Dariad had gone to Alaryiaâ€™s quarters to tell her he was going to be absent for several days and that Hreid would be acting as regent. The sole goblin he found in her rooms told him that everyone was down at the Mabain upwelling, working on the containment. He would have left a message but the tired looking girl told him that the stream was mostly contained now and he should be okay as long as he didnâ€™t get too close. She hadnâ€™t been certain though, so he held his breath as he approached the edge of the ledge. Heâ€™d also tied a rope around his waist and Hreid was holding the other end halfway up the tunnel, well beyond the range of the fumes.
The river of Mabain had dwindled down to a trickle and several vast transparent tanks stood on its banks. That was a good sign. He risked a quick breath and when it didnâ€™t lead to dizziness or nausea he started down the ramp theyâ€™d built.
After a moment, he spotted Alaryia standing on a large rock directing the other goblins in the positioning of a large, egg-shaped, crystalline device. The thing was floating in the air and they were moving it towards the tear with gentle nudges. Whatever they were doing it looked like a delicate operation, so he waited until they finished. The goblins nudged the egg back and forth until the stream of Mabain from the tear struck it directly on top and cascaded around it. The crystal responded with a soft bell like tone, split open and rose up to position itself around the tear, before closing again with a snap. The stream of Mabain stopped abruptly.
There was another bell like note and a tube grew from the bottom of the egg. Several goblin pushed an empty tank forward and attached it to the tube. There was a pause and the goblins gave a loud cheer as the Mabain began to flow into it, but Dariadâ€™s attention was drawn back to Alaryia. She had sunk to her knees on the rock. She must have been the one actually making the thing work, though it seemed to be holding position on its own well enough now.
He started down the ramp again when she lifted her head and turned to look at him.
â€œDariad! Stay there! Iâ€™ll come up to you. Thereâ€™s still a lot of vapour down here.â€ She pulled herself to her feet and walked up the ramp towards him. She gave a one-sided smile when she noticed the rope. â€œOh, now thatâ€™s clever. Shall we go back to my chambers and get a drink? That was hard work. But itâ€™s capped now, and the cap should also act as reinforcement and stop the world tearing any more than it already has.â€ She gave a frown. â€œHere anyway, but this sort of thing is happening more often. So what brings you down here?â€ They headed up the tunnel towards her chambers and Hreid fell into step behind them as they passed.
â€œIâ€™m going to be gone from the city for a short while in a few days time,â€ he said. â€œHreid will be acting regent in my absense. I thought you should know.â€
â€œHmm?â€ she stopped outside the door to her chambers and favoured him with a long look. He had the feeling she considered and disgarded several things before she finally said, â€œThank you.â€ She pushed the door open. â€œBut Iâ€™m not sure the timing is the wisest.â€ Her tone was neutral but Dariad felt gooseflesh creep up his arms.
â€œWhy not?â€ he asked.
â€œCome in. Weâ€™ll have a drink to celebrate the successful containment of the tear and talk about it.â€
â€œThank you.â€ Dariad said. He nodded to Hreid who bowed and headed back to his post.
The goblin girl who he had spoken to earlier was fast asleep on one of the couches around the edge of the room. Alaryia stroked her hair affectionately and covered her with a blanket before heading to the cabinet in the corner and pouring two goblets of wine.
â€œSo what do you mean you donâ€™t think itâ€™s the wisest timing?â€ Dariad asked after theyâ€™d toasted the success of the capping. Alaryia leaned back in her her seat and looked up at the ceiling.
â€œWell, itâ€™s not so long since you were fighting off a coup, for one. Are you absolutely sure youâ€™ve cleared out all the conspiritors?â€ she asked. â€œBecause if you havenâ€™t, your absence might enable them to regroup.â€
â€œWeâ€™re fairly sure,â€ Dariad said. â€œItâ€™d take months to question everyone in the city, but weâ€™ve questioned all the Elapyron City nobles and their known associates and banished all the ones who were involved. But Iâ€™m aware we may have missed a few. We will be taking countermeasures. But thatâ€™s not all, is it?â€
She winced and shook her head. â€œYouâ€™ve had this river of Mabain under your city for quite a while before it was discovered. It may be sealed now, but someone else must have scented it by now. You donâ€™t have many lines of defence if they come after it, and the Warriors wonâ€™t be here forever.â€
â€œThatâ€™s true, and I canâ€™t keep them here permanently, and itâ€™s not like Iâ€™d be much use if a dragon attacked.â€
â€œNo, I suppose you wouldnâ€™t. Though there are certain abilities you have access to as King that shouldnâ€™t be affected by that problem.â€
â€œHow did you know that?â€ Dariad stared at her.
â€œI have my sources.â€ She smiled at him and cocked her head. â€œYou know, my offer to have my people protect the city if itâ€™s attacked still stands.â€