Up in the twins' bedroom, a large window at the back wall overlooked the white-tipped firs of the estate, with a desk and chair in the front. A curled lump in one of the double beds at the side was clearly Arlamus, with an open sofa bed opposite which had become Will's. A small black stove joined to the house's chimney system in the corner, extinguished but still emitting warmth.
Although the room was dressed expensively, Andrel had adapted his part of the right wall appropriately, splattering in with posters of musical groups. These included Widdershins, Cessair, and Andrel's favourite, Abhartach. The lead singer, named Rosa looked frightful to Will, hung above Andrel's bed with white hair, highlighted red, milky skin, red contacts and thick eye makeup in scar and stitch patterns.
Arlamus' portion however, was covered in bookshelves and mounted displays of his many collections, some including insects, flowers and crystals, rarely complete because he often started another in the interim.
Will and Andrel changed into their night clothes silently, and as Will led down in bed, he realised how stiff and exhausted he was. Though he wanted to go straight to sleep, Andrel preferred to stay up each night talking.
'How many weeks until we go back?'
'Another month or so,' Will murmured, turning away and trying to sound drowsy.
'We could stay here if we wanted to, I bet. We don't have to go back,'
'Why wouldn't you want to?' Will asked ponderingly. Bad things had happened at the Sanctuary, but his memories of those events were dappled frequently by the good, alongside feelings of joy and friendship. It was haven compared to Vincula, where wardens took away anybody seen doing magick, who were never seen again.
'Not sure. I guess having new first forms to torment will cheer me up,' Andrel chortled, talking quietly over his brother's wheezy breaths.
Will couldn't help but wonder if anything as "exciting" as last year would happen again. He'd arrived at the Sanctuary when the Mastery were kidnapping children, including his siblings, all in a ploy to gather together the Avarics to retrieve the Power, a magickal force that they covetted to eradicate humans once and for all. They'd believed that the Power had been hidden within one of the Avarics, charged last to their father, Acrio, in the moments before his murder, attempting to create the Book, a legendary grimoire to contain it. The Mastery had been right, Will had been chosen as the Power's host, but it had not been a force, but a person, the soul of a powerful sorceress murdered centuries ago. Will had given her the name of Maga, and together they had brought down the Mastery, only to have their leader, Taksony and his accomplice, Sapphire, escape from their grasp.
Maga spoke at those very thoughts, her voice drifting around his ears, showing silence to everybody else. 'Don't worry, Willow. You're protected by magi, and me. I won't let anything happen to you...'
I'm not worried about myself, he replied. I'm worried about you. We barely escaped last time, and now that Taksony's gotten away, he knows that I'm your Host. He'll come after us, and if they catch us, we can count the human population as six feet under already.
'Not just yet. I have a feeling it'll be a good year.'
He didn't know where her optimism came from, but he hoped that he could feed off of it if only a little. His conversations with Maga had become more frequent over the summer. Andrel was his best friend, but there was no way he would understand what Will was going through. Maga had eased him through his fears, making him thankful every day that the Power was not just limitless power, and that he had obtained a friend from his tragedies.
'Do you think Tayna will be high and mighty as cheerleading captain now?' asked Andrel, snapping Will out of his subconscious daze. Tayna was their other best friend, a royal like Will, only a princess of the Ilmatar bloodline, an Air sprite. Will had grown especially close to her once learning that her foster family had suffered the same fate as his at the hands of the Mastery. She'd been abandoned by her birth parents - exiled and estranged to her - in the village of Castia, which had been burnt on a raid by the Mastery, incinerating everybody but Tayna, whose newly-mastered powers had literally saved her life. By Fate, she'd been found by Paradam after fleeing, and brought to the Sanctuary.
She and Will continued to suffer however, if their pasts weren't enough. The Mastery had cursed them, because they had both eluded them, making the symbol of the Evil Eye like poison to them, which would haunt and follow them until the Mastery could catch them and remove it. Of course, if they were ever caught, there would be a much bigger relief than that.
'She didn't want to be captain, though,' Will said, hiding that his mind was far from Andrel's indulging banter. 'She said she didn't want the extra commitment.'
'Yeah, right,' Andrel scoffed. 'She loved it, especially when Iris started checking for ropes.'