Marian did look better, Lydia decided. When she’d last seen her on the day after the attack on the school, the woman had noticeably been in pain when she moved – but not any more. There were still pain lines on her face but they were probably mental rather than physical. She was sitting in a chair with a crystal block in her hands and several others in a basket next to her, but she looked up as they entered and immediately leapt to her feet.
â€œMummy!â€ She ran to Julie and hugged her.
â€œYep, that still feels weird.â€ Julie hugged her back. â€œI can cope with people calling me Caroline but for heaven’s sake, Marian, I’m younger than your son in this life.â€
â€œAnd still my mummy,â€ Marian said. â€œPhysical age not withstanding. But I can call you Julie if you really want me to.â€
â€œI do,â€ Julie said. â€œHow are you doing?â€
â€œI’m doing better,â€ she said. â€œBut I feel so useless. How can I even begin to make up for what I did when I can’t help because I’m healing?â€
â€œYou know, you probably can help,â€ Indaturan said. â€œOnce I’ve fixed her up, you might be able to help our new guest at least do herself less damage when she uses her gift.â€
â€œHmm? New guest?â€
â€œIt’s Joanne Clayton,â€ Adrian said. â€œHer gift is even weirder than we realised.â€
Marian listened as he explained what Joanne had told them and her eyebrows shot up. â€œA temporal affinity? Really? That’s remarkable, but poor girl. I don’t envy her. And yes, I can probably help her. Not so much with the damage but to clarify what she’s seeing at the very least.â€
â€œThat will help with the damage as well,â€ Indaturan said. â€œThe faster she can do it, the less damage she ‘ll do to herself each time.â€
â€œWell of course I’ll help,â€ she said.
â€œBut you wanted to see us?â€ Adrian said.
â€œYes, I’ve been studying.â€ She waved the crystal block at him. â€œLooking for something that might help.â€
â€œBy studying she means she’s been blasting through my library faster than a spatial manipulator can jump across the heartlands,â€ Indaturan said.
â€œAnd you think you’ve found something?â€ Adrian asked.
â€œPossibly.â€ She frowned slightly. â€œWell, I think I’ve found something but I might be imagining it and even if I’m not I don’t know if it will help. I suspect it does concern us though.â€ She went back to basket and pulled out some red crystals. â€œAccess these and see if you sense the same thing I did.â€
â€œThose are the history blocks my aunt made of the purge,â€ Indaturan said. â€œYou asked me if I sensed anything odd about them earlier.â€
â€œAnd you didn’t,â€ she said. â€œI know. That’s why think I might be imagining it…â€
â€œWell, let’s see.â€ Julie took one of the blocks and closed her eyes. After a moment her eyes popped open and she stared at the block. â€œI’m sensing a second layer in this but I can’t access it.â€
â€œThat’s what I sensed,â€ Marian said. They both looked at Adrian who also took one of the blocks.
â€œYes, I sense it too. It wants some sort of password.â€ He scowled at the block. â€œYou can’t sense this, my Mirian?â€
Indaturan shook his head as Darlryan reached past him and took the block from Adrian’s hand.
â€œNo I don’t sense it either, I wonder if it’s avoiding dragons?â€ He tossed it to Sonia. â€œWhat about you?â€
She closed her eyes then shook her head. â€œJust the main content.â€
â€œWell then,â€ Darlryan said. â€œI guess it’s not us being dragons, which leaves another explanation. But why would Kalatria-ida have been leaving messages for hunters in history blocks she could never have expected them to have access to – and more importantly, any idea what she might have used as a password?â€