'Are you alright, Will?' He recognised Paradam's voice and realised it was who he was propped against.
'P - principal?' he asked with disbelief. 'What are you doing here?'
'Saving you,' he answered lightly. 'How are you?'
'Fine, but -,' he seethed as he tried to lift his arm, '- my arm.'
'Alright, don't worry. We'll have that seen to right away. You can stand?'
Will nodded, Paradam hooked his good arm over his shoulder and hoisted him up. Despite his age, he was surprisingly strong, able to completely support Will's weight until he was able to stand, control returning to his limbs, twitching slightly in the process, but soon calming. After a few moments, he could walk on his own, and went with Paradam from the bathing rooms into the main cavern.
Bodies lay around, not a single one belonging to a teacher or student, Will saw with joy. Most of the living guards had been captured, their hands bound, then all bound together in tight circles. Empty cloaks were scattered, fallen as if those inside them had vanished completely. The cage and cell doors were wide open, completely empty, it was astonishing to see the Mastery's headquarters taken down in a matter of minutes. Now, all of the staff and students had assembled in a circle around Taksony, and slumped at his feet, Sapphire, her curls stained with blood. Wands and weapons were pointed at them from all directions, the captors glaring in silence, waiting for Paradam's arrival.
'Sir, is all well?' Bosrold appeared, not in rank but standing beside Anala, whose arms were crossed as if being around him simply annoyed her.
'It is,' nodded Paradam, 'as well as can be. Will is safe, so are his siblings and Miss Amadahy. And the leader?'
'Unresponsive,' Bosrold grumbled. 'He looks at us as if he's won.'
'He may have already,' Will said glumly, to the surprise of those around him. Taksony turned around at the sound of his voice. His arms were crossed and looked perpetually bored, unconcerned about the weapons encircling him. Seeing Will, he smiled.
'I see you've become yourself again, Your Highness,' he said slyly. 'How wonderful. Glad to see no harm came to you. Thought any more about what I've said?'
Paradam glared at Taksony, motioning for the circle to part so that they could speak closer. 'You are in no position to either gain answers or speak so freely.'
'So, I get to meet the esteemed principal of the Sanctuary. How's that "top-notch defence system" doing? It can only get better, I suppose.' He looked down at Sapphire, grabbing her under the arm and pulling her dizzily to her feet. 'Look, whore,' he said sternly, like a parent furious at their child. 'You can tell us if he looks anything like his brother. You remember him, don't you? Before the heart attack, of course.' Sapphire looked up through her hair, there were marks of injury at her jaw around her eyes that were very recent, fresh from a beating. She made eye contact with Paradam for just a moment before lowering her head to hide her ruined face.
If Taksony's words bothered Paradam, it didn't show. 'I suppose you think you're clever?'
'Well,' Taksony said jestingly, 'in a word -,'
'You've failed. Your men have been defeated, your child army rescued and -,'
Taksony laughed loudly, 'child army? Is that what you think I've been planning? Oh, you moronic fool.' The professors stiffened, extending their weapons further to limit their space. 'You have no idea the scale of what we're planning. This is much bigger than any of you, and if you want to stop us, then there is one simple solution.' Taksony pointed past Paradam to Will and smiled. 'Kill Willow Avaric.'
The circle gasped, Tayna's mouth widened, then she turned back to Taksony. 'But I know you'd do no such thing -,'
'If this is a mind game -,' said Bosrold,
'Oh, this is no game,' Taksony smiled, 'this is war.' Taksony bowed deeply to Will, secretly reaching into his cloak and drawing out his wand. He snapped up, raising it aloft, wrapped his arm around a slumping Sapphire, and then disappeared in a fizzle of white light.