While Andrew was busy inside the cave, Lydia had reached the exit. When she reached the cliff edge she could see Bennu dodging shards of stone being shot at him by Korrig. She hissed angrily at his betrayal – they’d trusted him! – and climbed onto a nearby ice boulder for a better view down the cliff. Her fury stoked a fire inside her which she grabbed hold of instinctively. Fiery light broke from beneath her skin, spreading down her sword. The blade burst into spectral flames as Bennu soared further into the sky, glowing and transforming into his phoenix form.
Korrig’s took a step backwards, his face crinkled in confusion. He recovered quickly and summoned a protective wall of earth as the phoenix shot a fireball at him, but it was too slow. He screamed in pain as the fireball struck him in the shoulder.
â€œHow can you…?â€ he began, then stopped and turned and looked up at Lydia. â€œI see. But how did you know to come back out?â€ Not waiting for an answer, he fired one of his rock shards at her.
Lydia flinched, losing her footing and landing on the ground in a heap. The rock shard whizzed past her head, and she rolled behind the boulder as Korrig continued firing shards up at her. She scrambled to her feet and turned to face him, throwing her hand out instinctively to block another shard. At her gesture, a glowing golden shield appeared in front of her. The shard crumbled as it passed through the glow, falling harmlessly to the ground.
â€œWhat the hell?â€ Lydia stared at her hand.
â€œWha-â€ Korrig seemed equally baffled. â€œHow did you do that? You shouldnâ€™t know how.â€
â€œYou promised not to attack us.â€ Lydia avoided the question.
â€œI promised that no harm would befall you between where we met and here. None did.â€
â€œThe devilâ€™s in the details,â€ Lydia groaned as Korrig launched another attack. â€œI should have been paying more attention. But so should you,â€ she added as Bennu suddenly struck him from behind.
Korrig growled a harsh sounding word Lydia didnâ€™t understand and then threw another barrage of shards at Bennu, who evaded them and dived at Korrigâ€™s head and dug his flaming talons into the Dwarfâ€™s leathery skin.
Korrig cuffed Bennu with a fist, knocking him aside and summoning another rock shard out of thin air. Lydiaâ€™s stomach lurched; there was no way she could get down in time. As she looked around for something to throw, she was knocked aside as Kimi leapt past her and off of the cliff. Diving towards Korrig, she slammed into him and knocked him off his feet..
â€œWhatâ€™s happening?â€ Andrew asked.
Lydia looked round and saw him kneeling on the ground next to Karen, who did not look well at all. Heâ€™d picked up Lydiaâ€™s discarded space blanket and was tucking it around Karen.
â€œKorrig attacked us.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know.â€ Lydia looked back towards the fight and saw Kimi holding Korrig down by the throat. â€œBut I intend to find out. Come on, letâ€™s get down there.â€ She helped him get Karen to her feet and they headed for the trail down.
â€œLetâ€™s get a fire going first,â€ Andrew said when they finally climbed down. â€œWe need to warm Karen up quickly.â€
“Good idea.” Lydia turned to Korrig and pointed to a nearby log. â€œYou, sit! Weâ€™ll deal with you once Kaz is sorted out.” She turned back to Andrew who was telling Kimi to watch Korrig. â€œWhat happened?” Now that things were calmer, Lydia took in Karen’s pale skin, dilated pupils and uncontrollable shivering. “She looks hypothermic… but it doesnâ€™t usually set in so fast.” She pulled the ground mat from her backpack and placed it on the soil. “Lie her on this. The groundâ€™s too cold.” Lydia fetched her sleeping bag and draped it over her sister. Her eyes widened as she realised that her sister’s skin was not just pale. “Is that frost? What the hell happened in there?”
“She was bitten by an ice spider,” Kimi explained. “It wonâ€™t kill her as they prefer living food, but she can’t warm up on her own. Warmth is the antidote.”
“Right.” Lydia decided not to dwell on the horrible thought of her sister being food for some weird ice critter. “Get some firewood, Drew. Iâ€™ve got some Cup a Soups.â€ She got out the camping stove and looked over at Bennu, who was still all fiery. “Can you sit by her, please? Youâ€™re giving off quite a lot of heat.”
“Of course. Iâ€™ll cool down a bit so I donâ€™t burn her.” Bennuâ€™s fire died back as if banked until he was merely glowing like an ember. He hopped across to where Karen was lying and used his beak to lift the sleeping bag and blanket so he could crawl in beside her. “Core! Sheâ€™s cold!” he said as Karen grabbed him and pulled him to her, hugging him to her like a teddy bear.
Lydia made up the soup sachet in an enamel mug, grabbed chocolate and other sweets from the holdall, and got the full story of what had happened from Kimi.
“Mistaken identity?” she asked incredulously as she carried the mug over to Karen. “Just how human do alfer look?” She knelt down by Karen and shook her slightly to get her attention. After a moment her sister’s eyes tried to focus on her. “Drink this, Kaz, it’ll help.” She disengaged her sister from Bennu and helped her sit up enough to drink the soup, “You need to drink it before it goes cold.” She held the mug to Karen’s lips and the other girl gulped it down as quickly as she could. The fact she was coherent enough to follow instructions was a very good sign. The frost melted and a bit of colour returned to her cheeks as she drank the soup and Lydia began feeding her the chocolate.
When Andrew had finally returned with enough firewood, she had him take over tending Karen while she started a fire and made up another of the soups.
When she looked round again Karen was sitting up on her own and looked much better, though she was still a little pale and shivering. The bite on her shoulder was still bleeding a little, so after taking her the second soup Lydia got out her first aid kit and dressed it. Then used the thermometer to test her sisterâ€™s temperature. Then she sighed in relief when it read almost normal.
â€œSheâ€™ll be okay,â€ Lydia said to Andrew.
He let out relieved gasp as well. â€œThank God!â€
â€œShe recovered awfully fast though, not that Iâ€™m complaining. Must be because it wasnâ€™t normal hypothermia. Which leaves one more thing.â€
She turned to to where Korrig sat on the log guarded by Kimi. The dwarf had his head in his hand and his shoulders were shaking. Lydia stalked over to him.
â€œNow, do you want to explain what that was all about?â€