A timid knock on the door made them both jump. Anna cautiously stood up, wondering whether to answer it.
“Go on,” said Matt. “It can’t be the Celryn – they wouldn’t knock, they’d just barge straight in here.” Anna nodded. That much was true.
Slightly nervously, she made her way down the corridor, wondering who on Earth it was that was knocking. It could have been someone perfectly ordinary, but there was something about the awkwardness of the knock that made Anna feel that it wasn’t.
Someone’s out there, she thought. They’re out there, and they want us. She probed out with her mind, still not quite comfortable with this skill, but well aware of how useful it was. She wished, yet again, that Aelvyn had returned, but there was nothing they could do to call him, and anyway, she wouldn’t be responsible if the Celryn destroyed him. I can’t carry that kind of burden – it’s too much.
Her hand trembled slightly as she reached up to open the door. The figure outside was only about her height. No, there were two of them, both about her height. Other than that she could see nothing, for the glass was misted and so not transparent.
They knocked again, more urgently, peering through the glass to see if she was coming. Anna lifted the latch and opened the door.
“Anna?” It was the girl nearest the front that spoke. The other girl, slightly younger by the looks of things, stood a little way back, as though she had no part to play in this conversation.
“Who are you?” she replied, not recognising this girl at all. “How do you know who I am?”
Matt came up behind her, took her hand in his. She reached out a grateful thought probe to him, and knew that he got it because he squeezed her hand tightly for just a second, before releasing the pressure.
“Who are you?” he asked. He still hadn’t got a new shirt, and his wings were visible in all their splendour. The visitors’ mouths fell open for a second, as the light reflected off the feathers and dazzled them. Anna couldn’t blame them; she still felt that way sometimes.
“I’m Spook, Anna’s pen pal,” replied the girl, looking hopefully at Anna, who stared at her in disbelief.
“Spook?” she whispered, so quietly it was almost inaudible. “What are you doing here?” Spook laughed, and behind her the other girl smiled, too, perhaps sensing that the ice had been broken.
“We’ve come to help you. We know about the Celryn, and we want to help.” Spook looked proud for a moment; then her shoulders sagged. “I’m sorry; there are only two of us. None of the others would come, not that we asked them … we sneaked out in the night. Of course, by now they’ll know that we’ve gone.” She nodded sadly. “You could say that we ran away from home.”
“Who’s your friend?” Anna asked, still finding it hard to believe that such a coincidence could have come about.
“Her? Oh, her name’s Delorfinde.” Anna spluttered with laughter, but none of the others got the joke. She would hardly expect them to, after all. None of them knew just how bizarre this scenario was for her.
“Hi,” said Delorfinde, looking slightly put out.
“Ignore me!” Anna said. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not you … it’s something I heard, long ago, someone I knew…” She trailed off, lost in thought.