Being hugged by lightning was a new experience even for a Storm Sprite, but there was no doubt in Valeria’s mind that that was what She who was Elaranor was doing when she wrapped her lightning around her. She wished she could hug her back.
“My daughter!” There was a wealth of affection in the guardian’s voice. “I’ve missed you!”
“I’ve missed you as well, mother,” Valeria said. “But I think we need to talk about what is happening.”
“Yes, we do.” Elaranor’s lightning unwrapped from around her. “I was going to summon you if you didn’t think to come yourself.” A tendril of lightning curved towards Sarah and Birke, who were standing in the shadows. “Sarah! Birke! It’s been a long time.”
“It has,” Birke said.
“Yes,” Sarah agreed. “D-do you get lonely, El?”
“Sometimes. I understand why my predecessor went a little crazy now, but I’m not as isolated as she was.” She paused. “But don’t you start feeling bad about it, Sarah. There was nothing else to do. I was the only candidate suitable for the role.”
“Yes, but we could visit,” Sarah said. “I never even thought of it. We’ll have to start once this current mess is sorted out.”
“Actually, that may not be necessary, but we’ll get to that. I’ll start at the beginning – well not the beginning, we don’t have time for that. I’ll start with the problem…” she trailed off and her lightning crackled angrily. “No, I won’t shut up! You can’t tell me what to do.”
Valeria looked around but no one else was there. “Um, mother, who are you talking to?”
“The Core. It doesn’t like what I’m thinking, but it has no power over the guardians.” There was a sighing sound. “I think that the fabric of the World is being torn apart. That’s why there have been so many Mabain upwellings, even in places that ought to be far too stable.”
“Like the one under Caerdu,” Valeria murmered.
“Yes, exactly. Given that the Core holds the World together, the only thing that could cause such an effect is if something else was trying to grab the World from it. And problematic and broken as the Core is, it’s – what is it humans say? It’s the evil spirit we know…”
“Devil,” Sarah said mildly. “Devil we know. But how is that even possible?”
“I don’t know, but it’s the only explanation I can think of. We need to find out.”
“Matt did say that it wasn’t the Core that opened the gate for his kids,” Sarah mused. “I wonder-”
“If you’re right, and it does make a lot of sense, do you think the dragons are responsible?” Valeria asked.
“Probably not,” Elaranor said. “It’s true one of them helped make the Core-”
“And set us up,” Valeria snarled.
“It couldn’t have been made without her, Val,” Elaranor said. “The Core is a construct of Mabain, not something we could make alone. But I don’t think it’s the dragons, because whatever this new thing is it doesn’t seem to favour them any more than the Core does. If they were trying to replace the Core, I think it would be with something that would help them. But we need to find out what this thing is. Even if it isn’t malevolent, this tearing is dangerous and it’s getting worse.” Her lightning crackled in agitation. “I need your help!”
“What can I do?” Valeria asked.
There was a long pause. It was had to tell given that her mother had no physical form anymore, but Valeria got the feeling she was unhappy about what she was going to ask.
“I’m sorry to ask this, Val, but would you let me share your mind?” she asked.
Sarah gave a sharp gasp. Valeria opened her mouth, closed it again and considered the question.
“You want me to act as a host for you?” she said. The possibility had come up when they had be scrambling to reconstruct the Guardian system thirty years ago, but she had never expected to be asked for real. None of the original guardians had ever done it in all the millenia they held the position.
“Yes. I-I wouldn’t intrude too much, I promise, but in this situation I can’t fulfill my task in here and it’s the only way I can get out. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. We have to find out what’s going on, and it will help with the lonliness.”
“I-” Valeria glanced at Sarah and Birke. “What do you think?”
“Do it!” Birke said without hesitation. “Your mother wouldn’t hurt you and I think she’s right about the situation calling for it.” After a moment Sarah nodded in agreement.
“It’s your call, but I think she’s right as well.”
Valeria nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. I’ll do it, Mother.”
“Thank you, Val.” Her mother’s lightning curled around her head and she felt a kiss placed on her forehead. Light exploded through her mind and it was the last thing she knew for a while.