“Urg!” Lydia lifted her head and looked around groggily. The Dark Rider had gone, so she picked herself up off the ground and checked on the others, reassuring herself they were okay and coming round. Then she turned unwillingly towards Korrig. Blood was seeping from his many wounds. A human would have been dead from the amount of blood heâ€™d lost but it seemed he was made of sturdier stuff, because his chest was still rising and falling, but she didnâ€™t think that would last. She walked over and knelt down beside him.
His eyelids cracked open and he looked up at her through clouded eyes.
“You saved Karen. Thank you,” Lydia said softly.
“Least I could do,” he said weakly, “after I tried to kill you.” He gasped for breath. “Take the cart and pony. Find the bracelet before the Rider. I never made the map but Eyvindr probably knows.”
“T-thank you.” Lydia’s voice broke slightly.
Kimi came over to them. “I will kill him for this,” The gryphon said in a voice as cold as her powers.
“He didnâ€™t do this… ” Korrig said faintly. “My shield was sabotaged by Hul…” His voice faded to nothing as he lapsed into unconsciousness. Lydia kept her vigil at his side until his breathing stopped, then looked up at the others.
“What do you do with bodies here?” Her voice squeaked slightly and she swallowed the lump in her throat, blinking back tears.
“It varies,” Bennu said. “Iâ€™m not sure what Dwarves do with their dead.”
“They lay their dead out on biers in secluded caves, I believe.” Eyvindr said from where he sat by the fire. “But I donâ€™t know the specific rituals.”
“Well, we have a cave.” Andrew came up behind Lydia and put a hand on her shoulder. “But how do we stop the spiders eating the body?”
“Weâ€™ll work something out,” Lydia said in a determined tone. “He deserves that.”
“Yes,” Andrew agreed. “He does.” He reached down and closed Korrig’s eyes as Lydia turned back to Karen and Eyvindr. Both of them had huddled by the fire again as soon as they came round.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“A little cold,â€ Karen replied. â€œBut more worried about that guy. He could have killed us all, you know?”
“Yeah.” Lydia nodded and stared at her hand. It looked so normal. “I think I need to practice,” she said and then frowned. “But why didnâ€™t he kill us?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,” Eyvindr said. â€œBut he seemed to be trying to scare you away.”
“Can you show me how you did that ?” Andrew asked. “Two will be better than one if he comes back.”
Lydia gave him a long thoughtful look. “I donâ€™t know, Drew. I donâ€™t know how I did it, but Iâ€™ll try.”
The spiders proved amenable to not eating Korrig’s body after Andrew and Kimi went in and spoke to them. They left Karen and Eyvindr outside by the fire and laid his corpse on the dais where Andrew had found his bracelet and knives.
“Iâ€™m sorry you died,” Lydia whispered. “We barely got to know you. Weâ€™ll find out who did this and avenge you, I promise.”
“We will,” Andrew said. Karen had gathered a small bouquet of the ice flowers before they left her and he laid it on Korrig’s chest.
They stepped back and Kimi exhaled a snowstorm round the body. When she closed her mouth, a transparent ice dome had formed round the bier.
“There, now no one will defile the body,” she said. Andrew tapped it with one of his knives. It didnâ€™t even chip it.
“Lovely thought.” He smiled at his heart friend fondly before looking over at Lydia, who was starting to shiver again. “Let’s get out of here.”
“G-good idea,” she agreed and they headed for the outside.
“So do you believe in magic yet?” he asked as they walked towards the sunlight.
Lydia looked over with narrowed eyes, and a smile that told him her answer before she said it.
“This isn’t magic,” she said. “This comes from within us. Itâ€™s part of us. Magic â€“ if it exists â€“ is something else.”
“Semantics, Lyd. You can’t believe that throwing fireballs is explicable by science.”
“Whatâ€™s that got to do with it?” she asked. â€œAnd why not? Itâ€™s observable and repeatable. Just because we can’t explain it doesnâ€™t mean it can’t be explained.”
Andrew stared at her in disbelief. “You really believe that?”
“Oh yes,” she said.Â “And I intend to be the one finding the explanations.”
“Dad wonâ€™t like that,” he said.
“I love dad dearly, but heâ€™s a crazy conspiracy theorist.” Lydia turned and looked at him. She cocked her head and opened her hand palm up in front of her. A small flame hovered above it. “Anyway his hypothesis is null. The data doesnâ€™t support it.” She stared at the flame. â€œThis is so easy.”
“I mean heâ€™s wrong, Drew, and I prove it,” she said.
“Well,” he said. “Youâ€™re certainly challenging. Iâ€™ll give you that.”
“Believe it.” She gave a smile which might have been a grin if it hadnâ€™t been stained by the events of the day. â€œLet’s get out of here before I freeze.”
“Yes.â€ He started walking again, then paused as something occured to him. “What do you think of cryptozoology?”
“Eh!” She blinked at him, obviously flumoxed by the sudden topic change. “Wha… Well, itâ€™s interesting. There are weird, undiscovered creatures out there. I’ve noticed a few myself over the years. Why?”
“Because I’ve been thinking… I think the cryptids people report come from here. Some of them, anyway.”
“Thatâ€™s…” Lydia blinked again. “Thatâ€™s possible. Very possible indeed. There must have been some contact before for them to have such negative views of humanity.”
“Yet they’re willing to use us for this. I wonder what happened.”