â€œWell, that went badly.â€ Kyle leaned his forehead against the cool stone wall as they waited in the antechamber.Â â€œI wonder if heâ€™s angry? He never keeps us waiting.â€
â€œHeâ€™s probably busy.” Darya walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. â€œAnd I donâ€™t think it was that bad. Two out of threeâ€™s not bad. We got the pendant and delived Ystelyan-miranâ€™s message. We can collect Melusine another time.â€
â€œIâ€™m afraid I have to concur with Kyle-alran, Darya.” Ystelyanâ€™s consort Rilletta – a tall, slender asrai dressed in a grecian style blue silk gown – slipped in from the throne room. â€œYour cousin is more important than the pendant. If Gerian captures her, heâ€™ll be able to backward engineer the thing just by studying her.â€ She pushed the door closed behind her and turned and regarded them with ancient sea-blue eyes; the only feature which betrayed her true age. â€œFortunately the dark warrior seems determined to protect her. If you couldnâ€™t take her, the thrice-damned red one will have a hard time of it.â€
â€œIs he mad at us?â€ Kyle asked.
â€œNot at all! Heâ€™s concerned for Daryaâ€™s cousin, but he knows itâ€™s not your fault. Heâ€™ll see you as soon as he finishes feeding Talira.â€
â€œHow is she?â€ Darya asked. â€œShe came closer than Iâ€™ve ever seen her.â€
â€Sheâ€™ll be fine.â€ Rilletta ran a hand through her dark blue hair and tutted softly. â€œItâ€™s her own fault, silly girl. It was barely a scratch. It wouldnâ€™t have pushed her over the edge if sheâ€™d fed first.â€ Her eyes went distant for a moment. â€œHeâ€™ll see you now.â€ She pushed open the doors and led them inside.
Ystelyan was lounging on his throne, running one hand affectionately through Taliraâ€™s hair as she sat at his feet with her head against his knee. It might have been called sweet if it wasnâ€™t for the fact she was sobbing, and that several pretty young dryads and wood haltia were lying in a disturbingly still heap in front of her.
Darya gave a little squeak of distress at the sight and looked away.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, Darya,â€ Ystelyan reassured him gently. â€œI stopped her killing any of them. Though itâ€™ll probably be a few days before they wake up.â€ He looked over at Rilletta. â€œWould you attend to them and make sure they get home safely, dearest? If itâ€™s safe to send them home. that is. I donâ€™t want a repeat of that disaster at Elapyron City last year.â€
â€œOf course, my love!â€ She bowed. â€œI doubt there will be a problem with Waldhafen, but Iâ€™ll monitor the situation.â€ She clapped her hands and a pair of goblins appeared and helped her carry the unconscious speakers from the room.
â€œThank you.â€ Ystelyan turned his attention back to Kyle. â€œNot the best of days, my alran.â€
Kyle dropped to one knee and clasped his right hand against his chest. â€œI apologise for our failure, my miran.â€
â€œIt wasnâ€™t your fault. But we do need to get hold of Daryaâ€™s cousin as soon as possible. The dark warrior is impressively strong but poorly trained. I doubt heâ€™ll hold out for long if Gerian sends a concerted attack against him. And he surely will. We know heâ€™s aware of the upsurge of births. The group he recruited two years ago prove that. I have no doubt heâ€™ll want the seekerâ€™s pendant.â€ He leaned forward. â€œThe only way toÂ stop him is make sure he canâ€™t capture Melusine.â€
â€œI believe you are intending to leave tomorrow, warriors?â€ Dariad said. He had come up to their new quarters as soon as his head had cleared and was considering how to broach the alarming results he was getting from his interrogations.
â€œWe are, your majesty,â€ Karen said. â€œWe need to get Alban and find out why we are here.â€
â€œI will get Brita to organise some supplies for you, then,â€ he said. â€œWill Eyvindr be accompanying you?â€
â€œIf theyâ€™ll have me,â€ Eyvindr said. â€œThough Iâ€™m not sure what use Iâ€™d be. Iâ€™ll certainly be moving on, either way. I donâ€™t think you need another refugee to house with the problems you have at the moment.â€ He looked away and scowled. â€œAnd Iâ€™m not sure I want to be around other refugees.â€
â€œI see. Can I ask you about what happened to you? You were being controlled by the Dragon Lord?â€
â€œYes, we do need to talk about that.â€ Eyvindr looked over at Lydia. â€œHave you still got that thing?â€
â€œHmm? Oh, Yes!â€ She rifled around in her backpack and produced the slender circlet. â€œThis is like the thing which was controlling him. Itâ€™s not the actual one – that was in pieces after Korrig cut it off.â€ She handed it to Dariad.
â€œThe thing is, itâ€™s taken me a while to work out what the date is,â€ Eyvindr began. â€œIf what Hreidâ€™s told me is right, this Dragon Lord person only conquered the place six months ago.â€
â€œWell closer to seven now,â€ Dariad said. â€œIs that significant?â€
â€œWell, yes, since the last thing I remember is being hauled before the Council around fourteen moons ago.â€ He rubbed at his forehead. â€œI remember that thing as well, but the whole thing is unclear. Could I use your mirror? It might clarify things.â€
â€œI was afraid of that,â€ Dariad said softly.
â€œWhat, that I wanted to use your mirror?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m glad youâ€™ve asked that. It means you have nothing to hide. I was afraid that it wasnâ€™t the Dragon Lord controlling you. Of course you can use the mirror.â€ He scowled at the floor. â€œSo far Iâ€™ve identified nine of the ringleaders in this rebellion, and theyâ€™re all high ranking nobles who managed to escape from Elapyron when it fell. Fortunately all the ordinary refugees are clear so far. But I need to know what the hell was going on there.â€