Chapter XXVI: The Power Within (2/18)Mature

He broke away from his indulgent thoughts to find the attendants ushering them out of the pools into the embrace of warm, cotton towels. The baths had made them so drowsy that walking became a challenge, the sweet scents seemed like a drug, their skin tingling pleasantly with salves and oils. Laguna's hair was slick and soft, whilst Carmen's was gaining volume as it dried.

Then, from down the corridor came a hooded guard. He carried a stack of clothes, clean and decorated with pearl appliqué and gold detail. He was unhappy to make the delivery, depositing the stack into the arms of an attendant and turning eagerly to leave. As he walked past Laguna, his bony, grey hand reached out and swept over her cheek, then he traced a sharp fingernail down the contour of her neck. She recoiled, slapping away his hand, and he chuckled as he left. Laguna rubbed across her neck as if trying to erase any memory of his lecherous caress.

The attendants proceeded to hand them their assigned clothes, holding up towels lengthways to shield them once more. They looked at each other reluctantly, but dressed in what had been provided. Laguna was given a white, bell sleeved dress which hugged her small frame, embroidered with pearls and jewels in patterns of vines across her chest and waist. Carmen's dress was pastel pink and frilled, something she clearly hated, furthered only by the demand that her hair be done up in two pigtails. Karn'el wore a pair of brown slacks and a white shirt, but it was Will who was given the most grand of the outfits. 

He emerged from behind the towels in a crisp white shirt and a black jacket decorated with golden cord along the edges. It remained open, the binding strings hanging loose. Tight-fitting trousers were just his size, and the dust nested between his toes as he stood barefoot.

'They're dressing us up like dolls,' Carmen said distastefully,

'We are, to them,' Karn'el replied. 'They can do whatever they want with us, we're at their mercy.' His sister clenched her fists angrily, her eyes brimming with hatred as she ran her hands over her silk skirt.

'This way,' an attendant said meekly, gesturing that they return to the main cavern.

'You'd better go first,' said Laguna, motioning for Will to walk ahead. He didn't want to, his legs stiffened and held him back. He didn't want to meet the Master, he didn't want to know his fate. He had been able to fight against Sapphire, but he didn't know if he would hold up against this adversary. 'Will,' Laguna repeated calmly, 'it'll be fine. Go.' He looked at her, there was worry in her eyes, but she made the best attempt to hide it, as she often did.

With a deep breath, Will led the way, and the four of them stepped into the main cavern to the whispers of the guards and soldiers around them. 

The End

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