As with the previous part – eight years earlier than main story and spoilers.
Side Story One
The steam train had been fun and served admirably to distract the kids from the earlier fright.Â Sonia wanted to keep it that way and so she didn’t mention it for the rest of the day, but waiting for Matt to finish putting the kids to bed so the two of them could talk was making her twitchy.
“The kids are asleep,” he said as he returned with two mugs full of hot chocolate. “I’ll keep an eye out in case they wake up, but we’ll still have to be careful if you want to talk about this.”
“We need to talk about this,” she said mildly. “And I can’t keep up mental communication long enough to do it the other way.”
“I know,” he said. “Just be careful what you say, okay?”
“Okay. Though I still think they have no idea I’m alive.”
” I’d like to keep it that way. They’d be tearing the world apart looking for you if they did.” He sat down on the sofa and put one arm around her.Â “I have no idea what that was. But I have a fair idea what it wasn’t. It was unearthly, but nothing I’ve ever sensed before.” His expression became conflicted. “If it weren’t for the fact it’s after the kids, I’dÂ be intrigued by that.”
“Yes.” Sonia smiled and leaned into him, in spite of the knot of worry in her stomach. “We’ve known there are other worlds apart from that one. Perhaps they’re from one of those?”
“Perhaps,” he sounded dubious. “I’ll need to investigate. I’m fairly sure that this isn’t something that happens a lot. If something was grabbing kids with any regularity, we’d hear about it. Whatever it was, it was opportunistic.”
“And attracted to astrals,” Sonia said with a sudden certainty that made her stomach churn. “You have to find out what this is, Matt.” She ignored his warning growl at her use of his name. “It casts a long shadow. You have to talk to Sal.” She shook her head before he could interrupt. “Not about me, though I wish you would. About whatever it was. Make some excuse. Tell her it happened to some wilds you were watching. Anything, but you need her help with this.”
Matt frowned at her. “I’ll think about it. I can probably come up with something. Right now I’m more worried about how to teach the kids restraint.”
“My family have some tricks for that. It’s how we deal with any Wild kids people point out to us that we can’t get into Brierthorne.”
“Yes, but I can’t exactly ask Sal for help with this.”
“You could if you’d just stop being so bloody stubborn about confiding in her.” She sighed when he shook his head again. “But I know how to do it.”
“But you can’t…” he trailed off.
“Can’t manage that sort of finesse in this state? I know that,” she said levelly. “But you can, and I can show you how to do it.”
“That’ll still wear you out,” he said. “I don’t want you hurting yourself.”
“I know, but the kids safety is worth it.” She leaned against him. “We’ll need to come up with a strategy, though.”
“We can’t just ram restraint into their heads, you know. Dream teaching is still teaching, and if we aren’t careful they’ll realise what’s happening.”
“That’s a good point. We’ll start when we get home. That gives us time to plan something.”
“Yes,” She agreed. “We shouldn’t go back to the beach. Whatever it was is aware of us now. I have a horrible feeling it will try again if it gets the chance.”
Matt frowned and then nodded. “Yes, I feel it too. I’d suggest we go home early, but that would upset the kids and raise questions.” He tapped his tongue against his teeth. “How do you feel about going hiking up on Exmoor tomorrow.”
Sonia considered this and her stomach knotted slightly, but much less than it did at the thought of the beach. “I-I think that will be okay. As long as it doesn’t rain.”