Elea led Derrick and Sari down and down until they got to the bottom level of the royal mansion. They passed several closed doors until they came to a section Elea referred to as "guest rooms."
"They didn't know there would be two of you, so they put you in here, Sari. But you can stay with me for tonight. My husband won't be back so we can share a bed—if you don't mind. Derrick can take this room."
There wasn't much in here. A narrow bed. A table, a place to put clothes. Derrick threw his small bag onto the table. "This is fine," he said.
"Where will Zack—I mean Zephyr—stay?" Sari interrupted.
Elea smiled. "Probably with his mother up in the royal suites. But he has a room in the enforcer's quarters if he wants it. I didn't think that would be an option which would appeal to you, Derrick." She gave the young man a questioning glance.
Derrick shuddered. "No. Thanks, this will do. You say the King will be back tomorrow?"
"If all goes well, he should be." Elea's face betrayed her anxiety. "They all should be. Facilities are at the end of the hall," she said, before taking Sari's hand. "We will see you in the morning for breakfast."
"Wait." Derrick hurried after the two girls. "Sari—doesn't always know she's using elemental powers," Derrick explained. "Are you sure you will be able to deal with it if she has— an episode?"
Elea smiled widely. "Because I'm non-family? Yes, Sari and I will get along just fine."
"But I . . . why are you even here? Who are you?" Derrick asked in frustration. "I have a lot of questions."
"And you'll get your answers, I'm sure, once Jet gets back." Elea led Sari firmly down the hall. "See? We're right next door. Good night."
Elea wasn't worried about Sari. She could sing her to calmness if Sari got agitated, but Sari seemed fine. Maybe Derrick didn't give the girl enough credit. Despite the situation she'd been thrown into, Sari was reacting remarkably well. "Do you have any questions for me?" Elea asked Sari once they were settled in her room.
Sari shook her head. "I don't see what all the fuss is about. Ned—Jet, I mean—will explain what's going on tomorrow. I can wait. I don't have episodes," she emphasized. "They said the earth shakes were my fault but I don't see how that could be so."
Elea hugged Sari. "They're not your fault. That's where Jet and my husband went, to find out what caused them. Don't worry."
Elea's bed was slightly larger than the single bed in Derrick's room. She snuggled close to Sari, who fell asleep almost immediately. Sari had not reacted at all to the fact that Elea was non-family. Derrick had—definitely. Sighing, Elea cast her awareness as far as she could, but she got no hint of Meetoo. With a quick wish for their safety, Elea drifted off to sleep.
Some time in the middle of the night, Zeph left his mother's suite and traced the path of his new friends. He looked in on Elea curled together with Sari. Derrick had his own room, so Zeph took form at the foot of his bed and nudged his friend. "Wake up."
Derrick shot upright at Zeph's light touch. "What? What happened?"
"Nothing." Zeph sat cross-legged on the floor. "Just making sure you're both all right."
And making sure Sari wasn't in the room with Derrick.
"What time is it?" Derrick asked blearily, once he'd assessed there was no immediate danger.
"Late," Zeph replied, snatching the blanket off Derrick's bed and wrapping himself in it. He stretched out on the floor. "I'm staying here. Go back to sleep."
Derrick muttered under his breath, but eventually he curled up facing the wall, and slept.
When Zeph woke up the next morning, Derrick was already gone. Great, Zeph thought. A strange non-family man with unknown loyalties wandering around the royal mansion. He threw off the blanket and turned to wind. I'd better go find him.
He didn't have to go far. Derrick was in Elea's room, sitting on a corner of her bed as Elea sat in a small chair by her dresser. But now Sari was missing. Zeph took back his body. "There you are. Where's Sari?" he asked casually.
It seemed he had interrupted a conversation between the two non-family people. Derrick scowled, though Elea looked as unruffled as ever. There wasn't any other place to sit, so Zeph sat next to Derrick on the bed.
Just then the door opened, and Sari flounced in, wearing one of Elea's dresses. "I'm ready!" she announced. She spotted Zeph. "Good. We're all here. Now we can go get breakfast."
Elea turned, smiling. "I'll show you . . . ." Her face paled and she lifted her head, staring at the ceiling.
Zeph followed Elea's gaze. "Are you all right?" He started towards her, casting his senses into the ether at the same time. "What is it?"
Just then Elea screamed, her hands flying to her mouth in horror. Zeph felt it right before three figures crashed onto Elea's bed in a jumble of arms and legs, burying Derrick beneath them in the process. The bed, not made for that many bodies, creaked ominously and then broke in two. They lay still, and Zeph's heart filled with dread.
But then the body on top stirred and raised his eyes. "Where am I?" He asked, crawling off the pile of bodies and sliding to the floor. "Zeph?" He asked, spotting Zeph standing next to Elea's chair. The man slowly turned his head. "Sari?" he asked, as his eyes settled on her. Sari had her back pressed against the door, her eyes wide.
"Dad!" Zephyr shouted.
"Meetoo!" Elea screamed, jolting from her chair as the realization hit her. She ran to the bed and started pulling random arms and legs, ignoring Jet sprawled on the floor. Derrick crawled out, pushing against the bodies pinning him to the mattress. He watched as Elea dragged one of the bodies, one who still wasn't moving, off the bed. Jet, in the meantime, got to his feet and helped her pull the man free.
Derrick backed up as the third person sat up and scratched his head. "The Enforcer," he whispered under his breath.
Daniel asked, "What happened?" He looked around the small bedroom and groaned. He lay back down on the broken bed and covered his eyes with one arm.
"Meetoo!" Elea frantically patted the third man's face. He opened his eyes, to Elea's relived smile. "Meetoo!" She hugged him. Meetoo sat up and hugged her back. It was a long time before either one of them let go.
Jet shook his head, smiling wryly. "I should have known."
Meetoo let go of his wife long enough to explain. "I had to find a place I knew, a place where I belonged." He squeezed Elea's hand.
"To Darcy?" Jet asked incredulously.
Meetoo reddened, so Elea replied. "To me."
On the bed, Daniel laughed sharply.
Jet grinned. "You couldn't have picked a bigger room?" he asked. "We have a lot to discuss." His eyes roved over Derrick, Sari, and finally Zephyr. "What did you do to your hair?" Jet's hair was still dirty yellow, but it had begun to spike out all over his head. The black roots were visible underneath.
"Cut it," Zeph said. He rubbed the fuzzy black stubble. "Works."
"Why don't we all go upstairs and get something to eat?" Jet suggested. "I haven't eaten in forever."
"A day," Elea muttered. "It's been a day."
But all three of the recent arrivals moved slowly, as if they were exhausted. They filed out the door, making no move to either take elemental form or merge with Zeph, the only other Family present. Elea held onto Meetoo and Derrick stared intently at both of them as they walked to the stairway at the other end of the long corridor.
Sari wound her arm around Zeph's as they brought up the rear. "I guess it's you and me, then," she said. "You can explain to me what just happened as we walk."