Scarlette and Liam hurried back to The Sanctuary's dining hall, the only place that seemed, in any way, fitting for meetings. It was there where the siren echoed the loudest; its shrill music spilt down from the mysterious clock-tower that hid in vivid daylight above the dining room, casting its sincere shadow over the entire Sanctuary. As far as Liam and Scarlette knew, the place did not even give residence to a bell or a clock, just the alarm. What the room contained was uncertain knowledge to whomever the two youngsters asked; too distant to pass as a store-room, too full of the sound of warning to be a home or a place of rest for any of the Minders. Liam had learnt, through talk in his group of Water mages, that the Minders had living quarters dotted about The Sanctuary, most on the third, and highest, floor, and each giving the others a wide berth. They were on amiable terms, but, being of different skills (some, like fire and water, complete opposites), the Minders were too different to deal with small talk, and their working lifestyles kept them sorely apart.
There, indeed, they were: the Minders lined, wordlessly, by the dining hall door. As it was during states of emergency, the tables and benches had been pushed back, creating all the more space for the youths to be shepherded into.
Glints of buttercup gold and starred pupils bore down on Scarlette as she wandered in, her body filled with anxious curiosity as much as it was being filled with the piercing alarm-notes.
The teacher of those magicians capable of reaching into the psyche watched as she clamped her hands over her ears to block out the violent noise of everything.
Scarlette spun on the spot, convinced that the sound of her name being called was not just part of her imagination, even it was in there that she had truly heard it. With her hands covering her ears, it did not seem possible for any sound to penetrate her self-created barrier. Besides, who would ever call to her? Liam was far ahead, boldly pushing his way through to his dorm-mates, and the other children were swarming away, rushing without running; still, there was that terrible rule, and the children would still not draw attention to their own haste.
Scarlette Briarwood, Child 5011, 50th child of the mind…
It was then that she realised that the voice was coming from within her mind. She angrily glanced around, and found that the specific Minder was still looking in her direction. Focusing her thoughts, she tried to ‘push’ a message back to him.
Yes, what can I do for you, sir?
Politeness to Minders was crucial, even if one didn’t believe the polite words they were saying. Luckily, sarcasm was less likely to be heard in the ethers of the mind. Unfortunately, this Minder refused to play by the simple rules of courtesy.
Scarlette. What did you see? Open the rest of your mind to me.
Of course, just barging into someone’s mind was beyond impolite, but it could be achieved by mighty mages.
At that precise moment, Scarlette, who was now paying more attention to her own mind-conversation than to the outside world, collided with another member of The Gifted.
“Oy, watch it,” he grunted.
“Sorry,” Scarlette whispered, her voice caught in her throat. The mental-connection had snapped, and she walked, alone, on her way over to be counted with her dorm-mates, impatiently waiting to rejoin Liam and listen to the announcement that the warning bell proclaimed. The Minder shot her a concerned look, but missed her eyes as they turned away, and he himself walked away.
As Scarlette was counted and made her way over to Liam, another Minder stepped forward. She was dressed in an orange shawl to match the red flame curling about the folds at her neck, and was the Chief of Staff in The Sanctuary.
“Children of The Sanctuary, once again, our livelihood has been threatened by those disbelievers and dislikers of what we are.”
The older children gave little gasps, a perfect reaction to what was being said. Those who did not, or could not, know the truth of what had been going on simply stared, dumbfounded.
“There has been, committed straight from the cold blood of magiphobes, a murder of one of our high officials. We have yet to find out what prompted such actions of violence, but, as our fellow wielders of magic, we felt it our duty to inform you of the goings on of the outside politics.
“Need we say that if you have experienced anything strange, or know someone who might give information to what happened, you will pass that information onto one of us instantly? It is an urgent matter of security.”
“So, they’re saying that they actually know nothing? They’re trying to get information from us after we’ve been so sheltered by them?” hissed Scarlette.
Liam shook his head, in the midst of bewilderment.
“The high officials are very secretive, but they do rely on the word of more ‘active’ magic users.”
Scarlette had not been told much of the ‘high officials’, but she knew that they were magicians of a great skill and people of a great standing, their places in the ‘normal’ world saved because they were able to hide who they were.
Scarlette’s own family had abandoned her when they found out what she was, leaving her in some forsaken place, where she would have perished if a former child of The Gifted had not, whilst doing their Sanctuary-issued job, found her and brought her to their old home.
Many of the children there had been found in the same way; Liam had ran away from home and found himself in The Sanctuary a couple of months before Scarlette had arrived, and it was his acceptance of what she could do, and his guide to a new member, that led to the beginning of their friendship.
The Chief of Staff stepped up again to the small platform that had been laid out for her.
“You may leave.” Her quick gesture indicated that she no longer wanted them there, and whilst some of the Minders stayed behind to fix up the room and mutter in their hushed voices about the affair, a few moved to usher out the girls and boys, including Scarlette’s yellow-eyed teacher.
Guilt brimmed into Scarlette’s heart. Something like a less powerful version of intuition was pulling her towards those feelings. Surely the vision- for she was sure that what she had seen in her sleep was a reality- had nothing to do with this murder?
A lady…blood…but she hadn’t seen a murder.
“Scar…” Liam whispered into her ear, as they were swept along in the rush of bodies. “Is this anything…?”
“No!” she snapped, keeping her eyes averted from his. “Of course not… That was…just a dream.”
But they both weren’t convinced by her tone, lacking in everything but lies.
As the wave of people pressed them on further down the room, and Liam looked away from Scarlette’s downcast eyes and flushed face, they became separated by the mass. One minute they were together, and the next Scarlette was being left behind, pushed back into the room by the bigger students.
The Minder, the one with the storm-grey coat and that certain yellow clasp, seemed to appear at Scarlette’s side.
“Scarlette.” In one swift movement, he caught her by the wrist.
Scarlette was jolted to a stop in mid-step, and she tried to pull herself away with another quick movement, but she had no such luck. As his fingers cut into her wrist, sudden pain began to spread up her arm.
“Scarlette,” the Minder ignored her pain, “you’re not the only one here who can see in their sleep. What if you’ve seen what all the mages of this land are asking about? The murder is a complete mystery, but the COS won't let on about that to you all. You yourself could be…vital.”
“Just leave me alone…” Scarlette sighed.
The Minder released her, but continued to stare in Scarlette’s direction.
I’ll give you a day to tell me anything you think will be useful, including that dream of yours, or I’ll go to the COS directly.