“Are you feeling better?” Kyle asked.
Darya nodded. “Is there any news about my mother’s condition?”
“Not yet. Ystelyan-mirian has sent an imp into Caerdu to try and gather information, but it hasn’t returned yet. I’m sure she’ll be okay though.”
Darya nodded again, but didn’t look convinced. “What about the Storm Palace?”
“Oh, the imps he sent there have returned. Sirin had a net ward up, but our mirian’s imps are slippy.” Kyle sighed. “He’s gathering a team for us, but this is going to be difficult. They have those damned circlets. Which means they’ll be able to fight the dragons with us, and that the poor sods doing the fighting will be innocent. They seem to have half of the non-circleted speakers under some sort of control as well.”
Darya scowled. “So sorting out the real guilty parties won’t be easy.â€ He folded his arms. â€œBut it just makes it more important to deal with them. How do we handle this?”
“I don’t know.â€ Kyle rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. â€œYstelyan-mirian says to round everyone up and sort them out here. It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare logistically to move that many people. We do know who the ring leaders are at least. Prince Maran, Sirin and some troll guy. The troll seems to be behind the mind-control. He’s primarily an earth affinity type, of course, but he seems to have an unusually strong mind affinity.”
“Huldre,” Darya said flatly. “I’ve had the misfortune to meet him. On the upside, if we take him out it should release the mind control on the non-circleted speakers.” He tilted his head slightly. “On the downside, I’m not sure how noticable that would be when everyone is running around in a panic because of the dragons.”
Kyle snorted then frowned. “Where was Valeria when all this went down? Couldn’t she have used the defenses against them?”
“There was some kind of emergency at the thunderbirdâ€™s eyrie. She left mother in charge. My imp didn’t get the details, but she took Alban with her.” He paused. “Damn, I hope little Salia was out of the way as well. Maran will kill her if she falls into his hands.”
â€œThen itâ€™s very good that sheâ€™s not there, though Iâ€™m not sure where she is will be much of an improvement,â€ Ystelyan said from the doorway. â€œIt seems she was at the eyrie. It was attacked because Gerian targetted her.â€ He paused while Kyle and Darya both swore. â€œIndeed. Though I doubt heâ€™ll hurt her. He needs her after all.â€
â€œYes, but sheâ€™s just a kid,â€ Kyle said.
â€œI know, but he already has her. Weâ€™ll worry about that later,â€ Ysteyan said. â€œFor now I want to review what Daryaâ€™s imp showed him, if heâ€™s calm enough to show me. It might reveal more about whoâ€™s guilty and innocent.â€
â€œI can do that, I think. Can I use the pool to project it?â€
â€œThis is more serious than I thought,â€ Ystelyan said after theyâ€™d watched it.
â€œThat screaming sound. What was it?â€ Kyle found himself breathing deeply to repress the nausea the sound had caused.
Ystelyan looked to one side thoughtfully. â€œI donâ€™t know. It didnâ€™t feel like a Talori or Speaker effect though.â€
â€œWhich only leaves dragons or goblins,â€ Kyle said. â€œThat makes no sense.â€
â€œNo,â€ Ystelyan said softly. â€œThere is one more group it could be. I just canâ€™t imagine what interest they might have in provoking this.â€ He shook his head. â€œWhatever it was, it feels like a fairly short term and blunt tool. Theyâ€™ll probably be putting circlets on the victims pretty soon. Weâ€™d better move quickly before they have chance to dig in. Iâ€™m giving you two of my strongest willed and most skilled feeders. Theyâ€™ll knock out the circleted ones while you and the four other dragons Iâ€™m sending round up the rest.â€
â€œYes, my mirian.â€ Kyle bowed.
â€œWill you be sending Tal along?â€ Darya asked.
Ystelyan hummed thoughtfully and then shook his head. â€œNot after last time. Sheâ€™s still a bit unreliable and I have something else she may be able to help me with.â€
The sound of Alaryiaâ€™s voice made both him and Valeria jump. Dariad turned towards her and gasped. She was stalking down the hall towards them clutching a water imp in one hand, and it looked more like a spy imp than a messenger one. Valeria squeaked in surprise beside him and he didnâ€™t blame her. Water imps were hard to grasp and this one was squirming about but showing no sign of getting loose.
â€œI hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but for some reason Ystelyan is spying on you. I was having a bath and found this in the water. It was sneaking through the plumbing looking for something, and Iâ€™m fairly sure itâ€™s not the Mabain. He wouldnâ€™t send an Imp for that.â€
â€œYstelyan is the first blue dragon?” he asked.
â€œYou know that without asking? Thatâ€™s interesting.” Alaryia stared at him.
Dariad shrugged, looked at Valeria and mouthed â€˜It was looking for Lorelei?â€™
Valeria nodded. â€œI think so yes, probably.â€ She gave Alaryia a shrewd look. â€œDoes she know?â€
â€œI hadnâ€™t told her that bit.â€
â€œHe canâ€™t decide if he trusts me or not.â€ Alaryia looked amused. â€œBut I gather you know what itâ€™s looking for?â€
â€œNot what, who,â€ Valeria said. â€œThereâ€™s a bit of a situation developed at the Storm Palace. You donâ€™t need to know the details. One of my mermaid citizenâ€™s was injured and is being treated here. One her sons went renegade a couple of years back.â€
â€œAnd heâ€™s an important enough part of Ystelyanâ€™s court for him to send an imp to check on her condition?â€ Alaryia pulled a face. â€œWhat do you want me to do with this? I could destroy it but heâ€™ll only try again, and I might not spot the next one.â€