It was just past sunrise when Karen finally abandoned her bed and headed downstairs. She just couldn’t sleep, not with her stomach so knotted by anxiety. If only they’d managed to stop Emms before he tore open the sky, this wouldn’t be happening. She just hoped the meeting of the families that her father and Sarah were arranging would come up with some plan to stop it before it did trigger a witch hunt.
She padded down the hallway towards the kitchen and was only half surprised to find Daniel already there, rooting through the cupboards and mumbling to himself. She cleared her throat and he stood up so quickly that he banged his head on the top of the cupboard.
Karen covered her mouth and chuckled as he rubbed the back of his head and looked at her sheepishly.
“I was hungry. I was going to do myself some beans on toast but there’s no baked beans.”
“There’s probably a few tins somewhere for emergencies,” she said. “But Astrals don’t really favour convenience foods. It’s a cultural thing,” she said. “Mum just used them when Dad wasn’t there and she wasn’t well enough to cook.”
“A cultural thing?” He looked around at the house. “Yes, I suppose we do have our own culture. I’m going to have to learn about that when I have time. But for now I’m hungry. What am I going to eat?”
Karen chuckled again, went to the fridge and took out a lump of cheese. “Cheese on toast?”
He stared at her for a moment before nodding. “That’ll do.” He grabbed the bread from the bread in. “Do you want some?”
Karen signed and shook her head. “I probably should but my stomach is in knots and unlike you I don’t eat everything in sight when I’m worried. I’m going to make myself a cup of tea and check the news in case anything else has gone wrong.”
“Not that we can do much if it has.” His jaw clenched with frustration.
Karen just nodded as she set the kettle to boil. There wasn’t much else to say.
She was just carrying her tea to the sitting room when a knock came at the front door. She gave a startled yelp and barely managed to keep hold of her cup. She hadn’t felt anyone pass the wards.
“It’s a bit early for someone to call, isn’t it?” Daniel said.
“Not just that,” she said as a second louder knock came and their father came racing down the stairs. “You didn’t sense them either?”
“No,” Matthias said. “But I doubt whoever it is is hostile if they’re knocking at the door. Still, best be cautious.” He frowned towards the door and his eyes widened. “Oh!”
“What is it?” Karen asked.
“I know who’s there,” he said. “And I think it’s okay.” He walked slowly to the door and opened it to reveal a nervous-looking Laxmi. “I take it you’ve been sent with the antidote?”
She nodded. “I was beginning to think no one was up.” She pulled out a couple of large flasks and handed them to him. “Darlryan thought I’d better come and tell you about how to stop my people because he thinks whatever Likadrian has done also widened the breaches to our prison. He used the fact you needed more antidote to push the issue.”
“You didn’t want to?” he asked.
“You have no reason to be happy to see me,” she said. “And every reason to hate me.”
“You helped us find Andrew,” he said. “No one here hates you, Laxmi. But yes, I think we do need to know about your people. Especially since you just walked past all my wards without triggering them.” He stood back from the door. “Come in.”
“Thank you.” She inclined her head and slipped inside. “I should have realised you’d have wards up and sprung them. You’ll want to extend them to detect my kind automatically. I can help with that.”
“I’m sure,” he said. “Let Karen get you a cup of tea. I’m going to see to getting this to the people who need it and then we’ll talk.” He headed up the stairs with the antidote.
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