Stocke, who healed unnaturally fast, regained consciousness the next day. Despite Belvon’s protests, he clawed his way up to his feet despite his dizziness and made to leave the room.‘Stocke, my boy,’ Belvon Laire said with his usual dramatic voice. ‘Lay down, rest, there is no good to come from rushing oneself.’‘Thank you, Belvon, but no. I’m in quite a bad mood, need some time to myself.’Stocke returned to his room, shut the door behind him, and stared out at the field outside. Flowers were blooming, the wind brushed at the grass, and the sun gleamed from the east. The weather mocked his foul mood.From the events surrounding the Laire mansion, he felt so utterly useless – and betrayed! He noticed the indecision in Locke’s posture and face. He saw how he had edged closer to hand Caria Laire over to Straza. But … was it really his right to be mad? Caria Laire had treated him so poorly back at the containment camp. She had aided Kelnaxx Laire in the cutting off his ears and tails.
When Locke came to, he found that he was in his dimly lit bedroom back at the Amber Hall. Bandages ran up and down his body, and there was woollen padding around his shoulder where he had been stabbed. It was night, but a candle burned softly on his desk, illuminating Kets in an orange light.She sat there, her head lolled off to one side, her eyes ever so slightly parted. Noticing movement, her eyes sprang to life, and focused on Locke.‘Locke, your awake, ya ha,’ she said. ‘I’ll tell Belvon Laire when I get the chance – he’s busy attending to Stocke.’‘No, wait,’ Locke said. It was difficult to talk, and a nauseating pain pulsed through his body. ‘Can you catch me up to speed? What happened? Why weren’t you, Trys and Arla with us in the Laire estate?’‘We were attacked enroute. One of the Coordinator’s actors blew up our mode of travel, and we were stranded.’ Kets reached forward, grabbed Locke’s hand and held it up to her. ‘The Laires, now without their mansion, and their daughter
Fahrla took a step forward, tearing off her veil and revealing that same hair and face that he had loved and cared for all these years. Bandages wrapped around her eyes, obscuring her vision entirely, and she had grown a little taller, too. But aside from that, there was no difference. She stretched out her hand.‘Locke, hand her over.’Locke took a step back. Caria Laire, barely conscious, stared at Fahrla and Straza with terror.‘I can’t, Fahrla. I can’t hand her over.’‘But he is just saying that.’ Straza let out a powerful laugh. ‘You want to save Fahrla, don’t you? You want to live a life of peace with Fahrla, right? Yes, he thinks. Yes, to both. Yet he wants to stop us from acquiring this girl, which is a key to our success, which would grant you that peaceful life.’‘What do you want her for?’ Locke shouted, taking another step back. I feel weak, Elandra, I can’t hold the fire anymore.
Flames licked at the branch that Locke stood on. The fire gnawed through the wood, turning the rich brown to a crisp black, and it crumbled to charcoal just as Locke leapt from the branch and reached for another in the distant darkness. What is this power? Elandra – I don’t want this! I don’t want to burn everything! The throbbing pain of a stab wound pulsed in his shoulder.The fire blanketed the ground, growing more vicious and turmoil with each passing second. The smoke from earlier had collected into thick columns of grey that forced itself into his lungs, and Caria Laire was whimpering in pain in the darkness.He gripped at the new branch, but a single lick of flame connected to the tree and now stretched through from that spot.Elandra, I can’t hold the fire around me anymore.For the first time, Elandra’s voice was cruel and demented.
Salocer gripped Stocke’s head and slammed it into an invisible wall. Salocer’s face was contorted in fury, and one of his eyes twitched in madness.‘I have tried to be fair with you. I have! Even the Coordinator can attest to it. Can’t you? Can’t you Coordinator? You can see my fairness. You can see everything! But you … you.’ He pulled Stocke closer to him, stretching out his tongue and licking the line of blood that dripped from his forehead. ‘You are intent on playing tricks with me.’ Salocer breathed in, and then sighed.‘I am the Coordinator’s best actor. It is the reason that I have lived so long and performed in so many of his plays. I do my best. He can see it. I give no information and I perform my heart out. I show genuine expression, and I show genuine rage at your disobedience. You see, when you’re performing for the Coordinator, you have to perform well, lest your family suffer for it. When you get into a tangle with the Coordinator, the best scenario is one where only yo
The sound of Miles’ sniper resounded through the room, and Locke was confused as to where it had come from, and where it had hit. His eyes darted around and found no signs of the bullet. He stepped back, his body came in contact with the door, and rather than it giving him that support that it always did, it swung open under his weight, and he stumbled into a room of darkness.Right away. But, I’ve done it so much lately, I’m starting to tire.Locke willed his fire to cover every inch of his body, but it did little to push through the thick veil of darkness. Thump. A pair of feet landed beside him. It was Stocke.‘Locke, they’ve got Caria. They’re hiding somewhere in this room.’‘And they’ve got a hostage outside that I don’t know how to deal with.’‘How did the door open? The door should have remained locked.’Locke’s eye
Stocke held Caria Laire close to him and gripped his knife close to his leg. The darkness pounded at them, and all details of the room were lost. A white fear had swept over Caria Laire, and Stocke, despite his own fear, knew that he could not falter.There was a scraping sound on the tree branch behind them, and when he turned, he saw a haunting figure drag itself towards them. It was the pale faced man with the knife, pulling himself with his stomach flat against the branch. His eyes were wide open, and his pupils horrifically small, and age-old cuts ravaged his face.‘There are wicked men …’ his voice sent chills through their body. It was like a ghoulish husk, whispering words not from his mouth, but through the wind that blew in from the window. The words stabbed at them and clutched to their minds, digging their icy claws into them. ‘… Hiding in the walls. Scratching from below the floorboards. Up, in the crawlspace above the roof. They come for you! They come for you!’The man