Chapter Thirty One: Jasmine

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I gestured wildly to one of the tables which had a long table cloth hanging down in front of it and Imogen and I dived underneath, moments before the door opened and a large group walked in. Through a small gap to my left I watched as five Helians came into the room, accompanied by Lorelie, the youngest of the Brizan Protectors.

I recognised one of the Helians as Roxy's friend Avery, but Roxy herself was missing. She was smiling joyfully at an older man - also a Protector - and said "I can't believe it's worked! This is fantastic! What are we going to make her do?"

A tall, stern woman, whose brown hair was bland compared to the vibrant blue and reds of the Protectors, rounded on Avery instantly. "This isn't a game you silly girl, this is serious business. If you can't act like an adult for five minutes I'll have to replace you." Despite her lack of powers she was clearly in control of the situation. "We need to test that it's really worked. Make her do something."

The man stepped forwards towards Lorelie. "Allow me, Seraphina," he said politely, before touching the Brizan lightly on her arm to get her attention. "Lorelie, won't you get me that book over there?" His voice came out smooth and thick like honey, it was charming yet sinister. The other Protectors repeated his request, chant-like, in the same tone. Lorelie walked over to a table - her face blank and her eyes glazed - and picked up the book he had indicated to before returning to hand it to him.

"That proves nothing," the woman snapped. "She would probably do that anyway if you asked her. You need to make her do something out of character - something which might harm her."

"If you want, Seraphina." The man sighed but did as she had ordered. He let a ball of flames flare up in his hands before adopting the same tone and asking "Lorelie, why don't you put your hand into the flames." The chorus repeated his words and Lorelie moved her hands towards the flames.

Beside me, Imogen grasped my hand tightly and I felt myself begin to panic, how could they have so much power over her? They had completely bent her will so that she no longer had any sense of self-preservation. What could they do to the rest of us?

Suddenly, the table to our left burst fiercely into flames. One second everything was normal, the next it was consumed by fire. The group jumped, startled, and the flames in the man's hands vanished, leaving Lorelie's hand hanging motionlessly in the air, confused.

"Flames! What's wrong with you? Idiots! Can you not control your powers for five minutes so we can get some work done? No, you have to get so over-excited that you try to burn the whole palace down! This is insufferable. Put them out - quickly!" The woman was so livid her face had turned as red as the Protectors' hair.

Two of the Helians started towards the flames, looking slightly unsure what to do with them, when Avery suggested "Why don't you get her to put them out?" She gestured towards Lorelie, who was now standing, motionless, with her hand held out.

"That's not a bad idea, Avery," the man said. "Why don't you do the honours?"

"Lorelie? Won't you use your powers to put out those flames?" The words were echoed eerily by the figures around her.

Lorelie moved towards them at once and put her hands out in front of her slowly, just like the Helians did when they produced flames. However, instead of fire, a stream of water sprung from her hands, dousing the flames on the table in a matter of seconds.

"Fantastic!" the man said. "It could be worth keeping one of them around!"

The woman, Seraphina, smiled grimly. "At least it looks like we've got her under our Control."

"We had better do some reconnaissance before we let her go."

"Ask away, Vincent." The woman went to sit down in one of the chairs.

"Does Rowan not have any suspicions about why you've been invited here?" The chorus echoed his question.

"Yes," Lorelie answered at once. "We've been on alert since we arrived, but we haven't found anything wrong yet."

"Don't you have any political motivations yourselves for this trip?" Again the echo followed.

She shook her head. "I don't know."

"Surely you must have heard something - don't Rowan and Euphrasia discuss it?"

"They have a lot of discussions without me."

Vincent looked at Seraphina, who nodded. "Well why don't you ask them when they get out of their meeting? Don't forget anything that they tell you, then report it all to me. You will meet me secretly in the garden three hours from now. Isn't that a good plan?" The chorus was more of a murmur this time, blending eerily with Vincent's words.

"Good - I think that's all." He looked over at Seraphina again who nodded her consent.

"Wouldn't you like to leave now?"

Lorelie nodded and left the room.

Seraphina stood up. "I shall inform the King of our progress. You can all go about your business." She left the room and the Helians filed out behind her, until only Avery was left behind.

To our frustration, she grabbed a book and sat down in the chair Seraphina had vacated. Imogen and I looked at each other alarmed. We had to warn the others, but it was going to be impossible to get out of the room without Avery noticing.

We needed to distract her somehow... But Imogen was already one step ahead of me. "Be ready to go on my signal," she whispered in my ear before concentrating very hard on the table behind Avery's chair. There was a sudden breeze and a whole pile of books fell from the table onto the floor. Avery jumped up, alarmed and rushed behind her to see what had happened. "Now!" Imogen hissed and we crawled out from under the table and over to the door as quickly as possible.

But just as I was about to creep through the door, I noticed a flash of red: Vincent and another Protector were standing right outside.

Trapped, we were forced to crouch behind a chair by the door. This at least concealed us from Avery's view, so long as she stayed where she was. All we had to do was pray that no one else walked into the room. If they did, there would be no where to hide.

We waited, hardly daring to breathe as the two Protectors continued their discussion. As vital as their words might have been, I couldn't concentrate on what they were saying. All I could hear was my own heart thumping in my ears.

After an eternity they finished speaking and mercifully both left along the corridor. We waited for the sounds of their footsteps to disappear before crawling through the open door, jumping to our feet and rushing back out of the restricted area as quickly as possible.

Back on the right side of the divide we breathed a deep sigh of relief before going to find the others.

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