â€œAre you sure you want us here?â€ Lydia asked. They were in the main hall of Caerdu again, but this time it was deserted except for them, their heart friends, Dariad, Eyvindr, Hried and a few guards.
Eyvindr swallowed and nodded. â€œYes. I know you havenâ€™t known me for long, but I consider you my friends. If this is as bad as my stomach is saying, Iâ€™ll need moral support. Besides, I think you need to know this as well.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Lydia nodded as Eyvindr sliced open his palm and headed resolutely towards the mirror.
â€œMy memory of what happened is cloudy, but I remember a trialÂ – and it wasnâ€™t mine.â€ He laid his hand against the mirror. His blood spread into the polished obsidian in visible swirls and the shadowy image of a fair hall of shining, white marble appeared. A mixed group of Haltia sat in elaborate chairs at one end of the room, a mirror identical to this one hanging behind them. An equally mixed group of young Haltia were kneeling before them in chains.
â€œThatâ€™s the Elapyron Council,â€ Dariad said. â€œSo those must be the accused. But theyâ€™re barely more than children.â€
The mirror rippled again and showed a blue-haired Haltia carrying a scroll. Lydia had to strain to hear what he said but caught something about â€œdragon-touched traitorsâ€.
Eyvindr narrowed his eyes. â€œThatâ€™s right, there was a dragon attack on one of the outlying villages. Nothing major, but a large number of young Haltia vanished.â€
â€œThat sort of thing is tragically common.â€ Dariad looked puzzled. â€œWhy-â€
â€œThey turned up unconscious but alive a few days later,â€ Eyvindr interrupted.
â€œWhat!â€ Dariad scowled. â€œThat is weird.â€ He must have caught Lydiaâ€™s puzzled expression. â€œBeing captured by a dragon is a death sentence.â€
â€œBut not this time?â€ Lydia said. â€œI wonder why?â€
â€œThatâ€™s a good question.” Eyvindr nodded. â€œThe council decided that since they werenâ€™t dead, they must be traitors. All of them appealed to use the mirror to prove they werenâ€™t and were denied permission. A group of us objected, including a light kin unicorn who vouched for the truth of their claims not to be traitors.â€ The shadows in the mirror reflected what he said. â€œThe council had us arrested as well.â€
â€œThatâ€™s insane!â€ Karen exclaimed. â€œUnicorns canâ€™t-â€ She paled and clapped a hand over her mouth.
â€œWhat?â€ Lydia turned to stare at her sister. Karen wouldnâ€™t meet her eyes.
â€œIâ€™m starting to remember bits and pieces, I think. Something is telling me unicorns canâ€™t lie,â€ she mumbled.
Lydia eyed her suspiciously. â€œWeâ€™ll talk about this later only because Eyvindr needs to tell us what happened to him first.â€
Dariad was also staring thoughtfully at Karen. â€œI see,â€ he said finally. â€œBut I concur, itâ€™s insane.â€
â€œIt was,â€ Eyvindr agreed. â€œBut there was method in their madness. Theyâ€™d discovered a hole in the binding that makes our attacks fail against dragons.â€
Dariad looked like he was tring to say something but surprise had got the best of him. â€œWhat?â€ he managed finally.
â€œWe have to know weâ€™re attacking a dragon.â€
â€œI see, but how would you not know- Oh!â€ Dariadâ€™s eyes flew wide as he watched the images in the mirror. â€œThatâ€™s apalling. Brilliant but apalling.â€
â€œUm… could someone explain to us?â€ Lydia asked.
â€œIâ€™ll try,â€ Dariad said. â€œWhen a speaker with a heart stone attacks a dragon with their powers it kind of fizzles out. Apparently, it only fails if you know itâ€™s a dragon. Those circlets wipe conscious thought from the victim…â€ he trailed off.
â€œWhich means their attacks donâ€™t fizzle?â€ Lydia looked back at the mirror. â€œSo they didnâ€™t want the kids to prove their innocence because if they did they couldnâ€™t punish them? Thatâ€™s dreadful. Hell, doing that to real criminals would be dreadful.â€
â€œIndeed,â€ Dariad said. â€œAnd it seems that with Elapyron City gone, they have turned their attention to Caerdu. Well, they are not using my people that way. I can see the temptation – it would be good to have some way of defending ourselves.â€
â€œSo you have a psychological block against attacking dragons?â€ Lydia asked.
â€œSort of,â€ Dariad said. â€œItâ€™s supposedly imposed. Legend says that when our ancestors created the Core to take the place of the destroyed Heart of the World the dragons sabotaged it to stop us fighting them.â€ He turned back to Eyvindr. â€œSo it was the Elapyron Council who put that accursed thing on you?”
â€œYes, and it seems on anyone who they could convict of anything. They wanted to build an army I think.â€ He shuddered. â€œTo be fair I think they were mostly scared.â€
â€œFear doesnâ€™t excuse this!â€ Dariad looked like he might say more but was interrupted by a knock on the door. â€œEnter!â€
Brita came in with Alaryia and two of her entourage. All three goblins were carrying packages. Whatever was in them they made Lydiaâ€™s skin tingle and she noticed Andrew and Karen rubbing at their arms as well.
â€œForgive me, your majesty.â€ Brita bowed to Dariad. â€œThe ambassador requested an immediate audience with you and the warriors.â€