Hannah’s heart was beating double time as she followed Tara from the room. The adrenaline was the only thing holding the sick lump in her stomach at bay. She couldn’t believe Kayleigh had betrayed them for Adrian when she knew his mother had… had… She swayed and had to grab onto the wall as sobs threatened to overwhelm her. Collette grabbed her elbow and pushed her on â€“ she was pretty strong for a twelve year old.
“There’s no time for that! You can cry once we’re out of here.”
Hannah swallowed and nodded. Even with all the training they’d given her at Brierthorne, it was hard to suppress the mix of grief and anger burning in her veins. But with Collette’s help she managed to do it as she stumbled along after Tara.
“This is going to be dangerous.” Tara stopped at the end of one corridor and furtively looked each way. “And everyone is blocking me, so I don’t know where they are.” She cast a quick glance at Collette. The dark haired girl closed her eyes for a moment then nodded.
“Me too, Mum,” she said.
“I was afraid of that. I think I still have access to the filters; they’re keyed to me so it’ll take Marian a while to unweave and she’s got no knack for filters.”
“So you can block them from tracking us clairvoyantly?” Hannah asked.
Tara nodded. “Better yet, I can feed them false trails. I think I can use them to locate the others. Everyone’s mind is a node in the filter. I won’t know who’s who or their exact position, but I can get a rough sense of where they are as well.”
“That’s useful,” Hannah agreed.
“Collette, go in front,” Tara said. “We’ll head for the back stairs and I’ll locate the others. Marian will know where we’re heading. We might well have to fight our way through. And let’s move to mental speech.”
“Yes, Mum.” Collette moved past her and peeked around the corner. We’re clear.
They raced along towards the back stairs, which once would have been used by servants before the Laverne’s had bought it several decades back â€“ though apparently they’d been using the land for much longer, from what Tara had said about ancient wards.
It was very plain compared to the rest of the house. As they raced down the stairs, Tara put up one hand and they paused.
There’s someone ahead of us. Only one and I’m fairly sure it’s not Marian. Get ready.
How do you know it’s not Marian? Hannah asked.
They aren’t strong enough. I think it’s one of the cousins. She paused at the sound of explosion from the other end of the house. What the hell?
That will be Clara and Simon, Collette said. They aren’t happy about this either and said they’d run interference for us.
Well that’s one word for it. Tara stopped again. Right, they’re just around the corner and they haven’t gone to see what’s going on with that blast. Both of you ready? She shifted Martin into one arm and leapt around the corner.
There was a strangled cry and a thud. Hannah rushed around the corner to find Tara standing over an unconscious teen girl.
She’ll be okay. I just knocked her into the wall, Tara said. But this is far too easy.
You think it’s a trap? Hannah asked.
Almost certainly, but there’s nothing to do but spring it.
They headed down the stairs again and emerged outside the old kitchen. Tara looked around and then ushered them towards a somewhat distressed blue door. Then stopped and stiffened when twoÂ teens barrelled around the corner towards them.
Marian knows where you’re going! It’s the only place you could possibly escape from, Simon said. She says she’s got it covered and intends to corner you there.
I don’t like the sound of that, Tara said. Let’s hope she’s wrong. She gave a heavy sigh. Two dozen family members here and only four see sense.
I think a lot of the others are just too scared, Clara said. There was a lot of unease in the meeting but Marianâ€¦
I can imagine, Tara said. Have you two got our backs? I can’t guarantee that we’ll get out of this.
Of course we have! We probably don’t deserve to live for the things we’ve done. Clara sounded so distraught that Hannah wanted to pull her into a hug. Clara was far too young to have been involved in any actual missions. No, but I passed on dreams I had that were used to plan them. I always thought we were wrong but I was too scared to say or do anything except play along.
Worry about that later, if there is a later, Tara said and ushered them down into the cellar and through the white-washed rooms to another narrow staircase, partially hidden in an alcove. Unlike the previous concrete steps, these seemed to carved from living rock. The cellars we’re heading for are quite deep down â€“ more of a natural cave. I don’t think the previous owners ever knew about them. The wards stop nulls noticing it. Can you make us some light, Collette? There’s no electric down here.
Of course, Mum. A tiny ball of light appeared above her shoulder, revealing how roughly hewn the dark rock was.
They carried on down until they reached a tunnel carved out of the same rock as the stairs.
We’re outside Marian’s wards now. Try and initiate the jump.
Okay. Hannah tried not to think about how she was going to support five non-warriors in the other world and reached for Ema, intending to open a gate to her, but the barrier between worlds seemed cold and unyielding. There was only one thing that could cause that. She opened her eyes and looked at them. Marian said that she’d been talking to Core, right?
Yes, Collette said.
I think I know why she she said she had this place covered. It’s blocking me. There’s no way I can jump into the heart lands, I’m afraid. I doubt either of them realise that we’re far enough out here that it isn’t the only option. She broke off with a mental oath as she heard the door slam open above them. But it’ll take me a little time. Is there any way to block the stairs?
Not the stairs, no, Tara said. But this tunnel we’re in, yes. We’ll need to get to the end first though. Come on.