What Laxmi had called Emms’s second lab turned out to be hidden in the reaches, not far enough from the Heartlands to be highly unstable or expose speakers to the effects of mabain but enough that the scrubby woodland around it seemed to shift slightly whenever Karen wasn’t looking at it. She wasn’t the only one to notice it because Andrew stopped in front of her and groaned.
â€œThis place is making me feel seasick!â€ he complained. â€œI swear that tree wasn’t there a second ago.â€
â€œYes, it’s the nature of the reaches to be changeable,â€ Darlryan said. â€œYou get used to it but you can stabilise it if you want. It would be good practice for you anyway.â€
â€œLikadrian used to stabilise it,â€ Laxmi said. â€œIt really bothered him, but not me for some reason.â€
â€œProbably because of what you are,â€ Darlryan said.
â€œHow do I stabilise it?â€ Andrew asked.
â€œYou need to bleed some of your essence into the ground and imagine it spreading out.â€ Darlryan looked at the others. â€œIf he is going to try, be ready because it will get colder.â€
Laxmi snorted. â€œYeah, the trees would petrify when Likadrian came here.â€
â€œOh!â€ Lydia said. â€œLike how Hannah reinforced the ground when we went after the Core.â€
â€œYes,â€ Laxmi said. â€œIn principle, anyway. Though what I was having the dragons do was a bit different from the sort of shifting you get here.â€
â€œI’m going to try.â€ Andrew took a breath and closed his eyes. The temperature did indeed drop quite sharply and frost spread across the grass and up the tree trunks, freezing them in place.
â€œOkay, that’s enough,â€ Darlryan said. â€œYou’ll kill the trees if you put much more energy in.â€
Andrew opened his eyes and smiled. â€œI did it!â€
â€œYou did,â€ Sonia said â€œYou’re gaining more control.â€
â€œAll that practice is paying off.â€ Naria wrapped her arms around herself. â€œBut now I’m cold.â€
Andrew pulled off his jumper and handed it to her. â€œHere, I don’t need this.â€
â€œHow far to the lab?â€ Matthias asked.
â€œNot far now.â€ Laxmi pointed to a thicker stand of trees ahead. Karen stared at them and realised she could vaguely see a building of grey stone between the trunks. Laxmi pushed some shrubs out of the way to reveal a door. â€œHere we are.â€
â€œYou’re sure it’s not booby trapped?â€ Matthias asked.
Laxmi nodded. â€œHe relied on isolation and concealment here. He didn’t want to put the energy into traps.â€
They followed her in but in spite of Laxmi’s reassurances, Karen was tense, waiting for some sort of security measures to kick in. But it seemed Laxmi was right â€“ there were no traps and they soon found themselves in a small room with a work bench at its heart. Laxmi began pawing through a drawer full of papers.
Sonia, in the meantime, was looking through the half-finished devices on the table.
â€œOh!â€ She picked up a staff not dissimilar to the one Andarian had sent with Lydia. â€œIt seems he wasn’t as confident as he made out and had a back up plan if it did go wrong again.â€
â€œIndeed.â€ Darlryan lifted another half finished device and his eyes widened. â€œVoid! I have to get this to Ind and see if it is what I think.â€
â€œIs it bad?â€ Matthias asked.
â€œFar from it,â€ Darlryan said. â€œHe may actually have done something right for once.â€ He looked at the other devices. â€œActually, we should study them all.â€
â€œFound them!â€ Laxmi pulled a sheaf of papers from the drawer and handed them to Matthias.
â€œOkay,â€ he said. â€œLet’s see.â€