“It is contagious, but Selene rather than Anthony appears to have been infected first,” Sarah said when she came back from Selene’s room. “Why would anyone infect an ember with such a thing? It wouldn’t even have any effect except to make them snappish. Unless…” She trailed off and pressed her hands to her mouth.
“Unless?” Matthias said.
“Unless they knew what was going to happen and are setting the embers up to explode when their powers emerge.” She shuddered violently. “But why? What would anyone gain from such a thing?”
“Carnage.” Sonia had gone equally pale and her eyes had gone unfocused. “To reduce the number of people they have to fight and keeping us and the null authorities from coming to any sort of agreement. If we don’t do something, they’ll be so afraid of what’s happening they’ll crack down with just the sort of witch hunt the Lavernes have always feared.” Her eyes refocussed but she remained pale. “I hate to say it but I actually think we were lucky this happened. Otherwise it would have blindsided us completely.” She paused as a gate opened and Lyrrekka and Kenna appeared. Even in her resting form the chestnut unicorn filled a lot of the small parlour. “You should have gone to the stables.”
“Possibly, but I was in a hurry. We need that venom to analyse and we rather think this may be some sort of plan.”
“Yes,” Sarah said. “We’re coming to the same conclusion.” She told Lyrrekka what she’d found and what Sonia had said.
“Was that a premonition, Sonia?” Lyrrekka asked.
“It felt like one,” Sonia said. “But it’s logical enough that it could just be a hunch.”
“Fair enough, but I’ll pass it on because either way I think there’s a good chance that you’re right.” She gave a heavy sigh. “How is Anthony?”
“As well as can be expected with something eating away at his brain,” Sarah said. “I’ve fixed the damage and we’re working on killing the bacteria but we need an antidote to the toxin.” She handed Lyrrekka the vial. “He thinks you’re an impostor, you know.”
Lyrrekka gave a stressed chuckle. “I thought it might be something like that. We should deal with that while I’m here if he’s well enough.”
“He is,” Sarah said. “I’ll go and fetch him.”
Sarah must have told Anthony what was happening because he seemed unsurprised when he saw her and Kenna there when he entered the room. He did however shift uncomfortably when he saw the unicorn.
“Kenna?” he said softly. “Is that really you?”
“It’s me,” she replied. “Do you want me to prove it?”
“P-please,” he said. “I think we’d better go outside first though. You’ll fill this place in your full form.”
“A wise thought,” Lyrrekka said. “Could the rest of you come as well so we don’t try and murder each other?”
They headed through the conservatory and into the garden where Kenna immediately shifted into her full form and bowed her head to Anthony. He reached out and grasped her horn, then gasped and staggered back.
“Kenna!” he said. “It really is you!” He shook himself slightly and turned to Lyrrekka. “Which means you really are who say.” He walked over to a garden bench and sat down with a bump. “I really don’t want to believe this.”
“I know.” Lyrrekka knelt beside him. “But I’m still the same person I was. Will you let me show you?” She offered him her hand.
“I-” He hesitated. “I want to but I think we should wait until this infection is fixed. I don’t want to infect you and I have a feeling mental contact will increase the risk.”
“That sounds like you believe me already,” she said.
“Mostly,” he said. “I’m trying anyway. You have no idea how hard it is.”
“Oh, I do,” she said. “Believe me, I know very well. Imagine what it was like for me suddenly finding myself a dragon when I had the same prejudices you did.”
“Ugh.” He gave a shudder.
“You go and concentrate on getting well,” she said. “And once you are, we can have a long conversation about this because you’re still not entirely off the hook for what you did to that girl.”
“No,” he agreed. “I wouldn’t expect to be.”
“Good,” she said. “I’ll get this back to Ystelyan.” She pocketed the vial and rose to her feet. “Naria seems fine so I imagine we’ll be back later.”