The room they arrived in was larger than Lydia had thought from the view at other end of the warp, but that wasn’t what made her catch her breath. As she turned around and observed the black and white tiled floor and the high ceiling with a green glass triple light in the centre, a memory of looking at it through the brightly painted wooden bars of a large playpen skittered across her mind.
“I know this room!” she exclaimed. “We used to play in here.”
“That’s some good memory you’ve got there, Lyd.” Her father put his arm around her shoulders. “You were two the last time you were here.”
“I only just remembered a flash,” she said. “But it was definitely here.”
“It was,” he agreed with a smile. “But let’s introduce you while the others are seeing to the prisoners.”
The next few minutes were a welter of introductions and Lydia was sure she would never remember all the names.
“I really should have known,” said the man Matthias had introduced as his brother James. “He was behaving oddly at the time but I just put it down to grief.” He held out his hand to Lydia. “But I am enormously glad that you are alive after all, my niece.”
“Thank you.” Lydia shook his hand as he gave her a warm smile.
“What about me?” Sonia asked, coming up behind her.
“Oh, I’m even happier to see you, Son.” He laughed and pulled her into a hug.
“That’s g-” Sonia broke off and stiffened. Lydia glanced at her father – he looked tense as well.
Both of them were staring at the dark haired thirteen year old who was apparently their cousin Irena. She was stalking towards a non-plussed looking Daniel and exuding hostility.
“Oh dear,” he said. “I didn’t count on that. She seemed okay earlier.”
“What’s wrong?” Lydia asked.
“It seems Rini is jealous of Dan.” Karen had come up to them and was looking as worried as their parents.
“Hmm?” Lydia frowned. “Why?”
“She’s one of us,” Karen said. “She thought she’d be the dark warrior, but Daniel was the one to get the position. Except of course it’s a meaningless limitation if the bracelets aren’t needed.”
“Rini can be a bit silly sometimes.” The pale blonde girl who’d been introduced as their cousin Lisa said as Irena stopped in front of Daniel and folded her arms.
“You think you’re all that, don’t you.”
“I’m sorry?” Daniel raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Coming out of nowhere and stealing my job!”
“Irina!” James snapped. “Stop that!”
“Let me handle her, Dad.” Lisa wrapped her arms around Irena from behind. “Come on, Rini. It’s not like he had much of a choice in the matter and from what Uncle Matt said, there’s going to be room for you both now they know there’s a way around the bracelets.”
“No buts, Rini. You’re being a brat!”
“No, you don’t understand! What if I never…” She trailed off, looking forlorn.
“Ah!” A look of comprehension crossed Daniel’s face. “Of course you’ll meet your heart friend sometime. I tell you what: after we’ve rescued my brother, I’ll lend you the bracelet and we’ll go and find you heart friend.” He gave Matthias an accusing look. “We should have found them at the same time as we found Pensura.”
“There was no need,” Matthias said. “I know where Yelahre is and she’s perfectly safe. But I suppose introducing them soon is a good idea.”
“It is,” Sarah agreed. “I have a gut feeling that we’re going to need all hands on deck even after we rescue Andrew.”
“Can we really go and meet Yelahre soon?” Irina asked hopefully.
“We can indeed, even though you’re still a touch young to fight,” Matthias said. “Though as Daniel says, we have to rescue Andrew first.”
Irena looked at him for a moment then nodded. “Yes, of course, Uncle Matt. That’s more important.”
“Good,” he said. “Now we’ll get our guests sorted out then organise who’s going where on this triangu-” He broke off as his mobile rang. Frowning, he looked down at the caller display for a moment before he answered it. “Simon, what do you-” He broke off again and listened. “Where are you? … Okay, stay there. I’ll come and get you right now.” He broke off the call and turned to Lyrrekka. “Lyr, could I borrow you for back up? I need to go get this guy but I’m not entirely sure it isn’t a trap.”
“Of course,” she said.
“Thank you,” he said. “The rest of you get the prisoners sorted out. We should be back within the hour.”