“Will you let me have a look, honey?” Lucas knelt down beside the pool after Mela had described her dream. “I promise that I won’t hurt you.”
Mela gulped at the thought of someone prodding around in her head, but nodded weakly.
He closed his eyes for a moment and then gave a puzzled frown. “Then let me in,” he said.
“Just relax, Mela,” Aunt Lori said. “All that tension will be making it hard for him to read you.”
“Well, it’s more her shield that’s the problem,” Lucas said mildly.
“Eh!” Aunt Lori exclaimed. “Mela has a shield?”
“Yes,” he said. “Which is kind of unusual for a merperson. You don’t usually have more than a token mental affinity, songstess Lorelei, but your niece certainly does.”
“Darya has a decent mental affinity,” Aunt Lori said after a moment. “But I think he got that from his connection to Kyle.”
“Hmm, yes, he would have,” Lucas said. “This is nothing so strong as that but it’s definitely there.”
“A weak secondary affinity?” Sonia asked curiously.
He shook his head. “Not even that. It looks like an unusually strong tertiary. All merfolk can reach but obviously she can shield as well. It doesn’t look like she can do anything else.” He looked back at Mela. “I need you to take it down, honey.”
“Um? I didn’t even know I had one,” Mela said. “I have no idea how to take it down.”
“You didn’t know?” He stared at her. “How could you not know? Well, I’ll just have to show you.” Mela felt a gentle tap against something in her mind and for a second she seemed to see a wall of woven light in her head. “That is your shield. You need to unravel it like this.” An esoteric image dropped into her mind. “Think you can do it?”
“I…” Mela hesitated and studied the image. “I think so. It might take a while.”
“Good,” he said. “When we’re done, I’ll show you how to put it back up. It is kind of a useful thing to have.” He looked over at the others. “You know a shield like that makes it very unlikely that someone’s been messing with her dreams. Not impossible, but slipping them in would take a lot of finesse. Ishleen could do it, of course.”
“I’m sure there are renegade nightmares,” Nephele said. “There’s renegade everything else.”
“I guess,” he said quietly.
Mela only half listened to the rest of the conversation as she concentrated on the task of unravelling this mysterious mental screen she hadn’t know was there. It wasn’t as simple as the image he had shown her suggested. The thing wasn’t just wrapped around her mind; it seemed all tangled up with her essence in some way. She pulled on one thread and then gasped as it seemed to tighten around and dig into her mind. Lucas broke off talking to the others and turned back to her.
“Something wrong, honey?”
“It’s all tangled up with my mind,” she complained.
“What?” he said and she felt him brush her mind again. “Oh my goodness!” He sounded enlightened, she just wished that she was.
“What is it?” Sonia asked.
“It looks like the shield went up when she was a child, at about the same time her essence was being warped to fit the seeker’s pendant. Probably an instinctive attempt to defend herself. It’s been up so long that it’s grown together with her mind. Which probably explains why no one noticed it.” He looked back at Mela. “Come on, I’ll help you untangle it. That’s not a healthy situation.”
Mela looked at him questioningly but he didn’t elaborate. After a moment she sighed and nodded. “Okay.”
They worked in silence. He highlighted the threads in her shield which she could unravel without injuring her mind and she would do just that. By the time they finished, Mela’s head was swimming and she sank down into the pool again and floated on her back – sitting up felt like too much effort. After a moment she felt Aunt Lori wrap her her arms around her to hold her up.
“That was worse than learning to sing,” she muttered.
“Well, singing comes more naturally for you,” Lucas said. “Now, let’s see.” She felt him sweep into her mind again and poke around gently. After a moment he hmm’d thoughtfully.
“Well?” Sonia asked. “Was Nephele right?”
“No, at least I don’t think anyone’s been implanting dreams in her mind.” He didn’t sound certain though.
“You don’t think?” Sonia said incredulously. “You mean you don’t know?”
“Not entirely, no. There’s something there, but it’s very subtle and it’s been there for a long time. It’s definitely not draconic though. I’m not even certain it’s external. It doesn’t feel malicious either.” He rose to his feet and headed to the door. “I’ll go and get Ishleen to take a look, she’s more au fait with Speaker minds than I am. I want her to watch over Mela until after she’s slept, anyway. She’s in no fit state to put her shield back up at the moment and she’ll be vulnerable until it is. I’ll be right back.”
Mela watched him leave and then laid her head on her Aunt’s shoulder and dozed off.