“I told you that it wouldn’t help,” Aunt Sophie said as Ophelia climbed into the back seat. “Let John deal with her. He can always cheer her up when she gets like this.”
“Does this happen a lot?” Ophelia swallowed guiltily. How could she have missed it?
“No, no, not often at all. In fact, I think this is the first time in nearly a decade,” Aunt Sophie said. “Cass was very depressed for a while in her late teens â€“ long before she met John or adopted you. She still has the occassional relapse. It’s my fault really â€“ I brought up something I shouldn’t have.”
“I never knew. No one told me,” Ophelia said.
“What happened?” Sera asked.
“Er.” Ophelia wasn’t sure how to explain so she stared out of the car window.
“Cass is just a bit depressed today, Seraphina,” Aunt Sophie said. “She’ll be okay.”
“I hope you’re right,” Ophelia said but all thoughts of that vanished when she spotted something in the sky. She craned her neck to get a better look at the strange green cloud and wondered why she was shivering and feeling as if icy water was being poured over her skin. The longer she looked, the stronger the sensation became. Another of the escaped monsters? Worse, it was pacing them â€“ whenever the car turned the cloud creature turned as well.
“What are you looking at?” Sera whispered. “You’ve got goosebumps.”
Ophelia looked down at her arms and saw her cousin was right. She nodded at the cloud. Sera twisted around to look then shook her head. Well, that figured. She hadn’t been able to see the other creature at first either.
“What are you two whispering about?” Aunt Sophie asked but Ophelia was too busy staring at the cloud to think up a plausible answer as it dropped out of the sky and span itself into a tornado in front of them. She opened her mouth to yell a warning but her voice stuck in her throat. Aunt Sophie couldn’t see it â€“ a warning would do no good. Her knuckles turned white as she braced for the inevitable impact but at the last minute the brakes squealed and the car span to a stop.
“Mum, what?” Sera was holding on to the back of the driving seat where she’d been tossed forward in spite of the seatbelt. Aunt Sophie shook her head and stared up the road.
“That’s odd… I thought I saw something about to hit us but there’s nothing there.” She sounded as baffled as she looked. Ophelia followed her gaze and saw the cloud was still there and was oozing slowly towards the car.
Ophelia! Get out of the car! Silver’s voice sounded in her mind. I don’t know why it’s attacking you but you mustn’t let it catch you in a confined space.
“Wait! I need a breath of air to settle my stomach after that spin.” Ophelia came up with the quickest lie she could think of and jumped out of the car before Aunt Sophie could start it moving again. What do I do? I can’t fight in front of Aunt Sophie.
Yes you can, Silvie replied. She’s gifted, enough that I’m surprised she can’t see it already, but the key can obscure the fight from her mind. But why is it attacking? I don’t understand.
It’s not one of the escapees? Ophelia pulled herself together with effort.
No, it’s one my kind, the Kithreiri, but I think it has an air or ice affinity. How does it make you feel?
Uh? Ophelia jumped on to a low wall nearby to get a better view. What does… oh I see. It’s like being doused in cold water. Will you help? Where are you?
I’ll help, even though it might get my people in even more trouble with the Idri Council. And I’m right here. There was a swirl of flame and Silver appeared right next to her on the wall. Why is it here? Are they after the gem? There has been some upheaval on Kithra recently though I haven’t been told much about it. I think my family don’t want to scare me.
What? Ophelia asked.
Politics, Silver said. My people are rebels, we refuse to obey the Idri Council and fled from Kithra back to Earth. I’ll explain later, but for now you need to deal with it. If it’s making you feel cold it must have ice powers. You seem naturally attuned to light but you’ll need fire to best fight it. From what my gran says the key should let you emulate that. JJust be careful not to burn the place down.
It rather would defeat the object, wouldn’t it? Ophelia watched the mist flowing around her with a frown. Why isn’t it attacking? And you’re fire? Can you help?
Maybe a little. Silver didn’t sound too sure. But it’s mature and I’m not. It’d win if I took it on directly. And I don’t know â€“ it seems to be waiting to see what you do.
Yeah. Ophelia stole a glance at Sera and Aunt Sophie. Sera could see the creature now and was backing away from it. Aunt Sophie just looked confused. Uh? I think she’s noticed that I vanished.
Yes, you’ll need to entrance her until it’s over.
I see. Ophelia raised one hand to the gem. It seemed amused by her query but dropped the needed information into her mind. She concentrated and Aunt Sophie stopped looking around as her eyes glazed over.
Now hurry up and fight before it makes first move.
It already did by dive bombing the car. Ophelia raised her hand a plaited cord of fire appeared in it. “Uh?” She wondered why she was surprised when she’d asked for a fire weapon. “A whip?” She cracked it experimentally and the stroke ignited the concrete. “Damn!” Ophelia stamped on it but the flames just grew and started spreading towards a nearby petrol station. “Crap!” She frantically asked the gem what to do but before it could reply the mist swirled across the flames and they guttered out. Huh? Why did it do that? Would the explosion hurt it?
No… Silver sounded baffled. It takes fire essence to do that.
So why did it stop the fire?
I don’t know… Loyalists don’t care for Talori… for humans and if it were a rebel there’d be no reason to attack. This doesn’t make sense.
I see. Perhaps we should ask it since it’s still not attacking. She stared at the mist. “Why did you do that?”
There was a soft laugh. “My ida requested that I avoid collateral damage, key holder.” The mist swirled closer. “She wanted to be sure that her belief that you had the key was correct. Obviously it was.”
This is bad, Silver said. The only reason one of the Loyalists to be interested in the gem is to take it from you and use it themselves. It’s bound to you so I’m not sure that’s possible.
So we have to stop them telling their boss? Ophelia asked.
He may already have told her… but you have to try.
Okay. Ophelia lifted the whip. “I really can’t let you pass that-” She stopped as she suddenly started shivering and another stronger presence impinged on her mind. The heat from the whip had been making her sweat but when she looked down at her arms she saw it had turned to beads of ice on her skin. What the hell? Is that its boss?
I-I don’t know. Silver’s flames guttered and began to fade. I think so â€“ granny is an ida but she represses her aura. I never realised idri were this strong. Her flames guttered weakly. So cold.
Ophelia took a worried step towards her then dropped to her knees as a high-pitched whistling sound cut through the air around her. “Ow!” She had time to register the explosion of ice around her before everything went black. Her last thought as she sank towards unconsciousness was that she probably wouldn’t wake up â€“ and if she did, she would certainly wish she hadn’t.