“What are we going to do, Light Warrior?” Rai asked. They hadn’t seen another dragon since they fled but he could still feel their hunger tearing at him. Her injuring one seemed to have made their pursuers cautious, but they were still being stalked.
“My name’s Karen,” she said. “And we’re not going to panic, for one. It never helps.”
“I’m not sure that not panicking will help much either right now,” Perun said. “How did they know which way we were coming?”
Karen ground to a halt. “That’s a very good question.” She scowled thoughtfully. “I don’t think they did. That one wasn’t expecting an attack, so he wasn’t expecting a warrior. We’ve just flown into a raid. So the real question is what are they doing here?”
“You could be right,” Rai said. “We can worry about it once we get away.”
“I’m not so sure.” She rubbed at her arms as if she was cold. “Something feels wrong and-” Her eyes crossed and her expression went blank.
“What’s wrong?” Rai asked.
Karen shook her head and her expression cleared slowly. “Salia is at your eyrie. Valeria and Alban are on their way here.”
“What?” Rai asked. “Queen Valeria thinks the eyrie is the target? And why is Princess Salia there?” He looked at his backup. “Did you two know about that?”
“Queen Valeria was concerned for Princess Salia’s safety,” Perun explained. “There’s a bad atmosphere at the palace according to Tonara. So the queen asked us to look after her daughter until it’s safe.”
“We would have mentioned it,” Levina added. “But the mission seemed more important.”
“Alban says Valeria thinks the dragons are after the eyrie and we were just a target of opportunity.” Karen started walking again. “How far is it from here?”
“The eyrie? We could fly there in half-an-hour, except I doubt we’d get past the dragons. There’s a ground entrance we could sneak in, but it’ll take a couple of hours to walk there and we’ll have to leave the shelter of the trees.”
“Hmmm. Not good!” Karen narrowed her eyes. “But we don’t have much choice. Which way is it?”
Rai pointed up the steep valley slopes towards tree line. “The eyrie is in the crater on top of the tall peak to the south. You’ll see it when we break the tree line. It’s obvious.”
“It’ll be even more obvious if dragons really are attacking it.” She adjusted her cloak, and began to climb the slope. “Damn, I wish I had better shoes. These trainers aren’t made for this.”
About an hour later they emerged from the trees into rough moorland covered with heather and littered with impossibly balanced piles of honey-coloured boulders. Karen immediately ducked under an overhanging pile of boulders and scanned the sky.
“Where are they?” she muttered. “I can’t feel them any more.”
Rai cast around, trying to sense the dragons. Their hunger still tore at him, but it was fainter and he couldn’t sense a direction from it. Somehow he doubted it was because they weren’t close by.
“They’re trying to shield themselves?” Levina voiced what he was thinking.
“It seems so,” Karen agreed. “And not badly either, but they can’t quite mute their hunger. That’s new. I didn’t know they could do that.” She eyed the sky suspiciously, then darted across the open ground towards the peak that housed their eyrie. The next pile of rocks formed an upside down pyramid, balanced at its point on a tiny pebble. She gave it an amused look as she ducked under it. “An air affinity area, Lydia would be having kittens if she saw this.” She scowled at the sky again. “They’re out there. I can feel them watch-” She broke off as Levina gave a startled cry.
Rai turned to look towards their mountain and saw fire and smoke rising from it. Four deep red dragons were circling above it.
Karen swore. “We need to get there faster. How long will it take Valeria and Alban to get here?”
Rai considered the question. “A couple of hours from now if they left when you got Alban’s message.”
“I’ll ask.” She closed her eyes. “One good thing. I’m sure there were only six dragons in the area, so we only have to dodge two now. I still wish I knew where they were though.” Her expression became abstracted. “Alban says they’re about an hour away. I’ve told him we’ll meet them at the eyrie.” She gathered the three of them into a fold of cloak. “Grip the silk with your talons. I’m about to do something risky and I don’t want to drop you.”
“Risky?” Rai asked as he complied.
“We need to get there fast, and I can’t teleport yet. But I can move fast.” She pulled a face. “Unfortunately such an active use of my powers will be a beacon to the dragons and drain my energy. But I don’t have much choice. We have to get there.” She began to glow with a soft lilac light as she climbed to her feet. The moorland blurred round them as she began to run towards the mountain.