“Your majesty.” The moss woman leapt to her feet and ran over to Valeria as soon as she entered the room. “Arava? Please, is our little Arava alive? King Dariad’s Chatelaine said she was.” Sap-like tears were running down her cheeks. “But that troll, he…” she broke off into heaving sobs.
He husband rose more slowly and put his arms around his wife before looking at Valeria. “She’s dead, isn’t she?” he asked in a flat, despairing tone. “There’s no way she could have survived that.”
“She’s alive,” Valeria said softly. “It was touch and go, but the light warrior and one of my healers stabilised her and we brought her here.”
“Stabilised?” The mother’s shoulders slumped even further. “But no one can cure essence inversion. It’s not likely she’ll recover.” She began sobbing again.
“Well, no speakers can,” Valeria conceded. “But by good fortune, Dariad had a goblin trade delegation here and they apparently can. The ambassador is treating her right no, and assures me she’ll be okay.”
The two moss people stared at her for a moment as that sank and she saw a desperate hope spring up in their eyes. The moss man shook his head after a moment.
“There’s something very wrong with the world when a speaker uses a dragon trick to try and kill your daughter and then she’s saved by a goblin.”
“Ah.” Valeria couldn’t argue with that. She changed the subject. “I must apologise for my brother waylaying you. It was none of my doing, I swear.”
“We know that, your majesty. The fact it was coup was obvious from their behaviour,” the moss man said. “And we are forgetting our manners. I am Yvo, a carpenter from Waldhafen.”
“I am Linnea,” his wife said. “A wood carver and sculptress. We were travelling with some sample pieces to the great fair to see if we could get any commissions when Prince Maran and a group of guards waylaid us. I think they would have let us pass but one of the guards noticed that Arava didn’t have a heart stone. He called us traitors for not killing her at birth and they dragged us back toâ€“” She broke off with another hysterical sob. “We tried to fight them, but there were too many of them!”
“I know you did,” Valeria said. “I saw the state you were in.”
“Can we see Arava?” Linnea said. “I know you said that she’d be okay, but…” She trailed off.
“I understand,” Valeria said. “I have a daughter of my own who is serious trouble right now and I wish I could see her. I’ll take you down to the goblins’ chambers and we’ll see. Amabassador Alaryia may wish you to wait until after the treatment is finished.”
“Thank you, your majesty.”
“We’re having a council of war at Waldhafen soon, so you can travel back with us if you wish,” she added.
“We would be grateful, your majesty,” Yvo said. “I don’t think either of us could face the fair at the moment.”
Arava was still unconscious when they reached the goblins’ chambers and her bark coloured skin had an ashen undertone, but she was no longer bleeding. She had been transferred from the bed to a strange, softly glowing cradle which Valeria guessed was what Alaryia had asked Ekrian to make.
Alaryia was kneeling by the cradle, rocking it with one hand. She was still glowing and was humming tunelessly to herself. She looked up as Ekrian ushered them into the room and gave a gentle smile.
“Ah, you must be the little one’s parents,” she said. “She’s recovering well.”
“Arava!” Linnea rushed over to the cradle and and knelt down opposite Alaryia. “She’s so pale. Will she really be okay, ambassador?”
“She will,” Alaryia said softly. “But please keep your voice down. She needs her rest right now. May I ask what she likes to eat? She’ll be very hungry when she wakes up.”
“She’s very fond of milk,” Yvo knelt down at the foot of the cradle and stared at his daughter’s face. “And she loves venison.” He gave a tremulous smile. “She doesn’t like rabbit or squirrel.”
“No rabbit then. Pity, we have lots of rabbit.” Alaryia nodded. “Ekrian, could you get one of the cooks to prepare a venison broth suitable for speakers? Little Arava deserves some pampering after what she’s been through.” She looked at Linnea, who was reaching for her daughter. “I know you want to hold her, but please don’t pick her up. You can touch her, but she needs to stay in the support cradle until she wakes up, or she might relapse.”
“Oh!” Linnea bit her lip but contented herself with caressing Arava’s cheek.
Even though she was clearly still asleep Arava mumbled ‘Mama!” and turned over onto her side so she could hug Linnea’s hand.
“She knows I’m here!” Linnea exclaimed.
“She does,” Alaryia confirmed. “And it’s a very good sign that she’s responding to you already. She may wake up sooner than I thought. Hopefully not before the broth is done though.”