Dariad did not possess a strong secondary life affinity like his father, but he had enough to recognise essence inversion when he saw it. So he took one look at the pathetic bundle in Karen’s arms and rushed her and Valeria down to the goblins’ chambers while the others carried in the other casualties.
Ekrian opened the door and gave a horrified squeak when he saw the moss girl. That was enough to bring Alaryia to the door, who blanched when she saw the girl. Her eyes tightened and flashed with obvious anger and she all but grabbed her out of Karen’s arms.
“Who did this?” she snarled, even as she stroked the girl’s hair gently.
“It’s a long story,” Valeria said. “We were hoping you could help her.”
“It’s possible. It depends. Let me take a look.” There was a long pause during which Alaryia began to glow with a soft silver light. Eventually she looked up and nodded. “She’s not too far gone.” She turned and marched towards one of the rooms with the child. “Could someone get the door, please.”
Dariad rushed and opened it for her before any of her goblins got there. She gave him a warm smile.
“Thank you,” she said. “Ekrian, could you use some of the mabain to create a support cradle for the child?”
“Of course.” The goblin boy bowed and scampered off.
Alaryia laid the girl down on the bed and looked over at Dariad and Valeria. “My compliments to the healer who treated her. They’ve done a fine job of stabilising her – she’s replacing the blood as fast as she’s losing it.”
“Thank you,” Karen said quietly. “We did our best.”
“It’s not an easy thing to deal with.” Alaryia sat down on the edge of the bed and placed her fingertips on the girl’s temples. “This will take quite a while, I’m afraid.” She closed her eyes and began to glow even more brightly. The light spread from her fingers and into the child. “I should probably warn you that since my primary affinity is light, not life, she’ll probably have some side effects.”
“Side effects?” Valeria asked sharply. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, nothing harmful I promise. It’s just that I’m pouring a lot of my energy through her and using it to reset hers. She’s young enough that there’s a good chance that she’ll incorporate some of it into her center. If she does, she may well end up with anÂ extra secondary affinity for light as a result. It would echo through to her heart friend as well.”
“Is that all?” Valeria asked.
“Yes, your majesty, that’s all,” Alaryia said. “She’ll be okay. But I repeat my question – who did this? This is normally a dragon trick but this feels like a speaker did it.”
“It was. We think it was a troll named Huldre,” Karen said.
“Hmm, very odd. Wasn’t he the one who killed your dwarf friend?” Alaryia murmered. “Does this have something to do with the problems at the Storm Palace which Queen Valeria mentioned?â€
“She’s helping, Val. I really think you should tell her,” Dariad said. “It’s not like the information can do any harm.”
Valeria hesitated for a few moments but eventually nodded. “There was a coup at the Storm Palace while I was away,” she began. She continued with the whole sorry tale until she reached the bit about Huldre’s successful attack on the dragon. As soon as she mentioned that, Alaryia’s eyes snapped open.
“What?!” she exclaimed. Dariad didn’t blame her â€“ he was trying not to choke at that news himself.
“Yes,” Valeria said. “That was everyone else’s reaction as well. Even the throne was baffled.” She hesitated for a moment. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas, ambassador?”
“Hmm… There are a few possible explanations, but none of themÂ fill my heart with joy and they all very unlikely as well,” Alaryia replied. “Let me think about it when I don’t have a life to concentrate on saving. It’s more important and it makes thinking things through hard.” She closed her eyes again. “Please continue with your story.”
Valeria looked like she might continue but there was a soft knock at the door and a goblin girl came in.
“Excuse the interruption, but Chatelaine Brita wishes me to tell you that the child’s parents are awake and are frantic about their daughter.”
“Ah,” Valeria said.
“This little one’s parents?” Alaryia asked.
“Yes. They were beaten unconscious by the same people who were behind this.”
“You should go to them,” Alaryia said. “Reassuring them that their little one will be okay is more important than assuaging my curiousity.”