Anna’s father hurried out of the front room. His face was white - he knew that it must be serious, because Angie always spoke in understatements. Rain was to her, “a bit of drizzle” and snowdrifts a foot deep, “a light sprinkling.” If it was a bit of a problem, it was probably really “a lot of a problem.”
As Angie started to explain about Anna’s lost keys, the listeners could here a key turn in the lock. It clicked ever so slowly, as if trying to build up the suspense. Anna and Kathryn looked up in panic. Callie hid her face in her hands; unable to bear the sight of the Celryn should that be what awaited them. The door opened, creaking because it had been so long since it was last oiled.
The tension was high, and they all felt as though they were puppets whose wires had been pulled too tight.
It was the Celryn.
And this time, thought Anna, Matt isn’t here to save us. So I’ll have to, instead.
She jumped to her feet. From the pocket of her jeans she pulled an orange lighter, the cheap plastic contrasting strongly with the tense white hand that gripped it. She flicked it alight, grabbing an umbrella from the corner by the door and setting the tip alight. Kathryn was sure it would not light, because it was metal, but miraculously it did, the flames dancing on the tip.
Anna thrust the umbrella through the heart of the first creature that crossed the threshold. It screamed and writhed, but did not become Telcontar, because the weapon was not a cross. The second of the two met the same fate and Anna’s furious hands, and the third, too.
“Anna!” screamed her mother, her voice high and thin with fear. Two of the creatures leaped past Anna, grabbing Angie, and twisting her arms behind her back. Another two took Geoff in the same way. They were powerless to resist. Angie cried out in pain as her shoulders were twisted almost out of their sockets, but only Kathryn heard, and her gasp was lost in the noise of the fight.
“Kathryn, we have got to help her!” Callie shouted over the noise. Kathryn looked around, taking her eyes off Anna’s parents being dragged out of the door, while Anna fought on, still crammed into a narrow corridor. “Anna can’t fight them alone!” Kathryn nodded, and snatched the lighter from where it lay on the floor. She flicked it, but nothing happened.
“Damned cheap lighters!” she muttered, pressing the lever again and again in her panic, until it finally burst into action. Although Anna had taken the strongest and biggest umbrella, one still remained, and Kathryn lit the tip of it. She was surprised, again, that it lit, until she realised that Anna, with her curious powers over heat and fire, must have altered the lighter somehow.
“Waste of umbrellas, though,” thought Kathryn as she passed the makeshift weapon to Callie.
“Anna!” she called. Her friend looked around, saw her and Callie with the umbrella; saw them preparing to fight, and she nodded. “We’re here for you, always here for you! Just remember that!” Anna nodded again, in recognition at Kathryn’s heartfelt words.
Callie excelled herself, defying the stereotypes of her gender and age, and defeating two of the creatures. However, without the help of the crosses they would not turn, and there were no Telcontar to help the three girls in their fight. Kathryn prayed that Anna would not have noticed her parents’ abduction: if she lost concentration now, all would be lost.
“Tackle that one!” screamed Anna, pointing at a brutish figure, who was much larger and much uglier than all the rest. “He’s the leader - take him out and they’ll all follow!”
Her two friends dived on the demon, stabbing it repeatedly with the fiery umbrella. It screamed; a devastating noise that caused them to go temporarily deaf. When they came to their senses, the creature was dead and the battle had paused, but it was not because of their victory. No, they could see clearly why.
Telcontar - far more of them than there were of the Celryn - had arrived.