Sonia was sitting on just outside the gates when Betula led them back to Waldhafen. She was talking to a white-haired wind nymph in the branches of a nearby tree. As they approached, she rose to her feet.
“Walk with me, Daniel,” she said. “I think we need to talk. You too, Ebona.”
“Of course, Mum,” he said.
“Good.” She turned to the wind nymph. “Would you escort Mela back inside, please?”
“Of course!” The nymph jumped down and took Mela’s hand. “Come on.”
Daniel watched anxiously until the gates closed behind the pair, and then looked back at Sonia. “That was your heart friend?”
“Hmm.” She nodded as they began to walk. “You need to cut your father some slack. He really is trying to help, you know.”
“It would help if I knew what he was trying to achieve.” He paused and then added. “And it would help if he hadn’t accidentally had me tortured.”
His mother gave a half-laughing choke. “I know. I nearly hit him when I found out about that. I mean it’s almost worse than doing it deliberately, isn’t it? And really, he does know what Emms is like. He should have seen it coming.”
“Do you know what he’s up to, mum?”
“Some of it. Matt can be almost pathologically secretive when he wants to be, but it’s hard for astral spouses to hide things from each other. He’s trying to find a way to rein the Core in. I think it’s theoretically possible with enough energy.” She pulled a thoughtful face. “Very risky, but then so’s leaving it.”
“Actually I mean Jayden Emms. He’s building a thing which will allow him to emulate dad’s control ability.”
Sonia stopped abruptly and looked back at him. Sheâ€™d gone pale. “Are you sure?”
He nodded. “I don’t think I was supposed to be conscious when he was talking to one of his supporters about it. It wasn’t until I thought about it later that I realised that Dad didn’t know about it.”
“The only reason for him to do that is if he intends to supplant your father. That would be a very bad thing.” She turned back towards Waldhafen. “Come on, we’d better go and talk to Matt about this.” She walked a few steps and then stopped. “Your father would never deliberately do anything to endanger this world. He loves it too much, and given his link to he who was Indirian it would be suicidal, as well.”
“That’s true, I suppose,” he said as he followed her back inside towards the treehouse. As they approached the base of the tree, Daniel noticed a winged horse every bit as black as Ebona lying by the ladder. His mother slowed up and smiled at her.
â€œIshleen! Itâ€™s good to see you again.â€
â€œAnd you, Sonia. Lucas is inside with Matthias.â€ Ishleen rose to her feet. â€œWe would have been here sooner but we were delayed.â€
They found his father sitting a desk in a small study in the treehouse. A young man with the same blonde hair as his mother and Sarah was sitting on the corner of the desk flipping through a file. â€œSeriously, Matt, where the hell did you find all these Wilds?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t find them, unfortunately. I filter the ones I find to you anyway. Jayden Emms found them and we need to get them out from under his influence quickly. Can you do it?â€
The young man rolled his eyes. â€œOf course I can. You should have called us earlier.â€ He looked around at where they stood in the doorway and jumped to his feet and pulled Sonia into a hug which lifted her off her feet. â€œSonia!â€
â€œLucas, please put me down!â€ She gasped for breath until he released her then smiled up at him. â€œHow are you?â€
â€œBetter for seeing you. You look pretty good for a dead woman.â€
â€œIâ€™m getting there. The dryads say that Iâ€™ll be back to my old self in a week.â€
â€œHuh,â€ Daniel interrupted. â€œCould someone introduce us?â€ He nodded towards Lucas. â€œYour mumâ€™s other brother right.â€
â€œOh sorry, Iâ€™m still a bit hazy,â€ Sonia said. â€œYouâ€™re quite right, this is my brother Lucas. Lucas, this is Daniel.â€
â€œSo are there any more relatives hiding in the woodwork?â€ Daniel asked as he shook Lucasâ€™ hand.
â€œOnly your cousin Ian on our side,â€ his mother replied. â€œBut thereâ€™s a few Morgans out there. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll meet them at some point.â€ She sat down in one of the chairs. â€œMatt, Daniel just told me something disturbing about Jayden Emms. I think you should hear it.â€
â€œDaniel?â€ His father gave him a curious look.
â€œAt one point during…â€ he broke off with a shudder. â€œDuring you know… he thought I was unconscious and I heard him talking to one of his followers about an ‘artifactâ€™ he was making. I couldnâ€™t make out much but itâ€™s supposed to allow him to mimic your control ability – at least with the collared dragons.â€
â€œHmm… I suppose that is possible with the right skill set.â€ His father scowled up at the ceiling. â€œBut that begs the question of where did a self-trained Wild Talent get the right skill set? Itâ€™s not exactly something you just pick up.â€
â€œIâ€™m more worried about why than how,â€ Sonia said.
â€œIndeed,â€ Matthias agreed, â€œExcept I have a feeling they may be the same question in this case.â€