“Princess Salia!” Mela scrambled out of the swimming pool and ran to the young storm sprite as soon as Matthias led her in to the room. “Doctor Tyler said you were going to be staying here tonight. Are you well?” She dropped a curtsey, then looked over Salia’s shoulder at the equally young dragon standing there. She swallowed then mentally admonished herself for being stupid. The dragon girl was nice – she’d seen that like everyone else, and she and her mother had helped Salia escape. “H-hello, it’s Karilya isn’t it?” Mela cursed her voice for shaking when she saw the girl’s shoulders slump noticeably at the stammer at the beginning. To make matters worse, Salia scowled at her and didn’t answer the question, obviously irritated that Mela had upset her friend.
“Yes, I am,” Karilya said. “And please don’t do that. I’m not going to eat you.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s a reflex.”
“You’ll have to excuse my niece, little one. We aren’t used to meeting friendly dragons. Your kind is usually looking to eat us when we encounter them.” Lorelei joined Mela by them and crouched down until her eyes were level with Karilya’s. “I’m Lorelei. Your older brother is my son’s heart friend.”
“Oh! You’re Darya’s mother?” Karilya bobbed a curtsey. “I am honoured to meet you, songstress Lorelei.”
Lorelei cocked her head and grinned at her formality. “No need to stand on ceremony, child. Just Lorelei or even Lori is just fine.”
“I don’t know,” Karilya said. “Mummy says I should be polite to grown-ups… Well to everyone, really, but especially to grown-ups.”
Lorelei chuckled. “It’s not impolite if someone tells you it’s okay first.”
Karilya stared at her for a moment, then nodded. “If you say so, Lorelei.”
“She does, apparently,” Lyrrekka came up behind them and patted her daughter’s hair. “And she’s right that it is okay. Just wait until you get permission before you get casual with people.”
“Anyway I came to see if you’re sleepy. Sarah has yours and Salia’s bedroom ready.”
“I wanted to stay up and find out what happened. I mean there were fish falling out of the sky earlier. That’s not normal is it, not even here?”
Lyrrekka sighed. “It’s not, but I suspect you’ll be asleep before we finish talking, so how about I tell you all about it in the morning?”
Karilya pouted but eventually nodded. “Okay, mummy. If you insist.”
“Yes, I do insist.” Lyrrekka wrapped an arm around her shoulders and looked over at Lorelei, Mela and Yemi. “Sarah thinks you should join us for this conversation.” She turned slightly and tweaked Salia’s nose. “And you stop being such a grumpy-bump. You know she didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Yeah, I know,” Salia said. “It’s just…” she hesitated and turned to Mela. “I’m sorry I was rude, Mela. I’m fine, thank you.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Princess,” Mela said.
“Are you okay? I heard something about you being kidnapped just before I was.”
Mela grinned. “Not exactly, and I think I was better off out of there. Did anyone tell you what happened after you were kidnapped?”
Salia nodded. “Mummy said your mother helped Uncle Maran try and usurp her.” She scowled and shook her head. “I’m glad he’s gone. He was always mean to me.”
“You can talk about it in the morning, young lady,” Lyrrekka said. “It’s time you were in bed as well. Come on.”
Lyrrekka came in from tucking Karilya and Salia in about twenty minutes after the rest of them had gathered in the large dining room. She sat down next to Kyle and gave a sigh.
“Kari can be really stubborn about going to sleep sometimes and she’s getting a bit old to nudge.”
“They’re always stubborn at that age,” Matthias said. “Serve yourself a cup of tea and tell us what you found on the net.”
“Lots of news reports and,” she glanced at Sonia, “What did you call them? Blog posts?”
“That’s right,” Sonia said.
“Yeah, lots of blog posts about strange phenomena happening today and not just in the places you’d expect.”
“Fish falls and glowing skies are both trending on Twitter. Some of the usual suspects in paranormal blogging have already noticed the hike in numbers and realised it’s not just more being reported,” Ian added without taking his eyes off the laptop in front of him. “If this carries on, that community will be on fire by this time tomorrow. It’ll take a bit longer before the general media stops just dismissing it but at this rate even that will only be a few days.”
“The Lavernes are going to struggle to keep a lid on this.” Sonia snorted to herself. “But what’s causing it and what’s it got to do with Andrew being kidnapped?”
“I’m not sure, but it definitely does. We found this in Emm’s room.” He placed the picture of the sky cracking on the table. “According to Catherine, he drew this when he was sixteen. He drew these when he was a kid as well.” He placed the other sketchpads on the table also.
Sonia studied the first drawing thoughtfully. “That’s definitely a lot like what I’ve been seeing, but the landscape isn’t quite right.” She picked up one of the other sketchbooks and leafed through it. “Now that is interesting. So what’s the connection between him and those things?”
“May I?” Lyrrekka picked up another of the pads and looked at it. “These things are-” She hesitated and passed the pad to Tarian. “Tar, I’m right thinking these things are Ekdariri aren’t I?”
“I don’t think the Ekdariri really exist, my ida.” He frowned at the pictures. “But they sure as hell look like the description in the stories my mother used to tell me.”
“Ekdariri?” Matthias asked.
“It means lost ones,” Kyle said. “They’re like boogiemen to the Kithreiri and dragons. Supposedly a well meaning astral tried to give nulls and embers astral level powers but the result was…” he trailed off. “Well, these things.” He tapped one of the creatures in the drawings with a finger.
Matthias and Sarah stared at each other.
“Catherine!” Matthias said wide-eyed.
“It certainly seems so,” Sarah agreed.
“And from what she told us about when he drew this, he thinks he knows what went wrong â€“ but given the dreams you and Sonia have been having, he doesn’t.” He looked back at Kyle. “These boogiemen are very real. We’ve encountered them before.”
“Where?” Tarian asked sharply. “All the stories say they were bound and locked away, and their creator with them.”
“And our ancestors were pretty good at binding things, Matt,” Lyrrekka said. “We’re not talking something that could be stumbled across and unbound by accident like in a cheesy horror movie. If these things are loose someone did it deliberately.”
“And they did it at least eight years ago,” Sonia said. “Because that’s when we encountered them.”
“I think,” Lydia interrupted suddenly. “That I need to call my mentor.” She was fiddling with her bracelet. “I’m sure someone told me a story like this once. It must have been her.”
“Yes, you mentioned that at Cat’s,” Matthias said. “And in the circumstances I guess she is the most likely person.”
“It’s highly likely. Fellaria-ida would have been a child at the time,” Tarian said. “She’s one of only a handful of people who might know what really happened.”
Matthias raised an eyebrow. “We do not seem to be able to get away from that family.” He turned to Lydia. “I think you’re right, you should-” He broke off as a screaming sound cut through the air. “Sal? Your wards?”
“Yes. Someone just teleported in without permission. Two people actually. The net wards caught them.”
“Well then. We’d better go and see who it is.”