â€œTry not to get us in any more trouble, Lyd,â€ Karen whispered as Lydia rose to her feet.
Lydia glanced at her and nodded, then walked up to the mirror and looked at it. â€œHow does this work, exactly?â€
The king handed her the same slender blade Eyvindr had used and gestured to the mirror. â€œJust touch the mirror with your blood and tell us what happened.â€
Lydia looked at the knife dubiously. It had been wiped clean, but… â€œThat doesnâ€™t seemÂ hygenic,â€ she said. â€œCan I use one of my own knives from my pack?â€
The king rolled his eyes at that. â€œYou humans are strange sometimes. Just do it, girl. Thereâ€™s no risk unless you lie, I assure you.â€ He gave her a bland look. â€œI advise you not to lie.â€
â€œSheâ€™s trying to stall because she knows the mirror will reveal the truth,â€ Hardmar said.
â€œOh, for crapâ€™s sake! And theyâ€™d only just healed.â€ Lydia gritted her teeth, slashed her palm open and slammed it into the mirror. â€œWe did not kill your brother or anyone else!â€ The mirrorâ€™s surface warmed beneath her hand and she felt it drawing blood from the cut. Something else took the bloodâ€™s place and travelled from the mirror up her arm and into her head where it seemed to poke around before withdrawing back into the mirror.
The mirror rippled and their first meeting with Korrig flashed across it, followed by the incident the night before they reached the Ice Cave and their arrival there. The surface rippled again and Lydia watched herself emerge from the cave to find Korrig attacking Bennu. As the scene reached the point where it became obvious Korrig was being controlled there was a cry of denial from Hardmar.
â€œLies! Huldre wouldnâ€™t do that! Heâ€™s our friend!â€
Lydia looked over at the dwarf and saw furious tears in his eyes.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ she said. â€œBut he did.â€
â€œLiar! I wonâ€™t let you get away with this!â€ He drew his knife again and flung himself at her. She leapt asideÂ and he struck the mirror hard. It shattered violently, shredding his skin and sending shards flying throughout the chamber.Â He ignored his wounds and swang at her again but a dark barrier sprang up around her and he bounced off it. She glanced over at the king and saw his hand outstretched in her direction. Before Hardmar could attack her again he was grabbed by two of the guards.
â€œNow look what youâ€™ve done, Hardmar!â€ The king looked round at Lydia. â€œAre you alright?â€
â€œFine, thanks.â€ She looked at the shattered remains of the mirror. â€œBut I think your mirror is a gonner.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s not in good shape but I think we saw enough to exonerate you. It appears Huldre was lying to you, Hardmar,â€ he said.
â€œNo.â€ The dwarf shook his head angrily.
â€œYouâ€™ll accept what someone shows you via dreamspeaking when thereâ€™s no guarentee of truth, but you wonâ€™t accept what the mirror says?â€ The king frowned and his eyes swept the crowd, which was still murmuring angrily. â€œAnd neither will they. They know better than that. This isnâ€™t a natural anger.â€ He looked down at the shards of the mirror and scowled. â€œOne person couldnâ€™t do this, especially not at a distance. Which means there is a conspiracy in my own halls. I will look into this, but first I need to fix this. Now who to-â€ He stopped as his eyes alighted on Karen and a speculative look crossed his face. â€œLight Warrior, would you assist me, please?â€
â€œCertainly, your majesty.â€ Karen rose to her feet and walked up the steps. â€œWhat do you want me to do?â€
â€œWould you pick whichever of the shards most appeals to your heart, cut yorself with it and touch it to the wall where the mirror was, please.â€
Karen gave him a long, thoughtful look. â€œI can do that,â€ she said finally. She surveyed the shards, grabbed one which had embedded itself in the wall near the goblin woman and let it slice into her palms. â€œJust touch this to the wall?â€
She reached up and touched the shard to the wall directly over his throne. It was sucked out of her hand and into the rock. â€œHey!â€
â€œDonâ€™t worry, itâ€™s supposed to do that,â€ he said. â€œWatch.â€
The wall rippled and the rest of the shattered mirror was drawn into the now seething space. The surface rippled and bubbled a moment longer then gradually subsided to reveal the shining surface of the mirror, whole as if it the breakage had never happened.
â€œWoah,â€ Lydia gasped. She looked at Karen, who was staring at her bloody hands. She thought it was shock but then Karen looked over at the King. â€œAny chance I could get these bandaged?â€
â€œOf course,â€ he said. â€œAs soon as I sort out who I can trust here.â€ He turned them to face the crowd with him. â€œThe mirror has searched these warriorsâ€™ hearts and found no duplicity. They did not commit any crime the mirror could find, let alone the one of which they were accused. Will you not accept the truth of your eyes? Unless, of course, one of you was actually there and will submit to the mirrorâ€™s scrutiny.â€
No one volunteered, of course. Lydia scanned the crowd with her eyes and saw that about half the crowd seemed swayed by their kingâ€™s words while the rest were unmoved. She glanced up at him and saw he was scowling.
â€œFaf, Hried, clear the hall,â€ he said.
â€œYes, Sire,â€ the two svarts said. They nodded to their troops. Only half of them moved to obey and as they did, the others drew their weapons and attacked them.
The King said something Lydia took for a curse word as an eerie screech echoed through the chamber. It must have been some sort of signal because those speakers who hadnâ€™t accepted the Kingâ€™s verdict surged forwards, weapons in hand.