“My parents? Why, what’s happened? They’re not - they’re not … dead, are they?” Anna’s words were jumbled and panicky.
“Or should I say your foster parents, for you are a changeling, Anna,” he reminded her absently. Anna was reeling inside, but she continued to question him.
“Tell me what has happened!” she demanded, and was about to draw on her magics to force is out of him when he held up his hand to stop her.
“Anna!” Matt exclaimed. “Be patient! I’m just telling you!” She withdrew the tendril of her mind that was sneaking towards her power and looked at him with puppy-dog eyes.
“Sorry, Matt. But tell me. Are they dead?!”
He shook his head. “No, they’re not dead. Yet.” Anna let out a huge sigh of relief - a breath she had not even realised she was holding. “But they will be, soon.”
Anna opened her mouth to speak, desperate to know what these riddles meant. Matt held up his hand.
“Anna, you’ve got to hear me out,” he said urgently. “I know what you are thinking but there is nothing else for it. You’ve got to listen to me.” Anna frowned.
“Tell her, Matt,” said Aelvyn wearily. “It would be better if she knew the truth.” Matt nodded, and swallowed.
“You are the only one who can save us, Anna. You’re the most powerful fairy in decades – that much is obvious. You’re also half human, which lends you great power.” He paused.
“The Telcontar would not follow a fairy, but a human has neither the abilities nor the selflessness to lead us. That’s where you come in, you see. We need you to lead us – because without you, the whole world will be destroyed, and not just this world. The spiritual world, too, would go the same way.” For a moment, Matt’s eyes were uncannily deep and old. Anna looked away, still wondering what danger her parents were in. Foster parents, she reminded herself. You’re a fairy child, remember?
“We’ve received this message from the Celryn,” Matt continued. “Here – I thought you might like to see it.” He pulled from his back a small laptop computer, setting it up on the living room coffee table. Anna sat on the sofa, biting her lip with anxiety.
It was a video. At once Anna gasped, because she could see before Matt even pressed play that this was inside some sort of spaceship belonging to the Celryn. Bound and gagged on two chairs near the camera were her parents, looking terrified but otherwise unhurt, at least as far as she could see.
One of the Celryn came into view. Its ugly, reptilian appearance was not helped by the lighting, and it looked even more hideous than normal.
“As you can see, we have the girl’s parents,” it said, the hooked, beaky mouth giving the words a disturbing clicking sound. “For the moment they are safe, but if our demands are not met, we will kill them. Slowly.”
Anna tried to stifle her sharp intake of breath, desperately willing herself to keep her composure.
“Three things we ask. Firstly, the Telcontar must leave us alone, to continue our quest. They are to leave off trying to stop us, and must withdraw all of their forces from their current invasions.
“Secondly, we must have the girl. We will train her and teach her, so that she will join us and become a weapon in our arsenal.
“Thirdly, we wish for one more thing.” There was a long silence while the Celryn leered unpleasantly at the camera.
“No.” Anna’s whispered word was determined, telling all listeners that she would stand against the unreasonable demands of the Celryn, whatever it took.
“We wish for the destruction of that ghost,” the Celryn said, and although it could not see him, it pointed directly at Aelvyn.
“If no action is taken, these two humans will die, three days from now, at sunrise.”