“She’s right,” Alaryia said after a moment’s concentration. “I can sense barely anyone here and all of them are young. I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Yes,” Karen agreed. “I don’t feel any danger to my family yet but I’ll send dad an imp to warn them.” She closed her eyes and created a small imp which shot off quickly. “Okay, let’s take advantage of no one being here and rescue Kayleigh quickly.”
“Yes, let’s,” Adrian said. “But keep an eye out for anyone who’s shielding themselves too well to be sensed on a normal sweep.”
“Indeed,” Indaturan said. “Lead on, Dialdra.”
“Yes, master.” Dialdra led them along the corridor and down a twisted staircase into the cells. “Here we are.” She looked around at the empty corridor and open cell doors with a frown. “No guards here either. Most of the prisoners are gone as well. That makes no sense… Unless.” She stopped short and started hyperventilating. “No, she wouldn’t. I’m too valuable to her.”
“What?” Indaturan asked.
“I-it could be a trap,” she said. “We’re in a bubble. What if she’s going to collapse it on us?”
There was a long pause, then Indaturan swore viciously. “She could be right. The anti-teleportation shield is stronger than when we jumped in. I’m not sure I can break it.”
“W-we’re trapped?” Lydia asked.
“Not as well as she’d like but it’s going to be tough getting Kayleigh out as well,” he said. “We’ll grab her first and then see what we can do.” He gave Dialdra a little push. “Take us to her.”
Dialdra said nothing; she just led them to the only cell that had a closed door, unbarred it and pushed it open.
The cell was cramped and devoid of any furnishings except for a small bucket in one corner and the two occupants were barely recognizable as Kayleigh and Robert. Both were filthy, emaciated and dressed in equally dirty, torn clothes that might once have been their school uniforms. Neither even looked up when the door opened â€“ they just huddled further into their respective corners.
“Kay,” Adrian said softly. “Oh, God! What have they done to you.” He rushed over and knelt by her. “I’m so sorry I didn’t realise.”
“A-Adrian?” Kayleigh finally looked up. “Is it really you?”
“It’s me, Kay,” he said as Hannah joined him. “And Hannah is here as well. We’re going to get you out of here. Hold on.” He stood up and attacked her chain with his ice until it shattered while Alaryia tackled Robert’s chains.
“Can you stand, Robert-teyan?” she asked gently.
“I-I think so,” he said. “Who are you?”
“Let’s get you safe first,” she said as she helped him up. “Then we can worry about introductions.” She looked around at Indaturan. â€œHow’s that barrier?â€
â€œFar too tough to be just Xantaria,â€ he said. â€œBut if she’s intending to collapse it, what is she waiting for?â€
â€œOh, just for you to get here,â€ Xantaria’s mocking voice came from the walls. â€œAfter all, if you can’t see the consequences they might not hit you as hard.â€ As she spoke, the walls began shaking like there was an earthquake. â€œYou can’t teleport out but that won’t hold you. You can always tear the bubble apart â€“ but these two won’t survive the void like you can. So what are you going to do? Kill them to save yourselves or stay with them and die as well?â€