The only clue Andrew could muster as to where Jayden was keeping him was that it was definitely on Earth, even if it didn’t quite feel like it. On their arrival in the pine forest, a group of men had met them and transferred Andrew and the throne device into the back of a lorry, then driven a short distance to what seemed to be an abandoned farm and installed him in the attic. From there, he could see some mountains in the distance and he occasionally heard the sound of a train quite some way away. Just before sunset he’d even heard a helicopter somewhere above the building.
They’d been there over twenty four hours now and Andrew was proud that he’d managed to keep up his refusal to eat so long. All the same, his stomach betrayed him by rumbling violently when Lakshmi walked into the room with a large bowl of stew. A mixture of a rich meaty aroma and spices filled the air and he had to swallow rapidly to avoid drooling. He set his jaw and looked away.
“I’m not eating,” he said in a determined tone.
Lakshmi gave a cheerful laugh and sat down on the arm of the throne. “Oh, this is for me. Though I’d advise you to reconsider – he’s not kidding about force feeding you. He needs you alive to keep the system working.” She took a mouthful of the stew and swallowed it with evident relish. “But right now, Jayden’s away and I want to have that long conversation I mentioned while we’re both free to talk.”
“I don’t see what good that will do,” Andrew said. “Unless you want to talk about letting me go.”
“I daren’t,” she said. “But this still might work. I can’t give up hope of it working this time.” She gave him a serious look. “But the coldness you sensed in me â€“ you thought it was familiar. Where had you sensed it before?”
Andrew glared at her without answering.
“Please,” she said. “It’s very important.”
Andrew glared some more before relenting enough to ask, “Important how?”
Lakshmi put down her stew and gave him a fretful look. She was worrying at her lower lip with her teeth.
“You encountered them somewhere,” she said. “I just want to know where and how.”
“Them?” he said and then the realisation hit him. “Devon when I was eight.” The answer slipped out before he could stop himself.
“Ah,” she said. “Devon, of course. That’s where the second breach occurred. What happened?”
“Breach?” he asked.
“Ah, got you talking have I?” She smiled lightly at him. “Please tell me what happened.”
“I don’t properly remember,” he said. “It was a long time ago. But we were on holiday in Devon and we were chased through the woods by these things. They were-” He trailed off as tried to think how to describe them.
“Small, humanoid, twisted,” she said. “And they seemed able to stretch impossibly and you could see through them?”
“Yes!” he stared at her. “You’ve seen them?”
“You could say that.” She looked away evasively. “It wouldn’t be entirely untrue, either.”
“What are they?” he asked. “You know, don’t you?”
“Once-human wreckage,” she said so softly he had to strain to hear her. “Not many people are lucky enough to escape them. How did you?”
“I don’t re-” He broke off remembering a flash of light and the things screaming and fleeing. “It was Karen, I think.”
“The light girl?” she asked. “Yes that would do it, I guess.” She frowned again and looked like she might ask more but Andrew had a question of his own.
“You’re not happy working for Emms, are you? And you know he’s an idiot, so why do you?”
She didn’t reply for a moment. From the way she put her stew aside he’d ruined her appetite.
“It’s complicated,” she said finally. “I don’t think he realises how dangerous this-” she broke off as Huldre stomped into the room and scowled at the sight of them.
“Laxmi! What are you doing?” he asked suspiciously.
Laxmi smiled at the troll without missing a beat. “What does it look like I’m doing?” she asked. “I’m trying to persuade him to eat. Force feeding is unpleasant.”
“Well stop it. Jayden wants you to check out the primary crystal; he says that it’s resonating wrong whenever you’re around it and he wants you to retune it.”
“Of course it is. That’s because of what I am, idiot!” she muttered as she headed to the door. “I’ll do my best,” she added more loudly. “But it won’t be very easy.” She cast a wink at Andrew. “Eat the stew, kid. It’s good.” She left the room, followed by Huldre, leaving him alone with his thoughts again.
Good. He wanted to investigate this device they were using him to power. He closed his eyes and let his mind slip into the web of shining threads he’d found himself at the heart of.
It didn’t take him long to realise that each of the threads entangled with the collar of a dragon or the circlet of a speaker. That’s why he could sense them. Now if only he could-
Be careful, Andrew-idan. One of the threads suddenly glowed a soft blue as a mental voice addressed him.
The voice was familiar but it took him a moment to realise that it belonged to the blue dragon girl who had been part of his family’s failed rescue attempt. What had her name been? Naria?
That’s right, she replied. But please listen to me. They don’t know you actually share your father’s ability. They would have taken more precautions if they did. Don’t let them find out until the right moment.
What would the right moment be? he wondered. He didn’t realise that he’d thought it aloud until she replied.
When we stand the best chance of escaping, of course, she replied. You can usurp the device and use it yourself, but if you time it wrong it will be for nothing at all. Your family are looking for you and my Mirian is in contact with them. I suspect the right time will be obvious once it happens. Hopefully it will be soon enough for me. She sounded worried.
What’s wrong? he asked. Why wouldn’t it be?
I’m getting close to my maturity and I’m afraid of what will happen if I’m still wearing this thing when it happens. I know it wouldn’t be good.