Hadley walks among us again, in her dreams. I don’t know how she does this, but while she is sleeping in her home back, presumably in Esterwell, she projects herself here, and walks and talks with us. She is doing this, I discovered, because she wants to come here. She is not happy at home, she feels her parents are too busy to spend time with her and she wants to move here. Worse still, Aoibheann, Wren, and Vedis are actively considering ways of achieving this.
I found them in the village, discussing possibilities. I had not encountered the child myself before, but I had been told that she had been visiting Aoibheann for the past few days, or possibly nights. Who knows what time it is in Esterwell? So far as I could make out from what I heard, Aoibheann was under the impression that Vedis was going to make a body for the dream Hadley to inhabit, whereas Wren was sure that Vedis could make a portal to bring her here in person. I gathered that they had been told this by a gypsy lady, who I later learned was Phaedra. The idea, apparently, would be that Vedis would make the portal and Hadley could then wake up and come through physically. She was unable to do this at the moment because her own magic is blocked.
Naturally, I was extremely concerned at this turn of events. After what had happened before, I did not want to think what retribution the Damondreds would seek if Hadley were to come here again. Against that, the child seemed extremely earnest in her desire to leave there and come here, as did Aoibheann and Wren, who were all looking at me, almost pleading with me to allow this.
I squatted down and addressed the child, asking what was wrong and why she wanted to come here, then addressed the same question to Wren and Aoibheann. I also asked Aoibheann if she had forgotten what had happened last time Hadley had been here.
Aoibheann tried to convince me that it couldn’t happen again. Mysthaven was protected now, so Alec could not come here and do anything. She said that Maric was aware of Hadley’s presence and that he had promised to protect her. It wasn’t safe for Hadley, she said, she could get trapped in her dreams and possibly die. What kind of people would we be if we sent her back when she didn’t want to go? Wren chipped in saying that she was afraid Hadley would be hurt. Her parents were blocking her from using her magic, which was not good for her. She also said they lied to her a lot, although she did not explicate about what.
Hadley answered me for herself. She was not happy there. For the past five days, she had only woken up long enough to eat and go to the bathroom so that she could spend lots of time here. Her parents were busy with work and the babysitter didn’t care very much. She looked up at me and looked as if she was about to cry. She didn’t want to live like this, she said. Would I want to live in a world where I didn’t know who I was and everybody lied to me? She didn’t.
I took this on board soberly. She appeared genuinely distressed and this didn’t seem like the complaints of a temporarily neglected child. And, I was only too aware of the ways that Alec and Isabella could treat people. I told her that no, I would not want to live like that. I felt conflicted. She clearly did not want to be where she was, and to some extent, I could not blame her, but, on the other hand, I had to consider the possible consequences. I stood up and told them all that I wanted to help if I could, but pointed out I would need to ask Maric first, and we had to consider all the possible ramifications. How could we do this? How could we protect ourselves? Was there a way we could shield Hadley so Alec and Isabella couldn’t track her here? I squatted down and asked her again, was she absolutely sure this was what she wanted to do?
Aoibheann chipped in again, saying that she was sure Maric’s exile of Alec and Isabella would extend to blocking tracking spells. I resisted pointing out that, as the thought came to me, they wouldn’t need a spell. If Hadley disappeared, given recent events, this might be the first place they looked. If Hadley still had access to her magic, then they might be likely to look elsewhere, but, without it, we were the most likely place to look. Aoibheann also pointed out that it had been five days already, and we might not have the luxury of doing things the right way, as if time was of the essence. We didn’t even know how much time it would take Vedis to do this, she said. Wren chipped in asking if we could find out if Vedis could even do this, before we got into any other technical details.
Hadley responded to my question without even seeming to have to think about it. She was absolutely sure, she said. Her family was here now, along with all her real memories. Back there was only loneliness and lies. She told me she had been risking her life for five days coming here and even without being able to touch things, those days were the happiest she could remember.
I told her that I understood. I still thought we should ask Maric first, before doing anything, but Wren was right, first we should find out what was possible, and if Vedis could not do this, then we had to look at the alternatives. As it happened, Vedis turned up as I was speaking, as did Sophia. I greeted them both with a smile, lifting my hand to catch the kiss that Vedis had blown at me. I enquired if Sophia was on one of her furloughs, which she said she was. She did not look to be entirely up to speed with what was going on, and I couldn’t blame her. She said something about being lost and about something being better in the void with the sisters. She clearly knew Vedis, which made sense, and asked her if she should be going home now. I mentioned that she had met Hadley and Wren before in Jasper Cove, but I couldn’t tell if that triggered any memories.
Aoibheann greeted them both and the decided she needed to go and get something from the castle, something that would help though she did not say what. She scurried off at high speed, leaving us to explain the situation to Vedis. Wren simply said that we needed Vedis’ help. Hadley tried to explain, though her explanation was a little hurried and fractured. She said that a woman called something beginning with Ph had said that she knew Vedis and that Vedis would be able to help her come here in real form instead of dreams.
I explained in a more logical manner, introducing Hadley, before remembering that Vedis may have known her from Jasper Cove days, even if she had been but a babe then. I said that they wanted to know if she could do such a thing. I pointed out that while I was sympathetic to the idea, I was aware of the potential consequences, so did not want to proceed before consulting Maric. I made a quick call through the mental link, but he was not awake, or otherwise reachable. In his absence, I emphasised again the need to check with him first.
Vedis said that she could do this thing. She had no desire to invoke Alec and Isabella’s wrath either, but if it was what Hadley wanted, then there was little they could do. She agreed that Maric should be consulted first; however, she wanted to know who was going to pay for this favour. She looked at Hadley and asked what she would offer her to do this for her. I was immediately concerned. Hadley was too young to be making deals with demons, and, to my mind, Vedis had no place asking a child such a thing. Before I could say anything, the situation was further complicated by the arrival of none other than Horace, riding in on a horse. I greeted him briefly, focussing again on Vedis. I said that it was good that she was willing to do this for us, but warned her that it was not fair to expect a child to enter into such a bargain. Perhaps it would be better to discuss terms later.
Vedis looked distracted for a moment, saying something about “Not here, not now.” I realised she was talking to Sophia, who had started humming, possibly a similar song to the one she had sung part of when she visited last. She told Hadley to make sure she was near a mirror and she would find her. She agreed that we should discuss terms later. She said I should speak with Maric as soon as possible, but she was going to do this tomorrow, with or without his approval. She briefly greeted Horace, and then said she had to take Sophia back to the sisters. With that, she was gone, with Sophia following mutely.
Aoibheann came running back, though I did not see anything with her that would help with the task in hand. Wren mentioned again something about the gypsy lady, presumably meaning Phaedra, having something in payment, and told Hadley that she would be with us soon. Hadley looked delighted with the proceedings and promised Wren a real hug soon.
Horace meanwhile looked somewhat confused by what was going on, staring after Vedis and asking if it was her. I told him I it was. His story was a long one, he said, claiming he needed to speak with Galyanna as soon as possible. He was paying far too much attention to Hadley for my liking and it occurred to me that he may have come here from Esterwell and therefore, possibly knew the child. I told him that I did not know where Galyanna was and warned him that he should respect the child’s privacy and not speak of her presence. He agreed that it was not his business but repeated his insistence that he needed to speak to Galyanna.
I was about to repeat that I did not know where she was, when said worthy appeared from behind the tree. I greeted her jovially and pointed her at Horace. Before I left, I asked him to come and speak with me another day and suggested he take a room at the new tavern.
I left them then, returning to the castle to leave a note for Maric. I just hoped that he would be awake and able to deal with it before anything drastic happened.