“I ought to be more angry with you than I am,” Simon was saying as they entered the room. “Why did you lie to us?”
“The way Jayden had his claws in your head, you wouldn’t have believed me,” Matthias said. “How on Earth did you break free?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “But I couldn’t even see Andrew until he made a noise and even then it was an effort â€“ but once I broke through that, everything seemed to shatter and I could think again. I hadn’t even noticed I couldn’t before.” He paused. “Though Laxmi said I was breaking free already because I could remember the previous time I had to heal her.”
“That makes sense,” Lucas said. “It sounds like Emms has overdone it. If you layer too many controls they tend to all collapse if one or two do.” He gave a half-smile. “He has a tendency towards excess which may be useful. I can probably free any human guards from his control easily if all I have to do is crack one part. Once we find out where we’re going, that is.”
“Which brings us to the point,” Matthias said. “Do you know where Andrew is?”
“Not exactly. But it was somewhere in the Cairngorms, near the edge I think because I heard trains sometimes. He’d hidden us somehowâ€“ I couldn’t see the farmhouse from outside when Laxmi took me into the woods to explain what was going on.”
“That’s a great help! We can narrow the search area a lot with that. But Laxmi told you?” Matthias frowned at him. “You should be careful of her, she’s not human.”
“Yes she is,” Simon said. “Half of her, anyway, and the other half used to be. They’re so tangled up together I don’t think they can be separated.”
“They?” Lucas said. “Her host is still in there with her?”
Simon nodded. “And they’re both in pain I couldn’t fix though she tries to hide it. But you should get going. He knows I fled so he might decide to move.”
“We should,” Matthias agreed. “We’ll pull together the guard groups and leave immediately.”
“We’re not-” James began.
“Ready? We don’t have time to be fussy,” Matthias said. “We’re ready.”
Laxmi and Emms both looked serious as they entered the room where Andrew was being kept. Emms closed the door firmly behind them before turning to Laxmi. “I don’t see why we have to talk in here. The guards won’t hear us if I don’t want them to.”
“You’ve piled too many controls on the guards already.â€ she said. â€œIf you push too much more, either the controls will give or you’ll shatter their minds. And I think we should move. I know it would put things back, but there are a few other suitable places to do this and if Simon-”
“Simon doesn’t know where we are,” Emms replied. “And none of the other thin places will do as well as this one. I don’t want anything to go wrong this time.” He paused and scowled thoughtfully. “Still, if he managed to break free of my control he might be able to break my clouding of our location enough to work out where we are.” He stared at the ceiling. “We’re so close to being ready. I think I can get the crystal tuned today and be ready to use it so I can activate the device it tomorrow.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Laxmi said. “Rushing it is more likely to make it go wrong than moving to a slightly less advantageous place and even if it doesn’t that crystal-” She broke off with a shudder. Her eyes went black and her voice developed an echo. “You’ll hurt yourself again, Lik. I really don’t want to see that. It’s not worth that.”
“That’s kind of the idea,” he said. “I need the extra strength.” He reached out and took her hands. “But it won’t go wrong this time, I promise. I’ve checked everything.” He looked over at Andrew and grinned. “Hang in there, Andrew. This is nearly over. I won’t need the dragons or you once this is done.” He headed back out of the room again.
Laxmi sank into a nearby seat and buried her face in her hands. “Likadrian, why won’t you listen?” she said softly, her voice still echoing. “This isn’t going to work and with the population as it is now, I can’t see this being anything but a worse disaster.”
Nari. Andrew reached along her thread and found her buzzing aeroplanes again. I need to send a message to my father. He pushed the conversation to her.
I’ll tell my mirian. He’ll pass it on, she said. But I really don’t like how he said he wouldn’t need us any more.