Danielâ€™s father was waiting for them when they went into the garden to collect Ebona and gate back to the other world. Danielâ€™s mother was with him, carrying a small bag. Daniel winced when he saw her. Sheâ€™d lost weight, looked even more pale and tired than usual, and she was staring at the sky with an abstracted fashion. When his father had said sheâ€™d got worse, he hadnâ€™t imagined it was this bad. She always been hazy and easily tired but now she she seemed totally out of it. His father shook her gently by the shoulder and she looked at him. He whispered something in her ear and hugged her gently before he turned to Mela.
â€œIâ€™ve sent Halia back to Elapyron; I donâ€™t want her near you. Do you have any idea what she did?â€
Mela shook her head. â€œNo.â€
â€œI thought as much. She claims she doesnâ€™t either – and she canâ€™t lie to me. I guess weâ€™ll have to wait until it triggers.â€ He looked uncomfortable about that. Daniel didnâ€™t blame him. He wasnâ€™t happy about it either.
â€œWhatâ€™s happening with the dragons who came through?â€ Daniel asked.
â€œMine have engaged the intelopers over Shropshire. Itâ€™s a good job itâ€™s so cloudy. Theyâ€™ll stop them-â€ He broke off suddenly and went white. â€œKarenâ€™s in danger!â€
His father didnâ€™t answer immediately, holding up a hand for quiet. Focusing in on what had happened no doubt. After a moment he swallowed noticibly and opened his eyes. â€œShe got into a fight with a dragon – one that was too strong for her. Sheâ€™s alive but it used its venom on her.â€
Daniel swore loudly. â€œWill she be okay? Are you going-â€
â€œGod, I want to!â€ He closed his eyes and clenched his fists. â€œHaliaâ€™s an expert at making antidote, but where she is Iâ€™d have to fight to get to her. That wonâ€™t help. Theyâ€™re taking her to Caerdu. Thereâ€™s some goblins there right now. They should be able to help.â€ He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
â€œGoblins are good with antidotes, Ma-â€ his mother began. Daniel saw his father tap her foot with his and she hesitated slightly then continued. â€œMike. You know that.â€
â€œI do, Sonia,â€ he agreed. â€œItâ€™s the distance.â€
Daniel stared at his mother, partly because she obviously knew about the other world and partly because she seemed so calm about it.
â€œSheâ€™ll be okay.â€ His mother went back to staring at the sky.
Daniel gulped and looked as his father. â€œShe doesnâ€™t remember us?â€
â€œItâ€™s not that…â€ His father frowned. â€œItâ€™s more like she canâ€™t connect with it. Thatâ€™s why I want you to take her to Waldhafen. Speakers are more prone to essence burn than humans, so theyâ€™ve developed treatments for it.â€
â€œSheâ€™s been burned?â€ Mela shuddered. â€œI didnâ€™t think that happened to humans.â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t usually,â€ his father replied grimly. â€œSomeone did it to her on purpose. Sheâ€™s been stable for years and suddenly sheâ€™s got worse. Someone is aggravating it, which is disturbing. No one who could do that should even know sheâ€™s alive.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Daniel stared at his father.
â€œDonâ€™t ask. Iâ€™ll explain one day, but thatâ€™s the other reason I want her in the other world. The healers at Waldhafen will care for her and whoever attacked her wonâ€™t be able to reach her.â€
â€œThat makes sense,â€ Daniel admitted. He walked over and put his arm round his mother. â€œCome on, mum. Weâ€™d better get going.â€
â€œOf course, dear.” She gave him a vague smile and then looked back at her husband with a haunted expression. â€œLast night I dreamt the sky was torn from horizon to horizon and people were screaming. Then I saw a damaged heart made of pure energy hidden in the petals of a silver rose. I donâ€™t think it was a dream. I think it was reaching for me. Trying to warn me. Something is coming if we donâ€™t stop it. Something terrible.â€
â€œDo you know what?â€
She shook her head. â€œMy dreams donâ€™t work that way, especially when something deliberately triggers them. You know that. And with this… ugh… I canâ€™t even focus in and try and clarify. It hurts too much.â€
â€œIâ€™ll talk to Sal, see if sheâ€™s sensed anything.â€ He squeezed her hands. â€œIâ€™m sure the dryads can fix you if anyone can.â€ He obviously saw Danielâ€™s confusion because he gave a slightly strained smile. â€œYour mother has precognitive dreams, but they tend to be – well like that. Hard to interpret. Salâ€™s tend to be clearer. Now go on.â€ He pushed them gently to where Mela and Ebona stood waiting. He made a cutting gesture with his hand and the air glowed and tore open, creating a gate into Waldhafen. â€œBe well, Daniel. And give Elaranor my respects when you see her.â€