â€œHowâ€™s Lorelei?â€ Valeria asked urgently as soon as Alban slipped into Dariadâ€™s study. He gave her a wan smile.
â€œSheâ€™s still unconscious and looks terrible, but the healer says sheâ€™s stable and should heal well – physically, anyway. He says sheâ€™ll probably need a lot of help to overcome the mental trauma of what was done to her.â€ He sobbed and choked out what Lydia took to be swear words in the Haltian language.
â€œAlban! Language!â€ Valeria said. â€œYou shouldnâ€™t call Sirin that. Even if it is appropriate.â€
â€œThe healers think they were trying to break her so they could control her, mother. I think Iâ€™m being rather restrained.â€
â€œThat is very possible, my queen,” Xania began. â€œThe first hint we had that something was wrong was when your first Imp arrived and was caught in a net ward which shouldnâ€™t have been there. Lorelei was very quick to realise that this meant her sister was moving to free Maran. She began organising the guard to keep them apart while she worked on breaking the net and freeing the Imp. But when I got to the tower you were holding him in, he was already gone. I have no idea how Sirin tore through the wards like that.â€ She rubbed at her eyes tiredly. â€œSo I rallied my troops and headed for the throne room, since theyâ€™d need to gain control of the throne to be able to fully pacify the palace.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ll be lucky to even then,â€ Valeria said. â€œI excluded Maran and Sirin from controlling it when I realised they were plotting against me, and no one else has the rank to use it, except Lorelei.â€
â€œI think theyâ€™d discovered that, and thatâ€™s why they were torturing her. To get her to release the lock. Theyâ€™d already captured her and reached the throne room when I got there and Sirin was in an utter rage. I honestly donâ€™t think she realised you were on to her until she found herself locked out of the throne. I mean really, youâ€™d think your leaving Lorelei in charge would have made her wonder.â€
â€œSirin is strong. Thatâ€™s how sheâ€™s held her position so long,â€ Valeria said. â€œBut sheâ€™s not the brightest fish in her school. She never sees what she doesnâ€™t want to. What happened then?â€
â€œThis is where it gets confusing. We were fighting to gain control of the throne room from the traitors and rescue Lorelei when this weird screaming noise echoed through the palace and suddenly half my troops turned on the rest of us.â€ She scowled. â€œI donâ€™t think it was entirely their idea. And it sounds almost exactly like what you just told me happened here.â€
â€œIt does,â€ Valeria agreed. â€œBut I didnâ€™t have any refugees from Elapyron City in the palace itself that I can name.â€ Her forehead creased as she thought. â€œAnd I have an awful feeling this started before the fall. Looking back, I suspect it started around the time anti-human sentiment rose sharply.â€ She winced visibly. â€œI think even I caught the edges of it because I started thinking more clearly almost as soon as I was clear of the palace.â€ She scowled some more. â€œI wonder how widespread this conspiracy really is.â€
â€œThatâ€™s another thing to discuss at the War Council, I think,â€ Dariad said. â€œItâ€™s something that we can at least deal with now we know itâ€™s happening. And we need to keep these people off the warriorsâ€™ backs.â€
â€œYes, please do,â€ Karen said quietly. â€œItâ€™s hard to fight when you have to keep looking over your shoulder. And thereâ€™s something very wrong about this situation. The atmosphere when things blew up here was… well, it made me shiver, and not because it was aiming to kill us. I think that whatever is behind it isnâ€™t finished yet. That scream was no normal control power or signal.â€
â€œIâ€™d have to agree,â€ Xania said. â€œIt was was like shards of glass on my skin.â€ She stopped and frowned. â€œBut only people it couldnâ€™t control seemed to hear it. Was that the case here?â€
Dariad frowned thoughtfully. â€œIâ€™m not sure. I was too busy quelling the riot to notice if theyâ€™d actually heard it. I assumed they had because they responded to it.â€
â€œHow did you rescue Lorelei?â€ Valeria asked.
â€œOh, that was easy. Spatial affinity is rare enough that people never allow for it. I teleported and grabbed her. Then opened a portal to a defendable position… it might be easier to use the mirror for this, you know.â€ She looked over at Dariad.
â€œOnce the throne room is free,â€ he agreed. â€œAnd once Lorelei is patched up. I want to get her take on events as well. Not that I imagine she wants to go into details, but we need to know.â€