Chapter XXVI: The Power Within (7/18)Mature

He turned around and walked towards the table beside the armchair, where a jug of water and a beaker sat. He took a long swig, the water beading down his chin in icy splendour. 'Your father knew that,' he continued, 'and he prepared you. Acrio Avaric groomed you, he tried to turn you into a hero, I imagine he told you how powerful you were and that you could defeat anything or anybody. But when your moment of glory came, a scared little eight year old prince ran away.' 

Is he right? Am I that much of a coward? He'd been told by his parents to run, and he had, was that cowardice if it had been an order? No, I went to protect Carmen and Karn'el...but if I'd stayed...would they all be alive?

'It's sad, really. You ran from us, desperate to stay with your brother and sister, instead you ran into the clutches of the Elemental Court. They took your memories away, and they separated you. But if you'd submitted to us, we would never have done such a thing. You could have stayed together, you could have remembered everything, if you'd only stayed and been the hero.' Once again, the Master approached him, staring at Will intently, a look that he matched. He was desperate to control himself, the Mastery rejoiced when he lost control, when he appeared weak. He refused to give them the satisfaction. 'I know you hate them,' he said quietly, 'who wouldn't after what they did? Tell me, do you want your throne back?' 

Will's brow furrowed, 'what?'

'Well, I just presumed that's what you wanted. The new generation of Elementals, hiding from the Court's grasp to rise and reclaim the thrones. But why wait?' He set the beaker down on the nearby table, giving Will a deep and serious look. 'On your word, I could get the thrones for you right now. That's all it would take, and anybody who challenged you would be taken down. What do you say to that?'

That's all we want, Will thought. No more persecution, no more exile, they could give us, no, it's not right.

'You could do it,' Will said, 'but at the expense of slaughter -,'

The Master waved the notion away. 'Just the slaughter of those who would slaughter us first. Usurpers, cretins,' he spat, 'those undeserving of power.' His shoulders set and he pursed his lips in irritation. 'You must choose a side, Willow Avaric. The Elementals, you are all so ideological. Such a notion doesn't belong in the war we are fighting, a political war. Do you know what happens to the party that tries to remain neutral and ally with both sides? They are crushed into dirt. It is humans versus magi, the humans will show you no diplomacy, they want you gone at all costs. Ally with us, and we will create a new world where magi and mystics can once again thrive.'

'And if I say no?' Will asked smoothly,

'Then there will be repercussions, ones that I believe you will not like -,'

'If you're trying to blackmail me, empty threats will get you nowhere!'

The Master chuckled, he made a gesture and Will heard Sapphire leave the room. He smiled at Will with hateful deviousness.

'You never enquired to my name, Willow. It's Taksony, I hear it's a human name, one I hated for just that reason, the fault of my grandmother.' He slipped past Will smoothly, fisting the material of the drapes. 'But over the years, I've come to like it, mainly when I discovered what it meant: merciless. I think it's quite fitting. So if there's one thing you should know about me, Willow Avaric, it's that my threats are never empty.'

With a flourish of his hand, he pulled open the curtains, revealing to Will the sight of Carmen, Karn'el and Laguna bound and gagged, struggling and screaming against the strength of the guards, as Sapphire ordered his siblings towards the altar.

The End

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