Both Asra and Celeste were still sleeping off Halia removing Xantaria’s venom capsules when the group took them and Kezia back to Alaryia’s palace. Alaryia immediately strode over and pushed a pendant into Kezia’s hand.
â€œIs this like the one Tara has?â€ Kezia asked.
Alaryia nodded. â€œWe need you to tell us exactly what happened and you can’t do that if you’re about to fall down.â€
Kezia nodded. â€œI know. Can I sit down somewhere? It’s a long story.â€
â€œOf course. We’ll use one of my sitting rooms.â€ She led them to a side chamber that was large enough to fit everyone in. â€œPut Celeste and Asra on the sofas and everyone else sit down. I’ll send for some refreshments.â€
â€œChaya has taken control of the court,â€ Halia said as everyone settled in. â€œNalatria-alra is helping her. There’s a bit of resistance but nothing Mitakrian’s throne can’t handle. Though we have left some extra troops in case they need them.â€
â€œNalatria always was too good a girl for her father’s court,â€ Alaryia said. â€œShe tried to outwalk twice that I know of.â€
â€œShe asked after her brother,â€ Halia said. â€œI told her he was in transition and you were raising him, which made her happy.â€
â€œHe’s a surprisingly sweet baby.â€ Alaryia looked over at Kezia. â€œAre you ready?â€
Kezia nodded. â€œIt started when Cel was ten.â€ She clutched the steaming mug one of the goblins had served her. â€œI’d realised Cel was resonant even though she was too young to shift and was going out of my mind trying to stop Marian finding out. Then those two… they…â€ She was silent for a long moment. â€œThey grabbed us both and they had Asra with them. They said they’d kill her if we didn’t help them.â€
â€œAnd they told you about the state Marian was in?â€ Matthias asked.
â€œNo, I worked that out on my own.â€ Celeste had woken up and was struggling into a sitting position. â€œThat bastard clearly had some hold over her so when I was misdirecting her to hide myself I found the damage. I wanted so badly to tell someone about it and about being a spy but I didn’t dare. Not while he had Asra and I couldn’t find a way to rescue her. All mum and I could do was try to avoid knowing as much as we could without raising their suspicions.â€
â€œThat’s why you asked not to come to the meeting?â€ Adrian asked.
Kezia nodded. â€œI couldn’t betray what I didn’t know and I made sure Cel thought you’d excluded us because of the family being divided. I don’t think they bought it, even though a unicorn verified Cel, because they tortured Asra in front of her for not being there.â€
â€œNo, they wouldn’t,â€ he said. â€œI’m sorry, that was my fault. I told the fake Kayleigh about it.â€
â€œIt’s not your fault,â€ Celeste said. â€œHow were you supposed to suspect that she was some sort of psychic pod person?â€
â€œSo tell us about the blocks,â€ Matthias said. â€œShe had you try to access them.â€
â€œYes,â€ Kezia said. â€œsomehow she knew they were keyed to resonants from our family.â€
â€œI tried to read them for her but they said to come back when I was free,â€ Celeste said. â€œShe said she couldn’t risk anyone knowing what they said so she took some of them. She seemed to pick them specifically. I asked why she wanted me to read them since she appeared to know what they say. She laughed, said she wouldn’t punish me for my impertinence and then said she didn’t know the details just the basics. Can I look at the ones she left?â€
â€œLater,â€ Adrian said. â€œFor now, let’s see to you and Asra. You’re both going to need a lot of help, you know.â€
â€œEspeciallly Asra,â€ Celeste said. â€œI really am sorry, Adrian. I never wanted to help those monsters.â€ She looked over at Ebona lying in a corner. â€œPlease confirm that for me.â€
â€œNo need,â€ Ebona said. â€œEveryone knows you are telling the truth, young lady.â€
â€œGet some rest, Cel,â€ Adrian said. â€œWe’re going to talk to Kezia some more.â€