Andrew didn’t think that anyone had seen him slip out of Waldhafen. He was self-aware enough to realise that stomping out into the forest without even acknowledging his father and with barely a nod to his mother wasn’t really the best way to resolve their family issues, but they’d lied to him and the others repeatedly and he wasn’t sure that the lies were the ones the others thought. He needed to think things through before he challenged them.
“Andrew, what’s wrong?” Kimi had followed him outside.
“My father,” he said. “He always told me that there was a magical conspiracy in charge of Earth that was keeping the majority of people from using their abilities. I believed him but he’s lied about so much… and what Karen said about the stars. I-I’m not used to feeling uncertain about things.”
“Well what she said fits with the old storiesâ€”” Kimi broke off as at a sound from a nearby beech tree. Andrew looked up and saw a man with light brown hair staring at them. He was very ordinary looking, except for the fact he was perched on an impossibly thin branch. Andrew’s stomach did an unexpected backflip that screamed ‘enemy’ at him and he hastily reinforced the shield around his mind which Aratts had taught him to make.
“Your sisters can’t be trusted, Andrew Stevens, and you certainly shouldn’t listen to a word Matthias Morgan says. Michael played a dangerous game letting the Morgan’s get their claws into Karen and lost. As for Lydia, she’s too obsessed with magic not being real to see the truth.” He leapt down in front of Andrew and Kimi. “I suppose I’ll have to deal with them eventually, since Mike’s unwilling to. He’s far too much of an idealist.”
“Who are you?” Andrew asked. Well whoever he was, he didn’t know his father was really Matthias Morgan, which was interesting.
“Jayden Emms, I’m a friend of your father and brother. We’re working together to free the world. The people here are going to say bad things about us, but they’re part of the conspiracy against humanity. All of them.”
Andrew managed to keep his expression bland with effort and carefullyÂ thickened his shield a bit more. This was the man who had tortured Daniel! No matter what Andrew thought about his parents right now, torture was beyond the pale. And he was sure that not all the Speakers were bad – or even most of them. “Really?” He tried to sound calm and mostly managed it, but he was sure the man couldÂ hear the way his heart was pounding.
“Yes, really. You’re a clever boy. The only one who ever believed your father. Keep believing in him. If you want to help, come back here tomorrow and we’ll talk some more. Now you should go back before they miss you. If they suspect that you know the truth, they’ll turn your mind inside out and brainwash you into the supporting them.” There was a blast of dust and the man vanished.
“I don’t like him,” Kimi said.
“He’s creepy,” Andrew agreed once he was sure that the guy had really gone. “But he’s right that we should get back inside.”
“We don’t know that it’s anything, Dariad,” Matthias was saying when Andrew re-entered the Great Hall. “It’s not that big a leap to realise this is a war council and she hasn’t done anything hostile at all.”
“But it might be,” Dariad said.
“It might,” Matthias agreed. “So send an Imp to Hreid and have him keep a closer eye on her.”
“Andrew?” his mother said softly but her worried tone made everyone turn to look at him. “What’s wrong.”
“I – ah – um…” he trailed off, uncertain what to say. He knew that he had to tell them but he didn’t know how when he still didn’t trust them.
“Just spit it out, kid,” the young man who was chatting amiably to Karen said. Jason he thought quite she’d called him. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Not a ghost. A monster, possibly,” Andrew blinked at the suddeness with which his stress had quietened and glared Jason suspiciously. “A certain Jayden Emms just accosted me and Kimi.”
“What!” His father strode across the room to him. “Here? What did he say? Did he hurt you?”
“No.” Andrew shook his head. “It didn’t even seem to occur to him that I might not agree with him.” He wasn’t quite sure why but he closed his eyes, loosened his shield enough to let his father in and replayed the entire conversation in his memory.”
“Interesting,” Matthias said. “What the hell is he up to?” He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “Well at least he doesn’t know who I really am, even though he seems to know more than he should.” He gave Andrew a speculative look. “I know you don’t trust me, Drew, but you could be of great help to me here if you’re willing.”
“You want me to string him along and find out what he’s really up to?” Andrew asked.
His father just nodded.
“Matt! That’s dangerous!” his mother protested.
“We need to find out, Sonia,” his father said.
“He needs stopping, Mum, I could feel it.” It was nice to feel certain about something again. “I don’t know if I can trust you and Dad but I know he needs stopping, so I’ll do it if I can.”