Mela could hear the all-clear alarm sounding behind her in the distance. That meant the fleeing townsfolk would return home before they reached this clearing. But surely the council would send someone to find them?
Ebona came over and nuzzled her heart friend before dipping her horn to touch him. Mela dropped her hands from the spear, sat back on her heels and watched as most of his wounds closed and scabbed over. When Ebona raised her head, only the wound in his shoulder remained.
â€œThat is beyond my skill to heal. Weâ€™ll need to find a trained healer for that,â€ she said. â€œAnd even a true healer will need to remove the spear first.â€
â€œI know,â€ Mela said. â€œBut I canâ€™t even budge it from the tree.â€
A twig snapped behind them, making them both jump. Mela gave a little shriek and spun around. When she realised who the elaborately-robed man standing there was, she shrieked even more loudly. Then she blinked in confusion and looked from him to Daniel.
â€œOh, stop that, girl,â€ the Dragon Lord said in an irritable tone. â€œIâ€™m not here to hurt anyone.â€ He strode past her and slipped his hands around behind Daniel, grasping the spear where it emerged from his shoulder and entered the tree. There was a ripple in the air and the wood around the spear cracked, allowing him to pull the weapon out.
â€œWhy are you here?â€ Ebona asked in a challenging tone.
He looked over at her with a sad smile as he carefully pulled the spear through Daniel’s wound. â€œ”Daniel may have chosen to take sides against me – and after what Jayden did to him in my name, I don’t blame him. But what sort of father would leave one of their children in this state and not do something about it?â€
â€œIt must have doubled in size!â€ Dariad swallowed as he stared down at glowing torrent below.Â His head was aching from being this close to the Mabain and he had to cling to the cave wall to keep himself from pitching into it. And he wanted to so badly. It was the nature of raw Mabain to call Speakers to return to it if they got too close.
He heard a groan behind him and realised Hreid was having trouble as well.
Alaryia, on the other hand, was unphased. She stepped out onto the ledge and leaned over, apparently looking for something. â€œI need to find the tear.â€ she said after a moment.
â€œWhat? Why?â€ Dariad stepped out onto the ledge and then immediately wished he hadnâ€™t as his head swam and only force of will stopped him jumping.
â€œCareful!â€ Alaryia grabbed his hand. The moment her skin touched his, his head cleared a little. â€œYou donâ€™t want to jump. Itâ€™s just the fumes.â€
â€œI know.” He looked back at Hreid who was kneeling just up the tunnel and heaving. â€œYouâ€™d better go back. Tell Brita we need to evacuate another two levels. Itâ€™s going to get a little crowded.â€ He looked at Alaryria. â€œI guess youâ€™re right, I will have to take you up on your offer. Weâ€™ll lose Caerdu if I donâ€™t.â€
Hried looked up and nodded weakly. â€œIt wasnâ€™t this bad last time we were down here.â€ He rose to his feet and staggered up towards the city proper.
â€œI knew youâ€™d see it my way. You should go too, your majesty.â€ Alaryia said. â€œIt isnâ€™t safe for you here.â€
He nodded and let go of her hand to edge back towards the tunnel. His head began swimming again and he grabbed her hand again. The wooziness and urge to jump cleared immediately. â€œJust donâ€™t let me jump, please.â€
â€œOf course,â€ she said. â€œBut Iâ€™m surprised you trust me that much.â€
â€I probably wouldnâ€˜t if my head was clear, but I darenâ€™t let go of your hand!” He gave her a baffled look. â€œHow are you doing that?â€
She didnâ€™t answer but the smile she turned on him and the fact she didnâ€™t ask what he meant confirmed his suspicion that she was doing something. He stared at her for a long moment trying to intimidate an answer from her but she just smiled back at him. In the end he just sighed.
â€œWhy do you want to find the tear anyway?â€
â€œBecause weâ€™ll cap its source if we can. Itâ€™s a touch harder, but safer for your people because there wonâ€™t be fumes or a great pool of the stuff for them to jump into.â€ She edged along the ledge a bit more. He followed cautiously, still clinging to her hand.Â They rounded a corner to see a cascade of Mabain pouring out of a glowing tear in the air. â€œThere we are. Isn’t it beautiful?”
Dariad flinched backwards and looked away, unintentionally letting go of Alaryiaâ€™s hand. Another wave of dizziness overcame him forcing him to cling to the wall. â€œThatâ€™s not the word Iâ€™d use for it.â€
â€œNo, I donâ€™t suppose it would be. I told you not to carry on,â€ she said mildly as he began to to edge back towards the tunnel. â€œLet me help you.â€
â€œIâ€™ll be okay.” He shook his head to try and clear it, sank to his knees and vomited onto the ledge. â€œI just need to…â€
He only realised heâ€™d been about to push himself off the ledge when she pulled him back.
â€œCome on, Dariadâ€ she said softly. â€œLetâ€™s get you back up where the air is fresher.â€