Chapter III: Letters (4)Mature

When ominous storm clouds eventually cleared from the sky, the residents of Bootabin emerged to excavate it from the snow. In the family visit to the market, Will noticed that the rest of the village was untouched, the blizzard covering any trace of hoofprints, no signs of devastation apart from a couple of roofs that had caved in from the weight of the snow.

Their food stocks replenished, the Wilthrics sat down for their first formal meal after the attack at the immaculately polished table, which had been the result of Mrs Wilthric's anxieties. All of the scattered body parts had been cleared, the bloody Evil Eye hidden under fresh snow, but tension hung in the air like the scent of burnt cloth and sinew carried in the smoke. Their silence was a proclamation that none of them had forgotten.

They all went to bed early that night, and whilst the house was shrouded in darkness, the boys stayed up talking, all oil lamps in their room turned to a dim but comforting setting.

'Do you think the Sanctuary is still safe after...after everything?' asked Arlamus, his voice a careful whisper. He sat cross-legged on top of his covers, Andrel in his own bed adjacent, Will opposite, sitting in his sofa-bed with his legs pressed tightly to his chest.

'Has to be safer than here,' Andrel murmured. 'Here, we have to be careful about the magick we use. It's complete freedom at the Sanctuary. At least we can defend ourselves better.'

Will felt an urge to speak up, to point out that their magick hadn't stopped the Mastery the first time, and he had relied on the magick of an omniscient sorceress just to escape them, let alone defeat them.

'Do you think it's my fault?' Will asked, hoping for a second that his question had gone unnoticed. Their home may have been repaired, but Will blamed himself nonetheless. Because of him, Persephone had cried in her sleep as they'd slept, and he had made Mrs Wilthric so distant and serious in matters that it was clear even her sons wondered who she was in odd moments.

Andrel and Arlamus shared a considerate look, making Will wonder if it was their telepathy at work - a common Gift between magi twins that he had seen in Marinia and Valda Mellicit, as well as his own twin siblings. Eventually, Andrel answered, 'no,' and Will exhaled his nerves. 'The Mastery are to blame, Will. It's as simple as that. You're a victim like the rest of us.'

He wanted to believe them and to leave it at that, but moments after he had tried to tell himself that, his mind had been flooded with 'but''s and 'except''s that caused a twisting in his gut that only sleep could protect him from. He fell asleep with much on his mind, wondering if the Mastery took over his dreams that night, as he imagined the bodies of the Wilthrics spread before him, the Evil Eye carved across their foreheads...

The End

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