze so hot she could have burnt through it. 'I could kill her, I could kill Sapphire for what she's done.'
'So could many others,' said Karn'el, 'and I'm sure that she'll answer for her crimes. But hating her won't make it happen any quicker.' Will didn't know what he'd wanted them to be like, they were more than he could have ever hoped for, but their experiences, and even the modern day, had made Carmen and Karn'el hard. They had lost the innocence that so many wanted to hang onto, Will wanted that for them, they didn't deserve to be dreaming of killing so young.
'You are not to blame for this,' said Maga, glowing near Carmen's head, though it was apparent nobody but Will could see her. 'The times we live in can harden the warmest of hearts.'
I should have been there, Will thought with self-loathing. I should have done something so they couldn't separate us -
'What could you have done? A young boy, traumatised and alone, his brother and sister lost to shock. You were at the mercy of the Court and understandably so. Blame them, not yourself.'
I'm their brother, and I let them down.
'Then be here for them now.'
Maga disappeared and Will tuned back into the conversation. They were talking about Sapphire.
'She's pulled the strings to get us here,' said Karn'el, 'but the superiors know she's failed more than she's succeeded. The soldiers are always snickering about the incident with the kappa.'
'So that was the Mastery...' Will murmured, and Laguna overheard.
'She said that they were after you, it was always you. I was taken at the Lake because of a mistake, you went after Sayara and got out before he could get to you. I think he would rather have returned with me than empty-handed.'
'It was always about the three of us,' said Carmen, 'and when the kappa failed, Sapphire was so angry that she slit its throat and threw it in the sewer stream.'
'There's been so much trouble to get us, all because of this sorceress. I don't understand it.' Karn'el clenched his fists angrily, 'none of us know anything about it, why don't they just believe us?'
'That's not technically true,' said Will. The three of them looked at him curiously. Should I tell them? He'd never told anybody, but they deserved to know that he was the reason for all the trouble. 'There's something I have to tell you.'
'What is it, Will?' Carmen asked, smiling openly,
'It's about me,' he said, 'well...actually, it's about the Host...'