Valeria gasped and straightened in her seat. “It’s started!” she whispered.
Dariad didn’t have to ask what she meant. He clapped his hands and the guards he’d assigned to the mission formed up in front of his throne.
Valeria looked at Xania. “When we get there, keep the portal open until we’re sure we’ve won the day. I don’t want to be trapped by the dragons.”
“Of course, my queen.” Xania bowed and then turned and spread her arms. The air between them twisted, sparkled and then visibly ripped a gate through to the Storm Palace and Valeria’s throne room, right next to the throne. Valeria took a deep breath, summoned all her courage and stepped forward.
Karen laid a hand on her shoulder. “Let us go first. If there’s any dragons in the throne room you’ll be toast before you can activate the defences. We can defend ourselves, so let us check it out.”
Valeria gave her a long look and then nodded. “Very well.”
Karen turned to her siblings. “Come on then.” She paused at her brother’s sullen expression. “Come on, Drew, she’s apologised and I don’t think it was entirely her fault.” That didn’t seem to move him.
“You are impossibly stubborn sometimes,” Lydia said. “but we don’t have time for this. Lives are at stake. You want to be responsible for people dying?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean I have to like any of this,” he said, but he did draw his knives and move to join his heart friend at the portal.
Kyle and Darya waited by the pool as the dragons swept in to attack the palace. As Ystelyan had predicted, the first response of the usurpers was to send out a large group of guards who were all wearing those thought surpressing circlets. Etiran and the other ‘drainer’ whose name Kyle hadn’t caught landed on opposite sides of the courtyard and proceeded to feed on the army while the other dragons risked their necks to draw their fire and keep the controllers from noticing what was happening until it was too late.
It worked like a charm. Prince Maran and his followers were so busy trying to reach one of the escape routes they didn’t realise that they should be paying attention to what the two non-combatant dragons were doing until the enslaved troops started falling over like dominoes. Kyle saw the shocked horror on the Prince’s face through Etiran’s eyes and smirked. And they were right out in the open, which meant they couldn’t open the ones in the throne room for some reason.
“It’s time,” he said softly. Darya drew his knives as Kyle readied his urumi and teleported them both directly into the courtyard. Darya landed directly in front of Sirin and slashed at her with his knives while Kyle darted behind the troll and struck at him with the flexible blades of his urumi.
“You! You’re dead!” Sirin’s scream made Kyle shudder. Even when she wasn’t focusing her sound affinity, the songstressâ€™s voice held a lot of power.
His pause gave Huldre enough warning to dodge and turn to face him. He swung one hammer-like fist at Kyle, who scrambled out of the way. Huldre caught him in the stomach with his other fist as he dodged, sending him crashing to the floor. Only his shield stopped the blow from doing any serious damage. The troll loomed over him and raised a foot to stamp on his head as Kyle rolled away desperately and teleported to the other side of the courtyard.
Darya, on the other hand, had the merfolk’s natural immunity to their own kind’s abilities and didn’t even blink at Sirinâ€™s shriek.
“Obviously I’m not, dear aunt.” The knife flickered in his hand and he sliced her cheek open. “And I’m rather discontent with you for hurting mother.”
“She deserved it, traitor!” Sirin lashed out at Darya with a whip of water from one of the pools, but he blocked it casually and took control of it, turning it into a rope to bind her. She swore as she struggled, unable to break free. Darya casually sliced open her other cheek.
“Now, now, be nice, Aunt Sirin, or I’ll cut your tongue out,” he said icily and turned towards Maran, who seemed frozen in shock. â€œIâ€™m not happy with you either, your highness. But we can discuss that later.â€ One of the dragons grabbed the prince from behind and drained him to unconsciousness.Â Another took hold of Sirin and the mermaid soon joined Maran on the courtyard flags.
Kyle rubbed at his ribs as he looked around the suddenly silent courtyard. Of their opponents, only Huldre remained standing. Etiran landed by Kyle and took his human form.
â€œThe uncircleted ones ran away. The others are rounding them up.â€ He looked towards Huldre. â€œNeed some help with the troll?â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t mind,â€ Kyle admitted. â€œHeâ€™s a flaming troll, he shouldnâ€™t be that fast.â€
â€œI noticed. He must have a very unusual affinity spread.â€ Etiran studied the troll who was standing calmly on the other side of the courtyard, as if daring them to come after him. â€œAnd he must be insane. He isnâ€™t afraid of us at all.â€ He scowled. â€œI donâ€™t like this. Heâ€™s up to something. Stay here, let us take him.â€ He gestured to the two other dragons and they flew towards the troll.
â€œI didnâ€™t think my shielding was quite that good,â€ Huldre rumbled. Then he raised one hand and fired a blast of stone shards at the nearest dragon. The attack should have failed, should have fizzled completely against a dragon, but it didnâ€™t. It tore through his hastily erected shield and his hide and wings, sending him crashing screaming into the flagstones. Blue blood spattered everywhere as the dragon, now in human form, struggled to rise. From his laboured breathing and clenched fists Kyle knew what was about to happen. He pelted across the courtyard and grabbed the dragon, trying to pin him down.
â€œDonâ€™t!â€ Kyle whispered as he began feeding as much energy as he dared into the dragon. â€œRestrain yourself, youâ€™ll kill everyone here if you donâ€™t.â€ Darya joined him in trying to hold the struggling dragon down.
â€œI-I canâ€™t,â€ he whimpered as the other dragons joined them. Kyle looked up at Etiran.
â€œTake him home, quickly!”
Etiran nodded, grabbed the other dragon and vanished. Only then did Kyle have a moment to wonder where Huldre had gone. He looked up and realised the troll was lumbering back towards the throne room doors. He moved to follow him when he felt the twist in the air – someone had opened a gate to the throne room at some point during the fight. He summoned the other dragons to his side with a thought and headed towards the doors.