'ANDREL, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT'S WRONG WITH HER?'
Will and Andrel sat at the bottom of the brass stairs in the dormitory. It had seemed like Professor Conway would take Tayna - cradled unconscious in his arms - directly to the infirmary, but instead he'd travelled towards the Draíochta commonroom. Only then did the boys find out that Principal Paradam had ordered him to take her there if something was to happen to her again. He'd send the Asclepius alert signal and minutes later a gang of nurses and teachers had arrived, sending Will and Andrel - and any onlookers who had arrived - away whilst she was treated.
Half an hour later, they sat consulting each other on the staircase, reviewing the events in Duelling class between Tayna and Marinia. Will could only keep thinking about what had happened in Holloway and how Tayna had collapsed there - all after the fire had been lit. Now, he remembered what Marinia had said to her.
"The fire...the smoke...the eyes..."
'I don't know,' Andrel eventually answered, 'Tayna and I are really close, but even I know there are things she won't talk about. Things that - apparently - Marinia of all people knows,'
'What Marinia did, have you ever seen anything like that? It was like - it was as if she got inside Tayna's head, and...tortured her. Can Spirit sprites even do that?'
Andrel shook his head unknowingly. 'Nobody knows the full extent of what they can do. Like we've said, mental powers are probably one of their abilities. I don't doubt that they only show us half of what they can do, and I certainly wouldn't put it past the Twins to have a few skeletons in their cupboards -,'
Their conversation was halted by the vibrating sound of footsteps on the stairs. They turned and saw Matron, two of her nurses, Professor Conway and Principal Paradam coming their way. They stood and let them through, at which point Paradam smiled at them.
'My, you waited this long? Such good friends...' he mused,
'Is Tayna alright now, sir?' asked Andrel, rushing straight to the point,
'That depends on what you define as 'alright,'' he looked upwards dismally. 'She's resting at the moment, you may go up if you wish but I would try not to disturb her, her experience has been...difficult.'
'What are you going to do with Marinia?' Andrel's expression darkened, his voice full of vehemence.
'Her actions were wrong, of course,' said Conway, 'and she will be disciplined -,'
Andrel's eyes widened furiously, 'are you kidding? That's all? She almost drove Tayna insane, she should be suspended or - or -,'
'What would you suggest, Mr Wilthric?' asked Paradam calmly, 'that we punish a young princess who we all depend upon. As awful as it may seem, if Miss Marinia's powers are growing, that is a positive thing. But please...do not worry about that, see to your friend.'
'I'll check up on her before curfew,' said Matron, her voice soft and peaceful. 'Please make sure she gets some rest.' They left, leaving Will to observe Andrel's fury, which he promptly took out by kicking an ottoman. He soon calmed down, and Will led the way up to the top floor.
Tayna led in bed with the covers tightly around her, her chest rising and falling gently and peacefully. A flannel led across her forehead, wetting her hair, whilst a bowl of water sat on the chair at her bedside atop her folded jumper and waistcoat, her shoes placed neatly beneath the seat.
'How could Marinia do this to somebody? How could anybody in their right mind do it?' Andrel stood at the opposite side of the bed to Will, readjusting the curtain so that the afternoon sun didn't cross her face, to which she let out a relaxed sigh, as if of approval. He sat down next to her and brushed the wet strands of hair from her face, Will watching him watching her, there was pain in his eyes.
'She should probably eat when she wakes up,' Will said, 'do you think the kitchen will get her something?'
'I'll go see,' Andrel stood quickly, his face determined. As he neared the stairs he span around, 'but if she wakes up - she'll be -,'
'I'll be with her,'
'Oh right,' he smiled embarrassedly, 'sorry, I forgot that you were here. Not - not in that way, it's just - I used to be the only one there for her, I guess it's nice...' His cheeks began to redden, 'I'll - I'll go get that food.'
He stumbled clumsily down the staircase, leaving Will and Tayna alone.