“This girl,” their leader told them, “has not yet learned to use even a half of her Gifts. We must attempt to stop her before she does.”
“But how? You have already told us that we cannot kill her!” somebody objected, and their leader nodded.
“You are right, Vertex, as usual,” he said, but there was no warmth to his praise. “We must destroy her teacher – a fairy ghost of unusual potency.”
“A ghost?” Murmurings ran around the room as the Celryn debated this new development. “How do you kill a ghost?”
“I did not say we should kill him. I said we should destroy him.”
And all around the circle, the Celryn grinned and showed their teeth, for they were destroyers and destroying was what they did best.
“When we have done that,” Vertex asked, “may we continue with the plan?”
And there followed an explosion of cheering, and the baring of many fangs, while the younger Celryn swooped from the ceiling on their stubby black wings.
“What are we to do about the girl?” one of them asked, perceptively. “You have said that we cannot kill her, and you have said that she is too dangerous to be left alive. So what shall we do?”
All of the Celryn turned to look at the speaker. He was the youngest of the group but they were beginning to suspect that he might actually be clever, as opposed to cunning. This was an important development.
“We will do what we told her parents we would do,” the leader, whose name was in fact Paradox, told them. “We will make her join us.”
Some of the older Celryn objected to this idea.
“She will never agree! Besides, why would we want her - a fairy human, the worst combination - to join us? Her people stand for what is good and right, and those are the two things which repel us?” Their grumblings irritated Paradox but he did not let it show. He turned his black eyes on them.
“We need her power,” he told them. “She is strong, and if she were on our side the Telcontar would not have a chance.” There was silence. “And as for her agreeing to it, well, I wasn’t thinking of giving her a choice, as I said before.”
A few of them laughed, nastily.
“She will crumble beneath our mental superiority,” Paradox told them, his voice strong, powerful enough to raise a rebellion. “She may have physical powers but she knows nothing about defending her own mind. This is her weakness, and we will exploit it!”
The Celryn roared in agreement, visions of their enemy destroyed invading their puny minds and overcoming their senses.
“How will we get her here, to make her agree?” Vertex asked, honestly curious. Paradox growled. Their questions were impertinent, irrelevant. They annoyed him.
“That will come later. But for now, we must assess her gifts - we must know what she is capable of.” His followers nodded and agreed, but from a safe distance. They sensed his mood and were wary of it - Paradox in a rage was not something anyone had seen more than once, and there was a reason for that.
“Destroy her teacher, before she destroys us,” he told them, more gently, now. “We must not underestimate her - she is far more powerful than I imagined. From now on, all information is strictly confidential, and those who let it out will be severely punished.
“Yes, sir,” said the others, saluting, because they were all part of the Celryn army, and he was their Commander.
Paradox turned to leave the room, but as he did so he glanced at two things. The first was the bloodstain in one corner - the only thing that remained of the demise of the two humans. The other was the thirteenth chair, the one that would complete the circle.
Everyone knew the story of the Celryn that had once sat there. Everyone knew where he was now, and everyone knew his name.
His name was Matt.