Hreid led them through the tunnels to some intricately carved doors, opening into a large cavern. Lydia had the impression it had once been a natural cave, but had been smoothed and expanded into an elegant hall. Natural columns formed by dripstones had been carved into the form of trees and inlaid with richly stained wood. Polished glass globes filled with a glowing liquid hung from the stone branches and cast a warm glow over the chamber. Speakers of various kinds stood in small groups around the room, murmuring in conversation. Most of them glared at them as they passed.
The dark-haired svart alf who had stopped Korrigâ€™s brother Hardma from attacking them was seated on a throne at the end of the chamber. A huge shining black mirror took up the entire wall behind him. Something about that mirror drew Lydiaâ€™s attention and she studied it as Hreid led them forwards. Four chairs, a large cushion and a perch were encircled by several heavily armed guards.
â€œLet me do any talking necessary,â€ Karen whispered sharply in Lydiaâ€™s ear as they sat down.
Lydia tore her eyes away from the mirror long enough to to frown questioningly at her sister. â€œHmm?â€
â€œYouâ€™re not tactful, Lyd. If you open your mouth, youâ€™ll piss someone off. Like you did that guard who hit you over the head. Let me handle the talking.â€
â€œIâ€™m not-â€ Lydia broke off as she realised what was bothering her about the mirror. â€œItâ€™s not reflective!â€
â€œWhat?â€ Andrew said.
â€œThe mirror! Itâ€™s polished and shiny – it should be reflecting the room and the lights, but it isnâ€™t! Itâ€™s flat black.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Andrew repeated and turned to study the mirror. â€œYouâ€™re right!â€
â€œItâ€™s a blood and truth mirror,â€ Eyvindr explained softly. â€œItâ€™ll be integral to the trial. If itâ€™s working correctly itâ€™ll exonerate us. It should be-â€ He stopped and looked at Hreid, who was staring at him quizzically. â€œOh come on cousin. You must have noticed that things are breaking down.â€
â€œNot here,â€ Hreid said. â€œNot yet, anyway.â€
A chime swelled softly through the chamber. The speakers all broke off their conversations and turned towards the throne. The movement created a gap and Lydia noticed a young woman with silvery blonde hair, sitting off to one side in an alcove and as firmly guarded as they were. For a moment, Lydia thought she was human as well but then their eyes locked briefly. If the womanâ€™s inhuman silver eyes hadnâ€™t convinced Lydia she wasnâ€™t, the alien sensation that impinged on her mind would have.
Goblin! Bennuâ€™s mental tone was shocked.
Sheâ€™s a goblin? Lydia struggled to keep her surprise off her face. I was imagining something uglier.
The chime sounded again, drawing her attention to the Mountain King who was watching them with a half smile. She had the feeling heâ€™d listened to the whole telepathic exchange. His smile broadened a hairâ€™s breadth and he swept his eyes over the crowd.
â€œWeâ€™re here because certain allegations have been made,â€ he began. â€œAllegations so terrible they barely bear contemplating, but contemplate them we must.â€ His eyes came to rest on Korrigâ€™s brother. â€œHardmar, please tell us what you were shown.â€ He rose from his throne and moved to the side as the dwarf stomped up the steps and walked to the mirror, pausing only to glare at them briefly before turning to the mirror.
He drew a dagger from his belt, sliced his palm open with it and laid the cut against the mirror. Blood dripped down the polished surface for a moment but then the mirror rippled and absorbed it.
â€œA few nights ago, Huldre – a troll of my acquaintance came to me via dream speaking and showed me that these humans tricked Korrig into helping them. They then killed him without warning or fair challenge once they had what they wanted. And they didnâ€™t even do it quickly or cleanly!â€ He shook his head angrily.
Lydia gasped as the mirrorâ€™s surface rippled to reveal a shadowy reflection of the clearing by the Ice Cave. Korrig was tending to his pony and the mirror showed her sneak up behind him, sword in hand, and hamstring him with a single slice before kicking him in the back and sending him sprawling.
â€œThat never happened!â€ Lydia leapt to her feet. One of the guards pushed her back down.
â€œPlease be quiet until Hardmar has finished, Flame Warrior,â€ the King said in a mild tone. â€œYouâ€™ll have you chance to show us what happened.â€
â€œYou tortured and killed him!â€ Hardmar yelled.
At those words, the mirror showed a scene so horrible that Lydia wretched and had to look away. Her eyes met those of the guard whoâ€™d pushed her back into her seat; he was watching her reaction with a puzzled frown. She looked at her siblings and found that Andrew too was looking anywhere but at the mirror. Karen however, though pale and breathing deeply to repress nausea, had her eyes fixed on it and looked more furious than anything.
Eventually, after what seemed like forever a swell of outraged noise from the crowd made Lydia look back at the mirror in time to see Korrig expire. She clenched her fists. Apparently the crowd believed what theyâ€™d seen.
â€œMay I speak, your majesty?â€ Eyvindr spoke up.
â€œYou may. Iâ€™m interested in what you can tell us, since you did not appear in the events Huldre showed Hardmar. An interesting omission.â€
â€œI do not think he was aware of my presence.â€ Eyvindr approached the mirror. â€œMay I borrow a knife, please?â€
â€œOf course.â€ The king nodded to one of the attendants, who handed over a slender dagger. â€œTell us your story please. Hreid said you claimed the Warriors rescued you?â€
â€œThe warriors and Korrig did.â€ He sliced his palm and laid it against the mirror, just as Hardmar had. â€œAnd I assure you that they did not kill him.â€ The mirror absorbed his blood and showed what had really happened from when Lydia managed to get him to drink the soup until Korrigâ€™s death. â€œI canâ€™t really remember what happened before that, but I was being controlled by someone. I do know that they saved my life.â€
â€œYou lie!â€ Hardmar yelled.
â€œThe mirror says otherwise,â€ the King said mildly. â€œI think itâ€™s time to hear from the Warriors themselves.â€ He beckoned to Lydia. â€œYou seemed to have something to say earlier, Flame Warrior, so why donâ€™t you go first?â€